Relationships can be complicated at the best of times, but there are some relationships that can turn toxic. How to recognize a controlling relationship?

This can sneak up on you, or it could happen all at once, but once it happens it can be detrimental to both partners in the relationship, and to those around them.

All relationships can be at risk of turning toxic, no matter the age, so you need to be aware of the signs of a controlling relationship before it goes too far.

Controlling partners can use some or all of these techniques to keep their other half in line, so keeping these ten signs in mind can keep you safe and allow you to either change the dynamic or free yourself from a controlling relationship before it begins to turn sour.

1. Constant criticism

Part of a healthy relationship is being open and honest with each other. This can translate into helping each other improve with constructive criticism. Criticism itself is not a sign of a toxic or controlling relationship, as it can help us to learn and grow.

However, if the criticism is constant and based on small things that you didn’t ask for critique on, then it may have gone too far. Controlling partners use criticism to let you know what they don’t like, with the aim of getting you to change or stop.

If you feel that you are being constantly criticized by your partner then talk to them, tell them how you feel and ask them to be more mindful in the future.

2. Isolation

Another tool that controlling partners use is to isolate you from friends and family. Being critical of those close to you, complaining about them or asking you to change plans with them is step one of how they can keep you under their control. This breaks down your support network and makes you much more reliant on them, giving them a feeling that they’ve ‘won.

Keep your boundaries strong, and let your partner know that you are not willing to give up other relationships in order to appease them. Keeping your support network strong will keep your individuality aside from the relationship and let your partner know that their behaviour isn’t appropriate.

3. Thinly veiled threats

Threatening certain behaviours, breaking up with you or even some more extreme threats are another way that controlling partners can make you act the way that they want you to. They won’t actually follow through on their threats, but they may make you believe that they will.

If this is beginning to happen, urge your partner to seek alternative support for what they feel is bothering them, and that you are not the solution to their problems. If these threats become serious, perhaps consider some form of intervention.

4. Spying or snooping on you

A partner who wants to control you feels as though they have the right to know everything. This includes snooping through messages, social media accounts, and can even escalate into spying on you when you are not together. This behaviour comes from deep-seeded trust issues and can be severely detrimental to the victimized partner.

Keep your phone locked with a passcode and let your partner know that if they want to know something they need to come to you first. It’s not a case of being open and honest, it is a case of boundaries and respect.

5. Excessive jealousy or paranoia

All relationships can have elements of jealousy and paranoia, it is natural to want to protect a relationship if you feel threatened. A healthy level is totally manageable with support, reassurance, and honesty.

If your partner is excessively jealous or paranoid to the point that you feel you can’t do anything with complete freedom, then you need to tackle this head-on. Encourage your partner to seek help for their trust issues and continue to make your boundaries clear.

6. Assuming guilt before innocence

It’s natural for people to make mistakes, or even to be accused of them when they haven’t. An important aspect of a relationship is that the other person is always on your side, and they’ll assume that you are innocent before they think you are guilty.

Someone who is more controlling will quickly assume that you are guilty of a mistake rather than innocence, and some won’t believe your innocence no matter how much you prove it. If this is the case, it is important that you communicate this to your partner and ask them to be more forgiving.

If they can’t do this, you may need to rethink the controlling relationship you are in.

7. Bolstering arguments

Arguments happen in relationships, and it is important to hear your partner’s point of view so that you can come to a solution together. However, controlling partners will continue to bolster you with the same line of argument in a cycle just so that you back down and they will win. If you feel that arguments continue to go this way, you need to break the cycle.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from an argument and wait for things to calm down before re-approaching the situation. It’s important that you feel you are able to voice your concerns and that a solution will be found to benefit both of you.

8. Unwilling to hear your point of view

If you are upset about something or you feel there is an issue, your partner is a person you should feel safe and comfortable going to for support. An inability to hear the other person’s point of view or an unwillingness to is a tell-tale sign that your partner is more controlling than supportive.

9. Making your views seem ridiculous

Even if your partner does listen to your point of view, they may not be very supportive of it. Making your views, opinions and thoughts seem small and even ridiculing them is another way that a toxic partner can control you.

You should never be made to feel that your views are not important or invalid, whether it be faith, religion or politics. If it is important to you it should also be important to your partner.

10. Pushing you towards unhealthy behaviours

Undermining your health goals, introducing you to illegal substances or activities, or even just drinking too much is one of the most dangerous behaviours that toxic partners use in a controlling relationship.

If your partner begins to make you feel uncomfortable in any way that makes you feel as though you are in danger, you need to express this and take yourself out of the situation. If the behaviours don’t change, consider rethinking the relationship.

Controlling relationships are not always deliberate, and communication and honest can help break the cycle of control. In some cases, it may be too toxic to save, and you should think of yourself a ‘you’ rather than ‘we’ and do what is best for you.

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