Manipulative people are like close cousins of narcissists. They exercise emotional control to make people 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.
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.
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:
- Subtle Manipulation: “Are you thinking of going out with your friends tonight?” (If yes, it means you don’t love me)
- Obvious Manipulation: “If you love me, you’ll spend time with me rather than going out with your friends”
- 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 how easy it is to manipulate someone. Right?
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.
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
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 a gradual one. 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 get distant from them because he wants to deprive you of your support system and make you dependent on only him.
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.
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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 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.
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.
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 to 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.
Related Reading: How I Got Away From My Manipulative Husband and Started A New Life
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 is one of the most favorite tools of a manipulative husband. They make you feel guilty so that you feel powerless and give in to their control.
They 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.
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.
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. Being in such a marriage is only a sign of a toxic relationship. 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.