Emotional manipulation is one type of emotional abuse where the perpetrator seeks to emotionally control, exploit, or influence the victim in a way that gives them an advantage. This behavior commonly takes place in abusive and toxic relationships, and it may be the only form of abuse present, or it may take place alongside other types of abuse such as physical and psychological.

Victims of emotional manipulation have a difficult time identifying it because part of the purpose for the abuser is to maintain power and control. It is important to recognize the red flags of emotional abusers so you can identify and handle manipulative tactics.

Here are some common signs of emotional manipulation:

  • Try to make you feel sorry for them. They share unusually personal information about their past early in the relationship to gain sympathy.
  • Intentionally say things that suggest you should feel guilty or ashamed for and aim to have the guilt trip cause you to do something to benefit them.
  • Gaslight you so that you doubt your own perceptions and experiences.
  • Create situations that make you compromise your values and turn a blind eye to things you normally wouldn’t find acceptable.
  • They twist the story and facts.
  • They minimize your problems and feelings.
  • Bully or ridicule to generate fear or embarrassment.
  • Create scenarios that allow them to one-up you.
  • Threaten to spill your secrets.
  • Love-bomb you.
  • Triangulate you with someone else.
  • Be critical or contemptuous.

Now that we have listed out what emotional manipulation looks like, let’s discuss some ways to handle it! Dealing with emotional manipulation is difficult because it can lead you to question yourself and your judgment. You may be experiencing a trauma bond which makes it more difficult to manage manipulation or know when/how to walk away (especially in romantic relationships).

  • First and foremost – practice setting boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.
  • Confide in someone you trust to help you process the situation.
  • Consider couples, family, or individual counseling.
  • Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, believe yourself no matter how much the person tries to convince you that you are wrong.

Emotional manipulation is a serious form of emotional abuse. When reviewing these signs, consider whether you have experienced patterns of ongoing manipulation. It can be hard to spot, but with the right support and skills, you can handle it and effectively heal. You deserve to be safe, respected, and appreciated.

And remember… you don’t need more of a reason to leave a relationship than it isn’t serving your overall mental and emotional wellbeing. You may feel insecure, hurt, and confused and doubting your own judgement. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist to help guide you through the process of extricating yourself from any emotional abuse.

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