Thomas Burke, The Nightmare
“Emotional Vampires will use you to meet whatever needs they happen to be experiencing at the moment. They have no qualms about taking your effort, your money, your love, your attention, your admiration, your body, or your soul to meet their insatiable cravings. They want what they want, and they don’t much care how you feel about it.”
(Albert J. Bernstein, Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry)
T oday I received the following comment from a reader named ‘Milly,’ on the post “How To Tell if You’re Being Manipulated.” What follows is my response to her dilemma.
“I have been in a relationship for a year now, and we have lived together (in his parents house) for the last seven months. Things were fine, he works and I am unemployed at the moment. The problem is that we are only okay when I have nothing else in my life other than him. I moved away from my whole family (80 miles away, in fact) and gave up friends and my education to be with him.
Now, everytime I get a job we start fighting, like he wants me to only have him. I want to go back to education but the only way I can do this is by going back to my hometown and pick up where I left off.
I told him how I felt, how things aren’t good anymore, and how I need to leave in order to sort my own life out – even though that doesn’t mean ending the relationship. However he began to cry, endlessly. He told me how he felt he was depressed, that he had anxiety and that he felt like he was a nobody and that was why he wasn’t happy with me going to school in order to be a somebody. He says he won’t move away from his family (even though I did that exact thing for him) and is almost guilting me into staying here with him and doing school online and ignoring my dream school.
I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how to tell him that I am going to leave because I really do love him, and I don’t want him to feel like I’m leaving. But equally, I feel like I’m being manipulated by his declaration of anxiety and depression – something that mysteriously vanished when I initially agreed to stay with him, and something that apparently he does not need treatment for. Hmmm.”
Milly, he doesn’t want treatment because you are the treatment.
He is definitely manipulating you, by making you feel guilty and responsible for his depression and anxiety (which don’t even really exist).
You do not exist to meet this man’s needs. You also have needs. There is no rule anywhere that says in order to be in a relationship, you have to put aside all of your needs for the other person. That’s a formula for certain disaster.
He wants COMPLETE CONTROL over you. You are not a doll or an object for him to manipulate to fulfill his needs — you are a person, an individual who has her own needs, and he does not seem to care about those, only his own! This is a one-sided relationship. All that matters is his side, and you are being manipulated into sacrificing yourself for it.
He wants to be the only thing in your life, and if you let him succeed, you may never be able to leave him because if you do you’ll lose “everything,” except for your regrets about wasted time and unfulfilled goals.
If someone is in a relationship in order to have a source, or ‘supply,’ to fulfill their unmet needs it’s not really a relationship — it’s emotional vampirism.
At best, this man is a neurotic emotional vampire. At worse, he is a psychopathic or narcissistic emotional vampire. Either way, he’s an emotional vampire who will drain you dry and not care one bit, as long as his own needs are being met.
It’s extremely self-centered to expect you to be responsible for his happiness (if that’s even what he’s really seeking). It’s an impossible job he’s given you! No one can ever be responsible for someone’s happiness and no one can ever succeed in filling a bottomless emotional pit. Ironically, ‘making him happy’ only makes you unhappy, as it’s doing now. You’ve told him that, and he does not care. He lacks empathy, In order to have a close relationship, emotional connection is required. Without empathy — an awareness of someone else’s thoughts, feelings and needs, mutual understanding, caring, and expression of that care — there can be no real connection, and no real relationship.
Such is the nature of vampirism — one is fed while the other one withers.
In addition, not having your own income is a recipe for disaster! It puts all the power in his hands, and he knows that — it’s why he doesn’t want you to work, as evidenced by the fights that ensue when you get a job. He wants you to be totally dependent upon him, and whatever the reason, it isn’t good. A mentally healthy person would not be doing this to you. He wants you to be unable to leave him. It’s sort of like the old Chinese custom of binding a woman’s feet to prevent further growth. He wants to cripple you.
You should run and not look back. There is nothing good in this for you. Yes, you can say you’re “in a relationship,” but at what price?
If you NEED to be in a relationship, you shouldn’t be in one until you can work past that because it never brings anything good; all it does is make you vulnerable to manipulation. Please read about boundaries, and then develop some — it’ll be the best thing you’ll ever do. Until you do, there is no hope of a healthy relationship with anyone. I don’t believe there’s any hope of one with this particular person; he is not acting like a mentally healthy individual. Boundaries: Loving Again After a Pathological Relationship
Here is a list of your basic human rights. Ask yourself, have you given up these rights to be in your relationship?
I have the right to have my needs and feelings be as important as anyone else’s.
I have the right to experience and express my feelings, if I choose to do so.
I have the right to not be responsible for the feelings of another.
I have the right to express my opinions, if I choose to do so.
I have the right to set my own priorities.
I have the right to establish independence if I choose to.
I have the right to decide how I spend my time.
I have the right to choose my own lifestyle.
I have the right to change my lifestyle, myself, my behaviors, my values, my life situation, and my mind.
I have the right to make honest mistakes and to admit those mistakes without feeling humiliated.
I have the right to self-fulfillment through my own talents and interests.
I have the right to grow as a person and to accept new challenges.
I have the right to choose who I spend my time with and who I share my body with.
I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in all my relationships.
I have the right to be listened to respectfully.
I have the right to ask for what I want assertively.
I have the right to say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know” without feeling or being humiliated.
I have the right to say “No,” and to set limits and boundaries without feeling guilty.
I have the right to set limits on how I will be treated in relationships.
I have the right to expect my boundaries to be respected.
I have the right to walk away from toxic or abusive relationships.
I have the right to have these Basic Human Rights and to stand up for them.
(List of rights from Serenity Online Therapy)
“When we don’t have boundaries, we neglect who we are and what we want. As a result, we see the skewed image of ourselves as reflected in the eyes of those to whom we give our power, and we mistake it for the truth.”
The 6 best ways to keep emotional vampires out of your life:
- Have good clear boundaries, and protect them. Emotional vampires have to cross your boundaries before they can suck your life away. You have to have boundaries to keep them out.
- Keep your basic human rights and emotional needs in mind. Write them down and keep the list handy. Periodically evaluate your relationship by asking yourself if your needs are being met and if your rights are intact. When you are involved in a relationship where you’ve given up these needs and rights, you will probably be unaware of it if you don’t make this conscious effort. It happens gradually and under the level of our conscious awareness.
- Think long and hard before you ever give up something important to you for someone else, be it your needs, your goals, your home, your job, your hobbies, or your friends and family. Some things are not open to compromise; it’s for you to decide what those things are. Someone who loves and respects you and has your best interests at heart will not want to take these things away from you. A person who does want to take them away only wants to control you in order to fulfill his or her own needs. In other words, they are using you. I doubt that’s the kind of person or relationship you want in your life.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by giving up everything–even yourself!–to be with someone. The more you give up the harder it will be to leave. Being dehumanized is not a substitute for a mutually fulfilling relationship.
- Recognize the signs that you’re being emotionally manipulated: How To Tell if You’re Being Manipulated reveals 20 signs that will tell you for sure if manipulation is at play. It can be hard to tell, especially when you’re being blamed, guilt-tripped, and confused. The list of signs in this article makes it easy.
- If you don’t feel ‘complete’ without a relationship, don’t have another one until you do. Seriously. Do whatever it takes to resolve this belief. If you do, you will be a thousand times happier and a thousand times less vulnerable to being used and manipulated.
♥ Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
This is not an emotional vampire; it’s just a cute little dog with very bad teeth.
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