November 28, 2022

It hurts when anyone tries to manipulate us, but it’s especially gutting when it comes from someone we love. 

Manipulating statements can also be hidden and overlooked because of that love. 

You are not a fool if you have ever felt bad about things manipulators say. 

It has happened to many people just like you. 

You might even spot a few potentially manipulating statements you use by the time you are done with this article. 

What Is Manipulative Language?

One of the most obvious manipulation phrases we are exposed to comes from political ads.

It’s a form of rhetoric that brings down someone else so the manipulator can gain something. 

Political rhetoric and manipulation of facts can be easy to spot, but it’s not always so easy when it comes from your significant other or friend. 

Controlling: Manipulation phrases are meant to control an outcome or action. It might seem nice when your partner orders dinner for you at a fine dining establishment. It’s manipulative and hurtful when they only order you a salad, hinting that you need a healthier diet. Absolute: Manipulators love to say things like “You always do this” or “You never take my needs into consideration.” Lying: Despite all the facts you might have in front of you, a liar will tell you their perception is correct and you are wrong. They will repeatedly and forcefully repeat their lies, despite all proof of the opposite. Hurtful: Much like a horse trainer practices breaking a horse to follow commands, those manipulating will break you down a little at a time. Your hurt feelings and desire to make the other person happy alter your behavior and beliefs. 

Is Verbal Manipulation Emotionally Abusive?

What does it mean to manipulate someone? Is it a normal part of a relationship?

That would be a no. It’s a form of emotional abuse, but also mental and psychological abuse. What makes emotional abuse so much more challenging is the isolation it creates. 

You can see signs of physical abuse. The scar of repeated exposure to manipulative sentences remains hidden and even doubted when you do bring them up. 

Manipulation creates confusion which can lead to anxiety and depression. The shock and awe of this behavior leave us stunned with stress hormones flooding our bodies. Manipulation can trigger trauma bonding. Once a manipulator has emotionally wrecked us, we never want to feel that way again. We will change our behavior to adapt to the needs of the schemer so that we won’t feel that way again. Manipulation can make you lose all self-confidence. Those little digs about your weight or the accusation that you’re too needy when you ask for simple affection can etch away at our self-love and self-esteem. Not only do we feel not good enough for the person manipulating us, but we can also be made to believe we aren’t good enough for anyone else, either. 

TRIGGER WARNING: If you or someone you know is in a manipulative relationship, the next statements might be triggering. Manipulation can lead to hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm. Please use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime you feel emotionally out of control. Just dial 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. 

15 Statement Examples of Manipulation in Relationships

Not all manipulation comes with a big red flag.

Reading articles like this with manipulative examples can help you spot the hidden flags and become better prepared for the next emotional blow. 

1. “You would do it if you really loved me.”

This phrase has frequent flier miles in the manipulative world. Instead of being in a mutually respected relationship, you are now in a “Survivor” episode trying to prove your love with things that might range from uncomfortable to incredulous.

People who respect each other never have to prove love. Period. 

2. “Why are you so dramatic?”

Watch out for flying drama queen crowns with this one. Any pushback or questioning of behavior, especially when the behavior has been repeated, can come with this hurtful accusation meant to put you back in line. 

3. “Stop overreacting.”

The unfortunate part about “Stop overreacting” is that the mere statement makes us want to get MORE heated about the topic to ensure “WE ARE NOT OVERREACTING.”

young couple fighting and shouting at each other examples of manipulation in relationships

They’ve figured out a trigger for you, and you end up off the topic you were addressing and instead internally battling, “Am I overreactive?”

4. “I never said that.”

This mental mind game pits your memory against your loved one.

You might remember the date, time, and temperature of the conversation where something was said, yet the other person will insist they didn’t say that or will accuse you of twisting the words around. 

5. “We shouldn’t talk about this now because…”

This manipulator is more prone to play verbal dodgeball than address a topic directly. Either you’re enjoying a glass of wine and shouldn’t have a conversation under the influence.

Maybe they had a rough day and don’t want to pile on top of it. Perhaps the sun just isn’t the right shade of yellow. This person always finds a reason to put off a conversation that inevitably won’t ever happen. 

6. “It’s your fault I’m acting this way.”

This example makes you solely responsible for any behavior the person exhibits that you don’t like. It’s a lame attempt to justify your bad behavior.

It could be things like: “You always bother me when I get home, so I went to happy hour with the guys to escape the daily interrogation,” or “You said you were upset with me, so of course, I didn’t respond to your texts. I was giving you space to calm down.” 

7. “I love you and will do anything to make this work.”

This manipulation portion is called Love Bombing and often occurs after you’ve set boundaries or distanced yourself from the person.

They suddenly miss all your energy to feed off of, and they’ll be the perfect partner or friend for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. You’ll get flowers, gifts, sweet texts, and the best dates of your life.

The problem is that the cycle restarts once you’re back in line. 

8. “Your friends are a bad influence on our relationship.” 

A hallmark of emotional degradation is isolation. You will slowly be isolated from friends, family, hobbies, and even professional activities.

You should be solely and readily available for the conniver and avoid any other people who might be able to see through his or her emotional abuse. 

9. “I don’t remember that happening.” 

The person who can remember so much seems to forget instances where you felt degraded, condescended to, or ignored.

Since the schemer claims they have no recollection of what happened, it’s not worth talking about, right?? (WRONG!) 

10. “Are you stalking me?”

Anytime you have information that wasn’t willfully and manipulatively given to you, this Casanova scam artist or femme fetale will accuse you of following them, cyberstalking them on social media, or spying on their life.

