7 unexpected ways your partner is controlling you (even when they don’t realize it)

An ideal relationship is built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust, honesty, communication, and a lot of hard work.

Its goal is to build a life with someone who shares the same values and has a plan for the future that includes you and prioritizes your well-being. They don’t call it “partner” for no reason.

But what if that person you’ve chosen is someone who tries to run your life?

Here are 7 unexpected ways your partner is controlling you.

1) They control your money

Money is a source of friction for many couples, but even more so when you have a controlling partner.

They may make it look like they are coming from a place of concern, but when they start telling you what to do and what not to do with the money that YOU earned, there’s definitely something amiss.

Does your partner spend your money as though it’s theirs?

Do they rack up a bill and neglect to pay? Do they expect you to pay for their bills and other expenses? Do they expect you to hand over your paycheck? Do they want you to stop working?

If your answer to even just one of these is yes, then listen up, because this may be one of the unexpected ways your partner is controlling you. There’s even a name for it: “financial abuse”.

This is when one party in a couple tries to get ahold of and use the other’s financial resources.

Oftentimes, people who are stuck in a financially abusive relationship are worried they won’t be able to make it on their own; or if they have children, they are afraid they won’t be able to provide for them.

2) They isolate you

For this point, I’d like to share a personal story.

The last boyfriend I had before I met my husband was someone who slowly pulled me away from my circle of friends.

Most days of the week, I spent with him, or in his place.

I met his neighbors and friends, but almost never got to see my own. It was too late before I realized it, but that’s one of the unexpected ways your partner is controlling you.

Someone who wants to control you may try to isolate you from your loved ones and friends.

There are signs to spot this:

  • They may want you to spend time with them and them ONLY
  • They may refuse to get to know or spend time with your friends or family members. In a healthy relationship, a partner should WANT to meet the important people in the other’s life
  • They might even make you feel bad for enjoying time with people other than them, telling you that you care more about your friends than your partner
  • They may keep tabs on you, wanting to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with at all times. If they call or text you and you aren’t able to answer, they get angry
  • They demand to know your passwords for your social media accounts and constantly go through your phone or personal belongings

Remember, a healthy relationship flourishes with trust.

Do you really want to be in one where your significant other is always breathing down your neck?

3) They invalidate you

In this case, your partner must be a customer, because s/he’s always right (corny, I know).

Another unexpected way your partner is controlling you is through invalidation.

There are different kinds of invalidation, but all of them make one feel like they are not understood or that their partner doesn’t care.

Your partner might not pay attention whenever you talk about something close to your heart (inattentive invalidator).

They might seem as though they are listening solely to contradict you instead of trying to understand your point of view (belligerent).

Perhaps they believe that their way of doing or seeing things is the only correct way and in the process undermine your process (controlling). 

Particularly in a relationship where children are involved, it’s important to present a united front. A controlling invalidator makes that harder, if not impossible.

Your partner could also dismiss or minimize things that are important to you (judgmental).

When you are upset, your partner might say you have no reason to feel the way you do, or tell you why you should be grateful for such and such (emotional).

There are a few other types of invalidators, but you get the picture.

4) You find yourself trying to please them

If a man constantly seeks validation 7 unexpected ways your partner is controlling you (even when they don’t realize it)

Let me continue my personal experience to illustrate this point.

At the point in my life when I was with my very last boyfriend, I was unemployed and at a somewhat rocky place in my life.

He, meanwhile, was trying to launch several careers at a time: he was an interior designer by profession, but he also dabbled in corporate team-building.

In his free time, he liked to do stand-up comedy and improv.

Every day, he’d ask me what I’d be doing that day and I’d sometimes answer, “I don’t know yet.”

At one such instance, he remarked: “You really have no goals, do you?” 

From then on, I’d wake up with a feeling of dread that I HAD to be doing something productive just so that he would be proud of me or happy with me.

Another instance was when he was going to take me with him to an event, and I asked him what I should wear.

What he said next is something I’ll never forget: “Wear something I’d respect you in.”

My roommate at the time responded to this by flying into a fury, telling him that he should already respect me in the first place. 

Anything he wanted me to do, I did, even down to changing the color of my hair.

You may not notice it at first, but making you want to please them is an unexpected way your partner is controlling you.

5) They make empty promises

Has your partner ever promised to take you on your dream trip, but never do because the timing always seems to be wrong?

Have you been in the same relationship for years now, hanging on because of a promise of marriage?

Have they ever promised to “do better” after a fight only to react in the exact same way when an argument erupts a second time?

If so, you might be a victim of “future faking”, one of the unexpected ways your partner is controlling you.

This is a manipulation tactic where someone makes promises they can’t or don’t intend to keep.

It creates an illusion that makes you believe your partner is more invested in the relationship than they truly are.

As a result, instead of breaking it off with them, you stay in the relationship in the hope of seeing those promises fulfilled.

6) They often criticize you

Let me ask you another question.

Has your partner ever made a joke about you in front of other people that was more humiliating than funny

Have they ever nitpicked about habits they once claimed to find cute? 

It’s important to note that this is different from constructive criticism, which is meant to encourage and provide actionable advice.

If you feel that your partner’s criticisms are more hurtful than helpful, that could be one of the unexpected ways your partner is controlling you.

Their criticism of you is a reflection of the level of respect they have for you.

In my experience, there’s always a time and place for such criticism. And more importantly, there is ALWAYS a kinder way to say certain things.

7) They gaslight you

Gaslighting” is one of today’s most prominent buzzwords when it comes to talking about manipulative behavior.

The best way to explain it is to tell you—if you don’t already know—where the term came from in the first place.

“Gaslight” comes from a 1944 film of the same name, which tells the story of a woman whose husband tries to make her question her own sanity by convincing her the strange goings-on in their home—such as gaslights dimming without no one touching them—are just a figment of her imagination.

Similarly, your partner may turn things around to make it as though you’re overreacting or lying to you about things you KNOW are true.

For instance, they might deny that they ever said certain things even though you clearly remember that they did.

When you find yourself questioning your own mind, you might be a victim of gaslighting.

The longer it goes on, the more likely you are to suffer from lasting effects, such as anxiety, depression, isolation, and psychological trauma. 

Bottom line

It’s important that you spot these signs immediately to avoid a toxic relationship. Staying in one can have certain effects on you, such as decreased confidence, isolation, anxiety, and accepting treatment you don’t deserve from such a partner. 

Ultimately, change starts with you.

When you’re ready, you might want to learn from world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê’s Love and Intimacy masterclass, which he describes in this free video.

In this masterclass, you’ll learn the three keys to a happy and successful relationship. The step-by-step process to develop self-love and self-confidence in this class has helped me rethink my expectations of what a relationship should be. 

You might find it a good place to start if you want to enjoy a joyful and fulfilling relationship.  

Click here to try it yourself.  

Hopefully, by identifying these unexpected ways your partner is controlling you can help you take the necessary steps to rebuild your self-esteem and move on to a healthier relationship. 

Picture of Louise Logarta

Louise Logarta

Louise Nichole Logarta is a content writer by profession, with experience crafting feature articles, editorials, and news articles. She has been published in noted Philippine broadsheets Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Manila Times. Topics of interest she likes writing about include relationships, current affairs, health, and pop culture. Travel, journal notebooks, fiction books, and iced coffee are some of the things she enjoys.

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