9 signs your partner is a master of manipulation and mind games

There’s a fine line between influence and manipulation, especially when it comes to relationships.

Manipulation is all about control, usually hidden behind a facade of caring or concern. It’s a way that some people try to assert dominance or get what they want, often at the expense of others.

If your partner is a master manipulator, they’ll have a number of tricks up their sleeve to get their way without you even realizing it. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you spot the signs.

In this article, I’ll share with you 9 signs that your partner may be playing mind games and using manipulation tactics. It’s time to arm yourself with knowledge and make sure your relationship is based on respect, not control.

1) They often play the victim card

In the realm of manipulation, playing the victim is a common tactic.

Your partner might always paint themselves as the one being wronged or misunderstood, even in situations where they’re clearly at fault. This is a ploy to make you feel guilty and to deflect responsibility from their own actions.

It’s a psychological trick that takes advantage of your empathy and care for them. After all, who wouldn’t want to comfort someone they love when they’re feeling hurt?

But beware – if this seems to be a pattern, it’s a clear sign of manipulation. They’re using your feelings to control you and steer the relationship in their favor.

It’s important to differentiate between genuine feelings of hurt and calculated attempts at manipulation. It’s all about balance and fairness in a relationship, not power plays and mind games.

2) They twist your words

Let me tell you, there’s nothing more disconcerting than having your own words twisted against you. I’ve been there.

I once dated someone who was a master at this. I’d say something totally harmless during a conversation and before I knew it, they’d flipped it around, making it seem as if I’d said something hurtful or controversial.

At first, it was confusing. I found myself apologizing for things I didn’t even mean, trying to fix problems that weren’t there. It felt like walking on eggshells, always second-guessing what I was about to say.

It took me a while to realize what was happening: this was manipulation at its finest. They were twisting my words to create conflict or make me feel guilty, effectively controlling the dynamic of our relationship.

It’s not just a simple misunderstanding; it’s a manipulative technique meant to keep you off-balance and unsure of yourself.

3) They use gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person makes someone question their own memory, perception, or sanity.

The term comes from the 1938 play (and later 1944 film) “Gaslight,” in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane. One of his tactics is to subtly dim the gaslights in their home, then deny that the light has changed when his wife points it out.

In a relationship, a partner might use gaslighting to make you doubt your own experiences. They’ll deny things that have happened, dismiss your feelings, or convince you that you’re overreacting or imagining things.

This can be incredibly damaging and disorientating. It’s a way for them to gain power and control, by making you feel unsure of your own reality.

If your partner regularly makes you question your own memory or perceptions, it’s a clear sign of gaslighting and manipulation.

4) They’re always right, you’re always wrong

In a healthy relationship, both partners are able to admit when they’re wrong and apologize. Nobody is perfect, and mistakes are a natural part of life.

But with a manipulative partner, they always seem to be right. No matter what the situation, they’ll twist things around to avoid taking responsibility.

They might even turn the blame onto you, making you feel like you’re always in the wrong.

This is a tactic used to undermine your confidence and make you more dependent on them. If you start to believe that you’re always messing up or making bad decisions, you might start relying on them more and doubting your own judgment.

If your partner never admits when they’re wrong and always puts the blame on you, it’s a sign of manipulation. You deserve respect and understanding in a relationship, not constant criticism and blame.

5) They use guilt to control you

Guilt is a powerful emotion and a manipulative partner knows how to use it to their advantage.

They might make you feel guilty for things that aren’t your fault, or for normal, everyday actions. For example, they might make you feel bad for spending time with your friends, or for needing some alone time.

This guilt then becomes a tool to control you. You start altering your behavior to avoid feeling guilty, which often means doing exactly what your partner wants.

It’s normal to have a life outside of your relationship and to take care of your own needs. You should never feel guilty about that.

6) They withhold affection as punishment

Love isn’t something to be used as a bargaining chip. It’s something heartfelt, unconditional, and given freely.

However a manipulative partner may use love and affection as a form of control. They might withhold their affection, giving you the cold shoulder when you’ve done something they don’t like.

The goal is to make you feel rejected and unloved, pushing you to do what they want in order to regain their affection.

This isn’t love; it’s emotional manipulation. Love should never be used as a weapon or tool for control. You deserve a relationship where love and affection aren’t conditional upon your compliance or behavior.

7) They isolate you from loved ones

I’ll never forget the time when I gradually started to notice my friends and family were less present in my life. It wasn’t that they were moving away or growing distant, but rather, I was being subtly steered away from them.

My partner at the time would always have a reason why we couldn’t attend social gatherings or why we should spend time alone instead of visiting family. They’d make snide comments about my friends or imply that my family didn’t really care about me.

Before I knew it, I felt isolated and alone, relying completely on my partner for social interaction.

This is a classic manipulation tactic. By separating you from your support network, a manipulative partner can gain more control over you, making it harder for you to leave or seek help.

8) They’re overly critical of you

Constructive criticism is a natural part of any relationship. We all have room to grow and improve, and sometimes our partners can help us see things we might have missed.

But when criticism becomes constant and harsh, it’s no longer about helping you grow. It’s about tearing you down.

A manipulative partner might constantly point out your flaws or mistakes. They might make derogatory comments about your appearance, intelligence, or abilities.

This kind of chronic, negative critique can wear down your self-esteem and make you feel worthless.

9) They make you feel less than

At the end of the day, the most telling sign of a manipulative partner is how they make you feel about yourself.

If you’re constantly feeling inadequate, guilty, or unsure around your partner, something isn’t right. You should never be made to feel less than who you are in a relationship.

Everyone deserves to be loved and respected for who they are. Don’t let them belittle your worth or make you doubt your value. You deserve so much better.

Final thoughts

The heart of this topic lies in understanding and respect. Relationships, in their truest form, are about mutual respect, love, and understanding.

A quote from renowned psychotherapist, Virginia Satir, sums it up perfectly: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

But the ‘hugs’ she refers to aren’t just physical. They’re expressions of love, respect, understanding, and genuine care. If these elements are missing or replaced by manipulation and deceit, the essence of a healthy relationship is lost.

Being aware of these signs is the first step towards ensuring that your relationship is based on genuine love and respect. 

At the end of the day, it’s about your happiness and well-being. Trust your instincts and never be afraid to seek help if you need it.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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