Let’s dive into this whole emotional manipulation topic a bit more!

emotional manipulation


Please note: This post was originally published on 12/06/16 and updated on 10/15/19

I was exchanging emails with a woman recently whose husband had an affair lasting about 2 years, and whose behavior since discovery has been incredibly bad. 

During our exchange, she forwarded me some texts that her husband had sent where he was expressing his deep sense of guilt and that he ‘didn’t know if he could go on’…blah, blah, blah. 

She had heard this line several times before as this was a common thing for him to do, yet he chose to continue to be in contact with his affair partner, continued to lie, continued to gaslight and continued to blame shift.

I told her that in my opinion, he was using the notion that he felt like shit and felt guilty as hell, and that he was suffering as much – if not more – than she was, as a way to make her feel sympathetic towards him and thus back off from her demands for him to end his affair and come home.  

It is a common mind-game that cheaters play. 

I know because I did it as well.

I thought that this would make a good topic to explore further and write a post addressing it.

So, I did a little Googling and stumbled upon several sites that primarily dealt with emotional manipulation.

After reading through the material I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I was a pathological emotional manipulator during my affair.” 

I never was prior to (well, maybe a tiny bit) and haven’t been since, but boy, oh boy I sure was during.

Let’s dive into this whole emotional manipulation topic a bit more and hopefully it can help some of you realize what’s going on in your relationships. 

What is Emotional Manipulation? (Also referred to as Psychological Manipulation)

Wikipedia defines Psychological manipulation as: “a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics.  By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another’s expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive. Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to convince patients to change unhealthy habits. The process of manipulation involves bringing an unknowing victim under the domination of the manipulator, often using deception, and using the victim to serve their own purposes.” 


Who is Vulnerable to Emotional Manipulation?

It is possible that virtually anyone can be a victim to emotional manipulation.  However, there are some common traits and/or vulnerabilities that may exist in those who are typically manipulated.  Do any of these apply to you?

According to Harriet B. Braiker’s self-help book, Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:

  • The “disease to please”
  • Addiction to earning the approval and acceptance of others
  • Fear of expressing negative emotions. Lack of assertiveness and ability to say no
  • Blurry sense of identity. Not knowing where you begin and the other person ends. Without a strong sense of self, it’s hard to trust your own judgment or to make decisions in your favor
  • Low self-reliance. The ability to not have to rely on others for support
  • External locus of control. Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.  If one has a high external locus of control, they are more apt to blame outside influences for things that happen to them.

According to George K. Simon, author of  In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:

  • Naïveté – victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that some people are cunning, devious and ruthless or is “in denial” if he or she is being victimized.
  • Over-conscientiousness – victim is too willing to give manipulator the benefit of the doubt and see their side of things in which they blame the victim.
  • Low self-confidence – victim is self-doubting, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, likely to go on the defensive too easily.
  • Over-intellectualization – victim tries too hard to understand and believes the manipulator has some understandable reason to be hurtful.
  • Emotional dependency – victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.

Martin Kantor advises in his book, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: How Antisocial Personality Disorder Affects All of Us, the following are vulnerable to psychopathic manipulators involve being too:

  • Dependent – dependent people need to be loved and are therefore gullible and liable to say yes to something to which they should say no.
  • Immature – has impaired judgment and believes the exaggerated advertising claims.
  • Naïve – cannot believe there are dishonest people in the world, taking for granted that if there were they would not be allowed to operate.
  • Impressionable – overly seduced by charmers. For example, they might vote for the seemingly charming politician who kisses babies.
  • Trusting – people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest. They are more likely to commit themselves to people they hardly know without checking credentials, etc., and less likely to question so-called experts.
  • Lonely – lonely people may accept any offer of human contact. A psychopathic stranger may offer human companionship for a price.
  • Narcissistic – narcissists are prone to falling for unmerited flattery.
  • Impulsive – make snap decisions about, for example, what to buy or whom to marry without consulting others.
  • Altruistic – the opposite of psychopathic: too honest, too fair, too empathetic.
  • Frugal – cannot say no to a bargain even if they know the reason it is so cheap.
  • Materialistic – easy prey for loan sharks or get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Greedy – the greedy and dishonest may fall prey to a psychopath who can easily entice them to act in an immoral way.
  • Masochistic – lack self-respect and so unconsciously let psychopaths take advantage of them. They think they deserve it out of a sense of guilt.
  • The elderly – the elderly can become fatigued and less capable of multi-tasking. When hearing a sales pitch, they are less likely to consider that it could be a con. They are prone to giving money to someone with a hard-luck story.
See also  Dealing with Infidelity - Working on You to Empower Yourself


emotionally abusive relationship

What are some common emotional manipulation techniques?

