15 Subtle Signs Of Manipulation In A Relationship & How To Deal

Signs of manipulation in a relationship are a significant warning and should never be ignored.

Reviewed by Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena, PhD Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-GoyenaPhD linkedin_icon Specialty: PsychotherapyExperience: 17 years
Written by Shikha Thakur
Last Updated on

Manipulation in a relationship is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Even if it’s not too serious, it should be pointed out in the very beginning itself. But at times, it could be difficult to figure out what manipulation in a relationship is like. For instance, you give your hundred percent in the relationship, but your partner does not appreciate it. Also, they feel they deserve to be treated the best. So, to give you clarity, we bring you this post with signs of a manipulative relationship and how to deal with it. Also, after reading the post, you will understand how to make things better for yourself.

15 Signs Of Manipulation In A Relationship

1. Crying

Some partners resort to crying whenever there is a difference of opinion or a fight. They make the opposite person feel guilty by crying and leave no scope for a healthy discussion over any disagreement.

While occasional emotional outburst is normal and acceptable in a relationship, if you feel that your partner is using crying/ weeping as a tool to avoid a discussion or get benefits from the discussion, then it might be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

2. Gaslighting

Some partners constantly keep implying that you you’re wrong for each decision, opinion, or choice you make. They keep on doing this and make you lose confidence in yourself. This phenomenon is called “gaslighting.”

Such partners go to the extent of not just telling you that you are crazy, but also showing fake concern about your ‘situation’ to affect your emotional health and instill self-doubt.

3. Making you feel small

Your partner might constantly make you feel that your needs, dreams, desires, and plans are irrelevant and insignificant. If your aspirations are constantly being crushed, then there is a chance you are being manipulated.

4. Making you isolate yourself

Some partners might deliberately isolate you from your friends, family members, and loved ones. They do this to close all your connections with your well-wishers, who have been warning you about your partner. The manipulative partner might fake illness or emotionally blackmail you into not meeting or talking to your family and friends.

5. Twisting your words

Whenever you are in a heated argument or a casual conversation, they pick up your words, twist them, and use them against you. This makes the main topic go off-track, and they make you feel guilty for something you said but did not mean. Such behavior can make you constantly concerned about what you speak since your partner can use it as a weapon against you.

6. Seems to have had the upper hand in past relationships

If you look into your partner’s past relationships, you might realize that they had a history of choosing vulnerable partners. They might look for a person who is less attractive, with less money, less support, etc., and use their perceived weaknesses to manipulate them. This puts them in a superior position, allowing them to manipulate the partner.

7. Lying to you

They might lie to you for every significant or insignificant thing. They do not accept it even if you catch them red-handed but try to cover it up with more lies.

8. Playing on your insecurities

They might be aware of your insecurities like your fear of your partner leaving you, or your financial dependency on them, or your fear of what other people might say if you leave your partner. Your partner might manipulate you by playing on these insecurities.

9. Constantly monitoring you

They demand you to keep them constantly updated about your whereabouts, your plan for the day, the people you are with, etc. Worrying about your well-being and safety, especially when you are in a new place or unsafe surroundings, is a good gesture. But if you feel you are being made answerable for all your actions and activities, then you might be in a manipulative relationship. A person who is constantly trying to monitor you and your activities might have some serious trust issues.

10. Trapping you

Your partner might trap you by using normal conversation to get your opinion on something and then use it against you. For example, they might ask you if you find the person sitting across the table to be good looking? If you reply affirmatively, then they might use the innocent reply as a fuel for their unreasonable doubt against you.

11. Giving the silent treatment

The silent treatment is the oldest and most commonly used manipulative tactic. Your partner might stop talking to you after the smallest of disagreement. They emotionally torture you by not talking to you until you apologize to them. Some people make their partners apologize multiple times before they resume speaking to them.

A manipulative partner can take it further by forcing you to apologize even when you have done nothing wrong. It might eventually make you surrender to them and not raise your voice.

12. Torturing you on the social media

Some partners might flirt or put up pictures with persons that make you feel uncomfortable.

They might also deliberately like or comment on pictures of their exes or of the people they know you are jealous of or are uncomfortable around. A manipulative partner might post images or statuses that indirectly convey negative things about you or your relationship.

