How to Recognize Emotional Manipulators and Toxic Relationships

This material is taken from a workshop given by Jim Fogarty, Ed.D.


Emotional Manipulators (EMs) may begin relationships by being charming but they eventually become emotionally inaccessible.

You may sense that, in the beginning of the relationship, your every need is being fulfilled.

EMs deceive other in, at least, three ways:


Distorting the truth.

Lying by omission.

Guilt trips become more common in the relationship.

You notice you apologize more frequently.

You become tearful and fearful but you can’t walk away from the EM.

The EM persuades you to do things that you would not normally do:

Distance yourself from your family/friends.

Behave in ways that violate your values and/or morals.

Engage in risk-taking behaviors, i.e., take financial, sexual or other risks.

In the early moments of the relationship, the EM pretends to have a superior view of life compared to you and you feel privileged to be with him/her.

EMs may attempt to gradually gain more and more control of your life with the pretense of having a wonderful relationship with you.

Some EMs use constant anger to punish or to motivate their victims.

Gradually, over time, EMs receive all the benefits of the relationship and you receive few, if any.

EMs have a history of many failed relationships but they explain these failures as being victimized by the others involved.

Your opinions are never quite good enough, giving you a “second-class” status.

EMs present themselves one way in public and another way in private.  For example, when in public, they may present themselves as very Godly people. However, in private, they may treat you in very ungodly ways.

Most, if not all, of your friends may be very impressed with the EM while others may despise the EM.  They either love or hate him/her.

In personal relationships, EMs have “roaming eyes”.  In business relationships, they subtly suggest that they don’t need you and/or that they don’t need their job.

EMs over react to small irritations.

The EM will pressure you to violate your personal boundaries.

EMs may act in immoral ways but then attempt to make you responsible for their behaviors.

EMs have many grandiose plans for the future that never happen.

EMs give vague indications that something is bothering them.  You find yourself doing everything you can to figure out what it is.

Some EMs want you to have an attitude that it is “us against the world”.

The problems that EMs have are never their fault.

When trying to convince others to do something, the reasons that EMs offer are always emotional rather than logical.

EMs use phony exaggerations, i.e., “You are THE BEST thing that has ever happened to me.”

EMs believe that you need to be fixed.

EMs generalize about others, i.e., “All women are emotional.”

In the beginning, you may feel euphoric when you are with the EM.  Eventually, however, you feel judged and you begin to believe that something is wrong with you.

Physically abusive EMs may begin by hitting or throwing things in the midst of a temper tantrum.



If you see these in your partner, contact me or talk to someone who is mature, can hold your confidence and will be honest with you.  Typically, trying to discuss with an EM his/her characteristics, standing up to an EM or leaving an EM is difficult to do. Most need the assistance of a third-party to do such.


More later…..