The moment you realise you are and have been emotionally manipulated in a relationship, can at first be devastating, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
It can literally rip the rug right out from under your feet, and leave you questioning how you allowed another person to do this to you. It is by no means a sign that you are a weak person, or that there is any flaw in your character, but recognising it and doing something about it can show incredible inner strength.
Emotional manipulators do so as if it is second nature to them, and no doubt have their underlying reasons for their behaviour and actions. This situation is by no means specific to intimate relationships with a partner or a lover, but may be with a work colleague, a family member or a friend.
Here are some signs that may be being emotionally manipulated:
You start questioning if there is something wrong with you
This can be one of the first signs that you are being taken advantage of emotionally. The manipulator gathers information about your strengths and weaknesses in their mind. They seek something from you, but are not able to directly talk to you about it. This is where they will start playing games with you, and will leave you questioning if it is something you are doing wrong, it is not.
An example of this may be that all your life, you have been praised on a certain personality trait or characteristic, but all of a sudden this one person starts having an issue with it, and questions you. While this should ring alarm bells, often it does not, as the manipulator has wooed you with their charm and has you hooked.
They will continuously bring up their issue and state to you that they don’t think that this characteristic is a good fit for you. It could be your sense of humour that people praise you on, and you have been making people laugh for your whole life. The manipulator will start to tell you that nothing you say is actually funny, and that other people feel the same and you should start making changes. Again, alarm bells, this is a warning sign.
They get defensive when you question them, but expect you to tell them every detail of your life or movements that day
This is more so relevant in an intimate relationship, but can also be present in a relationship with others mentioned earlier.
You may be an easy going and trustworthy person, so you do not feel the need to justify or explain all your movements or interactions with other people, because you know you are a good person. The emotional manipulator does not see it like this. They sleep with one eye open so to speak, because they often have much to hide, and will deflect things back on to you when questioned about their movements or interactions with others.
It could start out seemingly innocent.
“Who was that on the phone?”
“How long have you known them?”
“You’ve never mentioned them before?”
These three questions are classic examples of when you are involved in an intimate relationship with an emotional manipulator. This is the beginning of a slippery slope and can lead to much hostility. Tread carefully.
They can’t understand why you don’t question their every move, but when you do, they get on the defence
Again, a mind game.
The fact that you do not feel the need to question someones every move is healthy. It shows that you have a level of trust in others, as you should. The emotional manipulator however, does not see life this way. They will attempt to convince you that there is something fundamentally wrong with because you do not ask enough questions about them.
They will tell you that you don’t care enough about them, or that you do not love them or do not show affection often enough. But when you do start to ask them questions, as they have essentially asked you to do, they will become defensive and deflect back on to you.
The fact that you are completely trusting and content with yourself does not even enter their minds. If you choose to play into this game and start to ask questions of them, you will be met with hostility more often than not. Again, an alarm bell.
Their moods will change rapidly
Be careful here that rapid mood swings are not a sign of a more serious underlying issue. Please seek appropriate professional help if you think there is something more serious going on.
But you may find that they go from hot to cold with you quite rapidly. An example of this is where they can be completely savage with you, but then the phone rings, and they are an angel. This can be true of many situations some would say, but when you are involved with an emotional manipulator, this will occur more than once, and with more and more intensity each time. Keep yourself safe, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The wheels will start to fall off and they will try to hook you in one last time
Emotional manipulators often have many skeletons in their closets, and much prefer to keep them there. However, over time, the wheels will begin to fall off and this is where you should pay close attention.
As much as they have been gathering information about you, you may find that you have also been gathering information about them. When you are involved for a period of time with an emotional manipulator, providing they do not completely break you, you will notice that there are many inconsistencies in their behaviour and their stories. If you stay strong and firm, and question them enough, the wheels will start to fall off and they will come clean. Beware here though, this is not the end.
While they may appear to be confiding in you, and declaring that they have seen the errors of their ways, and are going to change, this is just them stepping up their game. They will not change, not with you, perhaps not with another. One of the hardest pills to swallow after being involved in a relationship of any sort with an emotional manipulator, is that you were merely filling a void in their lives.
They may have spent much time whispering sweet nothings in your ear, but they will do so with the next person, and they did so with the last, this is just how they are, it is by no means a reflection of you.
You must remember this at all times.
Bringing it all together
There is much in life that is challenging. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Much more than what has been discussed here today.
But in the context of this article, you may be feeling incredibly deflated and hopeless at the realisation you have effectively allowed yourself to be emotionally manipulated by another. This is a perfectly normal reaction, but the fact is, the situation has happened, and it has now passed, there is no other option than to accept that it has happened, and do your best to move forward.
More than likely you will feel scarred and betrayed for a while when you realise you have fallen victim to another’s less than desirable aways. But there is much growth that can occur as a result of this realisation. You will heal from this situation and it will make you more alert in the future.
One thing I cannot stress enough and have mentioned a few times in this piece, is that nothing that an emotional manipulator does to you is a reflection of your character. Everything you stood for before knowing them, and everything you stand for now, is who you are at the core. You had plenty of support before they came along, and no doubt you have plenty of support from those that matter today.
If there is one takeaway from a situation like this, it is that experiencing emotional manipulation will set the foundations for the future, and the people you choose to surround yourself with.
It will plant your feet firmly on the ground, and allow your eyes to open wide, and remain that way. Do not allow such a situation to harden you. Sure, it may in the short term, but there will come a time when you will trust again.
I will write in the coming days about the “safety button” and how learning to recognise when this has been hit by a potential manipulator, that the relationship is over before it starts, and how to communicate this in a firm, but kind manner.
Thanks for reading.