So you’ve got a new romantic interest who seems almost too good to be true. They constantly shower you with affection and lavish gifts. At first, it felt amazing to be the object of such intense adoration and spoiling. But after a while, something starts to feel off. Their effusive praise and grand gestures feel forced and inauthentic. You can’t shake the nagging feeling that this person isn’t being fully genuine.

The truth is that some people get their kicks from manipulating others through deception and trickery. These emotional con artists, or “players,” as they’re sometimes called, set up elaborate ruses to make their targets fall for them. Their goal is to gain power and control, not find real intimacy or connection. The good news is that players and their nefarious setups are much easier to spot once you know what to look for. Keep reading to discover the clues that you’re being played for a fool, so you can protect your heart.

What does it mean to be set up?

Being “set up” means someone is trying to manipulate or take advantage of you for their own gain. Some signs to watch out for:

Ulterior motives

Do they seem overly eager to connect or spend time together? They may have an underlying reason for pursuing the relationship that benefits them, not you. Trust your instincts.

  • Do they frequently ask for favors, money, or gifts soon after meeting? This could indicate they’re grooming you to get what they want.
  • Do they dodge questions about their personal lives or give vague answers? They may be hiding something or not being fully honest about their intentions.

Lies and inconsistencies

Pay close attention if stories don’t add up or things feel “off.” Liars often slip up and get caught in their web of deceit.

  • Do they frequently cancel plans at the last minute or make empty promises? This type of conduct disregards both your worth and your valuable time.
  • Have other people warned you about this person or mentioned their shady reputation? Listen to the grapevine—there may be some truth to the rumors.


Skilled manipulators are charming and persuasive, preying on your emotions and trust to get their way. Be very wary of people who:

  • Lavish you with affection and praise, especially early on. This “love bombing” is meant to win you over quickly.
  • Play the victim to gain sympathy and favors. Don’t fall for sob stories that tug at your heartstrings.
  • Use guilt, fear, or obligation to control you. Stand up for yourself, and don’t give in to manipulation.

The best way to avoid being set up is through caution, awareness, and trusting your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. Stay alert, and don’t be afraid to walk away from anyone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Signs Someone Is Setting You Up

Pay attention to their demands and reasons to see whether they are setting you up. If they urge you to do anything unlawful, immoral, or hazardous without providing a clear or persuasive justification, they may be trying to trap you or get you into trouble. Another red flag is if they urge you to behave hastily or rashly without allowing you time to ponder or discuss with others. This might imply that they want you to make a mistake or fall for their ruse.

1. They alternate between idealization and withdrawal.

They alternate between idealization and withdrawal
They alternate between idealization and withdrawal.

Have you ever dated someone who treated you like royalty one day and then acted distant and withdrawn the next? This hot and cold behavior could be a sign they’re setting you up to manipulate you.

They lavish you with affection and gifts.

At first, they shower you with attention, compliments, and expensive presents. They want to sweep you off your feet, so you fall hard and fast. Be wary of grand gestures early on.

They blow hot and cold.

One day, they’ll be messaging you nonstop. The next day, you don’t hear from them for days or weeks. This intermittent reinforcement keeps you craving their attention and affection. Don’t get strung along on their rollercoaster of emotions.

They play the victim.

They always have an excuse and blame others for their problems. They make you feel sorry for them, so you continue giving them second chances. Please don’t fall for their sob stories and crocodile tears.

They isolate you.

They slowly distract you from friends and family and make you emotionally dependent on them. Spending time with others threatens their control over you. Maintain your outside relationships and interests.

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If someone shows these tendencies, be very careful. The healthiest relationships are built on mutual trust and respect, not manipulation or mind games. You deserve so much better. The choice is yours.

2. They mirror your interests and personality.

When someone manipulates you, their words and actions may seem too good to be true. One sign of a setup is if they exaggeratedly mirror your interests, values, and personality.

They agree with everything you say.

