Having influence over another individual in a relationship isn’t always a bad thing. For example, a woman can have a positive effect on her partner in the areas of health, hygiene and overall appearance. She may influence her partner to make smarter nutritional choices, incorporate skincare products into his morning routine and buy clothing that accentuates his build and stature.
There is, however, a fine line between influence and psychological manipulation. Psychological manipulation aims to change the behavior of another individual using devious, deceptive or sometimes even abusive tactics.
Oftentimes, manipulative behavior can initially appear to be something positive, and is mistaken for another attribute, such as assertiveness.
“Assertiveness is a kind of strident independence and open voice,” reveals Dr. Wendy Walsh, relationship expert and author of The 30-Day Love Detox. Manipulation is using tactics to get you to do something you don’t want to do. It may involve subtle threats of abandonment or playing the victim card. People who are good communicators don’t need to use manipulative tactics. They can easily explain their feelings and negotiate compromises.
While it’s difficult to describe specific manipulative behavior in a partner, it’s never too late to try to affect some positive changes. Here are some tips on how to determine if you’re involved with a manipulative partner, the best reactions to manipulative behavior, the power of one simple word and signs that it might be best to end a manipulative relationship.
How To Recognize Manipulative Behavior
The signs of manipulation aren’t always easy to spot, especially early on in a relationship. Also, it’s not always obvious you’re being manipulated. It may just feel like you’re doing things to make your partner happy, even if those requests make you unhappy.
A popular manipulative ploy is passive-aggressive behavior.
“Passive aggressive behavior is when someone’s actions don’t match their words.” explains Dr. Walsh. “For instance, she says she doesn’t mind you having boy’s nights out, but every time you do, she has a sudden personal emergency complete with tears that needs your undivided attention.”
Now, it is possible that there could be an actual issue, but if a pattern develops that constantly disrupts any plans that don’t involve her, she’s probably being manipulative.
Interactions with a manipulator often leave others feeling obligated and guilty — to downright scared — not do what is asked of them. A manipulator uses other tactics, besides passive-aggressive behavior, to elicit these feelings. Common warning signs or “tricks” include: the use of tears to get their way, an excessive use of charm, a heavy dose of guilt if things don’t favor the manipulator, and flat-out lying just to get what they want in any situation.
Now that you’ve identified some of the behavior of a manipulator, it’s important to discuss how to react to that behavior.
It’s natural to have a gut reaction to manipulative behavior, but it’s not always in your best interest to act on those reactions. They often make matters worse. A manipulative person pushes, you push back, causing them to push even harder to get their way. This promotes a constant power struggle within the relationship.
Limiting your exposure to a manipulative person is another tactic, but not always possible if you’re married or live with your partner. Since you can’t completely get away, it’s best to excuse yourself from certain situations the moment you feel yourself being manipulated. A simple response, like “I’ll have to get back to you about that” will diffuse the situation at least for the time being.
The simplest response to manipulation, and one that is often the most forgotten is the small, but powerful word “no.” While no is a powerful weapon, it can often lose its potency when getting into too much detail about why the answer is no. Never attempt to justify your actions or reasons for saying no to a manipulator. It’s often a waste of time. Manipulators will use those reasons against you and attempt to turn your no into a yes (or at least a maybe). Just say no, and leave it at that.
It’s Time To Move On
Should I stay or should I go? There is never really an easy answer. Because there are so many levels to a relationship and “moving parts,” people have a hard time pulling the plug and watching all the moving parts fall to the floor. This leads to a long, often toxic, relationship.
While it’s possible to repair the situation, it’s often impossible for a manipulative person to change or see the damaging effects their actions are having on the relationship.
“The best idea,” reveals Dr. Walsh, “is to go to individual therapy and work through some of your own attachment feelings so you can get a clear view of what works and what is unhealthy.”
If you’ve exhausted all efforts, and the manipulation continues, you may be left with no choice but to end the relationship.