Opinion: Combat Relationship Manipulation By Enforcing Boundaries

Stacy Ann

Photo byMilan Popovic/Unsplash

First, it was the boyfriend that constantly played the victim role. Then it was the one who claimed that it was love at first sight and love-bombed me blind. Later on, I encountered gaslighting and constant invalidation, although I didn't know their exact terms.

Manipulation is something that is done both knowingly and subconsciously. Either way, it's toxic, something that should be called out in a relationship, or it will be detrimental.

There is no excuse for manipulation in a healthy relationship, and if your partner isn't willing to change, then it's time to walk away.

Here are five different forms of manipulation that I have encountered in relationships and the ways in which you can combat them.

#1. Hold firm to your version of the truth

Recently my fiance claimed he hadn't put my sunglasses in his backpack when I saw him do it in person.

Immediately I went through my version of events, remembered our conversation and what I had seen, and found them after a quick search.

His reaction was an immediate apology and admission that he had forgotten and that he was sorry.

The moment caused me to reflect on if this had happened with my ex and that he would have said I was crazy, and that I had put them in there, not him, and that I was constantly twisting the story.

Don't allow someone to cause you to doubt yourself. If you are wrong, it should be a simple conversation, not someone boasting that you are never correct in your beliefs or truth.

#2. Don't back down when they start playing the victim

Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to confront someone about their behavior, and suddenly YOU were the one apologizing?

It was Valentine's Day in 2010, and I had gone to the movies with my boyfriend at the time. Unfortunately, I have a terrible nut allergy and ate something that must have been cross-contaminated. My boyfriend had made dinner reservations for later in the day, but I apologized and said I likely wouldn't be able to make it because I was so sick.

Instead of being empathetic, he immediately began pouting and said that I had ruined the day. Suddenly I was apologizing profusely even though what had happened was entirely not my fault.

Playing the victim card comes straight from the manipulator's playbook, don't appease them and stay firm.

#3. Do not believe their promises/negotiations

Several weeks ago, I received a message from a young man going through an abusive relationship. He provided a bit of backstory, which included her constant infidelity, then asked a question that I have heard repeatedly.

"She promised to change and said I can go through her phone, so I trust her again… I feel like she means it this time… do you think that things will be different if I take her back?"

My answer was simple.

Why would you choose to believe someone who has continually shown you their true colors as a liar and manipulator?

Words mean nothing without actions behind them, and someone shouldn't have to hurt you or lose you to claim that they finally "love" you.

#4. Expect that they will throw a tantrum/go into a rage when they don't get their way

Temper tantrums as an adult can be a sign of uncontrollable emotions. They are also used as a means of manipulation.

Years ago, I was in a relationship with an older man who would go into an absolute rage when he didn't get his way. At first, I tried apologizing or attempting to explain my point of view.

Eventually, I realized that this behavior was his reaction and realized that it didn't matter what I did. If I spoke up for myself or set a boundary, the rage was coming, and nothing would stop it.

Instead of allowing myself to continue being manipulated by this behavior, I stopped giving him the satisfaction of a reaction and then left the relationship altogether.

#5. Cut out the poison if they can't adhere to your boundaries

Although some of this can feel discouraging, I want to remind you that people can grow and choose to change in their relationships if they are willing to put in the work.

When my (now) fiance and I initially started dating, there were moments when I played the victim instead of taking responsibility for my actions. He told me that behavior wouldn't be acceptable in the relationship, and I began addressing the issue immediately.

In some cases, you and your partner will be willing to do the work. On the other hand, if someone is truly toxic and unwilling to look within, they are never going to change.

Manipulation has no place in a loving relationship, and if your partner continues to demonstrate these unhealthy behaviors, it is time to cut ties.

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I am a writer & relationship consultant here to help you navigate the waters.


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