11 Tactics Manipulative Guys Use — Be Smart Enough To Recognize Them

You can be manipulated without even knowing it. It isn’t always obvious, but it can run deep and destroy your self-esteem. Here are signs your charming and kind boyfriend is actually a star manipulator who will only tear you down:

  1. When you’re happy, he brings you down. You’re out shopping, spending time with friends or having a fun work retreat when your boyfriend calls you to say he has a bone to pick with you but doesn’t want to talk about it on the phone. Later, when you get home, he says he was just joking. Meanwhile, it totally ruined your day because you were worried about what he had to say. Coincidence? Hell no. He knew you were having a good day and wanted to wreck it, even just a little.
  2. You can’t help but feel guilty. You confront him about something he did to hurt you and by the end of the conversation, you’re riddled with guilt. WTF? Manipulators make you feel guilty to gain power over you. It’s part of their “poor me” act that they love to play. It makes you feel horrible for confronting them about an issue when really, they’re the ones guilty of something.
  3. He’s got a lot of drama. Your boyfriend is going through a rough time at work or with his family. He’s got a lot of drama, but it’s funny how it sometimes feels like he’s using the drama when it’s convenient, like when you tell him that you’ve had a horrible day. Instead of lending you an ear, he’ll tell you how much worse his day was, totally pushing away your feelings. It’s always about him.
  4. He asks you “concerned” questions. He’ll ask you if you’re okay or if you’re in a bad mood completely out of the blue. It could be that he’s the one who’s not okay and in a bad mood but he loves to project. That’s a classic manipulator move. Instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, manipulators will try to make you out to be the one who’s wrong. It can even become extreme. He might be ill but say he’s worried about your health. He might be cheating but ask you if you’re seeing someone else. It makes you feel terrible, perhaps even doubt yourself — and that’s exactly what he wants.
  5. He leaves a conversation unresolved. When you’re having an argument, he’s likely to end the conversation and then switch off his phone or leave the house and be nowhere to be found. It’s so infuriating, but to him, it’s a game. He’s trying to punish you with silence by acting like he’s been wronged by you during the fight or by leaving you in suspense and fraught with worry or anxiety due to the issue being unresolved. Manipulators want to hurt you and mess with your head.
  6. He makes you feel like you’re replaceableHe might mention how many women hit on him or how he could easily get another woman, but he’s chosen you. You’re the one who should feel lucky to have this guy, right? Ha, what a joke! He’s riddled with low self-esteem and insecurities and wants you to feel them instead of him.
  7. Things he loved about you are now flaws. When you first started dating, he said how much he loved your body, thought your job was great and loved your friends. Now that he’s got you as his girlfriend, he’s changing his tactics. He might say that you should exercise more or change your job to a less stressful one, perhaps even leave your “toxic” friendship because it’s healthier for you and he’s really just looking out for your best interests. Is he? Hell no. He wants to break you down and isolate you from those who love you so he has greater control over you.
  8. He tries to make you feel uncomfortable. The manipulator wants control, so he’ll try to put you in situations where he can exercise this control. He might invite you to a sky-diving class even though you’ve never been — that’s not the problem, but it’s creepy if he’s making a big show of how skilled he is, arrogantly showing you what to do, or clearly enjoying how much fear you’re feeling. Another example: he’ll impress you with charm when he first meets you, knowing that you’re not used to a guy being so attentive and romantic, so that it weakens your defenses.
  9. He makes you feel sorry for him. Watch out for the guy who has a sob story at every turn. His childhood was hard. His family was horrible. He was bullied. He’s battled to get a job. He’s trying to make things work but so many people are to blame for his circumstances and failures. If he’s always moaning about his life and playing the role of the victim, he’s using it to get your attention and sympathy so that he can get away with bad behavior.
  10. He plays dumb. When a manipulator is put in a stressful situation, such as if he’s confronted by you, he’s likely to pretend he has no idea what you’re talking about. He might even add that you’re being unreasonable or psycho, as a way to turn the attention back to you and blame you.
  11. He gets angry. Sometimes manipulators will resort to anger to control you. If you ask them to explain something that’s hurt you, they’ll get angry, asking how you can doubt them. Anger is used to control the situation and stop you in your tracks. If you know your boyfriend becomes angry or defensive when you ask him something, you’ll be less likely to ask him that again in future. You keep quiet and he gets his way. The manipulator wins. It’s a sick game.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.