There is a huge difference between taking care of someone and controlling everything they do.
Do you know that famous song from The Police, “Every Breath You Take”? If you do know the tune, then you may also know that many people consider it the ultimate love song. But if you haven’t heard from it before, I can assure you that by just reading the lyrics, you will seriously wonder why people are dedicating this track to their loved ones. The song literally begins with this verse: “Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take… I'll be watching you.”
Creepy, right? Well, sadly this is how sometimes relationships are perceived. Many partners think that taking care of their loved one means to keep an eye on them all the time and control their every move. But this is as far from love as it can possibly get. Controlling behaviors (like the ones described in the song) only lead to toxic relationships and subsequent unhappiness. Some examples of this kind of attitudes are:
They don’t like it when you talk to certain people (friends, family, former partners).
We can all be a little jealous sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to act on it, does it? Toxic people will often control your friendships and relationships of any kind. If someone seems to threaten the relationship, they will start suggesting that maybe you should change your friends for other people they approve of. Or, what’s worse, they will literally tell you to stop talking to them because they’re not good for you. This can apply to friends, family, coworkers, roommates, and former partners.
They check up on you all the time.
It’s cute when you get a random text or unexpected call from your loved one. It shows that they’re thinking about you. But there’s a limit to this kind of surprises. When these random calls happen three or four times a day, and text messages pile up to a grotesque number, it’s time to consider taking a break from this relationship. They’re looking for ways to control you in every way they find possible, while hiding it as a romantic gesture. Trust me, that’s not romantic at all.
They accuse you of having fun without them.
From time to time, a controlling partner will resent all the moments you spend having fun without them. According to them, you may not be allowed to do so, because in their opinion, there shouldn’t be anything more fun than the time you spend together. They will probably get mad when you make plans without them or cancel a plan that includes them. But don’t feel bad about it; you’re completely entitled to do whatever makes you happy.
They use jokes to disguise threats.
“If you would dare to go on that trip without me, I would probably crash your car… haha, just kidding!” It’s pretty obvious that people who joke this way are not kidding at all. They are so controlling that threats start to come up in a subtle way, until they’re not so subtle anymore. If you start doing something they don’t like, things can get seriously creepy. Toxic people will blackmail you to do what they want, “or else...”
They don’t let you to go to certain places because they’re “not safe” for you.
As controlling as they can be, toxic people will be “afraid” to let you go to certain places, saying that they can be dangerous for you in some way. They can’t explain the hazard they’re afraid of, but they would rather keep you away from parties and events that coincidentally don’t require their presence. In this particular case, they’re making you believe you’re their property and you can’t take care of yourself without them.
They make you feel you’re a prize to be won, and they’re the absolute winners.
Controlling and toxic people will make you feel like you’re some sort of achievement, literally, a prize to be won. This may sound like they’re putting you on some sort of pedestal, but the reality is that they’re objectifying you to their convenience. And let me tell you, that’s not love, because you become a trophy, a prize, not a loving human being they’re glad they've met. You’re another achievement on their list.
In the end, all of these behaviors will consume your time and stamina. Consequently, you’ll end up feeling sad and maybe even consider breaking up. When people control you and absorb every inch of your energy, it’s completely normal to feel this way. Because you’re constantly being left down and undervalued, you’re not enjoying all there is to your relationship, and your partner’s true colors are very exhausting and somehow depressing. Even though some of these situations seem too ugly to be true, hazardous behaviors in a relationship are something real, and very common. But by spotting these attitudes on time and avoiding them since the very beginning, we can develop lasting, toxic-free, and enjoyable relationships.
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Photo credit: Chris and Ruth Photography