Feeling manipulated is probably one of the worst feelings ever. And if that manipulation comes from your spouse, who you see as your trusted ally and confidant, the manipulation feels exponentially worse.

Unfortunately, emotional manipulation is one of the most common reasons why one might consider divorce. We see it all the time in our practice as one of the premier law firms in Vancouver. However, before you rush to get divorced, you should consider the nature of the emotional manipulation and whether the relationship is recoverable. Guardian Law will walk you through everything you need to know about emotional manipulation and the best options for your marriage.

What Is Emotional Manipulation?

Emotional manipulation is when one party in the relationship employs emotional tactics to control or influence another person. This type of manipulation can take many forms. Typically, they play on the other person’s fears, insecurities, or emotions. This behaviour doesn’t necessarily have an objective, but the manipulating partner is often motivated to achieve some end.

The outcome of manipulation is often that your relationship suffers significant damage. It is not uncommon for feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem to arise.

Anyone in an emotionally abusive relationship should reach out to family, friends, or even a therapist for emotional assistance. You should also speak with your partner and try to make them understand how this manipulation makes you feel.

12 Signs Of Emotional Manipulation You Should Be Aware Of

There are so many types of emotional manipulation that they can be hard to categorize. One tactic can easily blend into the other, and emotional manipulators often use several tactics, not just one. Here are 12 different emotional manipulation tactics you should watch out for.


Guilt-tripping is one of the most damaging things someone can do to a relationship. A manipulator might try to make you feel guilty for something you don’t have any control over.

Chronic guilt-tripping occurs when your partner refuses to admit fault practically 100% of the time and constantly blames you instead. If one spouse refuses to take responsibility for their misdeeds, you know you have a guilt-tripping problem on your hands.

This can come in other forms too. Sometimes your partner might say something that appears nice on the surface but has nasty intentions behind it.


A prime trait of a master manipulator is that they will attempt to cut you off from friends, family, and the rest of your support network in a bid to isolate you. This allows them to control you more easily.

By demanding that you stay away from your friends and family, you could wind up alienating them. This is exactly what the manipulator wants – to have you become completely dependent on them.

Don't Let Your Partner Manipulate and Isolate You
Don’t Let Your Partner Manipulate and Isolate You


Gaslighting is somewhat similar to guilt-tripping in that the manipulator will try to make you feel guilty for recognizing their bad behaviour. For instance, if they were to shatter a vase out of anger, they would act as though you were being unreasonable for requesting that they don’t act like this. Moreover, they will act concerned about the fact that you are being so “unreasonable.” This might make you question your sanity and begin to reflect on yourself rather than realize that it is the manipulator who is in the wrong.


While spousal abuse is often characterized by one partner threatening to harm the other, emotional manipulation differs slightly. In this case, the manipulator will threaten to harm themselves or others close to you, which plays on your emotions and not your physical well-being.

A Pattern Of Exploitation

If your partner has had a history of partners who were in some way significantly weaker than them, then this may reflect a pattern of exploitation. For instance, your partner might have chosen partners who were much less wealthy in the past to exert authority unchallenged. The manipulator always wants a material advantage in this scenario.

Playing The Victim

Playing the victim is a cruel game that manipulators play to gain sympathy at every sign of conflict in the relationship. For instance, they might take some sentence you said to them and try to contort it into a very malicious thing you did not mean.


Some people tell little white lies, but if you’re constantly catching your partner making up big lies, there are likely quite a few more hiding in the closet.

Shifting Blame

When your partner feels down, you probably want to offer them some comfort. But a partner who blames you for all their problems or mistakes is hard to work with. This can lead to a toxic relationship.

Silent Treatment

Similarly, if you want to converse with your partner and they outright refuse for hours on end, it feels like a bit of a punishment for something you didn’t do. While it’s always important to give your partner space, it’s also hard to operate under severe conditions like these.


A partner who always focuses on themselves rather than addressing your needs is not one that you can maintain a healthy relationship with. Your opinions have merit and your requirements deserve to be listened to. Don’t let your partner minimize your needs.

