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Healing Emotional Manipulation in Relationships

Switch on the news and it’s virtually impossible to avoid an article about a person in power abusing their position. An allegation or allegations are made. These will be flatly denied by the person’s lawyer or spokesperson. Who’s right here? And what happens when this behaviour is reflected in your own relationship?

If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you think you’re behaving reasonably but you’re being told you're the one with a problem, here are some insights into dealing with manipulative behaviour:

Manipulators are not just encountered in sexual relationships, but also in friendships, families, colleagues and other forms of relationships. Covert aggressive behaviours happen in people who are determined to have their way, to get the better of you, and they're stealthy and covert in their tactics, or you would be wise to them.

"Narcissism" is an oft-used label and I'm not fond of labels, as they can leave no hope for change.

When working with clients, I find it's more helpful to build a trusting relationship with them, to understand what's going on for them, so that they can understand themselves and for them to change by developing a healthy sense of shame about their behaviour and what choices they've made to be where they are.

That said, some people are not able or willing to change (because this behaviour works!) and that's when the other party needs to decide if it's safer to end the relationship. Deep reflection, such as you gain in therapy, helps to work out what it is about your own thought patterns and behaviours that have led you into this relationship? This is where learning about your own needs and how to set boundaries helps to empower you to make the decision as whether or not you leave.

Dr Simon George, a long time researcher into manipulative and other disturbed characters, takes a deeper dive here if you want to learn more.

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