What comes to mind when you think of a “controlling relationship?” Maybe you imagine one person regulating another person’s activities, and the second individual going along with it. Controlling behaviors can be surprisingly deceptive and manipulative, and the “symptoms” may be difficult to recognize. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a pattern of emotional abuse without even realizing it, as WebMD points out.
A power imbalance may be appropriate within some contexts. Think of a toddler who depends on a parent for basic needs, or a boss-employee relationship. That isn’t the kind of relationship we’re speaking about in this blog. Perhaps you have a partner or another influential person in your life who’s “overprotective” and “bossy.” A controlling person may try to influence your pregnancy decision (not to mention other life choices- big and small) in a way that feels overbearing. That isn’t normal or okay! But you have what it takes to end unhealthy patterns and step into your future with confidence and autonomy.
Avenue Women’s Center is a limited medical clinic that provides free first-step pregnancy services. It’s our mission to empower women by offering them reliable information about their pregnancy options in a supportive environment. If you’re going through an unexpected pregnancy, know that there’s help available! You aren’t alone. Our expert team at Avenue is dedicated to navigating this pregnancy (and all the circumstances surrounding it) by your side- every step of the way.
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“How Can I Recognize a Controlling Relationship?”
Although this may sound like an exaggeration on the surface, there’s a lot of overlap between a “controlling” relationship and an “emotionally abusive” one. If your partner, family member, or acquaintance causes you to feel scared and insecure (in any way at all), it’s time to look at this relationship from a different perspective. WebMD speaks to controlling dynamics between partners, and mentions some warning signs to look out for:
Does your partner insist on being included in your plans and daily activities?
This may be a sign that he’s trying to exercise control over various aspects of your life.
Does your partner make you feel bad for spending time with other people? Would you describe him as, “the jealous type?”
If so, he may be attempting to make you feel isolated, defensive, and/or vulnerable. Controlling partners may spin their unreasonable expectations to make themselves look romantic. If your partner is showing these patterns, you can be pretty certain he’s trying to manipulate you. Respecting a significant other’s time with friends and family is a two-way street and a relationship must.
Does your partner want to check your phone and other personal items?
Every relationship needs boundaries, no matter how intimate or long-lasting. If your partner is constantly checking in on you and your personal belongings, that’s a big red flag. Everyone has a right to privacy and autonomy.
Does your partner make critical comments toward you in private or around others?
A controlling partner may try to strengthen his own position by making you feel inferior.
Does your partner “gaslight” you or make accusations?
To “gaslight” means to manipulate someone’s perspective, causing that individual to question herself or himself. This pattern sometimes emerges in controlling relationships. A controlling partner might also blame you for the emotions he’s feeling and paint himself as a victim.
Whether you’re facing a significant choice (like a pregnancy decision), or going through life as you normally would, these dynamics aren’t healthy! It’s time to recognize your partner’s behaviors for what they are and put your foot down. Depending on your unique circumstances, this may involve having a respectful but assertive conversation. Or, if matters aren’t improving, it may be time to consider separating yourself from this person.
“What If Someone in My Life is Trying to Control my Pregnancy Decision?”
After learning of your pregnancy, your partner may feel shocked and overwhelmed. A family member or other influential person in your life may respond similarly. They may have strong opinions about how this situation should be handled. Sometimes, these dynamics play out in relationships that don’t otherwise show signs of emotional abuse. Your loved one’s perspectives may be important to you and may be helpful to hear. But remember that your pregnancy decision will affect your health (physical and emotional) differently than anyone else’s. Seeking the information and support you need to embrace your best choice is critical. That may involve making some changes in your relationships and setting some boundaries.
If you think you may be in a controlling relationship, it’s important to explore this further and take any steps needed to safeguard your health and wellness. That’s true whether you’re facing an unexpected pregnancy or not. Pay close attention to your instincts, and get support from someone other than your controlling partner. Seriously consider processing your situation with a mental health professional, trusted faith leader, or someone like a pregnancy consultant.
Our caring staff at Avenue understands how challenging and emotionally painful it can be to navigate a controlling relationship, and we’re here to be your advocate and ally. In addition to providing free first-step pregnancy services, our staff is available to offer emotional support and help you connect with any resources you may need.
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Controlling relationships are a complex matter, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Check out these online resources from Psychology Today and WebMD to learn more about warning signs, possible effects, and the next steps you can take.
- Psychology Today. (2015, June). 20 Signs Your Partner is Controlling. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling
- WebMD. (2021). Warning Signs That Your Partner is Controlling. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/warning-signs-sexual-abuse-teens-young-adults
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.