Question: My best friend keeps telling me that the man I am dating is too controlling. I am not sure what she sees that I do not. Yes, he checks up on me a lot. He constantly tells me what to do, but he is better than most men I have dated. And I think this could mean he really loves me. Should I be concerned?

Answer: Yes, you should be concerned. A controlling relationship doesn’t typically get better, usually more controlling. After a while, the control will wear on you and the relationship. Here’s what to look for to help you decide if a person is controlling.

Controlling people can prompt anxiety and depression and often isolate you from people and situations that make you feel good about yourself. They want you to depend on them for your self-worth. Of course, our inherent worth comes from being made in the image of God. But people can influence how we feel about ourselves by the things they do and say.

You may see signs of control early on, other times it takes a while for the behavior to show because the person is on their best behavior to impress you. But once you are aware of the signs, pause and decide, is this someone I want to be with long term. If you are in a committed relationship, it is time to get help.

So, ask yourself these 7 questions:

  1. Do I feel momentarily afraid of this person when they react to things?
  2. Do I often feel mistrusted or misunderstood?
  3. Do I avoid certain topics and events because of the person’s reactions?
  4. Do I repeatedly feel in the wrong?
  5. Do I feel powerless to change anything?
  6. Do I feel I have to hide the truth?
  7. Do I often feel problems are my fault?

If you answer YES to any of these, be concerned. There are many more signs of control like being disrespected, put down in front of others, exhausted by arguments, constantly questioned about where you have been and with whom, blame, and extreme jealousy to name a few.

If these signs sound familiar, take the relationship slowly to evaluate the health of the relationship. Then, decide–can this behavior be solved or corrected?  If the person is willing to look at their behavior and make some changes, that is good. Maybe they are reacting to a previous relationship or a bad break up and need to be aware of how they are pushing you away.

However, once confronted, a controlling person needs to humble themselves before God and look at how they behave. Control is not love and doesn’t meet the criteria in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love is not envious, but selfless, calm, honest, trusting and does not include fear. Spiritual help is needed as the root of control is often a selfish heart.

The only conformity you need to make is to Christ, not to other people. If you feel you need help dealing with a controlling relationship, consider seeing a Christian therapist. A spirit of fear is not of God, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear is a marker of an unhealthy and often controlling relationship.

Signs of a Controlling Relationship

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