What they consider spying is really just you gathering information that proves you have valid concerns. 

11. “You shouldn’t feel that way.” 

Manipulators want you to feel things only they approve of, and having your own emotions and boundaries isn’t in their game plan.

couple feeling frustrated while lying down examples of manipulation in relationships

They will gaslight you into thinking you’re just emotionally unwell and negate your feelings. Without proper self-care and reflection, you’ll start to doubt your own feelings. 

12. “That is your problem. Not mine.” 

This statement is a two-step conversational dance to get you to stop talking about your concerns. Since you’re the one questioning behavior, you should deal with it.

Here’s an example, “If your parents were mad I didn’t come to the family gathering, that means they didn’t respect that I had a professional obligation. It’s your fault you let your family control you. You need to deal with your daddy issues.”

This is a twofer for them because they’ve just blamed-shifted and taken a step toward the isolation of other loved ones. 

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13. “We can talk when you stop acting crazy.” 

This is another form of gaslighting. As soon as you are ready to say what they want to hear, they’ll listen. If you are still pointing out any truth, example, or concern, you’re right back to the “crazy bin,” and they will shut down.

You are silenced and dismissed while having to obsess about whether you are actually crazy. Nothing makes you feel crazy like being called crazy. 

14. “How many times do I have to say ‘Sorry’? Geez!”

Manipulators feel like the word sorry is enough of an apology to get you off their back. They might say it in a huff, through tears, or aggressively. You’ve likely heard insincere apologies for quite some time.

An apology should come with adjusted behavior for the reason they apologized in the first place. If this doesn’t happen, they aren’t sorry. They are manipulating you.  

15. Crickets.

The apex of manipulation is the silent treatment. They say nothing. They respond to nothing. They punish you for having a boundary, a concern, or a question.

You, in turn, beg and plead and start apologizing even though you did nothing wrong. You emotionally overcompensate just to get them to speak to you.

By the time the manipulator resurfaces, you are so glad they are back with you (trauma bonding) that you don’t dare bring up the topic that sparked the silent treatment. 

INSIDER INFO: There’s a difference between someone who can be manipulative from time to time and someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, otherwise known as a narcissist. People can display narcissistic traits without being diagnosed formally. True narcissists require extensive therapy to fix behaviors, which they are rarely willing to do. Work with a counselor to escape this relationship once and for all. 

How to Respond to Manipulative Words?

We’ve addressed some of the common phrases a manipulative partner might use. Now it’s time for a strategy of your own. This plan, no doubt, will be the hardest part. 

Set Boundaries

You need to have strong personal boundaries determined by your beliefs and values to begin with, but when it comes to manipulators, you need to have stone castle walls with an alligator-filled moat as boundaries.

No matter how much fun you have together, how good the sex is, or how good you look on paper, a violation of boundaries is a dealbreaker.

Stick to them. If your boundaries wobble, a schemer will see your weak points and exploit them. 

Stand Your Ground

Never question your own emotions, and certainly don’t do it in front of the manipulator. Every bit of weakness or insecurity you show will be exploited at the other person’s convenience.

married couple fighting in the couch examples of manipulation in relationships

Just repeat to them that your feelings are valid and you won’t have them negated. Stand firm about how you are feeling, and don’t kowtow to their mangling of your emotions.

Walk away from a conversation that continues to challenge you emotionally. 

Call A Spade a Spade

We are naturally inclined to avoid or eliminate conflict, but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of self-love and self-worth. If you are being manipulated, tell that person directly: “You are manipulating words and facts, and I won’t stand for it.”

Rinse. Repeat. Then leave and let them think about if they are willing to change or not. 

Explain Your Stance

Using as little emotion as possible and in a non-confrontational tone, explain why their behavior makes you feel bad about yourself or isolated from your friends.

This could be a real eye-opener for those who don’t realize how manipulative they are being. For a narcissist, this will simply trigger more of their deformed accusations. 

Don’t Fill the Silence

Not all silences have to be awkward silences. One of the best sales tactics in the world is to offer a deal and say nothing. This prompts a “silent war” to see who is going to break first.

If you are getting the silent treatment, use that time to talk with friends, enjoy hobbies, and live your life. You were whole before you met that person, and you’ll be whole if they are gone. 

Gray Rock

When you’re finally done with a manipulative relationship or a narcissist, you must stop all communication in any way you can.

Mental health experts have nicknamed this as being a “gray rock.” In summary, it means you must be as disinteresting and boring as a gray rock. 

You do not respond to text messages or calls. If the person confronts you, it’s important to remove any emotion from any conversation. Short answers work best if you even respond at all.

This is a time when that love bombing could happen. Don’t accept gifts. Don’t go on dates. Don’t meet to “just talk.” They’ll try to trigger you with social media posts or make sure your friends know who they are dating. Heck, they might even date someone in your social circle. 

WARNING: ANY reaction, even anger or words of dismissal, from you will be seen as an empowering move to a narcissist. They feed off your energy of all kinds. Giving them no energy whatsoever and relentlessly sticking to that is the only way to end this cycle. 

Final Thoughts

Manipulation is a form of persuasion, so it’s essential to know the difference between the two in how you give and receive communication. 

If you have someone in your life who always makes you feel stressed, exhausted, betrayed, confused, or hurt, you must seek guidance from trusted loved ones or even a mental health expert to find a part forward – with or without the manipulator. 

You are worthy of true love and honest friendships. You are a unique and wonderful addition to this world. Surround yourself with people who see your true value and accept you as you are. 

How would you know if you are in a manipulative relationship? Watch out for these examples of manipulation in relationships.