21 Awful Signs You Have A Controlling Boyfriend (And A Bad Relationship)

Last updated on June 8, 2022 by April Maccario

It’s never easy to see or admit that you have a controlling partner. In fact, most of the time girls have to be told by a worried relative or friend that their partner seems to be controlling. 

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re doing a google because something was brought to your attention about your relationship, and you’re wondering if your boyfriend might actually be controlling.

There are different situations and dynamics for relationships. There is even a culture based around a dominant partner and a submissive type partner for relationships. 

There is nothing wrong with a little dom/sub dynamic, but any knowledgeable dominant type person will tell you that that kind of control is about trust, intimacy, and respect. The kind of controlling boyfriend we’re talking about has none of those things. 

There are trends and patterns in human behavior that you can learn to watch out for because the controlling factor in these relationships are generally abusive and can escalate into something dangerous. 

I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it absolutely is important you recognize these signs, as they are signs that you are being abused - in some way, shape or form, and you need to seek help from a professional on the situation near you as soon as possible! 

Are You In A Controlling Relationship?

Here is a list of just some of the warning signs that your partner is exerting controlling behavior in toxic and abusive ways. If you see a pattern of behavior and think your boyfriend is doing more than 2 of these frequently, you should reach out to friends and family for help on what to do next. 

1. The Relationship Is Full Of One-Way Rules

Is he allowed to have as many female friends as he wants, but you’re not allowed to talk to your best friend since third grade? Does his profile online look like he’s single, but you have to have a profile picture that has him in it? Can he do pretty much whatever he wants, when he wants but it’s ‘better’ if you ‘discuss’ plans with him first? 

Is your relationship dynamic demand-and-take instead of give and take for one person? Does it feel like you are never regarded, appreciated, or considered when it comes to every little thing in your relationship? If so, you need to re-evaluate your partnership. 

2. Somehow Everything Is Your Fault

somehow everything is your fault

When speaking about your feelings, or confronting an issue with a controlling partner usually rounds back to how it's your fault you feel that way, or that something happened to make you feel that way. They are capable of invalidating your feelings with one sentence.

It seems as if they are incapable of owning up to or taking responsibility for anything they may have said or done, and they are quite good at making you feel guilty at the end of a conversation even though you are the one that may have been wronged. 

3. No Respect For Your Privacy

In a controlling relationship, privacy is not respected. Your partner may make you feel like you need to allow them to know the passwords to your social media platforms or electronic devices. They have no qualms about taking your phone and reading through every single conversation you’ve had in the last few weeks. 

They also have no issues going through your drawers or closet in your own home while spending the night. They make sure to violate every private area you have, 

4. He Does Not Have Boundaries

 Going hand in hand with number 3 on the list, the fact that he doesn’t respect your privacy also means he doesn’t have any boundaries. If you don’t like certain words or phrases, he will say them in front of you, if he knows you don’t like a certain part of your body touched, he will touch it just to make sure he is in control. 

He will test you, and he will intentionally do things to upset you. He will do this in front of people, friends, and family too, not just in private. 

5. He May Gaslight You

First and foremost, it’s very important that you understand what Gaslighting is. One thing that no person should ever have to suffer is Gaslighting. This is a psychological type of abuse that most people, even though it's obvious for most people outside of the relationship, is the hardest to consciously recognize when it’s being done to you. 

Gaslighting is where the abuser will say or do something to you and then try to convince you that it never happened, or that you are in the wrong for being upset, or tell you to ‘get over it.’

It is designed to make you question yourself, and question your feelings. After experiencing it enough every day, a victim of Gaslight may actually believe that they are crazy, and will become codependent on their controller because they doubt themselves emotionally and mentally. 

Some simple examples are as follows: 

Your boyfriend calls you a name or says your fat, then when you confront him about it he denies that he ever said it, and says ‘you must be hearing things.’ Literally, they want to make you question your sanity. 

If you are experiencing things where someone is telling you that something didn’t happen, even though you clearly remember it takes a minute to examine if this is only happening with this one person or is it everyone? If it seems like it may only be happening with one person then that person is Gaslight abusing you, and you need to find a way to make it stop - even if it is your boyfriend. 

As a survivor myself of this kind of abuse, I can tell you it’s a bigger deal than you realize. This kind of abuse impairs your psyche, and it will leave you questioning everything you do - from the smallest of chores to the biggest decisions - if you are suffering from this kind of abuse, just know you’re not alone. Seek help right away and just realize that you are not crazy. Click here to read more about this specific type of abuse. 

