Oftentimes, a client will describe the behavior of their soon-to-be ex-spouse, which is manipulation 101. As I listen and take notes, I will circle back and discuss each behavior/tactic in detail with them. Then I will go on to inform them of the details of what exactly is considered manipulative behavior and ask them if this sounds familiar. I cannot tell you, how often men are so surprised by how long they have been enduring straight-out manipulation.
Manipulation can be so destructive that you need to recognize it in your own life. It’s not as easy as you might think, because emotional manipulators are typically very skillful. They begin with subtle manipulation and raise the stakes over time, so slowly that you don’t even realize it’s happening.
The good news is that an emotional manipulator is easy enough to spot if you know what to look for, and honestly, if you think you’re being manipulated, you probably are. Here are 5 of the most common behaviors to look for in a manipulator:
They are masters at guilt-tripping. Emotional manipulators are masters at leveraging your guilt to their advantage. If you bring up something that’s bothering you or something you don’t agree with, they make you feel guilty for mentioning it. If you don’t, they make you feel guilty for keeping it to yourself and stewing on it. When you’re dealing with emotional manipulators, whatever you do is wrong, and no matter what problems the two of you are having, it will always be your fault.
Will go to great lengths to get their way. Manipulation is all about trying to get a certain outcome. A manipulative person will attempt to do whatever it takes to get what they want, even at the expense of other people. Rather than taking no for an answer, they will maneuver the situation and outcome, to go their way.
Their actions don’t match their words. Emotional manipulators will tell you what you want to hear, but their actions are another story. They pledge their support, but, when it comes time to follow through, they act as though your requests are entirely unreasonable. They tell you how lucky they are to know you, and then act as though you’re a burden.
They lie and break promises. Lying is a good indicator that this person is manipulative. If you notice they are stretching, avoiding, or ignoring the truth regularly, this is for a reason. Hiding the truth is what manipulation is all about along with not keeping their promises. Whether they had the intent to or not, making promises to people and not keeping them, is a pattern you’ll see they have with family, friends, and co-workers.
They play the role of the victim. When it comes to emotional manipulators, nothing is ever their fault. No matter what they do—or fail to do —it’s someone else’s fault. Someone else made them do it—and, usually, it’s you! If you get mad or upset, it’s your fault for having unreasonable expectations of them; if they get mad, it’s your fault for upsetting them. Emotional manipulators don’t take accountability for anything and show very little, if any at all, remorse for their behaviors.
They will do nice things with unspoken expectations. An initial eagerness to help swiftly turns into sighs, groans, and suggestions that whatever they agreed to do is a huge burden. They often only offer to do things only because it serves them. It’s not genuine by any means. You’ll see they will gladly volunteer for something, only to then act like a martyr.
They will push your buttons. Emotional manipulators know your weak spots, and they’re quick to use that knowledge against you. If you’re insecure, they will use those insecurities to their advantage. This type of person is very aware of your emotions and will use this to manipulate you, not to make you feel better. They will also punish you when they don’t get their way. Whether it’s withholding affection, or posting something on social media, they will respond negatively when the outcome was not in their favor. Manipulative people are very persuasive, so much so that it often will wear people down.
Enduring manipulation will most likely lead to doubting your own mind. They are so good at their tactics; you begin to question your sanity. “Was I overreacting?” “Maybe, she’s right, I’m the one who needs to apologize.” The voice in your head starts to go along with the manipulator’s viewpoints. Once you recognize the behavior for what it truly is, my advice is to set boundaries in place and not allow it any longer.
Hayley Lisa, The Divorce Coach for Men