How to Recognize the Manipulation in Relationships?

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What are the signs of manipulation? Read on to find out

Many people become victims of manipulation in relationships without realising that they are being mistreated. If you seem to be doing more and more things you don’t enjoy or want to do, there’s a chance you could be under the influence of a manipulator. Manipulators can be very calculating, and you may not realise that you have ceded too much control to someone else for a considerable period of time before the realisation dawns on you. In this article, we will discuss various forms of manipulation in relationships and offer tips on how to stop it.

Am I being manipulated in my relationship?

When you have been the victim of a manipulator, you can start to feel that you have lost all control of your thoughts, actions and emotions. You may start to feel that you are becoming a completely different person, and you could feel that you are spending far more time making someone else happy than focussing on your own contentment.

Major manipulation techniques in relationships

Manipulators often make their victims feel guilty for their actions even when they haven’t done anything wrong. They may turn things around so it seems that they are making sacrifices to make you happy even though you are the one putting all the effort in. They may subtly try to tell you that they are putting more effort into the relationship than you are, and they remain critical even when you are going the extra mile to make them happy.

Emphasising your weaknesses

It’s common for manipulators to frequent criticise your actions until you feel like you can’t do right for doing wrong. They may use your insecurities against you, constantly focussing on your failures and weaknesses until your confidence is severely dented. You may even start to wonder if you’d be able to find another partner if they left you. They could leave you thinking you are incapable of achieving anything substantial without their help until you feel like you can’t make any decisions without their guidance. The goal of a master manipulator is often to make you trust yourself less than you trust them.

Making you responsible for their happiness

Many manipulators try to make you feel responsible for their emotions. You may start to feel every negative emotion they ever feel is down to you, whether they are angry, tearful or frustrated. They may make you feel like you can’t be trusted to control your own life whilst at the same time making you feel responsible for their happiness. Many manipulators try to subtly convince you that you want the same things that they do. Once a relationship is long-established, you may wake up one morning and wonder what happened to your own dreams, goals and ambitions. You may suddenly realise that they have somehow been replaced by those of your partner. If you have turned your back on what you want because you now believe their aims are more important than yours, there’s a big chance that you are in a relationship with a manipulator.

A lack of clarity

Good relationships tend to be clear, bad ones tend to be confusing. If nothing you do seems to appease your partner despite your best attempts, it may be time to move on. The more time you spend walking on eggshells, the more toxic the relationship may be. In manipulative relationships, love is replaced by confusion, and you may start to feel that everything that you do is wrong.

Disagreements and manipulation

Of course, disagreements and arguments occur in most relationships. However, when disagreements occur in healthy relationships, each person’s opinion is respected and compromises are made. In unhealthy relationships, people may feel offended or outraged when their partner does not share their opinions. These disagreements can quickly snowball into furious arguments, with the atmosphere remaining sour until one partner submits to the other, perhaps saying sorry or even pretending to change their opinion even when they still feel the same way as they did before deep down. One common tactic is to make the atmosphere so sour and tense that you feel you have no choice but to apologise even when you feel you’ve done nothing wrong.

Subtle manipulative strategies

In relationships, it can be hard for the person being manipulated to see the difference between love and manipulation. Real love is not focussed on dominating or gaining power and control over someone else. A master manipulator will convince you that you need to focus on their needs and adopt their outlook on all kinds of matters. If you accuse a manipulator of partaking in unreasonable behaviour, there’s always a big chance that they will project their failings onto you, making you feel like you are the one in the wrong. Manipulators rarely say sorry or admit that they have been out of line. They may spend far more time criticising you than complimenting you, and they may try to convince you that your happiness and well-being depends on them. You may start to feel like you are being criticised for the smallest mistake, with the positive things that you do going unappreciated and unacknowledged. It’s easy to see how the victims of manipulation in relationships can quickly slip into depression.

Freedom in manipulative relationships

Manipulators can be incredibly possessive. They may refuse to give you the space that you need and prevent you from having any real life outside of the relationship. It’s not uncommon for manipulators to limit your time spent with friends, especially those of the opposite sex. The manipulator’s insecurities may result in vastly reduced freedom for the person they are dominating. The person being manipulated can become silently resentful or simply start to feel completely helpless, actually believing that they would be nothing without the person in control of the relationship. They may constantly criticise your friends and family, convincing you that the only person you need in your life is them. The aim of this is to isolate you until you have no-one to confide in outside of the relationship.

Praise and criticism in manipulative relationships

In healthy relationships, people compliment each other and make each other feel good about themselves. Both partners work hard to encourage the other to achieve their goals, ambitions and dreams, doing all they can to help their partner get as much out of life as possible. A manipulator may actually feel angry about your achievements, try to belittle them or fail to acknowledge them at all. The idea that you can achieve anything without their help might actually infuriate them, and they may even take steps to prevent from realising your dreams. They may actually take pleasure from your failures, telling then that they always said you were doomed to fail. They are so insecure that their happiness depends on keeping you in your place. A manipulator may also tell you that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve the same level of success without their support.

Sex in manipulative relationships

People in emotionally abusive relationships don’t tend to have healthy and fulfilling relationships. If you are in a relationship with a manipulator, it’s likely that you won’t want to be intimate with them. A manipulator is likely to be incredibly selfish in the bedroom, with your sex life reflecting your life outside of it – totally focussed on their needs. You can totally expect a manipulative partner to make you feel guilty if you’re not in the mood for sex.

Being manipulated by an overt bully

Not all manipulators adopt a subtle approach. They may engage in blatant bullying and you may start to find them highly intimidating. Over time, you might become incredibly fearful of them, and may experience high levels of anxiety even when you just think about spending time with them. They may threaten you with violence if you don’t carry out certain acts. If your partner has become violent towards you, you need to exit the relationship as soon as you can. Even if your partner has only engaged in non-violent behaviour, it may be time to start planning your escape route if they continue to disrespect you, control you and gaslight you.

Gaslighting manipulation

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation designed to make you feel like you are losing your grip on reality and suffering from mental illness even though this is not the case. Partners who engage in gaslighting may pretend they didn’t say certain things, act like things didn’t happen, omit key information, make you think you have forgotten things until you start to feel like you are losing your mind and they are the only person who can put it back together. One of the aims of this is to make you feel more dependant on them than ever.

“If you love me you would…” manipulation

Manipulators can also tug on your heartstrings. They may threaten to commit suicide if you leave them, try to force you into having children when you are not ready and so on. They may try to make you feel like a terrible, heartless person if you don’t comply with their demands. Another common tactic is to accuse you of not loving them if you don’t go along with their instructions. The phrase “if you really loved me…” is frequently used by manipulators in relationships. Emotional blackmail is constantly used by manipulators to keep people in relationships they desperately want to leave.


Don’t stay in a manipulative relationship. If you have been on the receiving end of the kind of behaviour outlined above, it may well be time to move onto the next chapter of your life. The more time you spend in a toxic relationship, the more time you are wasting that could be spent with a genuinely loving, non-manipulative partner who gives you the freedom that you require and lets you be who you want to be. Don’t be held prisoner by a master manipulator – if you recognise your partner in the behaviour we have been discussing, plot your escape and consign them to history.

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