You might be getting manipulated in your relationship without even knowing it. Manipulation can be defined as using influence and intimate knowledge of the other person’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to exploit them emotionally in a bid to control them to serve one’s interests. A manipulative wife may be doing exactly that, distorting your sense of reality to an extent that you are unable to understand the signs of a devious woman.
A manipulative personality only shows its true colors when they are in an intimate relationship and have achieved a certain level of control over the other person. Manipulative people pretend to be nice and most often keep resorting to emotional manipulation without their victim even realizing it. Manipulation is a form of emotional abuse and should be seen as a huge red flag in a marriage.
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.
The underlying causes for such behavior can be traced to their own childhood or teenage years where they had perhaps experienced or seen this, and subconsciously integrated it into their own attitude. A manipulative person generally controls others by using words that they will know others will react to, feigning tears or making threats, resorting to emotional blackmail, shouting and screaming, and even using sarcasm to make the partner give in to their demands.
If you can identify with the above, know that you are getting manipulated by your wife. To help you gain a clear perspective on the inner working of this toxic connection, let’s delve deeper into how emotional manipulation in relationships works 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.
Manipulative Personality Traits
To be able to see the manipulative personality traits, you first need to understand what is manipulation and what it looks like in an intimate connection. 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”. The dictionary meaning of manipulation is “to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner”.
In intimate relationships, manipulation can be seen as a tool to control, exploit, or influence another to one’s advantage. This form of manipulation often operates on three factors – fear, guilt or manipulation. So, if you find yourself being psychologically coerced in one way or the other into doing things you originally didn’t want to, there is a good chance you’re dealing with manipulative behavior in your marriage.
Emotional manipulation by a wife is never easy to come to terms with. After all, she’s your life partner and it’s hard to shake off the denials and accept that the person you’ve chosen to share your life with doesn’t have your best interests at heart. To make sure that you’re 100% certain that you’re dealing with emotional manipulation in your marriage, here’s a quick roundup of the signs of a manipulative woman:
- 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 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’
8 Signs Of A Manipulative Wife
If you have ended up with a manipulative woman, chances are you don’t even realize it. The signs of manipulation are subtle and disguised as love, you will probably feel all of it is for your own good and you have wanted it. 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 designed to make a person think and behave like you, and act in a manner that you approve of. A manipulator used 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 calls the shots and wants their partner to be submissive in a connection,” 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. Focusing on past mistakes, some secret you told your wife about you, or a weakness you have that she knows about, are all used against you to manipulate you. These are all telling signs of a manipulative woman.
Related Reading: Manipulation In Relationships – 11 Subtle Signs You Are A Victim
Life coach Melody Fletcher says, “People who are manipulative and people who get manipulated are basically two sides of the same coin. The manipulator uses these techniques to feel good while the person who is manipulated wants to do service to others, to please others to get the scraps of love and affirmation. We cannot really stop everyone from manipulating us but we have to own our power and that can be done by anticipating the different ways people try to manipulate us and react to it accordingly.”
A manipulative wife has the potential to change all your important relationships in the way she deems fit, leaving you isolated. If you’re being subjected to emotional manipulation by your wife, you may feel more and more dependent on her as you think she is the only one who cares about you enough. Having a manipulative wife (you must assess what kind of damage she is causing) can be a deal-breaker. It constitutes emotional abuse and like we said many do not even realize what has happened to them. Here are 8 signs that can tell you if your wife is manipulative:
1. She has a didactic personality
A didactic person is the one who thinks that everyone should be taught what they think is right and that they are doing things for their good. This is an absolute warning sign of a manipulative woman. She feels that she is super smart and intellectual and the responsibility to mold other people is on her shoulders.
Not just this, she may keep finding faults with your method of doing things and indirectly tell you that she is superior to you. This is her way of making you feel ‘less than her’ so that you defer your intellect to her and ask her for advice. Voila, she has gained control over you.
If your wife is the kind of person who makes you feel inadequate and you constantly run to her for her opinion especially when you didn’t do so before, she might be manipulating you and you need to think through your marriage. She is a controlling woman, who wants everything to go her way. The thought “my wife is controlling and manipulative” may have crossed your mind a few times but you dismissed it because not only is she someone you love and trust but she has also shown you over and over again that she knows better.
“This becomes a pattern that plays on a loop, and eventually, the victim begins to struggle to rely on their own judgment to make even the smallest of decisions or starts believing that there is something inherently wrong with them. A manipulative partner attacks your insecurities and annihilates your self-esteem,” says Kavita. Once you begin to recognize such signs of a cunning woman in your wife, remind yourself you can’t be wrong 100% of the time. Ask yourself: Ultimately, do I feel good about myself in this relationship? If not, make a list of all the reasons why not.
