Controlling people use a variety of means to dominate their partners—whether they or their partners realize what’s happening or not.
In this article, we asked experts to discuss some of the most common warning signs of a controlling man and how to deal with him.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Professor of Psychology |
Author, Don’t You Know Who I Am?
He frequently asks for your whereabouts and asks for proof
Initially, people may think this is “intense interest” or genuine curiosity – but it is the frequency of the questioning and the need for “proof” that takes it from being just “curiosity” to “talk”
He has an obsessive interest in your social media and the details on everyone there
While it may be nice that your partner is taking an interest in your life and friends, the sense that is a tribunal and especially when they get fixated on people that they think may be a threat, flirtatious, or ex’s – pay attention to that. Don’t mistake pathological jealousy and obsessiveness with “being really into you”.
He pushes you to give up your career or aspirations so they can “take care of you”
They may frame it in a really loving (manipulative) way. “I want you to have the time to do what you want to do” or “I got this job transfer and what a great time for you to come and help us get set up in our future and take the time to figure out what you want to do” or “we are thinking about having kids and you should be with them all the time.”
Now, if you are in true agreement with the plan, then great, but if you are concerned that you feel that your hopes may be derailed and are concerned about how finances will work (and they aren’t giving you a clear answer) – pay attention, financial control is often where controlling relationships begin.
He slowly isolates you from friends and family through multiple pathways
By sharing rumors, making comments about their lack of loyalty, pitting you against them.
“It feels like you don’t want this relationship as much as I do, you are always dashing off to see them, and I get it – if you want to be with them, maybe this isn’t a good time for a relationship”.
He insists on showing up to all of your events even when it doesn’t make sense
He wants to join you on work events, friend get-togethers. If he doesn’t show up – he insists on dropping you off or picking you up or both. It may seem like solicitousness but it may not be. Pay attention and if it feels like too much – it probably is.
He undermines your goals and aspirations
A sample statement is, “Do you really want to be a teacher? They don’t make any money.” This can sap you of confidence and make you more reliant on them.
Founder and Dating Coach, LUMA Luxury Matchmaking
He may try to weaken you
If your partner is abusive, and controlling he may try to weaken you by not letting you improve yourself. By controlling your self-improvement process, he wants to be sure that you will not become better than him.
You have to watch out for the subtle ways your partner may try to weaken you. If you’ve quit cigarettes and he’s offering you some, be careful! This may be his way to sabotage your self-improvement process.
He doesn’t like your friends or family
One of the most common controlling behavior of abusers is to isolate their partners, so if your partner doesn’t like any of your friends and family you should ask yourself why.
He may want to control you by controlling the people you hang out with, and it may even seem innocent. You have to be careful and keep your friends and family close.
His life is a mystery
Another controlling behavior is being mysterious. You have to evaluate how much do you know about your partner and how much does he know about you.
Are you sharing much more about your life, but you don’t know too much about him? Are you asking him about his life but he’s refusing to talk about it? He may try to control you by controlling what you know about him. This way he can control your opinion of him.
He’s into too much disagreement
Your partner may control you by subtly educating you to stop having differing opinions. He may do that by always disagreeing with you.
If you see him acting smarter than you, or turning around everything you say he may be using a bullying technique. This way he can control what you think.
He’s full of excuses
Is your partner always finding excuses for every situation, like why he got fired, or where they’ve been? If your partner is a controlling person than he has the talent of finding excuses for everything.
He’s controlling the information you have about him by manipulating information. This is one of the most powerful controlling behavior.
He’s monopolizing your time
A controlling person will try to make sure you don’t have any more time for yourself. He may do that by keeping you busy.
If you have to take care of the home, kids, and meals, you will have little time left for yourself, and he will want to spend it with you, keeping you under control.
You need to stop being blinded by our own misguided beliefs
We need to see the person past who we want them to be. We need to make a conscious effort to recognize who they are at their core, even if it’s not who we want them to be.
Making these small efforts will help you see clearly during the first part of your relationship, as opposed to the last. You have the power to take off the rose-colored goggles.
You should learn to walk away
If you see something in your new partner that is non-negotiable, it’s your right as a human being to walk away and end the relationship. It may feel cold, but, in truth, you don’t owe them much at this point.
