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We’ve all been taken advantage of in one way or another. Whether it’s a skeezy romantic partner who convinces you to stay with them, a roommate who constantly mooches off of you, or a so-called friend who actually doesn’t care about you at all, there are countless manipulators out there. Here are six telltale signs to look out for if you think you are being manipulated.
When they’re around, do you feel like they are the main character while you are just a sidekick in their story? Is the conversation always more focused on them than on you? More importantly, if their problems seem to matter more than yours, this person may not be trying to see your point of view. A manipulator will present their problems as worse or more important than yours because they want you to worry about them more than you worry about yourself. A manipulator knows how to establish a certain standard in the relationship so that your concerns and well being come second to theirs.
Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. These are crucial for any healthy relationship. There are certain things you just don’t say or do, no matter the situation. For instance, it doesn’t matter how drunk your significant other was, it’s not okay for them to cheat on you. It doesn’t matter how mad your friend was, it’s not okay for them to hit you. A manipulator will come up with any excuse necessary to justify crossing boundaries. Whether they use mental gymnastics to convince themselves or tactful language to convince others, manipulators can justify anything so long as they get what they want.
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Manipulators rely less on logic and more on emotions. They’ll elicit fear, pity, or any emotion necessary from you to get a strong reaction. They don’t want you to look at the facts because then you may start noticing all the boundaries they’ve crossed. Manipulators often have some sympathy but almost no empathy. They’re very good at acting out certain feelings and they know how to make you feel in order to get what they want from you. Also, manipulators are drawn to compassionate, empathetic people. These kinds of people are more likely to put a manipulator’s feelings before their own.
Lying is the most revealing giveaway when it comes to spotting a manipulator. When emotions fail, manipulators will straight up lie to your face. They have no qualms about lying because, as aforementioned, facts do not matter to them. The only thing that matters to them is getting what they want. If you are a manipulative, self-interested person and you don’t want to be exposed, you’re going to have to lie at some point. White lies like “Your hair doesn’t look bad at all!” are one thing, but once someone straight up lies about important facts, there’s no telling what else they will lie about. Also, if it takes you a while to finally catch them in one lie, chances are they’ve lied to you several times before. Unfortunately, this can be one of the trickiest signs to detect because manipulators can be really good actors.
Manipulators can have this odd sort of anger switch. A manipulator may be crying one moment and get abruptly angry the next. If they suddenly seem mad when they don’t get what they want, but then they quickly subdue that anger and switch back, this may be a glimpse into their true feelings and motivations. Manipulators hide their actual feelings as they strategize how to best convince you to do what they want. However, sometimes you can catch them slipping up, especially when they’re afraid that they are about to be found out.
If someone is manipulating you, your instincts probably recognize it. However, with all the lying and emotional game-playing, it can be difficult to decide whether or not you want to continue the relationship. Manipulators want you in this state of confusion and second-guessing so that they can keep up the act for as long as possible. You’ll feel angry at them for crossing a boundary, but then feel guilty that you were angry once they tell you some sob story about their childhood. A good friend is much more consistent and much less bewildering. If you think they may be manipulative, but you’re not quite sure, go with your gut.
What do you do when you realize you’ve been manipulated? The best thing is to cut ties with them and wash your hands of the whole matter. You can kindly wish them the best of luck, but if they’ve lied to you, don’t listen to their side of the story, and don’t try to resolve it through words. A manipulator will say anything to assure you they’ve changed. Even after you’ve made your decision to cut them off, there will still be some emotions lingering from before you realized that they were a manipulator. You may feel hurt that they lied to you or that your friendship is over. Or, you may feel bad for them because you’re so used to worrying about them. No matter how hard it is to sever ties with someone, you cannot have a relationship without trust. If you let them continue to mistreat you, it will damage your own mental and physical health, leaving you unable to be a good friend to someone who actually deserves it.