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The Trap of A Manipulator And The Only Way Out

I worked for a boss once who made me feel terrible about myself. He would often make unrealistic requests of me—sometimes long after work hours—and make me feel guilty if I didn’t act like it was “my pleasure” to do it. I worked hard for him. Really hard, always thinking that if I could finally prove myself, he would trust me, and I could relax and feel normal again.

But that moment never came. In fact, the longer I worked there, the more anxious I felt. I kept having to work harder and harder, just to keep him even moderately happy. I never knew how he was going to act. Sometimes he would be jovial and fun. Other times he would raise his voice and scream at everyone in the office.

To make matters worse, he would constantly make comments about how I should be more grateful for my job, or joke about how he paid me too much.

The longer I stayed, the harder it felt to leave.


Then one day, at a work party, I finally had a wake-up moment. I listened to him recite an idea I had presented to him at a meeting months back—and play it off like it was his. When I first presented him with the idea, he shrugged it off like it was stupid. And here he was, announcing it to our coworkers, taking all the credit as if it were his own.

Still, after that night, it took me several months to finally quit that job—for reasons I’ll explain later in this post—but I never looked at him, or at myself, the same. And I did eventually find my way out from under his thumb.

A Lesson In Manipulation.

One thing I didn’t realize about manipulation is it can happen to you without you realizing it. In fact, this is probably how it happens most often. We feel things like anger, frustration, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. What we don’t necessarily realize is that these feelings can be simply different faces of what we really feel, which is manipulated.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties and finally in therapy that I started realizing just how many times I had been manipulated in my life—including by the boss I described above.

And once I realized how often I had been manipulated, and still was being manipulated, the sensation was overwhelming. On a daily basis I would find myself feeling furious about a phone call I “needed” to make, a friend I “had” to meet for lunch, a party I was “supposed” to show up for, or a work project with an impending deadline.

It was a bit of a personal crisis.

I actually found myself feeling suspicious of everyone—including myself, by the way—not to mention resentful, rebellious and totally uncertain of who I was or what I wanted in life.

So I started seeing a therapist. And together we talked about areas where I felt manipulated, and even about a few ways I had been manipulative myself. We worked on forgiving myself for using manipulation as a way to protect myself when I didn’t have any other method, and on developing healthier boundaries and strategies for creating space and safety.

She also taught me two lessons about manipulation that have changed my life.

The first one goes like this: if you’re feeling manipulated, ask yourself what you need from that person. If you don’t need anything, they can’t manipulate you. She explained how one of the most common manipulation tactics is a sort of unhealthy “exchange.” For example:

  • Between a parent and a child: “If you obey me, I will love you.”
  • Between spouses: “If you keep me happy, I will stay with you.”
  • Between a boss and employee: “If you never upset me, I will keep paying you.”

She talked about how manipulation thrives because each person is upholding his or her respective end of this distorted agreement, and how the only way for the manipulated person to come out from under the thumb of the manipulator is for her to realize she doesn’t need the thing that is being leveraged anymore.

So in other words, as a grown child, the love and approval she craves is already inside of her. As an employee, she can find another job if the demands become unreasonable. As a spouse, she doesn’t need her partner’s approval in order to feel good about herself.

This lesson changed my life.

The only thing that changed my life more was the second lesson she taught me, which I’ll share with you in just a few paragraphs.

9 Different Kinds of Manipulators.

Before I share the second lesson I learned from my therapist—the one that helped me to figure out why it took me several long, awful months to leave that unreasonable job—I thought I’d share another lesson I learned, thanks to a book I read by Harriett B. Braiker called Who’s Pulling Your Strings?.

There are several different ways a person can manipulate you. In fact, according to Braiker, there are nine different kinds of manipulators. No wonder it can be so difficult for us to know if we’re being manipulated, not to mention to find our way out of those relationships.

Below are the nine different manipulative personalities Braiker lists in her book.

As you read, you may begin to recognize some of these tendencies in relationships that are taking place right now in your life. If so, keep reading, because in the following section I’ll tell you the lesson that finally helped me break free.

