7 Expert Tips on How to Stop Being Controlled in a Relationship – Bonobology.com


Mabel, a 28-year-old researcher, values ​​freedom more. However, in their last relationship, which lasted more than 2 years, their priorities changed without her realizing it. She says, “I didn’t realize when I had already let go of my freedom because of my ex-partner’s controlling behavior. I was a complete control freak and I was very afraid inside.” She didn’t have the self-awareness to understand how to stop being controlled in a relationship.

Mabel is not alone. Many relationships become controlling for a variety of reasons, including low self-esteem, a change in sense of responsibility, traumatic experiences, or hard past experiences. In any case, it is imperative to understand that controlling relationships are neither healthy nor loving, and you need to know how to deal with them.

In this article, a trauma-informed counseling psychologist Anushtha Mishra (M.Sc., Counseling Psychology), who specializes in providing therapy for concerns such as trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness, among others, writes about what controlling behavior, how to recognize it and how to deal with it.

What is behavior control?

Control comes from the need for power to dictate, influence, pull strings or direct and is intimidating. Controlling women or men try to gain complete control over others and situations. When a person feels anxious, they may engage in controlling behaviors to maintain control. Other times, it can be an act of abuse, such as asserting dominance.

Those with a “controlling personality” are motivated primarily by an anxiety to feel safe. The need for control may be unconscious for some people. However, anxiety can make them feel like they need to control their environment and others to maintain their sense of order. In general, ways of controlling are coping mechanisms to deal with one’s fears and insecurities.

However, it is vital to be careful when a partner is controlling you, as it can also turn into abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, abuse is the use of power and control over another person. In addition to physical abuse, it can also take the form of emotional, verbal or financial abuse, as well as harassment that incites a deep feeling of fear. These behaviors are not uncommon in intimate relationships.

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Signs that you are being controlled in a relationship

There are many ways in which a current partner may be exercising control over you or an ex-partner in the past. Many of us might think that we can spot a person with controlling behavior just by looking at them or that they can stand out from a crowd. However, this is a misconception.

Controlling behavior can be subtle, but ultimately has an immense amount of power over the partner or person receiving it. Whenever you’re around them, if you feel embarrassed or humiliated, it might be time to take a step back and think about whether and to what extent you’re being controlled. This is the first step in figuring out how to deal with controlling people. Some tell-tale signs of controlling behavior are the following:

Everything ends up being your fault They give you the silent treatment when things don’t go their way Dominate every conversation and interrupt you often Constant criticism is the norm They manipulate you, including gaslighting or lying often to get their way Bullying is a daily thing for them They try to change who you are They show abusive behavior, controlling your freedom and autonomy

It is essential to assess whether you are being controlled in your relationship. That’s because it’s abusive at its core. Only if you can recognize these subtle signs or the obvious ones can you know whether to communicate or walk away.

Related reading: How to get out of a controlling relationship: 8 ways to break free

7 expert tips on how to stop being controlling in a relationship

How to deal with a controlling person? There are easy answers to this question. Dealing with a controlling person and figuring out how to stop being controlled in a relationship can be difficult. However, here are some ways to deal with it and, if necessary, get away from it as well:

1. Pay attention to the signs

Denial can come easily when you’re in a controlling relationship. However, it is advisable to be aware and vigilant about the signs of this and see your partner as they really are. It’s also imperative to differentiate whether they are just clingy or moody, concerned about your well-being, or taking over every aspect of your life without regard to your wishes.

If these signs are present in your relationship and you feel controlled by your partner, you will eventually have to make a decision about your future with them. It is to participate in the pattern or to take action. The sooner you make this decision, the better.

2. Stop feeding the pattern

Another important step in figuring out how to deal with a controlling person is to stop enabling their behavior. It’s overwhelming when someone tries to take control of us, leaving us anxious and on edge. It may seem like you have no voice in such a situation, but most of the time, you do. Perhaps, you are putting up with your partner’s controlling ways because it brings a certain sense of security or assurance.

While it’s not a conscious decision most of the time to let someone take over, you have to make a conscious effort not to feed into this pattern of controlling or abusive behavior in a relationship. That doesn’t mean it’s your fault, it’s not. Most of the time, both partners end up contributing to unhealthy relationship patterns, knowingly or unknowingly, and this is just an attempt to get out of it.