6. Sexual Abuse (IMPORTANT)

sexual abuse (important)

Another means to control the relationship is sexual abuse. Please note that sexual abuse is not just being forced into having sex when you don’t want to. Sexual abuse could be the withholding of intimacy as punishment, or psychologically beating you down and then requesting sexual favors of you, or being verbally abusive to you during sex, and making you feel dirty. 

Sexual abuse is not just ‘rape.’ Withholding sex or using sex as a weapon in your relationship is also controlling behavior. Again, this is a big deal, because it messes with your mind, and it will make you feel like you’re worthless or ugly, or dirty - or many other things that you don’t deserve. 

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I have also a survivor of this kind of abuse, and sexual abuse is just as horrible as Gaslight and physical abuse. It has left scars on my psyche that has not healed even after many years and a new loving partner. If your boyfriend uses sex as a way to control, manipulate, or hurt you, then you need to get out of this relationship as fast as possible. 

7. He Will Verbally/Emotionally Abuse You

A controlling boyfriend will pull out every stop to keep his power over you. Even if that means tearing down your self-esteem, and may make you feel like you’re ugly, not worthy, not good enough, or whatever. They will do everything in their power to make sure that your confidence is shaken because then you will rely on them more. 

If you find that everything you do is wrong, or everything you say causes an argument, if your boyfriend puts you down a lot, criticizes your dreams, and makes you feel like you are not good enough in your relationship, chances are the problem is not you! 

8. Physically Put His Hands On You

Violence in a relationship is the most commonly talked about abuse. And it is important for girls to realize that this is a very bad, dangerous situation to be in. If your boyfriend is putting his hands on you, that is the definition of a controlling relationship.

Also girls, punching, shoving, and kicking are not the only kinds of physical abuse. Pinching, hair pulling, hitting you with things, throwing things at you, spitting on you, these are all forms of assault. If you are being assaulted by your partner, then please seek help today. It is not normal, it’s not right, and you need to get out.

9. Constantly Accuses You Of Being Unfaithful

A controlling boyfriend will often accuse you of being unfaithful. If your phone happens to die, if you were a little bit late because you got caught up after work talking to a coworker, or even a spontaneous night out with the girls. If you are constantly accused of ‘talking’ or ‘seeing’ someone else, your boyfriend may be more than a little bit controlling.

10. Your Family/Friends Do Not Like Him

Ask your friends and family about their opinion of your partner and you may be surprised. Nobody dislikes a person for no reason - and if you find your friends and family saying the same things about him, then it might be true.

11. Constantly Criticizes You

Is the lemonade too sweet? Is the tea not sweet enough? Is the house not clean enough even though you spent literally all day cleaning it? Are you wearing too much makeup or not enough? Your career choice is not good enough. Your style and clothes aren’t sexy enough. Your hair is too short or too long. The food is too bland or too much. There seems to be nothing that you can do or say correctly. They are always putting you down and invalidating your efforts.

12. You’re Not Allowed To Have Guy Friends

you're not allowed to have guy friends

A controlling boyfriend will be upset if you have males in your life that are not family. Heck - they may even have an issue with males related to you. Lifetime guy friends are not excluded from this, and they find ways to convince you to give them up.

13. Wants You To ‘Change’ Something Major About Yourself

A partner that is controlling will find a way to make you feel insecure about a major aspect of yourself. Whether it be your choice to career, or your weight, and encourage you to change. Eventually, if he doesn’t get his way, he’ll start threatening the relationships. 

Maybe what he’s suggesting maybe a change to a bad habit, and he may even be targeting something he can claim he’s worried about your health, but no good partner should want you to change something that is an essential part of yourself.

14. Isolates You From Family And Friends

If he finds reasons to hate or dislike your friends and family and finds reasons to take all of your time, he's isolating you from the people who care about you. They are your lifeline, your sight to the truth, so he can’t risk you hanging around them too much and them talking to you about your situation. 

15. Gets Angry At You When You Try To Stand Your Ground

When you are having an argument, and you don’t allow him to divert the conversation, and you stand your ground, someone who is controlling in a relationship will probably get angry. They do not like being cornered into taking responsibility for the things that they have said or done. 

16. Threatens To Leave You At Even Small Arguments

It is not normal to have your relationship be what is in jeopardy for every fight. When someone loves you and truly loves you, they will stick by you through the bad times. You should not be being told that he is going to leave you if you keep arguing or if you don’t ‘get over it.’

