There are several early signs of a controlling man that if you aren’t aware of, you may be vulnerable to.
You don’t know what you don’t know, as they say.
And there’s a lot you may not know if you haven’t been taught. Or if you haven’t had the experience of being with someone who is controlling.
And whilst most guys out there in the dating pool are good, decent men with no desire to reduce the quality of your life, there’s a proportion of men who do have nefarious intent.
So the goal of this article is to help you remove any blind spots around the signs of a controlling man, and to recognise the signs early enough that you don’t waste decades of your life on the wrong person.
Well not only decades – even months is too much to waste on a toxic, controlling man.
How Do You Know If A Guy Is Going To Be Controlling?
One of the best early detectors for a controlling guy is actually your feelings.
You will feel the effects of a lot of what a controlling man does, but here’s the catch:
It’s going to be hard to balance the ‘bad feelings’ or the feeling that ‘something isn’t right’ about this guy against the good feelings he produces in you.
A lot of the early signs of a controlling man will be felt early on by you, these feelings may just be easy to overlook because the guy is giving you so much in other ways.
Abusers have tactics, you see.
They don’t just treat you badly all of the time. They seemingly treat you really well (on a surface level) as well as treating you badly.
In the beginning of a relationship, these tactics may not be – or feel – as severe. But they’ll be there if you’re watching and more importantly, feeling.
What are some early tactics of controlling men?
They may go on a rant about their exes who cheated on them (seems harmless to you, as you are not the target of his aggression).
Or they may do something that reveals their mean streak early on – like criticizing your choice of restaurant or your housekeeping skills in an unexpected, vile manner.
But then they’ll shower you with gifts and declarations of undying love.
Or perhaps they’ll completely ignore your best friend when you introduce him or her – yet hold you gently from behind, kissing your neck while telling you how beautiful you are.
Some of the most abusive, controlling people are the best at making you swoon, and sweeping you off your feet. Because they have something to hide.
So you really have to be alert but also immune to their attempts to control you.
Let’s help you gain this superpower now. We’ll start with the definition of controlling.
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What is a controlling man?
The word ‘controlling’ means to exercise domination or influence.
Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with being able to influence people – if you truly care about their welfare, and if they benefit from your influence.
All of us influence people every single day. The closer the person is to us, the more we influence them.
But there is something wrong with trying to dominate people purely for your own gain. And that’s the meaning we’re working with in this article.
That’s the key to look for in controlling behavior – it’s the desire to dominate and have power over.
So let’s look at the early signs of a controlling boyfriend.
#1: He’s Coming On Really Strong
In the early days, controlling men will get really, intensely involved with you.
They’ll plan elaborate dates, shower you with gifts (love bombing) and even luxurious getaways.
None of it will feel particularly ‘natural’ to you. You might not even feel ready to receive those grand gestures yet – but there might still be a part of you that feels like they’re ‘nice’.
Or just so different from your boring ex boyfriend or husband who wasn’t very romantic.
But there are several reasons why you should be alert when he comes on strong, including the fact that he might just be in it for himself, and that fact that he’s not attuned to your emotions. Here are 3 Reasons You Should Be Worried If He Comes On strong, (written by my husband, D.Shen.)
We all know that love bombing is something that women routinely fall for, especially in online dating.
So as I mentioned, you really need to be immune to this. But how?
First of all, be aware that this behavior exists. Know that even though you wouldn’t do it – other people would.
And second, don’t be needing that attention and surface level generosity.
If you want to check how serious he actually is about committing to you, you can find out for yourself with our free quiz:
#2: He Doesn’t Like Playfulness or Spontaneity
One of the telltale early signs of a controlling man (or woman for that matter), is that they do not respond well to playfulness and spontaneity.
A controlling person will be impulsive (that’s a key trait of abusive people) – but they won’t be capable of playfulness or real spontaneity.
It takes a grounded nervous system in order to engage in true playfulness, and there’s a surprising number of us out there who cannot engage in it.
This is usually due to insecure attachment styles or – as you probably guessed – simply being a controlling person.
The interesting thing for you to remember here is that playfulness is the precursor to romantic love (or falling in love).
