8 Signs You Have A Controlling And Manipulative Husband

Suffering and Healing | | , Writer
Updated On: May 8, 2024
Manipulative Husband

Manipulative people are like close cousins of narcissists. They exercise emotional control to make others do things they would rather choose not to do. This tendency is at its strongest in intimate relationships like those between romantic partners or married couples. A manipulative husband will slowly but surely, often subtly, take control of every aspect of your life. From what you eat to what you wear, who you socialize with and for how long, when you have kids, and what job offer you take up next, he calls the shots on every life decision, big or small.

Naturally, having a controlling and manipulative husband is a red flag in a marriage. Yet, emotional manipulation in marriage goes undetected, and thus unaddressed, because of the sly ways of a manipulator. On the surface, it may feel like you’re in control, holding the reins of your life, steering it in a direction you want. However, look closely, and you’ll realize that you have been doing his bidding all along.

He tricks you into doing things that he wants you to do and before you know it, you become his toy. Such people use emotions and guilt as their favorite weapons and you end up becoming their slave in the marriage. That’s why it becomes even more crucial to understand if you’re married to a manipulator and figure out how to get out from under his thumb. We’re here to help you do just that with this lowdown on the signs of a manipulative husband and scheming ways in which an emotionally manipulative partner operates.

How Does A Spouse Use Manipulation Techniques In A Marriage?

Manipulation in a marriage may start with something very small and subtle but his controlling tendencies will slowly start becoming bigger and bigger. These are actually signs of a control freak, to start with, but they may be difficult to spot. Your selfish husband will start making unreasonable demands in a marriage and you’ll have no choice but to meet them. The problematic patterns begin to take hold early on in the relationship, long before you can come face-to-face with the “my husband manipulates me” realization.

Manipulative husbands prey on emotional vulnerability and mental deception. Psychotherapist Dr. Marni Feuerman explains, “Manipulators typically have a very high emotional intelligence. They are extremely adept at reading emotional cues from others and understanding them intuitively. It is this very emotional intelligence that also makes them sophisticated at exploiting, manipulating and exploiting others.”

So, if you have a manipulative spouse, the first order of business is to not beat yourself up about falling for him. People with manipulative tendencies have a charm that is hard to resist and skills to make others do things that they want them to all the while making it seem like the object of their manipulation is acting out of free will.

Next, you must begin to pay attention to the indicators of emotional manipulation in marriage. Remember that manipulation in relationships can be covert or direct, so attention to detail is key. Irrespective of its degree and form, manipulation in a marriage is typically characterized by your spouse asking you to do things in the name of love and your marriage. But in reality, he’s asking you to do things to satisfy his emotional insecurity. There are usually three techniques that manipulative spouses use:

  1. Subtle Manipulation: “Are you thinking of going out with your friends tonight?” (If yes, it means you don’t love me)
  2. Obvious Manipulation: “If you love me, you’ll spend time with me rather than going out with your friends”
  3. Direct Manipulation: “Let’s go out. Just the two of us. We don’t need to go out with our friends all the time”

Now that you are reading this, you can figure out how easy it is to manipulate someone. Right? Whether manipulation is subtle, obvious or direct, it is a form of emotional abuse. The perpetrator often relies on tools such as gaslighting, stonewalling, silent treatment, and guilt-tripping to get their victim to do their bidding. This can be an extremely scarring experience for the person at the receiving end and that’s why there should be no room for manipulation in marriage.

However, marriage or intimate relationships rarely turn out to be the idealistic versions we fantasize about in our days of naivety. If something in your marriage feels off and you cannot begin to shake off the feeling that your independence and your agency to make decisions for yourself is being curbed, read on to learn about the signs of a manipulative husband.

Related Reading: 12 Things You Should Never Compromise On In A Marriage

8 Signs You Have A Controlling And Manipulative Husband

In an article on manipulation published in Time magazine, California-based therapist Sharie Stines writes, “Manipulation is an emotionally unhealthy psychological strategy used by people who are incapable of asking for what they want and need in a direct way. People who are trying to manipulate others are trying to control others.”

If your husband is controlling and manipulative, the more you give in to his tactics, the more control he will exert over you. After a point in time, when you realize his intentions, the marriage may become suffocating. You’ll get tired and frustrated of always catering to his selfish needs and begin to see the signs you need a divorce to reclaim your life again. Well, going through that divorce you may have been contemplating won’t be a walk in the park either because a manipulative ex-husband can be far nastier.

