References “The New Codependency” by Melody Beattie
Saying “no” to loved ones can be hard. You might feel as if you are being selfish when you second-guess whether their request is reasonable. This goes double if you are dealing with a manipulator.
The New Testament describes manipulators in Matthew 7. Just because someone claims to have your best interests at heart, does not mean they do. Jesus warned against wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said we would be able to know them by the results of their actions. Who benefits from their requests compared to who they claim will benefit? As with false prophets– do they persuade you by saying everyone will benefit from your compromise, but ultimately they are the ones who reap the reward?
Am I being Manipulated?
Manipulators use a variety of strategies because every victim is different, and requires a specific approach to guarantee success. Below are two examples of how manipulators take advantage of their loved ones.
- Preying on your insecurities
Manipulators capitalize on your feelings for them, and your desire to be seen as a good person. No one wants other people to think they are unloving or selfish. Manipulators capitalize on this. They say things like, “If you really loved me you would…” Also, if you do love this person, you probably already feel guilty for refusing them. Your guilt makes it that much easier for them to take advantage of you.
This is a psychological technique named after a play about an abusive relationship. In this situation, the manipulator casts doubt on their victim’s observations and understandings of events. The manipulator makes them feel delusional, as if they are being unreasonable. For example, an alcoholic may insist their spouse is overestimating how much they drink. The spouse knows what they are seeing. But with enough psychological coercion and guilt-tripping, they can be convinced otherwise.
How to respond to Manipulation
Giving in to manipulation is not loving. It compels you to be false to the relationship for the sake of maintaining the bond. You are not giving; you are giving in. The former comes from a place of love, the latter from a place of fear. This will not strengthen your relationship, no matter what your manipulator says. It just makes you a victim, and encourages your partner to further mistreat you.
So how do you justify behavior that seems selfish? Remember you have a right to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. Yes, part of relationships is being patient and giving when you may not particularly feel like it. But you have a right to your own principles and safety. If something feels wrong to you, it probably is.
Christian counseling for Manipulation
I Cor. 13:5 tells us love is not self-seeking, nor does it keep a record of wrongs. Someone who loves you does not keep track of the times you’ve let them down, so they can remind you later as ammunition to guilt you into something. Real love strengthens, comforts, and rewards both people in the relationship, not just one.
If you are unsure of whether what your partner asks of you is normal relationship give-and-take, or manipulation, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian couples counselor. A professional Christian counselor can help you determine which of you is being unreasonable. This is particularly crucial for relationships that involve substance abuse or violence. If your partner is using you or your children as an excuse to engage in their addiction or harm family members, get help immediately. A professional Christian counselor will use therapeutic techniques supported by biblical principles to help you build the loving relationship I Cor. 13 describes.
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