Manipulation is insidious. It makes you doubt your own perceptions and can keep you from even realizing that you are being manipulated. If you do manage to figure out that something is not quite adding up, that does not mean you can automatically shake off all manipulation. Manipulators are excellent at playing on your strongest emotions, and emotional reactions tend to bypass your better sense. A master manipulator could essentially tell you to your face that he is going to make you feel guilty and still manage to make you feel responsible for everything all the way back to the original sin.
Manipulators can do their best work when they have easy access to a person and are familiar with the person’s vulnerabilities. This is why manipulative partners are so dangerous. They know every crack in your armor and are happy to exploit them all. A relationship with such a person is always going to be unequal, and it will drain you of all your energy. You deserve much better than that, but yanking a manipulator’s claws out of your soul is not easy. It is far better to keep them from getting a good grip in the first place. Here are seven warning signs of a manipulative partner that mean you need to get out before it is too late.
They are always the victim.
In a relationship, it is inevitable that someone will eventually say something harsh or do something stupid that hurts the other person. Often, the blame for fights is split equally, and each partner knows that they have been the bad guy before when it comes to those little hurts. A manipulator, however, never takes ownership of the fact that they are partially responsible for an argument or that they hurt you. Instead, it is always your fault and your fault alone. Even when you are the one who has been hurt, you are somehow responsible for your own pain. You made them hurt you. You were too sensitive. You should know better than to rile them up like that. If your partner is forever the victim in every disagreement or is forever making you feel guilty, you are almost certainly dealing with a manipulator.
Loads of last minute decisions.
Manipulators tend to use a lot of the same tactics that used car salesmen practice. One of the classics is never giving you time to actually think through a decision. Both manipulators and car salesmen will demand an answer right now. Salesmen may tell you that the great deal they are offering will vanish as soon as you walk out the door. Manipulators may neglect to mention something important at all until right before a decision must be made. Choosing to extend the lease or move out has to be decided the day the paperwork is due. Whether or not you are going on vacation with your manipulative lover is something that must be handled immediately. You are constantly barraged by important decisions that must be made right then and there. When this happens, your partner is not simply forgetful or unorganized. They are deliberately trying to keep you from being able to think through your decisions. That way, they are more likely to be able to get you to make the decision they want.
Foot in the door theorem.
There is a theory in psychology called “foot in the door technique.” The idea is that a person who agrees to a small request is more likely to agree to a subsequent larger request. The method is effective and so simple to understand that even children have been known to put it to use when they want something from their parents. Manipulators are also aware of how well the technique works, and they use it often. If your partner’s requests always build up to something unreasonable, you are likely dealing with a manipulator. The reason they always start out with small, perfectly acceptable requests is that they know you will refuse to do what they really want if they start out with that. So, they work up to it, and if you try and say no halfway up the chain to their real desire, they fall back on guilt trips to try and get you to agree.
The silent treatment and monosyllabic answers.
Everyone knows someone whose default response to being angry with someone is to pretend that the subject of their anger does not exist. If they absolutely have to speak to that person, getting more than a single word is like pulling teeth from an angry wolverine without anesthesia. Everything they say is a single word. They also insist on saying that they are “fine” when it is abundantly obvious to everyone that they are anything but fine. They make everyone beg to find out what is wrong, and then act like they are bestowing some grand gift upon people by answering their questions. If this is your lover’s basic state, you are likely dealing with a manipulator. They are trying to make you grovel for their forgiveness even when you have no idea what on earth you have done to anger them. The odds are good as well that whatever has them in such a snit is minor at best. With manipulators, the silent treatment is nothing more than a power play.
Lying and gaslighting.
Lying is perhaps the most basic tool in the manipulator’s arsenal. After all, if they are a good liar, they can say anything they want. Gaslighting is another potent weapon against someone who does not expect it. Gaslighting is the malicious art of subtly altering someone’s perception of past events. It is the sort of manipulation that is hard to detect when it is happening to you. After all, everyone knows that their memory is imperfect which makes it easy for a master manipulator to convince you that something was subtly different than you remember. They were defensive of you, not possessive. That person was deliberately cruel rather than someone who simply put their foot in their mouth. This makes gaslighting extremely insidious and difficult to recognize. If you suspect your lover is lying or gaslighting you, write down your perception of events as soon as possible. Record their interpretation on a different page. Comparing the two may help you find a pattern.
If you discover that your partner is gaslighting you, end the relationship immediately. Gaslighting is not accidental. It is deliberate, malicious and meant to force you to become more reliant on the other person. It is a form of emotional abuse and is often the herald of worse emotional abuse or physical abuse. Protect yourself and leave immediately.
Diminishing your problems and dismissing your accomplishments.
People who are strong, independent and confident are more difficult to manipulate than those who are lonely, broken and in desperate need of a friendly face. As such, a manipulative partner will do their best to make you vulnerable. They will dismiss your accomplishments in order to tear you down. The news that you got that promotion you were so excited about will receive nothing more than a vague acknowledgement. Similarly, the manipulator will do their best to diminish your problems especially when compared to their own. Remember, the manipulator always has to be the victim. As such, your day can never be worse than theirs. If they really cannot make themselves out to have it worse than you, they will tell you that you are making too big a deal out of things. They may tell you to suck it up, but in reality, they are only working to tear you down and deny you the support you need in order to stand on your own two feet.
Keeping you off balance.
People do not make great decisions when they are confused or caught off guard. As such, a manipulator will do their best to keep you off balance. One of the easiest ways to do this is for them to undergo dramatic shifts in mood. They may be perfectly happy one minute and burst into tears the next. They may go from tearful to explosively angry. All of it is designed to keep you off balance and thus more likely to listen to them rather than think through your own actions and opinions.
A manipulator may also make it a point to react very differently to the same thing. This means that you never know exactly what reaction you are going to get from a piece of news. This instinctively makes you try and tailor your message to please the manipulator. Since you are already focused on their happiness, they have an easier time bending you to their whims.
Shaking off manipulation essentially requires you to fight your own brain. A manipulator will play off your every emotion and vulnerability which means you are going to be battling a cruel partner and your own demons at once. Do not let it get this far. If your partner’s words and actions do not seem to be lining up, do not brush off that feeling. Ignoring it could mean giving up the only clue you are going to get about your partner’s true nature. Do not end up getting sucked into their spiral. Get out while you can and find someone worthwhile instead.