The Signs of a Controlling Relationship Watch

georgiaswift
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Signs to look out for in a controlling relationship

Many people don’t realise they’re in a controlling relationship. Or, more accurately, they do, but don’t want to admit it to themselves. The signs are all there, but they’re justified with ‘I’m only doing this because I love you’, or ‘I do trust you, it’s everyone else I don’t trust’. Through my own first-hand experience of bouncing from one controlling relationship to another, coupled with research and articles from expert psychologists, I’ve compiled a (by no means definitive) list of some of the most common signs of a controlling relationship. If this helps even one person out there, it’s worth it 😊

Not wanting you to go on nights out
A lot of partners in controlling relationships say “I don’t want you going clubbing/ out with your friends/ to the pub” etc. This isn’t healthy – no one should be controlling where their partner goes or with whom. It’s often justified with ‘I just don’t trust the people in nightclubs’ or ‘I’d rather you spent time with me’, but if they trust you then what other people do shouldn’t matter; they trust you not to do anything, so nothing will happen! And if they don’t trust you, the relationship will be doomed from the start.
As for spending time with them, it’s a balance – you can spend time with your partner on some nights, and time with your friends on others. You shouldn’t have to choose one or the other.

Not wanting you to see your friends
A lot of (although not all, and not exclusively) heterosexual couples say they don’t want their partner spending time with their friends of the opposite sex. As before, it all boils down to trust. If your partner trusts you not to cheat on them with one of your friends, then it shouldn’t be an issue who you hang out with or how often. And if they don’t trust you, you shouldn’t be with them in the first place.

Telling you what clothes/ makeup/ products to wear
It’s one thing to tell your partner that what they’re wearing is two sizes too small or has a large stain down the front. It’s completely another to say that they don’t want you to wear revealing outfits or hair gel or too much makeup. They often make these ‘rules’ because they say they ‘don’t want other people looking at you’. But why is that a problem? You’re in a relationship, so it doesn’t matter who looks at you, you know and your partner knows that other people can’t have you!

Demanding you ‘check in’ when you’re out
This is another scenario which is completely out of order. Under what circumstance could you need to report back every half an hour with information about where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing? If you’re worried about your own safety when out, then you call the shots about ‘checking in’. It’s up to you to make that decision, not your partner.

Not allowing you to have privacy
In an attempt to control their partners, some insist on checking through text/ Facebook/ Whatsapp messages, 'just in case'. You may not even know they're doing it. But if you have reason to believe they're looking at your messages, that's a giant red flag. Other invasions of privacy include: checking internet history, sat-nav destinations, and call logs; listening to your voicemails; "vetting" or "approving" social media posts such as instagram; and going through your activity log to check whose selfies or statuses you've liked. All completely unacceptable. A relationship means that you value each other's privacy, not that you have no privacy.

Your friends and/ or family are worried
If multiple people are telling you that something seems off about the relationship, chances are they're right! Often you can't see it for yourself, and it takes someone with an outsider's perspective to show you that you and your partner's relationship isn't normal. If lots of people have concerns or doubts about your relationship, it might be worth asking yourself what they're all seeing that you aren't.

Making you feel guilty
Have you ever been made to feel like something is your fault, even though you know deep down it isn’t? That’s manipulative and a sign of a psychologically abusive relationship. Maybe they forgot their keys, and they say it’s your fault for not reminding them to bring them. Or maybe they didn’t charge their phone, and it’s your fault for not having a spare charger in your bag. Or maybe you had to cancel a date last minute because your brother was taken into hospital. Whichever way they try to spin it, it’s controlling and incredibly unhealthy.

Gaslighting
This is a term some of you won’t be familiar with. To gaslight is defined as: “to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity”. Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D. describes it aptly by saying:
“Picture someone who sporadically turns 180 degrees without knowing or admitting it. You're standing in front of them. They turn around and suddenly you're behind them. So they scold you: "Hey you. Why did you suddenly jump behind me? I’m standing still and you're hopping from one position to another." To make themselves feel consistent they have to call you inconsistent.”

