6 warning signs your partner is playing mind games with you

Do you feel that you’re in a manipulative relationship? Getting together with someone should bring you happiness, and not cause you to feel more isolated and anxious.

A relationship is usually tested during times of conflict. While conflicts are a normal occurrence in any relationship, it’s how the both of you respond to it that matters. Not only does it affect the relationship, but it affects both of you. 

If you suspect that your partner is playing mind games with you, here are 6 signs to look out for.

1) They intentionally start arguments with you

Some people enjoy getting a reaction out of another person and they do this on purpose. I had a colleague whose boyfriend loved doing this. He’d intentionally say something aggravating in public for the sake of starting an argument.

He wanted to get a reaction out of her because this made him feel like he was in control over her. They’d fight over the smallest things and a perfectly good evening would be ruined because he thought it would be funny to antagonize her.

At times, they may justify this as ‘a test’, as if they were doing something right by wanting to see how the other person would react to prove a point.

This is a very clear example of manipulation.

2) They gaslight you into thinking you’re in the wrong

Another clear sign that your partner is playing mind games with you is that they gaslight you into thinking that you’re in the wrong. 

When you share your struggles or problems, does your partner refuse to side with you? Granted, there will be times when you are the cause of the problem. But your partner should not be minimizing your challenges and pointing the finger at you all the time.

This is especially so when they have hurt you in some way. They may tell you that this uncomfortable feeling is all in your head, or that you’re just exaggerating. Their intention is to manipulate you into thinking that they should be absolved of all wrongdoing. 

If you’ve tried confronting your partner about their behavior yet they still repeatedly do this, leaving you even more confused, you may want to be on your guard.

3) They send you mixed signals

Sending mixed signals is another form of mind games. To ensure they get you to do what they want, they may emotionally manipulate you to be in control. 

They may seem eager to go out with you at the start but cancel at the last minute. Or they may expect you to open up to them fully but refuse to do so. 

On the one hand, you feel that they’re supportive and kind, but on the other, they seem aloof and disinterested. This causes you to second guess every decision you make because you’re not sure if what you say or do will cause them to flare up.

Over time, this can take a toll on your mental health. Each day is like walking on eggshells and you never know what will make them respond favourably.

4) They can’t take no for an answer

Have you ever met someone who just cannot accept ‘no’ for an answer? They will do all they can to make sure they get what they want.

I had a friend like this and it was insufferable being around her. When she got together with her partner, things ended really quickly once he got to know her better. 

She’d wanted him to purchase a bag from this brand she really liked. As the bag was expensive and beyond his budget (he had just started working), he told her honestly that he would try to save up for it but that it was just too expensive. Upon hearing that, she told him that if he truly loved her, he’d get her the bag regardless – even if it meant using up nearly all his paycheck for that month.

And that was just one of the many things she did just to get what she wanted. 

If your partner cannot take no for an answer, it simply shows that they’re completely disinterested in your wants and needs. You’re just there to give them what they want.

5) They constantly criticize

Constantly criticizing someone can cause serious damage to their self-esteem and self-worth. It’s also another tactic people use to manipulate the other person.

This is largely fuelled by their need to be better than you. If your partner never has a kind word, always puts you down, and never celebrates your wins, this is a very clear sign that they don’t want the best for you. They want to be better than you.

They aren’t able to bring themselves to accept that you’re doing better than them, or doing well in general. And criticizing you is a good way to ensure that you never see yourself worthy of the achievements you’ve accomplished. 

A healthy relationship should be filled with support, love, and encouragement. You should feel safe enough to share your struggles without having to fear being ridiculed. 

6) They withhold affection/attention

Withholding affection from someone is another sign that your partner may be playing mind games with you. 

After an argument, do they give you the cold shoulder? Do they refuse to acknowledge you or show affection for a long period of time – until you apologize or give in to what they want?

While it’s normal for people to want to cool off before addressing the issue at hand, intentionally avoiding the other person in order to get them to do what you want is a classic sign of manipulation.

When you’re at the receiving end of this, it can get miserable really fast. You’re trying your best to resolve the issue as amicably as you can while managing your own negative emotions, but your partner just completely ignores you. 

If someone truly cares about you, they will try their best to resolve the issue at hand in the most reasonable way possible. A relationship requires both partners to put in the effort to resolve the situation. 


If you relate to most or all of the points above, you may want to talk to someone about your situation. You can try talking to your partner about what you’re feeling and take note of their response.

If they’re still trying to play mind games with you and shift the blame, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the relationship. 

Picture of Elizabeth Koh

Elizabeth Koh

A freelance writer sharing her thoughts on this corner of the Internet hoping they inspire. Constantly seeking opportunities for creative expression and happiness in the little things.

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.