General Question

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Is my boyfriend controlling or am I just unreasonable?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (4455points) March 1st, 2013

This is a complicated situation so I’m going to try to distill it as much as possible without losing too much ‘meat’.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and we’ve had our ups and downs. We briefly broke up six months into the relationship while I did some working abroad but we had some issues before then.

Now, some of the problems we’ve had have been my fault and I have taken responsibility for them and tried to be better. But a recurring issue is that I feel he can be judgmental, controlling, and subtly manipulative to a fault sometimes.

Shortly after I returned from traveling, my Mom passed away kind of unexpectedly and he was very supportive of me throughout her brief illness and death. He’s a good man, and genuinely cares for me. The problem is, sometimes he cares me too much and it can take a controlling angle.

For example, when he visited me in Europe, he took it upon himself to go through my computer because he was suspicious of me. He found some personal messages I had written to friends about my feelings on our relationship, and found out that I had a one night stand with another man shortly after broke it off for a bit.

Since then, we’ve had several arguments over boundaries and what he can and cannot do as my partner. For example, now he’s CONSTANTLY looking over my shoulder to see who I’m talking to and what I’m talking about. He asked me delete my exes from FB because he felt threatened by them and I eventually did.This caused a fight though because I don’t think he has the right to tell me who I can and cannot speak to. But worse, when I’m having a personal conversation with a female friend or family member, he’ll look over my shoulder and accidentally see what we’re talking about and then get mad if he thinks I talk about him. Saying I don’t respect our relationship and our privacy. He’s paranoid that I’m constantly shit-talking him which isn’t true. And he makes me paranoid. I’m even nervous he’s going to find this.

Now I understand his feelings on this, and I’m trying to use more discretion. But I’ll admit, it makes me feel isolated from my friends because sometimes I need to talk to someone about my feelings and it feels good to vent. And I don’t think he has the right to spy on my personal chats, even if he doesn’t like the subject matter. Private is private and I actually do respect his privacy and don’t pry into his computer or phone even to ‘peek’. I’m an adult and need to be treated as such.

Tonight we argued about money. We came to South America to spend some time with his family after my Mom died. I went with him because he really wanted to go and I wanted to be with him but it has taken the wind out of my sails financially. This has upset him because I finally told him how bad my current situation is, and now he wants me to show him ALL of my financial documents so he can ‘help’ me. I told him absolutely not, we’re not married and I have no obligation to disclose that information to him, and he thinks I’m just being recalcitrant and unreasonable. I see this as a subconscious ploy on his part to ‘save’ me and make himself feel like a superman while really just kind of infantilizing me and making me feel like i’m helpless without his help and guidance.

Are my expectations unreasonable? How much privacy is a person entitled to in a committed relationship? This situation has me really stressed out and isolated and I feel like I’m walking on eggshells on the time.

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46 Answers

bob_'s avatar

Dump him. He’s no bueno.

glacial's avatar

He’s controlling. You’re not being unreasonable.

jca's avatar

I don’t think most people would tolerate that crap. I know I wouldn’t. I would drop him like a hot potato.

chyna's avatar

Dating should be fun, not stressful. You are in your early 20’s, why would you settle for someone that is so controlling? I can’t see him ever getting less controlling, only more so. I would talk to him about these issues and if he isn’t willing to back off, then you need to rethink this relationship.

JLeslie's avatar

From what you have said he was not like this all along, so I think it is possibly he doesn’t trust you because he gets the sense you are thinking about leaving the relationship. He feels insecure.

I have never felt like I need to hide messages from my SO’s or husband. My husband can always look at my emails. Some peope feel very differently about that. I think all that matters is both people agree on the rule. If you both don’t agree on privacy issues that is a big deal I would say. If you are thinking about leaving you are doing things to indicate it to him. Trust me he sees the change in your behavior. His actions can be desperation, or not wanting to be made a fool.

If I am wrong and he has always been controlling and it is getting worse then yeah, big red flag.

