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7 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships (And How to Handle It)

7 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships (And How to Handle It)

Manipulation is more common in relationships today than ever. With the rise in social media and the decline in interpersonal relationship skills, people are being more and more manipulative.

But manipulation in relationships is not always the result of an evil intent. In fact, a lot of times it’s innocent and harmless. In most cases, the person doing the manipulation is not even aware that they are manipulating their partner. In some cases, they are aware of it, but they believe it to be harmless. In a few cases, manipulation is part of a toxic pattern in the relationship and it keeps going on and on forever.

But you should be wary of any type of manipulation in the relationship. Even though it may sometimes be harmless, manipulation can soon turn into a toxic pattern if you don’t handle it properly and speak about it with your partner.

Signs of Manipulation in a Relationship

Let’s look at a few common types of manipulation in a relationship:

1. Covert Contracts

The term “Covert Contract” is described by Dr. Robert Glover in his book “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.[1] This type of manipulation is very common in men who are insecure in a relationship. But it can also be seen in women.

A covert contract is simply a contract that a lot of people make in their minds but never really discuss it with their partner. They will do something nice for their partner and expect something in return.

For example, “I’ll buy her the dress she liked. I am sure she will have sex with me tonight.”

Or an extreme case of such a contract could be something like, “I’ll pay for her education and support her in her career. In return, I am sure she will love me and stay loyal to me.”

Of course, when things don’t go as planned, they become angry and it leads to a fight. Sometimes, they hold the anger inside and it festers until it blows up. But such type of manipulation never really leads to anything good.

2. The Trap

“Do you think she looks good in that dress?”“Yeah, sure.”“I knew you liked her. How long have you been obsessing over her?”

A common type of manipulation that people use is setting up a trap for their partner. It could be as simple as a word trap. Or something extremely complicated and manipulative as getting a friend to hit on their partner.

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In either case, it’s wrong to do it and how you should react depends on their intentions and reasons behind the manipulation.

3. The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is the preferred type of manipulation for a lot of people. Instead of speaking about the issue at hand, they choose to give their partner the silent treatment.

Now, the silent treatment in itself isn’t bad. A lot of times, being silent and thinking about the issue can help you come to a conclusion. But some people do it with the intention of punishing their partner and winning the argument.

But if they keep the silent treatment going until you apologize, even if you weren’t wrong, then you have a master manipulator at your hand, and you need to address this issue as soon as possible.

4. Checking Your Messages

Another type of manipulation people use is they will constantly check your messages behind your back or in front of you.

It is, in most cases, a betrayal of trust and invasion of privacy. But some people learn to manipulate their partners into accepting this behavior. They will say things like, “If you don’t have anything to hide, why do you care?”

This type of manipulation is usually common in relationships where one partner has trust issues. These trust issues are often a result of something that happened in the relationship.

But in a lot of cases, these trust issues are simply the insecurity of one partner seeping into the relationship.

5. Social Media Shenanigans

Social media has made manipulation very easy. You will often find passive aggressive comments and a boatload of different manipulative tactics used by people who love social media manipulation.

If your partner is using social media to manipulate you, it’s most likely that they are doing it to make you jealous or to put you down. They may do things like,

  • Post pictures with someone of the opposite sex.
  • Post passive aggressive quotes that may be directed at you. Things like, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at your best.”.
  • Actively like and comment statuses or pictures of an ex or someone they know you are jealous of.

6. Withholding Sex to Get What They Want

The first thing that comes to mind is a very direct type of manipulation that a lot of people see in their relationship. It’s quite common with women but men have been known to do this too.

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They withhold sex from their partner because they are not getting what they want. Sometimes, they withhold sex to punish a partner for doing something they didn’t like.

“Didn’t take out the trash? Well, don’t expect any action tonight.”

“Didn’t buy me that necklace I wanted? You won’t be seeing me naked until you do.”

Withholding sex is not always a big deal in a healthy relationship. So, if your partner is doing it just to tease you or they are playing, it’s okay and you should not worry about it.

