Emotional manipulation is a subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, form of abuse. It is used by one person to control another. It occurs in all kinds of relationships — marriage, friendship, parent and child, boss and employee, coworkers – in fact, anywhere where two people interact closely.
Very often it is difficult to pinpoint whether emotional manipulation is taking place, or if it is simply normal interaction between two equals. Humiliating their victim is a sure sign of an emotional bully. Sometimes the manipulation is so adroit that it almost goes unnoticed. The slow drip-drip erosion of self-esteem and confidence becomes normal until one partner becomes merely a foil for the other.
Emotional manipulators can be of either sex — sometimes women who have low self-esteem use it on their partners or children in an attempt to raise their own confidence. Men will use it to control their partners, often out of fear that they will lose them. In friendships, there could be a symbiotic relationship where one dominates the other in a kind of unspoken bargain.
It is likely that the manipulator suffered childhood abuse of one kind or another and now uses manipulation to shore up their determination that they will never suffer like that again.
Signs of Emotional Manipulation
Your emotional state depends on your partner’s mood. If she’s happy, you’re happy. If she’s down, then you will be too. At best, you will be confused; at worst you will be fearful.
When you are away from your partner, you spend hours thinking of nothing else. The relationship colors everything you do.
You feel that everything wrong in the friendship is your fault.
You wonder why you are a constant disappointment to your parent.
When you contemplate life as a single person, the prospect of managing by yourself is frightening.
You’ve given up certain things that used to be fun – meeting up with friends, going to the beach, singing in the choir; anything that took you away from your partner.
Sometimes your relationship feels stable, at other times, fragile. You are never sure where you stand. You fear to lose the relationship.
Your partner/parent/friend makes fun of you. You may laugh along with them, after all, they are ‘only teasing’, but on the inside you feel pain.
Defending your thoughts, words and actions become a way of life. You feel misunderstood and need to explain yourself.
You are not financially independent. Your partner makes financial decisions on your behalf. He is in control of the money.
Your style has changed. You used to be interested in how you looked, but the constant criticism has done its work and now you live in jeans and sweats. Of course, you still are criticized – but, at least, you can’t be accused of looking ‘tarty’.
You don’t trust your partner. You feel s/he accuses you of things they do as a matter of course.
Making your partner happy is your raison d’etre. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work. You can put all your efforts into making life easier, more beautiful for them and they are completely unappreciated.
Sometimes your relationship is the best. The romance is back. The sparkle returns. You may receive a compliment. Not often, though. Just enough to keep you wanting more and working at it.
Your partner and children seem to gang up on you. You feel as if you are in the wrong family – alien, stupid, unwanted.
You always watch your words; you can’t be yourself. You have to think before you speak in order not to agitate the other person. It seems you can’t help upsetting them, saying something they disagree with or simply attracting ridicule every time you open your mouth.
You are just not good enough.
Dealing with an Emotional Manipulator
It is important to establish if the manipulator is a psychopath, sociopath, narcissist or an incurable bully. These people are unlikely ever to change. They are what they are, and your only course of action is to leave. Others, once they realize what effect their behavior has on others may be willing to attempt to change their ways. Counseling and psychotherapy can help a lot in these cases.
It’s possible for you to make changes in the way that you act that will discourage the manipulator. It will be difficult for you to regain your confidence in one fell swoop, but you can make progress in small steps.
Stop defending yourself. When your partner accuses you of some wrong doing, don’t answer. Allow their accusations to sit there, echoing in the silence. Responding always gives them fresh ammunition.
Wear brighter clothes. This small act of defiance will make you feel better.
Surprise them by not being at home when they expect you to be there.
If you are dealing with a dominant friend or parent, don’t show up at your usual time. Don’t make an excuse either. When asked, say you were busy. Don’t offer any other explanation.
When your partner belittles you in public, call them out on it. Say clearly, “Don’t make fun of me, please.”
Know that you are not a victim, only that you became unknowingly complicit in their campaign to manipulate you. Little by little, assert your independence.
End the relationship. When they attempt to contact you, employ the ‘Gray Rock’ method. This is a strategy recommended by Skylar at lovefraud.com. Mainly directed at deflecting psychopaths, it also works on bullies and manipulators. Make like a rock; become uninteresting to them by not taking their bait, displaying emotion, challenging their accusations, or defending yourself. Restrict yourself to boring responses. You might be squirming on the inside, but keep it up. Sooner or later, they lose interest in you and move on to more rewarding pastures.
No-one should put up with being emotionally manipulated. If you feel you can’t deal with this person, then seek professional guidance. If you are confused about whether you are being manipulated, then perhaps one of our experienced psychics can help you decide.