Signs of Emotional Manipulation: When Love Becomes a Bargaining Chip


Have you ever found yourself questioning your own thoughts and feelings in a relationship? Do you often feel like you’re walking on eggshells, afraid to upset your partner? These could be signs that you are experiencing emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is a form of psychological abuse that can be difficult to detect, but its effects can be devastating on your mental health and well-being.

Emotional manipulation involves tactics used by one person to control and manipulate another’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It is a subtle, yet damaging form of abuse that can occur in any type of relationship, whether it be romantic, familial, or even among friends. The manipulator may use various tactics to gain power and control over their target, often leaving the victim feeling confused, helpless, and trapped.

Signs of Emotional Manipulation in Relationships

Emotional manipulation can manifest in many different ways, making it important to be aware of the signs. Here are some common signs of emotional manipulation in relationships:

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where the abuser denies your reality, making you question your own sanity. They may twist the facts, distort the truth, or make you doubt your memories to make you feel like you are going crazy.

Imagine you’re in a relationship, and your partner starts telling you that things you remember happening didn’t actually happen. For example, say you both talked about going to the movies last week, but now they you’re making it up and that you’re forgetful.

This happens over and over again with different things you talk about. They keep saying, “You’re always getting things wrong” or “I never said that.” It makes you feel like you can’t trust your own memory and that you’re going crazy. You start feeling like YOU’RE the one with the problem.

Slowly, you might stop hanging out with your friends and family because you’re not sure who to believe. You become really dependent on your partner for everything.

It’s like being stuck in a confusing and hurtful situation. But it’s helpful to know that you should trust your own memory and feelings. If someone is making you doubt yourself like this, it’s not okay. You should talk to a trusted adult or friend about it and get help to get out of that kind of relationship. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and isn’t healthy or right.

Constant Criticism: Emotional manipulators often use criticism as a way to undermine your self-esteem and confidence. They may belittle your accomplishments, constantly point out your flaws, or make you feel worthless.

Isolation: Manipulators often try to isolate their victims from their support systems, such as friends and family. They may discourage you from spending time with loved ones, making you more dependent on them and less likely to seek help.

Emotional Blackmail: Emotional manipulators may use guilt, threats, or emotional blackmail to get what they want. They may threaten to leave the relationship, harm themselves, or withhold affection as a way to control your behavior.

A while back, I was in a relationship with someone, and things weren’t going well. We had our fair share of problems, like any relationship, but I reached a point where I realized it wasn’t healthy for me to stay.

When I mustered the courage to break up with my partner, that’s when things took a terrible turn. They began using emotional blackmail, saying they couldn’t handle life without me and that they’d even harm themselves or worse if I left. It was an intense and overwhelming situation to be in because I cared about this person deeply, and I never wanted to hurt them.

emotional manipulation

Their threats made me feel trapped and responsible for their well-being. I felt like I had to stay in the relationship just to prevent them from doing something terrible. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and I constantly worried about their safety. I felt guilty for even thinking about my own happiness and well-being.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t be responsible for someone else’s choices, and it wasn’t fair for them to hold me hostage in the relationship. I reached out to friends and family for support, and they helped me see that what my ex was doing was emotional manipulation. They encouraged me to prioritize my own mental and emotional health.

It was still really hard to leave, and I felt a mix of sadness, guilt, and relief when I finally did. The process of healing and moving on was difficult, but it was necessary for my own well-being. I learned that it’s essential to seek support from people who care about you and to remember that emotional blackmail is not a healthy or loving way to keep someone in a relationship.

Blame Shifting: Manipulators often refuse to take responsibility for their actions and instead blame others for their mistakes. They may twist the situation to make you feel guilty or responsible for their behavior.

Recognizing these signs is the first step towards breaking free from emotional manipulation and reclaiming your sense of self.

Manipulative Tactics Used in Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulators are tricky. They are skilled at using a variety of tactics to control their victims. Some are aware they are doing this and others are not. Here are some common manipulative tactics used in emotional manipulation:

Manipulative Language: Emotional manipulators often use language that undermines your confidence and makes you doubt yourself. They may use sarcasm, put-downs, or backhanded compliments to make you feel inferior. For example:

Sarcasm: “You always look fantastic… if you’re going for the ‘just rolled out of bed’ look.”

