Signs of a Controlling Woman: 13 Signs Of A Controlling Girlfriend

By Nicole Beasley |Updated April 26, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC
"Have you been feeling constricted in your relationship with your girlfriend? You may have a controlling girlfriend and that’s why you are feeling this way. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t been doing your part in the relationship, it may mean that she is feeling strong emotions that are creating her behavior. If you are feeling like she is becoming too controlling and you are uncomfortable, it might be time for you to seek counseling to learn how to move forward in the relationship." - Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPCC

Controlling Women

Do you often feel as though your girlfriend is controlling your life? Even if it might seem subtle at first, a controlling girlfriend can be a very suffocating thing. If you have been in your relationship for some time, you might have a mind toward marriage. But you don't want to be married to someone who is going to try to control you for the rest of your life. It is not healthy. Therefore, it is important to know the signs of a controlling girlfriend so that you can do something about it before it's too late.

Establishing Healthy Relationship Boundaries Is Important
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Signs Of A Controlling Woman

There are many different signs of a controlling girlfriend. It's important to understand that oftentimes what one person thinks of as controlling may seem natural to someone else. For example, snooping might seem controlling to one person, while another person feels that there is nothing to hide and no reason not to snoop. However, there are some pretty universal signs of a controlling girlfriend. Before getting into more detail about the signs below, it's important to note that the following traits are also common in controlling boyfriends and controlling partners in general. 

#1 Isolation

Does your girlfriend try to isolate you from friends and family? It may seem to start innocently enough, with your girlfriend finding reasons for you to not go out with your friends or attend family events. But eventually, it will snowball until you rarely see your friends and family, and never without your girlfriend. This is usually because your girlfriend feels insecure and worries about what others will say to you about her.

#2 Frequent Criticism

You may notice that nothing you ever do seems to be good enough. If your girlfriend is constantly criticizing you so that you feel as though you are far from perfect for them, this can be a sign of very controlling behavior. This is an indicator that your girlfriend wants to control every detail about you and change you to suit her desires.

#3 Threats And Ultimatums

When most people think about someone making threats, they are thinking about threats of physical violence or aggression. But in reality, threats and ultimatums of a more personal and emotional nature are often much more common, much more frequent, and much more effective, which is why controlling girlfriends use them.

#4 Making Acceptance And Love Conditional

Does your girlfriend only make you feel loved and accepted when you do something to please her? If she only shows affection when you do what she wants, and withholds it when you don't do as she desires, it is a sign that she is very controlling.

#5 She Keeps Score-And Uses It

It is natural in a relationship for there to be a certain amount of giving and take. It is generally accepted that the ratio of giving and taking will vary from time to time, but both partners should be committed to making an effort. But a controlling girlfriend keeps score, and when she's ahead she will make sure that you know it.

#6 Uses Guilt Against You

If you have ever done something to upset a controlling girlfriend, you have probably noticed that you will never be allowed to forget it. A controlling girlfriend will bring up past transgressions and make you feel guilty about them to get you to do what they want.

#7 Creating A Debt-And Making You Pay It

This sign of a controlling girlfriend usually goes hand in hand with #5, keeping score. A controlling girlfriend will do her best to do something that creates a debt against you, and then she will bring it up and use it to get what she wants when you least expect it. She may try to get a lot of mileage out of just one debt as well, bringing it up again and again.

#8 Snooping

Some people do not consider snooping to be controlling behavior, but in reality, snooping can be a sign of a very controlling girlfriend. While you should never make an attempt to hide anything from your partner and you should always be honest and truthful, that doesn't mean that you are going to tell your partner every little bit about every single day. It would be exhausting to try. If your girlfriend is so controlling that she has to snoop on your phone to find out what she missed, that is a bad sign.

#9 Accusations And Jealousy

Does your girlfriend constantly seem jealous whenever your attention goes elsewhere? Jealousy can sometimes set in over friends and family, not just over other women that you might come into contact with. A controlling girlfriend will also frequently make accusations and use her assumptions as grounds for isolation from your friends and family.

