6 Emotional Manipulation Techniques And How To Recognize And Stop Them

By: Abigail Boyd

Updated October 25, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC

When you love someone, you tend to view them through an ideological lens that may make you overlook potentially negative traits. These negative traits may consist of a darker side that can manifest in emotional manipulation and other forms of control. Your partner may be fully aware of their efforts to control you or may not be aware of it, having learned such patterns early on in life. Either way, manipulation from someone you love can seriously chip away at your mental and emotional health.

Your partner may not even be aware of this behavior and may have learned it early in life, or they may be fully aware of their efforts to control you. In this article, we’ll focus on how to spot emotional manipulation from a romantic partner and give you advice as to what to do about it.

Who Uses Emotional Manipulation Techniques

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Psychological and emotional manipulation techniques are most often used by people with certain personality disorders, like sociopaths and narcissists. However, many people are often guilty of using emotional manipulation techniques at one time or another. It could be a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Even some business owners, politicians, and celebrities may use various emotional manipulation to gain control and social status.

Regardless of what motivates them, emotionally manipulative partners can have a devastating effect on their loved ones’ sense of stability and self-reliance.

Signs Your Partner Might Be Emotionally Manipulating You

The longer you’ve been with an emotional manipulator, the more of a profound effect it may have had on your behavior and thought patterns. Signs you’ve been a target of emotional manipulation in your relationship include:

  • You begin frequently second-guessing yourself.
  • You never feel like your concerns are heard or validated.
  • You often feel guilty, not only for your actions but your partner.’
  • You’re always apologizing.
  • You feel responsible for your partner’s negative feelings yet disregard your own.

Emotional Manipulation Techniques and What to Do About Them

  1. Gaslighting

What It Is: Gaslighting is a psychological technique used to make you doubt your perception of reality. The manipulator questions the validity of your memory and emotions to gain the upper hand. Eventually, you begin to question yourself, too. As a result, you may have difficulty trusting your judgment and may even begin to question your reality.

How to Stop It: If you sense that your partner is gaslighting you, take a step back from the situation and try to look at things from a broader perspective. Seeking the advice of a family member, friend, or someone outside of the partnership you trust can help you gain objective insight into the truth.

Gaslighting can be either intentional or unintentional. It’s crucial to determine whether or not your partner has been trying to make you doubt your perception of purpose. Without confronting your partner, it may be helpful to attempt to have an honest conversation about your concerns. If you strongly suspect their gaslighting is intentional, this may be a sign of deeper emotional abuse.

  1. Minimizing And Magnifying

What It Is: In this type of emotional manipulation, the manipulator may minimize their shortcomings while at the same time magnifying yours. It can be something as small as forgetting an item at the grocery store, but your partner will harangue you in a way that makes you feel like a failure.

How To Stop It: This is another situation in which outsiders’ perspectives may be able to help you determine the truth. It may be beneficial to keep a record in a discreet location, either in a private notebook or your phone under a password, of all of the events that seem like your partner is minimizing their negative behavior and maximizing yours. Record anything that feels relevant, no matter how minor. Again, a therapist or trusted friend can help you go through the record and gain perspective.

  1. Humiliation And Bullying/Devaluation

What It Is: Closely tied with minimizing and magnifying, a partner who humiliates and bullies you, even if it’s under the guise of joking or teasing, is most likely doing so to make you feel small. An emotionally manipulative partner is close enough to you that they know your weaknesses and insecurities and can use them as weapons against you.

A partner who bullies you is probably dealing with massive insecurity about their intelligence and worth. People like this often target people who are the closest to them. They may go from occasionally pointing out something you did wrong to being constantly critical of your actions.

How To Stop It: If you feel like your partner is bullying you, you don’t have to accept it. Bullying can be a telltale sign of emotional manipulation that has escalated into abuse. Instead, contact a therapist or the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak with a professional. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can be reached online or by calling 800-799-SAFE (7233). If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, seek help right away.

  1. Playing The Victim

What It Is: People who play the victim never take responsibility for their negative actions. If every argument ends with you apologizing profusely while your partner rarely says they’re sorry, that may be a red flag.

It’s important to mention that people who appear to constantly beat themselves up or display insecurity and seek your approval may be struggling with mental health issues, such as depression or social anxiety. These are never an excuse to be manipulative, but these mental health concerns may be an explanation. In these cases, the person may not have any intention to manipulate you. However, it is not up to you to solve their mental health struggles; instead, you may support their efforts at recovery.

However, suppose someone never takes accountability for their actions or words, tells others in their life about how they were the victim, and always spins situations to look like the aggrieved party. In that case, they may be using manipulation to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

How To Stop It: It may be helpful to stop yourself each time you feel the urge to apologize to your partner. Insert a moment of reflection instead of automatically saying you’re sorry. Is it your fault? Does it merit an apology? If not, you may want to think twice before giving one. Instead, calmly state the facts. If your partner tries to double down and get you to apologize anyway, it may be helpful to end the conversation.

  1. Love Bombing
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What It Is: The beginning of a romance is usually an exciting time, especially if your love interest sweeps you off your feet. Love bombing can be a particularly insidious form of emotional manipulation because it initially seems so positive and romantic, unlike the other entries on this list. Most people would probably enjoy being the recipient of an outpouring of compliments, gifts, and affection.

Love bombing refers to someone showing an excessive amount of adoration. The person may show up at your work with lunch every day or send many romantic, poetic texts. Love bombing can signify stalking down the road as the person attempts to maintain control over their partner.

Or, love bombing may be a way for the manipulator to butter you up so that you won’t protest when they manipulate you in other ways. Love bombing often occurs after a period of abuse when an abuser attempts to “atone” for their behavior.

