I had a long chat with a dear friend last night who was recently side-swiped by someone who is, at best, a highly dysfunctional human being, and at worst, a sociopath. I listened as he described the relationship, which had played out over several years. I empathized deeply as he described his experiences with this master manipulator – the story all too familiar to me. Crying to make him feel bad about things he never did. Manipulating him into believing he was the bad guy when she was doing things like lying and cheating. Threatening self-harm or suicide any time she felt cornered or called out for her manipulation.
By the way, threats of self-harm or suicide are the granddaddy of all manipulative tactics. If you’ve got someone in your life that’s doing this, refer them to help and shelter yourself from them. I’m serious.
I listened as this friend of mine, who I have always seen as a very independent, no-nonsense dude, intolerant of such bullshit, describe eight years of the nonsense he had tolerated with this woman. I listened as he repeatedly asked my why he hadn’t seen what she was doing? Why had he stuck around? Where did he go wrong? He was stuck in this loop of questioning what had happened – a loop of questions that will keep him stuck if he doesn’t let go and cut the cord.
The logical answer is that he knew what she was doing. We always know. We may try to pretend like we don’t see it, especially in the painful aftermath of a shattered relationship. But deep down, we know. With very few exceptions, your intuition is there, alerting you. The grasp of a highly dysfunctional human being on another person can be very powerful.
Master manipulators can be very good – if you let them – at making you question things you once had no doubt about. They are skilled at manufacturing a sense of guilt or obligation to get you to say or do the things they want you to. They are sinister puppeteers – if you let them be.
There are valuable lessons to be learned if you’ve had a run-in with one of these people. Rather than dwell on the pain, see how you can learn and grow from the experience.
First, you now possess the experience to recognize a manipulator quickly and easily. Your intuition is highly tuned into the red flags. If you let it, your honed intuition will serve as a strong barrier to prevent you from letting a manipulator back into your life.
Second, instead of lamenting over the time you spent with the manipulator, whether weeks or decades, choose to cut the cords and move on. Gracefully accept the lesson and keep it moving. The more you try to understand and analyze the relationship, the manipulator, or why you stuck around, the longer the manipulator will possess control over you. Sometimes, it’s best to accept that the answers you seek don’t exist in order to remove yourself from the stronghold of a manipulator.
Third, close the chapter and don’t look back. You can’t let a manipulator back into your life. And frankly, why would you want to? Remove their contact from your phone. Block their email, phone number, and social media accounts. Give yourself a swift, clean break and cut the cord.