“My insecure boyfriend is controlling!”

Think your boyfriend might be a bit too insecure and controlling? Look out for these red flags:

• Criticising, belittling and shaming. Says lots of things that lower your self-esteem and confidence (everything from the trivial to life-changing) and talks down your accomplishments. In general, he will try to make it known that he’s the better “catch” in the relationship.

• Does not like you having “your own life” whether it be friends (especially male), family or any activity where he isn’t involved, and will either make you only meet people or do things he approves of or work to remove them from your life altogether (especially anything that involves improving yourself – but self-destructive habits may be encouraged). Usually, this is insidious and happens slowly.

• Doesn’t like it when you “think for yourself” or have your own opinions or preferences – he would rather you adopt his worldview and tastes in everything (e.g. if he likes a particular brand of coffee he won’t accept that you prefer a different brand).

• Doesn’t tolerate personal boundaries (so he might hack into your email because he doesn’t trust you), privacy (always needs to know where you are and what you’re doing) or secrets (“I deserve to know your bank account PIN”), personal boundaries which are necessary for a healthy relationship.

• Double-standards regarding what is and isn’t acceptable in the relationship or how you should treat each other – does he freely do things that he doesn’t let you do (like having friends of the opposite gender or being late)?

• Everything has to be to his schedule – you may be expected to drop whatever you’re doing if he wants to see you (in his free time of course).

• Gives the impression that he’s with you for what you can give or do for him rather than for who you are inside (e.g. is quick to “borrow” money from you but is never interested in your needs or thoughts).

• Guilt-tripping and blaming. Does he make you feel like you did something wrong for no good reason, or accuse you of things without proof? Even worse, does he do all this even when he’s the one who has wronged you (in which case you’d find it hard to ever complain about anything to him)?

• If you’re lucky enough for people around you to notice and tell you that your boyfriend seems insecure and controlling, perhaps it’s worth listening to them.

• There are no signs of “unconditional love” – for every favor he expects something (often more) in return (e.g. he uncharacteristically takes you out to someplace nice, then asks to borrow some money).

• Tries to make everything about him. You mention you had a bad day, and instead of comforting you he goes on about how he’s had it worse.

• Tries to structure your life so that you rely on him more and more for different aspects of your life, so that eventually it becomes difficult to function without him (like discouraging you from getting a driver’s license and insisting that he can pick you up and drop you off for everything).

• Unreasonable and uncalled for jealousy. A little jealousy in a relationship is a good thing, but when it shows itself too frequently and in benign situations it’s not.

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