Set Yourself Free From Manipulative Relationships

by Stephen Mills on June 28, 2009


“Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action, and purpose.” — Lance Armstrong

Time does not run backwards.  You do not get a do-over.  Please do not waste another minute with toxic or manipulative people.  When you are lying on your deathbed, it is highly unlikely you will say “Boy I’m so glad I wasted my precious life putting up with all the drama and crap in my relationships.”

“Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” — Chinese Proverb

If you had just one day left how would you spend it?  Would you waste it putting up with the drama?  Look at it this way.  What you have left is nothing but a series of single days and you don’t know when one of them will be the last.  Make them all worthwhile.

“Every second is of infinite value.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Relationships are ideal tools for master manipulators.  The manipulators are all around you and they are likely controlling you in ways you are not even aware.  You do not have to put up with it, no matter who they are.  You may think you have no choice, say in the case of a controlling parent, but you do.

Most of the time close family or friends will accept your new relationship rules if you simply insist upon them. They may throw a temper tantrum from hell, but humans are adaptable and they will usually adapt.  They can take the new you or leave the new you.  They will usually accept the new you.

“The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” — Fredrick Douglas

You do not need the constant and useless drama.  There are billions of people out there that you can choose from.  Life throws so many curveballs at you that you have little control over, please don’t waste valuable coping capital on toxic or manipulative relationships.  If you do, then you are responsible.  You are enabling and feeding the sickness.  You had it within your power to make a difference and you did nothing.

“There is just one life for each of us: our own.” — Unknown

Think about what you are doing to your healthy relationships by putting up with your toxic relationships?  Realize that every time you accept poison from one relationship, you are actually degrading your other healthy relationships.  Whatever harms you harms those you love.  When a parent or a lover or friend is taking something vital from your life, you are allowing them to take something from others you love.  Think about that the next time you look at your child or lover.

“Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.” — Unknown

Manipulators have a story and it’s usually a sad one.  They play on your sympathy.  This is especially true of family members.  They want you to feel sorry for them so you will regularly do their bidding.  You might be so used to complying that you do it automatically without even thinking about it.  You might not even realize it.  You do not owe anybody anything except to yourself.  You owe yourself your best damn effort at a fulfilling life.

“Now is a gift and that’s why it’s called the present.” — Unknown

In order to stop the manipulation, you need to stop trying to change the manipulative person.  You might as well beat your head against a brick wall. The only effective tactic is to change yourself.  Refuse to be manipulated. Force the manipulative person to deal with you on healthy terms.  Refuse to accommodate their demands.

At that point they will have a choice: engage you in a healthy way or go elsewhere.  It’s their choice.  Your choice was to choose to no longer be a victim to their manipulation and control.  Your choice was to be free.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” –Chinese Proverb


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{ 4 trackbacks }

It’s a love thing | Maryannaville™
June 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm
Living Free — The Rat Race Trap
July 4, 2009 at 5:18 am
Life Advice In a Nutshell
August 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm
Manipulative relationship | Selinahedges
November 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Schryer June 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

Very well said. This is something I needed to hear a year ago, although I probably wouldn’t have listened at that point in my life. If I had left my last relationship when I realized that she was toxic and manipulative, I could have saved myself from a lot of heartache. But I allowed it to continue, and I refused to stand up for myself, and so I paid the consequences.

It’s over now, and I’m rebuilding slowly, almost back to the point of where I was before all this started. It was a big learning experience…
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..Lazy Summer Days =-.


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills June 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

Outstanding article Stephen,

This was one of my favorite phrases: “In order to stop the manipulation, you need to stop trying to change the manipulative person. You might as well beat your head against a brick wall. The only effective tactic is to change yourself. Refuse to be manipulated.” It always comes back to personal choice.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Just For Fun! =-.


Alex - unleash reality June 28, 2009 at 11:31 am

Hey stephen!

Such an important topic.

i’m not sure about refusing to manipulate though. it’ll just catalyse more resistance and manipulation and negativity. same with instituting rules. sure, your family and friends may accept them but what you’ve done is made the whole saga into even more of a saga. you’ve made it a big deal. and it might be a big deal, but bringing it into attention will make more of a problem, not more of a solution. you’d think that bringing the problem to the surface would solve it but not so in my experience.

to me, the best way to deal with manipulators and even just patent negativity or a destructive relationship is to fully accept the other person as they are. don’t allow them to manipulate you. sure, have your own rules but don’t vocalise them. just enforce them. don’t turn it into a big deal. embrace the other person and accept them.

they’re manipulating because they want something, because they feel they need it. most probably your attention. so rather accept them as they are. they’ll feel this and realise that they don’t need to manipulate. they don’t need to fight and argue and be destructive.

you have to give them space to be. and fill that space with your acceptance. not to make them stop manipulating, but to allow them to be real and positive and create a healthy relationship. trying to make someone stop manipulating, like with rules, tends to backfire badly. they’ll just get more subtle in the manipulation.

i guess it comes down to what you said. what the proverb said (really cool proverb btw), about starting right now.

every moment is another moment to embrace that person. the manipulation cannot survive in your acceptance

provocative stuff

keep well stephen 🙂
alex – unleash reality
.-= Alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Buddhist Butchers and Adventures of Change =-.


