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Published on May 10, 2019

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

5 Causes of Insecurities in a Relationship Not to Overlook How to Spice up Your Relationship and Keep It Fresh and Exciting 7 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships (And How to Handle It) Why Taking a Relationship Break Could Be a Smart Choice to Make How to Recognize a Controlling Relationship and What to Do About It

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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