According to Psychology Today, there are some very common techniques to look out for:

1. Blatant lying – the controller will often tell lies which are very obviously untrue, which makes you begin to question every little thing. This keeps you confused and unsure. They may also deny they ever said something when you know they said it, which again makes you start to doubt yourself.
2. Negative comments – they will make a snide comment here and there, only very occasionally at first, until it becomes more and more frequent. Of course, they will give positive comments every so often too, so that you can convince yourself they’re a good person, deep down.
3. Projection – gaslighters tend to project their own inadequacies onto you. A serial cheater will often accuse you of cheating, which distracts you from their own behaviour, for example. Accusations of cheating and such also induce paranoia on both sides - the abuser convinces themselves that you are cheating and so their actions are justified, whereas you may begin to worry that your behaviour is inappropriate or flirtatious when, in reality, it's nothing of the sort.
4. Questioning reality – an abuser will convince you that everyone is allied against you, and is lying to you for their own gain. This causes you to turn to the gaslighter for information rather than anyone else, and so the cycle is able to continue.



The most important thing to remember is that these behaviours don’t happen all at once. The ‘frog in a frying pan’ is a perfect analogy for this type of situation. If the heat is applied suddenly and all at once, the frog will jump out and run a mile. But if there is originally no heat, and it is turned on and up slowly over time, the frog will happily sit in the frying pan until it boils to death. It's also incredibly important to remember that anyone can be in this type of relationship, no matter their age, race, nationality, gender, sexuality, or job.


What a relationship is fundamentally based on is trust. If your partner trusts you completely, then you shouldn’t have to limit your behaviour, because they know you’ll be faithful. And if they do make you limit your behaviour, they don’t trust you as much as they say they do.

Please feel free to add any other common signs in the comments, or to share your own experiences. There’s always a friendly face to turn to, and if anyone needs support or advice, please please send me a PM. I’m here to help!

Below are a few resources for anyone who needs them:

0808 2000 247 - 24-hour Freephone Helpline (for any type of abuse)
116 123 - The Samaritans (24/7, 365 days a year)
020 7008 0151 - The Forced Marriage Unit (for people being forced into a marriage)
0808 802 4040 - Respect (for people who think they might be a perpetrator of abuse)
01708 765200 - SupportLine (for any type of abuse)
0300 999 5428 - Broken Rainbow (for LGBT+ people who are abused)
0808 801 0327 - Men's Advice Line (for help, support, and advice for men who are being abused)
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BurstingBubbles
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Brilliant and a very important thread! I have previously been in a controlling relationship - it's often hard to accept that it's not just a normal part of being in a relationship, but it's not! If you relate to any of the above then please talk to your friends/family, and post below. You can post anonymously in this thread
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username917703
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Pleasantly surprised to see that last number on there.
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Underscore__
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I think this list could be really helpful for some people, there were a few points that I think are a bit too general though that could make people think they're in an abusive relationship when that isn't the case

(Original post by georgiaswift)
Not wanting you to see your friends
A lot of (although not all, and not exclusively) heterosexual couples say they don’t want their partner spending time with their friends of the opposite sex. As before, it all boils down to trust. If your partner trusts you not to cheat on them with one of your friends, then it shouldn’t be an issue who you hang out with or how often. And if they don’t trust you, you shouldn’t be with them in the first place.
Most guys I know have no problem with their girlfriend having male friends and vice versa but there is still a line. Having male friends is fine, going for candlelit dinners and having sleepovers not so much. I think the important thing here is consistency; I wouldn't do anything with a female friend of mine that I wouldn't want my girlfriend to do with a male friend.

(Original post by georgiaswift)
Telling you what clothes/ makeup/ products to wear
It’s one thing to tell your partner that what they’re wearing is two sizes too small or has a large stain down the front. It’s completely another to say that they don’t want you to wear revealing outfits or hair gel or too much makeup. They often make these ‘rules’ because they say they ‘don’t want other people looking at you’. But why is that a problem? You’re in a relationship, so it doesn’t matter who looks at you, you know and your partner knows that other people can’t have you!
Where do you draw the line between fashion advice and being controlling? Am I not allowed to say to my girlfriend "this outfit would look nice on you, you should wear it" or tell her if she has too much make up on and looks a bit silly?

