7 signs of manipulation in relationships (and how to deal with them) (2023)

Manipulation is more prevalent in relationships today than ever before. With the rise of social media and the decline in interpersonal skills, people are becoming more and more manipulative.

But manipulation in relationships isn't always the result of malicious intent. In fact, it is often innocent and harmless. In most cases, the person performing the manipulation does not even know that they are manipulating their partner. In some cases, they are aware of it but believe it is harmless. In some cases, manipulation is part of a toxic pattern in the relationship and lasts forever.

But you have to be careful with any kind of manipulation in the relationship. While it can be harmless at times, manipulation can quickly become a toxic pattern if you don't manage it properly and discuss it with your partner.

Table of contents

  1. Signs of manipulation in a relationship
  2. How to deal with manipulation in a relationship
  3. final thoughts

Signs of manipulation in a relationship

Let's look at some common types of manipulation in a relationship:

1. Secret Treaties

The term “hidden contract” is coined by Dr. Robert Glover in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy.[1]This type of manipulation is very common among men who feel insecure in a relationship. But it can also be observed in women.

A secret contract is simply a contract that many people make up in their minds but never actually discuss with their partner. They will do their partner a favor and expect something in return.

For example: “I will buy the dress you like. I'm sure he'll have sex with me tonight."

Or an extreme case of such a contract could be: “I will finance your education and support you in your career. In return, I am sure that she will love me and be faithful to me.

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When things don't go as planned, they naturally get upset and that leads to a fight. Sometimes they keep their anger inside and it smolders until it explodes. But this kind of manipulation never leads to anything good.

2. The trap

"Do you think she looks good in that dress?""Yes, of course."i knew you liked it How long have you been obsessed with her?

(Video) 7 Examples Of Emotional Manipulation

A common type of manipulation people use is setting up their partner. It can be as simple as a word trap. Or something extremely complicated and manipulative like getting a friend to flirt with their partner.

In any case, it is wrong and how you should react depends on your intentions and reasons for the manipulation.

3. The silent treatment

Issilent treatmentIt's the type of manipulation that many people prefer. Instead of talking about the issue at hand, they choose to treat their partner with silence.

Well, the silent treatment itself isn't bad. Quite often, sitting still and thinking about the problem to come to a conclusion can help you. But some people do this with the intention of punishing their partner and winning the argument.

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But if they remain silent until you apologize, even if you are not wrong, then you have a master manipulator on your hands and you need to solve this problem as soon as possible.

4. Reviewing Your Messages

Another type of manipulation people use is to constantly check your messages behind your back or in front of you.

In most cases it is a breach of trust and privacy. But some people learn to manipulate their partners into accepting this behavior. They will say things like:"If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?"

This type of manipulation is often common in relationships where one partner has trust issues. These trust issues are usually the result of something that happened in the relationship.

But in many cases, these trust issues are simply a partner's insecurity seeping into the relationship.

5. Gizmos in social networks

Social media has made manipulation very easy. You will often find passive-aggressive comments and a variety of different manipulation tactics used by people who love social media manipulation.

If your partner uses social media to manipulate you, it's probably to make you jealous or put you down. You can do things like

(Video) 10 Signs You're Being Manipulated

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  • Post pictures with someone of the opposite sex.
  • Post passively aggressive quotes that may be aimed at you. Things like, "If you can't handle my worst, you don't deserve my best."
  • Actively like and comment on the status or photos of an ex or someone you're jealous of.

6. Hold back sex to get what you want

The first thing that comes to mind is a very direct type of manipulation that many people see in their relationship. It's fairly common in women, but men have been known to do it too.

They refuse sex to their partner because they don't get what they want. Sometimes they withhold sex to punish a partner for doing something they don't like.

"Didn't you take out the trash? Well, don't expect any action tonight.

"You didn't buy me the necklace I wanted? You won't see me naked until you do.

Withholding sex isn't always a big problem in a healthy relationship. So if your partner is just doing this to annoy you or is playing games, that's fine and you shouldn't worry about it.

It's also understandable if they're really mad at you about something and need time to vent the anger before they feel comfortable enough to have sex.

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But it becomes a problem when they withhold sex just to punish you or get something out of you.

(Video) 😡 Dark Psychology: 7 Signs of Manipulation to look out for in Relationships

To know if this is manipulation or if your partner is genuinely mad at you, you need to empathize and try to see how you would react if you were in their situation.

You lied to them about something important and they feel like they can't trust you now?

If so, it's understandable that he doesn't want to have sex right now because he doesn't trust you. Give them some time and listen to them. Try to talk about the problem and come up with a solution together. Treat them with respect and understanding and they will soon trust you again.

