How To Tell If Your First Partner Is Controlling

by Kaitlyn Wylde

When you get into your first serious relationship, you have a lot of ideas about how it's supposed to work and what it's supposed to look like. You've grown up observing the way your parents interact, the way actors portray love on the screen, and the way your peers experience it in plain view. But you never really know what it's going to feel like until you're in the relationship, because no two couples are the same. When two separate entities come together to form a team, there are a lot of adjustments and tailoring that has to be done to make it work, and make it work in a healthy manner.

If you don't know what to expect and you don't know your own personal boundaries (because how can you, you've never had a chance to figure them out?), you can find yourself in a situation where you're more of a passenger than a driver. It doesn't necessarily mean that your partner is taking advantage of you or is being controlling on purpose; it just means that there's an imbalance that needs to be fixed in order to get to a healthy place. Because in a good relationship, both partners have equal control over the wheel, and they make decisions together. If you're not careful, these are 12 subtle ways you can be controlled in a first relationship:

The Speed Of Intimacy

There's a difference between someone suggesting a pace and someone directing a pace. If the rate at which you and your partner are becoming intimate does not feel natural to you, it's important to speak your mind and put the brakes on. If your partner continues to encourage you to expand your boundaries, they're not respecting you, and it might mean they have a tendency to exhibit controlling behavior.

Sexual Interactions

What you do between the sheets has to be comfortable for both you and your partner. If you find yourself giving up resistance just because you want to satisfy your partner, they are manipulating you to in order to get consent — which still isn't consent, even they lead you to believe that it is. If your partner is respectful, they won't push you.

Frequency Of Time Spent Together

If your partner dictates the amount of time you spend together, you might want to stop and think about whether or not that level of interaction works for you. Your partner might be trying to control you by keeping you close — which not a healthy foundation for spending time together.

Interaction With Friends

Does your partner try to keep you away from your friends? Do they ask that you don't include your friends in your plans and pressure you to pass on opportunities to hang out with them? While striking a balance is important to any relationship, it becomes another means of controlling someone when outside friendships in a relationship are compromised — which, in a healthy relationship, they aren't.

Level Of Independence

Does your partner make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time alone? Do they give you space to live a life outside of the relationship or do they want to be included in every aspect of your life? There's a thin line between wanting to be close to someone romantically, and wanting to be close to someone to monitor them and control their life.

Amount Of External Commitments

What was your life like before you got into this relationship? Did you have hobbies and extracurricular engagements and interests? If the answers is yes, all of your external commitments should still exist in your life. If your partner is in some way keeping you from your other passions, they're keeping you from yourself. A healthy partner will be supportive and encourage you to find joy in all departments of your life.

Criticism And Critiquing

If your partner is constantly nagging and critiquing you, they're also emotionally controlling you. By telling you that you're doing something wrong and demanding that you do it better or to their standards, they're belittling you by giving themselves power, and making you rely on their approval. You should never have to report to your partner. There's a difference between constructive criticism coming from a good and healthy place and malicious criticism which is meant to make you feel "less than" your partner.


Your partner should love you without conditions. "I like you better when you X," or "You've done X, so I love you less," is a dangerous mind play that shouldn't exist in a healthy relationship. Love should always be unconditional, so if your partner is withholding love in certain circumstances, you might want to really think about whether or not the relationship is as healthy as you think it is.

Level Of Trust

In a healthy relationship, both partners trust each other — that's why they're together! If your partner is always second guessing your answers, invading your privacy, or exhibiting jealous behavior, there's not enough trust to make you equal partners.

Respect For Personal Beliefs

Each person is entitled to have their own beliefs, even if they vastly differ. A healthy partner will show respect to both beliefs without trying to convince you that their belief system is better or more superior. Don't ever let a partner make you feel like what you believe in your heart is wrong; only you control your truth.

Pressures To Perform

You should never have to feel pressure from your partner to behave a certain way. For instance, if your partner chooses to get drunk, even the slightest bit of pressure to get drunk too can be a sign of controlling behavior. You should never have to do what your partner is doing in order to be accepted.

Existence Of Fear

If you ever feel unsafe in your relationship, like if you do something wrong your partner might be angry with you, you're not an equal partner. Always pay attention to your heart. You should never feel fearful with your partner — you should always feel safe, respected and loved. A controlling partner might make you feel the opposite, and using scare tactics to keep you close is a deeply unhealthy way to exist in a relationship. You should never feel controlled by love.

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