17 Examples of Romantic Manipulation

Romantic Manipulation

Romantic relationships are meant to be built on trust, respect, and genuine affection. Unfortunately, some individuals may resort to manipulative tactics to control their partners emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. 

Recognizing romantic manipulation is crucial to maintaining healthy relationships and safeguarding one’s well-being. 

In this article, we will explore 17 examples of romantic manipulation to raise awareness and empower individuals to identify and address these harmful behaviors.

17 Real Examples of Romantic Manipulation

If you find yourself experiencing any of these manipulative behaviors, it is crucial to seek support from trusted friends, family, or professionals to address the issue effectively. 

Remember, a loving and healthy relationship should be built on mutual respect, trust, and open communication.

1. Gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which one partner intentionally distorts or alters the truth, events, or reality to make the other partner doubt their own sanity, memory, or perceptions. The term “gaslighting” originates from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife’s perception of reality to drive her to madness. In a romantic context, gaslighting can be extremely damaging to the victim’s emotional and psychological well-being.

The gaslighter may employ various strategies to achieve their goal, such as denying events that occurred, twisting the truth, or even outright lying. They might also invalidate the victim’s emotions and experiences, making them feel like their feelings are baseless or exaggerated. Over time, the victim may begin to question their own judgment and become increasingly reliant on the gaslighter’s version of reality.

For instance, if the victim confronts the gaslighter about a concerning behavior, the gaslighter might respond by dismissing their concerns as irrational, claiming they are overreacting, or shifting blame onto the victim. By doing so, the gaslighter maintains control and power in the relationship, further eroding the victim’s self-esteem and confidence.

2. Emotional Blackmail:

Emotional blackmail is a manipulative technique wherein one partner uses emotional pressure, guilt, shame, or threats to manipulate the other partner into doing something they might be uncomfortable with or to gain control over their decisions and actions. The emotional blackmailer exploits the other person’s vulnerability and emotions to achieve their desired outcome.

The emotional blackmailer may use tactics like making the victim feel guilty or responsible for their negative emotions, threatening to end the relationship, or withdrawing love and affection unless the victim complies with their wishes. This can leave the victim feeling trapped and obligated to meet the blackmailer’s demands, even if it compromises their own values or well-being.

For example, the emotional blackmailer might say, “If you really loved me, you would do this for me,” or “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll leave you, and it’ll be your fault.” These manipulative statements place an immense emotional burden on the victim, making it difficult for them to assert their own needs and boundaries.

3. Isolation:

In this form of manipulation, the manipulator seeks to isolate their partner from friends, family, or any external support system. By doing so, the manipulator gains greater control over the partner’s life and decision-making, as the victim becomes more reliant on the manipulator for emotional support and companionship.

The manipulator may use various tactics to isolate the victim, such as discouraging them from spending time with friends and family, creating conflict with loved ones, or making the victim feel guilty for seeking support outside the relationship. As a result, the victim’s social circle dwindles, and they may feel increasingly isolated and dependent on the manipulator for validation and companionship.

Isolation is particularly dangerous as it leaves the victim vulnerable to further manipulation and abuse, with fewer people to turn to for help or perspective outside the manipulator’s influence.

4. Love Bombing:

Love bombing is an intense and overwhelming display of affection, attention, and flattery that manipulators use to create an instant sense of connection with their partner. The manipulator may bombard their partner with love letters, gifts, excessive compliments, and constant attention, often moving the relationship forward at an unusually rapid pace.

While love bombing can initially feel like a fairy-tale romance, it often serves as a manipulation tactic to create emotional dependency in the victim. The manipulator’s intentions may not be sincere, and they may be seeking to control the victim by making them emotionally invested and attached quickly.

Once the victim becomes emotionally dependent, the manipulator may gradually withdraw affection and attention, shifting the dynamic of the relationship. This can leave the victim confused, hurt, and desperately seeking to recapture the initial affection, making them more susceptible to further manipulation and control.

