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Manipulation in Marriage

A Major Red Flag in a Marriage


All of us know how to be manipulative. Manipulation can be subtle or manipulation can be very obvious. Regardless, manipulation is damaging to your marriage.

Subtle: "Do you have any plans for this evening?"

Obvious: "If you loved me you would go to the movies with me tonight."

Honest Approach: "I would like to go to the movies tonight. If you don't have any plans for this evening, would you go with me?"

Manipulation Strategies

  • Withhold sex.
  • Shame.
  • Tears.
  • Guilt.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Silent treatment.
  • Pouting.
  • Whining.
  • Temper tantrum.
  • Threats and ultimatums.
  • Lying.
  • Criticism and disapproval.
  • Being vague.
  • Blaming.
  • Being coercive.
  • Showing exaggerated disappointment.
  • Withhold information.

Some Reasons You May Manipulate

  • To punish.
  • To control and dominate.
  • To change your spouse.
  • To get attention.
  • To receive pity.
  • To wear your spouse down.
  • To put your spouse on a guilt trip.
  • To get your own way.
  • To make sure your own needs are met.
  • Other personal selfish motives.

Consequences of Manipulation

  • Dissatisfaction.
  • Frustration.
  • Defensiveness.
  • Resentment.
  • Hurt.
  • Lack of trust.
  • Discontent.
  • Sabotage.

How to Stop Manipulation in Your Marriage

  • Recognize when you or your spouse manipulates.
  • Tell your spouse when you experience being manipulated. Be specific in describing the manipulation and your feelings.
  • Don't act as if the manipulation is no big deal.
  • If you discover yourself manipulating, stop in mid-sentence. Be more direct in your questions or statements.
  • If the manipulation in your marriage continues, find a marriage counselor to help you both change the behavior.

Realize and accept that manipulation is emotional blackmail. It is a form of emotional and verbal abuse. This unfair behavior needs to be recognized and eliminated in your marriage.

Gary Chapman: "At its worst, manipulation is simply an attempt by one spouse to control the other: 'You will do this, or else.' Perhaps the 'or else' will induce enough fear in the spouse that he or she will acquiesce, but the change will be external and temporary. Real change comes from within, not from manipulating circumstances."
Source: Gary D. Chapman. Home Improvements: The Chapman Guide to Negotiating Change With Your Spouse. 2006. pg. 58.

Manipulation may seem like the easy or natural way to deal with a difficult issue or to have things the way you want them, but in the long run, it isn't. Manipulation is hurtful and damaging to your marriage relationship. Your spouse deserves honest and loving communication.

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