Is He Caring or Controlling? 11 Ways to Tell the Difference

When you’re in a relationship, the difference between caring and controlling can be a very fine line, making it hard to distinguish between the two. While genuine caring comes from a place of selflessness and love, controlling behavior usually comes from a place of resentment or insecurity. That kind of manipulative behavior usually has a hidden agenda and can spell bad news if you don’t get out of that situation STAT. So how can you tell when your partner’s behavior is cause for concern?

  1. He creates “rules” for you that don’t apply to himself. He might want you to text him when you go out or to stay in on Fridays. Maybe he doesn’t want you talking to your exes… but he’ll go ahead and unapologetically do those exact same things. There shouldn’t be one set of rules for you and another for him. You’re supposed to be on the same team.
  2. He won’t let you talk to your friends. It’s important that you both maintain healthy relationships with your friends so that you don’t end up in a codependent relationship. There shouldn’t be any reason that your partner doesn’t want you to see your friends, so if he forces you to stop seeing them, that’s a definite cause for concern. He’s trying to isolate you, and that’s a form of abuse.
  3. He “checks in” on you excessively. It’s nice to have your partner send you a quick text to make sure you’re enjoying your night out with your friends or to ensure that you got to work safely after a frosty morning. But if he needs to keep a constant eye on your movements and gets mad at you if you don’t respond, it’s a bit much.
  4. He makes you hesitant about disagreeing with him. Disagreements are part of a healthy relationship based on good communication, so if you’re feeling self-conscious over disagreeing with him, there’s a good chance there’s some emotional manipulation going on there.
  5. He watches your social media activity. We all have a snoop at our partner’s Facebook pages now and then (usually not intentionally!), but when your partner monitors your page in order to ensure that you’re not breaking any of his “rules”, that’s ridiculous. He might ask you not to talk to a certain person, or post a certain kind of content… whatever it is, it’s too far.
  6. He loses his temper over little things. If he gets mad when you break one of his arbitrary “rules” or blows every minor thing out of proportion, you never know what he’s capable of. Even if his vitriol is confined to verbal outbursts, that still doesn’t make it okay. His anger issues need to be dealt with immediately, and not by you.
  7. He resents the fun you have without him. This may appear harmless, but if it’s pandered to too often, it can result in you losing independence and even friends. Oftentimes, he’ll make excuses like “You didn’t call enough” or “I felt ignored,” but what he’s really saying is “You’re doing something independently and I don’t like to feel like I’m not in control of you.”
  8. He’s never at fault. But you always are. Even a meeting that had gone badly in work seems to be your fault. But if you make a mistake, he won’t let you forget it.
  9. He gives you backhanded compliments. “Oh, that haircut actually looks nice – I’m shocked.” Usually, a controlling partner exhibits low self-esteem behaviors or resents you, making it very difficult for him to give genuine compliments. His objective is often to cut down your self-esteem, so when he gives you compliments, there’s usually an insult masked in there, too.
  10. He breaks down when you take a stand. If you confront him, he starts to panic. This is often when he can be most manipulative, as he begs you not to leave him and makes it appear that his actions have been the result of how much he cares.
  11. You no longer know what you want. Friends and family might start to inquire about your relationship out of concern, and you don’t even know what you want anymore. You know that deep down you’re not happy, but you’ve been convinced by your partner that it’s not his fault. In fact, he may have you thinking that he’s your only source of happiness.

Sometimes your partner may not realize that you feel like you’re being controlled, and if this is the case, you could open up communication so that you can start to work on some of these issues together. However, if you don’t think you can talk to your partner, then that’s a pretty good sign that there’s a major problem. If you suspect you might be in an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800)-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.

Sarah is a full-time content marketer, part-time freelancer. She’s a serial hobbyist (which just means that she does a lot of random things, but none of them particularly well). Her real talent lies in her ability to consume copious amounts of wine, whilst discussing feminism and reading A Song of Ice and Fire for the 8th time... All while saving puppies from burning houses, of course. You can see more of her work here, or pop over to Twitter and say “‘ello ‘ello” @daughterdipstik