Questions about Manipulators: How to Respond to their Tactics?

I’ve been posting some articles addressing the many questions I receive every day about living and dealing with manipulators.  One post addressed whether there is any hope covertly-aggressive individuals can ever really change (see: Top Question about Manipulators: Can They Ever Really Change?) and another addressed how to best shield children from negative influences (see: Questions about Manipulators: How Do I Protect My Children?).  This post will address another frequent question, namely, how to best respond to the behaviors and tactics manipulators  engage in to dominate and control.

Most of the time, when people ask me how to best respond to the manipulator or other character-impaired person in their life, they’re really asking two questions, one unspoken.  The spoken question is the obvious one, and involves what a person needs to do in response to tactics of covert intimidation, shaming, guilting, rationalization, denial, etc.  The unspoken question is whether responding to the disturbed character and their tactics in the right manner will influence them to change their behavior.  And I consider it crucial to make the point from the outset that responding to tactics in the right way, while harboring expectations that doing so will prompt the manipulator to change their ways is a setup for heartache and other disaster.  The most important reason to learn the “tools of empowerment” that I so strongly advocate in my book In Sheep’s Clothingand to put these tools into practice is not so much to prompt surface-level change in the disturbed character but to train oneself in setting and enforcing better boundaries and limits, ridding oneself of self-doubt, anxiety, uncertainty and depression, and take back control and direction of one’s life.  Character disturbed individuals don’t give up their unhealthy bids for control easily.  They use every tactic they can (see:  Another Look at Manipulation Tactics) to bring you to submission. But once you know how to respond to the tactics in a healthier and more empowered way, it’s a genuine “game-changer.”

With this post I’ll be launching a series of articles on the actions anyone can take in the face of manipulation or any other tactics of disturbed characters that can empower them to regain control of their lives.  The first “tool of empowerment” I’d like to introduce is rejecting all excuses for hurtful and inappropriate behavior.  To quote from In Sheep’s Clothing:

Accept no excuses.  Don’t buy into any of the many reasons (rationalizations) someone might offer for aggressive, covertly aggressive, or any other inappropriate behavior.  If someone’s behavior is wrong or harmful, the rationale they offer for it is totally irrelevant.  The ends never justifies the means.  So no matter how much an “explanation” for a problem behavior seems to make some sense, don’t accept it. And remember, the person offering the excuse is trying to maintain their position – a position from which they should be backing away. From the very moment they start “explaining,” they’re actually resisting submission to the principles of civil conduct and trying to get you to cave in to their erroneous point of view.  And because they’re resisting submission to principle, you can be certain they’ll only engage in the same problematic behavior again.

Accepting no excuses doesn’t mean badgering the excuse maker and trying to “make them” sing a different tune (at least on the surface).  Rather, it’s simply not allowing yourself to be swayed and holding the wrongdoer accountable.  You have the power to stand on principle vs. be swayed an manipulated.  That’s what personal empowerment is all about.  And holding on to your own principled position is one way you make decisions about the kind of person you want to be involved with.  When someone refuses to capitulate on a behavior most people would agree is wrong, you glean some very valuable information about their character and whether life with them will ever be any different.  Once you make it clear you won’t accept any excuses for inappropriate behavior, the focus automatically shifts from you (where the manipulator tried to direct it) to the problem behavior and the person who displayed it.  Then it’s only a matter of whether they accept responsibility for it or continue to make excuses for it, which gives you important information about how likely they are to do it again.

54 thoughts on “Questions about Manipulators: How to Respond to their Tactics?

  1. Dr. Simon, Thank you for your wonderful book! My sister, who is obese and has managed to convince everyone that she is disabled with a bad back and neck, has lived for the last eight year’s in my deceased mother’s house. First she wanted a dog to keep her company, then she wanted to breed the dog to sell puppies. One of the puppies was “ill”, so she couldn’t sell it, the other too dark “no one wants that coloring”, so now she has three female dogs in a very small house. Too disabled to work, mow the grass or keep the house clean, but not too disabled to care for three very large dogs! In lieu of rent, we asked her to pay the taxes. Three years ago, she defaulted on the taxes, forcing me (neither of my brothers want or will give her money) to come up with property tax on my property as well as my mom’s – or lose it, and therefore “the very roof over her head” to foreclosure. Not wanting to see the property my parents struggled their whole lives to keep go to the county and receiving pressure from mom’s family to help “poor Sally”, I closed a savings account to pay them. Over the eight years since my mom died I have given “Sally” financial help adding up to thousands of dollars. I know now this aid has only succeeded in “enabling” her.

    When I became aware that the defaulted taxes had to be paid again, I called the county to discover they were double what I last paid, and I couldn’t afford to help this time. My sister has always been a manipulative person, first living with my brother who, when he asked her for more money for his rent increase told him “she couldn’t possibly afford it!”. Then she dropped into my mom’s lap, who found herself on the horns of the dilemma between what she thought was helping her daughter, only to have Sally stay there till she died! Now it seems it will be my turn, though I cannot live with her for I know she will make my life unbearable and I will lose myself in the process.

