Manipulation in a relationship: 10 ways to deal with them
Psychological manipulation can be described as the exercise of undue influence through mental abuse and emotional exploitation.
The goal of the manipulator is to gain power, control, benefits and privileges at the expense of the victim.
It is important to distinguish between healthy social influence, which is inevitable in all areas of our lives, and psychological manipulation in relationships, which leads to the most unpleasant results.
Healthy social influence occurs between a defined set of people and is part of a constructive relationship.
In psychological manipulation, one person takes advantage of another person for his or her own benefit. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power and exploits the victim.
Most manipulative personalities share four common characteristics:
- The manipulator knows how to discover your weaknesses.
- The manipulator uses your weaknesses against yourself.
- With his cunning plans, he convinces you to give up something important in yourself to serve his selfish interests.
- In work, social, and family situations, the manipulator will use you until you stop him or until you have completely exhausted your resources and become useless.
A manipulator is an emotional black hole.
They are brilliant at pulling everyone around them into their emotions.
If they’re in a bad mood, everyone will know about it immediately.
But that’s not the worst part. Not only do they know how to let everyone know their mood, but they also know how to make those around them literally feel it.
This creates a tendency for people to take responsibility for the manipulator’s moods, and they feel obligated to make things right.
If you’re interested in relationship psychology, manipulation plays a key role in it . The root causes of persistent manipulation are complex and deeply rooted in our society.
Some believe it is a manifestation of a survival instinct others believe it is one of the manifestations of selfishness and narcissism. But whatever the case, one can understand the manipulator, but what about the victim?
What does a potential victim look like?
Here are some common traits of those who are vulnerable to manipulators:
- You only feel useful and loved when you can take care of other people’s needs. This goes beyond treating other people well. Your sense of self-worth is tied to doing things for others. In fact, you go so far as to give pleasure to others at the expense of your own well-being. For example, you might buy something especially nice for your girlfriend or friend, even though you would never spend that kind of money on yourself. Manipulators are drawn to this type of person and don’t hesitate to take full advantage of their generosity.
- You need the approval and acceptance of your environment. Although it is normal to want acceptance, it is important for the classic victim of the manipulator to be accepted and approved by everyone, without exception. The main problem here is the fear of being rejected or abandoned. And it is so strong that you are willing to do anything to avoid this feeling. The manipulator works according to the following scheme – first he gives you approval, praise, admiration, and then he creates such conditions that you become dependent on this approval and are afraid to lose it.
- You are afraid to express negative emotions. Although expressing anger and engaging in conflict is never pleasant, some people will do anything to avoid an argument. They want things to always be smooth and pleasant. They are afraid that they just can’t handle the negative emotions. Manipulators in such relationships have a simple task – all they have to do is raise their voice a little, and the victim will immediately relent just to avoid a conflict erupting.
- You can’t say no. One of the characteristics of a healthy relationship is personal boundaries that make it clear who you are and what position you take. But in order to maintain healthy boundaries, you must sometimes say “no” if someone tries to step out of line. If you fear conflict over your refusal, it plays into the manipulator’s hands. Learning effective confidence techniques is a way to regain a sense of control in a manipulative relationship.
- You lack a solid sense of self. A clear sense of self means that you know your values, who you are, what you’re worth, and clearly respecting your personal boundaries. If you don’t have a clear sense of self, it’s hard to trust your own judgment or to make decisions that work in your favor. Without a clear definition of yourself, you can become an easy target for a manipulator.
If you’re in a manipulative relationship, it’s helpful to immediately recognize all the ways the other person can establish control over you.
You can understand them and learn them safely with the help of a professional psychologist.
You probably won’t be able to change the manipulator’s behavior, but you can change your own reactions to manipulative attempts to gain a firmer sense of your own integrity.
The unhappiness resulting from a manipulative relationship can lead to life-changing experiences.
Signs of manipulation in a relationship
They manifest themselves in the following:
1. Manipulation in a relationship usually progresses over a long period of time. Manipulators learn over time how far they can go.