People who instantly agree with your opinion or story may gossip about you. While compatibility and shared interests are great, real connections develop over time through experiencing both agreements and disagreements. Be wary of constant compliments and alignment, as these tactics are meant to make you feel like you’ve found your soulmate when you’ve found a skilled charmer.

Their interests suddenly change to match yours.

Did their taste in music, movies, hobbies, or spiritual beliefs suddenly shift to match yours? This “chameleon effect” is a sign they are probably pretending to bond with you by adopting your interests as their own. Authentic people have a mix of shared interests and distinct preferences, perspectives, and personalities.

They lavish you with affection and praise.

While affection and compliments are nice, too much too soon is a red flag. People setting you up will often immediately shower you with praise, gifts, and physical intimacy to accelerate a false sense of closeness and trust. Pay attention to whether their words match their actions and if their level of affection and intimacy feels genuine for your relationship or interaction stage.

The key is to trust your instincts. If something feels off, forced, or phony about the way this person interacts with you, there’s a good chance you’re being played. The truth has a ring of authenticity, so listen for that ring—and run if you don’t hear it.

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3. They make you feel like you own them.

They make you feel like you own them
They make you feel like you own them.

Manipulators are skilled at making you feel accountable to them. They do favors, give gifts, or do nice things for you unsolicited, so you feel obligated to return the gesture. But the favors and gifts always come with strings attached.

  • They make subtle comments like, “I went out of my way for you; I hope you’ll do the same for me someday.” This plants the seed you owe them, even if you never ask for their help.
  • They repeatedly bring up things they’ve done for you, especially when asking you for something. “After everything I’ve done for you, the least you can do is help me with this one little thing.” This taps into your sense of guilt and obligation to get their way.
  • They make you feel like you can’t say no or set boundaries because you owe them. But true friends don’t keep score or make you feel indebted to them. Healthy relationships are based on mutual care, respect, and support, not guilt trips or manipulation.
  • Learn to recognize these tactics when used, and don’t feel bad about setting clear boundaries. You don’t owe anyone anything just because they did unasked favors for you. Thank them for their kindness, but reiterate what you are unwilling to do. It may be time to reevaluate the relationship if they continue trying to make you feel guilty.

True friends accept you for who you are and don’t expect anything in return. Be wary of people who are overly generous and make you feel like you owe them; their motives may not be as altruistic as they seem. Trust your instincts, and don’t let anyone take advantage of your kindness or make you feel guilty for being yourself.

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4. They make grand gestures early on.

People rarely show their true colors right away when dating. It’s common for manipulators and players to put on an act to win you over before revealing their selfish intentions. One sign that someone may have a poor motive is if they lavish you with extravagant gifts or gestures very early on.

While a small gift or sweet gesture can be a nice way for someone to show they care, if a new love interest is already proposing expensive trips, showering you with pricey presents, or making grand declarations of their undying love and commitment to you within the first few weeks or months of dating, that is usually a red flag. These over-the-top displays are meant to accelerate a sense of intimacy and blind you to other concerning behaviors.

Some other signs this new romantic partner may have ulterior motives include:

• They push for commitment quickly. Wanting to move in together or get engaged within a short time of meeting is usually a sign they are eager to hook you before revealing their true selves.

Their words and actions don’t match. Pay close attention if they frequently break promises or fail to follow through on what they say. Charming words mean nothing without action.

They isolate you. Manipulators often try to separate you from close friends and family who could spot the warning signs and call out their behavior. Beware if they frequently encourage you to skip out on social plans to spend time alone together.

They play the victim. Suppose this new love interest always has an excuse and blames external factors for their problems instead of taking responsibility for their actions. In that case, that is a sign they lack maturity and accountability. These traits do not make for a healthy, long-term partner.

Their stories don’t add up. Look out for inconsistencies in what they tell you about their job, family, past relationships, etc. Liars and players have a hard time keeping their tales straight. Trust your instincts if something feels off.

The bottom line is that when dating someone new, go slowly and listen to your intuition. Take time to lavish them with gifts or commit to a serious relationship until their words and actions prove they deserve your trust and investment. Look out for these signs that their affection and attention may not be genuine or sustainable over the long term.

