The following signs of a manipulative boyfriend should never be ignored. Hoping that he will change if you give him enough time and attention, justifying his bad behaviour because there have been good times or giving him many chances because you think he really is a good person are not good strategies. Manipulation is manipulation.
If you see many of the following signs in your relationship, then you need to take action. If you don't recognize many of the signs which you know deep down that there is something wrong, then it's a good idea to go through the list with a trusted friend (not your boyfriend!) It's often easier for an outsider to see the manipulative signs that it is for the person who is actually in the relationship.
A little trick here is to pay attention to the actual behaviour. Not the justification or the reason behind it. This is one of the tactics of the manipulator, to come up with some 'seemingly' sensible justification for the way they treat you. If he does something and claims its for the good of the relationship, it's much easier for you to accept it.
For example, he calls you lazy very often and says that if you are not so lazy you would both be happier. On the surface, it may seem to make sense. But if you stop and think about it, you don't consider yourself lazy and what it actually means when he calls you lazy is that he wants you to be doing something for him. On top of that, it makes you feel bad when you hear it, and not just because says it with an unpleasant tone.
And there is more. He is actually attacking you at the level of identity. In other words, he is making you the problem. It's not that you don't do enough things, the issue is that you as a person are lazy. This character assassination is a very significant and important point.
So let's have a look at more signs of a manipulative boyfriend...
Initially the relationship was amazing, wonderful, fantastic! There was lots of attention, compliments, gifts and nice times. You are happy to do things to keep the good times going. Now, however, you spend much of your time doing things to make sure he doesn't get into a bad mood. Whenever you meet him you are never sure what kind of mood he is going to be in. This is where the phrase "walking on eggshells" comes into play. He is also unpredictable in what you can talk about. One day a subject is okay, the next day if you mention it, a war breaks out.
You tend to argue over the same issues again and again. It's as if he doesn't get it, you can't get through to him, or you feel like you're not communicating properly. The thing is, he does get what you're on about, he's just not giving in. It always has to be his way every time.
You spend less and less time with your family and friends. While this is normal in many relationships, it's not just that you spend less time with them. But you also feel bad when you do spend time with them. He complains when you arrange to meet them, he makes you feel bad when you're leaving the house to go and meet them, he criticizes them, he criticizes you for spending time with them, if he's with you he does things to make everybody feel uncomfortable, and he makes you feel bad afterwards for having given them attention instead of him.
You have caught him out in lies. He may distort information or simply not tell you things. Other times, he lies to your face. Sometimes you're not sure if he's lying but he manages to convince you to accept whatever he is saying.
There may be passive-aggressive behaviour. He may turn up late for events. On purpose. He promises to do something and when he doesn't, he says he forgot. He hides your things, making you waste time looking for them. He gives you bad information, again wasting your time. He procrastinates until it becomes easier for you to do the task yourself.
He tells lots of stories that show him up in a good light. Sometimes you may think is exaggerating, but it's difficult to call him out on it. He may tell the same stories over and over to different people. If this story changes over time, consider it a lie. If it is incongruent, in other words it seems implausible, then chances are it's a lie, or lies mixed in with a smattering of truth.
You feel something is off in the relationship. In fact, you may have felt this from the start. However, you can't quite put your finger on it. He blames you, of course, but you secretly think he's the problem.
Your wants and needs seem to have disappeared, and you want what he wants, or you have given up wanting anything at all.
You feel like you have disappeared in the relationship and you don't know who you are anymore. Your friends and family tell you that they don't recognize you any longer.
He makes you responsible for his well-being. Anything that goes wrong in his life is your fault. Then, you have to fix it! Even his bad behaviour is blamed on you. When you complain that you don't like the way he treats you, he says that you made him do it or he was simply reacting to something you did to him.
He threatens you with losing the relationship if you don't do what he wants. Sometimes this threat is said out loud, although in different words, and sometimes it may not actually be said but all the messages you get from him are that you better behave or the relationship is on the line.
Of course, any physical abusive behaviour is an indicator that you're being manipulated. Repeated physical abuse occurs when the manipulator has some level of psychological control over the victim. The victim is already being manipulated emotionally. That's why the victim stays.
He gaslights you.
There are double standards all over the place. He criticizes others but won't hear criticism of himself. He expects you to tell him everything but he tells you nothing. He spends money as he wishes but you have to account for every cent. He has his rules for himself and his rules for everyone else. He makes you commit to things but he changes his mind whenever it suits him.
He claims he has been the victim in abusive relationships before. If he trots this out on the first date, run! If he uses this as an excuse for his bad behaviour, run faster! He was in abusive relationships all right, but he was the one doling out the abuse.
There are lots of ultimatums, deadlines and rushing. He doesn't give you time to reflect and ponder. You're pushed into making decisions quickly. Surprisingly, the decisions you make are for his benefit!
He knows how to make you feel bad about all sorts of things, who you are, your past, your family, your work, your hobbies, your ideas, your decisions, your perceptions, your emotions and your behaviours.
You experience a lot of fear and guilt although you may not have realized just how much until after you had separated from this person.
He is fantastic at playing the victim. He can become oh, so vulnerable, in an instant. Which is odd, because at times he can seem ice cold, uncaring, callous and even cruel.
If you are not sure, find out! It's very important!
Of course, there may be insults, name-calling, humiliation and so on.
When you get upset about these things, a nasty tactic is to claim that he was just joking, you're too sensitive or that your emotions control you. This is the emotional equivalent of punching you and then when you're stunned, catching you with the back of his hand.
Obviously, not all of these signs of a manipulative boyfriend need to be present for you to be in a manipulative relationship. It would be some relationship if they were!
The problem is, as I mentioned, that it is very difficult for a person who is being psychologically abused to recognise it as abuse. You can read more about why it's difficult here.
You can read more about the dynamics in abusive relationships in these articles about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands, how they make you dependent on them, how to leave an abusive relationship, and recovering from a psychopathic relationship.
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?