Little Things That Look Like Love But Are Actually Manipulation

Dayana Sabatin

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You want to have successful relationships in your life. But for various reasons, a lot of your relationships don’t go as planned.

You have work-related relationships that fail, friendships, partners that you simply aren’t compatible with, and even the relationships with your parents seem to go sideways at times.

I’ve been in several manipulative relationships, and it took me a few of those before I finally began to notice the pattern.

The last manipulative relationship I experienced was with my father, and his toxic behavior led to a lot of emotional distress that forced me to open my eyes and view relationships from a different perspective.

If you’re in a relationship that’s causing you stress, or anxiety, or any negative emotion at all — maybe it’s time to look at things from a different point of view as well.

Here are a few things to look out for.

They hate that you’re independent.

Any toxic or manipulative behavior will almost always be associated with control, and having a sense of power over you.

It’s a behavioral pattern that never allows you to be your most true and authentic self.

Whether or not you’re in a relationship, or maybe your best friend hates the fact that sometimes you prefer to be independent and do things on your own, you should always have the ability to live according to your own terms.

Your partner, friend, or parent should never control you or make you feel guilty for being independent.

For example, I started talking to my father after 17 years of not hearing from him. As we slowly started to get to know one another, he started acting negatively towards me whenever I’d mention parts of my life that didn’t include him.

He refused to take “no” for an answer when I didn’t have time to speak to him on the phone, and he hated the fact that I grew up to be just fine without him.

Other examples could be in your romantic life if you start dating someone, and they refuse to give you your space, or they hate the fact that you want to hang out with your friends alone.

They believe that you having fun without them means you don’t love them or want to be without them.

Whoever you’re with should always understand that despite being in a relationship, you have your own life, and it doesn’t all of a sudden become all about them simply because you’ve chosen to share parts of your life with them.

A genuinely supportive partner, friend, or parent will always want the best for you, and they’ll want you to do what makes you happy, not just them.

They over promise on everything.

A skilled manipulator will always lie or make promises about something that you want in the future to get what they want in the present moment, or they simply just want to appear good in your eyes.

These types of promises are guaranteed to be broken.

For example, when you’re dating someone new, everything seems perfect. You think he’s the one. You both love the same books, have watched Friends on replay a dozen times, you both have the same mindset about life — what could possibly be wrong?

One night, your partner tells you that they’re going to take you on a wonderful vacation—the vacation of your dreams. You’re thrilled because you finally found a man who takes the initiative.

A few months later, nothing happens. You bring it up, and they tell you to wait.

A few months later, still nothing. In fact, you find out that your partner doesn’t even have a dime to their name, so why on earth did they make all of these promises to you in the first place?

When you confront them about it, they feed you with excuses and promise you that they’re going to change, they’ll start saving money, they’ll get a job, and you’ll finally go on that dreamy vacation.

Narcissists and others who possess manipulative tendencies lie, and they’ll almost always speak directly to your most heartfelt desires, whether that be marriage, work, travel, or anything really.

My father over-delivered on everything at the beginning of our reunion; he’d make claims about how involved he would be, how he wanted to take care of me, and now a year later — he’s just as absent as he was the last 17 years.

They refocus the point of an argument in ways that favor themselves.

A manipulator will never take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they’ll always blame you for causing the argument in the first place.

Have you ever had a conversation with your partner, and you’re really trying to get through to them about something that they did, and yet somehow, you’re the one at fault in the end?

Manipulative people will always prey on your sensibilities and emotional sensitivity. They’ll always cater to you in the beginning; they’ll praise you and make you feel loved, but over time those praises will minimize, and anything you say will almost always be turned against you.

When I would bring up the conversation of my father not trying to get in contact with me for the last 17 years, somehow he would always manage to make it my fault — he would claim that I was too busy living my life in America and that I didn’t need him.

Psychologist Darlene Lancer says that manipulators often use projection as a tactic to blame, guilt, and shame you. Projection is a defense where the manipulator accuses others of his or her own behavior. By shifting the blame, the manipulator becomes innocent and free to carry on while you, the victim, now feels guilt and shame, despite you not being in the wrong.

When my mother and I left my father, I was five years old. Sure, I spent some time looking for him online — but outside of that, I had no knowledge as to where he could possibly be; meanwhile my father had the necessary resources to find me.

If you get into arguments with your partner, and it all started because they did something to hurt your feelings, they’ll almost always find some mistake from months ago and use it against you, and they’ll justify their own poor behavior and say,

“I love you. That’s why I treat you this way. You deserve this.”

They’ll always take advantage of you.

Manipulative people love kind people; they like being with trustworthy people whose needs they can use to gain control.

It’s their way of tricking you into believing that you need them and can’t live without them.

They’ll be kind to you to get you to do things for them; they’ll make you feel like certain situations are mutually beneficial when in fact, you’re always on the losing end.

For instance, my father lives in Ukraine, and the first month or so into talking — he told me I could bring him to America if I really loved him.

Or, another example: Your partner asks you to pay his rent because he wants to focus on his hobby of gaming more. “You have a great paying job, babe. You can spare a few hundred bucks.”

If your co-worker is lazy and they know you’re a hard worker, they might convince you to pick up their slack by feeding you excuses like,

“I was out late last night. Do you think you could handle the meeting by yourself and come up with the deck? Thanks, you’re a real friend.”

Learn how to identify the difference between someone who’s really struggling and someone who just wants to use you for their own personal gain.

It’s all about them.

You come home, you’re tired, hungry, you’ve actually had one of the most stressful days at work, and all you want is to order a pizza, pour a glass of wine, and vent to your partner about the terrible day you had at work.

And yet… they won’t listen. They make you feel like your day wasn’t important, and their day had a significant amount of troubles that yours just doesn’t even come close to.

They don’t care about validating your hardships or making you feel better. In fact, they always make you feel as if they’ve been through the utmost terrible experiences in life, while you’ve just had it all peachy.

Despite it all, you listen to them and try to fix their problems for them, and in the process, sweeping yours under the rug.

Anytime my father would message me, I would ask him how he’s doing, to which he would respond with “fine” followed by numerous messages about his long day or how he spent time with friends. There were only a small handful of times when he would ask me about my day, and even then, he would end up flipping the conversation to be about him.

When you bring it up to them, they’ll make you feel like you’re overreacting, and instead of actually listening to you, they’ll make you feel guilty and fragile.

It’s seldom that people truly change for the better, but it is possible. However, over time this type of behavior can really damage your self-esteem.

Learning to be more aware is the first step to acknowledging that you need to take a step back and reassess the relationships in your life.

After the messy experience I had with my father, I realized that if a person truly does love you and wants the best for you, they will always prioritize your happiness over their own.

There will never be a catch to your relationship, they will never expect you to change for them, they will never expect you to constantly give when all they do is take.

Someone who loves you will never make you feel less than or belittle you.

And once you find that, hold on to it. Anything less than — let it go.

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Freelance writer sharing thoughts on self-improvement, productivity, and success.

Santa Monica, CA
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