Controlling people seek power over others by reducing their partners’ confidence and stature.
Here are the 10 most toxic forms of control in relationships, with examples of each behavior:
Trying to isolate you from others. Keeping financial or other resources out of your hands or sharing resources only after extracting a price from you. Trying to make you act against or give up your values. Fostering unhealthy triangles, for example keeping in contact with former lovers or putting you in the middle of conflicts between them and family members or friends.
Debasing you through ridicule or name-calling. Embarrassing you in front of others. Telling you that you are unattractive or unintelligent. Downplaying or ignoring your strengths and accomplishments. Making sarcastic comments.
Shaming or scapegoating you. Treating you as a child or as if you are not equal or capable. Telling you that you couldn’t survive without the relationship. Violating your privacy. Excluding you from major decisions that affect you and the relationship.
Gaslighting. Projecting, by accusing you of what they doing. Holding double standards that disfavor you. Claiming that you are the reason they act badly. Changing the subject or distracting you when you bring up an important topic.
Pressuring or overwhelming you. Interrogating you about where you have been, what you are thinking or how you spend money or time. Demanding sex or affection regardless of how you feel. Refusing to take “No” for an answer.
Refusing to take responsibility. Minimizing or making excuses for their destructive behavior. Pretending that everything is fine.
Bullying you or going into a rage. Threatening to harm you or others. Threatening to leave. Physically gesturing or posturing in intrusive or menacing ways.
Refusing to communicate. Acting passive-aggressively. Refusing to do a fair share in chores, earning, or other responsibilities that affect you both. Withholding affection or sex. Giving you the silent treatment for hours or days. Refusing to answer your questions.
Lying. Cheating. False flattery. Pretending to be on your side. Telling you to just trust them. “Forgetting” to give you important messages.
Trying to make you feel guilty for your needs or desires. Threatening self-harm if you don’t comply with their wishes. Being overly jealous or suspicious. Falsely accusing you of being dishonest.
Controlling people do not value treating others with respect or dignity. Rather, they seek power at your expense. They believe that their stature increases as your power and stature diminishes. They know that:
- Coercing, demeaning and handicapping you can make you doubt yourself and feel less able or entitled to set healthy boundaries
- Confusing and badgering can overwhelm or exhaust you and make you more likely to tolerate unhealthy behavior
- Intimidation can make you less likely to protest unhealthy control or exert your will
- Denying, withholding, deceiving and manipulating can keep you from viewing the relationship and your partner clearly, which leaves you more likely to question or doubt yourself, not the controller.
If you recognize some of these signs of toxic control in an important relationship, you owe it to yourself to evaluate whether the relationship is right for you. You may wish to call attention to these behaviors and stand firm that they need to change.
If unhealthy controlling behaviors persist after you have called attention to them, the controlling person is giving you a message about his or her priorities. This may not be a healthy relationship for you.