When you’re in love, it’s easy to lose sight of the boundaries that define a healthy relationship – one built on love, trust, open communication, mutual respect, and support.
Turns out that a lot of people are being emotionally manipulated in their relationships without knowing it.
If something feels a bit off in your relationship but you’re not sure what, it could be that you’re being emotionally manipulated.
That’s why I’m writing this article, to empower you to see the signs of emotional manipulation so that you can put a stop to this toxic behavior and find your way to a healthier relationship.
Let’s start by looking at 8 top signs you’re being emotionally manipulated and then we’ll look at what you can do about it.
1) Guilt tripping
Okay, most of us have used this tactic at one point or another, in fact, I used it just the other day with my dad – he came over to visit and I asked him to walk my dogs.
He wasn’t very keen so I said, “Fine, I guess they’ll have to wait a few more hours to pee” and it worked like magic.
Now, this doesn’t make me a master manipulator or a bad person, it makes me human. It also doesn’t mean my relationship with my dad is toxic!
But imagine a relationship where you’re constantly being guilt-tripped.
That’s a lot to take in, right?
Add to that some other tactics that you’ll read about in this article and you’ve got yourself some surefire signs that you’re being emotionally manipulated in your relationship.
Another sign that you’re being emotionally manipulated in your relationship is that your partner has isolated (or is trying to) you from the other people in your life.
In order to make you completely dependent on them for emotional support, they’ll have isolated you from your friends and family – the people who love you and are there for you no matter what.
Pretty scary huh? That’s because emotional manipulation is a form of abuse.
I’ve actually seen it at play. A family member of mine was slowly over time (doesn’t happen overnight) manipulated by their spouse into cutting their family and friends from their life.
So, if your partner doesn’t approve of your friends or thinks you’re spending too much time with your family – it’s a RED FLAG!
Gaslighting can be pretty cruel. It’s when the other person makes you question your perception of reality. This often leads to you questioning your memory and even your own sanity.
For example, someone could use gaslighting to cover up an affair. Every time they’re confronted by their partner about their late nights or suspicious behavior, they’d say, “You’re being irrational and paranoid.”
They’ll accuse their partner of being jealous and possessive, even say stuff like “The fact that you don’t know how to trust is what is ruining our relationship”!
I know, can you believe that sh**?
Sadly, when the person doing the gaslighting is a skilled manipulator, they’ll succeed in making their partner doubt themselves and actually feel guilty for even bringing up their concerns.
4) Emotional blackmail
Basically, emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic where one person in a relationship uses emotions, guilt, or fear to control or manipulate the other.
For example, if your partner doesn’t like you going out and spending time with your friends, they’ll sulk and say, “You don’t care about me, all you care about are your stupid friends. I don’t even know why we’re together.”
Does it sound like something you’ve experienced?
5) Constant surveillance
This is a major red flag!
You’re a grown a** person, you have a right to your freedom and your privacy. So if your partner is constantly on top of where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with, you’ve got a serious problem.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you find them snooping on your phone or checking your email!
6) The silent treatment
There are a lot of articles out there on using the silent treatment when you’re having a fight with your partner.
But guess what – it’s a cruel form of mental punishment! In fact, it borders on abuse.
I mean, instead of being open and honest with each other and talking about your issues, the silent treatment basically consists of shutting down all communication and pretending the other person isn’t there.
It’s messed up.
Think about it – being on the receiving end of the silent treatment can be quite distressing.
And more often than not, it backfires.
- The communication breakdown prevents the resolution of conflicts
- Instead of addressing and resolving issues, it allows negative emotions to fester and escalate
- It disrupts the emotional connection that relationships thrive on and hampers the development of empathy, compassion, and intimacy..
7) Victim mentality
This is totally my aunt.
I swear it’s like she was born to play the victim – which she isn’t, trust me.
And it’s not just that she wants to be the center of attention – which she does – but she plays the victim to manipulate people into doing stuff for her.
For example, she’s constantly manipulating her kids into doing everything for her and canceling their plans to be with her because “she’s old and dying” (she’s been that way for the last 30 years). And even though they know she’s okay and totally capable of doing stuff herself, they get manipulated by her every time.
So, if you’re in a relationship where your partner is always saying “poor me” and making you feel guilty about wanting to have your own life, manipulating your empathy, and making you feel responsible for their happiness – you’re gonna want to deal with that ASAP!
8) Exploiting your weaknesses
Did you know that some manipulators actually go as far as exploiting their victims’ weaknesses to gain control over them?
They’ll find out what your insecurities, fears, and emotional triggers are and then they’ll use this knowledge to their advantage.
Pretty sick, huh?
But why would they do that? Don’t they love you?
I’m not sure that they really know what love is, in any case, they have some strange idea of what love is. By exploiting your weaknesses they basically want to assert dominance, weaken your self-esteem, and establish a sense of dependency.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice is to leave the relationship and find a healthier and happier one.
What can you do if you’re being emotionally manipulated?
If you recognize one or more of the signs I mentioned above and you realize that you’re a victim of emotional manipulation, you don’t just have to sit back and take it. Here’s what you should do:
1) Recognize the manipulation
Educate yourself about emotional manipulation tactics used by manipulators.
This article is a good start, but you may wanna look at some more articles and see if you can read something written by psychologists.
Identifying the manipulation is the first step to dealing with it.
2) Trust your instincts
In addition to being able to recognize the signs, you should also listen to your gut feeling. Don’t be afraid to trust your intuition!
If something feels off, don’t ignore that feeling, look into it, and take those feelings seriously.
3) Establish boundaries
Boundaries are important in every relationship, they’re there to protect you from getting hurt – and that includes manipulation.
If you set clear boundaries and are clear about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior, it’s A) less likely that you’ll be manipulated, and B) if you are, you’ll be able to see it happening.
4) Seek support
Friends, family, therapists, they’re all there to offer support and guidance.
So, if you recognize yourself as a victim of manipulation and you feel hurt, confused, and maybe even embarrassed, talk to someone about it!
They’ll be able to validate your experiences, offer advice, and help you get through the situation.
5) Build your self-esteem
Part of the problem with manipulation is that it damages your self-esteem – and often, that self-esteem wasn’t very strong to begin with.
That’s why you need to work on building your self-esteem and self-confidence. You can do that through activities that make you feel good about yourself and by surrounding yourself with positive influences.
6) Practice assertive communication
You don’t have to take anyone’s bulls**t. If you decide to stay in a relationship with a manipulator, then you better learn to be assertive in your communication.
That means being able to clearly express your thoughts, feelings, and needs. When you say “no” you should mean it.
Trust me, assertiveness will help you with your boundaries, as well as to advocate for yourself and assert your rights.
7) Limit contact or end the relationship
While some relationships with manipulators have a lot of positive things going for them that you may want to stick around for, others are just not worth it.
In such cases, it’s best to consider ending the relationship if the manipulation persists despite your efforts to address it.
The bottom line is that your well-being should be your number one priority, and no good will come from a toxic relationship.