In fact, you’re doing them and yourself a favor walking away before either party gets too involved. You cannot change someone at their core, and attempting to will leave you both in heartbreak.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Creative Solutions Counseling
He wants to be informed of your whereabouts at all times
Perhaps you want to go out with friends to get nails done. You aren’t able to just do that, you have to get it approved by the man you’re in a relationship with.
He may even go so far to show up where the appt is happening. He may say “I was in the area and wanted to say hi.” Make no mistake, this is an attempt to control.
He wants to limit the time you have with your family
If you are close to your family and he gets mad at you for spending time with them you should take this as a red flag. There should be nothing wrong with spending an appropriate amount of time with your family. If he has an issue with it, there is a problem there.
He wants to be in control of finances
This is most obviously seen when couples own things together. His name is the only one on the car registration, house deed, rental contract. If this is the case you probably are in a relationship with a controlling man.
If you find yourself in these situations, the best thing you can do is leave. When a person is this desperate to control, it is unlikely they will easily change. They don’t want to be told by a third party (usually) what needs to be done differently.
Author | Relationship Expert | Transformative Life-changer
If you are with a controlling man – stop ‘dealing’ with him. Pack your stuff and get out of there!
You should have the least contact possible
If we are not speaking of a romantic partner, but rather a colleague or someone you have to deal with often, try to have the least contact possible.
Don’t go against them – rather let them be right. Choose your peace over proving something and showing that you’re right. The moment you let him feel he’s right and that his point of view is correct, you break his overpowering dynamic.
Don’t argue and don’t go against him. Don’t try to please him, because that is how you are feeding his overpowering dynamic.
Just stay in the neutral place, where you don’t take any of it personally (he’s probably doing it with his entire surrounding so it really has nothing to do with you). Let him do his thing and you do yours.
You need to get out of the relationship
If we’re speaking of a romantic relationship with a controlling man, I’d just advise you to get out of there. This might quite a disillusionment, but controlling men will always want to overpower you, use you, and step over your borders.
Underneath is most often actually a man who is feeling uncertain, traumatized, and wounded. Very often they have been misused, so they treat others like that, too, believing that they need to show up like ‘real men’.
You should never try to heal him or change him
You might consider choosing a different type of man – one who is honoring you and contributing to you. Controlling men don’t want you to be happy, independent, and simply choosing what is best for you and living your life.
They want you to do and be what they want. The more you live your life, the less control they have. That may make them feel powerless, so they will get more aggressive, which is not fun.
So if you really desire to have a fulfilling relationship with a great man, if you see that you are in a relationship with a controlling guy, just turn around and go.
You can practice self-reflection
Also, have a look at what it was in you, that made you choose such a man. Which inner dynamic and behavior did he match in you? Have a deeper look and heal that, so that next time you don’t attract such a man.
It might have something to do with a place in you, where you are not willing to take responsibility and control of your own life, and you’d rather want to give it up and find someone who would do it all for you.
One reason it is important to distinguish the signs of a controlling man vs. a controlling person is that society still socializes gender sanctioned power in a way that men have more power in institutions, including relationships. Some signs include:
He may ask about your social media
“Who’s that?” He may be particularly interested in the origin of male friends or female friends that he is not familiar with. He may question your posts or comments on other posts.
He may ask you to explain your interaction with others on social media. Controlling men may expect a “sanitized” history, free from the evidence that you’ve had previous dates or relationships.
He may suggest for you to say or not say certain things to his friends or family. For example, he may ask that you do not reveal you are of a particular political party, or that you practice mindfulness, or in other ways ask you to censor part of your whole self.
He widens the gap between you and other people
A controlling man may make negative comments about strong and confident people in your life. Controlling men often move to create and widen a gap between you and people who can identify the control.
As a part of that, he may try to separate you from people or settings that have been strong and foundational in your life.
He expects to have access to your electronics or devices
He thinks this is okay because “you have nothing to hide.” He may expect to be able to pick up your phone or tablet and scroll through at any time.
He gives frequent advice on things you handle well
A controlling man will often unsolicited offer advice or information on things you’ve handled perfectly well before the relationship: money, parenting, career, health, spirituality, friendships.
