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When Healthy Turns Fatal: 5 Things You WANT That Could Be Warning Signs Of Controlling Behavior

While we have told you all about setting boundaries in a relationship and helped you identify where they get blurred and cross over into the realm of uneven power distribution, it is important to note that sometimes, signs of controlling behavior can be unidentifiable. The kind of controlling behavior that results from a partner enjoying a larger share of power in a romantic relationship can masquerade about in more lethal guises than backhanded compliments, slow infiltration of personal and professional space, finances, guilt-trips, doubts, downright manipulation and intimidation or even extreme coercive or violent behavior.

While stripping these overt and covert masks can be relatively easier to unveil the uneven balance of power and subsequently, get things on an even keel, other masks can fly under the radar and be inconspicuous. What’s worse, they can appear flattering or even ‘desirable’ early on in the relationship but rear its ugly head in the long run. These masks, that we speak of, are difficult to spot, especially early in a relationship. While most of us can be duped by these ‘seeming friends’ who can stab us in the back, Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist and speaker who serves on the faculty of GeorgeTown University, helps us to identify these skilled impostors who can make themselves ‘look good’ and make you second-guess your instincts, even if your alarm bells as much as begin to tick.


Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Suggested read: What are the signs of a healthy relationship?

Bonior points out that these seemingly ‘healthy’ elements of a romantic relationship are often mirages that dupe one into believing that a relationship has everything one is looking for but which, in actuality, lack substance underneath and carry something far more sinister inside. If you wish to be on the lookout yourself (because protection is always better than cure) and warn friends and family to be on their guard as well, here are Bonior’s top five surprising disguises that can make for excellent covers for controlling behavior in your relationships (you shall be surprised):

1. Attention

couple on a date_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Attention is perhaps the most flattering start to any potential romantic attachment. Wooing one’s way in with words, gestures and moves can prove especially effective in the case of anyone who isn’t used to feeling ‘noticed,’ ‘heard,’ or ‘seen’ a certain way. While getting someone who wants to spend all their time with you, exhorts you to share your life’s stories with them , remembers the little details and makes a note of every little thing about you can be a dream come true, it can also be a misleading sense of comfort and security to lull you into a ‘positive’ view of things so you cannot see them for what they really are.

Nobody’s denying that most of these gestures can be the healthy signs of an interested person who wants to get to know you better, but they can also be warning signs of controlling behavior, which, if left unheeded, can soon turn into potentially abusive behavior. Control freaks often study up their targets, zeroing in on every element of their lives like closely scrutinizing a slide under a microscope, so they can use their knowledge and discovery to their advantage.

2. Desire for commitment


Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

We have all been, at some point or other, in the wringer where we didn’t know where our relationship was going. Given such a trajectory, finding someone who is willing to take the plunge and commit can seem to be a well-deserved reward. However, before imagining what your 50th anniversary toast is going to sound like, take a step back and assess whether the commitment is justified. If they said the three magical words too soon, planned a getaway before you were even ready or surprised you with an impromptu meeting with their parents at a date venue, you may see warning signs of things moving too fast.

The intensity of their emotional attachment, if disproportionate to the time you have taken to gauge your compatibility together, may give away clues. You need to objectively analyze if you are only ‘going with it’ because you know commitment is a rare thing and easing your qualms by convincing yourself that they are just very much into you or because you have organically arrived at a stage in your dating lives where commitment seems like the next legitimate and logical step. If it isn’t the latter, you may want to wait things out and see if your partner is pushing you to commit. It will help you learn if they are controlling and obsessed with the idea of closing you to any opportunity elsewhere.

Suggested read: You can recognize an abusive relationship with these early warning signs

3. Affection

couple in love_New_Love_Times

Image source: Pinterest

Perhaps the food of all romantic relationships, affection is, in more recent times, the favorite tipple of romance. People like to be drunk on it and show off their heady attraction to the world, by claiming each other as their own. To be honest, it isn’t unlike those teenage days of overanalyzing every text from a crush or dropping ‘aww-bombs’ on every public display of affection. However, we need to understand that there is a fine line between a healthy dose of affection and one that is invoked in order to relay ‘ownership’ and warn others to back off. While we may tend to be secretly thrilled with the ‘romantic’ quotient of stolen kisses, a persistent on-me glance or grandiose gestures of affection, a controlling person may use these to invade your personal space and feel ‘entitled’ to everything in your life.

4. Passion

jealous girlfriend_New_Love_Times

Image source: Flickr

Remember Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor? While it may seem endearing, cute or even sexy in the beginning to have someone in your life who gets jealous of someone else getting your attention, jealousy can turn uglier as it passes along the steps of gradation. A partner who gets flustered when someone is flirting with you can quickly turn into a neurotic control freak who wouldn’t stop at anything to learn about your whereabouts and know what you are doing each moment.

And while you my discount such behavior as ‘cute possessiveness’ at a bartender’s harmless interest in you, these early signs of controlling behavior can quickly escalate into something sinister. You need to understand that while a certain degree of possessiveness is normal for all relationships, healthy relationships bring their qualms to the table for discussion instead of using outbursts to shape your responses into those of acquiescence through intimidation and fear.

Suggested read: How to retain your identity in a relationship

5. Nourishment

To feel like you are taken care of is a primary instinct in humans. But there’s a difference between someone who shall take the day off to be with you when you have a boom box cough and someone who wouldn’t let you be by yourself even for a moment. Controlling people do not just offer to fix the leaking faucet or handle the bills for you- they want to take charge of everything in your life so that you begin to rely upon them for everything. They wish to draw you out unto the point that you wouldn’t know what you’d do if they were to leave. They thrive on s*cking out your self-sufficiency and making you dependent. In fact, this process allows them to shut out other close people from your life as well to the extent that their care becomes the only care that’s allowed to be. If you feel that your partner seems to be taking things to an extreme in the realm, it may be time to evaluate if this nurture is unnatural.

Better safe than sorry!

Featured image source: Slideshare

Article Name
5 Things You WANT That Could Be Warning Signs Of Controlling Behavior
Watch out for these 'desirable' traits that can quickly turn into an inescapable nightmare! Better safe than sorry!
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."