Those who are attracted to the manipulative type are usually those who want to make others happy. “People pleasers” who are searching for happiness but who may not have the best self-esteem are prime targets.
If you have trusted too much too often, if your relationship has become something that turns your stomach into knots, you might recognize several of the following warning signs that your partner is manipulating you.
“It’s not me. It’s you.”
Are you constantly told that you’re exaggerating your partner’s mistakes or behaviors, that you’re making things out to be so much bigger than they are? Of course, a manipulator would want you to think so.
Using your weaknesses against you
Once your partner sees a weak chink in your armor, she uses it over and over to gain the advantage, wounding your ego or taking opportunities to effectively embarrass you with what hurts most. On the same note…
A manipulator conveniently embarrasses you in front of others and then does one of two things: acts as though he didn’t realize he would hurt your feelings or acts as though he does not care that he did. This tool works your self-esteem down and makes your partner feel better about himself — though, perhaps, he doesn’t realize that’s why he’s doing it.
Whether she’s blaming you or anyone else, your partner won’t take responsibility for her bad conduct.
This takes the form of intimidation, shaming, guilt-tripping or threatening — saying things like, “I’ll die if you leave me,” or, “I can’t believe you would stoop so low after you did this the other day! You of all people!” Some manipulators may even resort to rage.
Your partner makes a small request that is easy to agree to and then follows it up with his real request. This makes it hard for you to say no. If you do, your partner acts hurt or upset, making you out to be the bad guy. Now you’re on the defensive and your partner has won the round.
Guilt and shaming
Has your partner ever started a conversation that turned into, “You don’t love me enough,” or, “Why are you always on your b*tt watching TV or playing games?” A manipulator will try to make you feel like you never do enough, causing you to feel like her emotional problems are somehow your fault. Again, this brings down your self-esteem, making you a pliable, easy target.
Playing the innocent
Whenever there’s a conflict, your partner somehow makes himself out to be the injured party — every time. He ends up making you feel for him, and you sympathize with his bad experiences. You may even end up comforting him, apologizing for something (or everything), and telling him you’ll do better next time. How is it that he becomes the innocent party every time?
A manipulative partner will make you feel intimidated, ashamed and embarrassed when you’re together and when you’re out with friends. If this happens and a friend confronts your partner about being rude or insulting, your partner will often try to pass offensive comments off as “jokes.” However, those who are paying attention will hear the insulting undertones that are present beneath the “humor.”
Does your partner say or do things that make you feel like you must be crazy and then tell you you’re making something out of nothing? You’re not alone. This is known as gaslighting. Your partner twists the truth or leaves out certain information to make you doubt your own perception — and sanity. Gaslighting is very disorienting, and it’s a form of emotional abuse.
In general, manipulative behavior is learned. Many times, manipulation is an instinctual behavior developed out of necessity (most often in childhood). Thus, it’s not usually something that can be quickly unlearned.
If you’re with a manipulator, he or she will be very good at making you feel a lot of things, but don’t feel that you need to change your partner. Change won’t happen as easily as you think. It takes a lot of time (and therapy), and you should be spending your time protecting your own emotional safety. Know the manipulation tactics, and learn what your partner’s favorite weapons against you are so that you can shield yourself. Build up your self-esteem and self-respect. That is vital. Lastly, if you’re in the position to do so, you may be better off leaving the relationship entirely.