10 Signs Your Ex Is Being Manipulative (How to Respond)

Many of us can feel it when an ex is being manipulative but don’t know how they’re manipulating us. I’ll tell you exactly how your ex is manipulating you.

Most exes are good people. Sometimes they eh… you know, try to manipulate you into getting back together; but that mostly out of desperation. But there are some really sneaky manipulative exes who can mess up with your emotions so bad that you don’t know which side is up or down.

Here are a few more signs your ex is manipulative and playing on your emotions and how to respond from a place of secure attachment and stop a manipulative ex in their tracks.

Manipulative tactic #1. Denial

Your ex is manipulating you if 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, this is your ex manipulating you into voiding the break-up. 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” or “If you don’t acknowledge it, it never happened” mind-bending technique.

How to respond a manipulative ex denying the break-up

Tell your ex that if they don’t accept that you are broken up, you’ll stop responding because you care about them and don’t want to feed into their denial of reality.

Manipulative tactic #2. Gaslighting

Your ex is being manipulative when they tell 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.

How to respond a manipulative ex gaslighting you

Tell your ex you remember things differently from how they remember them, but that’s OK because both memories can be true. You’d appreciate that they respect your feelings about what happened.

Manipulative tactic #3. Grand promises

Making grand promises they know they can’t fulfill or have no intention of following through is a narcissist’s manipulation tactic. This doesn’t mean that you ex is a narcissist, it just means that if your ex is promising you to be more open, spend more time with you, take you to romantic getaways, make dramatic life changes, and even proposes to you, and it feels “too good to be true”, your ex is manipulating you hoping that you’re too naïve to see through the grand promises, too stupid to realize you’re being manipulated or too in in love to care if you’re being manipulated or not

How to respond a manipulative ex making grand promises

If your ex’s promises are too good to be true, challenge them, ask questions how they’re going to fulfill their promises (and don’t just accept more promises on how they’ll do it), make them work to earn your trust or give yourself permission to walk way.

Manipulative tactic #4. Baiting

A manipulative ex will bait you into contacting them. For example, they send you a text saying they have something important to tell you or something they need your help with. They could have easily said it in the text, but no, they want you to contact them to find out the important thing they want to tell you or need from you.

See this for what it is, your ex trying to manipulate you into responding them. Soon you find yourself back in a dynamic where you’re again doing all the initiating contact and your ex is doing the bare minimum. When you stop reaching out, they bait you again because it works for 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.

How to respond to a manipulative ex bating you

Don’t swallow the bait and don’t respond to any vague messages meant to generate curiosity or trigger anxiety and trick you into responding. Remember you teach people how they treat you. If you respond, they’ll keep doing it. Someone who truly wants to connect (and respects your intelligence) will make the extra effort to reach out the proper way instead of playing silly mind games.

Manipulative tactic #5. Guilt-tripping

A manipulative ex will use guilt to appeal to your sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair and when guilt-trip manipulation is followed with a condition for releasing you from guilt, it’s pretty powerful. For example, your ex says, “I’ll change but you have to promise me…” . Some exes even say “I’ll change but I don’t want to waste my time changing if we are not getting back together.” If you’d asked them to change, you start thinking, they’re doing what I asked of them, it’s only fair that I give them another chance.

How to respond a manipulative ex guilt-tripping you

Call it out calmly. Tell them that while it may not be their intention to guilt-trip you, that’s how it’s coming across to you. You feel that you are being guilted into doing x,y and it’s not fair to you. In other words appeal back to their sense of fair and unfair.

Manipulative tactic #6. Excessive apologizing

Your ex is being manipulative when they apologize a little too much, and when they don’t get the response they hoped for they act out angrily, tell you to get over it already or stop contacting you, . 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.

How to respond a manipulative ex over-apologizing

Tell your ex that they already apologized and should now stop apologizing because it’s not going to change anything. The more they apologize, the less you trust them.