They are unlikely to try to manipulate the other person at the beginning of a relationship because it can lead to immediate termination of the relationship.
They observe the vulnerabilities of the other person and eventually learn how to exploit them.
2. There are two basic tactics that are used to exert control, and they usually go hand in hand.
The first is the promise of benefit. That is, the manipulator will promise to give you something if you agree to his terms . “I promise, no arguments for a week if you don’t communicate with Oleg anymore.”
Another tactic is to promise to avoid loss. In this case, the manipulator will threaten that you will lose something meaningful if you don’t fulfill his conditions. “If you don’t make me a nice dinner every day, I’ll stay up late with my friends at the bar. Of course, these two examples are obvious attempts at manipulation. Most manipulators use more subtle and discreet methods.
3. Manipulative people have a strong need to control everything. This may be due to an underlying sense of insecurity on their part, even though outwardly they show strength and self-confidence.
Although they may deny it, their motives are self-serving and they pursue their goals regardless of how it turns out for other people.
They have a strong need to feel superiority and power in their relationships, and they find people who validate these feelings by supporting their attempts at manipulation.
No one can challenge their leadership. These manipulations are most pronounced in relation to men and women. If you show resilience and try to defend your position, the manipulator will not like it and will do everything in his power to take it back.
Manipulators cannot understand the idea that there can be equality in a couple without leadership. If they stop controlling themselves and others, they feel threatened.
Manipulators do not usually plan their maneuvers consciously. They arise spontaneously and adjust to the situation and the victim, who unwittingly encourages the manipulator’s actions.
Manipulators use a wide range of tactics, from verbal threats to sophisticated attempts.
For example, one of the most common forms of manipulation is called cleavage .
It involves the manipulator pitting two people against each other by talking back and forth between the two, causing them to antagonize or distrust each other. All the while, the manipulator is in control and in control of the situation.
Active techniques such as anger, lying, intimidation, shouting, name-calling, or more passive techniques such as resentment and silence are used here.
The more irrational and unreasonable the manipulator is, the easier it is to get out of his traps.
Don’t even try to outplay him. Distance yourself from him emotionally and physically. Observe as if from the outside and analyze his behavior like a science project (you’re the psychiatrist, he’s the patient). You don’t need to react to the emotional chaos, just the facts.
In these situations, it’s important to know how to avoid manipulation in a relationship and remember that you don’t have a problem, just that someone is manipulating you now and making you feel bad.
How to avoid manipulation
Use the following tips to resist manipulation in any relationship:
- Know your basic rights When dealing with a manipulator, the most important thing is to know your rights and understand when they are being violated. As long as you’re not hurting other people, you have the right to stand up for yourself and protect yourself from anyone. On the other hand, if you hurt other people, you can lose those rights.
- Focus on changing yourself, not the manipulator It’s no use trying to outplay a skilled player, you’ll just make yourself vulnerable to further manipulation. You won’t change the manipulator, so you need to focus on his flaws and try to reach an understanding. You might think it would be helpful to share your feelings with the manipulator and how their behavior affects you, but this is usually useless because most manipulators are incapable of empathy and can use that information. The only effective method of changing manipulative behavior is to remove it by changing yourself. By doing so, you will change the dynamics of the manipulative relationship. If you stop playing along with his every whim, you will automatically change the nature of your relationship. If manipulators have to go to great lengths to maintain control in a relationship, they usually give up by breaking up the relationship and finding someone else more controllable.
- Find out the value of the relationship to yourself Depending on the seriousness of the manipulation and the damage it has done to your sense of happiness and integrity, you may have to consider whether the relationship is worth continuing. Of course, there are many situations (e.g., parent-child) where you can’t just cut that person out of your life. So it’s helpful to clarify for yourself what you want to accomplish and assess how this relationship can lead to your personal goals.
