Dating can be a minefield for many reasons. While there are many great people out there, unfortunately, there are also plenty of guys who are controlling in their lives and relationships. Most of us will instinctively try to avoid those who are obviously domineering or jealous. However, people can sometimes hide it well. You may be in the “talking stage” with a guy you have met on a dating app or a friend who seems keen to date you. You may have even been on the first date and feel a little unsure about aspects of his behavior. If you are wondering how to spot a control freak before you get too invested in them, I have listed five red flags that you should look out for!

Why are some men controlling?

There are various reasons why someone may be a control freak. Some men are just plain cruel, while others may be flawed for other reasons. They may have been brought up in bad circumstances or suffer from anxieties or disorders that make them terrified of losing control of any aspect of their lives. While the causes of people’s issues may be out of their control, that does not mean that you have to tolerate not being respected.

Men can sometimes be controlling unintentionally. You should clarify that this behavior is not something that you are willing to accept. A good guy will acknowledge your concerns and agree to change his ways. If he dismisses your feelings, he is probably not somebody you should get in a relationship with. You can bet that a guy who manifests the signs of controlling behaviour over messages before you have even met would end up being a controlling boyfriend and trust me, you don’t want to end up with one. I’ve been in this situation myself after I chose to ignore the early signs of controlling behaviour and I’d like to share my experiences with you so you spot those red flags and avoid a stressful and possibly abusive relationship.

Red flags that you’ve met a control freak

The dating process is a way to get to know someone and work out if they are a suitable partner before you commit to a serious relationship. This process can start as soon as you give somebody your phone number or accept their social media friend request, or you may have matched with him on Tinder or another dating app and be trying to get an idea of who he is through messaging before you agree to meet him in person. This stage is very useful for screening potential partners for red flags! So what are the early signs that a man you’ve met is a control freak?

1. He hates you interacting with other people

If a guy you have been talking to gets annoyed or angry at the idea of you spending time with other people he may consider as rivals, this is a big red flag. While it is normal to want exclusivity with someone you are dating seriously, getting angry at an early stage (especially before the first date!) is usually a sign of being controlling.

When I was younger and more naive, I started messaging a guy from a dating site. Within a week of speaking to him, he had accused me of “sleeping around” because he saw an Instagram photo of me with a male friend. Foolishly, I ignored this red flag and agreed to go on a date with him a couple of weeks later. Surprise, surprise, he turned out to be a nightmare. My advice if you are in this situation: steer clear!

2. He wants to choose everything about the date

While it is sometimes nice to have him plan everything if he wants to take you on a date and insists on planning every aspect of it, this can be a bad sign. I’ve spoken to guys who literally would not let me choose the restaurant, the meeting time, or even what I wore on the date! As you can imagine, these relationships did not last long. If a guy you are messaging is not open to any suggestions or compromise, you are best off avoiding them. Just imagine how controlling he could be if the two of you ever lived together or had children?

3. He criticizes your appearance

Have you ever had a guy text you criticisms about what you wear, or leave critical comments on your Instagram photos? He may tell you that your skirt is too short or your dress too low-cut, or he may tell you that you aren’t showing enough skin. While these criticisms seem to be the opposite of each other, the psychology they reveal is similar: he wants to control what you wear because he sees your body as his property.

4. He sulks when he doesn’t get his way

Throwing a tantrum or sulking when you don’t get what you want is a habit that most people grow out of during childhood. Unfortunately, many people continue this into adulthood. While men who get aggressive when they don’t get their way are usually easy to spot, being passive-aggressive can be more subtle yet manipulative. If his sulks are triggered by anything from you not responding to his texts instantly to not wanting to send him nudes or agree to sleep with him, this is a major red flag. Part of maturity is learning to deal with and hide your disappointment, and a healthy relationship means compromise.

5. Others warn you about him

If other people who know him, such as his friends or exes, warn you about him, you should usually listen. Although many guys can seem incredibly friendly and charming at first, some people have a possessive, controlling side that only reveals itself after some time. If he seems nothing but sweet and lovely to you while you are getting to know him but has a bad reputation among others, this shouldn’t be ignored. There are countless stories of seemingly kind men turning out to be controlling and even abusive in the long run.

What should you do if you notice any of these signs in a guy you are talking to or considering dating? Ultimately, the choice is yours. Red flags are not always a cause to run a mile, but they do signal a potential future issue, and you should keep an eye out for them when choosing who to date.

Minor obsessive habits can be more of a sign of low self-esteem than of harmful intent. If you notice one or two minor signs, you should call him out on them. If he responds apologetically, feels embarrassed, and takes your feelings on-board, these can sometimes be overcome. After all, nobody is perfect! However, if he is just a selfish and controlling person who does not respect you, it is best to break things off before it is too late.

Signup for Our Newsletter