7 Signs Your Partner Is Possessive — & What Experts Say To Do About It
Since it can often be quite subtle, you might not notice right away if your partner is possessive. In fact, you might even view their actions as caring or sweet, or think that they just have your best interests at heart. But since these everyday moments can turn toxic over time, it's helpful to see them for what they really are.
If your partner is possessive, it doesn't necessarily mean they're trying to control you on purpose, though the results can be the same. "A possessive partnership is where an individual doesn't encourage and allow healthy parts of your life to grow and flourish because of their own unhealthy relationship views of what partnership is and/or their own insecurities," Kim Egel, a licensed therapist who focuses on relationship issues, tells Bustle.
While you can't change your partner, or single-handedly help them overcome old issues, you can bring your concerns to their attention. And, of course, set down a few ground rules. "The best thing for you to do is be clear about your boundaries," Dr. Kathy Nickerson, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.
If you suspect they don't realize they're being possessive, point out the habits that are making you uncomfortable so that they can make a change. And "if you think your partner is just trying to control you for control's sake, say so," Nickerson says. "Tell them that that's not OK and that your thoughts and feelings need to be respected."
Here are a few everyday moments that can be a sign of possessiveness, according to experts, as well as how to handle it.
1. They Stop By To Visit Unexpectedly
A possessive partner might push your boundaries by appearing when you least expect it. "For example, showing up to a lunch date you're having with a friend with a bottle of wine for you all to share, and then not leaving," Nickerson says. While it might not seem like a big deal, it could actually be their way of controlling the situation, Nickerson says.
Or, it could be that they didn't trust where you were and wanted to check in. Or that they didn't feel comfortable being apart — the list goes on and on.
While the occasional drop-by can be a pleasant surprise, your partner should be OK with giving you space and respecting your time with friends. If it seems like they're being clingy, let them know that won't be cool going forward, and see if they're able to change.
2. They Said "I Love You" Really Quickly
While some people will click right away and have strong feelings, consider it a red flag if you were only together a short while before your partner said "I love you" or started making major plans.
"Most possessive partners express love for you within the first few weeks of your relationship," Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. They might even talk about moving in together or getting married.
While it can be flattering to hear, Scott-Hudson says, it could also have been an early red flag. If your partner was truly in love, that's great. But by bringing this to their attention, you'll be able to have a conversation about boundaries, and other possessive moments in your relationship.
3. They Pout When You Need Some Space
Possessive partners may find it tough to spend time apart or give you space, since that means not knowing where you are, not gaining the comfort the relationship gives them, not having control — whatever their underlying issue might be.
So take note if "your partner is needy of your time and attention," Dr. Margaret Paul, PhD, relationship expert and author, tells Bustle, especially if it gets to the point where they pout over simple things, like if you won't watch TV with them, or if you want to go to bed a bit earlier.
If you can't even go into the next room without them getting upset, that's a major red flag. You may even want to call in the help of a therapist at that point to help you figure out your next move.
4. They Need To Know Your Schedule
It's common for couples to share their schedules, and update each other throughout the day. But if your partner wants to know where you'll be 24/7, there's no doubt they're being possessive.
"A partner is possessive when they make demands on your time [or] control your schedule," Jill Sylvester, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Bustle. The trouble is, while having a say in your schedule may be comforting to them, it can be smothering for you. And that's not OK.
"The best way to handle this situation is to know these red flags and warning signs up front, trust your gut, and set an immediate boundary in the relationship," Sylvester says. In order for the relationship to work, they'll also have to do the inner work necessary to feel more at ease, instead of taking their insecurities out on you.
5. They Want To Spend All Their Free Time With You
"A sign of someone who is emotionally healthy is that they do not 'need' to see you each and every moment and that they value their time doing other things and want you to value your time doing other things as well," Sylvester says.
That's why you'll want to take a closer look if your partner's one and only interest is hanging out or doing things with you, and especially so if they've given up on their own hobbies.
Couples should want to spend time together, but they should also be able to comfortably spend time apart. If your partner is glued to your side 24/7, it's definitely time to have a talk.
6. They Text You All Day Long
Again, it's fine if your partner checks in or asks what you're up to. It may be possessive, though, if they call or text too frequently, relationship consultant Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, tells Bustle, to the point where you start to feel overwhelmed.
But the good thing is, you may be able to work through it. "If the couple will go for help, and the possessiveness comes only from desire for assurance of connectedness," Shaler says, "this can be resolved as the couple works together."
7. They Share Too Much On Social Media
"It can usually be a pivotal and endearing moment when your new significant other includes you in their digital world," Jennifer Ponce, MSW, CHES, a prevention and education manager at Laura’s House, tells Bustle. "But social media can also be used as a breeding ground for possessive behaviors."
They may want to share couple photos 24/7, or tag you in everything you do together, as a way of shouting your relationship from the rooftops. But even worse, a possessive partner might use social media as a way of keeping tabs on you, which is when this can get into toxic territory.
To tell the difference, it can help to speak with your friends, or even see a therapist. It's never easy to cope with a partner's insecurities, especially since they can occur to varying degrees. But there may be ways you can work through it together, if that seems like something you'd want to do.
Kim Egel, licensed therapist
Dr. Kathy Nickerson, licensed clinical psychologist
Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, licensed psychotherapist
Dr. Margaret Paul, PhD, relationship expert
Jill Sylvester, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, relationship consultant
Jennifer Ponce, MSW, CHES, a prevention and education manager