How to Recognize a Controlling Boyfriend

A controlling boyfriend holding his girlfriend's hand while he drives.

Many of us have been there. Sometimes we don’t see the signs. A guy whisks us away with charm and his goodie bag of exhilarating date nights, and then slowly but surely, the skeletons come out. Suddenly, he’s trying to manage every part our lives, we’re asking permission to see our friends, and we find ourselves asking… What happened? How did I even get here? 

News flash— ladies, this isn’t love. This is control. And dating someone who’s controlling is just one sign of a possibly abusive relationship.

To help you recognize things early on, here are seven common behaviors of a controlling boyfriend:

1. He judges your friends
A good boyfriend respects your friends. Even if they’re not his favourite crew, he should at least accept them because they make you happy.

If he starts speaking rudely about your friends or trying to distance you from them, it may be a sign that he’s trying to undo these relationships. Having friends gives you independence and a sense of fulfillment in your life. He may not like that you have other sources of happiness outside of your relationship with him.

By trying to demean and dissolve your friendships, he can keep you all to himself. If he is a healthy match for you, he wouldn’t be trying to make you a friendless homebody. 

2. He criticizes your style.
A confident guy appreciates his girlfriend’s style. It’s only the controlling ones who want to oversee all the details. So when your boyfriend acts like he’s the kingpin of clothes and makeup, know that he’s deluded. Unless he’s writing a fashion blog or can navigate Sephora like he built it, then no, he’s not qualified to be your stylist.

Your boyfriend should support your sense of personal style, not supervise it. Trying to change or criticize your look takes away your identity. It’s a core part of your self-expression. Only a controlling guy would want to manage that.

3. He snoops through your phone.
CIA agent or boyfriend? If he treats your phone like it’s a public information service, he’s a controlling boyfriend. He needs to stay informed on all the tiny nooks and crannies of your life, from your pictures to your phone calls.

Overseeing your phone, especially your text messages, makes him feel secure in the relationship. He needs to verify that there are no signs of flirting and even if finds nothing, he’ll still track your selfies and probably your to-do list. Because ultimately, it’s not always about catching you being sneaky, he just enjoys doing recon on your life. He needs to monitor your daily activities or else he’ll feel out of control.

4. He sees other guys as a threat.
True love has no competition. A mature and secure boyfriend should not be trying to terminate your contract with all males, unless of course, there’s a reason, like an ex. Feeling uneasy about keeping in touch with your old beau is totally fair. Yet, if he seems desperate to banish every guy from your social circle, even if they’re barely acquaintances, you’ve got trouble.

Once a boyfriend treats all the males in you life like the plague, you can be sure he’s the only disease in your life. Controlling behavior only gets worse, not better, as these types of guys thrive on keeping tabs on you.

5. He has a temper.
There’s no room for a temper in a healthy relationship. A controlling boyfriend is quick to anger because it’s his way of showing you who’s boss. When he rages, he gets to feel more powerful and in-control.  For him, the bonus prize is making you feel intimidated; the more nervous he can make you, the more likely you’ll be too afraid to challenge him.

A real man wants his woman to challenge him. Sometimes couples will have disagreements, sure, but they solve their issues respectfully, while acting like two equals in a partnership. It’s not about one person overpowering another. That’s bullying, not love.

6. He pushes his views on you.
As a famous philosopher once said, “Great minds think for themselves.” In a relationship, you’re still an independent thinker, free to express your own views, even if your boyfriend doesn’t agree.

Couples will often have differing views on all types of matters: careers, politics, religion, whatever. That’s the beauty of coupling; it’s about two unique individuals, with their own personal perspectives, pairing together to enjoy life together in harmony. So, if your opinions don’t meet, you can have a mature debate about it, and in a healthy relationship, this might even be fun.

But in an unhealthy relationship with a controlling boyfriend, you’ll get the opposite result. A toxic fight, one that can only be solved if he’s right. 

7. He doesn’t like when you have fun.
If he envies your fun, he’s a controlling boyfriend. He’s intimidated by your passion and love of life because he fears these qualities take you farther away from his grasp. Yet, a girl who seeks enjoyment and fulfillment should be desirable. A boyfriend who resents it is jealous and insecure— not the attributes of a worthy partner— more like a man-child who envies your position.

Unless your version of fun involves shameless flirting and screening his phone calls, then you’re fully entitled to enjoy yourself. Your boyfriend does not need to be the center of your universe and he shouldn’t want to be. You’re allowed to have multiple sources of happiness. Otherwise, you might as well be chained to a lonely relationship bubble where fun can only be experienced and monitored by him.

Don’t make excuses for your boyfriend’s controlling ways. Even if he’s exhibiting only two behaviors from this list, it’s a huge red flag and you should call him on it. Don’t imprison your amazingness just because he’s too insecure to handle it. You deserve someone who embraces your strengths, friends, and opinions. This is the guy who will raise you up, not tie you down.

Rachel Esco

Freelance Writer

Rachel is a lifestyle blogger, based in Toronto, who specializes in dating and relationships. Her articles have been featured in publications, including “Huffington Post”, “Life Hacker” and “Women’s Post”.

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