Manipulative men come in all shapes and sizes, from CEOs to couch potatoes, from ladies man to married and settled, from life and soul of the party to loner, from bullies to friends. In other words, judging by outward appearances, there is no stereotype.
This is one of the reasons why people get caught in multiple abusive relationships. They look at the last abuser and decide that if they meet anyone like that again they will steer well clear. The difficulty is that the next one they meet is of a different type. He seems nothing like the last one, from the outside.
Not getting caught is not as simple as just listening to what he says, either. If it was, people would not get caught! If you are watching out or listening for threats or guilt trips, by the time they start you will be neck deep in an abusive relationship with no easy way out. The fact is that when that type of thing is done by manipulative men the listener often doesn't even recognize it for what it is. That's why people end up in abusive relationships for years!
The trick is to go beyond outward appearances and learn the inside workings of manipulative men. Then you begin to see the similarities, you begin to see the themes in how they build relationships, how they start the manipulation and how they keep control over people.
So let's look at how manipulative men do what they do and how exactly it affects their victims. Keep in mind that the same goes for manipulative women, too.
Manipulative men are good at, well, manipulation. That's what they do. From the very first encounter they are manipulating. They are manipulating specifically your initial impression of them. They want you to think they are good people, friendly, helpful, caring, hard working and considerate. They know people wouldn't get into a relationship with an abuser so they conceal that aspect from potential targets. They want to create a very strong initial impression because they know that first impressions count. Once in place, it's hard to shift it.
This is where the manipulation starts, not with the guilt trips and name calling. This is a very important distinction, for several reasons. The manipulator first makes you feel very good. This stage is often called love bombing and occurs in intimate relationships as well as in cults. The manipulative men make the targets feel very good about themselves and about the manipulators. Many victims fall in love very, very quickly during this stage. That's the general idea!
The manipulative men want the victims feeling so good that they have no sense of problems or difficulties, they cannot think rationally or logically, even when there are warnings from family and friends. This is where the phrase 'love is blind' comes from. The manipulative men are taking advantage of this facet of human experience.
I use the word victim here because the targets are already victims, even though they feel great! The fact is that they are being lied to, tricked and deceived. Already their emotions, thoughts, decisions and behaviors are being manipulated.
The fantastic person they have met doesn’t actually exist! The manipulator is playing a role here, the role of the ideal partner for the victim. He is offering everything the victim wants and needs at this point in time. What's not to like for the victim? They have the promise of having what they want, the way they want it. It is easy for them to commit to the next step in the relationship, and the next one, and the next one...
And that's the idea behind the love bombing, to create that first impression in the victim's mind and to get them to commit. Later on, the victim is going to wonder where that wonderful man went, and they are going to work hard so that wonderful person comes back. But he never does, because he never existed in the first place. It was all a delusion created to manipulate and control.
When the manipulative men know that they have their victims captured, they change the rules and their behaviors. That unconditional love now becomes conditional, conditional on the victim behaving a certain way, thinking a certain way or deciding a certain way. If they don’t comply, the affection is withdrawn. This can happen subtly over time or it can happen in sudden, unexpected ways. The manipulative men may say or do something that is nasty. The victim often considers that this is so out of character that there must be a reason for it, tiredness, stress, having a bad day. In one way or another it is passed over, after all, the relationship has been so great up to that point.
Many people look back on such an event and remember that they thought it was not right but somehow they let it slide. This indicates that they were under the influence of the manipulator already at this point. (Remember that first impression is very strong. The victim believes they are with a genuinely nice person.) And the manipulator knows this. These initial nasty behaviors are often a test by the manipulator to see just how much control they have. What can they get away with? Do they have to back up a bit, apologize and go a bit more slowly to establishing their power? Or can they carry right on and dish out more abuse?
This idea of power and control is central to the manipulative men that I am talking about. The relationship is all about control of others for them. This is important in understanding their motivation for some of the things they do. They may sometimes do things that don't seem to make sense, unless you consider it from the point of view of control and domination. Then it becomes clear that they have chosen power and control instead of other things that seemed to have value for them.
The abuse of manipulative men is usually of a particular nature. They may manipulate your emotions to get you to do things, but the abuse is designed to attack your identity, to destroy who you are.
Instead of 'that was a stupid thing to do,' it's 'you are stupid (for doing that)!'
It's rarely 'buying that was a waste,' but 'you are a waste of space. I can't send you to do anything!'
It's not enough to say that he doesn't like your friend but he makes you feel bad about it. 'You are a bad judge of character for having friends like that.'
Manipulative men may be criticizing something you said or did but they use it to attack you. They take the opportunity to make you personally responsible for 'bad' things that happen. There are two important aspects to this. When someone feels that the fault is theirs personally, they believe they deserve the punishment and they also take a hit to their self esteem.
The second part is that the manipulative men decide what 'bad' is. This is actually very controlling because they have set themselves up as judge and jury. Simply because they say so makes something bad or wrong. They can make anything bad. You can have done something perfectly but they will be able to find something to complain about. This combination, their deciding what is good and bad and the attacks on your identity, is a lethal combination for your identity.
What happens is that they make you feel so bad about who you are that you become willing and eager to change that in order to avoid the humiliation and belittling. And what do you change to? Well, they are more than willing to tell you how you should be. Sometimes they will tell you straight out, sometimes they will manipulate your emotions and thinking until you figure out what they want. In this way they make changes to your personality and then they begin to freeze those changes in place.