Both Braiker and Simon also identified the following ways that manipulators control their victims: 

Positive reinforcement: includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologizing, money, approval, gifts, attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition.

Negative reinforcement: involves removing one from a negative situation as a reward, e.g. “You won’t have to do your homework if you allow me to do this to you.”

Intermittent or partial reinforcement: Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist – for example in most forms of gambling, the gambler is likely to win now and again but still lose money overall.

Punishment: includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trip, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.

Traumatic one-trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behavior to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behavior can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.

Lying: It is hard to tell if somebody is lying at the time they do it, although often the truth may be apparent later when it is too late. One way to minimize the chances of being lied to is to understand that some personality types (particularly psychopaths) are experts at the art of lying and cheating, doing it frequently, and often in subtle ways.

Lying by omission: This is a very subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth. This technique is also used in propaganda.

Denial: Manipulator refuses to admit that he or she has done something wrong.

Rationalization: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behavior. Rationalization is closely related to spin.

Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting, for example, saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke.

Selective inattention or selective attention: Manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.

Diversion: Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic.

Evasion: Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling, vague responses, weasel words.

Covert intimidation: Manipulator throwing the victim onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats.

Guilt trip: A special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.

Shaming: Manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm. Manipulators can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.

Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.

Vilifying the victim: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator, while the manipulator falsely accuses the victim as being an abuser in response when the victim stands up for or defends themselves or their position.

Playing the servant role: Cloaking a self-serving agenda in guise of a service to a more noble cause, for example saying he is acting in a certain way to be “obedient” to or in “service” to an authority figure or “just doing their job”.

Seduction: Manipulator uses charm, praise, flattery or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defenses and give their trust and loyalty to him or her. They will also offer help with the intent to gain trust and access to an unsuspecting victim they have charmed.

4 Keys to Knowing the Affair is NOT Your Fault

Projecting the blame (blaming others): Manipulator scapegoats in often subtle, hard-to-detect ways. Often, the manipulator will project his/her own psychotic thinking onto the victim, making the victim look like he/she has done something wrong.

See also  What if You Run Into Your Spouse's Affair Partner?

Manipulators will also claim that the victim is the one who is at fault for believing lies that they were conned into believing, as if the victim forced the manipulator to be deceitful.

All blame, except for the part that is used by the manipulator to accept false guilt, is done in order to make the victim feel guilty about making healthy choices, correct thinking and good behaviors. It is frequently used as a means of psychological and emotional manipulation and control.

Manipulators lie about lying, only to re-manipulate the original, less believable story into a “more acceptable” truth that the victim will believe. Projecting lies as being the truth is another common method of control and manipulation. Manipulators love to falsely accuse the victim as “deserving to be treated that way.” They often claim that the victim is crazy and/or abusive, especially when there is evidence against the manipulator.

Feigning innocence: Manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional or that they did not do something that they were accused of. Manipulator may put on a look of surprise or indignation. This tactic makes the victim question his or her own judgment and possibly his own sanity.

Feigning confusion: Manipulator tries to play dumb by pretending he or she does not know what the victim is talking about or is confused about an important issue brought to his or her attention. The manipulator intentionally confuses the victim in order for the victim to doubt his/her own accuracy of perception, often pointing out key elements that the manipulator intentionally included in case there is room for doubt. Sometimes manipulators will have used cohorts in advance to help back up their story.

Brandishing anger: Manipulator uses anger to brandish sufficient emotional intensity and rage to shock the victim into submission. The manipulator is not actually angry, he or she just puts on an act. He just wants what he wants and gets “angry” when denied.

Controlled anger is often used as a manipulation tactic to avoid confrontation, avoid telling the truth or to further hide intent. There are often threats used by the manipulator of going to police, or falsely reporting abuses that the manipulator intentionally contrived to scare or intimidate the victim into submission.

 Blackmail and other threats of exposure are other forms of controlled anger and manipulation, especially when the victim refuses initial requests or suggestions by the manipulator. Anger is also used as a defense so the manipulator can avoid telling truths at inconvenient times or circumstances. Anger is often used as a tool or defense to ward off inquiries or suspicion. The victim becomes more focused on the anger instead of the manipulation tactic.

Bandwagon Effect: Manipulator comforts the victim into submission by claiming (whether true or false) that many people already have done something, and the victim should as well. These include phrases such as “Many people like you …” or “Everyone does this anyways.” Such manipulation can be seen in peer pressure situations, often occurring in scenarios where the manipulator attempts to influence the victim into trying drugs or other substances.

If you are the unfaithful partner, do any of these apply to you?  If you are the betrayed, which techniques has your partner become proficient at?

I must admit that I used quite a few of them.  Typically for the purpose of self-preservation – not having to deal with the consequences of my actions.  Like not to be caught in a lie, or not to have to talk about the affair, or to get Linda to stop obsessing about the affair details, for example.