3. Build a support system

If you’re in a controlling relationship, you must have found it incredibly difficult to stay connected to the people you were closest to: your friends, your family, your inner circle. Your controlling partner may not like or approve of you talking to them. However, it’s always a good idea to get your support system together and let them know what you’re struggling with.

If the relationship becomes abusive and you realize it, you’ve already taken the first step in getting help and learning how to stop being controlling in a relationship. Tell someone you trust. Once you confide in them, they may be able to put you in touch with a crisis hotline, legal aid service, shelter or shelter.

Related reading: The 7 foundations of support in a relationship

4. Create boundaries

It’s hard to stand up to a controlling partner and do what’s best for you. However, you deserve to be treated fairly. Set boundaries, as it’s a great way to regain that agency over yourself that you might have lost in the process. It is essential to create a boundary where you decide what you will tolerate and what you will not. Some examples of what boundaries might look like are:

Own your own identity and let go of codependency Instead of holding on to resentment, express your concerns When your partner communicates with you disrespectfully, leave the situation Ability to prioritize personal space for self-care

5. Communicate these limits to your partner

Once you’ve determined what is negotiable for you and what isn’t, it’s time to communicate this honestly and openly with your partner. Regardless of the state of your relationship, communication is key to improving it.

It can feel scary to stand up and express your feelings. It can help to seek help from your support system. If your partner is willing to accept and respect your proposed boundaries, that’s a win-win. However, if they don’t or they try to manipulate you again, it’s time for you to decide if you want to keep going or call it quits.

Related reading: An expert talks about 9 essential communication exercises for couples

6. Take time to process what is happening

It is also vital that you take a break or some time off to sit and acknowledge what is going on with you and in your relationship. This time off can help you clear your space and give you more clarity about what you want to do moving forward.

Take baby steps when it comes to understanding how to stop controlling behavior. It is essential not to rush the process of getting rid of your controlling tendencies. Take time for yourself and your needs to feel all the emotions. Also, remember not to hit yourself; you are dealing with something enormously difficult, be kind to yourself.

7. Make it a priority again

Start taking care of yourself, the one person you should care about the most. The only way to break free from your partner’s controlling ways is to improve your relationship with yourself. Here are some ways to focus on yourself:

Spend time with yourself Make sure you get enough sleep Spend time outside Eat well Some days, you may not feel like getting out of bed. Listen to your body Find a new hobby Spend time with your friends

In short, do the things you want. Also, do things you’ve stopped yourself from doing simply because your controlling partner hates them. Make yourself a priority.

Key pointers

Controlling people try to influence others and situations. Behavioral control can be very subtle and yet it has so much power over the person receiving it. Some ways to deal with a controlling partner are by recognizing the signs, stopping feeding the pattern, creating your support system and boundaries, effective communication, and making self-care a priority

A controlling partner can give you a hard time and leave you isolated and confused, and can make you feel guilty. The self-esteem of the person on the receiving end of all the control can take a huge hit. Try to remind yourself that you can choose to leave or not be complicit in this pattern. Learn how to stop being controlling in a relationship with the tips mentioned above. If you need help figuring out how to deal with and protect yourself from a controlling person, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists are here to guide you through the process and remind you how much better you deserve.

Frequently asked questions

1. How do you deal with a controlling person in a relationship?

The first step is always to recognize that you are in a relationship with a controlling partner. Once you accept this, the road to dealing with them is much easier. Then you evaluate your relationship and decide for yourself whether you want to stay and be controlled, negotiate, or leave. Try to communicate this to your partner, but if their manipulative nature is prominent, you don’t owe them a conversation about it either.

2. How do you know if you are controlled in a relationship?

There are many signs that control you in a relationship. Understanding how you feel in a relationship is the first and foremost step. If you feel isolated and guilty most of the time, it is a clear indication that you are being controlled. Then look at their behavior. Are they tracking your every move, never taking your wishes into account and often letting you do what they want exactly how they want? Assessing these points can give you an idea of ​​whether your sense of control in your relationship is accurate.

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