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3 ways a manipulative spouse keeps you in an unhappy marriage

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2023 | Divorce |

You’re in an unhappy marriage and constantly think about leaving. So what’s holding you back?

A lot of people stay in unfulfilling and even emotionally abusive marriages far longer than they should – well past the point the relationship is on life support – because they fall for one or more manipulation tactics by their spouse that cause confusion and doubt. Here are three common methods of manipulation.


Gaslighting is a term that has entered the public consciousness lately as people learn more about it. It’s a technique used by deceptive people to make their partners question their own perceptions, memories and even their sanity.

Gaslighters will distort the truth, deny obvious facts and manipulate situations to make the victim question their own reality. A gaslighting spouse may use phrases like, “You’re overreacting,” (when you’re not) or “That never happened,” (when it did) — undermining your confidence and self-esteem. That can lead to paralyzing doubt about whether or not you are really the “bad guy” in the relationship and keep you in place.


Love-bombing is a tactic used by manipulative spouses to create an intense and overwhelming sense of affection and attention. In the initial stages of a relationship, the manipulator showers their partner with excessive praise and grand gestures.

The love-bombing can often be public, making the manipulative spouse appear to be wonderful and attentive in front of others – while they gradually become more controlling in private. Control is often disguised as “concern for your safety,” which can make you feel ungrateful if you object to it.


Triangulation is a tactic where a manipulative spouse intentionally introduces a third person into the relationship to create division and insecurity in the relationship.

Your spouse may engage in flirtations with someone else (and make sure you know about it) to spark jealousy. They may involve their mother, father, siblings or best friends in your marital spats to reinforce the idea that you are the problem – not them.

If something feels off or you sense a power imbalance in your relationship, listen to your gut instincts. Don’t dismiss your concerns or let them be invalidated. Experienced legal guidance can help you decide what your next move should be.