Ahhh… emotional manipulation. This is the stuff that narcissists of all kinds thrive on, the foundation of everything that they do, and their modus operandi. It’s what makes them tick, so ingrained in their daily lives that they don’t have to think about it. If you are, or have been, in a relationship with a narcissist then you need to know how to identify emotional manipulation so that you can overcome it.
After a while it’s kind of like playing a game of I Spy except with words. I spy with my little eye deflecting the responsibility.
Here are some things you will probably recognize. These are classic signs that he is emotionally manipulating you but they are by no means the only ones. Keep in mind that narcissists are very predictable and will use the same, stupid methods over and over again. It’s like a bad version of Groundhog Day. Learn to identify them and then put an end to it once and for all.
Mine Is Worse
No matter what is going on in your life his is worse. Have a headache? He will be in bed with the lights off because of a blinding migraine. If you have a stomachache he will have appendicitis and on and on. It goes the other way, too. If you mention that you once went skydiving he will tell you about the time that he parachuted into the South American jungle and rescued an entire village from a vicious drug cartel. Singlehandedly.
The attention must be upon him at all times but if you tell him to stop he will let you know how unfair and jealous you are until you feel like you need to apologize.
Next time he starts in just smile and put the headphones on.
Of Course I Will
You know the drill. You ask him to take the kids to their dental appointment because you have a deadline staring down your throat. He readily agrees and then when you smile and think to yourself that you have truly misjudged him he will begin the second part of the game.
Him: (Deep sigh)
You: Why do you look upset? You don’t have to do this. I can find someone else.
Him: Don’t be silly. Of course I will do it.
You: OK then.
Him: (Series of huffs, puffs, and sighs)
You: Look, if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I’ll DO it.
Him: Stop trying to manipulate me. Don’t you want me to do it?
You: Yes I do! That’s why I asked.
Him: Well it doesn’t seem that way. You are always so difficult. You never let anyone help you.
You: I am sorry. I overreacted.
Oh and it can go on for a while. Do not play this game. You are always going to end up feeling guilty and making the apologies. If he says he will do something just thank him and walk away. Don’t answer his calls, either.
Check the Temperature
This one is a mystery to me. There is some way that people who are narcissists can change the entire atmosphere in a room of people. You are on the couch, reading a book and he walks in. You immediately know he is angry and you run through all of the things you’ve done in the past month to see if you are the cause. Even though you have no idea you can’t stand the tension in the room so you try to think of a way to make him feel better if for no other reason than your adrenalin is now pumping madly through your system.
Welcome to co-dependency.
Passive Aggressive Bull Crap
Passive aggressive bull crap is a simple game that is played often. He won’t disagree with you to your face but he will talk behind your back or find some way to make sure his displeasure is known by everyone within a forty mile radius.
This is the husband that goes to church and hits the altar weeping because he is concerned for his wife’s spiritual state because she is skipping church to stay home. He doesn’t mention that she has been working 15 hour days on top of her normal parenting, cleaning, and cooking chores and Sunday mornings were the only time she could get a long nap. He may have even suggested that she stay home.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons. Photo by Chris H. Connelly
Accountability Has Left the Building
He never takes responsibility for anything. He is always the victim. He’s never had a boss that truly understands him and that’s why he has had such a hard time keeping a job for long. They are out to get him. His ex-wife was unreasonable. He will, especially at first, share deep information so that you will feel sorry for him and glad that you are there to make it up to him.
Eventually there will be a series of crises. They are never his fault. You’ll find that serious crises tend to occur just about the time that you have decided that you have had enough and are walking away from all of the crazy. That’s when he lets you know that he has to have major surgery for something, he decides to let you know he will commit suicide, or he loses his job (unfairly) and needs a place to stay.
Best of all? When consequences occur as they eventually will it will always be your fault.
You can’t fix it.
You can’t change it.
You can’t survive it.
As heartless as it may seem you need to walk away for several reasons, most importantly to maintain your own sanity. No person can survive the adrenalin rush of crisis after crisis without it taking a toll on her body. Keep in mind that while you are feeling the strain of each crisis he is completely calm and in charge despite what it may look like on the outside.
Walking away allows the narcissist to either grow up and grow a pair or find another victim. Either one gets you off the hook.
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Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons. Photo by Katie Tegtemeyer.