11 Signs Of A Manipulative Wife

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manipulative wife

Picture this: your manipulative wife keeps abusing you in private and raises hell if you retort. She plays the victim often, and neighbors believe you’re being an abusive partner. And you have no way to make people understand that you’re the one who’s at the receiving end of this toxic behavior. This sort of behavior means she is not bothered at all about your feelings or emotions and wants to get her way by hook or crook. Your wife shows all the classic signs of a controlling woman and you don’t know how to deal with them.

To help you gain a clear perspective on the inner workings of this toxic connection, let’s delve deeper into how emotional manipulation in relationships works. We will look at some signs of manipulation, with insights from counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades.

The warning signs of a manipulative woman are often right in front of us yet we may not be able to spot them. Partners who are manipulative mostly do it for selfish gains or because they want things in a certain way and cannot imagine compromising or understanding their spouse’s way of life. Experts say that most of the time it is so ingrained in their behavior that they don’t even realize that they are constantly manipulating their significant other.

What Is Manipulation In A Relationship

Before we touch upon the emotional manipulation signs, let’s address an important question: what is manipulation in a relationship? This is important because romantic manipulation is often disguised as love and doled out in the garb of care, concern, or “wanting the best for you and the relationship”.

Now, the dictionary definition of manipulation is “to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner.” In intimate relationships, manipulation is often used as a tool to control, exploit, or influence a partner to one’s advantage. This form of manipulation often operates on three factors — fear, guilt, or manipulation.

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Emotional manipulation by a wife is never easy to come to terms with. Interestingly, a study on manipulation in close relationships suggested that there were multiple major manipulation tactics. Here’s a quick roundup of what such tactics may entail, with some examples of manipulation in relationships:

  • Attempts to isolate you: This is a characteristic feature of both male and female manipulation in relationships. So if you have a manipulative wife, you may find that she is always critical of the people you’re closest to or those who matter to you. To spot the manipulative woman signs, pay attention to the following: How does she speak of others in relation to you? Is everyone your adversary in her stories? This could be an attempt to isolate you
  • Indifference: She is indifferent to how her actions may hurt other people, she can only see her own point of view. If her actions or words hurt you, that’s your problem, not hers. That’s precisely why emotional manipulation by a wife can be immensely draining and difficult to deal with
  • A mismatch between actions and words: Is there a huge gap between what she says and what she does? For instance, if you’ve had a falling out with a close friend or a sibling, she may act devastated but a closer look may suggest otherwise. This could be because she may be gloating on the inside for successfully setting in motion a chain of events that led to the said falling out. Controlling your life strings, as if you were a puppet and she the master, is one of the classic manipulative personality traits
  • Inability to apologize: After a fight does she complain of headaches and says she is feeling unwell and you run to apologize? If every fight and every disagreement is followed by the drama that fills you up with guilt and moves you to make it up to her even when you were not at fault, it’s about time you stop bottling up the “my wife is controlling and manipulative” feeling
  • Victim mentality: She gives you the silent treatment until you’re ready to toe her line, but when you do the same, she accuses you of being indifferent and neglectful. Both male and female manipulators have an innate ability to make everything about themselves. As a result, the scales of equality in a relationship are always tipped in their favor. One of the classic manipulative woman signs stemming from this tendency is that she doesn’t play by the rules she makes you conform to.
  • Love Bombing: Love bombing is yet another one of the classic manipulative personality traits and female manipulators know how to use it to their advantage just as well as their male counterparts. She will flood you with attention, admiration, and affection until you become accustomed to it and that validation becomes the fuel that feeds your self-worth. Once that dependence is achieved, emotional manipulation by wife may reach the next level: where she withholds this attention and admiration until you concede to doing her bidding.

Related Reading: 12 Signs You Are Being ‘Love Bombed’

11 Signs Of A Manipulative Wife

If you have ended up with a manipulative woman, chances are you don’t even realize that you’re in a manipulative relationship. Manipulators are expert influencers and work on your subconscious. They essentially tilt the balance of power in their favor, leaving you with the illusion that you are calling the shots.

