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30 signs of a manipulative relationship (+ what to do about it)

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Many of us have probably been in situations where we were manipulated by someone into doing something we didn’t want to or didn’t believe was right.

It can happen in romantic relationships, friendships, workplaces, and everywhere else — and it’s not always easy to identify what’s happening.

If you feel confused and are not sure what is going on, here are 25 signs of a manipulative relationship!

1) You find yourself feeling angry and resentful about a certain person

This is perhaps the easiest sign to spot. If you find yourself becoming resentful and angry, at times, it may have nothing to do with the other person — but if you feel anger and resentment about a person all the time, it’s possible that something is going on behind the scenes.

It may be because you cannot fully understand why this person is playing with your mind.

2) You feel like you’re always walking on eggshells

If you’re too afraid to say what you really want because you’re afraid of the person’s reaction, this is a major red flag that should tell you to run! If you find yourself walking on eggshells or being overly polite, if your partner or friend never hears out what you have to say, this is a warning sign that they are controlling and manipulative.

They’re not actually trying to hurt you, but they want to get back at you for something. Compliance is a way of manipulation where people demand things from you and then reward you with gifts.

3) You feel like you’re not believed or supported

We all need to feel that we are loved and accepted for who we truly are. If you feel like you’re not being trusted or supported, this might be a sign of manipulation.

There’s something known as “gaslighting,” which is a form of manipulation where a partner tries to make you question your own feelings and thoughts.

It’s a way to control your emotions and make you feel like an unstable person. It’s very common in abusive relationships, but it can happen in less obvious ways as well.

4) If a problem is brought up, it’s never resolved

One example is if your partner accused you of cheating, he or she would deny that anything happened.

This is a very clear sign that you’re dealing with someone who is manipulating you. They are probably doing this to distract you from the real issue they have in the first place.

5) You often feel guilty or ashamed, even if you haven’t done anything wrong

This is a very subtle form of manipulation. People who are manipulative will often try to make you feel guilty or ashamed of yourself even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

If they do this often enough, it might become too much for you to bear, and you’ll eventually start believing it — which will damage your mentality and internal strength.

6) You feel like you’re treated like a child and constantly need permission for even the smallest things

In any interpersonal relationship — especially romantic ones — it’s important that both partners feel respected and equal.

People who are manipulative often treat their other half like a child. They want to be in control of you and make all of your decisions for you.

7) You’re often reminded of past mistakes and bad choices as if your partner is trying to manipulate you into not doing them again

This is usually done by making you feel guilty about something over and over again. It’s almost like they want to make you feel like a bad person, even if it’s not your fault.

There are games involved, and your partner always has to manipulate the situation in their favor. It’s almost like there are two opposing teams who want to win themselves points at the expense of the other person in order to get their own way.

8) You often get very little respect from your partner (and maybe even from other people around you)

Sometimes when you’re in a relationship with someone who is manipulative, you’ll end up feeling very disrespected and unsatisfied. Maybe there’s never any respect for you at all.

If this happens often enough, it can make you feel insecure in your relationship and maybe even cause you to question your self-worth – which is not a good place to be mentally.

9) Your partner tries to convince you that his or her bad habits aren’t really that bad

Don’t let your partner try to convince you that their bad habits are actually good! They’re trying to manipulate you into doing what they want and make you feel guilty about it.

If they constantly try to justify their bad behavior, it might be a sign that they’re manipulating you. It’s also another way for them to try and control the situation.

10) Your partner uses your emotions as a weapon against you

People who are manipulative will do anything to get what they want, even if that means using your emotions against you. If your partner often tries to make you upset or sad, they might be just trying to manipulate you so they can get their way.

People who manipulate others use other people’s emotions as weapons because it makes people feel unstable and weak.

11) Your partner tries to control how you spend your time and money (and maybe even who you spend that time and money with)

Someone who is manipulative may be trying to control how you spend your time or money. This happens because a manipulative person’s first priority is himself/herself, not the relationship.

They don’t really want to spend time with you, but they will do it if it means they can manipulate you into doing things their way.

12) Your partner tries to force you to talk about something you don’t want to talk about or might not be ready to talk about yet

There are many different ways someone might try to force you to talk about something. This is a sign of manipulation because it’s usually done out of fear.