The Machiavellian. This personality type is named after the sixteenth century political philosopher named Italian Prince Machiavelli. His philosophy toward all of life—romance, military movement, all other matters—went like this: the end justifies the means. In other words, as long as I get my way in the end, it doesn’t matter who is hurt in the process. And the Machiavellian personality is no different. Machiavellian personalities tend to exploit others to their own (often self-serving) end.

The Narcissist—this is a personality you have probably heard of, and although the term is widely overused, it is characterized by an inflated sense of self-image, along with a sense of entitlement. So not only does this person think very highly of himself, he also believes he deserves to be paid special attention, even to be given certain things, simply because he is himself. Narcissists characteristically have a hard time feeling empathy for other people. That, along with his feelings of entitlement, allow him, like the Machiavellian, to use others for his own sense of personal gain.

The Borderline—a person with borderline personality has highly unstable relationships and constantly shifting moods.

For example, the borderline may think of her lover or partner as the most wonderful person she has ever met. But this attitude can shift drastically to one of devaluation and even contempt triggered by a disappointment that somehow proves to the borderline that the partner does not care enough about her or understand what she needs. This sudden precipitous shift catches the mark off balance and makes him vulnerable to manipulation (Braiker).

You can tell the borderline apart from the other manipulative personalities because when you are around her, you likely feel sucked up into her drama and chaos. And despite the fact that borderline personalities can be highly manipulative, they are also great at playing the victim. Since they are acting from a place of their own desperation, fear and other feelings of overwhelm, they have a hard time understanding how their actions could be as destructive as they ultimately are.

The dependent—this person is very reliant on the support and help of others and is also terrified of abandonment. She therefore manipulates others to stay close to her so she won’t have to function on her own. This is the girlfriend who is clingy, needy, and submissive. She has trouble making her own decisions, so she is constantly looking to others for help and guidance. If you have a friend or partner who you feel like you constantly have to parent, you might be dealing with a dependent manipulator.

The histrionic—In addition to the drama of borderline, the histrionic is always attempting to be the center of attention. In fact, this is her primary motive behind manipulation. She might use strange tactics in order to keep the attention constantly on her—either leveraging her sexual prowess, dressing provocatively or in outrageous styles, or even feigning injury to regain attention when it seems to be fading away. The histrionic is usually vain and self-absorbed, and much like the dependent and the borderline, she manipulates largely out of evocation—evoking negative reaction in others.

The passive-aggressive—passive aggressive people are sneaky manipulators. Despite the fact that their behavior is hostile and aggressive, it flies so completely under the radar that you can’t always notice it. Not only do I recognize myself in this form of manipulation, it was a huge shock to realize this behavior is actually quite hostile. Passive aggressive people are filled with rage but haven’t found a way to express it healthfully, so they act passively resistant. Procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, intentional inefficiency, forgetfulness—these are all tactics of manipulation. Rather than confront the person who they feel puts unfair demands on them, they complain whine, and sulk. THIS WAS ME WITH MY BOSS!

By not doing what is required of them or by seemingly complying with requests that are then sabotaged through passive resistance, the passive-aggressive personality manipulates others by evoking frustration and hostility. They are unlikely to change and display very poor insight or understanding of how their passive resistance affects others.

Passive aggressive people easily justify their behavior since it isn’t outwardly aggressive.

The Type A (Angry)—These folks have what Braiker calls “Hurry Sickness” and often get angry in traffic, or in long lines, or when someone holds them up. They also have an almost insatiable need to win. Their anger, hostility and competitive spirit acts not only as a threat to their own health but it is the weapon they use against others to make sure they always get their way. They are constantly trying to stay at the top of the pile, make sure they are always first in line, and make it where they’re trying to go on time, even if it’s unreasonable to do so. They control using intimidation.

The Con—This personality typically begins young and starts small, with lying about homework or stealing candy. Then, as the con gets older, the lying and stealing escalate until he is highly impulsive, irresponsible, and even dangerous. When I was reading this description, what came to mind was someone who holds hostages to rob a bank, or a young man who open fires on a university campus. Also in this category would be someone like the main character from the movie Catch Me If You Can. The manipulator uses his charm and charisma, as well as other people, to accomplish his means and end. Ultimately he has no conscience and therefore no guilt for his behavior.

