What Is Family Manipulation and How to Recognize Its Warning Signs

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family manipulation

Does family manipulation sound like a new thing? You may be surprised to learn that manipulation can come from anyone – be it, partners, mothers or fathers… even siblings.

Partner manipulation has become pretty common. Many people have managed to get away from this sort of abusive relationship. However, manipulation is prevalent in all sorts of relationships, apart from the intimate sort. In fact, many people are reporting that family manipulation is also a problem. Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are all prone to become manipulative and abusive toward one another, and it can become a serious problem.

Family manipulation is mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse carried out by family members toward one another. This sort of abuse is generally used to control another for various purposes.

Signs point to an unhealthy relationship

Having grown up with your family may make it difficult to decipher any abusive treatment. Considering the components of manipulation include “brainwashing”, it’s hard to tell if you’ve actually been mistreated at all. Sometimes, it’s not until you’ve gotten away or moved out of the home that you realize the extent of the unhealthy situation.

Here are some warning signs that family manipulation is or has been a part of your life.


You will recognize family manipulation when lies are involved. Family members, especially the narcissistic kind, will tell lies easily. When direct questions are met with vague answers, this is one indication that manipulative lies are being told.

Liars will always be able to give half-truths to convince you that they are honest and reliable people. When in truth, they are only striving for what they want. A liar will always lie and tell more lies to cover the old ones.

Silent treatment

Even family members will resort to the silent treatment. In fact, the closer you are to someone, the more chance that their narcissistic actions will display this sort of behavior.

Silence is one of the manipulator’s choice weapons because it get’s the work done with little effort. For those who are unaware of the tactics, the silent treatment can garner pity and groveling, which is exactly what the manipulator wants. They have won.

The selfless disguise

Truly selfless people are honorable. The manipulator can fool you into thinking they are selfless as well, but they’re really not. They actually have a deeper motivation which includes rewarding themselves and making everyone else think highly of their “outward motivations” – which are false.

While people are busy being proud of the manipulator, they are also falling right into the trap and helping the manipulator win.


Dysfunctional families are notorious for gaslighting. Sometimes you might even find an entire family that constantly tries to convince each other that they are all crazy. The sheer volume of madness present in some families is almost unbelievable.

Gaslighting, in case you didn’t know, is the ability to convince another person that they are crazy while taking advantage of them. I bet you’ve seen sisters or brothers doing this to each other. Honestly, this is so common, it almost seems like a normal aspect of the family unit.


Family manipulation sometimes comes in the form of intimidation. While it might not be straightforward threats, it can still be frightening enough to make you do what the manipulators want. This is what’s called “covert” intimidation which is veiled in a form of kindness, and it is hard to decipher at times.

Pay close attention to the choice words of the manipulator, and these words will reveal true intentions.

Guilt trips

A manipulator will use guilt trips on a regular basis. If you tell them no, they will find a way to make you feel bad about putting your foot down. Sometimes if you ask the manipulator to turn the volume down on their music, they will turn it off completely.

This tactic is used to make you feel bad about asking them to tone something down and will return by taking something away entirely. It is also done to show you they have control, and yet you should still feel guilty. It’s weird, isn’t it?


If family members are shaming your weaknesses, then they are being manipulative. For instance, if you have an insecurity about your weight, a manipulator will make shaming comments about that topic. Their intentions are to keep you beneath them in order to retain control. If they can retain control, they will feel better about themselves in turn.

After all, manipulators, truth be told, have a low self-esteem naturally, and all their tactics are used to fix that.

Is your family manipulating you?

Let’s take this one step at a time. If you’ve always wondered whether your family was manipulators, you can use the warning signs to discover the truth.

After you know for sure, you can research ways to improve your life or get support from others. Maybe you can help your loved ones in the process. It may be a long road to healing, but its worth it.

Are you in a manipulative family? I want to hear from you.


  1. https://pairedlife.com
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Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.

Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.


  1. raghava March 16, 2018 at 7:13 am - Reply

    yes i am in a manipulative family. i was wondering for a right person to share my problems so that i can get a solution. plz i need ur help bcz of mental pressure i always want to suicide .

