Heartbreak

The #1 Sign You're Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationship

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couple having problems

"Becky" came into my office a wreck.  She had been experiencing a roller coaster relationship and lots of heartaches.  She was "madly in love" with "Alex" but knew something wasn't right. After listening to her story, it dawned on me quite clearly that she was in love with a "sociopath."

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He was highly intelligent, charming, and sophisticated. Moreover, the sex was amazing. He knew how to say all the right things to turn her into mush. He was also cunning, manipulative, shallow, and deceitful. His larger-than-life personality was so attractive in the beginning. It was easy for her to fall hard for this guy.

It was sad to see her in so much pain over this relationship. I knew I had to tell her the truth about who she was dating, and it was not going to be easy. 

I had to be the one to tell her about some signs that she was being emotionally manipulated in her relationship. 

A 2015 article in The Atlantic, "When Emotional Intelligence Goes Wrong,"  explains in part, how someone could fall for a man like Alex. His type is very good at reading emotional cues from others, and understanding others intuitively. Unfortunately, they are also good at manipulating and using others. 

The article goes on to cite research demonstrating links between emotional intelligence and narcissism. I would take it a stretch further and infer that a sociopath, otherwise known as an anti-social personality, is typically very high in Emotional Intelligence, as well, and probably very sophisticated at using such skills to harm and exploit others.   

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After telling Becky that her beloved was a sociopath she was in disbelief...total denial. Not surprising. She came back the next week, having done an internet search on the term "sociopath," and everything we discussed made sense to her. Although in shock, she had an understanding of what was really going on in this relationship. 

After some ongoing sessions, she resisted breaking up with this man. His magic spell and her "love will conquer all" belief system created a bond too powerful to be broken. 

One year later...

Becky returned to me.  She had been to both a psychic and a life coach hoping for different advice about her relationship. These people saw her desperation and played her. When she returned, her first words were, "You were the only one who told me the truth." She knew she was not ready to see it at the time. 

Another year (now four in total) was spent in emotional turmoil for this man and she is DONE.  He had exhausted and drained her but she has finally broken free and is on the path to recovering from the damage he left in his wake. 

Emotions are at the core of our decisions about whether to stay in a relationship with someone.  We all disregard logic and fact when we are caught up in the intoxication that love can create.  Recent research on Emotional Intelligence reminds us to be even more mindful and cautious that this can happen. 

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It happens the most to "good" people, like Becky, who want to see the best in others and have difficulty believing that someone can be so cruel. 

The best tool we can use to avoid becoming a victim of personality-disordered people is to develop our own emotional intelligence. This is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome obstacles and defuse conflict.

Emotional Intelligence includes awareness of your emotions and recognizing what others might be feeling.  It is also about managing your emotions appropriately and developing healthy relationships with others.  This skill should be used for good, not for selfishness and manipulation. 

To avoid being steam-rolled by someone with high emotional intelligence, build up your own.  Remember, sometimes you need to fight fire with fire!

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Dr. Marni Feuerman is a therapist and an author with a master's in social work and a doctorate in clinical psychology. She focuses on couples therapy, interpersonal neurobiology, trauma, and attachment.

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