Help! I Think My Spouse Is Manipulating Me (Part I)
By Janel Breitenstein
Manipulation can be subtle: “Does this dress make me look fat?”
Or not: "If you want to put our family first, you’ll make sure you’re at the picnic.”
Manipulation can be a pretty crazy mind game. (“Wait. What just happened?”)
It can leave you feeling guilty, angry, confused, insecure. You might feel like you just got played.
Hopefully, you saw the emails from the last two days to know how to identify manipulative behavior in yourself.
But what can you do when you’re the receiver rather than the offender?
1. Acknowledge what’s going on. It can be hard to realize it’s even happening, but this first challenging step is crucial. Pray for wisdom (James 1:5-6) and attempt to look at the situation objectively rather than emotionally.
2. View your spouse with “charitable judgment.” He or she may not be manipulating intentionally, or even aware they’re doing it. From childhood up, we’ve all acquired healthy and unhealthy ways to obtain what we crave.
3. Admit the log in your own eye (Matthew 7:4). We rarely go through conflict without fault. But having fault does not mean your spouse isn’t responsible for his or her actions. There’s no need to grovel or throw out your concerns.
4. Keep in mind you can’t change your spouse. Being manipulated is maddening enough without putting yourself in the role of savior or trying to force growth in your spouse. Pray for your spouse, then leave room for the Holy Spirit to convict.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be necessary to confront your spouse about their behavior and its damage. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.
Action points: The Pharisees attempted repeatedly to test—and manipulate—Jesus. Jesus responded calmly, exposing their behavior and refusing to let Himself be controlled by men. It’s not independence we’re preserving; it’s keeping God in His rightful place of authority, obeying Him despite pressure.
Remember the words of Peter and John, emerging from being questioned by the Sanhedrin: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
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