Signs Your Partner is Too Controlling

Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD Become a fan

University of Massachusetts Amherst SeniorLecturer & author, Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in YourIntimate Relationship

Signs YourPartner Is Too Controlling

Posted: 07/21/2015 8:57 amEDT Updated: 07/21/2015 8:59 am EDT

You have concerns about the qualityor health of your relationship. Maybe you feel bossed around, not as free asyou’d like, sometimes even insulted or humiliated. On bad days, you wonder whatyou’re doing together. But you remember good times and even now, on occasion,you feel loved. Your partner has probably told you thatyou are the problem, and you may wonder if it istrue. A careful assessment will help you see what’s going on–then you candecide what to do about it.

Below are a series of questions aboutsome of the controlling behaviors you may have experienced. (For a morecomplete list, please click here). Unhealthy domination by a partner is called coercive control. It’s more thanjust occasional nastiness or bossiness–it affects several areas of your lifeand causes you to change your behavior to keep the peace. You may be soaccustomed to some items on this list, they just feel like “the way itis.” Other items may seem extreme, and you may be relieved to realize thatyou do not face all of them:

• Does your partner try to isolate you and keep you away fromother people?

• Does your partner try to keep you from leaving the house,joining organizations, working, or furthering your education?

• Does your partner limit or monitor your phone conversations,social media use, email, or mail?

• Does your partner try to find outwhat you have done and where you have been in a way that feels like “toomuch?” Does your partner spy on you or stalk you?(Drawing by LizBannish)
• Does your partner try to control your personal activities, such as yourhobbies and interests and what you wear?

• Does your partner try to control your access to resources suchas money or transportation?

• Does your partner make you feel afraid by shouting, swearing,name-calling, or insulting you? In coercive control, this is one-sided andfrequent or extreme.

• Does your partner try to control aspects of your health orbody in ways that are harmful to you, such as making demands regarding your:eating or weight, sleeping, bathing, or using the bathroom? Does your partnertry to block you from taking prescription drugs that you need, going formedical care, seeing a therapist, or exercising?

• Does your partner push you to use substances such as street drugs,prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, or more alcohol than you want?

• Does your partner push you to change your body in ways you’drather not, such as getting tattoos or piercings or cosmetic surgery?

• Does your partner push or force you sexually, and are youunable to speak your mind about sex? Does your partner push you to avoidpracticing safe sex? Does your partner push you to take sexual pictures orvideos?

• Does your partner block your efforts to separate or leave therelationship?

• Does your partner block your efforts to speak about thingsthat matter to you?

• If you have children in your lives, does your partner try tocontrol or harm your relationship with the children?

• Does your partner throw, kick or punch things, slam doors orstomp around to intimidate you? Does your partner grab or push you, get in yourface, corner you, or pin you against a wall?

• Does your partner refuse to speak with you for long periods oftime?

• Does your partner threaten you?

• Does your partner hurt you physically? Does your partnerthreaten you with guns or other weapons? Does your partner threaten suicide?

• Does your partner punish you or deliberately harm you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions,which ones are the most upsetting to you? Which frighten you the most? If you haveanswered “yes” to some but not all, you may still be in arelationship of coercive control. For instance, some people control theirpartners without physical violence.

Not all the questions on this list are created equal. Responding”yes” to one question, such as “Does your partner threatenyou?” may be enough reason for you to end your relationship today.Responding “yes” to a question about whether your partner tries tocontrol what you eat or how you spend money may not. Or it may. Only you candecide the reasons to maintain or end the relationship.

There is no one right way to score this list. Unfortunately, youcannot simply add up the items, arrive at a total and say to yourself, “Myrelationship is okay” or “My relationship is overly controlling and Ihave to change it” or “I must end this relationship.” Thesedecisions are too individual for that kind of numerical process. But I hopethese questions help you think about whether you’re a victim of coercivecontrol. Then, you can decide what to do next.

Many people stick with their partners for months, years anddecades, waiting for them to change. Remember, past behavior is the bestpredictor of the future. Without some intense intervention, most controlling partnerswill not change. Try to be hopeful about the possibility of freedom in your future, whether thatfreedom takes the form of improving or ending the relationship.


RelationshipsDomestic ViolenceCoercive ControlCouplesVerbal AbuseIntimate Partner ViolenceDatingViolence Against Women

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