5. Silent Treatment:

The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation where the manipulator intentionally withholds communication, affection, or emotional responsiveness from their partner. By giving the cold shoulder and refusing to engage in conversation, the manipulator exerts control over their partner’s emotions and actions. This tactic creates a fear of abandonment and prompts the victim to seek reconciliation by complying with the manipulator’s demands or behaviors.

During the silent treatment, the victim often experiences heightened anxiety and emotional distress, desperately seeking ways to resolve the conflict and regain the manipulator’s affection. This emotional turmoil can lead the victim to yield to the manipulator’s desires, even if it means sacrificing their own needs and boundaries.

6. Playing the Victim:

Manipulators adept at playing the victim role portray themselves as helpless, suffering individuals who are unfairly treated or misunderstood. By eliciting sympathy and empathy from their partner, they can justify their toxic behaviors and deflect responsibility for their actions.

When confronted about their manipulative behavior, the manipulator might turn the tables and make their partner feel guilty for even questioning them. They may claim that they are always misunderstood or that their partner is the cause of their distress. This emotional manipulation leaves the partner feeling responsible for the manipulator’s feelings and behavior, fostering a cycle of enabling and further manipulation.

7. Guilt-Tripping:

Guilt-tripping is a manipulative tactic wherein the manipulator makes their partner feel responsible for their emotions or problems. By inducing guilt, the manipulator can force their partner to prioritize their needs above their own, undermining their boundaries and autonomy.

The manipulator might say things like, “If you loved me, you would do this for me,” or “I’m feeling this way because of what you did.” Such statements emotionally manipulate the partner into complying with the manipulator’s wishes out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Over time, this erodes the partner’s self-esteem and leaves them feeling trapped in the relationship.

8. Jealousy and Possessiveness:

Manipulators may exhibit extreme jealousy and possessiveness over their partner, using these emotions to control their actions and interactions with others. They may discourage their partner from spending time with friends or even family, making them feel guilty for harmless interactions with others.

This manipulation tactic creates a sense of isolation and dependence on the manipulator for emotional support, thereby increasing their control over the partner’s life. The manipulator’s jealousy and possessiveness can lead the partner to believe that they are the cause of the manipulator’s behavior and feel compelled to change to avoid triggering such reactions.

9. Controlling Finances:

Controlling finances is a potent form of manipulation that gives the perpetrator significant power over their partner’s life decisions and independence. By withholding access to financial resources or controlling the partner’s spending, the manipulator fosters a sense of helplessness and reliance on them.

The victim may become financially dependent on the manipulator, making it difficult for them to leave the relationship or assert their own needs and desires. This dependency can exacerbate the power dynamic and make the victim more susceptible to further manipulation and control.

10. Love Withdrawal:

Love withdrawal is a manipulative technique where the manipulator intermittently withholds affection, attention, or validation from their partner. This creates a cycle of emotional highs and lows, with the partner constantly seeking validation and approval from the manipulator.

Intermittently providing love and then taking it away keeps the partner anxious and on edge, making them more reliant on the manipulator’s affection. The victim may become hyper-focused on trying to regain the lost affection, making them more compliant with the manipulator’s wishes to avoid another love withdrawal episode.

11. Threats of Self-Harm:

Some manipulators resort to using threats of self-harm or suicide as a means of coercing their partner to comply with their desires or to prevent them from leaving the relationship. By instilling fear and guilt in their partner, the manipulator gains control over their decisions and actions.

The victim may feel responsible for the manipulator’s well-being and stay in the relationship out of fear that their actions might cause harm. This manipulation tactic can have severe emotional consequences for the victim and may lead to them staying in a toxic and potentially dangerous relationship.

12. Blame-Shifting:

Blame-shifting is a common tactic used by manipulators to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or shortcomings. Instead of acknowledging their mistakes, they place the blame on their partner, making them feel guilty and unworthy.

The manipulator might say things like, “You made me act this way,” or “If you were better at handling things, I wouldn’t have done that.” By shifting the blame onto their partner, the manipulator undermines the partner’s self-confidence and causes them to question their worth and contribution to the relationship.

13. Withholding Intimacy:

Manipulators may use physical or emotional intimacy as a tool for control and compliance. By withholding affection, sex, or emotional connection, the manipulator can manipulate their partner into meeting their demands or changing their behavior.