“Manipulation is a human behavior designed to make a person think and behave like you, and act in a manner that you approve of. A manipulator uses subtle techniques to influence the way the other behaves or feels, all the while making it seem like it was what they wanted. Essentially, the manipulator wants their partner to be submissive. These are some classic emotional manipulation signs,” explains Kavita.

All in all, it’s an attempt to gain control over a partner and skew the power dynamics in a relationship in one’s favor. The moment of truth can come as a huge shock, but once you know the reality, you can take steps to correct it. Manipulation is, in fact, a form of emotional abuse. Here are 11 signs of a manipulative woman:

Related Reading: Manipulation In Relationships – 11 Subtle Signs You Are A Victim

1. She has a didactic personality

A didactic person is one who thinks everyone should be taught what they think is right and that they are doing things for the greater good. This is an absolute warning sign of a manipulative woman. Here’s what it means:

  • She feels she is super smart and intellectual 
  • She believes she has the responsibility to make other people think like her 
  • She keeps finding faults with your method of doing things and indirectly tells you that she is superior to you 
  • She will show signs of a controlling wife, who wants everything to go her way

A Reddit user had a similar experience: “We have young kids so that requires planning and a lot of effort. If she wants to do something (invite a friend, go for lunch) I always say yes, always, because it actually gives me some alone time. If I want to do something it’s always difficult. There’s always a reason why it can’t be done, or not on my suggested day, etc. etc.”

“This becomes a pattern that plays on a loop, and eventually, the victim struggles to rely on his own judgment to make even the smallest of decisions or starts believing that there’s something inherently wrong with him. Manipulative people attack your insecurities and annihilate your self-esteem,” says Kavita.

How to outsmart a manipulative wife
A didactic personality can turn a woman into a master manipulator

2. She turns every argument into your fault

One of the signs of a manipulative woman is that she will turn everything into your fault and get away as the innocent one. Here are some such examples of manipulation in relationships:

  • That time when she was emotionally unavailable, it was because you were busy for the past two days
  • She screamed at your mother because she was frustrated with the fact that you do not care she is handling so much
  • If she flirts with a guy and you object, it is because you do not ever compliment her or give her attention

If you complain about something, she will turn the tables on you by pointing out past instances when you behaved in the same manner. If you get mad or upset, it’s your fault for having unreasonable expectations, but if she gets mad, it’s your fault for upsetting her. This is one of the trademark signs of a controlling woman.

Related Reading: 13 Signs You Are The Selfish One In Your Relationship

3. She uses emotional blackmail as a weapon

One of the manipulative women signs is her ability to blackmail you emotionally. Emotional blackmail may seem very subtle and harmless at times, but in reality, it is very damaging. It is, in fact, another form of emotional abuse, where you make the other person feel guilty about not doing what you want them to do.

Everything for her is difficult because she loves you a lot and she will die if you leave her alone. She will make you believe that she is the victim here. A reader, Andrew, wrote to us about how his wife made him abandon his mother and he couldn’t do anything about it. He asked: “Is my wife manipulative? And how can I deal with her without wrecking my marriage?” Sadly, Andrew was married to a manipulative woman. And you could be as well if you can relate to the following:

  • Does she suffer dramatically and publicly until you feel you must give her what she wants? 
  • Does she threaten to harm herself to get you to do (or not do) something?

4. She uses your weaknesses against you

So, how do you know she’s manipulative? Well, one of the signs of manipulative women is that they will use your weaknesses against you. For instance, let’s say your wife knows you love your daughter a lot. Does she tell you often that she would leave home with her if you do not comply with her demands? 

female manipulation in relationships
Female manipulation in relationships includes using your weaknesses against you

Elaborating on signs of manipulation, Kavita says, “Everything that freezes you in your tracks and stops you from doing what you really want to do amounts to manipulation in a relationship.” With that in mind, reflect on your wife’s behavior patterns. 

