Your partner storms across the cocktail party. You’ve chuckled at a joke and the fit hotty across from you places a hand on your shoulder. You see your partner’s eyes burning into the hand and a shot of anxiety surges up your spine.
Some of us live for relationships. Companionship. Intimacy. Someone to talk to. Maybe even a few home-cooked meals to boot. What’s not to love?
Funny thing about Princess stories, they never end with Prince Charming going ballistic — throwing a tantrum because Princess laughed at someone else’s joke, perusing Princess’ texts and emails, showing up unannounced at her doctor’s appointments, and scarring her for life with emotional abuse.
Sex, companionship, and poison. Anyone?
A possessive partner can damage our perception of reality, and destroy our self-confidence. Even though they cause serious harm, their toxic behavior is often subtle initially and hard to detect.
Some jealousy in a relationship is instinctual. Biological impulses rooted in evolution make us prone to mate-guarding — using flirtatious ploys to distract our partners from other prospective sexual options. Nothing wrong with a little showing off.
Harmful jealousy on the other hand stems from insecurity. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to recognize. Someone with a poor sense of self is most at risk of developing possessive habits in a relationship. Such a person often believes they are incapable of attracting a partner as favorable as their present one. In a state of panic and fear, they employ manipulative behavior to protect their relationship.
Do yourself a favor — If you suspect your partner has possessive tendencies, keep a lookout for the following ten tell-tale signs of jealousy, disrespect, manipulation, and irresponsibility.
10. They dehumanize their exes
When you meet someone new and have “that” conversation, where you review how long ago they were coupled, and generally get a feel for how things ended, watch out for hyper-negativity. All of us criticize our exes, but if your partner talks about their ex as though the person is sub-human, be on the lookout!
Possessive people have a desire to maintain control in their relationships. When they lose control, they attempt to establish superiority by undermining the intelligence, attractiveness, and sanity of their counterpart with criticism according to Andrea Bonior of Psychology Today.
Don’t be fooled if your partner presents harsh criticisms of an ex as a compliment to you. While demeaning an ex, your partner may say something to the effect of, “But you would never behave in such a way, because you have class.” Another common phrasing is, “You’re so much smarter than my ex, I can’t believe I spent so much time with that idiot!” Also, “You’re a 10, my ex wasn’t even very good looking.”
Before you bask in the glory of compliments such as these, ask yourself what kind of a person would blatantly demean someone they’ve dated.
9. They’re impatient
Impatience is a sign of anxiousness, and often, emotional instability. If your partner demands your attention, not only are they disrespecting your right to engage with them if and when you’d like to, but they’re establishing that their needs are more important than yours.
If your partner expects you to answer a text, a call, or an email immediately like a salesman trying to close a deal, according to Preston Ni of Psychology Today, this is a classic sign of possessive impatience. Similarly, possessive partners demand answers to hefty propositions and questions instantly.
For example, if your partner asks if you’d like to go on a road trip, they may pressure you to make your mind up that very day, or in the next ten minutes!!!!
Other common emotional pressures possessive partners force on their partners include: having sex quickly into a relationship, committing to monogamy early into the dating process, and committing to marriage sooner than is comfortable.
8. They’re irresponsible for their own feelings
Possessive people aren’t self-aware, especially when it comes to their feelings. This trait points back to shame they have about expressing themselves due to past experiences of emotional abandonment according to licensed marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer.
Instead of taking responsibility for how they feel or for their mistakes, possessive people blame their partners.
For example, instead of saying they want a relationship to move faster, they’ll accuse their partner of moving too fast.
Another way to place blame is to focus the actions of their partners instead of their own. For example, a possessive person sleeps through their alarm and wakes up thirty minutes late. On their way out the door, they spend an additional 45 seconds searching for their car keys because their spouse moved the keys. Instead of acknowledging that they woke up late, a possessive person may ridicule their spouse for making them late by moving the car keys.
BIGGEST RED FLAG: When accused of being possessive, the classic manipulative response is to claim that needy behavior is a sign of love. If you hear this, run the other way!
7. They anger easily over small details
Beware, beware of the angry lover. Possessive partners run green with envy. They’ll get worked up over small details, like if you don’t volunteer every tidbit about your life. Because they want to have you all to themselves, they will make efforts to isolate you. When you so much as spend time with your friends, coworkers, or family members, according to Andrea Bonior of Psychology Today, they may throw a tantrum or launch a passive aggressive investigation into your interactions.
Passive aggressive expressions of anger include calling into question any activity you do that makes you the center of public attention. This includes promotions at work, socializing online, and attending events without them.
