What does a manipulative friend really want

Manipulative relationships can completely destroy people

Jessica is often envied for her fiancé: Andreas looks good, is professionally successful and charming. After eight years of relationship, he asked for her hand. Lately, however, the 33-year-old has not been sure whether Andreas is the man for life. He complains about her more and more often. “Why do you have your hair dyed?” He grumbles when the woman from Mainz comes from the hairdresser.
There are often arguments about the contents of her wardrobe because he thinks many of her favorite clothes are ugly: Jessica now only wears the items that the 35-year-old finds acceptable. She lets the blonde strands grow out. The hotel manager thinks the worst thing is that Andreas is trying to change her personality. “You're so messy,” he grumbles when she puts a CD back on the shelf incorrectly - and messes up his alphabetically sorted titles. He also makes fun of her cooking skills. In his presence, the otherwise fun-loving woman turns into a fidgety little mouse. She often pours the heart out to her best friend or her mother. Both advise her to leave Andreas. But she's afraid of being single again - and maybe never finding a partner again.
In extreme cases, there is a risk of suicide
The 33-year-old is in a manipulative relationship. Signs of this are, for example, when one of the partners ascribes the role of the scapegoat for everything in life. "The victim is more or less clearly informed that it is undesirable that his behavior, his clothing, his choice of words, his body language are incorrect," says Dr. Rainer Mathias Dunkel, specialist in psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy in Wiesbaden. In the long run, the victim's self-esteem suffers. In extreme cases, there is a risk of depression or even suicide. According to couple counselor and single coach Eric Hegmann, manipulative people know no inner boundaries. When the idealized significant other does not live up to expectations, the manipulators often react disappointed and aggressive. "You keep feeding your partner fear, feelings of guilt and obligations."
Power games in a partnership are more common than you might think. "It is a general principle of life to constantly re-structure positions of power," says Dunkel. It is often not too fair when the anger is taken out on others. "The frustrations suffered at work are then unconsciously shifted to the family or partnership," says the Wiesbaden native.
In Hegmann's eyes, Andreas's behavior even shows narcissistic traits. “If you enforce your wishes, then it doesn't count for you that you limit the needs of others.” Dunkel emphasizes that manipulative behavior can occur both consciously and unconsciously.
People who have low self-esteem are particularly susceptible to a manipulative couple relationship. Victims of trauma or those who come out of a failed relationship already damaged. The perpetrator also often suffers from a lack of self-confidence. In doing so, his own self-hatred is unconsciously projected onto the victims, says Dunkel. The perpetrators are not able to appreciate themselves, which is why they do not succeed with other people either.
Games are unproblematic if they are played out lovingly in a lively relationship - if, for example, one communicates the quirks of the partner in such a way that it is acceptable to him. “That is the case when you express the quirk in a joke, for example,” he says. However, if the other person is tired, stressed or tense, this is not a good time. However, if one of the partners is manipulated unnoticed or becomes emotionally dependent, it is dangerous, warns Hegmann. For example, "when the person who caused a conflict bends the facts so that you suddenly bear your own blame - and believe that," says the man from Hamburg. In counseling for couples, he repeatedly experiences cases in which cheaters argue that the partner considers himself to be the trigger of the fraud. If the manipulator leaves his weaker partner, he is often left with completely destroyed self-confidence.
Seek professional help
An extreme case of manipulation is so-called gas lighting, in which emotional dependence is the prerequisite. “The perpetrator tries more or less unconsciously to suggest to the victim that the victim does not have an adequate perception of reality and is basically doing everything wrong or seeing it wrong,” says Dunkel. The perpetrators strengthen their own self by shifting the blame for their own problems onto their partner. They also twist the words around in his mouth to make him feel insecure. Hegmann explains that the partner is deliberately lured into traps in order to enforce their own wishes. “He is given tasks at which he will fail and then accused of failure. If you come across such a partner, there is only one tip: run! "
This type of relationship is hard to escape without psychotherapeutic help. If you have successfully broken away from the manipulator, you should process the ended liaison with professional support so that you do not get manipulated again the next time you love. With the help of a therapist, Jessica has now found the courage to dump Andreas. Now she's working with him on her self-esteem. The Mainz woman is now wearing the clothes she wants again. Her hair is also blonde again.
But she still wants to take her time with a new relationship. “At some point I'll have a boyfriend again,” says the 33-year-old with a smile. "And one who loves me for who I am."