George Simon talks more about the tactics emotional manipulators use in the two videos below.


How to Deal with Emotional Manipulation

Monika Hoyt says that while you may not be able to change the behavior of the manipulator, you can change your own responses to raise your integrity in the following ways:

Be Aware. The first thing is to listen and look for the techniques manipulators use as mentioned above.

Listen to your feelings. If you are feeling confused, minimized, or full of self-doubt, then you need to pay close attention to what your partner is saying and doing.  No, you are not making a mountain out of a molehill. And no, you are not crazy.

Find the cause of your feelings. If you routinely feel guilty after speaking to a certain person, “rewind” the conversation in your mind and try to place where it started. It can help to write this down so you can notice a pattern emerging over time.

Notice when actions don’t match words. Don’t let words appease you. Listen to actions instead.

Know that the problem is them, not you. If you realize you’ve been hoodwinked, remember 1) it isn’t your fault and 2) they’re dealing with serious problems of their own. This provides context, but don’t misplace sympathy.

Assess Your Relationship. Weigh the outcome of addressing the issue. Anyone with the power to cause you emotional harm can make your life somewhat difficult. You may want to talk with friends first or get some reality-checks. Is the level of manipulation you experience best handled by your own inner work? Or is it worth confronting it head-on?

Assert Yourself.  This starts with no longer responding to their techniques the way you used to. You say “no” if you don’t want to, or speak your mind even if they don’t like it. Work on feeling okay with how they might respond negatively. If it’s not yours, don’t pick it up.

See also  No More Lies, Please!

Confront them. In this case, consider the angles before you move forward. When you point things out to a manipulator, they will rarely just admit it.  Plus, you may be a little nervous and easily derailed. So be clear on what specific behaviors are bothering you and how it makes you feel. Follow up with a request to change the behaviors. When they start denying or minimizing, stick to your guns and keep your cool.



Lifeesteem.org suggests the following additional ways to deal with the manipulator:

Focus on changing yourself, not the manipulator. It is not helpful to try to out manipulate a skillful manipulator – you are simply making yourself vulnerable to further manipulation.

You will not change a manipulator by focusing on his or her imperfections and trying to work toward their achieving insight. You may think that it would be helpful to share with the manipulator how you feel and how his or her behavior has an impact on you – but this is generally not helpful since most manipulators are not capable of empathy and may use this information against you in the future.

The only effective method of changing manipulative behavior is to disable it by making a change within yourself, thereby changing the dynamics of the manipulative relationship. If you cease to cooperate with the manipulative tactics, you will alter the nature of the relationship.

If manipulators have to work hard to maintain control in the relationship, they usually give up – often by leaving the relationship and finding someone else to control.

Use assertiveness techniques to change the nature of the relationship. You might be so accustomed to complying with the manipulator’s tactics that you automatically do his or her bidding without thinking about it.

First, you need to stop your automatic compliance. You do this by buying time to think about each situation as it arises. “I’ll get back to you on that when I have the time to think about it.” At this point you are now in control of the situation.

It is not helpful to let the manipulator ask you why you need time since this invites your loss of control. Simply repeat the same thing over and over again without explanation. “I need more time to think about it.”

Next, you need to confront the fear, anxiety or guilt that has driven you to comply in the past with the manipulator’s demands. This requires a deep look within that may be achieved by working with a professional therapist. Exploring your own personal feelings, why you react as you do, and how to use alternate responses may be a challenge, but the benefits are far-reaching – and they may save your relationship, or at least prepare you for healthier relationships in the future.

Finally, you might label the manipulation for what it is. “When you threaten to leave me I feel afraid. If you would simply state your wishes and show me respect, I would be more able to listen to what you want.”

In a calm voice and with direct eye contact, it may be time to announce that the old manipulations have come to an end. “We both understand that you have a pattern of playing on my fears, and now you know how I feel about that. Your way of threatening me is not going to work any longer.”

In making these types of assertive statements, you are defining your boundaries. There is no need to make threats. Simply state that you will not participate any longer in manipulations.

Make it clear that by setting limits and enhancing your own personal integrity, you expect a better relationship in the future. Learning to assert yourself in the face of a manipulative individual who feels threatened when not in control is a challenge, and doing this with the help of a professional therapist is recommended.

Assess the worth of this relationship to you. Depending on the severity of the manipulation and the damage it has done to your sense of happiness and integrity, you may need to consider whether it is worth it to continue the relationship.

Of course, there are many situations (parent/child, for example) when you must stay in the relationship, so it is helpful at least to achieve some clarity about what you want in your life and assess how the relationship has the potential to lead you toward your personal goals.