He will create false dichotomies or decisions for loyalty
For example, a controlling man will expect you to choose him by agreeing on how he thinks you should handle a situation with your adult child, and will often withhold interaction, affection, or a happy mood if you don’t make the decision he wants.
Behavior Coach | Consultant | Author
There are several signs of a controlling man (including but not limited to):
He thinks women are inferior to men
Such a man will see a woman who tries to assert her independence in any way—whether that is via the way she acts, dresses, her life choices, or her sexuality—as a threat. Nowadays, however, “sexism” is a bad word, and no man wants to admit that they are sexist.
Therefore, controlling men reveal themselves in indirect ways. Watch out for phrases along the lines of: “I don’t know what these women are complaining about.” (in relation to the #metoomovement).
Watch out for a man calling a powerful woman negative, derogatory words just because she possesses the power.
Watch out for a man who claims a woman is “bitchy” when she is simply setting a boundary (e.g. “Please don’t do that; that makes me uncomfortable”) or is making choices that he doesn’t personally approve of.
He “plays the victim” when confronted about his negative behavior
When bringing up a legitimate issue, he will deflect and try to blame the person raising the issue instead of working to change things.
Regarding a toxic male ex-friend, I once decided not to speak to him for a few days after I had informed him that he had said something hurtful, and I needed some emotional distance from him.
Instead of apologizing, he made a social media post about how “he ruins everything he touches” and “he hurts everyone he knows.” This was an attempt to garner sympathy instead of changing his behavior.
Controlling exploit the fact that women are socialized to show sympathy and give second chances to men who engage in hurtful behavior. This is a subtle and insidious way of control that often goes unnoticed—control by guilt.
You will deal with this type of man through observation
If you cannot find a way to remove him from your circles, I suggest that a woman play “Bingo” or use the “punch card strategy” to cope with someone with these characteristics.
Just like someone might get a coffee for free after buying ten coffees at their local coffee shop, after hearing 10 sexist comments or deflections, people can reward themselves with something nice (this does not have to cost anything! It can be time to read a book or watch a movie they’ve been putting off) due to the emotional labor of having to tolerate this behavior.
This is useful on two fronts:
- It allows a woman to observe a man’s behavior as a reminder not to take it personally.
- It uses the negative energy of this man against him.
Remember, such types *feed off* of your reaction and enjoy it. The more you can use their negative behavior against them, the better.
Controlling men can hide behind the illusion of taking care of another person or thing. The red flags come up when they start talking as if they are above what they are doing and who they are doing it for.
Authentic giving doesn’t make the recipient feel less than, but a controlling man needs a person to feel less than in order to control them.
A person must have a strong self-concept, healthy boundaries, and consider the source to effectively deal with a controlling man.
You should have a strong and healthy self-concept
The healthier you are inside, the less effect a controlling man will have over you. Your greatest tools come from within because whatever way you treat yourself is projected out and will be reflected back.
A healthy self-concept can keep us from being dominated by others because, in order to be dominated, we must first shrink down.
Our body language says a lot about our self-concept. When dealing with a controlling man, your body must reflect self-confidence. You need to remain confident to speak your truth.
You need to develop and maintain healthy boundaries
If a controlling man doesn’t see you as an equal, he has power. If you have clear, strong, and healthy boundaries, he will match your respect for yourself or distance himself from you.
This doesn’t mean a controlling man won’t try to attack, but it means when you don’t respond to his attack by cowering, he will know he has the choice to change his behavior or move on.
If you need to call him out, ask questions instead of making defensive statements. If he brings out our wounded child, he wins (in his mind).
Consider the source
Consider the source is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten when it comes to dealing with difficult people. Healthy people don’t seek control over others.
If he is saying things to try to make you feel less than, don’t take it in. It’s not personal. What he is doing is about him, not you. He only has an idea of you, and he is looking at you through skewed lenses.
Doing these three things helps in both personal and professional relationships, but a healthy self-concept can’t be faked. A controlling man will see through any façade and work even harder to break a person down.
Be true to you and know that you are enough, just as you are.
Pubic Speaker | Writer
He doesn’t let you hang out with your friends at all
Anytime you mention that you are going out with friends he tells you that it’s not a good idea and your friends are no good for you.
He monitors your finances
He is monitoring everything that you are buying even though you are using your own money.
