“Whatever you do, you’re in the wrong” or “How to escape the manipulator’s noose”

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2. Spinning wheel

This is based on the witches’ trick, but has more fatal consequences.

In real life it works like this: the manipulator starts asking for the same small service, but repeatedly. This means that the service, for which you were thanked in the beginning, becomes a matter of course, the norm, and then a habit. Doing something for your partner is no longer an added extra, but a service claimed, a duty. This is why the “thank you” disappears.

During the second stage, when a partner is “in the habit of”, the manipulator asks for something more. He/she receives it, because the other partner has already adopted a submissive position. If the subservient partner objects the manipulator will come up with a retort, such as: “So you don’t love me any more? Why have you changed? Should I tell our friends or children that you have someone else? It’s obvious that you no longer love me like you did before!“

This type of manipulation is based on repetition. What we do once, we have to continue doing. Otherwise we are the ones at fault.

3. The snowball effect

The strategy we know from social psychology used by “crooks” organising soft-sell commercial demonstrations results in our consenting to behaviour we would never accept under normal circumstances. How is it possible?

The manipulator starts with an innocent request or argument, which then changes quite dramatically. An example: If we ask a friend to come at 6 am the next morning to help us with something, on average three out of four people (statistically this is 76%) automatically “can’t”. However, if we ask the same friends if they could help us sometime, all of them will agree. If we then add: “Thanks, that’s great!“ and tell them they can help at 6 am tomorrow morning, they’ll bite their lip, but on average nine out of ten (statistically 95%) will tell you that “they’ll arrange it somehow“.

Similarly, soft-sell “crooks” first convince people that they cannot exist without the goods they are being offered. However, the conditions of the purchase are only made clear at the end of the event, preferably after the potential buyer has eaten something good (or some other feeling of “being in debt” has been imposed upon them), at which stage many people feel it is “unfair” to refuse what is on offer.

Anyway, manipulators always manipulate “decent and good people”. These are their grateful target, because such partners often prefer to sacrifice themselves rather than their relationship.

Do you feel you are being manipulated in a relationship? What do you most need to understand?

Like a stretched rubber band.

In my book 250 Laws of Love I compare manipulation in relationships to a rubber band, where both partners are holding one of the ends.

A manipulator loves tension. He/she will always try to behave in a way that stretches the other to the limit. A clever manipulator will not actually pull back from his/her partner, but will display such a level of contempt that he/she forces the subservient partner to back off from the relationship. Only then is the manipulated person the guilty one, the one who wants to end the relationship.

In these circumstances the manipulator is not worried that his partner will let go of the rubber band. He keeps repeating that if that were to happen, the band would hurt the manipulator. And the partner won’t do that, because of love and the closely associated reluctance to cause hurt.

And then the manipulator releases the stretched rubber band. The subservient partner feels the sting. But the manipulator adds: “That was your fault. You pulled it out of my hand. You are being careless with our relationship.“

So the partner, hurt by the rubber band, obediently returns – maybe even apologises for behaving badly. And the cycle repeats itself. The manipulator again rejectsthe other partner, recreates a situation of tension, and prepares to deliver some form of punishment.

The manipulator’s victim ends up like a puppet on a string. Whenever the subservient partner gets closer, the manipulator will push him/her away with appalling behaviour. But never too far. Never losing control.

Why does the manipulator do it?

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