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5. They love bombing you with affection.

They love bombing you with affection
They love bombing you with affection.

It may seem like a dream come true when someone showers you with affection and lavish gifts early on. But use caution—this behavior could be a sign they’re setting you up to take advantage of you.

They lavish you with gifts and affection right away.

If someone you just met is already proclaiming their undying love for you and showering you with expensive gifts, be wary. This “love bombing” gets you hooked on their attention and blinds you to their true motives. While it’s nice to feel doted on, be cautious of someone laying it on thick when you’ve just started dating or seeing each other.

Their affection feels insincere or manipulative.

Please pay attention to whether their compliments and gestures feel genuine or if they have an ulterior motive. For example, do they only show you affection when they want something from you or when you’ve done something to please them? Real love and caring should feel unconditional.

They demand a lot in return for their “generosity.”

Be very cautious if someone lavishes you with gifts or affection but then pressures you to give them money, gifts, or other favors. This tit-for-tat behavior is a major red flag. Healthy relationships are built on mutual care, trust, and respect—not coercion or manipulation.

Their stories need to be revised.

If someone showers you with affection but you start to notice inconsistencies or outright lies in the stories they tell you, be very wary. They may love bombing you as a smokescreen to hide their real intentions or background. It’s best to keep your guard up since they’re likely setting you up for being taken advantage of down the road.

The bottom line is that while affection and generosity are wonderful, too much too soon from someone you barely know is behavior that warrants caution. Take things slowly, trust your instincts, and watch for other signs that may not have your best interests at heart.

6.They isolate you from friends and family.

They start cutting you off from friends and family.

Isolation is a common tactic used by manipulators. They want you all to themselves to exert more control over you. Watch out if your new partner or friend starts discouraging you from spending time with other people in your life or makes excuses why they can’t join in social events. They may claim that certain friends or family members are “bad influences” or “don’t understand you as I do.”

Stay within these lines. Maintaining your existing relationships is crucial for your well-being and safety. Stay in regular contact with close ones, even if the other person protests. Their resistance is a major red flag.

Some other signs they are trying to isolate you are:

  • They demand to always know where you are and who you’re with.
  • They check up on you constantly via calls, texts, and social media.
  • They make you feel guilty for wanting to do things without them.
  • They blame others for the problems in the relationship and try to turn you against people who care about you.
  • They manipulate you into ending friendships by spreading lies or secrets about people who threaten them.

No one deserves to be removed from loved ones or controlled this way. If someone in your life exhibits these harmful behaviors, consider whether the relationship is worth preserving or if it’s time to exit. Your independence and connections with others are too valuable to sacrifice for anyone.

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7. They act very intensely about the relationship.

They act very intensely about the relationship
They act very intensely about the relationship.

If someone comes on strongly right from the start, professing their deep feelings for you, watch out. Someone setting you up will likely lay it on thick to get you hooked quickly.

They may talk about the relationship as if you’re soulmates or meant to be together, even though you just met. Comments like “Where have you been all my life?” or “We have such an amazing connection!” so soon are red flags. A healthy relationship builds gradually through getting to know each other, not instantly.

This person may push for quick commitment and make grand gestures to win you over, like expensive gifts, lavish trips, or moving in together immediately. They want to lock you down before you catch on to their scheme. Don’t feel obligated to reciprocate or move faster than you’re comfortable with.

They may use emotional manipulation or threats to get their way, especially if you start to question things or pull away. Phrases like “If you leave me, I don’t know what I’ll do” or “No one will ever love you as I do” are meant to control you through fear, obligation, and guilt.

Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts. Don’t be swayed by intensity or lavish displays of affection. Take it slow and look for genuine care, respect, and trust. The right relationship will feel easygoing, not smothering. If things feel off, you’re better off exiting the setup.

8. They want to move fast in the relationship.

If someone wants to move quickly in a relationship, that could be a sign they’re trying to set you up. When things seem too good to be true, they probably are.