    I am sixty years old and a widow for the last ten. For the longest time my sister has told me I am paranoid for “thinking the way you do”! I have felt uneasy in many of our conversations, vacillating between anger and pity for “poor Sally”. Trying to help someone who seems incapable or unwilling to help themselves, who drops her poverty into your lap and then refuses or blocks every suggestion you offer has led me to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, fear and depression. Until your book I thought I MUST BE WRONG for thinking badly of our interactions – for feeling something in the pit of my stomach I could not articulate. I never wanted to believe someone I cared for could be capable of such callous disregard – not only for me – but for the years my mom complained bitterly and yet was manipulated to help her. Even now it still is hard for me to accept all the things I now recognize as manipulative tactics and I feel angry to the point where I no longer care or want to help.

    Thank you Dr. Simon for your wonderful book. Only one thing I noticed while reading that I would change and that is the order of the tactics. In my opinion only, may I suggest you start with Seduction. Why???? Because I notice this is the first tactic my sister uses with anyone she meets, and it occurs to me that until a manipulator has seduced you, none of the other tactics will slide as smoothly over your seemingly unconscious mind. Also I wonder if you could tell us something about those whose strong personalities allow them to cloak their intentions by hiding behind the “Excuse of Illness” to avoid responsibility. While not all of my sister’s illnesses have been faked, I do believe she is capable of “making herself ill” to avoid work or responsibility.

    Additionally, would you let us know if there is any connection between a person’s “charisma” and their manipulation potential. I feel there may be a connection though I am uncertain how or why.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for opening my eyes!

    1. Irene, save yourself before it’s too late! Not sure of your sister’s age, but you need to take care of yourself, and do not enable your sister. Obese people can work but it’s hellish to get hired as the employer sees a nightmare, disability claim, etc. looming. She needs a job where looks don’t count and there’s no health insurance issue. DO NOT keep supporting her. Sell the house, give her 1/4 of the money and move on.

      1. STAND UP wrote: ” needs a job where looks don’t count and there’s no health insurance issue.” You sound like a real winner, my friend. A real winner.

      2. I have a manipulative sister, see my comment below. I agree, do not pay another cent! Let the house be sold or whatever happens & move on. You do not have to fund her lifestyle. Do not feel guilty! You were a victim, you need to forgive yourself. As my son says ‘SUMO’ – shut up & move on! I feel I could write a book about my experience, but I need to put it behind me!

    2. I have a manipulative only & younger sister whom I believe is mentally ill. I always kept my distance from her but was forced to deal with her shameless behaviour over the demise of my elderly parents. In the last 5 years I’ve put up with her lies, playing innocent, trying to push my buttons etc. She tried to turn my husband & children against me without success. With the help of a good counsellor/psychologist & the book ‘In Sheeps Clothing’ I’ve come to the end a stronger person. I have had a ‘sisterectomy’ – she is banned from email, mail, phone, mobile & social media. I feel no pangs of regret for removing her from my life!

      1. Hmmm, I have 4 sisters and they all seem to have in some form or another Borderline Personality Disorder (look it up) I had never heard of it until a few years ago. It answers a lot of questions. I have discovered it runs in the family. I only have bothered with one sister for the last 20 years and she appears of be taking advantage of me. I always have given her money, items of value bought all the meals and drinks and when it came to this christmas time I flipped and told her what I think of her.
        I am well off and she isn’t. However, I have been very generous to her over the years and I don’t think it has been reciprecated in terms of showing her affection. She emails me she loves me loads but words are cheap. I feel so used. I spent over £200 on her gifts and in addition painted her a beautiful oil painting of her dog (the frame alone was £115 never mind my time and effort). I can sell professionally. All I got was a cheap general boxed thin card .Saying Merry Christmas 2015!!! I got a selection of charity shop tatt totally I would say a tenner. She claims she has no money. I gave her over £300 last year to help her start her little business selling bits and bobs and she has about £700 some in stock. That was a few months ago she has probably amassed more by now. I am sure she could have bought me at least one new book and some small items such as a little jar of coffee and tea I like. I told her it is not about the money it’s about feeling appreciated. She made out the card is precious cos the colours are unusual and she liked it so thought I would and says 2015 in the card was mistake. Moreover, I told her it was terrible she could never even offer to buy me a coffee when we were out and all I was asking is just ocassionally!!! I am finding I am apologising for feeling this way. Recently she asked her much meals and drinks were and I said “Don’t ask”. She claims she asked me the cost – yes but she didn;t offer to even put a fiver towards it, even I didn’t tell her the full amount. Now she is saying she could feel the vibes when she was invited to spend the night here that she wasn’t really wanted. Nothing could be further from the truth. We had a lovely time, I paid for a takeway and the next day we took her to a country house to see the decorations and paid for a nice meal going 40 miles out of our way to collect and take her home. I also gave her an expensive coat cos her winter one was letting in rain. I had to buy a new one – she had been hinting for long enough. SHE NEVER ASKS ME FOR ANYTHING DIRECT I just have always felt manipulated into giving her what she wants. WHY do I feel like the guilty one?

