Everything you need to know about manipulators and how to escape them
The thing about manipulation is it’s not always easy to see.
I’m living proof of this. 29 years of manipulation and 4 years of ‘deprogramming’. I’m still finding corners of shittiness in my brain.
For instance. Work. I know I’m doing a good job. I’m doing more than most people in my situation would do. I still give myself shit for not working harder. Doing better. Learning more. Learning faster.
To un-brainwash myself I’ve spent a long time looking inwards. Remembering the events of the past that got me into this mess. When you can understand how and why it works it becomes easier to see and escape from.
So why do you need to be able to see it?
Because manipulation isn’t a nice neat little thing you can classify. It’s messy, it comes in all shapes and sizes from all kinds of people.
I cannot stress enough what long term emotional abuse is capable of doing to you.
When I left my ex husband (the most damaging manipulator in my life) I had started a 6 month secondment. That meant, after 6 months in a new job, I had to go back to the old one. (Financial services is weird like that).
I returned to my old job and some surprised colleagues. I had worked there for over a year before I left. They knew me as a dowdy person. I had mousy blonde hair that went to my waist, always worn in the same style. My ex had taken to choosing my clothes. He liked to see me in drab, old fashioned, shapeless styles with flat shoes.
Imagine their faces. 6 months later I walked in (with swagger). I had short red hair, I was 2 stone lighter, I looked slick and smart, I was wearing heels. People were falling over themselves to tell me I looked amazing.
It was even more noticeable when I went back to South Wales two years later. The people I had worked with for over 7 years had seen me at the peak of my downtroddenness.
I actually had to go up to people and remind them who I was.
I looked so different that they actually didn’t recognise me.
When they finally realised it was me, they gushed about how happy and confident I looked — not at all like I was…
There was one manager in particular that I’d fallen out with before going to Yorkshire. She was a bit of a manipulator. I escaped her by leaving for Yorkshire, an admission you won’t often hear me make.
I was working opposite her for three days before she recognised me. At this point I’d been gone for about a year and a half.
I hate reading about people trapped in shitty relationships. It’s my duty as someone who has lived through it and come out in a better position to help others in the same situation. You are worthy of so much more than this.
Here are some things that manipulative people don’t want you to know. Things that I hope will make you sit up and take notice of any kind of emotional abuses in your life:
Nothing you ever do will be good enough for the manipulator.
They have an ideal image in their mind of what you should be, who you should be. With the best intention in the world you can never live up to that expectation.
You believe you will get there one day. One day you’ll be that person they want you to be. It’s this belief that has you trapped in the manipulation. If this is you, get out of there. Nothing good will come of this.
Remember you are who you are and that’s what makes you beautiful. If other people can’t get on board with that then they aren’t worth your time.
Don’t get confused between help and control.
My fiancé knows I have flaws. We are both aware of them. My defensiveness is something we talk about on a regular basis. He doesn’t make me feel bad about it though. He doesn’t try to hurt me with it.
He reminds me when I’m being defensive and tells me how it makes him feel. He asks me why I’m being defensive. This opens an honest dialogue that helps me deal with it. I don’t fear punishment. He doesn’t make me feel like a bad person for having flaws.
If I did anything my ex husband didn’t like he would get aggressive. He’d shout at me, slam doors, throw things around, stop talking to me — made me feel like I was a naughty child.
When I got my first job in a chip shop to help support us, he hated it. He would drop me off and collect me from work. He would remind me how many hours I’d been gone and then he would refuse to talk to me until the next day. He’d slam every door he went through to make sure I knew how pissed he was.
I’d done a fucking 12 hour shift. I’d been on my feet the entire time, I had usually burnt myself on the fryer many times. Still I’d feel bad for going to work.
If you feel like you are being punished, why are you still there? Leave. Get out. You are worth more than this.
It’s not about you.
Manipulators, whether they know they are doing it or not, are in it for their own benefit. It’s about what you can do for them and which version of you best suits their needs, wants and desires.
It’s never actually about making you feel like shit. It’s about making them feel better, feel in control, serving their interests. That it makes you feel like shit along the way doesn’t particularly bother them. Often they manipulate themselves into believing they are doing the right thing.
They don’t know what’s best for you.
Despite their insistence that they do, that’s rarely the case. In a healthy relationship decisions are mutual. Made to further the interests of both parties. Made together.
In a manipulative relationship you’re told what’s best for you. You won’t find yourself making decisions, unless they aren’t important ones.
Sometimes to give you the illusion of choice. They’ll listen to your input but dismiss it until you pick the answer they wanted all along.
No one can tell you what’s best for you, that’s your job. Even if your decision fails. So what. That’s how we learn, but only you know what’s best for you.
If you are in this kind of relationship. Stop and think. Is it actually in your interests to continue?
Manipulators aren’t evil.
In most relationships one partner has more responsibility than another on some decisions. For instance, in my relationship, I get the deciding vote on dates and times for going out because I work full time. He has the deciding vote on people visiting us, because he is unwell. He knows best when he’s most likely to feel up to a visit.