Adagio's avatar

I think your gut is telling you what to do, listen to yourself before you waste any more time thinking about whether you are being unreasonable.

Blueroses's avatar

You sound like a reasonable and independent female. I am with you there.

Think about why you would want to consider someone directing your life.

If it is a past issue, don’t bring it forward to resolve it. That will not work, trust me.

Now to the controversial side, ... if you like being controlled and that makes you feel safe, make sure he also respects you. There is a fine line. Take some time to figure out what exact role you are in his life.

lynfromnm's avatar

Think about the style of life you want to live, and whether this relationship can be a part of that. It sounds to me as though you would be going from an independent life to one that is controlled by someone else.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

You are not going to change him. Unless he can show you we is willing to change things about his behaviour that are unacceptable to you, you should decide if his suspiciousness and efforts to control you are consistent with your future happiness.

ninjacolin's avatar

I think your bf’s desires for privacy are clearly important to him and they are his own and are separate from your desires for your own privacy. If you like him you might want to take some time to get to know his and he yours.

I had a friend who held the opinion: “If you trust me, you trust who I trust.” I haven’t seen him in years but I often wonder if he would still consider it a wise perspective on privacy.

You made me remember a question about the differences in people’s privacy sensitivity from a few days.. uh.. some time ago.

Judi's avatar

I think that in a relationship people have to have the same expectations regarding boundries. It’s obvious you two don’t. His actions might be reasonable for someone but they’re not for you. That doesn’t make either of you bad it just makes you different.
You might find that you are just not compatable.

augustlan's avatar

I wouldn’t put up with that nonsense, unless I’d given my partner a reason to distrust me. If that were the case, even then I’d only put up with it for so long. At some point, either he trusts you or he doesn’t. If he never will, it’s time to go.

PS: I gave up a friend who was an ex-boyfriend for my (now ex-) husband. I’d never do it again. My partner wouldn’t have to like it, but he would have to accept that I am friends with whomever I want to be. That is my decision alone.

Unbroken's avatar

The best manipulators use a much truth as they can to control a situation. If you stay with him you will have your boundaries whittled down to nothing over the years. You will also be blamed for everything including a bad day. His control issues will increasingly become anger and rage issues.

He is also isolating you. This is an extremely effective tactic at making you feel you like your world is shifting thus making you more pliable and reliable. Is it all intentional? Is he knowingly doing this to you? Probably not. But his desired result is to mold you into what he wants you to be. He has probably employed some of these tactics to limited effect in the past and he is just learning and using what best achieves those ends.

The eggshell feeling doesn’t go away it gets worse.

Evian's avatar

1) He doesn’t trust you. ( is HE trustworthy ??)
2) You aren’t sure you’re in LOVE.
FYI. – Yes—- He is being controlling, which is unacceptable, Period.
Don’t subject yourself to this twilight of half truths and innuendo. Clear the decks in your own mind. It’s OK to have boundaries.
You feel you have to be careful how you express these boundaries,as he deals in extremes. NOT a good sign.
Deep breath, move on. There are nice people who don’t check your phone behind your back….

AnonymousWoman's avatar

“Now, some of the problems we’ve had have been my fault and I have taken responsibility for them and tried to be better.”

This is a HUGE red flag to me. Something I’ve learned from past relationships is that if you’re always the one apologizing, there is something wrong.

he took it upon himself to go through my computer because he was suspicious of me.

Another red flag. It doesn’t sound like he trusts you.

now he’s CONSTANTLY looking over my shoulder to see who I’m talking to and what I’m talking about.

Another red flag. It’s one thing to cuddle up to you while you’re chatting with other people online. It’s another to be snooping. And from the sounds of it, he’s snooping.

“He asked me delete my exes from FB because he felt threatened by them and I eventually did.”

He’s insecure.

“when I’m having a personal conversation with a female friend or family member, he’ll look over my shoulder and accidentally see what we’re talking about and then get mad if he thinks I talk about him. Saying I don’t respect our relationship and our privacy.”

