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9 Signs of Manipulation in a Relationship Not To Be Ignored

Last Updated on 2 years by Iva Ursano

I’m pretty certain we’ve all been manipulated at some point in our lives. Siblings are good for doing that! Ha! We can laugh it off now but it wasn’t so funny back then. We didn’t even know we were being manipulated. But we’re adults now and some of us still can’t recognize the signs of manipulation in a relationship.

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It can be difficult to see the signs of manipulation in a relationship

In my opinion, this is a pretty serious topic. It honestly can be kind of difficult to recognize the signs of relationship manipulation so I want to point out a few of them in this article. Please share it with someone you know who needs to read this.

So many of the signs we misinterpret as our partner just being overly protective or loving us so much they don’t want to see us hurt. Know this right now, it’s not any of those things.

How many times have you said to yourself or a friend “Oh, he/she just loves me so much they are protecting me”? Or this statement “Oh, he/she just wants what’s best for me”.

Sure they probably do love you but it’s unhealthy love if you are constantly being manipulated in your relationship.

What are the characteristics of a manipulative person?

There actually something called manipulative personality disorder.

Did you even know this was a thing? I discovered this many many years ago when I was in a relationship with a woman (don’t judge). She was the queen of manipulation. I was constantly being tested and manipulated “but baby I love you” was something I heard ALL the time and I believed it and thought this was normal.

Until I didn’t anymore.

So I needed to find out what manipulative personality disorder was. I Googled the definition for you:

According to this is what manipulative personality disorder is

Manipulation is particularly common with personality disorder diagnoses such as borderline personality (BPD) and narcissistic personality (NPD). … Characteristics of narcissistic manipulation may include shaming, blaming, playing the “victim,” control issues, and gaslighting.

It’s pretty serious. You’re not dealing with someone who has good intentions or is emotionally stable.

Now in case you aren’t really sure if you are being manipulated in a relationship (partner/friend/co-worker/etc) let’s look at some warning signs. If you do recognize some of these signs, later on this article we’ll talk about how to stop being manipulated.

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Toxic manipulative relationships are very damaging!

Very damaging.

The damage from the physical and sexual abuse I suffered doesn’t even come close to the stuff I deal with almost daily from toxic manipulative relationships I’ve been in.

You have to completely retrain your brain and tell yourself a whole new story. That takes time and a lot of work. To this day, I still have to talk myself off the ledge from a trigger from being manipulated in a relationship. I’m definitely a million times better than I was 10 years ago.

Day by day we heal and grow stronger and as we grow we share our healing journey to help others grow stronger and heal. I love how that works.

Part of my healing journey included writing. I wrote and created a mini self help eBook series that I would love if you took a minute to check out now. These are powerful mini eBooks to help you with whatever issue you may be dealing with right now.

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Signs of emotional manipulation

So before we get too deep into this it’s important to know there are many different types of manipulation. I know, like we need more types, right?

Emotional manipulation seems to be the most popular one. It also does an awful lot of long term damage. I’m still recovering and healing from damage done years ago.

So what are some of the signs of emotional manipulation?

  • they make you feel guilty for just about everything
  • you’re to blame for everything
  • use your love for them as a pawn to get things
  • double standards (it’s good for them but not you)
  • they are the victim all the time

Now if you see the list below, you will see that some signs of emotional manipulation are in there because that’s the easiest game for a manipulator to play. The one with your feelings. It gets you every time and then they’ve won.

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9 Warning Signs of Manipulation in a Relationship

Please keep in mind these go for any relationship, not just your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend. Being manipulated by anyone in any setting or relationship is damaging and very harmful to your self worth, self confidence, self esteem and so much more.

1 Putting blame on you if you don’t give in

You know what I’m talking about. “Well if you don’t do this for me now this disaster_________ will happen”. Suddenly it’s all your fault. It’s up to you do something they should have done and if you don’t a bad thing will happen to them. Ugh!! This one drives me crazy, but manipulators use it all the time.

They know you don’t want to see any harm come to them so you do what they ask you.

2 It’s your fault I’m mad

More blaming but this time they are blaming you for their feelings. If they are angry, sad, mad, frustrated or whatever, it’s all your fault. People with manipulative personality disorder cannot and will not take responsibility for their actions or their feelings. Always looking to point the finger at the next guy, usually a loved one.

You will feel awful, apologize profusely and this in turn gives them ultimate control and makes them feel powerful.

3 There are strings attached

I’ll do that but first you need to do this. OR. Yes we can do this but only if I can do that after or tomorrow. This is not unconditional love or kindness. This is cut and dry manipulation. Kids do this!!

