About Covert Emotional Manipulation

Illustration of Red riding hood being fooled by the wolf for the article, covert emotional manipulation

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Covert emotional manipulation occurs when a person who wants to gain power and control over you uses deceptive and underhanded tactics to change your thinking, behavior and perceptions. Emotional manipulation operates under the level of your conscious awareness. It holds you psychologically captive. Victims usually don’t realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

A skilled emotional manipulator gets you to put your sense of self-worth and emotional well-being into his or her hands. Once you make that grave miscalculation, he or she methodically and continually chips away at your identity and self-esteem until there’s little left.

How can you tell if you’re a victim?  For help, read the blog post “How to Tell if You’re Being Manipulated.” It’s also wise to be aware of the many tactics manipulators can use against you, but if you want to know if you’re being manipulated,  you need only recognize the effects of manipulation in yourself.

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This website is concerned with the most dangerous manipulators, psychopaths; but others manipulate in the much same way (such as narcissists and “pick-up artists”). Psychopaths see themselves as superior and see others as nothing more than prey to be hunted to fulfill their needs. They have no ability to love, no empathy, no guilt or remorse, and no conscience. To the psychopath, life is a “game” of taking power and control and getting what they want, such as sex, money or influence, and they destroy the victim emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and/or physically in the process. To them, this is nothing more than fulfilling their needs, using whatever it takes. When they’re bored and filled with contempt for you (e.g. when they’ve “won the game”), they move on to the next victim.

These highly skilled covert manipulators are incapable of having a real relationship, and some (not all; see below) set out from day one with a plan. They are adept at reading you and quickly learn your weaknesses, your strengths, your fears, your dreams and your desires. They won’t hesitate to use all of these against you with an arsenal of effective manipulation tactics carefully chosen and personalized just for you. Manipulators hunger for power and control and they will stop at nothing to get them, even if this means harming you.

If you feel less strong, less confident, less secure, less intelligent, less sane, or in any other way “less than” anything you were before, you are being covertly emotionally manipulated.

Just when you believe the magical excitement of a loving relationship has made a welcome and long-awaited appearance in your life, something very different and sinister might actually be in the works. Psychopaths are highly skilled at hiding their real personalities and their real plans. Their goal is to trick you into believing they love you – and they do everything they can to make you believe that during a non-stop phase of romantic magic. This intense bonding stage is created for one reason — to hook you and make you vulnerable to the manipulation and abuse that will follow.

The purpose of your relationship will change from loving you to demeaning, degrading and exploiting you, confusing you, and diminishing your self-respect, self-worth, and self-esteem. The psychopath will make just enough appearances as the wonderful, loving guy or gal you fell in love with to keep you hooked, to keep you blaming yourself for losing the best thing you ever had and to keep you willing to do anything to save the relationship.

You’ll accept mere crumbs if that will prove your love. You’ll stop wasting time discussing your needs, emotions and fears, which he doesn’t care about and considers unacceptable weaknesses. You’ll blame yourself for things going wrong, analyzing every word and every mood, going over every conversation, and becoming very confused about what’s really going on. Your life, your job, your relationships with others, and your physical and mental health will suffer.

He keeps you around until you’re the desperate mess he manipulated you into becoming. When that happens, he will announce — with feigned or real vitriol, disdain and seething contempt — that you bore him and he’s done with you. You’ll be left an emotional wreck wondering how things went so terribly wrong…wondering how your soul-mate relationship went from heaven-on-earth straight into the bowels of hell.

James Sant English

Victims of this underhanded and deceptive manipulation struggle with feelings of confusion and severe emotional pain. Many also experience obsessive thoughts, rage, lost self-esteem, insomnia, anxiety, panic, fear, an inability trust, use of alcohol or drugs, lack of support, and physical illness. Irrational and sometimes extreme behavior can occur, such as isolation and withdrawal from friends, family and society, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

The truth is that the psychopath may have never wanted love. In this case, were targeted by a predator for the purpose of victimization, and the plan for your harm was there when he targeted you and found you receptive to his advances. After all is said and done and you’re lying alone in the rubble, you realize something was horribly wrong.

Even if the psychopath was genuinely attracted to you, things will turn out badly. According to Rhonda Freeman, PhD, a neuropsychologist and author of the website NeuroInstincts, 

“They absolutely have the ability to feel excited and stimulated by people and things — it the reward system of the brain. And it works almost too well for those with psychopathy!… In fact, research has found that their reward system is more sensitive than that of a normal person. Hence the reason why they (more than the rest of us) start off their relationships with intensity. It is genuine and they really are feeling that excited about you. (The reward system is the system of the brain that kicks into gear when we are newly in love or attracted to someone. It makes us hyperfocus on people, crave them, think of them all the time and get butterflies at the thought/ sight of them. This is very natural and a system that we all have and have all felt it in action. Psychopaths have this system too of course, but the dial of theirs is set at a 10 (arbitrary number), while everyone else is a let’s say … 5)

Although psychopaths have this system that drives them to have this intense attraction and desire for their new target, their brain is also built to be a natural manipulator. Because they cannot be exposed to something without taking advantage of it – they ‘fatten up their goose’ to eat later. They groom her. They let her know (in a manipulative way) what is expected of her, how this relationship will go and how he wants the experience for him to be when his excitement ends. Most of the time, they do not know they are going to completely lose interest and hate their current mate (crash from their dopamine high – their reward system is over it — it’s not new anymore). Many of them are of the genuine belief that they have truly met “the one.” They blame her when ‘their’ brain disconnects from the relationship. This is a dangerous time (emotional or physical or both) for the former object of his affection…. “

In other words, even if they felt genuine attraction at the outset they will manipulate you, and they will become bored with you and blame you for it, and they will devalue and abuse you. You can read more in the blog post, Genuine Attraction, Manipulation or Something More? And It’s Not You, It’s Me… and My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System.

