Unfortunately, manipulation in relationships in fairly common. You might be with a partner who makes you wonder if you’re crazy. Maybe you’re constantly downplaying your own feelings because they make you feel like your concerns aren’t valid. If this type of connection is allowed to run unchecked, it can cause you serious harm. In fact, research suggests that a bad relationship can lead to bad health.
Emotional manipulation happens a lot and can be hard to recognize, especially coming from someone you love. Another person having that type of control over you can lead to depression and anxiety. Over time, it might even lead to poor physical health as you find it harder to care for yourself. Let’s look a bit closer at what manipulation in relationships looks like.
Defining Emotional Manipulation
Psychological or emotional manipulation is a form of influence over another person. This unhealthy practice includes pressuring someone else to behave or think in a certain way. Emotional manipulation occurs when someone exploits another person’s weaknesses for their own gain. Someone who is emotionally manipulative will usually talk down to you or make you question yourself.
Being close to someone who abuses power in this way can leave serious psychological impacts, as mentioned. The main goal of an emotionally manipulative person is to make themselves the more powerful one by any means necessary. If you’ve experienced manipulation in relationships, you already know it makes you feel small, weak, and unhappy. You may have found yourself acting out of fear of certain consequences.
Maybe you thought your husband would stop loving you if you didn’t do certain things for him. If you’re doing things in your relationship out of love, it’s not manipulation. It becomes manipulation when you’re acting out of fear of the aggressor controlling you.
How to Recognize Manipulation in
Emotions are a mystery to many people. They’re hard to process, understand, and express, especially when it comes to love. That mysterious element is one of the reasons why manipulation in relationships often goes undetected. These techniques are usually subtle and you might not even notice they’re happening until it’s been going on for a long time. Here are some signs that you might be experiencing emotional manipulation:
Fear of voicing concerns
If you’re worried about voicing your complaints or concerns, you may be experiencing manipulation. When you bring something up that bothers you, the manipulator will make you regret talking about it. You can’t freely express your worries without fear of being judged or minimized. This concern leads to a lack of trust because you don’t feel comfortable talking freely. You may also worry that they won’t understand.
Understating or exaggerating
A manipulator will understate the truth, exaggerate, lie, or deny that they said something they said. They will do whatever it takes to support their own argument and make you lose. They may agree to something one day and then deny that they agreed later on. This inconsistency can be very confusing to experience and you might end up doubting your own memory.
They induce guilt
A manipulator is great at making other people feel guilty. They will make you feel responsible for their emotions. You might tell your partner you’re going out with some friends to have them reply that they’ll just stay home and be bored. That’s a classic example of an emotional manipulation tactic.
Minimizing your problems
If someone is manipulating you, you’ll notice that your partner is diminishing your problems and making their own seem more important. You may notice that when you try to speak your mind or share some troubles with the manipulator, they make you feel as though your problems don’t matter. They don’t show sympathy in the way that an emotionally healthy partner would. You may even feel as though you’re weak for worrying about your issues.
A manipulative person usually has a passive-aggressive style of communication. Passive-aggressive manipulation means communicating indirectly instead of openly and honestly. This indirect style of reacting to the conflict might mean talking behind someone’s back instead of directly to them. It could also mean making comments like “It’s fine,” with a tone that says it really isn’t.
Subtle or overt aggression
Aggression is another sign of emotional manipulation in relationships. An aggressive manipulator may stand close to you, tower over you while you’re sitting, or speak loudly to try to intimidate you. They do this to try to get you to back down and stop challenging them.
Most people who use emotional manipulation to control others know how to detect other people’s weaknesses. As soon as they determine these weaknesses, they use them against you for their own interests. This deceitful behavior may have been learned as a defense mechanism when they were younger or picked up from watching their parents do the same things.
How to Deal with Manipulation in
Now that we’ve determined how to tell when you’re experiencing manipulation in relationships, it’s time to come up with a plan for handling it. In most cases, the manipulator won’t stop until you do something to put an end to what they’re doing. The tips below are meant to be general and may not all apply to your situation, so take what helps you:
Know your worth
The most essential rule for dealing with manipulation in relationships is to know how your own worth. When you know what you’re worth, you’ll easily notice when someone is treating you like you’re lesser. You have a right to defend yourself, the right to be treated respectfully and to share your feelings and wants. You have a right to say “no” without getting guilt-tripped, and to share different opinions than other people.
