signs of a controlling boyfriend

Possessiveness and jealousy are not cute qualities. Sure, when you’re in a relationship, getting a little jealous once in a while is normal, but having a controlling boyfriend who is always possessive is a big red flag that you shouldn’t ignore.

As a relationship advisor, I’ve heard from far too many women how controlling and possessive their partners can be. The scary part is that these women reflected on how ‘normal’ and ‘easy’ their relationship was when it first started. And then, all of a sudden, their boyfriends started showing signs of control and possession. These women didn’t notice the subtle signs early on in the relationship before it became abusive – mentally, emotionally, or even physically.

Here are sixteen signs of a controlling boyfriend that will help you determine if you are at risk of being manipulated.

1. He isolates you from your friends and family

If your boyfriend is trying to isolate you from your social life, it is one of the most prominent telltale signs that he may be controlling you. He wants you all for himself, so you will find him preventing you from meeting up with your friends and family.

His biggest weapon is guilt-tripping you into spending the most time with him. He will slowly make you cut your friends and family out of your life, which will leave you with no one else to turn to, but him. He will emotionally blackmail you until you start choosing him over your friends and family, while he would never give up his own social life for you.

2. He needs to know your whereabouts

Is your boyfriend spying on you or demanding to know where you are at all times? You are dealing with a control freak – no doubt. It is common for people in relationships to disclose what their plans are, but there is always a boundary.

If your boyfriend is asking questions like “where are you going,” “who are you going with,” “when will you be back” every single time you decide to go out without him, it is very concerning. Your boyfriend should be comfortable and trust you enough to let you do things outside of the relationship.

3. He makes decisions for you

Sometimes, when you are a little indecisive, it may seem like a relief that your boyfriend has your back and chooses for you. But if you find yourself in a position where he never asks your opinion and decides on behalf of you all the time, he is trying to gain control over you. You had parents growing up, but now you are an adult. You don’t need someone to make decisions for you; you are more than capable of making them on your own.

If you let your boyfriend continue making decisions for you, soon he will be deciding what you wear, how much you eat, and where you go.

If you let your boyfriend continue making decisions for you, soon he will be deciding what you wear, how much you eat, and where you go. Click To Tweet

4. He checks your phone

The foundation for every healthy relationship is trust. If your boyfriend makes it a point to check your text messages or your social media profiles on your phone, it is very evident that he lacks trust in you. Controlling boyfriends will do everything in their power to make sure their girlfriend doesn’t talk to other guys, in fear of looking like a fool. It doesn’t matter if you’re texting a friend or your ex; a controlling boyfriend will always find a way to condemn you for it. Do you really want to put up with somebody who doesn’t trust you enough and is constantly paranoid that you’re not cheating?

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5. He criticizes you

When your relationship just started, everything was smooth sailing. But now the small quirks your boyfriend used to think were cute set him off. You find him constantly nagging you about what you do and say. He criticizes anything and everything which will eventually make you lose your self-confidence. You will be nervous around him because your behavior might upset him.

6. He discourages you from having a career

If your boyfriend is unsupportive of your career goals and professional dreams, there is a good chance he doesn’t want you to have a career in the future. Controlling boyfriends will want you to stay at home and keep you only to himself. He will feel uncomfortable with the idea of you having a career and be equally or even more successful than him. A man who wants to control his partner will shatter your dreams and aspirations.

7. He makes himself look like a victim

When you feel threatened or low, a controlling boyfriend will turn it around and make him look like a victim. It is a manipulative technique to get you to feel sorry for him. He will use guilt to keep you in check. He knows that he can manipulate you into sympathizing with him. So he will bring up issues from your past together and hold it against you. But if you dare to do the same, it will infuriate him, and he will chastise you for playing the victim card.

8. He threatens you

A boyfriend who views you as his equal should never put you in a position where you are scared of him. A controlling boyfriend will slowly start pushing his opinions on you, wanting you to bend over backward to meet his expectations. If you cross the line or don’t meet his standards, he will start subtly threatening you to make sure you don’t do it again. When you’re out in public, he will sugar coat his threats to seem harmless, but you know just by looking at him that he means it in the cruelest way possible. And these threats will only get worse with time.

9. You start using the word ‘allowed’

If you catch yourself saying you’re not allowed to do something because your boyfriend won’t ‘let you,’ you should reconsider your relationship. When you talk to friends and say, you can’t go out with them because you’re not ‘allowed’ to or you can’t wear that black dress you love because you’re not ‘allowed’ to, just listen to yourself.

You had parents that disciplined you when you were a child. You are a grown-up woman now. You don’t need someone telling you what you can and cannot do. That is simply unacceptable. No man has the right to tell you what to do – even if he is looking out for you, he should know that you can make your own choices.

No man has the right to tell you what to do – even if he is looking out for you, he should know that you can make your own choices. Click To Tweet

10. He belittles your beliefs

A boyfriend who truly values you will respect your mindset and view of the world. If he puts you down and makes it look like you can’t do anything without him, he is controlling you. If you can’t even voice your opinion in fear of him finding it stupid, you can see just how much control he has over you. That kind of situation is not fair to you because you should be able to be in a relationship where everything you say is accepted and considered valid. No one has the right to make you feel otherwise.

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11. He apologizes after abusing you

Abuse is NOT okay. If your boyfriend is physically abusing you, you need to leave that relationship immediately. A controlling boyfriend will continuously apologize to you when his anger ceases. He will make empty promises that he will never hurt you again. He will tell you that you mean the world to him, and he doesn’t know why he reacted like that. He will shower you with compliments and buy you gifts for the next few days, and then he will repeat that cycle.