They pressure you for commitment.

Anyone worth your time will respect your boundaries. Watch out for people who push for commitment before getting to know you. Saying “I love you” within the first few dates or wanting to move in together right away are red flags. Real relationships take time to develop. Don’t feel obligated to commit to anything you’re not comfortable with.

They lavish you with gifts and affection.

While it’s nice to feel cared for, excessive gifts early on could indicate an ulterior motive. Be wary of grand gestures from people you barely know. They may manipulate your emotions to get what they want, whether money, a place to stay, or something else. Don’t be bought or sweet-talked. Look for genuine connections built on mutual trust and respect.

They have an elaborate sob story.

Some people use manipulation and sympathy to take advantage of others. Be cautious of those who share an elaborate sob story about their life very early, especially if they ask you for money or favors. While showing compassion is important, don’t let your emotions blind you. Please get to know someone before going out of your way to help them. Their story may be partially true.

They have no close friends or family.

If someone has no close relationships, that can be a sign that others have detected their manipulative behavior. While there are many reasons why someone may isolate themselves, be wary of those who blame others or play the victim. Look for balanced, trustworthy individuals who can easily connect with people.

The desire to find companionship and intimacy is human. Don’t be afraid to open your heart. Just do so carefully. Pay close attention when getting to know someone new. Look for warning signs, set clear boundaries, and ensure the feeling is right before committing your time, money, or living space. Your instincts are powerful; trust them. The right person will understand and respect your pace.

9. They seem too good to be true.

They seem too good to be true
They seem too good to be true.

If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. Be wary of people who lavish you with attention and affection immediately. While it’s nice to feel admired, use your common sense. No one falls in love at first sight or showers someone they just met with expensive gifts.

  • They contact you constantly. At first, the frequent calls, texts, and invitations seemed flattering. But real connections build over time. If someone is love-bombing you, their affection will feel smothering rather than genuine.
  • They share intimate details quickly. Oversharing personal stories, secrets, or traumas early on is a tactic to make you feel close. However, real vulnerability develops through trust and shared experiences throughout a relationship.
  • Their compliments seem exaggerated. If someone showers you with praise for attributes like your beauty, intelligence, or success early on, it may be a sign they want to win you over. Genuine compliments feel specific, balanced, and build over time.
  • They make big promises quickly. Declarations of love, commitment, or extravagant gifts early on are red flags. Healthy relationships evolve gradually through reciprocal sharing and understanding. Grand gestures may be a sign someone is trying to manipulate you.
  • They isolate you. Be wary if someone discourages you from spending time with others or tries to turn you against people close to you. Isolating partners from their support network is common in abusive relationships. Maintain connections with people who love and support you.

Stay alert for other signs like lying, controlling behavior, or refusing to respect your boundaries. The healthiest relationships are built on honesty, trust, and mutual respect. Don’t get played by believing someone is too good to be true. When in doubt, trust your instincts.

10. They get angry when questioned.

When someone gets angry or defensive in response to simple questions, it’s a sign they may be hiding something or trying to manipulate you. Their reaction seems disproportionate to the situation and is meant to deflect closer scrutiny.

They lash out.

If you ask an innocent question about where they were last night or who they were with, and they snap at you, that’s a red flag. A truthful person would calmly provide an honest answer, not attack you for daring to ask. Their anger is a smokescreen meant to discourage further questions and make you feel like the bad guy for not trusting them. Please don’t fall for it.

They play the victim.

Rather than directly answering your question, they turn it around on you by accusing you of not trusting them or caring about their feelings. Comments like “Why are you interrogating me?” or “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you!” are manipulative tactics meant to put you on the defensive and evade providing real answers. Don’t apologize for seeking the truth.

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Their story keeps changing.

If their explanation for where they were or what they were doing keeps changing in subtle or obvious ways with each telling, they’re likely lying to cover their tracks. The truth is consistent and stable. Lies, conversely, morph over time as the person has to keep inventing new details to seem more believable.

They throw accusations.