The Addict—for the addict, everything takes a backseat to her addiction. Addicts notoriously lie, deny, exploit others, and wreak havoc on their families, work, and social relationships—all for the sake of their substance abuse or addiction. The motive for the manipulation is simply maintaining relationship with the addiction, whatever that looks like. This leaves those in relationship with the addict feeling guilty, depressed, humiliated, angry, frustrated, uncertain, and with a very low self-esteem.

I don’t know about you, but as I was reading, I was thinking both of subtle ways I have been manipulative in my lifetime and also of various manipulators who have come in and out of my life. I also couldn’t help but think about how manipulative personalities are not developed in a vacuum, and how much pain and personal tragedy must go into someone developing one of these above traits. I have a great deal of compassion for the deep wounds that motivate someone to manipulate.

But just because we have compassion for someone who might be in this position doesn’t mean we don’t take steps to protect our well-being. Manipulators may change, but we won’t be the ones to change them (TWEET THAT).

The only way to deal with a manipulator is to change ourselves. We have to be the kind of people who can’t be manipulated.

More about that in just a minute.

The Great Danger in Manipulation.

The real danger in manipulation, if you ask me, is that manipulators steal your ability to bring your unique beauty and gifts to this world (TWEET THAT).

They don’t do it because they’re terrible people, and they might not even do it on purpose, but that doesn’t make it any less of a tragedy. When you are in the grips of a manipulator, what we miss out on is you—all bright and shining and beautiful in this world. When I think back to all of the years of my life I wasted living for the purposes of other people, at the expense of my own passion and joy and creativity, I cringe. And when I see other people doing the same, I cringe again. We need you and your gifts. The world is a better place with you than without.

This is the real danger of manipulation. What a tragedy. I can think of few things more devastating.

In addition, those who are caught in the grips of manipulation—both the manipulator and the manipulated—can’t experience genuine love. You might experience the thrill of control; that little rush you get when your manipulative tactics earn you the center of attention, or when complying with someone else’s demands get you their temporary praise or adoration. But those things are fleeting. They won’t last for even a day. You will need more tomorrow. In fact, this is why manipulation is so addicting, no matter what side of it you are on.

There is no amount of center-of-attention, praise, adoration or control that will make you feel like you are good enough.

That feeling comes from the inside out.

If you find yourself in the throws of a manipulative relationship, there are really two things you need to know.

  1. The most important thing you can do is alter or end that relationship
  2. It will be very difficult

Why We Keep Being Manipulated

One of the things Braiker mentions in her book that rang really true to me is that certain people, with certain personalities, are more prone to manipulation than others. As I read, I recognized myself as one of those personalities, which meant that I had a lot of work to do when it came to overcoming manipulative relationships.

This was why it took me several months to finally submit my resignation for that job, and it’s why many of the manipulative tendencies of that relationship followed me to other jobs, not to mention other friendships and romantic relationships.

It wasn’t until a conversation about two years ago with my therapist that I realized why.

We were talking about a relationship I was still in that had some manipulative tendencies—both my tendency to be passive aggressive (a form of hostility) and this other person’s tendency to be angry and explosive (just like that old boss had been). She explained to me how I was going to have to find a way to alter this relationship, or end it. My response was, “I’m not ready for that.”

She asked, “why not?

“I’m not ready to give up what I get from it.”

“What’s that?”

“Feeling like I matter,” I said, without thinking about it.

And there it was, standing like a beacon of hope that I wasn’t sure I was ready to walk toward—the true, honest answer that was both my way out and the handcuffs that had been keeping me stuck all along. The reason I allowed myself to be manipulated, over and over again, was because of what I got from it.

I wasn’t trapped. The only thing holding me back was me.

More often than not, we are manipulated because we choose to be. And if we’re ever going to get out of our manipulative relationships, whatever they look like, the best thing we can do is stop hoping the manipulative person will change, to stop playing the victim to their manipulative tactics, and choose to change ourselves.

If you’re interested in reading more about manipulation and how to find your way out, I highly recommend the following resources:

  1. Who’s Pulling Your Strings? by Harriet Braiker
  2. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud
  3. The Power is Within You by Louise Hay
  4. Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud
  5. Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward

Have you ever been in a manipulative relationship? How did you find your way out.



