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Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationship.

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Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationship.

Postby brandgirl » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:01 pm

This is my first time posting here, but I am desperately seeking help from people with experience in my situation. I believe I am in a relationship with an "emotional manipulator." I wasn't able to put a name to it until I did some extensive research and I was finally able to make some connections. The man I am with meets so many of the criteria of an emotional manipulator and I've reached a breaking point where I think it's finally time to end the relationship.

What I specifically need help with is 1) help in deciding if he truly is emotionally manipulating me or if I am just untrusting and 2) help in ending this relationship.

Let me provide some groundwork:

We started dating (after having been friends for several years) about 2 1/2 years ago. We were both going through a divorce and realized we really had a lot in common. Already having established the friendship foundation over the years, we quickly fell in love. We both fell HARD and FAST, convinced we were soulmates and everything was perfect and wonderful. We felt we'd truly found what we'd both been lacking all our lives. This man made me feel like a princess. He would do anything for me and I'd never felt so loved, respected, appreciated or perfect.

After about a year things started changing. I've caught in him many, many lies...but every time he talks his way out of it, pushing me to doubt my own instincts and even to believe what I KNOW are lies. He says he is "sad and hurt" that I could ever doubt his love for me, or that I could think he'd ever do anything to hurt me. He has many issues in his life (financially, family moved away, recovering from depression due to a back injurty, etc). He blames his 'bad choices' on these external factors, that he wasn't thinking clearly.

When we are together he is warm and loving and we have amazing chemistry. He is never, nor would he be, physically abusive.

I've tried to end the relationship 2 other times and both times he BEGGED and PLEADED me not to leave him. Promising change, therapy, etc. Each time (including now) there is some new epiphany that explains the problems in our relationship and that he is convinced that with the changes he's "committed" to, things will once again be perfect like they were in the beginning. He sobs and cries, says his life is over, that he's losing his world if I go, etc. Begs me to help him through the therapy and to be there for him...that with my help he can get through this and be the man I fell in love with again and that we'll be happy forever...etc.

This time is no different, except that I have realized this "emotional manipulation" thing. Obvioulsy the first 2 times, I stayed and agreed to help. I stood by him and coached him through the rough times, tried to work on the changes he promised etc. But within a few months, I'd catch him in another lie, which he'd then proceed to downplay, say I was overreacting or misunderstanding, etc.

So, here I am again at a crossroads. In light of learning about the emotional manipulation, and that it's real, I KNOW he won't change, and that I need to leave. But it's SO hard to listen to someone you love crying and sobbing like that. I get texts and voicemails from him all day...saying how miserable he is.

I'm an extremely emphathetic person and hate to see anyone I care about hurting. I realize that's part of the problem. I just don't have it in me to be cruel and completely cut him off. He's also been MY world for 2 1/2 years. I don't have many friends or family in the area, but I can't move because of my kids. So the thought of being alone really scares me. I'm 40 and don't want to be alone the rest of my life...I don't even remember how to date anymore, and I really think I'd have a hard time trusting anyone again...let along fall in love.

Please...any help, support and advice is appreciated. If you got this far...thanks for the taking the time to read.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby masquerade » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:15 pm

Hi brandgirl, and welcome to the forum.

You said "I've tried to end the relationship 2 other times and both times he BEGGED and PLEADED me not to leave him. Promising change, therapy, etc. Each time (including now) there is some new epiphany that explains the problems in our relationship and that he is convinced that with the changes he's "committed" to, things will once again be perfect like they were in the beginning. He sobs and cries, says his life is over, that he's losing his world if I go, etc. Begs me to help him through the therapy and to be there for him...that with my help he can get through this and be the man I fell in love with again and that we'll be happy forever...etc. 2 unquote

You have decided that you want to end the relationship, your mind is set on it, and you are entitled to do so without justification to anyone. You're a human being with free will and autonomy. By reacting this way he is denying you freedom of choice, imposing his needs and will upon you and cajoling you into doing something you don't want to do. It is a covert sort of control. He is also manipulating you as he is playing upon your guilt and sense of duty. He's also putting the responsibility for his emotional state upon you and not owning it for himself or taking responsiblity. No one can help him through the therapy, but himself, that is the whole point of therapy. He is not accepting reality and is displaying signs of neediness, which is a sign that he could be very emotionally immature.

Y ou said "This time is no different, except that I have realized this "emotional manipulation" thing. Obvioulsy the first 2 times, I stayed and agreed to help. I stood by him and coached him through the rough times, tried to work on the changes he promised etc. But within a few months, I'd catch him in another lie, which he'd then proceed to downplay, say I was overreacting or misunderstanding, etc."

