It doesn’t take most people long to realize they’re stuck in an unhealthy relationship. Lying, cheating, and a lackluster sex life are all obvious signs things have taken a turn for the worse. Not every partnership is so blatantly toxic, though. Manipulative relationships, which can be just as damaging, are a little more tricky to spot. If you feel like there’s something off in your relationship, you’ll want to take note of these signs your partner is manipulating you. The sooner you recognize the patterns, the sooner you’ll be able to get away from someone who’s no good for you.
1. After your feelings get hurt, you end up apologizing
Every couple has disagreements they have to work through. Sometimes insults get thrown and partners end up saying things they don’t mean. There’s usually some sort of apology and resolution, but exactly who says sorry and why matters. According to Everyday Feminism, manipulative partners have a way of making you feel like you have to apologize all the time, even when you’re the one who got hurt. Continuing to marginalize your feelings is a dangerous path you definitely don’t want to take.
2. During discussions, they always make you speak first
Since manipulation is usually about control, the offending partner needs to come up with some way to take the wheel in every discussion. It’s a subtle strategy, but manipulators often follow the same pattern of letting their partner talk first, Psychology Today says. Because this allows them to identify the way you reason, it becomes much easier for them to always get what they want by exploiting any weaknesses they recognize. Even if you don’t volunteer to offer your opinion right away, they can easily get you to start chatting by asking the right questions.
3. They make you feel crazy
In the psychology world, this technique is called gaslighting. George Simon, Ph.D., explains the method in a piece for Counselling Resource, saying manipulators use strong assertions or distort truths in a way that makes the victim question their own reasoning. The goal, Simon writes, is “to create so much doubt in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgements about things and buys into the assertions of the manipulator, thus coming under their control.” If you find yourself questioning everything you think now but never did when you were single, your partner may be manipulating you.
4. They criticize or embarrass you
Teasing is one thing, but malicious criticism is quite another. You could be dealing with a manipulator if it’s standard practice for your significant other to point out every little flaw, then follow up with, “I’m just joking.” According to Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, they do this as a way to lower your self-esteem and gain the upper hand.
In some cases, things can become more extreme than just criticism in the home. FamilyShare explains a manipulative partner can go so far as to humiliate you in public settings. Whether it’s in front of strangers or friends, they aim to feel better about themselves by putting you down. This just isn’t acceptable behavior, so it’s time to move on from a partner who acts this way.
5. You have no say in financial decisions
A manipulative person’s control doesn’t end with their partner’s thoughts and feelings. The Telegraph says very controlling relationships can get to the point where the manipulator makes all of the financial decisions while insisting that his or her partner ask for permission before making any purchases. Relinquishing all financial control is never a good idea, even in marriage.
6. Your friends are quickly disappearing
If your circle of friends has become pretty much nonexistent, a manipulative partner may be the reason why. TwoOfUs.org says these individuals make their significant others feel guilty about spending time with other people. Romantic love isn’t the only type of love we have in our lives, so it doesn’t make any sense to abandon all other close relationships. No partner is worth giving up quality time with the other people you care about.
7. They make you feel responsible for their feelings
Most psychologists will say you’re responsible for your own happiness, and it really does make sense. So, it also makes sense to acknowledge you’re not directly in charge of anyone else’s happiness. The problem with manipulators, Psych Central says, is they have a way of turning their negative feelings around on their partners. If they’re in a lousy mood, they’ll try to find some way to link it back to something you said or did. Forget controlling — that’s just selfish.
8. They know just when to charm you
This last point is usually the hardest to accept because it’s often the only time a manipulative partner seems to really care about you. Even if your significant other does nothing but criticize or marginalize you most of the time, Daily Mail Online says your partner might quickly become a charmer when it’s clear you’re about to end things. After all, who will they be able to control once you leave? Recognizing this sign is especially crucial to avoid ending up in a nasty cycle.
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