7 red flags you’re in a relationship with an emotional manipulator

by Dania Aziz | June 12, 2024, 9:36 pm

We all have been in relationships that challenge us.

I know I have.

But sometimes those challenges cross the line into manipulation and emotional abuse.

You might look back on your past relationships or evaluate your current one and question whether it’s founded on love and respect, or control and manipulation.

How do you know if what you’re experiencing is simply a testing phase of your relationship or a glaring sign of emotional manipulation?

Here’s a list of 7 red flags that you’re in a relationship with an emotional manipulator.

1) They frequently play the victim

Emotional manipulators are really good at acting like they’re the ones who got hurt, almost all the time.

They tell stories making it look like everyone is against them, never admitting when something is their own fault.

They always find a way to blame someone else, even when it’s clear they had a part in what went wrong.

They don’t just do this to escape being blamed; they do it to make you feel bad for them.

They might hint or even openly say that you’re the reason they’re unhappy.

This can make you feel confused and start questioning if you did something wrong when you didn’t.

It can be really stressful and upsetting.

While some people admit their mistakes and learn from them, emotional manipulators keep acting like victims and lying.

Realizing this helps you see things as they are and start setting limits to protect yourself in the relationship.

After all, being in a relationship should be about helping and encouraging each other, not playing mind games.

2) They’re masters of gaslighting

Gaslighting is a sneaky way of messing with someone’s mind.

It’s one of the worst kinds of emotional bullying because it makes people question their own memories and feelings. 

For example, they might say an argument you both had never actually happened, or they never said something that you clearly remember them saying.

They also make it seem like your feelings aren’t important.

If you’re sad or mad, they tell you you’re just overreacting or you can’t take a joke. They try to make you think you’re always wrong about how you feel, which is a big part of gaslighting.

In all this mess, you need to remember one thing: your feelings and what you’ve gone through are real.

Nobody else gets to say they aren’t.

Don’t forget this, because being around a gaslighter can really knock your confidence, make you anxious, and even lead to depression.

Talking to people you trust like friends, family, or a counselor can help a lot.

They remind you what’s real when a gaslighter is trying to trick you.

Standing strong in what you know is true isn’t just about defending yourself; it’s fighting back against the gaslighter’s tricks.

3) They use silent treatment as punishment

A common tactic employed by emotional manipulators is the silent treatment.

It’s a form of punishment designed to make you feel guilty or anxious, and it’s something I’ve personally experienced in a past relationship.

I remember an incident where we had a disagreement – a minor one, in my opinion.

Instead of discussing it, my partner decided not to speak to me for days.

He purposefully ignored my calls and texts, only to later tell me it was because he was “hurt”.

The silent treatment left me feeling anxious, walking on eggshells, and constantly questioning if I did something wrong.

It was a way for him to gain control and make me feel like I was at fault.

If you find yourself in similar situations where your partner uses silence as a weapon, it’s a significant red flag.

Communication, even during disagreements, is vital for a healthy relationship.

4) They use “love bombing” as a manipulation tactic

In the beginning stages of a relationship, an emotional manipulator might shower you with affection, compliments, and grand gestures of love.

This is often referred to as “love bombing”.

While it might seem like a whirlwind romance, it’s actually a manipulation technique designed to make you emotionally dependent on them.

According to psychologists, this is not an uncommon tactic.

In fact, it’s often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder as a means to control their partners.

The intense love and attention can be overwhelming and confusing, making it difficult for you to recognize the manipulator’s hidden motives.

Remember, real love is about consistency and respect, not confusion and control.

5) They make you feel guilty for spending time with others

In my past relationship, one of the most insidious forms of manipulation I experienced was isolation.

My partner would often make me feel guilty for spending time with my friends or family.

I remember a particular instance when I had planned a weekend trip with my college friends.

Leading up to the trip, my partner would constantly complain about feeling left out and neglected.

I ended up feeling so guilty that I cancelled the trip at the last minute, disappointing my friends and sacrificing my happiness.

If your partner often makes you feel guilty for spending time with others or tries to isolate you from your support system, it’s a clear sign of emotional manipulation.

Everyone deserves to have their own personal space and relationships outside of their romantic partnership.

6) They constantly belittle your achievements

An emotional manipulator might downplay or belittle your achievements, making you feel like they’re insignificant or unimportant.

This could range from dismissive comments about your work promotions to indifference towards your personal accomplishments.

For instance, when you share the news about landing a new job or finishing a challenging project, they might respond with a lackluster “that’s nice” or even change the subject entirely.

They might also compare your success to others, subtly implying that you’re not as good.

This is a manipulative tactic designed to undermine your self-esteem and make you doubt your worth.

A supportive partner should celebrate your achievements and encourage your growth, not diminish it.

7) They make you feel like you’re always in the wrong

The final red flag is if you often find yourself apologizing even when you’re not at fault.

Emotional manipulators have a knack for twisting situations to make you feel like you’re always in the wrong.

You might find yourself saying “I’m sorry” more often than not, even for trivial matters or situations beyond your control.

This constant need to apologize can leave you feeling emotionally drained and constantly on edge.

In a balanced relationship, both partners should take responsibility for their actions and work towards resolving conflicts in a fair and respectful manner.

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