You don't know when he is lying or telling the truth. How can there be trust in this relationship if he lies? By downplaying the lies, once again he's denying responsibility, and by downplaying your own quite reasonable and normal reactions to them he's gaslighting you. Gaslighting can be very dangerous as it causes the victim to doubt their own reality, perceptions and thoughts, and the perpetrator can then use the victim's doubts as a leverage for control in the relationship. It is very common in abusive relationships and a real red flag.

You said:

"So, here I am again at a crossroads. In light of learning about the emotional manipulation, and that it's real, I KNOW he won't change, and that I need to leave. But it's SO hard to listen to someone you love crying and sobbing like that. I get texts and voicemails from him all day...saying how miserable he is." unquote

Yes, it can tug at a person's heartstrings to see their partner crying in this way. However, if you have decided that you really do not want to be in this relationship, then you can't sacrifice your future and your life at the expense of someone's emotional reactions. This would lead to long term resentment, and would not be fair on either of you. You would each be depriving the other one of finding true happiness in the future. This lifetime that we have will never be repeated. It is not a rehearsal. It is too precious a gift to waste upon lost opportunities. Just as you have to own your emotions and responses and make them your own, so does he. He alone has the power to make changes to his emotional state, and you are not responsible for it. If you get concerned that he may harm himself in any way, then you need to tell the police. You are not responsible for his reactions and never can be.

You said "I'm an extremely emphathetic person and hate to see anyone I care about hurting. I realize that's part of the problem. I just don't have it in me to be cruel and completely cut him off. He's also been MY world for 2 1/2 years. I don't have many friends or family in the area, but I can't move because of my kids. So the thought of being alone really scares me. I'm 40 and don't want to be alone the rest of my life...I don't even remember how to date anymore, and I really think I'd have a hard time trusting anyone again...let along fall in love." unquote

You gave him a gift when you showed him concern and empathy and kindness. You sound like a lovely person and you gave him the gift of who you are. This is a gift that should be treasured for what it is. You should not allow this gift to be used against you as a leverage for him to control you by manipulation. In a lot of bullying situations, the bully uses the victim's good nature and politeness against him. He may not be intentionally bullying you but he has gained some control of you in that you're forced to be in a relationship you don't want to be in, forced by the fact that you're empathic, caring and polite. He has also been your wold for two and a half years, and it won't be easy to part. You will grieve for what might have been, grieve for the person he could have been, grieve for the good parts of him,grieve for the relationship itself. I have been in the same position as you hun, and I was scared to part with the guy because I knew that if I did I would have to experience all of the emotions of grief. I can see where you're coming from. It can also be very scary to be alone, and if you're isolated with very little support it may seem safer to remain in the relationship. This can be a real quandry, and the fact that it's not a decision to be taken lightly can cause a great deal of confusion and uncertainty. It's almost like a "damned if I do and damned if I don't scenario". I can identify with you on this one. Your situation is so similar to one I've been in. The great unknown can be scary. The thought of loneliness can be scary. So can the idea of lost opportunities and always wondering about what might have been. No one can decide this for you. You have to decide yourself. You say that at 40 you don't want to be alone for the rest of your life. 40 isn't old. You could have another 50 or so years left,or more, which is highly likely as people are living longer these days. This means that you're probably only in the first half of your life. However long a person lives, their lifetime is a gift. I'll repeat that. It's a gift. It's rather like a blank canvas to paint any colour they choose. What they choose to do with their life is up to them.You say you don't know how to date any more. Each new person who comes into your life comes into it like a blank screen. There are no rules. Each person in a new relationship makes their own discoveries on a daily basis. Each new relationship contains dynamics that are completely unlike any previous or subsequent relationship. Remember when you had your first kiss? You were unsure and uncertain at first and then it all fell into place. It was the same with your first relationship, and every other relationship you've had. You say you'd have a hard time trusting again. This can actually be a good thing, for it means that you will put certain safeguards in place to prevent you from being taken for granted or hurt. Trust comes gradually. It is built. It should not be any other way. You say you don't know if you'll fall in love again. Who knows? Maybe, initially you need to learn to really love yourself, and build up a relationship with yourself, discovering who you are. This can be a good foundation from which to build upon and can be as infinitely rewarding as falling in love. Discovering who you are can be a beautiful journey. You can be anyone you want to be.

Therapy can help you to make some sense of your situation and help you to give yourself the right answers.

I wish you well.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby brandgirl » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:42 pm

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, masquerade. I do feel very alone in my situation, as I really only have one girlfriend to help me through this, and she lives on the other side of the country. She sees him for what he is (and has all along) and is encouraging me to end it as well. But it is nice to have additional validation here, from someone I know is completely unbiased to the situation.

