17 Signs Someone Is Manipulating You

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couple sitting next to each other looking confused

In relationships, the signs of emotional manipulation can be very subtle and make you feel like you have no control.

People often manipulate each other in their relationships. We are all manipulators in some way or another since manipulation is a the use of social influence that tries to change how another person acts or thinks.

At some point in our lives, we've all used the power of manipulation. One example is getting a friend to skip school so you can both see a movie. Trying to get your friend to skip class seems like a good idea in the moment, but doing this repeatedly can hurt your friend and your relationship.

Repeated acts of manipulation are a big red flag as it's very upsetting for the person being manipulated.

How can you tell if someone is manipulating you?

Emotionally manipulative people play tricks on your mind to gain control or power over you. The end goal of this kind of manipulation is for someone to gain power over their partner or get an unfair edge over them.

Emotional manipulation can be hard to spot because it is very subtle, and often occurs without conscious intention from the manipulator. It can make you feel misunderstood, powerless, and too much to handle.

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It is important to remember that emotional manipulation often is not done on purpose, and the person doing it may not even realize they are being manipulative. One thing you can definitely do it talk to your partner about their actions and how they make you feel.

If they find out it affects you and you feel harmed or controlled, they should do the work to stop. If they don't, then you might consider it is continuing on purpose.

17 Signs of Manipulation

Please remember this is a list of common ways people use in their relationships to hurt your feelings. If you feel you're being manipulated in a relationship, your gut will likely tell you the truth.

1. You always feel like you have to give in.

Do you always meet them where they want?

Having you visit them at home or their favorite restaurant can give them confidence. Even though they feel safe and at ease in a place, they know you will be on edge. This gives them an unfair advantage over you, which makes a powerful difference.

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2. They use your flaws against you.

This is one of the most important signs that someone is trying to hurt your feelings in a relationship. Suppose you always feel bad after you open emotionally and letting this person see your vulnerability. If that's the case, they've likely been using your weaknesses as weapons to hurt you.

3. You seem to beg for understanding constantly.

Do you feel like they just don't get you?

Emotional manipulators can get you to believe their version of the story without you realizing what has happened. They like the chaos of setting people against each other to make themselves happy, or to tkae the focus away from their own flaws.

You're likely being used if you're always in the middle of a misunderstanding when this person is around you.

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4. They act like they don't care about you.

This is a common way people try to make you feel bad. Most of the time, the manipulator avoids confrontation and channels their anger in other ways.

They might always have an explanation for what they did wrong or use silence as a punishment. They also use tools like microaggressions, snide comments, etc., to throw you off balance while being nice to you.

They might also try to trick you by giving you insults that sound like compliments.

For example, they might say, "You seem so immature and childish. How cute!" This makes you wonder if they like or dislike you.

5. They make you feel like they're doing too much for you.

Emotionally manipulative people take on tasks and responsibilities they don't want to do, then act as if they're doing you a solid favor. When they fight with you, they use what they did for you as a weapon.

For example, they might offer to cook dinner every night, then bring it up later by saying, "I always cook dinner for your ungrateful self." They might also buy you gifts or take you on expensive vacations to use them against you later.

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6. They act like a victim.

In their twisted version of the story, they are always the good person, and you are the bad person. You might always feel like you're at fault or that you did something wrong, even though they were the ones who were hurt you.

After a while, your self-esteem gets so low that you start believing you are the soiurce of the problems in the relationship.

7. They hone in on the bad and never mention the good.

You always feel like you need to be better, and nothing you do is good enough for them. You always end up being judged and criticized by the person, and you lose faith in yourself and your ability to have healthy relationships with others.

You always feel like small things are being used against you.

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8. They gaslight you.

Gaslighting is one of the most common ways people's feelings are messed with. The manipulator keeps saying something didn't happen, which makes you question your sanity and sense of reality.

Often, your real worries and concerns are minimized or ignored, and you start to believe their version of how things went down.

9. They tell lies all the time.

Do you sometimes feel like everything your partner says is a lie?

