When manipulation is your primary relationship tool, your focus tends to be: How can I get this person to do, feel or be, as I wish them to, so I can feel safe?
You may manipulate your significant other because you struggle with dealing with uncertainty or having differing points of view.
You may have several strategies to manipulate your partner into doing what you want. Perhaps you make your tone colder or warmer depending on how they’re responding to you. Sarcasm and being dismissive of their needs also works. Deliberately withholding affection and shutting down emotionally, are powerful too.
The desire to manipulate in this way may seem harsh on paper, but actually, it comes from a place of deep insecurity. When we feel secure and deserving of love, then manipulating another to try to get that love no longer makes sense. When we doubt that we’re worthy of being loved, it’s then that we turn to manipulation to get the outcome we desire.
If there’s a threat that you might pull away or shut down because you don’t like how things are going, then you’re literally training your partner. The message you’re sending is: I will leave you or reject you if you don’t do as I want.
If your partner asks something of you that you don’t feel able to give, you simply pull away emotionally. You’d rather not have an honest and open dialogue about why you feel unable to give. It probably feels so much easier to just pull away. If inconsistencies in your actions are pointed out, it’s much easier to just shut down emotionally. That way you get to punish your partner rather than deal with those inconsistencies.
At the root of those reactions is a fear of not being lovable. It’s also a fear of being rejected. If you control the rejection then you don’t feel so vulnerable. If you pull away first, then in your fear mind you are the one that holds the power. Yet if you truly believed you held the power you could be more magnanimous in your responses.
Compromising when you had disagreements wouldn’t feel so hard. Looking at the parts of your persona that still needed healing wouldn’t feel so threatening. It would be much easier for you to accept that we all have flaws and areas we need to grow, but that doesn’t make us unlovable.
If you were able to accept that you’re innately lovable, even if you’re not perfect, your need to manipulate would diminish. A willingness to remain present in the relationship would become easier, even when the going gets tough.
When you choose manipulation as your barrier to intimacy, it’s easy to point out what you perceive as flaws and weaknesses in your partner. You discover which buttons to push and then push them strategically. Is your partner insecure about their weight or their looks? Well then when an argument arises and you feel you’re losing the argument, make a subtle dig about that insecurity.
The best manipulators never just brazenly criticize though, they simply imply or hint about that flaw or insecurity. They might remind their partner about it indirectly and strategically. If they can make their partner storm off or lose their temper at the perfect moment, then the manipulator never has to deal with their own emotional baggage. The use of indirect criticism is perfect for this manipulation strategy.
Similarly, when you withdraw emotionally, when your partner’s feeling vulnerable, you don’t have to admit how uncomfortable that vulnerability makes you feel. You may struggle to say “I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to solve this and it’s bringing up my own feelings of vulnerability because of that.”
If you’re being asked to open up, be more vulnerable and speak your truth, your fear of being rejected may cause you to mock that request. That mocking then becomes another tool of manipulation. Deflect and shut down emotionally in order to take the pressure off.
The saddest part about all of this manipulation is that you won’t be getting your needs met either. You may instead, remain forever in your safe zone. Yet that safe zone is locking you out of the love, you doubt you deserve. It’s only when you do the inner work to own your vulnerability and lovableness that this paradox can shift.
To know you’re innately lovable includes being willing to be vulnerable and scared. In so doing you become willing to give up the tools of manipulation. You begin to accept that at the root of your manipulative behavior is the desire to control.
That desire to control comes out of a fear that if you really let yourself be seen as you really are then people will leave you. In reality, the one that loves you as you are, beneath your manipulations, is waiting for you with open arms.