Your partner calling you all the time, wanting to spend all their time with you, telling you what to wear, and wanting to know your whereabouts could be behaviours carried out because they genuinely care about your wellbeing and safety. Alternatively, it could also be their way of controlling you.  

There is a fine line between caring and controlling behaviour. I interviewed 200 therapy clients experiencing relationship issues, 89% stated they wouldn’t be able to identify the difference between the two. When it comes to the matters of the heart, our judgement is often clouded and partial, therefore making it difficult to see things clearly. Here are 5 tips to help identify if your relationship is caring or controlling.

Focus on your feelings

A controlling relationship will leave you feeling unhappy, unsettled, anxious, tense, on edge and overwhelmed. These “uncomfortable” feelings are your compass in life, alerting you to the fact that something isn’t right. If you are feeling like this in your relationship, then take some time away from this relationship and focus on how your feelings change. If you start to feel happier and healthier, then ask yourself what in your relationship is creating the “uncomfortable” feelings and what changes do you need to think about making. It will help also to speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling to get some perspective on the situation. 

Rational thinking

In a relationship we are emotionally involved, making our thinking irrational. This can cause confusion and take away clarity from a situation. Thinking rationally helps you to put things into context and enables you to see the reality of your situation and then logically take the next steps. Next time your partner says or does something that upsets you, think about someone you are close to and very protective over. Ask yourself, if they were being spoken to or treated in this way, what advice would I give to this person. Consider taking on board your own advice.

Pay attention to actions

Actions speak louder than words. Stop concentrating on what your partner is saying and start focusing on their actions. In a caring relationship, your partner will take into consideration your feelings, views, opinions and what you have to say. How often does that happen in your relationship? Who makes the majority of the decisions? To make the relationship more balanced, speak to your partner about wanting to be more involved in decision making within the relationship. If your partner cares they will be on board with this happening but if they are controlling, they will be resistant to you making decisions.

Family and friends

Divide and rule is one of the oldest tactics to control someone. You might have been led to believe that your family and friends are not good for you and that you shouldn’t be spending too much time with them. Ask yourself how accurate this statement actually is? Did you enjoy spending time with friends and family? Would you like to spend more time with them? If yes, then start reconnecting with those people that you lost touch with. If your partner isn’t supportive of this and gets angry, annoyed or agitated with your decision then this could be a sign of controlling behaviour. 

Unrealistic expectations

In a caring relationship, it is normal to do things that both individuals are happy with. If you find yourself feeling under pressure or forced at times directly as a result of your partner or relationship, this could be a red flag of a controlling relationship. Before you engage in an activity ask yourself whether you are doing it because you “want” to or because you feel you “should” be doing it. If the answer is “should” then ask yourself what you WANT to be doing instead. If your partner stops, criticises or judges you for doing what you want to do, then you need to acknowledge that this is not a caring relationship.

Happiness is not a privilege. It is your birth right and you are allowed to be happy. If your reason for unhappiness is your partner and your relationship, then this is something that may need to be addressed so that you can start to feel happier, healthier and stress free.

Kamalyn is an experienced Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Coach and Author, helping people create positive changes to improve their relationship.



Author of “How to take control of a Controlling Relationship”