Emotional Vampires: How To Keep Them Out of Your Life


“Emotional Vampires will use you to meet whatever needs they happen to be experiencing at the moment. They have no qualms about taking your effort, your money, your love, your attention, your admiration, your body, or your soul to meet their insatiable cravings. They want what they want, and they don’t much care how you feel about it.”

(Albert J. Bernstein, Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry)

Today I received the following comment from a reader named ‘Milly,’ on the post “How To Tell if You’re Being Manipulated.” What follows is my response to her dilemma.

“I have been in a relationship for a year now, and we have lived together (in his parents house) for the last seven months. Things were fine, he works and I am unemployed at the moment. The problem is that we are only okay when I have nothing else in my life other than him. I moved away from my whole family (80 miles away, in fact) and gave up friends and my education to be with him.

Now, everytime I get a job we start fighting, like he wants me to only have him. I want to go back to education but the only way I can do this is by going back to my hometown and pick up where I left off.

I told him how I felt, how things aren’t good anymore, and how I need to leave in order to sort my own life out – even though that doesn’t mean ending the relationship. However he began to cry, endlessly. He told me how he felt he was depressed, that he had anxiety and that he felt like he was a nobody and that was why he wasn’t happy with me going to school in order to be a somebody. He says he won’t move away from his family (even though I did that exact thing for him) and is almost guilting me into staying here with him and doing school online and ignoring my dream school.

I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how to tell him that I am going to leave because I really do love him, and I don’t want him to feel like I’m leaving. But equally, I feel like I’m being manipulated by his declaration of anxiety and depression – something that mysteriously vanished when I initially agreed to stay with him, and something that apparently he does not need treatment for. Hmmm.”


Milly, he doesn’t want treatment because you are the treatment. 

He is definitely manipulating you, by making you feel guilty and responsible for his depression and anxiety.

You do not exist to meet this man’s needs. You also have needs. There is no rule anywhere that says in order to be in a relationship, you have to put aside all of your needs for the other person. That’s a formula for certain disaster.

He wants COMPLETE CONTROL over you. You are not a doll or an object for him to manipulate to fulfill his needs — you are a person, an individual who has her own needs, and he does not seem to care about those, only his own! This is a one-sided relationship. All that matters is his side, and you are being manipulated into sacrificing yourself for it.

He wants to be the only thing in your life, and if you let him succeed, you may never be able to leave him because if you do you’ll lose “everything,” except for your regrets about wasted time and unfulfilled goals.

If someone is in a relationship in order to have a source, or ‘supply,’ to fulfill their unmet needs it’s not really a relationship — it’s emotional vampirism.

At best, this man is a neurotic emotional vampire. At worse, he is a psychopathic  or narcissistic emotional vampire. Either way, he’s an emotional vampire who will drain you dry and not care one bit, as long as his own needs are being met.

It’s extremely self-centered to expect you to be responsible for his happiness (if that’s even what he’s really seeking). It’s an impossible job he’s given you! No one can ever be responsible for someone’s happiness and no one can ever succeed in filling a bottomless emotional pit. Ironically, ‘making him happy’ only makes you unhappy, as it’s doing now. You’ve told him that, and he does not care. He lacks empathy, In order to have a close relationship, emotional connection is required. Without empathy — an awareness of someone else’s thoughts, feelings and needs, mutual understanding, caring, and expression of that care — there can be no real connection, and no real relationship.

Such is the nature of vampirism — one is fed while the other one withers.

In addition, not having your own income is a recipe for disaster! It puts all the power in his hands, and he knows that — it’s why he doesn’t want you to work, as evidenced by the fights that ensue when you get a job. He wants you to be totally dependent upon him, and whatever the reason, it isn’t good. A mentally healthy person would not be doing this to you. He wants you to be unable to leave him. It’s sort of like the old Chinese custom of binding a woman’s feet to prevent further growth. He wants to cripple you.


You should run and not look back. There is nothing good in this for you. Yes, you can say you’re “in a relationship,” but at what price?