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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

48 thoughts on “The Trap of A Manipulator And The Only Way Out”

      1. Over the past week I have clicked on links leading to links leading to websites and round and round the WORLDWIDE WEB I went… What a whirl wind trip so far of theories confirmed, self-discovery (I am an incredibly smart and perceptive woman, and I’m not going crazy or becoming insecure, possessive, tragic or needy! Phew!) I am now entering my transition into my 50th year and as I end my 12 year relationship/9 year marriage with two emotionally damaged children under my almost broken wing… I wanted to say to anyone or to know one…

        And I’d like to dedicate this “comment”…

        To all my close true friends, my “just” friends, work colleagues, aquaintances, strangers in the supermarket?!!? People like you Allison on-line, openly sharing their professional opinion. Some of those poor abovementioned people have virtually lived along side my pathetic existence, watched me cry at the drop of a hat, viewed my bruises, and bawked at my unbelievable stories. But listened… And shook their heads as I wandered back for another “hope” attempt that seemed so right???
        Boy! The Psychologically Manipulative Male is certainly in his element when pulling the “strings” of a marriage isn’t he???
        Well I recently found me a pair of very sharp scissors, and somebody’s puppet I will be no longer!

        The information I’ve digested only over the past few days has quickly confirmed in my mind I’m dealing with way more than just a compulsive liar, but is tending towards a mental disorder of a grand scale. The cruel things he’s done to me and stories told to others about me are word-for-word nearly described and categorised in my findings, and puts all this emotional madness, well a “head-fuck” really (apologies) into an almost”tangible state where I can see it, handle it.

        I feel incredibly proud of myself actually that I had the strength of mind and body to endure this relationship as long as I have. My reasoning of course?’ Because “I LIVED IN HOPE” to save my marriage and keep my family together. The kids had always told me that’s all they wanted… Was to do something as a family?!? HOW UNBELIEVABLY SAD we couldn’t even achieve that!
        I beg their forgiveness for the time lost, the energy wasted, the countless hours of texting, over-thinking, drive-bys, “investigating” (could possibly be looked at as stalking?!?)
        I’ve taken my eye off the ball as a good role model and as a “best-I-can be” mum to my two children. I will always have my faults, my own failings…my own demons and issues. And for those I won’t apologise for just yet, one life changing transition at a time I say?!? I also say…
        THANK YOU.

  1. I really needed to read this today. I have spent my whole life trying to understand why I spend so much time doing things that other people expect me to, even when I don’t want to. I make time for things, change or cancel plans, all because I allow someone to make me feel guilty for not doing what they want me to. I have friends who know just what ugly or hurtful things to say to get me to do what they want, and I feel so weak and immature for caving, but I still cave. In those rare instances where I stand up for myself, and don’t let myself be manipulated, I’m always surprised at how strong I feel. I also question why friendships like this matter so much to me. This was an important post.

    1. mm
      Allison Vesterfelt

      Jessica—I’m so glad this was helpful for you. The good news for you is that you’ve tasted freedom (“In those rare instances where I stand up for myself, and don’t let myself be manipulated, I’m always surprised at how strong I feel”). To me this means it’s only a matter of time before you start standing up for yourself more often. Hang onto that feeling and walk toward it! You’ve got this. You are so much more powerful than you think.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I had a Psychology Professor in college who taught me a very important lesson that I never forgot. He said, “No one can keep kicking you in the ass unless you keep bending over.” Yes, it can be hard not to bend over sometimes, but as you pointed out, it is up to you, AND ONLY YOU, to make that change.

    Great post Allison. I saw how I sometimes behave in some of those descriptions and it’s made me realize that I need to address why I do it and how to change.

  3. Wow, okay, so: last night, laying in bed, I had this thought:
    Is what you’re letting in your life worth what you’re getting out of it?
    …And then you more or less concluded this post with the same idea.

    1. mm
      Allison Vesterfelt

      I love moments like that! It makes the lesson in front of you so clear, you can’t miss it. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing.

  4. Been there, done this with a relationship–twice. He wasn’t working/going to school, etc. But he had to know what I was doing, who I was with, etc.