The victim may feel rejected and unloved, making them more willing to do whatever it takes to regain intimacy with the manipulator. This can foster an unhealthy power dynamic in the relationship, where the manipulator holds all the cards when it comes to intimacy.

14. Undermining Self-Confidence:

Manipulators may engage in constant belittling, criticism, or insults towards their partner to erode their self-confidence and self-esteem. By making the partner feel inadequate and unworthy, the manipulator gains control over their emotions and decisions.

With lowered self-esteem, the victim becomes more vulnerable to manipulation, as they may doubt their abilities and judgment. The manipulator may use this vulnerability to reinforce their control and dominance over the partner.

15. Cultivating Dependency:

Manipulators create a sense of dependency in their partner by convincing them that they cannot function or survive without the manipulator’s support and presence. This manipulation tactic often involves undermining the partner’s self-confidence and independence.

The manipulator may discourage the partner from pursuing their interests or achieving their goals independently, making them feel incapable of doing things without the manipulator’s help. As a result, the partner becomes increasingly reliant on the manipulator for emotional and practical support, further cementing the manipulator’s control over their life.

16. Ultimatums:

Issuing ultimatums is a manipulative strategy where the manipulator presents their partner with a difficult choice between two undesirable options. By doing so, the manipulator coerces the partner into making decisions that align with their desires.

For example, the manipulator might say, “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll leave,” or “Choose between me or your family.” These ultimatums place immense pressure on the partner and create a feeling of being trapped in an impossible situation. This manipulation tactic strips the partner of their agency and forces them to prioritize the manipulator’s demands.

17. Using Intimacy Against Them:

Manipulators may exploit intimate details shared in confidence by their partner to gain control and manipulate them. By knowing the partner’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses, the manipulator can use this information to emotionally blackmail or coerce them into compliance.

For instance, the manipulator might threaten to reveal private information to others if the partner doesn’t do what they want. This creates a sense of vulnerability and fear in the partner, making them more likely to give in to the manipulator’s demands to avoid potential humiliation or harm.

What is manipulative behavior in romantic relationships?

Manipulative behavior in romantic relationships refers to actions or tactics employed by one partner to control or influence the other person’s emotions, decisions, or actions. Manipulators use various techniques to gain power and dominance over their partner, often at the expense of the other person’s well-being and autonomy. These tactics can be subtle or overt and may include gaslighting, emotional blackmail, love bombing, isolation, blame-shifting, and more.

What does manipulation mean in love?

Manipulation in love refers to using deceptive or coercive tactics to control or influence a partner’s feelings, choices, or behavior for one’s benefit. It involves taking advantage of the emotional connection between partners to achieve personal goals or maintain power and control over the relationship. Manipulation in love can be harmful and damaging to the trust and intimacy within the relationship.

Can manipulators fall in love?

Yes, manipulators can experience feelings of love, but their understanding and expression of love might be distorted. While they may claim to love their partner, manipulators often prioritize their own needs and desires over their partner’s well-being. Their actions may not align with the selfless and caring nature of genuine love, as they may use love as a tool to manipulate and control their partner.

What does manipulation do in a relationship?

Manipulation in a relationship can have various negative effects. It erodes trust between partners, creates an unhealthy power dynamic, and undermines open communication. Manipulated partners may experience anxiety, low self-esteem, and a loss of confidence in their own judgment. Moreover, manipulation can lead to a toxic and emotionally draining relationship, potentially causing long-term emotional damage to the victim. It is essential to recognize manipulative behaviors and seek support to address these issues in a relationship.


Love is a beautiful journey, but sometimes people can be sneaky and use tricks to control others in relationships. Understanding these 17 examples of romantic manipulation can help us spot these tricky behaviors and have healthier connections with others.

Remember, true love empowers and liberates; it doesn’t manipulate or constrain. In the pursuit of genuine connections, let us walk hand in hand, supporting and lifting each other higher, embracing love’s endless possibilities, and creating a world where authentic love prevails.