Manipulative girlfriend – will I attract another one?

“My last girlfriend was extremely manipulative and I never saw it coming. She had me twisted around her little finger until her every whim was met and then she dumped me. I’m really worried I’ll attract another girl like this, what do I need to look out for?”


Answer: “Thank you for this excellent question. Many-many kind, nice guys suffer from the same situation when they are overly nice to their girlfriend just to get nothing or hardly anything in return.

Your worries are reasonable. If you once get involved in a manipulative relationship you have a good chance that you will attract another one; until you don’t understand the reasons and act against them.

We have some personality traits which serve as magnet for manipulators.

For example:

The people pleasing habit.

When the approval is way too important for you.

If you fear from the negative emotions, therefore you avoid conflict.

If you don’t know how to stand up, assert your rights.

Or if you feel guilty when you say no.

If you are not sure about who you are and where your boundaries are.

If you are not 100 % sure about your judgment and opinion.

Or if you think that our lives are basically influenced by outside factors like friends, family of destiny rather than our own choice.


These personality traits serve as magnet for manipulators because they sense that they can exploit the person with these traits.


Recognize the pattern in the long term relationship if it begins like a manipulative relationship!

At the start it seems like enthusiastic. You feel like all of your needs are fulfilled. Then, after a couple of months a transition period is coming, when you feel yourself criticized, judged. From this point on you would do whatever it takes to get wonderful beginning back. And this is the point when the manipulator controls your behavior.


If your girlfriend wants to know too much, too soon about you especially if she want to know about your weaknesses. Watch out for guilt trips, victim games, if she doesn’t take responsibility. Watch out for lies, if she behaves differently before and in the back of the others, and if she generally wants to take more than to give.



Personality Traits that make us Vulnerable:


  • People pleasing habit
  • Approval is over-proportionally important
  • Fear from negative emotions
  • Conflict Avoidance
  • Blurry Self  “Who am I actually?” – Fluid Boundaries
  • Low Self Reliance – “I don’t know! I’m not sure!”
  • Believing that the control is outside anyway



Red Flags in a new relationship:


  • At the start it is enthusiastic, you feel all of your needs are fulfilled. After a transition period you feel yourself criticized, judged
  •  Your girlfriend (boyfriend) wants to know too much, too soon about you, especially about your weaknesses
  • Guilt Trips
  • Victim Games
  • Not taking responsibility for actions, decisions, feelings
  • Lies
  • Behaving differently before and in the back of others
  • Take more than give



Keep smiling? – or Tell the Truth?

“What is on My Heart is on My Mouth!”Maze of cultural expectations

“Keep Smiling!”

“Who is the Boss?”

In the maze of cultural expectations


When I first came to the US, it was definitely comforting that people were polite to me and to each other. They kept smiling and kept sending encouraging messages to me such as that: they liked my accent, or my English was good enough to launch my practice. It was really reassuring and helpful.


“Keep smiling!” is the complete opposite of what I experienced growing up in Hungary. I’ve heard millions of times the old Hungarian saying: “What is on My Heart is on My Mouth.” Frequently, it is a simple expectation being honest in everyday conversation and sharing even negative opinions as well. Other times, it is the excuse of hurting other people’s feelings by disclosing negative evaluations and judgment. Naturally I am not a fan of the latter.


Bragging about difficulties is almost expected in Hungary. Even people living in the upper classes find reasons to complain, not to mention the fact circling around in media almost with the overtone of pride that Hungary lost all of its battles in the last 300 years.


There is another telltale proverb:” Hungarians cheer up with crying.”  I’ve never been impressed by these messages.


Acknowledging and encouraging was absolutely refreshing after a trip to Germany While there, I heard many times: “Sie Mussen Deutsch lernen!” (You have to learn German!) as if I haven’t talked in German with them. The message is clear: your German is not good enough. (You are not good enough?) Quite discouraging, isn’t it?

Not only that, many encounters with neighbors, strangers, and first meeting with acquaintances begin with a sting. Your answer – or rather the way you answer – decides for decades where will you stand in the pecking order.


I was especially uncomfortable with it. I prefer symmetrical-reciprocal relationships, but this start does not leave me any other options than fight or flight. I could be either dominant or submissive, but there is no easy option for cooperation.