Is she someone who makes a spectacle of your failures, compares you to other men, and makes you seem incompetent? And if you ask for something, does she make you feel that you have not lived up to her expectations in the relationship and thus have no right to ask for things from her? You’re definitely married to a manipulative woman, in that case.

5. She is the decision-maker

Manipulative women signs stem from a singular driving force: control. It is no surprise then that a wife who’s manipulative will do what it takes to establish and retain that control. If in your marriage, you are the one who keeps on nodding and agreeing to everything she says and does, you know that you have a wife who’s manipulative. In such cases, she may be the one to make decisions about:

  • Financial decisions, such as investments
  • The holidays you go to
  • Who you should or shouldn’t socialize with
  • The school your kids should go to 
  • Which brand of air conditioner you should upgrade to
  • Which car is good for your family

She decides everything for both of you as well as your family. Well, she may ask for your opinion, but you know that in the end, you will end up doing what she thinks is right. In a healthy relationship, a couple decides on things after discussing them with one another. A single person making all the decisions for two people is a sign of manipulation and a definite red flag that indicates an unhealthy relationship.

Related Reading: 15 Signs Your Spouse Takes You For Granted

6. She victimizes herself every time

One of the biggest signs of manipulative people is their ability to play the victim card to perfection. So, you may find that:

  • She projects herself as someone who’s stressed about making all the decisions for the family
  • She will exaggerate her illnesses
  • She might make up white lies about how she is being ostracized 
  • She might often speak of how selfless she is and how cruel everyone around her is to her

A Reddit user agrees: “It usually involves building an irrelevant entrapment in which she plays the victim in order to trigger the “knight-in-shiny-armor” side of you.” These are classic traits of a manipulative person. Such people often use emotional reactions to support their ‘acts’. You will see dollops of tears and sadness but in your absence, she will be perfectly fine. So, while you are being victimized here outsiders will feel the opposite is true.

7. She blames you for everything that’s going wrong

One of the classic signs of manipulation is that every time she is in a tough spot in her life, she will make it seem like it’s your fault. Here are some such examples of manipulation in relationships:

  • She may keep saying that just because she married you or had to change her area of residence, which cost her friends
  • She will claim that she has been fired from her job because you do not help out with the kids
  • She might blame the stress of managing a home for a huge fight between you two

Related Reading: Are You A Standby Lover? 15 Signs You Are A Backup Boyfriend

This way, she will make you seem responsible for her sadness and her personal failures. And she will keep blaming you for things you did not do until you give up and apologize. “The only way to deal with this situation without letting the exaggerated blame-shifting take a toll is to segregate facts from fiction. When your partner blames you for something, ask for facts and evidence, and then address them one by one,” advises Kavita.

More on abuse

8. She’ll never apologize

Even if you finally prove to her that something is totally her fault, a manipulative wife will never say the word ‘sorry’. It is just too much for her ego. Instead, she will justify her actions by saying hurtful things or going silent as a way of telling you that she is hurt by what you’ve said or done. By deliberately not responding to your calls and text messages, she will make you doubt your own point of view on the matter. When caught in an unfavorable situation, she might ‘play dumb’.

You may, as a result, start wondering, “What if she was right? She wouldn’t be so upset otherwise.” But what you should be asking instead is: “Why is my wife manipulative to such a dangerous extent?”

9. She will have frequent emotional outbursts

Do you have no idea about how to know if you’re being manipulated? Well, one of the well-known traits of a manipulative person is that they will tend to be emotionally unstable or volatile. A wife who’s manipulative can make your life a living hell by throwing emotional tantrums at the drop of a hat. Here are some such examples of manipulation in relationships:

  • The moment such women realize they won’t win an argument with logic, they start crying or yelling, so that you end up pacifying her instead
  • She will cry and get you to do things for her
  • She will give you ultimatums, such as “Either you do this my way or I start telling people about…” (and this may include some embarrassing situation or a private conversation that shouldn’t be made public)

So, if you’re clueless about how to know if you’re being manipulated, this is it. And living with such a woman can be emotionally draining for any man.

