9 Signs Your Partner Is Controlling, Toxic, & Possibly Dangerous

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Relationship red flags can be easy to miss (or easy to ignore) but if you think there might be signs your partner is controlling, you should be on high alert. The more involved you get with a controlling partner — the deeper your emotional connection to them and the lower your inhibitions — the more difficult it will be to get out of a potentially dangerous situation.

Someone who is controlling will also be manipulative. They will try to convince you that their demands of you are for your own good or for the good of the relationship. When they're around your family and friends, they're usually on their best behavior but privately, they're not above gaslighting you, making you question your entire relationship.

I spoke with Dr. Lata McGinn — a clinical psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavior therapy — about how to identify signs that you might be dating an over-controlling partner. An expert on vulnerability, anxiety, and depressive disorders, Dr. McGinn says there are nine red flags you should be wary of.

Your Partner Doesn't Like When You Make Plans That Don't Include Them

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And when you do go out without them, they call and text you repeatedly. If your partner can't allow you to have fun when they're not around, they don't trust you. This behavior is especially concerning if they get upset when you don't check in with them. Not only does this reveal a lack of trust but it also suggests that they are frighteningly concerned with knowing where you are at all times.

They Threaten To Hurt You Or Themselves If You Don't Do What They Want

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This person doesn't care about your mental, emotional, or physical well-being. All that matters to them is having things go their way and they'll do whatever it takes to ensure this.

They Constantly Accuse You Of Cheating

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Even without provocation or evidence, your partner always seems sure that you're cheating on them. While they might be battling their own insecurities, it's unfair of them to continuously question your commitment to the relationship if there is no real reason to do so.

They Ask You To Prove Your Love For Them

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If your partner is in the habit of asking you to prove your love for them — for example, by cutting your friends out of your life or moving in with them before you're ready — they're more interested in their ability to control you than they are in your actual love for them. More than likely, they're just testing your limits while their demands become increasingly frustrating.

They "Surprise" You When You Go Out Or Travel Without Them

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A partner who surprises you with a bouquet of flowers at the end of a long day is totally different from a partner who shows up on your family vacation or girls' trip unannounced. The reality is that this is just a poorly-disguised excuse to check up on you when you least expect it.

They Look Through Your Phone And Your Belongings

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This is a clear violation of your privacy, personal space, and trust. Someone who doesn't respect your space is someone who doesn't respect you.

They Speak In Directives Or Commands

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If every sentence your partner says to you sounds like it ends in an exclamation point, they don't see you as their equal. You should also look out for hints of condescension or contempt in their conversations with you, which suggest that they are intentionally trying to belittle you.

They Make You Feel Guilty About Spending Time With Your Friends And Family

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You might be thinking your partner isn't controlling because they've never asked you not to hang out with your friends and family but if they make you feel bad about it when you get home, they're not OK with it. Ideally, your partner should support you having a life outside of your relationship.

They Criticize You Constantly, Even If It Seems Like They Want The Best For You

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If your partner always has something negative to say about the clothes you wear, how you spend your time, or who you hang out with, they might not actually have your best interests at heart. Instead, this tactic is a constant reminder that you will never be good enough until you start to doubt yourself, too.

Sometimes allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your relationship can strengthen it but you should never feel like your vulnerability is a liability. If your partner's actions make you feel overwhelmed and powerless, they are too controlling. Don't be afraid to ask for help from a friend, relative, or professional (like a relationship therapist or mental health expert). The best way to deal with a toxic relationship is to get out as early and as safely as possible.

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