Therefore arriving to America, I enjoyed pretty much the convenient: “How are you doing!” – “I‘m doing fine.” –  “Excellent.” – type of conversations. I still remember the astonished face of a cashier woman when we answered her question with details of how we were doing today.


Once, a woman happily told me that her boyfriend was moving from  another state over  the weekend in order to be with her. The following week I saw her with cried out red eyes. I asked what happened – sure enough he did not come – but the kind lady stated that she is all right. – “What?” – I thought. – “You are deceived, you are betrayed, you are disappointed, you are devastated, you cried alone three nights in a row and you tell me that you are all right? Why?”


Then I’ve heard children falling off in the playground, hitting their knees or butts, crying. In response, their parents tell them: “You’re OK!” – What? No, he is not OK! He fell off, he got scared, he hit himself and needs someone to name him the feelings and comfort him. No, he is not OK until he gets it!


Along the way I’ve learned – sometimes with painful experiences – that the expectation in this situation is to: “Keep smiling. (No matter what.)” By the way; nowhere else did I see that many fake smiles.


I try to comprehend: why do we want to forcibly cram down the throat the negative feelings into the person already experiencing them?


The first reason is quite obvious and suffering for a while from the opposite, I cannot agree more: don’t put a burden on the shoulder of our friends with our whining. I’m OK with that to a certain point. Don’t overload everybody with the least significant struggle of our lives. Let’s chose carefully with whom and what to share.


The other reason might be full of good intention: we want the other person’s pain to disappear; we want him to be OK. With the magical thinking saying you’re OK, they might realize themselves that they are OK.

This is a mistake: and a very dangerous one. Every problem solving begins with identifying the problem. It’s not instant. Sometimes we need to think about it. Some difficult situations need investigation from more sides and fresh perspectives.  It needs elaboration. Without identifying the problem, we have no opportunity to solve it. Therefore it is basically important to be able to talk about our problems with our friends, colleagues or our acquaintances.


The other back side of keeping the negative feelings inside is that they can turn against us. It can evolve into depression, hopelessness, alienation, anxiety. It can manifest itself into bodily illnesses; it can cause a myriad of other psychological issues as well.


But maybe the third disadvantage hit me the most: what type of relationship is it when I cannot speak about my difficulties and suffering?


Superficial. We lose the advantage of social support. We cannot share our thoughts and true feelings with anyone. We stay alone with our pain. We think about when and where and with whom to go out because it is so hard to maintain composure in times of distress. We avoid our acquaintances in order to stay in secrecy. We get alienated, and then we suffer from loneliness.


All of society has worked out its rules on how to handle love, joy, loss, grief, changes of life, and tragedies. It’s all social. If we don’t allow sharing the negative feelings, we run the risk of making ourselves sick: psychologically and biologically.


My personal solution: a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I try to find the golden middle ground. Not too much complaining, but no pretending if possible. Finally, we should be working toward equal cooperation instead of vertical hierarchy and control.


What’s your golden middle ground?









When will the manipulator stop manipulating?

Stop Manipulating

When you stop complying with his demands forced by manipulative techniques.

There is many-many ways to ask something!

For instance your partner wants to go to a concert in the weekend when everybody in the family wants something different to do.

He can ask straightforward:

“I know mom wants us be there for dinner and Gabi wants to go to a party, and you are not a big fan of this kind of music, but there is a concert that I really would like to hear. Please let’s go to the concert!” – In addition he can make further arrangements what other time can you go to mom’s house and maybe he can miss Gabi from the concert so she can go to the party.

Managing things democratically might take some time, courage and hassle, but in this way everybody’s wishes and wants will be at least considered.

If your partner wants to avoid the negotiation part or not willing to give and take, he can reach for manipulative tools like:

Silent treatment: Don’t communicate with you until you cave in and chose to go to the concert.

Threat: He can yell at you until you give in and agree go keep up with him. Or he can calmly threat you with anything you don’t like: not going for hiking with you or simply with divorce.

Put downs: He can give you a lecture about the importance of music and art, indicating that people who are not regular concert goers are in some way inferior compare to the concert goers. So you can be ashamed if you are not enthusiastic about his offer. If he is rather rude, he can call you outright simpleton if you are not interested.

Guilt trip: He can engage in a long conversation in which he brings up past events when he fulfilled your wish dramatized by how difficult it was for him.  He can come up with sob stories of how much he does for the family therefore he deserves some repayment. The meaning of the whole scenario is that you have to feel guilty if you don’t fulfill his wish.

