8 Subtle Signs Your Man Is Manipulating You

Adriana Velez | Dec 11, 2014 Love & Sex

man manipulating womanWho doesn't love feeling taken care of -- every once in a while, at least? For too many of us, this can be a seductive feeling until we wake up one day feeling suffocated and wondering if we're living with a control freak. Is he just looking out for you, or is he actually manipulating you? Here's how to tell.

Does any of this sound familiar -- have you ever found yourself in a relationship with a master manipulator? How did you change that?


Image via BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock

  • Ordinary Tasks Stress You Out


    You're making dinner but you can hardly function because of the ball of fear in the pit of your stomach. "You are in a controlling relationship if you find yourself feeling anxious, if you become hyper-vigilant about certain tasks, get headaches or other physical discomfort because you're so concerned about how your partner is going to react," says Lanada Williams, family therapist and host of the radio program The Lanada Williams Show.

  • You're Unable to Make Decisions About Simple Things


    Think about the simple decisions children are allowed to make when they reach the age of reason, around 7, Williams advises. "If you're unable to make independent decisions about something you'd naturally decide yourself if you were single, like picking out your clothes, that's a warning sign."

  • There Are Negative Consequences


    It's one thing if you wear heels because your husband says he likes how you look in them. But if you're worried something bad will happen if you make the wrong choice, that's another clear sign. For example, threats like, "if you wear that dress, I'm not going out with you" are a clear sign of manipulation.

  • The Tone of His Request Is Negative


    Another sign that you're in a controlling relationship, Williams says, is if your partner is emotionally abusive or aggressive. "If he says something like 'oh you look like a fat pig in that' or 'my colleagues will think you look trashy in that,' that's a verbally abusive thing to say to someone!" she adds. "It subconsciously tells you that you're unworthy." Again, this is very different from being told "I love it when you wear that dress -- it's so flattering on you." It's negative commentary. "Someone who is partnering with you and wants the best for you gives you positive feedback," Williams says.

  • He Tries to Isolate You From Everyone Else


    Is he always trying to talk you out of plans with other people -- or trying to talk you into including him? "A controlling person will try to isolate you from friends and family," Williams says. "So you'll be unable to get feedback from people you love and trust." Don't take this isolation lightly -- even temporarily. "To walk through life you're going to need that feedback from the people who love you," she adds.

  • He Makes You Feel Pampered


    This is a sneaky sign. "It starts at the very beginning of your relationship," says psychotherapist Jeanette Raymond. "He makes you feel like he wants to take care of you and enjoys pampering you. But really he's trying to take over your mind." Maybe he orders for you, and it's like he knows what you want before you even do. How charming!

    But don't be lulled into this seductive trap, Raymond warns. If he makes even a well-intentioned decision for you that you don't agree with, stand up for yourself! Now, before the pattern sets in.

  • He Needs You to Agree With Him About Everything


    Not only will he do nice things for you, he'll then ask you if you liked it -- and you'd better say yes. You see a movie together, and he's horribly disappointed if you didn't like it as much as he did. "The only way he knows you have a connection is to take charge of the relationship," Raymond says, and that means having one mind. "Because as soon as there are two minds, there's the possibility of a separation." And that's what scares him. He's too insecure to believe two people can have their own feelings, experiences, and opinions and still be a close couple.

  • You Start to Feel Strangled


    Once you've given over your power to someone else, the charm of pampering gives over to feelings of anger and suffocation. "You start to feel like he's taking over your life," says Raymond. "And when people try to take back their power, they tend to do it by making threats, or walking away, or being aggressive. But it's kind of too late at that point." It's hard to regain your own power after you've given it away. But it's not impossible.

  • How to Break Free


    Raymond says many manipulators aren't trying to be "bad" -- they're just insecure, especially about relationships. If you've already been seduced (um, maybe you married the guy and have a couple kids with him now?) but want to save your relationship, you need to start standing up for yourself.

    Raymond suggests saying something like, "I understand if you think you know what I want, but right now I don't agree with you. I have my mind and you have your mind, and we need to be able to have our own minds." If he has a problem with that, you need to have a conversation about what it is that scares him about speaking your mind. Ask, "Why does that bother you?"

  • Trust Your Gut


    Above all else, you need to trust your gut. "Your instinctual feelings are something you should always listen to," says Williams. "Your intuition will go away if you don't use it." (YOU GUYS, I want to frame that and hang it on my wall.) "Your sense of awareness is heightened when you listen to that inner voice. The more you listen to it, the more you'll learn to trust yourself," Williams says.

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