If your partner displays these 9 behaviors, they’re emotionally manipulating you

by Brendan Brown | February 13, 2024, 12:08 am

Ever get that sinking feeling in your gut but can’t figure out why?

I’ve been there — second-guessing myself, constantly apologizing, and feeling like something was just…off. 

My partner at the time seemed to have a knack for making me doubt my own reality. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. 

Emotional manipulation is sneaky and can leave you questioning your own instincts. 

In this article, I’ll break down the 9 red flags that may indicate your partner is emotionally manipulating you. It’s time to trust that gut feeling and reevaluate!

1) They gaslight you into doubting your reality

Ever feel like you’re living in a reality show, except you’re not in on the joke? 

You know, those moments where you think, “Is this really happening?” 

If so, you might be dealing with an emotionally manipulative partner who’s gaslighting you.

Now, I’m not talking about the occasional disagreement or tense moment — we all have those. 

I mean the constant, dizzying cycle of highs and lows that leaves you feeling like a human yo-yo. 

Believe me, it’s no fun — it’s a serious issue you should start working on right away.

But wait, there’s more: 

Emotional manipulation often starts off so subtly, that you could mistake it for love or deep passion. 

Manipulators are pros at blending the sweet with the sour, making it hard to distinguish their true intentions. 

That’s why you should trust your gut and not dismiss these unsettling feelings.

2) They use guilt to control you

Here’s the next red flag: guilt. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

Your partner suddenly becomes an Oscar-worthy actor, laying it on thick whenever they want you to do something — or stop doing something.

I know what you might be thinking now. 

We’ve all felt guilty in relationships, right? 

Yes, it’s a human emotion. 

But what if your partner uses guilt as their go-to tool for getting what they want? 

Then I bet you’re not in a loving relationship — you’re in a control scheme.

  • Are you constantly doing things out of a sense of obligation rather than choice? 
  • Do you find yourself over-apologizing? 

If you’re nodding your head, that’s a sign. 

And the best part? You can break free from this cycle. 

3) They’re overly sweet and attentive — only at first

Have you been in the honeymoon phase? Where everything feels like a fairy tale, and your partner treats you like royalty. 

Sounds perfect, right? What if I told you this over-the-top sweetness could actually be a red flag

Yes, you heard me right.

The thing is that emotional manipulators often start out as the epitome of charm and affection. 

They shower you with love, gifts, and attention like you’re the center of their universe. So, you might think, “Wow, I’ve hit the jackpot!”

But the truth?

This might not be genuine love but rather “love bombing” — a manipulation tactic designed to win you over quickly. 

Once they feel they’ve got you hooked, that’s when the mask starts to slip. 

Now, I’m not saying that you should be skeptical of anyone who treats you well.

No, but if it feels like you’re on a rollercoaster of love and indifference, it might be time to check if you’re just a pawn in someone else’s emotional game.

4) They make you the villain for their mistakes

This one is more straightforward:

In a healthy relationship, both partners own up to their mistakes. 

But if your partner’s messing up and somehow you’re the one apologizing, that’s a red flag.

Let’s say they forget your anniversary and blame it on you for being “too demanding” or “expecting too much.” 

See what they did there? 

They twisted the story so they’re off the hook, and you’re left feeling like the bad guy.

This tactic is all about shifting blame and dodging accountability. And guess what? 

It’s emotional manipulation, plain and simple. 

Don’t fall for it. You’re not the villain in their twisted narrative, and it’s high time to set the record straight.

5) They create a “you vs. the world” scenario

Speaking of the villains, have you ever found yourself feeling like it’s just you and your partner against the world? 

Sure, that might sound romantic in a movie. But in real life? 

It can be a huge red flag. 

The truth is that emotional manipulators often isolate you, subtly or overtly, from your friends and family. 

Here’s how they might do it:

So, what’s their endgame? 

By separating you from your support network, they become your only point of reference, your only confidant, and your only everything. 

Trust me, that’s a lot of power for one person to hold over you. 

6) They encourage your independence, but not really

Alright, this one might confuse you a bit.

Your partner tells you they’re all for you having your own life, friends, and hobbies. Sounds good, right? 

But wait, there’s a catch.

Every time you exercise that independence, something’s suddenly “wrong” or “off,” but they can’t quite explain why.

Well, let me explain what’s actually happening:

They give you enough rope to hang yourself with. 

The idea is to let you think you’re free while setting up emotional traps that make you feel guilty or anxious for taking that freedom. 

So, are you finding yourself second-guessing plans with friends, or hesitating to take up a new hobby because of how your partner might react? 

If so, you’re not really free; you’re dancing in a cage with an open door. 

And you know what? It’s time to step out and breathe.

7) They make you feel like you always owe them

Have you ever heard about the “reciprocity principle”?

Well, in psychology, we use this concept to describe the social norm that if someone does something for you, you naturally want to do something for them.

Sounds natural and harmless, right? 

But in the hands of an emotional manipulator, this can turn into a slippery slope real quick.

Let’s say your partner does you a “favor,” like helping you move or cooking dinner. Nice gestures, for sure. 

But then, they use these acts to guilt-trip you into doing what they want later on. Suddenly, you’re in this never-ending cycle of payback, and guess what?

The scales never seem to balance.

In a manipulative relationship, this principle can turn into a never-ending cycle of emotional debt. 

And let me tell you, this kind of debt doesn’t just disappear. 

8) They use intimidation and threats

Let’s get real for a moment:

Love should never involve fear. Never. 

If your partner uses intimidation tactics or threats to get their way, that’s not just manipulation — it’s abuse. 

And here’s the raw truth: You need to get out. 

I know it’s easier said than done. You might think, “But they’ve never actually followed through with a threat.” Or, “Maybe I’m overreacting.” 

Trust me, you’re not. Threats and intimidation are tools to control you, to keep you in line, and to break your spirit.

And you know what’s heartbreaking? 

Some people stay because they think this is what they deserve. 

But I promise you, no one—NO ONE—deserves to be intimidated or threatened in a relationship. 

Don’t settle for a love that scares you. It’s time to take action and create a life where you feel safe, respected, and genuinely loved.

9) They make you question your worth

And finally, let’s finish this list of red flags with the most insidious of all manipulative behaviors: making you doubt your own worth. 

When you’re with someone who constantly belittles you, who makes you feel like you’re not good enough, and who criticizes every move you make, it doesn’t just hurt.

It erodes your self-esteem, your confidence, and your very sense of self.

Imagine being with someone who’s supposed to be your biggest cheerleader but turns out to be your harshest critic

Let’s be brutally honest: this is soul-crushing. It’s toxic. It’s emotional destruction disguised as “tough love” or “keeping it real.” 

So, here’s the deal: you deserve someone who lifts you up, not someone who drags you down into a pit of self-doubt and loathing. 

Your worth is not determined by anyone else’s opinions or actions. 

And if your partner is making you question your worth, it’s not just a red flag—it’s a blaring siren telling you to get out. Now.

So, what do you do now?

You’ve made it through this eye-opening list. And if you’ve recognized some of these behaviors in your own relationship, first, take a deep breath. 

Realizing you’re in a manipulative relationship is a difficult, emotional ordeal, but it’s also the first step toward a better life.

So, are you tired of second-guessing yourself? 

Then it’s time to take control, set boundaries, or walk away if needed. 

You have the strength to rewrite your own story and trust me, the next chapter is worth it. Don’t let fear or doubt hold you back. Go ahead, and reclaim your emotional freedom. 

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