When you have a relationship with a psychopath, you experience what is known as emotional rape. You will not find help from information and support designed for getting over a normal relationship.

How did the most loving and beautiful relationship of your life turn into the worst relationship of your life? The answer is largely contained in three words: covert emotional manipulation.

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72 Comments

  1. Marina

    Great, thank you. Can you put a link to your site everywhere? This can literally save lives.

    • Admin

      Yes, put a link wherever you’d like. Thank you.

  2. Melinda

    Married to a P for over 30 years. 6 children with him. I came close to a nervous breakdown. It is hard to leave when you are physically and emotionally worn out. The P will blame you for everything in presence of your children. Soon your children will all be emotionally kidnapped by the P. Get out early and trust that others are seeing the picture more clearly than you!

    • Marilyn

      I feel for every one of these people that are still in these relationships! I have and had first hand experience, too–39 years married to him. But the best part is–there is LIFE–after manipulation! There is life which is worth living and there are people in this world who are kind, caring and concerned, My only advice is–get out while you are still alive, and while there is still a shred of your own personality left! YOU owe it to YOURSELF!

      • Admin

        Thanks, Marilyn!

    • Karen

      I just want to thank you for this comment that lets me know that you were in this marriage for over 30 years! I’ve been in mine for over 20 and we have 4 kids. I left for a year once not so long ago and I was free! I have no clue how or why I came back to this! It was so good for me to know that other women have been with these men for so long because I was feeling that there was something deeply wrong and depraved about me! I’m always confused! I know that I don’t have friends, I’m home all of the time when our daughter who has special needs and who won’t go to school. My car doesn’t handle well in the winter so it’s not safe, I’ve complained to him numerous times about the condition of the car and its lack of safety but he refuses to help me to get it fixed. He points out faults in everyone I know and questions how I could have any involvement with these people. So here I am, stuck in my house all of the time and if I go anywhere I’m accused of either not making a choice or I’m made to feel that my contact with others is me being disloyal to him! He has so many really reasonable reasons for his opinion, they sound right… But at the end of the day, I have no friends and I rarely leave home. If I do put my foot down and go to a friend’s house, I’m punished with silence and disapproval and accused of being disloyal to him by even having any friendship with anyone else. It’s just good to know that I’m not the only one! Ooh and I also abuse alcohol despite the fact that I’m a Nutrition Coach and I eat perfectly. I just need to escape!

      • Adelyn Birch

        Karen, I’ve heard from many women who were married to their abuser for decades. I’m sorry for this terrible ordeal you go through on a daily basis, and I hope you will find a way to become free of him. Please get yourself help for your alcohol abuse; don’t let this man destroy you. My heart breaks for you. I wish you all the best xx

        • Nicole

          Hi… I wish I could say that I have the perfect marriage but that would be a lie and I would be no better than my husband. He is a compulsive liar which he actually admits to, he has been verbally, emotionally, and sexually abusive for most of our 23 year marriage. I believe that he is a covert manipulator, but as far as being a psychopath, sociopath or narcissist I’m not quie sure because he has tendencies from all three. We have children together and I have tried to be there for him, but I feel that I am enabling him by staying because he refuses to admit things that he has done to me. Am I wrong to feel this way? I need help!

          • Adelyn Birch

            No, I don’t think you’re wrong at all. If he’s been doing this for 23 years, it’s unlikely he’ll change. Don’t worry about his “diagnosis” — what’s much more important are his actions and the effect they have on you. You’ve endured many years of abuse, and I believe it would be very wise to find yourself a therapist who specializes in abuse and trauma. I wish you all the best, Nicole.

        • Karen

          Thank you for the well wishes. I’m back in therapy with a really great therapist basically learning to separate fact from fiction and recover from years of brainwashing.

          • Adelyn Birch

            You’re welcome, Karen. I’m glad you found a good therapist!

    • Ann

      Emotionally kidnapped, exactly! …It is so sad.

  3. Melinda

    I have been married to a P for 30 years. I have 6 children with him. He has been chaotic at best every day of our marriage. It is exhausting. The loss of self that takes place under the manipulation of a P is amazing. Also a P will demean you in the presence of the children. Your children will be kidnapped from right under your nose. You won’t believe the destruction the P can do. Suddenly you find yourself without friends and even your family
    will be hesitant to visit. Leave as soon as possible. The P will drain you of all energy. It is as though you are caught in a web and cannot escape. Listen to others who can see more clearly than you. Get out and know you have done the right thing! Move away. Do not give the P your phone. Tell everyone you do not want the P to have any info about you. Expect a chaotic divorce. Get out and make new friends. Know that you fell in love with a facade. Stay close to your children. They will need your support for you and they have truly been through hell on earth!

    • Admin

      Thirty years is a long time! My experience was less than one year, and he almost did me in. Good luck to you.

