Ahhh, that feeling when you find a partner who really listens to you — who actually notices when you do something different or meet someone new and actually asks about your day. Someone who makes you the center of their universe, who puts you on a pedestal — it all just feels too good to be true, doesn't it?
Turns out, it could be. For instance, are you starting to feel a little uncomfortable? Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but lately it feels like questions that were once asked out of genuine interest are starting to feel like an interrogation. Dating and relationship expert Laura Bilotta, author of Single in the City: From Hookups & Heartbreaks To Love & Lifemates, Tales & Tips To Attract Your Perfect Match says all of this this could mean the foundation may not be very solid. "If the person you’re with isn’t building you up, they’re tearing you down; the more torn down you are the more dependent you are on them," Bilotta tells Bustle. "That’s what the overbearing partner wants."
In other words, she says it’s psychological warfare. And almost impossible to get out of if you're in too deep. To prevent that point from occurring, Bilotta says there seven signs you should be looking out for to ensure the overbearing tendencies don't develop to a full-on controlling relationship.
1. They Discourage Activities That Don’t Include Them
According to Biotta, this one can start out small — like encouraging you to cancel your regularly scheduled girls' night out because you want to "do something together, just the two of us.” But has a tendency to be the tip of the iceberg.
"It makes you feel you are the center of their universe," she says. "But it can mean they have no outside interests or friends — and therefore don’t understand why they aren’t enough."
2. They Disguise Digs As Helpful Criticism
"They know your weaknesses because you’ve told them everything," says Bilotta. "But when they start using them against you, you’ve got a problem."
One example she sites is if you have a presentation at work and mentioned to your partner that you get really nervous speaking in front of people; instead of a supportive pep talk, you get" ‘Oh, wow, you must be really nervous. Are you 100 percent confident in your presentation? Do you want to run it by me first?’
"Sure, it sounds innocent enough," says Biotta. "But does questioning you make you feel more confident?"
3. They Keep A Scorecard
"If your partner keeps track of every nice thing they do for you and vice versa, that scorecard is usually one-sided," says Bilotta. "They only really see their contributions."
A classic case might be: 'I bought you flowers last week because you were feeling down and now I’m feeling upset about my day, and you want to go out with your friends? You don’t love me.’ As Bilotta says, "Oh guilt, that old chestnut."
4. You Always "Owe" Them
"Let's say your phone dies but getting a replacement is not within your budget right now," says Bliotta. "Your partner may offer to buy it for 'you deserve the best and you can pay back later.'" Turns out, that act of "kindness" can be flat out manipulative.
"Making you dependent on them in this way makes it harder to leave them," says Bilotta. "It also doubles as another tick in their "Scorecard" column."
5. They Isolate You From Friends And Family
"This is a process that the overbearing, master manipulator performs effortlessly," says Bilotta. "Maybe your sister just cancelled plans with you at the last minute, you’re dressed and ready to go and now you’re frustrated —you complain to your partner, ‘I was really looking forward to it.’ A week later, you’re settling in to watch your favorite TV show only to find out it was postponed, your partner then says, ‘Oh man, I was really looking forward to watching that tonight — you didn’t tell me your sister ran the network.’ Funny at first, but it gets reinforced, eventually every single cancellation results in a dig against your sister. It’s subtle, but it’s sinking in and now your sister’s thoughtless in your eyes."
6. They Are Gaslighting You
Gaslighting, a form psychological manipulation, is basically where someone makes you doubt your sanity — but it could happen in subtle ways. "You know when you put your phone on the coffee table but when you go to get it, it’s gone? You look everywhere, retrace your steps but can’t find it and then he/she miraculously finds it," says Bilotta. "Then it's all ‘honestly babe, I don’t know what you’d do without me, it was on the kitchen counter, right where you left it.' You could swear you weren’t in the kitchen or you already looked there. Are you losing your mind? They’d like you to think so."
7. They Go Through Your Phone Or Computer
"I know this sounds obvious, but some people are really creative in this department," says Bilotta. "For instance, if your partner says ‘I’ll pick a name from your contacts and you describe that person in three words.’ This is called recon. They want to know the names of the people in your life and your relationship to them."
It's so difficult to recognize destructive patterns from the inside... i.e. when you're half of the relationship. And, let's face it, even when you recognize them, it's incredibly easy to justify these actions — or believe they'll change, eventually. Sure, this could be true, but listen to the pros; most importantly, your gut. If these patterns are indeed patterns, you may need to take a closer look — it's possible you're in deep with an overbearing partner.