Yet another red flag. And yes, that is controlling. He’s trying to micromanage your life from the sounds of it.

He’s paranoid that I’m constantly shit-talking him which isn’t true. And he makes me paranoid. I’m even nervous he’s going to find this.

Red flag. Not a good sign at all. Also a sign that he doesn’t trust you and wants to be in control of what you say and what you don’t. You need to be your own person, not the person he wants to manipulate you into. You’re not his play-doh.

“it makes me feel isolated from my friends because sometimes I need to talk to someone about my feelings and it feels good to vent.”

You are a human being with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It’s perfectly understandable that you feel the way that you do. As a boyfriend, it’s not cool of him to treat you this way. Being isolated from your friends isn’t a good thing.

“And I don’t think he has the right to spy on my personal chats, even if he doesn’t like the subject matter. Private is private and I actually do respect his privacy and don’t pry into his computer or phone even to ‘peek’.”

This is a very reasonable view. It sucks if he has the attitude “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you wouldn’t have anything to hide”, though. Some people do. Maybe he’s one of them? If so, maybe you two aren’t compatible.

“and now he wants me to show him ALL of my financial documents so he can ‘help’ me. I told him absolutely not, we’re not married and I have no obligation to disclose that information to him, and he thinks I’m just being recalcitrant and unreasonable.”

This information is none of his business. If he wants to stay with you, it would be wise of him to stop his micromanaging habits.

“I see this as a subconscious ploy on his part to ‘save’ me and make himself feel like a superman while really just kind of infantilizing me and making me feel like i’m helpless without his help and guidance.”

Who knows why he does the things he does? Maybe his family did things a certain way. And maybe he was never challenged about it… or at least not adequately enough. Maybe you could try asking him “How would you feel if…?” questions. Get him to put himself in your shoes.

“Are my expectations unreasonable?”

No. Sounds like you’re a private person.

“How much privacy is a person entitled to in a committed relationship?”

It can be argued that that is up to the couple. Personally, I don’t agree with the attitude “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you’d have nothing to hide.” Some things just aren’t other people’s business, including your partner’s.

“This situation has me really stressed out and isolated and I feel like I’m walking on”

I hope that talking about this has helped put your mind at ease.

When I’ve felt especially down in relationships, Baggage Reclaim has helped me out a whole lot. Maybe it can help you out, too? It can be good in situations like this because it doesn’t require you talking to anyone. And you can feel understood at the same time… and realize that you’re not alone.

CWOTUS's avatar

The fact that he even has you questioning your own “unreasonableness” (you’re not being unreasonable!) means that he’s already got you manipulated to that degree.

So, let’s review: He’s gotten you to drop your former exes as friends. Check. He knows what you’re saying with your remaining friends. Check. (Has he mentioned yet which of your current friends are “inappropriate” yet? That’s coming, if he hasn’t done it yet.) He’s gone through your computer history. Check. And now he has you questioning your own reaction. Double-check. All that’s remaining is to get you to drop your “inappropriate” friends (hint: they all are) and your isolation will be complete, and then he can work on the rest of your mind.

Show him this thread – from a distance, a far distance – after you make your escape, leave no forwarding address, and warn all of your friends and associates to give him no information about you, no matter what story he feeds them.

Mariah's avatar

I think you are incredibly reasonable. I see a health sense of self-respect in many of your statements, and I also see many violations of that, and attempts to squelch it, on his part.

I don’t think you need to leave him right away, but I do think you need to make it very very clear that this behavior of his is 100% unacceptable and that you will leave him if it doesn’t change. I know everybody always says don’t expect a partner to ever change, but I feel it’d be fair to give him a chance. It’s also fair if you decide to leave right away. And if you do decide to give him a chance to change, don’t be afraid to leave if he can’t or won’t.

SamandMax's avatar

The trust is gone. Without that, you’re wasting your time.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Say good bye ! !

bookish1's avatar

Looks like everyone else has already nailed this. I watched an abusive relationship growing up, and I have been in them myself.