In summary, I think that when you look at the various tactics that emotional manipulators use, it is quite clear that unfaithful people often are quite proficient at utilizing them for various self-serving reasons.  Primarily to save their own skin and/or to avoid the consequences of their actions.  Only by being aware of when it’s happening and being consistently assertive and laying down the ground rules, are you going to be able to wrestle the control that the manipulator has over you.

Please let us know how (or if) you have been impacted by emotional manipulation.  If you’re the unfaithful, please share your experiences  (how and why) with emotional manipulation.



  1. Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_manipulation
  2. Harriet B. Braiker:  Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation 
  3. George K. Simon:  In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. 
  4. Martin Kantor:   The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: How Antisocial Personality Disorder Affects All of Us
  5. Monika Hoyt:  http://www.monikahoyt.com/emotional-manipulation/
  6. http://lifeesteem.org/wellness/wellness_manipulation.html
  7. Graphic by The Wandering Faun


    45 replies to "Cheaters Can Be Masters at Emotional Manipulation"

    • TheFirstWife

      I do not even need to read this article. The title says it all.

      Master emotional manipulators to get what they want.

      I had a conversation last week with my husband on what was three years from DDay.

      I told him I am still so hurt by the things he said that were cruel and mean. Why did he hate me during that time? Why wasn’t I good enough? What did I ever do to have him unleash all his pent up anger at me?

      It is no longer about the affair. It is how cruel and mean he was to me.

      He tries to claim he did not mean it.

      He told me I don’t communicate with him.

      He told me I never apologize to him.

      He told me he no longer was in love with me.

      He told me he was unhappy with me for the past 18 months.

      He told me I was selfish.

      He told me I didn’t support him.

      Just a few of the comments that will linger with me for the rest of my life.

      All said to soothe HIS guilty conscience so he could “justify” his cheating.

      • Ginny

        I am in this situation right now! Could you share how long this went on? What happened to make him come to his senses?

        • john smith

          It will go on forever unless you create the ultimatum for change… But to be honest if you get caught having an affair and your go to is straight to blame shifting then that person is very high on the narcissistic spectrum possibly even a narcissists what they are doing is eating cake they are triangulating you with the affair partner to make you fight harder for them to love you and not the AP I played the pick me dance for 8 months and I regret it I should have told her the day i found out its either your family or him and if iits the latter then get your shit and get the fuck out do not contact me or the kids until you decide to come back to the marriage or divorce is finalized that would have been the right move and I tell anyone who has just discovered an affair the same thing do not let these fucking cheaters have their cake and eat it to

      • Jeremy

        The comments from the cheating spouse that they use to justify how badly they are hurting someone who loves them sting almost more than anything. The rewriting of the relationship up to that point in a way that makes you start to question how you could have missed what was so wrong that your partner needed a way out… Its evil.

    • Shifting Impressions

      I just listened to the audio by George Simon and all I can say is “WOW”!!! I just ordered two of his books.

      I’m with TFW, the manipulation during and post affair are one of the hardest and most painful things to overcome.

      “Inside the Mind of the UnFaithful” was also really helpful……the one thing my husband actually read and listened too…..more than once.

      The problem is the manipulation can be so subtle and so hard to spot…..but I am getting better at spotting it and calling him on it. And yes, now and again he actually admits it………but still baby steps.

      Thanks Doug, this is really really useful information.

      • Doug

        Glad you think so SI!

      • TryingHard

        SI–who’s the author of Inside the Mind of the Unfaithful? I checked Amazon but it’s not there?

        • Shifting Impressions

          Trying Hard
          Right at the end of this post…..by Doug and Linda. It really is helpful.

    • Hale

      During the affair, I was told that I ruined every friendship he had and that I always disrespected his family. We had moved 1000 miles away near his family and close to a lot if old friends. None of them ever had us over. He never called them. Turns out, they’d ask, he’d ignore, they stopped calling, and it became my fault. Meanwhile I hosted dinner party after dinner party and tried inviting everyone. Crickets.

      As far as disrespecting his family, we moved so he could help the family business, which he did by sleeping with an employee (the company mattress), risking the company, lying to his mother and sister, lying for the ow, lying to me, risking my and the kids futures, and I was the disrespectful one. He then claimed that he never gphurt the kids by cheating, that they were not affected. But they were left with an emotionally abused mother who didn’t know where dad was, who missed events, and whose dinner got cold. But not affected.

      The ow was someone he thought he was controlling and using. She thought the same. Ain’t live grand? Lol, they weren’t in love, but it was a transactional relationship with all kinds if triangles. Me, his mother, his sister – the affair was incapable of standing up without a third leg/loser. It was a relationship based on their relationship, nothing else. All they had to talk about was the relationship. Where, when etc. It couldn’t stand the light of day – carpools, report cards, dr appt, oil changes, grocery store trips. Those weren’t sexy, so let’s circle back to when we are hooking up again next -let’s bring it all back to us. Except “us” was “me” only. He needed her to continue to make him feel a certain way, so they pretended there was an “us”.