    In the case of the first relationship (most of high school), I was accused of spending more time with my friends than I was with him. Except that I wasn’t spending any time with my friends at all. AND he wasn’t working. I ended this relationship myself after an incident with my family.

    In the second relationship, he was working for a short while. Then he decided to go on disability. All through the relationship, things had to be his way for him to be happy (there was even a “right way” to help him). He expected me to set aside my life for his benefit–even my taking time for a class or a ministry upset him. HE chose to end the relationship over many little things–one of them being money (I tried to explain to him that marrying would affect his disability).

    1. mm
      Allison Vesterfelt

      So sorry to hear about this relationship. Once you realize you’ve been in a manipulative relationship, it can be hard to forgive the other person, as well as yourself for letting yourself be walked on for so long. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Better relationships are ahead.

      Thanks for sharing your story here. Appreciate you.

  5. This is great! I wish I had read something like this 10 years ago. Oh well! Live, learn and help others avoid it! There were so many thoughts that I related to. My favorites were:
    -What do I need from this person?
    -How it gets harder to leave the longer you stay

    Putting Harriet’s book on my Amazon Wish List now!

  6. Thanks for the post, it brings understanding to a difficult person in my life. I have an in-law who’s approval I have spent almost 30 years trying to gain, which I never got. I few years ago I finally just got tired of the whole ordeal. I finally decided their problem is their problem not mine. I don’t call unless I want to and I stand on the truth always. When we are together and they start the manipulative conversation I call them on it respectfully, but firmly and that usually ends the conversation. I feel as though a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders.

    1. mm
      Allison Vesterfelt

      Oh, wow. I’m so sorry to hear about that tough relationship. There are few things more infuriating in life than trying to get someone’s approval who is always holding it a few inches away, like a carrot on a stick. So glad to hear you’ve finally found some space and healing from that relationship! So huge.

      Thanks for sharing.

  7. I was in a manipulative relationship for 15 years with an addict! I didn’t know what was happening and when I started to cotton on I felt so stupid amongst all those other feelings of shame, guilt, frustration, uncertainty, and oh yes very low self-esteem which of course is still affecting all my relationships. Being married to an addict is like having three people in your marriage with the addiction – the mistress – always always coming first and you always always coming last. I tried to be a good person, I bailed him out so many times. He used to say “no one will love you like I do”. I finally left and travelled to the other side of the world but of course wherever you go as you say “there you are” depressed humiliated and a shell of your former self.

    I don’t tell people of my past – until now. I try to be fun and a good friend and all those things but this post has made me realise how much I am still being affected. I am still people pleasing I am afraid to be me because I’m convinced I’m not good enough. It is five years later and I’m still having unsatisfactory relationships or at least I’m still seeing some same patterns…particularly not speaking up about what I want, which of course is dishonest. Usually I’m not sure what I want exactly. I’ve kind of lost value in my own judgement. I’m not sure how I will change myself, how I manipulate (which I’m sure I do) what I’m getting out of these dysfunctional relationships and what I will do next but I am grateful to you Allison for writing what you do with such insight and honesty and so I hope I will start to be able to be able to make real changes. Thank you.

    1. Harriet I read what you shared and wow, it’s so powerful and vulnerable and honest. And boy do I hear and feel where you are. I’ve been there and it’s so so hard. It sounds like you know exactly what you need to do and work on, but you don’t know how. These things are so much a part of who and how you’ve been that they’re hard to untangle. I don’t know if this helps at all, but I wasn’t able to change until I looked at all the ways I am and what I’m doing through the lens of self-compassion. It’s the only way to do it, in my opinion. To see your fears underneath the things you do and what you believe about yourself, beyond thinking that’s just the way you are. I tried and tried to be a good person too, to be loving and accepting and helpful, even when people weren’t treating me well or considering me or whatever, fill in the blank. When I looked at what my beliefs were about what it meant about me to do the opposite I slowly started to see what my fears were. Once I understood that and worked with my fears about being bad a person for standing up for myself, speaking up, saying what I thought or felt, not being “loving” no matter what the person was doing I realized three things: it was all programming from my past, I needed to understand that my beliefs were faulty and I needed to reprogram those beliefs by understanding and accepting that I was not good or bad for speaking up or setting a boundary. And slowly with stumbling and practice, I began to change.

