One of the scariest parts about being in a manipulative relationship is that you likely do not know that it is even happening. Manipulative people can twist your thoughts and make you doubt yourself. They convince you that your actions, wants, and desires line up with what they want, but in reality, it's not with what you want for yourself. They manipulate you to fit their needs. What a terrifying experience to go through!
Manipulators make come off as friendly or flattering, but their tactics are deceptive and abusive. They may even have mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder, sociopathic tendencies, or narcissism. They have little care for how their actions will affect others and are only using people as a means to an end.
People who define themselves as "people-pleasers" are especially susceptible to such deceit because they have a non-assertive or codependent nature. They are easy for manipulators to pray upon. If you are in this category, it is even more critical that you watch out for red flags in relationships. Here are some of the biggest ones.
They take you out of your element.
Manipulation is about control. One of the ways perpetrators gain power is by taking the person out of their element. Has your partner always controlled where you go on dates or which friends you visit? Do they often ask you to come over to their home, or have forced you to live somewhere you were not keen on? A way to tell is that your partner does not like to live in your life but expects you to live in theirs. They want to be in control of the surroundings and pull you away from other people. This will make you feel uncomfortable and less likely to stick up for yourself.
They ask you to prove your love.
Has your partner ever said, "If you loved me you would...."? This is a vast manipulation tactic because they are asking you to prove that you love them repeatedly so that they can get what they want. It could start as simple requests, saying, "If you loved me, you would go upstairs and grab my jacket". Eventually, the demands would get more prominent, such as "If you loved me, you would change your mind about having a child". They try to use your emotions against you by making you feel guilt and shame.
They emotionally blackmail you.
Emotional blackmail is a huge red flag for a toxic relationship. Signs of this are when a partner says, "I will kill myself if you leave" or "My life would fall apart without you". It is another tactic that makes the victim feel guilty or shameful, especially if they are trying to leave the relationship. Victims have a tough time remembering that they are not the sole responsibility for someone else's well-being. This can quickly turn into emotional abuse, which includes the use of rage, intimidation, and threats.
They gaslight you.
Gaslighting is when someone manipulates another to gain power, by making that person feel like they are crazy or in the wrong. Victims of gaslighting will be shaped to doubt themselves and their beliefs. Your partner will pretend they never said something that they did, leave out vital information, make you think you forgot things, or twist the truth. They do so in a way that is convincing that you might think you are going crazy. Over time, you might not trust anything you believe.
They make you responsible for their happiness.
Manipulators are a bit ironic. They will spend a lot of time making sure that you cannot think for yourself, but then turn around and make sure that you are responsible for all their emotions. If they feel sad or angry, they will say it is because of something you did. Even if they had a rough day at work, they would come home and blame you for it. They will make you feel like you are incapable of running your own life but should be able to run theirs.
They are too much, too soon.
Emotional manipulators tend to skip a few steps in relationships. One day you are going on a casual date with them, and a week later, they are asking you to move in. They share too much about their life early on and expect you to do the same. This is so they can learn about you and use it against you. It is not a sign of vulnerability or sensitivity. It is supposed to make you feel special that they fell for you so quickly and let you into their lives, but they have other motives for their actions.
They claim they are the victim.
Nothing will ever be their fault. No matter what happens to them, or what they do to themselves, everything is someone else's fault. They will likely blame you, too. If you get mad or upset, they will only further get angry with you. Furthermore, you will never be able to claim yourself as a victim, even for small things.
Manipulation is a scary but real tactic people use to get what they want. In romantic relationships, it can be even harder to recognize. Pay attention to these signs and form an exit plan if you feel you are in danger. They should not control you any longer.