Is he insecure or manipulative? The answer to this question is very important, and at the same time it can be very difficult to assess, especially for the partner. There are lots of similarities, but there are also lots of differences. This situation is complicated by the fact that many people talk about insecure and manipulative men. So let's see if we can tease all these ideas apart in a way that allows you to understand what exactly is going on in your own relationship.
Somebody who is genuinely insecure has low self-esteem, worries about many things and often feels inferior to others. So how does this show up in the real world? What behaviours indicate that somebody is actually insecure?
An insecure person may be quite shy and timid. They may keep to themselves and be generally quiet, not engaging others or not joining into conversations. The people around them may have to deliberately ask their opinion or invite them to participate in activities.
They may have difficulty making decisions, asking other people what they think instead of choosing for themselves. They may ask permission of other people before doing things.
They worry about upsetting other people and may even repeatedly check with others that they haven't done anything wrong or annoying. They may apologise for things that they are not actually responsible for. They can be very concerned about other people's opinions of them.
An insecure person may have a string of experiences in the past that lead them to be this way, a difficult upbringing, a traumatic event along the way, or various other reasons.
There may be difficulties in relationships because they're afraid of losing the relationship. They are afraid their partner will get fed up with them. Sometimes this is a result of being cheated upon in a previous relationship. This of course, can lead to so-called 'controlling behaviour' in relationships. The insecure person is afraid of being cheated on again, so they want details about where the partner is going, who they're with, when they will be home, etc, etc. The motivation for this is obviously to try and maintain safety and security.
An overtly manipulative man, on the other hand, can be talkative, opinionated, pushy and demanding. He has no trouble talking to strangers, letting people know what he thinks and doing whatever he wants, sometimes despite what other people might think.
He rarely apologises because he is never wrong. According to him, it's typically somebody else's fault and he's very good at apportioning blame.
A manipulative person of this nature can actually be the life and soul of the party and when you meet them first they can seem very outgoing, friendly, chatty, kind, helpful and caring. In fact, the level of confidence can be very attractive to many people.
It would seem, based on these two descriptions, that it should be fairly easy to determine is he insecure or manipulative. However, there are three factors that complicate the situation. The first is that there is much written about the fact that the insecurity causes destructive manipulative behaviour. The second important factor is that manipulative, controlling people, who control for the sake of controlling, are professional liars and can be fantastic actors. And the third consideration is the nature of manipulation itself. Let's have a look at these things in turn.
An internet search about the characteristics of an insecure man comes up with lots of articles about what behaviours to look out for that indicate your man is insecure. They talk about love bombing, controlling your time, jealousy, accusations, playing mind games, the fact that he has few or no friends, the desire for compliments, his threats, the idea that he is in your social media and personal space and the temper tantrums.
This seems awfully similar to being in a relationship with a narcissist or a psychopath. In fact, it's exactly what it's like being in a relationship with one of these types.
Now if you ask somebody who was in an abusive relationship (someone who understands that it was an abusive relationship) what their partner was like they will use words such as controlling, dominant, demanding, superior, confident, always right, assertive, commanding, authoritative, bossy, tyrannical, overbearing and so on. They typically do not talk about their spouse as being shy, timid, unable to make decisions, a worrier, someone who doubted themselves, or weak.
it's very easy to psychoanalyse people and say that behind the bravado there is a timid, insecure person trying to hide their weakness by trying to control the outside world. But to do this you have to ignore the fact that there are people who control for the sake of controlling. These are people with personality disorders whose relationships, by definition, are disordered because of the lack of emotion and their interactions with others are organised around coercion and exploitation. I'm not saying that there are not insecure people who manipulate with the intention of protecting themselves, but I am pointing out that there are also people who manipulate who are absolutely not insecure. In fact, these people don't feel anxiety, stress, upset in the same way that normal, healthy, feeling people do.
When you think about the things that some of these manipulators do, it really doesn't fit with the idea that they are insecure. When somebody who is genuinely insecure is caught out in a lie, it's a horrible experience for them. When a manipulator is caught out in a lie, they continue to lie to try and fit the new information into the story. Hardly the behaviour of somebody with low self esteem.
Engaging in risky behaviour, buying expensive items that they cannot afford, making promises they have no intention of keeping, making people doubt themselves, using fear and guilt to deliberately control others, are all examples of similar behaviours engaged in by manipulators but that somebody who is insecure and lacked confidence would be unable to do.
I think it's useful to understand what a psychopath or sociopath is and not to just lump all the manipulators into a category where the motivation for controlling others is insecurity. If you are dealing with a psychopath or a narcissist, you need to be aware of that. If you're dealing with somebody like this, then the rules you have to play by are different.
