5 Ways to Spot a Manipulative Partner

Spot signs of a manipulative relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend. There are five signs that confirm if you’re in a controlling or abusive relationship. Relationships can be the most beautiful or the most destructive personal connections we ever make with another human being. When it’s right and healthy, a relationship adds joy and fulfillment to our lives possibly unsurpassed by any other life experience; when it’s negative and hurtful, a relationship can strip us of our self-worth, our happiness, and our ability to be open to love from all others. One way a relationship can be this destructive is through control and manipulation. Often, we don’t see the signs until we’re knee-deep in the caustic relationship; sometimes, we don’t see it at all. Spotting the signs takes us one step closer to eradicating the negative relationship responsible for diminishing the quality of our life.

1. Be Honest With Yourself

It’s so simple, yet it’s one of the hardest lessons in life to learn. False perception protects us from dealing with the harshness of reality, allowing us to live a lie as the environments that we work so hard to ignore (and the people in them) eat us alive. If you are courageous enough to take a step back and evaluate the relationship, you will be better able to determine the health of your partnership. First, evaluate what your relationship has brought you. Has there been advancement in your life, personally and professionally? Does your love for one other inspire you to be better people, or do its disappointments weigh on you everyday? Has your partnership been supportive of your family and friendships, or has your significant other hindered your relationships with many of the important people in your life?

2. The Subtle Takeover

Most relationships begin with more freedom than they end with several months, or years down the road. Where compromise and devotion is important to a happy relationship, an over-controlling and restrictive partner will hold on so tightly that their actions suffocate the life from their mate. This can happen slowly over time, possibly slipping past your defenses. If you find yourself always required to explain your actions to your partner, if you feel like you need to ask permission to plan errands in your day, these can be signs of a controlling partner. Maintaining separate lives and being supportive of each other’s unique interests is a crucial part of a healthy partnership.

3. Emotional Warfare as a Tool

A successful manipulation technique is to control others through emotional outbursts. If your actions evoke such a strong negative response from your partner that you are reluctant to repeat that behavior again, you are being manipulated. Your mate is attempting to control what you do by punishing you through emotional turmoil and hurtful arguments. Accusations, ranting and threats are just a few examples of how one party manipulates the other to do what they want. For example, even though you would rather see your girlfriends for a night at the movies, because of his ranting and complaining, you decide it’s not worth it and end up staying home with him instead. Eventually he will know exactly which buttons to push to evoke a specific response from you. This effective form of manipulation often leaves you so exhausted that you don’t even look closely at how unhealthy this behavior is.

4. Repetitive Offenses and False Apologies

Instead of stopping the behavior, or admitting that they do not want to stop (which allows the other person to claim the negative behavior as a deal-breaker and leave the relationship), they choose to put their mate through this unhealthy and dishonest cycle, which often culminates in an insincere apology or bribery. They attempt to get out of the “doghouse” by buying you gifts, offering sweet compliments, etc. You allow them to “make up” for their mistake, only to have them repeat the same cycle next month.

5. Dangling the Carrot

Another form of manipulation involves the bribe technique. If you find that your mate will promise you something in exchange for your acquiescing to their wishes, they are manipulating you to get what they want. Conversely, they may threaten to take something from you if you do not accede to their wishes. There is nothing wrong with partners doing favors for one another, where each does what the other wants in return for the same courtesy. But when one or the other consistently sets up these “deals,” or threatens to take something away if you don’t do their bidding, you are most certainly being manipulated.

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31 thoughts on “5 Ways to Spot a Manipulative Partner

  1. Maxine

    I need help, my manipulative relationship doesn’t seem as awful as described above yet I am in turmoil. My husband told me a lie to get a reaction out of me, to see if I cared. Well before our marriage he used to live the town slut, he told me he never slept with her and he took pride in that and so did I, a couple weeks ago under the influence of alcohol he let is slip that he did. That to me was a 5 year lie! I let it stew for days, I finally confronted him on the subject. Only to find out that he never slept with her, that he made it up to get a reaction out of me, his exact words “and for this you care…….etc.” i.e. me bringing it up to him means I care! because apparently I don’t care about my husband. I’ve always known I am a trusting person too trusting always seeing the good in everyone despite their faults, but never in my life did I think that trusting nature of mine would be applied to liberally to my husband. This whole mess exploded when I didn’t forgive him immediately, then it was my fault. That’s when I realized I’ve been in a unhealthy controlling relationship. I think back and I have lost myself, changed myself slowly over the years for him. I don’t know what to do, with my co dependent nature and his manipulative one, it seems impossible to fix our marriage. It took him days to apologize to me for what he did, and you better believe he fought it tooth and nail. He waited it out to see if I would take the blame, but I did not yield, not this time I knew I could not forgive him for this, it hurt too much, it broke my heart. Even still he is too good at his manipulation. I’m simply not sure if can trust him, and his understanding which has a happened to come along all of a sudden. I hate that I don’t trust him. I feel like he is being so understanding and sweet so I won’t leave, but I am going to leave, not divorce but it is very evident I need to separated myself from him for a while. Any advice is appreciated. I love him so much when we were simply friends he wasn’t like this to me, I just want that back my best friend, the person who was always there for me no matter what.

  2. Annelize

    By the way, this isnt the first time we had a fight on the same issues. Its always the same issues over and over again. For 4 months now…

  3. Annelize

    Dear Alina,

    Thank you for this article. Im in a similar situation, although everyone around me tries to tell me whats going on, it is stil difficult to realise that he is controlling and very manipulative. And the worst is that I dont have anyone who understands that I cant break it off with him.

    A little background, Im married to him for 16 years, with two beautiful kids, aged 9 and 13. Recently we had a big heartbreak in our relationship as I had an affair, which I am not proud of and regret. We talked it out and he decided to forgive me and we are trying to reconsile. Its been 4 months now.

    Im not putting the blame on him, but in the 16 years of marriage he manipulated, controlled and abused me emotionally. Then I met this man, which I think was the wrong man in the wrong place, and things happend. I broke it off with him and me and my husband is trying to reconsile as I said above.

    Last week we had a huge argument. He said he doesnt trust me (which I can understand, although I try so very hard) and started shouting at me again. He told me to chose between my friends and him, they are a bad influence to me. I dont understand how, but anyhow. He said that someone has to pay for hurting him, and that I or the other man hasnt paid. Comming from a man who promised to forgive me and to try working on our marrige, that was shocking. He also want to confront the other party (although he did just that on the day he found out) and he wants to make him pay.

    My question to any of you is, is he still manipulative? Did he really forgive me, because it doesnt feel that way! He steals my phone, checks up on me at work, phones me more than 3 times a day on my landline to know if Im in my office, and asks me with whom am I chatting on the phone, when all my messages is open for him to see. I dont know what to do. Im confused, my heart says run, but Im so scared I make a mistake. I would really like some responses of help if possible…

  4. BREE

    One question – when describing a manipulator, why do you use the male? Women are just as capable of being manipulative. And of causing terrible and lasting damage.

  5. BREE

    my son has been completely taken over by a manipulative bitch. I’ve seen him go from a loving, sweet, honest and giving man to a broken, fragile, lost and very sad individual, who barely keeps in contact with his family. This bitch has broken him. I’ve tried to warn him, reminded him of all the incidents where she has manipulated him but he just can’t see it, admit it. the few times he’s found the strength to leave, she’s coerced him back with drama or false compliments. She’s made him completely responsible for her and her kids, whilst making him feeling utterly useless. he completely dotes on her. its as if he didn’t have a life before he met her, and he sure as hell hasn’t got one now. she withholds sex, makes him feel like an animal for instigating any loving relationship between them, blames the pill, blames her ‘problems’. there’s always something going on that makes her the centre of everything. i’m pretty sure she’s got munchausans. her two year old got hold of some pills in her bedroom, pills that my son said were always in her drawer, so how the hell did her two year old get hold of them? just so she could get him out of work and take her to the hospital. drama, drama, it’s always about her. the sabotaging of his friendships. his family. what does she want with him? when will this bitch stop??

  6. Steve

    I have a dear friend who in the end set my last relationship straight. The women was at times very sweet, but would build up resentment over weeks by not communicating and find something to start a fight. It was usually BS and at first I kept my cool and control. In fact, I never let her get her way in those events. She also tried to get me to buy her stuff in a subtle manner and play me against her father or worse her father play her against me – nice guy so it ran in the family.. Well eventually my friend pointed out this little observation: “You know those men who walk behind their wives with their heads down?… This is how it starts!” Manipulation, avoidance of issues, never letting you know something is wrong until they at you and never apologizing… amazing it lasted as long as it did… Rule 1: If they never apologize for anything… walk on… no run!

  7. angela

    I am currently STUCK in an emotionally/physically abusive marriage, I haven’t spoke to my family in 2 years, (my family isn’t much different either) I am unable to work, ( I have lost so many jobs do to my husbands paranoia and insecurities ) I have two young daughters and a pregnant teenage daughter, I have no one, I pay dearly for protecting my girls from his crap,I have no where and nothingI wish I were dead everyday!!!