Without playfulness, you can’t have real romantic love.
Which means that if a guy you meet doesn’t like playfulness or spontaneity – he cannot possibly be in love with you, even though his grand actions and proclamations of love might seem romantic.
We believe in the power of playfulness so much that we’ve come up with a test for women to use in early dating (online dating or real life dating) and that test is the use of playful banter or high value banter.
We coined the term “high value banter”, and if you can banter with men very early on – then you can test men very early on.
And by ‘test’ I mean, reveal his intent. To see if he’s a control freak or a normal guy who would be capable of a healthy relationship.
Playful banter will reveal the abusers, the narcissists and especially the controlling men very quickly.
How? By doing the following things:
- By putting abusers on their backfoot.
All controlling men come to you with a specific strategy that they’ve worked for years – if not decades – to hone. They’re good at it. They know it works. Especially since most of the women they pick on are none the wiser.
So they don’t like this ‘strategy’ interrupted, which playful banter will do every single time.
Quite simply, they don’t like to be out of control (as the word “controlling” implies), and banter is the antithesis of control.
It’s spontaneous exchange that requires a presence that only secure people can take part in.
- It brings the truth to the surface. High value banter allows people to discuss and bring certain taboo topics to the surface, and this lets you test a guy early on for warning signs that they’re bad news.
- It tests their temperament. Controlling men tend to be moody, and high value banter will reveal his moodiness (and lack of emotional control) quickly.
If you would like some examples of banter to use as a test on the met you’re dating, click here to take my husband’s free class on high value banter.
CLICK here to discover why you as a woman need to use the dark art of “High Value Banter” in order to quickly weed out the wrong types of men and create emotional attraction with the “BEST of MEN”! (…Even if no man has ever given you any love and all you’ve encountered so far are pen pals, ghosts, booty calls, and incredible duds!)
#3: Pressure to Move Fast In The Relationship
A controlling man will overwhelm you early on in the relationship with pressure to become exclusive, move in together, get married, or even have children together.
As nice as it might seem if you’re at a stage in your life where commitment is exactly what you’re looking for, it’s actually too good to be true, because it’s too early.
And that’s the key – if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.
However, if you’re insecurely attached yourself, you may not be able to see as easily when something a guy does is too good to be true.
You many attach too quickly and not see how manipulative he is.
So it’s important to know your own attachment style so that you can be more informed and aware of your own patterns.
If you’re not aware of your own patterns, then you don’t know your own blind spots which can be catastrophic for your love life.
So if you’re not sure of your own attachment style, you can find out with our free, women-specific quiz:
(Why is this important? It is because your core attachment style largely dictates and influences what happens in your relationship. Thus it’s imperative you understand your core attachment style!)
#4: Obsessive Jealousy And Hypervigilance
A controlling man will show signs of jealousy quite early on. How?
- He might make you feel guilty for going out with friends/guy friends
- He might try to get you to not go to places where there will be other guys
- He might act very sweet to you, but hostile towards any other men in your life (for no reason)
- Depending on how brazen he is and how much leeway you give him, he might even want to check your phone (hypervigilance)
- He’ll question you – a lot. Even when you know you’ve done absolutely nothing to arouse suspicion in him
- He asks a lot of questions about your exes
- He’ll be overprotective and possessive very quickly, and in a way that feels like it’s “too much”
- He assumes you’re cheating on him
In a nutshell, you’ll feel monitored. And you’ll feel like the guy can’t seem to stop himself from constantly surveilling you.
If he very quickly becomes obsessed with you, you’ll know that he’s hyperviligant and can’t relax in the relationship.
Even though jealousy can be a sign of investment and love, a controlling man will get extremely jealous for no reason. You could have given him all the signs of faithfulness, but he still acts jealous, like you simply cannot be trusted.
#5: He Needs Constant Contact
A classic sign of a controlling man is that he always has to be able to reach you, and he tries to contact you often. Too often.
- He might want to have long phone conversations with you
- Text you at all hours of the day and at inappropriate times (like when he knows you’re going to be busy)
- And flip out if he cannot establish contact with you immediately
If he loses it when you don’t text him back or return his call fast enough, that’s a big red flag, and you need to stop and think about his intentions.
#6: He Has To Know Where You Are At All Times
Another sign of a controlling man in the early stages is having to know all the details about where you are going.
According to David Buss, author of When Men Behave Badly, if a guy has to know where you are at all times and you can’t go anywhere without his permission, then that is a statistical predictor for future violence in the relationship.
So be careful. It’s good for a guy to be protective of you for your own safety, but it’s not good if he doesn’t give you basic freedom that every human being deserves.
#7: He Comandeers All of Your Time
A controlling person will try to keep you very busy, so busy that you can’t fit anything or anyone else into your schedule.
This will start to happen quite early on, yet it will be hard to notice because he’ll put a disproportionate amount of effort into delivering all the things a charming prince would deliver.
Things like endless romantic dates, lavish meals and trips to places you’ve never been before.
He’ll ensure that he completely seizes all of your free time so that no one else gets to influence you or add value to your life.
He’ll insist on accompanying you to every appointment or outing you have.
But not really. Because:
- It’s inauthentic
- It’s a power grab
- It’s self serving (for him)
- And it’s completely uncalibrated to the stage of dating that you’re at
#8: He Blames Everything on His Ex(es)
Wow, this one is a big red flag.
Of course many of us have had at least one toxic ex or low quality relationship in our past – that’s normal.
But if you notice him only mentioning his exes in a negative light and promptly blaming them for all the unfortunate things he has to go through, that could be a sign of lack of accountability.
However, it’s not just a sign of lack of accountability. It’s him trying to avoid being seen for who he really is.
Controlling people don’t like to have their shortcomings revealed, so they’ll make out like everyone else is the bad guy.
You have to seriously ask yourself these questions:
What makes you so different from his exes that he won’t just start blaming you for everything in the near future?
Would he even know you well enough at this stage to be able to deduce that you wouldn’t upset him as much as his exes would?
#9: Road Rage
Imagine you’re in the passenger seat, innocently enjoying a sunny afternoon driving with your new beau to your favorite café.
Suddenly, he yells as loud as a foghorn at the person who cut in front of him, cussing them out and flipping the bird.
This is a strong sign that you’re going to have some issues with the guy in the future. Likely very soon as well, because it won’t be long before he perceives that you’ve done something worth punishing you for.
To some people, anger looks and feels like power. But it’s usually not unless it’s protecting themselves or someone else in a calibrated way.
Rage takes anger even one step further, because rage is often explosive and misdirected at innocent people.
Rage is often a way of bypassing feelings of shame and low self esteem.
So if his anger seems way disproportionate to what the other driver did, it’s a clear red flag that he has poor emotional control.
He might keep it together with you for now, while he’s trying to win your emotional investment in him, but it won’t be long before he explodes at you, either.
You’ll know that the guy’s rage is intended to coerce and control you when he is unwilling to discuss the incident after it happens.
He won’t explore the issue, even if he does apologize. To him, his rage has served its purpose of punishing his enemy, and now he becomes a little more relaxed for a short time, until the next stage begins; the tension stage, and that ultimately escalates towards his next outburst.
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#10: If You Had to Describe Him, You’d Use The Word “Intense”
Another of the early signs of a controlling man that is easy to identify is the fact that he has an intense demeanour, which is the perfect word to describe a controlling personality.
If you had to describe him, you’d use the word “intense”. And what you are describing in actual fact, is his nervous system, which has a bias towards high arousal or hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal is also a symptom of PTSD.
#11: He Seems To Like To Create Chaos
Unfortunately, this is something that a lot of inexperienced women may find amusing and exciting initially, but I advise that you don’t.
It might seem amusing because your guy acts almighty, powerful and dominant, but it’s nothing but a fake show of status and power which circumvents his feelings of shame.
A classic early sign of a controlling boyfriend is that he’s always got to be in the middle of some sort of drama.
It’s either this or that person doing the wrong thing in his eyes, and he needs retribution.
For now it might seem like you’re on his good side, but have a think: has he had many positive things to say about anyone?
Or does his life seem to be oriented towards drama and chaos?
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#12: He Says Bad Things About The People You Love
This is an early attempt at isolating you.
What’s the best way to gain control over someone?
Create distance between them and the people who love them. That way, they have no one to rely on, and no one to call in times of need.
This gives the guy ultimate control, because isolating you from your family and friends ensures that his behavior is not under scrutiny from a third party.
As the relationship progresses, you may also notice that even though he was the one who forcibly isolated you from your friends and family, he’ll even blame you and criticize you for it.
This is what my adoptive mother would do to my father. She would be insanely jealous (despite her stellar attempts to hide the jealousy), and isolate him from all friends and family.
Later on she would complain to me (and criticize him) for being so worthless that he had no friends around him.
This is of course, the ultimate form of gaslighting.
You may also be interested in my article on gaslighting in a relationship: Gaslighting In A Relationship: 10 Examples & How To Stop It.
#13: Contradictory Desires
One of the more confusing (and extreme) signs of a controlling partner is contradictory desires and behaviors related to you – or his exes.
For example, he might present with intense jealousy over you talking to another guy, yet he insists that you should dress provocatively.
Think this is puzzling?
Well, it’s to do with something called betrayal-oriented attachment. But I don’t want to overcomplicate things by going into this term, as this is something that can easily be simplified…
An effortless way of thinking about this is that the guy is re-enacting what was done to him as a baby or child.
Essentially, the controlling person expects to be betrayed by women, (hence their hostility towards women), but at the same time, they seek attachment to a woman.
Someone with betrayal-oriented attachment really wanted their mother’s love way back when, however their mother betrayed them often – and that creates a tension that they want to replicate.
The betrayal by their mother includes things like smothering them one moment and disappearing or going cold the next.
A controlling guy who has contradicting desires is someone who was abandoned as a child, and assumes love equals abandonment.
Thus they have conflicting desires and behave in a paradoxical manner. For example, they’ll accuse you of cheating all the time, yet go and cheat on you themselves.
Such a relationship is highly strung and stressful of course. But the heartbreaking part is that they think relationships have to model that type of stress.
#14: He Ingratiates Himself With You (And Others)
One of the early warning signs of controlling behavior is when someone is often ingratiating themselves to others.
What is ingratiating behavior?
It is fake behavior designed to influence other people to like you and therefore do what you want them to do.
Ingratiating behavior is said to have three main components. They are:
- Flattery. This is when you butter someone up. You’ll compliment them and flatter them so that they feel really good about themselves around you. You may express admiration for their skills and talent.
- Feigning agreement with others. This involves blindly agreeing with people and expressing admiration for their viewpoints and arguments. You’ll never go against their beliefs, as your goal is to get into their good books.
- Carefully curated self presentation (presentation that is designed to fit what you know the other person likes). This is pretty self explanatory but basically you dress, speak and act in ways that will make the other person like you.
Ingratiating yourself with others is highly controlling behavior and it’s indicative of low self esteem. When you consider that this behavior is never authentic but rather, simply a means to an end, it starts to dawn on you how slimy it truly is.
#15: Jekyll And Hyde Behavior
If you’re unfamiliar with Jekyll and Hyde, this concept is based on a 1886 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The story is about a legal practitioner named Gabriel John Utterson who notices a series of strange events surrounding his benevolent friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and an abhorrent criminal named Mr. Edward Hyde.
Over time it is revealed that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person. In fact, Dr. Jekyll had created a magic serum for himself that allowed him to transform from the kind-hearted Dr. Jekyll into the evil Mr. Hyde.
This transformation empowered him to fulfill his corrupt desires without fear of the consequences.
In real life, Jekyll and Hyde behavior is simply known as moody behavior or dramatic mood swings, which is known as bipolar disorder.
So if your guy seems to be extremely sweet one minute and cold and callous the next (hot and cold), this is a possible sign of a future abusive relationship.
Here’s a video my husband David and I made on the good and sinister reasons why men go hot and cold:
#16: He Shows Up Unannounced
It is not unusual for people to surprise each other in positive ways during the early stages of a romantic relationship.
However, when a controlling guy does it, it will have an intrusive and heavy quality to it – and you may feel stalked.
This is usually because he is stalking you. He can’t help himself. if you feel like he does this just to keep tabs on you, then you might be in the early stages of a controlling relationship.
#17: He’s Secretive
One of the early signs of a controlling man is that he’s secretive. He might want to know a lot about your life, yet keep certain parts of his own life away from your awareness.
One of the really toxic signs of controlling behavior is when someone keeps information about other relationships from you. This affords him power in a way nothing else could, because it keeps key truths about his character away from view.
This is also known as compartmentalization. So he won’t let you in on his relationship with his best friend or his sister. At least not beyond what you may already know or have found out.
Some of the early warning signs of compartmentalization is when he seems to keep you and him (or your relationship) in one box that is separate from his work, his family and his friends.
He doesn’t let you in on his past or let you get to know his friends and family members.
Basically, he has something to hide and compartmentalization an effective way to accomplish that.
It also serves his own selfish ends because it allows him to keep you (and others) in the dark. That way, he retains more control and is able to hide the truth better.
What Causes Controlling Men?
The root causes of controlling behavior in men are:
Sadly, people with control issues usually didn’t cause it themselves. Their behavior, though damaging and hurtful, may actually be the result of an abusive relationship with a parent, or a traumatic event that was beyond their control.
Of course, this does not excuse their behavior at all. And just because they were a victim themselves doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for not helping them or for leaving them.
Sadly, what’s done is done and they are the way they are.
Can they ever change?
But are they likely to change?
Most people never truly change, which means you’re in for a horrible and traumatic time if you choose to stay with them.
You’re going to have to be beyond resilient in order to help them in their recovery (if you choose that path), and chances are you won’t come out unscathed (and neither will anyone around you whom you love).
So if you want to avoid emotional abuse and live a life of freedom and happiness, then notice the signs a guy is exerting control over you early, and don’t get attached to the ‘nice’ things he does. You’ll likely pay for it later on.
If you are the type to get attached very easily and you’re not sure why, read my article: “Why Do I Get Attached So Easily? 6 EXACT Reasons And How to Stop.”
What To Do Now?
1: Prioritize Your Safety Above All
If you believe you’re in an unsafe situation, get to safety immediately. If you’ve noticed several of the above signs of controlling guys in your love interest (say at least 5 of the signs), try to see it for what it is (don’t sugarcoat it or justify his behavior), and choose the safest path available to you.
According to research, most women will attempt to leave an abusive relationship between 5 and 7 times before successfully doing so. That’s a lot.
So be careful whom you tell your plans to (ie: think carefully before you tell a controlling man that you plan to leave him), and if you are forced to have to let him know that you’ve left in some way, ensure that you are in a safe place where he cannot get to you even if he tried.
There are far too many stories of women who were hurt or killed after trying to leave a controlling relationship, don’t let that be you.
2: Use Spontaneity To Test Guys In The Future
Secondly, start introducing high value banter into your dating routine. Ask playful questions and see how he responds.
If he gets defensive or angry instantaneously, that’s your first of many possible warning signs of a controlling man.
Here’s an example of a banter line to use to test a guy:
“Do you know what I hate about you?”
“[In a playful tone] Haha, nothing! Kidding!”
What you want to look for is frustration that escalates at breakneck speed. For a lot of controlling people, they’ll get angry very quickly, with that energy of “arrrrrghhhhh! You riled me up!!”
If you want more examples and to go deeper on this topic of testing a man, let me suggest my husband David’s free high value banter class.
And for one other phrase you can say to test any man, click here.
Wishing you all the very best and I’ll talk to you soon.
Renee is the founder of The Feminine Woman & co-founder of Shen Wade Media where we teach women how to show up as a high value high status woman whom easily inspires a deep sense of emotional commitment from her chosen man. Together with her husband D. Shen at Commitment Triggers blog, they have positively influenced the lives of over 15 million women through their free articles and videos as well as 10’s of thousands through paid programs through the Shen Wade Media platform.
Connect deeper with her work through the social media links below.
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