17. Humiliates You

Another method of controlling is to humiliate you in front of people. He will either say humiliating stuff about things that happened in private or make inappropriate gestures or do things to make you uncomfortable in group settings. This is all part of isolating you, making it hard for you to go back around those people.

18. Is Never On Your Side - Even In Private

Forget about it. Your controlling boyfriend will be on everyone else's side, even in private discussions. If you have a fight with a friend or a bad day at work, your controlling boyfriend will more likely defend the rude customer than you. 

19. Makes You Feel Anxious Or Stressed If Anything Ever Goes Wrong

make you feel anxious or stressed if anything ever goes wrong

It is not normal for you to feel scared about something going abnormally on a normal day. You shouldn’t be sweating that five-minute conversation you had with your coworker after clocking out, knowing he was going to be checking the clock. You shouldn’t have to stress about a missed phone call, or bumping into an old boyfriend. 

You should be secure in being able to tell your partner anything and everything. If you feel anxious or stressed about anything out of the ordinary that causes something to go different. You shouldn’t worry about him getting upset or suspicious or inconvenienced over every little thing. If you do, then there is something seriously wrong with your relationship or the person you are with. 

20. Has To Know Where You Are At All Times Of The Day

If he is one of those helicopter boyfriends who has to know what you are doing every ten minutes, there may be something more to it than just a clingy boyfriend. It’s not that we might update our lovers about our location, but it’s not right to get the third degree about where you’re at and who you are with every hour on the hour. 

21. Makes You Feel Unsafe And Insecure

If you do not feel safe or secure with your boyfriend, then your relationship is not a healthy one. And if it’s because you’re being abused or controlled, then seek help and get out. Before it’s too late. 

A Controlling Relationship Is A Bigger Deal Than You Think

I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal when you talk about it as just a controlling boyfriend. But if you stop and think about it, the methods of control are what are dangerous. When one method stops working, they will try another. 

Eventually, it will escalate. Every year thousands of girls commit suicide because of abuse. Thousands more are killed by their partners - simply because they did not heed the warnings of their family and friends. 

Please, if you are suffering from any of the types of abuse listed above, get help and get out. You are worth so much more. You are a human being, worthy of love and respect. And no one deserves to be controlled in a toxic way. 


What's controlling in a relationship?

Controlling while in a relationship is one person has absolutely no respect for boundaries, privacy, and set unreasonable ‘rules’ on their partner while seemingly being exempt from the rules themselves. They exercise this control through mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and in some cases, they use all forms of abuse to control their partner.

What are the signs of a controlling person?

There are a lot of signs your partner may be controlling, but the biggest sign is to measure the equality in the relationship. Do the same rules apply to them that they put on you? Do they hurt you or manipulate you emotionally, physically, or sexually? These are all signs of a controlling or abusive partner. 

How do I get rid of a controlling boyfriend?

The biggest thing about getting rid of a controlling boyfriend is assessing your safety level. If you feel like leaving him will be dangerous to you, reach out and get help from someone who can help protect you. There is no shame in what you are leaving, and sometimes the bravest thing we can do to take care of ourselves is run as far and as fast as possible. 

Can a controlling person change?

Generally controlling or abusive people need extensive therapy to better themselves enough for their partner. So if you are with a controlling person who is trying to change, establish clear boundaries, call them out on their behavior, and don’t allow them to do it. However, most controlling partners are mentally or emotionally abusive, so it’s never a good idea to stay with a person who displays characteristics of being controlling. 

What is a toxic relationship?

It is important that you learn the signs of a toxic or abusive relationship. There are several forms of abuse and toxic relationships, and it’s important that you learn each one to avoid it in future relationships. 

Are You In A Toxic Relationship?

If you are not sure if you are in a toxic relationship, or if you have concerns, speak your mind in the comments. As much as we want you to find love - we also want the love you find to be safe. Tell us your story, seek advice. And share this article with your friends if you are worried about them! 

Do you hate it how everything seems to always revolve round him while you just seem to be an afterthought sometimes?
We hear this all the time from women that contact us asking for help with their relationship.

It almost makes you wonder whether he actually likes you or whether he's just stringing you along.

Why don't you take this quick free quiz to see if he actually likes you!

April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

One comment on “21 Awful Signs You Have A Controlling Boyfriend (And A Bad Relationship)”

  1. So enlightened by this post. Thank you.. I have been in a verbally abusive controlling relationship for 2 and half years, First time meeting my family saids my niece dissent like him. My daughter gave him dirty looks,talks very negative about my only child who is 24. I moved 1600 miles from my family my older sister I adore and who has always been by my side, he saids he feels like he needs to protect? Me from her.

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