By now, you may be pretty educated about manipulation in relationships. But watch out! You may not be aware of its sneakiest forms.

Manipulation in relationships is a form of control.

I think most of us know that already, and we are all capable of this act. I would even go as far as to say that we all do this. We do, we use subtle expression and words to persuade people and influence things to go the way we want them to, it just varies from person to person.

And then you have those people who cannot live without manipulating everyone and everything. There is a difference between these two and a difference in each conduct as well. Over time, we have learned to pick up clues that alert us to manipulative circumstances.

We’ve learned to read facial expressions, analyze words and even body language that tells us when we’re being manipulated. But there are worse forms of this action, a sort of sneaky manipulation now used in relationships to retain control, paired with gaslighting techniques to pose questions about the other person’s sanity.

Recognizing sneaky forms of manipulation

So, the objective today is to learn about even the most minute forms of manipulation in relationships. Until we can see every telltale trace of this toxic action, we will struggle with our own self-esteem and worth. Here are a few ways to tell when and how you’re being manipulated under the radar.

1. The guessing game

When sneaky manipulation tactics are at hand, you will see that your boyfriend/girlfriend exhibits a drastic change in mood from one day to the next. Everything will seem fine, maybe for days at a time, and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, your loved one will turn into a fire-breathing dragon.

Then, just as mysteriously as they grew angry, they will be calm again and act as if nothing ever happened.

You may ask them what’s wrong, but more than likely, they will say “nothing”. But, they will leave just enough inflection in their voice to let you know that you should be concerned. This is where the manipulation does its deep work.

The thing is, they want you to try hard to figure out what’s wrong with them because, with that trying, you will give them special treatment. It was the plan all along. If they can keep you guessing, they will keep you on your toes.

2. No apologies

You will know for sure that manipulation in relationships is occurring when someone you love refuses to apologize for their actions. As long as they can lie to shift blame or make you feel like you are over-reacting, they will always withhold an apology.

People who manipulate you feel a stronger need to be right than to repair the relationship. But instead of arguing with them, which can continue for hours at a time, choose to walk away with your truth. It’s just not worth the stress and subjecting yourself to further controlling actions.

3. Gaslighting

This form of manipulation in relationships can be dangerous. As subtle as it may seem, gaslighting can turn a perfectly sane person with good morals into a mess of nerves. I’m not saying that gaslighting reveals weak mental functioning, but it creates an illusion that a person is “crazy”.

For instance, a manipulator will convince his mate that she is losing her mind simply because she got angry about something he did. He will project the blame and convince her that she is the one who isn’t thinking in the right way.

If you are familiar with the terms “flip the script”, then you know what I’m talking about. You can probably Google that phrase by now, it’s just that common.

4. Downplaying your success

Pay attention when you tell your significant other about a promotion or new job. Most people would be happy for you when you move forward in life because those who love and care for you really want to see you succeed.

Manipulators, such as narcissists, psychopaths, and other toxic people will always try to downplay your success. They will insert negativity in some form or another into your stories of success.

You may even see them get angry when they realize you are becoming self-sufficient. Now, there are a couple of reasons why they do this, but the biggest reason is that they feel the more you are successful, the less control they will have over your life.

If you make good money with your job, you will no longer need their help to survive. This is extremely threatening to a partner who is used to a dependent mate.

5. The exaggeration tool

Nobody is perfect, and we all do things, say things and take actions that are not that great. But a master manipulator with the ability to use covert tactics to get their way will exaggerate your negative qualities in order to gain the upper hand.

They will say things like, “You always want to argue”, “You never do this or that..” etc. Anyway, the fact that you “never” do something is probably wrong.

The goal of making these accusations is to make you feel regret for things you failed to do or things you shouldn’t have done, according to your perfect interrogator. This makes you feel bad and try harder to be a better person.

When they see you struggling to improve, they realize their technique worked and they have used you like a puppet.

6. Proving yourself

Sneaking manipulation comes in various forms, including being forced to always prove yourself to your mate. No matter how much you try, you will always have to show how devoted you are to the manipulator.

They will say things like, “If you loved me, you would cook my favorite foods, you would keep all my clothes clean and you would do special things to make me happy”.

While some may never really voice these “demands”, they will use other tricks to get this same point across. They may always feel competitive with other things you love. They may ask you to get rid of certain things that they feel come between you and your duties to them.

You will always have to prove that they come first in the relationship.