Stephen Mills June 28, 2009 at 11:43 am

@Alex, interesting observations.

“same with instituting rules. sure, your family and friends may accept them but what you’ve done is made the whole saga into even more of a saga. you’ve made it a big deal. and it might be a big deal, but bringing it into attention will make more of a problem, not more of a solution.”

However, I see that my statements may have misinterpreted. When I said “insist on your rules”, I didn’t mean articulate them. In fact, I don’t think I have ever done so. My “insist” is an action not a verbalization. It’s a refusal to be manipulated, not the beginning of more drama.

“sure, have your own rules but don’t vocalise them. just enforce them. don’t turn it into a big deal. ”

I totally agree.

“trying to make someone stop manipulating, like with rules, tends to backfire badly.”

Once again I’m not sure you are interpreting me correctly. I don’t mean a “list” of rules. I have no list of rules. I guess the closest thing would be:

“Force the manipulative person to deal with you on healthy terms. Refuse to accommodate their demands.”

I guess you could call that a rule.

Thanks for stopping by!


Alex - unleash reality June 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm


all cleared up.

problems with language 🙂

…and also i have some pretty crazy friends. one of them actually has a list of what he deems acceptable from his girlfriend. he made her sign a contract before they moved in 🙂 kinda like a joke but sometimes people make lists of rules 😛

all cleared up 🙂

keep well stephen
.-= Alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Buddhist Butchers and Adventures of Change =-.


Stephen Mills June 28, 2009 at 12:43 pm

@Jay, sorry for the problems you’ve had, but great to hear you are back on track. Thanks for stopping by.

@Jonathan, thanks! Yes it always comes back you what you do and not what somebody else does. It’s about owning your own life.


Mary June 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Kind of like the Rules on the left hand side of this site PERSONAL rules…..I am pondering them.

I really do like your blogs and this one is both timely for me and helpful. Thank you.


Mary June 28, 2009 at 3:41 pm
Vin - NaturalBias June 28, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Great article Stephen! When I read the title, the first thing that came to mind was unnecessary drama and that’s exactly what you wrote about! A book I have about adrenal fatigue refers to manipulative and drama causing people as “energy robbers” and that’s exactly what you do.

Healthy relationships with people who want to uplift their own lives as well as yours will do just that! Relationships with people who cause drama will drag you down. It’s as simple as that! The tough part is realizing it and making a change.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Beer vs Soda: Which is Worse? =-.


Robin Easton June 28, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Great post Stephen, very important issue. Jonathan wells just left the comment that I was going to leave. My favorite part was: “In order to stop the manipulation, you need to stop trying to change the manipulative person. You might as well beat your head against a brick wall. The only effective tactic is to change yourself. Refuse to be manipulated.” I agree that it always comes back to ourselves and personal choice. I might also add that sometimes when we are busy trying to change the other person we are really running from the tough choices and changes that we ourselves need to make. “If I can just get ‘them’ to be a certain way then I won’t have to grow or change.”
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Goofy, Wacky and Happy! …Are You? =-.


Suzanne June 29, 2009 at 1:05 am

Excellent post today! Although I love seeing the message said different ways by different people at the same time as a universal “wake up call”, it is uncomfortable for me to face this truth right now. Thanks for the insight and the “just what I needed when I needed it” message.

.-= Suzanne´s last blog ..Follow TCOY to Inspired to Write =-.


kate smedley June 29, 2009 at 3:54 am

This article is absolutely spot on, we don’t know how long we have on this earth and we have to make the most of every minute. I really needed this today, thank you!


Stephen Mills June 29, 2009 at 4:46 am

@Mary, thanks for stopping in to comment and the link! Gretchen has a great site.

@Vin, thanks. The tough part is doing something about it. It’s easy to write about it. 🙂

@Robin, thanks for the comment. There’s one person you have total control over and that is yourself.

@Suzanne, thanks for joining us. I’m glad you liked it 🙂

@kate, you’re welcome and thanks!


