If you believe you’re being manipulated, it’s important to call out their words, actions, and motives in real time so you can prevent additional emotional violations. When manipulation goes too far, you may question yourself instead of recognizing the root of the problem–your partner.
“Overcoming manipulation takes a combination of self-awareness, other-awareness, and strong boundaries,” Manly says. “As you become more in touch with your own responses to another person’s manipulative dynamics, you can begin to create strong, healthy boundaries that put a halt to the toxic patterns,” Manly says.
Manly lays out a potential scenario. Let’s say you’re being manipulated into paying for the bulk of expenses, and you want to put healthy boundaries around finances. “You might say something like, ‘I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to have money to cover dinner when we go out. I realized I’m paying for most expenses, and that doesn’t feel right to me. In the future, please make sure you have cash with you before we head out. Otherwise, I’ll plan on staying in.’”
Raja agrees on the importance of practicing assertiveness so it can help you build an equal and respectful dynamic with your partner. This also has the positive benefit of developing a more positive self-image when you know how to say no and speak up in situations where you’re being taken advantage of.
A caveat: Raja notes it’s possible your partner could be manipulating you without realizing the impact their words or actions have on you. “They may use guilt-tripping to get you to do what they want, without realizing that they are putting excessive pressure or emotional burden on you,” she says as an example. “Or they may use passive-aggressive behavior, such as giving you the silent treatment, without realizing the hurtful and anxiety-provoking impact it has.”
Even if this is the case, that still doesn’t make it OK, and it still needs to be addressed. If they’re unwilling to change their behavior, you have the power to shift the power dynamic by taking care of yourself. “If the relationship is causing you significant distress or harm, or if the relationship is abusive in any way, it may be necessary to consider ending the relationship,” Raja advises.