10 phrases manipulative individuals use to subtly create dependency on them

Manipulation is not always obvious, but it’s always sinister. One can even go years without realizing they’re in the thick of it. 

And this isn’t purely in romantic relationships; manipulation can be found in our friendships, in our workplaces, and even within our families. Even strangers on the internet can be manipulative.

These individuals manipulate for different reasons and different outcomes, one of which is to create dependency.

So, I wanted to talk about that. Specifically, some phrases that they use to subtly create said dependency. 

Here are 10 of them.

1) “I treat you the best.”

What they’re implying: 

  • No one else can give you what I can give you. 
  • No one else can treat you the way I treat you.
  • Only I will treat you this well.
  • You can’t get anyone better than me.

The thing with manipulative phrases is that it can sound harmless if you don’t think about it hard enough. When said in passing or in a moment of joy, it can fly under the radar—especially if it’s said by someone you love and trust

“Don’t I treat you the best?” can translate into “Do you think you can get anyone better than me?” 

Those who treat you the best and without agenda won’t need to say it. They won’t need to emphasize what they do for you, because that? That’s just keeping score. 

And keeping score is how they control you. 

2) “You look better with/without [this] or I like it when other people do this”

What they’re implying: 

  • Don’t you dare deviate from what I find favorable.
  • I know what looks the best on you, so listen to me. 
  • Here are my preferences, fit into them.

This could be as deceptively simple as someone saying they hate it when girls have long hair when *you* have long hair yourself. It’s as though they want you to internalize their preference and live by it. 

Especially if they’re being incessant about it. 

However, it’s never just a haircut. It’s never just about an outfit. It’s never about your image or personality. 

It’s about their control. It’s about having the power to influence your decisions to fit into their desires. 

3) “It’s just your imagination.”

What they’re implying:

  • You’re wrong. 
  • You’re crazy.
  • You can’t possibly think I’m doing something wrong.

Gaslighting? Yup. 

Medical News Today says this, “A person on the receiving end of gaslighting may truly believe that they are not mentally well, that their memories are not accurate, or that their mind is playing tricks on them. This makes them feel dependent on the abusive person.”

And that’s sinister, isn’t it? To be made to feel like your reality is false. To be made to feel like you’re crazy. To be made that the other person’s reality is the only truth. 

A manipulative individual will have these gaslighting statements in their roster. Pay attention. 

4) “I know what’s best for us (or you)”

What they’re implying:

  • Leave the decisions to me.
  • You can’t have an opinion on this. 

“The words “I know what’s best for you” are dangerously destructive to the creation of harmonious partnerships, groups, communities, nations, and planets. Sound harsh? Let me explain why.

“The reason these words are so ruinous is that many people believe them. Why is that a problem? Because it’s never, ever, ever true.” – Timothy A Carey Ph.D. | It’s Not The Words But The Thought That Counts

Manipulative people will use this line to make it seem that they are putting you first. They will use this to make you rely on them.

See, people can have an opinion on what’s best for you, people can even advise you on what they think is best for you, but it doesn’t mean they’re right. It doesn’t mean they actually know.  

Your voice needs to be the loudest voice with matters that concern you.

You have autonomy and anyone who wants you to disregard that fact does not have your best interests at heart.

5) “I don’t like it when you meet them.”

What they’re implying:

  • Don’t meet them.

“Isolation isn’t usually achieved through force to begin with, but rather subtler manipulation, such as guilt or pressure tactics.

“They may say you’re selfish for spending X amount of time with your friends, or make you feel guilty in some other way, such as saying they don’t have friends nearby to socialise with.” – Emma Rose B | The Role of Isolation in Abuse, The Personal Growth Project 

Isolation is subtle until it isn’t. 

One moment they just want more and more of your time, then they want you to spend less and less with other people, then you can only spend time with who they approve of, until they don’t want you to spend time with anyone else but them.

6) “I can’t believe you’re doubting me!”

If your partner displays these behaviors theyre an emotional manipulator 10 phrases manipulative individuals use to subtly create dependency on them

What they’re implying:

  • How dare you think badly of me. 
  • I can’t let you find out that you’re right. 
  • You’re crazy. (Refer to #3)

A manipulative individual bets on your kindness. They bet on your belief in them. They bet on your good heart, that you wouldn’t be able to stand being difficult for someone else.

They will bet on that. They thrive on that sense of control. 

They will confuse you. They will make it seem like you’re wrong for standing your ground

7) “No one will love you like I love you.”

What they’re implying:

  • So believe the decisions I make for you.
  • So don’t leave me. You can’t.

Positioning themself as the person who loves you most is leading you to believe that they can make your decisions for you, that “they can’t possibly wrong you”.

Spoiler alert: they can. Love does not guarantee that they will want or know what’s best for you (Refer to #4). That one’s respect. 

Respect can better guarantee that they will not manipulate you. Love is not enough. 

8) “I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me.”

What they’re implying:

  • You can’t leave.
  • Whatever will happen to me after you leave will be your fault.

When I was in high school, there was a boy who threatened self-harm if I ever left him. Even then, I knew this was bad, I just didn’t understand that it was emotional manipulation. 

Was I scared? Yes. Did I still leave him? Yes.

Did he do it to other women, too? Yes. Is he still alive? Yes. 

Am I still angry about it years after the fact? Hell yeah. 

A manipulative person understands the softness of your heart and would knowingly use this tactic to stir you. Don’t let them win. 

9) “It’s us against the world.”

What they’re implying:

  • I’m the only one you can trust. 

Sounds romantic, right? Well, it could be (just the amount of songs written about this is proof.)

However, there’s a difference between “I’ll be your partner in life and weather the storms with you” and “The world is our enemy and I’m the only one you can trust.”

The difference is the motive. The difference is how you will feel. 

The first one, you can feel safe and empowered, to have a partner who’s willing to stand with you and stand by you. The second one is fear, like the world is out to get you and you have no one else but them. 

10) “If you really loved me, you would…”

What they’re implying:

  • You can’t even do this for me? 

Barring specific instances like ultimatums against destructive behavior, ultimatums can be damaging to a relationship

Very Well Mind defines it as “An ultimatum is a warning or demand issued to one’s partner to act in a specified way within a specified period or they risk losing the relationship.” 

It sets a toxic pattern of pathetically seeing an illusion of a choice. It’s playing with one’s feelings and sincerity. 

It is a weaponization of love and a person who really loves you won’t push you into this proverbial corner. 

Final thoughts

There’s no sugarcoating this: Being manipulated sucks. 

I think that’s even putting it likely. It feels like betrayal, and isn’t that the thing about betrayal? It’s never from our enemies.

You can look into the eyes of someone you’ve trusted for years and they can still utter these words. They can still choose to play you like a fiddle. 

So when you hear these words? Run. 

And remember that that’s not on you. It doesn’t reflect your heart. 

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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