Manipulation can be so subtle and undercover that it can control you for quite a while before you figure out what’s happening, if you ever do. Some manipulators are highly skilled. They’re described by some as puppet masters, and you could become an unknowing puppet if you don’t know the signs.
As your strings are pulled this way and that, you do just what the puppet master wants you to do. You think you’re acting from your own free will, but the truth is you’re not. Once the relationship ends, many victims finally see they were under the manipulator’s control.
If you’re a victim, you probably suspect something is wrong and you want to know how to tell if you’re being manipulated. It’s actually easier and more obvious than you might think.
I have a page on this site about the techniques of covert emotional manipulation, but the truth is you don’t have to know anything at all about the techniques to know if your strings are being pulled. If you’re in a relationship and notice a few of the following signs, there’s a high probability you’re being manipulated:
- Your joy at finding love has turned into the fear of losing it. This is known as the “manipulative shift.” You will start feeling stressed at this point.
- Sometimes s/he gives you a lot of attention and love, and sometimes he gives you the cold shoulder for no reason. You’re left wondering what you’ve done wrong.
- Your feelings have gone from happiness and euphoria to anxiety, sadness and even desperation.
- Your relationship feels very complex, although you may not be sure why.
- You obsess about the relationship almost constantly.
- You never feel sure of where you stand with your partner; you feel you’re in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety.
- You feel confused about the relationship and frequently ask your partner what’s wrong. He becomes angry or frustrated and he consistently denies responsibility for any problems.
- You feel that you just don’t know how to make him/her happy.
- You may frequently feel angry and resentful toward your partner, yet are not allowed to express it. Communication feels restricted or even forbidden, causing feelings of extreme frustration and even hostility.
- You feel inadequate. You don’t feel as good about yourself as you did before the relationship.
- Your emotions and moods are controlled by your partner’s words and actions.
You might be wondering how you (or anyone else) could stay in a relationship that causes fear, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, frustration and hostility. Wouldn’t you know something is terribly wrong?
There are two reasons people stay. First, the relationship got off to an amazing start. He or she seemed like your perfect partner — your soul mate, probably — and the honeymoon phase was idyllic. Since you’ve been manipulated into blaming yourself for the problems, you stick with the relationship and desperately try to repair the damage.
Second, “manipulation is an evolving process over time,” according to Harriet B. Braiker, PhD., author of “Pulling Your Own Strings.” Victims are controlled through a series of promised gains and threatened losses covertly executed through a variety of manipulation tactics. In other words, the manipulation builds gradually as the abuser creates uncertainty and doubt by going back and forth from hot to cold, by going back and forth from giving you what you desire to taking it away.
If you believe you’re in a relationship with a manipulator and you are being harmed by that manipulation, get out and sever all contact. Seek professional counseling as soon as possible from a therapist familiar with the effects of emotional abuse.
To avoid becoming involved in another abusive relationship, make a priority of learning what made you the target of a manipulator. The traits of people who are victimized by manipulators will be the subject of my next blog post.
I recommend “Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life” by H.B. Braiker. This book “will help you end a current destructive relationship, understand how it occurred – and prevent you from ever getting involved in a manipulative relationship again.”
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