    • Marilyn

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cassie

      Hi I was in the middle of writing to you and I’m so upset but all my text got erased! For now I’m just going to keep it short and simple. I relate to every thing that you have written it’s uncanny, I’m literally at my wits end dealing with the aftermath of this Psychopath. A few years ago I graduated w/ my BA in psychology, have been trying to go to graduate school for my MA in Psychology and have not been able to reach my goals due to what this monster has done to me and my family. I desperately need support, I’m so overwhelmed, I’m trying to rebuild my life AGAIN after he has systematically dismantled my every attempt at regaining my sense of self and trying to get my life together, go back to school, get a career going and my confidence back after 3 years of sheer hell. My mother who I used to be extremely close to is married to a psychopath. In a nut shell, this man is pure evil, he has all of the traits and characteristics of a psychopath and I need justice, I need support and specialized advice from top psychologists and how to deal with this psycho legally. I’m looking for the best lawyers someone who really understands and can exploit this son of a bitch for what he really is. I’m overwhelmed w: even starting the process of processing legally. Right now I do not have the money to fight him but I will in time I just don’t have much time, I can explain later.
      This man has deliberately destroyed my family, set enviro for complete failure through numerous successful attempts at sabatouging me when I’am about to get my life on track AGAIN, has deliberately destroyed my relationship that I have w/ my mom, to the point of her basically becoming mentally ill, she is so brain washed and controlled at this point that Her spirit her beautiful personality is gone, he turned my entire family against me and has created the classic ‘crazy making,” situation so many times to enforce this insane idea that I’m crazy when he has created a sick situation that triggers me, I’ve been suffering from PTSD, and the only reason I have this disorder and severe depression is b/c this freak sexually assaulted me on a trip, broke my trust, I told my mom she believed me, was going to divorce him & should have been there for me but instead stayed w/ the bastard who distorted everything that happened, and then soon after distorted everything, they began gas lighting me and blaming me for what happened and tried to make me feel crazy snd mentally ill. I wouldn’t have developed PTSD and would have been completely well and together had my my mom left him. He has since then purposely destoyed my life in ways you wouldn’t believe and I cannot move on until I get justice. I did try but I’ve been sabatouged so much that he must be destroyed, out of my family and put away in prison or mentally assessed and diagnosed, put in a mental hospital he is completely crazy, violent, and dangerous. I’m afraid for my family, I have pretty explicit evidence for my case, I also need to file reports; sexually assault, illegal lock out, snd stealing my car and selling it without my consent. I realize it is very hard to prove a psycho is a psycho in family even criminal court but I cannot let him get away w/ this, he is also s pathological liar has even lied about where he grew up and where he had lived everything is a lie. He causes destruction, confusion, anxiety, deli ruin, miscommunication, chaos, and misery everywhere he goes then he stands back all calm and collected and watches just pretends to be normal and innocent after causing a fight or scene. I want him to go thro the emotional abandonment and isolation the emotional baggage and pain that I’ve had to carry with me ever since he destroyed my spirit then I will b at peace, able to fully move on b/c I do not in any way find it fun or amusing to waste my time on this psycho he has greatly delayed me st s very critical time in my life w d it’s not ok. Please help

      • Adelyn Birch

        Cassie, I’m terribly sorry this is happening to you! You’re overwhelmed, understandably. That sense of being overwhelmed keeps you from even getting started doing anything about it. Maybe it would help to try and simplify things, and then put things in order of priority.

        You said, “I want him to go through the emotional abandonment and isolation the emotional baggage and pain that I’ve had to carry” But if he’s truly a psychopath, he won’t feel any of those things. So don’t do anything for those reasons. Justice is one thing, but attempting to make him feel pain is another. Anything you want to do just for that reason can be taken off your list of things to do.

        The first thing you should do is to find the therapist you described. That’s important. Just do that, for now. After you do that and have a session, move on to the next thing.

        Is there any way at all that you can live somewhere else? Maybe live with a relative or a friend, or find an inexpensive roommate situation? I think that would help you.

        I’m sorry your comment text was deleted. I’m having some technical problems today that I’m working on. If you reply, please copy your comment before submitting it, just to be safe. Best of luck to you.

  4. Color

    Hello,
    Thank you for this great article. I’ll tell you my story in some words. I was worried and have thoughts pretty much every day and i didn’t know why, so i started to look for it on the internet. I did a good research to answer my questions, then i realised that those worries i had was about certain people. I thought that i had the problem but the truth is that is theirs. Two good friends of mine are manipulators and lately i’ve stoped any communication with them (only few times we get along together, also i noticed that you can hang out with them only for a short period of time). I talked to them about my situation and they seemed to understand, but the reality is they cannot change. So i’m ok with that, i found my inner self and i feel happiness most of the time. But here comes my biggest problem, i have a manipulator coworker (woman) and she really plays a psychological war on me, i’m her victim. Sometimes i’m ok but other times i’m really confused and stuck with worries and thoughts! I cannot concetrate at my work, she just keeps pushing me. Its very hard to deal with her. Today i had a fight with her about her attitude towards to me but she doesn’t understand and always says that i am too emotional and these kind of bull***. The truth is i want to walk away from this job but i need money to survive (like all of us). When i don’t meet these kind of people i feel so chill and happy with myself, i feel inner peace, a beautiful state of mind and body. It’s so stupid that these kind of people doing that war against us just to feed their sick sick needs. I hope the best for all of you and have faith to yourself. Thank you! :)

    • Admin

      There are lots of manipulators out there…but when you have to deal with one full-time, at your job, it is miserable! Psychological war it is. Keep notes of all of it. I realize it can be so subtle that notes may seem impossible. Read the book “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” by Dr. Harriet Braiker. The last few chapters teach how to deal with manipulators. It could help. In the meantime, you may want to try the Gray Rock method: http://www.lovefraud.com/2012/02/10/the-gray-rock-method-of-dealing-with-psychopaths/ You may also want to start looking for a new job, and I don’t say this lightly. If you can leave, that is option #1.

