8 signs your partner manipulates you, according to psychology

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There’s a thin line between persuasion and manipulation, especially in relationships.

Manipulation is about controlling someone else’s actions or emotions without their knowledge. It’s about getting what you want, regardless of how it affects your partner.

Psychology helps us understand these subtle signs of manipulation that we often overlook in relationships. It’s about discerning when influence becomes manipulation.

I’m here to share with you 8 telltale signs that you might be dealing with a manipulative partner.

1) Love bombing

Psychology tells us that one of the first signs of a manipulative partner is ‘love bombing’.

This term refers to the excessive affection and flattery that some people use to win you over. It’s a manipulative technique designed to hide their true intentions.

Love bombing can be incredibly flattering at first, and it’s easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of attention and adoration. But it’s important to remember that genuine love is about respect and understanding, not about overwhelming someone with affection to control them.

The key is balance. If your partner’s love seems too much too early, and especially if it quickly turns into pressure or control, it might be a sign of manipulation.

2) They frequently play the victim

One of the tactics manipulative partners often use is playing the victim. This strategy is all about shifting focus and blame away from their actions and onto themselves.

I remember when I was in a relationship where my partner would always turn the tables whenever I’d voice my concerns. If I brought up an issue, they’d swiftly shift the attention to how they were being ‘attacked’ or ‘misunderstood’.

This left me feeling guilty for expressing my feelings and often led to me apologizing when I wasn’t at fault. Over time, I began to realize that this was a way for them to avoid accountability and maintain control.

If you find yourself always being the ‘bad guy’ in arguments, or if your partner frequently makes themselves out to be the victim, it could be a sign of manipulation. 

3) They use gaslighting techniques

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation tactic that makes you question your own reality. It’s a tool often used by manipulative partners to gain more control.

The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1944 film called “Gaslight,” where a man manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane. However, it’s not just stuff of old movies. Gaslighting is very real and can be incredibly damaging.

A common example of gaslighting is when your partner denies something that has happened, even though you clearly remember it. They might say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “That never happened.”

This can lead to self-doubt and confusion, making you more reliant on your partner for ‘reality checks’. 

4) They isolate you from friends and family

Manipulative partners often use isolation as a tactic to maintain control.

By distancing you from your support network, they can manipulate your perception of reality without outside interference.

This might start subtly. They might criticize your friends or family, make you feel guilty for spending time with them, or create situations that make it difficult for you to maintain these relationships.

It’s perfectly normal for couples to spend a lot of time together.

But when it starts to feel like you’re being cut off from the other important people in your life, it might be a sign of manipulation.

5) They make you feel indebted to them

Manipulative partners are often very good at making you feel like you owe them something. They might do you a favor or help you out in some way, and then hold it over your head.

This can be a subtle form of control.

It can make you feel like you need to go along with what they want, even if it’s not what you want or what’s best for you.

For example, they might say things like, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?”

This can make you feel guilty and obligated to comply with their demands.

6) They make negative comments about your appearance

This is a subtle, yet hurtful form of manipulation that can chip away at your self-esteem.

I know because I’ve experienced it firsthand.

In one of my past relationships, my partner would often make seemingly harmless comments about my appearance. “Are you really going to wear that?” or “Maybe you should hit the gym more often” were common remarks.

At first, I brushed these comments off as jokes or constructive criticism. But over time, they started to affect my self-image and confidence.

I realized that it was a way for my partner to control me and make me feel insecure.

7) They use your insecurities against you

This is a particularly insidious form of manipulation, where your partner uses your insecurities or past mistakes as a weapon against you.

They might bring up something you’re sensitive about during an argument or use it to make you feel guilty. This not only hurts you emotionally but also gives them more control over you.

For instance, if you have shared with your partner about a past failure or fear, and they use it as a means to belittle or undermine you during disagreements, it’s a clear sign of manipulation.

Remember, everyone has insecurities and past mistakes. A loving partner should help you overcome these, not use them as ammunition.

8) They constantly shift the blame to you

Blame-shifting is a common tactic used by manipulative individuals. They rarely take accountability for their actions and instead, find ways to pin the blame on others, in this case, you.

If whenever there’s a problem or argument, your partner always makes it out to be your fault, even when it clearly isn’t, it’s a sign of manipulation. They might twist facts, deny their involvement or play the victim to avoid taking responsibility.

In a healthy relationship, both partners should be able to accept their faults and work towards resolving issues together.

If your partner is always pointing the finger at you, it indicates a major red flag.

Relationships are about mutual respect

At the heart of every relationship, there should be mutual respect and understanding.

Love isn’t about control or manipulation; it’s about supporting each other, growing together, and valuing each other’s individuality.

It’s important to remember that manipulation isn’t always as blatant as it’s portrayed in movies or TV shows. It can be subtle, gradual, and often masked by expressions of love or concern.

If you notice these signs in your relationship, it might be time to take a step back and evaluate things from a fresh perspective.

Trust your instincts, seek professional help if needed, and remember that everyone deserves to be in a relationship where they feel loved, respected, and free.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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