Manipulation in relationships is a tricky thing

While some forms of control are pretty obvious, some are not. Although love is supposed to be a pure thing and actually, the most important aspect of life, some people see it as an abusive game. I guess that’s why we’ve invented such terms as “players” huh.

Don’t be in the dark about what’s happening to you – awareness is power. If you think you’re being used in this manner, seek help. If you cannot change your relationship for the better, then it may be time to start over.

Remember, part of living a healthy life is being in a healthy relationship.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Vasa

    Sometimes it is difficult to make this happen for real and improve things despite the lovely article. I am a stay at home mom with 3 young kids. I live with my husband in a small town, next to his family. His 3 brothers and wives, and my mother in law. It’s a lovely place to live but I am having trouble with my husband’s family and I cannot avoid them completely. They treat me like crap. Specifically his older brother and my two sister in laws.They are people with many personal issues and lots of negativity. They transmit their negativity constantly and are quite rude, trying to put me down. I do not tolerate it of course, but constant quarrels damage me and my self esteem. My husband is always trying to make excuses and all this situation has damaged my marriage and myself. I am sad and miserable. We cannot afford a new house so we can leave this situation. I keep on praying for abundance so we can find the chance to leave, listening to positive affirmattions and meditate, but this whole situation and the fact that I am at home not being able to do much for myself isn’t helping things. We try to do creative stuff with the kids, or leave the kids to my mother in law and go for a walk. I’m going to start painting and take photographs, and decided to just stop talking to them completely and close my door. I write down my dreams and wishes and my sister is going to help me with the kids so I can start martial arts. But my main wish above all is to just leave this place. I recently gave them a piece of my mind alright. I decided that supression is not my thing, and let them know how I feel. You know what? It was liberating but at the same time I cannot get over the fact that I feel unfairly mistreated and when I see them all get together that bugs me, despite the fact I don’t like them. Contradictory? Any helpful advice please?

    1. Panagiotis K.

      Wow, really sad story Vasa. In relationships like this, it is really difficult to change a condition that has been created after years of living with other people. Changing things is not always an easy task and it takes time.

      I personally believe that you’ve made the first really important step to understanding what exactly is going on and you want to change this condition. I’m not sure if not talking to them at all is a good strategy. You can simply try to do ONLY what you want and like. If someone of them is negative, then you can simply avoid him/her at all and go away.

      I wish you could make it in one day and find a new home far away from this kind of problems.

  2. Sherrie Hurd


    This is Sherrie. I have similar conditions in my life as well. I have been in such a situation for over 20 years. I did manage to leave once and then return. I have dealt with family, whom no matter what happens, it is never the fault of their blood members. I was downtrodden and had an extremely low self-esteem.

    The thing that worked the best for me, was to get away for a while. Although I did return, I returned with my self-esteem intact. Now, as things occur that are less-than-savory, say they gang up on me, and try to put me down, I am able to remain calm and walk away or change the subject. When this happens, they realize that what they say, their manipulation, it has no effect on me. It doesn’t.

    I have made a decision, that no matter what happens, I will not abandon my self-worth. When I did, this is when they grew stronger. So, my advice to you is this:

    Do what makes you happy, and if your sister is able to help, let her. She sees what you go through and she will be your support system.

    Do NOT be cruel or vindictive, this only lowers you to their level. Instead, show kindness while “putting your foot down”. Once you master this, they will see your strengths and not your weaknesses.

    If you are spiritual, continue in meditation. Spend as much time alone as possible to retain your relationship with self. Self is also your support system, along with your higher power, whatevet that may be.

    Find a way to make your own money. For a long time, I had no way of doing this. I was a stay at home mother too. I also had three children. I come to a conclusion, a long time ago, that in order to have power over my own destiny, I must have my own money. I started to write in my spare time, and have been writing ever since. This starte din 2008. I am not saying that you will immediately gain your freedom, but you have to start somewhere.

    Talk with your husband, let him know how you feel and figure out how well you communicate. A good relationship relies on communicaton and respect. If you are unhappy and uncomfortable, he should be willing to listen and help you find a solution for your family. If not, continue with the above suggestion about becoming independent.

    While you are doing these things, find every possible way of remaining happy and being positive. Spend more time with your children and keep your heart full of love.

    I hope this helped a little. My heart goes out to you.


  3. Vasa

    Thank you so much for your love and support. You both make a point. There is a lot of bitterness between me and my husband. He thinks I should have handle things better, I think he should have supported me more. I want us to leave, he wants to stay. No resolve to that for now. We still have our good times but many times everything that is buried comes to the surface. I wish you all the best, lots of love.

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