III. How to get out of a relationship with a manipulative woman?
When you're in a relationship where trust has been built over time, you have no reason to believe that everything is false and calculated. The relationship can be balanced and trustworthy for a long time. Then, inequality starts to grow, but in a calculated and convincing way, which makes it not seem that bad.
As your self-confidence crumbles, and you start to believe that you're nothing without her, and because it's hard for you to admit that you're being treated poorly by the woman who claims to love you, and in whom you've invested so much emotionally and otherwise, you cling to the beautiful things from the beginning, to her good side, as if they compensate for the difficult and abusive aspects.
The fact that after a period of insults, humiliation, and fits of anger she becomes affectionate with you is evidence that, after all, it's not that bad. You long for those moments of peace and affection, and you're grateful when they happen, as if you don't deserve to be treated with respect and love all the time. She exhibits contradictory behaviors that she alternates unpredictably (when she's warm and loving, when she's critical and abusive), which destabilizes you and makes you confused. However, you hope that if you try even harder to please her, she'll become wonderful again, just like at the beginning. By denying reality, you struggle against the feelings of helplessness you actually have in order to keep functioning despite everything that's happening. But becoming aware of the situation is the first step you need to take.
What does it mean to become aware of the situation?
Stop finding excuses and justifications for your partner's behavior.
Be honest with yourself and ask if you feel respected, appreciated, safe, and if your needs and desires are being met.
Ask yourself/observe if:
- She admits when she's wrong.
- She appreciates what you do.
- She pays attention and is interested in what's happening with you.
- She seeks to understand your point of view and how you feel.
- She asks for your opinion before making an important decision.
- She is affectionate regularly and values you.
- In most situations, she encourages or criticizes you.
- She often plays the victim.
- When a problem arises, she refuses to listen to any explanations you'd like to offer and blames you.
- Can you openly express what you think and feel without being criticized, ridiculed, or devalued?
- Does your partner accept that you have a different opinion or do you carefully weigh your words before speaking to avoid making her angry or upset? Do you feel like you always have to be cautious and you are very attentive to her moods to adapt your speech and behavior to avoid a crisis?
- She always has the final word to say and turns things in her favor.
- She gets angry with you quickly and frequently.
- You tend to hide your feelings because you're afraid of her reactions.
- She ignores or denigrates everything you like.
- You feel like you've started to lose confidence in yourself and your qualities.
- She suddenly changes her attitude without you understanding why.
- You feel happy only occasionally, and the rest of the time, you're always on guard and filled with doubts.
- Do you feel like you're playing a role or that you can be yourself?
- Can you pursue activities you enjoy, meet your friends and family, have your own hobbies, or do you feel like your freedom is restricted?
- Is there a balance? For example, she can have very specific requirements, and that's okay if your requirements and needs are also respected, meaning it's not a one-sided relationship (https://www.ursula-sandner.com/care-sunt-caracteristicile-relatiilor-unilaterale/), where you give but don't receive anything in return.
When "kindness" means naivety and a refusal to see reality as it is, it's better to set it aside and adopt a more rational attitude to avoid getting stuck in a disastrous relationship. These questions can help you see reality as it is, without trying to find excuses and justifications for your partner's behavior. In a healthy relationship, both partners give each other freedom, accept each other as they are without negative judgment or disrespect, offer enough space and support for their personal development, and respect and value each other.
If you realize that your relationship is unhealthy, seek support and ask for help because this support is crucial for your mental wellbeing in the coming period. You may have distanced yourself from friends or family, so gradually reconnect with them and tell them what you're going through.
Professional help, like therapy, can help you understand what has happened, what's happening now, and what can be done to get out of this difficult situation. It can help you manage your emotions to free yourself from guilt and deal with the grief of losing your partner and then rebuild your individuality.
If you intend to leave a dominating relationship, be aware that you will likely face opposition, so be prepared for what might come next: she will play the victim more than usual - fits, crying, sighs. She's suffering, she's devastated (because of you, of course), so only you can relieve this suffering if you go back to her. She will threaten you or play the innocence card again, making promises or becoming extremely seductive and passionate to make you change your mind.
You may feel guilty: "I shouldn't have done that," "She wasn't the only one who made mistakes, so it's understandable that..." "I haven't done enough," "I provoked her." But you may also feel angry or you may want to get back at her. These feelings are natural given the situation, and it's important to understand and manage them in a healthy way.
The grief of losing your partner is also very real. Once you stop lying to yourself and deceiving yourself, you may feel that the woman you loved never existed. You loved an illusion; she isn't who you thought she was. Although it was wonderful at the beginning, this stage is often just a step in a strategy. It's painful to accept that those moments weren't entirely real, that they can never come back, that it was more about seduction than love, that even the moments of peace weren't an expression of her love but were strategically designed on the principle of "today I hurt you, and tomorrow I comfort you."
There is grief even after an ideal future that has been lost, a future that you imagined and partially planned together with her. In a relationship where you become dependent on your partner, separating from her can feel like withdrawal. If you meet her again, you may tend to forget everything as if nothing happened and reconcile with her, especially since she knows how to be pleasant, sweet, and sensual. However, her attitude could be nothing more than a new seduction attempt, which will last less this time because she already knows your vulnerabilities. It's not necessary to show distrust toward everyone, but also don't blindly trust someone without carefully assessing the situation beforehand.
You may have a lot of questions, and for some of them, you may feel like you can't find answers. Why did it happen this way and not differently? Why did she behave like that with me? There are many reasons why a woman can become manipulative and abusive (abuse, neglect, childhood maltreatment, manipulation, relational traumas, various personality disorders etc.), but those reasons don't justify her behavior. Many people who have suffered, been hurt, or treated unfairly choose not to harm others precisely because they know what it's like to be in such a position and have worked on themselves to heal and develop emotionally. "She humiliates me because she was humiliated" or "she acts like this because she had a tough childhood" are just false excuses. If we allow someone to exploit us mentally, physically, emotionally, or financially, they will continue to do so.
Many men procrastinate about making a decision to leave because they may fear loneliness, they may be in a situation where they would be left without resources or housing, or they may fear that their partner will manipulate their children against them, leaving them with no chance to change their minds later. Plan your exit from the relationship step by step. For example, find a place to live before breaking up so you won't be tempted to change your mind. Children represent an important and constraining factor, so it's advisable to talk to a lawyer to better understand the challenges related to this situation and to know your rights.
Once you've made the decision to end the relationship, communicate it to your partner in a clear, firm, and assertive manner. Keep your calm and don't respond to her mind games or her attempts to make you feel guilty. Don't give in to emotional blackmail and to threats, and avoid engaging in conflicts. This discussion is not a negotiation; it's the communication of a decision.
After the breakup, avoid any contact with your partner to prevent any manipulation or reconciliation attempts. If you need to discuss or resolve certain practical or child-related issues, do that in a public space, and bring a friend with you if possible. Avoid getting into other discussions unrelated to the meeting's subject.
Ending a relationship with a manipulative and abusive person is a challenge, but it's an important step in regaining your emotional wellbeing and personal freedom. It's never too late to free yourself from a destructive relationship and create a fulfilling life. I encourage both men and women to prioritize their mental and emotional health and seek support from trustworthy individuals and professionals.
Dr. Ursula Sandner