Mandy Kloppers

Examples of controlling behaviour

Controlling behaviour isn’t always obvious. It seeps in over time and suddenly you realise that you feel anxious a lot of the time. You might even change your behaviour to avoid conflict. Abuse gets normalised over time and the best version of you will be squashed.

The following behaviors characterize a controlling person:

(a) A person who insists on things being done their way. Threats of leaving or the ‘silent treatment’ is used to elicit compliance.

(b) A person who tries to get the other to be passive and accepting, even to be willing to change aspects of their personality completely in order to be more “lovable” (or at least less aggravating).

(c) A person who is arrogant and feels they know what is best for the other.

(d) A person who seems uncompromising and rigid/has many rigid ‘rules’ about the world – things must be done a certain way and there is no/little flexibility.

(e) A person who is “overprotective”, discouraging independent activities even when there is no obvious threat to the other’s safety or to the relationship.

(f) A person who tends to infantile the other, keeping him or her from handling ordinary adult tasks. (However, if the other has been incompetent about such tasks in the past, this may not apply).

(g) When the other person engages in routine tasks, the partner hovers and provides excessive instruction which strikes the reader as patronizing and unnecessary.

(h) A person who  forbids the other to engage in activities which he/she considers a waste of time, or to see people of whom she/he disapproves.

(i) A person who does not respect the other’s privacy, insisting upon knowing about all aspects of the other’s life. This might be seen in grilling the other when she/he gets of the phone, or goes out to an appointment. At higher levels it may include going into the other private things, or listening in on phone calls.

(j) The person may be frightening or abusive to the other to gain compliance.

(k) The person may be jealous and suspicious, checking up on the subject, or following him/her.


If you are in a relationship with someone who scores highly on the above (approximately 5 or more) it might be time to seek counselling as a couple or reconsider whether the relationship is right for you.

Mandy X

Photo by The U.S. National Archives