One psychopath claimed that he lied as easily as he breathes. These people will often lie even when it would be more advantageous for them to tell the truth. They were lie to your face even when they know that you know they are lying. Add to this the lack of embarrassment, shame and remorse and what you get is somebody who is a brilliant actor who can lie very convincingly.
These abusers always have great excuses for their bad behaviour. They know that if they claim to be victims themselves in the past people will feel pity for them and end up accepting the bad treatment. This is so common it has a name, the pity play. So it's very common that they claim they were abused as children, they have survived a lot of hardship, or that their ex-partners were abusive or cheated on them.
They repeat this over and over until it becomes reality, even when it's a complete fabrication. Perhaps this is where the idea came from people who are cheated on become controllers in later relationships. So many psychopaths use the excuse it has become commonly accepted. The reality is that most people who have been cheated on do not actually go on to be abusive controllers in later relationships. They may actually end up settling for less than they deserve or putting up with more than they need to.
Psychopaths and narcissists change their victims at a very fundamental level. They alter their perceptions, their thinking, their ideas and beliefs, their emotions, and their behaviours. This basically adds up to a personality change. This is why people in abusive relationships often say that they felt that they had lost themselves in the relationship. Or the family and friends say they no longer recognised this person. The manipulator has changed the person at their very core.
A significant result of these changes is that the victim comes to believe and trust what the manipulator says. The victim is programmed to put the wants and needs of the manipulator before its own. The victim is made to be dependent on the abuser. The manipulator becomes the centre of the victim's universe as well as the main source of information for the victim.
In this way, when the manipulator says, for example, that they have insecurity issues because of the previous bad relationship, the victim is expected to accept this. The victim is not allowed to think for himself or herself and besides, the victim's thinking is so distorted and limited that they cannot easily get to the truth. They are programmed to accept what the manipulator says even to the point of denying reality. This may sound a bit far-fetched to somebody who's never been in such a situation, but this is what actually happens in mind control environments.
The manipulators can be very good at putting such justifications in place. The victim comes to believe that their partner was treated badly in the past, is now insecure, and that is a justification for the bad behaviour. The whole relationship will be organised around this falsehood. The victim, in their own head, justifies the jealous or controlling or manipulative behaviour by believing, or rather by being forced to believe, that the manipulator was treated badly in the past. The relationship is basically based on a lie, or even several lies.
The victim in such a relationship is living in a reality that has been constructed by the manipulator. It is very difficult for them to distinguish truth from lies. This is often why it so difficult for the victim to determine if he is insecure or manipulative. They've been led to believe that the bad behaviour is because of insecurity for so long it's actually difficult to recognise the reality of the situation.
If you are in a relationship and you are asking yourself the question is he insecure or manipulative, and you can't figure it out yourself, the best thing to do is to ask a trusted friend (not your partner!). This will mean that you have to reveal what's actually going on in the relationship. You have also been programmed not to reveal what's going on behind closed doors and not to criticise the manipulator. This is something you will have to overcome.
Another piece of evidence for you is the fact that you cannot easily answer the question is he insecure or manipulative. Just to be clear, this is evidence that indicates he is manipulative. Chances are there are lots of other things in the relationship that don't make sense to you either. Again this is typical where a manipulator is using mind control on a victim. A psychopath will do things that have no rationale or logic behind them. The existence of these unexplainable and confusing behaviours suggests that this is not a simple case of your partner being insecure. If he was just insecure, things would be coherent, they would make sense, everything would fit.
So, with all this in mind, if you're asking is he insecure or manipulative, the safest thing to assume is that he is manipulative, but you just can't see it. You need outside help to point out to you what's actually going on. Until this is disproven, you need to consider that you are in a controlling relationship.
Here's another thing to pay attention to. Have you noticed that the description of somebody who is insecure has a lot in common with somebody who is a victim of a manipulator? So if you're wondering is he insecure or manipulative, it may also be worth thinking about the idea of whether you're insecure. Are you always checking with your partner before doing anything? Even if that's in your head? Do you feel inferior to your partner? How is your self-confidence? Are you walking on egg shells around your partner? Do you apologise a lot? Whenever there is in argument, are you afraid you will lose the relationship?
If you are in a relationship with a psychopath, a sociopath, or a narcissist, you really need to know about it. You have to change the way you perceive things, you have to change the way you think and you have to change the way you act. The only way out is to educate yourself. You have to understand what you're dealing with.
You can read more about how to spot a sociopath, the signs of mental abuse, signs your partner is controlling, and how to leave an abusive relationship.
Return from Is He Insecure Or Manipulative? to Definition of Psychopath
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