Don’t fall for his bullshit. If he hurts you in any way, he won’t stop. He can’t stop. The only thing he can do is try to manipulate you into staying with him.

12. He makes you feel unworthy

A controlling boyfriend will make you feel extremely insecure and unworthy. Once he feels like you are under his control, he will feed you lies about how no one will ever love you more than him. He will make you think that you aren’t special, and there is nothing unique about you. He will assure you that if you leave him, no one else will want you.

In a healthy relationship, your partner will make you feel like the most special person in the world. If your boyfriend treats you like you are nothing, he is trying to break down your confidence. He wants to make sure you don’t dare to leave him for a better life. It should give you a glimpse of his insecure side. He is a bully that puts you down to make him feel good about himself.

13. You feel dependent on him

You should know that you are an independent woman who can function on her own. A controlling boyfriend will take that away from you. He enjoys the feeling of you depending on him, so he will find occasions to reinforce that you are worthless without him. He will make you think that you can’t cope without him in your life. He may even find a reason for you not to work, so you need to depend on him financially.

Even if you think about leaving him, you don’t know what your life would be like because you have no friends nor family to lean on (he made sure you cut them out) and you don’t know what money you would live off (because he provides you with it). A controlling boyfriend will make sure you feel dependent on him in every single way.

A controlling boyfriend will make sure you feel dependent on him in every single way. Click To Tweet

14. He gets angry when you disagree

A controlling boyfriend relishes the feeling of power. He does not want to feel threatened or overthrown. You will notice faint signs at the beginning of your relationship when he dismisses your ideas quickly and insists on his way. But when you finally stand up to him, it will most likely push him over the edge. He does not like that his subservient girlfriend has her own voice because he believes that you should abide by his rules.

And if you attempt to leave him or suggest taking a break from the relationship, he will react one of two ways or both. He will beg you not to leave him and get extremely emotional, or he will turn violent. Him begging you not to leave shows his deepest insecurities. He tried to make you believe you needed him, but in reality, he is the one that needs you. If he gets violent, that is another major sign that you need to get away from him as soon as you can.

15. You feel nervous or scared around him

If you find yourself in a position where you hide things from him because you are scared of how he will react, you are dealing with a controlling boyfriend. In a healthy relationship, you will feel excited to share important news with your partner. Feeling nervous and walking on eggshells around him showcases an unhealthy relationship. He has exerted so much dominance over you, that you don’t want to cross the line (which means you can’t even be yourself). Why would you want to stay in a relationship where you can’t be yourself and thus be happy?

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16. You start making excuses for him

It is normal to confide in close family and friends about your relationship. But if you find yourself in frequent situations where your friends or family point out negative qualities about your boyfriend, and you get very defensive about it, you are probably dating a controlling man.

If there are multiple red flags that those closest to you notice and you just continue making excuses for your boyfriend, who are you trying to convince? Yourself or them? Yes, anyone in a healthy relationship will stand up for their partner, but if these situations seem to come up all the time, then that is a telltale sign that your relationship may be on the unhealthy side.

How to deal with a controlling boyfriend

If you find yourself thinking your boyfriend is possessive and it’s cute, I have one word of warning for you – STOP. That possessiveness is going to lead to a very toxic relationship that leaves you both broken. It’s going to bring you to your lowest point and leave you raw and insecure, unable to move on from the situation. You can’t foresee it now, but I assure you that these possessive qualities always lead to disaster down the road.

So what are some steps you can take if you have a controlling boyfriend?

Talk to close friends and family

Don’t be afraid to open up and talk to someone you trust. You never know who might be in the same boat as you or has experienced similar things in their life.

Talk to your boyfriend

If, and only if you feel safe doing so, talk to your boyfriend about how you feel. There is a chance he will recognize his toxic behavior and be open to working on himself.

Leave if you feel unsafe

Show your boyfriend that you can leave if you wanted to. If he’s increasingly violent or threatens you, leave him immediately and stay with someone you feel safe. Don’t be afraid to confide in authorities or domestic violence hotline to acquire advice on how to move forward.

Far too many women are letting men take hold of their freedom in the name of 'love' and 'protection.' Click To Tweet

Will he ever change?

Far too many women are letting men take hold of their freedom in the name of ‘love’ and ‘protection.’ If you find yourself in a relationship where you see signs of possessiveness or over-protection, you should remove yourself from that relationship. Controlling men don’t magically change after you lock it down and get married. No matter what excuses they give you, they do need time for self-reflection. Getting into a relationship with you and obsessing over you is not giving them that time to deal with their insecurities – it makes it much worse!

I firmly believe that this whole phenomenon of men ‘protecting’ their girlfriends should not come at the cost of their freedom. It is not right of these men to assume women are unable to protect themselves. Women need to understand their worth and their right to be autonomous. Being in a healthy relationship where you both respect each other and view each other as equals help both partners grow into better versions of yourselves.

If you find yourself stuck in a relationship with someone insecure, it will break and emotionally scar both of you. Your boyfriend may have reasons including past trauma for his behavior. But don’t make excuses for him. You are not responsible for his mindset and actions. You should not be collateral damage in his journey towards bettering himself.

Many women think they will never end up in a relationship like this, but they fail to notice the subtle signs and realize it too late. So please, take care of yourself, know your worth, and try to pick up on the signs of a controlling boyfriend before you feel cornered.

Mornisha is a Canadian relationship and lifestyle feminist writer. She is currently writing a book on long-distance relationships based on her own experience of five years and releasing a podcast about love, dating, and taboo topics in the South Asian community. You can check out her blog Morni Inspo to see more of her work.

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