5 Signs You Have A Controlling Boyfriend & What to Do About The Controlling Behavior

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated July 26, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Robin Brock , LISW

Signs Of A Controlling Boyfriend

Signs And Red Flags

One red flag is if your boyfriend doesn't trust you and looks at your phone constantly. They monitor who you talk to or text and may even look at your phone bill to see who you called. If your boyfriend doesn't ask for consent to see your phone and just takes it, that is not, acceptable, and it is controlling. A controlling boyfriend will interfere with your independence and will dominate until they assume complete control over the relationship. In a healthy relationship, people have their own separate lives. They have their own hobbies, their own jobs, their own friends, and so on, and each person trusts the other to be with those friends or at that job on their own without needing to review and give their approval for every little detail. Of course, the dynamic of a relationship varies from couple to couple, but one thing is always true in a healthy relationship - there is trust and care rather than control or domineering.

Dealing With An Emotionally Abusive Or Manipulative Boyfriend

Emotional abuse is a pervasive form of mistreatment in relationships. It happens when a person actively tries to humiliate, belittle, or hurt their partner through tactics such as name calling, insults, victim blaming, and gaslighting. They'll often try to decrease your self-worth or self-confidence. The abuser uses emotional abuse to wear their victim down so that they can maintain control over the relationship. This may be particularly true in a dynamic where the partner has healthy self-esteem to start out because the controlling boyfriend wants to tear it down to make sure that they can assume control over their partner. They want to tap into your insecurities. Abuse is a perpetual cycle and the reason that people stay in abusive relationships is that the partner isn't outwardly abusive all the time.

The Toxic Cycle Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

You may be wondering why someone would stay in an abusive relationship. If you're in an abusive relationship, it's likely that your abuser isn't always unkind because in abusive relationships, the abuse presents itself in a cycle. For example, the controlling boyfriend isn't always cruel; he'll go from being manipulative, gaslighting, and name calling to being kind and apologetic afterwards. Their partner will be confused and not know how to deal with the behavior, and they'll stay in this cycle of abuse because their significant other appears remorseful.

Negative Effects Of An Emotionally Abusive Marriage

signs of a controlling boyfriend

Being with a controlling boyfriend can have a long-lasting negative impact on an individual's self-esteem and mental health. It's been scientifically proven that abuse profoundly impacts the victim's brain. Trauma literally changes people's brain, and if you live or have lived with the trauma and stress of emotional abuse, your brain will suffer. You may experience symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Stomach pain or other GI issues
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The effects of emotional abuse over time are detrimental to your mind and body.

Recognizing a Controlling Relationship And Improving Mental Health

Once you recognize that you're in a controlling relationship, it's time to get out of it. It's not a situation in which you want to stay because the abuser has psychological problems and they need to change; you cannot change them. Once the controlling boyfriend realizes that their partner wants to leave, they'll do anything to make them stay. They beg for forgiveness or become crueler. They threaten their person to stay. They try to remove their girlfriend's support system so that they feel isolated and can't leave the relationship. They may deter them from seeking help or getting a clinical professional to assist them.

You might also see attempts of financial abuse in this situation. Financial abuse is present in many abusive relationships. It's where your partner makes it difficult to leave a relationship by hindering your access to financial resources. They directly steal your money, bully you to bail them out of financial problems, control financial assets, or open your documents such as bank statements. Your boyfriend feels entitled to the money you have. They are consistently interfering with your work or ability to perform a job. If these things are happening, it's a major problem in abusive relationships and it's something that you need to look at.

Five Signs That You Have A Controlling Boyfriend

Here are five signs that you have a controlling boyfriend:

  1. Social Isolation

Your controlling boyfriend is actively trying to isolate you from your support system. You find that you're not spending much time with your loved ones and your boyfriend may be implementing rules for when you need to be home. He may not allow you to spend time with anyone at all, and he may put negative things about your support system into your head.

  1. He's the Center of your World and Doesn't Allow Others to Infiltrate It

In anyone's life, they shouldn't be surrounded by only one person. If your boyfriend wants to be your everything, and gets jealous of other people, that's a big red flag. If you find that you're isolating from the people that are close to you, like your best friend, that is a sign that you may have a controlling boyfriend. Your boyfriend shouldn't be the only person in your universe.

You Deserve A Healthy Relationship

  1. Constantly Saying "Sorry"

When you're apologizing constantly to your partner or boyfriend, it's a sign that you have an unhealthy dynamic. He is allowing you to feel like you're doing something wrong. Many people with anxiety disorders find that they apologize due to their fears. However, if your boyfriend is enhancing your insecurities by being controlling, those apologies are coming from a different place inside of you. They stem from pain or the need for love and validation that you are not receiving in your relationship.

  1. Conditional Love

In a relationship, you should have unconditional love. You have agreed to love each other for who you are. That doesn't mean that you get to treat someone poorly; it indicates that you respect each other and accept each other for who you are. Conditional love, on the other hand, means that he only loves you if you behave or look a certain way. That's a major sign that a controlling boyfriend might be at play here; you feel like you must please him all of the time and like if you don't, he won't love you.

  1. Infantilizing or Treating You Like a Child

Your partner treats you less like an independent adult and more like a child. So, he infantilizes you, tells you what to do, makes you feel like you don't know what you're doing or how to make your own choices, condescends or patronizes you, and tries to organize your life. You are not a child, and you don't deserve to be told what to do. If you find that your boyfriend is behaving this way - trying to tell you what to wear, who to see, if he condescends to you - that's a sign that he's controlling.

Controlling Behavior Is Destructive And Toxic

If you find that you're in a controlling relationship, it can be emotionally destructive and detrimental to your life. It's important that you confront this issue and deal with the problems that can ensue. Look at the relationship and determine what parts are controlling so that you can understand that you need to do to get out of the relationship or make it healthier. One of the ways to deal with these issues is by going to therapy with your partner. In some cases, it's not hopeless; maybe he's behaving in a jealous way because he doesn't know how to handle a relationship and may be scarred from the past. The key in this situation is that you feel fully safe and that he shows a genuine, consistent effort to change. If this is the case for you, one thing that you can do is go to couples counseling. Online counseling can help, and the trained counselors at ReGain are here to help you work through these problems and make sure that you get the most out of your relationships.

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