The following characteristics of a manipulative person should never be ignored. And if you recognize a lot of these in your relationship, then you are in a serious situation and doing something about it is vital.
People don't go searching for manipulative or abusive relationships, they are tricked into them. By the very nature of manipulation, it's incredibly difficult for the victim to recognize that they are being taken advantage of.
The fact that you are being manipulated and controlled is not easy to accept either, especially if you love your partner.
For these reasons there may be many of the characteristics of a manipulative person that you think do not apply in your situation. Going through them with a trusted friend is a good idea because outsiders will often recognize things that you cannot yet see. And go slowly, there is no rush. It's more important that you recognize the characteristics of a manipulative person than getting to the end of the page fast!
1. This person was amazing initially, friendly, attentive, loving, caring, spending time with you and making you feel generally fantastic, and now you see another 'side' of this person. They can be cold, even cruel, angry, temperamental, judgmental, demanding, argumentative. You long for the first one but you more often get the second one.
2. They say one thing and do something else. This is a major factor but is often difficult for the victims to recognize because the manipulator will have a reason or justification for it. You have to pay attention to this one. If they say they will do something, does it actually happen? Excuses are irrelevant. Forget the excuses.
Does. It. Actually. Happen?
If this goes on regularly in your relationship, then you need to run.
3. There is lots of blame shifting. Anything that goes wrong you are blamed for. Even if you think it's their fault, they manage to twist and distort the situation so you end up feeling bad about it. You accuse them of doing something and they immediately accuse you right back and you end up apologizing for it. They regularly tell you that you are selfish, manipulative, controlling, uncaring, inconsiderate, that they are the victims and have had their emotions hurt and you now beginning to understand that the reverse is actually true.
4. They have no trouble guilt tripping you into doing what they want or giving up your own wants and needs.
5. They are masters at playing the victim. They can be incredible creative in how they paint a picture of themselves as having been taken advantage of. They know very well how to pull on those heart strings.
6. They not only don't respect your boundaries, they actively push you beyond your limits. They want more than you are prepared to allow. You end up giving in. They they say that something extra is necessary. They pressure you until they get that. They keep pushing and pushing until you end up doing or saying things that you never would have before.
7. They destroy your confidence and your self worth. They criticize who you are, your likes, your family, your work, your hobbies, your past, your thoughts, feelings and actions until you hardly trust yourself any more. You may have started out as confident, independent, strong minded, but you are nothing like that any more.
8. They don't take responsibility. This shows up in several ways. They don’t keep their promises. They don't pay their debts. They don’t follow the rules. They deny saying things they actually said. They lie. They don't admit to making mistakes. All these things will drive you crazy and make it impossible to understand the goings on in the relationship.
9. They can be incredibly cold. They use the silent treatment to punish you. They may not talk to you for days or even weeks. They can leave home for days on end without telling you where they are. They may even just ignore your questions, literally not answer you, for no obvious reason.
10. They can be incredibly lazy. They may put little or no effort into things. They won't do anything they don't care about. They would rather spend 20 minutes manipulating you into making them a coffee than spend the 2 minutes that it would take them to do it themselves.
11. They put time pressure on you. You are expected to answer calls and messages immediately. You have to make snap decisions. They expect your attention now. You are never allowed to keep them waiting.
12. Your opinion is worthless, stupid or just plain wrong. Even if they ask you about something, they don't give it any importance, they do what they want to either way. The information is simply used against you at some stage.
13. There are little or no compromises with these types. They will take and take from you. If they give you something, it's not a compromise. They expect to be paid back, often with something much bigger.
14. They claim they are right, or innocent, or operating from integrity, even in the face of contradictory evidence.
15. They criticize other people a lot. Sometimes it's said that they do that to make themselves feel better. But it goes deeper than that. They want YOU to think better about them. Cults criticize outsiders so that the members consider themselves elite, with the leader at the top of the chain. The same thing happens in many families, with the family members considering that they are better than others, with the manipulator in charge. The constant criticism of others gives an end result where you consider the manipulator as all knowing and all powerful and you have to check in with them for everything.