      Please read the post “How to tell if you’re being manipulated.”

      “When I don’t meet these kind of people i feel so chill and happy with myself, I feel inner peace, a beautiful state of mind and body.” Beautiful, yes. Go with this whenever you can; don’t let manipulators destroy your peace. Get them out of your life, just as you did.

      Best wishes to you.

  5. Mo

    Thank you for your article
    I ran into a woman who is just for herself, met me, used me, borrowed money, moved into my house, stole my money , when I asked her to leave, she moved out and went to police and charged me with mischief and assault . I am 58 years old and may end up in jail because I fell in tove, felt sorry for her not having any place or anyone to help he

    • Admin

      That’s really terrible, Mo. I’m sorry you’re in such a predicament, and I hope everything turns out OK.

  6. Faith

    I’m a young lady who fell for these exact things, he took me from an independent women with my own place and everything. Promised me the world knew I wanted a family and happiness. Then once he got me pregnant with a baby he left me, tore me down, put me down and left me vulnerable. I’m slowly gaining my self worth back and he doesn’t want me to gain that back because every chance he gets he leaves me messages trying to pretend to be the man I fell Inlove with because he wants to control me in every form he can. Reading this made me realize how much I am a victim of this.

    • Admin

      I’m sorry for what you have been through, Faith. Don’t let him stop you from gaining your self-worth back. Stay strong. Best wishes to you and your child.

  7. Glenda

    I’m in this now and do NOT know how to get away! I feel so worthless and confused. I feel like everything I do, say and think is wrong. I used to be an independent woman, single mother taking care of 3 children. Two bad divorces. First marriage was an emotional abuser, but after about 3-4 years I got over it. Gained myself respect and confidence back. When I met the man I’m with now, I was in a desperate situation. Losing my home, my job and struggling with an addiction. He came into my life saying he was there for me. Would help me with all of it and promised to help get me back on track. I felt SO loved and supported. I fell in love with him hard and fast. Now, almost 3 years later, my life is nothing but complete despair. And I don’t even know how it happened. It feels like I blinked and I don’t even know who I am, what I think, or what to do. I feel hopeless and empty. NOTHING I DO is right with him. He is full of negativity and hate. Everytime I want to discuss a problem out that he makes me feel bad by doing something, it gets turned around on me. I feel like I’m losing my mind…literally! I spend most of my time going over every conversation, argument, ANY time we talk. Trying to figure out if I AM the cause. It’s exhausting and I’ve tried to explain that he’s driving me crazy. I don’t want to get out of bedn, go somewhere, I enjoy nothing. At the point of not understanding the point of my life

    • Admin

      Hi Glenda. I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through. The bright spot right now is that you see it for what it is. But at the same time, you’ve been mentally worn down to the point where you’re questioning the meaning of your life. The only answer is to get out of this toxic relationship. When you’re out of that mental pressure cooker, your spirit will come back to life again (as it did in the past). Please get in touch with your local center for victims of domestic abuse, at once. They can help you leave this relationship and provide counseling and support groups for you and your children. I wish you all the best.

      • Marilyn

        Buy that book Divorce and Recovery by Chicken Soup for the Soul! That book is never far from me and I have gained and still gain much strength from it! I’ve been in your shoes!

  8. Stacey

    This has happened to me. I am a mess…have been for years. To be honest I don’t think I could bare to fall in love again. I am too scared that I might choose another man like this. I’m 29 years old and I just can’t do it. That’s it for me.

    • Admin

      I know how scary it is to think of falling for another one, but personally, I REFUSE to let that creep scare me into living half a life. There’s a lot of joy to be had in the world and in life, and love is a part of that. If I never had a relationship again because of him, I’d consider myself as still being victimized by him. Think about it.

      Also, give yourself credit for your experience and wisdom.

      I look at it this way — If someone starts turning psychopath-ish on me, I’ll walk away. I’m very different now, and I don’t put up with too much s***. My favorite word now is “Next!” I’ve used it three times already, without looking back. You should try it.

  9. Marilyn

    I’ve been in that relationship. I was married to him for 39 years, have two beautiful children, and loving grandchildren. I applaud anyone who makes the move and gets out of the situation. I was so very browbeaten. I had nothing of myself left–I had to leave, because I knew the real me was buried under that pile of crap so very deeply. I didn’t know if I could afford to leave; he had control of the finances, he had everything in his name, nothing was “mine”, but God helped me, and I got out; I put the down payment on a house, I moved to a small town close by because I had a job there, I became independent. It was a hard struggle–make no mistake on that, but I am worth it–I truly am! I learned how to pay the bills, how to manage finances, how to stand up for myself, how to make good friends; I’d love to help anyone who needs to find the backbone to leave. I am a walking miracle! I have this on my bulletin board: Don’t waste one more day! Take care of yourself. You are worth it!

    • Admin

      Marilyn, thank you for this comment! It is so inspiring. I think I’ll feature it in a blog post. I’m sure it will give others courage and hope. Thanks again. You are a brave, strong woman! All the best to you.

      • Marilyn

        I don’t mind if u want to use it, whatsoever. I’m glad!
        I met the man of my dreams online, about 4 years ago. We travelled the world together, and I couldn’t believe it when he got down on one knee and proposed to me a year ago this past August! We got married July 26, 2014, and it’s like a fairy tale. We love each other a lot and I never, ever, ever dreamt I’d get married again, or to be full of joy–it is amazing. God led me through it all, and I have much to be thankful for. My daughter always says, “who needs a teenage sister, I got a teenage Mom!”