        1. Hi Denise,

          Why you feel guilty is something you need to figure out, and only you can do that. I was involved in a relationship where I gave and gave. When I realized that this person would never reciprocate, had a much different set of values from me, and was selfish and self-absorbed, I left. I was manipulated, but it was partly my own doing. No one forced me to be helpful, generous and supportive to this character-disturbed person. Rather than guilt, I felt anger, mostly at myself, for letting myself be used (again). I know better now.

          Dr. Simon explains, in the above post, how to deal with a character-disturbed person, such as your sister:
          “train oneself in setting and enforcing better boundaries and limits, ridding oneself of self-doubt, anxiety, uncertainty and depression, and take back control and direction of one’s life. ”

          We can’t control others, but we can become more self-aware and change our own attitudes and behaviours.

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  2. As for how seduction works, I recommend to read Robert Greene’s Art of Seduction. May seem like a guide on how to seduce a person, but reading between a lines it’s actually a closer look at various ways in which people are seduced. While seduction isn’t automatically used for ill, it still definitely can be misused. That’s why it’s good to understand various seduction tactics to also have better understanding of manipulations that go on in our lives.

  3. I understand some of what you guys talk about, but one thing I don’t get I tried this and it backfired in my face and now people in my group think I’m the bad guy for having the feelings that one of my “so called friend” did to me. she showed a pic of me and my roommate and told them about my bf and I and what we did and she “excuse” was that she didn’t mean to tell her bf it’s just that she’s been with him for four years and she tells him everything and she didn’t mean to tell him that. so what do I do to show my friends that she is manipulator and a liar!!!

    1. You post is not clear enough to figure out who did what. I does sound like it was some trivial matter.
      As mentioned in the blog, attempting “… to show my friends that she is manipulator and a liar” is wasteful action on your part.
      You can read the blog again to try to understand better what is happening and what you should be doing.

    2. You don’t, I know it’s hard, but you have to cut her off completely, but don’t talk about it to anyone else. The classic manipulator will get to your friends & try to make out it’s you who have a problem. The only way to counter this is to say nothing. Eventually the manipulator will tire of you & move on to other victims!

  4. Can a mother who cries in front of her 13 year old son be referred to as a “Manipulator” in this instance?? I am the future stepmother to this child and I have been living with the child’s father for the past 2 years in the marital home. I did not break up this marriage and before I came along, she was given the opportunity to repair her marriage but she declined. She has moved on and has been dating a man for a little longer than 3 years (and for about 1 year prior to the divorce which occurred in Sept 2014). I have met her previously and have been in close proximity to her on several occasions but have never conversed with her. For the past 2 years I have a good relationship with the child however I know he’s conflicted about my relationship with his dad. Today I arrived at the house after work and she was parked in the driveway of the marital home. I saw the child leave the house and get into the vehicle. I waited there for about 5 min and then decided to approach. I tapped on the window and politely asked her if she could move her vehicle because I normally park in the driveway. She was sitting there texting on her phone when I approached. She was slightly startled, and after my request she made some vague comment and said she would move. I pulled into the driveway and parked and she began to drive away. The next thing I saw was my fiancé leaving the house with his son’s musical instrument and he walked down the street with it to where she was parked. After he returned to the house, I asked what happened and he asked me if we had an altercation. I told him “no” and I explained the situation. He said she was sitting in. The car CRYING and his son was ready eyed too.

  5. Correction to last sentence … He said she was sitting in her car CRYING and his son was “teary eyed” too.

    1. Kathy Eva,

      My opinion is that it’s possible she was manipulating but it’s also possible she could be having a very normal emotional response. Just because she didn’t want to remain in the marriage doesn’t mean she doesn’t have some regrets or nostalgia. I would think it would be difficult to see another woman (even though you are not technically the other woman) take one’s place (even if it’s not the life one wanted.)

      So the question is: Does she have a history of being difficult or being manipulative? What does your fiancé think of her behavior? People who have the type of character to manipulate in this way tend to be pretty consistent in using the tactics that work so well for them. It’s possible it’s a one time occurrence but likely not. Is it common for her to use tears to get her way or cause people to feel bad for her?

      Crying in front of her son is certainly not well done and may cause further conflict for him. Do you know if she’s supportive of your relationship with both father and son?

      I don’t feel as if I can answer your question well but I hope something that I’ve mentioned helps to bring a clearer perspective. It sounds like an uncomfortable situation.

