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12 Reasons Why You Always Seem To Attract Controlling Guys

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A lot of people have difficulty understanding why they keep repeating unhealthy relationship cycles.

If you find that you always seem to attract controlling guys, it’s a good idea to figure out why, especially if you want to take steps to break the cycle.

Here are 12 reasons you may be drawn to them:

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you figure out why you often end up dating or in relationships with controlling men. You may want to try speaking to one via for quality care at its most convenient.

1. You lack confidence in your judgment and decision-making.

Some folks prefer to be passengers in their lives and want others to take care of the difficult stuff for them.

This includes decision-making, as well as being told what to do, when to do it, what to wear, and so on.

Sometimes this is due to a lack of trust in their judgment, but it can also stem from a paralyzing fear of doing something ‘wrong’.

If you were called stupid (or worse) for making mistakes in the past, or shamed for poor choices, letting someone else call the shots almost guarantees that you won’t make any more mistakes of your own.

2. You are trying to resolve previous relationship trauma by proxy.

People who have unresolved trauma from previous relationships—including those with family members—often end up repeating these cycles, whether consciously or unconsciously.

They do so to try and resolve what happened in the past, using other people as stand-ins for those who previously hurt or damaged them.

If you had a controlling father figure in your youth who dominated, controlled, or otherwise abused you, you probably felt quite helpless at the time.

As such, you may be attracted to controlling guys because they offer you the opportunity to turn the tables. THIS time, with THIS partner, YOU can be the one in control, and thus put things to right for the person you once were.

3. You’re subconsciously re-creating your childhood relationship dynamics.

This is different from the example above because you’re not actually trying to resolve anything here.

Instead, you’re simply repeating the same behavioral patterns you were raised with because that’s what’s normal to you.

If you were raised by a domineering, controlling father, step-father, or other male guardian, and that same behavior was echoed by the father figures your peers had, you may not know there’s any other way for a guy to be.

Alternatively, you may think poorly of anyone who doesn’t behave in that manner, thinking that controlling actions show strength, capability, and masculinity.

It’s difficult to break free from our formative conditioning, and if these examples are all you’ve ever known, you may view alternatives with suspicion or contempt.

This is true even if you know at the core of your being that you don’t like or want this dynamic in your relationship.

4. You have difficulty setting and enforcing boundaries.

If you’ve tried to set boundaries in the past only to have others ignore them every time, you may not bother trying to set new ones.

Even if you want to, you likely assume that those around you won’t respect them anyway, so what’s the point?

People whose self-esteem has been broken down over time usually have difficulty establishing and defending their boundaries.

As such, they may consider people to be disrespectful or controlling when they do or say unwanted things, but that person may not have known their actions were unwanted because no boundaries had been established.

In situations like this, try to determine whether the guy you’re involved with is actually controlling, or if it’s that you haven’t made it clear to him that XYZ behavior is upsetting or unacceptable to you.

5. You find comfort in people-pleasing.

Much like with the example above, low self-esteem is a huge contributing factor to people-pleasing behaviors, as is a history of being on the receiving end of abuse.

Many people who were traumatized in the past try to pander to someone else to endear themselves to them.

On a core level, they feel (or have learned) that pleasing someone else as much as possible, including anticipating the person’s needs and desires and placing them ahead of their own, means they’ll be less likely to be abused.

People tend to be attracted to traits in others that they find familiar, even if that familiarity is seriously unhealthy for them.

It’s a ‘devil you know’ situation: if you’ve learned how to negotiate and adapt to a certain behavior, it becomes more comfortable for you than an unfamiliar situation in which you can’t anticipate how a person will behave next.

6. You put other people’s needs and priorities ahead of your own.

Some people are raised to believe that they must put other people’s priorities and wants ahead of their own, otherwise, they’re being selfish and needy.

Others have ‘acts of service’ as a primary love language and want to do everything they can to make their partner happy.

Finally, some people have no idea what their own needs are because they’ve only ever focused on maintaining peace by keeping others content.

If you were to sit down and make a list of your own needs and wants, would you know where to start? Furthermore, if you wrote down your priorities, would it become apparent that they aren’t being met?

Some people choose to focus on others because it’s easier and less painful than living with the reality that their desires aren’t a priority to anyone—including themselves.

If you have a controlling male partner, you may find it more comfortable and easier to be available for his every need, rather than accepting that your needs aren’t important enough for anyone to prioritize.

7. You’re attracted to dominant or ‘alpha’ personality types.

This is another difficult one to face up to.

We can’t necessarily control what we’re attracted to in others, but if we’re aware of our patterns, we can take the necessary steps to keep them in line, so to speak.