- Use techniques that boost your confidence to change the nature of the relationship Perhaps you are so used to obeying the manipulator’s tactics that you automatically follow all his orders without even thinking about it. You need to stop automatically obeying demands. Pause, take time to think through each situation that arises. “We’ll come back to this conversation after I’ve thought it through.” At this point, you will be in control of the situation. The manipulator will insist on an immediate response to regain his control. Just say the same thing over and over again without explanation. “I need more time to think about it.” “I’ll think about it.” These words have special power. They can be used between seller and buyer, when romancing an impatient stalker, in family and domestic relationships, and in your work environment. Take time to evaluate the pros and cons of the situation, and consider whether you want to negotiate a fairer agreement, or whether you’d rather say no.
- You need to confront the fear, anxiety, or guilt that has driven you to submit to the manipulator’s demands in the past. This requires a deep understanding of yourself. Examine your personal feelings, why you are reacting this way, and how to use alternative responses. This process takes a lot of effort and time, but it’s worth it. It may save your relationship later, or at least prepare you for another, healthier relationship.
- Denote manipulation as it is “When you threaten to leave me, I get scared and anxious. You can just tell me what you want, it’s fair to me. I am able to listen to you calmly and understand.” Say it without unnecessary emotion with direct eye contact. Announce that the era of manipulation is over, it’s time to move on to a trusting relationship. “We both understand that you have a habit of playing on my fears, and now you know how I feel about it. Your way of intimidating me won’t work anymore.” By making such clear statements, you are defining your boundaries. You don’t need to make threats. Just state that you will no longer participate in manipulation. Let her know that by setting limits, you’re trying to improve your relationship.
- Focus on your relationship with your manipulator by asking him and yourself probing questions Psychological manipulation in a relationship inevitably comes down to requests or demands. The manipulator will make you go out of your way to meet his needs. When you hear unreasonable requests, don’t immediately comply. Focus all your attention on the manipulator. Ask him some probing questions to see if he is aware of his words and actions. Whether he considers his request fair and reasonable. When you ask these questions, you’re putting up a mirror so the manipulator can see his ruse from the outside. If the manipulator has a certain degree of self-awareness, he is more likely to give up his demand and back down. Pathological manipulators (such as narcissists), on the other hand, will dismiss your questions and insist on their own. If this happens, use the following tips to keep your power and stop the manipulation.
- Know how to say “No” not rudely but firmly Learning to say “No” not rudely but firmly means practicing the art of communication. Effectively articulating a no will allow you to defend your position while maintaining a workable relationship. Remember that your basic human rights include the right to set your own priorities, the right to say no to others without guilt, and the right to choose your own happy and healthy life.
- Safely Confront Aggressive Manipulators Blackmail and manipulation in a relationship are not a threat in and of themselves, as long as they do not turn into a threat of actual violence. A psychological manipulator can become very aggressive, intimidating and harmful to the other person. The most important thing to remember about aggressors is that they choose a weak victim, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Remember that many aggressors are by nature very cowardly. When their victims begin to show firmness and stand up for their rights, the aggressor gradually backs down. This rule works for schoolyards as well as for homes and offices. On the other hand, research shows that many aggressors become victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses their aggressive behavior, but it helps you look at the aggressive manipulator in a calmer light. When people don’t like themselves, they have to make up for it. The classic aggressor was actually once the first victim. Aggressive manipulation in love relationships is most common between people who experienced abuse as children and witnessed abuse between parents. When you encounter a classic aggressor, be sure to create a position in which you can defend yourself safely. You have to consider the fact whether you are alone or whether there are other people around who can help you. In the case of physical, verbal or emotional abuse, consult with lawyers, law enforcement or administrative professionals. It’s important to confront your aggressor, and you shouldn’t do it alone.
- State the consequences When a psychological manipulator insists on violating your personal boundaries and does not accept a firm refusal as an answer, voice the consequences of his request. What the manipulator will get as a result, and what it will cost you. Being able to see and articulate the consequences of your actions is one of the most important skills you can use to stop a manipulator. A man who is able to reasonably assess the situation, see the upcoming consequences, and not go along with the manipulator deserves respect and is no longer acting as a victim.