The one way to make your marriage with a manipulative spouse work is to identify the red flags early on and deal with them head-on rather than trying to brush the worrisome signs under the carpet. It is important to see the signs of an emotionally manipulative spouse before it’s too late. Realizing the early signs can help you avoid getting manipulated and your husband won’t be able to have control over you the way he wants. Here are 8 signs you have a controlling and manipulative husband:

1. You have become distant from your friends and family

emotional manipulation in marriage
He wants to deprive you of your support system and make you dependent on only him

The first step of a controlling and manipulative husband is to isolate you from your friends and family. It may not be a direct approach but more of a gradual process. Your husband will slowly make you distant from them because cutting you off from your support system emboldens emotional manipulation in a marriage.

He may say that he doesn’t feel comfortable with you talking to your family on call every day or he might say that he feels that your friends don’t like him. He will keep bringing up some issues with your friends and family until you distance yourself from them. He will ill-treat, disrespect, resent his in-laws and eventually force you away from them. He wants you to be distant from them because he wants to deprive you of your support system and make you dependent on only him.

When he is the only one you can turn to for all your emotional needs, it becomes easier for him to control and manipulate you. It is hard to come to terms with this reality, but if your husband has slowly removed all the important people from your life and he is all you’ve got, it’s time to start telling yourself, “My husband is manipulative.” Acknowledgment is the first and the most crucial step toward resolving a problem.

2. He lowers your self-confidence

Your husband always proves himself superior to you and makes you feel small in comparison to him. He will keep telling you how much effort he puts into the marriage and make you feel as if you do nothing. With each passing day, your self-confidence keeps getting lower. You feel as if you don’t do enough for your husband and put in all your effort to make him happy. You become emotionally and mentally dependent on him and your entire marriage becomes about pleasing him.

“My husband is manipulative and he has rendered me incapable of making even the smallest decisions for myself,” Sharon came to this realization at a grocery store of all places. She had gone to buy lasagna sheets for a Sunday brunch they were hosting for friends. Upon not finding the ones her husband typically liked, she struggled to decide which ones to buy. She found herself reaching for her phone to seek his approval. That’s when the extent of manipulation in her marriage hit her.

An emotionally manipulative partner will make you second-guess your every decision and resort to blatant gaslighting in the relationship to make you question your reality and your own understanding of your feelings. If you can no longer rely on your gut instinct or intuition and even begin to question the legitimacy of your emotions, the dire straits your emotional health is in is one of the most glaring signs of a manipulative husband.

3. There’s always emotional blackmail

“I was feeling so low today. When I needed you the most, you were out partying with your friends. You weren’t there for me and I will always remember this.” If you have similar conversations with your spouse, it should be noted that your husband is using emotional blackmail to manipulate you.

In this conversation, the wife is not at fault because she didn’t know that her husband was feeling low but still the husband makes her feel as if it was her fault to go out with her friends and enjoy. Manipulative husbands use emotional blackmail to make their partners feel sorry and guilty even when they didn’t do anything wrong.

Being married to a manipulator means always ending up being blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong in the marriage or your spouse’s life. Even things that are totally beyond your control. Over time, this can stir up a strong urge to get out of the controlling relationship because staying on means putting up constant berating, which can be emotionally exhausting.

4. There are too many small requests

In romantic manipulation, there’s a”foot-in-the-door” technique in which the manipulator begins with a small request and once you agree to it, he will make the real request. It is done so because it is harder to say no to something once you’ve said yes to the previous request.

Your manipulative husband too, will begin with a small request and when you agree to it, he will make a rather unreasonable demand but you’ll have no other option but to say yes to it. Your husband may use you financially, emotionally, socially, and even sexually, to further his interests and get what he wants.

For Clara, a masseuse, it was the never-ending list of “would you please…?” that made her realize that she was dealing with blatant manipulation in marriage masquerading as her husband’s needs. “My husband, Mark, has a way of making it seem as if he cannot function without me. I always felt as if I was bending over backward to accommodate his requests and needs. Then, I needed him to co-sign a loan for a business venture I was trying to get off the ground but he refused saying he didn’t want to jeopardize his financial future for one of my whims. My husband is manipulative.”

