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Five Signs of a Manipulative Relationship: Dr. Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5


Most of us understand that a relationship in which an individual tries to control or manipulate the other person is not a healthy one. And while no relationship is perfect, some have chronic patterns of manipulation that can be damaging to an individual’s emotional wellbeing and can likewise hurt the connection itself. But how can we spot such a relationship? We tend to think of obvious big indications of manipulation, but others are more subtle. Here are 5 signs to watch out for that may be evidence of a manipulative relationship:

1) You Feel Responsible for Your Partner’s Happiness

At the root of all of this is the quest for satisfaction and contentment in relationships. But if you feel personally responsible for your partner’s happiness, you may be experiencing some level of manipulation. There is a difference between being sensitive toward and aware of the needs of your significant other and feeling like it is your job to make that person happy.  Do you feel like you have to do things perfectly, look a certain way, and complete certain tasks to please the other person? These are unreasonable expectations and may signify that the other person is (subtly) manipulating you.

2) You Feel Guilty For Your Own Needs

We all want reassurance that we are important to the other person, but in emotionally manipulative relationships, this is taken to an extreme. The manipulator is overly suspicious and feels a need to control the partner, which can cause him/her to feel guilty about needs, desires, or decisions concerning things outside the actual relationship. An individual constantly hounding the other about whereabouts or small details and making him/her feel guilty is a tell-tale sign of an unhealthy relationship.

3) You Can’t Speak Freely

While it’s not necessarily a good idea for romantic partners to share absolutely everything they are thinking with one another (otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be together!), feeling like you can’t be yourself or have to hide your feelings is an indication of emotional manipulation. It’s very problematic if you cannot clearly express dissatisfaction and everything you say is taken as criticism. Pay attention to whether or not you can speak freely in your relationship.

4) You Are Micromanaged

In a manipulative relationship, one person often controls the other person’s choices down to the small details. He/she may try to dictate your appearance, how you dress, what you weigh, how exactly you spend money, etc. Treating the other person like a child is common in this kind of connection. Take notice of if you are constantly criticized and controlled by your partner, as this may be an indication that you are being manipulated.

5) You Feel the Need to Defend Your Partner to Others

Sometimes it’s hard to see a manipulative relationship when you are actually in that kind of relationship. But others sometimes have an outside view that you may not. If you have parents, friends, and family members telling you that they are concerned about your partner or that you don’t seem like yourself, listen to their feedback. While we must be careful to accept criticism or advice from one or two outsiders, hearing this type of response from multiple people is a sign that you may need to step by and evaluate things.

If you find that some of these signs apply to you or may be a mirror to your own relationship, continue to be aware and pay attention. Consider seeking individual counseling to gain some skills to shift (or even end) the relationship. Click here for more details about getting therapy to help you.

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