Manipulation is part of the human condition. At some point in our lives, all of us will have used a form of manipulation in order to get what we want.
Most of the time, this manipulation is harmless; the other person can clearly see what we’re up to and knows why we’re doing it — and though our motive is in our own interest, it isn't sinister.
Even children can manipulate their parents by making them feel guilty for not buying them the latest toy or taking them somewhere special.
However, serious manipulation within a romantic relationship should raise red flags and can have dangerous consequences.
Manipulation and mind games are commonplace in the dating world. So, with that in mind, it's not always easy to feel confident that someone has our best interests at heart, or that we love them because they’re genuinely a good match for us and not because we’ve fallen prey to a narcissist.
To help us get clued-up on the three main forms of manipulation within a relationship, we spoke to Lily Walford, relationship coach at Love With Intelligence. Here, she outlines three common manipulation tactics and gives her advice as to how you can protect yourself.
Guilt-trips are all too common in relationships, with your partner putting the onus on you to fix how they feel at all costs. For example, you might have a night out with friends planned but the day before, your partner could tell you they’re depressed and anxious, and really needs you to stay at home with them, instead. If you argue that you’ve already made arrangements, they’ll crank up the guilt – questioning your feelings for them or perhaps even threatening to harm themselves.
Shame is a powerful emotion; a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour — or what we are told others perceive as such.
A partner might make you feel shame by ridiculing your actions or opinions, either behind closed doors or in front of others. In many cases they might try to make you feel as though they are trying to save you from looking foolish or doing something wrong, or as though no one else in your position would behave in the same way.
Gaslighting is a tactic favoured by narcissists. They will ask you to trust them because they claim they know what’s best for you. Gaslighting relies on you not trusting yourself and is characterised by trying to make you doubt your own judgment. Be wary of anyone who makes decisions on your behalf, tells you what to think or tries to alter your memory of events.
5 ways to spot the warning signs
So, what can you do when faced with manipulation? Below, Lily gives her advice as to how you can protect yourself:
Pay attention to your first reaction. Ignore what they’re saying — how do you feel about it?
Ask yourself, are they trying to influence you towards an outcome that is good for you and in line with your values? Or, are they only interested in their own needs and wants?
Remember that losing your partner’s supposed favourable opinion of you is no loss if they don’t respect your boundaries and won’t take no for an answer.
If it feels safe to do so, let them know you’ve spotted these forms of manipulation; this will give you an indication if they’re capable of having a healthy dialogue.
If you don’t feel safe to let them know you’re onto them, this is a huge red flag and you should leave the relationship as soon as you can.
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