20 signs of a male manipulator in a relationship, and how to behave with him
The better you know the behavior of a male manipulator, the better you can protect yourself from unnecessary drama and heartbreak .
Keep in mind, however, that not all of these signs appear at the beginning of a relationship.
Manipulators tend to show their true face when they know you are emotionally attached to them.
That’s why it’s important to get to know the person well first, and not show your involvement too quickly.
Who is a manipulator in a relationship
A manipulator is a person who seeks to gain control or power over another person in dishonest and unhealthy ways.
Unlike a healthy relationship where there is reciprocity and cooperation, a manipulator tries to use, control, and abuse his partner.
He uses psychological pressure and deception to change a person’s behavior or attitudes or to provoke a strong emotional response, draining their energy and undermining their well-being.
Manipulators twist your thoughts, actions and desires into something that better fits their view of the world, turning you into a person who serves their own purposes.
You can learn to recognize the signs of manipulation to stop this behavior and protect yourself, your self-esteem, and your sanity.
How to recognize a manipulator in a relationship
1. Constantly lies.
Before you ask him about a situation, he will be ready to lie to you.
If you catch him lying, he will probably express regret or embarrassment.
He is just trying to lie to get rid of the original lie. His life is one big lie, and so are his feelings for you.
2. Getting too close too quickly.
A manipulator can easily skip several stages in the traditional dating scheme. Such a man may start sharing his secrets and weaknesses right away.
In fact, this tactic is used to make you feel special so that you can reveal your secrets more easily. Later, the man will use your weaknesses against you.
I feel that we can communicate on a very deep level. This has never happened to me before.
3. You are dating on his territory.
When you’re on your own turf, whether it’s your own apartment or your favorite coffee shop, it gives you confidence and you feel comfortable.
If, however, a man always insists that you be in his space, he may be trying to create an imbalance of power in the relationship.
Since he is the master of the house, it puts you at a disadvantage.
Will you come by my office when you can? I’m too busy to stop by your place.
4. Letting you talk, but he doesn’t tell you much himself.
This tactic is often used in business relationships, but it can happen in personal relationships as well.
When the person wants to establish control, he or she may ask leading questions to get you to tell you your thoughts and concerns as early as possible.
With your hidden agenda in mind, the man may later use your answers to influence your decisions.
I’ve never heard of this man. What did you have with him?
5. Misrepresents the facts.
Manipulators are true professionals at distorting reality by lying or making up lies in order to confuse you.
They may exaggerate events in order to appear more vulnerable.
At the same time, they will downplay their role in the conflict in order to gain your sympathy.
She yelled at me and rebuked me for not helping her in any way, but you know that’s not true, right?
I was spinning all night and couldn’t sleep because we had a fight.
6. Says or does something and then denies the fact
Manipulators are usually sophisticated liars. They may insist that the incident didn’t happen when it did, or, conversely, convince you that they said or did something that didn’t, in fact, happen.
This manipulation is used to make you begin to doubt your own sanity or memory.
When you become less certain about what happened, he can shift the problem onto you and make you feel responsible for the “misunderstanding.”
I never said that. You’re making it up again.
I wouldn’t do that. You know I’m too busy.
7. His actions don’t match his words.
The manipulator says what you want to hear, but his actions are a different story.
He promises to support you, and when you really need it, he acts like your requests are completely unreasonable.
The man says he is very happy for you to talk to him, but all his actions show that you are more of a burden to him.
This is another way of undermining your faith in your own sanity.
8. Makes you feel guilty
Manipulation always starts with guilt. If a man can convince you to feel guilty about your actions (even if you haven’t done anything objectionable), he will know that you will more readily agree to do what he says.
This strategy allows him to control your choices and influence your decisions.
If you start to express your concern to the man, he will try to make you feel guilty. If you remain silent, he will accuse you of not sharing and keeping everything to yourself.
Whatever you do and whatever the problem is, it will be your fault.
