5 Signs your Family Is Trying to Manipulate You

It can be tough to accept, but sometimes the people we should consider to be closest to us, like our family members, can actually be the ones trying to manipulate us. Also, given our strong emotional bonds and shared past, it may be much more difficult to handle. Accepting that you are a victim of family manipulation can be challenging. Still, it’s essential to understand that just because someone is family doesn’t guarantee they always have your best interests in mind.

Knowing how to spot signs of manipulation like gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and dominating behavior is fundamental. Also, setting boundaries and making sure your family members understand them are part of this journey.

Remember that you should be treated with kindness and respect and that it’s okay to keep your distance from those who don’t. To assist you in navigating these challenging family relationships, consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor. In these situations, it’s crucial to take care of your physical and mental health.

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#1 The Silent Treatment

Silence can be used as a kind of manipulation, especially by romantic partners, but family members can also use it. This strategy isn’t the same as waiting after a fight to gather one’s strength. Still, it’s more likely that the refusal to communicate is an effort to take charge and dominate the situation. It’s a sort of power play in which the deceiver aims to make the victim feel hopeless, guilty, and ready to give up on resolving the issue.

The silent treatment can leave the victim feeling alone, confused, and unsure about what to do next, as it may give them the impression that the other person has decided to give up on them. Additionally, it may cause the victim to mistrust their own perception of reality as well as their own emotions and thoughts.

You should remember that this tactic doesn’t necessarily mean the person who uses it has a personality disorder or is an expert manipulator, but it does imply that the relationship’s communication has degraded. It’s obvious that there is something wrong and that the relationship is unhealthy at this point. It’s essential to take steps to deal with this kind of behavior and, if necessary, seek professional assistance from a therapist or counselor.

#2 Guilt-Tripping

Although playing the victim and guilt-tripping may seem similar, they are two different manipulation techniques. Your family may remark things like “You don’t think about us anymore” or “What’s the sense of having a family gathering if you won’t come,” for instance, if you are unable to attend a family reunion due to work or other commitments. 

Even if you had a good reason for not being able to participate, this makes you feel bad. A person’s behavior is quickly influenced by a strong sense of guilt. 

It’s important to remember that guilt-tripping is frequent in both romantic and familial relationships and is not always used by emotionally abusive people. However, using guilt-tripping too frequently can lead to anger and make the other person lie or withdraw from conversations. 

We should express our emotions honestly rather than guilt-trip. You can communicate your point without making the other person feel bad by using phrases like “You cancel our plans all the time, and it’s obvious that you don’t care about seeing me,” as opposed to “I feel upset that you are canceling our plans.”

#3 Playing the Victim

It can be exhausting to argue with someone who always acts like the victim since their emotional manipulation makes you feel as though you are attacking them unfairly and that is exactly what they want: to win your compassion. They think they didn’t do anything wrong and that you are criticizing them because you want to hurt them by taking advantage of the situation. 

For instance, in a dysfunctional home, a parent might intrude on their child’s privacy by looking through their bedroom and reading their diary. So when the child communicates their anger, the parent may play their victimhood to their advantage by stating things like: “Since you never want to spend time with me or at least talk to me, I had to read your diary because I care about you and I wanted to see what’s going on!” 

This puts you in an odd spot where you have to demonstrate that you are not irrationally angry and in which you need to set aside your own emotions in order to put the other person’s needs first. People who play the victim are difficult to reason with because they frequently do not see it as a form of manipulation and believe they are completely justified in whatever they do.

Photo by Ariya J From Shutterstock

#4 Gaslighting

Have you ever confronted a family member who appeared to question your perception of reality? Maybe they didn’t believe what you remembered, or maybe they said you were lying. These are instances of “gaslighting,” an emotional abuse technique that can seriously harm your mental health.

The manipulation method known as “gaslighting” involves making the victim question their own memory, judgment, or sanity. Any kind of connection, even the ones with family members, might experience this. Childhood trauma is particularly devastating since it can have long-term effects on the victim’s relationships and mental health.

The victim may feel as though they are going crazy if it occurs in a family setting. They might start to question their own judgment and begin to doubt their own memory of what happened. 

Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem can result from this. Additionally, it may be challenging for the victim to identify instances in which they are being used as tools in other interactions, which may have a long-term negative impact on their capacity to establish healthy future relationships.

#5 They Emotionally Blackmail You

Because it frequently appears in relationships that can be considered abusive, emotional blackmail is a more malevolent type of family manipulation. When someone manipulates you to achieve their goals, they may use your feelings and emotions as a means of control.

These actions are typically taken by the individual who is using emotional blackmail:

  • You are the target of their demand or request;
  • When you object, they keep pressing you with more demands rather than attempting to come up with a solution that benefits you both;
  • They may even use threats to force you to comply. An in-law might try to intimidate you by telling you that they will tell your partner that you are being selfish and unfair if you don’t lend them your computer over the weekend, for instance;
  • If you give up, the other person will know they can manipulate you through emotional blackmail and that their tactic will work in all future conflicts;
  • The cycle is continually repeated.


Setting boundaries with someone who is using emotional blackmail involves being aware of the red flags. It can be challenging to recognize when someone is crossing your boundaries and not recognizing your needs and feelings when you give in to their demands and threats. It’s simple to think that giving in is the better option than enduring their constant intimidation, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is not the case. You should be treated with respect, and giving in to their demands will not solve this problem.

You should also check out: If Your Partner Is Asking You to Do These 7 Absurd Things, It’s Time to Leave




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