How To Stop It: It may be hard to question someone who appears to have so much love for you, especially if you feel the same. But if you’re overwhelmed by the amount of adoration you’re receiving from your new partner, or if you’ve noticed a pattern of love bombing followed by devaluation or other forms of abuse or manipulation, it may be time to have a frank talk.

  1. Angry Outbursts

What It Is: If your partner plays it cool most of the time, treating you like you’re overly emotional, only to explode with anger when you try to get them to open up, it may be a form of emotional manipulation. These people may use their anger to shut down the conversation and regain control when they perceive it is slipping out of their hands.

Many of these people may have anger management issues. If your partner is one of them, it’s their responsibility to manage and control their anger. No matter how much they may blame you for “pushing them over the edge,” they’re wrong.

How To Stop It: Someone else’s anger shouldn’t be your fault or your responsibility, no matter how heated your arguments get. If your partner shouts at you, calls you names, or displays aggressive behavior toward you, it may be helpful to keep your calm and don’t reciprocate. Instead, stand up for yourself in an assertive manner. If your partner continues to rage, it may be best to end the conversation immediately, even if it means distancing yourself from them physically.

If you’re worried about your safety at any time, don’t hesitate to call 911 for assistance.

Why People Manipulate Others

People may use manipulative tactics on others because they want to feel better about themselves. When they use manipulation tactics, they have the upper hand, and they blame their victims. It’s not uncommon for abusive people to use emotional blackmail to avoid looking at their feelings. They don’t feel guilty right away when they manipulate others or, potentially, ever at all. But, emotional manipulators may feel responsible for hurting people and their loved ones around them, or they may go on as if nothing matters to them. People with personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder don’t have remorse for manipulating people. But, people that have a borderline personality disorder, for example, will manipulate people’s emotions and then, later on, feel guilty about what they’ve done. If you are the victim of manipulation, you could be questioning your sanity. This is abusive behavior, and the emotional manipulators want you to question your feelings. A person manipulating you may make you feel special, but it may also make it difficult to set boundaries. In this way, they often have the power and control in the relationship. The effects of emotional abuse are detrimental to a person’s mental health. Emotional manipulators don’t typically think about what they are doing to others. They are hurting other individuals because they have weak spots that they are trying to conceal, and it may make them feel better about themselves to hurt other people. They could participate in intellectual bullying or psychological abuse. They could gaslight you and make you feel like your reality is a figment of your imagination. They may act like a martyr and play mind games with you, making it difficult to discern what’s real and what isn’t. Abusive behavior is not okay, and it is not your fault that this person has emotional issues, and they are taking it out on you.

It’s Not Your Fault

If you have been emotionally manipulated, it’s important to remember it is not your fault, and it is not necessarily a reflection of anything you did. People may seize power over others because they may be insecure about themselves. Another person may be playing mind games with you. Emotional manipulators are often experts at seeing people’s weaknesses and twisting them so that they can use them to their advantage. When emotional manipulators seize the power of vulnerable people, they’re usually looking out for themselves. Manipulative people may try to make you feel special and then find your weak spots. One of the most hurtful kinds of emotional manipulations is silent treatment. If you are trying to get love, concern, or care from an emotionally manipulative person and ignore you, it can be extremely hurtful. An individual who uses the silent treatment may not take responsibility for their actions, and then they continue to stonewall you as a means to gain control. Emotional abuse due to stonewalling may be detrimental to a person’s mental health because you may then develop a trigger about being ignored. There are often long-term effects of being manipulated, and emotional manipulators can cause those long-term effects in individuals that they are hurting. They can be passive-aggressive with their manipulations, and it may be so insidious that you may not even realize what they’re doing. For example, sometimes, a manipulative person may give you backhanded compliments. These passive-aggressive remarks are abusive behavior, and they are not a figment of your imagination. There are so many forms of manipulation, and it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. You most likely did not ask to be put in a position where you are abused. Passive-aggressive comments may make a person question whether they’re being abused. It’s important to remember your feelings are valid because you feel them.

If you are emotionally manipulated at work, there could be many red tapes to get through so that you can report the abuse. It could be your supervisor who wants power and control over you, and they’re making you feel like you imagine the abuse. It’s difficult when this happens in a work environment because the manipulative person may know that you’re in a vulnerable place. They may know that the effects of emotional abuse can impact your career.

Remember Who You Are

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Speak With A Board-Certified Mental Health Professional Online Today.
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An emotional manipulator is often skilled at what they do. They may make you question what is or isn’t real. It may be hard to get back to who you are when emotional manipulators have control over you. A manipulative person can make you feel vulnerable and lose trust in yourself. Emotional manipulators may want you to feel this way. If you feel you are emotionally manipulated, it may be helpful to see a therapist. Emotional manipulators are not likely going to take responsibility for their actions. The effects of emotional abuse can cause lasting damage to your mental health. However, you can seek help and support and take control of your mental health. It’s crucial to understand that you are not a huge burden as a manipulator may have made you believe. The emotional effects of emotional abuse can be severe. That’s why if you experience mistreatment, it’s important to seek help and support. Emotional manipulators may be masters at making others feel small. They might make you feel like it’s your fault if you were abused. Remember that the long-term effects of abuse can be dire, and that’s why it’s so important to see a therapist. Whether you see somebody online or in your local area, you can get help for emotional abuse.

Regaining Your Sense Of Identity After Emotional Abuse

Being the target of an emotional manipulator can severely impact a person’s sense of identity. As a result, you may no longer feel like you can trust yourself or anyone else. Working with a therapist is a proven way to rebuild that sense of trust and get control over your own life. So whether you feel that the relationship can be saved and want to pursue couple’s counseling or that it’s time to move on and want to speak to a therapist individually, ReGainis there for you. Click here to get connected with a therapist today.

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