I loved your article on self-sacrifice and I’m trying to take care of myself, but my boyfriend doesn't want me to stand up for myself. When I do, he says I don't really want him in my life anymore. He thinks I’m a mean, selfish person if I get bothered with how I’m treated. Do you have any advice on how to actually transform this relationship?
Your boyfriend is using guilt to manipulate you. So, I’d like to explain how you recognize manipulation and give you some ideas for getting out of or dealing with this person.
Here are some common signs you might be in a manipulative relationship (either with a parent, child or significant other):
Do you have self-esteem issues? Are you a kind person but also a little bit naïve? Manipulators are subconsciously drawn to people pleasers with low self-esteem because they are easily pushed around.
Does this person use guilt to make you do things you don't want to do?
Does it seem like every argument ends with you being at fault?
Does this person trigger your emotions and then get mad at you for being emotional?
Manipulators often figure out what character traits are important to you and then use them to push your buttons and control you. It sounds like your boyfriend knows you are afraid of being seen as selfish or mean, so he is using your desire to be a good person to manipulate you.
Does this person do nice things for you and then make you feel obligated and/or guilty because of them?
Do you have to keep some things secret and even occasionally lie to this person to protect yourself?
Does this person get offended easily? Are you often walking on egg shells worried about doing or saying the wrong thing?
Does this person discourage your friendships with other people?
Does this person call you repeatedly to find out where you are or what you are doing? Often manipulators are controlling.
Does this person criticize your plans or goals and squash your dreams?
Are they loving one day and cold the next ?
Do they often blame you for how they feel?
Are you frustrated and sad more than you're happy in this relationship? Have you tried to break it off numerous times?
If these questions are striking a cord, it’s safe to say you are in a manipulative relationship (also remember that manipulation can happen with a parent, a sibling or friend, too.)
Here are some suggestions for dealing with this person:
1) If this is a friend or romantic interest, you might want to at least consider ending this relationship post haste. It is highly unlikely that this person is going to change (unless this person agrees to some serious professional help, which most manipulators don’t think they need). It is best to deliver this news quickly and leave the premises so you cannot be manipulated and pulled back in. Sometimes it is best to break these relationships off by email or text to avoid further manipulation.
2) If you decide to end this relationship, you are going to need a good support system to stand by you, and in some cases protect you from conversations with this person. You have the right to refuse to talk about it.
3) You must recognize that your low self-esteem is partly responsible for this situation. You may want to get some professional help from a counselor or coach to work on your self-image. You must learn to see yourself as bulletproof and refuse to let other people determine your value. You are a one-of-a-kind, amazing, irreplaceable being and nothing anyone says or does can diminish you.
4) If this person gets angry and tries to retaliate in any way, do not react or even respond. Let it go and move forward with your life (or in some cases you may need a restraining order).
5) You are also going to need to grow a back bone and establish some boundaries. If this person is a parent or sibling, you can’t break up with them. So, you must have clearly defined boundaries and a strategy for enforcing them. Then you calmly repeat these boundaries over and over until they get it. You won’t be pushed around anymore.
6) You must stop caring what other people think of you (even your relatives). What they think is irrelevant and cannot affect, change or diminish you. They cannot hurt you without your permission.
Make it your official policy that it doesn’t matter what this person thinks of you.
Harriet Braiker wrote a book called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” In it she said, “If you are an approval addict, your behavior is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.”
You have got to quit playing this game with this person. You must figure out who you are and not let other people tell you different. When you let go of your need for approval and claim the power to determine your value and character, you will be free and invincible.
If this is proving difficult, I highly recommend some professional help.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.