2. She turns every argument into your fault
One of the signs of a manipulative spouse is that they turn everything into your fault and get away as the innocent one. That time when she was emotionally unavailable it was because you were busy for the past two days. She screamed at your mother because 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 which leads to a huge argument, she will turn the tables on you by pointing out past instances when you behaved in the same manner and how she did not raise hell then. You, then, come out as the petty one. If you get mad or upset, it’s your fault for having unreasonable expectations; if she gets mad, it’s your fault for upsetting them. She has the power to blame you for every wrong thing that has happened in your marriage – from a small argument to a major disappointment. Nothing will ever be her mistake.
This is known as guilt-tripping, one of the classic techniques of emotional abuse and one of the preferred tools of both male and female manipulators. As long as you let her overwhelm you with guilt, she will continue to get away with manipulating you. Confront the bully and tell her that you understand what is happening here. Remember if you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target.
Related Reading: 13 Signs You Are The Selfish One In Your Relationship
3. She uses emotional blackmail as a weapon
Emotional manipulation is something your wife is good at. Emotionally blackmailing a person may seem very subtle and harmless at times, but in reality, it is very damaging. It is 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 wrote to us about how his wife made him abandon his mother and he couldn’t do anything about it. “Is my wife manipulative? And how can I deal with her without wrecking my marriage?” he wanted to know.
This is not an isolated or one-of-a-kind incident. Most manipulative women have a tendency to use emotional blackmail as a weapon to manipulate their partners. They keep saying that they are incomplete without you or they can’t live without you and so you should be dependent on them just like they are dependent on you, leading to a dysfunctional, codependent marriage.
If your wife resorts to emotional blackmail every time she wants something done, take that as a red flag in your marriage. Look for these signs: 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? Make no mistake, these are signs of a devious woman who is out to manipulate you into submission. Take charge, set boundaries, and learn to call her bluff.
4. She uses your weaknesses against you
How do you know she has a manipulative personality? She uses your weakness 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? Is the D-word uttered often to force you into submission? Does her behavior leave you wondering, “Is my wife manipulative?”
If you answered in the affirmative to the above questions, there is no doubt that you’re dealing with the signs of a manipulative woman. This may seem very cruel and you might not have realized that this was happening to you but manipulative women are extremely selfish. They take advantage of your weaknesses to get their work done. She, being your wife, would know a lot of things about you and during a fight, which she would bring up to hurt you where you are most vulnerable.
Kavita explains, “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 something of her, she makes you feel that you have not lived up to her expectations hence you have no right to ask things from her.
She may also use people you care about to hurt you but hurt them in a way you cannot call her out on her actions. You try and make sure that you do not displease her because her reaction drains you both emotionally and otherwise. These are all clear signs of a cunning woman who wants to control you, leaving you feeling trapped in the relationship.
5. She is the decision-maker
Be it male or female manipulation in relationships, it stems from a singular driving force: control. It is no surprise then that a manipulative wife 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 all the small and big decisions made by her, you know that you have a manipulative wife. She makes all the plans – be it about finances, holidays, and even who you should or shouldn’t socialize with.
She decides the school the kids should go to, what air conditioner you should upgrade to or even the car which is good for your family. She is picky about friends and you see yourself more and more aligned with people she gets along with. You feel you are getting distant from your school and college friends because she doesn’t think much of them or maybe because they do not think much of her.
She decides everything for both of you, she may ask for your opinion but you know in the end you will end up doing what she thinks is right. If you enforce something, you will never hear the end of how terrible it was. She will reassert that she has thought things through and subtly hint that she knows best. For a boy’s night out, you have to take her permission well in advance, while for a girl’s night out, it’s quite the opposite; she is the boss of her own life.
These are warning signs of a manipulative woman you should be aware of. 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 in a marriage.
Related Reading: 15 Signs Your Spouse Takes You For Granted
6. She victimizes herself every time
One of the biggest signs of a manipulative woman is her ability to play the victim card to perfection. She acts scared of your reaction and makes you the controlling villain of her life. She will show family and friends how she is often accountable for all decisions and what stress it is to her.
She will exaggerate her illnesses, or make up lies about how she is being ostracized, maybe how XYZ is constantly picking on her. They will show reality and pretend to feel powerless, maybe even show how they’re the martyrs. Manipulative people who pretend to be nice are especially adept at this.
They often speak of how selfless they are and how cruel everyone around them is. Maybe even hint how ungrateful you have been. They keep a record of every single sacrifice made and display it as their prized possession. Moreover, such people often use emotional outbursts to support their ‘act’. You will see dollops of tears and sadness but in your absence, she will be perfectly fine. So you are being victimized here but outsiders feel the opposite. That’s just the sad reality of male victimization in most cultures.
7. She keeps on blaming you for everything
Every time she is in a tough spot in her life, she makes it your fault. It is because she married you, she had to change her area of residence which is quite far from her office. She throws you under the bus every time she makes a wrong decision. This is an absolute devious woman you are dealing with. Manipulative people are adept at twisting words and making up things out of nowhere.
