17 Early Warning Signs of a Controlling Man

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If you’re in a relationship, live, or work with someone who loves to dominate others, take that as one of the early signs of a controlling man. It’s the type of relationship that will make you feel like you don’t own yourself.

Controlling what others think, say, and do – whether through coercion, threats, or manipulation – is a type of psychological abuse. There’s a natural tendency to overlook these unhealthy behaviors in the blissful stage of getting to know someone.

However, if you were to put your feelings aside and observe the person objectively, you might more easily spot the warning signs of a controlling personality explained below.

How you deal with the relationship moving forward is up to you. Notwithstanding, I highlighted some potential risks and mental health effects of dating a control freak.

What Does Being Controlling Mean? 

A controlling person is someone who persistently tries to assert power over others, usually by way of unsolicited, unwanted advice or pressuring them to do something. Their behavior extends into dictating critical aspects of the other person’s life, such as their finances and how they spend their time.

You won’t likely see the person’s true nature until they no longer feel the need to impress you. Dealing with a narcissistic man is a perfect example. Narcissists spend the honeymoon stage of the relationship love-bombing their partners to win their love and trust. After that, they’ll start exploiting them for personal gain.

Where Does the Behavior Come From?

Men who turn out to be controlling as adults tend to act that way for different reasons, including as a way to cope with poor self-image.

Learned behavior. The behavior could have stemmed from having caregivers who overpowered or micromanaged them as kids. It could come from seeing their fathers dominate their mothers or other female figures.

Insecurity. Insecurity is tied to low self-esteem or not thinking positively about who they are or their abilities.

Fear and anxiety. Controlling personalities don’t trust themselves to solve problems and overcome challenges. They tend to get stressed and overwhelmed as a result. Those internal reactions can trigger anxiety. They’ll do whatever it takes to bring the situation back to normal in order to feel relieved, safe, or secure.

Personality disorders. Due to low self-esteem, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) tend to manipulate others to maintain a sense of superiority. Those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often resort to demands and temper tantrums to keep situations from spiraling out of control.

Are Men More Controlling Than Women?

There’s a general perception of men in heterosexual relationships being the dominant and controlling ones.

Leader of a recent study Dr. Elizabeth Bates, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Cumbria, said while that is the case, research shows that women are controlling and aggressive [and abusive] in relationships too.” 

The study alluded to women as ‘intimatterrorists’ who can be more controlling than men in some cases.

study published in 2010 was keen to point out that women usually get controlling, aggressive, or violent out of fear and self-defense. On the other hand, men are motivated by the need to assert control.

17 Early Signs of a Controlling Man

Controlling men aren’t always ‘crazy’, raging lunatics, as women may mistakenly believe. They “can look like concerned, responsible partners until you understand their real motive,” says  Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist.

No wonder it can be difficult to spot them at the outset. Let’s turn our attention to 17 early signs you don’t want to miss!

#1. He dominates the conversation

You’ll feel as if you don’t have a voice around this guy. He’s the one doing the talking, most of the time. Alpha males and narcissists are usually the ones dominating communications at work and in their private lives.

Grandiose narcissists, in particular, take over conversations to talk about themselves or their needs. If not that, they’re constantly bragging about their achievements hoping to get compliments.

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Their insecurity and lack of trust in relationships are issues that make controlling men fearful and anxious about abandonment by their intimate partner.

A man who hijacks the conversation all the time doesn’t really care what you think. If you try to get a word in, he’ll gloss over it quickly and switch back to talking about his needs and wants.

A guy with an abrasive personality may say he didn’t ask your opinion or outrightly tell you to shut up.

#2. He tells you how to behave

If this isn’t a clear disrespect of your privacy and personal boundaries, I don’t know what is. He wants to dictate how you should act, speak, dress, and eat.

Some guys will buy you the type of clothing and shoes they want you to wear. He may criticize your current clothing to justify why he got you a new wardrobe.

What if you don’t want to do what he says? He’s going to get angry since rejection is perceived as a loss of control. He’ll try to convince you that he’s acting out of care and love for you.

Pay attention to your intuitive warning signals, especially if you recently started dating him.

The fact is, he’s grooming you so he can control and manipulate you down the line.

#3. He manipulates you

Manipulation is a cunning way to get you to think or feel a certain way or do something. The act can be quite subtle. Narcissistic and sociopathic men are more likely to use subtle manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, to gain emotional control over those close to them.

