10 signs a romantic relationship is being manipulated

Is your gut feeling telling you something is wrong in your relationship? The signs are often difficult to spot and even harder to fight.

It’s relatively easy to spot manipulation when someone close to you is experiencing this type of emotional abuse. But it is difficult to spot the manipulative strategies when they are directed against you.

What is manipulation?

Manipulation is a twisted mind game played by a devious person who uses various psychological tactics to exert control and dominance over others. The goal is to emotionally exploit and influence the unsuspecting victim into doing the manipulator’s will.

Romantic manipulation

Romantic manipulation, in particular, can be difficult to spot, as manipulation in romantic relationships can take the form of love bombing, gaslighting, pandering, and many other covert and overt intimidation techniques.

The incoherent combination of lies, accusations, denials, omissions, smothering, and other psychological warfare strategies means you are disoriented, confused, and questioning your own rationalization and sanity. And in this chaos, your partner always gets his way.

Even the most visible toxic type of emotional manipulation in romantic relationships can start out subtle and eventually develop into a solid relationship dynamic. Before you realize you’re being emotionally manipulated by your romantic partner, you’re way too deep into a messy relationship.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, to protect your safety and emotional well-being, you need to recognize the signs of psychological manipulation in romantic relationships and find a way to deal with them — and do it early.

So what are the signs of romantic manipulation?

Below are 10 telltale signs a romantic relationship is being manipulated. Be wary if you identify with more than one of them.

1. Gas lighting

Your partner keeps downplaying and devaluing your feelings. Not only does he lie about past events or his actions, but he also twists history to make it seem like you are exaggerating your experiences. They blame you and accuse you of being overly sensitive or unstable. They do this to shirk responsibility for their actions, to make you doubt yourself, and to control how you think and react.

“I didn’t even speak to that girl. Did you sleep well last night? You seem delirious,” argues a manipulator in a romantic relationship when he digresses and gaslights his partner .

2. Passive aggression

Your partner is acting hostile towards you, and you can sense their displeasure and rejection in their body language and verbal communication. He avoids eye contact, sighs dramatically, sulks, becomes sarcastic, whines, and does everything in his power to show his dissatisfaction other than talk about it.

If your romantic partner uses youthful expressions of emotion to get a reaction from you instead of being open about what’s bothering them, it’s a sign that you’re being manipulated by passive-aggressive behavior in a relationship.

3. Reluctance

After a fight between the two of you, does your partner wall you off and treat you with silence? One of the signs of romantic manipulation is when one of the partners chooses to be evasive, dodging questions, and intentionally staying out of conversations. They make you feel like you, your feelings, and what you have to say don’t matter to them. They simply refuse to get involved with you and all your pleas fall on deaf ears.

4. Threats

One of the less subtle and less obvious signs of romantic manipulation is being threatened or coerced into doing something against your will. Is your partner threatening to leave you immediately? Or does he threaten to harm himself if you leave him? Both are emotional abuse. If he frequently hints that he can hurt you, whether physically, emotionally, or financially, if you don’t do what he wants, seek help from a trusted source immediately. You must also take threats of self-harm seriously and report them to the relevant authorities. All of these are signs that emotional manipulation is taking place in a romantic relationship.

5. Withheld

One of the most emotionally painful signs of romantic manipulation is when your partner withholds their affection from you until you comply with their demands. He may also withhold love, money, or resources from you, or withhold important information from you if you don’t comply with his whims. A manipulator can use these withholding tactics to punish, shame, and control you.

6. Isolation

When you’re dealing with a manipulative partner, you can feel like you’re losing all of your support systems. A classic case of romantic manipulation is the withdrawal of external support and resources. This can be done in two different ways. Sometimes your toxic partner can cut you off from your friends and family of origin. Especially after seeing through the manipulation strategies, your partner may still try to stop you from visiting them, either through coercion or by making you believe that they are a bad influence on you and your relationship with the manipulator.

On the other end of the spectrum, your partner may flatter you and make an effort to impress loved ones. Your partner is good at maintaining a false image and gaining the approval of others when necessary. He’s endeared himself to your parents and close friends, and you feel like you have no one to turn to.

7. Love Bombing

Love bombing means your romantic partner laying the groundwork for future manipulation with an intense, dramatic, and fast-paced romance. He or she showers you with gifts, checks on you every two minutes, and shares all of his/her deepest secrets—all with the aim of controlling you.

They will try to get to know your insecurities and vulnerabilities. Once they gain your trust, they will use this sensitive information against you, still keeping you under their thumb while confusing you with occasional rewards and other psychological tricks.

8. Comparison

Comparing yourself to others is another sign of romantic manipulation. By constantly making comparisons in terms of your looks, income, or other attributes, the manipulative partner is attempting to create a sense of inadequacy and competition. They feel comfortable when others compete for them. That’s why they pull out all the stops to criticize you and make you feel inferior and jealous of others.

9. Selective manipulation

One of the most benign yet recurring signs of romantic manipulation is selective manipulation. Who’s gonna do the dishes tonight? Certainly not your partner, since he works late as usual. Your mother will visit you today? Your partner will surely be out with his friends! This relatively harmless romantic manipulation technique only shows up on certain occasions and, if not addressed properly, can cause a rift between you and your partner.