Put-Downs: “I can’t believe they picked you for that; I thought they’d want someone who could actually handle it.”

Backhanded Compliments: “You’re pretty smart, for someone who didn’t go to a good school.”

Minimizing Achievements: “I guess they needed someone, and you were just in the right place at the right time.”

Comparisons to Others: “Why can’t you be more like [someone else]? They’re so much more successful than you.”

Blaming You for Their Feelings: “You made me do this” or “I wouldn’t be so upset if you had acted differently.”

Guilt-Tripping: “I sacrificed so much for you, and this is how you repay me?”

Emotional Withdrawal: Manipulators may withhold affection, attention, or love as a way to control your behavior. They may give you the silent treatment, ignore your needs, or emotionally distance themselves from you.

Punishment and Rewards: Emotional manipulators may employ a system of punishment and rewards to control your behavior. They may withhold affection or love when you don’t comply with their demands, but shower you with affection when you do.

Playing the Victim: Manipulators often play the victim to gain sympathy and manipulate others. They may exaggerate their own suffering, twist the facts, or make you feel guilty for their unhappiness.

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used to make you doubt your own reality. Manipulators may deny their abusive behavior, twist the truth, or make you question your memories to make you feel like you are the one at fault.

By understanding these manipulative tactics, you can begin to recognize when they are being used against you and take steps to protect yourself.

Effects of Emotional Manipulation on Mental Health

The effects of emotional manipulation on mental health can be severe and long-lasting. Being in an emotionally manipulative relationship can lead to:

Anxiety and Depression: Constant criticism, gaslighting, and manipulation can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. The constant stress and uncertainty can take a toll on your mental well-being.

Low Self-Esteem: Emotional manipulation often chips away at your self-esteem and self-worth. The constant criticism and belittling can make you doubt your own abilities and value as a person.

Isolation and Loneliness: Manipulators often isolate their victims from their support systems, leaving them feeling isolated and alone. This isolation can further contribute to feelings of depression and hopelessness.

Lack of Trust and Intimacy: Emotional manipulation erodes trust and creates a sense of emotional distance in the relationship. It can be difficult to trust others or form deep connections after experiencing emotional manipulation.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): In severe cases, emotional manipulation can lead to symptoms of PTSD. The constant fear, stress, and manipulation can result in flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms associated with trauma.

It is crucial to seek support and take steps to protect your mental health if you are experiencing emotional manipulation in a relationship.

How to Recognize and Deal with Emotional Manipulation

Recognizing and dealing with emotional manipulation can be challenging, but it is essential for your well-being. It’s not uncommon for people to recognize and not be strong enough to deal with the unhealthy behaviors or leave the relationship. It can take time to build yourself up to that point.

Here are some strategies to help you recognize and deal with emotional manipulation:

Educate Yourself: Learn about emotional manipulation and the tactics used by manipulators. Understanding the patterns and signs of manipulation can help you recognize when it is happening to you.

Trust Your Gut: If something feels off or doesn’t sit right with you, trust your instincts. Emotional manipulators often try to make you doubt yourself, but deep down, you know when something is wrong.

Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the manipulator and stick to them. Communicate your needs and expectations, and be firm in enforcing your boundaries.

Seek Support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or a therapist who can provide support and guidance. They can offer an outside perspective and help you navigate the complexities of emotional manipulation.

Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care and engage in activities that bring you joy and peace. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is crucial when dealing with emotional manipulation.

Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available. You deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship that respects your boundaries and values your well-being.

emotional manipulation

Seeking Support for Emotional Manipulation

Dealing with emotional manipulation can be overwhelming, and seeking support is crucial. Here are some resources you can turn to for help:

Therapy: A trained therapist can provide you with valuable support and guidance in navigating emotional manipulation. They can help you develop coping strategies, build self-esteem, and work towards healing.