  8. bdavid

    When you reconize this, what do you do after 36 years of Marriage knowing you’re being held back.
    Feeling unsatisfied, staggnated.
    Wife has unresolved family baggage, thinks everything is okay.
    I feel she Loves me, but not In Love.
    any suggestions?

  9. screwball3964

    Wow..what perfect timing to be cleaning out my email and see the notification about this article. I have a friend who is in a relationship that is pretty new, 4-5 months and in my opinion they moved way too fast. Within a month she started living with him. He is divorced from a woman that cheated on him and my friend is under constant scrutiny. He goes through every text message she receives, has given up friendships because this his his demand to “gain trust” in her, even though he has no interest in meeting any of her friends. She is not allowed to have any male friends at all. She doesn’t see that by allowing him these things, even though there is nothing to hide, that this is not healthy behavior.

  10. childofafrica

    Wow – It’s like you are describing my relationship down to the last detail. Definitely food for thought and changes for myself. Thanks for such an informative article.

  11. Cindy Vavryshko Dauble

    10 Years of Rants & Raves from him, a lot of crying on my end, wondering what the heck I did to deserve that screaming. On & Off of course! And then the gifts! 1st year it was flowers always saying he’s sorry. 2nd year jewerly for forgiving him. 3rd year, trips, he’d pay. It went on & on, cause I’d always break up with him after his tantrums and he’d always come bearing gifts to buy me back. I never moved in with him in those 10 years (Thank God!) cause I didn’t want my daughters to bear his wrath. My daughters are in their 20’s now. And their description of him is psycho, control freak, drama king, etc. Those 5 ways to Spot a Manipulative partner are right out of my last 10 years of life! He’d tell me to kiss his A–, tell me no-one liked me, tell me there is nothing between my ears, ask me why I can’t just listen to him, etc. When he’d apolgize, he’d never be able to look me in the eye and say it sincerely, but he’d have a great gift waiting, (dangling the carrot). I’ve lost a lot of friends in those 10 years because he’d say he didn’t like them to me, but then he’d get their numbers and go hang with them when I’d break it off with him, making me look like the fool to them, cause he is such a nice guy! I used to ask my daughters if I was crazy. LOL They’d say “Mom, he tries to talk shit about you to us.” What kind of man does that. A MANIPULATOR!

  12. silverfaery333

    I’ve been through that in the past, and sadly even though it was almost 10 years ago, thanks to my ex still have my doubts! It was subtle, and by the time he left me (I wouldn’t give in to him any more) almost too late. He left after we had moved away from his family to be closer to mine and realized that I wouldn’t stand for being told who I could and couln’t be with (especially when it came to my own family) and how I needed to inform him when ever I was somewhere. It went from we didn’t have time to visit friends, to him calling me or having me call to let him know where I was. He cut off many friendships of mine by lying to them (I only found this out way after we divorced) and telling them I was no longer interested in being their friends! Then telling me that was what they said. There were many worst things done, even though it hurt when it finally ended, in the end it was worth walking away. Now I watch for even the subtle signs, and those red flags can and will end an relationship. Most say I’m too picky, I say I’d rather be alone then have to go through that all the time.

  13. chrissiem

    (sorry I posted before I finished) she doesn’t agree with what I feed my, nor her son, as I make health-food and tend to cook organically whilst she goes for the cheap option,which has been a flashpoint so I try to avoid her, our outlook and attitudes are very different too so you can imagine the friction points which are no good for any of us and she is a very unhappy widow as she lost poor hubby’s dad when he was 14, and is now just counting the days till she joins him, so all in all an unhealthy situation for all concerned, all this because I let someone move into my flat without taking any notice of the warning signs in the relationship, so maybe this article should be required reading in school ?

  14. chrissiem

    looks like this article definitely struck a chord with many people here, in my experience I started the relationship with what seemed like a sweet loving gentle guy by the time I’d escaped I was afraid to come home as I didn’t know what I’d find and I had 2 cats which were also affected by it.and after all manipulation is only a pretty word for abuse, in my case the abuse started as subtle as that he would want me to call him at a certain time, which meant I had to be at a callbox as I had no phone, and he’d started being at mine every weekend, or I had to be at his which was in a decrepit condition due to his neglect and mistreatment of it, his mother when I met her was afraid of him and I should have seen a red light then but I thought he cared too much about me and I thought I was in love, he blamed a motorcycle accident for his personality change, but he was still ok with his friends, just turning on me or my cats when we were alone. I lost my flat,(which I had to sign over to him ebcause I’d no jobs as he’d scared off any of my employers by lurking and hanging around their places) my furnishings,because I could’t get any help to shift them,and anything I couldn’t carry out with me, or store in a lady’s house along the road. but now I am still not in a house or home of my own, had to pay off for things I couldn’t get out from the flat and now have a 3 room share in my m.i.l’s house which with my hubby, son, and me, and our respective college, office and craft-workshop stuff, so it isn’t ideal as m.i.l is getting on and we don’t always get on with her, I can’t even use her kitchen

  15. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Dear Robin Child,
    you know…..I bet I read your posting at least 5 or 6 times……

    Your sentence, and I quote ” I just recently took a stand and decided I was going to live my life the way I wanted to, but I’m still a little afraid of the physical abuse”. …….really raises cause for concern.