Related Reading: Are You A Toxic Couple? Take This Test To Find Out

10. She will be a smooth talker

Emotionally manipulative women have one more definitive trait. They are mostly great at smooth-talking. How? Well, watch out for such instances:

  • She cozies up to you and compliments you in a sexy tone to get you to do her a favor
  • She sweet-talks you out of meeting your friends because she wants you to spend the weekend with her
  • She flirts around to seek attention but when you confront her, she ends up speaking to you softly and sweetly to make it seem like an innocent act of camaraderie

Well, these are all signs of a manipulative woman who may be using you just to get her way, and she is definitely a ‘pro’ at smooth-talking.

11. She will use sex as a manipulative tool

A manipulative wife will also often bring her manipulative tactics to your intimate space as well. This is one of the classic traits of a manipulative person. So, apart from using emotional intimacy as a tool to get things done, she will also often use sex as a way to get her way. Here are some instances:

  • She will get physical with you at her whims and fancies, without considering your pleasure
  • She will have sex with you just before asking you for a favor, such as a pricey vacation
  • She may be withholding affection or sex when she can’t get her way

Related Reading: I Don’t Feel Loved: Reasons And What To Do About It

A sexually manipulative woman doesn’t attach emotions to sex. All she cares about is herself and her needs. If you’re wondering how to know if you’re being manipulated, this is a tell-tale sign that you cannot overlook.

How to Deal With A Manipulative Wife – 7 Ways

So, you understand the pattern of female manipulation in relationships and can even relate to the instances of being manipulated. As heartbreaking and unnerving the journey to this realization may have been, this is only half the battle won. The other – and probably the more daunting – half, that is figuring out how to deal with a manipulative wife, remains to be won.

When you have been at the receiving end of manipulative behavior, it’s not easy to put your foot down and push back. But with the right approach, you can make it happen and even save your marriage. Kavita shares the following tips on how to deal with a manipulative wife:

Related Reading: 13 Tell-Tale Signs Of Manipulation In A Relationship

1. Don’t normalize or minimize the manipulation

Now that you can clearly see that you were not overthinking when you told yourself, “My wife is controlling and manipulative”, don’t let her behavior slide. Do this instead:

  • Prepare yourself to have an open and honest conversation with your wife about how her behavior is affecting your mental health and the health of your marriage
  • It’s also imperative that you have specific examples and instances of her manipulative behavior in mind so that she doesn’t have any room to gaslight in the relationship, dismiss your concerns, or turn things around

2. Choose the right words and approach

Still wondering how to deal with a manipulative wife? Well, open communication surely plays a key role in helping you achieve a breakthrough and getting her to acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. But it has to be the right kind of communication — honest, open, direct, non-accusatory. Here is how you can approach it:

  • The first step for opening the channels of communication is to always use “I” statements when sharing your concerns about her manipulative behavior. For instance, “I feel discouraged when you shut down whenever we differ in terms of our opinions.”
  • The conversation has to be non-accusatory, unbiased, and without any sarcasm. Try remaining calm
  • All such heart-to-heart talks should be geared toward reconciliation

3. Set boundaries

Want to know how to outsmart a manipulative wife? Well, setting emotional boundaries in a relationship is extremely important to make sure both partners are respected and have enough space to be the person they are. However, a wife who’s manipulative seeks to establish control and benefits from a man with no boundaries.

So, here’s what you can do to deal with such a situation:

  • Take some time to identify what aspects of your wife’s behavior are causing the most damage to your psyche
  • Figure out where you’d like to draw the line 
  • Remain calm and communicate your boundaries to your partner
  • Make sure you enforce your boundaries unequivocally, every single time

Related Reading: 9 Signs You Have Serious Communication Issues In Your Relationship

For instance, if your wife tends to cut you off mid-sentence, tell her that you will exit the conversation if interrupted. If she repeats this behavior during an intense discussion or an argument – which in all likelihood she will – take a step back, and tell her you’d be happy to resume talking when she’s willing to listen.

