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10 Unmistakable Signs You’re Being Emotionally Manipulated By Your Partner

Imagine this scenario – you’re in a relationship with a wonderful person. She is gentle and soft spoken and a great conversationalist. You have so many common interests and he remembers birthdays and anniversaries. On the outside, you look like the perfect, well-matched couple, but on the inside, you don’t feel so good. If you constantly feel hurt and belittled, and yet find yourself apologizing for wrongs you can’t remember having done, then you, my friend, are a victim of emotional manipulation by your partner.

couple disagreement

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What exactly is emotional manipulation?

Emotional manipulation is a kind of influence exerted by one person upon another person or group of people, where the manipulator uses arguments and rationalizations to make others feel or act a certain way. The manipulated person is usually made to feel guilty, responsible, and is often confused. A manipulator can be a man or a woman, of any age, and the manipulation can occur anywhere – in a relationship, family, workplace, or even with strangers. Several cult leaders are known to be master manipulators in making people do things they would otherwise think twice about.

As you can imagine, emotional manipulation with a spouse or lover can be the most dangerous, considering the intimate nature of the relationship. For this very reason, manipulators often seek out innocent and trusting people, but for skilled manipulators, anyone is easy bait.

Emotional manipulation results in a negative and toxic environment, where the manipulated person is stripped of their self-confidence and sense of self-worth. In extreme cases, emotional manipulation can also amount to emotional abuse, in which case it becomes an offence punishable by law.

Suggested read: Early signs you’re dating a narcissist

So, how do people fall prey to emotional manipulation?

Now that you know that emotional manipulation is no fun, why do people willingly become victims of it? The truth is that emotional manipulation in a relationship is hard to spot, and in most cases, a person’s manipulative traits are revealed only a while into the relationship. By then, most people are already invested in the relationship and try to make things work. Unfortunately, this only draws them deeper into the hole the manipulator is making them dig.

One might think that it’s only people with low self-esteem or mommy/daddy issues who allow themselves to be manipulated, but that’s not true. Anyone can become a victim to emotional manipulation; the trick is to know when you’re stuck in such a relationship and to take the first bus out. For this, it helps to be able to identify certain classic characteristic traits of an emotional manipulator.

Characteristic traits of an emotional manipulator

emotional manipulation

Image source: Flickr


1. They are control freaks

Emotional manipulators are usually control freaks; they want things to be done ‘just so,’ and don’t like it when it doesn’t happen their way, which according to them, is the ‘right’ way. Generally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but when they make use of another person’s feelings and vulnerabilities to get things done, it becomes a very big deal.

2. They are generally calm

On the outside, manipulators appear to be calm and in control, which is a feature that attracts many people, especially those who’ve had a turbulent life so far. They rarely resort to aggression, and all the manipulation occurs in a very peaceful, matter-of-fact manner. This kind of ‘silent killing’ is the hardest to identify and explain, and as a result, the most dangerous as well.

3. They thrive on feeling powerful

Emotional manipulators enjoy the power they hold on their victims. They revel in the knowledge that they can make the other person do anything, without having to resort to any kind of force or violence. This feeling gives them a huge high, and increases their confidence to further manipulate someone.

4. They use flattery

An emotional manipulator’s vocabulary includes many praise words which they use to make their impressionable victims feel a false sense of security. Since everyone wants to feel good about themselves, most people fall into the manipulator’s trap and soon they have them tied to their puppet strings.

sad woman

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

5. They tend to exaggerate

Along with flattery, exaggeration also features among known emotional manipulation tactics. They often exaggerate their own problems to such a level that the other person’s troubles pale in comparison and the focus is back on the manipulator and their life.

6. They over-rationalize

Manipulators are great at rationalizing all their actions. They are experts at finding excuses and presenting them in such a way that the entire responsibility of the situation lands on the victim’s shoulders and the manipulator is completely off the hook.

So these are the characteristic traits of a classic emotional manipulator. But how do you know if you’re in a relationship with one? While emotional manipulation is not as easy to spot as other forms of abuse, there are still some telltale signs that show you’re being emotionally manipulated by your partner.