Are they upset that you didn't get them the birthday present they wanted?

If so, chances are they only want you for the money and are trying to "train" you to do what they want.

7. The controller of life

This type of manipulation is subtle. Because you don't even realize you're being manipulated. You will feel that they are helping you. But in reality, they will control your life and make it the way they want.

Now let me be clear, healthy couples support each other and help each other make important life decisions. But some people take it to the next level where it merges with manipulation.

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When you have a partner who controls every aspect of your life, eventually you will stop feeling like yourself and start feeling like you are living someone else's life. It's a good idea to confront her and talk about it before you get upset and end up in a bad breakup.

How to deal with manipulation in a relationship

Dealing with manipulation in a relationship boils down to 3 things:

1. Introspection

The first step, introspection, is to look within yourself and ask yourself if you have done anything to justify this manipulation.

Has your partner tried to talk to you and you ignored them?

(Video) 13 SIGNS YOU'RE BEING MANIPULATED: How to Identify Manipulation

Have you neglected some needs your partner has told you about?

And most importantly, have you manipulated in any way that caused your partner to manipulate you as well?

It's important to be honest with yourself. If you're not sure, it's helpful to talk to someone close to you and get their opinion on the matter. If you do decide to raise the matter with someone, be sure to give them an unbiased view of what happened.

2. Intention and demonstration of empathy

The second step is to discover your partner's intent. In other words, it means putting yourself in their shoes and trying to feel what they were feeling. Your goal here is to try to understand them and find out where they come from.

Is your partner manipulative because they are insecure and don't know how to communicate properly? Or could it be that they're just upset about something serious and this manipulation is just a way of getting validation from you?

If you are unsure of your intent, you should not make any assumptions. Instead, just talk to them about it.

If you speak to them, make sure you do so with the intention of understanding them and coming to a conclusion; don't blame them and reach a higher moral level.

3. Communication

The third step, communication, is the most important step of all.

With proper communication, you can pretty much resolve any issue in your relationship. You may not be able to resolve your partner's childhood issues and bad habits formed over the years. But you can bring these issues to the surface and find a way to solve them together.

Remember, whenever you decide to communicate, do so clearly and with intent to resolve the issue. It is best to follow the model below when dealing with handling issues of any kind.

"When you performed [the exact manipulation action] I felt disconnected from you because it feels like manipulation and that means you don't trust me enough to communicate directly. I want this relationship to work and that we can communicate better. I really want to understand why you did this. Is it because of [your assumption of his intent]?”

When your partner gets angry, remind them that you love them and aren't trying to blame them or put them down. You just want to understand them and make sure you can both communicate.

If you are not willing to solve problems and discuss them, even if you have tried several times, chances are your partner is not ready to learn and grow. And you should seriously consider ending this relationship.

final thoughts

Manipulation can become a toxic pattern in a relationship. It is better to approach the manipulation as soon as possible. The longer you ignore it, the harder it is to spot and change the behavior.

It will take some effort from both partners to get rid of the toxic manipulation in your relationship. If one of the partners is not ready to make an effort, then it is better to think about ending the relationship.

(Video) 8 Signs of a Manipulative Personality

Featured Photo Credits:Ashley Schulze via unsplash.com


How do you outsmart a manipulator in a relationship? ›

6 ways to disarm a manipulator
  1. Postpone your answer. Don't give them an answer on the spot. ...
  2. Question their motivations. Manipulators often hide their real motivations because they don't like to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors. ...
  3. Show disinterest. ...
  4. Impose boundaries. ...
  5. Keep your self-respect. ...
  6. Apply fogging.
Jun 23, 2021

What are the 4 stages of manipulation? ›

The 4 stages of manipulation
  • Flattery. The first stage is when the person who manipulates puts on a facade of being kind, caring, and helpful. ...
  • Isolation. This is when the person who manipulates may start to isolate you from your friends and family. ...
  • Devaluing and gaslighting. ...
  • Fear or violence.

What are red flags for manipulation? ›

Some of the most common include: Using intense emotional connection to control another person's behavior. For example, an abusive person may try to manipulate a person by moving very quickly in a romantic relationship. They may overwhelm their victim with loving gestures to lower their guard or make them feel indebted.