Emotional Unavailability

A partner who is never available for you emotionally can sometimes feel like they are not your partner at all. People have bad days, weeks, and even months, but it’s hard to have an equitable relationship when the other party is never able to fulfill your emotional needs. Note that this might not exactly be your partner’s fault, especially in the case of mental illness.

Love Bombing

Look, receiving lots of love, attention, and even gifts can feel great.

But sometimes it just feels a little too good to be true.

In the early stages of your relationship, you might have a partner who tries so hard to win you over that they resort to crazy tactics like this to demonstrate their affection.

As a result, it can feel like you have such a strong emotional connection that it makes you dependent on their showings of love. Such is the tactic of the master manipulator. They want your undying loyalty to assist them further on in the relationship. This might even cause you anxiety later on when they pull back from you emotionally.

Is Divorce The Solution?

We believe that in most cases, the emotional manipulation issues we mentioned above are things that couples can work through. In isolation, these do not typically cause separation and divorce. There are far more options at your disposal, and most of them involve communication from a place of respect and honesty.

Consider Therapy

Therapy is a great tactic to help you talk things over and air out your frustrations with the manipulation. It is also a way to validate that the manipulation is real, and not just a figment of your imagination.

Couples therapy is one approach you could take. In this scenario, you will be face-to-face with your partner and the therapist in the same room. As a result, you’ll have a safe space to communicate your emotional needs from the relationship. Moreover, your partner will get a chance to understand how their behaviour is perceived.

If your partner isn’t ready to meet face-to-face with a therapist, then you could always seek individual therapy on your own. This might help you better cope with the manipulation and improve your overall sense of well-being.

In general, therapy will give you tools to achieve two different ends:

  • Improve your communication skills: If you can identify emotional manipulation as it’s happening, then politely telling your partner what they are doing and why you don’t like that can be a very effective way to get them to stop. Be direct without being overly confrontational.
  • Set boundaries: Any relationship requires clear boundaries. However, this is doubly important when one partner is manipulating the other. By setting boundaries and communicating them clearly to your partner, then you’ll hopefully see your relationship turn over a new leaf.


Sometimes, the tools that you learned in therapy don’t work. Or perhaps, the manipulation is just too intense and emotionally devastating for you to be able to heal.

In these cases, you might have no choice but to separate from your spouse. Here are some signs that the manipulation is too much to bear and that you should get a lawyer to draw up a separation agreement.

  1. Your well-being is at risk: Since emotional manipulation can harm your mental and emotional health, this can have a devastating impact on your well-being. If you constantly feel overwhelmed, stressed, or trapped in the relationship, it may be time to separate.
  2. Efforts to improve the relationship have failed: As we mentioned earlier, you should likely try therapy or some other means to help mend your relationship. Should you see no improvement, separation may be necessary.
  3. You feel like you can’t be yourself: Preserving your identity and your sense of self is critical. Many emotional manipulation tactics can cause you to feel like you can’t express your opinions and feelings. It’s not nice to feel as though you’re constantly walking on eggshells. Moreover, you don’t want to lose your values and beliefs.


When you’re sorting out the divorce process, family lawyers can assist you with mediation. In such cases, a neutral party will help you resolve the main points of contention in the division of your assets.

This can be especially useful in the case of manipulation when your separation is extremely contentious. Every aspect of the family law case, including child support, spousal support, and property division must be hashed out. Because of the neutrality of the mediator, mediation is typically expected to expedite the separation process, even in a complex legal family matter.

When It’s Time For Divorce Contact Guardian Law

If emotional manipulation is truly leading to the breakdown of your marriage, then it may be time to seek out legal assistance.

Divorce is always an additional step in Canada. A divorce lawyer knows you must be separated for at least 1 year to be able to obtain a divorce.

However, to get the initial separation proceedings started, you’ll need to seek out a Vancouver divorce lawyer from Guardian Law to assist you. We are a family law firm serving clients in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, plying our expertise in a wide variety of family law cases.