      1. Kathy Eva,

        That’s a tough one. She did impress upon your fiancé that there was an “altercation” of which is was not. She lied, exaggerated. I’d try to let this one go. Life is too short. But I do think that after this display from her that I’d just never speak to her.

        1. She most likely said nothing. It was his perception and assumption. She is not a talker with words.

      2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Thanks for your reply Carolyn … Before I approached her, I did have a thought that she was either sitting there thinking back to the time she lived in the house or she was texting. The reminiscing option does not really make sense for 2 reasons. She has stopped by many times before to pickup the child and also to drop off things to the child (so she’s been around frequently) AND she has never made any attempt at another reconciliation. Another thing that is very strange about her is that she has ALWAYS done the drop off in a covert “drive by” fashion (she would not ring the doorbell to hand the items over or stop and say hello to her son — she would just leave the items on the front porch, drive away, and text my fiancé later on to tell him she dropped off something).  As far as my thought about her supportiveness of my relationship with her child and her ex-husband, I can’t really say.  She plays it cool and is always socially engaged with activities of her own. And apparently there is still a boyfriend in the picture (although from what I have heard, he is no prize – having been divorced with 5 children of his own). By the Divorce agreement, she loses her alimony if she cohabits or remarries before alimony payments end (3.5 years to go on that) As for her history of being manipulative, she does become quite emotionally unglued if things do not go her way or if she is called out for not doing something correctly or if she is slacking. In times of debate or stress, she leaves NO room for compromise and she also uses a tactic that I would call “self-beratement”.  Basically she will get all flustered, high pitched and scream “Fine! Fine!! I am such a horrible person!”   From what I know, her mother had basically abandoned her in her early teens and so she was raised by her heartless father.  So I’m sure there are definite esteem issues at work.  Still, she does nothing to help herself and that impacts her son, and then of course my fiancé. My fiancé was not happy in the relationship and subsequent marriage to her. She could not accept it but then promptly turned around and hooked up with the guy I mentioned before.  She is still a teenager in a 46 yr old body.   

  6. Kathy Eva,

    Your description certainly sounds like a character disturbed (CD) person and I think you are being wise in not trusting her motivations.

    Dr Simon is discussing esteem issues on the most current post and he does not subscribe to current thinking regarding poor self esteem and poor character or behavior. After understanding esteem better, I am in agreement with him. Feeling sorry for her or thinking she is a victim will cause you to be in a ‘one down’ position. Never a good place to be with someone who has poor character.

    I think Lucy’s recommendation of avoidance may be your best response and defense. What does your fiancé think about what happened? Does he think you were part of an ‘altercation?’ Meaning does he believe her?

    1. I must say that I was quite surprised when my fiancé asked me if I had an altercation with his ex. First of all, I do not have a motive for doing so and second it would be very poor of me to initiate any negative conversation in front of the child. When I told him what I said, he was skeptical about my choice of words which basically were “Excuse me, but could you please move because I typically park here?” Are these somehow “harsh words”? I asked him how I could have said it differently as to not “upset” the ex, and he suggested something like “Oh, I was wondering if you were going to need this space for awhile or if you were just leaving?” I seriously doubt that my choice of words would have made a difference in her reaction. He has told me many stories of her atypical reactions in normal situations. For example, he took her to a family wedding and she did not know anyone there. While he was mingling with other family members and guests, she did not try to tag along and make small talk with others at the table. Rather, she sat at the table and cried the whole night! This was before their son was born. My ex tends to feel very guilty over everything and tries to keep the peace so as to minimize the emotional fallout on his son. But he has no control over the situation when the child is alone with his mother.

      1. I can see why he wants to stabilize as much as he can for the child’s sake but she is clearly unbalanced and he cannot fix her. Sounds to be like he needs to be the custodial parent. If a child suffers emotionally and/or scholastically he may be able to get a change of custody with his son.

        1. He agrees that he is better for his son than the mother, but there are inadequate financial resources to pursue sole custody. In our state, it is extremely difficult to win sole custody unless the child is in immediate physical danger.

          1. Kathy Eva
            I completely understand the legal system and the costs involved in legal litigation, and I actually work in it. And it is a high burden to prove to change custody, because it is a life changing event for the child.
            Having said this, he and/or you should keep a journal. Dates and events. Keep all report cards, school meetings, etc. There may come the time when it will be necessary to change custody, such as behavioral problems and school problems. You want these events documented. Start now. You will then be prepared if and when it comes to that point.

  7. Kathy Eva,

    Based on what you are describing, I think there can be little doubt she is manipulating. And my guess is your fiancé was the intended target. She manipulated him again into feeling guilty, has caused an issue within your relationship, and caused him to react and ‘forget’ about those atypical reactions you described.