#10 Not Respecting Alone Time

Although partners should share nearly everything, you must spend time alone as individuals. Alone time is a vital part of maintaining your mental health. Even if it is just for an hour a day, you should spend some time alone with your thoughts or doing something that you enjoy. A controlling girlfriend will not allow you to have alone time for fear of what you are doing while she's not around.

#11 Making You Earn Good Treatment

Does your girlfriend only treat you well when you have done something she wanted? Being treated with respect and care, having dates, showing affection, or having trust between you should not be dependent on what you do for your girlfriend. If your girlfriend makes you earn the kind of treatment that you deserve all the time, she is using it to control you.

#12 Relentless Arguing

A controlling girlfriend will always be picking fights and starting arguments, then trying to play the victim. The idea behind frequent arguing, even if it is over something minor that seems unimportant, is that you will get so tired of arguing all the time you will start to give in more and more until your girlfriend is controlling everything you do in an effort not to argue.

Establishing Healthy Relationship Boundaries Is Important

#13 Unwillingness To See Your Point Of View

In a healthy relationship, both partners must try to see each other's points of view in situations to negotiate problems and find compromises and solutions. If your girlfriend is completely unwilling or unable to see your side of things and constantly demands that her side is the only side, that is a sign of a very controlling relationship.

Why Girlfriends Can Be Controlling

There can be many different reasons that girlfriends might be controlling. Psychologists have tried to understand controlling behavior in the context of romantic relationships for many years. With the research that they have done, they have discovered a few different reasons that you might have a controlling girlfriend.

Some women are controlling. They can't control themselves or their environment, while other women are controlling because they have a fear of being betrayed or abandoned. In some cases, controlling girlfriends are narcissistic, which can lead to dangerous consequences. Regardless of the underlying reason for controlling behavior, experts agree that controlling girlfriends are after the same things. They don't feel good about themselves and others, and because of that, they want to control you so that you also feel inadequate.

What To Do When You Notice Signs of a Controlling Woman?

Before you entertain marriage with a controlling girlfriend, it is important that you set some hard boundaries about what behavior will and won't be accepted. Sit down with your girlfriend and let her know what behavior is controlling and troubling for you, and what you are willing to accept. If your girlfriend loves you and wants the relationship to move to the next level, she will be willing to make changes.

Of course, these conversations are never easy to have. It can be difficult to articulate into words how you think and feel in a way that your girlfriend can understand. In these situations, it is a good idea for you and your girlfriend to go through relationship counseling. Especially if you are planning on eventual marriage, you want to talk to a licensed therapist to address these issues beforehand.

If you cannot find an affordable relationship counselor near you, there are other options. ReGain is an online counseling platform that specializes in relationship and marriage counseling. The licensed therapists on ReGain's network can help you, and your controlling girlfriend communicate better, learn healthy habits, and set important boundaries.

The great thing about ReGain is that it is an affordable and convenient solution. Most health insurance does not cover relationship counseling. It can also be difficult to find a day and time that both you and your girlfriend are available with the therapist's schedule if you are working with a traditional counselor. With online counseling like ReGain, you can work with a relationship counselor at a time that works for you because there are licensed therapists available at any time day or night, including on holidays. If you and your girlfriend want to take things to the next level but need to move past controlling behavior, you should contact ReGain today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can you tell if a woman is controlling? 

Controlling people and a controlling partner can make you doubt your ability to make decisions. If the controlling people and the controlling partner in your life don’t trust you, make you feel bad, or feel miserable, it can be a sign of emotional or physical abuse. 

A controlling woman or controlling people have a way of making you feel like you do not have a complete say in your life. If you have ever felt any of these, you may have a controlling partner:

• They have been isolating you from friends
• You don’t see your favorite family member, family, or friends as much as you want to or used to
• They are making you feel like you need to break free of the relationship
• You question a toxic relationship
• You have been a victim of physical abuse by your controlling woman 
• There has been a history of abusive behavior
• You never have any personal space or your personal space is rifled through 
• Your emotional health is suffering or there is emotional abuse
• You get the silent treatment when you don’t do something exactly the way it was asked of you
• A lot of time you are accused of having extramarital affairs 

These signs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the signs of a controlling woman, controlling wife, or girlfriend.

