by Colleen Oakley
“Christine Donovan knew something wasn't right in her relationship when she didn't want to go home from work. "I felt anxious all the time," she says. "I never knew what kind of mood he would be in, or if I had unknowingly done something that would have upset him." But Christine wasn't in an abusive relationship - at least none that she had ever seen. "He didn't hit me or get violently angry. I just thought we were having normal relationship problems that we needed to work through," she says.
The type of guy Christine was dealing with is all too common, but there's nothing "normal" about it, says Dr. Mary Casey, author of "How to Deal With Master Manipulators". "Manipulators aim to control their partners by pressing the buttons that get them emotional, whether it be making them feel afraid, unworthy, stupid, insecure, angry or frustrated," she says. But because manipulators are typically passive-aggressive in their tactics, unlike domestic abuse, it can be difficult to tell when you're in a manipulative relationship. "While abuse is obvious, victims of manipulation don't even realize they are being manipulated because the manipulator masks their behavior as positive, caring and nurturing," she says.
If you're sad more often than happy in your relationship and something feels wrong but you just can't put your finger on it, read on to see if you might be shacking up with a manipulative partner - and what you can do about it.
7 Signs You're in a Manipulative Relationship:
1. You're always falling short of your partner's expectations. In an argument, the person being manipulated is often made to feel they are the ones at fault all of the time, says Casey. But what's really going on is the manipulator is shifting the blame onto them and detracting in subtle, hard-to-detect ways. They'll commonly say things like, "So we're going to have the big interrogation are we?" or "Are you going to get all emotional again?"
2. You often feel guilty in your relationship and are always looking to repair the "damage." The manipulator is skilled at making people feel this way by saying things like "I spent all this money on this gift for you, and look how you thank me" or "You have trust issues - why don't you trust me?"
3. You don't often know where you stand with your partner. A manipulative partner often uses concealed or open threats to keep his girlfriend anxious and holding onto the relationship, says Casey. He might use statements such as "I don't even know why I'm here anymore; this isn't working for me."
4. You often feel like you're walking on eggshells around him (or her). Maybe sometimes you're given lots of love and affections; at other times you're given the cold shoulder for no apparent reason, says Casey.
5. You feel confused in the relationship and keep questioning or blaming yourself for making your partner angry or frustrated. Manipulators are skilled at never being to blame for any problem in a relationship.
6. You're unhappy in your relationship at least 90 percent of the time. This is a big red flag for anyone in a relationship - whether you're with a manipulator or not, it's time to reevaluate why you're with that person.
7. You're anxious about telling your partner your plans or about something you've bought. If this is the case, you're most likely being controlled and manipulated, says Casey.
"Manipulation is a learned behavior - no one is born with it. It's very much a survival strategy learned from early childhood and therefore changing the behavior is near impossible," says Casey. "Your time is better invested in developing strategies to protect yourselves, because you can never change a manipulator's actions.
In other words, dump the jerk and then look into how you attracted him in the first place. "Women who attract manipulators tend to lack self-worth and assertiveness, and they tend to be people pleasers," says Casey. "They trust to the point of ignorance and therefore do not realize that they are being manipulated until they have been in emotional turmoil for some time. It can often be years before they see the situation for what it really is. But once you do recognize it, you can put a stop to it. "First, take responsibility and own up to being a victim and a target," says Casey. "Admit your flaws to yourself. And most importantly, get out of the relationship and become who you really are; not something someone else wants you to be."