Signs of a Controlling Woman

Signs of a Controlling Woman

Are you living with a controlling wife or girlfriend?

Or dealing with a controlling ex-wife?

 Is a man you know and care about dealing with a controlling woman?

The goals of spousal abuse are to control, demean, and/or punish the target of the abuse. All 7 forms of spousal abuse--verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, financial, legal, and spiritual--have a controlling component. 

Abusive women can use their words, tone, and/or body language to manipulate and exert control over their partners in an instant, or over time by wearing them down or conditioning.


What's in this Post

The Abusive Behavior Continuum
What a Controlling Woman May Try to Control
Controlling Behavior Patterns
Characteristics of a Controlling Woman
Motivation is the Key



The Abusive Behavior Continuum

A confusing aspect of spousal abuse is deciphering when behavior is “abusive” and when it is “normal.” The difference between abusive and healthy behaviors is often found in motivation.

Each potentially abusive behavior can be placed on a continuum that spans from non-abusive (totally healthy) to very abusive. This spread is one of the things that makes it difficult to determine whether a specific behavior is abusive in a specific situation.


spousal abuse continuum


Everyone gets irritable occasionally. Being abrupt and raising your voice once in a while doesn’t meet the criteria for being called abusive or controlling. That behavior lands toward the non-abusive end of the continuum. On the other hand, repeatedly being abrupt and yelling demeaning threatening words in an effort to extract control is abusive--unless it is in response to true danger. (This example shows how tricky it is to decipher where something belongs on the continuum. There are multiple aspects of the situation to consider.)

Here's another example: 

Monitoring a partner’s phone and email is abusive if it is obsessive and without rational reason for suspicion, but it may be sensible if trust has been broken and both parties are working together to re-establish the trust. In the second case, the monitoring may be seen as non-abusive.

When trying to decide whether someone is controlling, look for patterns of behavior and attitude.

Some questions to ask yourself to help determine whether something is abusive:

  • What would a reasonable person do in the circumstances?

  • Are you equal partners in the relationship?

  • Are your thoughts and feelings being considered, or are they being belittled, ignored, or squashed? 

  • Is the person being manipulative?

  • Is the person being punishing? 

Having said all that, let's dive deeper into the what's and how's of destructive controlling behaviors and attitudes to give you more clues to figuring out the reality of your situation. 


What a Controlling Woman May Try to Control

Aspects of a man’s life an abusive woman may try to control include:

  1. time,
  2. space,
  3. activity,
  4. contact with other people,
  5. access to resources,
  6. appearance, and even
  7. opinion and thought.


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Controlling Behavior Patterns

Some methods women dominating over men use to control are direct and obvious; others may be harder to spot:

  • Demands and threats exert control directly.
  • Sex can be used to control by rewarding desired behavior with access and punishing undesired behavior with denial of access. 
  • A price can be extracted for behavior that goes against her wishes. The price might be losing time with his kids, being barraged with text messages, or being humiliated in public. 
  • Avoidance through withdrawing, redirecting, or outright silence controls by removing the possibility the partner will be able to have his needs met.
  • Being seductive, coy, or manipulative through words, tone, and body language are forms of abuse that control in less obvious ways.

    Characteristics of a Controlling Woman

    A controlling wife, girlfriend, or ex-wife may use words to get what she wants, or she may use her tone and body language.

    Abusive tone and body language can range from coy to aggressive. It can be subtle or blatant. 

    A particular woman may use many different forms of tone and body language to demean, control, or punish, or she may have methods of choice that she has honed the art of performing.

    Abusive body language has a variety of forms:

    • pouting
    • seducing 
    • looking or turning away
    • walking away
    • aggressively moving towards
    • finger-pointing
    • withdrawing
    • showing a fist
    • smirking
    • temper tantrums
    • crying
    • glaring
    • menacing
    • towering or physically looming over
    • eye-rolling
    • a demeaning, controlling, or punishing glance

    An abusive glance can send a message that the target of the glance has been trained to understand through previous experience. The message may be “You’re stupid” or “You better not do that” or “I’m mad at you.”

    Abusive tone may be any of the following:

    • seductive
    • fragile
    • helpless
    • intimidating
    • condescending
    • loud
    • aggressive
    • threatening
    • silent
    • whiny
    • coy
    • teasing
    • charming
    • cajoling*

    *Cajoling is a great word. The twisting, manipulative intent seems to even come through in the sound of the word.’s definition of cajoling: “To elicit or obtain by flattery, gentle pleading, or insincere language.”


    Motivation is the Key

    Remember, not all incidents of use of these forms of tone and body language are necessarily “abusive.”

    Motivation is a key to where something gets placed on the continuum measuring the behavior’s abusiveness. A woman may cry, pout, or turn away simply because she is sad. She may also cry to control, pout to manipulate, or turn away to punish.

     Signs of a Controlling Woman, Wife or Girlfriend, Women Dominating men, Signs of a controlling Woman, Signs your girlfriend is controlling




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    • Ann Silvers
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