        • Admin

          Congratulations, Marilyn! You have certainly inspired me. Thank you! :-)

    • matt

      I have been engaged to a young lady like this spend my life supporting her for 18m0nths she used and abused my kindness so much that i ended up thousands of dollars in debit with a broken heart and emotionally destroy we broke up 10 years ago but she rng at xmas and want to re attach. it was christmas day 2015 when i came to the realisation that she is a P. So tho i still feel very broken otherwise happy but fear all relationship now.

      • Adelyn Birch

        Matt, I’m terribly sorry to hear of what this young lady did. I hope you will continue to heal and move beyond your fear of relationships xo

  10. Marilyn

    Another something that I have clung to in recent years, (because at times, and I know it is because of the emotional abuse), and I might doubt myself, I wrote down this little piece I came across once, and it goes like this:

    What was hard about leaving was not about what was really happening, it was about leaving my personal dream of what I wanted to happen, but wasn’t.

    I’ve gotten a lot of strength from those words over the years.

    I don’t think you need to put this on your blogging–but if you want things like the above, I have a few things I’ve treasured over the years, and which I read sometimes. I’d send u copies.

    If it wasn’t for the MSN chat room and MSN articles on narcissism that were available to me once I learned how to operate a computer, I fear I might still be stuck in that dead marriage. The friends I made there and the articles I read got me going to a social worker, and educating myself on the personality disorder and all it entails.
    M

    • Admin

      I don’t know where I would be without the information I found online, either. I never thought I’d end up being one of those sources of information!

      What you say is very true — it’s the dream that’s hard to give up, not the reality.

  11. Tom

    I was in a 14 year relationship with a diagnosed bipolar/manic depressive and who is also a psychological and emotional manipulator. We were married 9 years and have currently been separated 9 months. I was catching on and questioning her lies/manipulative tactics, and all efforts to address them were “twisted” making me the bad guy… My concern is no longer with her as I clearly see all efforts are as throwing pearls to swine, and she has also “moved on to the next victim”… My concern lies with our 13 year old adopted child, and the manipulative psychological and emotional abuse that no doubt she is still under… Although my daughter and I had a very loving relationship, my ex has turned her against me to the point that she hasn’t wanted to speak to me throughout the entirety of our 9 month separation. I truly believe she is being taught to be just like my ex wife through learned and observed behavior, and by “being made a victim” herself. It has taken me all these months (and before) to get my head screwed back on straight and see things as they truly were and are. As I said, my concern is with my daughter, and am searching for anything related to legal advice concerning the psychological and emotional manipulator, the abuse this is on a child, and the courts. I truly feel that my very smart and beautiful daughter is being molded into her mother’s image, and as a father, am willing to do everything possible to give her a chance to be the person she was truly meant to be versus the one that she’s being molded into! We all know that physical abuse is easily identified and is grounds for custody/removing a child from one parent to another, but have yet to find anything substantial (according to man’s written law) to help in a court battle. Any and all legal advice on the subject is truly appreciated. My thanks in advance, and for all that have had to come to this site in search of answers, I have prayed that God bless you, strengthen you, and lift you up in your battles!

    • Admin

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. And I’m especially sorry when a child is affected by these heartless people. I suggest you look at websites that help people who are dealing with Parental Alienation — you might be able to find the support and legal advice you need. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

  12. A

    Thank you for this article, reading this really opened my eyes to what I have been trying tofigure out and research for a while now. I met my partner 3 years ago, he is much older than me with a string of failed relationships and 4 children. He portrayed himself as a victim of women , and a very sensitive kind man who constantly showered me with attention, gifts, and expressed that I am the love of his life. Fast forward his jealousy came through and resulted in me not speaking with any male or female friends as he didn’t ‘like’ or ‘trust’ them. He is verbally mentally emotionally and even physically abusive. He puts me down and makes me feel guilty when other men look st me in public. He blames me for it. I have caught him in many lies but he diverts when asked certain questions. I also suspect he cheats but he says I am crazy and have no proof. I find myself questioning my sanity as he often denies things that he previously said. He also slips by incriminating himself but then denies having said that. He blames me for everything and has severely increased my anxiety while diminishing my self esteem and will to do anything. However he does not let me break up with him as he apologizes, shows up uninvited, calls non stop but he also refuses to change. I feel trapped and I don’t know what to do. Leaving him feels mpossible because he manipulates me into feeling sorry for him and believing him and he doesn’t take no for an answer. While I have also been verbally abusive to him, I feel like he drove me to that point of madness. Is it me or is he the problem?

    • Admin

      FACT: You said, “He is verbally, mentally, emotionally, and even physically abusive.”

      FACT: This isn’t Dear Abby; You are asking for advice about your partner on a website about psychopaths. There’s a reason for that. If you understand what a psychopath is, and you believe your partner is one, then you’ll realize there’s nothing to stick around for. There will only be more pain and destruction.

      FACT: You need to get this abuser out of your life today.

      You ask me if it’s you who is the problem. No, unless you continue to allow the hell you’ve described to go on in your life. It’s your life — you can save it, or you can flush it away. He’s not going to make it easy for you, as you say. Things that are worthwhile are seldom easy. It will be very worthwhile, and you will never regret it.

  13. Jean

    I am going to be 45 years old, I was married to a decient man, very comfortable life with 2 beautiful children. Until I met my younger gorgeous Prince Charming who swept me off my feet….
    But shortly after meeting him the mental manipulation and abuse began…..everything described in this article about mental manipulation has happened to me …..Over the past year and a half, I am now separated from my husband, left my children, left my home, I have minimul contact with family and friends….I have almost lost my job that I’ve worked at for 24 years…
    I have tried over and over to end this abusive, violent, vicious circle of relationship….I have even gotten a restraining order because of threats he has made and I still take him back…
    My relationship with my kids is deteriorating……
    I feel broken, beaten, empty, and am finding it hard to find the strength to keep on going :(
    I was once a strong willed women, I often wonder how I became a victum and will I ever find help..
    I wonder everyday what I have done wrong, why wasn’t I submissive, why did I quesrion him, why did I need to know the truth so bad. If I would have kept my mouth shut…
    But deep inside I must realize if he is a true manipulator my being submissive wouldn’t have really mattered!

    • Admin

      Jean, my heart goes out to you (((♥))) You DO have the strength you need to get away from this manipulator — it’s obvious because you wrote these words and because you’re seeking information. You feel broken, beaten and empty because of what this person has done to you. Ironically, that’s also what keeps you from being able to leave.

      He may have damaged your perception of your own worth, but he hasn’t touched your actual worth — it’s still there. You’re isolated in a surreal bubble with him, and it’s warping your sense of reality. It is hard to see clearly in that situation. One good thing is that you do know the truth — you know he’s a manipulator, and you know this is not because of any fault of yours — it’s just what he is. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children and rescue yourself from this loser. Please find a therapist who understands abusive relationships and/or a support group at your local domestic violence organization. Don’t wait. Best wishes to you.

  14. Kimberly

    I feel like I am a victim of covert abuse..I have become very depressed and I cry quite often….

  15. Christy

    Hello, Your blog site is a great resource. I realize that you are dealing primarily with psychopaths however I wonder what you have come across as regards other emotionally sick manipulators. For instance I was in a 5 year relationship and experienced many of the symptoms that you listed. However, the manipulator was an addict-hooked on alcohol drugs and sex (addicts are adept manipulators). He tried to, of course, keep in the relationship though I was ready to leave-and did. He went on to get sober and knowing there was no chance at reconciliation even wrote me a letter apologizing for his behavior. Later he married again and had a somewhat happy marriage though he recently ended his life by suicide. What do you think? Was this a psychopath? I think not, but yet the manipulation was real. Was it another form of mental illness? I know you’re not a clinical psychologist but I wondered what you thought since you have striven yo become educated on the matter of emotional manipulation. Thanks a ton for any thoughts.

    • Admin

      Thanks, Christie. There is one similarity among all emotionally sick manipulators — they will make you miserable! Whatever their diagnosis, relationships with them are toxic.

      From the info you’ve given me, all I can say is that he was not a psychopath if the remorse expressed in his letter was genuine. Psychopaths do not feel remorse (they can feel regret, but that’s focused on how their actions harmed them, not someone else). The manipulation could have come from the addiction, as you said. The underlying cause of his addiction could be any number of things, from childhood abuse to a cluster B disorder. It’s unfortunate that he went on to commit suicide after having gotten sober and having a somewhat successful relationship.

      I hope that helped.

  16. Avery

    Hello and thank you for having this website.
    I made the grave mistake of getting involved with a male psychopath.
    Eleven months into the relationship I came across the term psychopath when researching the phrase (seeking answers), pathological liar.
    It took many months to understand and accept that I was indeed involved with a psychopath, as I formerly believed that a psychopath was easy to know because they are and act insane.
    What has happened to me has left me emotionally, spiritually and physically ill.
    I am struggling with no contact. I began withdrawing from him slowly since Dec of last year. Since February I have not had “in person”contact. We have only been texting. I made it three weeks without texting and then I broke down and texted him.
    I know he knows that I am “on to him”, although I have never confronted him directly.
    I feel like now he knows that I’m being covert and that I have “wisened up” to his abuse.
    I know the stakes are at their highest, but I just cannot close the door. I’m still stuck and I know what is wrong about him and I know what is wrong with me.
    All the articles I have read on these personality disorders say “do not confront them”, but I want to.
    I know if I do I will only be hurting myself, as it is not possible to have any “effect” on these persons and that you will never get the answers you want.
    I want to be strong. I want to have hope. I want to sleep at night. I do not want to obsess over him any more.
    This is my first public acknowledgment of what has happened to me. Everything is exact 100% textbook psychopath but there is this part of me that does not want to “believe” having no further contact is possible for me.

    • Adelyn Birch

      Most of us were at this point at one time, Avery. It’s hard to accept that your partner is a psychopath and to truly comprehend what that means. It’s surreal. Beside that is coming to terms with the fact that the person you loved doesn’t really exist and that none of it is what you believed it to be, and continuing it is a hopeless endeavor. Sometimes even when we know all of this we still hang on, because letting go makes it all so painfully real and final. It’s a terrible ordeal, all of it, and I’m sorry you’re going through it. It’s true that confronting him will do no good and you won’t get any satisfaction from doing so. The obsessing over him will go on far longer than you want it to, but it will stop eventually. You want to have hope, and you definitely should have hope! Things look very dark where you are right now, but trust that you’ll make it through. He has left you ill, but you can and will heal. The road to healing begins when the contact with him ends. It may not feel like it at first, but there’s no other way out.
      I wish you all the best. I hope you’ll come back let me know how you’re doing.