What makes a woman controlling?  

If you were to ask a clinical psychologist, or read an article in Psychology Today, controlling women who are making you feel like you are in physical abuse or emotional abuse relationship have typically been abused themselves. 

Abusive or controlling partners create a toxic relationship that they did not initially intend to create. In Psychology Today, there are diagnoses for those who have been in a past abusive or controlling relationship. Controlling people, a controlling woman, and controlling partners typically want something that they were deprived of in the past. By controlling partners, they can get what they did not have in the past. This is seen often in domestic partnership abuse, physical abuse by a family member, or other relationships where the woman felt a complete lack of control for herself. After escaping these controlling relationships, many women do not wish to even be in the same situation, and some end up becoming the controlling abuser. 

Making you feel as though you do not have control over her is part of the process a controlling woman goes through. She does not want someone to overpower her, therefore, she overpowers her partner. 

Warning signs of a controlling woman include violating your personal space, accusing you of being in an extramarital affair, giving you silent treatment, and other signs of control. 

Controlling partners do not necessarily like their situation, but they often hope that they can change their controlling woman. 

In Psychology Today, we know that changing controlling people, a controlling partner, or a controlling woman is not an easy feat. Counseling is necessary to get to the route of why they are a controlling person and making you feel less than you are in reality. However, if you are tired of arguing that you are being micromanaged, you should seek Psychology Today for a way to manage your situation. Relationship advice is always available.   

Some suspect a personality disorder in the practice of psychology today. Signs of a controlling woman can be a symptom of other mental health conditions taking place. If your wife enjoys controlling people or is a controlling partner in your relationship, she may need psychological help. You may also benefit from relationship advice. 

How do you know if you're controlling in a relationship? 

If you get personal gratification out of controlling people or controlling relationships, are doing things that are making you feel that you are a controlling woman, or exhibit signs of controlling others, you may benefit from information and advice given in psychology today or shortly. 

If you should see signs of a controlling personality, accuse your partner of having extramarital affairs when they get home late from work, want to control all aspects of your husband’s life, you may be a controlling person. 

Being in control and being a controlling person is not the same. When we are in control of a situation, we can manage things efficiently and effectively. However, if you are a controlling person who enjoys making others feel bad this is very different. 

What is a controlling personality? 

Controlling people have controlling personalities. They want things done exactly the way they say and they do not like hearing the word no. Perhaps your boss is a controlling person. They could get fired if you screw up on a project, so they like to have control over all aspects of the people below them. While this type of micromanaging is not necessarily healthy, for either party, it happens in many work environments. However, if you are in controlling relationships, this is a bigger problem. 

A controlling personality, like controlling people or a controlling person, is a bold force of empowerment used to keep someone under your thumb. If it is unconditional positive regard for the life of another person. 

There are signs your partner is over-controlling. If making you feel bad seems to be the highlight of their day, this is not a healthy relationship for you to be involved in. 

Perhaps they accuse you of having an extramarital affair or question why you are five minutes late from work. Maybe they give you the guilt treatment if you want to go out with your friends on a Saturday night or insist you stay home and take care of the kids while they go to work. All of these are signs your partner is over-controlling. If this sounds like your wife, they are signs of a controlling woman running your life. 

What is a toxic relationship? 

A toxic relationship is one where you have a relationship with controlling people or a controlling partner and you do not feel happy the majority of the time. You may be tired of arguing, but the toxic person in your life continues to start fights with you. 

If you were to seek relationship advice by browsing the Internet, you would see articles saying that the signs of a controlling woman would indicate that you do not need a therapist, you just need to be with them more. However, it is perfectly okay to give yourself permission to break free of their control and leave the relationship. Especially if you feel that it is not healthy or safe for you to stay. 

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