Cutting you off from your friends so that you have no external lines of communication and no way to judge whether you are reasonable or sane is one of the hallmark signs of an abusive relationship. As is wanting you to have no privacy at all and wanting to “rescue” you from financial problems so you will be completely indebted to, and dependent upon, him.

Get out now. You deserve to be with someone good. Best of luck to you.

ninjacolin's avatar

Btw, I would consider him pretty controlling. He should probably have a chat with some good dudes about how not to be a controlling by mistake. His paranoia could become physically dangerous for you, if you don’t consider it such already.

flo's avatar

OMG! Scary. I would leave for sure.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Get out fast. He has all the signs of an abuser. The controlling and isolating you is the first stage.The emotional and/or physical abuse starts in a bit.

BosM's avatar

He is preventing you from being you. His paranoia has you doubting yourself, he doesn’t trust you. “Run baby run” as fast as you can. None of what you described about your relationship is normal. This should be the most fun and exciting part of your courtship. Trust your instincts.

blueiiznh's avatar

This does not sound like a healthy situation. A partner needs to be a trusting supporting person in all you do. Yes, he does sound controlling.
You need to be able to have personal space, but also respectful of each other. It does not sound like there is a match here.
It is not about finding blame, but acceptance that you have some gaps. These gaps are creating an unhealthy situation. I can see why you may have broken off.
If these gaps cant be talked out and an understanding and agreement honored then it does not sound like it will work.

InkyAnn's avatar

Ok when I was reading this I felt like I was reading a chapter from my life word for word. I was with a man that was EXACTLY like that and more for 6 years, and it did get worse over the years. I’m not going to go into it on here but if you want to PM me please do. I honestly think I can help you out. Help you spot when it is getting out of control, because I would hate for you to end up in a relationship that transformed into what mine was. Where by the end of our 6th year together he had bought a front door door knob, put it on the bedroom door and would lock me in there so he knew where I was when he couldnt be with me.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^ WHOA. O_O Glad you’re out of that mess…

InkyAnn's avatar

^ Haha so am I!

Arewethereyet's avatar

Make no mistake…This is family violence… Almost textbook in its execution… Emotional abuse and manipulation leave very deep scars…It will get worse… You will feel it’s your fault… It is highly unlikely he will change… Red flags… Screaming alarms… GET OUT. I have seen this scenario played out so many times and it is inevitably TOXIC… If you stay you will be reduced to a thin veil of your former self… You will believe what he says and think you are to Blame… This is flawed thinking and not a healthy relationship, no matter if you think you love him if you stay you will hate yourself in time.

SamandMax's avatar

Wow…so many paragraphs I could write but thankfully everyone else has done it.
Get out of there whilst the going is not going good, before the going gets much worse. I think @InkyAnn has been very kind in offering to help you out in PMs, but really getting out of there would be preferable by the sound of things.
Don’t get yourself caught up in a relationship that isn’t fair to one person, and all benefits and perks to the other. It happens to guys as well as girls and regardless of that, its a horrid, horrid place to be for anyone.

Judi's avatar

I’m worried about her since she hasn’t been back, he has her isolated in a forgein country and she was worried he might see this. I hope she comes back with an update soon.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Hey everyone,

Just to followup, I am 110% SAFE. I understand and appreciate everyone’s concern for me and also appreciate that some of you have been through especially bad relationships so it makes you even more concerned. Thanks everyone for your input and support.

However, I just want to say that honestly my boyfriend has never been close to violent with me and is a sweet gentle guy and usually a very kind and supportive partner. He’s not a hot tempered person or a loose cannon like some can be. So please don’t think I am in any danger of being hurt. That is not the issue.

Truthfully, what I’m asking about is an occasional clash of personalities in terms of things like boundaries and privacy. Like @blueiiznh said, we have some gaps that we need to continue to work on if this is going to work out.

