Does your partner check your phone? Do you only hang out with each other? Are you jealous? If so, you might have improper boundaries with your significant other.
Sometimes, it's hard to see the signs your partner is possessive because they are heavily shrouded in what looks like love, care, and protection. But if you're in what might be a possessive relationship, it's important to spot it early, before it potentially turns into emotional abuse.
I asked Monica Parikh, dating and relationship coach at School of Love NYC (who also has an upcoming course called "Boundaries Make For Better Relations," which feels applicable) about the types of relationship behaviors that are possessive, and not protective like we might think.
1. They Isolate You From The People You Care About
At first, your significant other wanting to hang out with you and only you might seem romantic. That's what you've always wanted, right? To be smothered with affection by the person you care about, so much so that they want you all to themselves? Wrong.
"Your controlling partner may not like your best friend. He may even complain you talk to your family too often," says Parikh. "The goal is to isolate you from your support network, making you an easy target for emotional manipulation and abuse."
If this sounds familiar, then your partner might be edging on possessive instead of protective. True love is inclusive, not exclusive. If your partner respects you, they will not only want to meet your friends and family, but also care about getting along with them.
And if someone wants to separate you from the things you love, then they probably have something to hide.
2. They Criticize You Constantly
Let me tell you about my last ex-boyfriend for a minute. First, he told me I said "like" too much. He made a "like" jar in our living room, and each time I said the word, he made me put a dollar in it. It made me seem unintelligent, he said. Didn't I know how smart I was?! He just wanted me to act smart, too.
And then, he pointed out that I was eating sushi incorrectly. I didn't even realize that was a thing, but one day, I came home to a large Japanese dinner, where he sat me down and taught me to eat it "the right way" — his way. He humiliated me like a child and showed me how to put wasabi and ginger in the soy sauce instead of directly onto the fish (the incorrect way, he felt, that I had been doing it). We never ate sushi together again.
Finally, there was my wardrobe. When my ex started buying me clothing, I was excited initially. No guy had ever really showered me with presents before. But when I asked him why he wanted to dress me like a human Barbie doll, he responded that "he was just so sick of seeing me in that weird hipster clothing I wear." OK. Sorry, dad!
"Controlling people may say that they are interested in helping you to 'improve.' He may comment about your hair, clothing, perfume, or personality," Parikh says. "No matter how small the comment, it will chip away at your self-esteem. You will walk on eggshells and be afraid of every move, which makes it hard to deepen intimacy or feel safe."
A person who truly cares for you doesn't want to change you — they like you just the way you are. They don't date you with hopes of renovating you, because they know you aren't an old house or a car. They see you as a human being, not an object that they can shape and manipulate. And they absolutely won't sit you down and teach you how to eat sushi their way.
3. They Violate Your Privacy
If your significant other insists on going through your phone, then that is a big no-no.
"We are all entitled to our private thoughts and intimate relationships (with other people). A controlling partner may feel entitled to have access to your email, phone, or internet history," Parikh explains. "It's a violation of your privacy. More importantly, this behavior — if not stopped — will make it hard for you to feel safe and secure within the relationship."
Being in a relationship does not mean losing your entire identity or personal life. You need to keep your individuality in order for your relationship to thrive. If someone wants to strip your uniqueness from you, then that is not someone who appreciated it in the first place.
Parikh summarizes, "Possessive behavior is insidious. It creeps into a relationship slowly, making the victim question their sanity. They may even believe that they are lucky that their partner 'puts up with them.'"
Remember, you aren't a burden, and no one is "putting up with you." If anyone ever makes you feel that way, it's time to leave, quickly.
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