8 signs an emotional manipulator is playing the victim card

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Ever been in a situation where someone always seems to be the victim, no matter what? It’s confusing and draining, especially when they turn the tables to make you feel like the bad guy. 

I’ve been there, caught in the web of someone who plays the victim card so skillfully, I almost believed them. 

But thankfully, I picked up on the signs, subtle cues that told me something wasn’t quite right. Today, I want to share those signs with you. 

Let’s explore the 8 ways emotional manipulators play the victim card, so you can spot it before getting entangled.

1) Selective memory

First, there’s the ol’ “I don’t remember that happening” trick. Ever tried to discuss an issue with someone, only for them to conveniently forget the details that put them in a bad light? 

It’s like they’ve edited the past to suit their victim narrative.

I’ve been through this, too — suddenly finding myself doubting my own memory because the other person seemed so sure. It’s a trap designed to make you question your judgment, while they come off as innocent.

The reality is, it’s a tactic. They remember alright, but admitting to it would shatter their carefully crafted victim persona.

So, the next time someone tries to rewrite history, hold your ground. Trust your own memory and your own version of events. 

Keep records if you have to — screenshots, texts, or even a journal. By doing so, you safeguard your own truth, making it harder for them to play the victim.

2) Overdramatization

You know those people who make a mountain out of a molehill? The ones who turn a minor inconvenience into a full-blown Shakespearean tragedy? 

Yep, that’s overdramatization at its finest. 

I remember a friend who would treat every disagreement as if it were a betrayal of epic proportions. She’d even turn a rescheduled coffee catch-up into me not valuing her time and “thinking I’m better than her”. 

The thing is, this kind of over-the-top reaction is designed to manipulate you into feeling guilty, like you’re the villain in their personal soap opera. 

It’s as if their emotional dial is always cranked up to eleven, leaving no room for rational discussion.

Don’t let the theatrics get to you. Keep your cool and try to bring the conversation back to a more realistic level. 

Acknowledge their feelings, but also make it clear that they don’t define your intentions, values, or your own feelings. By refusing to join them on their dramatic stage, you make it difficult for them to continue playing the victim.

3) Deflecting responsibility

Ever notice how some people are experts at dodging accountability? No matter the situation, they find a way to shift the blame onto someone else — usually you. 

It’s like they’re playing a game of hot potato with responsibility, and they make sure they’re never “it.”

I’ve been on the receiving end of this, left scratching my head, wondering how I ended up looking like the guilty party. They’re so good at deflecting that you almost want to applaud their skill, if it weren’t so damaging.

Next time this happens, call it out. Gently point out that the issue at hand involves them as well, and it’s not fair to put all the blame on you or others. 

By doing so, you’re disrupting their victim narrative and prompting them to face reality, whether they like it or not.

4) Guilt-tripping

Ah, the art of the guilt trip, a classic move in the emotional manipulator’s playbook

They know just how to push your buttons, making you feel so guilty that you’d do almost anything to make amends — even when you’ve done nothing wrong.

I once had an ex tell me, “I’ve done so much for you, and you can’t even do this one small thing?” And for a moment, I felt terrible, like I was some kind of ungrateful monster. 

But then I realized: this was a guilt trip, a way to shift the focus away from the real issue. I had a good reason for not wanting to do him that favor, and he was sweeping my values and feelings right under the rug.

Here’s the thing: you’re not obligated to fulfill someone’s expectations just because they claim to have done something for you. Relationships are not a scorecard.

So, the next time you find yourself on a guilt trip you never signed up for, take a step back. 

Assess the situation objectively and remind yourself that you’re not responsible for someone else’s happiness or self-worth. 

5) Frequent self-pity

There’s a difference between sharing your woes and marinating in self-pity. The latter becomes painfully obvious when you’re dealing with an emotional manipulator playing the victim

They often present their life as an endless parade of hardships, one that you’re somehow obligated to attend.

“Nobody understands me,” or “I’m always the one who gets hurt,” they might say. I used to know someone who’d resort to this kind of self-pity frequently, turning even positive conversations into a sob story about their struggles.

It can be emotionally draining to be around, and that’s exactly the point. The aim is to draw you into their pity party so you’re more likely to bend to their wishes.

Next time you find yourself entangled in a web of self-pity, it’s okay to show empathy, but also set boundaries. It’s not your job to rescue someone from their perpetual state of victimhood. 

Your emotional well-being is just as important, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice it to uphold someone else’s narrative.

6) Emotional blackmail

You might have heard phrases like, “If you really cared about me, you’d do this for me,” or “I can’t believe you would hurt me like this.” These are classic examples of emotional blackmail

The message is clear: comply with their wishes or face the guilt and emotional fallout.

I remember feeling cornered by someone close to me, who used emotional blackmail to get their way. 

It was either conform to their desires or be labeled as uncaring and cruel. The pressure was immense, and I felt trapped.

But always remember: you don’t owe anyone your compliance, especially if it comes at the cost of your own values or well-being. 

When you’re up against emotional blackmail, it’s crucial to stand your ground. Make it clear that emotional coercion is not an acceptable form of communication. 

This not only protects you but also sends a message that playing the victim card won’t work on you.

7) Avoiding accountability

We all know the type: as soon as you bring up a legitimate concern or point out a problem, they act as if you’ve stabbed them in the heart. 

“I can’t believe you’d accuse me of that,” they say, their voice tinged with hurt or disbelief. Unfortunately, one of my own family members is extremely good at this.

So I’m very well familiar with the result: the conversation comes to a screeching halt, and they walk away without facing any real accountability. 

Or, it swivels to you defending your own behavior, even if you had nothing to do with the situation, or apologizing for being hurt or having feelings in the first place. (What?)

Don’t be fooled. This is a tactic to avoid facing the music. If you encounter this, stay calm and keep the focus on the issue at hand. 

Remember, you’re not attacking them; you’re addressing a specific behavior that needs to change. 

And if it really doesn’t work, you may just need to let it go. You know the truth, and your well-being is worth more than convincing the other person to agree with you. 

8) Shifting focus

Have you ever brought something up just to hear, “What about the time you did this?”. 

The moment you try to address an issue, they instantly recall something you did — sometimes ages ago — as if it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. 

They might argue that “you did the same thing and I didn’t make a big deal out of it back then”, or even say you’re the one who set the precedent for them acting the way they did.

Either way, suddenly you find yourself on the defensive, your original point buried under an avalanche of old grievances.

I’ve found myself in this trap more times than I care to admit, defending my past actions while the real issue got lost in the shuffle. 

The key here is not to get derailed. Gently but firmly bring the conversation back to the original issue. 

Just because you may have made a mistake in the past doesn’t give them a free pass to act poorly now. 

By refusing to let the conversation drift, you’re making it clear that two wrongs don’t make a right — and it’s high time for them to stop playing the victim and start facing the facts.

Stop falling for the victim card

It’s easy to get tangled in the web of emotional manipulation, but you’re not powerless. 

Now that you’re aware of these 8 signs, you can stop being the supporting actor in someone else’s drama. 

Remember, you have the right to stand your ground and speak your truth. Don’t let anyone play the victim at your expense. 

Take back control and protect your emotional well-being.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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