Does something feel off in your relationship? Things with your spouse were going great, but all of the sudden you have this gnawing feeling in your stomach that something isn’t okay? This could be a red flag that you are being manipulated in your relationship.
You may think that manipulation in relationships would be obvious, but the truth is that even a loving partner can manipulate you into doing things you wouldn’t normally do.
When you love someone, you want to feel cared for and protected by them, not manipulated or belittled. If something feels off in your relationship, don’t ignore your instincts. These are the top 5 methods of manipulation in relationships that you should avoid at all cost.
Gaslighting is a verb used to describe someone manipulating someone psychologically to the point of questioning their own sanity. This is a terrible thing to do to someone you claim to love. It can make them feel disoriented, crazy, and emotionally unstable.
Signs of gaslighting include:
- Telling blatant lies
- Not living up to their word
- Verbally or physically attacking things you love (such as your children)
- Using positive reinforcement after being verbally belittling as a method of confusion
- Projecting their own faults onto you (for example, they are secretly having an affair but will project this guilt by constantly accusing you of being unfaithful)
- Denying the truth, even when proof is presented
- Turning friends or family against you
- Telling others that you are a liar
Research shows that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience intimate abuse that results in fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the use of a victim service such as a hotline. Gaslighting is a form of abuse that is commonly used to manipulate and control a spouse.
2. Using guilt to control
One method partners do to manipulate one another is to use guilt as a weapon.
In healthy relationships, loving couples learn to forgive and forget about mistakes from the past. In unhealthy, manipulative relationships a spouse will use your mistakes against you. Saying something such as, “I can’t believe you won’t do this for me when I forgave you when you lied to me.”
Guilt may also be used to make you feel sorry for your spouse.
For example, perhaps you want to go out with your friends but your spouse is insisting you stay home. They may say something like, “I can’t believe you like hanging out with your friends more like you like spending time with me. Doesn’t our relationship mean anything to you?”
Or when they finally concede to you going out, they begin to act sad and lonely and say something like, “That’s fine, you can go out with your friends tonight. I guess I’ll just stay home and do nothing.”
3. Isolation from friends and family
In a Brazilian study about the biggest factors in relationship unhappiness, jealousy was a common reason for couples wanting to separate. Harmful jealousy doesn’t necessarily mean that a spouse is jealous of someone flirting with their partner. No, an abusive spouse can even be jealous of your friends and family.
Abusers and manipulators will often use the method of isolation as a means to control you.
They will cut you off from close friends, refuse to let you go out with them, and may even try to move you far away from where your family lives.
When you don’t have the support of friends and family, it makes it more difficult to leave an abusive relationship. You don’t have the constant reassurance from loved ones that your partner is not treating you well.
The farther your spouse can get you from friends and family, the easier it will be for them to control you.
4. Using love as a weapon
The oxytocin released from physical intimacy, be it holding hands, making love or just cuddling together on the couch, has been shown to promote bonding and making partners more trusting of one another.
These are beneficial qualities to spouses who are in a healthy relationship, but for those who are in a toxic one, these can actually do more harm than good. Trusting a partner who doesn’t have your best interest at heart and having an emotional attachment to them can make you stay in a toxic relationship longer than you should.
Having these strong bonded emotions can also make it easier for your partner to use your love for them against you. Phrases like “If you loved me you would…” and “You said you would do anything for me” become a twisted form of control.
5. Playing the victim
Emotional or physical blackmail is another common form of manipulation in relationships.
You may think that most people do not have devastating secrets to be used as blackmail, but the truth is that the use of technology has given partner’s plenty of ammunition to coerce their spouses.
Some examples of blackmail include:
- “If you leave me, I am going to tell everyone that secret you told me”
- “If you don’t do what I want, I am going to send that naked photo of you to your boss and all your friends”
- “If you don’t buy me this, I am going to charge up that credit card you gave to me”
- “I will do THIS for you if you do THIS for me”
A spouse may play the victim in order to guilt you and gain sympathy from friends and family. They may also use veiled threats to “If you leave me, I am going to kill myself. I wouldn’t have anything left to live for.”
Manipulation in relationships is more common than you might think. Signs of manipulation include blackmailing, trying to control or isolate someone from their friends or family, and using guilt or gaslighting your spouse to get your way. These are extremely unhealthy behaviors.
If there is manipulation or abuse in your relationship you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text 1-800-787-3224.