It’s also understandable if they are genuinely upset with you about something and they need time to let go of the anger before they can feel comfortable enough to have sex.

But it becomes a problem when they are withholding sex purely to punish you or to get something out of you.

To figure out if this is manipulation, or your partner is genuinely upset with you, you need to put on a little empathy hat and try to see how you would react if you were in their situation.

Did you lie to them about something big and they feel that they can’t trust you right now?

If so, it’s understandable that they don’t want sex right now because they don’t trust you. Give them some time and listen to them. Try to talk about the issue and come to a solution together. Treat them with respect and understanding and they will soon start trusting you again.

Are they upset because you didn’t get them the birthday gift they wanted?

If so, there’s a good chance they just want you for money and are trying to “train” you to do what they want.

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7. The Life Controller

This type of manipulation is subtle. Because you won’t even realize that they are manipulating you. It will feel like they are helping you. But in reality, they will be controlling your life and will be molding it the way they want it.

Now let me be clear, healthy couples support each other and help each other take major life decisions. But some people take this to the next level where it merges with manipulation.

If you have a partner who controls all aspects of your life, you will eventually stop feeling like yourself and you will feel like you are living someone else’s life. It’s a good idea to confront them and speak about it before you resent them and end up in a bad breakup.

How to Handle Manipulation in a Relationship

Handling manipulation in a relationship comes down to 3 things:

1. Introspection

The first step, introspection, is to look inside yourself and ask yourself if you have been doing something to warrant this manipulation.

Has your partner tried to talk to you, and you ignored them?

Have you been neglecting some needs that your partner has told you about?

And most importantly, have you been doing some type of manipulation that has caused your partner to manipulate in return?

It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you are unsure, it will help to speak to someone close to you and get their opinion on the topic. If you choose to discuss it with someone, make sure you give them an unbiased view of what happened.

2. Intention and Showing Empathy

The second step is figuring out the intention of your partner. In another words, it’s to put yourself in their shoes and try to feel what they were feeling. Your aim here is to try to understand them and figure out where they are coming from.

Is your partner being manipulative because they are insecure and don’t know how to communicate properly? Or is it that they are just upset about something serious and this manipulation is just a way to get some validation from you?

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If you are not sure about their intention, it’s best to not make any assumption. Instead, just speak to them about it.

When you speak to them, make sure you are doing it with the intention of understanding them and coming to a conclusion; not to blame them and get the moral higher ground.

3. Communication

The third step, communication, is the most important step of all.

With proper communication, you can pretty much solve any problem in your relationship. You may not be able to resolve childhood issues of your partner and bad habits formed over the years. But you can bring these issues to light and figure out a way to tackle them together.

Remember, whenever you choose to communicate, do it clearly and with the intention of resolving the issue. It’s best to follow the template below when you are tackling any type of manipulation issue.

“When you did [the exact manipulating action], I felt disconnected from you because it feels like manipulation and that means you don’t trust me enough to communicate directly. I want this relationship to work and I want us to communicate better. I really want to understand why you did it. Is it because [your guess of their intention]?”

If your partner gets angry, remind them that you love them, and you are not trying to blame them or make them feel any less. You just want to understand them and to make sure you both can communicate with each other.

If they are unwilling to work on the issues and discuss it, even after trying multiple times, then there is a good chance your partner is unwilling to learn and grow. And you should seriously consider ending such a relationship.

Final Thoughts

Manipulation can turn into a toxic behavioral pattern in the relationship. It’s best to address manipulation as soon as possible. The longer you ignore it, the harder it will be to acknowledge the behavior and change it.

It will take some effort from both the partners to get rid of toxic manipulation in your relationship. If one partner is unwilling to make the effort, it’s best to consider ending the relationship.

Featured photo credit: Ashley Schulze via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Dr. Robert Glover: No More Mr. Nice Guy

More by this author

Kevin Thompson

A breakup and relationship expert who writes about reconciliation and becoming a better person

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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