9 mind games manipulators play to make their partner dependent on them

Lucas Graham by Lucas Graham | May 9, 2024, 3:50 pm

There’s a fine line between being supportive and being manipulative.

Manipulation, unlike influence, doesn’t give the other person a real choice. It’s more about controlling someone to fit your own needs, often by exploiting their insecurities.

In relationships, some people play mind games to make their partners feel dependent on them. It’s a subtle, yet damaging form of manipulation.

Here are some common mind games these manipulators play.

This is your introduction to “9 mind games manipulators play to make their partner dependent on them”. Let’s expose these games, so you can spot them when they’re played.

1) Gaslighting

One of the most commonly used tactics in manipulative relationships is gaslighting.

The term ‘gaslighting’ originates from a 1944 movie called ‘Gaslight’ where a man manipulates his wife into believing that she’s going insane.

In the context of a relationship, gaslighting is when one partner manipulates the other by questioning their reality, memory or sanity.

For instance, they may insist on a version of an event that completely differs from what you remember. Or they might deny ever having said something that you clearly remember them saying.

Their aim? To make you doubt your own perceptions and rely more heavily on them for your version of reality.

Gaslighting, when persistent, can lead to the victim doubting their memory, judgement and even their sanity. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of a manipulator to create dependency.

Be aware of this tactic. Stand firm in your truth and seek support if needed.

2) Isolation from friends and family

This technique is one that I personally experienced in a past relationship.

My partner would constantly find faults with my friends and family, making me feel guilty about spending time with them. He would say things like, “Your friends don’t really care about you”, or “Your family is just trying to control you.”

Over time, I began to believe him and started distancing myself from my loved ones.

The more isolated I became, the more dependent I was on him for emotional support and validation. This was his goal all along – to cut off my support system and make me entirely reliant on him.

Looking back, I recognize this as a manipulative tactic to gain control and power in the relationship. If you notice similar patterns in your own relationship, it might be time to reassess the dynamics at play.

3) Love Bombing

At the start of a relationship, it’s natural to feel showered with affection. But when this affection is excessive and over the top, it could be a manipulative tactic known as love bombing.

Love bombing involves a person overwhelming their partner with loving words, actions, and behavior as a manipulation tool. The manipulator uses this tactic to win over their partner’s trust and admiration.

Interestingly, love bombing is often employed by people with narcissistic personality disorder. They use it as a tool to control their partners and make them dependent.

The sudden flood of affection can be intoxicating, but it’s important to recognize when it is used as a manipulative tool. Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and understanding, not overwhelming displays of affection used as a means of control.

4) Playing the victim

Let’s talk about another common thing.

This involves the manipulator portraying themselves as the innocent party in any situation, regardless of their role in it.

By constantly playing the victim, they shift the blame onto their partner and make them feel guilty. This can lead to the partner feeling like they’re always in the wrong and constantly needing to make amends.

The manipulator’s aim is to keep their partner in a perpetual state of guilt and obligation. This makes the partner more likely to comply with their demands and less likely to challenge their behavior.

Remember, it’s healthy to accept blame when you’re at fault. But if you’re constantly made to feel guilty even when you’ve done nothing wrong, it might be a sign of manipulation.

5) The silent treatment

The silent treatment is a classic manipulation tool. Trust me.

It involves the manipulator ignoring their partner, refusing to engage in communication or withholding affection to punish them.

This technique can be extremely distressing for the recipient as it’s a form of emotional abandonment. The manipulator uses it to exert control and provoke a reaction.

The goal is to make the partner feel guilty or scared of losing the relationship, leading them to comply with the manipulator’s demands.

Recognizing this tactic is crucial. Communication should be open and respectful in a healthy relationship, not used as a weapon.

6) Constant criticism

No one is perfect. We all have flaws and make mistakes. But in a healthy relationship, your partner should accept and love you for who you are, not constantly put you down or make you feel inadequate.

Manipulators, however, use constant criticism as a tactic to undermine their partner’s self-esteem. They might criticize their partner’s appearance, intelligence, abilities or even their dreams and aspirations.

The idea is to make the partner feel so worthless and unlovable that they start to believe they couldn’t possibly do better or deserve better. This can create a deep-seated dependency on the manipulator.

Don’t forget this: everyone deserves respect and kindness. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

7) Financial control

I’ve seen firsthand how financial control can be used as a tool for manipulation in a relationship.

In my case, my partner insisted on managing all our finances. It began subtly with them offering to handle bills and budgeting, but gradually, I lost all access to our joint accounts.

Soon, I was completely dependent on them for money. I had no idea how much we had or where it was going. This financial dependency made it incredibly difficult to consider leaving the relationship.

Financial control is a powerful manipulative tactic. It strips the victim of their independence and traps them in the relationship. It’s crucial to maintain some level of financial autonomy in a relationship to avoid this form of manipulation.

8) Threats and ultimatums

This could involve threats to leave, threats of self-harm, or ultimatums designed to force compliance.

These tactics create a sense of fear and instability, making the partner feel like they have to constantly work to maintain the relationship or prevent disastrous outcomes.

This fear-based control tactic can lead to a harmful cycle of appeasement and manipulation, with the victim constantly trying to avoid triggering these threats or ultimatums.

It’s important to know that healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and understanding, not fear and intimidation.

9) Diverting and deflecting

One of the most deceptive tactics manipulators use is diverting and deflecting. This involves shifting the focus of a conversation when they are being called out or held accountable.

For example, if you bring up an issue, they might divert the conversation to something entirely unrelated or deflect by pointing out a mistake you made in the past.

The aim is to confuse you, make you feel guilty, or make you forget about the original issue at hand.

Here’s a thing to remember; your concerns and feelings are valid. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into thinking otherwise.

Final thoughts: awareness is the first step

Unravelling the web of manipulation and control can be a daunting task, especially when it’s woven by someone you care about deeply.

The mind games manipulators play can leave you feeling confused, guilty, and dependent. But understanding these tactics is the first step towards breaking free.

While it’s not always easy to identify manipulation, especially when you’re in the midst of it, trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is.

Remember, everyone deserves to be in a relationship where they feel loved, respected, and free to be themselves. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into thinking otherwise.

The journey towards freeing yourself from manipulation might be challenging, but it’s a journey worth taking for your own emotional health and well-being.