II. Taking Control
Once she is confident that she "has a hold on you," she will start alternating between arrogance and attention, criticism and love declarations, affection and indifference, sweet demeanor and anger. She will become suspicious and critical, exhibit inexplicable mood swings and contradictory behavior that will leave you in a total fog, making you doubt yourself and feel increasingly uncomfortable. You'll blame yourself and start asking yourself a lot of questions: "Did I do something wrong?" "Am I not loving enough?" "Am I doing everything I should?"
To dominate you, she needs you to start doubting yourself, your judgment, and your intuition, to lose confidence in yourself, become confused and insecure, become fearful, and believe that you couldn't manage without her. Slowly, so you don't realize what's happening, but constantly, the manipulative woman will condition you to accept what you wouldn't normally accept, to become docile, to fulfill all her needs, desires, and whims.
What behaviors or techniques does she use?
Devaluation, denigration, disregard – when someone denigrates you, they try to negatively alter the opinion you or others have of you. The manipulative woman wants to show you how worthless you are, how you have no qualities and are full of defects, how contemptible you are. Devaluation allows her to claim a superior position at your expense. She will demean you, be sarcastic and mocking, criticizing and belittling you, trampling on what you believe, what you do, what you love. Suddenly, you no longer share the same tastes and preferences as she pretended at the beginning of the relationship. She will use words like "always," "never," "all the time," "nobody," "everyone," excessively generalizing: "You always make a scene, you always embarrass me" or "Nobody behaves like that, don't you look at yourself?"
She will repeatedly highlight your negative aspects, real or imagined. She will target your insecurities and strike where she knows it hurts the most. She will criticize your intellectual abilities, ridicule your opinions, compare you to others to show how ignorant you are, and focus on your physical appearance, body odor, how you walk, talk, dress, eat, laugh. If you have an ordinary car, you're a cheapskate; if you have a luxury car, you're a snob. Any insignificant detail can be viewed negatively.
She will discredit your emotions – what you feel is simply wrong; if you get angry, you're too sensitive, if you get annoyed, you have serious emotional and behavioral problems (even if she has countless fits of anger every day). In any case, you have no right to feel what you feel.
The aspects related to your sexuality, what you like and don't like, your desires, and sexual performance will be a focal point. She will criticize and humiliate you, and depending on what suits her, you are either a sexual maniac or impotent, further undermining your self-esteem.
Obligation – she can induce the idea that everything you are now is because of her, that your professional and personal achievements wouldn't have happened if she wasn't in your life. If she has helped you in any way, even once, she will constantly remind you of this and make you feel that you owe her something. She will manipulate you by making you feel ungrateful and selfish if you don't meet her demands, even if those demands are disproportionate to the "help" she provided you once. She feels entitled to make you give back to her endlessly. Your relationship is not a free exchange of affection, support, encouragement, and acceptance that you give because you care about the person next to you and want the best for them; it's a long list of conditions, restrictions, rules, and obligations that have nothing to do with love.
Harassment – she will subject you to constant small attacks. Anything said about devaluation, denigration, and disregard can be subject to harassment. Sometimes harassment becomes increasingly intense and occurs more frequently, following certain breaks, only to return with even more fierceness. It is repeated violence that undermines your dignity and ultimately annihilates your ability to think critically and defend yourself. It's like a Chinese water torture that erodes your mind and soul.
Threats – she creates a fear climate aimed at generating fears related to the possibility of certain things happening in the future. She threatens to harm you or herself, the children, or your pets if she doesn't get what she wants through other means. She makes you feel that danger is always present, and you may feel like you're "walking on eggshells" around her. She breaks things and destroys objects, especially those that have a particular significance to you, precisely because she wants to show you what she's capable of through these acts of intimidation. She threatens to commit suicide, and this blackmail is meant to make you feel responsible for her: "If I die, it's your fault. Can you live with that on your conscience?".