I don’t understand why you don’t trust me.
Sure, dinner was good. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but since you’re happy.
You know I worry. I need to know where you are at all times.
9. Downplaying your problems.
Imagine you’ve had a hard day at work and you want to share your feelings with a man.
The manipulator, instead of listening to you properly, will take the opportunity to bring up his own problems.
His goal is to devalue what you are experiencing so that you are forced to switch to him and focus your energy on solving his problems.
Are you having a hard time? You don’t have to spend all day answering questions from some idiot on the phone.
Be thankful you have a brother. I’ve been single my whole life.
10. Making a victim out of himself.
A man who is used to manipulating emotions easily agrees to help you, but may later change plans or delay the process to avoid an agreement.
He may act as if it has become an impossible burden for him, and will play on your emotions to get out of the situation.
I know you need this. But it’s too much for me, I already have a lot to do.
It’s harder than I thought it would be. You probably didn’t realize it yourself when you asked me for it.
11. he was just “kidding” when he was rude or did the wrong thing
Critical statements are easy to hide behind humor or sarcasm. A man may pretend to say a phrase as a joke, when in fact, he knew very well that his remarks upset you.
For example, he may tell an unflattering story about you in front of others, putting you in an awkward situation. If you explain to him that you are uncomfortable, he will tell you to relax because he was “just kidding.
It’s not him being rude, it’s you being “too sensitive.”
God, you look tortured.
I slept so well, I suggest you do the same, because you look terrible.
12. never takes responsibility.
A manipulator will never accept responsibility for his mistakes. He will try to find a way to make you feel guilty about everything from a failed trip to a thwarted plan.
In the end, you will apologize, even if it wasn’t your fault.
I did it because I love you so much.
If you hadn’t gone out with your girlfriends, you would have done all the work by now.
13. Trying to outdo you.
When you are at your best, the manipulator finds a way to divert attention away from you.
When you have a tragedy or some kind of mishap, he turns his attention to his problems to make them seem more serious and urgent.
Your job promotion is great, but you know who was the luckiest today?
It’s too bad your grandfather died. I lost my grandparents in a short time, so it’s not all bad for you.
14. Constantly criticizing you
Emotional manipulators may brush you off or demean you without a hint of joke or sarcasm. Their statements are meant to undermine your self-esteem.
The criticisms such men make are designed to ridicule and devalue you. Remember that this is often how he projects his complexes onto you.
Don’t you think that dress is too revealing to go out with your girlfriends? Or are you going to pick someone up?
All you’re doing is eating.
15. Using your weaknesses and feelings against you
When a man knows your weaknesses, he can use them to hurt or wound you.
He will comment or act in ways that make you feel vulnerable or upset.
If you are upset, the manipulator will try to shift the guilt to you by calling you unreasonable or inadequate.
You said you don’t want your children to grow up in an incomplete family. Look at what you are doing to them.
If you loved me, you would never ask such questions.
16. Gives ultimatums.
During arguments and disagreements, the manipulator will say dramatic phrases that will put you in a difficult position.
He will press your weaknesses by making provocative statements to make you apologize.
If you walk away from me, there is no point in my life.
If you can’t meet me on the weekend, it shows your feelings for me.
17. Can’t put yourself in your shoes.
The manipulator may say or do things that hurt you. When you try to explain to him how you feel, however, you are met with a blank stare or annoyance.
Such a man cannot see the situation from your side or understand why his actions affect you positively or negatively.
I’m not in charge of your feelings.
You are too uptight and trying to control me.
18. Putting up a silent treatment.
He doesn’t respond to your calls, messages or other attempts at communication. Instead of trying to resolve the conflict, he just shuts you out.
The manipulator uses silence to gain control over you and make you take responsibility for his behavior.
For example, you forgot to pick up his jacket from the dry cleaner on your way home. The man, upon learning of this, accuses you of not caring about him and “you always do this.
When you try to explain the reason or promise to pick it up tomorrow, he just walks away, making you chase after him. He may not talk to you for hours, days or weeks.
