Signs of manipulation

DG reader Bigi asked me to address the topic of manipulation. Specifically, how to tell if a man is trying to manipulate you. She says, “I am so gullible and really want to trust so I tend to trust the wrong fellows because I just don’t realize how I have been manipulated.”

While some of us might think this is common sense, I’ve found that common sense can quickly fly out the window in affairs of the heart.

The dictionary defines manipulate as “Control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously.” It is anytime someone tries to coerce you to do something you don’t immediately want to do. However, it goes beyond persuasion, as manipulation is when you’ve said you don’t want to do something and they don’t let up.

And for the record, woman manipulate, too.

What are the signs?

  • He doesn’t honor your boundaries. For example, you’re kissing. You’re enjoying it. He moves his hand to a place you don’t want it. You tell him, “I’m not ready to go there” and move his hand to a place that’s okay for you. A few minutes later, he moves it back to where he wants. When you move it again, he says, “I won’t go any further” and goes back to where he wanted it. He’s manipulating you by discounting your comfort and boundary.
  • He asks you to do something you feel is unethical or dishonest. When you object, he chastises you. When I was dating the psychiatrist, he wanted me to register in person as him for a medical education session so he could get the credit but not have to attend. I refused. He argued. I didn’t budge.
  • laundry dayHe uses affection to coerce you. He wants you to do something you don’t want to do. He puts his laundry in your hamper. When you protest that you don’t want to be doing his laundry, he sidles up next to you, hugs you the way he knows you love and starts kissing your face. “Oh, sweetie, you are such a wonderful woman I didn’t think you’d mind doing my little laundry with yours. After all, then our clothes can intertwine, just like we do!”
  • He bullies you. If you say “no,” he chides you with, “What are you a prude?” Or threatens you, “If we don’t have sex the next time we’re together, I’m history.”
  • He blames you for his not honoring his agreements. He promised to take you to the movies. He gets engaged in the game on TV. You tell him it’s time to go, he says, “Just 10 more minutes. We’ll still make it.” Ten turns into 20. If you say something, you’re a nag. If you don’t, you miss the movie beginning. He’s put you in a double bind — you lose if you say something as well as if you don’t. If you miss the movie, he blames you by saying “You should have said something.” How about he should have honored his agreement?
  • He uses guilt to finagle. He wants sex. You have a stomach ache. He says, “We never have sex. You always have some excuse. I think you don’t love me anymore.”
  • He tries to buy his way. “If you attend this wedding as my date, I’ll give you $500 for a new dress to wear.” (This actually happened to a friend of mine who met a man online who was so desperate for a date to a friend’s wedding, he offered her this bribe.)

The bottom line is it’s easy to see these as manipulation when you’re not in a romance with the person. However, when you are, your clear vision can get cloudy. Hopefully this list will help you be more conscious if any of these happen to you.

What else can you list as ways people manipulate each other? Have you ever manipulated someone? If so, why?

Big media day

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal article interviewing me appeared. I’ve put the excerpt in “Wall Street Journal” page to the left.

Also, Greg Yorke, co-publisher of, interviewed me for two podcasts. Click here to listen.

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