There is a fine line between being assertive in a relationship and being controlling.
The difference? Free will. When someone exerts control, they usually use manipulative tactics to get their way. This often happens subtly and under the guise of love or care.
But it’s important to recognize these tactics for what they are: manipulation. And believe it or not, there are tell-tale signs that indicate when someone is using them.
This article reveals the nine manipulative tactics that controlling people often exhibit in relationships. Let’s break them down together.
1) Gas lighting
One of the most common and insidious tactics used by controlling individuals is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which one person makes another question their own reality, memory, or perceptions. The term comes from a 1944 film called “Gaslight”in which a man manipulates his wife into believing she is going crazy.
In relationships this can take many forms. For example, one partner may deny that certain events occurred or dismiss the other’s feelings as “overreacting” or “imagining things.”
What do you like? To make the other person doubt his own judgment and become more dependent on the manipulator for his version of reality.
It is a subtle form of control because it undermines the individual’s self-confidence. Recognizing this tactic is the first step in countering it.
But remember: it’s crucial to trust your own experiences and feelings. Don’t let someone else redefine your reality.
2) Feelings of guilt
Another manipulative tactic often used in controlling people is guilt.
Guilt is when someone makes you feel guilty to get their way. They can twist a situation to make it seem like everything is your fault, or constantly remind you of a mistake you made in the past.
I remember an example from a previous relationship where I constantly felt guilty about wanting to spend time with my friends. My partner said things like, “Sure, go ahead and have fun.” I’ll be here all alone.’
It was a clear attempt to manipulate me into staying home. The guilt I felt every time I wanted to go out was overwhelming.
But over time I came to realize that this was not healthy behavior. In a balanced relationship, both parties should have the freedom to pursue their individual lives outside of the relationship. It’s okay to spend time with friends, and it’s okay to want some time for yourself.
A few years ago I was in a relationship where my partner constantly criticized my friends and family. Subtle at first, but increasingly blatant as time went on.
I found myself slowly withdrawing from the people I loved, spending less time with them, and missing out on gatherings and events. I didn’t even realize what was happening until one day I looked around and it felt like it was just me and my partner against the rest of the world.
It’s a disturbing tactic used by controlling partners who want to eliminate any outside influence or support that could compromise their control over you.
What do you like? To make you feel alone and dependent on them.
But here’s the thing.
You are not alone.
Reconnecting with your support network is an essential step regaining your independence and breaking free from a controlling relationship.
4) Constant criticism
Have you ever been in a relationship where nothing you do ever seems good enough? You may be dealing with a controlling partner who uses constant criticism as a manipulative tactic.
This can be anything from belittling your achievements to undermining your abilities or even ridiculing your dreams and ambitions. The goal is to undermine your self-esteem, making you feel worthless and dependent on their validation.
It is essential to realize that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Constructive criticism is one thing, but if your partner’s comments make you feel small and inadequate, it’s time to question the dynamics of your relationship.
Remember that a loving partner should build you up and not tear you down.
5) Threats and ultimatums
A particularly damaging tactic used in controlling individuals is the use of threats and ultimatums.
This can range from threats to end the relationship, to more serious threats of harm or even suicide. The intention is to create fear and anxiety, making you feel like you have no choice but to comply with their demands.
Ultimatumsare also a form of manipulation. They create a false dichotomy, forcing you to choose between two extremes, usually with the aim of getting you to do what they want.
If you are confronted with threats or ultimatums in your relationship, this is a clear sign of a controlling partner. If you find yourself in such a situation, seek help from trusted friends, family, or professionals.
6) Love bombing
This tactic may sound positive, but it is not. Love bombing is when a controlling partner showers you with excessive affection and attention from the start of a relationship.
They may make grand gestures, shower you with gifts, or constantly tell you how perfect you are. It can feel great, like a whirlwind romance, but there is a dark side to it.
The goal is to quickly make you emotionally dependent on them. Once they feel they have gained your trust and commitment, the controlling behavior and manipulation can begin.
It takes time to build healthy love and should never feel overwhelming or rushed. If you’re in the middle of a love bombing campaign, take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Healthy relationships are about balance, respect and mutual growth.
7) Financial control
Monitoring individuals can insist on access to your bank accounts, control your spending, or even prevent you from working.
In my previous relationship, my ex-partner insisted on paying for everything and at first it felt like a generous gesture. But over time I realized it was their way of controlling me. I felt guilty for wanting to contribute, and I ended up becoming financially dependent on them.
It wasn’t until I left that relationship that I truly understood the importance of financial independence. Money matters should always be a shared responsibility in a relationship, with partners having equal say and control.
8) The silent treatment
Tea silent treatment is a passive-aggressive form of manipulation that controlling individuals often use. It involves ignoring or refusing to communicate with the other person until they give in to your demands.
Being on the receiving end of the silent treatment can be incredibly painful. It can make you feel anxious, guilty and desperate to solve the problem that caused it.
However, healthy communication is crucial in any relationship. Everyone has disagreements, but these should be resolved through open and honest conversation, not through punishment or withdrawal of affection.
9) Blame shifting
Last, but certainly not least, there is blame shifting. This is when a controlling person never takes responsibility for their actions and always finds a way to shift the blame onto you.
Whether it’s a disagreement or a mistake they made, it’s always your fault one way or another. This is a deliberate tactic to keep you on the defensive and constantly trying to justify yourself rather than addressing their behavior.
The most important thing to remember is this: everyone makes mistakes and everyone must be responsible for their actions. If your partner consistently shifts the blame to you, it is not only dishonest, but also manipulative. Stick to your guns and don’t let them avoid their responsibility.
Final Thoughts: It’s all about respect
The fabric of human relationships is complex and intertwined with different emotions and behaviors. When it comes to manipulation in relationships, the root of the problem often comes down to a lack of respect.
In its simplest form, respect means recognizing the other person’s autonomy, feelings and needs. A controlling partner who uses manipulative tactics often ignores these aspects, causing harm and suffering.
If you recognize any of these tactics in your relationships, remember that you are not alone. Countless others have experienced similar situations and found ways to regain their autonomy.
Whether you seek help from a trusted friend or professional, or seek comfort in support groups, there are resources to help you navigate this.
The journey can be challenging, but it is worth it. Because every individual deserves a relationship based on mutual respect, trust and love – free from manipulation and control.
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