Instead of coming up with their own ideas, they’ll try to manipulate you into doing what they want. They might blame everything on you, too — like there’s something wrong with your life.

13) Your partner loves to nitpick and bring up every single little detail about your life

If your partner loves to nitpick, this might be a sign of manipulation. Don’t let someone whose main focus is to find every single thing about you that’s wrong!

Instead of trying to convince you there’s something wrong with your life, they should accept you for who you are and try to improve your relationship together.

14) Your partner is never satisfied with anything you do

If your partner is never satisfied with anything you do, he might be trying to manipulate you. People who are manipulative are also very controlling and most likely unhappy with themselves.

They will try to make you feel like there’s something wrong with you for not doing things the way they want.

15) Your partner often criticizes you on a deep level, poking at your insecurities, fears, or self-worth

When a person picks on someone else’s insecurities, fears, and self-worth, it’s a clear sign that that person is manipulative. They might even use this tactic to try and get you to change something about yourself.

But remember: You are not your insecurities, fears, or self-worth. You are a special and unique person who is worthy of love!

16) You feel like you can’t break free from being manipulated because it’s such a big burden to take on yourself

Sometimes when you’re being manipulated, it can put a heavy burden on your shoulders. You might feel like there’s nothing you can do about it and that it’s your fault — especially if people around you are manipulating you.

If this happens, it might make you feel weak and afraid to make decisions for yourself in the relationship – which is what they want.

17) You feel a sense of dread about going home or spending time with the person, but you rationalize it by telling yourself this is the best way to deal with it

Sometimes you’ll feel a sense of dread around the person you’re in a relationship with. It could be because they’re manipulative and you don’t know how to handle it.

If this happens to you and keeping up the relationship is making you feel anxious and uncomfortable, it might be a sign that this person is toxic. Try to communicate your discomfort to your partner and see if they are willing to change things around.

18) You feel like you’re being accused of doing something wrong, even when you’ve done nothing wrong and are just trying to do your best

It may be hard to believe, but sometimes even very nice and honest people can also be manipulative. They’ll tend to do things that are frustrating and unfair – so you feel like there’s something wrong with you.

However, don’t get mad at yourself for other people’s mistakes! You’re not responsible for all their problems.

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Instead, try to see what they could learn from the situation they’ve created in their own lives – which could be the difference between being a happy and healthy person or not!

19) You feel pressured to take on more responsibility that is not yours

If someone always tries to make you feel like you owe him/her something, it’s a sign of manipulation. Manipulative people always try to get you to do things for them, and they’ll put it in a way that makes you feel like you owe them — even if it’s not your responsibility.

If someone is manipulative and controlling, or if they’re making your life difficult just because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do, the problem isn’t yours. It’s theirs.

20) You find yourself having to defend yourself all the time, sometimes even before you’ve been given an explanation why that is necessary

When you’re in a relationship, you are entitled to be wrong. Everyone is entitled to mistakes.

However, if you feel like every time you make a mistake, your partner jumps all over it as if there’s something wrong with you instead of trying to correct the mistake or reason it out with you.

You might be dealing with someone who is being manipulative instead of acknowledging that mistakes happen, and sometimes people can’t control how they react all the time.

21) You find yourself feeling ashamed, constantly thinking about your behavior and how you should have behaved differently

There’s nothing wrong with being a human. No matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be something that you do wrong from time to time.

However, if you find yourself constantly thinking about your mistakes or feelings, ashamed of them, and how you should have behaved differently, your partner is trying to manipulate you into changing your behavior.

22) You feel like nobody will take the side of you when you need them to

Your partner might be trying to manipulate you because they can’t stand the fact that you think for yourself. People with this behavior tend to try and make you feel like your opinion doesn’t matter.

If they tell you that thinking things through and making your own decisions is wrong, they might be trying to manipulate you into doing what they want — or feel like your opinion doesn’t count.

However, it’s important that you do what makes YOU happy and stop worrying about what other people think.

23) You feel as if you’re never good enough, and there’s nothing you can do to change it

If you find yourself constantly thinking that you’re not good enough and never will be — or if you find yourself apologizing for something you haven’t even done — then it could be a sign that someone is manipulative.

