5 Signs Your Friend May Be Manipulating You
I know this isn't something anything wants to think about, but sometimes it's important to face the hard stuff: People can be manipulative, even when they're our friends. You're probably wondering: What are the signs your friend is manipulating you? I know, I know. Our friends are the best people out there, right? Unfortunately, sometimes awesome people you have a great time with and care lots about can still be manipulative, and that's not OK, even if they are one of your favorite people in the world.
Of course, as is true whenever we talk about relationships, it's important to put everything on context. When considering someone's behavior, it's important to consider the gravity of what they've done, as well as the consistency, or if it's something that reoccurs often. In the case of isolated incidents, you might be more willing to let it slide. At the end of the day, though, even if something happens once, once is more than enough for you to put your foot down and confront someone about how their words or behavior might be making you feel. People have different standards and needs in friends, but in the end, it's important that your friendships are healthy and fulfilling, not toxic.
Here are a few behaviors to look out for that might mean your friend is manipulating you:
1. They Don't Respect Your Other Relationships
If your friend doesn't respect your other friends, or your romantic relationships, that's a big red flag. While it's normal to want to spend time with people you're close to, if you're getting the sense that your friend only ever wants to spend time with just you, and you alone — or that they don't want you to hang out with people other than them — that can be a sign they're being controlling or manipulative. Now, if your friend is just an introvert and doesn't hang out with people outside of you, that's not weird or a bad sign; the trouble begins when they try to restrict who you hang out with, or refuses to hang out with you in a group setting, say, with other friends or your significant other. Some people prefer having a few close friends, or only hanging out with someone one-on-one, and that's more than OK! But no friend should put limits or restrictions on who you're hanging out with.
2. They Pressure You To Do Things You Don't Want To Do
Let's take drinking as an example: If your friend is a total party animal, that's OK! There's no shame in (safely) enjoying alcohol and a good party. However, if you choose not to drink for whatever reason, it's important that your friends respect that. Whether you're a recovering alcoholic or just choosing not to drink because you don't want to, a respectful friend will follow your wishes and not pressure or encourage you to drink. The same goes for if you are drinking, but choose to call it a night early, or switch to non-alcoholic beverages at some point in the evening. Your body, your choices, and your friend should respect that, regardless to the choices she's making herself.
3. They Try To Get You To BadmouthYour Partner
Now, plenty of people like to get together with their closest friends and vent. That's totally an OK thing to do. But if you feel like your friend pressures you to badmouth your partner, that's not OK. Relationships are personal and complex, and sometimes it's important to air issues out and get other opinions, but you want to do that in a safe, non-judgmental space. If you feel like your friend just wants juicy gossip, or is just looking for an excuse to dislike the person you're dating, it's definitely a sign that they don't have your best interests at heart.
4. They Degrade You
OK, so you're probably thinking: Why would I be friends with someone who degrades me? Odds are, if someone is manipulative, you may not realize what they're doing at the time. A lot of people who are manipulative will try to bring down those close to them, or those they want to control, in an effort to make those people follow their wishes or be easier to convince. Basically, it's an effort to make you easier to control. This can be really subtle, too, which is what makes it so hard to identify and confront: Does your friend always comment harshly on the things they know embarrass you? Does your friend know where your weak spots are and bring them up in every argument? Does your friend bring up the negative possibilities, or the likelihood your dreams won't work out, every time you experience success? These may seem subtle, but they're definitely bad signs that your friend may be trying to manipulate you.
5. They Gossip About You
I know, nothing says high school more than worrying about your friend gossiping about you. Ideally, if your friends are your actual friends, you can trust that they won't spread around your personal information. Talking behind someone's back is a huge sign of disrespect to begin with, but if someone is telling others your intimate details, that's definitely not OK. If your friend is manipulative, it's possible they'll spread around your more personal (potentially shameful or embarrassing) moments in the vein of wanting to get others to support you, or "not realizing" what they're doing is potentially humiliating. Some people are gossip-y in general, so it's always worth talking to someone directly about their behavior and seeing if they apologize and are willing to reform their actions. It's important, though, to respect yourself and the information you give others; if you trust in your friend and your bond, it can feel like a huge blow to have someone pass that information on to someone else without your consent.
So, there you have it! If you feel like your friend is manipulative, it's definitely a good idea to step backwards and reevaluate the situation. Ideally, by talking to them directly and expressing your concerns, you'll be able to work past it and they'll improve their behavior. However, if someone is a toxic presence in your life, it's always your decision whether or not you want to keep them in it.