What do manipulators usually say? ›

7 things manipulators say to make you feel that you are the bad person in the room
  • “You misunderstood what I said” ...
  • “I don't like drama” ...
  • “You are too sensitive” ...
  • “I didn't say/do that” or “It wasn't my idea, it was yours” ...
  • “I see you want to start a fight” ...
  • “You are so negative”
Dec 13, 2021

What is the fastest way to recognize a manipulative person? ›

How to Recognize Manipulative Behavior
  1. They Don't Respect Boundaries. Manipulators tirelessly go after what they want, without worrying about who they might hurt along the way. ...
  2. They Make You Question Your Reality. ...
  3. They Always Deflect Blame. ...
  4. They Justify Their Behavior.
Jul 10, 2020

How do you snap out of manipulation? ›

Below are eight ways to work on these patterns and stop being manipulative:
  1. Work on your self esteem. Lots of people who manipulate have some sort of insecurity. ...
  2. Don't be a perfectionist. Learn to go with the flow. ...
  3. Learn something new. ...
  4. Try to ease anxiety. ...
  5. Exercise. ...
  6. Go to therapy. ...
  7. Respect others. ...
  8. Listen.
Jan 25, 2021

How do you test if someone is manipulating you? ›

Signs of manipulative behavior
  1. Gaslighting, lying, and guilt-tripping.
  2. Refusing to compromise.
  3. Passive-aggressive behavior, including the silent treatment.
  4. Extreme emotional highs and lows that impact the relationship.
  5. Isolating you from relationships with family and friends.
Oct 1, 2022

How do I know if I'm being emotionally manipulated? ›

"If you have voiced a concern but still feel frustrated, anxious, and pacified, you [may] have been emotionally manipulated," says Porche. "If you feel one way and someone is trying to convince you to feel another way, you are [likely] being emotionally manipulated.

What are the 8 signs of emotional manipulation? ›

Common signs of manipulation.
  • You're doubting your own reality.
  • The relationship is very emotionally intense.
  • You fear abandonment.
  • You have a gut feeling that something's wrong.
  • You feel insecure.
  • They want you to depend on them and only them.
  • They keep comparing you to others.
Apr 29, 2021

What is the root of manipulation? ›

Manipulative comes from the Latin word manus for "hand," and originally the English words that sprang from it like manipulate and manipulation referred to skill in physically handling objects by hand.

What personality types are manipulative? ›

Manipulation is generally considered a dishonest form of social influence as it is used at the expense of others. Manipulative tendencies may derive from personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder.

Is my partner emotionally manipulative? ›

Someone who manipulates people's emotions may eagerly agree to help with something but then turn around and drag their feet or look for ways to avoid their agreement. They may act like it's ended up being a huge burden, and they'll seek to exploit your emotions in order to get out of it.

What happens when you ignore a manipulator? ›

Is it best to ignore a manipulator? Yes, you should ignore your manipulator and not react to everything they are saying. They have studied your triggers and expect you to respond to their bait. If you continue ignoring them, they will eventually come around or go away from your life.

What is the biggest red flag in a relationship? ›

  • Red flags in a relationship include excessive jealousy and frequent lying.
  • You should also be wary of a partner who frequently criticizes you or puts you down.
  • Another major red flag is an unwillingness to compromise — relationships shouldn't be one-sided.
Sep 22, 2022

What does unintentional manipulation look like? ›

"Unintentional manipulation can show up in exaggerating the facts," Silvershein says. "If someone had an early-morning flight that takes off at 8 a.m., they may say their flight is at 6 a.m. since they technically have to leave for the airport at 6 a.m. They know that this story is better and will gain more empathy."

What is manipulative abuser? ›

A manipulative relationship happens when one person uses emotional and verbal coercion — tactics such as threats, criticism, and lying — to control the other person. It can also include physical violence. Manipulation isn't just unfair or mean: it's abuse.

What are examples of manipulative questions? ›

When people pretend to ask a question when they are actually making a statement, it is manipulative. For example, “I'm sure you agree?” This is not a trust-building question. It is a statement disguised as a question. Others who hear you say this will realize you have no interest in what they think.

What do manipulative partners say? ›

A manipulative person will often use dramatic statements like “I thought you of all people would understand” or “You're the only person I've ever loved.” If they attempt to wheedle, cry, or shame you into changing your mind, Carey says that's a sign of emotional manipulation.

How do you respond to manipulative texts? ›

Use respectful language and “I” statements to avoid sounding confrontational. This means expressing your own feelings and thoughts, rather than simply making accusations about the other person. Some examples of things to say include: “It's upsetting when something doesn't go as planned.

How do I stop being emotionally manipulated? ›

Dealing with Emotional Manipulation
  1. Avoid people who engage in love-bombing.
  2. Assert yourself and your boundaries out loud, even if it feels rude to do so.
  3. Speak to others about the emotional manipulation and get their validation.
  4. Take your time instead of being rushed into decisions you may regret.
Dec 10, 2022

How do I stop my manipulation reaction? ›

To handle manipulation, postpone your answer to give yourself time to ponder, question their intent, look disinterested by not reacting, establish boundaries and say no firmly, maintain your self-respect by not apologizing when they blame you for their problems, and apply fogging to acknowledge any mistakes and end the ...