Suggested read: 10 brutal truths about loving a control freak

10 signs that you’re being emotionally manipulated by your partner

1. You find yourself always feeling guilty

emotional manipulation1

Image source: Flickr

This is probably the most common sign of being emotionally manipulated. A manipulator will make nearly everything seem like it was your fault somehow. They’ll make it look like what they did was the ‘inevitable’ end result to a chain of actions that originated with something you did; a.k.a. it’s your fault. If you find yourself feeling guilty for no apparent reason, you can be sure you’re being manipulated into feeling that way.

2. Your problems always seem ‘silly’

couple arguing

Image source: Dollarphotoclub

Having a bad day at work? The manipulator’s whole week has been a train wreck! Got a headache? The manipulator’s month-long migraine is about to make their head explode! No matter what your problem is, the manipulator is sure to outdo you. The result is that they hog the spotlight – always, while your troubles are made to seem trivial and childish.

3. You never get any support

couple disagreement

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

A natural consequence of constantly trivializing your problems is that you don’t get any support when you need it. Whether it’s at work, or something to do with your health, you are often left to fend for yourself, and even then, you’re made to feel guilty for attending to your needs, or in manipulator parlance, ‘being selfish.’

4. You’re told that everyone feels the same about you

lonely man

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This is a great ploy used by manipulators everywhere to make their victims think that whatever they’re feeling is just in their head and is not the truth. By claiming that others agree with them, the manipulators are convincing you that you are the one with the problem. For a manipulator, this has the added benefit of isolating you from people you know and pushing you further into the manipulator’s trap.

5. You find it impossible to have a direct conversation

couple arguing

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Having a down to earth, honest conversation with an emotional manipulator is not really possible. Your very words will be turned around 360 degrees and used as weapons to attack you, albeit in a very covert way. However objective you may be about a certain situation, the manipulator will be sure to make it subjective; with you being the subject, of course. The end result? You end up feeling worse after the conversation than you did before.

6. You feel belittled in public


Image source: Flickr

A manipulator often extends their manipulations to others as well, and part of this is convincing them to look at you the way they want them to. For this purpose, you might find yourself becoming the subject of subtle jabs and mild jokes, which leave you feeling humiliated. But such is the power of a manipulator, that any attempt to voice a complaint ends in vain.

7. You are made to seem less intelligent


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Manipulators are smart; they know how to read people and press the right buttons to get what they want. But they take advantage of this fact by constantly trying to prove that you aren’t as smart as they are. Manipulators often do their own brand of psychoanalysis, and give reasons for your behavior or what they consider inferior intelligence. This can be unnerving and very disastrous to your self-confidence.

8. You are frequently exploited

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You can be assured that you are being emotionally manipulated by your partner if you find yourself constantly sacrificing your own needs and wants to meet the other person’s goals and wishes. Manipulators know exactly which vulnerabilities of a person to be exploited, and they make good use of this information.

9. You feel drained of energy

sad woman

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If you’ve read Harry Potter, you know about Dementors who suck the happiness around them and leave people feeling listless and drained. That is an accurate description of how manipulators make people around them feel, and this is especially true of their partners. A manipulator has a toxic aura about them, which makes their victim feel weak and helpless, even though they may not be so.

10. You’re not happy

sad man

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

A good relationship is supposed to bring you joy and help you grow as a person. But when the person you’re with is always sucking the happiness out of you and burning your self-confidence to the ground, you can be sure that there’s something not right about your relationship.

Suggested read: 10 sure signs she’s using you like a doormat

Being with a manipulator for a long time can greatly affect your sense of self-worth and your self-confidence. While you open your heart for the manipulator, they take advantage of their free entry and trample all over your soul, leaving you feeling worthless and weak. And in all likelihood, after they have reduced you to a withering mess, they’ll announce that ‘it’s just not working anymore’ and leave. The longer you stay with such a person, the harder it is for you to recover and regain your original sense of self-worth. Stay aware, look for the signs, and leave when you sense trouble; even the biggest charmer out there is not worth your health and happiness!

Featured image source: Flickr

Article Name
10 Signs You're A Victim Of Emotional Manipulation
Identifying whether you're being emotionally manipulated is not easy. Here are 10 telltale signs that you're a victim of emotional manipulation.
Fabida Abdulla

Fabida Abdulla

Fabida is an erstwhile Software Engineer and current Freelance Writer cum stay-at-home mom to her boisterous 6-year-old. In between all the writing, baking, nagging, reading, and cuddling, she manages to blog a bit about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes. []