Welcome to my blog post: 25 Signs of a Subtly Controlled Relationship.

It can be hard to tell if a relationship is healthy, particularly if it’s a subtly controlled one.

It might only be small things here and there, but if you were to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the small bits of controlling behaviour might actually form a controlling bigger picture.

I need to stress here I’m not a Therapist or a Psychologist, so I’m not qualified in any way to advise on relationships, in fact no Life Coach should. But I’m writing this blog post from a need for a wider discussion on what I believe may be a more common problem than we perhaps acknowledge:

The Subtly Controlled Relationship.

To start with, I don’t believe any relationship to be perfect, so I’m not talking about those relationships where a couple may argue a lot for example.

I’m talking about that relationship, which could be yours or could be the relationship of someone you know, where you just feel something isn’t right and perhaps believe there is an element of control from one of the party, which is so subtle that it seems silly to mention, yet you know isn’t right.

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t about the obvious controlled relationships, this is about those relationships where the control can be almost undetectable until you really start to analyse and then BOOM you realise it as clear as day.

So, what are the classic signs of subtle control in a relationship?

I’ve done a lot of research on this and talked to a lot of people and I believe some of the below to be 25 Signs of a Subtly Controlled Relationship:

  1. Moody at social events with your friends, family or work colleagues.
  2. Contacting you a lot when out without them.
  3. Contacting you a lot when out without them because they feel ill or something has happened…….
  4. Encouraging you to partake in unhealthy behaviour. Eating unhealthy foods for example.
  5. Discouraging you from being healthy by persuading you to not go to the gym for example.
  6. Moaning subtly about your friends or family.
  7. Making things slightly awkward when you spend time with friends or family.
  8. Criticising you. As in persistently putting in smaller “digs” about your capabilities. Cooking seems to be a common one…..
  9. Throwing tantrums when out socially and blaming it on you for some reason.
  10. Being moody for no reason and making days off miserable.
  11. Making veiled threats to leave you.
  12. Coming up with genuine reasons (but persistently) the check your phone and emails OR Hanging around to listen to your phone conversations.
  13. Turning up at events when they blatantly don’t need to, to meet you….
  14. Not allowing you your own space. Always wanting to be with you.
  15. Encouraging you to give up work / friends when it’s not appropriate.
  16. Controlling how much you spend or questioning what you’re spending.
  17. Not doing anything you want to do: film choices, dinner choices, holiday destinations.
  18. Questioning your loyalty to them or needing to know where they sit in the ranking of your affections.
  19. Accusing you of flirting or acting inappropriately.
  20. Being distant or purposefully unattainable during key times in your life.
  21. Criticising your appearance in a jokey way. But persistently.
  22. Subtly trying to isolate you from spending time with friends / family.
  23. Generally, make things awkward for you.
  24. Making it difficult or coming up with reasons why you can’t go out with your friends.
  25. Actively discouraging you from trying new things.

If any of the above ring true for you in your relationship then my advice would be to proactively monitor your partners behaviour for a while with the above in mind. Then to discuss how you’re feeling with either a trusted friend or family member (what do they think?) or consult an appropriate Therapist to try and gain clarity from a professional.

If it rings true for someone you know, then it’s definitely harder because let’s be honest you may have completely the wrong end of the stick. OR, you may be spot on. Plus is it any of your business if it’s subtly controlled? I’m not sure.


I would like to conclude by highlighting some misconceptions around controlled relationships generally:

  • Women are just as likely to be the “controllers” as men.
  • Contrary to popular belief, “strong independent women” often fall victims to a controlling partner.
  • A controlling relationship is not only reserved for the young, many older couples in their 70’s, 80’s & 90’s can be in controlled relationships.
  • Controlled relationships are not necessarily romantic. It can be any kind of relationship.

I hope you found this blog post useful, if you have concerns regarding your relationship or someone you know, then please can I direct you to the following support groups:

Living Without Abuse

Support Line

National Domestic Violence Helpline

Citizens Advice Bureau



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