Just the tip: The one to hold you down

Carin Huber, Opinion Editor

Few people knowingly go into a relationship with a controlling partner. The behavior is subtle, especially in the beginning, and can be hard to spot.

Most commonly the controlling person is a man, but a woman can be the offender too, and be equally dangerous.

Psychologist Andrea Bonoir offered these signs of controlling behavior in a June article for Psychology Today.

Extravagant gifts, expensive dinners out and help with bills may seem nice at first. Before long, however, you may find you feel beholden to the person, like you owe him the relationship. This is exactly how a controller wants you to feel.

Picking apart every little thing you do is another controlling technique. Your supposed faults may be small and the “corrections” easily accepted as the controller trying to help you be a better person. Everyone has quirks that annoy their partner. But if it feels like you can’t do anything right in his eyes, he may be trying to remake you in his vision.

A controller may demand particular behavior from you as a condition of his affection. He may say he doesn’t feel like having sex with you now, but if you’d just lose 10 pounds you’d be irresistible. Or you’re so sexy when you bring home those big bonus checks from work. If he only loves you when you do something he likes, he doesn’t love you.

Does your partner have to be in constant contact, knowing where you are every minute of the day? It may seem cute at first, how smitten he is with you, but pay attention to his reaction the first time he can’t reach you instantly. If he overreacts or accuses you of doing something behind his back, you have a problem.

There are other red flags to watch out for: being unhappy when you go out with friends or family but insisting on having his own time with “the gang,” implying he might hurt himself, you, or someone else if you leave him, refusing to give you time alone, keeping score in the relationship or shutting you down in arguments and refusing to listen to your side are just a few more ways a controller has of gaining and keeping power over you.

If any of these behaviors sound familiar, pay attention. If more than one of these hit home, get an outside view from a trusted friend. If you have doubts, get out of the relationship now. A controller can easily become an abuser. Leaving could keep you from harm.

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, visit http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/states/ca.shtml to find an assistance organization in your area of California.