10. Splaining

Another toxic sign that you don’t know something is lamenting or making yourself feel stupid. If you ask him/her a simple question, he/she may throw technical terms or statistics at you, or decide to oversimplify the facts. Either way, this is a form of intellectual bullying that makes you feel humiliated and humiliated.

Some other signs of this are:

  • Shifting relationship goals to your manipulative partner’s desires
  • Constantly criticizing yourself to create an inferiority complex
  • Maintaining home advantage by forcing you to meet up in places he’s comfortable with
  • He takes advantage of your finances and other resources


Is it love or manipulation?

Now that we’ve covered the most disturbing signs of romantic manipulation, let’s take a look at some other love manipulation techniques used by emotional abusers that are often misinterpreted as love.

  • Vague statements about their emotional needs
  • Cry
  • You should still be watched
  • Using love as an excuse for bad behavior and even abuse
  • They threaten to hurt themselves if you leave them
  • They buy you things of their choice and replace your previous things with them
  • They try to make you solely dependent on them for
    the way you dress, as well as to control your eating and drinking habits
  • Making decisions in your life “for your own good”.
  • They constantly flatter you to gain your trust

Consequences of romantic manipulation

The consequences of romantic manipulation can be emotionally devastating and long-lasting for the victim. The following symptoms show that you have been manipulated in a relationship.

  • You always feel the need to defend yourself
  • You are in a codependent relationship
  • You feel insecure in your relationship
  • Your relationship is constantly in flux
  • You can’t trust your partner
  • You have damaged self-esteem
  • You tend to apologize even when your partner is wrong
  • You harbor negative feelings such as pain, anger, and resentment towards your partner
  • Your instinct tells you that something is wrong with your partner

Reasons that make a person manipulative in a romantic relationship

One might wonder what one gains from romantically manipulating another; maybe you can get a better insight with the following reasons that try to explain why manipulators behave the way they do:

  • To have the upper hand in a relationship
  • To control or punish their partner
  • To get attention or sympathy
  • They had to manipulate to find their needs met during their dysfunctional childhood
  • Her caregiver(s) manipulated her during her impressionable years
  • They have trauma-related attachment problems
  • They suffer from psychological problems such as anxiety, narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder

Examples of manipulation in relationships vs. healthy relationships

The following 3 examples show signs of romantic manipulation and differentiate them from those of a healthy romantic relationship.

Signs of Romantic Manipulation:

“If you cared about me, you would never have said yes to the party before you asked me”
“If you care about me, you’ll never talk to your boyfriend”
“If you want to see your kids again, you better.” be nice to me”

Signs That A Romantic Relationship Is Healthy:

  • “You could have discussed it with me once before you said yes. It’s easier if we still keep each other up to date.”
  • “I don’t think your boyfriend has your best interests at heart. But I’ll support you if you want to stay friends with her.”
  • “I don’t like the way you treat me in front of the kids. It’s bad for their emotional development.”

What are the signs that a woman is engaging in romantic manipulation?

A female romantic manipulator usually shows the following signs:

  • cry at the slightest pretext
  • Embracing weakness and needing 24/7 support
  • Be the victim and play the martyr
  • They use love as a reward and a means to get what they want
  • She parades her ex-boyfriends to unsettle her partner
  • Never share financial responsibility with your partner

How do you respond to the signs of romantic manipulation?

If you’re being manipulated in a relationship, consider the following possibilities:
It’s important to recognize the signs early on.

Recognize the signs of romantic manipulation to protect your well-being

  • Recognize the signs of romantic manipulation
  • Observe how you feel and how your mood changes around your partner
  • Don’t facilitate or downplay emotional manipulation
  • Apologize if you’re wrong
  • Learn to distinguish affection from power games
  • Take responsibility for your finances
  • Be open about the manipulative behavior with your loved ones
  • Set boundaries and put your safety first
  • Get help from trusted people or get the authorities involved if necessary
  • Be prepared to walk away and still keep your distance from the manipulator
  • Don’t fall into the trap of guilt or regret; have self-empathy
  • See a therapist or relationship/marriage counselor depending on your situation

Refuse to play the game

Psychological manipulation in romantic relationships can be a means to an end for the manipulating partner; the goal is full power over the other. But it can leave the suffering partner with immense trauma, self-doubt and pain. Nobody deserves to be manipulated by their loved ones. If you’ve broken free in a manipulative relationship, you should seek help or create an exit plan.

Did you find our article on the signs of romantic manipulation helpful? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below.

frequently asked Questions

How do I recognize a manipulative woman?

If you think a woman is manipulative, recognize if she’s constantly trying to get her way in her relationships.

Can manipulators fall in love with you?

If an emotional manipulator really wants to change, they can certainly have a healthy relationship.

What does a manipulative relationship look like?

In a manipulative relationship, a partner will always try to get what they want, even at the expense of their partner’s well-being.

10 signs a romantic relationship is being manipulated

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