If your feelings are consistently being diminished and you often find yourself apologizing to your partner when you were the one hurt by their bad behavior, chances are you are stuck in a toxic relationship with an emotional manipulator.
According to relationship experts, emotional manipulators prey on your vulnerabilities and often use your own words against you in order to get what they want – and just when you have hit your breaking point, they lure you back in with a touching apology and the promise of change.
However, Beatty Cohan, a psychotherapist and author based both in New York and Saraosta, Florida, said there are clear signs your partner is an emotional manipulator, explaining that once you start noticing them, you need to leave the relationship immediately, before it becomes any more toxic.
‘When we start to feel that something is off, we have to trust our instincts that something is just not okay,’ she said of the warning signs that she claims most people tend to ignore.
The author of For Better, For Worse, Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love explained that people in these types of relationships aren’t miserable all of the time; there can be bouts of time when things are going great, and that’s when confusion really sets in.
‘You feel like you are on a roller coaster ride,’ Beatty said, noting that ‘the earlier you get out, the better’ because you’ll find yourself in a circular relationship that wears you down and makes you feel bad about yourself.
And she warned that ‘so often verbal and emotional manipulation can turn into abuse’.
So, how can you be sure you are dating an emotional manipulator?
1- Does your partner diminish your feelings?
According to Beatty, emotional manipulators are only concerned about their own needs and wants. If you try to have open and honest conversation about moments when you feel hurt or invalidated, you will be shut down with claims that you are being silly or overeating.
Patty Blue Hayes, an author and life coach specializing in heartbreak recovering, wrote in an article for YourTango that ‘their calm demeanor and your heightened emotion or sensitivity may trick you into doubting yourself’.
‘You start wondering [whether] maybe they’re right,’ she explained.
An emotional manipulator will never apologize; instead, they will blame you and make you start to doubt your emotions. If you find yourself constantly asking yourself if you are overreacting or being too sensitive, it is time to move on.
2- Does your partner put you down?
If your partner continuously insults you or makes fun of you when you out in public, chances are he or she is an emotional manipulator. This kind of person will prey on your insecurities, but their tactics may not be overtly obvious. The person you are dating may simply ‘tease’ you in a way that makes your friends and family feel like you are in on the ‘joke’ when in reality you are hurt by their words.
For example, an emotional manipulator may know that you are feeling self-conscious about gaining a few pounds, yet instead of being supportive, they will call you out for having a third slice of pizza when you are hanging out with your friends.
Beatty pointed out that women who grew up in a home where their families put them down grow used to this kind of dynamic, which is why we need to educate ourselves on what is really okay and what is not. ‘We cannot enable bad behavior,’ she said.
The psychotherapist, who is all about ‘personal responsibility’, asked: ‘If you are in a social and situation and your partner is making these snide remarks, my question is what are you going to to do about it?’
If your partner continues to belittle you after you have voiced how much their words hurt you, you should remove yourself from the relationship immediately.
3- Does your partner hold you responsible for their bad behavior?
An emotional manipulator will not take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they will place blame and claim their response was justified based on something you did. Someone who is an emotional manipulator will always make their partner question the validity of their feelings.
For example, if your partner yells at you for asking if they paid the electric bill, they may say that you should know that they are stressed at work and can’t be bothered with such trivial things.
‘We don’t make anybody do anything,’ Beatty said of such bad behavior. ‘They choose to behave in a certain in way.’
4- Does your partner refuse to explain themselves?
Patty explained that emotional manipulators will use belittling statement like ‘you wouldn’t understand’ because ‘they have no desire in having authentic, real communication with you’.
‘They want to make you feel like you are beneath them by claiming you couldn’t possibly understand,’ she added.
On the flip side, an emotional manipulator who refuses to communicate their needs will get angry when you don’t meet them, leaving you constantly waiting for them to get upset about something you’ve unknowingly failed to do.
5- Does your partner one up you?
Emotional manipulators only care about themselves, so if you say you had a bad day at work, they will go on about how much worse their day was instead of comforting you.
Once again, your feelings will go invalidated and you will be made to feel guilty about trying to communicate.
6- Does your partner change their ways only when you’ve had enough?
Emotional manipulators have a knack for knowing when you are ready to give up and leave them. At this point, when you are close to walking away, they will charm you and offer things that vaguely sounds like apologies, but chances are, once you get back into the groove of your relationship, they will starting going back to their old ways.
Beatty said that it is possible for an emotional manipulator to change however – if they actively seek help for their controlling ways.
But she also warned that while it is important for them to acknowledge that they have underlying issues, addressing is very different than taking action and resolving the problem.
‘Unless you are with someone who is willing to acknowledge, address and resolve their issues, you need to run to the nearest exit,’ Beatty added.