    There was nothing wrong in what or how you asked. It sounded assertive and polite. I would be cautious about dealing with her in how your fiancé wanted you to ask. Manipulation is a tactic aggressive and controlling people use. Your fiancé’s way of asking will most likely be viewed as submissive by her. She is not the type of person you want to empower.

    I think you should trust you instincts; they seem to be on target.

    1. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Thank you for confirming that I was NOT unreasonable.  I know that there is no way to fix her, and obtaining sole custody is something that he would love to do (although at 13, the child can speak for himself in court and would likely be very torn about having to choose between parents). In addition to being a huge financial expense, the emotional toll and casualties (because she would most likely flip out over the thought of losing) would be devastating. It also does not help that this is a child of 13 with the emotional maturity of a 7 year old. He clearly has his mom’s genes for “manipulation”. Whenever he senses that dad is angry with him or he does not want to complete an unpleasant task (like homework or practicing his musical instrument) he changes the subject and distracts dad with “questions” and “factoids” that he has viewed on the Internet videos that he watches all the time. It is such an obvious ploy to make dad “forget” his anger that when I see it happening, I get angry because dad answers his questions.  I have told my fiancé (dad) that he needs to see through this distraction and do a better job of helping his son stay on task, and I have done things like texting my fiancé while he is being distracted, but it doesn’t always work.  

      1. You are incredible. Your fiancé is lucky to have you, and I hope he realizes this. You are the “onlooker” and are seeing things he isn’t.

        1. Thank you so much, Lucy! I am in a tough spot because I tend to be more consistent than he is. I can see that the child needs firmer boundaries but sometimes my fiancé gets wiped out and just lets things go. He will not allow me to say anything to the child that even remotely resembles being a parent (in other words, assertiveness). He says to me “Let me be the bad guy. I’m his father. He can hate me all he wants, but it would not be good if he was to hate you.” So it’s all for selfish reasons. His frustrations with his son’s forgetfulness and defiance has gotten to the boiling point at least once so far and he did not hold his tongue anymore. Unfortunately this outburst did not teach his son to be better behaved. In fact, I think it just made him feel like he needed to distract his dad from being angry!

          1. Kathy Eva,

            It occurred to me while reading the above post that some of what your fiancé’s son is doing in deflecting anger may be more of a coping strategy from dealing with a difficult mother. Conversely, it doesn’t seem to be uncommon for 13 year olds to be manipulative and angry. That’s a tough age with all those hormones.

            I’m not certain I’m understanding your comment on “so it’s all for selfish reasons.” Are you referring to your fiancé’s desire for his son to not see you as the bad guy? I’m not sure I’m understanding this correctly.

          2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted {margin-left:0 !important;border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important;padding-left:1ex !important;background-color:white;} I’m sure it’s a coping strategy, but I’m not seeing his mother as difficult (at least with him). If anything, she’s too permissive. For the past several years, my fiancé was always the one who enforced homework being done while mom was not so concerned. In fact, two years ago, she told my fiancé that she was giving the child “a year off” from his homework. When they went to see the mediator during the divorce, my fiancé mentioned it. It was a stunning moment for the mediator when he heard that one!  At the time when the custody agreement was being drafted up, she was very inflexible. She absolutely did not want to give in to a a schedule which allowed for less frequent moves “back and forth” between households because apparently her own social schedule took precedence. She was not cooperative and did not do what was best for her child. Last year, she finally agreed to unofficially “modify” the shared physical custody arrangement so the child could stay with her during the week and then dad and I would have him every weekend. That did not last long because it was only about a month before school ended for the summer and then summer camp and vacations kicked in. This year she was agreeable to alternation weekends again and to keeping the child for 2 successive nights during the week (Wed/Thu). It seems better. 

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          3. Kathy Eva and Charlie,
            I am going to step in here, admittedly I have not read the situation Kathy posted. “It doesn’t seem to be uncommon for 13 year olds to be manipulative and angry” There seems to be an acceptance of this behavior and it is blamed on hormones. Yes, hormones are raging.

            This phenomena of accepted behavior and rebellion is typical in today’s society of dysfunctional families. Instead of finding excuses why not address the answer. What is missing is a good father son relationship for the boy to role model after. Boys need the acceptance and love of a mother but what they are really crying for is a relationship and the respect of their father.

          4. Kathy Eva,

            Oh, wow! She sounds like a champion character disturbed.

            I would expect (but can’t know for certain) she comes from both ends of the spectrum with her son. Way too permissive and creating a strong sense of entitlement in him on one end of the spectrum and to reacting to any perceived disappointments from her son in the same crying, hysterical way she deals with everything else on the other end.

            Wow, that’s tough! You may want to look at some of Dr. Simon’s blog entries on aggression, narcissism and entitlement. Your situation puts me in mind of an entry were Dr Simon talks about helping a child that remind’s me of your fiancé ‘s son. I’ll see if I can find it.

          5. BTOV or All,

            I can’t find the article I referenced to Kathy Eva. I know you’ve read the entire archive. Do you recall this article?

