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How to Detect Emotional Manipulation in Relationships

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dark loveAll good and lasting relationships are grounded in a healthy emotional connection. However, many relationships are based on one person controlling the other, or one person getting their needs met while the other does not. These scenarios involve some kind of emotional manipulation.

What is Emotional Manipulation?

Emotional or “Psychological Manipulation” as Wikipedia refers to it, is an unhealthy dynamic between two people whereby one consciously manipulates the other in order to have more power or to get their needs met. These needs are met at the expense of their partner and with a disregard for their partner’s well being. This can be a pervasive pattern or a partial pattern and it takes many forms.

Emotional manipulation is formally defined as the practice of manipulating someone into an emotionally desirable state, such as infatuation, love or anger, so the manipulator can reap the benefits of the other person’s emotional energy. Manipulators generally have a higher level of emotional intelligence than the people they choose to control and they can accomplish their desired outcome in a variety of ways. They may utilize overt manipulation, energy vampirism, or various forms of emotional blackmail.

Overt Manipulation

In this form of emotional manipulation, the perpetrator attempts to change their partner through unethical behaviors that directly take advantage, deceive or disregard the other. They may lie, create a false persona, or directly exploit your time, energy and resources.

Energy Vampirism

The energy vampire manipulates people by getting close to them in a chameleon-like manner. They work to understand what you want and like in a partner and then they emulate those traits, manipulating you into thinking they are a good mate, but covertly taking from you with a disregard for your needs. Through understanding what you want in a partner and portraying those traits, they “trick” you into “falling in love” and giving them what they want. Many times in my practice I have heard a client say, “But he wasn’t this way when we first connected. I feel like I have been duped.”

Psychological Blackmail

Emotional blackmail can be accomplished through the use of guilt or fear and is a very powerful tool. Either overt or implied threats are used to manipulate you to get desired results (submission). It is a subtle form of bullying to get one’s partner to act the way they want so they get their needs met. You can learn to spot it because you can feel it…pay attention to the feeling of something that “switches” in your solar plexus. It’s a vague discomfort. You know something isn’t right even if you can’t quite identify it. When you are feeling that way, be cautious. Don’t agree to anything until you can sort out your thoughts and feelings.

In any form, Emotional Manipulation is not healthy and is something to be avoided. The goal of an emotional manipulator is to steal your power and your resources: your time, energy, and money. It is worth taking the time to better understand your own emotional intelligence and how emotional manipulation works. I encourage you to participate with comments and questions.


Photo: Wade Morgen

1 Comment

  1. Andy

    On Aug 29, 2013

    I rebounded and got ‘love bombed’. Moved in after a month, planned a marraige within three months and a baby planned. Gas lighting, ommissions, projection and physical illness. Jealousy, insecurity, snooping. Crazy x

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