You may think that typical ‘alpha’ guys embody the hero archetype and find that immensely attractive in men.

Alternatively, you may get a thrill from the excitement of intensity in a relationship, rather than seeing it as controlling and unhealthy.

If you find yourself in a calm, stable partnership, you may get bored or feel that something’s wrong because you yearn for the rollercoaster upheaval.

8. You prioritize passion and excitement over mutual respect and trust.

To expand upon the previous point, you may have an unrealistic expectation of passion and romance in relationships.

Now, these aspects are important in any partnership, but they’re simply part of the equation.

Without balance, they spin out and become controlling and domineering.

Controlling guys often have a lot of the ‘active’ male principle, which can be attractive on many levels.

They’re straightforward, decisive leaders and often physically powerful. But although these traits sound great on paper, they aren’t necessarily ideal in a well-balanced relationship.

For many of these guys, awful life experiences have taught them that unless they’re in complete control at all times, someone else is controlling them or making them seem weak.

Essentially, they don’t want to risk a mutually respectful dialogue or genuine exchange because if they do, they might get screwed over or hurt.

This results in a perpetual ‘tough guy’ demeanor that’s difficult to deal with in a partner.

9. You swear by the motto: “I can fix him”.

Some people are born ‘fixers’, and perpetually try to help others at their own expense.

This is common in codependent empath-narcissist relationships, as well as in people who use damaged partners as proxies for those whom they couldn’t help in the past.

It’s noble to want to help someone who’s gone through difficult times, especially if you know how and why they developed their controlling habits (e.g. for the sake of self-preservation), as long as the cost to your own well-being isn’t too great.

We’re all damaged on some level, but you can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed, nor do people like to be treated like pity projects rather than equals.

If you feel that your guy is controlling because of past traumas, you can try to work with him as he heals and breaks free from previous programming.

This will take time, effort on his part (hopefully including therapy), and strong defenses on your part to ensure that your boundaries are being respected.

10. You have a physical or financial dependency that gives your partner undue power.

This one may not appear until later in the relationship but may be part of a cycle that you keep finding yourself in.

Your partner may not have seemed controlling at all, to begin with. But as personal circumstances shifted, you’ve found yourself in a situation where he’s being controlling because he’s now in a position of perceived power.

For example, let’s say that at the beginning you were equal breadwinners and both took care of the household, but you were either laid off or had to stop working for personal health reasons, a physical disability, childcare, and so on.

Suddenly he’s the only one earning money, and he feels that as such he’s the only one who gets to have a say in how it’s spent. He may only give you an allowance or demand to see receipts that justify everything you’ve spent.

This isn’t okay and is essentially financial and emotional abuse.

11. You have a fear of abandonment.

A lot of people tolerate behavior that they would otherwise consider unacceptable due to fear of being alone or abandoned, especially if they’re in a vulnerable position.

We can build upon the previous example here in which someone who isn’t able to financially support themselves and their children on their own may put up with controlling behavior to keep a roof over their heads.

Fear of abandonment is one of the top reasons people tolerate abuse, especially if children, dependent parents, or companion animals are involved.

You may be drawn to assertive, successful, and even controlling ‘alpha’ types because they offer you a level of financial and home stability or security that you’ve lacked in the past.

In doing so, however, you may perpetually put yourself in positions where you have to endure excruciating circumstances for the sake of keeping yourself and your children fed.

12. You’re naive about relationships and red flags.

People who don’t have a lot of relationship experience can find themselves in bad circumstances simply because they can’t recognize red flags when they see them.

It isn’t a failing on their part—they just haven’t been around long enough to be able to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak.

If you haven’t had much experience with guys, but you know you’re attracted to very masculine, ‘alpha’ aesthetics and behaviors, you may keep ending up with men who want to control and/or dominate you.

It’s important to note here that not all strong, masculine types are like this—many (if not most) deeply respect their partners as equals and prefer a healthy dynamic in their relationships.

The key is to get to know a guy well before getting into a serious relationship so you can learn to spot unhealthy behaviors when they arise.

This does take time and life experience, however, and you may stumble a few times as you learn the ropes.


It can be difficult to come to terms with the motivations behind our attractions, but it’s a lot easier to stop repeating unhealthy patterns when we can recognize our contributions to them.

If you think you need some help working through these issues or feel that talking to someone may keep you from repeating this cycle with controlling guys, booking some time with a licensed therapist may be immensely beneficial for you. is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address.

And if it is affecting your mental well-being, other relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome behaviors they don’t really understand in the first place. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service provide and the process of getting started.

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About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.