            It is a case study (one of two) Dr Simon describes a young boy he’s working with in an institution who couldn’t follow Dr. Simon instead always in the lead even though he didn’t know where they were headed. Dr Simon’s strategy was clever and operant conditioning based.

            Does anyone recall this article? And where to find it?

      1. Charlie,
        I think the story was fairly recent, I believe the story is in one of the Dr. Simons books too. I gave all my books away and need to buy some more. I give them as gifts in the hope that they may enlighten and help others who are struggling with a character disordered individual.

        I am sorry I can’t help you any further. How are you today? Charlie, I am curious, doesn’t he wonder what you are doing on the computer all the time?

  8. Kathy Eva,

    If your fiancé is willing, I am strongly suggesting you purchase Dr. Simon’s books ‘Wolf in Sheeps Clothing’ and ‘Character Disturbed’ so the two of you can be clear on the types of tactics used to manipulate.

    I don’t have children but I assume it’s not unusual for children to try to avoid consequences. Watching his mother avoid consequences will certainly compound his deflecting strategies. I believe your fiancé has a duty as a parent to hold him accountable and set boundaries and consequences and not doing so will rob his child of the ability to function as an emotionally healthy adult.

    Hopefully, your fiancé is open towards your involvement in his strategies of parenting and dealing with the ex.

    1. Thanks Charlie … I replied to your previous comment but I’m not sure what happened to it. I have kept journals in a past relationship with custody issues and it was to no avail (plus it was exhausting)! I warned my current fiancé that he may want to keep his discussions in writing as much as possible with the ex. He clearly knows what kind of mentally disturbed person she is. They do correspond a lot via text but he knows that more important matters need to be in email. What I would like to know is do I just tiptoe around on eggshells and do what he feels is best because of his child (who eventually be an adult)? Or do I continue to coach him about how to be more assertive when the ex is displaying her manipulative behavior? As I mentioned in my previous post, the son is already displaying the distract and avert response. He also tends to become more physically “clingy” whenever dad gets angry over son’s failure to finish homework or bring home his musical instrument. Sometimes I want to scream because this is such an obvious ploy by the child to avoid personal accountability. He is also very argumentative at times when you simply disagree with him. Fortunately my ex has recognized that and has called him out on it several times. Unfortunately there has been zero impact on the child because the behavior continues (despite losing his screen privileges).

  9. Kathy Eva,

    I don’t think I can answer your question directly as I do not have any personal experience to draw from regarding your situation.

    I can tell you from personal experience that egg shell walking is cumulative and corrosive to the person doing the egg shell walk.

    I would think this is a matter that must be discussed within your relationship with your fiancé. The discussion should have clear boundaries by both sides on what is and isn’t acceptable in dealing with both situations. Uniting and working together as a couple to resolve conflicts that impact the relationship seems to me to be the healthiest and most productive way.

    Perhaps coupling counseling, if it’s available to you, would be helpful in creating boundaries you can both accept and support.

    Good luck and good wishes to you both and, please, keep us updated. We would all like to know how you decide to work out such a sensitive situation. 🙂

      1. Kathy Eva,

        I am glad you found Dr. Simons blog and welcome. You have been getting good sound information from the posters.. A book you may be interested in reading is called: BOUNDARIES By: Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
        I wish you the best and hope you keep posting.


    1. Charlie,
      I remember, the story, interesting on how the child acted. A CD I have dealt with was taken to a psychiatrist at the age of 9. This person actually told me the story. He was placed in a chair while the mother left the room.

      The Dr. proceed to ask them questions, they refused to answer and made a conscious decision regardless, they were not going to talk with the Dr…. They were brought to the Dr. several times and they sat for hours not saying anything. They were disciplined at home and personal items taken away, grounded and they still refused to talk.

      Interesting 9 years old……..?????? Charactered Disordered in the making….
      Interesting point….. There is a point to this actual story………..

  10. BTOV,

    I’m doing fine today, thanks for asking. I use my iPad which is password protected. I also try to avoid responding when he’s around. I may take a minute or two to keep up with comments. I don’t know what he thinks, my business, not his.

    He travels a fair amount and is gone at least one weekend a month usually so I try to catch up on rest and household chores I’m behind on while he’s gone.

    He tells a few stories about when he was young and was punished by being sent to his room. He is still amazed that his brother would sit in his room until his parents released him (stubbornly in his opinion) while he would slip funny, cute apology notes under the door and be released early. I’m not sure if he was doing what his mother wanted him to do or if manipulation came naturally for him. Regardless, manipulation was present and reinforced at a young age and consequences were easy to avoid.

    He also just told me a story of how he and a friend in elementary school were wrestling around in the lunch line and knocked a teachers full tray from her hands and onto the floor. After his dad picked him up from the principles office, his dad’s response was to tell him, “It wasn’t like you were trying to do it.” He still resents that he was sent to the principle’s office and sent home from school. There seems like there was a lot if excuses made for poor behavior. My parents would have had a fit if that happened with me.