Support Groups: Joining a support group can connect you with others who have experienced similar situations. It provides a safe space to share your experiences, gain insights, and find support from people who understand.

Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a support group designed to help individuals who struggle with codependency, a pattern of behavior where they become overly reliant on others for validation and self-worth. You’ll learn more there about how to contend with emotional manipulative people.

Hotlines and Helplines: Many organizations offer hotlines and helplines for individuals experiencing emotional manipulation or abuse. These helplines can provide immediate support and direct you to local resources.

In the United States, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). They can provide you with support, resources, and guidance on how to address your specific situation.

Online Communities: Online communities and forums dedicated to emotional abuse and manipulation can be a valuable source of support and information. Engaging with others who have gone through similar experiences can help you feel less alone.

Remember, seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Reach out to these resources and find the support you need to navigate emotional manipulation.

Setting Boundaries in Relationships to Prevent Emotional Manipulation

Setting boundaries is essential in all relationships, as it helps prevent emotional manipulation and establishes a healthy dynamic. Here are some tips for setting boundaries:

Identify Your Needs: Reflect on your needs and values in a relationship. What are your non-negotiables? What behavior will you not tolerate? Understanding your needs is the first step in setting boundaries.

Communicate Clearly: Clearly communicate your boundaries to your partner or loved ones. Use “I” statements to express how their behavior affects you and what you need from them.

Enforce Your Boundaries: It’s not enough to set boundaries; you must also enforce them. Be consistent in upholding your boundaries and assertive in communicating your expectations.

Be Prepared for Resistance: Emotional manipulators may resist your boundaries and try to push your limits. Stay firm in your boundaries and don’t let them manipulate you into compromising your values.

Take Action: If someone consistently violates your boundaries and refuses to respect them, it may be necessary to reevaluate the relationship. Protecting your well-being should always be a priority.

Remember, setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and ensuring your needs are met in a respectful and healthy manner.

Healing from Emotional Manipulation and Rebuilding Self-Esteem

Healing from emotional manipulation takes time and effort, but it is possible to regain your sense of self and rebuild your self-esteem. Here are some steps you can take towards healing:

Acknowledge the Abuse: Recognize and acknowledge that you have experienced emotional manipulation. Validate your own feelings and experiences.

Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind and gentle with yourself during the healing process. Practice self-compassion by engaging in self-care activities, journaling, or seeking support from loved ones.

Challenge Negative Beliefs: Emotional manipulation often leads to negative beliefs about yourself. Challenge these beliefs and replace them with positive and empowering thoughts.

Set Realistic Goals: Set small, achievable goals for yourself as you work towards healing. Celebrate your progress and acknowledge your strengths along the way.

Seek Professional Help: Consider seeking therapy or counseling to help you navigate the healing process. A therapist can provide guidance, support, and tools to aid in your recovery.

Remember, healing is a personal journey, and everyone’s process is unique. Be patient with yourself and trust that you have the strength to overcome the effects of emotional manipulation.

emotional manipulation

Resources for Further Information and Support on Emotional Manipulation

If you are seeking further information and support on emotional manipulation, here are some resources that can help:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website at for immediate support and information.

Psychology Today: Visit to find therapists in your area who specialize in emotional abuse and manipulation.

Loveisrespect: Visit for information, resources, and a helpline specifically for teens and young adults experiencing emotional manipulation or abuse.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence: Visit for resources and information on domestic violence and emotional abuse.

Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and there are resources available to support you through your healing journey.

Conclusion: Empowering Yourself Against Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation is a destructive force that can leave lasting scars on your mental health and well-being. By understanding the signs and tactics of emotional manipulation, you can empower yourself to break free from the cycle of abuse. Remember, you deserve to be in a relationship that is built on respect, trust, and equality.

Recognize the signs, set boundaries, seek support, and prioritize your own well-being. You have the strength within you to reclaim your power and rebuild your self-esteem. Remember, you are worthy of love and happiness, and you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Take the first step towards a healthier future by recognizing and addressing emotional manipulation in your life. You have the power to break free and create a life filled with love, joy, and authenticity.

Sending big love your way,


dominica applegate





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