Another threat is related to the idea that she will end the relationship, and if there are children involved, she threatens that you will never see them again. She may hint that another man, more interesting, wealthy, handsome, or intelligent, is interested in her, but she won't be explicit enough for you to be sure. She wants to make you doubt to trigger your fear of what might happen, your fear of abandonment, and the fear of retaliation. She also threatens to ruin your career, leave you without any money, say things about you that could harm you, or "talk to the right people."
To free yourself from this feeling of fear, you'll comply with various commands, demands, and desires she has. These things will destabilize you, making you feel guilty and responsible for everything. To maintain peace, you'll become increasingly involved and feel physically and mentally exhausted.
Criticism – nothing you do is ever good enough. She always finds something to criticize, whether it's your physical appearance, the clothes you buy, your gestures, attitude, or behaviors. Sometimes, she doesn't even need to say anything; a critical look or a disapproving gesture is enough for you to understand the message. She does this in public as well, where she may not address you directly, but in a way that only you understand the implication. For example, she makes a general comment that is actually a criticism directed at you.
Repeated humiliation – she may be the type of person who feels superior simply because she has managed to humiliate others. She makes scenes and she makes remarks in public, humiliating and belittling you, often saying, "It was just a joke, why are you overreacting? You have no sense of humor." Under the guise of humor, you are disrespected and denigrated, and if you say anything about feeling hurt or offended, she will tell you that you are too sensitive. She compares you to her past partners, who are always better than you in terms of virility and other aspects. These repeated attacks and humiliations turn you into an anxious person who constantly feels evaluated and fears making mistakes.
Lying and denial – the manipulative woman has no problem lying to turn a situation in her favor or to get what she wants. If you confront her, she accuses you of misinterpreting the situation, taking things out of context, misunderstanding, not remembering correctly. She says that she has never said or did that particular thing or she accuses you of lying and making things up. She denies so vehemently, even if it's an obvious truth, that you begin to doubt your own memories and judgment.
Blame-shifting – you are repeatedly and systematically blamed, including for things that didn't happen but could have happened. She takes no responsibility and doesn't admit when she's wrong, but somehow, every time, you are to blame for her moods, her problems, and certain situations that don't even depend on you. She convinces you that you are at fault, even when you haven't violated any "rules." Every time, you must repair the damage she claims to have suffered because of you.
Isolation – the goal is to gradually alienate you and then cut ties with all your loved ones, your social circle, friends, and even family (including your parents and children from a previous relationship). Isolation happens through small but repetitive and successive actions. She can't impose her viewpoint too suddenly because she knows these bonds are strong, and the opposite might happen. If you are isolated, you can't receive outside opinions and another perspective on what's happening. Division leads to weakness, in this case, dependence and submission. She becomes the only person you can turn to. How does she do it?
- she criticizes and denigrates your close ones – at first, she'll make vague remarks, but she'll sow doubt: "Your friend is so weird," and if you ask, "Weird how?" she'll reply, "Haven't you noticed? Open your eyes!" She hesitates to give a clear answer, but her attitude makes you feel bad for not being able to see reality as it is. The next time, she'll be more explicit. For example, "Can't you see he always looks at me suggestively? What kind of friend is that?" The next time, she'll tell you directly and categorically that she no longer agrees to meet with him.
She repeatedly criticizes what your close ones say, do, and how they are. She says things like, "You're too good to be hanging out with people like them," "They're not on your level," "They're trying to take advantage of you," "Didn't you notice how your mother always favored your brother?"
- she provokes arguments and sows discord – she invents rumors, spreads gossip: "Let me tell you what X said about you. It's not the first time, by the way. But don't confront him; I'm sure he'll deny it. I'm telling you for your own good, so you know to stay away from him. You can do as you wish, but don't come back to complain to me later."
