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5 Warning Signs of Manipulation in Relationships

Couple not talking after a fight on the sofa in living room at hThe worst part of being manipulated in a relationship is that quite often you don’t even know it’s happening. Manipulative people twist your thoughts, actions, wants and desires into something that better suits how they see the world and they mold you into someone that serves their own purposes. Scary, right?

Here are a few biggies to look out for to make sure it’s not happening to you.

1. They make you feel guilty… for everything.

Manipulation always start with guilt. If they can convince you to feel guilty for your actions (even when you’ve done nothing wrong), then they know you’ll be more willing to do what they say. “I mean sure, I guess dinner was OK. It wasn’t what I was hoping for and I would have rather done something different but I guess as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters. I love you and it’s important to me that you’re happy, even if that means setting aside what I want.”

See what they did there? How they turned that around to you? On the surface, they make it seem like they’re a loving partner but spoiler alert: guilt is not love.

Manipulators also try and make you believe that they’re doing a better job of “loving you,” so that you’ll be more willing to set aside what you want in order to feel like you “love him just as much.” It’s a sick mind game.

2. They force their insecurities on you.

Manipulators will often force their own insecurities on you in an effort to control how you react towards them. “I’ve been cheated on before and that’s why I don’t want you to have any opposite-sex friends (or same sex, depending on sexual orientation). You can understand that, right?” Yes, of course you can understand that (and you should be conscious of their insecurities), but their struggles should not define the functionality of your relationship.

“I’m sorry I acted that way but I’m just so scared that you will leave me!” is an excuse that’s often used by manipulators when you point out flaws in their actions. The sheer purpose of that excuse is to take the focus off of your worries and suck you back into theirs.

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There’s a fine line between showing consideration for their feelings and being manipulated into feeling what they want you to feel. Consideration is shown with love while manipulation is ruled by guilt.

3. They make you doubt yourself.

Want to know why it’s so easy for them to manipulate? Because they’ve brainwashed you to the point where you no longer trust yourself. That’s right, manipulators take your insecurities and use them against you. They consistently point out what you’re doing “wrong” and how they could have done it better. They point out your weaknesses, then show you that with their help, you can do better, be better. They slowly convince you they have your best interests in mind… but they don’t.

They have their best interests in mind. And in order to keep their wants and needs at the forefront of your relationship, they gently twist your thinking until you look to him for guidance on everything. Once that happens, manipulators can make you basically do whatever they want you to because you now trust them more than you trust yourself.

4. They make you responsible for their emotions.

Manipulators are ironic in the sense that they spend quite a bit of time making you feel as if you can’t think for yourself but then turn around and make you responsible for all of their emotions. If they feel sad, it’s probably because you made them feel that way. If they’re angry, well, you had better check yourself because you obviously did something wrong.

For as much as they take away from you and for as much as they make you believe that you’re totally incapable of controlling your own life, they expect you to be responsible for how they feel.

5. They make you believe that you want what they want.

We all start out relationships with requirements and deal-breakers. But it’s natural as you start to blend two lives that compromises are made. What’s not normal: When you have to completely set aside what you want and need in an effort to appease your partner. If you start to realize your partner’s needs are being met far more often than yours are, you might be married to a manipulator.

Are you giving in to what they want out of feelings of guilt or because they have made you feel responsible for the way they feel? Have you given up what you want because they’ve made you believe that you should want something else? If you have answered “yes” to any of those questions, you might want to reconsider the relationship.

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This guest article originally appeared on If Your Man Does These 5 Things, You’re Being MANIPULATED.

5 Warning Signs of Manipulation in Relationships

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2020). 5 Warning Signs of Manipulation in Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Apr 2020 (Originally: 4 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Apr 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.