Most relationships are based on mutual love and respect. Most of the times, there are compromises, discussions, and joint decisions. However, there are destructive relationships that can develop, where one partner is excessively dominating and controlling of the other. For couples this is unhealthy, and even destructive. When children are involved, the potential for emotional distress is even higher. If you find yourself in a relationship where you don’t feel respected, and where your freedom is limited beyond what is comfortable or socially acceptable, it’s time to take a look at your situation and do something proactive to change it.
It can be hard to change or leave a controlling relationship, especially when you have strong feelings for your partner. The following is what you should do when you realize that your partner is controlling you, and the sooner you act, the more chance you will have of changing the relationship, or moving on to build a healthier and more emotionally rewarding life.
What is a Controlling Relationship?
Relationships are deeply personal, and the definition of a controlling relationship can come down to perspective and interpretation. Even so, there are some red flag warnings that indicate that your relationship is not healthy, and that your partner is too controlling.
7 Warning Signs That Indicate a You Are Being Controlled
- Your partner offers you little in the way of emotional support or encouragement.
- They may be negative and prevent you from making decisions. Examples could be a vacation you’re planning with friends, a career decision, or even a purchase decision.
- Your partner tries to isolate you from friends and family.
- Your partner encourages other forms of isolation. They may want you to stay in the house, or even leave your job, so that they are more aware of your actions.
- Your partner often asks probing questions that are excessive to what you would expect.
- Disagreements and arguments are commonplace.
- Distrust is a strong theme in your relationship. Your partner is jealous of your friends, reads your emails and text messages, or monitors your phone calls.
What You Need to Do
The first and most important thing that you can do in this situation, is accept that you are being controlled. You need to have conviction in your decision to no longer be subjected to unhealthy and unfair controlling behaviors.
The next thing to do is to stop submitting to the controlling behavior. Be prepared for sparks and disagreements. It is important to recognize that your partner may not be intentionally controlling, which is why they can react negatively when your attitude suddenly changes. You need to be firm and stand your ground. You can use reasoning to combat the controlling behavior. Listen to what they’re telling you (or telling you not to do), and ask for their reasoning. Calmly explain how you feel about being told what to do. Communication is key, and in relationships that are salvageable, communication will be the only way to begin to eliminate the controlling behavior.
If you’re in a controlling relationship, you have likely lost a significant amount of your independence. Subtle decisions and actions can be made to take your independence back. Start making firm decisions, but remember to keep communicating. Tell your partner why you are doing something. You will be taking control back, without being negative towards your partner.
While making the changes, it’s important that you don’t resort to lying. Be honest about what you’re doing, and don’t hide things, even if you think they could trigger anger in your partner. A deceitful relationship can be just as damaging as a controlling one, and if your lies are exposed, the fallout could be much worse than simply addressing the problem in the first place.
Most importantly, you need to talk, and you need to explicitly state that you feel you are being controlled, and that it is damaging your relationship. You may be met with denial, anger, or an increase in controlling behavior. Communicating provides your partner with the opportunity to understand how you’re feeling and to take a look at their own behavior. Sometimes, relationships can be healed and behaviors can change.
What if it Doesn’t Work?
Every situation is different, and every person is different. If you’re trying everything to heal your relationship and steer your partner away from controlling behavior, and nothing is changing, then you need to remove yourself from the situation. This is a hard decision, and a difficult thing to accept, especially when you love your partner. It should go without saying that if you are being physically controlled and intimidated, that you need to remove yourself from the situation immediately.
Involve a trusted family member or mutual friend if you need support. Counselling is also an option. What is important is that you recognize that controlling behavior is destructive, and that you either need to take steps to change it, or remove yourself from the relationship when the situation is beyond repair.
No matter how much it can hurt to leave a partner, you owe it to yourself to live a life that is free from emotional and physical restraints.