A key element to a happier life is being with by a supportive and encouraging partner.
Sometimes, though, we can mistake encouraging people with manipulators and it can be hard to tell the difference.
You may have a feeling that you are with a manipulating girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife, and they are constantly demanding!
It’s rare to find people, even if it is about your life partner, who will invest time and energy into something that doesn’t have the potential for some personal gain. Just like in business, we calculate the ROI (return on investment) for our relationships, maybe not in such a black and white way, but it happens.
A manipulative partner would know how to get what they need with little effort from themselves, but at great cost to the other. They find ways to work around the system (or you) for their benefit, so even though your ROI is low, you still take the time to invest in the relationship.
Manipulating partners spend a lot of time and energy creating an environment where they can control the outcome, so their needs are constantly met by their significant half. The biggest problem of a manipulative relationship is we often don’t even know it’s happening, and we allow it to continue.
1. Hence, the first step is to Identify the Problem
The first sign to identify a problem is having an encounter with a situation and not feeling quite right about it and therefore questioning the outcome. If you have questions and doubts around something you promised or agreed to your spouse or partner, it might be time to start questioning the motives behind their request.
Here are some characteristics of manipulating partners:
- Their needs take precedence over yours.
- They expect you always to be available on a moment’s notice.
- They are often in a crisis that requires immediate action.
Another key indicator of a manipulative relationship is when a close friend of yours starts to notice the imbalance of the give and take with your partner. For instance, a family friend or a common friend comes up to you and tells you that you are always doing things for your partner, but they are not contributing to that level. Pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from someone else’s point of view.
2. Second step is to Ask Questions
Part of a manipulative relationship is the never-ending demands that are put upon you. They are usually phrased in such a way that you should feel privileged at the opportunity of doing things.
Like “You are so lucky that you have someone to take out for lunch today” or “I know you would be happy to buy me my favourite perfume”.
Because a manipulator thrives on control, it is helpful to take away some of that control by putting the focus back on them by asking questions. The right kind of questions can help make them aware of the one-sided value to the request and can signal that you are aware of their behaviour.
I see how this helps you. Can you help me understand how this benefits me?
Do I have a say in how this goes forward?
Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?
Does it seem fair to you that you are asking me to do …?
When you ask probing questions, you are shining a light on the true nature of their request. If there is any self-awareness, then they will usually see the situation for what it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.
3. Third step is to Say “No” and Stand Firm
You can only control your actions. That is important because you will not be able to change the behaviour of a born manipulative person, but you can stop being their victim. That happens when you start saying “no.”
We are manipulated because we allow it and refusing to be manipulated is the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their response. They are likely to say or do things that pull at the heart strings. We should stand firm in our “no,” knowing that we are taking the first step towards freeing ourselves from their influence.
4. Fourth step is to Use Time to Your Advantage
Manipulative partners are good at what they do and will have all sorts of responses to your objections. They also know their best opportunity to get us on board with their scheme is to get us to agree immediately. Just like some weak moments in bed, or over a delicious meal.
Instead of committing to the request, you should start using time to your advantage.
“Let me get back to you.”, should be your usual answer.
That one statement puts the power of the situation back in your court. It gives you the ability to really assess the situation and allows you to find a reasonable and respectful way to decline if that is what you want to do.
Well, all said and done, we in a relationship for all sorts of reasons, but we should only stay in it if it is serving both the ends equally. So, while your partner may need more attention and help from you because of one reason or the other, a healthy relationship must honour the needs of both involved.
Needless to say, a manipulating partner doesn’t buy this philosophy.
Remember, it is okay to create boundaries and say “no” for your well-being.
After all, we are better prepared to help others or to save the relationship when we put ourselves first.