7 Signs You May Be Dating a Master Manipulator

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What are the Signs of Manipulation in Relationships?

When we’re completely enamored or interested in someone, our feelings can cloud our own vision, causing us to overlook red flags or character flaws. Manipulation or being manipulated is one toxic trait that is difficult to detect, as some of the tactics used can be subtle. They may make you doubt your own sanity or judgment, as well as cause you to feel guilty or confused and don’t understand why.

Manipulation in relationships can undermine you and make the manipulator more powerful. It can also cause stress and damage trust, and negatively affect your mental health and well-being. This only makes it important to learn how to recognize its signs, so you can protect yourself and make informed decisions about your relationship. You can even try online therapy to help you break the cycle of manipulation.

Manipulators act the way they do due to a number of causes. It can be due to unhealthy cycles of toxic relationships, narcissism, or violence when they were children. They might also have insecure attachment issues, which may cause them to become clingy or behave manipulatively when feeling vulnerable.

What is manipulation?

Manipulation in relationships occurs when one person (the abuser) uses certain exploitative tactics and strategies to dominate or have power over the other party. It can start out as subtle or seemingly harmless and often evolve to being harsh over time. Manipulators often try to influence your emotions or even alter your reality to trick you into doing something they want. This behavior is also associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD) or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

When you’re at the receiving end of manipulation, you may feel like you don’t have the autonomy or say in some/most of the things in your relationship or even in how you live your life. This may then affect your self-esteem and put you at increased risk of experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. This usually happens between partners, but can also occur between friends, siblings, and family members.

Signs you are dating a master manipulator

If your partner constantly guilts, blackmails, or makes you second-guess yourself, you may be experiencing emotional manipulation. Continue reading as we list the telltale signs that you may be dating a master manipulator.

1. They constantly lie and blame you.

Emotional manipulators are skilled liars. They may deliberately lie or exaggerate certain things to mislead you or avoid taking responsibility for their actions. They might also shift the blame to you or constantly say “This is your fault “ (even when it’s not) to make you feel guilty about their actions. They may also cause you to believe you’re the problem and apologize for the things you didn’t do.

2. They gaslight you or make you doubt your own reality.

Gaslighting happens when a manipulator dismisses your experiences, resulting in you questioning your perception of reality. They may do this by insisting you’re imagining things or it’s all in your head, causing you to become confused about your own memories. They may also deny things they have said or done or even disregard your feelings like telling you that you’re overreacting or overly sensitive.

3. Your relationship is emotionally intense.

Emotional manipulators often do or share too much too soon. They may display passionate emotions or over-the-top gestures even in the initial stages of the relationship. This may also refer to as love bombing, which is a manipulation tactic that involves constant attention, grand gestures, and excessive praise to quickly form an intense connection with the intent of controlling you.

4. Your gut is telling you that something’s wrong (and you try to ignore it).

There is that gut feeling that something is not right or you’re caught into doing things that drain you. Instead of confronting this, you try to dismiss it and convince yourself that everything is fine. When you’re experiencing/assessing manipulation, however, the advice “trust your gut” is helpful. Naming or exploring your feelings when you feel that something’s off can help you decipher what’s going on.

5. They display passive-aggressive behavior.

Instead of expressing their feelings directly, those who are passive-aggressive use avoidance, sarcasm, silence, and other avoidance tactics. They might display dramatic or immature behaviors such as pouting or sighing to get your attention. And rather than behaving like an adult and telling you what’s wrong, they might bait or trick you into asking them or initiating the conversation.

6. They use your insecurities/weaknesses against you.

Master manipulators use your fears, flaws, and insecurities to rattle or wound you. They, for instance, may point out your weak spots or broadcast them in front of other people even when you’re already feeling down. They may also give a backhanded compliment like, “You can be prettier if you have makeup on” or compare you to others and make comments like “Your friend/sister is in great shape; you should ask her for tips and start working out”.

7. They use threats and coercion.

A person who constantly forces or threatens you into doing something is emotionally manipulative. They may, for instance, threaten to break up with you or say they will hurt themselves if you don’t go along with what they want. They may also try to isolate you from friends and families (so that you are easier to control) or monitor your activities and say they want to constantly check up on you because they love you.

Other manipulation tactics

Manipulation can take in different forms and shapes. Apart from the signs mentioned above, here are other forms of manipulative behavior.

  • Silent treatment – they ignore you or stop talking to you as a form of punishment.
  • Constant criticism – they might say or do things that will make you feel worthless, such as call you names, ridicule your ideas and ambition, and brainwash you so you feel bad about yourself.
  • Triangulation – they might bring another person into the relationship (like creating a love triangle) to make you feel insecure or cause you to compete for their love and affection.
  • Playing victim – as they don’t take accountability for their actions, they are never at fault. It is always somebody else’s fault or yours like if you get upset or set unreasonable expectations.

What can you do?

It is not always easy to admit or realize that you’re with someone who is an abuser or manipulator. If you, however, feel that you’re being manipulated, it is important to listen to your instincts, look for ways to protect yourself, or try online therapy to break free. Some of the things that can help include:

Assess your feelings around your partner – As manipulators are skilled in controlling or influencing your thoughts and emotions, you should be aware of your own feelings when you’re around them. If you feel fear, guilt, self-doubt, or just something’s off, step away to think clearly and fully understand what’s happening.

Set boundaries – Manipulation is more likely to happen when there is a lack of boundaries or unhealthy ones. It is important to identify the things you will or will not tolerate and work on implementing them. It is easier to establish them in the early stages of a relationship, but it is also not too late to have them effectively now.

Be ready to walk away – It is not uncommon for master manipulators to not respect or respond poorly to your boundaries. In such cases, it is still important to communicate them effectively, explaining why you’ve set that boundary and what it means to you. If they don’t want to change or constantly violate your boundaries, evaluate if it still makes sense to stay in the relationship or be prepared to let go.

See a mental health professional – Prolonged manipulation in close relationships is more difficult to detect and unpack. This makes it important to see a therapist or try online therapy to help you identify manipulation tactics or even break free from a toxic relationship. This is particularly important when your mental health is suffering as a result of manipulation or find it hard to establish and reinforce boundaries.

Manipulation can have a lasting impact on your mental health. The good news is with the right support like from a therapist or a counselor, you can learn ways to manage or confront manipulative behaviors and be able to stop or heal from it.