There always seem to have to be something in it for them otherwise they aren’t happy.

4 You always feel fear around them

If this is the case they have bullied you into complete manipulation and control. They know they now have the upper hand no matter what you do or what goes on in the relationship.

Many manipulators and bullies (or narcissists) want you to feel fear. They thrive on that emotion because it makes them feel powerful.


5 They tell twisted stories

Like not the whole truth but part of the truth and mostly a lie because they have something to hide and don’t feel the need to tell you. So they’re kind of lying but not really and then trap you in an argument about whether or not they are lying because in their mind, they aren’t.

You only need to part of the truth, not the whole truth and to them, that’s good enough.

6 What they want you want too- you’ll see

They will use whatever tactic known to convince you that whatever thing they want (that you clearly don’t) you want too. Regardless of the fact you really really don’t.

They will argue until you finally give in. They’ll be happy because they have won. You’ll be exhausted because once again, you’ve fallen into the trap of a manipulator.

7 Hurry and make up your mind

If you don’t answer or make a decision fast enough, they’ll do it for you. It’s not that the manipulator is impatient. They just want the upper hand and really don’t want you to make a decision.

They want to. So if fail this test don’t try to complain about what they’ve decided on. You had your chance.

8 No communication/cold shoulder

They won’t reply to your calls or even talk to you if you’re in the same room. They want you to feel guilty and beg them to talk to you again.

They feel this is power move and will use it any chance they get. Why? So you come crawling back to them apologizing profusely for something that wasn’t even your fault.

9 Feel sorry for me dammit

They will often play the victim to get you to do what they want you to do or to feel sorry for them. This way, once they have your pity, they know they can use this chess piece every single time they want something.

And they remind you about it often, throw it in your face even, just so that they will always get their way.

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How to stop being manipulated in a relationship

Please remember this applies to all relationships in general. I get that dealing with a manipulative person in a romantic relationship may be a little different but generally the same tips apply.

And if you are in a relationship with a manipulative person and they don’t see their ways (they probably don’t anyway but people do change) then you may consider leaving or maybe start with some relationship counselling first?

So if you recognize any of these signs of manipulation in a relationship, here’s how to deal with them.

The first step to stop being manipulated in a relationship is:

  • Disconnect from the conversation. 

You already know they are about to go off on their usual “if you don’t do this” or “because of you this happened” rampage so immediately disconnect from the conversation. Let them know you aren’t buying into their usual bs tactics. You can either say “this conversation is over” or “please don’t start that up because I have no interest in this conversation”.

It’s up to you take the upper hand here.

  • Stay firm in your decision

Don’t sway and don’t let them talk you out of your decision. We’ve been doing this for so long now it’s time to stop. You let them know this is how it is, this is what YOU want and you won’t back down. Period. Find and use your voice.

They may even garner a little bit more respect for you.

  • Call them out on their bs

Stop them in their tracks and let them know right out of the gate you know  they are being manipulative (or lying or being a bully or whatever) and that they need to stop using these childish tactics on you.

For so long they have been using you as a doormat. Get up off the floor and stand tall in your ‘I’m not taking your bs’ stance.

How to move on from a manipulative relationship

It’s tough. Leaving and trying to rebuild your life after you’ve been in a manipulative relationship is hard af. You constantly second guess everything you do. You hardly trust anyone anymore. You live in fear a lot and your self worth and self confidence are almost non existent.


You can move on from a manipulative relationship and be happy again. It just will require some work on your part. Healing from any kind of toxic relationship takes a lot of work.

I actually just uploaded a really good video over on my YouTube channel Women Blazing Trails about how to leave an abusive relationship if you’re already at that point. Don’t forget to subscribe while you’re there!

What other signs of manipulation in a relationship do you know?

Have you recently been in a manipulated in a relationship and were able to get out? What other signs of manipulation in a relationship did you experience? Share them with the readers so they know.

I’ve only touched upon 9 but there are so many other little signs that some of them may even go unnoticed.

Please know that manipulation is control and power and no should ever do those things to you. Ever. They will break you down and make you feel totally worthless.

You are not worthless and you deserve so much more than this. Find your voice, use it.

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  1. I need help to overcome covert narcissistic abuse. I can completely relate to all this information and more..

  2. I am not sure if my husband is a narcissistic person. For years he would treat me like I was his child. I felt trapped. The only way I could get away from him was to pick a fight and leave. He would bug me.not to go because he was so scared I would find someone. Now I finally got the courage to leave him. He blaims me saying I ruined him. I made him heart
    Less and cold.

    1. Of course he will blame you. Why would he accept blame for something he did? Good for you girl!!! Stay strong and leave him on the curb. xoxo

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