9 mind games narcissists play to control their partner in a relationship

Navigating relationships can be tricky, especially when there’s a narcissist in the mix.

Narcissists have a knack for controlling their partners, often resorting to mind games to maintain their grip. It’s not about caring or compromise for them; it’s about winning at all costs.

These mind games are often subtle, manipulative tactics designed to keep you second-guessing yourself and feeling off balance. Understanding these games is the first step towards breaking free from their toxic influence.

In this article, I’ll be sharing 9 mind games narcissists play to control their partner in a relationship. By the end, you’ll be better equipped to spot these tactics and reclaim your power. Let’s dive in, shall we?

1) Gaslighting

Gaslighting is one of the most common mind games narcissists play.

This psychological manipulation tactic involves making their partner question their reality or sanity. 

Imagine you’re absolutely sure about something, but your partner keeps insisting that you’re wrong, even lying about facts or events to prove their point. Over time, you might find yourself doubting your memory, perceptions, and even your sanity.

Narcissists use gaslighting to gain control and power in a relationship. By undermining your grasp of reality, they make you dependent on them for what’s ‘real’ and what’s not.

The first step in combating gaslighting is recognizing it. Once you know what’s happening, you can begin to regain control of your reality. Remember, trust in yourself and your perceptions is key.

2) The silent treatment

The second mind game narcissists love to play is the silent treatment.

Here’s how it played out in my personal experience. I was in a relationship where if I ever dared to voice a concern or express an opinion that differed from my partner’s, I was met with cold, stony silence. No arguing, no shouting. Just silence.

This wasn’t just for a few hours either. It would stretch on for days and sometimes even weeks. The message was clear: either I fell in line with his views or I was left shivering in the coldness of his silence.

It took me a while to understand what was happening. The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation used to make the other person feel insignificant and powerless. It’s about control and domination, not about resolving issues.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, remember that everyone has the right to express their feelings and opinions. Silence does not equate to agreement but could be a sign of manipulation at play.

3) Love bombing

Love bombing is another tactic narcissists commonly use in relationships.

This involves showering their partner with attention, affection, and compliments in the initial stages of a relationship. They make grand gestures, promise the world, and make you feel like you’re the center of their universe. 

But here’s the catch: it’s often not genuine love or affection. Instead, it’s a strategic move to make you emotionally dependent on them.

According to Dr. Dale Archer, a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry, narcissists use love bombing as a way to speed up the development of a relationship, often pushing for serious commitments such as marriage or moving in together within the first few weeks or months.

Therefore, if things seem too good to be true, take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Real love takes time to grow; it isn’t created overnight with a few grand gestures.

4) Playing the victim

A classic tactic narcissists use to manipulate their partners is playing the victim.

In any situation, big or small, they somehow manage to twist the narrative so they’re the ones who’ve been wronged. Even when they’re clearly at fault, they skillfully evade responsibility and shift blame onto others.

By playing the victim, narcissists evoke their partner’s sympathy and guilt – making them feel responsible for their supposed misery. This way, they manage to avoid accountability and even get their partners to apologize and make amends.

If you find yourself constantly blamed for things going wrong, it might be time to reassess the dynamics of your relationship.

pic1868 9 mind games narcissists play to control their partner in a relationship

5) The blame game

Ah, the blame game – the narcissist’s favorite pastime!

Narcissists are blame afficionados. Nothing is ever their fault. If something goes wrong, they will always find someone or something else to pin the blame on. It’s an endless cycle of shifting responsibility and avoiding accountability.

In a relationship, this often means that you may find yourself constantly on the receiving end of blame. Every argument, every problem, somehow it’s always your fault – at least according to the narcissist.

Narcissists use this tactic to keep their partner feeling off-balance and insecure. If you’re always at fault, you’re always on the defensive – which gives them control.

Keep in mind that everyone is responsible for their actions. Don’t let anyone shift their blame onto you.

6) Devaluation

Devaluation is a heartbreaking tactic narcissists use in relationships.

After the initial love-bombing phase, where they shower you with affection and attention, comes the devaluation phase. Suddenly, all those things they loved about you are now annoyances. The compliments turn into criticisms, and the affection turns into indifference.

Devaluation is a tool to make you feel worthless and unlovable. You might find yourself constantly trying to win back their affection, doing everything you can to please them, but nothing ever seems enough.

It’s a painful process that can leave you feeling lost and confused. But remember, your worth is not determined by how someone treats you – especially when that someone is a narcissist. You are deserving of love and respect, always.

7) Triangulation

Triangulation is a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists to sow seeds of doubt and insecurity in their partners.

I remember when I found myself caught in this web. My partner would often bring up his ex-girlfriend in our conversations, comparing us and praising her in ways that made me feel inadequate. He would also flirt openly with others when I was around, making me feel jealous and insecure.

In hindsight, I realize this was all a part of his game – a way to make me compete for his attention and prove my worth. It was about control, not love.

Triangulation can be damaging to your sense of self-worth and can breed unhealthy competition and insecurity in a relationship. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, try to see it for what it is – just another game for the narcissist.

8) The threat of abandonment

Narcissists often use the threat of abandonment as a tool to control their partners.

They make their partners feel as though they’re always on the verge of being left, creating a constant state of anxiety and fear. This could take the form of vague statements like “I don’t know how long I can do this” or “maybe we’re not right for each other”.

The fear of abandonment is a powerful motivator, and narcissists exploit this to keep their partners walking on eggshells, trying to keep them happy at all costs.

9) The cycle of abuse

The most important thing to understand about narcissistic abuse is that it follows a cycle: idealization, devaluation, and discard.

In the idealization phase, you’re showered with love and attention. Then comes the devaluation phase, where you’re constantly criticized and belittled. Finally, in the discard phase, the narcissist may abandon you emotionally or physically, leaving you feeling devastated and worthless.

Recognizing this cycle can be your first step towards breaking free from a narcissist’s control. Always remember that you deserve a relationship based on mutual respect, understanding, and genuine love – not manipulation and control.

Final thoughts: Empowerment is key

Renowned psychologist Dr. Karyl McBride, author of “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers”, emphasizes that breaking free from a narcissist’s control often starts with acknowledging the reality of the situation.

And the reality is this: Narcissists are masters of manipulation, using these games to maintain control and power in relationships. But remember, you’re not a pawn in their game. You have the power to choose your response, to set boundaries, to seek help.

Whether it’s reaching out to a trusted friend, a support group, or a professional counselor, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. You are not alone in this journey.

Recognizing these tactics can be your first step towards reclaiming your power. Because in the end, you deserve a relationship that’s based on mutual respect, love, and understanding – not manipulation and control.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.