Dating a controlling person can be suffocating.
It feels like everywhere you turn, you’re making a wrong move. Your autonomy has been replaced with slavery, and you’re expected to tailor your entire life to the needs of someone else.
Worse still, controlling partners will tell you that what they’re doing (controlling you) is “love.”
But that’s not what’s happening.
Before you know it, you go from a few dates that make you “uncomfortable” to a draining relationship where you have no freedom, no control over your own life, and, to top it all off, you’re completely miserable.
Plus – let’s be honest for a second. What kind of man lets another person control his life?
In this article, we’re to talk about recognizing a controlling partner and, most importantly, breaking free from those controlling behaviors.
What Does a Controlling Relationship Look Like?
A controlling relationship today looks different from how it’s portrayed in fairytales.
This isn’t a fairytale; it’s your Greek hell.
The reality of a controlling relationship is much grimmer and messier than how you were taught.
It’s not being locked in a castle; it’s being blackmailed. It’s not having to clean up after your stepsisters; it’s having your behavior policed by the unforgiving Gestapo of love.
It’s having someone go through your phone without your consent. It’s getting yelled at for speaking wrongly or setting the car’s temperature as too hot or too cold. It’s being told you’re the love of their life, then getting the silent treatment because the cell service on your phone isn’t excellent at that moment.
It’s manipulative, deceitful, abusive, and painful.
That’s a controlling relationship.
A controlling relationship is the worst experience of your life. It has everything you thought you wanted (love, affection, and affirmation) turned against you. A controlling relationship can shatter everything you know and love about the world around you.
It can destroy your friendships, harm your career, and even damage your relationship with your family.
It can destroy you, too, if you’re not careful.
How to handle a controlling partner in a relationship
A controlling relationship starts in your head.
If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around someone or have to put on a persona to be around them, there’s a problem.
This is a slippery slope to a relationship that is likely you becoming a puppet in someone else’s twisted show.
If you think you’re in a controlling relationship, here are nine ways you can buy back your freedom:
1. Determine How Much “Control” You Can Tolerate
Sometimes, you’re not being controlled.
Sometimes, you cling to your independence because you’re scared of a committed relationship. This is usually because you have an “avoidant attachment style.”
It’s essential to cultivate enough self-awareness to understand when you’re in the wrong and when you’re being controlled. The last thing you want is to go out with someone you like only to kick them to the curb the second you feel your freedom is closing in on you.
If you don’t want a relationship with someone, don’t pursue one. Before you begin a relationship, set your boundaries — but more on that in a second.
You should do this without a partner present so you aren’t making irrational decisions guided by “love”.
Don’t try and cultivate something if you aren’t willing to sacrifice at least some of your freedom.
Luckily, there are healthy and intelligent ways to make your partner feel loved without ruining your own “freedom.”
We’re going to dive into that right now.
2. Set Boundaries Before the Relationship Escalates
If you find yourself several months deep into a relationship where you feel strung out, controlled, and trapped, look at the last few months of your behavior.
How much did you let slide because you were excited about them? How much did you think while using the thing in your pants instead of the thing in your brain?
It’s an honest question.
When you begin a new relationship, the first and most important thing you need to do is establish boundaries.
You need to establish how much you’re willing to give and where the limit is for you. Are you not willing to sacrifice Sunday afternoon football with your friends? Not willing to give up your evening gym session?
Let her know that that’s something you want to keep.
Don’t create a false version of yourself for a relationship because you want to impress someone.
Eventually, all false personas fade, and they’ll see the real you.
If you lead with the real you, they’ll never be disappointed in you or what they’re getting from you.
Learn how to be honest and set healthy boundaries in your relationship.
3. Avoid Emotional Reactions In Conflict
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if your relationship feels controlling, a conflict between you and your partner has either already started or is about to.
How are you going to react when that conflict is brought to light?
To solve the conflict, it’s best to learn how to react stoically, not emotionally.
You can’t control how someone else reacts when there is conflict in a relationship, but if you’re dealing with someone who tends to be “controlling”, you will have to make sure that you aren’t reacting emotionally.
Learn the fundamental principles of dealing with someone who is controlling and emotional. Learn the fundamental principles of reacting to conflict stoically.
If you and your partner can have a reasonable conversation about the conflict you face, there is hope for your relationship.
If not, you might be working against the clock.
4. Don’t Be “One of Those Guys”
I’ve lost plenty of friends for months due to their new girlfriends.
The relationships don’t usually work out, and they usually come back and apologize profusely for not being around. They realize what I had realized months ago – that they lost their way in a relationship.