      It’s so mind boggling. He’s mortified at his behaviour during and after. Not coincidentally, his mother could be a whole book by George Simon and a case study in manipulative people. Also, during and since the affair, my wh is the easiest mark in the room for flattery by either sex and for border line con men. We’ve had to work to show him that when he’s the only person being told about a no fail deal, it’s not because he’s special, it’s because manipulators can spot him a Mile away. That that attention is negative, not flattering. When underage girls (at mixed parties, parents involved, our close friends) ask him to sneak a beer for them, it’s not because they think he’s cool. He’s the weakest adult in the room. For the record, I watched that happen, and he stopped the conversation in its tracks. But I did ask him why he thought they asked him. He saw it as positive attention (I’m so young & hip, I’m approachable) as opposed to negative (you’re the weakest adult here and they know it by your obvious lack of boundaries). Or why he’s the only husband a woman will drape her arms around. Poor. Boundaries. I told him that the other men present are more respected because their boundaries are overt. We have one female friend who always does this, in front of me and her spouse, and only to my wh. He views her differently now, he sees how conniving it is – to all of us involved. It’s been fascinating, anthropological, really. Except that it involves me.

      He’s made huge changes and I’ve seen the boundaries firmly in place. Lots of excellent therapy and he recognizes all that behaviour during the affair as out of control, no justification. But I’m not happy I had to be the victim in order for this to come about.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Hale,
        What a tangled web. I hope that this is all behind you for good. Please refresh my memory– was his mom the one who took your kids on a boat ride with a stranger? Or was that someone else?

        • Hale

          Yup, that’s my story.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Hale,
            Sounds to me like your H had poor behavior modeled to him in the beginning with his mom. That is never an excuse but it may explain why his perceptions are broken. I am referring to the idea that he thinks teens approach him because he is hip and young and not because he can easily be manipulated. It’s almost like he is having to learn things that are obvious to most people.

            What do you say to that female friend when she pretends to be a fur coat around your husband? (i.e. Draping herself all over him.) Personally, I don’t have tolerance for such types. Don’t get me wrong, once upon a time I did tolerate those types, but then I learned not to by getting burned.

            • Hale

              I don’t say anything to her. She only does it in front of me and her husband. My husband physically removes her, or moves away. She looks foolish, so it doesn’t offend me – and it’s fascinating. She will take a picture of me on her phone, snuggle up to my husband and coo about how beautiful I am while showing him the picture. So she never “crosses a line”. I’m a very smart woman, but she’s insanely intelligent – a respected surgeon, top of her field. With huge insecurities. It’s always fun to tell her to not hug you because you think you’re getting the flu – germs are a no go for her job. The attention she gets is all negative. She’s isolated herself socially as a result – maybe this was a good ploy in her 20s, but as a 55 yr old (albeit with a body to die for at any age) it presents as pretty pathetic. Lots of cringing. She’s too smart to not see it, but I guess she can’t stop. It may be how she deals with social situations, who knows.

              I usually look at her husband and raise my eyebrows and smile. He’s a public figure, well known and really well liked and respected. I think she’s getting her just desserts without my intervening: her teenage daughter beats her in the sexually provocative race, and their home life has been a powder keg of bad behaviour. She’s gotten into a lot of trouble and it impacted -severely – her college situation. She got her mom’s brains, but too much of the provocative side too. The Ivy League track she has been boasting about for so long did not happen. Not because of marks, but because of behaviour. So my “less-intelligent” son ended up at a “better” school than the girl with the 4.0 average. It’s not what they’d planned for, and they’re quite competitive – and in a different league than my family as far as smarts, etc., so there’s tension. Ridiculous and sad. I hope their daughter figures herself out.

              So my “confronting” her comes in the form of having a great relationship with my teens – who give her daughter a very wide berth and do not interact with her at all. My kids don’t compete with me at parties, and they engage politely and intelligently with other adults. They’re a pleasure.

              Confronting her would be moot – it would be batting eyes, tears welling up, “oh I’m so sorry you misunderstood! I love you so much”. I’ve watched this with my mother in law. Knowing she’s irritated me would give her an edge. So not reacting, but just looking at her with a knowing smile, is taking the wind out of her sails.

              Again, it’s so fascinating.

      • Butterball

        “Also, during and since the affair, my wh is the easiest mark in the room for flattery by either sex and for border line con men.”

        So who is the manipulator and manipulated in this situation?

        • Hale

          That line is blurry for sure. No one ever wants to believe he/she is being manipulated. It’s about control or the perception of control, isn’t it?

