The media’s ideal of romantic love has polluted our minds with a false perception of relationships. This image is perpetuated through cinema, books, and TV shows. Fortunately, modern feminism and deconstruction has allowed us to identify red flags in a partner. However, some of those red flags are easier to point out than others. Some “red flags” hide behind romantic gestures that are designed to manipulate you in a passive aggressive manner. By deceitfully hiding this manipulation, your partner gains a sense of control over you.
In my personal love life, I’ve experienced a lot of these red flags. At the moment, they’re not easy to identify, as you really feel flattered and loved. And that’s precisely what a manipulative person wants, to be very discrete while slowly assuming control over you, and your choices.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
1. Showing up to your plans as a surprise: Let’s imagine you have plans, with your friends or family, and you tell your partner you can’t see them because you’re going out. As you are enjoying yourself, your partner suddenly arrives. While shocked, you’re happy to see them, and you go say hi. They says that they missed you and wanted to surprise you, and you’re flattered. You think it’s really cute that they couldn’t be without you, and you feel important. But what is actually happening? There’re two things going on here. First of all, they do not respect you or your personal time, even though you told them you had plans with your friends and family. Secondly, they're there to check on you, not to be with you. They want to have full control of you.
2. “I’m jealous cause I love you a lot”: This one is a classic. Instead of trusting you, they express themselves through jealousy. They try to justify their jealousy with a cliché quote like “I’m just too afraid to lose you, because I love you too much.” While this appears like a moment of vulnerability, it is also designed to convince you that jealousy is normal, and that you shouldn’t do anything to make them jealous. LADIES, LISTEN UP! Jealousy arises from an individual’s insecurities, so they’re not yours to take care of. In a relationship, you shouldn’t do things that you know might hurt your partner. However, there’s a huge difference between this, and letting them control your friendships due to their personal trust issues. We can easily translate “I’m just too afraid to lose you” to “I’m just too afraid to lose my control over you.”
3. The closet control: Whenever your boyfriend/girlfriend tries to change your outfit for “your own good,” they're being disrespectful and controlling. Let’s imagine you guys are going out, and you’re wearing a short dress, or a sexy top with a low cut. Your partner suggests you should change because they are scared that you might attract some uncomfortable looks, or that someone might disrespect you. And you think this protectiveness is cute and even heroic, because they're looking out for you. They care about you and don't want you to have an uncomfortable interaction. Stop right there! Controlling your closet is a sign of disrespect in a very disguised way. It is also a form of slutshaming, implying that your outfit leads to harassment. This is a typical move for a controlling partner who believes they’re the only one allowed to appreciate your hotness. If your partner isn't proud of having a beautiful woman next to them, and instead tries to change and hide you, they're controlling you, not protecting you.
4. They can’t live without you: I’ve seen a lot of movies and TV shows about a couple that would die without each other in a very passionate and romantic way (*cough* Damon Salvatore *cough*). In reality, this dynamic is not healthy. Even so, people use this “romantic” notion to manipulate women into staying in a relationship. They may start with a typical “I will love you forever,” which is not as bad as it sounds, but it does imply a life-long commitment that is not realistic for both parties in a relationship. This may quickly change to “you’ll forever be mine,” and here is where the problems start. Irrational, possessive love makes you someone else’s property, and leads to very passive aggressive situations, like jealousy, and threats. More than 5 different friends of mine have been threatened in the past by their partners with the “if you leave me, I’ll kill myself” line. Your partner may try to make you feel responsible for their well being, and guilt you into staying in the relationship. This is far from romantic: this is sick, manipulative, and violent. You shouldn’t stay in such a toxic environment. Your partner is not your responsibility; you are yours. Take care of yourself first.
5. The recap: TBT to the good ol’ days. Recalling the past might spark a little smile, but sometimes people weaponize memories for their own manipulative profits. As we discussed earlier, when you try to leave a relationship, a manipulative partner may use every possible power to convince you to stay. They may rehash the memories you shared in the relationship as a tool to manipulate you into staying. This often sounds like “are you really going to throw away all the moments we share together?” Yes, you should! They will take you on a stroll down memory lane, to those milkshakes you shared once, or the special song you danced to. They are using nostalgia to manipulate your decision-making and your feelings, trying to make you feel the exact same way you did when all of those moments first happened, so you’ll forget how you feel in the present. The fact your partner treasures those stories may seem very romantic, but you need to stay firm with your decisions, otherwise, they are still in control. Do not grant them that power over you.
At the end of the day, manipulation is a lot of things, but definitely not a romantic gesture. And it’s not something you should tolerate in a relationship, ever.
Written by: Izaskun Valleján