Is your partner Controlling? (4 ways to know)

Sometimes people tell me that their partners are controlling in how they communicate, when, in fact, from what I can hear, they’re just sharing their feelings or preferences.

Just because you feel controlled by your partner, doesn’t mean that your partner is actually trying to control you.

I think it’s important if we’re going to call someone controlling that we understand what that means.

A person who is controlling in conversations seeks to control what is talked about, how it is talked about, or for how long.

Here are FOUR key ways that people try to control when they communicate:

  • Stonewalling. Stonewalling means you become like a stone wall, hearing nothing and saying nothing.  This ensures you’re “right” because there is no discussion to be had.
  • You make the other person’s needs seem unusual or confusing. For example, you say to your partner, “I’d really love to spend some quality time with you this weekend. Can we make that happen?​​​​​​​”

She says, “I don’t understand why quality time is so important to you. I just don’t have that need. It makes no sense to me.”  (Note, she doesn’t acknowledge your need and instead makes it about her).

  • Defensiveness. You share your feelings or needs with your partner, and she deflects them by defending herself.

You say, “You said you’d find a sitter for the kids for my birthday weekend and you didn’t. I’m disappointed.”

She says, “Like you ever do anything you say you’re going to do? When is the last time you did anything for me?“ (Note: she doesn’t address your disappointment, and makes you feel bad for bringing it up)

  • Refusing to finish a discussion because she’s being asked to take responsibility to get the relationship unstuck.

You say, “Can we make a date for lovemaking on Saturday?” This, after you just argued about how you haven’t made love for weeks.

She says, “You know what? I’m done with this conversation,” and leaves the room.


People who are NOT controlling are open to hear what their partners have to say, and acknowledge what they say — even if they don’t agree with it, or like how it feels to them.

Here is an example…

You say, “I’m hurt that you don’t seem to want to spend time with me these days.”

Your partner doesn’t love how this feels, as she feels chastised, but she hears your hurt and responds this way: “I’m sorry you’re hurt and I actually do want to spend time with you. What if we get some time on the calendar, right now, for this weekend?”

Is your partner controlling, based on what I’ve shared here?

It’s important to keep in mind that people who seek to control conversations, do so out the fear that they’ll be made wrong or shamed, not because they’re bad people or intentionally want to harm anyone​​​​​​​.

Feel free to send comments or questions below. Or contact me directly.

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