If you NEED to be in a relationship, you shouldn’t be in one until you can work past that because it never brings anything good; all it does is make you vulnerable to manipulation. Please read about boundaries, and then develop some — it’ll be the best thing you’ll ever do. Until you do, there is no hope of a healthy relationship with anyone. I don’t believe there’s any hope of one with this particular person; he is not acting like a mentally healthy individual. Boundaries: Loving Again After a Pathological Relationship 

This is a list of your basic human rights. Ask yourself, have you given up these rights to be in your relationship?

I have the right to have my needs and feelings be as important as anyone else’s.

I have the right to experience and express my feelings, if I choose to do so.

I have the right to not be responsible for the feelings of another.

I have the right to express my opinions, if I choose to do so.

I have the right to set my own priorities.

I have the right to establish independence if I choose to.

I have the right to decide how I spend my time.

I have the right to choose my own lifestyle.

I have the right to change my lifestyle, myself, my behaviors, my values, my life situation, and my mind.

I have the right to make honest mistakes and to admit those mistakes without feeling humiliated.

I have the right to self-fulfillment through my own talents and interests.

I have the right to grow as a person and to accept new challenges.

I have the right to choose who I spend my time with and who I share my body with.

I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in all my relationships.

I have the right to be listened to respectfully.

I have the right to ask for what I want assertively.

I have the right to say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know” without feeling or being humiliated.

I have the right to say “No,” and to set limits and boundaries without feeling guilty.

I have the right to set limits on how I will be treated in relationships.

I have the right to expect my boundaries to be respected.

I have the right to walk away from toxic or abusive relationships.

I have the right to have these Basic Human Rights and to stand up for them.

Emotional vampires, they’re everywhere you are.

“When we don’t have boundaries, we neglect who we are and what we want. As a result, we see the skewed image of ourselves as reflected in the eyes of those to whom we give our power, and we mistake it for the truth.”

~ Boundaries: Loving Again After a Pathological Relationship

The 6 best ways to keep emotional vampires out of your life:

  • Have good clear boundaries, and protect them. Emotional vampires have to cross your boundaries before they can suck your life away. You have to have boundaries to keep them out.
  • Keep your basic human rights and emotional needs in mind. Write them down and keep the list handy. Periodically evaluate your relationship by asking yourself if your needs are being met and if your rights are intact. When you are involved in a relationship where you’ve given up these needs and rights, you will probably be unaware of it if you don’t make this conscious effort. It happens gradually and under the level of our conscious awareness.
  • Think long and hard before you ever give up something important to you for someone else, be it your needs, your goals, your home, your job, your hobbies, or your friends and family. Some things are not open to compromise; it’s for you to decide what those things are. Someone who loves and respects you and has your best interests at heart will not want to take these things away from you.  A person who does want to take them away only wants to control you in order to fulfill his or her own needs. In other words, they are using you. I doubt that’s the kind of person or relationship you want in your life.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by giving up everything–even yourself!–to be with someone. The more you give up the harder it will be to leave. Being dehumanized is not a substitute for a mutually fulfilling relationship. 
  • Recognize the signs that you’re being emotionally manipulated: How To Tell if You’re Being Manipulated reveals 20 signs that will tell you for sure if manipulation is at play. It can be hard to tell, especially when you’re being blamed, guilt-tripped, and confused. The list of signs in this article makes it easy.
  • If you don’t feel ‘complete’ without a relationship, don’t have another one until you do. Seriously. Do whatever it takes to resolve this belief. If you do, you will be a thousand times happier and a thousand times less vulnerable to being used and manipulated.

♥ Thank you for reading.

This is not an emotional vampire; it’s just a cute little dog with very bad teeth.

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16 thoughts on “Emotional Vampires: How To Keep Them Out of Your Life”

  1. merijoe

    And I’ll take the crooked toothed dog anyday over any creature (including bosses and coworkers) who try to manipulate me – there’s more than being beat up physically to actually being abused-one is to make you feel guilty or sub-human – the way you feel is the only thing you are responsible for, you are not responsible for some grown ass man’s/woman’s issues or problems.

