Manipulation or Love?

One of the goals of my blog is to share my experiences, in the hopes that my good experiences will uplift others while my bad experiences will serve as a warning. In my first blog, I highlighted on some of the reasons why my relationship with my ex came to an abrupt close. It was largely due to the realization that I had misconstrued her manipulative tendencies for love. I also realized that finding out the one that you were so busy planning out the rest of your life with is the one who has been holding you back is a very difficult pill to swallow. But nowhere near as difficult as realizing that all your loved ones around you were busy screaming at you about the bad road you were headed down and you didn’t hear a thing. I’m just grateful that they all have been extremely gracious, providing encouragement and showing support through empathetic gestures. It’s perhaps the greatest reason as to why I’ve been able to deal so well with things now.

All of that aside, having experienced just how painful being in a manipulative relationship can be, I want to do my part in preventing others from dealing with the same hardships if at all possible. There are numerous behavioral tendencies to search for, and I use the word search because looking just doesn’t cut it. I looked and saw all of the following characteristics in my ex, but it didn’t sink in because I wasn’t really searching for them. In fact, I was ignoring them. To those of you who are reading this post right now, don’t make the same mistake I did. Carefully go over each of these and be honest with yourself when you determine whether your significant other, or even you yourself for that matter, have been behaving in such a manner.

  1. They are difficult to approach- The most prevalent issue in my relationship was the issue of communication. I could never approach my ex with anything that sounded even remotely negative (nor positive in some instances, but more on that later). One night, I tried addressing to her that it hurt me when she promised to attend a special show I was putting on and then had ditched me to hang out with a friend. Immediately, she forgot about the issue of the promise and claimed this was merely an issue of me trying to control her. Angrily, she screamed and shouted curses before hanging up on me and not speaking to me for the rest of that night. Needless to say, anytime such concerns arose, I often experienced intense anxiety. More than once, I put off bringing up important issues simply because I was terrified of her reaction.
  2. Nothing is their fault- As alluded to previously, those who display manipulative tendencies are somehow free from fault. It does not matter if they happened to forget something you stressed was important to you, it does not matter if they broke their promises, or neglected to use the money you gave them for the reason you gave it to them. Anytime there was an issue, it immediately became my fault. I try to be a humble person. I’ve always made it an attempt to own up to my faults. Her hitting my new car and then “forgetting” to give me some money to fix it is not one of them. It is important to know the distinction; to know when you are the one in the wrong and to know when they are trying to shift the blame.
  3. They are possessive but demand complete social freedom- I hate to admit it, but I allowed my ex to dictate to me on many occasions who I was allowed to associate with. Because of that, I gave up three friends to keep her happy. I’m just glad that they have since given me the opportunity to make amends. However, the other side to the issue is that I had no right to raise any concerns over who she chose to associate with. During a weak point in our relationship, she got rather intimate with a friend of hers and then refused to tell me who it was. She then made it a point to inform me that she would hang out with her guy friends for as long as she liked all through the night and it was none of my business. That said, the moment she ever discovered that I was even mildly friendly to even a female co-worker, I was immediately met with accusations of finding the other girl prettier. On top of that, if I did not pick up whenever she called, regardless of the reason, she would become angry. Never mind that she had no issue with ignoring me sometimes for, literally, days on end.
  4. You make excuses about their behavior- This is a bit different than the others because this has more to do with your behavior than your significant other. Throughout my relationship, when I would speak to my friends about my ex, oftentimes about what I perceived to be minor issues, my friends would point out how disturbing her behavior was. What was my reaction? “She’s just going through a lot right now.” “She’s not usually like that though.” “Well, really I could have handled it better.” I made excuses for her bad behavior. Why? Because on the inside, I was well aware at how poorly I was being treated, but it was too painful to consider that someone I had loved so much could treat me in such a manner. The next time you discuss with your friends anything about your relationship, really examine how you respond. You shouldn’t have to make excuses or explain why you’re with the person you’re with. But if you find yourself doing so, you really need to consider ending things.
  5. They Project- For me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As I mentioned in my first blog, it was her accusing me of selfishness that made me finally see my ex for who she was. She could have accused me of anything else and I might have let it slide, but selfishness was the one trait I made it an active point not to display. The truth of the matter was- her complaining about me being selfish, her complaining about me not letting things go, her complaining about me being the possessive one- everything she was accusing me of being described her more aptly than they could have ever described me.
  6. They are never satisfied- I jumped through all sorts of hoops for her and it was never enough. I watched whatever shows she wanted, ate wherever she wanted at, and bought her anything that caught her eye. But her gratitude would last mere moments before it was replaced with her usual miserable attitude. Case in point, initially when we broke things off, I made it a point not speaking to her at all. One day several weeks later, she made it a point to call me and I answered. She was in need of money, not just to supposedly send me back the engagement ring, but also for basic necessities. Regardless of how I currently felt about her, I always make it a point to help others in need if I’m capable of doing so. So I helped her. But not even an hour after giving to her, she was back to accusing me of selfishness again.
  7. They assume the worst about you- You could make an absolutely positive statement and they will somehow spin it into a bad thing. Allow me to explain by sharing one particular experience. Right before a really big fight that had been apparently brewing for some time ( though I was unaware until she went on the attack one evening) I was excited to show of a new dress shirt and suit. It might not sound like a big deal, but her initial response to me asking her what she thought was to ask “Who are you trying to impress?” Eventually, she went on about how she thought I looked nice, but that was often her initial attitude. I was up to something, or I thought something that I shouldn’t be thinking, or that I was undermining her.

Needless to say, there are a number of other facets to this issue. Manipulative relationships don’t just have an effect on you, after all. Another way to identify if you’re trapped in one is by examining how it affects the amount and quality of time you spend with others like friends and family. That said, there is only one other issue I’d like to address regarding manipulative relationships. It can happen to anyone, woman or man, regardless of the age difference. However, as the video below demonstrates, our society has a very different reaction when a woman is being abusive as opposed to a man:

While my ex was never physically abusive, the video demonstrates that when women are the abusive one in the relationship, the assumption of most is that the man either deserve it or that the woman doesn’t pose any real threat anyway. This preconceived notion demonstrates how ignorant we still are when it comes to relationship abuse in general. We should never excuse or condone abusive behavior because, even if the other person was in the wrong, retaliation within a relationship doesn’t lead to resolution, but can lead to something far worse. As a young man, I have to say that one of the reasons I felt it was so hard for me to get out of my relationship was because I too had it engrained in my mind that, as the man in the relationship, I should be able to handle more emotionally, mentally, and physically.

However, the real truth behind it is this: A relationship can only thrive when it is based on mutual respect as well as love. I won’t deny that I still love my ex very much, but the blatant lack of respect I have endured for two years straight renders whatever love I have for her as weightless and inconsequential. Respect is key, not only for the one you are with, but also for yourself. I lost my self respect while I was with her. I became convinced I would be lonely and miserable were I to ever lose her when, the truth was I was far more lonely and miserable with her than I am now without her. It is respect that is key in getting out of a manipulative relationship, because that self respect will prompt you not only to stand up for yourself, but help you to realize you deserve far better than the abuse you are currently tolerating.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes on love, as cliche as it may be.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

In other words, true love is everything a manipulative relationship is not. So as with the list of experiences above, use this quote as a sort of check list and be painfully honest with yourself as you thoroughly examine your relationship. If you are suffering from abuse, leave. You cannot change the person unless they acknowledge it for themselves. My ex never did. But if you realize you are the one committing the abuse, make the efforts to change. If you truly love the person you are with, you will be able to make the necessary adjustments. Because true love- affectionate, honest, and open love- truly never fails.