7 worrying signs your partner is playing mind games with you

When you decide to enter a romantic relationship, the end goal is presumably happiness. 

So when things become more stressful and anxiety-inducing than they are joyful, this is a sign that some big changes need to be made.

If you feel, for instance, that your significant other regularly plays mind games on you, your concerns are definitely worth looking into.  

Once mind games become the norm, this isn’t a great sign for the trajectory of the relationship. 

So at this point, it’s in your interest to nip things in the bud before they get out of hand. But in order to do that, you first need to recognize the signs of the mind game-playing partner. 

Let’s dive in!

1) They’re constantly testing your boundaries 

If you’ve made it clear to your partner what you will and won’t tolerate, yet they constantly disrespect those wishes, this is a major red flag. 

Respect is one of the core foundations of any functioning union, so once that goes, so does the relationship. 

Maybe they’ll push your buttons to see how much you’ll endure for their own amusement; or maybe they’re just selfish, prioritizing their own interests above all of yours. 

Whatever the reason, when your partner isn’t respecting boundaries, you have to address this urgently or risk getting caught up. 

Sit them down and talk it out, and if that doesn’t fix things, then you know what to do. Life is too short to be with someone who continually disregards boundaries

2) They gaslight you 

Real talk: gaslighting is one of the oldest tricks in the manipulator book. It’s basically their method of constantly getting their way, even when the facts don’t support it. 

The gaslighting partner has an incredible knack for making you question your perception, memory, and ultimately, your own sanity. 

It’s a dirty ploy, frankly. 

If you have a partner who isn’t willing to fight fair, then that says a lot about their integrity and the state of your relationship down the line.  

Gaslighting can be done subconsciously or as a premeditated strategy. Your partner might speak with so much conviction so their version has to be the truth, right? 

Wrong. The gaslighter is so cunning and convincing that falling for their act becomes all too easy. 

Now that you have an idea of how the gaslighter operates, It’s up to you how to deal with things. 

Maybe you can start writing things down as they happen, your feelings included, so you know you’re not the one in the wrong here.

3) They’re experts at negging

This one is especially subtle. 

Negging is when your partner gives you a backhanded compliment, something that is done to undermine your confidence. 

Instead of just giving you a straight-up compliment like a normal person, there’s always a caveat with the manipulator. 

They won’t just praise that new hairdo, they’ll say something like “Great haircut, it makes your nose look smaller.” 

Read between the lines. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that the objective of the compliment is to make the other person feel good about themselves and little else. 

So if you find yourself feeling hurt or sad whenever your partner speaks, particularly when they’re offering a so-called compliment, then you have to start putting your foot down. 

Negging lowers your self-esteem, making you crave their approval and less likely to end the relationship.

If you let this go on long enough, you’ll find yourself in an emotional black hole, one that will be difficult to escape.  

Between you and me, you deserve better. 

4) They have a victim mentality

You know you’re dealing with a manipulator when in every fight, you’re somehow at fault.  

Does your partner constantly push your buttons and disrespect you, yet the minute you react, they suddenly assume the role of the hapless, innocent victim

This isn’t just annoying; it’s unfair, dishonest, and not particularly sustainable in relationships. 

Perhaps you calmly and respectfully communicate a valid issue or complaint you have about your partner. If they turn it around and make it about how they’re being mistreated, then this is just them invalidating your feelings. 

My ex was like this. I had gained some weight during the course of our relationship and she’d constantly poke fun at me for it. 

I would ask her politely to stop, saying it was a sensitive topic and that her comments made me uncomfortable.

She didn’t let up. When I’d react with irritation, she’d turn to the victim card. 

Since I am susceptible to guilt, I used to fall for the act–in fact, more often than not, I’d be the one to end up apologizing. 

In time, I wisened up to things. I gave her an ultimatum, something she didn’t take particularly well. We ended things shortly thereafter.

5) They have a habit of keeping score

Look, everyone has made their fair share of mistakes. 

If you’ve atoned for your shortcomings and have mutually decided to work things out with your partner, then bringing up past blunders as a means of gaining leverage in conflicts or heated situations should be out of bounds. 

This behavior will leave you feeling like you’re perpetually in the wrong, which erodes your self-worth over time.

The mature partner will make it a point to argue with integrity, to actively not make you feel indebted or guilty during times of strife. 

By keeping score, your partner compromises your ability to assert yourself and stand your ground. 

And sadly, when you have that constant sense of remorse hanging over you, you’re in a 

prime position to be manipulated and controlled further. 

And speaking of control…

6) They’re just a bit too controlling 

Just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean they own you. You aren’t anyone’s slave. 

Remember, you are your own, autonomous person, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

Once controlling behavior becomes the norm, such as closely supervising where you go, what you wear, and who you see, it sets an extremely unhealthy and even dangerous precedent. 

Do you know what cult leaders and controlling partners have in common? They both tend to isolate you from friends and family. They don’t want anyone influencing you away from them. 

Not that your partner is Charles Manson, but trying to control you is a destructive habit that needs to go ASAP. 

This isn’t simply wanting things done in a certain way either; it’s about taking away your independence and identity.

7) They ignore or discount your feelings

Emotional invalidation is an incredibly common form of emotional abuse. 

Remember, don’t let anyone downplay your feelings and emotions. 

Once doubting your emotions becomes a habit, you’ll start to believe that your feelings aren’t really valid, making you all the more dependent on your partner for reassurance. 

Have you ever dealt with an abuser who constantly was putting you down or belittling you but brushed it off as lighthearted banter? 

When you voice your concerns, maybe they’ll use “you’re too sensitive,” or “you’re overreacting,” to make you second guess yourself and wash their hands of any accountability. 

If you start becoming dependent on your partner for emotional validation instead of trusting your own judgment, be aware that this isn’t healthy. Far from it. 

Final thoughts

To recap, relationships should be about mutual respect, trust, and understanding. 

If you’ve started to feel that you’ve become a kind of doormat for your partner’s issues and not a valued partner, it’s time to seriously step back and think things over. 

This doesn’t mean you’re projecting or finger-pointing. It is about salvaging your mental and emotional well-being before it’s too late.

As I said earlier, relationships should bring you joy. If your relationship is constantly leaving you stressed, perplexed, and hurt more than anything, then you have to accept the fact that you deserve better. 

Being exhausted isn’t a way to go about life. 

Fortunately, there’s light at the end of this tunnel: once you begin to understand their methods, you can start breaking free from the abuse and reclaim your best self. 

It’s been done before and will be done again. 

You got this. 

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown is an entrepreneur and thought leader in personal development and digital media, with a foundation in education from The London School of Economics and The Australian National University. As the co-founder of Ideapod, The Vessel, and a director at Brown Brothers Media, Justin has spearheaded platforms that significantly contribute to personal and collective growth. His deep insights are shared on his YouTube channel, JustinBrownVids, offering a rich blend of guidance on living a meaningful and purposeful life.

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