Abuse happens when one person controls the relationship. This person becomes the manipulator. They don’t always start out that way. Some manipulators don’t even realise they are doing it. I don’t for a moment believe my mum knew what she was doing to me.
A lot of them will justify their actions to themselves. They’ll lie to themselves. They manipulate themselves. There’s usually a belief that they’re owed it somehow.
I’ve seen it in myself.
My entire life this is how people treated me. It’s natural for me to use these ‘techniques’ on others, until 4 years ago, that’s how the world worked for me.
That’s another important reason to be writing this article. Because I don’t want the manipulated to become the manipulators. In learning all about it, I’ve been able to stop doing it.
They want you to earn it
Abusive people will often attempt to use love as a weapon. They’ll play up their own love as the best love. No one in the world will ever love you as much as they do.
They will make you earn that love. They’ll tell you they love you more when you do what they want. When you disappoint them they’ll tell you they still love you but… All the manipulators in my life have done this. Without exception.
‘Love’ is not a weapon. ‘Love’ is not currency. ‘Love’ does not have rules and regulations. ‘Love’ is in the small unspoken things. The way you feel when you’re around them, the ache you have when you aren’t. It’s in that look they give you. The one that says I love you even when you aren’t wearing makeup. It’s knowing, even when you fucked up, that they’ll have your back.
If you don’t have that, what do you have?
Spot an abusive relationship early on.
If you meet someone who appears to be very selfless, be on guard. Don’t run away screaming, don’t try to talk to them about it, be on guard.
When they’ve set their sights on you, they’ll do whatever they can to get you on board. They’ll appear the nicest, sweetest, most generous person you’ve ever met. Don’t fall in head first, see where it goes.
Some people are lovely, but a manipulator will pretend for a while. The facade will slip, because at some point they want to get back to their own agenda.
When that facade starts to slip, you’ll notice the odd word or phrase that doesn’t seem quite right. I’ve compiled a list below of 23 phrases that I’ve heard from manipulators. It doesn’t mean if you hear these you are being manipulated, they act as triggers. These things should make you question whether ulterior motives are at play.
- I love you but I don’t like you right now
- Do you know what the problem with you is? You just don’t think, listen, etc.
- If you loved me you wouldn’t go to work. You’d stay here with me.
- All the years I’ve slaved away for you and I’ve asked for nothing in return and you throw it back in my face
- Omg did you think I was being serious!? Aww that’s precious. I was joking, you are sooo sensitive
- Stress!? Stress!? You don’t know what stress is, I have stress, I have to put up with stress, you don’t know the meaning of the word
- You really upset her, she’s been crying all week because you told your mum that she’d snapped at you
- I did tell you about it, last week, remember? You’re so forgetful
- I didn’t tell you about it because I knew how you would react. It’s easier this way
- No, it’s not my fault it’s you, you take everything so personally, it’s not me it’s you twisting everything I say
- You are such a child
- Do you want me to treat you like a little baby because that’s how you’re acting
- Hmm so you think that looks good on you?
- You look like a sack of shit tied in the middle
- Why have you done it that way, that’s ridiculous, you need to think
- You have no common sense
- I suppose you’re going to cry now? Like a little baby
- I thought that’s what you wanted
- I did it for you, for your best interests
- I know what’s best for you (along with an assumption that you don’t know what’s best for yourself)
- I always look out for you don’t I
- (The silent treatment)
- Yes, yes, I know you think you look good
I hate this fact, but to move on it has to be acknowledged:
We all do it.
Everyone has used manipulation in some form or other. It’s not always bad either, sometimes we manipulate people to do what’s best. It’s like convincing your boss that your idea is good and will achieve the goal he’s set. If it involves an investment of time or resource, you’ll need to manipulate them into believing it’s a good idea.
Some people call this ‘influence and persuasion’ — whatever helps you sleep at night. Call it what you want, it’s still manipulation.
Manipulation goes wrong when it’s used by the wrong people.
When it’s used to further your own goals at someone else’s expense.
Like how my mum manipulated me into thinking that she and only she knew what was best for me. She had control over many of my next steps as I was becoming an adult, because she didn’t like a lack of control.
Like how my dad would manipulate me into being his quiet, perpetual punching bag. This at the expense of his daughter’s health and well-being.
Like how my ex husband would manipulate me into thinking that I only existed to make him happy. I felt like an incessant failure, but it served him at my expense.
So, now you know what you are dealing with.
Start asking some questions. Is someone in your life manipulating you. Are you unhappy, are you striving for someone else’s goals and never quite reaching them?
If so get out of there my friend while you still can. You are worth so much more than that, we all are.
You only get one chance at this fucked up thing we call life. Are you going to sit, chained at someone else’s feet and watch it pass you by?
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If you can relate, if you have questions or if it’s just time to end the silence for you, speak up in the comments. I will do whatever I can to help you.
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