How do you break free from a manipulator? ›

  1. How can we break this cycle of emotional manipulation?
  2. Boundaries – Create your own boundaries. ...
  3. Breathe through it – People may not be okay with your boundaries. ...
  4. Be kind – Sometimes people will make you feel that you are selfish for choosing yourself before anyone else.
Apr 23, 2022

How do you cure a manipulative person? ›

How to Heal From Being Manipulated
  1. Understand how manipulative relationships work. Researching this will give you the information you need to figure out why someone you love may act this way.
  2. Recognize you're being mistreated. ...
  3. Listen to yourself, not them. ...
  4. Set boundaries. ...
  5. Let yourself grieve.
Jan 7, 2021

How does a victim of manipulation feel? ›

You feel fear, obligation and guilt

Manipulative behavior involves three factors, according to Stines: fear, obligation and guilt. “When you are being manipulated by someone you are being psychologically coerced into doing something you probably don't really want to do,” she says.

What personality disorder is associated with manipulation? ›

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Deceit and manipulation are also central features. In many cases hostile-aggressive and deceitful behaviors may first appear during childhood. These children may hurt or torment animals or people. They may engage in hostile acts such as bullying or intimidating others.

What is narcissistic manipulation? ›

Narcissistic manipulation often involves frequent implications that you make bad decisions and can't do anything right. An abusive partner may call you stupid or ignorant outright, often with a falsely affectionate tone: “Honey, you're so dumb.

What is a narcissistic manipulator? ›

Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. A narcissist will at first try to please you and impress you, but eventually, their own needs will always come first. When relating to other people, narcissists will try to keep people at a certain distance in order to maintain control.

What are the 5 stages of manipulation? ›

What are the stages of manipulation?
  • Flattery. The first stage is when the person who manipulates puts on a facade of being kind, caring, and helpful. ...
  • Isolation. This is when the person who manipulates may start to isolate you from your friends and family. ...
  • Devaluing and gaslighting. ...
  • Fear or violence.

What is the strongest type of manipulation? ›

Omnikinesis: the power to manipulate anything.

What words are manipulative? ›

  • deceitful.
  • deceptive.
  • devious.
  • hypocritical.
  • cunning.
  • underhanded.
  • scheming.
  • wily.

Is manipulation a mental issue? ›

While most people engage in manipulation from time to time, a chronic pattern of manipulation can indicate an underlying mental health concern. Manipulation is particularly common with personality disorder diagnoses such as borderline personality (BPD) and narcissistic personality (NPD).

Are manipulators emotionally intelligent? ›

Some research shows that people who have the ability to be emotionally manipulative, have high levels of emotional intelligence, which can be seen as a positive asset to the workplace. Emotional manipulation is defined as the act of influencing another person's feelings and behaviours for one's own interest.

Why am I so easily manipulated? ›

While we are all susceptible to manipulation, if you are insecure, overly nice, or worry a lot about what other people think, you may be an easy target. The reason manipulation feels bad is because it feels like you're being pushed or tricked into something you didn't really choose or want to do.

What personality type manipulates the most? ›

1. ENFJ. ENFJs take the crown for the most manipulative personality type. ENFJs have high emotional intelligence and strong intuition.

What is a toxic manipulative relationship? ›

You feel controlled or manipulated.

A toxic person feels a compulsion to tip the power balance in their favor. They might check in on you all the time or constantly bug you about where you're going and what you're doing. Your partner might weaponize the relationship to manipulate you into doing things.

How do you know if you have been manipulated? ›

Signs of emotional manipulation include gaslighting, passive aggression, and more. A manipulator may also use your insecurities against you so that they can control you. A sinister sign can also be moving goalposts — when your partner keeps changing their expectations.

How do you act when someone is manipulating you? ›

8 Ways To Deal With Manipulators
  1. Ignore everything they do and say. ...
  2. Hit their center of gravity. ...
  3. Trust your judgment. ...
  4. Try not to fit in. ...
  5. Stop compromising. ...
  6. Never ask for permission. ...
  7. Create a greater sense of purpose. ...
  8. Take responsibility for yourself.
Mar 15, 2015

What type of person is easily manipulated? ›

People who have a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent a person is, the more vulnerable they are to being exploited and manipulated.

What to say to someone who is manipulating you? ›

Let them know how it makes you feel
  • Acknowledge their perspective. “I know you're stressed because you have a lot to do for this gathering.”
  • Express your anger and hurt in a calm and polite way. “I've asked you before not to shout at me. ...
  • Explain how the manipulation affects you and the relationship.
Jul 21, 2020


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