Manipulation in Relationships: 5 Most Common Subtle Signs of All Time

Manipulation in relationships
Image Credit: Bien Etre

In relationships, emotional deception/manipulation is often difficult to detect and defeat. For the most part, manipulation in relationships can vary from subtle and unconscious to blatant and calculated. However, no matter where it falls on the continuum, the damage to a couple’s bond is excruciating. It has the ability to negatively impact your personal happiness.

According to Relationship Coach, Londin Angel Winters;

For a relationship to work, you must find a way to stay on the same team, “Manipulation in relationships turns you into enemies” because it stems from deceit, she adds.

So the following are silent signs you should watch out for. They help you detect whether or not, your partner is manipulating you. It basically works on both sides.

Hiding your true Feelings

Though it’s a subtle type of coercion, hiding your true feelings causes harm because it’s a form of deception. And the thing is, this behavior is fairly normal, even more so than deliberately harmful manipulations, partially because

“we don’t know how detrimental these behaviors are to a true, passionate relationship,” says Winters.

Though this form of behavior may seem innocent and innocuous, it may actually trigger distance between partners because “there is a lack of integrity in the dynamic, a sort of pretending,” according to Winters. “Over time, such subtle behaviors may truly ruin a long-term relationship.”

Oftentimes, they do not even get into long-term relationships especially for individuals who are able to spot this early on.

Not Saying What You Mean

Subtle manipulation entails ostensibly ‘harmless’ or ‘well-intentioned’ gestures that, in fact, cause a slew of issues. The intention isn’t usually to hurt anyone else; in fact, it may be motivated by a desire to be polite, harmonious, or non-confrontational. In other words, most folks do this without even knowing even though there are some exceptions.

Over time, though, these things tend to close off lines of communication and lead to deeper issues because “they are usually veiled attempts to harm someone else,” according to Winters.

In any case, getting over this is pretty simple, consciously follow through with everything you say. It should be a deliberate effort to ensure, you keep your relationship afloat.


You’re probably being gaslit if you see your partner lying to you repeatedly, making you doubt your own perception of how things are going down. It’s all about making you feel insecure in the relationship while still trusting them over yourself.

In simple terms, Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse in which someone makes you doubt your sanity, reality perception, or memory. People who have been gaslighted sometimes feel befuddled, nervous, and unable to trust themselves.

This often manifests in a conversation where you confront them about wrongdoings or a blatant lie they told. They on the other hand somehow make you question your own perception of how things went down. This right here is unarguably one of the most common kinds of manipulation in relationships.

And by far the most dangerous. The blowbacks aren’t something you want to get used to.

Bombing with affection

Your partner may intermittently lavish you with praise and flattery—whether in the form of messages, phone calls, or gifts—and then suddenly disappear or become moody and rude without explanation before the next round of romantic gestures, all in the hopes of making you dependent on their affection.

It literally becomes a cycle of hurt and affection. And for the most part, it is pretty difficult to leave these kinds of people because they are very good with words. Ladies get to suffer the most; some guys too.


Stonewalling, often known as the silent treatment, occurs when someone refuses to engage with you and openly ignores you, despite your clearly expressed feelings.

But besides silent treatments, stonewalling also means shutting down your partner intentionally in arguments.

This is problematic because it sends the message that you don’t matter. On the other hand, someone may be more aggressively manipulative by raising their voice and not allowing you to speak, in order to intimidate you into doing anything.

Dealing with Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation by a family member, team member, or trusted friend can negatively impact your quality of life. Your relationship with another person may be abusive if you are subjected to regular and severe emotional manipulation.

Abusers find it extremely difficult to cease abusing others, and most forms of therapy available to them, including anger management therapy, have not been proved to have a substantial influence on their ability to stop abusing others. The only surefire way to stop someone from abusing you is to get out of the situation and quit the relationship.

However, if you are subjected to emotional manipulation at work or at home and are unable to leave the situation, the following measures may be helpful in the short term:

  • People who love-bomb are to be avoided.
  • Even if it feels rude, assert yourself and your boundaries out loud.
  • Inform people about the emotional manipulation and obtain their approval.
  • Instead of being rushed into decisions you may come to regret, take your time.

Resources and Assistance

You may benefit from professional counseling or a support group, depending on the source and type of emotional manipulation.

There are organizations that can assist you if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Call 1-800-799-7233 to reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Although these may not cover the entire list of manipulations found in relationships these days, they are the most common yet subtle ones. In other words, you hardly notice them even when they are staring right at your face.

Manipulation in Relationships FAQs

What are the signs of manipulative behavior?

A manipulator will purposefully lie to you, make excuses for you, blame you, or strategically divulge facts about themselves while keeping other truths hidden. They believe they are gaining power over you and intellectual superiority by doing so. Exaggeration and generalization are two skills that manipulators excel at.

Do manipulators love you?

Manipulators don’t love you; they want you to love them and conform to their demands, then convince you that this is love.

What is emotional manipulation in a relationship?

Emotional manipulation happens when a manipulative person seeks authority over another person by using deceptive or exploitive tactics. An emotional manipulator seeks to use, manipulate, or even victimize someone else, in contrast to persons in healthy relationships who display reciprocity and cooperation.

Do manipulators apologize?

A manipulative apology will always be accompanied by a slew of excuses and justifications for their wrongdoing. Instead of being a simple justification for what the perpetrator did, an apology is designed to empathize with the victim.

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