Other controlling tactics include trying to make you jealous or pointing out your flaws to create self-doubt. They may not hesitate to use this common deceptive, manipulative statement men use, “I’m the only man who would accept you the way you are.”

#4. He criticizes your friends

When two people get together, there’s an unwritten understanding that both parties are allowed to maintain their social life and circles. Due to a built-in need to control who you speak to, your partner will filter your friends. The tactic is a part of a strategy to isolate you.

He’s going to come up with all sorts of excuses as to why you should stop interacting with Tom, Dick, Harry, and Jane Doe. Here are example statements he may make to convince you it’s the right thing to do. “I don’t like her. Stop being her friend.” “I don’t want you to have male friends. I don’t trust them around you.” “It’s either me or them.”

#5. He tries to influence how you think and feel

Has a man ever told you “You shouldn’t think like that,” or “You shouldn’t feel that way?” No one should have that kind of power over you or limit how long your emotions should last. Let’s say he does something that upsets you.

Instead of apologizing for his error in judgment, he tells you that you shouldn’t get angry or it’s time you got over your feelings.

The control freak may say if you made the same mistake, he wouldn’t be angry. He’s only saying so to deflect from the real issue, which is to shut you up and continue the mind control.

#6. He attempts to change you

You might have been a confident woman until Mr. Controlling came into your life. All of a sudden, you start feeling as if you aren’t good enough for him, and it’s all because he won’t stop criticizing you. He makes you feel like you can’t do anything right and keeps nagging at you to change.

Truly caring for you means accepting you as you are, but he lacks empathy. In his mind, he needs to alter your looks, how you think, and your personality to suit him. He could simply make himself go away, but no. He chooses to stay because he needs someone to dominate and antagonize to feel good about himself.

#7. He wants to make all the decisions

Couples in healthy relationships discuss plans and make important decisions together that can impact both of them. Controlling men don’t allow this to happen. They’ll make a plan and spring it on you without asking for your ideas or input.

As if that’s not enough, they’ll decide how you will deal with personal matters. They’ll shut you down if you attempt to give your opinion or assert control over personal issues that don’t concern them.

The intrusive behaviors will cause you to question whether he values you as a separate individual. You’ll wonder if he’s out to suffocate you or diminish your role in the relationship.

#8. He tells you how to spend your money

Dictating how you should spend your money is a sign of financial abuse by controlling your spending. Your partner may do more than that. For example, hold on to your money, manage how you spend it, or monitor your purchases.

He may convince you to set up a joint bank account to deposit your paychecks, but doesn’t provide you with a debit card. It’s a clever way to force you to ask permission to withdraw your own money.

“The aim of it [financial abuse] is to gain control and dominance over one’s partner or one’s own fear and anxiety of losing money,” says Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT. Williamson, a therapist at Abundant Life Counseling St. Louis, LLC, was quoted in a Bustle article, 11 Signs of Financial Abuse In A Relationship.

#9. He makes affection and love conditional

Love and affection are leveraged as tools for manipulation. You’ll have to bargain with him, plead with him, and obey his commands to get his love. In other words, you’ll have to do things to please him before he does nice things for you.

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Asking you to share your passwords with them is a bare-faced plan to violate your privacy.

It feels like having a carrot dangled in front of you. A carrot you can’t get unless you do favors for him. If you don’t behave, you won’t get a treat—that’s what it feels like.

If you act in any way he doesn’t approve of, he may resort to passive-aggressive behaviors, such as withholding sex or turning his back on you in bed. On the flip side, he gets really lovey-dovey when he wants something from you.

#10. He’s excessively jealous and possessive

Jealousy and possessiveness come from not wanting anyone else to share the same exciting experiences we have with that person. Some women find this flattering, not realizing that acting as if he owns you is an early warning sign of an abusive personality.

Mix excessive jealousy and uncontrollable anger, and you’re pretty much courting a time bomb. It could be only a matter of time before he explodes with rage or accuses you of cheating. He only has to see you talking to another guy to start fuming.

Their insecurity and lack of trust in relationships are issues that make controlling men fearful and anxious about abandonment by their intimate partner.

#11. He demands to know your whereabouts

Run if you always have to say where you’re going or account for each minute of your time while he’s away from you. He’s going to demand that you tell him every detail. Wanting to know where you are at all times can lead to him stalking you, e.g., popping up at your home or workplace uninvited.