16. You are never allowed to judge them. Even if you judge them privately, it feels bad. Telling others about what's really going on in your relationship feels like you are betraying your partner. And that's not normal.
17. They want their needs met, first, and second, and third. Everything else is a distant fourth. It doesn’t matter how unreasonable things seem, they want things done their way. This is a reflection of how they think of themselves as superior beings.
18. They will tell you that they have done you a favor or done something nice for you. That way they build a sense of obligation in you. They are not doing something pleasant for the sake of it, they are doing it to manipulate you into feeling that you owe them.
19. They know how to make you feel great in an instant. They also know how to make you feel guilty, angry, sad, afraid and so on, and they have no problems pressing these buttons to get what they want.
20. Being in an abusive relationship feels to you that you are on an emotional roller-coaster much of the time. There is one crisis after another, chaos, drama, a never ending series of things that keep you constantly busy trying to fix.
21. You are supposed to know everything and anticipate their wants and needs. Not doing this gets you into trouble, frequently!
22. They will attack, demean and diminish your relationships with other people. They will criticize your friends and family and even criticize you for having such friends. They want all your attention for themselves.
23. They may control your clothes, your hair and your appearance. They can make you fastidious about these things. They may also criticize things that you have no control over, your height, the size of your nose or your chin and give you a complex about problems that don't actually exist. This is all part of breaking down your sense of yourself so that they can get you to change to be more the way they want you to be.
24. They often claim to have a history of abusive relationships. They were cheated on, taken advantage of, abused, robbed, discarded, etc. They were indeed, in abusive relationships, but they were the ones carrying out the abuses!
25. They are professional liars. One psychopath said, "I lie as easily as I breathe." When they are caught out in a lie, they lie some more. There is no shame, embarrassment, remorse or guilt, which makes them brilliant actors and fantastic liars. In fact, because of their nature, psychopaths will often lie when it would be better to actually tell the truth.
26. Two faced, double standard, hypocritical. They lead you to believe initially that they are upstanding, loyal, respectful people who operate with integrity. Later they will keep you to this standard, but will totally abandon it themselves. They will lie, cheat, coerce and deceive you and others for their own gain.
27. Your attention will be frequently directed at your mistakes, slippages, wrongdoings, lies and errors. You will be made to feel bad, not just for what you said or did, but made to feel bad as a person for having done these things. You are led to believe that you are defective and flawed. You are the problem. If only you were different, things would be fine.
28. The flip side of this is that there is zero attention paid to the mistakes of the manipulator, because there are none! He or she does not make mistakes. There is always a reason or justification for what they do, and you are expected to accept it.
29. They tell lots of stories about how people in the past have treated them. Sometimes someone has done something they liked but usually it's a complaint about how they have been treated. These stories are actually instructions to you about how the manipulator wants to be treated by you.
30. You are told that you have emotional issues, you are too emotional, your emotions control you, etc. etc. Have you noticed that they are setting you up? They say something that they know makes you angry, and when you respond as other normal people would, by getting angry, they tell you that you have anger issues. Or they say something hurtful, you say that you don't like that and they call you argumentative.
31. They talk about being hurt by you, how you make them feel guilty, how you upset them, but you realize that this is exactly what they are doing to you. They themselves can be cold, callous, unfeeling, even in situations that would normally be very emotional.
32. You feel the need to look in their phones, their email and social media accounts. You don't know what's going on, you know something is wrong and you want answers. (People typically feel guilty for this, but you should not. You need to know what's actually happening!)
33. They insult you, belittle you, criticize you and when you get upset, they say you are overly sensitive, or that you can't take a joke. Once again, it's all your problem if you get upset even when they are being overtly abusive.
34. The start of the relationship was fantastic. Then they started to pay you less attention. Something, or somebody, else catches their attention. You crave the good feelings that you used to have. But now you find yourself in a double bind. If you chase them, try to initiate intimacy, you are accused of smothering them, of being too needy. If you don't try and create closeness, they claim that you are no longer interested in them.
