Is Someone Emotionally Manipulating You? Here Are The 8 Signs



By Barrie Davenport | Live Bold & Bloom

Healthy relationships are based on trust, mutual respect, and security.

Each person must feel they are valued and loved unconditionally, accepted for who they are, and safe to expose their vulnerabilities and flaws.

This is the ideal foundation for a good relationship, but of course all of us fall short of this ideal from time to time. We might use passive aggressive tactics to express our pain or get our way in a disagreement. We might tell white lies or throw out hurtful barbs to protect ourselves and cope with our own pain or anger. I’ve done this myself, and I always feel regretful as soon as the words escape my mouth. I know this behavior does nothing to foster intimacy and trust.

Related Article: 7 Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship (All Women MUST WATCH)

We are all self-centered to a certain extent, but emotionally mature, healthy-minded people generally recognize when they behave this way and can correct the behavior, offer an apology, and begin again with a more loving and healing approach to conflict resolution or negotiation.

This foundation of respect, trust, and security is necessary in all personal relationships — your marriage or love relationships; your relationship with your family members; and your close friendships. Both people must be committed to the health of the relationship and possess a strong emotional intelligence in order for the connection to thrive.

However, you’ve likely encountered people who are emotionally manipulative and controlling. They use passive aggressive behaviors to get their way or keep you from saying or doing anything they don’t like. Emotional manipulation can be subtle and deceptive, leaving you confused and off-balance. Or it can be overt and demanding where fear, shaming, and guilt-trips leave you stunned and immobilized.

Either way, emotional manipulation is not acceptable, and the longer you allow it to continue, the more power and confidence the manipulator gains in this one-sided relationship. Eventually, any remnant of a healthy connection is destroyed, as the foundation of trust, intimacy, respect, and security crumbles under the hammer of manipulation.

If you recognize yourself or your partner in this scenario, here are 8 signs of emotional manipulation:

1. They turn your words to benefit them.

A manipulator has trouble accepting responsibility for their behavior, and often if you call them on it, they’ll find a way to turn it around to make you feel bad or guilty.

For example, you might make a legitimate complaint like, “It really bothers me you didn’t help me clean the house when you promised you would.” Instead of apologizing, acknowledging his or her actions, and correcting the situation, a manipulator will say something like, “You would never have asked me to help you if you knew how overwhelmed I am. Why don’t you think about me for once?”

Or they might offer a quasi-apology like, “Well I’m really sorry but I was working until midnight last night. I know I should have told you about all the stress I’m under and how tired I’ve been. I may be coming down with something.” This kind of manipulation is almost worse than no apology at all, because it makes YOU feel bad for even asking and expecting them to follow through on something they promised.

Related Article: How Emotional Pain Can Cause Us to Act “Crazy” in Relationships

Your response: If an apology feels false or if the other person replies with defensiveness or guilt-trips, don’t allow them to get away with it. If you do, it will just empower them to do it again. Make it clear that a real apology is unconditional and followed by a behavior change.

2. They say something and later deny it.

A manipulator may say yes to a request or make a commitment to you, and then when the time comes to follow through, they conveniently forget they ever said anything.

Unless you have a recording of them making the promise, you can’t really prove anything — so it’s your “bad memory” against their lying words. A good manipulator has a way of twisting a previous conversation or replaying it to suit their needs and make you look forgetful, demanding, or ridiculous. You begin to question yourself and even feel bad or guilty that you challenged the manipulator.

Your response: If you experience a pattern of these bait and switch situations in your relationship, begin to write down exactly what the manipulator has promised. Date it and post it in your kitchen or email it to yourself and the other person. This may anger the manipulator, and they may question your trust or faith in them, but it will make it much harder to deny the conversation later on.

3. They use guilt trips to control you.

This is the ultimate in manipulative, passive aggressive behavior. The manipulator finds your emotional Achilles heal and pokes it until you either give in or feel like a hound dog.

“You go ahead to the movies without me. It’s fine. I’ll stay home and finish the laundry.”

“It’s always about your needs. If you knew what kind of childhood I had, you’d never ask me to do that.”

