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Possessive Relationship: Signs You’re in One & How to Change It

A possessive relationship isn’t one with a little jealousy but with disrespect and control. Here are the signs and how to make changes.

Possessive Relationship

A possessive relationship is not sweet. It is not full of love and romance. It isn’t what great love stories are made of. In fact, possessive relationships very often lead to intense dysfunction, manipulation, and even abuse. There really is nothing positive about a possessive relationship, yet it seems to be something that is romanticized by many.

Thinking that someone loves you enough to do anything to keep you with them seems endearing at first. But, it is one thing to make someone happy and another to be controlling, manipulative, and even dangerous about that desire. 

A possessive relationship is not a fair nor equal partnership. It is a form of ownership. When one partner thinks the other belongs to them, they let their intense fear of losing them turn into rage and jealousy. Learning how to identify this behavior is so important to your mental health and physical well-being. 

[Read: The 14 signs of obsession in love that you simply can’t ignore]

What leads to a possessive relationship?

A possessive relationship is usually controlled by one person. And that person is possessive for a reason. This reason could be a past of betrayal. It could be low self-esteem. It could be anger issues or it could be brought on by a difficult childhood. Tons of things lead to this sort of relationship. Being possessive in a relationship isn’t always an outcome of these situations. 

Many people have been cheated on in the past and go on to have perfectly healthy relationships. It is someone who has not worked through their past traumas that is letting their fear of pain and rejection control their actions. There is a lack of trust from someone that is possessive in a relationship. They don’t trust their partner or anyone else. 

As I said, this is often derived from a poor childhood or lack of parental love. People who feel the need to have control over their partner have a craving for control. Possessive relationships aren’t just someone fearing the loss of their partner. They use that fear as an excuse for controlling behavior. That need for control overrides any love that may have ever been present.

[Read: Controlling vs caring: A thin line controlling people love to cross]

Is possessiveness a sign of love?

I would like to say that the answer is simply no, and in a way, it is, but it isn’t so simple. Most people in possessive relationships will claim their love is so strong it makes them do crazy things. The person who is possessive will use love as an excuse for wanting to control their partner and ensure they don’t leave them. And the person on the other end will do the same. 

Love can be a wonderful thing. In the wrong hands, it can become dangerous. And although it is used as an excuse for the victim in a possessive relationship to explain to friends and family why they put up with their partner’s controlling behavior, it likely isn’t love at all. 

A possessive relationship usually starts off intense. It is romantic and feels like a whirlwind. This is what makes the feelings of love seem so strong. 

But quite quickly, what seemed so magical and amazing turns to control and manipulation. A possessive person will use that history as an example of their love. They will say they want to control their partner because they don’t want to lose them or because they don’t think they deserve them.

[Read: The 20 speedy signs your relationship is moving too fast]

They will prey on their partner’s appreciation for the good times to rectify the bad ones. And this so often works. They will guilt trip or manipulate their partner in countless ways to maintain their possessive relationship all under the guise of love.

So, is possessiveness a sign of love? No. It is a sign of weakness. It is a sign of low confidence and an inability to trust. 

Do you think your boyfriend is possessive? Use this to find out: 17 signs of a jealous and possessive boyfriend you should never ignore!

Or on the other hand, think your girlfriend’s the possessive one? Find out with these signs, and help her change: How to help your possessive girlfriend go from clingy to amazing!

Signs you’re in a possessive relationship

The signs you’re in a possessive relationship can range from obvious to subtle. The person being possessive is often very good at disguising their behavior as love or caring so you don’t see the signs. Manipulation is a key part of a possessive relationship, so being able to spot that even when it is clever, is vital to knowing you’re in a possessive relationship.

If you find any or all of these behaviors familiar, it is time to do something about the possessiveness in your relationship.

1. They get irrationally jealous

It is one thing to be a little jealous if you see your partner get hit on by an attractive stranger. But usually, you trust your partner and let it go. In the case of a possessive relationship, this small tinge of jealousy gets out of hand.

Your partner would accuse you of being interested in someone just for talking to them. They would be jealous of you working late because your work is getting more attention than them. Basically, they get jealous of anyone or anything that takes your attention away from them. [Read: How to deal with jealousy in a relationship and learn to overcome it]

2. They lovebombed

Lovebombing is an attempt to woo someone with over-the-top gestures like sending flowers, buying gifts, or being extra romantic right off the bat. This could be seen as sweet, but it often happens very quickly and before the person even knows you. 

This is very often a precursor to abuse and manipulation. By starting a relationship with an overwhelming amount of affection, you can be flattered and excited by this, only for it to turn into something creepy and dangerous once you’re involved. [Read: The warning signs of love bombing that could easily be confused with love]

3. They show up out of the blue

It can be sweet for your partner to show up with wine after you’ve had a bad day. But, if they show up out of the blue for no reason except they missed you, it can be alarming. They may cloak this behavior as sweetness or love, but in reality, it is a way to check up on you.

One of my closest friends was in a long-distance possessive relationship. Every time she told her boyfriend we were together, he would call to say hi to me. He acted like he was just being nice and wanting to get to know her friend, but he did it to make sure she was really where she said she was.

