Surviving Family Manipulation

Emotional manipulation can have far-reaching consequences within families. Family ties evoke many powerful feelings, which some people are willing to exploit for personal gain.

Recognizing manipulative tactics can be particularly challenging if the person who uses them is a grandparent, parent or older sibling. If you grew up believing you could not speak up for yourself and challenge their authority, you might struggle to change the patterns in adulthood. Here’s what you need to know to break the cycle.

Warning Signs of Family Manipulation

Manipulative behavior is often subtle and hard to spot in the moment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you frequently feel tricked or pressured into doing things?
  • Does it seem like you can’t do anything right?
  • Do you get immediate pushback when you try to say no?
  • Do your family members frequently gaslight you and make you doubt yourself?
  • Do any of your relatives belittle you or invalidate your feelings?

Tips for Escaping Family Manipulation

Here is some advice you can use the next time you feel your family members are taking you for granted or trying to control you.

1. Establish Boundaries

Manipulative people can be stubborn – they keep pushing until their target finally caves in. To prevent that from happening, create firm boundaries and confidently stick to them. If you show any signs of wavering, a manipulative person could leverage your self-doubt to their advantage.

2. Be Assertive

Often, lies and half-truths are go-to weapons in a manipulative person’s arsenal. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself by asking questions and challenging statements they make. By double-checking the facts, you can assess whether your family members are choosing to withhold information or being dishonest with you. Then, you can remain in control of the situation.

3. Stay in Touch With Your Emotions

Family manipulation can wear you down, especially after years of dealing with it. Check in with yourself and pay attention to how you react after dealing with a difficult family member. If interactions with them frequently make you feel tired, drained or guilty, the relationship might have some unhealthy or even toxic traits.

4. Seek Support

Having someone to talk to can make a significant difference if you have trouble keeping up with a family member’s unreasonable behavior. Whether it’s your spouse, sibling or a trusted therapist, you need a person who’s in your corner when you’re going through a rough patch.

5. Keep a Journal

When you’re dealing with family manipulation, your emotions may become muddled and nearly impossible to process. When you have free time, write down some reflections about what you experienced and how it made you feel. You can use these notes as a chance to gain insight and lay the groundwork for an honest conversation with the harmful family member.

Healing Your Entire Family

If you are struggling with difficult family members, the holiday season may be a uniquely stressful time for you. At Cumberland Heights, our family-specific programming helps families set boundaries, process feelings and work through pain.

We educate families impacted by active addiction, teaching loved ones about the disease while equipping them with the necessary tools to heal and move forward together. To request help, reach out to us today.