He has the need to control your phone
He wants to know who is texting or calling. He wants to know why you’re posting certain things on social media or check your social media accounts so he knows who you are talking to at all times.
He doesn’t allow you to do anything or go anywhere on your own
He has to be stuck to your side at all times and even when you’re at work he is constantly checking up on you and finding ways to verify that you are at work.
Ask yourself and it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of self-reflection
How do you deal with this? Start by being honest with yourself and ask yourself if you are doing anything that is triggering his need to control things. Have you done anything to make him question your trust?
Ask him if he is open to having a conversation with you
If he agrees to have a conversation with you tell him why you are feeling controlled, using specific examples that he has done and why you don’t appreciate it.
If he is not open to having a conversation about how you are feeling, then that is your sign to leave. He needs to be open and willing to talk about it in order to improve the situation.
If he doesn’t want to talk about it, you are wasting your time and things will not improve since he doesn’t value you enough to take the time to understand your concerns and improve the relationship.
Expert in Clinical Psychology | Co-founder and CTO, InVivo Biosystems
The ultimate goal of a controlling man is to maintain power over the person they have a relationship with. He uses different tactics to control you.
He criticizes you pointlessly
A controlling man may criticize you without any reason, and it may start with small criticisms that only comes once a while, but once he begins criticizing you constantly, it is a clear sign of controlling behavior.
It is a simple tact that a controlling man uses to influence behavior. By making you incompetent and feeble-minded, you become helpless, and you’re easy to control that way.
A controlling man can comment on your weight, clothes, anything else about your physical appearance, or criticizes everything you do all the time.
As his partner, you must:
- Realize that he’s not doing it to make you a better person.
- Understand that you don’t need to change.
- Have an open discussion and respectfully ask him to explain his thoughts.
He uses threatening tactics
A controlling man sometimes threatens her partner without any major reason. He may give you a threat or ultimatum that “If you don’t stop hanging out with Lisa, then I’m going to break up with you.” Threats and ultimatums are really extreme examples of controlling behavior.
It is normal to expect certain things from a relationship like respect, loyalty but its not good to manipulate your partner into giving these things. Your men should respect and understand the relationship and avoid using threats.
As his partner, you must:
- Realize he doesn’t truly love you.
- Find your freedom and never stay in a relationship that is held together by threats.
He isolates you from others
A man trying to isolate you from your relative or support network is someone who is trying to assert his dominance. Isolated people can be controlled easily, so be careful if he’s talking isolate about your family or friends.
He endlessly criticizes your friends or family member in an attempt to get you to lose trust in that person. It’s even worse if he actively tries to start drama to drive a wedge between you and the people you care about or forbid you from meet or seeing them.
As his partner, you must:
- Never believe what he says, and don’t pay any attention to his rumors about your supporting network.
- Ask yourself if being with that type of man is worth losing everyone else in your life.
Relationship Coach, The Big Fling
He isolates you from friends and family
One of the first things a controlling man will do is try to separate you from your friends and family. This can come in the form of needing you to check-in at all times, needing to be present if you are with them, stating they ‘don’t like’ or ‘don’t feel comfortable’ around people who are important to you, and otherwise forcing or probing you not to see them.
This is how a controlling man makes sure he has total control with nobody in the way and nobody to tell you that he’s in the wrong.
He spies on you
A man who is controlling is constantly paranoid that someone or something is going to get in the way of his control. If he is keeping tabs on you, showing up to places to spy on you (like a workout class, a friend’s house, or work), it’s a sure sign he’s controlling.
He uses his strength as a threat
Men are larger, stronger, and they have louder voices as a whole. If a man is using any of these things to intimidate the woman he is with, he is doing it for control. If there’s a veiled threat behind his body language or shouting, it’s a sign he is trying to overpower you.
This is a dealbreaker: If a man makes you feel physically unsafe, you must leave the situation no matter what.
He is always jealous
Controlling men are living in fear that something is going to take their power away. They are most threatened by other men.
So, if your man is constantly jealous of other men in your life, or friendships with men or women when he has no real reason to be, it’s because he fears losing his control over you.
He has no respect for your boundaries
To a controlling man, your boundaries do not matter if they don’t appease him. Your need for space, time alone, the ability to achieve your goals does not measure up to his need for control. So, he will break the boundaries you’ve set up because they don’t fit with his agenda.
