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Control Is Not Love | Break Free without Looking Back

Couple showing that control is not love
Control is not love. You’re not somebody’s prisoner.

Love wears many faces.

It reveals itself through grand acts like an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant, and through modest expressions like a relaxing back massage at the end of a long day. You may be led to believe that the expressions of love are always pure, incapable of manipulation.

Unfortunately, things aren’t always what they seem on the surface.

Some people use love—or their twisted illusion of love—to their advantage and to control others.

Controlling partners normally start off as sweet and sincere just to win you over. Over time, they do a heel turn and show their true personalities, and proceed to apply their manipulative tactics.

But here’s the truth: control is not love. But how can you tell if your relationship is born of manipulation? And how can you walk away from that toxic circumstance?

In this article, we’ll discuss how why people seek to control their partners, how to recognize if you are in a controlling relationship, and how to ultimately break free from it.

Influence vs. Control

While influence and control are similar words, they have different motivations.

Influencing someone means persuading or directing them to take action, usually through non-threatening behavior. One example is when you gently encourage your partner to see their family more often.

On the other hand, control involves dominating or commanding others, usually through aggressive or forceful behavior. When taken to the extreme, this behavior can even be described as non-physical violence.

Picture this: Your partner wants you to stay home 24/7 and doesn’t allow you to go out. The catch here is they don’t place that restriction on themselves, going out every night and coming home at their convenience. This double standard is a classic case of controlling behavior., and a clear indicator of where they lie on the control vs. love debate.

Signs of a Controlling Partner

Now that we understand what being controlling means, let’s discuss how to identify this behavior in your partner. Observe your partner’s behavior and see if they raise these red flags:

1. They insist on making choices for you

Man waiting at a terminal
Controlling behavior can progress to non-physical violence if unchecked.

Having a proactive partner is one thing. But if they constantly do the decision-making for you, that becomes a problem.

Do they insist on having the final say on what you’re wearing? Do they buy you clothes that suit their taste only? Do they make decisions for you behind your back? Do they demand you arrive home at a specific time?

If your partner has done these things or more, consider this a massive red flag. You have your autonomy, and your relationship shouldn’t be in the hands of one person only. Should they fail to understand that, consider walking away.

2. Their protectiveness becomes excessive

Again, control is not love—even if done with the best intentions. Don’t be fooled by the reasoning that you need to be protected, especially if your partner takes excessive measures to do so.

Here are some examples of your partner being too overprotective

  • They constantly question who you’re hanging out with.

  • They get extremely jealous, even when you’re with family or close friends.

  • They force you to stop hanging out with workmates and other people they don’t like.

When your partner tries to justify their behavior, call them out on it. Try turning the tables on them by asking how they’d feel if you’d exhibit the same behavior.

3. They lack accountability

Does your partner often blame other people when called out on their mistakes? If they do, they clearly lack accountability.

Let’s paint a picture: you are texting a cousin who is visiting town for the weekend. Your partner, not knowing it’s your cousin you’re texting, goes into a fit of jealousy, grabs your phone and threatens your cousin to stay away. You explain the situation to your partner and despite knowing that they are clearly in the wrong, your partner blames you for not telling them in the first place.

Controlling partners would rather let other people take the fall for their faults than admit to them. If they do that, they would lose their power over their victims.

4. They often criticize you

There’s a difference between giving genuine, constructive criticism, and tactlessly nitpicking every single thing. Everyone says careless things from time to time, but if they make it a habit, then it’s an issue.

Sad woman contemplating her life
Constant nitpicking does not fall under non-threatening behavior.

This verbal insensitivity comes in various forms. Even a joke about your outfit can be enough to embarrass you, especially if your partner says it in public.

The more they nitpick you, the more your self-confidence will fade. This will also lead you to hold yourself back and behave in specific ways to avoid your partner’s criticism.

The Negative Effects of Controlling Relationships

Controlling relationships can massively damage a person, and it will take a while for them to recover. These are just some of the unfortunately common effects of these partnerships:

1. You become demotivated and disinterested.

A controlling partner micromanages your every move for their benefit, which will gradually lead you to lose your zest for life. What’s there to look forward to if someone else calls the shots on your life?

2. You lose direction and the ability to make decisions.

Because you’ve been so manipulated, you’ll lose the ability to think and act independently. Being stuck in the situation for a long period of time can lead to lingering effects even after you’ve left your controlling ex.

3. You become a chronic people-pleaser.

Have you noticed yourself bending over backwards to please people? That may be a consequence of your controlling partner’s actions. This may lead you to lose yourself as you try to accommodate everyone in your life.

4. You have low self-esteem.

You’ll notice a huge crater in your self-esteem after an abusive relationship with your controlling partner. Their constant criticisms make you doubt your value, which can make you susceptible to other manipulative people.

How to Leave a Controlling Partner

Once you’ve realized that these red flags exist in your relationship, what do you do next? Can you fix an abusive relationship? We don’t think so.

But then how do you break off your relationship for good?

It might take a bit more than sheer willpower, but it’s not impossible. Rescue yourself from a toxic environment by taking these steps:

1. Don’t ignore their red flags

Woman looking out to the sea
Can you fix an abusive relationship with a manipulative partner? No. We suggest ending it.

The warning signs we’ve shared above will give you a clue on what to watch out for. Even if you only see one sign manifest, start to think about whether your relationship is worth your pain. Confront them about their ways and let them know they’re making a costly mistake.

2. Communicate with and surround yourself with supportive people

It doesn’t help to bottle up your pain. Instead, talk to your loved ones and don’t allow your partner to isolate you from them.

Your friends and family will always look out for you, and they’ll try to help you get out of your situation. You may also reach out to a counselor or therapist if you need professional help.

3. Assert your boundaries

It’s crucial that you set boundaries and stand by them. This lets your partner know that you won’t tolerate their manipulative behavior.

4. Cut your communication

Delete their number. Block or unfriend them from your social media profiles. You don’t need to see a trace of them. Don’t give them an avenue to reach you as well.

5. Take time off to recover

Treat yourself with kindness and take a timeout. You deserve to heal after what you’ve been through. Practice self-care and do things that give genuine happiness and fulfillment.

If your partner doesn’t understand that control isn’t love, they’re not worth your time. You shouldn’t be with someone who only wants to wrap you around their finger. Let them out of your life and never look back.

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