Is your partner a manipulator?

You desperately need a night off from the kids, but somehow you find yourself looking after them alone. Again. Point is, you’ve been manipulated by a skilled partner. How do people do this? And, more importantly, why do people fall for this?

Think of your partner, your parents and your kids. And if you’re working fulltime, you’ll have little time to think of anything else after hours!

While relationships are all about give-and-take, there are some relationships that are about take-and-take. Question is why people in relationships allow themselves to be so easily manipulated.

“People often want to please their partners and be liked by them. While this is understandable, this constant desire to please can be abused by the partner who feels he/she is in a powerful position to give or withhold approval. This approval is based on whether he/she gets the other person to do what is wanted,” says psychologist, Ilse Terblanche.

“This sort of manipulation does not only happen in long-term relationships, but also in friendships or in workplace relationships. The withholding of approval, especially if someone has been made dependent on that approval, is a very powerful tool,” according to Terblanche.

She also mentions the fact that many relationships are characterised by power struggles – and an attempt at manipulation is often a weapon in this war arsenal.

But we all have to give in for the sake of peace, every now and then. But if you keep on finding that you’re the one who’s giving in, you’re being manipulated.

So how do people manipulate others?

Make them dependent. If you’re beginning to feel that you could not possibly cope at all without this person in your life, alarm bells should start to sound. Every now and then we are all dependent – when we are ill, have small children, are unemployed – but if this person is starting to feel like your heart-lung machine, it’s time to get back on your feet. If you’re too dependent on someone else, there is almost nothing they cannot make you do, especially if they start playing the ‘it’s-us-against-the-rest-of-the-world’ card.

Withhold love and approval. These two things, by their very nature, should not be conditional within relationships. We all get angry with partners or friends, and sometimes we don’t like them very much, but love should not waver. When someone is using your need for their love and approval to get you to do things, something is wrong.

Make them go on a guilt trip. We all feel we could do more for others and that we should think less of our own interests. It’s just the strange way we’ve been brought up. Noble thought, indeed, but if we don’t look after ourselves first, we can do nothing for others. Guilt trips can be recognised by the sentences, “If you loved me, you would…” or “After all I’ve done for you”. Point is, if the other person loved you, they would not be saying this to you.

Control money matters. Controlling the purse strings is one of the oldest ways of manipulating someone. Making them sing for their supper, in other words. If you have to ask for every cent (unless you’re a complete shopaholic, or a gambling addict), you are being manipulated by means of money. Sometimes people who do this don’t like their partners to work, as it gives them too much freedom. Or they insist that the whole salary be handed over.

Attack someone’s self-image. If you think very little of yourself because you are constantly being put down, both in private and in front of others, you will do almost anything to win the approval of the one who is cutting you down. Once you are in this kind of mind frame, you are like putty in the hands of the manipulator. You feel unattractive, penniless, unaccomplished and lacking in skills. In short, you’re trapped, with the manipulator as your only lifeline.

Signs that you are being manipulated

  • You constantly find yourself having to do unpleasant tasks
  • You have little money of your own, and if you do have quite a bit, you keep on having to foot the bill for the two of you
  • There are frequent cutting comments about your appearance or character. These can sometimes be disguised as constant teasing
  • You find yourself doing things for this person that he/she would never have done for you
  • When you show any resistance, you are made to feel worthless, stupid and lacking in insight
  • You are always expected to put your own interests or wishes second
  • A normal discussion is almost impossible with this person, as he/she gets aggressive and insulting and refuses to discuss the issue at hand
  • You find yourself constantly apologising for things that were not your fault
  • You are made to doubt your own observations and opinions, and their validity is downplayed

(Photo of crying woman from Shutterstock)

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