He makes you feel unworthy
If you find yourself constantly feeling as if you need to ‘prove’ your worth to your man, or that you are ‘lucky’ to be with him in the first place because you aren’t good enough, this just means that he has manipulated you with his control.
Partnerships are equal, and nobody is perfect. Healthy partners allow their significant others the freedom to fail and feel safe about it.
He makes sex feel like a means to an end
Sex with a controlling man is often rough, which might come across as passionate at first. But, eventually, the sex will feel like something you have at your disposal to stay in his good graces.
If sex becomes unenjoyable to you or it feels like that is what your worth is predicated on, that is a sign that your partner is controlling.
He makes low jabs
A controlling man needs to keep you feeling beneath him, so he will make jabs at you that feel below the belt. He might comment on your attractiveness, past traumatic experiences, or things that are out of your control. If he insults you, it’s a control tactic.
He controls your social media activities
Social media is a controlling man’s worst nightmare. It’s a way for you to expose the truth to the people who follow you. For that reason, controlling men are often deciding what is acceptable to be put on your social media.
They might not want it too sexy for fear that it will attract another man, or they might want all of your passwords to maintain their control over you.
Here are some ideas on how to deal with a controlling man:
Some men are so controlling that they are not worth being with them in the first place. These are the relentless, fear-imposing, larger-than-life men who have no give when it comes to your needs.
There’s no real way to deal with them and it is better to leave but some men are controlling and they don’t even know it. It’s an innate way for them to deal with their own trauma.
If you feel that your man is capable of change, here’s how you can deal with how controlling he is:
You have to create a list of strict boundaries as an ultimatum
Men are visual creatures who also need things spelled out for them. I often suggest creating a list of boundaries for a man and make those boundaries an ultimatum.
For example, he can’t have your social media passwords and you need a certain amount of alone time. He also needs to respect your time with friends and family.
Make a list, write it down, and give it to him. Let him know that it’s the only way for a relationship to work. Allow him to make his own boundaries for himself, not for you. That way, it’s an equal partnership.
Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific
We all exhibit a form of controlling behavior when it comes to relationships. Although for some men with severe cases, it often leads to aggression, hostility, and violence.
In a study conducted by IVAWS (International Violence Against Women Survey), all of the 5,074 Australian women respondents admit that their current male partners are controlling and 23% of them said that it often leads to the destruction of possessions.
Thankfully, despite the fact that my partner can be a bit controlling especially when he’s jealous, he can still manage his temper and be logical all the time.
But still, it’s better to know the signs and to deal with it at the start of your relationship rather than let it fester.
He cuts off your interaction with friends or workmates
It often starts with him simply being interested in who your friends or workmates are. And then he’d occasionally start asking you what sort of relationship you have with them and how often you hang out or talk to each other.
That’s fine and normal in a relationship, but it gets ugly if he starts complaining that you meet them too often or he doesn’t like them due to some illogical reason. And it becomes worse if he starts telling you to stop meeting them or talking to them.
He is guilt-tripping you all the time
Controlling men are great in manipulating women’s emotions and turning it into their favor. And guilt-tripping is their strongest and most effective tool of manipulation.
They do it so subtly and in a logical manner that ladies often fall for it and start being guilty of even the smallest of reasons.
Here’s how to handle a controlling man:
You have to dig into the “why”
The best way to handle a controlling man is to first discover and understand where his controlling behavior stems from. Dig into the root cause of it all.
Men become controlling for various reasons, some do it because of their upbringing while others do it for pleasure. Whatever the reason may be, having a full grasp of it can help you better deal with them.
You need to stand your ground
The man wins if you simply allow him to control or manipulate your life. But its high time you start standing up and be assertive of your side.
You see men constantly do it to women who they find weakly and easily bullied. But if you start standing your ground, men will think twice before doing it ever again.
Dating Expert, DatingRelationshipsAdvice.com
He makes you apologize—constantly
One of the telling signs your partner’s slowly dominating your life is when you find yourself always apologizing. Even for the most trivial of things and even if you aren’t at fault, you say sorry.