“If you really want to go on the girls weekend, go ahead. I just don’t understand how you could leave the kids for that long.”

“I know we can’t afford to by a new car. But I’ve never had a new car in my life. I guess I’ll just live with this crap car forever. I don’t deserve nice things.”

The emotional manipulator knows how to play the victim role to perfection. They stir up a pot of guilt and sympathy and serve it to you in heaping ladlefuls. They will say just about anything to get their way — especially if they see a kind-hearted, sensitive victim.

Related Article: 5 Signs You Need Emotional Healing

Your response: You are not going crazy. They are playing you for all it’s worth. Don’t fall victim to these manipulative, guilt-laden shenanigans. Don’t give in to their passive demands or requests for sympathy. This person is an adult. Remind them of that, and how they are perfectly able to cope with your decision or actions.

4. They diminish your problems or difficulties.

Emotional manipulators don’t care much about your problems — unless they can use them as a platform to highlight their own.

“You think you had it bad sitting in traffic today? Did you ever think about how I have to deal with traffic every day? It takes years off my life. Be thankful you only had to deal with it today.”

“Gosh, that’s terrible you and your mom had a fight. But just be thankful you have a mom. My mom is dead, and even when she was alive, we fought much more than you and your mom do. It almost felt like I never had a mom.”

If you point out how the manipulator just turned the tables, they’ll likely try to make you look selfish and pitiful. They won’t acknowledge their narcissistic behavior or reframe the conversation around your pain or difficulty.

Your response: There’s not much you can do in these situations except walk away and find someone else who is more caring, compassionate, and mature. Don’t expose your vulnerabilities to someone who tramples all over them.


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46 Reader Comments

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  1.' Catherine Byers says:


  2.' Krystal Purchon says:


  3.' Samuel Lęëk Marial says:

    Bria Vidot

  4.' barb says:

    You’ve perfectly described my mother.

  5.' Saadiqah Cynthia Scherr says:

    Gwendolyn Wegner.

  6.' Andrew Zernicke says:

    Yeah the entire system of the world does that to everybody if it doesn’t kill you first 🙂

  7.' Linda Gowers says:


  8.' Sandy Craig says:

    Robert Bailey

  9.' Cari Derks Turner says:

    Wow. This is eye opening.

  10.' Stella Yelich says:

    Worth the read

  11.' Jeniffer Thompson says:

    Vanessa Hill – so true

  12.' Deana Rock says:

    Yes they are. And I’m leaving. ??

  13.' Tina Balraj Padarat says:

    Definitely worth reading

  14.' Tony Greene says:

    I learned to not allow this.

  15.' Heivenu Alachem says:

    Politicians and their grid of bullshit

  16.' Irina Toumanova says:

    This is my mom.

  17.' Sherrie Sobel says:

    Wow. Very informative. Scary.

  18.' Ma Joanne Cabanlit says:

    Jupiter Mendoza

  19.' Roman Lopatka says:

    How true, I’m guilty ?

  20.' Elicia Szeler says:

    Vee Maria

  21.' Ashley Cox says:

    Karen Cox this is so true!

  22.' Robyn Forbes says:

    Michelle Barton

  23.' Karen Souza says:

    So glad i read this.

  24.' Bhavna Jain says:


  25.' Bhavna Jain says:

    my uncle aunty are

  26.' Meg Fleming says:

    OMG spot on

  27.' Mireille Eid says:

    awarness is the key first and then taking action on it

  28.' Mireille Eid says:

    Nayiri Karageuzian good read

  29.' Jennifer Wendel says:

    Vanessa Mangan read this, good read!

  30.' Mary Nosal says:

    Stefan Aj Ana Radic

  31.' Faiza Edon Aryani says:

    Happy milad Sofiawaty Mulyana
    Doa2 terbaik tuk sofi & klg.

  32.' Danielle Christine says:

    Great read

  33.' Shirley Norman says:

    Not just women that are the brunt of this…there are some nasty women that abuse.

  34.' Nadia Gallomazzei says:

    I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a master manipulator…

  35.' Zelda Arnott says:

    Fascinating. Thank you

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