This person might not have the best intentions, but their tactics are used to make you think they do.

24) Your partner has a habit of getting very emotional and accusatory during discussions, often without any provocation on your part

If your partner is throwing a temper tantrum every time, they don’t get their way.

It’s probably because they can’t handle the fact that the problem is their own and not yours. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be a good idea to protect yourself and your well-being.

You have to realize that this person is not going to change because someone like this doesn’t understand other people’s feelings or respect them. They just want what they think they should have.

25) You feel like you’re being walked all over

When someone tries to manipulate you, they’re essentially looking to put the blame on you.

If they try and tell you that everything is your fault, it’s a sign that they don’t value your opinion and have a hard time handling any other decision that isn’t theirs.

26) Your partner refuses to take responsibility for their own mistakes

If someone always finds a way to blame you for mistakes they have made, it could be that they don’t want to acknowledge that they’re the ones responsible.

It might also mean that they are unable to accept responsibility for their own actions. However, whatever issues that your partner has, it is not up to you to deal with them or suffer.

Draw a line and protect yourself.

27) You feel like you need to fight constantly because you know that they’re hiding something, but they won’t tell you what it is

If you find yourself in a relationship with a person who refuses to come clean and own up to their mistakes — you don’t have to do the same thing.

You’re not going to change your partner. However, it’s important that you protect yourself and realize that someone who is being manipulative and secretive about everything is not going to be one of the good guys for long.

28) You feel like no one is listening to what you want or need

If you feel like you are alone in the relationship and your partner doesn’t acknowledge your needs, it could be a sign that they don’t care about you.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about themselves, but they have decided to sacrifice you for their own needs and wants.

29) You feel as if a relationship is moving faster than you can handle

It’s important to pace yourself within a new relationship because you never know how things will progress or change.

However, if it feels like your partner is speeding ahead of you and pushing you into something that feels too fast, it is usually not a good sign.

You might want to slow things down and put space between the two of you before things get out of hand.

30) You find yourself feeling like a slave to your partner because of all the work that you are doing for them

If you feel like you’re doing everything for your partner, and it seems as if everything is taking a toll on you physically and emotionally, it might be a sign that they are manipulating you.

This happens because they want to take advantage of your nice nature and make sure that they get what they want without having to do the work. However, you can’t change someone, but you can change the way you behave when this happens.

So if this is happening, it’s important for you to realize that the relationship won’t work out in the long run. Work on your insecurities and boundaries, so you can go out and explore other options — and save yourself from a manipulative person.

It is not your job or responsibility to be a therapist to your partner unless you want to jump into the role of a savior, which would make things even worse.

What can you do about it?

If you feel like you’re in a situation where you’re being manipulated, don’t be afraid to speak up! If you’re in a romantic relationship and your partner is manipulating you, talk to him or her about it. Break the cycle of manipulation by communicating your needs – ask for what you want and express what worries or concerns you have.

If a relationship isn’t working out, don’t feel obligated to be in it. If you don’t feel respected or safe if your partner makes you feel like a child and uses guilt to control you, if he or she often criticizes you in a very deep way, that’s a warning sign.

If your partner makes you feel guilty for doing things even when you haven’t done anything wrong, that’s also something to look out for. If it happens often and suddenly in a relationship, it might be happening because the person is having problems at work or home and wants someone to blame this problem on you.

Establish a support system – a group of friends and family that you can turn to when you feel like you need support from a neutral party or when you feel like the manipulative behavior is getting out of hand.

Try your best not to internalize these behaviors – if someone makes you feel bad about yourself, remind yourself that he or she has internal problems and issues, not necessarily a problem with you!

Final thoughts

How do you know if your partner is manipulative? If you feel like your partner has a lot of negativity to their personality, or if you find yourself constantly feeling bad for things that maybe aren’t even your fault, it might be a sign that something is wrong.

If someone makes you feel like you’re never good enough and that there’s nothing you can do to change anything, they might be trying to manipulate you. If so, it’s important that you create a safe space for yourself.

Talk to someone you trust and limit your contact with the person who is trying to destroy your self-esteem. You deserve to be with someone who values you and wishes the best for you!

How this one revelation changed my love life

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Best wishes,
Justin Brown, Ideapod Founder

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