8 things narcissists do to control their partner in a relationship

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For the narcissist, control is the name of the game. 

This is particularly true in romantic relationships, where they basically feel that they’re entitled to ownership of the other person. 

Thus, they won’t hesitate to pull out all the tricks, however dirty, to control their partner emotionally, mentally, and, in extreme cases, physically. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the signature ways narcissists try to control their partners. 

If you suspect you’re dating a narcissist, then I hope the contents of this article provide you with the clarity and inspiration to move forward. 

Let’s dive in!

1) They’ll gaslight you  

Here’s the thing: when you’re with a narcissist, you constantly have to be on your toes. 

Show weakness and like a predator smelling blood, they’ll manipulate your feelings and use them to their advantage. 

This is when the gaslighting comes in. 

Gaslighting is when the narcissist makes their partner question their memory, perception, and ultimately, their own sanity. 

They might flat-out deny saying or doing something (even though they very well know they did.)  

Their tone is often so adamant and convincing, we end up second-guessing and doubting our entire recollection of things.

This is an especially effective strategy for the partner who is easily swayed, in which case extra precautions should be taken. 

2) They’re love bombers

The narcissist can be more two-faced than the Batman villain (you know, that Harvey Dent guy.

For instance, at the beginning of the relationship, they’re a picture of perfection. 

You might feel like you’ve nailed the proverbial jackpot bagging them. 

They start things off by borderline smothering you with praise, excess attention, gifts, romantic gestures, and so on and so forth.

However, there’ll come an inevitable point when this whirlwind behavior fades, resulting in you feeling a deep sense of confusion and desperation. 

You’ll strive endlessly to regain the earlier affection, making you all the more vulnerable to their controlling ways.   

3) They’ll try to isolate you

Do you know what the cult leader and the narcissist partner have in common? 

Well among other things, narcissists often try to cut their partners off from family and friends, twisting facts so that their loved ones appear as toxic influences. 

This is a subtle form of brainwashing–one with the end goal of control. 

Think about it: if you don’t have close friends or family present in your life, there will be minimal forces to persuade you away from their control–perhaps their worst nightmare.

4) They’ll devalue you 

When the honeymoon period wears off, a narcissist might begin to gradually demean or put down their partner. 

This belittling will often come in the form of subtle jabs about appearance or your overall competence as a living, breathing human being. 

They want to erode your self-worth; since when you feel worthless you won’t feel empowered to break away.

At this point, they have you exactly where they want you: in the palm of their hand. 

This isn’t sustainable–eventually, you’ll have to muster up the strength and courage to make a move.

5) They’ll use triangulation

As a means of creating tension, insecurity, and overall disharmony, the narcissist might bring a third person into the mix, such as an ex-partner or a new “friend.” 

They don’t want you to feel too comfortable, since when you’re assured in the relationship, you feel confident.

Independence and individuality are concepts that are like kryptonite to the narcissistic partner since they make control exponentially more difficult. 

In my early twenties, I dated a girl from work. 

I made it clear from the beginning that I wanted to take things a step at a time. 

Although she agreed with the arrangement, she’d often bring up a former lover–about how she missed him, his jokes, and even his bedroom habits. 

This of course bothered me. It wasn’t exactly normal discourse, especially with a prospective romantic partner. 

Whatever her end goal was with these declarations, I’m still not fully certain.

I suspect it was to control me into settling down. 

Regardless, a few months later, we ended things permanently. I have no regrets. 

6) They’ll withhold things from you 

This one is pretty blatant. 

Like a strict parent with tyrannical tendencies, the narcissist will reward you for good behavior and punish you when you aren’t completely obedient. 

Maybe they’ll withhold things like money, affection, sex, or any other resource you might value or crave. 

Eventually, whether subconsciously or not, you’ll get the message: you have to conform to their standards or face dire consequences. 

7) They’ll play the victim

Real talk: playing the victim is one of the oldest tricks in the narcissist book. 

They have an uncanny knack for twisting the narrative. 

They might push your buttons relentlessly, but the moment you react, they’ll assume the role of the hapless, mistreated victim, crocodile tears and all, begging for sympathy and then using your guilt against you. 

By skewing reality, they’re effectively using your emotions to advance their controlling agenda. 

If you sense something’s not right, trust your gut. 

You can’t let them get away with their scheming ways much longer, the damage can be irreparable. 

My ex used to tease me frequently. 

Her jabs would be so sly and deeply embedded into mundane conversation, I would barely notice. 

Occasionally though, it would bother me enough to say something. 

She would react by acting like she was completely innocent and without fault, labeling me “overly sensitive.” 

She was convincing enough that, for a while, I bought the act. 

In fact, I often was the one to end up apologizing. By using my good-natured emotions against me, control was once again hers. 

Fortunately, I eventually wisened up to her ways and put an end to things. Never again!

8) They’ll monitor you

Like Big Brother from 1984, the narcissistic partner aims to regularly police you. 

They want to know where you are, who you’re with, and what time you’ll be home at all times. 

They want regular updates and might even demand to read your messages or go through your phone. 

Like a true autocrat, in their eyes you’re their subject; your rights to autonomy, sovereignty, and privacy are virtually non-existent. 

Abiding by their stifling rules is no way to live. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to rock the boat.

To keep with the theme, I’ll end this section with a relevant quote from George Orwell’s iconic aforementioned novel:  “The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.” 

Touché, George. 

Final thoughts 

If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, you’re definitely not alone. 

Attachment is complex and intoxicating, especially when a manipulative narcissist is involved. 

Their grip on you may be so tight, the idea of leaving might seem impossible, so you don’t even try. 

I’m here to tell you that breaking free is always well within your grasp. 

Either you sit them down and thoroughly voice your concerns and hope for the best… or walk out the door. 

Whatever you decide is entirely up to you. The ball is in your court. 

But something needs to change. 

The fact that you’re reading this now means you’ve conquered the first step: acceptance. 

Now get out there and reclaim your life, and seek help if needed. You deserve better. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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