She will pretend as if her decisions were taken keeping your convenience in mind and she has to deal with the repercussions of it, and that ‘you are not helping’. She will make you seem responsible for her sadness, and her personal failures. Because you do not help out with the kids, she has been fired from her job. Because of the stress of managing a home, she had an outburst and had a huge fight with her best friend. 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, ask for facts and evidence, and then address them one by one. It will give you a sense of how much of the blame you actually carry,” advises Kavita.
8. She’ll never apologize
Even if you finally prove to her that it is her fault, a manipulative wife will never say the word ‘sorry’. It is just too much for her ego. She is never apologetic. Instead, she would justify her actions or go silent as a way of telling you that she is hurt. By deliberately not responding to your calls and text messages, she will make you doubt your own point of view on the matter.
You will start wondering, “What if she was right? She wouldn’t be so upset otherwise.” Maybe you will conclude you were not right to blame her. But what you should be asking instead is: “Why is my wife manipulative to such a dangerous extent?” People who are manipulative want things their way and proving them wrong about something just fires up their emotions. Such people find it very hard to admit to their mistakes or apologize for them.
Also when caught in an unfavorable situation, they “play dumb” and start playing the victim card. By pretending she or he doesn’t understand what you want, or what you want her to do, the manipulator/passive-aggressive makes you take on what is her responsibility and gets you to break a sweat.
Related Reading: Are You A Toxic Couple? Take This Test To Find Out
How to Deal With A Manipulative Wife
So, you understand the pattern of female manipulation in relationships and can even co-relate the tell-tale manipulative woman signs to your wife’s behavior. As heartbreaking and unnerving the journey to this realization may have been, this is only half the battle. The other – and probably the more daunting – half remains; that is figuring out how to deal with a manipulative wife.
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:
1. Don’t normalize or minimize the manipulation
Now that you can clearly see that you were not wrong in thinking “my wife is controlling and manipulative”, don’t let her behavior slide. 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.
Before you do so, it’s imperative that you have specific examples and instances of her manipulative behavior in mind so that she doesn’t have any room to gaslight you, dismiss your concerns or turn things around by playing her famous victim card.
2. The right communication can make all the difference
How to deal with a manipulative wife? 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 and geared toward reconciliation.
The first step for opening the channels of communication and making sure they remain open is to always use “I” statements when sharing your concerns about her manipulative behavior. For instance, if she resorts to stonewalling as a response to any disagreement, you could say, “I feel discouraged when you shut down in response to any opinion of mine that is different from yours. Can we try to be more accepting of each other?
This is likely to be far more effective than saying, “You always shut down when I have something to say. How do you expect me to talk to you when you won’t even listen?” The former statement opens up doors for a dialogue whereas the latter will likely trigger arguments. To put an end to emotional manipulation by wife, you need to work with the former.
Related Reading: 9 Signs You Have Serious Communication Issues In Your Relationship
3. How to deal with a manipulative wife? Set boundaries
Setting boundaries in a relationship is extremely important to make sure both partners are respected and have enough space to be the person they’re. However, when there is male or female manipulation in relationships, boundaries tend to be obliterated before you’ve even had the chance to define them. A manipulative wife seeks to establish control, and boundaries get in the way of that. It’s no surprise that she wouldn’t be thrilled by the idea of boundary setting.
However, this is a must to break the manipulative behavior pattern. So, 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 and communicate it to your partner. Once you do, make sure you enforce your boundaries unequivocally, every single time.
For instance, if your wife tends to cut you off mid-sentence and tell you how you are ‘actually’ feeling, tell her that you will cease to engage in a conversation with her 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 therapy to deal with a manipulative wife
“My wife is controlling and manipulative and I don’t know how to deal with her without wrecking my marriage.” If that has been your line of thought vis-à-vis this debilitating issue your marital bond is infested with, remember this is fear talking – fear which is one the key factors on which the entire web of manipulative behavior is built.
This example should be enough to tell you how deeply scarring emotional manipulation in a relationship can be. There is no denying that this is a form of emotional abuse that no victim is equipped to deal with on their own. So when you’re thinking about how to deal with a manipulative wife, also think about preserving and improving your mental health.
For that, there is no better alternative than going into therapy. If you’ve made some progress by trying the above-mentioned tips and your manipulative wife is open to the idea, you can go into couple’s therapy. If not, then consider individual counseling to unpack the emotional baggage and make sense of your own emotions. If you’re looking for help to break away from this toxic pattern, experienced and skilled counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
Putting up with female manipulation in relationships can leave your mental health a 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’d be 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.
Stand up for yourself, do not keep compromising and make it clear to her that you are not going to ask her permission for every small thing. When she plays the victim card don’t fall for it or for that matter all her ruse.
Say “no” on her face and say that again and again till she gets the point. She will throw tantrums, shed tears, try her manipulation techniques but you just stay put in your position.
“You are going out with the guys but I wanted to watch Netflix with you today and I have already made the snacks for that.” “You are the sweetest person I know. you do my share of the chores every day.”
You can go for relationship counseling and try to work on the emotional manipulation that is affecting your marriage. If your wife is willing to work on the issues, couple’s 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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