This personality change process was first described by Edgar Schein after studying the Korean War prisoners who returned home after the war with new beliefs in place which did not disappear simply because they were no longer with the enemy. This new personality is called a pseudopersonality, meaning false personality, because it is imposed on the victims without their knowledge or their consent.
This happens in cults, in controlling intimate relationships, friendships and in work situations where there are manipulative men and women. It is a wonderful way of thinking about what is done to the victims.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to believe what the abuser says, to take care of the abuser and to be dependent on the abuser. It is also programmed to not see the contradictions in the relationship, to not recognize the abuse as abuse. This is done by redefining what the abusers actions mean. Manipulative men will claim, for example, that phoning 10 or 15 times during a girls night out means that he loves her and that he cares for her safety. Or they will insist that any criticism of the wife is for her own good, or that his working late in the office is for the good of the family. It's very difficult for the woman, with what we have seen so far, for her to argue against this.
Another aspect making it difficult for the victim to recognize what is going on is that the manipulator has installed many of the same beliefs that he has. If the victim believes that he is superior, more intelligent and more deserving and that she is the cause of the problems and that she needs to change and adapt herself in some way, then with that mindset, what he does becomes acceptable, irrespective of what she may have thought before getting caught in the relationship. You can read more about this idea in this article about why it’s hard to spot the signs of abusive relationships.
This new personality is typically kept in place with a punishment and reward system. Doing anything the manipulative men don’t want gets punished, doing what they want is rewarded, sometimes. At the start of the relationship, there were many rewards, later on they are few and far between. Sometimes a reward is that the manipulator has not shouted all day!
I am, of course, talking about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. I am not going to go into much detail in this article about them but what you have to keep in mind is that they have no emotions, no conscience and a huge ego. These people have a personality disorder and so their sense of self is disordered and their relationships are based on exploiting others.
They do know what they are doing. Just think, they never forget to act like nice people outside the house and likewise, they don't forget to be tyrants behind closed doors. What they do is not random, or a mistake. It is deliberate.
They do know the difference between right and wrong, they just don't care. Remember, no conscience!
They can be very cruel and very callous. Sometimes you might wonder how someone who loves you can treat you the way they do. The first thing is that they do not love you. Even if they say they love you, it's a lie. They are incapable of love. That also means your whole relationship was based on a lie, on deception. And they can be so cruel because for them the end justifies the means. As long as they get what they want, they don't care what they have to do to achieve it.
They typically have a vicious temper but it flares up suddenly for the least thing but it disappears as quickly.
They are always right. Nothing bad is ever their fault. That's all on you.
They don't apologize. On the rare occasion that they do, it's a lie. They don't mean a word of it. They are at the same nasty things again very shortly afterwards.
They are not going to change.
There is an avalanche of lies coming at you on a regular basis.
They have one set of rules for themselves, another set for you.
They accuse you of doing what they are doing themselves. Thus you spend your time defending yourself and all the attention is off them.
They want to know all about you but tell you little of themselves. What they do tell you is often manufactured to get you to feel sorry for them. You can read more about things manipulative people say here.
You really need to leave such a relationship. These people are much better at the manipulation than you will ever be at resisting it. They are much better at destroying your limits and boundaries than you will ever be at putting them in place. You will lose in such a relationship.
Getting out is not easy because of the dependency they create in you. You can read more about how the dependency works in this article about abusive husbands. Even though it's not easy, leaving the relationship is the only way to stop the abuse. That doesn't mean they won't try and continue their control, but when you don't have face to face or telephone contact it's harder for them to abuse you.
Undoing the pseudopersonality is vital if you hope to recover properly. If you do not get rid of it, the beliefs and patterns of behavior persist and cause problems. These things were put in place for the benefit of the manipulator and they are harmful for you.
People who have pseudopersonalities are also easy targets for other manipulative men and women. When you next meet another manipulator, they will quickly recognize that you have been in an abusive relationship before and they will target you.
I mentioned earlier that some people end up in multiple abusive relationships. In many of these cases, the person has managed to get out of an abusive relationship but does not fully understood what was done to them.
Because it is such a major life event, the victim tends to talk a lot about the relationship. On top of this, the pseudopersonality is also programmed to reveal things to the abuser because the abuser needs information to maintain the control. This pattern persists after the victim leaves the relationship and they tend to reveal an awful lot about themselves, even to strangers.
If one of these strangers presents himself as a caring soul, a shoulder to cry on, the victim will happily express a lot of what is going on for them as well as many things that happened in the previous relationship. This stranger then may sympathize with the victim and treat the victim very nicely. The victim will be very appreciative of this nice treatment, especially after the abuse received in the previous relationship! The victim will feel that they have met someone who understands them, someone who is completely different from the abuser.
And yes, you guessed it, that friendly shoulder belongs to a psychopath and the victim is simply giving this new manipulator all the information they need to pick up where the last one left off. And the victim cannot see any similarity between the last abuser and the new friend because they seem so different...
Anyway, leaving the relationship is not enough. As I mentioned, you need to undo that pseudopersonality as well. And as we have seen, the situation is complicated with many potential pitfalls and professional help from someone who understands mind control and psychopathy is invaluable.
You can read more here about emotional abuse, controlling boyfriends, life after dating a psychopath, how the pseudopersonality is created in cults, narcissistic abuse recovery, and how to divorce a sociopath.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?