3 Ways Your Gay Partner Might Manipulate You and 3 Ways to Answer Back

LGBTQ+ romantic relationships are complex. They involve lots of mutual give and take, honest communication, and commitment to the well-being of each other. But in addition to those rather normal things that make any relationship healthy, you are both members of a community who are often scorned, bullied, and discriminated against. This adds another level to the relationship, especially the dating part.  

Gay relationships, like other intimate partnerships, function well when they are places of safety in which each individual can grow. So when being coupled leads to agitation, discomfort, manipulation, or mistrust, it’s a sign something needs to change. 

When one partner is exerting control and holding power over the other, the outcome can be toxic. Your partner’s manipulation might be subtle but, like domestic violence and coercive control, it will undermine you if left unchecked. Enduring an uncomfortable situation for so long can leave you struggling to know if something is really wrong or if it is just your imagination. 

Manipulation Tacticts

The first step in fixing a relationship is to figure out what is going wrong and call it out. Here are 6 ways in which your gay partner might be undermining and manipulating you.

Gaslighting 

The expression ‘gaslighting’ is all over the internet right now. While the term originates from an old Hollywood thriller called Gaslight [1944 Film, directed by George Cukor] it means more than just deception or manipulation. It specifically refers to making another person doubt or mistrust their self.

For example, you might feel sad or angry and want to discuss what isn’t working for you but your partner calls you depressed or anxious. They might say ‘It’s all in your mind’ or ‘You think everyone is against you’. They might suggest you are mentally ill and that you cannot trust yourself. And maybe you start wondering if you are going crazy.

Trusting yourself is important. If you can be convinced that you can’t trust yourself, you will certainly fall under the control of a manipulative partner. Getting good with yourself is critical to surviving gaslighting. A supportive therapist can help you improve the relationship you have with yourself. If you have started thinking you might be going insane, it’s possible your partner is driving you there. 

What’s your worth?

A more subtle and specific form of gaslighting makes the victim feel important but worthless at the same time. Your partner continues to appear to care for you but ceases to require anything of you beyond turning up. They might make lovely meals, look after the home, and pay for everything but they give up needing anything specific from you. They either infantilize you – behave towards you as if you are a helpless child – or treat you like a patient in a psychiatric facility. 

If a relationship is to grow, each individual must show faith by asking the other to step up to certain expectations or respond to specific needs. If your partner is not doing this, they are discounting your worth as an adult. You end up feeling like a little kid or someone who can’t be trusted with responsibility. You might start to express your anger but, instead of hearing you out, your partner insists on hugging you, feeding you, or sitting you in front of a movie to calm you down.

 Being Demoted 

Some think relationships are all about compromise. But if you are taking second or third place behind your partner’s family and friends, you risk being reduced to a piece of furniture or baggage in their life. There is a simple formula for understanding this. A partner represents the family of choice, as differentiated from the family of origin (which is not chosen). It’s reasonable to assume that what is chosen in life deserves to be higher status than what isn’t. 

The security of being in a relationship where you think you are loved and cared for shouldn’t mean trading your personhood for your partner’s interest and support. Just because you want commitment doesn’t mean you need to accept a demotion. Being ‘committed’ isn’t enough when the relationship goes into decline and you fall into the background of your partner or spouse’s life.

Power Imbalance

Does your partner regularly make decisions without consulting you, and making you feel like there is nothing you can do? Perhaps you arrive home and they have refurnished the living room without any discussion. Or they have purchased a week at a ski resort even though you had spoken about a tropical island getaway. When you find out, you feel resentful, but your partner suggests you are making a big deal out of nothing.

Unless you negotiate an understanding that one of you decides overall decor or financial matters, in each of these instances a failure to discuss such decisions amounts to a power imbalance. You can address this before it escalates. If you notice a long-standing pattern of unilateral decisions by your partner, it is time to start practicing assertiveness.  

“My way or the highway.”

A demand without an offer is a specific kind of unilateral decision. It’s the expectation from your partner that you participate in or do something they want without any negotiation and without any recognition of what you might need in return. In other words, “my way or the highway.”

For example, your partner used to invite you to attend their family events, but now you have no choice and no say in the matter – you are expected to be there. Or you are told what you have to do around the house without a hint of appreciation for your efforts. In such instances, you are obliged to comply just because you are the husband, boyfriend, or significant other. Perhaps your partner has told you that it’s your duty as their other half. 

This kind of behavior partly defines an enmeshed or codependent relationship. You experience straight-world conditioning from your family of origin. You witness your parents’ demands without offers and learn what you see. So when appreciation in your own intimate relationship ceases, or you stop negotiating the terms of your partner’s requests, it becomes a replication of your parents’ problems. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

… a boyfriend/husband/partner is supposed to… 

If your partner is using social norms or an outside authority to judge your relationship it’s likely they are outsourcing the rules. In this case, instead of being prepared to share their emotions or ask for what they need personally, they bully you into meeting their demands. To do this, they might refer to the attitudes of their friends or family or tell you what isn’t normal or justify a course of action according to what most people would do.

This kind of outsourcing is toxic because it undermines the importance of the relationship as well as your status as a chosen partner. The suggestion that you or your relationship can’t be trusted to work out a particular course of action, that it needs to go to an outside arbitrator instead, is really a symptom of your partner’s lack of trust in you. And if you tolerate this way of thinking, you confirm you can’t be trusted. Why should others be deciding how your relationship operates? 

These are just a few examples of how your partner might be manipulating you to be in control of the relationship. Go with your gut feeling when you think that something might be wrong. Believe in yourself and call it out. And remember: just because you think you might be going crazy, it doesn’t mean you are. And even if you are, it’s probably because someone or something else is creating the madness.

How to Deal With Manipulation?

Given that manipulation is such a common strategy, how can you deal with it without feeling put upon? Below are steps to help you win with manipulators.

1. Notice how you are feeling. 

Unless what’s happening is entirely subconscious, interpersonal manipulation by others generally feels uncomfortable. Sort of like twisting your arm, but in this case, your point of view is being twistedor discarded. Do you feel defensive, angry, guilty, ashamed? Like you are doing something wrong?

These uncomfortable feelings are the alarm bell that should be signaling to you — I am being manipulated. Once you are aware that it is happening, you can plan an active response as opposed to falling into the trap being set.

2. Listen. 

The other person, in most cases, is simply trying to get you to see their point of view. Try to understand the other person’s perspective. Listening doesn’t require you to do much, but it gives you the opportunity to center yourself, and it has the remarkable ability to build trust and bonds.

When you listen without changing your perspective, you give them something they do want, which is to be heard. Understanding the motives and perspectives of the other person before you ever present your perspective is important to resolving the situation.

3. State your position. 

The other party may not have any understanding of your point of view. It’s best to avoid criticism or blaming. If the other person isn’t able to accept your point of view, see if you can agree to disagree.

What’s important here is that you are engaged in an open dialogue with the person about your differing perspectives, which is a conversation, not a manipulation. You may choose to go along with their view or, depending on the consequences, you may choose to walk away from the situation.

In either case, you have empowered yourself to make a choice. Interestingly, when people know you can’t be manipulated, you gain their respect, but more importantly, you gain your own self-respect.

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