Unfortunately, we often run into people who don’t respect our rights. And if we don’t stay very conscious, it can be confusing and difficult. Take some time to define your own rights and practice noticing when someone is attempting to violate them, in a relationship or otherwise.
A very manipulative person will put on different faces depending on who they’re with. Although it’s normal to be adaptable and change your approach somewhat depending on who’s around, manipulators take it to the extreme. They might be super polite to one person and extremely rude to someone else. They may pretend to be helpless in one situation and powerful and aggressive in another.
When you see someone engaging in extreme displays of behavior like this, try to create or maintain distance. It may be hard to create distance if this is someone you’re already close to, but it’s essential for your own well-being.
Don’t blame yourself
A manipulative person will look for your weaknesses so that they can use them against you. If you’re experiencing emotional manipulation in relationships, you may end up feeling low or blaming yourself. But just try to remember that they’re the problem, not you. Think about how this person treats you and ask yourself if you’re getting the respect you deserve.
Also, ask if they’re making reasonable demands and expectations and if you’re giving to each other equally in the relationship. How does this person and this relationship make you feel, ultimately? Do you spend time with this person and end up feeling drained and defeated? If so, that’s a definite sign you’re being taken advantage of.
People who manipulate others will almost always make demands or requests of you. Usually, these requests require you to go to extremes to do them a favor or meet their needs. When you’re dealing with manipulation in relationships, ask the other person if they think their demands are reasonable. Ask if you will be getting anything in return for doing this favor and whether they’re actually being fair.
By asking questions, instead of accepting their demands, you’re allowing the manipulator to see what they’re doing. If they’re even a little bit self-aware, they might withdraw their demand or request. Depending on how extreme the tactics are of the manipulator, they might press on and keep trying to get their way. That’s where the rest of our tips on dealing with manipulation in relationships will come in handy and help you.
Your manipulative partner may try to pressure you to answer their questions or request right away. This pressure is exerted as part of a tactic to maximize their control over the situation. Instead of giving them the answer they’re seeking immediately, tell them you need some time to think about it. These simple words can put some of the power back in your hands and you won’t feel as much like you’re under their control. If they keep pressuring you, remember to stand your ground and be strong.
Practice saying no
An extremely manipulative person can make it feel like it’s impossible to say no to them. Some people struggle with saying no to others, even if they aren’t experiencing manipulation in relationships. Take some time to practice saying “no” when you feel like someone is violating your rights. You have the right to set your own rules and only do what makes you feel comfortable. Recognize when someone is trying to lay a guilt trip on you and stand up against it by politely, but firmly, saying “no.”
Confront them safely
A manipulative partner may turn to bullying when something doesn’t go their way with you. One key point to keep in mind about bullies is that they will go after weaker people. If you remain compliant and passive when they’re targeting you, it only makes the situation worse. But people who bully others are actually insecure and scared inside. As soon as you begin to stand up for yourself, the bully might back off.
While it can be very difficult not to blame yourself when you’re experiencing bullying (especially from someone you love), remember it’s not your fault. When someone doesn’t like themselves, they take this out on others by trying to make them feel small. Bullying is never the victim’s fault. Just remember that if you’re going to confront your partner when they’re bullying you, make sure you’re safe about it. Do it when there are other people around you and consult the right legal professionals (like law enforcement or a lawyer), when appropriate.
It can feel difficult or even impossible to take back your personal power after being victimized. But when a manipulator is consistently violating your wishes and boundaries, you have to show consequences for their actions. In terms of manipulation in relationships, this should mean breaking up with the person or cutting off contact with them. Just remember to practice self-forgiveness and be kind to yourself regarding this situation.
As soon as you recognize how much you’ve been taken advantage of, it can be easy to blame yourself. But this will only make your situation worse and leave you open to being manipulated by the same person or another one later on down the road. Be strong and realize that you couldn’t defend yourself against something that you didn’t realize was happening. Now, you recognize the signs and have some tools for dealing with it.
Ready to Tackle Manipulation?
Dealing with manipulation in relationships can be disheartening and make you feel like you’re all alone in the world. By taking it upon yourself to recognize the signs of manipulation and take back control over your own life, you’re doing what you need to do to heal. Just remember that it’s not your job to change anyone. The best way to handle this type of person is to back off and cut them out of your life altogether, even if it’s hard.