Stop Being Manipulated: Proven Tips to Deal With Toxic Relationships

Recovering from toxic relationships

Have you ever had a gut feeling that you’re being controlled in a relationship? Maybe you’d get a guilt trip about ignoring your partner whenever you hang out with friends. Or they say things that belittle you when you have a big accomplishment. 

These are all hallmarks of a toxic relationship.

And, toxic relationships aren’t limited to the romantic kind. They can happen with family, colleagues, friends, or in any number of other social settings. 

The first step to dealing with manipulation is knowing how to recognize the signs. This will empower you to adopt strategies for asserting your boundaries and reestablishing healthier communication. 

Signs of Manipulation

Manipulative people often try to control others through deceptive behaviors. This can include: 

  • Making you doubt yourself. A manipulative person will often try to change your view of reality to get you on their side. 
  • Emotional intensity. Toxic relationships often swing between intense highs and lows.  This instability often causes a sense of confusion and helplessness.
  • Making you feel insecure. A manipulator may try to prey on your insecurities or intimidate you as a way to control you. 
  • Isolating you. One common manipulation tactic is to make you dependent on the relationship. 
  • Making you feel guilty. Manipulative partners often use guilt trips to get what they want. 

Why People Manipulate

While manipulation often targets your self-esteem, it’s not really about you. People use manipulative behavior due to deep-rooted insecurities. These can stem from experiencing abuse, violence, or being a victim of manipulation in the past. 

Manipulators often feel vulnerable in social situations and put on a mask to protect their inner child from getting hurt. They do this by trying to control their environments and the people around them.

How to Stop Manipulation

The key to healing from toxic relationships is stopping the cycles of manipulation. Use these techniques to respond effectively and minimize the impact that manipulation has on you. 

Slow Down

Manipulative behavior often puts us in distress, making us react instinctively. This keeps us stuck in old habits and destructive patterns.

If you feel yourself about to react, slow down and step out of the situation if you need to. Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Then, think about your response.  

Practice mindfulness to slow down as you work through issues of manipulation. You can use meditation to think through the issue with a clear head.

Strengthen Your Sense of Self

Manipulation often wears down your sense of self. This can make you feel dependent on the other person. 

To regain your sense of self, try engaging in some self-care. This might be positive affirmations, or planning activities just for you. It could also be spending time with people who make you see the best in yourself. 

Set Boundaries

In order to heal toxic relationships, you will need to set boundaries. Identify your needs and the ways in which they are not being met. Then communicate them with your partner. Let them know in a firm way what you need, and which behaviors are not acceptable. 

Seek Support

If you’re struggling with toxic relationships, seek help. Remember that being manipulated isn’t “normal”, and it’s not a reflection of your worth. 

Think about who you can ask for help. It may be close friends or family members, a support group, or a mental health professional. These people can help you get some perspective on your situation and look for a solution. 

If a toxic relationship is dangerous, abusive, or otherwise unsafe, it’s essential to seek help. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s resources can help you stay safe.  

Know When to Walk Away

If the other person isn’t willing to listen to you with respect, or compromise, you may need to end the relationship. This can be difficult if you feel guilty or dependent, but sometimes it’s the only way to heal yourself. 

Manipulation in relationships can be a sensitive subject. But, the best way to deal with toxic relationships is by honestly addressing the issue. Slow down, focus on your needs and you’ll be able to reclaim your agency.

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