Moises: What to do when forced into a relationship

·4 min read

J: Hi, Singlestalk. I’m part of a church group where I met this lady in one of the fellowships. We hit it off quite well but that was it. I have no intention of us being more than friends. But for months now, she’d send me good morning messages, ask how my day was, sometimes send me food at work. If I ignore them, she’d send dramatic messages that I’m uncaring. But if I also respond, she’d tell our common friends, anticipating that love is in the air. Well yeah, air. We’re now an emerging love team thanks to her unceasing promo of this teleserye. People are pairing us and are asking why am I not making a move? I’m the guy. We’re both singles. Who am I waiting for? Not her, right? I feel like I am being manipulated into a relationship. Help!

DJ: Of course, you have to live your life her way. How selfish of you! Seriously, manipulation is any attempt to sway a person’s emotions to get them to act in a specific way or feel a certain thing. Advertisers routinely do that to get people to buy a hamburger holder or shower curtain with pockets for a phone. Political machineries do that too to change a voter’s opinion about a given issue. It happens on a much broader scale. But when it’s used to establish power over another, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. The person is making you feel badly about your authentic thoughts, feelings and actions. It involves passive-aggressive actions and drama like you’re keeping her hanging when the truth is she’s just assuming. Or overwhelming you with loving gestures to make you feel indebted. And wait, there’s more—she’s recruiting others to unwittingly help in the manipulation. From your email, I can sense her drama credit card has exceeded its limit.

I suggest you send her a congratulatory message on her ability to create drama out of nothing. Seriously, the best reaction is no reaction. A loving gesture is never a requirement for you to respond in kind. Giving you food should come from a place of overflow. She should not be expecting anything in return. If she wants a similar gift, that’s already barter trade. If she’s requiring you to reciprocate her feelings? Careful, man. That’s manipulation. I’ve met quite a handful too who engage in guilt-tripping, voicing displeasure without directly expressing the emotion. An example is excluding you from the conversation or an activity even when you have the competence to engage in such. People who toggle from over-including you and to absolute exclusion depending on whether things are going their way or not. I’m able to keep my peace by simply ignoring the action. Been labeled as gay or heartless or “paasa” by her friends. But yeah if that’s her friends, who needs enemies?

Manipulators engenders a feeling of guilt in their target. They usually act hurt. And while they play the victim card, the reality is that they are the ones causing the problem. Like your churchmate. There is a person for everyone but for her, probably it’s a psychiatrist. Be compassionate but firm. Tell her what is okay and is not okay. There’s no need, for example, for her to ask each noontime if you’ve eaten your lunch. You already know when it’s time to put stuff inside your mouth since the time you learned to hold your spoon and fork. Or why would she message you each morning, for instance, if you’re already awake? You can’t respond if you were asleep, right?

Assert your boundaries out loud. Take time to process your response instead of rushing into decisions you may regret. Don’t mind those crocodile tears and that shaky voice. These are acts to get you to do what she wants. They smell like headache or coronavirus. Toxic. Establish distance. Physically and emotionally. Just because she’s fueled with drama and she brings an audience with her does not mean you have to attend the performance. It’s clever for people to act weak so they can manipulate you to do what they want. But you’re a lot more clever. Don’t get played. Wink!

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