Signs of Emotional Manipulation in a Relationship

They cause you to question your own reality.

This is known as gaslighting, and it is a common method used by emotional abusers. According to Stern (author of The Gaslight Effect:

How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to dominate Your Life), the purpose of gaslighting is to make you feel that you can’t trust your own experiences, so you’ll instead let the manipulator to dominate you.

They cut you off from other relationships.

Because talking to other trusted individuals in your life may help you acquire insight or see through the manipulation, a manipulator will try to make you believe that they are the only one you can trust.

“Isolation is essential in order to continue the manipulation tactics, as they want to eliminate the possibility that their victim will gain insight into the abuse,” Kelley explains.

They frequently instigate fights.

Starting an argument, inflating the current dispute out of proportion, bringing up old conflicts, or twisting the conflict into something else is one technique to short circuit a constructive dialogue and exercise control.

“Manipulators seek out arguments,” says Kelley, “often reveling in perceived witty or intelligent retorts and invalidating your feelings.”

Even if you don’t know why, you constantly find yourself apologizing.

Manipulators frequently play the victim to avoid accountability for their acts and to make you feel obligated to “help” them.

“They are so good at this that you always end up apologizing to them, even if they were wrong,” Frederick says. (You should also read up on the three main points of a genuine apology.)

They involve outsiders in arguments.

According to Frederick, this approach, known as “triangulation,” makes it more difficult to speak up for yourself because the manipulator enlists family, friends, or coworkers on their side.

“They will enlist the assistance of others in your close circle to help resolve the issue, making it appear as if you are the problem.”

They approach too quickly and too closely.

Emotional manipulators may “share” their inner secrets and vulnerabilities with you right away, creating a sense of closeness in you…

However, according to Frederick, their purpose is to make you feel special so that you will reveal your own secrets, which they will then exploit to dominate and manipulate you.

They say it’s for your own good.

Manipulators are incredibly skilled at convincing you that what’s best for them is also best for you, even if your initial reaction is that it feels terribly wrong or is not in line with your actual values.

“They work hard to change their victim’s thinking and reasoning in any way that suits them,” Kelley adds.

They make certain that you speak first.

Probing questions encourage you to offer your opinions early on. They can then utilize your responses to sway your decisions, usually with an ulterior motive.

“This is especially common in business relationships,” Frederick continues.


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