6. They criticize you
When a romantic partner feels threatened by your grace, they’ll launch criticisms your way to erode your self-confidence. When you become weak, they position themselves as your only reliable supporter in hopes that you’ll become dependant on them.
Criticism typically starts small and in unnoticeable ways. It can be as innocuous as volunteering advice under the pretense that they’re trying to make you a better person. More noticeably but still subtle, it can be a matter of questioning your decorating choices, commenting on what a horrible movie you chose to see, or what loud friends you have.
Licensed psychologist Andrea Bonior confirms that if nothing you do is good enough for your partner, you will never truly feel like an equal in the relationship.
5. They make unreasonable demands
When your partner demands that you make promises you can’t keep, be on alert. If they demand constant reassurance of your devotion to them, claiming that you don’t love them enough unless you comply, be on RED alert. Pack your bags and hide all traces of your location if your partner threatens to hurt themselves if you do not abide by their unreasonable demands.
An unreasonable demand is a possessive exploitation of your humanity in two ways. First, demands don’t belong in respectful relationships because both parties realize that NO is a choice. Preston Ni, communication expert, affirms that you have a right to set your own priorities, and you have a right to say no without feeling guilty. A possessive partner by contrast aims to persuade you to give up some aspect of your freedom to serve their interests… or else!
Second, the nature of their requests are unhealthy because they’re based on an inaccurate perception of reality: one in which they are undeserving of love, and the only way to get it is to impair your judgment.
4. They appear to have multiple personalities
We’ve all met someone at a party who was so nice it was creepy. While they may not give off a “too much” vibe, possessive people tend to be charismatic as all-get-out in public, and then angry, critical, and cold in more exclusive settings. We’re all familiar with the term two-faced. When someone close to us displays two-faced behavior however, it’s often difficult to see them for what they are.
If your partner fluctuates between being incredibly polite and fiercely aggressive, take note of their act. More specifically, if they display different beliefs around different people, ask yourself if a self-assured person would pretend to be someone they are not.
Possessive and manipulative people prey on others’ weaknesses, according to Preston Ni, communication specialist. They feign friendship, acceptance, and a peaceful demeanor in the company of acquaintances to gain access to their vulnerabilities. Then when a possessive person wants control, they’ll use their target’s weakness against them to win the upper hand.
If your partner dotes over you but quickly flips and shames you, free yourself before it gets worse!
3. They make you feel guilt or shame
An effective way to destabilize a person is to encourage them to doubt their basic needs and feelings. In attempts to control you, or to possess you, an insecure partner will shame you when you express yourself, have fun without them, ask for basic levels of respect, express opinions that are different from theirs, and try to set your own priorities.
Psychology Today reports that partners persuade their significant others to deny their own basic needs and rights through the use of guilt.
If your partner makes you feel guilty when you express yourself, or if you get anxious at the thought of sharing your feelings with them, chances are, you’re in a relationship with a possessive person.
2. They cross boundaries you’ve established and asked them to respect
We all have a right to set boundaries in social situations. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. and executive editor of PsychCentral asserts that healthy relationships depend on partners taking their significant other’s feelings and needs into account — including the need for space.
In possessive relationships, partners behave as though their significant other wants what they want. When a partner crosses a previously communicated boundary, they disregard the emotional and even physical independence of their counterpart.
Possessive partners hate space and frame their desire to violate a boundary as a sign of devotion. If your partner reads your texts, emails, or persuses your search history, be concerned. If they stalk you, show up unannounced, or invite themselves to your social events despite your requests for space, consider them unsafe to be around and unhealthy.
1. They create an imbalance of power
Healthy relationships depend on partners treating each other as equals. A possessive partner in contrast craves dominance and power over their counterpart.
In codependent and subversive relationships, a possessive partner creates an imbalance of power by isolating their victim. Isolation typically involves restricting a victim’s access to family, friends and coworkers; information; money; and healthcare.
A study performed at the University of New Hampshire Family Research Laboratory found that adult survivors of childhood emotional abuse are prone to be possessive partners who repeat the habits of their abusers later in life. A possessive adult may seek the power they were deprived of as children in romantic relationships.
Steer clear of anyone who demands to know everything about your life, but won’t share the details of theirs with you — this creates an imbalance in vulnerability and information that gives them the upper hand.
Likewise, possessive partners attempt to control their counterparts through creating a sense of indebtedness. This can take shape literally through financial debt, or through the projection of an emotional debt. If your partner seems to gloat when your friends or family let you down, this is a red flag! When others fail you, they will suggest that you cannot trust anyone but them. Danger!
Steer clear of anyone who diminishes your freedom and equality.