- she makes scenes in public, then plays the victim – for example, someone close to you makes a remark or a gesture, and she inappropriately attacks and becomes defensive, raising her voice and arguing. She leaves the table in anger and continues to complain and criticize that person for days. If you want to see that person again, she'll start playing the victim: "Didn't you see how he treated me? Put yourself in my shoes. It's clear he can't stand me, even though I've always tried to be nice to him."
- she gives you ultimatums: "Look, I can't stand this situation anymore. Choose: either me or him/her," "If you keep seeing X, I'll leave you."
Fear – she aims to instill in you the fear of losing her. She implies that she's being courted by other men or she flirts in a public place where you can see it. If you complain about this, she'll say you're exaggerating, imagining things, or being close-minded. Nothing is clear, and nothing is certain for you. You wonder if she's testing you, then you tell yourself she can't be, then doubt again – "But what if, after all...?".
Many times, you're afraid to answer her or confront her because you know she'll have a disproportionate reaction. She has a low tolerance for frustration and quickly gets angry. Fits of rage can be followed or replaced by sulking, a heavy, tense silence that can be just as oppressive. At some point, expressing your opinions becomes a risk you no longer want to take.
You're afraid of upsetting her, making her angry, doing something "wrong," because you fear retaliation. She has made you believe that you are responsible for everything, including her emotions and reactions. You carefully weigh every word, gesture, and action, trying to anticipate her reactions. You're also afraid she'll carry out her threats.
The constant psychological pressure and the threat of a scandal, the feeling of being captive and used, at the mercy of her whims, create a mental prison as effective as a physical one.
Jealousy – she tries to control your relationships and interactions with other people. She sees "threats" where there are none and she is almost always suspicious; she suspects you and everyone else without a reason. She turns any harmless or unintentional gesture from someone toward you or from you toward someone else into a real reason for a fight. Most likely, you've already cut out all women from your life.
Physical violence – it's a rarely discussed issue because cases of "men against women" are obviously more numerous than cases where men are the victims of domestic violence. Such cases exist, but often, men feel ashamed and fear that if they talk about it, they will be ridiculed or mocked. Unlike women who, unfortunately, can face extreme situations (such as being raped, beaten, strangled, or thrown out of windows), men can be subjected to less severe physical attacks: bites, kicks, punches, or objects thrown. If you defend yourself, trying to restrain her to avoid being hit, even a small bruise on her body can give her the opportunity to present herself as the victim of domestic violence. Sometimes, some women intentionally hurt themselves and then file a police report.
Manipulating the facts – a manipulative person can distort the truth in such a way that you begin to doubt your own perceptions. She exaggerates, omits, denies, generalizes, and adjusts the facts in her favor (and to your detriment). She invents things, making you believe you said or did something you didn't. She tells you that you are mistaken, that you don't remember correctly, that you have memory problems, or even accuses you of trying to manipulate the truth to make yourself look good.
Manipulation through words - she insists so much on a certain subject that you become saturated. For example, if there is discontent, in a healthy relationship, your partner can say, "It bothers me that you do this, your behavior affects me, and I would like us to discuss it and find a solution together." However, a manipulative woman will tell you something like, "It is unacceptable to behave like this; I can't stand it anymore! Don't you have any self-awareness? Either you change, or it's over!" But it doesn't stop there; she will tell you a second, third, and seventh time, eventually raising her voice. This continued nagging can irritate you, but because you don't get anything by expressing your anger, you most likely remain silent and wait for her to calm down, ready to accept her demands.
She says words with double meaning, hints around a lot, changes the subject if she doesn't like it, leaves the room, or starts doing something else. To end a conversation she doesn't like, she may say, "There's no point in discussing anything with you!" or "We've already talked about this; why split hairs?".
She uses her "authority" to end a discussion. For example: "I studied this subject in college, so don't contradict me."
She accuses other people of what actually characterizes her: "Your sister is a liar" or "Your friend is manipulating you," as if by criticizing these things about others, she could never possess such qualities herself. She accuses you of her own mistakes.