    I hear a lot of, “It’s not like I was trying to….” or my personal favorite, “I wasn’t not not thinking to do that.” The two nots aren’t a typo.

  11. . Hello . my name is Kendra and I’ve been clean and sober for almost 18 months . when I got arrested my sister bailed me out and demanded that I stay with her because I was “too Weak” to control my own house , after a very manipulative relationship ..So I agreed and stayed two months with her and my nephews . I paid her $1500 that I owed her within that time and also got on my own two feet and back into my own home . I am in a new Clean and Sober relationship and have a job. And she hates my new boyfriend. He brought it to my attention that my sister and brother in law both guilt trip me about spending time with my nephews …I’ve distanced my self from them and have rebuilt an old friendship with “Rach” an old friend of mine , whom my ex-boyfriends nephew did something terrible to their dog. Under the influence of drugs . This is a text I received from my sister the other day out of no where. Please tell me How mainulative this is : I want to share a little bit of information that I had to do while you were under Emilio spell I had big Rach in may not ever continue to hate they had for you I begged them to accept the way that you were at the time of under the influence of being out of it I begged them not to press charges against you I told them that them to you know how it is to be so f****** out of it on drugs to forgive you and that everything shall pass they were holding the big grudge against you that you did not ever even know about I made peace with every freakin person on this res that had something against you I paid the way for you to actually hold your head up high today and not think about the horrible past you are living therefore I want you to know you are not indebted to Rach and make more do you owe them anything they would have felt the same way and done the same thing if they were under the influence of methamphetamine I went out of my way to make sure they never kept the hate towards you so today I’m glad that you are able to talk in visit and walk with them because it wasn’t like that 11 months ago it was my responsibility as your older sister to protect you as best as I can even when you didn’t even know it I love you that much and willing to put my own self out there in the cause of you but I do know in return that no one would ever ever in their lifetime do that for me but I was going to make sure you had a clean slate once you became sober it is what I could do as a sister….

    1. Kendra,

      There seems to be a lot of dysfunction going on here. It is also very hard to give advice with so little information. It does seem like your sister does care for you as she was willing to bail you out and take you into her home. I would suggest you look into some type of family counseling to see if you can salvage your relationship and perhaps learn better communication skills.

      I wish you the best

      1. Thank you . well the truth behind it was that I did not want her to bail me out because I know she would feel like I am forever indebted to her for it . I’ve thanked and paid her back the $1500 that she put up for bail. I even enrolled and Graduated out of an out patient program which I went to for six months ..
        I just thought that being sober , which is what she and I both wanted, would bring her some kind of contentment but It seems that she wants me to tell her that if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Like I said , I gave my gratitude , I paid her money back , I’ve watched the kids , taken them to school which is an hour away from my home , on many occasions and most importantly , I am still clean and Sober .
        Now the way that she approaches me is pure guilt trip. ” The kids miss you but that’s okay they still love their Aunty ” “I guess Andrew is More Important than your nephews” Don’t bother , They don’t ask about You anymore”, ” At this point I don’t ever see us having a relationship and being Sisters ever again”..
        I fell like if she approached me differently, maybe “hey would you like to join us for dinner tonight? “- I would feel better about going to visit them. But at this point I feel like Her words have pushed me away…

        1. Kendra,

          It is good to know that you had been sober for more than a year now. It is achievement.

          As BTOV suggested there may be too many things to untangle in your relationships. It will help to get a professional help.

          It does seem that your sister is not helping you much. For example, “…I begged them not to press charges against you…”
          In my opinion, she should have stayed out and let them press charges against you. If you did something wrong, sooner or later you should be paying the prices. It is as simple as that. What goes around comes around. And, if she choose to “help you by begging others”, then she should not have mentioned it to you. Help or Gift or Love or Care is when one does not expect anything in return for doing a favour.

          Next set of comments like “The kids miss… etc” are more visible example of guilt tripping. Your sister surely does not play straight.

          Your sister’s word need not push you away. It helps a lot to grow a thick skin. If you like to visit, then go when you feel like. Not because if you feel someone is pressuring you into it.

          Maybe you can spend some time here and read blogs.

          Overall, I feel you are doing great. Staying sober for 18 months. A boyfriend who seems to see be helping in getting insight to your relationship with your sister.

        2. And, I think your sister got one thing right, “Andrew is More Important than your nephews”. She puts it as guilt-tripping question, and answer is simply Yes.

          When it comes to important people, then pecking order is:
          – Self (& not trampling on others’ rights)
          – Self (& not getting trampled by others)
          – Spouse, Life partner
          – Children
          – Parents/Brothers/Sisters
          – Friends
          – Neighbors
          – Nieces and nephews
          etc etc

          I think Andrew seems to call out your sister as guilt-tripping manipulator. That is making your sister hate him, I guess.

