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Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationships? 8 Risk Factors

What is Emotional Manipulation (EM)?

Big question, the short answer is: You are being emotionally manipulated anytime someone else is able to get you to doubt yourself; move away from your boundaries; and not take care of yourself, by their words, actions, or inactions. EMs hurt your self-esteem. They seek to serve themselves at your expense.

Giveaway Girls are very susceptible to emotional manipulation.

What is a Giveaway Girl? I have a website called where I refer to caring, considerate, smart, wonderful, beautiful women as possible Giveaway Girls. Check it out to see if it fits you at all.

Psychologist James Fogarty, a specialist on emotional manipulators, writes that the following qualities make women more vulnerable to emotional manipulators:

  1. Codependent
  2. Looking for love—desperately
  3. Caring and loving
  4. Want to please/feel overly responsible
  5. Unfulfilled needs
  6. Abuse or neglected in childhood
  7. Vulnerable
  8. Immune to falling out of love

Are You Dating Someone Who Might Be An EM?

When Giveaway Girls date, they may not have a clue how their prospective partner will pick up on these characteristics. It’s that very lack of awareness that makes these women such easy prey to emotional manipulators.

Sometimes, an EM uses putdowns, critical comments, and verbal abuse to manipulate. Other times, a manipulator is more subtle and the manipulation is hard to perceive. The EM is used to getting his way and having his love interests go along with his line of thinking and behaving. The manipulator may not know he/she is being manipulative , or, he/she not intend to be malicious about it. It just comes naturally.

Whether the emotional manipulation is obvious or subtle, intentional or not, the outcome is the same.

Are You Married to Someone Who Might Be An EM?

Charlotte’s husband, Bob, doesn’t seem like the manipulative type. He isn’t aggressive or overbearing, and he doesn’t seem to be a narcissist. However, when Bob was a kid, the only way he got his needs met was to act powerless and weak. Then, his mom or another sibling would come to his rescue. Now, he does the same thing with his wife. Even though he is a successful attorney, he claims to his wife, Allison, that he is completely incapable of picking up the dog AND the kids after work. “I can’t do it, Allison. I just think I might forget one of them…”

Therefore, Allison cannot make plans with her girlfriends to meet after work for drinks. Bob also does this with bills and anything else he doesn’t feel like doing. Allison believes Bob needs help. She has no idea he is manipulating her. She feels annoyed, but she is so used to picking up the slack she doesn’t even think to address it with her husbanfront-postcardSMd.

Are You Friends With Someone Who Might Be An EM?

Let’s look at EMs in friendships. They act like they are your friend and then they pull bullshit behavior that isn’t consistent with real friendship. EM friends blow you off when you have plans. They put the blame on you with lousy excuses. You might be inclined to think it’s all your fault. EM friends can make you feel self-conscious and insecure too. I once knew a girl who would whisper something like, “Just so you know, you can see your flowery underwear through the back of your white jeans,” … just as you are entering the front door of the fraternity party. Another name for an EM friend is Frenemy.

Always Check For EM If You Feel Confused And Annoyed In A Relationship

If you are unsure you are being manipulated but you know you feel confused in your relationship, check for emotional manipulation. If you doubt yourself and feel bad about yourself when negotiating issues with friends, family or your significant other, EM may be the problem.

Once you are aware you are being emotionally manipulated, the power over you is gone. Then comes deciding how to invest your time and energy (and your heart) into the relationship(s). A few more tips:

  • If you have any of the qualities Dr. Fogarty lists, please be aware that you are at risk for emotional manipulation by others.
  • Don’t despair; be aware. Caring deeply about others, loving others, serving others: These are positive qualities that when combined with Dr. Fogarty’s risk factors are the recipe for emotional manipulation. Don’t stop caring, loving or being of service to others, just make sure your choice is healthy for you and you take care of yourself first.
  • Practice self-advocacy. What is self-advocacy? It’s speaking up for yourself, for your needs, wants, views and interests. Read more in my forthcoming book, Stop Giving It Away. 
  • Join me on my blog and as you continue your journey toward better self-care.
Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationships? 8 Risk Factors

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationships? 8 Risk Factors. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2018
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