35. You feel wary of this person now. You used to love and trust them. Now you still love them but you are no longer sure of them. You don’t know in what mood they will come through the front door. You don't know where they are half the time. you don't know what they are doing, who they are with or what they are thinking. You feel dependent on them but you know they are absolutely not dependent on you.
36. There may be dozens of messages every day, that you are expected to deal with immediately. And there may be periods where there is nothing. This makes you anxious. Have you done something wrong? Have you upset them? Is the relationship in trouble?
37. They do things that scare you but they don't seem worried about it. Bills are not paid on time, you have bought a house or a car you can't really afford, they lie to others, they do things that are borderline illegal, they drive dangerously. Initially you thought they were cool and confident, now you see it as almost reckless, dangerous. This risk taking and lack of concern for the rules is typical of sociopaths and psychopaths.
38. Their on-line presence presents an image that is at odds with what you know about them. Online they pretend to have an interest in topics that have to do with personal development, equality, respect, human rights. They create an image of themselves as being kind, friendly, caring. At home they are tyrants who respect no-one and are loyal only to themselves.
39. They may still be in contact with exes. You see flirty emails and messages, often going back many months or years. Of course, they swear blind that "it means nothing."
40. They have different personas for different situations, or for different people. With some friends, they are very social party lovers. With others, they are serious business types. With new people, charming, helpful, pleasant. With the kids' teachers, they act like concerned, caring parents. Only you get to see the real person who emerges behind closed doors at home. And you watch them in public entertaining other people, and you look at the people being suckered in and you think to yourself, "If only you knew..."
41. You can spend hours trying to explain yourself to them, or the fact that what they do is upsetting to you. You may repeat things in lots of ways, and it seems that you can't get through to them. It feels like they just don't understand. You may even blame yourself for not being able to communicate adequately. But remember, they are not stupid. They do get it, they just don't care. They are going to do whatever the hell they want to anyway.
42. Nothing is ever good enough for these types. You can put your heart and soul into something and they will still find something to complain about, something to say to put you down.
43. The odd thing is, when they do that, you are motivated to try harder to please them. Other people may say that they would walk away if someone treated them in such a manner, but you want to try harder the next time, to get that compliment, that recognition, that approval.
44. They have no empathy. No matter what they say, their behaviors indicate that they don’t care about anyone except themselves. This can be hard to recognize if you still love the manipulator. If you have spent time explaining to your partner about kindness, respect, what's right and wrong in the treatment of others, you need to run. If you have done all that and your partner has not changed one iota, you need to sprint!
45. They make you feel like you are a burden to them. That you are in the way, that you are an annoyance. But it's confusing because they still keep you around, they won't let you leave the relationship.
46. Initially they took any weaknesses you had and reassured you completely about them. Now they make you feel bad about those very things. In fact, since you have been with them, you have developed other things that you are worried about and they make you feel bad about those things as well.
47. You feel that the slightest disagreement could mean that you are going to lose the relationship. This puts you in a very vulnerable position because you end up doing things that you don’t want to, just to keep the relationship going. This is another of the characteristics of a manipulative person where you should sprint, not run, to the exit.
48. They will deny they said or did things, even when you have evidence. They may be so convincing that you begin to doubt yourself. This is called gaslighting, after the play and the movie Gaslight from the 1940s.
49. Another characteristics of a manipulative person is the frequent use of threats that are not actually carried out. They may say, or hint at the idea, they want a divorce when they are not getting their way. As mentioned already, this is designed to get you to immediately give in to their demands in order that you don't lose the relationship. These types may also threaten suicide if their partner is talking about leaving. Nobody wants to think they are responsible for another committing suicide and once again, it's used to get you to stay. The thing to note is how often these people will threaten but not follow up with action. The threat itself is where their power is. It causes such strong emotions in the victim that the victim is unable to resist.
50. There is a cycle in your relationship. Tension begins to build as you wait for something bad to happen. Then the bad thing happens. Then the manipulator blames you for it, or minimizes it or says it won't happen again. Then things settle somewhat, there may even be some nice moments. You have hope that things will improve. Then the tension starts to build again as the manipulator starts to get irritable once more.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?