    2. mm
      Allison Vesterfelt

      Harriet, thank you so much for sharing so honestly. It takes a really strong person to admit, “Look how far I’ve come… and I still have a long way to go.” Just so you know, you aren’t alone. We ALL have a long way to go, and the realization that you still have more work to do is the most difficult first step. I’m right here with you.

      Thank you for reading and all the best to you as you continue your journey.

  8. Allison. Ahhhhh. I’m so excited you said this. We’ll forever be hooked until we find the need AND learn how to fill the need from within. And then of course there’s the part before that or amidst that, involving understanding and unravelling all the other patterns of being and beliefs that keep us locked in. It takes time, but once we’ve worked through it, it’s like magic. We’re free. Not having realized we held the key all along or that the freedom is ours to create from within. If only someone had told us how sooner.

  9. This article is very eye opening. Not only to the manipulation I indure in my marriage, but recognizing how I manipulate. Her (borderline) me (passive-aggressive). I have some difficult decisions to make. But thanks for the wake up

  10. When I went through a sad divorce from my husband I learned from my therapist most of what you talked about in your article. I found reading it this morning was wonderfully refreshing and has helped me get back on track – to keep me from falling into old habits again. I have since remarried my x – my husband and this logic has helped both of us from taking advantage of each other and staying on the same page so to speak – we both want the same positive things: we are together not two separate beings trying to get our own way. You have wrote it so simple to understand – I will print it with your permission to re-read again and again. Sincerely Messy Jess

  11. Allison, the timing of this article is surreal. Someone just confronted me about how my two sons are manipulating me….and your article ‘unpacked’ it for me and allowed me to see the entire situation with all the elements defined. Holy Crap, I’m in it, and I’m allowing it to happen. Thank you. I sent this out to several people. I’m keeping it close as a reminder. And yes, I did Tweet it to the world. Thank you, thank you…for the insight, clarity and wisdom. God’s timing is perfect.

  12. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with manipulative family members? You can’t really “get out” of the relationship…but I’m tired of seeing my husband’s sister manipulate their father and step-mother. And she lives with them and it’s becoming a very difficult situation for everyone.

  13. Male for positive change

    Some people will accuse you of manipulation when you are simply trying to help them. They may be sick and when you ask them to stop doing some damaging behavior (to themselves or others) they will pull out the manipulation card. Not everyone who asks you to change your behavior is doing it for selfish reasons. There are some genuine people out there who want you to stop drinking and driving (having 2 previous accidents and currently being sued), staying out until 3am every morning, pretending to have left their cell phone in their car and ignoring your calls or texts trying to find out if they need a ride home from the bar…Some people that ask you to change things about yourself do want you to live long and prosper!

  14. Normally when I looked up help for manipulation I never really found anything that made it really clear of what I had to do in order to improve, but this made it so clear of what I had to in order to be stable, so thank you allison, thank you for this amazing advice

  15. I’m married to a manipulator. I have allowed him to strip me of my dignity and all but destroy my self-esteem. Well, no more! As one of your readers commented above (or below, depending on how the comments display), he can only continue kicking me in the ass if I continue bending over 😉 Thank you for listing suggested readings; I just reserved the book “Boundaries” from my library!

  16. Wow! This rang so true. I am just getting out of a romantic relationship with an emotional manipulator. I went back once, thinking it would be different and the entire Time I was miserable. I couldn’t break out. It is true I wanted to feel special. I just ended a 20 year marriage and this guy was my first post divorce relationship. The intense attention at first sucked me in. I miss feeling special but not as much as I miss the miserable. He is still sending emails. I’ve had to block him but he is letting up. Thankfully!

  17. OMG, this is about me and my boss… I am to blame for everything that goes wrong in this company. Sometimes I think that it is the only reason they keep me here – to have a scapegoat. I have no authority to decide about the smallest details, so I have to wait for my boss to confirm or accept whatever I’m doing. I get scolded by the clients who are not satisfied with the service – they shout at me because the boss doesn’t pick up the phone. I get scolded when I don’t answer calls on weekend, because I care about myself more than about his company. It’s my fault when he forgets about something because I didn’t remind him enough times. Oh yes, when it comes to turning the situation around, he’s a master.

