When emotional manipulation occurs in romantic relationships, it can become a toxic situation that eats away at our self worth and energy.

The worst part is, we might not even realize it.

What is manipulation?

Manipulation is a way of influencing people’s behaviors favorably towards the manipulator.

The manipulator seeks to control someone else’s behavior to suit their own needs and goals, even if this comes at the expense of the other party.

Signs of manipulation occur more often in our everyday lives than we would like to think; in subtle advertisements, at the workplace, and even among friends.

What about emotional manipulation?

When it comes to emotional manipulation, however, things get slightly more complicated, because it goes beyond just behavior – it influences your thoughts and feelings as well.

No one wants to believe that their partner is emotionally manipulative, but it is important to address any red flags that pop up.

Otherwise, the relationship can cause us detrimental psychological and mental effects, such as anxiety and low self-esteem.

Here are 8 warning signs of emotional manipulation that you should never ignore.

1.They are constantly criticizing you.

What may have started as just playful banter or teasing has now turned into never-ending personal attacks.

Your partner is criticizing you in a way that’s causing you to feel ashamed and embarrassed to be yourself.

You feel like you are constantly stepping on eggshells, and it’s coming to a point where it’s chipping away at your sense of self worth.

You never feel “good enough”, and they prey on this vulnerability to gain control of the relationship and to hold power over you.

2. You begin questioning your reality.

Emotional manipulators are experts at twisting the facts and warping reality so that you lose trust in your intuition.

Popularly known as gaslighting, this powerful manipulative method leaves you feeling even more confused and frustrated after each conversation.

No matter what you say, your partner has a way of deflecting any form of responsibility and making you believe that it’s all just “in your head”, and that they are ultimately right.

The result? You always end up being the one apologizing for even voicing out your opinions in the first place.

3. They never walk the talk.

Your partner promises that they will change any behaviors that are making you uncomfortable, only to revert back to them a few weeks later.

Either that, or they make up excuses to avoid the topic altogether.

They will do just enough to make you stay, but they won’t go the extra mile to make you feel like they truly care.

Sounds all too familiar? If this has happened multiple times, alarm bells should be ringing in your head by now.

4.They play the “If you loved me, you would…” card.

Yes, it’s true that when we love someone, we’d naturally go above and beyond to make them feel appreciated and cared for.

This doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your partner to push you to do something you aren’t comfortable with.

Here’s the harsh truth: Experts of emotional manipulation are pros at convincing you to do things that only benefit them – even at the expense of your physical and emotional well-being.

You are allowed to say no and to reject your partner if you are not comfortable with doing or saying something.

If they are quick to flash the relationship scorecard to show how much you “owe” them (or to justify themselves), you should probably run the f*** away.

5. They are experts at guilt-tripping and ultimatums.

Emotional manipulators aren’t afraid to make you feel guilty for not spending time with them or buying them expensive gifts.

Oh, but don’t worry – they’ll let you know all about their problems, like how they can’t sleep at night or how their boss is giving them a rough time at work.

What they won’t do is offer any consolation when you confide in them about your problems.

Guilt-tripping also suggests a passive-aggressive relationship, in which the passive-aggressive person indirectly expresses their unhappiness to make the other party feel guilty.

If guilt-tripping doesn’t work, they are likely to issue an ultimatum to put you in a tight spot, because they are confident that you will cave in eventually.

By forcing an emotional reaction out of you, they gain a sense of superiority and control over the situation.

6. They are always the victim.

Your partner never seems to be at fault; it’s either someone else, a helpless situation, or you that is to blame.

They never take responsibility for any of their actions and constantly dismiss your feelings, only to amplify their own.

Had a bad day at work? Don’t bother telling them – they had it way worse.

Feeling stressed over the relationship? You’re just being “overly sensitive”.

They have a way of making you feel small, and they simply can’t empathize with your problems.

7. They know exactly which buttons to push and don’t hesitate to push them.

Your partner should be protecting you, not using your weaknesses and triggers against you (especially after you’ve opened up to them).

If you’re insecure about your weight or looks and those are the first things they mention during an argument, that’s a huge red flag.

The aim is to get you to be as emotional as possible – emotional manipulators thrive on a chaotic mental state, because this keeps you emotionally invested in them.

8. They make you work for their love.

Your partner uses threats, aggression, or plays the victim to make you “prove” your love.

They dish out any form of love in morsels and never give their all – if you want it, you’ve got to earn it.

They, on the other hand, withhold any form of affection until they get what they want. And boy is that messed up.

You shouldn’t have to fight for anyone’s love; love should be easy, generous and unconditional.

How to deal with emotional manipulation

Emotional manipulation is just as bad as emotional and physical abuse.

If you are currently experiencing emotional manipulation, know that it isn’t your fault.

There’s also no need to beat your partner at their own game.

Instead, understand your worth by practicing self love, reaching out to loved ones for advice and reflecting more deeply on what the relationship actually means to you.

Even though you might think you are compatible or have amazing chemistry with this person, a healthy relationship should also feel safe and nurturing.

Remember that getting over a breakup may be tough, but it’s going to be much tougher to stay and lose yourself in the process.