Possessiveness ≠ Caring: Looking Out For This Major Issue In Your Relationship

Among the red flags to watch out for in any romantic relationship, possessiveness is one that you may not notice at first. There's a big difference between a caring, protective partner and a controlling, possessive one. Of course, our partners should make us feel wanted and loved, but when someone is overly possessive, this comes from a place of insecurity and power, rather than a place of love. You might find possessiveness to be sweet or flattering in the beginning, but over time, this behavior can become toxic and overbearing. 

Possessiveness stems from feelings of insecurity as well as a fear of abandonment and lack of trust. A possessive partner will do everything they can to keep you close, even if it hurts you. Because they often lack self-worth and self-love, a possessive partner will make you feel solely responsible for their happiness. In reality, the relationship itself should not be the only thing that completes you both; it should one of many things in life that brings happiness. 

It's important to recognize this unhealthy relationship pattern, as it can later progress to serious problems like emotional abuse. Here are some of the key signs to look out for. If these show up at all in your relationship, it's important to bring it to your partner's attention, so you can understand the root of the problem and come to a healthy solution together.

Your partner tries to control you

Possessiveness is all about control. A possessive partner will do everything they can to keep a grasp on you, and this can show up in many ways. They may want to always know where you are. You might hear things like "You can't wear that" or "Don't post that." Possessive partners might express anger when you say you're going to hang out with friends or get jealous of the other people you spend time with. They often want you all to themselves and rarely make plans with their own friends. 

They might also try to sabotage your existing relationships so that you only want to spend time with them. A toxic partner will convince you that some people in your life are "bad" and try to look like the hero in the situation, "protecting" you from toxic people. They might try to control the finances in the relationship so that you're forced to rely on them. This is a form of abuse. 

If it feels like you're on a leash or walking on eggshells, this is not normal or healthy. Yes, you are their partner, but they don't own you. You shouldn't have to ask permission to go places without your partner or see friends.

They disrespect your personal space

While it's normal to miss your partner and want to be around them a lot of the time, everyone needs their space. Even the happiest and healthiest couples aren't always attached at the hip. If your partner rarely gives you your own space and they have trouble being without you, they might have possessive tendencies. It's important for the two of you to be comfortable while away from each other. You should have your own interests and hobbies that don't revolve around the relationship. Otherwise, the relationship can become codependent. 

Being clingy doesn't automatically mean someone is possessive, but if they get offended or hurt when you have to spend time away from them, that's where the problem arises. Rather than respecting your space and alone time, a possessive partner makes you feel guilty or like the bad guy for communicating your feelings and needs. It's okay to let your partner know when you want to be alone, but it's not okay for them to make you feel bad about it. 

They're holding you back in life

A healthy and supportive partner will always want what's best for you, pushing you to achieve your goals and do things that make you happy. A possessive one, on the other hand, might express doubt, anger, or even jealousy when new opportunities arise for you, like traveling for work or starting a new hobby. A healthy partner will help you break unhealthy habits, while a possessive one will enable them. This type of person doesn't want you to grow because that could mean growing apart from them. Your relationships should help your growth, not hinder it.

Though it may be hard, it's important for your partner to let you do your own thing sometimes, even if it doesn't involve them. Ideally, you should be able to have your own lives and then come together again to share your lives together. Don't sacrifice opportunities because your partner makes you feel like you have to. It's your life.

They're moving too fast

Possessiveness can mean rushing into relationship milestones at inappropriate times. This is a sign to look out for in the early stages of a relationship in particular. For instance, they may be pressuring you to move in together too soon or saying "I love you" when you're still getting to know each other. They might move too quickly because they don't want to risk losing you, but instead, this just smothers you if you're not on the same page.

Love bombing is another common behavior among possessive people. Receiving excessive gifts, constantly hearing them pour their heart out to you, telling you they want to marry you and have kids very early on — these are a few signs you are being love bombed. It might feel great at first to receive so much attention, but as psychologist Alaina Tiani, PhD explains to Cleveland Clinic, "... the love bomber's ultimate goal is not just to seek love, but to gain control over someone else. Over time, those grand gestures are an effort to manipulate you and make you feel indebted to and dependent on them." A possessive, love-bombing partner might use the tactic after a fight in order to get back on your good side and forgive them quicker. When they keep assuring you that they're a "good guy," something's usually wrong.

They intimidate or threaten you

In more extreme cases, possessiveness can become emotional abuse. Someone who is overly possessive may have a short temper when they don't have things their way. Maybe they, for instance, become quickly angry when you don't answer their calls or messages right away. Maybe they want to track your location, know your passwords, or text you constantly when you're not together. They may grow paranoid when they see you texting someone or accuse you of cheating when you did nothing wrong.

When you express that you're unhappy in the relationship, rather than trying to work it out, an overly-possessive partner might use harmful tactics to try to get you to stay with them. One example is blackmailing, or threatening to share personal and intimate information that you've shared only with them. A possessive person might even threaten to hurt you or themself as a way to guilt you into staying with them and forgiving their toxic behaviors. This is absolutely not okay, and if you feel unsafe, it's important to seek support from people you can trust.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on their website.

Your friends and family start to notice

It's not fun when your partner isn't getting along with your best friend, but this can surely point to the problems happening in your relationship. You love and care about your partner, so it might seem like your friends are ganging up on them, but there's usually a reason why. If someone expresses to you that there's something "off" about your partner, chances are, they're right and they're looking out for you. 

Maybe your loved ones have expressed concern about how they haven't seen you in a while. An unhealthy relationship can gradually feel like you're in a little bubble, and you might not immediately see the red flags until someone else makes them more visible to you. Hearing a friend or family member's perspective can open up your mind and help you notice things you may have overlooked about your partner. If you doubted your own suspicions, someone else's input can provide some validation.