Constant Badgering:  If the atmosphere at home is very critical, if you are questioned for every decision you make, you might not want to oppose anything anyway to avoid further critique.

Persuasion: At first it does not seem manipulative, because he comes up with arguments. You can get suspicious if it never ends and when he accepts none of your counter-argument or feelings: he just not takes No as an answer.

So why does he do that?

Historically – surely this was what he learned, or simply he did not learn the democratic, cooperative way of communication.

Economically – negotiating, give and take needs lots of effort, patience and “let go” of our will. Maybe it’s not worth for him.

Functionally – when he considers your opinion as well, his wants will not be always fulfilled. If he applies manipulative force – which does not consider your wants – his wants will be fulfilled.

Here is the key, when he will stop manipulate:

He manipulates because it works. He pushes you with one of the unfair tactics and you do what he wants. Next time he wants something, he will apply the same force that worked before.

Sooner or later he will stop manipulation when it does not work any longer.

If you want to stop manipulation:  stop complying with his requests communicated by manipulative force.You can even sharpen the edge by putting emphasis on being very agreeable when he asks something straightforward but not fulfilling his needs and want until he pressurizes you with manipulative force. This tactic might re-train the communication between the two of you.

Reveal And Override Emotional Manipulation
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Six Most Commonplace Tools Used For Manipulation

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Guilt Trip, Silent Treatment, Threat, Attacking Self Esteem, Excessive Criticism, Competition Provoking: Tools of Manipulation

Guilt Trip,

Silent Treatment,


Attacking Self Esteem,

Excessive Criticism and

Provoking Competition

all can serve one goal:

make you doing what the “provocateur” wants you to…

What people consider manipulation might be defined differently case by case. The common outcome is making the target feel seriously uncomfortable if they don’t perform the will of the “operator”. The different ingredients include guilt, shame or anxiety.

Manipulation has a hidden agenda against straightforward communication.  It has to be covert because it serves the manipulator’s interest in direct opposition to the target’s desires.

Making you feel guilty, ashamed or worried can occur by verbal statement or question. It can come in the form of hints, stories, and comparisons. It often happens by the tone of voice, facial expression or gesture.

Common manipulative tools:

1/ Guilt trips

Guilt trips can come in many forms: “If you were a good…, you would do…” “If you loved me, you would…” “If you knew what I have been through…” Naturally it involves that if you don’t do what I ask for, you are not a good (wife, husband, parent, or child) or it means you don’t love me. Hence, you better comply!

A guilt trip can derive from a situation as well. Unfortunately, children learn to use it very early on. For example, a freshly separated mother had difficulties disciplining her daughter. The minute she made the child accountable for her mischief; she began to cry that she misses her father. It provoked guilt in the mother, and she stopped the discipline action and began to comfort the child.

Tip to handle:

Don’t cave in even when feeling guilty is difficult. Be firm about what you want to accomplish and do it anyway. You can accompany your decision with comments like: “I am sorry you feel that way.”

(Note: you might feel guilty, but you don’t have to take all the responsibility for the situation. Making you feel guilty is not necessarily based on the “truth”, but created for compliance with the hidden agenda.)

2/ Silent treatment

Silent treatment works by withdrawing communication, emotion, and eventually sex from the target until s/he accomplishes the manipulator’s demand. In essence, it is controlling the partner behavior by fear: fear of disconnection, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment.

Tip to handle: Don’t show your fear and don’t nag for communication. Respond in a neutral, easy-going manner: “I see you don’t want to communicate with me right now. I am going to garden (read, work on my project…) a bit. Please tell me when you are willing to communicate with me again.”

3/ Threats

This category is well known from Domestic Violence cases and even some famous crimes: “I will harm you if you don’t do what I tell you.”  It operates with the purest fear of staying safe and sound. It can be blackmail to destroy anything important for you – career, relationship or reputation.

Tip to handle: If you are in physical danger, escape, find outside help.

In the case of yelling you can say: “I don’t accomplish requests told with yelling.”

Warning: The more you give in, the less likely it would stop.