(Original post by georgiaswift)
Demanding you ‘check in’ when you’re out
This is another scenario which is completely out of order. Under what circumstance could you need to report back every half an hour with information about where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing? If you’re worried about your own safety when out, then you call the shots about ‘checking in’. It’s up to you to make that decision, not your partner.
I really don't see a problem in wanting to know what you're partner is doing? Also when my girlfriend is out at night I appreciate her letting me know where she is and who's she's with so that I know she's okay; if you care about someone it's natural to want to be sure they're safe.




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BurstingBubbles
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(Original post by Underscore__)
I think this list could be really helpful for some people, there were a few points that I think are a bit too general though that could make people think they're in an abusive relationship when that isn't the case



Most guys I know have no problem with their girlfriend having male friends and vice versa but there is still a line. Having male friends is fine, going for candlelit dinners and having sleepovers not so much. I think the important thing here is consistency; I wouldn't do anything with a female friend of mine that I wouldn't want my girlfriend to do with a male friend.



Where do you draw the line between fashion advice and being controlling? Am I not allowed to say to my girlfriend "this outfit would look nice on you, you should wear it" or tell her if she has too much make up on and looks a bit silly?



I really don't see a problem in wanting to know what you're partner is doing? Also when my girlfriend is out at night I appreciate her letting me know where she is and who's she's with so that I know she's okay; if you care about someone it's natural to want to be sure they're safe.




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The line for me is advice vs. telling someone to do something. Instead of 'you could wear this', controlling is 'you should/you need to', same with letting someone know where they are, 'if you get the chance, could you let me know you're safe?' compared to 'you need to let me know who you're with, where you are etc.'. For me it's the difference between choice/free will, and feeling pressured to do something and/or it causing an argument.
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georgiaswift
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(Original post by BurstingBubbles)
The line for me is advice vs. telling someone to do something. Instead of 'you could wear this', controlling is 'you should/you need to', same with letting someone know where they are, 'if you get the chance, could you let me know you're safe?' compared to 'you need to let me know who you're with, where you are etc.'. For me it's the difference between choice/free will, and feeling pressured to do something and/or it causing an argument.
Agree completely with this. There's a big old difference between 'I don't think this outfit looks quite right, why don't you try that black skirt instead?' and 'if you love me, you won't wear skirts because you know that I don't want people looking at you'.

As BurstingBubbles says, it's about free will. It's your girlfriend's choice to text you to let you know where she is and what she's doing (which is a sensible choice, imo) but as soon as the aspect of free will is lost and it's a demand instead of a request, it's an attempt at control. It's normal to text someone to let them know that you're okay if you're in an unsafe or unfamiliar situation. It's not normal to feel you have to text someone to stop them from hurting you, or to prove you are where you say you are and you're with who you say you're with.
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username1439610
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That forced marriage help line might come in handy. Then again, it's probably the only way I will get into a relationship.
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by Underscore__)
I really don't see a problem in wanting to know what you're partner is doing? Also when my girlfriend is out at night I appreciate her letting me know where she is and who's she's with so that I know she's okay; if you care about someone it's natural to want to be sure they're safe.
I think it's about the severity/frequency in this instance. It's natural to want to know someone is safe, and there's nothing wrong with wanting a text to say they've got there/got back safe.

However, demanding constant check-ins from them (bar a situation where they could be in danger) is crossing the line into controlling; you know they're there safe, and with their friends, beyond that there's no need to expect regular messages unless they choose to do so. So an example of controlling could be to be constantly texting or ringing them to see where they are or who they're now with etc.

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So Instinct
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Good thread. Will probably regurgitate what you said here a bit but you were quite thorough so good job.

Think around late teenage years it's easy to fall into this trap/behaviour sometimes out of the individuals own insecurities/obsessiveness and this applies to both parties within a relationship.
Most people just accept the relationship because they are scared of losing the person but while it's difficult to see beyond that, ignoring it is doing a disservice to both the perp and the victim.