    Just the mere fact , that you posted that comment,…..tells me that you are afraid he could be physically violent in the future…….and , my dear, you are playing with fire.

    Please pay attention to your fear ,( or any other little warning bells going off in your head ), where he is concerned……I’m am very worried about you….. please have an escape plan ready so you can be safe….and stay safe. An action plan…..a safe place where you can go to in a hurry if need be.

    I hope you decide to discuss the past control issues your significant other used on you…..AND your fear about potential physical violence…. with a counselor or therapist that has experience with dealing with domestic violence issues and victims.

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

    Ps……the very first time a man hits you should be the last time……they never hit just once. Any law enforcement person or therapist will tell you that as well.

  16. Robin Childs

    Thank you Alina,
    I have recognized the manipulation for years now, but didn’t know what to do about it. He can be so nice at times and in an instant just snap and you don’t know what you did wrong. I thought he was bi-polar, but your article puts a lot into perspective. I just recently took a stand and decided I was going to live my life the way I wanted to, but I’m still a little afraid of the physical abuse. I was tired of being told what to wear, who to talk to, where I could go and so on and so on. You get the idea. I was even told what time I should go to bed and get up. It really got out of hand.

    Thank you again for showing so many people the light.
    God Bless You.

  17. misskrystal

    Greeting to all on here-
    I have been enjoying all of your responses and this wonderful article. While most of the pertinent points have already been made on here, may add one thing to those who feel they have manipulated…

    If we are honest within ourself, about someone trying to manipulate us, and it doesn’t ever end…..Well, eventually, what happens is the human soul gets to a point where they cannot tolerate this type of garbage anymore. In other words, even if we punish ourself and allow this to happen to us, eventually, if honest about it, as humans, our “Gut gets full”– and then it is easy to move on. It’s too bad that some of us have to get to this point, but at least, we finally get to a place of zero tolerance. Yet, even though it may take longer for some, there is a big release when this finally happens.

    The truth will always and eventually set us free. It may not happen immediately, the soul has a way of getting rid of the things that don’t suit us well anymore.
    Be honest with yourself!

    Thank you,
    Miss Krystal

  18. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Dear solidsense77,

    Manipulation and abuse can take on many forms…..what you are, Jackie, describing is mental and emotional abuse ( which is the most common form of manipulation, control and abuse)……

    …..and, in a way, is as bad or damaging as actual physical abuse and sometimes takes longer to heal from.

    Therapists and Psychiatrists refer people to me all the time that have been the victim of mental or emotional abuse, besides the physical. In fact, physical abuse usually starts out with mental and emotional abuse leading the way.

    Please seek help or counseling if you are a victim of that or have lingering trauma from that type of abuse.

    I wish you serenity, health and happiness….

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

  19. sassy419

    I believe I read this today for a reason, although I’m still confused! I’m not sure if it’s his insecurities and maturity level vs. manipulation. He is 10 years younger than I. We both have been in verbally and physically abusive relationships prior to meeting one another. Any suggestions and or comments, I would welcome!

    Blessings to all!

  20. moris99moris99

    Alina Mikos; Thank you so very much for your article!!! i really appreciate it!!! thank you, for long time i’d lived like that!!! I didn’t enjoy my self nor anyone else, until I push my wife, exwife now, to divorce me, later in life i found my self very confuse, and lonely, and i got deep into addictions, but GOD IS BEAUTIFUL, GOT ME OUT OF THE PATH!!! SO THANKS TO HIM!!! not religious but big in spirituallity, today i realize that the only reason that I used to do that was because i was afraid, and i didn’t want to admit it, but the moment i did accepted, HE change me, and I did started to treat other with kindness and respect, something i didn’t know, and i was afraid to do. It was simple but not easy, your article make me realize how much i enjoy the opposite sex, not just for sex, but for who you GUYS ARE!!! so thank you for the article,

    if any one is in a relationship like the one this article describe, please, please get to know your self, get help, walk away, i know it’s not easy, but you can do it, by doing that you will help your partner find help! so please don’t be stock, help your partner, get out of that situation.