Now, I had a serious conversation with him about this last week and he was very receptive about what I had to say. He told me he would drop the financial stuff and let me handle it without interfering. He’s so far also been much better about letting me have my ‘alone’ time especially when it comes to my computer and speaking privately to my friends.

Unbroken's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace That is good news.

Just don’t forget everything we said. If he starts cycling back, put down your foot and bookmark this page.

You are right people have a lot of personal history and no we don’t know what is going on between you two.

But It Is Textbook behavoir. There is a reason so many of us have personal knowledge of this topic. And trust me he never starts off being violent, never intends to be. If he were we never would have gotten there in the first place.

It can take time to leave a man you love. Statistically speaking women will leave and go back 7 times before finally staying away. And that is just the times we left not the times we thought about it.

Whatever the case, take care and you know where to find us.

Arewethereyet's avatar

@rosehips is so right…proceed with extreme caution, these guys are not 100% bad if they were it would be easy to leave. I don’t deny we have been attracted in the first place to these guys thus the pull we feel to stay, it took me three times to finally leave a relationship that was so like your’s it’s frightening. It’s more than 15 years now and he still haunts me. Please take our warnings seriously.

flo's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace I never sensed any hint of physical violence in him, from your OP.
I saw one of your other OPs, it was regarding your father. Are you comparing him to your father?

I hope he is changing for real, i.e he really sees the wrongness possesive behaviour, I hope he understands it.

What was the cause of the break up by the way?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@flo I’m a little more aware of and sensitive to controlling behavior because of my father’s controlling and abusive personality. My boyfriend is aware of this and he is making an true effort to work on it. So far, it’s only been about a week but he seems to truly see how I feel and he does genuinely care about our relationship.

As for the breakup, we were having a lot of little spats over nothing. Stuff young lovers typically fight about, taking out the trash, cleaning the kitty litter etc. I had the opportunity to take a temporary job in Europe and he thought he couldn’t handle it so we ended it on relatively good terms. A couple of weeks later, he contacts me and says he was too hasty and that he’d like to visit me and continue our relationship when I’m done with my job. Shortly after my mother was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in her 50s and he came to my family’s home to be with me while I cared for her in her last weeks. Two months later, we’re in South America and the rest is history.

flo's avatar

Alright @LeavesNoTrace, I’m glad it is going better.

Evian's avatar

Leave him. It’s a trick. These guys are good at appearing soo nice leave now!!!

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@Evian This was an isolated problem. We’ve worked it out and are doing much better.

Our relationship is fun and low-stress 90% of the time which I think is a pretty good margin. We just needed to reestablish our boundaries a few months ago.

Response moderated (Spam)
snowberry's avatar

You could actually try being unreasonable. Stop accepting his reasons why it’s OK to control you. And tell him that.

You’ve been giving other people, and now him, all your power for so long now that you don’t recognize what’s happening.

And telling him this might make him stop and think for a minute, anyway.

Unbroken's avatar

Snowberry well said. In my experience and the seeming nature of relationships nothing is an isolated incident. As evidenced by the newest question in regards to this boyfriend.

Evian's avatar

These guys are experts in deception. The signs are there. He is an iffy guy. We all are telling you this. Today he looks good , and you have adjusted your expectations. It’s ok you’re ok. FOR NOW. Re read the answers. Warning signs !!!
My advice is this : if you have to keep giving , adjusting , feeling a bit uncomfortable… It isn’t ok. Not normal!
Little by little
They work on you. Always the nice guy. It’s You that needs to adjust. Big warning sign !!

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: Can you please provide an update as to how things are going? Thanks.

JCA
The Update Lady

Judi's avatar

I just saw a question indicating she’s in NYC. I wonder if she will come back and tell us what’s been going on since this question was asked.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Hi @Judi

You can see this question to know a bit of what’s going on. Long story short, we broke up.

http://www.fluther.com/167385/im-in-a-relationship-but-still-in-love-with-my-ex/

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