Learn how to detect small manipulations in the couple

Apparently, kind words can hide large attempts at manipulation in the couple … Moreover, these sometimes prove destructive for those who are exposed to it. The psychiatrist Robert Neuburger agreed to decipher some of these “perverse words” that undermine the lives of two.

Learn how to detect small manipulations in the couple
Learn how to detect small manipulations in the couple

False reasoning, lies, paradoxical communication … Whether it is to protect oneself or to hide something, we can all one day use a twisted logic without consciously trying to hurt the other. In the same way, we are rarely able to spot disinformation in words spoken by the loved one. For Robert Neuburger, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, couple and family therapist, these language manipulations can literally “engulf the other in a trap.” “A couple is an opaque bubble to the outside world, and the other side of this intimacy is that there are no witnesses to what is going on there. Language can be used to blind, confuse, stigmatize his or her partner. ” To become aware of what is playing allows thwarting the manipulation and “to avoid sinking into the pathologies that these perverse words can cause.” Here are some examples of these “twisted words,” decrypted by the psychiatrist.

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The Guilty

“He deceived me, but he maintains that it is my fault that I am not sufficiently present for him. “

Robert Neuburger: “This language manipulation is the most frequent: the person who feels accused will return the situation. Not only will she not acknowledge her share of responsibility, but she will make the other fully responsible for her behavior. The manipulation is rather crude but unfortunately works very well if the victim is afraid to confront his spouse, fearing to lose it. If the woman, in this case, becomes guilty, the problem becomes more complicated. ”

How to thwart the trap: “As a therapist, I would ask this woman if she is susceptible to guilt. This allows both to put words on what is happening, but also to draw his attention to his possible tendency to sin that would be a weak point here. The therapeutic work will then consist in evoking with it the reasons why it presents certain dispositions to the guilt. ”


“I want to leave her, but she goes very badly and prevents me. “

Robert Neuburger: “Some people more than others are sensitive to the misfortune of others. This empathic fiber can easily be used by manipulators. In the present case, the one who wants to leave can not, because the spouse appeals to what remains of affection to prevent it. A man who goes with another woman does not hate the previous one. He often enjoys it as a person, but the sexual attraction is no more. It is a terrible trap. I had in my office husbands asking me to make sure their wife was better to leave! It is impossible. ”

How to thwart the trap: “It is sometimes difficult to distinguish a genuine despair from a manipulative maneuver. However, these behaviors sometimes give rise to real emotional blackmail, especially if suicidal remarks are evoked. In my opinion, it is best to set foot in the dish, even if you ask, “If I stay, it is out of pity, do you think it is a good bond for a couple?”

The debt

“How can he reproach me when I have sacrificed everything for him? “

Robert Neuburger: “Some manipulators exploit the tendency of their partner to feel in debt. Most often, the partner says, “I have given up my career for you.” In reality, most of the time, this sacrifice is conceded for children. It is not quite the same, even if the other can then continue his professional life. Others, on the contrary, can go so far as to put themselves in debt to the other. It is hard to give up a relationship that is invested emotionally and financially. For if one renounced it, one would have the impression of having spent at a loss all these years … This debt that one creates oneself is the key to alienation. ”

How to avoid the trap: “We must ask ourselves if there is an inequality in the couple, to make an assessment as objective as possible of what each partner has been able to offer to the relationship. For example, if one of them says “I have left my parents to come and live with you,” it is not necessarily a sacrifice. ”


“He deceives me but says he loves only me. He repeats to me: “You know that others are only passions!” “

Robert Neuberger: “This technique of language manipulation may seem rather coarse as the trap is obvious from the outside. The idea is to exploit the narcissism of his or her partner to make him accept problematic behaviors. Moreover, curiously, it is a terribly useful trap. In the present case, the manipulator suggests to his partner that she is above that, that she is intelligent enough to understand. The sentence is twisted. ”

How to avoid the trap: “Faced with a patient who would come to tell me a similar situation, I would tend to try to distort the speech to demonstrate its absurdity. It is the “but” that, here, introduces manipulation, creating a twisted causal link consisting of saying: “My extramarital relationships prove to me that I love you.” It is a distortion of reality. This language manipulation is particularly toxic because the message is incomprehensible and creates a mental confusion for the victim. ”


“She says I am depressed every time I reproach her. ” 

Robert Neuburger: “The person here tries to escape the reproach. By asserting that her partner is depressed or even delirious, she implies that he or she is not worthy of being credible in his or her claims or demands. I proposed naming this mechanism “white designation” because it consists in asserting that the other is suffering from a mental pathology. This form of language manipulation is relatively easy to read from the outside. Despite this, for the person who is told that she is sick, this can be extremely disturbing. ”

How to thwart the trap: “For me, the solution lies in the realization that this pathologization does not correspond to anything real, observable. You can then call in an outside person. A health professional, in particular, can be contacted for a neutral and serious diagnosis. ”

Understanding manipulations, instructions for use

It is not easy to degrade yourself from repeated language manipulations in a couple. For often there are no witnesses, for the other creates doubt until one comes to question the reality of certain situations or the accuracy of our feelings. In his book Les Paroles perverse, Robert Neuburger identifies the steps necessary to become aware of the situation, unmask the manipulator and succeed in thwarting his traps.

1- Become aware of the fact that you are being manipulated

2- identify the nature of the manipulation or even the hidden reasons that animate the manipulator

3- To ask the question of the normality or not of the situation

4- Know whom to talk to

5- Succeed in experiencing rabies

6- Giving up wanting to change the other

7- Defending its limits

8- Consult a professional.

“All these steps are not useful in all cases,” says the psychiatrist. “You only have to choose from this list what is most appropriate for you in the situation you are experiencing or encountered.”

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