          • Hale

            Also, butterball, my husband sees this now. It ties in with the affair, actually. He thought he was in control of that as well, and had an image with her he had to cultivate. He fully admits that he was not in control of anything. But thinking he was allowed him to not deal with anything. Puffing himself up and having his ego stroked was a great distraction.

            However, living authentically is a lot more rewarding. He has a great therapist.

            • Butterball

              Funny you should mention that. My husband declared yesterday that he was “in control” of his situation as well.

              My husband’s biggest problem at the moment is his memory. It’s terrible.

              I brought some stuff home with me and he claims he told me to bring a certain size of something and a certain number of sets of something and he got really angry today about me bringing one set of something he claimed to tell me to bring two of and I know he didn’t. However, afterward he came to me and apologized and I told him you are forgetting everything these days. He is also is forgetting more serious things. He actually told the OW that I like to be alone, like him, and I don’t like to be alone at all! It’s like he has to convince himself that it is ok to not spend a lot of time with me. And then yesterday he told me he felt like nothing had changed between us at all, which means at least he is comfortable, I told him no everything has changed and he actually told me you just forgot what I am like, because i had been gone several months. As if a few months apart and I forgot he was not very nice all these years? Yeah right. He’s in the memory loss and history rewriting phase that’s for sure!

              We have been keeping busy with several home improvement projects the last week though so although he is pretty cold with me, we are getting along fine in terms of working together as always. No huge serous fights at all after my being home for more than a week now. I’ve done some reading and observing and he is definitely the clinging boomerang midlife crisis type. He’s constantly worrying that I am depressed and I am pretending not to be just to reassure him for now and get him comfortable with me again.

    • Shifting Impressions

      I spent all night reading George Simon’s book in In Sheep’s Clothing and it is such an eye opener. I have never had manipulation explained quite that way before. In some ways it was crazy scary. Yup I was reading and underlining until the wee hours of the morning.

      I believe there is a gut feeling that one often gets when they are being manipulated but it is often really hard to pin point……..this book is really helpful with that.

    • Sarah P.

      Excellent and well-researched post, Doug. I love how it exposes manipulation for what it is. That list of tactics that manipulators use is a recipe for Stockholm Syndrome in the victim. The unpredictable behavior, the gas lighting, and the controlled anger can sometimes even bring down people who previously had a good sense of self. The action list that you provide for victims of manipulation is excellent too. Often, people who live their lives by manipulating others can be stopped in their tracks if their would be victim does not consent.
      Excellent post and excellent book on Inside the Mind of the Unfaithful too.

    • Sarah P.


      There is another book by George Simon called: How Did We End Up Here?

      I would recommend it for anyone wanting more info on how to deal with skilled manipulators.

    • Gill

      So my husband’s behaviour ticks a lot of the boxes of being a manipulator, but so does the OW. How does he get to realize that he is being played, and also understand that he is doing it as well? The OW can go to hell, but I suppose i still believe there is a good man in my H somewhere.

      • TheFirstWife

        It is hard to get people to see their behavior as it is. Hard to tell people they are being taken advantage of as well.

        And even if you point it out the offender would deny it anyway.

        That is a good question though.

      • TheFirstWife

        I had an additional thought on the manipulation aspect.

        I don’t know your H’s situation as to the affair or how long it has been going on but I think if you are aware of his manipulative tactics then you can control the situation by not allowing him to get away with it or be successful with you .

        I think you have the power to control that aspect. My H tried to get his own way on something and I just refused to give in and allow him to circumvent me or my position. I stood my ground repeatedly. I had to fight my way through it but in the end it was worth it b/c now he knows I will no longer cave.

        I used to be agreeable and give in on many more things in the past. But now I just say no and mean it. My kids try to get their own way all the time and I just say no, smile and walk away. It’s that simple.

        • Hopeful

          I ageee TFW. I think one key benefit from my therapy was for me to be more assertive. I was alwaysb agreeable and trusting. And my husband abused that priveledge. And you are right no different than a child. The other thing that has helped is setting boundaries. What is interesting he knows before I even say if something is bothering me. He is now much more in tune with himself, me and our relationship. But part of it is he wants to be now. For various reasons he checked out and did what he did. Once he did it he felt like there was no going back. He was miserable for 10 years. He stopped both affairs long before dday, but lived with the guilt and worry that he would die and I would find out after. My husband had come so far but it has taken a lot of work and commitment. As he says love is a verb not just a feeling. Maybe the grass looked greener but he was putting no effort into us or even himself.

          • TheFirstWife

            That is interesting that you say he checked out for years.

            My H never checked out. He treated me well. That was the shock of it all.

            Typical mid life crisis I can see that. But I wonder what happened other than he was unhappy. I certainly was not.