I guess I do keep thinking about the unknown...wondering if down the road I'll see him and wonder if I made a mistake. If he truly gets the help he says he is committed to, will he change and be the person I hoped for...but even then, I wonder if I could ever fully trust him. Even if he never told another white lie again...would I still have doubts about his honesty?

It's so hard. So hard to give up on someone. So hard to walk away when he sounds so sincere. I truly do believe he WANTS to change...I guess what I'm unsure of is if he truly CAN.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby masquerade » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:33 pm

Hun, I'm so sorry to hear that you feel so alone. I also know what that's like as my ex partner isolated me from all my friends and I had to rebuild my life from scratch again. Literally from scratch. I did it though. Somehow. That first year was one of the most challenging of my life, the most rewarding, and it began to be one of the happiest years too. I made the effort and forged new friendships, and those friends I made about eight years or so ago are still here today. Through them I made more friends. I made friends on the internet and met up with them. I joined groups, classes, took courses, opened my horizons. I managed to do that, even though I had undiagnosed HPD and bipolar type 2, before I even had my therapy. Having therapy was the icing on the cake and through having it I learnt self awareness and self esteem. I hit the pits at rock bottom and picked myself up again when there was no one else to pick me up. If I could do it, anyone can. There's a saying that says "If another human being has done it, it's not impossible".

If you feel lonely and isolated, what better chance than now to begin to reach out to make new friends. You have so much to offer in a friendship and your experiences will give you an added insight, empathy and compassion. You can begin to make friends if you try. There is the internet and Facebook. Of course you need to keep safe and to make informed judgements. If you read my blog, the quite recent one about ear piercings, you'll see how I made friends with one of the other mods on here and she came to stay with me. I have made friends in 3D from Facebook. I have joined groups, societies and gone on courses. I've been a bit insular this winter due to SAD disorder, but I have the type of friendships I can pick up on again. I have got back in touch with old school friends and college friends. Today I am vibrant and confident. When I was with my ex I was a shell, afraid to have my own opinions and my personality was swamped by his.

If you need to speak, you're always welcome to post on here and to PM me. Also, don't be afraid to try therapy. It really does make a huge difference. One other thing that will help is to try to find something good in each day, even if it only seems to be a small thing like a meal you enjoy or a nice sunset.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby brandgirl » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:50 pm

Thanks so much. I am so glad I found this forum...I found a lot of information online, but no one to really "talk" to or share real life stories with. I know many more emotions and thoughts will come up and I'm glad to have this to come to when I need some insight.

One other thing...he is truly grasping, and I realize this. One of the hardest things about breaking up with him will be losing his friendship. I mentioned before that we were friends for years before ever becoming romantically involved. That friendship maintained itself throughout our relationship. We shared every detail of our days (he travels a lot for work and it was comforting to be able to share pictures, videos, funny stories etc of how our day was going).

Anyway...he is now begging me to at least not abandon him as a friend. That he NEEDS to share things with me and to hear how my life is going. Would it be a mistake to try and maintain any sort of friendship with him?

He's also asked/suggested that we split up as I want right now and work on ourselves. He promises to get the therapy and help he needs to recover himself and get a handle on his issues, and in the meantime I can rekindle old friendship and rediscover and heal myself as I've said I need to. Then he thinks we can wipe the slate clean and start all over with no animosity from the past, and with the new-found self he is certain therapy will give him.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby masquerade » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:04 pm

Only you can decide what to do about this, and go with your feelings. If you do decide to maintain a friendship, you'll need to make sure that certain boundaries are in place and that he sticks to them. Perhaps one of the boundaries that you put in place could be an insistence on honesty, with no more lies, with the stipulation that if you catch him in a lie the friendship ends. You would have to be prepared to stick to that, with no going back. You would not tolerate dishonesty from a friend, and he is no exception.

You might need to ask yourself what you will both gain from this, whether he is so scared of losing you that he's clutching at straws, whether you are scared of losing him as a friend, whether or not you actually do want to split up. Seeing everything written down in black and white, as it is on this forum, can help as you can revisit it and read it again and again. Talking things over with a therapist can help, and also reading any replies you get on here. Eventually you'll come to your own conclusions. Whatever you decide, expanding your life and making new friendships can do no harm and will actually do a lot of good. Maybe he too can broaden his horizons. It could be that one or both of you are confusing love with dependency, and finding your own sense of freedom and autonomy in which you're not mutually dependent upon each other is healthy.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby OMNICELL » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:17 pm

"BEGGED and PLEADED me not to leave him." You are being manipulated, is he living off you...? can you really go back to this. Your eyes have bee opened....
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby brandgirl » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:26 pm

Yes, I think you may have nailed it actually. I think there is definitely a sense of dependency from both of us. For 2 1/2 years we were eachother's EVERYTHING. I think that's why I didn't end things the first 2 times...it was easier to hope for the changes he promised, than to risk the lonliness I was afraid of.