    And he hates me because I refuse to take the blame.

    From your description, I’ve realized that I’m passive-aggressive. I do the minimum. I feel satisfaction when he screws up himself. I procrastinate. I use no creativity and don’t engage in anything (when I did, nobody appreciated it anyway). I hate behaving that way, and I’m doing so just to protect myself.

    Why don’t I just leave? Before, it was about the money and insecurity. Now, it’s because I know they need me and the guy is so vengeful that I fear he might make my life miserable… Believe me, I know many ways you can do it in Poland, I’ve already met too many bad people on my way.

    All this situation makes me hate people. I’d rather be with animals. At least they’re not malicious.

  18. I needed to read this. I always feel like I am the one getting hurt in my relationships because I also feel the need to stay with these significant others out of fear of being alone. I get manipulated in believing that being with them is what is going to make me feel better and when things go wrong for whatever reason, I’m the one getting dumped. How do I avoid getting manipulated in every relationship? I’m getting tired of being heartbroken. Thanks

  19. This is a pretty old post, but I thought I would ask my question. I’ve been reading a lot about narcissism and manipulation trying to make sense of my marriage that is in the process of ending.

    When I married my wife, I was a large guy. I met her online and she was dancing in an exotic club (I didn’t not go to those places). She quit quickly after meeting me. She had 2 kids from an abusive man that was not in the picture. One child was troubled, and I thought I could step in and make a difference. I was really in love, and thought I found someone that could really accept me for who I was, flaws and all.

    Pretty quickly the stress got pretty unreal and all of our life centered around her son that was going in and out of drug rehab, schools, and then prison.

    I try to convey quickly what happened, essentially, I tried to put structure around our family. Like eating meals together, keeping things fairly clean with all of us having our chores. There was a lot of turmoil around that. Her and her kids would not put things away. She quickly changed her approach with the troubled child and wanted to enable him and throw money at him. I did not want to do that after a certain point. We had already spent countless hours and thousands trying to get him what he needed.

    She then started telling me that she was not attracted to me because of my weight and did like to have sex with me. We went the last 9 years not having sex. I became angry and depressed. I stopped doing anything around the house because I just felt they were not holding up their end. I’m not quick to anger, but after months of asking nicely to put things back or clean up, I would eventually lose my temper.

    She then started telling me I was bipolar and needed therapy. So I did, and I went on medication.

    Now that I have left her, I feel so much shame and guilt. She yells at me and tells me she is in a cold apartment and that I have put her in financial stress and have “pulled the rug out from underneath her.”

    I don’t know how to process all of this. I feel so guilty, like I was the one with the problem. Like I was angry and mean (she tells me that). I felt like they did not appreciate me. They wouldn’t listen. I would state what I’d like for the house and they would ignore me and just do whatever they wanted. IE: her youngest son spending 16 hours a day playing video games. When I voiced my concern, she said I put her in the middle and I was mean and angry. It didn’t start that way, but after years of them ignoring me, I would get frustrated and get angry.

    Why do I feel so bad? When I tell her that she didn’t have sex with me for 9 years, and she just says, you wouldn’t take care of yourself, essentially telling me it was my fault.

    I have lost over 100 pounds, and now she says I look good, but still need to lose more.

    I’m just a mess. I’m super depressed. I feel like now I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I feel fat, ugly, and unlovable because I’m bipolar (which the doctor said I was not). I can’t shake these feelings.

    I don’t know what to think. I feel like I’m all in the wrong.

    1. You did the right thing. This woman is responsible for her behaviour. You are responsible for yours and you did what you could. It takes time to let go and heal. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

  20. I found this article and it really open my eyes. I always blame myself for being stupid before. I don’t understand why I seek some kind of approval from others and it makes myself being manipulated over and over again. Because of this article, I found a bravery to really leave a person like that and not having guilt over it. Thanks.

