After going out with one too many outright a-holes, it’s refreshing when you finally find a guy who seems… nice. He’s a sweet, caring guy who treats you like gold and seems to really like you. So, why do some of his actions constantly set off serious red flags? Maybe he’s not so great after all. Here are some signs this guy is manipulating you that you need to be aware of so that he doesn’t take you for a fool.
- He’s a little too charming. There’s charm and then there’s a guy who’s dripping in it to the point that it almost seems fake. He knows that he needs to flatter you to get what he wants. So, he makes you feel like the most beautiful, amazing woman alive. He does this to hook you — and use you.
- He’s the ultimate people-pleaser. Beware of the guy who tries too hard to make others happy. Even if people are in awe about how “nice” he is, that means nothing. He has such a strong need to please that he pushes his real feelings aside, so what you’re getting is a guy who’s not the guy you think he is. Anyone who tries that hard to be what you want has a hidden agenda.
- He always has a sob story up his sleeve. This is one of the biggest signs a guy is manipulating you. He’s quick to play the victim card when things go wrong or you confront him about something. It’s always someone else who’s to blame or who hurt him. He wants your sympathy when in actual fact he’s the one responsible for most of the crap in his life.
- He gets upset when you can’t do things for him. He calls you and asks if you can meet up with him for coffee. Unfortunately, you can’t because you have a work meeting. Instead of being understanding, he sounds upset or pissed off. You might feel flattered, especially when he says how much he wanted to see you. Don’t be. It’s a sign that he’s the type of guy who throws his toys out the cot when he doesn’t get what he wants.
- He jokes about things that are hurtful to you. He might criticize your appearance or career. Then, he quickly says that he’s joking when he sees you get upset. You might laugh along, thinking that he’s such a funny guy that means no harm. He does. He could be using his “jokes” to keep you on your toes or to try to hint that he wants you to change whatever it is that he’s joking about.
- He has your best interests at heart, right? He might come across as caring about you and your life. For instance, maybe he says that you should go back to school or take a night class. It makes you wonder if he’s right and you should consider it. However, in time, you start to see it’s not genuine. He’s really just keen on having a girlfriend who earns more money or is in a career he approves of. It’s not about you but his own happiness he’s after.
- He wants to protect you. It might not seem like it, but this is another one of those major signs a guy is manipulating you. Sure, he pretends to want to help you sort out your bad debt or follow you to your destination at night because it’s not safe, but it just feels shady because he ends up controlling the finances or stalking you “for your own good.” It’s seriously messed up. He’s controlling you, not caring about you.
- He places his issues onto you. He tells you that his ex cheated on him so he has trust issues. This might make you feel bad for him, but he could be using it as a manipulation tactic. For instance, he might then say that you shouldn’t hang out with any other guys because he has trust issues. He’s really making his problems yours and making you feel guilty.
- He says something, then denies it later. He’s a good guy so you might laugh when he says he has such a bad memory, but if it happens often that he conveniently doesn’t recall something he says, he’s manipulating you. He wants to keep you on your toes or twist things you’ve said to make you seem like the nutso one.
- He downplays your problems. You had a nightmare of a day, but he’s quick to turn the spotlight onto how much more horrific his day was. He might say he does this to give you perspective on your problems, but really he just wants all the attention and he’s showing that he doesn’t care about your feelings one bit.
- He only takes half the blame. You confront him for something, like how he didn’t reply to your texts for the whole weekend, and he’ll seem like a good guy by apologizing… but then he’ll add why he’s not completely to blame for it. He’ll have some story about how his friend needed him or he had been called into work for an emergency, leaving you feeling like he’s not really sorry at all.
- He silently judges you. A manipulator who pretends to be a good guy will not vocalize what he really thinks of your lifestyle choices, new hairstyle or best friend, but his body language or tone of voice will make you think something totally different. It’s a clever way for him to play the passive-aggressive card, to make you doubt your choices, to be a jerk without you having enough evidence to prove it.
- He knows how to play on your feelings. You were dating when he started to pull back from you, so you did the same thing. Then he threw on the charm, courted you and made you feel he was still interested in you. He might even ask why you were the one to go away. WTF? He knows how to try to be the perfect guy when he feels you slipping away, but his intentions are not genuine. He just wants you to be there when he needs you. Of course, if you confront him on this, he’ll give you puppy-dog eyes and say he made a mistake. Lies, lies, lies!
What to do when you think a guy is manipulating you
- Put some healthy boundaries in place. While it’s in no way your fault that this guy is manipulating you, it can never hurt to establish (or reestablish) healthy boundaries in order to protect yourself. What those boundaries look like depends on your personal situation, but it could be something like not answering his texts right away when you’re out right friends or spending time with your family. Maybe it means saying no to plans he’s suggested because it’s not something you want to do and he knows it.
- Stop internalizing his behavior. You’re not responsible for his behavior in any way. He is not your child, you are not his guardian, and he’s a grown man who’s fully capable of making his own decisions and knowing wrong from right. Don’t internalize the things he does and says or mistake them as a reflection of who you are and your self-worth. They’re not and you’re better than that.
- Don’t react right away. One of the best ways to put a manipulator in his place (or at least delay his tactics for a while) is by not reacting to his manipulation right away. For instance, if he’s been trying to convince you to sign a lease for a new apartment (that he no doubt plans to live in rent-free), don’t do it right away. Take your time to consider your options and to think hard about what you’re getting yourself into.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. As California-based therapist Sharie Stines told TIME, mental health professionals can help you break some of the toxic cycles you may have gotten into with your manipulative partner. “People in toxic relationships need to hear counterpoints somewhere. They are conditioned to think the interactions are normal. Someone needs to help them break out of that assumption,” she explained.
- Do what you can to get out of the situation ASAP. Chances are, a manipulator isn’t suddenly going to realize the error of his ways and pull a 180 to become the perfect boyfriend. He’s going to continue his toxic behavior patterns with anyone who will let him get away with it. Don’t be one of those people. As soon as it’s safe for you to do so, leave the relationship and cut off contact with him. Hopefully, he’ll get the hint, but get the police involved if the situation becomes dangerous.