    1. Admin

      I’ll take a crooked-tooth little dog anyday, too, because they don’t abuse. Although they will make you feel very, very guilty… Dogs excel at that, but they don’t mean any harm — they just want to eat half your dinner and never let you leave the house without them :-)

      I actually have my own little snaggle-tooth dog, and she puts the psychopath to shame in every way! She’s capable of love, unlike him, and she’s a million times the manipulator he ever was. He was a rank amateur compared to her, and she looks so cute doing it.

      1. merijoe

        Thank God for the canines and felines (and other four legged friends)-the rescue dogs that I do volunteer for and my own cats have been life savers all thru this ordeal without an ounce of judging, better than human so called friends. Bless them all

        1. Admin

          I hear you. Bless them all! And I’m glad you’ve found your place working with rescue dogs — Bless you, Merijoe!

  2. Ann

    This post was like a message from heaven for me today. I met this guy on a dating site. He said he was living separately, and that his wife was not giving him a divorce, because she was demanding a huge sum of money as settlement.He had nothing good to say about her.And he carried on and on about how he has no parents and no one to take care of him. He said he has one kidney in working order, and that the doctor has given him 5 years to live. Well it was just more and more crying and complaining. Yesterday night he sent me a message telling me i was an angel and to thank me for coming into his life. But these were major red flags and i was wondering what to do. Then this morning i got my answer when i read your post. I am not going to engage anymore, because his feeling good is not my responsibility. I am not going to let him guilt me into it. Thank you for the answer.

    1. Admin

      Yikes, that sounds overwhelming. I’m glad the post came just in time, Ann.
      There are so many ways to help others without sacrificing our own lives for the cause.

  3. nopeace

    The P told me earlier on in the relationship that he was emotionally sensitive and that he cried. He wasn’t embarrassed to admit it he said but warned me that it is possible that i would see him cry! I saw him cry a flood of tears when he told me how lonely he was at home without me whilst I was out studying. Oh, the baby! I promptly gave up my studies. He also cried a flood of tears when I was going out to work. Poor baby! I gave up work. That was the beginning of the end for me!!!
    RUN Milly, RUN as fast and as far as you can and don’t look back. These people will crush you and watch you squirm delighting in your demise. He will beg you to come back, tell you he loves you. I went back 3 times… each time was worse than the one before. I believed him… the last time was the worst. He dragged me through the mud. He ruined my reputation. Put everyone against me. While I was trying to grasp what happened, he robbed me! Burgled my house! THIEF!
    I want to scream, scratch, slap and yell profanities at him but I know it is all pointless. Psychopaths have no empathy, no emotions and whatever I say or do won’t affect him one bit. This is where I am stuck. I am stuck being angry with no where to direct my anger to. It is frustration and invalidation all over again. When will this nightmare end! I am like a wounded animal. Anyone that approaches me, I bite!

    1. Admin

      I’m sorry you’re stuck, and feeling like a wounded animal. You’re dealing with a lot! I hope you have someone supportive in your life, who can listen and understand. Were you able to have him prosecuted for the burglary?

      Anger is difficult to deal with, but of course perfectly normal in the face of such injustice and betrayal. I think part of what you’re feeling is moral outrage, from moral injury. You can find out more about it here ~

      Moral Injury: The Hidden Wound to the Soul

      Angry? There’s a Reason for That

      I hope Milly will read your comment. I’ll post it on the other page, too, so she doesn’t miss it.