You can save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches by simply not doing this.
Become someone who not only has excellent relationships and loves deeply but also someone who has boundaries in your relationships. Don’t become someone who sacrifices everything for someone who you barely know – even if they want you to.
If someone is giving you an ultimatum between your life and your love for them, choose your life every time.
A lot of the critical steps to becoming someone who a controlling partner doesn’t tie down are psychological.
Your partner is not physically holding you down, they’re mentally giving you ultimatums, and you’re constantly choosing them.
Learn how to break free.
5. Empathize With Your Partner
I’m an optimist.
I tend to think that most people are doing their best. They think that they’re doing the right thing.
That belief doesn’t stop when it comes to controlling partners, but the difference is that I don’t think controlling partners are suitable for anyone.
Most of the time, controlling partners have a lot of unconscious trauma and issues, and they aren’t even aware of how much they are controlling you.
If you’re severely insecure, you will allow them to control you.
If you’re moderately insecure, you will fight with them.
If you’re deeply secure in yourself, you will recognize their unconscious trauma and try to empathize with them. You’ll see that their controlling behavioral patterns aren’t because they’re evil; they’re because they’re hurt.
I’m not saying you should forgive them but learn to see the other side.
Realizing this and learning how to empathize is the key to breaking free and rebuilding a relationship with someone with controlling tendencies.
6. Be Honest About What Is Bothering You
When there’s the elephant in the room in a relationship, and the elephant only grows bigger, the more you ignore it.
If you don’t contain the elephant, it will get into your pantry, eat all your food, and become enormous and terrorizing.
If your partner is controlling your behavior, you have to tell them that you’re upset, and you have to tell them why you’re upset. You can’t let this resentment fester. It will only grow worse over time.
Be direct in your communication.
When it comes to conflict, the more wishy-washy you are, the more likely you will make little progress in solving whatever is bothering you.
Good communication is the only thing that can save conflict in a controlling relationship.
7. Make Sure They Understand That They Have Made You Upset
Bouncing off the point above, one thing that many men tend to do when upset is downplay their feelings.
This is often because their partner can’t handle them having any feelings at all, which is why the partner is controlling in the first place.
If you care about your happiness, you cannot be this way. You have to stand your ground, speak clearly about what you want and what bothers you, and engage in the conflict.
Being passive when there is conflict is how resentment and toxicity build in a relationship. You have to be honest about what’s bothering you, like (I said above), but you also need to be strong in your communication. There can be no doubt in your partner’s mind that something they did hurt your feelings.
Being wishy-washy doesn’t just make things worse; it makes you seem weak.
Be strong. Be direct.
8. Do Not Play Games
When a controlling partner looms over you, this is not the time to play games.
You don’t win a fight in a relationship. You either resolve the conflict or end the relationship. There is no in-between.
When your partner is controlling, this is not the time to threaten to leave so that they’ll change their behavior and act the way you want them to.
You’re not 12. Don’t coerce someone to do what you want.
Don’t be like your partner is, either. Don’t fight fire with fire.
Don’t make threats; they won’t work. If they do, this is a temporary band-aid on a relationship that is slowly growing more and more toxic.
Toxicity is like a virus – it spreads quickly through the relationship. Eventually, every aspect of your relationship will be toxic, and you and your partner will be miserable.
Don’t mess around. Don’t try to get a leg up. Don’t fight back for control.
Solve the conflict, or leave.
9. If All Else Fails, End the Relationship
You should never feel coerced into a relationship.
You should never feel like you are forced to be there.
You should never feel trapped or stuck.
You should try the eight things I’ve listed above to ease the stress of a controlling relationship. Often, these steps can work because your partner might not realize how controlling they are.
But what if you’re dealing with someone who has narcissistic tendencies? What if you’re dealing with someone who won’t see your side?
Unfortunately, if this is the case, there’s only one thing you can do: leave.
Good relationships are tough, but they shouldn’t force you to give up everything you want. They shouldn’t make you feel like a prisoner to that new special someone.
If you’re in a relationship like this and can’t reason with the person, do yourself a favor. Get out.
A controlling relationship can ruin your life.
At the bare minimum, toxic relationships where your freedom and independence are in jeopardy are stressful and exhausting, and they even challenge your preexisting relationships with others.
Worse, they can leave you depressed, financially stressed, and emotionally strung out.
In the worst-case scenario, a bad relationship can ruin your life.
That’s why you need to learn how to see the signs, prevent controlling relationships, and leave controlling relationships if you’ve made the unfortunate mistake of stumbling into one yourself.
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