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Is Your Partner Controlling You?

Posted January 28, 2014 by Katie Fleming in Life After Five
Back in October, I gave a presentation at my sister’s sorority house.  The presentation itself was on Mindfulness and Body Image, with an “Ask the Therapist” Q&A  session at the end.  During the Q&A, the girls were free to ask me whatever they wanted.  Some girls asked questions verbally, while others preferred to anonymously submit questions on notecards.  One question, anonymously submitted, read:

How can you tell if you’re being controlled by your partner?

Truth be told, I was thrown off a bit by this question.  I expected the girls to ask me questions about maintaining friendships, how to “score” the guy you wanted…lighthearted, almost cheerful questions.  I was instantly overcome by feelings of sadness, shock, anger (at the fact that someone so young already has reason to wonder about something so tragic), and then guilt (for being thrown off by the question in the first place).  I stumbled through an answer, spoke with her afterwards, and have been thinking about that moment ever since.

If I could have a second chance at answering that question, here’s what I would have said:

Some signs you’re being controlled by your partner are…

  1.  Your friends have expressed concern over your relationship.  Specifically, they have expressed concerns over your partner’s behavior, your partner having the upper hand, controlling you, your well-being, or anything along those lines.  Whether or not we’re feeling receptive to their feedback, friends are usually able to pick up on the signs that something is “off”.
  2. Your friends think you have the “perfect relationship”.  They think this, because you only let your friends see the good aspects.  They have no idea about any negative feelings, fights, or tension between you and your partner.  While it is normal for a couple to keep the details of their fights private, it is concerning when someone completely keeps their friends/family in the dark about any fights or negative feelings in the relationship.
  3. You have wondered whether you are being controlled/manipulated/abused.  Chances are, if you are asking yourself that question, that is reason enough to be concerned.
  4. You find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behaviors, specifically dangerous/abusive/manipulative behaviors towards you.  “He only gets this way when he’s had too much to drink”…”he doesn’t want me hanging out with my friends because he thinks they aren’t ‘good’ for me”…”It’s my fault he’s mad, I knew I should have cleaned the kitchen before he got home”…etc.  (*please note.  I’m using the pronoun “him” for ease of writing only.  Women and men alike are capable of these thoughts and behaviors.)
  5. You are afraid of your partner.  You find yourself walking on eggshells as to not upset your partner.

My experience at the sorority house reminded me that anyone – no matter their age, appearance, demographic information, etc – can find themselves in a troublesome relationship.

If one, two, or more of these signs applies to your relationship, it is time to seek help.  You can reach out to a friend, family member, therapist, doctor, or local shelter.  Remember, you are not alone.  There will always be somebody there who can help you, even in the darkest of places.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

About the Author

Katie Fleming

Katie earned her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northwestern University, and is currently a Crisis Therapist in Chicago. Her therapy interests include health and wellness, relationships, trauma, and crisis. Katie is also a therapist with a group practice in Arlington Heights. Katie is thrilled to be a part of Career Girl Network, helping to guide all Career Girls towards overall physical, emotional, and mental wellness. Katie is passionate about animal rescue, running, and yoga. She is the proud dog mom of Gulliver and Duke!