What To Know About Micromanipulations In A Relationship

Although we may be able to see manipulation happening to others, when it's happening to us, it can be near-impossible to spot. And, if we're in love, it can be really easy to dismiss even the thought that we're being manipulated because that would mean admitting the relationship is toxic.


"Emotional manipulation occurs when an abusive or manipulative person employs specific tactics and strategies in order to control, have power over, or victimize another person," founder of Amavi Therapy Center Janika Veasley, LMFT, tells Insider.

These tactics can include gaslighting, overstepping boundaries, minimizing feelings, and creating codependency. In relationships, manipulation is textbook narcissistic behavior. But if manipulation requires all those components, does that mean micromanipulation is less harmful to the person on the receiving end? No, not at all.

Because a narcissist needs to be in control at all times, if they realize that the manipulation of their partner isn't working as well as they want it to, they may try to use micromanipulations instead. Just as harmful, micromanipulations are "geared toward sympathy and empathy of their partner and their own self-perceived victim status," psychologist Kristy Lee Hochenberger Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today. "Micromanipulations are intentional ways of redirecting the narrative and regaining control over the other person's thoughts and feelings. These brief comments are made in passing or casual conversation meant to hit heavy and unexpectedly and require the victim to go back to the manipulator for clarification."


Like all tactics by narcissists, micromanipulations are toxic and meant to exert control at all times over the victim and the relationship as a whole.

How to know you're being micromanipulated

Narcissists are good. Not good in that one should want to find themselves in a relationship with one, but good in that they know exactly what they're doing.

"Narcissists are masters of love bombing, where they make a potential partner feel as special as they possibly can," professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D. tells Cosmopolitan. "Narcissists are adept at winning affection from their targets early on, but they have trouble maintaining long-term relationships."


The reason for this trouble is that if they don't stay on their toes, their techniques will be discovered, and their partner will, ideally, run for the hills. So, at the first signs of possible micromanipulation, you should ask yourself what's going on: Why are you being made to feel this way? Why are you always wrong? Why is every compliment backhanded? Why do these things make you empathize with your partner? If someone is being cruel to you, you shouldn't have empathy for them, but a well-constructed micromanipulation will have you feeling empathy for your toxic partner to the hilt (via Stylist UK).

How to get out of the relationship

The first step in getting away from a narcissist is by identifying that, well, they're indeed a narcissist. Next is seeing the micromanipulations they're using to make you feel like you're always to blame. "You will feel like the child in the relationship, who is expected to listen to and be educated by the abuser," narcissistic abuse specialist, survivor, and counselor at My Trauma Therapy Emma Davey tells Metro UK. "Their opinion and intelligence is expected to rank higher than yours. You will begin to feel that the relationship is restricting you."


But it's this tactic of restriction that can actually save you. Because narcissists need to keep their partners from others so they can regulate everything, they'll pull you away from friends and family — these people will notice and do their best to make you see the light. While it won't be easy because you've been blinded by both manipulation and what you think is love, you will have moments of clarity.

"These are moments when you tell yourself, I know now in this moment I must get away," psychologist Jonathan Marshall, Ph.D. tells MindBodyGreen. "Hold on to it, and come back to this moment again and again. Because you will forget the logic behind why you say that. It's OK. As long as you remember the conclusion you've drawn."


Even with your bags packed and your micromanipulator in the rearview mirror, you will continue to blame yourself. Coming up out of a relationship with a narcissist is no easy task, but therapy will help you see you weren't wrong, you were never wrong, and you're better off without them.