  21. I have found that one of the worst things about being with a manipulative personality in a relationship is they always have “both sides” of an argument or situation covered, which ultimately ends up feeling like a trap with no way out, and no solid ground to stand on. They are typically not rational people, and there is no real authenticity with which to have “normal” expectations or reciprocation. This has led me to feel a great deal of anger towards the person, who then uses that against me as well. Anyway, I also wanted to comment that I really enjoyed that article, such great info — there was one thing that troubled me. It that was the use of “she, her” when desrcibing some of the stipulative personalities, like histronic and borderline, etc. and then assigning “he” to other ones. I would just ask that when explaining these people, please use more gender-neutral words rather than broad categorizations.

  22. Thank you so much, this elaborated a lot of what’s been going on. You are wonderful to share this, and hope this message goes to all the manipulating and manipulated.

  23. My husband is very ill. REUTISM arthritis as well as some dementia. I’m caring for him for about 5 years. We moved to a place with care facility’s but he doesn’t want to go. I must admit at this stage I myself do’nt want to let him go. He is rather a gentleman, and not t0o difficult, but some days I can not take it anymore. When friends are visiting me, he kept calling me for no reason at all, and made remarks on people staying for the whole day. He clings on me, even to the point of me spending most of the day in bed with him. When I must go to town, mostley to buy nappies or doing his business, he watched the clocked. He never yeld on me, but always told me the time that I spend being away. Then there came times that I yeld on him, and feeling like a pig afterwards.

    Some of my children are living overseas. My son in law was diagnosed with lung cancer this
    year. All my children are organising a family re-union for Decemer at a beach house not far from where we live. That means he’l have to go to a place of caring. He means that I must stay with him and they can come for ocational visits at our place. It is onley a one bedroomed house in a retirement village.
    I missed my beloved ones, grandchildren and even great grandchild with a very sore heart. I felt that I am giving my whole life to him and expect a little understanding. Hes dementia isn’t below the point of understanding things.

    I am feeling used to a point of losing my head. On the other hand I am so sorry for him. But I realized that I am being manupilated a long way up to now. What must I do?

    1. That sounds like the signs of cognitive degradation from dementia. Was he like that before he was diagnosed? I have a friend whose husband’s behaviour deteriorated significantly when he got dementia, became demanding, controlling and aggressive. If it’s a personality change check in with a doctor.

      You can’t look after him if you yourself are not happy, healthy and supported. If he does not care for you and has locked into the victim cycle himself, that’s his choice and that is not healthy for you.

  24. I was in a two year relationship with a professional manipulator. The girl made zero effort in the relationship and I was always left doing the heavy lifting. Her eyes were set on one thing, money ! The more money I gave her, the more she demanded. It was as though she was entitled to my hard earned finances. Finally, I decided to pull the plug, change houses and move to a different town.

    This girl still has the audacity to continually call and text me but I have never returned any of her messages. I am ready to move on, practice chastity and wait for the right person to come into my life.

  25. I’ve got an ex boyfriend living with me and I am so scared I won’t be able to resist his manipulation or be able to see it. I moved to a new town 2 years ago, not knowing anyone and ignored a bunch of red flags when I let him move in with me. I agreed to let him stay here 9 months ago when we broke up because he said he’d help me fix my house to sell it. I broke up with him for many reasons having to do mainly with feeling like an emotional and physical caretaker with him. As the time approaches to sell my home, he’s gotten anxious and also made many comments about putting his trailer in my yard or renting a room from me at my new home. I DO NOT WANT THIS. I’ve been so angry that he could pull this crap at the end of our agreement. Angry at him and myself for letting this happen. I see my own part in it now, the payoff for me and I want to get past it and have him out now before my resolve changes. I cannot do this alone. He has told me in the past that he has nowhere to go. I am going to sell my house in the next month, and though he is still doing some of the work, he has a lot of stuff around here and the work isn’t done. I am paying a friend to do the rest of the work in about 3 weeks.

    What would be reasonable at this point? Change the locks? Ask him to leave? I can give him one month notice but I haven’t been able to follow through on any of my notices before.
    I am making sure to cultivate more friendships and ask for support with the ones I have . He’s been my biggest emotional support and that seems to be what makes it worse. I am afraid I will be alone in the world without him. Ugh

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