      • Avery

        Dear Adelyn, Thank you for being there for me. You are the first person to acknowledge what I am going through and I will be forever grateful. This means more than any words can say.
        Thank you again for the support and resources that this website provides. I will let you know how I am doing. Avery

        • Adelyn Birch

          You’re so welcome, Avery. I know how much it means to have your experience acknowledged, and I’m happy to be able to do that for you.

  17. Avery

    Dear Adelyn, I’m feeling slightly stronger more of the time in my process of no contact. I have been able to better accept the end process of my abusive relationship with my predator psychopath. My emotions swing a little bit less.
    I do better taking very small baby steps to cope, at times hour by hour and remind myself that my life is now mine to control for myself and that I no longer have to live feeling pressured and manipulated into doing things that will hurt me and are not in my own best interest.
    I keep “quiet” about what happened to me (except here) because I read that this is best practice to overcome a horrible experience with a psychopath.
    I’m blessed that I have escaped without enduring further damage to my life as I am 100% convinced that he was out to completely destroy me. Any further contact will gautuntee my destruction and I do not want to be destroyed.
    I now can say that I care about myself more then him or the abusive relationship.
    He is a dangerous predator psychopath.
    Im staying no contact.
    Thank you for being here for me,
    Avery

    • Adelyn Birch

      I’m glad to hear you’re doing better, Avery! It’s great that you’re now at a place where you care more about yourself than about him or the abusive relationship. The bond is breaking!

      I’m not sure that keeping quiet is a good thing. In fact, I believe it’s important to talk to someone about it (someone who understands). A therapist, if you don’t have a friend who can be supportive. I hope you’re at least writing in a journal. It helped many of us figure things out. Keep taking those baby steps — you’re on the road to healing, and you’re headed in the right direction. xoxo

      • Avery

        Dear Adelyn,
        I know have a long way to go with what has happened to me. Being
        “quiet” relates to me not confronting the psychopath. I accept that doing so will not be good and will only cause more harm to me. I do not have a friend that will understand this. I would only trust a trained therapist that specialized in dealing with victims of psychopaths. At least that’s how I feel right now. All of the things in this posting and links to emotional rape and beyond that…I know pertain to what happened to me.
        Through all this, and this is hard to say right now but
        I actually feel compassion for myself for the first time in my life. I hope this doesn’t go away.
        Avery

        • Adelyn Birch

          Compassion for yourself is a very good sign and incredibly healing. I’d be surprised if it went away; in fact, it will probably grow stronger.

  18. Avery

    Dear Adelyn, l hope my compassion for myself grows. The amount I have is small but i believe it must be helping me through the painful shame that I have right now. I have never felt shame like this before and it’s physically painful at times. I am staying no contact, fighting every cell in my body that wants to confront him. The one that has tried to ruin me is top notch psychopath. I could actually “see” his “mask” physically contorting on his face when I was still ” new” to him. I did not know at the time what I was dealing with. I feel like I betrayed myself for feeling something was wrong and I should have cut and ran but instead became his victim. If it wasn’t for people like you that write about this reality, I would still be his victim.
    Thank you for your books. When I first wrote to you I did not realize you are the author. ( I just realized yesterday). I believe that you have helped to save many souls and many lives. I know that you helped save mine.
    Avery~ staying no contact

    • Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, Avery.

      He’s the one who should be feeling shame, not you. You will come to realize that in time. He can’t feel shame, but that’s beside the point. If he could, he wouldn’t have done what he did. Believe it or not, one day you’ll wonder why you ever felt shame, and the love that lingers will turn to repulsion and then to indifference. Just keep taking those small steps forward. Only time and distance will allow you to gain clarity. Stay strong and focused on yourself and your needs.

      Shame: A Festering Wound of the Soul

      • Avery

        Thank you Adelyn for sending me the link to your article about shame.
        I have read it many times since you ent it to me and I can understand that this area will take time and distance for me. (This is a really tough one).
        I feel repulsion when I’m angry but my anger is fleeting and the shame still lingers right now.
        My hope is to get to that place where I feel repulsion and indifference .
        Grateful for you~Avery

        • Adelyn Birch

          It takes time, there’s no way around that. But what you do with that time is important. I urge you to find a therapist familiar with abusive relationships. Contact your local domestic violence organization; many here have found a lot of much-needed support from understanding people there, and I feel you could really benefit from that support. Look forward and become determined to help yourself get through this.

  19. Joy

    I was married to a psychopath for 2 years before I saw a huge problem. I got out quickly, but he wasn’t done with me. My life is shattered in so many pieces. We have a daughter together and I’m still picking up the pieces of my life. The thought that keeps me awake at night, even 11 years later, is the joy he got from ripping me apart emotionally. I had to go to a psych ward for depression and suicidal thoughts. I’m much better now but emotionally scarred. Thanks for your help with these blogs.

    • Adelyn Birch

      Joy, I’m very sorry to hear he got joy from ripping you apart. That’s the thing none of us can grasp, the thing that doesn’t fit into our reality, and that we can’t wrap our heads around. But 11 years is far too long to suffer, to let this guy with a neurological disorder keep you awake at night. This is not a man who loved you who ripped you apart; it was a psychopath. That is the difference that makes all the difference. Understanding that is key. I think that if you can come to understand what a psychopath is, you’ll be able to move forward. Best wishes to you.