  4. Anna

    Thank you admin for your compassion. I am seeing a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in PTSD, Trauma and Relationships with Psychopaths. Next Thursday will be my second visit. She told me she can help me… I hope so as I am like a pressure cooker that is ready to explode.
    The Police when called, asked me if I had any idea who robbed me. I said YES. The moment I said I was in a relationship with the P, they immediately thought I was out for revenge. From then on, they kept saying ”no evidence” without searching for any. Later, one officer told me that the Police knows he committed the burglary but there is nothing they can do. I went to the very top, including contacting the Freedom of Information Office. All of the information they sent me was censored. I had an investigation launched into the mishandling of the case. They put one of their Detectives on the team from the same branch to investigate! Mutual masturbation I told them! I got an intervention order against him because of the harassment that I endure. Do you think that deterred the P? Everyone knows that they have no regard for the law. He continues to harass and follow me.
    What drives me mad is that he furnished his house with my belongings and pretends he is an aristocrat!!! He thinks he is a Grand Seigneur!! AND of course there is the jewellery that he stole!!! Distributing it to women (any woman at that!!) without feeling guilt or remorse.
    Nothing of what he stole means anything to him. Psychopaths don’t care for anything and value nothing. It serves a purpose… that is to dupe and deceive people. Fantasise that he is Adonis… Gorgeous, irresistibly rich and powerful. He doesn’t realize that he looks like an Ape! A Gorilla! He behaves like an animal. I will never know how I fell for this Donkey! He doesn’t measure up! My family who is overseas and knows nothing about him (too embarrassed to tell them) would be horrified I even know him!
    He says he is an Engineer having gained his degree in Germany. I checked with the Board of Engineers which is an International Register and he did not figure on it. The P was freelancing, probably to avoid being detected as a fraud. He has nothing in his library to do with engineering.. He doesn’t act like he knows anything on the subject. He has books that serve only as “self-help” for him to learn how to behave, some cookbooks and some detective books.
    At the very bottom of the shelf, I found a book on Schizophrenia. I asked him about it. He said that his son was schizophrenic. I asked him that this condition runs in families. Which parent suffers from it. He replied without hesitation that it is his wife. Of course later I found out that it was all a lie. His son died of an overdose of drugs. BUT I found out the reason he had the book!!
    He has a friend who is schizophrenic. He wanted to know how to manipulate him, hence purchasing the book. The friend is at his beck and call. WHAT A USER!! WHAT A SWINDLER!
    Admin thanks for the links.. I will read them. Thank God for this site that allows me to vent on occasion! Thank You!

    1. Admin

      Well, you certainly did all you could to try and have him prosecuted for the burglary. It’s amazing how the police self-investigate when there’s a complaint! This P sounds horrifying, Anna, and I’m sorry you ever crossed paths with him. Please be careful! As you know, a restraining order can’t protect you if it isn’t honored. I assume you’re recording — and reporting — each violation.

      I’m glad you found a therapist who specializes in relationships with psychopaths! I hope she’s wonderful. Good luck with it, and please let me know how it goes.

      You’re welcome to vent here whenever needed.

  5. Kato

    Admin, you rock, is all I can say. Wow!

    1. Admin

      And all I can say is thank you very much, Kato!

  6. Anna

    Thanks Admin. Yes. I record and report to the police. He is going to get his just desserts one day and I hope it is soon.

    1. Admin

      Good. I hope so too, Anna. xx

      1. Anna

        Admin, I failed to mention earlier that the P was arrested, fingerprinted and interviewed. He was not prosecuted because he did not confess. The FOI did not release the CD of the interview to me because of privacy concerns. What use is the FOI I ask you? Detectives in this country are policemen who have been promoted after as little as 3 years in the force. They are certainly not Colombo!!

        1. Admin

          No, they sure aren’t Columbo! Did they expect him to confess, even though they had no evidence because they refused to collect any? I’m sorry you were affected by their ineptitude, and really their unwillingness to be of help to you as they should have been.

  7. Lexy

    do manipulators or emotional vampires come back after they leave u? Let’s say they have left you in the past and came back right away, and now its been a couple of months. Should I assume he’s never going to come back.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Some do and some don’t. The best thing to do is to plan now what you’ll do if he does come back. Not responding is the best (and only) way to send them away for good. Don’t let nostalgia for the ‘good times’ derail you. Good luck, Lexy

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