Know when you’re being manipulated in a relationship, and what to do

Published on: 14 April 2022, 21:33 pm IST
Facing manipulation in relationships can impact your mental health and self-confidence. An expert tells you the signs you must watch out for.
Sana Rubiyana
Don’t allow any person to manipulate your thoughts and actions. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Relationships are not about manipulation. But if you may be surrounded with one or more people who indulge in it, you need to raise your guard! Manipulation in relationships is not good for your mental health.

What is manipulation?

Psychological manipulation can be defined as the expertise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense. Manipulation, at its core, is a fear-based response that is used when a person doesn’t trust themselves and believes that they need to control the behaviour of people around them, to cope. When manipulating people, the person is attempting to control a narrative of their own creation.

It’s easy to be manipulated without knowing it sometimes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Understanding manipulation

* Emotionally healthy people do not tell you who to interact with, who to speak to, who to follow online or what to believe. They respect your boundaries and your personal autonomy.

* Emotionally healthy people will always trust your reality or perspective, they will not claim to be all knowing or an authority of truth. They will respect that you are your own best expert.

* Your past or vulnerable things you have shared will not be shared to others by a person who is safe.

* Tolerance or acceptance of different realities is a sign of safe, secure person, you can trust.

* Manipulation, plus emotional immaturity, tend to go hand in hand.

* Safe people have a high level of tolerance. They allow you to be yourself even if they feel uncomfortable.

When someone tries to manipulate you all the time, it can lead to conflicts. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What does manipulation in relationships look like?

* Someone not allowing you do something that they are allowed to do
* When you choose to do something, the person does not agree with, they recruit members of your family or friends to persuade you out of it
* Insecurities or things you’ve disclosed about yourself are used against you
* When you raise issues or concerns, you are blamed and the person claims to be the authority on truth
* If you say ‘no’ or don’t want to do something, you are pressured into doing it anyways
* A manipulative person will never accept your reality and your perception about things. They will always invalidate your feelings and emotions.
* You are forced to prove yourself or your commitment by doing things that make you feel uncomfortable.
* Your past is used against you to make you look bad, especially to others so you cannot be trusted by others.

Also Read: 4 pillars of a healthy relationship to make your bond stronger

A manipulative partner can give you stress. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the mental health effects of manipulation in relationships?

If unaddressed, manipulation can lead to poor mental health outcomes for those who are being manipulated. Chronic manipulation in close relationships may also be a sign emotional abuse, which in some cases, can have a similar effect to trauma. This happens particularly when the victim of manipulation is made to feel guilty or ashamed.

Victims of chronic manipulation may:

* Feel depressed
* Develop anxiety
* Develop unhealthy coping patterns
* Constantly try to please the manipulative person
* Lie about their feelings
* Put another person’s needs before their own
* Find it difficult to trust others
* Finds it difficult to be assertive or say no

In some cases, manipulation can be so pervasive that it causes a victim to question their perception of reality.

Manipulation and mental health disorders

Manipulation is particularly common with personality disorder such as borderline personality (BPD) and narcissistic personality (NPD). For many with BPD, manipulation may be a means of meeting their emotional needs or obtaining validation, and it often occurs when the person with BPD feels insecure or abandoned.

As many people with BPD have witnessed or experienced abuse, manipulation may have developed as a coping mechanism to get needs met indirectly.

Individuals with narcissistic personality (NPD) may have different reasons for engaging in manipulative behaviour. As those with NPD may have difficulty forming close relationships, they may resort to manipulation in order to “keep” their partner in the relationship. Characteristics of narcissistic manipulation may include shaming, blaming, playing the “victim,” and control issues.

Also Read: 7 red flags that make it crystal clear that your partner is gaslighting you

Even your friends can manipulate you. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How does manipulation work in different relationships?

Long-term manipulation can have serious effects in close relationships, including those between friends, family members, and romantic partners.

1. Manipulation in love:

Manipulation can deteriorate the health of a relationship and lead to poor mental health of those in the relationship or even the dissolution of the relationship.

Take this quiz, answer these 8 questions and we’ll reveal if you and bae should call it quits!

2. Manipulation in marriage

In a marriage or partnership, manipulation can cause one partner to feel bullied, isolated, or worthless. Many people may even know they are being manipulated in their relationship and choose to overlook or downplay it. Manipulation in intimate relationships can take many forms, including aggression, guilt, selectively showing affection, secret-keeping, and passive aggression.

Parents can be manipulative too! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Manipulation in parenting

Parents who manipulate their children may set their children up for guilt, depression, anxiety, eating issues, and other mental health conditions. One study also revealed that parents who regularly use manipulation tactics on their children may increase the likelihood their children will also use manipulative behaviour. Signs of manipulation in the parent-child relationship may include making the child feel guilty, lack of accountability from a parent, downplaying a child’s achievements, and a need to be involved with many aspects of the child’s life.

4. Manipulation in friendships

In manipulative friendships, one person may be using the other to meet their own needs at the expense of their friend’s. A manipulative friend might use guilt or coercion to extract favours, such as loaning money, or they may only reach out to that friend when they need their own emotional needs met and may find excuses when their friend has needs in the relationship.

How to deal with manipulative people or stop manipulation:

Know your fundamental human rights. As long as you do not harm anyone else, you have the right to stand up for yourself and defend your rights. These fundamental human rights represent your boundaries. Manipulators want to deprive you of your rights so they can control you and take advantage of you, but you have the power and moral authority to declare that it is you, not the manipulator who is in charge of your life.

* Keep your distance, maintain a healthy distance when you have come to an understanding of such a behavioural pattern, it is not your job to save them or change them.

* Avoid personalization and self-blame. It is important to remember that you are not the problem, you are simply being manipulated to feel bad about yourself so that you’re more likely to surrender your power and rights.

* Put the focus on them by asking probing questions: does this seem reasonable to you?, does what you want from me sound fair?, do I have a say in this?, are you asking me or telling me?, so what do I get out of this? Are you really expecting me to?

* You can exercise leadership over the situation by simply saying, “I’ll think about it”. Consider leveraging time to your advantage and distancing yourself from his or her immediate influence.

* Know to say no diplomatically but firmly, learn the art to be assertive
Confront bullies safely, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether its standing tall on your own or having other people present to witness and support.

 

Sana Rubiyana

Sana Rubiyana Counselling Psychologist Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru

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