13. Avoiding physical intimacy to get what they want

Some partners might use sexual intimacy as a weapon by depriving you of it when you do not do the things that they want you to do. They might use it for simple things, like not cooking a meal of their choice or for not putting the trash out, etc. It can be used the other way around as a reward for making you do things of their choice.

14. They blackmail you emotionally

Emotional blackmail is ugly since it leads to a stressful relationship. Your partner might blackmail you by saying things, like “I will kill myself” or “I cannot live without you” or “I will hurt myself if you leave.”

15. Playing the victim card

Some manipulative people might always make it a point to blame the other person for anything and everything that happens. Your partner might play the victim by saying things like, “I cannot believe you said that to me” or “I cannot believe you would hurt me like this.”

To them, it doesn’t matter what the situation was or who said what. They will fabricate a fault that conveniently allows them to play the victim while you receive all the blame.

How To Deal With A Manipulative Relationship?

It can be emotionally taxing to be in a manipulative relationship. Once you identify yourself in such a relationship, the following steps might help you manage your relationship and your emotional health.

1. Introspect

Introspect into your contribution/ approach towards the relationship. See if you are manipulating your partner and, as a result, are getting manipulated. Be honest in your introspection. If your head is clouded with thoughts, then ask for the opinion of someone who can give an unbiased analysis.

2. Figure out your partner’s intentions

Why is your partner manipulating you? If you are not sure of their intentions, then have an honest conversation with them. Try to understand their perspective in an unbiased manner.

3. Communicate

Convey what you feel and convey what you expect. If the conversation gets heated, remind yourself and your partner that you both love each other, and this conversation is not meant to belittle either of you. Even after multiple conversations, if you can’t come to a mutual agreement, then it is better to consider ending such a relationship.

4. Be more direct

You should be straightforward with your questions and statements. Do not mince your words, and do not be afraid of them. Do not be afraid to say, “No.”

5. Fundamental human rights

Reinforce to yourself repeatedly that you have the following basic human rights:

  • To be treated with love and respect
  • To express your feelings, opinions, and needs
  • To say “no” without feeling guilty
  • To have an equal place in a relationship
  • To protect yourself from being threatened emotionally, physically, or mentally.

6. Do not self-blame

Maintain space in your relationship where you have the time and liberty to introspect if you are being treated well. It is important to respect your partner, but it should not come at the cost of disrespecting yourself.

7. Use time to your advantage

Avoid answering their questions immediately after they ask. Whenever they are making an unreasonable demand, they will try to get an immediate response from you. Tell that you need time to think and you will get back to them. Use the time wisely, and if you do not find the demand valid, firmly say “No.”

8. Take help

If you are severely trapped in an abusive relationship, do not be afraid to reach out to the legal system. If you are a married couple, then seek a marriage counselor. Be safe while confronting your partner. Do it when you have other people around, or you know that he/she cannot harm you in any way.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do manipulators take control of relationships?

Manipulators use emotional exploitation and mental distortion to gain control over their partners in relationships. They resort to unhealthy manipulation tactics and do it subtly to make it hard for the victim to understand they are being manipulated.

2. Why do people accept or tolerate manipulation in relationships?

People put up with manipulation in relationships due to various reasons. Some fear confronting their partner, leaving the relationship, or getting into arguments. At the same time, some may not be aware of their self-worth or want to keep peace in the relationship.

If you feel any manipulation in a relationship, it is advised that you confront your partner about it. Try talking to them and figuring things out together for the betterment of the relationship. You might also seek the opinion of a friend, relative, or a relationship advisor in case your feel that you cannot sort out things on your own. But if you see no signs of improvement, it might be time for your to move on and get out of the relationship instead of stretching it for the worse.

Key Pointers

  • Constant gaslighting, belittling, and putting words in your mouth are all signs of a manipulative relationship.
  • The other indications of manipulation by your partner are lying and playing on your insecurities.
  • Understand your rights and communicate your worries with them if you feel overpowered in a relationship.

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Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena
Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-GoyenaPhD (Counseling Psychology)
Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena is a board licensed therapist in the USA and Puerto Rico with a specialty in couples, families, and relationships. Dr. Carlos possesses a PhD in Counseling Psychology granted at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.

Read full bio of Dr. Carlos Juan Carmona-Goyena
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