  20. Terri

    As I was reading your article it seemed as if I was reading about my own daughter. We haven’t spoken in a year and she has now befriended my sister in law who is the Master of Emotional Manipulation. Together they are convincing my 10 year old granddaughter that I am bad and evil. Not sure she will go for it since she lived with us since she was 18 months old. So, to my question.. How to you deal with a daughter with this disease? I am her mother, even at 33 years old. I just can’t end it, but I can’t be manipulated by her anymore either.

    • Adelyn Birch

      I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is affected, and that she’s attempting to turn your granddaughter against you. Very sad, and such a hurtful thing to do to a child and to you. This is known as “parental alienation,” and although it’s usually discussed in the context of divorcing spouses, it’s basically the same thing. In the sidebar, there’s a category called “Parental Alienation.” You might find something helpful there.

      It’s not always possible to simply walk away, as you’ve said. I don’t know the details of her manipulation, but I can make some general suggestions that may help somewhat. First, please make sure you have strong, clear boundaries, and if not, work on developing them. Manipulators don’t like it at all when people start defending their boundaries so it could make things worse, but boundaries are designed to protect you and what’s important to you, mainly your emotional well-being. Second, if possible, find a therapist who understands emotional abuse. Third, learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. Some books and resources to explore:

      In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People, by George K. Simon, PhD.

      Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life. by Harriet Braiker, PhD

      Personal Empowerment Series, on Dr. G Simon’s website

      And fourth, please take care of yourself and your life. Stay involved with the people and activities you enjoy. Don’t let your daughter’s problems consume you. I wish you and your family all the best, Terri xx

  21. Miss (no longer) Independant

    I am in this sort of situation right now. I thought that I was strong and smart and would never be sucked into something like this, but I am.
    Things started out nice, he would take me for coffee, take me for dinner, call me every night. Then out of no where he started making comments about my weight, my size, even comments about sex and my body. He would make them in a joking maner, but they would bother me. I felt crazy for being so upset. I spoke to friends who told me to leave, but HE was nice most of the time, and every time I did go to leave he made me feel like I was over reacting and being crazy.
    He will call me names, make fun of me, mistreat me, and be rude. If I call him out on it he says I critizise too much or that I want to change him. He tells me that I just need to not worry so much about the little things like name calling, and that Im over reacting. He will say that I start stupid fights and that Im not letting him be himself.
    I make his lunches, he never says thank you, he just expects them.
    He ignores my messages and calls, but will text me a million times if I dont answer when he wants something.
    Ive slowly started having to pay for more and more, and its always just expected.
    I finally stood up for myself on sunday, told him that I cannot handle the fact that he wants me to change who I am, while changing nothing of himself. I told him I was done…. but as per usual he didnt let me leave. Im over reacting. Im being crazy.
    Its now friday, and hes turned everything so that it is my fault. I have these beautiful bursts of clarity, like I am having now, where I know I need to leave, but then he will text me and its all out the window.
    I dont know what to do…

    • Adelyn Birch

      Never let anyone tell you that your feelings are wrong, especially when they’re insulting you! Please read this article: Invalidation and this one: Intermittent Reiforcement

      How is it that he didn’t “let” you leave? Why let the person you want to get away from decide if you should leave or not? You have good reason to run far away from this creep. He has absolutely no respect for you. You’re going to end up with no self-respect and your self-worth in the gutter. Please cut this tumor from your life! And please read my book on Boundaries, OK? It will change your mind about the way you let people treat you. BOUNDARIES

      You do not deserve to be used and abused. I hope you’ll extricate yourself from this unfortunate situation. You can do it! And you’ll be happy you did. So will I.
      Best wishes to you xx

  22. Moon-s-peak

    Thank you, Adelyn!
    Yes, the project is real. We’ve been working for 12 years to make it.
    Our goal is to protect people from covert verbal influence by analyzing the text or speech.
    We deeply understand the mechanisms of common manipulation techniques, so can detect its usage and prevent unauthorized psychological influence.
    Your support as a specialist and opinion leader is highly appreciated.

    • Adelyn Birch

      I must be honest and say I’m *very* skeptical. Your website is just one page that only contains a picture, and you don’t give your full names. That doesn’t help with credibility. You should consider correcting those things if you want to raise money. Establishing the credibility of a crowdfunding campaign should be anyone’s first step before making a donation, and it would be difficult to do that with your project.

      Is there anything you would like to say to prove you and your project are sincere?

      • Moon-s-peak

        Thank you for suggestion. We are going to update website soon to give more information about our team and project.
        I’m open to answer any questions about Leegle project here or on our FB page (facebook.com/moonspeak.inc)

        • Adelyn Birch

          Great, thank you. I’ll keep an eye out for it!

  23. Number 5

    Could you email me a link to this article pls.

    • Adelyn Birch

      You can get the link by right-clicking on the URL and then clicking “copy.” That should work for you.

  24. Number 5

    I lived with a girlfriend and her mother for 3 years. Her mother claimed to be somewhat of a psychiatrist. According to her training. They messed up my head in that three years alone with them at there isolated home in the country. They made me believe I was crazy. I did not have a prob. Before them but sometimes I still do. They messed with me using numbers and colorles representing people. When we did go to town or in public one or the other would would always be with me constantly pushing me to be uncomfortable, lack of self esteem, afraid of everything and everyone. The ruined my friendships and made me appear crazy to my family. What do I do?

    • Adelyn Birch

      I’m sorry to hear what these people did to you. It’s good you’re away from them, but if you’re experiencing problems, I recommend that you seek a qualified therapist to talk to. Best wishes, Number 5.

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