In that last 2 weeks I have reached out to some other women and set up dinners/drinks/kid playdates, etc. I'm making the effort to create new friendships and gain some of my independence back. I truly think this is why I'm not "folding" as easily this time around. I need to keep it up, keep myself busy and develop some new people to socialize with. I've actually told him he needs to do the same...this is both for his sake and mine (as I will feel better if I know he is not always alone).

He clearly is completely dependent on me and is not seeing things clearly like I am, which is why he is so desperate and hopeless. Or is that just part of the manipulation? I can't be sure.

I guess part of me wants to maintain the friendship so I don't feel like I'm abandoning him again, but I do wonder if that's just his way of keeping me close - to not completely lose me, as well as to be a reminder of the man I love so it's harder for me to move on???

It's so difficult for me to separate his manipulation from his real emotions. I don't feel like he is being malicious in his manipulation, perhaps it's just how he is and he doesn't realize it? Or is that just me being naive?

As you can tell...my mind is constantly spinning! sigh.

-- Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:30 pm --

Omnicell:

No he is not living off me. We don't live together. We have separate homes and aren't financially dependent on eachother in any way. It's all emotional.

Yes, my eyes have been opened and I do feel like a bit of a fool for not just walking away and never looking back...which is exactly what I would say to a friend in my position.

However, my heart keeps getting in the way. I keep remembering the good/great times and the happy feelings I do have when we are together. As well as watching him crumble when I tell him it's over. It crushes me to see him that way.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby masquerade » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:54 pm

You said "He clearly is completely dependent on me and is not seeing things clearly like I am, which is why he is so desperate and hopeless. Or is that just part of the manipulation? I can't be sure.

I guess part of me wants to maintain the friendship so I don't feel like I'm abandoning him again, but I do wonder if that's just his way of keeping me close - to not completely lose me, as well as to be a reminder of the man I love so it's harder for me to move on???

It's so difficult for me to separate his manipulation from his real emotions. I don't feel like he is being malicious in his manipulation, perhaps it's just how he is and he doesn't realize it? Or is that just me being naive? " unquote

This is interesting. From what you're saying, you seem to have established that there's a level of dependency from him that goes beyond the normal. It sounds as if he's almost pushing you into a corner, and forcing you into a role you don't feel comfortable in, almost into the role of being solely responsible for his emotional wellbeing. Am I right in noticing this? You seem to be torn here, as if you're not comfortable with this level of dependency and the pressure it's putting on you, and yet you also say that you feel some love for him. I can see why you're confused. You say it's difficult to separate his manipulation from his real emotions, and that maybe he doesn't realise he's doing it. Essentially hun, only he can be responsible for his feelings and his emotions. He has to own them. He obviously has some major dependency issues and they're dragging you down and affecting you. He may like to seek therapy for this, but you can't force him, or be responsible to the way he responds to therapy. He has to own this himself.

It sounds as if you still have some feelings left for him and this is normal, but that his neediness is really beginning to weigh you down. Ultimately you're not responsible for his feelings, his reactions or emotions. He is. Sounds like talking things over with a therapist would really help. It's good that you're taking steps to make new friendships. If he can't or won't initiate his own friendships, then that is his decision.
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Re: Need help ending an emotionally manipulative relationshi

Postby brandgirl » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:11 am

Thanks again Masq. I have considered therapy for myself, and have not ruled it out. Time and money is what is holding me back. In the meantime, I have a great friend who knows all the details and she tells it like it is and is always my reality check. And now, I have this forum as well, which has already proven to be helpful.

I truly believe he needs therapy, for many different things. He saw one a few times last Fall, and I've encouraged him to go back and he's promised he has made an appt for next week. It's up to him to be honest with her so she can truly help him. I do care for him and I hate to see him so upset, so I hope she can pull him out of it.

And yes, I do feel like I'm in a corner. I feel responsible for his pain. I feel like if I decide to stay I will bring all his happiness back, but deciding to leave is crushing his world. (These are the things he's told me). It's hard for me to be selfish and put myself first. I CONSTANTLY have to remind myself that I'm doing the right thing and to push the guilt away. His constant texts, emails and voicemails make that hard...he lays it on very thick.
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