Originally posted on Bustle
Not only do controlling relationships involve codependent, destructive behavior — though that’s a major piece to the issue — but you’re often in too deep before you realize what’s really happening. And that’s because people who are controlling or manipulative are often really, really good at hiding it, so you may not even notice that your partner’s behavior is problematic. Even scarier, they can disguise it as behavior that looks protective — or even cute. So it’s important to know the difference between these things, because controlling behavior can make for a really toxic relationship.
“As soon as you have a clear indication that the relationship is toxic, say something,” Natalie Moore, M.A., psychotherapist and owner of Relationship Refuge, tells Bustle. Because it’s probably only going to get worse. That means not making excuses for them and seeing through the behavior that you’re trying to convince yourself is OK. For example, telling yourself, they’re not needy, they just really love me or they’re not manipulative, they just have my best interests as heart.
Especially at the beginning of a relationship, you don’t want to see this behavior. But that’s when controlling people often lay their groundwork. So these are the things that may seem cute, but are actually controlling.
1. Checking In, A Lot
Isn’t it so cute that they text you every 10 minutes? Nope, not cute. Someone who’s checking in all the time needs a lot from you — and it’s the first step towards being controlling. Make sure that all of this “checking in” isn’t actually them keeping an eye on you.
2. Keeping Tabs On Your Whereabouts
Speaking of — someone wanting to actually keep tabs on you is not OK. I’ve had friends think it’s cute or a sign of closeness if a partner wants access to every area of your life. “If he or she is checking your phone, accusing you of cheating or flirting, or is demanding to know your whereabouts, it is time to have a serious conversation about what is really going on,” psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle.
3. Getting Jealous
Some people actually think jealousy is cute — that it’s a sign of how much they like you, but it’s not always the case. Sure, a little jealousy is normal, but if it happens regularly, and without basis, then it’s something you need to look at. ‘”We all experience jealousy at some point; the key to keeping things healthy is being able to identify the feeling and not allow it to control behavior,” marriage and family therapist and relationship expert Esther Boykin tells Bustle. Make sure it’s not being used as a tool to manipulate you.
4. Wanting To Join In “Girls’ Night”
There’s a difference between wanting to spend time with your friends and not letting you be alone with them. One friend of mine brought her boyfriend to everything. I didn’t see her on her own for about two years. Her boyfriend just acted as though he really wanted to make an effort with us. But the truth is, it was way beyond that. He didn’t want to let her out of his sight. That kind of behavior isn’t OK.
5. Talking About The Future Too Early
Talking about the future can be totally healthy — and at some points it’s obviously necessary. But someone talking about how they want to make a future with you and have such strong feelings for you when it’s still early on in the relationship is often really manipulative.
“Manipulators are great at reading people to find their insecurities,” Jonathan Bennett, Dating/Relationship Coach and owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. “If it feels like your new partner has a knack for saying just the right things to make you feel good, then ask yourself if he or she is being authentic or manipulating.”
6. Demanding Your Time
Sure, quality time together is important, but if they demand your time or make you bargain for time without them, that’s crossing a line. “Ultimatums are, of course, never fair — but probably the most egregious one is asking a partner to compromise their own value for the sake of your comfort,” life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. “For example, if one partner values alone time with their best friends every Wednesday, but the other would rather their partner be home with them because they don’t love being alone, it’s pretty terrible to threaten the relationship to manipulate one into giving up a value for the sake of the other’s comfort.”
7. Getting “Protective”
“When they suspect you and everyone around you of having the worst of intentions,” psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle, it’s time to open your eyes. It’s totally natural for a partner to get annoyed or angry on your behalf sometimes — they care about you, after all. But it can often be used as a nasty tool to separate you from your friends and family. If they’re always coming up with reasons why other people treat you badly or aren’t good enough for you, it’s probably because they’re trying to keep you all to themselves.
Controlling behavior can be hard to spot because the people who do it are often really good at it. So make sure that what you think is “cute” is really coming from a good place. Just because it’s done with a smile, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.