18 Ways to Spot a Controlling Person

Controlling people exist in all areas of life—they may be a partner, co-worker, family member, friend, or boss. If any of these people frequently make you feel ashamed, small, or embarrassed when you spend time with them, they may well be a controlling person. Here are 18 signs to look out for in them that suggest they have a controlling personality.

They Do Favors With Strings Attached

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If someone you know frequently offers to help you only to create a sense of indebtedness, they’re likely a controlling person. They might also repeatedly remind you about the favors they’ve done and use these past favors to manipulate or control your actions.

They Exhibit Jealous Behavior

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Controlling people often show extreme jealousy in their relationships, which will manifest through their discomfort with specific friendships or social interactions they have. They will exhibit a lack of trust and possessiveness and attempt to hide this by saying they simply care and worry for you.

They Have Narcissistic Traits

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As shared by HelpGuide, “Narcissism involves self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, and a lack of empathy.” Narcissistic people often attempt to control everything due to a sense of entitlement and are continually disappointed with the imperfections of others. This type of person may also demand control over all aspects of life.

Their Love Is Conditional

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A controlling person may withhold affection or approval from you as a control tactic—willing you to behave how they want in order to receive love. They may set unreasonable standards for showing love or will use love and approval as tools for their manipulation.

They Invade Your Privacy

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Spying, snooping, or demanding constant updates are all invasive things that a controlling person will do. They may try to justify their invasions of privacy as trust issues in an attempt to not seem controlling, but anyone who monitors your communications and online activities definitely is.

They Exhibit Paranoia

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As shared by WebMD, paranoid people “are generally cold and distant in their relationships with others and might become controlling and jealous.” If someone you know is viewing all of your interactions as flirtatious or threatening and accusing or blaming you for things without reasonable cause, they may be a controlling person.

They Disrespect Your Personal Space and Time

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Not allowing you adequate time for personal activities and making you feel guilty for needing space are both signs that you’re dealing with a controlling person. This person may also refuse to compromise on time spent together. Take note—nobody is entitled to 100% of your time and energy.

They Think You Must Earn Trust and Good Treatment

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In controlling relationships, trust and respectful treatment are often perceived as rewards that must be earned rather than standard expectations. A controlling person may set high and often shifting standards for trust. They may also make positive treatment conditional, which is never acceptable.

They Presume Guilt

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Accusing people of things without evidence or reason is something that controlling individuals love to do. As shared by Psych Central, “Repeated false accusations can come across as controlling behavior, which can make you resentful and detached from your partner.” This behavior can make you constantly feel like you’re on trial.

They Wear You Down With Arguments

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A common trait of controlling people is their tendency to engage in chronic and unnecessary conflicts. These often occur sporadically, with little to no reason behind them. Why? Because they’re arguing to exhaust you and make you relent. Controlling people will use conflict to assert control.

They Belittle Your Beliefs and Values

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If someone you know frequently disrespects your personal faith, political views, or culture, this can be a sign that they’re controlling. This is because they’re attempting to use your personal beliefs as a point of criticism, attacking your long-held values solely to undermine your confidence.

They Are Emotionally Abusive

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Using guilt, shame, or constantly belittling you are all emotionally abusive behaviors used to try to control you. This type of person will also dismiss your needs and interests while gaslighting you and creating doubt in your reality.

They Are Trying to Emotionally Isolate You

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This is another form of emotional abuse. As reported by Healthline, controlling people “make an effort to isolate you by coming between you and your supportive loved ones—a step which, of course, leaves you more dependent on them.” They may encourage you to cut ties with friends or family.

They Try to Create Dependency

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Someone who encourages you to rely on them for emotional or financial support is likely looking to control you, and you should take a step back from them if you can. A controlling person will attempt to limit your independence and self-sufficiency, making you feel incapable of managing without them.

They Display Inconsistent Behavior

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Does someone you know act hot and then cold? This “can create a toxic dynamic in the relationship and lead to feelings of confusion, frustration, and low self-esteem,” according to Personality Unleashed. Shifting between affection and hostility creates an unpredictable environment that can be used as a control method.

They Criticize Your Choices and Decisions

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Constantly questioning your judgments and preferences is a tactic to undermine your confidence in your decisions. A controlling person may make you doubt your choices to change your plans, or they may do so to get you to depend on them to always help you instead.

They Limit Your Access to Resources

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This is a clear sign of a controlling person (and also a huge red flag). Someone who attempts to manage or restrict your finances or access to basic needs is looking to control you and have you depend on them. They are using resources as leverage in the relationship to limit your freedom and independence.

They Undermine Your Professional or Personal Growth

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In a normal, healthy relationship (romantic or otherwise), someone will encourage you and be proud of your growth. A controlling person, however, will discourage any new opportunities or ambitions you have. They will criticize your professional or personal goals, creating an environment that is unsupportive of growth.

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