4. Seek professional help

There is no alternative to going into therapy when it comes to dealing with a manipulative wife and safeguarding your own well-being. Of course, it’s a much better option than wondering, “My wife is controlling!” If you’ve made some progress by trying the above-mentioned tips and your manipulative spouse is open to the idea, both of you can opt for couple’s therapy.

If not, consider individual counseling to unpack the emotional baggage you’re carrying around. If you’re looking for help to break away from this toxic pattern, Bonobology’s counseling services are just a click away!

5. Don’t internalize the manipulation

The worst thing that you can do when manipulated by your wife is to believe in her lies and start blaming yourself. So, make sure you:

  • Don’t let the manipulation rule you or get into your head
  • Practice self-care activities, such as engaging in hobbies, journaling, or exercising, to divert yourself from the manipulation
  • Spend time apart from your wife every day, to get some necessary space to reflect on the manipulation and how to deal with it

Related Reading: How To Deal With Being Ignored By Someone You Love?

6. Reflect on your own actions

We aren’t trying to get into victim-blaming here. But seriously, often, a man may be directly or indirectly responsible for his wife’s manipulative ways. Watch out for these signs and correct your own behavior, if need be:

  • You give in to her demands whenever she talks to you sweetly 
  • You react to the emotional triggers she sets for you as traps
  • You neglect your own friends and family members to cater to her whims instead
  • You hold yourself back from making it clear to her how her manipulative tactics are affecting you

If any of the above-mentioned instances seem familiar, try and reflect on how you can correct your own behavior so that you unwittingly encourage her manipulation just to keep the peace.

7. Walk away, if needed

Yes, saving your marriage is worth the effort, but only if your relationship hasn’t been poisoned to its end by your wife who manipulates. So, in case you feel your manipulative relationship has reached a dead end, there’s no mutual respect or trust, you feel insecure in it, you often feel confused, and trying to fix it will take its toll on your emotional and mental well-being, feel free to walk away. After all, you deserve a happier life.

The separation can be temporary or permanent, depending on what stage of manipulation and emotional distress you’re dealing with. In a temporary separation, you may end up giving each other space to realize what to do to get back together. But do this gracefully. This is how to deal with a manipulative woman if things get too ugly.

Key Pointers

  • Dealing with a wife who’s manipulative can be immensely painful for a man
  • Some signs of a manipulative woman are: blaming you, playing the victim card, and blackmailing you emotionally
  • You can deal with a wife who manipulates by setting boundaries, communicating openly, and opting for counseling

Putting up with female manipulation in relationships can leave your mental health in shambles and learning how to deal with a manipulative wife is nothing short of a Herculean challenge. We hope that with our expert-backed insights and advice, you now know what is manipulation in a relationship and that you’re better equipped to spot the red flags and take corrective measures. You can get through this. Just focus on taking one step at a time.


1. How does one deal with a manipulative woman? 

In a manipulative relationship, you should definitely make sure you have a strategy to deal with the abuse. So, stay calm but stand up for yourself. Do not keep compromising. Make it clear to her that you are not going to ask her for her permission for every small thing. It’s equally important that you don’t fall for her when she plays the victim card.

2. How does one outsmart a manipulative wife?

Say ‘no’ again and again, till she gets the point. She will throw tantrums, shed tears, and try her manipulation techniques, but you need to stay put in your position.

3. What does emotional manipulation in a marriage look like?

Here are a couple of emotional manipulation signs in a marriage: “You are going out with the guys today, but I wanted to watch Netflix with you” or “You are the sweetest person I know. You do my share of the chores every day.”

4. How can I seek help if my wife manipulates me?

You can go for relationship counseling and try to get rid of the manipulation that is affecting your marriage. If your wife is willing to work on the issues, couples therapy would be ideal. If not, individual therapy/counseling is strongly recommended to help undo the damage caused by your wife’s manipulative behavior.

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