5. Conditional caring

You’ll notice that your husband is usually cold and self-absorbed but all of a sudden he will become very caring and loving. This is a situation of conditional caring where your partner shows care and concern only when you fulfill a condition or make him happy. If you want to be loved and cared for in the relationship, you must do exactly what he wants you to. This is one of the classic signs of a manipulative husband.

Related Reading: How I Got Away From My Manipulative Husband and Started A New Life

Emotional manipulation in marriage is characterized by the classic hot-and-cold approach. You’ll notice that all of a sudden your husband will show immense love, but it comes with a price. The price of this love and care is to fulfill some request of his or give him 24 hours of your attention.

The message is loud and clear: toe the line he wants you to and he will shower you with love and adoration, push back or deny him what he wants and you will be punished with emotional neglect and deprivation. A manipulative spouse has no understanding of unconditional love among couples.

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6. He will use guilt as a tool

Your partner will make you feel guilty about the smallest of things. He will make you feel as if everything is your fault. Guilt-tripping is one of the favorite tools of a manipulative husband. He makes you feel guilty so that you feel powerless and give in to his control. Some of the tell-tale indicators of guilt-tripping in a relationship include: giving more than you receive, spreading yourself thin to accommodate your partner’s needs, feeling disapproved of, and a sense of resentment.

An emotionally manipulative partner will keep hanging this guilt over you in order to make you do things for them. “I request you to please stop making me feel so small and helpless. I can’t take it anymore. Why do such things keep happening to me?” Such a conversation is a classic example of a guilt trip.

If your husband is controlling and manipulative, the guilt trips will become such a constant feature in your marriage that you’d end up internalizing it. You will feel guilty about wanting some personal space and me-time or indulging in small acts of self-preservations. As a result, you will begin giving up little by little until your life becomes bereft of all that you once drew joy from.

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7. He spies on you

A manipulative husband is emotionally insecure and constantly fears that you are going behind his back and cheating on him. He doesn’t want to share you with anyone else, not even a family member or a friend. He will check your phone and your emails to see who you are talking to.

He doesn’t want anyone else to know how he treats you and there’s always the fear of his secret being revealed. He easily gets paranoid and will constantly check on you and will violate your privacy. Being married to a manipulator means constantly walking on eggshells because you don’t know which action of yours will trigger his insecurity and make him even more clingy and overbearing.

Even if you choose to walk out of this dysfunctional marriage, it may not be easy to get him off your back. A manipulative ex-husband may continue to keep tabs on your every move and use any information he can get about you to his advantage to gain an upper hand on you and maybe even suck you back into the cycle of manipulation and emotional abuse.

8. He will keep asking for forgiveness

When he realizes that you’ve understood his play of manipulation, he will ask you for forgiveness and will tell you that he is going to change for you. He will use an emotional story to convince you that he didn’t mean to manipulate you or hurt you. Whenever you relent or refuse to give in to his manipulation, he will ask you to forgive him. He will do so only to make you stay with him so that he can manipulate you again.

If you have a manipulative and controlling husband, you need to get out of the marriage. Such a marriage has the tell-tale signs of a toxic relationship all over it. You might be willing to give your marriage another chance thinking that your manipulative husband will change. Truthfully, such people never change. They just change their ways of manipulation.

Don’t let your manipulative husband strip you of your self-confidence, happiness, and loved ones. You deserve to be loved. Even though dealing with a manipulative ex-husband will come with its own share of trials and tribulations, you can at least begin the process of putting this nightmare of marriage behind you and turn over a new leaf in life.


1. What does manipulation look like in a marriage?

Manipulation in a marriage may be subtle or overt. The perpetrator often relies on tools such as gaslighting, stonewalling, silent treatment, and guilt-tripping to get their victim to do their bidding. No matter the extent or degree of manipulation in marriage, it is a form of emotional abuse.

2. How to cope with a manipulative husband?

Coping with a manipulative husband is never easy. However, if getting out is not an option, you can manage this dynamic better with assertive communication, setting and enforcing boundaries, working on rebuilding your self-esteem, and rebuilding a strong support system you can fall back on in times of need.

3. How to outsmart a manipulative husband?

Given the high emotional intelligence of manipulators, it may not be easy to outsmart them. However, by learning how to ignore their unreasonable requests, trust your instinct, standing your ground on things that truly matter, you can push back and get the message across to your manipulative husband that he cannot take you for a ride as per his whims and fancies.

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