If you recognize these 9 red flags, you’re in a manipulative relationship

by Dane Cobain | June 11, 2024, 9:02 pm

No one wants to think that they’re in a manipulative relationship, and yet statistically, a huge number of people are.

The problem with manipulators is that they take our love and turn it into a weapon that they can use against us. They won’t hesitate to do things that will hurt us if it means they can get what they want.

But how can we tell whether we’re in a manipulative relationship, and what are the red flags for us to look out for?

Here are just nine that you should be aware of.

1) Constant criticism

The first thing to say is that not all criticism is a bad thing.

For example, when my partner reads my writing and offers up her thoughts on how I could make it better, she’s trying to help me. It’s about as far away from manipulation as it’s possible to get.

But there’s a big difference between constructive criticism, which aims to build someone up, and malicious criticism, which is all about knocking them down.

If your partner constantly plies you with criticism, especially if you haven’t asked for it and there’s no real way for you to learn from it, there’s a good chance that they’re just trying to manipulate you.

2) They shift blame

Manipulative partners refuse to accept responsibility for their own bad behavior, and so that means that they tend to shift blame on to the other person.

An example of this would be if they get too drunk at a social event and embarrass themselves. In the morning, they’ll likely blame their partner by saying that they should have stepped in and stopped them from drinking so much.

When you have that little bit of distance, it’s easy to see just how ridiculous this blame shifting is. But when you’re caught up in the moment, it can be hard to spot that your partner is using blame shifting to manipulate you.

3) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a classic technique in the manipulator’s playbook in which they try to make their victim think that they’re going crazy.

For example, they’ll ridicule you for never being able to find your keys while secretly hiding them from you, or they’ll tell you that you agreed to do something that the two of you never talked about.

Gaslighting is insidious and goes above and beyond manipulation to become full scale abuse. Because of that, I’d argue that gaslighting is the reddest of all of the red flags that we’re going to talk about today.

4) They use emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail is a form of manipulation in which the manipulator uses your or their emotions as a weapon.

Let’s say that your manipulative partner drinks too much and becomes aggressive, and they want you to let them keep doing it. If you try to confront them about their drinking, they’ll come out with something like, “Don’t you want me to be happy?”

Another classic example of emotional blackmail is when a manipulator tries to excuse their bad behavior with, “I’m only doing it because I love you so much.”

But if they really did love you that much, they wouldn’t demonstrate that bad behavior in the first place.

5) They control your finances

It’s a sad fact that if you want to manipulate someone, one of the best ways to do that is through money.

Think about it. When we work a job, we’re essentially doing something that we otherwise wouldn’t do in exchange for a financial reward.

Manipulators will exercise financial control by taking over bank accounts or pressuring their partner to add all of their money to a joint account.

Once the manipulator has control over your finances, they’ll refuse to allow you to access or spend any money unless you do what they want you to. And because you don’t have any money, it’s not going to be easy for you to get away from them.

6) They’re super jealous and possessive

Manipulative partners tend to be jealous of anyone else who spends time with you. They’ll often find ways to insinuate themselves into conversations or meetups that you have with your friends and relatives.

They also tend to treat their partners like possessions, rather than as human beings. This is what leads to the toxic behavior we often see where spurned manipulators take up the attitude of, “If I can’t have them, no one can.”

A certain amount of jealousy is forgivable in a partner, and so the real red flag is when that jealousy and possessiveness gets so extreme that it’s affecting your relationship.

7) They keep checking on you

Building on from the last point, the manipulator’s jealousy and possessiveness can lead to them constantly checking in on them.

If you go on a night out with your friends, the manipulator might ask you to text them every hour to let them know what you’re up to. But if they go out with their friends, you can expect radio silence.

This habit occurs because manipulators are all about controlling their victims, and by checking up on you and requiring you to keep them up-to-date with everything you do, they can better control your actions.

8) They’re overly demanding

Another common red flag for manipulators is that they’ll constantly and consistently make demands, often just to test how much influence they have over you.

They’ll make demands over pointless things, such as by insisting that you get up before them to make them a cup of coffee or demanding that you only ever speak on the phone if you’re in the same room as them.

In fact, there’s an argument that if someone loves you, they’ll never make a demand of you. Sure, they might make requests, but if they truly respect you then they’ll allow you to decide whether to cater to that request or not.

9) They use the silent treatment

When all else fails, a manipulator will fall back onto that old chestnut of the silent treatment.

In other words, they’ll stop speaking and they won’t say anything to you unless you cave and agree to whatever their demands are. It’s just another way for them to emotionally blackmail you into doing what they want.

This can often backfire on them, too. Let’s face it, if you’re sick of your partner trying to manipulate you, if they go silent then it’s probably going to be something of a relief.


Now that you know nine of the red flags that could suggest you’re in a manipulative relationship, you’re better placed to take a look at your own relationship.

Hopefully, you won’t spot any of these red flags and you don’t have a problem, but if you do spot any of these signs then it’s time for you to take a closer look at your relationship.

And of course, if you recognize three or more of these signs, you should put some serious thought into getting out of there… before it’s too late. Good luck.

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