Arswino June 29, 2009 at 5:52 am

Hi Stephen, insightful reading and I love the quote in the end of your article : “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Remind me about the power of now.
Thanks for the great post, Stephen. Stumbled.
.-= Arswino´s last blog ..The Pickle Jar =-.


Rosa June 29, 2009 at 8:55 am

I love how you used all those great quotes to express your point, it makes it easy to remember. I think the hard part here is to REALIZE you are in a toxic relationship, because most people refuse to see it, get stuck in denial and that is why they never get out, they do not get how harmful it is. Thanks for another great post 🙂
.-= Rosa´s last blog ..Yo me río! – I laugh! =-.


Positively Present June 29, 2009 at 9:48 am

This is a wonderful post, filled with so many great insights (and quotes!). I know so many people who would love to read this and would benefit from it and I am definitely passing along the link.


ICONICFREEDOM June 29, 2009 at 10:14 am

Careful the moments you place in your life for they will never return to you.

The easiest way to know if someone is a manipulator?

If they are not offering you a choice.

Any emotional extortion attached to a choice, is NOT a choice, it is more of a manipulation.

If a person espouses a choice but the subterfuge is, “you have a choice as long as it is the choice I would make” – that’s NOT a choice.

Great article! 🙂



Tracy June 29, 2009 at 11:06 am

I have the stereotypical toxic ex-mother in law. She was/is whiny, manipulative and shows traits of borderline personality disorder. It was tough because I do value extended family and she is my son’s grandmother, but I couldn’t let her treat me that way. So, she either treats me respectfully without drama and bull or I won’t deal with her and she’ll have to go through my ex husband to see our son. Most of the time, she chooses to play the victim and misses out on seeing her only grandchild.

It’s sad that in her nearly 60 years on the planet, she hasn’t figured out that while she might get people to cave in on whatever it is she’s pitching a fit about, she’s also driven them away from any sort of meaningful relationship with her.
.-= Tracy´s last blog ..I am so ready for a 3 day weekend =-.


CT Olson June 29, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Wow what a great topic. Interesting as far as the discussion as well. Thanks so much!

Something that’s always fascinated me is why people get stuck in them … the comment by Alex is particularly counterintuitive to me but I sense true.


Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching June 29, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Thanks for this. One of the things this post reminds me of is that it’s useful to remember that “it takes two to tango” — that there can only be “drama” in a relationship if both people play their assigned parts, whether it’s critic and criticized or something else. When you change your role you may naturally find the other person changing theirs.
.-= Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching´s last blog ..10 Motivational Metal Masterpieces =-.


Dragos Roua July 1, 2009 at 2:50 am

I’ve been there. I’ve been there for years. Manipulation comes from withing, the outside person is just a projection of your feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. The moment I started to think I really deserve more, the manipulative person, who seemed solid like a rock so far (or like a mountain impossible to climb) just vanished away.

The real power is to accept yourself as you are and start improving yourself, not searching for outside acceptance, which opens the doors to the manipulators…

Thank you 🙂
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..July Mariner Promo Code =-.


Laron Henderson July 3, 2009 at 8:04 am

I love this article. I know so many manipulative people who throw fits and temper tantrums to try and get their way. They only see the world through their eyes and don’t care about other people. They sympathy card is mostly the tactic they use and when that doesn’t work they start to attack your character and always try to make you out to be the bad guy. Most of the time I simply tell them to grow up. It also amazes me how they seem to have all the solutions to other people’s problems but their own. I’ve just learned to weed these people out and let them go.


Stephen Mills July 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm

@Arswino, thank you. I love that quote too.

@Rosa, I think you are right about the hard part is realizing you are in such a relationship in the first place. Maybe I need to write an article on the signs. Thanks for your support!

@Positively Present, thank you soooo much for that kind comment.

@Tracy, that is too bad. It is strange that people don’t realize what the consequences of their toxic behavior. But I guess the ones who do are no longer toxic.

@ICONICFREEDOM, thank you for the comments. I truly loved this: “Careful the moments you place in your life for they will never return to you.” 🙂

@CT Olson, thank you for the comment and for joining the discussion!

@Chris Edgar, your point is well taken. You always need at least one enabler. Thanks for stopping in!

@Dragos, your point about seeking acceptance from the outside opening the door for manipulation is so right on. Thanks!