4/ Attacking Self-Esteem

Put downs, labels, judgments or contempt – maybe a simple roll of the eyes make you feel inferior. These forms of communication are harshly criticizing the character. It does not have to be completely straightforward; it might be a dirty comment like: “Only ‘working girls’ are wearing lipstick in the daylight.” You know this is the covert way of saying you’re a wh…

Feeling belittled and ashamed, you do what your manipulator expects you to do in order to avoid similar – disrespectful – treatment. This treatment profoundly undermines self-esteem.

Tip to handle: First of all, don’t take it seriously; it is just a tool in order to control you. Even your manipulator doesn’t think it’s true.

Second:  Never allow anyone to talk to you disrespectfully! Whenever you receive a comment like this, please respond in a calm but firm voice: “This is not acceptable.”

Third: Do what you think the right thing to do is independently of other’s opinion.

5/ Excessive criticism

In some circumstances, criticism can be useful. However, I think it is less likely than people usually think. Reinforcing desired behavior is much more fruitful than pointing out mistakes.

More often than not, I find criticism is a means of controlling the other’s behavior by weakening their confidence and self-reliance. People who are constantly criticized feel inferior; they allow themselves to be controlled in order to avoid criticism.

Tip to handle: Paradoxically, if you ask for more critiques – details or something else s/he does not like in you – they run out of steam sooner than if you argue with them. Being in defense mode is oil on fire: they’re eager to prove you wrong.

6/ Competition provoking

 “This morning, who will dress up first??” “Whoever brings home better grades will have access to the new games.” “Whom will you spend the Holidays with, me or with your parents?” Unfortunately, many parents use this tactic because it makes parenting easier – on the account of the children. Where competition rules, there is always a loser.

Tip to handle: There is always a way of cooperating, negotiating. Arrange the situation differently, set the goals differently, and find out different “games”. – Instead of “Who will be first today? –say: “Please help each other to get ready in time.”

Keep in mind: Compliance reinforces manipulative tactics!


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New Year’s Relationship Resolution Checklist

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Power, Finance, Workload, Appreciation, Understanding, Support. Freedom, Trust

Is Your Relationship Fairly Balanced or Does It Need Some Resolution for the New Year?

Closing the old year and starting a new one based on our achievements, career, physical or financial well being, we might also tinker about the current state of our relationship. Some people know exactly what would be desirable to change; unfortunately some only have a hazy feeling of dissatisfaction.


In my opinion, the relationship is better if there is a balance in most areas. What exactly is this balance depends on the couple. Furthermore, it has to be the result of negotiation. For one couple it might be that one of them is the bread winner while the other is the home maker. However, the same shared agreement might not work for others. The important thing to consider is that give and take needs to be equal – roughly.


Here you have my short checklist of what you need to consider.


1: Power. Who has the power to decide important things like; where to live, where the kids attend school, do you go for a holiday and when and where, what house/car will you purchase, who will be your friends?


2: Finance. Do you share finances or is each responsible for his/her own spending? Who is the financial minister in your home? Are the issues negotiable?


3: Workload. Are you both working outside the house? Who is responsible for the housework, the yard work, for fixing things, for the children’s activity and behavior? When adding this up, is the workload shared fairly?


4: Appreciation. Do you show your appreciation to each other about what is accomplished? How is this achieved? Is it verbally, physically, with presents, with favors or with services? Is the showing of appreciation mutual?


5: Understanding/Acceptance. Do you show understanding for each other’s feelings? When and how? Do you show understanding even when you would not feel the same way in the same situation and does your partner do it with you? Do you accept each other all together with your differences or is criticism often present in your home?


6: Support. Do you support each other’s dreams and personal development no matter what or only when it has benefit for you as well?


7: Freedom. Do you give the freedom to each other to choose friends, hobbies, spare time activities, how to spend his/her money, or change jobs?


8: Honesty/Trust. Can you be honest with your partner? Do you trust in him/her? Does s/he trust in you and is s/he honest with you?



Now you probably have your list of satisfaction and the possible places to change. Now it is worth it to think about how you can make those changes happen.


Please be aware that you cannot change your partner’s personality. You can ask certain behavior or action to change though.


With an honest benevolent partner, you might tell what you would like to have instead of what you’ve got. You can negotiate and compromise.


With a partner who pursues unfair advantages, you might decide what you want and what you are willing to do or not to do any longer, and change only your behavior. Your partner’s behavior change might follow.


Have a Joyful Relationship and Happy New Year!


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