To further distract you, they hurl unfounded accusations about you to make them seem like victims. Statements like “You’re just jealous!” or “You’ve always been paranoid and controlling!” turn the tables to make you question yourself instead of them. Don’t fall into this trap. Hold firm in seeking honest answers and accountability.

The more someone tries to avoid answering simple questions using anger, accusations, and manipulation, the more likely they have something to hide. Be aware of the truth. You deserve honesty and respect in your relationships.

11. They gaslight you and rewrite history.

They gaslight you and rewrite history
They gaslight you and rewrite history.

They start to twist facts and rewrite history to make you doubt yourself. Have you ever caught someone in a lie, only to have them deny it and claim you misremembered or misunderstood the situation? This is a tactic manipulators use to gain the upper hand.

Some signs the other person is gaslighting you:

  • They deny saying or doing something that you clearly remember. They may say, “That never happened. You’re imagining things.” Please don’t fall for it. Trust your memory.
  • They blame you for things that aren’t your fault. For example, they spill a drink and say, “See what you made me do!” This makes you feel responsible for their mistakes and issues.
  • Their actions don’t match their words. For instance, they say they care about you but frequently put you down or break promises. Pay attention to behaviors, not just what they say.
  • You start to doubt your perception of events. You may think you’re “going crazy” or be unsure of the truth. This is a sign the gaslighting is working, and you need to get out of the situation.
  • They isolate you from friends and family who can provide reality checks. Manipulators want full control over the narrative, and your support system threatens that. Don’t let them exclude you from people who truly care about you.

The only way to stop the gaslighting is to remove yourself from the relationship. You deserve to be in healthy relationships where your experiences and feelings are validated, not constantly second-guessed and rewritten to suit another person’s needs for power and control. Don’t engage or argue with the gaslighter; their tactics are designed to entrap you. State your intention to end the interaction and leave. Your sanity and safety depend on it.

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Spotting a Setup FAQ: Answering Common Questions

People often have questions about spotting manipulation and deception. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about detecting when someone is setting you up:

What are some common signs that someone has ulterior motives?

  • They ask many questions about you but don’t share much about themselves. This could indicate they’re gathering information for malicious reasons.
  • They lavish you with praise, gifts, or affection very quickly. This “love bombing” is meant to get you hooked before revealing their true intentions.
  • Their stories need to be more coherent, or their excuses sound implausible. If things they say don’t ring true, that’s a major red flag.

How can I tell if someone is lying or manipulating me?

  • Watch for vagueness, lack of details, and not directly answering your questions. Liars and manipulators try to avoid specificity because their deception will unravel.
  • Notice inconsistencies in their stories or contradictory statements. It’s hard for people to keep lies straight.
  • Trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is. Our intuition evolved to detect threats; your gut can sense when you’re being played.

What should I do if I suspect someone has ulterior motives?

  • Distance yourself from them. Don’t engage or share personal information. The less they know about you, the better.
  • Observe them and look for a pattern of deception or manipulation with others. How do they treat people when they want something from them?
  • Confront them with your concerns using “I” statements. Say, “I’ve noticed some inconsistencies in your stories that worry me.” See how they respond. Do they get defensive or make excuses? That’s a bad sign.
  • Tell a friend or family member about your concerns. Getting another perspective can help determine if your suspicions are valid and if you need to cut ties.

The bottom line is to trust your gut. If something feels off about someone’s intentions or behavior, chances are they’re not being fully honest with you. Stay alert, set clear boundaries, and don’t be afraid to call them out on their deception. Your safety and well-being depend on it.


So there you have it—the warning signs that someone may be playing you for a fool. Stay alert and trust your instincts. Don’t ignore the little voice telling you something seems off. The more you practice spotting deception, the better you’ll get at detecting it. You deserve to surround yourself with people who treat you honestly and respectfully. Don’t settle for less.

And if you get played, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and move on smarter. The world’s players may think they’re in control, but you have the power to see through their games. Stay sharp! The truth is out there; you must open your eyes to find it.


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