            And his friends always envied him b/c I just did not give him a hard time about stuff. I was flexible and easy going.

            Some of the cheating spouses are lucky they have a second chance in their marriage.

            • Hopeful

              Yes my husband was detached and checked out but not all the time. Both of his affairs were sporadic. So it sounds like it would follow a cycle especially if he did not hear from them. And then he also broke it off over a year before dday. He never knew if he was going to tell me. But he looks back and knows this was a I guess you would call a wedge between us. He used work and family as an excuse so instead of coming him he would work more. And his job is stressful and always busy. But he did not have comfort or escape at home with me and two little kids. Especially since I was always proactive wanting to talk about us and our marriage he always got defensive but now I see why. We had great times and he always complimented me. No one ever heard a bad word about me and he never treated me poorly. And even with all of this we still were closer and more connected than any of my friends ever were. What is interesting is his favorite times were our vacations and he would turn off his phone and not have it with him. Now that makes more sense since he said he hated checking his emails or texts in case one of the ow would contact him. I too was never one to control or tell him no, I trusted him so I was fine with anything. Yeah not so much anymore. Now we live a different life but he loves it.

              Now he has stepped up his game in a major way and is very involved in all aspects of our life. My friends were always jealous of me before and notice it now. If they only knew…which they have no idea based on their comments.

        • Butterball

          Let me ask you something. It’s one thing if you refuse to do his laundry for him. That you can control. But say what you want him to do is eat dinner with you and instead he goes to McDonalds. How do you stand your ground on that? You can’t force feed him. You can control what you give him, but how do you control what he gives you?

          • TheFirstWife

            Good question. I don’t know what to do if he chooses to go out to eat alone instead if eating with his family or spouse.

            McDonald’s??? Wouldn’t touch the stuff.

            Why do you think he chose to go out alone? Was he mad or upset about something? Guilt maybe?

            In the middle of my H’s affair he would say some weird stuff to me. Like you look so good for your age a lot of guys would want to go out with you. Huh??

            Way to easy HIS guilty conscience.

            Is that a factor for your H – trying to ease his guilty conscience? Avoiding having to deal with an issue?

            I am taking a shot in the dark here.

            I know I would learn how to control my reaction to that behavior. And I wouldn’t sweep it under the carpet – I would ask “why did you do that?”

            • Butterball

              The McDonald’s example was a made up one. Just trying to distinguish between refusing to do something he wants me to do vs. getting him to do something he doesn’t want to do. With regards to your talking about standing your ground. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force them to drink. It seems to me standing your ground might just set up confrontation.

              The weird one I got was that “you like to be alone just like I like to be alone.” No, I have never liked to be alone. But I guess it eases his conscience to believe it. I didn’t correct him on it though as the time didn’t seem right.

          • Hopeful

            In the end I think that is exactly it you can only control yourself. There is no way to control someone else. I started by telling my husband what I wanted and then set my expectations and boundaries. It was up to him to decide if that was how he wanted to live. He was able to prove himself by his behavior and decisions. I also pretty much ask questions or say exactly what I am thinking all the time. I do wait for the appropriate time when our kids are not around but really nothing is too small for me to discuss. I went too long without being that way. Never again.

    • Tired

      The initial part of this blog really resounds with me. This is exactly what my husband is doing to me. If I say I’m so traumatised by the affair he says so is he. He was so traumatised by me hiring a PI and he can’t trust me now. Go figure. I had a reason to do that and that was he would not tell me the truth and I was not going to put up with a cheating spouse! If I say I am hurting, his pain is so much worse. Aaah. It’s like he won’t allow me to be hurt by what he did. I don’t know what to think. It seems like he is trying to minimise my feelings as though they are not important. So he is a manipulator too I guess.

      • Jeremy

        Oh that really bothers me. He dares to say he can’t trust you because you hired a PI? Unbelievable. I did background checks on the guys my ex fiance was bringing around her 12 year old daughter who I raised as my own. She has accused me of stalking her. The fact that my background checks showed her one of the guys was a sexual predator and another was hardcore into meth mean nothing to here. Especially since it was the meth causing all her sleeping around. She didnt like that I knew what she was up to so she turned something protective I did into stalking. Thing that really gets me is they believe the crap they come up with.

    • TryingHard

      Hi Tired–You husband is confusing shame with guilt. With shame he gets to express his “hurt” and actually embarrassment about his choices. Guilt is what an aware adult feels when the know they have done something wrong to someone else. Guilt is what drives that person to make recompense. Shame is what little boys do, and I truly think your husband is what is commonly called a man-child. He reverts back to what worked for him when he was a young boy and Mommy caught him misbehaving. He has not emotionally matured past this point. Some people never do without the help of a therapist.

