dating

"You're controlling": 5 signs you might actually be the toxic one in your relationships.

When I started dating my first serious boyfriend, I had really messed up views on how relationships should be.

I was adamant that there was a “perfect” way to relationship, and I knew how to do it! It included several rom-com style ridiculousness, like sitting on the same side of the booth at restaurants and never devolving into small chat. Always going deep!

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He played along for, really, longer than you might think, and then he dumped me.

“You’re too controlling,” he told me.

That was not the last time I would hear that. It was a pattern that came to define how I thought about my early relationships: I knew how to have a perfect relationship, and if I could just find the “right” guy (aka a doormat), then we would have one and live happily ever after.

Before I took myself to therapy and did some real work, being “controlling” was a toxic behaviour I carried into each of my romantic relationships.

A relationship can only be as healthy as its unhealthiest member. If you keep being in toxic relationships, it could be because you keep picking bad people, but it could also be because you might be, like I was, bringing in some toxic behaviours.

It sucks to think that you might be the problem, but if the same issues keep arising again and again, you might need to look at the fact that you, and only you, are the common denominator. We all deserve healthy loving relationships, and those are not possible if they become toxic. Awareness is always the first step in making a change.

Here are some toxic things you may not even realise you’ve been doing to your partners.

1. You don’t respect their privacy.

Your last romantic partner cheated on you, and once you found out, all you can do is berate yourself for the fact that you missed all of the “signs.”

There were so many! you tell yourself. I am never missing those signs again!

Fast forward to your next romantic relationship: even though things are going great, you still find yourself trying to peek at their phone whenever they’re not looking, or you borrow their computer to “do some work” when really you’re trying to work out what their email password is.

Trust isn’t earned through complete access to all of your partner’s personal items. Neither can you demand such access. If you’re searching, you will likely keep searching, even if you find no evidence. You either trust, or you don’t, and if you do trust, you show it by respecting their privacy.

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2. You have control issues.

There’s a difference between being bossy and controlling. It’s all about your intention. Are you trying to have power over someone? Do you force your will to make what you want to happen?

As I wrote earlier, I was trying to force whomever my new dating partner was into some mould I thought they needed to follow. They would become the perfect rom-com love interest, and then we would have the perfect rom-com happy ending. It was unrealistic and, more importantly, unfair.

We show love and care for our partners by being their teammate, but when we try to control them, it becomes about conquering them, and it’s not being done with their consent.

3. You tell them how they should feel.

Your guy or gal says to you, “It really hurt my feelings the other day when you criticised me for______,” and you respond with something like,

  • “It wasn’t that bad.”
  • “You need to stop being so sensitive.”
  • “It wouldn’t have bothered anyone else.”
  • “You just need to let it go.”
  • “You should be grateful I didn’t say ______.”
  • “You’re exaggerating.”
  • “It only bothered you because it’s true.”
  • “You just took what I said the wrong way.”

You are invalidating how your partner feels each time you say one of the above comments, and that is toxic AF.

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4. Your needs are the only ones that matter.

Sometimes when we are going through things, such as life changes or catastrophic grief, we may be more inclined to turn inward instead of look outward. When that happens, we can become extremely self-centred. We think only about ourselves and our wants and needs and ignore those of the one around us.

My friend once dated a man who expected her to constantly bend for him with no reciprocation. This hadn’t always been the case, since he moved with her when she’d pursued a job. But at some point, he became more and more focused on himself and more and more clueless about what she was going through.

It’d be good to ask yourself occasionally: What are my partner’s wants and needs today? Am I making them a priority? Taking some time to focus on your partner can help you recognise where you may have fallen short.

5. You’re abusive.

No one likes to be labelled as abusive, but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then….

When you and your previous partners have fought, have you:

  • Raised your voice?
  • Called your partner names?
  • Used the silent treatment for days instead of hours?
  • Said things specifically to humiliate your partner?
  • Made everything your partner’s fault and taken no ownership for your part?
  • Broken or destroyed something?
  • Physically violated your partner’s space?
  • Refused to honour boundaries?
  • Put your hands on them or thrown something at them?

Everyone can have a bad day (or a bad relationship), but it’s important to recognise if something is a pattern. If all of the fights in your previous relationships have been the same, it may be time to recognise that you have had a part in all of those, possibly a bigger one than you’d like.

If many or all of these signs sound uncomfortably familiar, it’s time to own that you might be the problem. Just acknowledging where you’ve fallen short is the first step in becoming healthier. It may take you some work (possibly with a therapist) to give up some of the toxic behaviours, but a healthy emotionally-fulfilling relationship is worth it.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.

Tara Blair Ball is a freelance writer and author of the memoir, The Beginning of the End. Check out her website here or find her on Twitter: @taraincognito.

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