She sends contradictory messages. For example, if you don't wash the dishes, she reproaches you for not washing them, for not doing anything, for not caring about her. If you wash them, she reproaches you for why you washed them, because you don't know how to do it, you use too much detergent, or you flood the kitchen with water. You're guilty, and she will be dissatisfied regardless of the option you choose.
If you disagree with her, she starts to attack you. Instead of discussing the topic on which you didn't agree, the conversation now focuses on your flaws – you're unable to stand your ground, you only say nonsense, you lack arguments, you speak too loudly, you're trying to manipulate her, and so on.
Invading your personal space - the manipulative person occupies a lot of space in your life, eventually taking over and managing your life as they please. Every person has the right to privacy. Even in a romantic relationship, it doesn't mean you have the right to invade each other's privacy. You have the right to set your own boundaries and limits concerning what intimacy means, and it's normal for those boundaries to be respected. It's not "normal" for her to control your phone, email, or Facebook. These aspects are also private, as well as having a space just for yourself - a room or a corner in a room where you can put your things or engage in activities related to your interests and hobbies.
Emotional blackmail and victimization - the manipulative woman uses emotional blackmail and victimization extensively. "If you love me, you will do this for me," "If you don't accept what I'm asking, it means you don't care about me." If you say or do something she doesn't like, she begins to dramatize, cry, and even accuse you of "betrayal." The "victims" manipulate to make those around them comply with their wishes, most often by playing the "poor me" card, inducing feelings of guilt and shame in others.
If you are in a relationship with such a person, you probably feel used many times. This feeling stems from the fact that she believes you should satisfy her needs and desires. If you have doubts or don't want to comply, she may pressure you, directly or indirectly threaten you, accuse you of being selfish or insensitive, demand an explanation for your refusal, as if you did something wrong by refusing, and you should justify and apologize. Basically, she will do anything to get what she wants, without considering how you feel or what you want. She will sulk, give you the silent treatment, tell everyone how much she's suffering because of you, and point out all the things she's done for you and how you can't do even that much for her, and so on.
If you have children, she can use them to manipulate and blackmail you - "if you don't do as I want... I won't let you see your children / I'll turn the children against you / I'll divorce and find a way to deprive you of your rights."
Using sex as a weapon – heightening arousal and desire it is normal in any relationship, but a manipulative woman uses this to confuse you, shame you, and frustrate you intentionally. She makes you want her and then rejects you, not hesitating to make humiliating remarks about your physical appearance or any other aspects she can use at that moment.
Even if at the beginning of the relationship, everything was better than you expected sexually, once she's sure that "you are hers," she starts rejecting you. However, not just anyhow, but by amplifying your desire beyond what’s "normal," to make it even more frustrating. You feel impatience, anger, sadness, or guilt ("what did I do wrong to be rejected?"), but you can't express these emotions, so you repress them and end up hurting yourself.
It's a game like this: "I promise you sex, make you want it more and more, and then I reject you." You feel deceived, hurt, used, but because of the nature of your relationship, you don't have the right to express your dissatisfaction; only she has that right. If you were to do that, you know what awaits you - denial, anger, blame-shifting - you're obsessed or a pervert, she victimizes herself etc.
She also uses sex to blackmail you - "don’t you see how much you want me? Do everything I ask for, or you won't get anything." Sometimes she reignites the passion only to rekindle your hope, then she rejects you again.
Another scenario is when she acts completely indifferent, passive, and bored, as if your intimate life lacks any pleasure and joy. The idea is for you to desperately try to satisfy her, but never succeed, no matter how hard you try. She may even say things like: "You've changed so much; you're not like you were at the beginning" or "It wasn't that bad," in any case, suggesting that you're not man enough, not trying hard enough, or not capable of more, which only makes you doubt yourself and feel insecure about your masculinity.
How can you get out of such a relationship? We'll be back soon with a new article on the website.
Dr. Ursula Sandner