If you recognize these 7 signs, you’re in a relationship with an emotional manipulator

by Julienne Merza | June 12, 2024, 9:35 pm

We’ve all been in those relationships that just suck the energy out of us. The ones where it feels like we’re always tip-toeing around or can never do enough. 

Well, sometimes these relationships aren’t just draining—they’re toxic. And the tricky part is that you might not even realize it.

That’s because emotional manipulators can be sneaky, and it’s often difficult to spot them. They can be incredibly charming and charismatic, and they often have a way of making us feel special and valued.

But deep down, they’re usually pretty insecure and needy. They play mind games to get what they want, and they’ll go to great lengths to get it.

So, in this article, I’ve put together a list of seven signs that you might be in a relationship with an emotional manipulator. If you see any of these signs in your own relationship, you might want to take a step back and reassess.

1) Drama seems to be the prevailing theme in your relationship.

I know that relationships can be messy and complicated, but there’s a difference between healthy disagreements and a constant cycle of drama. 

When drama becomes the prevailing theme, it might mean that one person is playing mind games to control the other.

Emotional manipulators thrive on drama because it gives them power. They use it to shift the focus away from their own issues, make you doubt yourself, and keep you emotionally dependent on them.

When this happens, every little disagreement turns into a full-blown argument. Every conversation is filled with tension, and every interaction seems to be a test of your patience and loyalty. 

It’s not just about the fights, either. 

The person playing with your emotions creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, fear, and obligation, making you feel off-balance and questioning your own sanity.

So if you find yourself always walking on eggshells around your partner or saying sorry for things you can’t even remember doing, it’s time to step back and ask yourself if this is really the kind of relationship you want to be in.

2) They always play the blame game with you.

When something goes wrong, an emotional manipulator will tell you it’s always your fault. 

That’s right—you’re the one who’s insensitive, the one who’s always overreacting, the one who’s always causing problems.

At first, you might try to brush it off, to be more understanding. You might even tell yourself that you just have different communication styles and that they don’t really mean any harm. 

But the more it happens, the more it starts to eat away at you. You might start to doubt yourself and question your own judgment and perception of reality.

Sure, you’re not perfect, but deep down, you know these small issues could be sorted out with a simple conversation. So why does it feel so hard to do that?

It’s because an emotional manipulator will never admit they’re wrong. They will always systematically evade responsibility for their actions and find a way to shift the blame onto you.

It’s not even about who’s right or wrong in these situations anymore; it’s about them trying to control and manipulate the situation.

3) They present themselves as perpetual victims.

They’re always the ones who’ve been wronged, who’ve had a hard life, and who’ve never been given a break. They’re also quick to blame others for their problems but refuse to take responsibility for their own actions or choices.

This narrative of perpetual victimhood not only absolves them of any wrongdoing but also shifts the focus onto you, making you the target of guilt and blame.

Naturally, you’ll start to feel exhausted by all of this. Always being the comforter, the supporter, and the one validating their feelings can be emotionally exhausting.

It’s suffocating to feel like your own needs and concerns are constantly overshadowed by their perceived struggles. 

You might also feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells, afraid of saying or doing something that will set your partner off. In the midst of all this, you might even start losing yourself.

Sure, understanding that someone’s past might have been rough is important, but it doesn’t excuse them from using manipulative tricks and causing you emotional pain. 

4) You constantly feel responsible for their emotions.

Emotional manipulators love to rely on others for their emotional stability. It’s as if their happiness and well-being are entirely dependent on your actions and reactions. 

Here’s how you might see it:

You may feel like you have to tiptoe around your partner’s moods. Maybe avoiding certain topics, activities, or people because you know they could trigger a negative reaction from them.

You may feel guilty when you express your own needs or desires. This is because you’ve been taught to prioritize your partner’s needs above your own.

You may feel like you’re losing your sense of self. You may start to adopt your partner’s beliefs, values, and even personality in order to avoid upsetting them.

Not only that, emotional manipulators tend to get defensive and make you feel like you’re the one being insensitive or uncaring when you try to tell them how their emotional outbursts often come at your expense.

They might even guilt-trip you by saying things like, “Why can’t you just be there for me when I need you?” or “Don’t you care about how I feel?”

If this happens to you, realize that they’re using your empathy and compassion against you.

5) You feel isolated from your friends or family because of your partner.

When you start feeling cut off from the people who’ve always had your back, it’s a red flag that something isn’t quite right in your relationship.

Feeling isolated from your loved ones because of your partner is a common sign of emotional manipulation. It’s a sneaky kind of control that quietly breaks down your support system, making you emotionally dependent on them.

And this isolation can happen in various ways.

  • You may find yourself canceling plans with friends and family to please your partner.
  • Your partner makes you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with others.
  • Your partner badmouths your friends and family, making you question their intentions.

Over time, you might notice yourself pulling away from your social circle, putting your partner’s needs ahead of your own.

This isolation can have a profound impact on your emotional well-being, leaving you feeling lonely, unsupported, and disconnected from the people who matter most to you.

6) They’re champions of emotional blackmail.

Emotional blackmailers are pros at taking advantage of your weak spots. They know how to use your fears, insecurities, and feelings to get their way.

The tricky part about emotional blackmail is that it’s not always obvious. It might seem like they’re just being caring or affectionate. They might even act like they’re helping you, making you think you’re the one being unreasonable.

For example:

  • They frequently make veiled threats or ultimatums, hinting at consequences if you don’t do what they want.
  • They guilt-trip you by reminding you of all the things they’ve done for you, making you feel indebted and obligated to comply with their wishes. 
  • They use the silent treatment or withhold affection as a punishment when you don’t comply with their demands.

If you’re in a relationship with someone doing these things, it’s crucial to get help. Emotional blackmail is a form of abuse, and it can really mess with your mental and emotional well-being.

7) You’re always on an emotional rollercoaster with them.

One day, your partner is all affectionate and focused on you, making you feel super special. The next day, they might back off, act distant, or even get angry, leaving you feeling lost and hurt.

Another example of this is when they say they love and appreciate you, but their actions say otherwise. In your relationship, this could look like:

  • Canceling their plans at the last minute
  • Prioritizing other commitments over spending time with you
  • Consistently failing to show up for important events in your life

This hot-and-cold behavior is a classic sign of emotional manipulation. It’s meant to keep you hanging on to their every move.

And you know what? 

Emotional manipulators like the confusion. It gives them a sense of control. They enjoy seeing you struggle to figure out what they really mean. 

If this resonates with you, it might be time to think hard about your relationship. 

Being on a constant emotional rollercoaster isn’t just a sign of a difficult relationship; it’s a red flag telling you that you’re in a toxic emotional space.

Final thoughts

Remember that in good relationships, trust, respect, and understanding are the basics. Your partner shouldn’t be stressing you out all the time.

If you’re always feeling worn out, confused, and emotionally pushed around, it’s a clear sign that you might not be with the right person

When this keeps happening, it’s time to ask yourself if this relationship is actually good for you. Always trust your inner guidance, because when you do, the only thing you might regret is not leaving sooner. 

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