According to psychologists, ignoring is considered one of the four signs of a doomed relationship , and studies show that playing silent is considered a form of psychological abuse.
19. Attributing false emotions to you
He will reject your true feelings and ascribe to you feelings that are probably about him.
In psychology, this phenomenon is known as projection, a defense mechanism where a person ascribes characteristics that he or she finds unacceptable in themselves to another person. The manipulator is projecting guilt and desire onto you because he is not ready to deal with his own feelings.
You want to sleep with him. You like him.
You want to control me.
20. Doesn’t respect you.
A healthy man understands basic concepts such as honesty and kindness. A toxic man doesn’t fully understand what it means to respect the other person.
He may not respect your need to spend time alone, with friends or family.
He doesn’t respect your boundaries, your career, or your desire to go to the bathroom without an audience. You may arrange to have dinner at 8 p.m. and he shows up an hour late.
If he constantly crosses your boundaries, is not willing to discuss his behavior and blames you for it, this relationship is hard to call healthy, and it can escalate into an abusive .
How to behave with a manipulative man
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It may take some time before you realize that a man is manipulating you. These signs may not be as obvious, and they often appear as the relationship progresses.
If you think you are being manipulated, trust your intuition.
1. Know your rights.
The first thing you need to do when dealing with a manipulator is to know your rights and acknowledge that they are being violated. Remember that you have the right to defend yourself.
You have the right to be treated with respect.
You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and desires
You have the right to prioritize
You have the right to say no without guilt
You have the right to get what you have paid for.
You have the right to have an opinion different from everyone else.
You have the right to take care of yourself and protect yourself from physical, psychological, or emotional threats.
You have the right to create your own happy and healthy life
These basic human rights represent your boundaries.
2. Don’t Blame Yourself
As the manipulator tries to exploit your weaknesses, you may feel inadequate or even blame yourself for something.
In this situation, it is important to remember that you are not the problem, you are just being manipulated to give up your power and rights.
3. Turn your attention to him.
When you hear an unreasonable suggestion, try to focus your attention on the manipulator by asking some leading questions.
Does this seem reasonable to you?
Does what you want seem fair to you?
Do I have a say?
Are you asking me or insisting on it?
And what do I get out of it?
Do you really expect me to …(unreasonable suggestion)?
With questions like these, you put the manipulator in front of an imaginary mirror so that he can see the true nature of his subterfuge. If he has even a modicum of self-awareness, he will give up the demand and back down.
A pathological manipulator will ignore questions and insist on his own. In that case, it is best to heed the above advice.
4 Postpone an answer.
In the case of an unreasonable request, the manipulator often expects an answer right away in order to increase pressure and control the situation.
At such times, consider using the time to your advantage and distance yourself from his or her immediate influence.
You can say, “I’ll think about it.
Take time to weigh the pros and cons of the situation, consider a fairer arrangement, or simply say no.
5. Say “No” diplomatically but firmly
A diplomatic but firm refusal will help you insist on your own, maintaining a healthy relationship. Remember that you have the right to say “No” without feeling guilty.
6. Fight back, calmly.
A manipulator can also bully or hurt the other person.
It is important to know that manipulators choose those they consider weaker than themselves. If you remain passive and agree to everything, you become easy prey for them.
But remember, manipulators are cowardly at heart, and when you are firm and stand up for your rights, they back down.
Don’t forget that you need to protect yourself, so arm yourself with witnesses or support from loved ones, and document the inappropriate behavior.
7. Set boundaries.
When the manipulator realizes that he is losing control, his tactics will become more desperate. At this time, you will have to make some hard decisions.
If you don’t need to be around this person, consider eliminating him from your life completely .
If you live or work together, you may need professional help to deal with this situation.
You may need to reach out to a friend or family member to get support and strengthen your boundaries.
Keep a healthy distance, and try to avoid any interaction with the person unless necessary.
Remember that the reasons for this behavior are complex and deeply rooted. You should not change or save this person.