It’s especially bad if you apologize for the things he did wrong. He is powerful and capable of turning the tables in your relationship. It’s his way to stay in control, and pretty soon, this dominance gets the better part of the confident and independent you.
He makes you feel the need to hide things
Even if you are sincerely not doing anything wrong, you will always feel the need to hide things from your partner. The extent of how much you want to hide is a sign of how much control he has over you.
His needs come first
A healthy relationship is one where couples think of the needs of their partner’s, without setting aside their own feelings.
Taking care of yourself is not being selfish; rather it is an indication of how much self-worth you have. A couple can only be happy if no one is suffering.
How do you deal with this, before it becomes too late?
You ought to think with your mind and stand up for yourself
You can only break the cycle when you know and assert that you aren’t wrong. Instead of taking the blame, try to take the issue as a springboard for conversation. Talk your issues out.
Relationship Expert, Self Development Secrets
He has unreasonable jealousy
One of the signs of a man who controls you is jealousy. At the beginning of your relationship, it can be nice and even flattering, it can be viewed as a sign of care and love. But when it is getting more and more intense, you start to feel scary.
When you feel this kind of controlling possession within your relationship, understand that their need for control usually comes from deep insecurity.
In order to handle this kind of controlling possession, the best option is open communication. Tell him your concerns as controlling leads to feelings of mistrust in a relationship, which then leads to spying, false accusations, and constant fear of cheating.
This cannot be considered as a healthy relationship. Many women also think that if they show their partner how much they love them, the man won’t think that she might be cheating on him. This is definitely a wrong thought.
Do not allow your partner to invade your privacy. You can still love your partner, being supportive, helping him overcome his insecurities.
Relationship Expert, Feely Feelings
He should always give permission
A controlling man is someone who will demand that you ask for permission before doing activities such as hanging out with friends, going to a movie, etc.
A controlling man will want to grant you permission for going on these outings. Or, even worse, they will deny you the opportunity and threaten you or manipulate you in order to get you to obey. They’ll likely also want to control who you can hang out with and when.
Signs of abuse
A controlling man can quickly turn into an abusive man. Whether the abuse is physical, verbal, financial, or other, the motives behind the abuse are the same as the motives behind the control – having a sense of power over another human being.
Once you start noticing controlling behaviors in your man, you must nip things in the bud. Call them out on their behavior, and even consider going to therapy. If they do not change their ways, end the relationship before things escalate.
Dating Coach, Meetopolis
You may be with a controlling man if you find him:
- Constantly questioning you and then intimating he doesn’t believe you when he has no real reason to not believe you.
- Becoming displeased when you wish to spend time with others in your life.
- Constantly creating drama such as becoming angry if you miss a call from him or take too long to reply to a text.
- Constantly criticizing you as this is a way for him to get a leg up and control you more as you will begin to feel like you don’t deserve more.
What can you do? Set boundaries early in the relationship and make sure you don’t lose yourself in the relationship. Remember emotional and mental abuse is also abuse!
Don’t allow yourself to be belittled by him. If he is not able to live by healthy boundaries you set and accept that you have other people who matter to you in your life, perhaps you would be better off alone.
The deeper you get into a relationship with a controlling man, the harder it will be to be a healthy individual.
Relationship Expert, Instant Checkmate
He has a lot of opinions about how women ‘should’ look
A very common tactic of emotional abusers is to try and control how their partner appears. But a controlling man may not start out by commenting on your appearance.
Watch out if your date has a lot of opinions about other women. Does he comment on how much a stranger weighs, or calls a woman dressed a certain way a pejorative name? These subtle red flags indicate that he may start projecting his ideas of how a woman “should” look and behave onto you.
If you’re just getting to know someone, raise a concern with any disrespectful comments. If he responds defensively — it might be time to send this date packing.
He doesn’t like your friends
A controlling man often seeks to isolate his partner, so they become more dependent on him and are less likely to see any problems with his behavior or actions. One of the most common tactics for this is by disapproving of your friends.
Watch out for statements like “I don’t like how you act around your friends,” or “They don’t have your best interests at heart.”
A controlling man will voice his disapproval of your loved ones in hopes that you’ll eventually spend less time with them.
Set firm boundaries with a new partner, and let them know that your friends are a priority in your life. If a new partner tries to undermine that, it’s a big warning sign of trouble down the road.