Showing up without notice is a huge relationship red flag many women miss. Needless to say, the creepy behavior creates fear and has escalated to physical harm in many cases.

Why would he suddenly show up when he could simply call or text you? The underlying motive is to try and catch you doing something terrible he thinks you’re doing.

#12. He tracks your locations

Some guys will use social media, GPS technology, or other nefarious means to track your location and activities. Usually, a controlling man will try and get you to agree to share each other’s location during the honeymoon phase of your relationship.

He will provide a convincing reason why it’s necessary. He may say things like, “I care about your safety, “ or “I want you to know where I am.” The intention is to make you feel you could trust him. Don’t you find that creepy? Take the request as a major red flag, especially if you hardly know each other. You could be compromising your safety and well-being.

#13. He insists you ‘friend’ him on social media

You know that awkward feeling you get when a guy you just met asks you for your Instagram or Facebook username? You barely know his name, don’t know his address, or know his background and he already wants to follow you on Twitter. From the get-go, his goal is to monitor your movements via social media.

Opening your social media to him also gives him access to your family members and friends. These are people he could befriend to try and get insider information on you. These sorts of behaviors are an invasion of your privacy and a blatant disregard for your boundaries.

#14. He asks you to share your passwords

Men who control women always have to be in the know or they’ll feel anxious. In the beginning, they will lovebomb you to gain your trust very quickly. You may not think anything of it if they ask you to share the passwords to your phone, email, or social media accounts.

You may willingly provide the information to show openness and transparency. Not only is that a big mistake, but it’s also a glaring sign of a need for control.

Passwords protect your privacy. Asking you to share them is a bare-faced plan to violate your privacy. Your boyfriend is going to use the information to monitor your communication and sensitive transactions, and look for signs of cheating.

#15. He expects you to always be in touch

With a controlling guy, you hardly have a moment to breathe and focus exclusively on your needs. He keeps blowing up your phone. Of course, constant communication can be flattering.

At first, it appears as if he’s highly interested in you. In fact, consistent and positive communication helps strengthen the bond.

The motive in this case is to keep tabs on you. If he doesn’t hear back from you within a certain time, he’ll lose his cool. He’ll demand to know why you were incommunicado.

Don’t be surprised if he plays the victim by accusing you of neglecting him. The manipulative guilt-tripping tactic is used to appeal to your emotions and get you to overlook his clingy attachment style.

#16. He stops you from mingling with family and friends

Your friends and loved ones are part of your support network. This guy doesn’t like that. He sees them as a threat to his control over you and will insist that you spend all of your free time with him.

He’ll isolate you from loved ones and manipulate you into believing he’s the only person you need.

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Not only does he make endless demands, nothing you do is ever enough for this guy.

Preventing you from socializing with others is an act of emotional abuse. Expect him to come up with clever excuses for why you shouldn’t hang out with your family.

For example, telling you he’s taking you to a romantic dinner, even though he knew you had other plans.

#17. He forces you to do uncomfortable things

Not only does he make endless demands, nothing you do is ever enough for this guy. Once he weakens your self-esteem, he’s going to try and force you to get involved in acts you don’t like.

It’ll start off with sexting and pressuring you for explicit photos. He’ll manipulate you into complying by saying things like “You have a beautiful body. Don’t be shy to show it.”

Things will gradually escalate to acts that are dangerous, immoral, or uncomfortable. From sexually dominating to coercing you to use drugs and alcohol.

He may say, “It’s just one time. You’re not going to get addicted.” If he genuinely cared for you, he would not encourage you to engage in activities that are harmful or would cause you to feel bad about yourself.

Final Thoughts on Early Signs of a Controlling Man

Now might be the right time to distance yourself from any man who persistently tries to dominate you. Otherwise, he may successfully create a codependent relationship between you two. He’s going to diminish your self-image and reduce your independence.

A decline in self-esteem, emotional distress, physical ailments, anxiety, loneliness, and depression are other potential effects of being under his control. A BetterHelp article points out that “controlling tendencies can even lead to aggression or violence.” Talk to trusted people in your support system or a therapist if you feel like you can’t cope on your own.

Create a safety plan if you think you’re in danger, or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with 45 Emotional Abuse Quotes to Deal with Dysfunctional Relationships. I hope it helps because, honestly, you’re worth it!

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