@Laron, thanks for stopping by. Yes, life is too short to “cure”. Best to just let it go.


dymphna September 12, 2009 at 3:43 am

wow! I have been married for 21 years We have 3 children. We were albe to move from tx to nm to az because of his employment. I loved moving but when I tried to leave after 7 years together he said he would apply for a transfer to another state and take my children with him. Unfortunatly I believed him they were all in elemetary at this point. 2 yrs ago I tried to leave again. He stalked me, constantlly texted me ect ect ect. Well my 2 oldest graduated high school and they were not talking to me. I didn’t get to graduate myself, so I missed a major point in their lives.:(
Then he anounces he has taken an early retirement and is moving back to az from tx where we were. My youngest son wants me to come with them and I want to be with him. So here I am again.
But I refuse to let him manipulaate me anylonger and will read some of the lines writen above for me to read every day till they are a part of me. And I would also like to print this out for my kids. They talk to me know 🙂
Thank you


goodlady August 31, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Million thanks for the advice. Everything said are true. I was married for 25 yrs.
and been with the same man for 28th years. I kinda know that he’s such a big manipulator. However because I’m a devoted Catholic human being and came from a non family divorce I stayed with the marriage due to the fact that value my vows even though we only had a civil marriage and plus I invested so much time with the same person. The man that I was married for 25 yrs. have had some addiction. He smokes marijuna, heavy smooker, drinks 5 cans of beer every single day. He’s the kind of a person that people would perceived him as Mr. nice guy because quite and very and pretentious. But behind my back he did many things, cheated on me, brought a woman in my house when I’m out of town. He always put guilt into my head in order to make himself feels better etc. etc. Enough of the Bustard, he’s sick in mind. manipulative. And I will tell you the best thing I did for myself is to divorce the man. yes, it was a heartache but I know I did the right thing coz in a long run I don’t have anybody playing mind games on me. He even manipulated my daughter agaisnt me since she was a little girl until she turned 12 yrs. old. So for those of you that are victims with this unfortunate relationship you need to get out soon. Believe me it will get worst the longer you stay with him or her and will caused you much more pain.


Hyde July 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Great article! I’ve been wrestling with being emotionally manipulated by a few ppl. It has forced me to see many things:
1) I have ‘sucker’ tattooed on my forehead
2) Something in me LIKED the dysfuctional dynamic (not any more)
3) I’m a manipulator….a subtle but terrible one.

Thank you!


Sammi June 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I’ve let someone manipulate me for 2 years in hopes of some change, just once for them to acknowledge me and my needs but I now realize that was my way of trying to change the manipulator. There is too much grief in being manipulated and used. Life is too short to be manipulated and if one isn’t living free, then they aren’t living at all. I haven’t been living for 2 years and that all changes now! =D


Nikki August 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

It’s now been a whole year of nothing but lies and fast talk. As of today, I’m done. It’s gonna be hard to let go but it was also hard holding on to continuos broken promises. How do I cope til the pain go away? Im sad to say I give in bc I don’t want to hurt like this. I know the sooner I let I go the sooner I can start healing. Thanks, your worlds really helped me put things in perspective.


Michelle January 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

I’m in the process of getting out from under the control of a master manipulator. My sister. This is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life but I can see that not putting up with her behaviors and completely staying away from her is the only way to win. Unfortunately, I live with her because I was until a few days ago, the nanny to my nephew. But I have called on some strong allies and I’m refusing to contact her unless she talks to me. I will only respond briefly to anything she says and just the facts and not much emotion, or as little as possible. We are now in the “silent treatment” stand off. No one is talking and everyone is waiting for the other one to give in. I refuse to give in. I am expecting her to talk to me first and when she does she will be surprised by my response when she asks to talk. I am going to tell her this “Yes, I will talk to you, but only in the presence of my two witnesses (my father and ex whom I trust) and the conversation will be recorded by my ex. If she does not agree then I will not talk to her. I distrust her that much, that is the level of her
betrayal. I will be out of here soon, and it is sad that I probably won’t get to say goodbye to my nephew but I won’t let her use him as a way of getting to me. I just have to keep him in my heart. I hope that the rest of the trapped victims of manipulation who are out there find a way to get out and have the will to stay away. I have learned that you can’t doubt yourself. Follow your instinct, if it’s telling you that you are right and they are wrong then chances are good that you are correct. Right now, I can here my sister down stairs crying, normally this would disturb me, now, it has occurred to me that I have never heard her crying like this before, it is as if she is doing it because she knows that I am listening. She could close her bedroom but she chooses to leave it open so that I can hear her crying. Nerves of steel people, find your nerves of steel.


Ines Newell March 10, 2013 at 7:28 am



YH @ raise-frequency April 7, 2017 at 4:56 pm

The message that stands out for me in this post is for us to take our power back and recognize that we can’t change others but we can change ourselves and it is in our choice and power to not allow toxic people to manipulate us. Thank you
YH @ raise-frequency´s last blog post ..What qualities ideal partners have? – Are ideal relationships real? – Poisons of relationships


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