There are dozens of articles and tips telling you how to notice a manipulative or emotionally abusive relationship or how to recover from one, but I have yet to read a piece about how to get through one. If you’ve been in this type of relationship before, like I have, or if you currently are in one, you know that it is so taxing on your mental, emotional, psychological, and physical health. There are nights where you lay in your bed alone in the dark crying, feeling helpless and like everything is always your fault. You hate yourself, and believe you need to change because your partner said so. It’s the best to try and get out of situations like this, but I know how difficult that is, especially when you feel like you love this person and you would be lost without them. Hopefully, all you need is time to break yourself free, but, in the meantime, I want to help you survive through this turmoil. Let me give you advice that isn’t, “He/She/They are manipulating you; just leave them.”
1. Have an escape.
Arguments and confrontations are almost a daily occurrence when in this type of relationship. They may text you and be passive aggressive, hinting at something that you did that upset them but never telling you what. And when you don’t get it through the hint, they get even angrier at you and start ignoring you or telling you off. Or they could suddenly change their mood on a date night. They may act cold to you and suddenly become distant, never telling you what is wrong. They’ll leave all pissed off, leaving you confused and hurt. I’ve been there more nights than I can even remember due to the emotional strain they put on me. My biggest tip for these moments is have an escape from them. Trust me, there is no winning them. The more you feed into it trying to figure out what’s wrong, the more hurt you will become because it will go nowhere. You’ll feel more helpless by the minute, and you’ll feel more and more at fault for this. Have somewhere to go, whether that be a person, a place, a book, a video game, etc. You need to get your mind out of that situation because it will only deteriorate it even more. Distract your mind and focus on something that will at least attempt at calming your troubled thoughts.
2. Don’t buy back their love.
When they are angry at you for whatever reason, do not try and ease their anger by buying them things. They may try and manipulate you into getting them something really expensive by guilt tripping you into it, or maybe you just know from habit that receiving gifts will temporarily calm their rage. Don’t put all your funds into a temporary solution. I spent over $2000 in one and a half years towards my manipulator, and it’s because I knew that I wanted to try to keep her happy due to how horrible it felt to be on the receiving end of her frustration and anger. Now, she has a laptop, a 3DS, every Pokémon game, several gifts from New York, and so much more all because she was good at coaxing me into getting her things.
3. If they leave, let them.
Chasing after the one you love is supposed to be romantic, but, when being manipulated or emotionally abused, it just feeds into their games. When they leave, they want you to come after them. It’s part of the game they’re playing you in because, when you chase after them, you’re giving into them. They’re taking a position of power over you as this shows them that you need them, and when they know you need them, they can abuse that fact. If you don’t chase after them, they’ll get pissed after a while and come complaining back to you, redirecting all of the blame at you. You need to hold your ground here and defend yourself. A relationship is a two way street and power must be balanced equally as partners are supposed to be equal. Don’t let them manipulate situations in order to make you give them all the power in the relationship.
4. Speak your mind.
Don’t let fear quiet your worries. You need to be comfortable in this relationship, and fear of angering them should not sacrifice this. They should understand what they’re doing is making you uncomfortable and at least talk it out with you to come to a compromise or an understanding. If they don’t, then that just shows that your comfort in the relationship is not a priority to them. In my case, my ex-significant other was constantly hanging out with a boy who liked her a lot when her and I were doing long distance. She took pictures with him and often stopped texting me randomly because she was sitting at a group fire with him or watching movies and drinking beer with him. This made me extremely uncomfortable, and I tried my best but she would tell me stories of things he did that clearly was him making a move and she never told him to stop but instead fed into it ever so slightly. When I did speak up once, she turned it on me saying things like “You can’t tell me not to hang out with him because you’re uncomfortable with it,” or “I would never cheat on you,” even though I never insinuated that she was. After yelling and getting upset at me opening up my feelings about it, her solution was to turn off her phone and go over and stay at his house for the night by herself, further feeding into my fears. I let it go after that and just let my mind suffer from worry each day and night she did that and after each new story she told me.
5. Don’t sacrifice your social life.
I gave up going out because of her. In my freshman year at college when we did long distance, I Skyped her every day and night when she wasn’t out with her friends or at work. Whenever we did Skype, I couldn’t do my schoolwork or she would get upset; I had to only focus on her even though she was able to do work or watch a movie. Because of this, my days consisted of going to class, doing school work when we didn’t Skype, going to the Dining Center for food, and then Skyping her. Occasionally, I would get to play video games, but I almost never went out. My three roommates went everywhere together and occasionally invited me, but I chose her over them always. I made almost zero friends in my freshman year, so when her and I broke up the summer after, I didn’t know if I wanted to go back to the same school for my sophomore year. I barely knew anyone, and I was forced into a single for the year since my roommates decided to get a new fourth person. Don’t let them control your social life. You need to have other people in your life other than them. They may want you to only have them in your life as this is a way to keep a hold on you. Give time to the other important people in your life. Don’t let them curb your hobbies and sacrifice things that are integral in your life. If they truly love you, they would accept those crucial parts of you instead of asking you to give them up.
6. Don’t sacrifice family.
I know not everyone has a close family, but family is always a part of your life. Don’t let them manipulate you into throwing that all away. If your family is a big part of your life, that’s a big part of your attention that you aren’t giving to your significant other. Shamefully, I broke apart from my family on so many levels because of my manipulator. I lied to my mother frequently, I used her to get things so I could calm my manipulator’s rage, I lost a connection to my sister, I lost my father’s confidence, and my aunt’s constantly tried to get me to understand the manipulation I was putting up with. A true, genuine partner would never pull you away from your family (unless your relationship with your family is manipulative/abusive. In that case, they’d try and help you get help). Instead, shouldn’t they want to try and be liked and accepted by them? Let them know that your family isn’t going anywhere.
7. Know that you aren’t alone.
You may not want to go talk to anyone about this emotional abuse you go through, especially if you are a guy. Many men are too prideful to admit that they are going through this sort of thing (I know I was), but staying in isolation is definitely not going to improve your situation. You can’t only talk to them, too, as they are the ones making you feel this way. If they aren’t willing to work with you for the better of the relationship, seek help. There is counseling, therapy, and so many other services out there to help you get through your situation. Even a good friend is a great place to turn to as they can give you the outside perspective on your relationship that maybe you are trying to shy away from.
Look, I can’t know exactly how you feel, but I get it to a degree. For whatever reason you’re staying, I know it’s hard to think about leaving. You don’t want to, and you try and tell yourself that things will get better over time if you just stick through the pain. You can’t just sit there and take it because you don’t deserve to be destroyed. You don’t deserve to be manipulated, and you sure as hell don’t deserve to have your emotions toyed with. I look back at my freshman year in college, and destroyed is exactly how that relationship made me feel. I didn’t turn to anyone for help. I just suffered in silence hoping that one day, she would become the happiness I wanted. If you’re going through the type of relationship I did, I’m not here to tell you that you need to leave; in the end, what made me leave wasn’t the dozens of people telling me to but when I hit a breaking point and just realized I deserved a lot better than how I was feeling. All I hope to pass on with these tips is just knowledge I wish I had when I was going through it. Your relationship is your own and you love who you love, but by no means do you need to let yourself be destroyed in the process.