10 Sneaky Signs Your Ex Is Manipulating Your Emotions

I have written so much about how “no contact” as a strategy to get an ex back is often a desperate and sneaky attempt to play on someone’s fear of rejection and/or abandonment and get them back into a relationship that they walked away from, and often for a good reason (reasons).

But this is not the only way a manipulative ex ex can try to manipulate or control you. Here are a few more signs your ex is desperate and trying to manipulate you by playing on your emotions.

1. Negating – Despite you telling your ex that you’re no longer together, they act like the relationship never ended or as if nothing has changed. Your ex is not only in denial, they are trying to void the break-up because they think you made a mistake ending the relationship, and want you also to think you made a mistake. It is the “if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist”, and “if you don’t acknowledge it, it never happened” mind-bending technique.

2. Gaslighting – Your ex is telling you things that make you question yourself and your reality. For example, they tell you a different version of the break-up that paints them in a better light than you remember and insist that if they said or did anything to hurt you, it was because you did or said something that made them hurt you. Every time you talk to them, you feel like you must be imagining things because your reality is not reality.

3. Grand promises – Your ex is promising you a “too good to be true” relationship if you take them back (e.g. be more open, spend more time with you, take you to romantic getaways, make dramatic life changes, and even proposes to you). If it’s too good to be true, see it it for what it is – too good to be true.

4. Excessive apologizing – Your ex apologizes a little too much, and when they don’t not get the response they hoped for, they stop contacting you, act out angrily or tell you to get over it already. The ‘apologies’ are not really an apology. Your ex is manipulating you. They are convinced that an apology will get you back, and keep adding things they apologize for because the last apology didn’t work, so they come up with what they think will do the trick this time around.

5. Quick fixes – Your ex acts like they had an epiphany and overnight woke up a whole new (changed) man or woman. Change takes months and even years, and some people never change at all. Any big-bang theory style changes are just that – a snake oil salesman’s miracle cure.

6. Guilting – Your ex’s so called “changes” are conditional on you taking them back or make you feel like they want you to know they’re “sacrificing” to make those changes for you. Guilt is a very powerful emotion and manipulators know that, and use it with no mercy.

7. Baiting – Your ex creates some kind of drama to make you contact them e.g. send you a text, email or call saying they have something important to tell you, they’re going through something and need you (for emotional support) etc. See this for what it is, your ex trying to manipulate you into contacting them.

Most people if they have something important to tell you just come out right and tell you what it is. If they are making you work to hear what they have to say, it is not important.

8. Power playing – Your ex makes contact to find out if you are still thinking of them and/or want them back and when you don’t take the bait, they contact you about something else or create some kind of drama to trigger you to respond. For example, they say they want to return your stuff that they have or contact you about something of theirs that you have, or to repay money you owe them (stuff or money they really don’t even want back). One day it’s I want “my stuff” back, the next they want you to keep it, and then back to them wanting it back.

Remember, the one who has the power calls the shots. Don’t let your ex manipulate you.

9. Coercion – If your ex sounds more like a therapist than an ex trying to make a relationship work, it is because they have figured out that “getting into your head” is the only way they can make you take them back. For example, they talk about your depression, anxiety, attachment avoidance, fear of rejection/abandonment etc., like they they know you better than you know yourself, and pretend to be your “emotional support” all the while pursuing their own selfish agenda. This is one of the sneakiest and most manipulative tactic because it works. Once they get you into thinking you are “damaged goods” no one else can appreciate, wants or can deal with, they have you (against your will).

10. Threats – Your ex is threatening to “move on” if you do not make up your mind and take them back. They even tell you no one will love you more than they love you, predict all kinds of doom for you without them in your life and make it look like your happiness depends on them. Take it as a threat, “I’ll make your life miserable” if you don’t take me back, and they will.

Manipulators have an agenda when they deal with others, and take advantage of those who are inexperienced to see through their games.

You have the upper hand here– and the opportunity to take the relationship the direction you want it to, so don’t fall for the manipulation. Falling for your ex’s manipulation only gives your ex a heightened sense of superiority and a license to do it again, and again.

If your ex’s attempts at manipulation is something out of character, that is, they were never manipulative or controlling in the relationship, or generally not a drama queen or someone who is addicted to emotional stress, then they’re just acting that way out of hurt or desperation. If you still care about them and believe that there could be a future for the two of you, then make them work to prove themselves over a period of time that they are worth giving another chance. If they act consistent in ways that show you they truly have changed, and that the change is permanent, then give them a chance.

But if your ex’s attitude, words, actions and behaviour are just a continuation of their manipulative and controlling nature, it’s  best to walk away now than later. You only have yourself to blame if you go back to the same exact relationship that you walked away from, or should have walked away from a long time ago.

You will find this interesting: 10 Most Confusing Ex’s Behaviours And Misread Signals

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  1. says: Samuel

    This is probably the most spot on and insightful writing I have ever read on a manipulative ex (in my case girlfriend). Thank you for this – genius! The sad thing about this is for me, even though I see it so clearly now, there’s still a part of me that loves her and that really believed I was special when I was just like everybody else … lol.

    1. says: Yangki Akiteng

      And you probably were “special” and she genuinely loved you back. It’s just that their way of loving and caring can be destructive to you personally and to the relationship, especially if they have been that way for a very long time and manipulation is the only way they know how to love or care about someone (or engage the world at large).

  2. says: Patti

    #9 for sure.

    It took me a long time for me to admit – even with my wise friends’ warnings and upon reading this article – that my ex has been one such person. I only have myself to blame for giving him a license to take advantage of giving him – multiple – 2nd chances. Now I have come closer to knowing just what kind of self-respect I need to attract the right man, but most importantly, being aware of how to better myself to be the right partner. Your blog has been such a blessing when getting through my hard times!