He would do this if she didn’t text back right away. And he would always insist on talking to me on the phone under the semblance of wanting to be friends when he really wanted to make sure I was there with her. [Read: 16 signs of an emotionally manipulative boyfriend who’s playing you]

4. You feel guilty for being happy

If you call your partner after getting a promotion or having a great day, they will bring you down by accusing you of bragging when they’re struggling. They will speak about your job negatively, claiming it’s taking time away from your relationship. 

They struggle to be happy for you in these moments because it has nothing to do with them. In fact, they may even speak negatively about your friends and family that have good news because they pull your attention away too.

5. They don’t like giving you space

Every healthy relationship requires some level of personal space and boundaries. But in a possessive relationship, that is not the case. If you need a day to just relax, they will question why you can’t relax with them. They will want you to spend all your free time with them and say things like you always go out with your friends or we haven’t had a night together all week, when that isn’t the case. [Read: Why people become clingy and needy – And how to help them change]

6. They need to know your schedule

If you go out without them, they will want to know where you are, where you’re going, and who you’ll be with. They may not word these questions as accusations, but no one needs to know where their partner is at all times if they trust them.

They may also insist you share your location with them via your phone. If you try to instill boundaries and privacy, they will likely accuse you of lying to guilt you into sharing such details. If you want to know how to set boundaries, start with these 15 healthy boundaries all happy couples follow in a relationship.

7. They don’t encourage your growth or success

In a healthy relationship, partners motivate, inspire, and support each other to become better and more well-rounded people. You want each other to be better and happier. But, in a possessive relationship, it is quite the opposite. A possessive partner will negate your growth and want to confine you instead of encouraging you to explore. [Read: The 15 scary signs you’re in a toxic relationship that’s breaking you]

8. They text a lot

Texting throughout the day is all great, fine, and well. But when it becomes unnecessary and excessive, there is a reason for it. They want to be in constant communication with you for a reason. They need to know they have your attention. It is one thing to text about dinner plans or to send memes during your lunch break, but when they need a response quickly when they’re asking about your day, something isn’t right.

9. They are all over social media

Someone who is possessive will post a lot of photos of you on social media. They want the world to know that you are theirs. They will also know a lot about your online activity. 

If someone complimented your selfie and you liked the comment, they will ask you why you did that and accuse you of instigating attention from other people. [Read: 15 serious warning signs of a clingy partner and why you should avoid them]

10. They try to restrict your freedom

This could be on so many levels, but is very common in possessive relationships. They will guilt you into staying home with them instead of going out with friends. They will even invite themselves along so you don’t have time away from them. Or they may ask who you’re texting or make you unfollow certain people on social media.

11. They accuse you of betraying them

This is a major one! I’ve dealt with it in a relationship in the past. If you don’t tell them there is a new person at your job and they find out, they will accuse you of keeping it from them. They will take it so far that even though you did nothing wrong, you end up apologizing because they manipulate you into feeling so bad for hurting them. 

12. They are unstable emotionally

People who are possessive in relationships are not in control of their own emotions. This is another reason they feel the need to control you. They will fly off the handle at the smallest thing. You could be having a nice night, but if you do something as small as answering a phone call, they will become enraged or ice you out so you beg them to forgive you. [Read: 15 signs of manipulation in a relationship you should never ignore]

13. They rely on only you

People who are possessive tend to have a small, if not vacant, group of friends. They are so laser-focused on you and your relationship because they have nowhere else to go. They put all their needs and desires and attention on you and expect you to do the same because they don’t have that support system.

[Read: How to stop being codependent and have a healthy relationship]

How to stop possessiveness in a relationship

If you recognize these possessive behaviors in your relationship, it is time to stop making excuses and start doing something about it. A possessive relationship is never a healthy relationship. No matter what things used to be like, a relationship without trust or boundaries is not good for anyone. It can easily get out of hand and dangerous. 

You can understand that a possessive partner’s behavior stems from insecurities and fear, but it doesn’t make it right. This understanding can help you talk to your partner without excusing their behavior. 

To stop these possessive behaviors, you need to communicate your feelings. You should let your partner know that you love them and want the relationship to work, but you need boundaries and trust in order for it to feel safe for you. Let them know you’re willing to work with them. Some people may not be self-aware, so this conversation could be the beginning of their growth.

[Read: How to talk about your feelings in a relationship and grow closer]

The best thing to do if you’re in a possessive relationship is to go to couples therapy, and encourage your partner to go to therapy on their own as well, to work through what caused these behaviors in the first place. It is hard to breakdown and change this pattern of possessiveness without help, because usually this need for control is so deeply set in the past. 

If your partner isn’t willing to put in the effort or make these changes, it is time for you to make some. Often, a possessive partner will hear this and their fear of losing you will kick in. They may apologize and promise to be better, but usually, without proper guidance, their behaviors return. 

If this happens, it is time to take a stand. You deserve a healthy and respectful relationship based on trust and this possessive relationship is not that. You need to realize that love does not always conquer all. Being in a possessive relationship will only negatively affect your life and your future. 

It can be difficult to end a possessive relationship because the other person can be so manipulative and even desperate, but sticking to it and doing what’s right for you will benefit your life in the long-run. 

[Read: How to stop loving someone and read the signs it’s time to walk away]

If you see the signs you’re in a possessive relationship, it is time to do something about it. You deserve a healthy and functioning relationship. 

If you want to know more about how to fix a possessive relationship, or stop being possessive yourself, check out this feature on how to stop being possessive in a relationship and learn to love better.

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...