      So NO he can not turn this around and talk about HIS hurt. NO this is YOUR hurt. He hurt you and the fact that he turns it around and blames you for hiring a PI is laughably pathetic. He desperate and reaching for anything that he thinks will work. Seriously, he retorts by saying you don’t trust him?? Well, no pal I don’t should be you only answer. But I’m sure he will turn that boo boo face on and you will reach out and forgive. NO he has done nothing to earn that forgiveness. Infidelity is a big freaking deal, A BIG FREAKING DEAL. Matter of fact in many cases it’s a DEAL BREAKER. This is not some innocent act or flirtation. He deliberately broke his marriage vows and formed an emotional relationship with another person. This is NOT easily forgiven with a boo boo face. There can be NO forgiveness until he accepts full ownership and responsiblity for his choices. No “the other woman was relentless” and yes they are, but it is up to him to put HIS big boy pants on and take a stand for what is right.

      Please do not patronize and spackle his bad behavior with excuses. When he says he’s hurting too, call him on it and literally put your hand up and say NO, you did this, YOU made this choice to have an affair (and call it an affair or cheating, DO NOT SUGAR COAT WITH WORDS) drive that home to him. You do not care about his hurting. He needs to hurt. I’m glad he hurts. When I said in MC that I didn’t want my H to hurt my MC did exactly this, she said No He Needs to hurt. It’s hard and some call it tough love. But I guarantee you, you will never move on until you do this. Do NOT let him obfuscate, lie, gaslight and push his crap off on to YOU. You are too smart for that. You must stand firm with your boundaries now more that ever. If you let him off too fast and forgive too fast he will know he got away with it and will most likely try it again.

      Yes, he is minimizing your feelings for the sake of his own. He’s going to put the guilt on YOU as a deflection of HIS bad behavior. This is textbook cheater behavior. Call him on it and tell him to STOP. Do not give him one inch that his strategy may be working on you so watch what your eyes say too.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Trying Hard
        The phrase “He needs to hurt” really resonates with me. In the majority of our talks about the EA he had a way of steering the conversation to “his pain”. I wasn’t buying it. I called him on it many times.

        Here is the thing…..I love the man but can’t to this day conjur up any sympathy whatsoever over “his pain” regarding the EA.

    • TryingHard

      SI–Three words: Oh Hell No!!!

      I fell for that “he’s in pain too” crap until I got smart. Until you work through the affair and the affair is over, there IS no dealing with their pain. And there may indeed be pain. But in regards to the affair/infidelity/betrayal it is ALL on them. It is THEY who caused the pain.

      That’s not to say or negate that as a couple progresses through MC that there may indeed be some pain from FOO issues (for the cheater) that were brought into the marriage. But I will go to hell if I accept that his FOO issues or any other issue other than poor character, caused him to have an affair. As you are well aware, I call BS on that!

      • Shifting Impressions

        Yup….I can hear you doing that from here. Lol!!!

        Crazy thing is he would have had all my love and sympathy about anything he was going through if he would have just come to me instead of turning to someone else.

        When we would be talking about the EA over dinner…..he would get a pained look on his face and push his plate aside….”poor dear” lost his appetite. That would make me so mad. Always the ploy for sympathy and then the standard “I just want to move on”.

        Most times I kept my cool…..but I did keep calling him on it. Thank goodness there is not near as much of that now………but every now and again………

        • TryingHard

          SI–yes it stopped BECAUSE you called him on it. Good going!

          You know what would have been hilarious if when he turned the boo boo face on and pushed his plate aside you should have grabbed his plate and given it to the dog!!!

          OOO that sad sausage crap just makes me want to clean the toilet with their toothbrush!!!!

          • Shifting Impressions

            Next time…..does that mean I have to get a dog.

            • TryingHard

              SI– LOL, YES!! It would be worth it. Or if not that, you could just scoot the plate closer to you and start eating off of it.

    • Shifting Impressions

      I’m so glad you brought attention to this fantastic post. The information is so extremely valuable.
      Thank you!!!

      • Doug

        You’re very welcome as usual, SI!

    • Nearly Normal

      Yes, thank you Doug. I think this was before I ever came around to this site. If only I had understood some of these things sooner. “Naïveté …Over-conscientiousness … Low self-confidence… Over-intellectualization … Emotional dependency” I might have put that on my business card

      • Doug

        Ha! You’re quite welcome, NN!

    • jess walsh

      i believe we ladies should always be vigilant when we start sensing infidelity in our men. like me, when my ex started cheating and lying, took charge and started vetting his social media apps.. like WhatsApp, Tinder etc.. i caught him and that gave me closure… i know some apps if you want.. contact me.

    • john smith

      To be honest if you checked off more then 9 on that list then your dealing with a narcissist and they will not change lets just call them what they are

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