Are you in a relationship where you feel unbalanced, feel like you’re walking on eggshells, feel humiliated, and just plain feel something isn’t right? You could be suffering from a partner who manipulates you to keep you in control. You could be suffering from emotional abuse. And even though he doesn’t hit you, the abuse is very real.

Sometimes your abuser is so skilled and so subtle it’s hard to know that he’s actually manipulating you. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Offense Instead of Defense. An emotional manipulator will attack when you call him on his behavior. Instead of being sorry, or even defensive, he’ll make it see like you committed the wrong-doing. Say he forgot your birthday. Somehow he’ll twist that to make it your fault. And pretty soon he’ll be harping on you about that time when you forgot to pick up his dry cleaning.
  • Aggressive Voice and Body. Sometimes an emotional manipulator will just shout over you, not allowing you to get a word in edgewise. He’ll use his body language to overpower you and an angry countenance to metaphorically beat you into submission. It’s the worst kind of bullying.
  • Public Humiliation. Say he ridiculed you in front of your friends. Later, when the two of you were alone, you told him how upsetting it was. He turned the tables and said, “If you weren’t such a talker monopolizing the conversation, I wouldn’t have to keep you in check.” It doesn’t matter what the excuse was or even what he imagined you did wrong. He made it all your fault. Or he’ll pretend that you’re too sensitive—that you shouldn’t have felt humiliated. What is wrong with you?
  • Control, Control, Control. You are the one being controlled. He will tell you he doesn’t like you seeing your friends or family so much. It’s only because he loves you and wants more time for himself. You think this is adorable and pretty soon you are cut off from your support group and at his mercy for companionship. So you can see the world from his point of view. That’s just what he wants.
  • Alternate Truth. A manipulator may say one thing one day and change it the next. It keeps you off balance and off guard. A really talented manipulator can twist his words into making you think you’re the crazy one. He can recall conversations that make you seem like you don’t remember, when really he’s lying in an attempt to make you look ridiculous, to make your confidence erode. Which all serves to keep you feeling insecure and under his thumb.

If you are in a relationship with anyone who exhibits even one of these signs, stop. Make sure you are not falling under his spell before it’s too late and extricating yourself from him becomes really difficult. Worse, emotional abuse often escalates to physical abuse. Neither one should be tolerated.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: