Early Warning Signs of a Controlling Relationship

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When a new relationship begins, excitement and infatuation can blind you to potential warning signs. While every couple will eventually butt heads over one issue or another, certain patterns of behavior could indicate controlling behavior in your partner. Asking family members and friends for their insights can give you some outside perspective on the situation.


What a partner says in the early part of your relationship could indicate more controlling behavior is yet to come. Frequent questions about your daily schedule and to whom you talk, as well as jealousy if your answers do not meet your girlfriend's standards could be a telling sign, according to Northwestern University's Women's Center website. A controlling person might tell you what to wear, how to style your hair and even buy you clothes that she wants you to wear to the point where you are changing your complete appearance to her liking. A person who wants to control you might also want a fast commitment and declare early in the relationship that she loves you and only you. She might also use insults to make you feel poorly about yourself or to distance you from family members and friends.


A controlling partner is rarely at fault, at least in his own mind, according to HelpGuide.org, a nonprofit organization. He might blame you early on in the relationship for his problems, including telling you that it is your fault that he is cruel to you. The controlling partner may also be sensitive to any criticism or commentary on his behavior. Just as he might dole out blame, your partner may also deny that anything is wrong or that he did certain things.

History and Behavior

Your boyfriend's track record could indicate controlling behavior. If he tells you that he "had" to monitor all his past girlfriends, you may be looking at someone who has a problem with controlling behavior, according to the Northwestern University Women's Center website. If your boyfriend is prone to explosive outbursts when something upsets him and seems excessively sensitive to what you say and do, he may be using these strategies to control you. Eagerness to spend a great deal of time together, or an inability to let you have a life outside the time you spend together can also indicate controlling behavior. The controller might tell you that he needs only you and that you need only him -- and that neither of you can live without the other.

Additional Information

If you think you are seeing early warning signs of controlling behavior, you can expect the behavior to continue no matter what your partner claims, according to HelpGuide.org. Build your support system of family members and friends for assistance if you choose to leave the relationship. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to build such support system because your controlling partner may try to isolate you from others. A counselor can give you support as you prepare to return to a life without a controlling partner.