6 Signs a Partner Has a Dominant Personality and How It Affects the Relationship

6 Signs a Partner Has a Dominant Personality and How It Affects the Relationship

It may not mean that they dislike you, but they might turn aggressive when they feel they are being overruled.

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Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 3, 2020. It has since been updated. 

A study published by Jennifer Cook of Birmingham University and Hanneke Eveline Maria Den Ouden of Radboud University called The Social Dominance Paradox identified two types of dominant personalities. While one is social, the other is aggressive. However, there is one common thing between the two, they want things their own way.


"Dominant individuals typically get what they want, but use various strategies to achieve this goal. Socially dominant people make allies and try to convince others with good arguments, whereas aggressive dominant people use a more dictatory 'my way or the highway' strategy," the study claims.

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While both socially and aggressively dominant people are known for their leadership skills and go-getter attitude, wanting to control everything in a relationship could become an obstacle for achieving true intimacy. A relationship is healthy only when it allows equal opportunity for both partners to express their opinions, thoughts, and feelings—without fear of judgment or retaliation.


If you notice these red flags in your relationship, step back and observe if your partner is likely to have a dominant personality. Some of these traits can also be signs of a toxic relationship.

1. They are rigid and controlling.

"Dominant individuals report high levels of self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and authoritarianism," claims the study. Therefore, aggressively dominant partners would want to have authority over every situation. In a relationship, if you often feel your choices or interests are being sidelined to meet the expectations of your partner, this could be a classic sign. At times, watching someone else take charge might offend them. Since you love them, you may not notice how you've slowly started giving in to their "my way or highway" strategy. 


2. They demand more and contribute less.

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When one partner thinks that they are in charge of the relationship, the other slips into the role of fulfilling the other's needs. Dominant personalities are unlikely to be good team players. So even simple things like where to go for a vacation or what to do over a weekend might become stressful, as they refuse to see that it takes two to have a good time. And that your interests are as important as theirs. This is especially the case if one of you is an introvert and the other an extrovert. Also, they often tend to be task-oriented people, so they may dismiss or discount moments spend just being with each other or engaging in some emotionally nourishing moments. 

3. They don't value your opinions.

They might just not listen to you, or they may pretend to hear you but assume they know better. At times, they might also go so far as to humiliate you because your opinions seem to challenge their one-up position. For dominant a partner, a successful relationship is the one where their opinions remain heard at all times and their expectations fulfilled. But this is a huge red flag of an unhealthy relationship, one that can turn toxic soon. 


Dominant people also try to find excuses to avoid feeling their true emotions. If they are insecure, instead of getting down to understanding their feelings, they project it onto you and make you feel responsible for "upsetting them." Even during a casual conversation, they might not acknowledge your opinion or dismiss it, because that makes them feel like the second best. 

4. They are persuasive and intimidating.

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Aggressive dominant people will not give up until you comply with them. This might be a good quality for a sales or marketing role, but not as a partner. They will try to coax or cajole you into agreeing into something you weren't too keen on in the first place. Or they will try to guilt-trip you and emotionally manipulate you to say yes when you want to say no. If nothing works, they will turn cold and distant or aggressive and angry. All these are classic manipulative techniques used to control another person. 


5. They can't connect or openly communicate.

"Aggressive personalities are fundamentally at war with anything that stands in the way of their unrestrained pursuit of their desires," writes Dr George Simon, Ph.D. for Counselling Resources. They are not the most empathetic people; they are mostly driven by their authoritarianism. So if you try to have a discussion with them regarding a relationship issue, it might appear to them like you are trying to tip their upper hand off balance, which will trigger them emotionally (even if they don't show it). Another trait that can be frustrating is the fact that they tend to be problem-solvers rather than compassionate listeners. They don't want to feel what you feel and understand where you coming from, instead, they want to give a quick-fix so they can move to focus on themselves.

6. They don't like confrontation.

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Because it makes them see the truth! "They have a pathological disdain for the truth. Aggressive characters don’t just disregard the truth, they’re actively at war with it. Truth is the great equalizer, and the aggressive personality always wants to maintain a position of advantage. So, they deliberately play very loose with the truth," says Dr Simon. They'd rather prefer you play along with their games so they can continue being in the one-up stance. But this comes at a very high cost for you and you need to think if this is worth putting your mental health at risk. Because it is impossible to have an open conversation if the other person gets offended whenever their views seem to be challenged. And a relationship requires two-way communication at all times. If you are constantly obliging or giving in to your partner's ways, you are neglecting your own emotional needs.