If your partner displays these 7 behaviors, they’re an emotional manipulator

Relationships are meant to be a safe place to be yourself.

A place where you can let your guard down and be vulnerable without fear of getting hurt. But what happens when the person you trusted most ends up being the one who’s secretly hurting you?

I’m talking about emotional manipulators—these sneaky partners who will make you question your reality and keep you hooked through mind games. 

Here are 7 classic signs to look out for if you suspect that your partner is an emotional manipulator:

1) They inflate your emotions into irrationality

Have you ever vented to your partner about a rough day at work, only for them to blow things way out of proportion? 

Like, one minute, you’re letting off steam; the next they’re making you feel silly for being so bent out of shape over something “trivial.”

Emotional manipulators love invalidating your feelings and making you feel unreasonable for experiencing totally valid emotions. It’s a tactic to regain the upper hand and make you doubt yourself.

My friend dealt with this constantly in her last relationship. She’d bring up issues she was having at work, just wanting to vent, and her boyfriend would dismissively say things like “You’re always overreacting” or “That’s nothing to get worked up over.” 

It slowly chipped away at her confidence until she no longer felt she could be herself with him. She then made the right decision to move on.

2) They question your reality

“Are you sure that’s what happened? You’re probably mixing things up…”

Gaslighting, making you doubt your own experiences and memories, is a classic manipulation move. It throws you off-balance and makes you second-guess what you know to be true.

And when you try to set the record straight by showing them evidence, they pull a quick switcheroo, like, “Oh, we’re keeping tabs now?” or they change the subject to avoid being called out.

This toxic behavior not only erodes trust between partners but also creates a power imbalance in the relationship. The manipulative partner consistently holds the truth, leaving the other partner feeling unreliable.

3) They make you constantly doubt yourself

Building off the gaslighting, emotional manipulators have a way of making you doubt your thoughts, feelings, and actions constantly. It’s a drip-drip-drip of skepticism until you’re a paranoid wreck always seeking their approval.

Maybe they’ll say something like “A smarter person would have handled that differently” or “No wonder your friends don’t take you seriously when you act like that.”

Such messages are a brutal assault on your self-esteem masked as caring criticism.

Before knowing it, you’ll suddenly wake up to the horrific situation of catching yourself running simple decisions by them first, terrified of being called names like “idiotic” or “naïve”. 

Your reality would become so warped that their opinion determines your self-worth.

4) They make excessive demands on your time

youre being toxic without realizing it If your partner displays these 7 behaviors, they're an emotional manipulator

Headed out for a friend’s birthday tonight? Surprise Surprise, your partner just guilt-tripped you for “never having time for them” and “choosing your friends over your relationship.” 

Emotional manipulators love forcing you to prioritize them by making you feel like crap about your other commitments. 

It’s a subtle way to isolate you from your circle and make you increasingly reliant on them.

I saw this happen with my roommate’s ex. He’d repeatedly accuse her of “not caring about us” anytime she made plans without him. Next thing you know, she was declining invites left and right to avoid the drama. 

Such behavior leaves a person fully dependent on their partner for any socializing need.

5) They guilt-trip you

A classic manipulation move is guilt-tripping. Guilt is a powerful emotion that can compel vulnerable individuals to act against their own desires or interests. 

So, when your partner starts giving you the cold shoulder, stops returning your calls, and withdraws from you, it’s important to recognize that this behavior is a manipulative tactic aimed at making you feel guilty

Their goal is to pressure you into doing what they want in order to restore peace between you.

You know, not everyone is a pro at expressing what they want or need straight up. 

That’s why it’s key to speak up when you suspect that your partner is acting a bit off. Chat with them about it to figure out if it’s intentional or just a case of them not being the best at communicating. 

6) They remind you of what you owe them

Another guilt-trip technique is when your partner never misses a chance to remind you of how much they’ve done for you and how you should be thanking your stars for their company.

Emotional manipulators are big on making you feel like you owe them. It’s their way to regain power and control in the relationship. 

They’ll bring up something nice they did and remind you of it whenever you want to hold them accountable for wrongdoing or when they want things done their way. 

A healthy relationship should be rooted in unconditional love and kindness from both sides.

So, if your partner keeps score of all the nice things they do and just won’t stop mentioning them, it’s time to revisit the relationship’s dynamics and authenticity.

7) They shower you with affection after mistreating you

If your partner cycles between being a good cop/bad cop, pumping you up with sweet affection one minute and tearing you down the next, they’re likely a toxic manipulator.

It’s honestly so confusing because the cozying feels like a respite from the turmoil. 

Until you realize it’s just an action to suck you back in after the mistreatment. The cycle continues as they reel you in with tender apologies and loving gestures, only to hit you with the next wave of drama shortly after.

Classic manipulation move: taking you from the highest highs to dragging you back down again.

Final thoughts:

If any of these signs ring true for you, please know you’re not losing your mind. 

Emotional manipulators are highly skilled at making you feel like the problem. But the reality is their behavior is the issue, not yours.

Have the courage to listen to that gut feeling telling you something is off. You deserve to feel safe, respected, and confident in your relationship – not questioning your grip on reality. 

Picture of Lily Gareth

Lily Gareth

Beirut-based writer with a flair for all that is artistic. Follow her on Instagram: @raysofdisarrays

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