  12. Kendra,
    I hope that you are working a 12 Step Program that will help you work through some of these issues. I would also encourage you to read the Topics Dr. Simon has posted in regards to his forthcoming book The Ten Commandments of Character. There is not a one of us who doesn’t have some type of brokeness and can benefit from improving ourselves. Many times we have to leave the other persons to their own resources and concentrate on ourselves.

    Real change comes in our lives when we let go and let God. Many times change comes with time and when we do the right thing. Perhaps, your sister needs time and space and when she realizes and sees the change in you the change will come for her also. Forgiveness and love are very powerful tools. Through your change she may also follow in time.

    keep working on yourself to be the best you can be and forgive yourself. Let things calm down and time does wonders. You may need time and space and during this time grow in maturity. Change your life for good and hopefully in time she will see this.


  13. Hi! I am thrilled to have found this thread. I have a situation with a manipulative sister-in-law. I have always tried to be kind to her, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. I am grateful I do not have to deal with her often because we moved across her country from our home town. However, when we visit our home town or when my MIL or FIL visit us, she finds ways to insert herself. We have distanced ourselves from her for our children’s sakes. She has these covert ways of manipulating situations to get her way. She will show up HOURS late to family events and has no respect for how that makes anyone else feel. Part of my irritation is personality in general; however, I get tired of watching her manipulate my MIL, FIL and attempted to do so with my oldest child. I am not sure why she picked my oldest to hone in on, but she doesn’t do it with my youngest. I suppose it could be that she feels more of a connection with my oldest because (before I knew better) she did babysit my oldest up until age 2. When she gets the opportunity, she will corner my child (making sure nobody else can hear her) and ask her confrontational and inappropriate questions or make negative comments about my family members or me. She will invoke feelings of guilt in my child. My child always comes to me immediately because it feels gross and she is not sure what to do. Obviously, I do my best to avoid allowing the situations, but as you have noted, I can’t control other people. I have told my MIL, who is most often manipulated by her, not to give SIL unsupervised access to our kids when they are with her. She understands and knows it happens. (I guess an example would help here… Most recently, SIL waited until I left he room and she and my child were alone and told my child to call her if she ever wanted to talk to her. Mychodl said, “ Okay, I’ll get your number from Mama if I do.” SIL said, “we’ll, she won’t let me have your number so you will have to. But like she’d ever let you call me.” I am writing in quotes to show content. I can’t say the quotes are verbatim correct but this is how my daughter immediately described it to me in a text because it felt awkward. SIL has bragged to me (early on in my marriage) about other nieces (from her ex-husband) preferring her over their own mothers. This always made me leery. So now here I am…another visit with an episode and my MIL will be coming to live on our property in the next few years, which I can only assume will come with visits from the SIL who manipulates thru MIL to make these situations. My husband doesn’t want to directly address her because he has spent his life doing so and she doesn’t listen and will literally hold him hostage for hours on the phone telling him why her behavior is justified. There is a part of me that says just to block her and have him tell MIL that no contact at all with our kids thru her to SIL is permitted. However, I am concerned that is not a good lesson on how to set healthy boundaries for our kids because they are aware of the situation. Also, I hate to leave MIL as the referee. The flip side is that she probably needs to do some boundary work herself with her daughter. With mentioning is that MIL and my husband an I are all very close. Also, SIL is a bit of a hypochondriac and a heavy prescription drug user. She tends to blame me when I am not around (it’s all because of me that xyz happened) and pour sugar on me in my face which makes me gag. What is a healthy, assertive and appropriate way to deal with this?

    1. layla,
      Anonymous gave you some great advice.
      You’ve got a SIL who is intentionally trying to harm your child, so don’t feel awkward or worry so much about what others in the family think about your actions if you decide to keep your daughter from any situation that will involve contact with the SIL. She should feel awkward for what she’s doing.
      Be brave. Do what you need to do to protect your daughter.

  14. Also, sorry for the typos. Was doing this from my phone and some got passed me. Thanks for any insight or guidance here.

    1. Layla, your SIL is making your child feel uncomfortable and that is an answer in itself. I too have a SIL who is a covert master manipulator with a house full of flying monkeys. This will never get better. If your MIL and H agree to no contact with the SIL then go for it.

      I have a personal rule: If someone makes me feel bad about myself or is disrespectful to me in any way it doesn’t matter how we are connected they will not have access to me. In my opinion your SIL is attempting to recruit your child and she has gone too far.

      It would be in the best interests of your child for you to teach her about people like this and to explain why you are either going no contact or limiting contact with supervision. I don’t know how beneficial your MIL is as a person to supervise since she is being manipulated herself but I wouldn’t allow your children to be alone with SIL. People like this instill doubt and twist information and are insidiously disturbed by nature. Good luck.

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