How to tell if your partner is controlling you (or if you are controlling your partner)

In intimate relationships, control looks like when one partner takes ‘ownership’ over the other partner’s sense of reality.  If one partner is frequently attempting to manage their partner’s feelings, either by minimising, exaggerating, or altogether denying their partner’s feelings, this is control-abuse and not healthy for sustainable, long-term relationships.

You can ask yourself the following questions to help you determine if you are allowing yourself to be controlled by your partner, or if you are doing this to them:

  • Does my partner attempt to minimise or deny the existence of my feelings, body sensations (e.g., pain), preferences, or viewpoints?
  • Does my partner make fun of or make me feel bad about my feelings, body sensations, preferences, or viewpoints?
  • Do I question my sanity when I’m around my partner? Do they make me think my sense of reality is wrong?
  • Do I often believe my thoughts or feelings are wrong?
  • Does my partner exhibit sometimes confusing, or inconsistent, behaviour – are they very warm and affectionate sometimes, and other times cold and dismissive of my perspective?
  • Do I often think I just haven’t explained myself well enough, and this is why my partner doesn’t understand my perspective?
  • Does my partner often tell me I’m crazy, or too sensitive, or being emotional, or blowing things out of proportion, or jumping to conclusions?


If you answered ‘yes’ to many of these questions, you might be in an emotionally controlling relationship.

These are signs of controlling behaviours, which, if they occur too often, can strongly and negatively impact the controlled person’s sense of well-being, as well as degrade the relationship.  In therapy, we work with the controlling partner to understand the impact and origins of their behaviour, as well as with the controlled partner to establish and communicate healthy boundaries.  Establishing new patterns of interaction in which both partners feel they are on equal footing is a core component of couples therapy.  If you feel like you might be experiencing a controlling partner or controlling patterns of behaviour yourself, contact us to help support you and your partner create a more adaptive and healthy style of interacting.


By: Elizabeth Landau, Provisional Psychologist & Associate MFT