How To Spot A Manipulative Guy Before He Destroys You

Nobody ever willingly dates a manipulative person, but lots of us end up in long-term relationships with one anyway. Before we know it, your self-esteem is destroyed, your sense of independence is shattered, and you’re in way too deep with a guy who’s emotionally or even physically abusive. If you notice any of these signs, get out now — this guy is a manipulator through and through. Don’t wait for things to get worse before doing anything about it.

  1. He “negs” you. Negging is a tactic used by many self-proclaimed “pick-up artists” to give women backhanded compliments to undermine their self-esteem and make them more likely to seek a man’s validation. When done poorly, the dude just looks like a loser. When a master manipulator does it, though, it can have its desired effect. Be on the lookout for comments like “I don’t normally like blondes, but you’re hot” or “Most women your size couldn’t pull off that outfit, but you look great.”
  2. He tries to make you jealous. Jealousy is a powerful emotion, and manipulative people know it. A guy who flirts with other women in front of you or compares you to other girls isn’t one you want to stick around. If he’s doing this while you’re just dating, it’s only going to get worse with time when he’s sure that you’re not going anywhere despite all his BS.
  3. He plays hot and cold with you. Yes, most of us play into “the chase” to some extent when we first start talking to or dating someone. But beware the guy who gives you affection and attention and then takes it all away just as quickly. Manipulative people know how to get you hooked, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to give you the rush of having someone in your life who’s constantly texting and complimenting you and then gives you radio silence the next day. It makes you that much more likely to become desperate to win his favor again, and over time, that can become dangerous.
  4. He “apologizes” for your feelings. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” “I’m sorry what I said made you angry.” Do these “apologies” sound a little off to you? These types of comments are staples among manipulators who want to make you believe that your distress is your own fault. If a guy says something like this to you after making you upset, don’t accept it — he’s refusing to acknowledge that he did anything wrong while trying to make you feel “overly emotional.”
  5. He tries to make you feel nuts. A manipulative guy will do his best to turn you against the person you rely on most: yourself. He’ll do everything from gaslighting you to claiming that you’re overreacting to things that definitely warrant a strong reaction. Once he has you doubting yourself, it becomes that much easier for him to control you and make you believe every word he says.
  6. He tries to make you isolate yourself from friends and family. A practiced manipulator knows that you’re weaker without your support system, but of course, telling you that your friends are nuts and your family sucks isn’t going to yield the result he wants. Instead, he’s going to worm his way into your mind so that YOU decide on your own to cut off your loved ones. He’ll weave stories to make it seem like your friends are gossiping behind your back, and when your parents don’t approve of him, he’ll start to frame your relationship as being you two against the world. Once everyone else is out of the picture, he’ll take over the role of the most important person in your life by default.
  7. He withholds affection to punish you. Whether he’s not a fan of one of your guy friends or he just doesn’t like that you took too long to text him back, a manipulator will often try to get back at you by doing things like turning you down for sex or giving you the silent treatment. He’ll know that this is often the easiest way to make you feel guilty and apologize, even if you really didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just another way to make him look good and you look bad.
  8. He constantly turns arguments around on you. It seems mad to think that an argument about this guy flirting with another girl could turn into an argument about how you can never decide on a restaurant to go to, but it’s a pretty common occurrence when you’re dating a manipulator. These guys are hell-bent on breaking you down through guilt so that you’re always working hard to try to please them, so even when they’re clearly in the wrong, they’ll find a way to steer the argument so that you end up apologizing for something totally unrelated.
  9. He makes you feel unworthy of him. One of a manipulator’s favorite words is “lucky.” You’re so lucky to be dating a guy who doesn’t hook up with random girls. You’re lucky he likes you, because if not he would’ve ghosted you like he ghosts all the other girls he dates. His goal is to make you feel like you don’t deserve him, like he could do better than you. It’s just another part of his game to keep you doing everything you can to stay in his good graces.
  10. He never accepts responsibility. If he’s not trying to make his mistakes seem like your fault, he’s pinning them on someone or something else. He left you on “read” for two days because his phone didn’t tell him that you’d replied… again. He was an hour late to your date because of all the slow drivers on the road, not because he took too long to leave the house. Some things really are out of our control, but a manipulative person will NEVER be able to accept that his shortcomings are his own fault.
Averi is a word nerd and Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt. She's also a TEFL/TESOL-certified ESL teacher and an equine enthusiast. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lived in Costa Rica for a while before moving to Australia. In addition to her work as a writer and editor for Bolde, she also has bylines with Little Things and regularly writes for Jiu-Jitsu Times.

You can follow Averi on Instagram @bjjaveri or on Twitter under the same handle.