How To Tell The Difference Between Needy And Controlling

Hey Heather,

I need some advice. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over a year now. It isn’t a typical high school relationship. I feel the love we share and it means something more than just sex. I am happy at most times. But I get those times where fighting with each other just gets out of hand. It causes me to get stressed and overall become unhappy. I love him and would do anything to stay with him, but he is just so needy.

All I hear from him is how I need to see him even if I just saw him the night before. I say I want time to relax by myself, but he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like it when I see my friends over him. I am on a dance team and am required to do a partner dance with a senior boy. My boyfriend flips out whenever I mention it or do it. He’s “disgusted” that I would do such a thing to him, letting another man touch me. I don’t think anything is wrong with it because I’m not doing it behind his back, and I still love him, not my dance partner. He gets sexually frustrated when I don’t want to have sex. Is he being needy or controlling? I just need help and want this to work. Thank you.


While fighting and jealousy is normal in any relationship (even, when in small doses, healthy), this sounds like it’s more than just normal fights and innocent envy. There is a big difference between a boyfriend being needy, clingy, and annoying and a boyfriend being controlling in a scary way. And, from this question alone, it seems like your boyfriend is heading full steam ahead to controlling.

Classic and common signs of controlling behavior include isolating you from everyone but him (which he is trying to do when he gets mad that you’re with your friends), using guilt as a tool to get his way (which he seems to be trying to do with your dance partner situation), overactive jealousy and paranoia (he is much too jealous of the dance partner situation), not respecting your time alone (wanting to see you every single day, even after you say you need time to yourself), and pressuring you into doing things you don’t want to do (when he gets “frustrated” when you say no to sex). It can be easy to ignore this behavior or to make excuses for it (“Maybe he just wants to see me a lot because he really loves me” or “Maybe I AM doing the wrong thing with my dance partner), but it’s so important to remember that this behavior is not normal or acceptable – it’s dangerous.

Your boyfriend is putting his wants and needs over your wants and needs. At best, he isn’t respecting what you’re saying or feeling, at worst he is trying to manipulate and control you. That’s not okay. A supportive boyfriend cares about your wants and needs just as much as his own. He works to make compromises rather than trying to make sure he always gets his way. A good boyfriend would trust you with your dance partner – and not only trust you, but also understand that this is just part of your hobby. A good boyfriend would give you the time alone you request, and a good boyfriend would certainly understand you saying no to sex sometimes. I know that stuff is hard to hear, but his behavior is not okay, and you need to know that.

Controlling relationships often start out slowly, and then quickly become much more serious. His anger and frustration with you could easily become emotionally and/or physically abusive. This is why it’s important to nip things in the bud and end things before they can get worse. It’s very hard to do that, and not doing that doesn’t mean you’re at fault for whatever happens. His behavior is his choice. All I’m saying is that you should end things with him – now, before they get worse.

When you say you’re happy “most of the time,” that doesn’t sound great to me. Yes, there are times in even the happiest relationships when one will feel a little bored or confused. But they will still overall be happy. And while fighting can cause stress for anyone, the fight should always be resolved – it doesn’t sound like that’s happening with you guys. You need to either have a serious discussion with this guy to make it clear that changes need to be made, or you need to walk away. If he cares about you and is determined to make things work, he will change his behavior. If he refuses to do so or admit he’s wrong, then the relationship has to end. Good luck.

take care,

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Posted in: Help Me Heather, Love Advice
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