    • Sherrie March 19, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Hello Raghava,

      I am terribly sorry for your situation. Manipulation is awful, and I can tell you that I have attempted suicide twice in my life and thought about it on many occasions. There is a reason, however, that I was not successful. I had a purpose. Now, when I think about killing myself, I remember the days following my attempts. After I attempted suicide, I had two more children, in whom I love so much. I went on to finish college, divorce and find someone who truly appreciated who I am, and watched my oldest son go off to college. If I had died that day or the day following, I would never have seen or experienced these things. So, when I think about it now, I always think about the things that tomorrow may hold. If I am dead, something miraculous or truly amazing could happen the next day, and I would have missed it. Also, if I am dead, I dont’ get another chance to try and fight for a better life. And yes, I felt like nothing would get better for me in those times, I was abused and trampled on daily. When I decided to keep going, I popened up those possibilites and many of them came true. Please, always think about what might be, tomorrow, next week, next year~ If there is not purpose but this, keep this near to your heart and never give up.

  2. Leonie March 22, 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Absolutely brilliant everything you described is happenig to me now at age 44. Ive recognised for some time covert narcissist traits in my mother and her abandonment/rejection issues have been projected onto me recently. She will go to arms lengths to ‘act’ a helpless frail sick role to keep me from leaving the family home which was only ever meant to be temporary after a relationship parting and redundancy which meant I relocated back to the North. Eight years later i am still here after complying to her needs to nstay. Aproximately 4 yeasr ago I met the love of my life and we embarked on a love affair with plans to cohabit which have been sneakily sabatoged. I have been subject to a ruthless smear campaign as well as blatantly bullied by other much younger family members recruited unaware by myself as flying monkeys. In addition I have had my human rights violated and my motor vehicles vandalised as well as items stolen from me. I am not budging my boundaries are clear and I will not submit to expectations inflicted on me that I have not agreed nor negotiated. The bigggest mistake in this from my mother is that I dont reuire validation or approval from her or others and as she cant manipulate nor bully me into co-operating she is becoming more and more disturbing in her behaviour. Its true what they say an educated empath is a narcissists nightmare and when I leave to my new abode I wont look back but wave and smile. This article has come at a timely moment for me which I believe to be a synchronicity and I thank you for reinforcing my strength and courage to continue to live the life that I so choose. Cheers

  3. Carly March 23, 2018 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. I have a manipulative family member and it has caused me a lot of pain over the years. We were very close as children, but for as long as I can remember she’d ask me for favors and have me doing things for her without ANY show of appreciation or gratitude. It was an expectation. Like I owed it to her. No matter what I did I always felt like I wasn’t doing ENOUGH. I was never up to par. I always found myself doing things I didn’t want to do. She often used guilt trips. Always subtle and passive aggressive. After a while I began to distance myself from her because of it. I dreaded calls from her because it was always asking me to do things for her. I felt so guilty for not wanting to be close to her but the relationship only drained me. This made her worse. When I see her at family functions she will often give me the cold shoulder. It’s very hurtful and often makes me sick to my stomach. For a long time I blamed myself, thinking it must be me. After a while I began to think maybe it’s not me. Maybe I don’t owe her anything. Maybe it’s not my job to please her. I just have to learn to be okay with that. I’ve always been a people pleaser and she took advantage of that. I have another family function coming up where I’m sure I’ll get the cold shoulder. I don’t want to give up the rest of my family so I just want to learn to detach from her and know I’m okay the way I am, even if she doesn’t accept me that way. So I really appreciate this article. Again, thank you!

  4. Emack April 26, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    I am not going to say that my parents manipulate me. They really do not. But, it always seems that one or both of them try to scheme or come up with an excuse whenever I prepare for a trip overseas or somewhere like Las Vegas. I guess that they are more scared than I am. I however am a 32 year old man who can do and go wherever I am.

    Parents give birth to their children. Parents also raise their children properly (while some parents abuse or neglect their children). However, parents need to realize that they do not control or own their children. Children have their own minds, feelings, desires, needs, etc. So, I as an adult child have a right to go after what I want or need.

    I am tired of doing what parents want or doing what I have to do. That is why I sometimes feel like I am half my age.

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