by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: My husband tells me that I use manipulation to get my way. I just don’t see it, and am wondering if you would be able to write an article about manipulation describing what it is. Maybe I am manipulative and blind to what I am doing.

Some people grow up in families where manipulation is commonly used, and until it’s clearly pointed out to them, they may go on repeating patterns developed early in life, believing everyone acts that way.

It’s important to understand that manipulation is all about pleasing self. It’s all about getting what “I” wants at the expense of others. Let’s see if I can give you some examples that might help you identify manipulation if it is present in your life.

Probably, the most common form of manipulation is pouting or sulking. In other words, if you’re unhappy, you’re going to let the whole world know you’re unhappy. You wear your feelings out where everyone can see them. The intent is to get your way by making life miserable for someone else until he or she gives in and lets you have what you want.

Another form of manipulation is to attempt to get your way by making the other person responsible for what’s happening to you right now. In this case, you make yourself out to be the victim. It may be that the other person had nothing to do with what’s going on in your life, but by suggesting that if you don’t get to do what you want it’s the other person’s fault, or it’s going to cost you something is manipulation. Listen to your words. Consider how those same words would make you feel if someone were saying them to you.

A warning sign of manipulative behavior is the attempt to make the other person feel guilty for your benefit. It could be you telling your husband that if he really loved you he would do the thing you want him to do. That’s really not fair. There are only two things that you can do with love—give it and receive it. Once you demand that your husband love you a certain way, its no longer love, it’s manipulation.

It may be that you are not manipulative at all; maybe your husband is the manipulator. However, you might begin by not demanding your way. Try to meet his needs, as long as they are reasonable. Consider whether you would feel guilty if he talked to you the way you talk to him. If you disagree with your husband, tell him, but don’t make it contingent upon whether or not he loves you. If you pout and sulk, stop it. It may work for a while, but people get tired of it, and like all forms of manipulation, it will fail in the long run.

I hope this is helpful.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]. 

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