A person who is good at manipulating emotions is great at lying about small and big things. They lie about things as small as what they had for dinner and as big as whether or not they still talk to their ex. You can never tell if this person is telling the truth, which can make you feel overwhelmed.

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10. They talk for and over you.

Does your partner answer your questions before you have a chance to speak?

One of the most common ways a partner hurts your feelings is by never giving you a chance to say what you want. They might invalidate your opinions by talking over you.

Someone who tries to control your emotions may also talk over you when you make a point, thereby cutting you off from the conversation.

11. They often give ultimatums.

Do you give each other a lot of ultimatums?

Your partner might give up on ultimatums quickly and threaten to leave you over small issues. They like to be in charge of the relationship and don't mind making you feel worried and insecure. You will probably fell like you have to always be careful around your partner.

12. They make fun of you or put you down often.

Do you feel small when you're with your partner?

Even when you're with other people, they may try to make you feel insecure with comments that make you feel bad about yourself.

They don't mind saying things like, "She doesn't like it when I watch models." "Don't listen to him; he doesn't know anything about being financially stable," etc. Whenever you spend time with them, you always feel tired afterward.

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13. They make you doubt yourself and make you feel unsafe.

Have you ever felt worried about something that never bothered you before?

This is one of the best examples of using emotions to get what you want. They might talk about your weight, compare you to their ex-lovers or people they were attracted to, or ask you to be more like someone else.

All of this makes you have problems you never had before. If this continues for a long time, you may even show signs of anxiety or depression. You always feel like you're being watched and checked up on, and there's always too much pressure on you.

Some even say it's like living in a fishbowl. They put you under pressure to do things you wouldn't normally do, like get breast implants or buying a car or house you can't afford.

14. They don't mind making trouble.

Emotional manipulators aren't afraid to put you in awkward situations with other people. They love to make trouble in public, yell at you, or put you down in front of others. Even worse, they say bad things about you to your friends and family while making themselves out to be the victim. They might even come to your job to do this!

You often ignore or avoid confronting your feelings so they don't cause a scene.

15. They blackmail you into doing things.

"You should do this or..."

Emotionally manipulative people usually use blackmail to get you to act the way they want. To get you to do what they want, they could threaten to tell your friends or family about your secrets or leak private photos, among other things. You might feel like you can't get out of the relationship.

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16. You feel like you're going up against facts and numbers.

People who know inherently use their emotions to get what they want are often very smart. They show you what they mean by using facts, research, and statistics.

You may even feel like your opinions and arguments don't make sense. They're are very convincing when they do this, and you start to wonder if you're delusional when talking to them.

17. They make you the butt of their jokes.

They use humor and jokes against you and then say you're too sensitive if you get upset. These jokes are meant to make you feel negative but also make you laugh. They love to throw you off balance whenever they feel like it.

A manipulator's jokes often leave you wondering what they were getting at and whether or not it was a subtle dig at you.

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What does manipulation do to a relationship?

Emotional manipulation can make even the best relationships go bad and do a lot of damage that can't be fixed. Emotional manipulation leaves deep wounds that can get worse over time.

In relationships, ongoing manipulation can have the following effects:

  • Make people feel unsafe and less likely to trust you.
  • Ruin the mutual understanding you have for one another.
  • Increase low self-esteem.
  • Affect how safe someone feels.
  • Increase negative communication.

Remember that many people have learned to be manipulators without realizing it, so they might not even know what they're doing.

What can you do if you are being manipulated?

The first step in dealing with emotional manipulation is to figure out what it is. If you think your partner is manipulating you without meaning to, you can talk to them about it and ask if they would like to try therapy.

If your partner keeps trying to control you no matter what you do, you might want to think about ending the relationship and getting help for yourself.

In some cases, your partner may not be able to stop emotionally manipulating you because they are dealing with pain or mental health problems that make it hard for them to act normally around other people.

If this sounds like you or your partner, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist to learn more about the problem.

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Sidhharrth S Kumaar, founder of NumroVani, is a life and relationship coach who believes in creating a safe and non-judgmental space for self-exploration and transformation.