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Small signs your partner may be controlling


We talk a lot about healthy relationships, especially in our sex and relationships education sessions. Sometimes, controlling behaviour can go unnoticed and it’s not a healthy element to have in a relationship.

These are a few small signs that your significant other may be controlling…

They tell you what to wear

Obviously your partner can have opinions on what you wear (e.g. “I like that dress” or “that shirt isn’t my favourite”) but at the end of the day it’s your life and you should be able to freely choose what you wear. It can be a sign of controlling behaviour if your partner tells you what you can or can’t wear or makes you feel guilty or bad for wearing what you want.


They don’t like you spending time with your friends

Spending time with your friends is healthy and your partner shouldn’t make you feel bad about it. If your partner tries to isolate you from your friends and family this may give them more control over you and your life.


They check your phone

A healthy relationship relies a lot on trust and if your partner is checking your phone, they’re not showing that they trust you. They may say something like “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t mind showing me” but at the end of the day, it’s your phone and you’re entitled to privacy and a trusting partner.


They’re always criticising you

Everyone can criticise their partner from time to time, but if the criticism is constant and part of day to day life this is a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes people with a controlling partner can see it as their partner trying to make them a better person, but no-one should be constantly criticised.


They do something romantic or buy your gifts but expect something in return

Controlling people may make romantic gestures or buy expensive gifts with the aim to control you or your behaviour. So, how do you know tell if it’s just a nice gesture or if it a way or trying to control you? Well, if they buy you a gift or do something which seems romantic but expect you to give something in return, or a sense that you feel like you owe them something, then that’s not healthy. Any gifts or romantic things they do for you should be given freely and with good intentions and the person shouldn’t expect anything in return.


They often make you feel guilty

If your partner makes you feel guilty about everyday bits and bobs, this can lead to you gradually trying to do whatever you can to not feel guilty. Often this means giving up power and your opinions within the relationship, which isn’t healthy as shared power is important in a healthy relationship.


They give you backhanded compliments

Saying things like “If you lost a bit of weight you’d be gorgeous” or “You’d look so attractive if you made more of an effort” makes you feel like you’re not good enough as you are. No-one should be made to feel like they’re not good enough and no-one should be able to dictate what you should look or act like.


If you notice warning signs in your relationship, it may be worth having a chat with one of the counsellors at Relate, an organisation which provides relationship support. You can call them on 0300 100 1234 or you can chat with one of their counsellors online here.

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LGBT Stoke is a service provided by the Sexual Health Prevention Team from Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust