Is He REALLY Controlling? Here’s How to Know

Is your spouse controlling you

Time after time my clients wonder whether their husband (or their wife) is trying to control them. As they question and have doubts about what controlling behavior is, we explore at length what is happening in their relationship. Once they get clear that their husband is being controlling and intrusive they learn to set a limit or boundary with him. Unfortunately, it is often not respected and is crossed. When this happens, they feel intruded upon and very angry.

There are many ways that people are intruded upon and controlled. Some ways are more overt and apparent than others.

Examples of intrusive and controlling behavior

  • Being told repeatedly that you are doing something incorrectly and told how to do it “right”
  • Being threatened that your husband will file for divorce and take away your child if you don’t do things as he wishes
  • Trying to get dressed or take a shower privately and your partner come in anyway, often without knocking
  • Having friends or family drop by your home unannounced after you have asked them to call first
  • Having a parent who regularly criticizes your husband, or as it relates to someone single, regularly questions who you date or spend time with
  • Having someone in your life who regularly wants you to tell them your personal thoughts, feelings and business when you wish to keep it private
  • Having one family member regularly complain to you about another family member
  • Being regularly questioned about how you go about doing things whether it be related to your eating habits, exercise program, schedule etc
  • Being touched in ways you don’t want to be
  • Being criticized, blamed or belittled after expressing your thoughts, feelings and concerns
  • Saying that you have reached your limit with listening or talking about something and your partner persists, maybe even following you after you have left the room
  • Having a partner or friend who expresses that you are not meeting their needs no matter how attentive and giving you are
  • Attempting to have some alone time or time with friends and having your partner show up uninvited

So as you see, there are many examples of intrusive and controlling behavior. I have likely also left out other examples. When addressing your husband, it is important to set clearly defined boundaries by saying what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is. Be open, direct and honest when you feel controlled, managed or intruded upon and know that it is healthy to speak up.

Let him know that you feel angry and/or afraid and/or hurt when you experience your boundary being crossed. You can then relate how you feel to the depth of your emotional, physical and sexual connection (or lack thereof) to him.

In terms of your concern about feeling very angry, please know that feeling angry when you feel controlled or intruded upon is typical, normal and healthy. And many of my clients speak with me about judging themselves for feeling angry or other emotions. Experiencing emotions, sometimes very strongly, is a part of being a human being. It is very important to express these emotions. Not expressing them might lead to depression, free floating anxiety, headaches, back aches, gastrointestinal distress and a range of other illnesses. It will also likely lead to emotional, physical and sexual distance between you and your husband. Repressing emotions can also possibly lead to compulsive and/or excessive behavior such as emotional (overeating, gambling, drug and/or alcohol abuse, use of pornography and overspending.

Healthy ways to deal with anger

  • Talk and/or write about it
  • Listen to guided imagery focused on stress relief and/or anger release
  • Exercise
  • Allow yourself to feel it and move through you
  • Seek professional help
  • Be kind, caring, accepting and nurturing to you
  • Practice yoga or meditation
  • Get support from people you can trust

To sum it up, there are many ways that your husband and others act in controlling and intrusive ways. Having strong reactions to this is healthy and normal. It is very important to express your emotions. I would also like to add that sometimes people can feel controlled or intruded upon when the person they are relating to is not really acting in a controlling or intrusive manner. Situations such as this likely relates to a person having some unresolved issues from their past. Addressing these issues is important to do.

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Jeff Schneider
Counselor, LCSW
Jeff Schneider is a N.Y. State licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert in
New Paltz, NY. He has helped people from all walks of life struggling with relationship
problems, addictions, depression, fear, low self-esteem and how to integrate
counseling and spirituality. Visit to learn more about him.

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