    Thank you very much


  21. Mary Lewis

    Thank you so much for this article. i have just come out of a domestic violencew shelter after 8 months of recovery. This article is so true, It happens just as you say, when the bomb finally hits, a person is left standing there saying, “what happened?’ : what did I do? I have been blessed that my I was removed from a bad situation before absolute tradgedy struck, and I carry with me all that I learned in howw to avoid this in the future. Thank you again for this very informative article, I pray someone reading it will be spared the pain of an abusive relationship. God Bless!

  22. reikihealer

    Wow! How right on this article is. I have been in this type of situation and it does later eat at you. I got out of it successfully after 9 years of it. The only thing wonderful is that I have two wonderful children that love me. They are old enough now to see the harm and distruction their dad had and has put me through. I am told that I am lucky that I had gotten out of it when I did. To this day, even though he is now remarried, he still tries to control me but it is not working.:-)

  23. Charlene Russ

    I have been through this with my last relationship. He could be very charming especially when he wanted something, but when something didn’t go his way he would scream at me and accuse me of things I didn’t do. Emotionally he could be quite vicious. I was afraid it would get worse and even though I had feelings for him, I left.

  24. Dawoodi Morkas

    Relationships are slippery domain in partners’ sexual and normal life. The relations gives edge to one or the other and that becomes an unwritten rule when one of them just gives instructions and orders that the other follows, either because of love, sex, money, children or fear of loosing the one, one is so attached to.
    It is seldom that respect for the relation based on mutual understanding and of self respect for the other half exist,

  25. deb58

    Being in a long ago manipulative/controlling/abusive relationship, I have come to realize that yes, we are usually knee deep in it and have spent much time and effort in trying to cultivate and nurture the relationship, that we see no way out. There is always a way out, some more painful than others, but always a way out. One must examine though how we get ourselves into these types of relationships. My feeling is that it is like the child who gets no attention; then tries to get negative attention, and it always seems to work, but in the end, that child is still unhappy and unfulfilled and ultimately emotionally damaged. So, in brief, we as adults have to understand our selves, who we are and that we are, in deed, valuable, no matter what the general public has been telling us all our lives, be it your family situation or everyone out there in the big bad world. Women tend to succumb to these behaviors because of a lack of good self-esteem, which usually, if examined, is a vicious generational cycle that continues to perpetuate itself until someone stops it. It is never the other person’s fault, because it is “we” who allow ourselves to be mistreated because we think we are going to change someone. The only one we need to change is ourselves, and with that we will attract who we really need, want, and deserve.

  26. misskitty47

    Greetings Alina,

    You wrote a great article and very true about manipulative relationships, especially #2, “The Subtle Takeover” as that was own personal experience with my previous husband! After 4 years of dating, I did not see it coming until after the marriage…the controlling attitude never “came out” until then. He refused to let me go to church, to go shopping by myself or with girlfriends for longer than one hour at a time. I only stayed with him for 8 months due to his manipulation. Both men and women should be aware of these manipulative signs as they are a true threat to your own well-being!
    Thank you for sharing your insights with us on this very important issue!

    Smiles and Hugs,

  27. solidsense77

    Hi everyone. I need to point out to people that manipulation from a partner can be very different from anything described above. It can be equally as cruel and effective when a partner messes with your mind by ignoring you for weeks on end. It is deadly to be left alone under the same roof as your partner. Hours are bad enough to be cut off like you do not even exsist. Weeks can be hell on earth. This is the quiet subtler way of controlling someone. Had anyone else experienced such silent yet very painful controlling behaviour? Jackie

  28. Cynthia Campos

    From my experience, if he is treating you in a manipulative way,….he himself is guilty, period. When the truth becomes manipulitive, it is no longer the truth. Sorry Jess. I should have known! But your dadys phone buddy (well) straightened it all out for me. …toche

  29. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Excellent article…….working with victims of domestic violence….. most, if not all,these signs ( #’s 2,3,4 & 5,) are almost always sure to be there …..especially #2.

    Yeah…..#4 gets old after awhile……those ” I’m sorry’s ” don’t mean a thing if your partner is always repearing the same mistake.

    Great article.

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

  30. Jacqueline

    Hi Alina,
    Great article, So often while being in the relationship, it is hard to see if manipulation is going on or not, But, one thing to remember, if you suspect it, the gnawing in the pit of your stomach doesn’t go away….then this is a strong indication that there truly is manipulation going on.

    Blessings and Big Hugs!
    Jacqueline x9472


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