I would also say it's important to note that the perp isn't defacto a horrible person and thus shouldn't be treated as such (depending on each individual case ofc). A lot of the time they're struggling with their own insecurities and that unfortunately manifests into toxic behaviours. Sometimes they grow out of it, sometimes they wont, but the worst thing you can do is reinforce or allow it.
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georgiaswift
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(Original post by So Instinct)
I would also say it's important to note that the perp isn't defacto a horrible person and thus shouldn't be treated as such (depending on each individual case ofc). A lot of the time they're struggling with their own insecurities and that unfortunately manifests into toxic behaviours.
Yes I can agree with that; however, that doesn't give them a free pass to abuse people. I strongly believe that we can understand why someone does something without accepting the behaviour itself. It's not okay to abuse just because one has one's own insecurities, and that's why the root of the problem needs to be addressed. For that reason, I've included a helpline for people who think they might be a perpetrator of abuse, so they can find someone to help them overcome whatever it is that is making them abuse others.
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Tiger Rag
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(Original post by kaylababesxx)
what a load of rubbish
So everything mentioned in the OP is ok?
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BurstingBubbles
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(Original post by kaylababesxx)
what a load of rubbish
If you're going to post in this section, please post constructively with reasons. Thanks!

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So Instinct
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(Original post by georgiaswift)
Yes I can agree with that; however, that doesn't give them a free pass to abuse people. I strongly believe that we can understand why someone does something without accepting the behaviour itself. It's not okay to abuse just because one has one's own insecurities, and that's why the root of the problem needs to be addressed. For that reason, I've included a helpline for people who think they might be a perpetrator of abuse, so they can find someone to help them overcome whatever it is that is making them abuse others.
Was clarifying in an edit. And yeah, the point isn't to justify wrong doing just to address something that is often done on this site and at younger ages which is to make a situation black/white, good vs bad, etc. It's easy to get the pitch forks out online even when not warranted. I address the severity of accepting the behaviour in the first part of the quote and keep things level headed in the latter.
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georgiaswift
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(Original post by kaylababesxx)
what a load of rubbish
Hi Kayla,

What exactly do you disagree with here? Please be constructive and give reasons for your arguments.

This is a very sensitive topic for a lot of us here and, although I can't speak for everyone else, what happened to me is still very fresh and raw to me, and has made a huge huge impact on my life. Please don't belittle that.
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HeyItzNick
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my ***** ex was very manipulative, she was ****ing 1 year below me, she broke my heart **** her she was FAKE, why do girls love to play games, do they just get a kick out of it?!
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georgiaswift
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(Original post by HeyItzNick)
my ***** ex was very manipulative, she was ****ing 1 year below me, she broke my heart **** her she was FAKE, why do girls love to play games, do they just get a kick out of it?!
The vast majority of girls (and people in general) don't like playing games with people's emotions and do not get a kick out of it. We of course don't know her or you so cannot comment on why she did what she did, but I'm sorry to hear you're upset. Perhaps take up a new hobby to engage yourself and help you to get over her.
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HeyItzNick
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(Original post by georgiaswift)
The vast majority of girls (and people in general) don't like playing games with people's emotions and do not get a kick out of it. We of course don't know her or you so cannot comment on why she did what she did, but I'm sorry to hear you're upset. Perhaps take up a new hobby to engage yourself and help you to get over her.
oh im very sorry for swearing, but its okay now she left me 3 months ago, I have no idea what was wrong with her, she was a master manipulator tho
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(づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ
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To what extent are you talking for the checking in thing?

If I'm going out late somewhere knowing I'll be out late without my SO I'll make sure to keep in contact and vice versa, I don't really see this as a red flag.
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Tiger Rag
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(Original post by (づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ)
To what extent are you talking for the checking in thing?

If I'm going out late somewhere knowing I'll be out late without my SO I'll make sure to keep in contact and vice versa, I don't really see this as a red flag.
For me this is fine. I'll let him know for example, roughly when I'll be home and hope he'll do the same. It becomes a problem if he wants to know where I am all the time. Ok, I'll tell him that I'm the cinema with my friends and we're getting some food after. But I wouldn't be too happy if he was texting me every 5 minutes demanding to know where I was and who I was with. That for me is a red flag.
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by (づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ)
To what extent are you talking for the checking in thing?

If I'm going out late somewhere knowing I'll be out late without my SO I'll make sure to keep in contact and vice versa, I don't really see this as a red flag.
I think Georgia and Bubbles covered this well in their earlier posts, but simply put, wanting a check-in about safety is absolutely fair enough, whereas constant demands to know where you are and who you're with are not.

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