Manipulative tactic #7. Quick fixes

A manipulative ex will act like they had an epiphany and overnight woke up a whole new (changed) man or woman. The new quick fix is “I read about about attachment styles, now we can get back together”. Don’t fall for it. 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.

How to respond a manipulative ex’s quick fixes

Tell your ex you are happy for them but that 1) they shouldn’t’ve be changing for you, they should change for themselves and 2) only time will prove that they’ve truly changed.

Manipulative tactic #8. Power playing

Your ex reaching out and disappearing when you respond, and then reaching out again is all about power-pay. For example, they say they want to return your stuff. Then when you say, “Okay, let’s do it”, they don’t respond back. Weeks later, they reach out again asking to come pick up their stuff and drop off yours. You respond to say that’s fine by you, when would they like to come over? No response. Sometimes it is I want “my stuff” back, you keep it, and then back to them wanting it back.

How to respond a manipulative ex’s power-plays

Remember, the one who has the power calls the shots and the way to preempt your ex’s power-play is call the shots yourself. For example, if they ask for their stuff, send it or drop it off . If they want to drop off yours, thank them and tell them whenever they’re ready. No players, no games.

Manipulative tactic #9. Psychoanalyzing

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 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 have you thinking they know you better than you know yourself or that you have issues that only they know about and only they can help you with, they know they have you compliant to anything they say or ask you to do.

How to respond a manipulative ex’s psychoanalyzing you

Tell your ex you know you have things you need to work on, but you don’t need them to be your therapist or relationships coach. You need a partner who treats you as an equal (two people who both have issues to work on) and if they can’t respect you to know what’s good for you, then you’re not compatible.

Manipulative tactic #10. Coercion

If your ex is saying they’ll start seeing other people, make other plans, cut off contact or block you, move on etc., if you don’t respond or do what they’re pushing and demanding you to do, see it for what it is, a scare tactic. Fear is a strong motivator and by trying to make you afraid of negative consequences, your ex is trying to force you to make an emotional rather than reasoned decision. This is a sign that your ex is unsafe for you and your relationship is probably toxic.

How to respond a manipulative ex’s coercion

Call your ex out for making you feel unsafe (i.e. “I feel like you’re threatening me” or “I feel uncomfortable when you say…) and immediately set boundaries.

Your ex’s manipulation works because you are allowing it

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. 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 is being manipulative and 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.


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13 replies on “10 Signs Your Ex Is Being Manipulative (How to Respond)”
  1. says: Kassie

    My ex is very manipulative, and he will be the first to tell you that he manipulates people to get his way and get away with it. I ended the relationship and every other day he comes up with some new way to get my attention and make me want to talk to him. I told him he is obsessed with me and he needs to leave me alone but he wont.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      If you really want him to leave you alone then don’t take the bait and pay him attention or talk to him.

  2. 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).

  3. 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!

  4. says: Sonja

    I am so glad I read this article it has shown me how anyone’s ex csn manipulate you without you even knowing it. Thank you so much for the infromation its much appreciated.

  5. says: Aaron

    I know what you mean. When it comes to dealing with emotions women are the “stronger” gender (no insult intended to the men). But you’re right, I have to show her I can be a man and an adult.

    1. There are emotionally strong women— and emotionally strong men. Gender doesn’t determine “emotional strength”. There is a lot that goes into the making of an “emotionally strong” person.

      You’ll do just fine, Aaron. Love your attitude.

  6. says: Aaron

    Wow! I think I’ve done all of the above. I’m desperate because I’m scared she will move on without me. But after reading this, it’s time to regroup. Thank you for the wake up call.

    1. Good for you! It especially doesn’t look good for a guy to come across as desperate. Our society conditions us to look at men as the “stronger” gender and seeing a man “act like a woman” (no insult intended) doesn’t “feel right” for most women.

  7. says: Jess

    Haha, I love this article. I am sending the link to my ex. I wish I was there to see his face when he is reading it.

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