We all like to think that we could easily spot controlling or manipulative behavior in a partner. The reality is that it is not that simple. A truly controlling person may be so subtle in their methods that you do not notice them doing it, at least to begin with. First, it is important to understand that there is a huge difference between someone in control and someone who is controlling. A person who is in control is a positive thing, they have a high sense of self-esteem, and they have their emotions and behavior in check and live a normal life without any issues. A controlling person could be the exact opposite. It is unhealthy. They may feel as if they have no control over their lives, and their behavior is borne out of some deep-seated anxiety. In other controlling people, it may well be a form of mental illness, such as a personality disorder. Whatever their reason, the end result is the same, you, their victim, begin to have more and more of your life controlled by that person. This is not healthy and can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. The more a controlling person dominates their power over you, the more they exhibit signs of jealously and overprotectiveness, for example. You will begin to feel inferior, embarrassed on a regular basis, confused, angry and frustrated, and completely misunderstood, along with a whole range of other negative emotions. Controlling behaviour can lead to extreme emotional and even physical abuse, where the abused partner somehow feels it is their fault. Therefore it is important to spot the signs of controlling behaviour before it goes too far:
Are you Always to Blame?
No matter what happens, how minor an event may be, it something does wrong, then it is your fault. It does not matter if you have nothing to do with it. Somehow you always end up getting the blame. Often these controlling people are very good at making you feel guilty. They have honed their blaming skills from a young age and can use this against you whenever something does go wrong. They will blame you so often that you actually begin questioning yourself and ultimately believing that you are to blame. You are simply unable to determine what is true and what is not. Perhaps your memory is foggy or something. This is so toxic. A controlling person needs to be able to blame you for things to gain the higher ground, and once they have this, you are always going to be in a weak and inferior position. Questioning yourself is the ultimate aim of the blame game.
They are Never To Blame
Conversely, they will never take the blame for anything. Even when you were sure it was their fault. They are seemingly pathologically opposed to it. To take the blame means they are in a position of weakness. They will somehow find a way to blame you for whatever it was that went wrong. For instance, they may accuse you of telling them the wrong direction or distracting them or something.
They Constantly Criticize You
Can you do nothing right? Are you always being told off in some way? Well, the chances are the person you are with is controlling you and using constant criticism as a way to undermine your self-confidence, and they will do this all the time, whether you have company or not. The criticism usually beings to creep into the relationship after a few months. Usually, after the first flush of love is over and you are more serious, at this point, they know you will find it difficult to leave them, and they have done enough in the first few months to ensure you love them. The criticism can come in many forms, such as backhanded compliments, or playful jokes, or picking you up on the way you say something, etc. It ends up with everything you do is wrong, and you feel as if you can’t do anything right, and how can anyone possibly love you.
They Isolate You
In order to gain total control over you, the controlling partner need to isolate you from your friends and family. They know full well that these people will see them for what they are and will eventually warn you and tell you to leave them. Again this will start subtly, such as why do you have to talk so long to your Mum, or why do you have to go to the coffee house every Thursday with your best friend. To flat out telling you not to do it. If they are able to alienate you from your friends and family, you will have lost a lifeline of support. This means they are in a stronger position and have more control over you.
They Make Veiled Threats
Threatening behaviour does not always need to be physical, but a veiled threat can be equally harmful and scary. Perhaps you have been threatened to be cut off financially, or the controlling person has made a threat of violence against you or themselves. In whatever form the threat comes, they say it is a completely deadpan way in total seriousness. The first time this happens, it can actually floor you as if you have been punched in the gut. Usually, the threats start small and get worse and more overt over time, the more their dominance is asserted. Emotional abuse such as this is just as harmful as physical abuse, and never forget that. No matter what they are, all these threats are a means to get you to conform to their will and be totally subservient.
They Control the Finances
A controlling person will want to control the finances. This gives them control over you and limits your ability as to what you can do. You may wonder if financial abuse is a form of domestic violence, well by handing over financial control, you are handing over the power, which can lead to all sorts of issues. You can’t just go out, you have to ask for some money to go out. You are clearly in an inferior position. They usually manage to gain control over this aspect by telling you that you are rubbish with money and can’t be trusted, and they make you believe it too.
Do They Dictate Where you Go?
A controlling person will try to stop you from going out and doing anything for yourself. They will keep tabs on you and want to know your whereabouts all the time. They may get upset, or threaten you or just try and make you feel bad for having a life outside of them. This behaviour is extremely exhausting, and some people will simply stop doing things just for an easy life.
They Keep A Scorecard
Basically, a controlling partner will want to keep score of the relationship. They will continue to blame you for the same things, such as past mistakes. This is a very common method for controlling people. They are, in effect, remembering every negative interaction within your relationship and can prove to be very intrusive and mind-spinning things. It is basically extremely toxic. The scorecard is a way of showing you how much you owe to the other person. They will make it seem as if they have done so much for the relationship, whereas you have done nothing and you are selfish. This is an intense form of manipulation and will confuse you.