21 Signs Of Emotional Manipulation & What Can You Do About It
If you are scouring through sources to verify if the relationship you are in is emotionally manipulative, that itself could be your one of the first signs of emotional manipulation. There is nothing wrong with analyzing your relationships with the people around you. That, in fact, is how you maintain healthy relationships.
Let’s find out what is emotional manipulation or what is psychological manipulation and the signs of emotional manipulation.
What Is Emotional Manipulation?
According to the standard definition on WebMD,
“It occurs when a manipulative person seeks power over someone else and employs dishonest or exploitative strategies to gain it”.
Further, unlike a normal and healthy relationship, there is a lack of reciprocity in an emotionally manipulative relationship. The goal here is to use and victimize the other person.
When it comes to what can emotional manipulation do to a relationship, it is important to know that such a relationship can have long-term effects on the victim of emotional abuse and manipulation. The psychological tricks used to manipulate can slowly chip away at the confidence, emotional security, and sense of self of the manipulated.
21 Signs Of Emotional Manipulation
How to tell if someone is trying to manipulate you?
Here are some signs of emotional manipulation in a relationship and some of the emotional manipulator traits to look out for:
1. Distorting the sense of reality
If they make you question your sense of reality every time you bring up an issue, that could be a sign to watch out for. Making the other person question everything they believe in or put out is a trick often used and is one of the signs of emotional manipulation.
2. No accountability
Emotional manipulation in a relationship might also look like them proclaiming to be supporting you in a certain decision or situation. However, they actually never actually show up.
One of the signs of emotional manipulation makes the other person always feel that everything that goes wrong is their fault. It might look like you are bringing up a problem, and in return, it turns into a situation where you are made to think that the problem in the first place was caused because of your overreaction.
4. Playing the victim
One of the psychological mind games in a relationship that is often used by an emotional manipulator is to take on the role of the victim in every situation. It’s always about how they are affected.
Emotionally manipulative people tend to come out strong and confident and really rush through relationships. They might be skipping a lot of steps and coming straight to emotional intimacy. They would expect you to be really open and vulnerable really quick too. This “love bombing” is one of the signs of emotional manipulation.
6. Emotional black hole
Manipulative people are the center of every situation. Everything around them is about them, and their mood and emotions affect everyone and everything. Not only are people around them to feel the emotion they are going through, but you are also responsible for their emotions.
7. Ghost helper
Giving out a promise for help and then never showing up in the actual time of need but oftentimes showing up after the situation is over, with another sweet promise, is also one of the signs of emotional manipulation.
8. Your grass is always greener
In a healthy relationship, you expect that if you go to your partner with something that is hurting you, you will get unconditional support and help to get over it. In a manipulative set-up, they always have it way worse.
One of the important signs of emotional manipulation is your partner’s willingness to often hit out at your insecurities. It might be in an argument or as a justification or opinion. But would they backtrack if they know it hurts you is the key question.
10. Home court advantage
Manipulators will always try to have you where they are most comfortable, and you are not very sure. Asking you to always come over or meet at their favorite places all the time could be one of the signs of emotional manipulation by the other person.
11. Intellectual bullying
This is aimed at making you feel inadequately informed to have a conversation with them. They might bombard you with technical jargon or facts or statics you cannot counter instead of having a conversation you can both be a part of.
12. Using jokes as a cover
They might hit at your insecurities, be mean or rude and then shake it off as a joke. While once in a while, someone might fail to read the room and make a bad comment, if it happens often, it can be a sign of emotional manipulation.
13. Constant criticism
Constructive criticism is a part of a healthy relationship. You trust your partner to tell you the truth and suggest any corrections in your best interest. However, if every action, reaction, and emotion of yours, from dressing style to the books you read and your habits, are a topic of criticism, that’s a red flag to look out for.
“You are too fat for this dress” or “I am sure you have no knowledge of this <skill>” are some of the examples of emotional manipulation.
14. Passive aggression
Most manipulators are passive-aggressive and might create subtle stressors. They might involve other people around you to get their point across and might not have a direct conversation. Any of this can be a sign of emotional manipulation.
15. Silent treatment
If you are often subjected to days of absolute silence and subtle hostility from your partner, or a withholding of a kind of affection they know you need and crave and feel good with. The silent treatment is a sign of emotional blackmail, to make you behave in a way suitable to them.
Another sign of emotional manipulation is that manipulators might often create a scene in public to put you in a position where you might agree with them to avoid humiliation. This includes raising their voice in public or attracting attention in any form.
This is once again an attempt at making you question your reality and the validity of your experiences and emotions, sending you into a circle of self-doubt, anxiety, and helplessness. This somewhere places you in a dependent position with your partner too, and is one of the signs of emotional manipulation.
18. Pretending ignorance
When confronted with their actions, manipulators often feign ignorance, playing that they were never, in fact, aware of your situation. If they were, they would never do that to you because you know how much they love you and the onus is once again on you.
19. Excessive stubbornness
Being a stubborn person and sticking to what you want even after knowing that it is causing people around you significant issues to accommodate your choices are two different things. And the second is one of the signs of emotional manipulation.
20. Negative comments and raised voices
If all you get from your partner is negative comments about everything related to you or you tend to constantly avoid certain topics, actions, or conversations in fear of enraging them and have them screaming at you, count that as a sign of emotional manipulation in a relationship.
21. Creating confusion
Emotionally manipulative men and women have a way of confusing you with a difference between words and action. They might tell you how much they absolutely love you all the time. But, they also create fights or not respect you when you expect them to.
This might send you into a circle of justifying their action to justify you are right in understanding them.
Why Do People Emotionally Manipulate Their Partners?
There are many negative effects of emotional manipulation on a person. But there are a number of reasons why people might feel the need to emotionally manipulate their partners.
– It could be their own trauma response to a lack of control over situations they have faced in life or just a personality trait.
– It is equally possible that it is unintentional emotional manipulation.
– They could just really be playing the power dynamics. Also, they could completely be aware and even enjoy the control they have over others and how they can use it.
– Emotional manipulation could be due to fear due to past experiences.
– A partner could also feel insecure or lacking in certain aspects. Manipulation becomes their defense mechanism.
The video below discusses types of emotional manipulators. It will help you identify the emotional manipulation technique your partner might be using:
How To Deal With Emotional Manipulation In A Relationship?
It can often be difficult to accept that you are in an emotionally manipulative relationship.
However, it is important to understand that you can make mistakes, and emotional manipulation is often so subtle. The stakes are raised so slowly that by the time you become aware, you might already be in too deep. It is alright. It’s not your fault, and you can get out of it.
All you need to do is remember there is no point in engaging with a manipulator. They are good at this game. Set your boundaries. Refuse at all times to let them barge in again no matter how much they try to rile you up.
Healing from emotional manipulation from any form of abuse is difficult. It takes time but it is possible and will lead you to a better place.
Start with knowing how to tell if someone is playing mind games with you and taking small but definitive steps about it. Asking yourself often in a constructive manner, “Am I emotionally manipulative in this situation right now?” and the need to try a different approach is also a good practice.
After all, the goal is to have a healthy relationship.