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When you are kind, generous and caring, and you get controlling and manipulative behavior in return, you may be the very cause of perpetuating it without even realizing it.

Your kindness to someone could be exactly what fuels them to continue treating you badly. Sometimes the more caring you are, the worse it gets. 

Transcript below.

I’m going to give you some of my insights on how you enable manipulative and controlling behavior. You do so by being your wonderful self.

You do so by showing compassion and generosity and support to someone who reciprocates by trying to control you and trying to make you feel bad about yourself. When that happens, you’re actually reinforcing the bad behavior.

How do you do this? What is actually happening when you are trying to be kind, empathetic, and showing up in a way that is nurturing and supportive of another person, and they show up in a way that just seems cold-hearted and mean?

And if it doesn’t seem that way overtly, it’s covert when you’re having difficulties that is – when you’re with someone that is putting you through the paces of control and manipulation. And it’s a very emotionally abusive setup, where you show up in any type of relationship, be it romantic, family, or friend, and you are trying to be kind, generous, and empathetic. You will give your time and energy and sometimes your money to these people, and they turn to things around and make things your fault make you feel responsible for doing things wrong.

What normally happens is that your wonderful self turns on more kindness, more support, more generosity, and becomes even more empathetic and sees them as a victim. I’m not saying everyone does this, I’m saying this does happen.

This kind of thing happens in relationships that are unhealthy and toxic, because the other person is taking advantage of your kindness. They take advantage of your generosity and they take advantage of everything that you appreciate about yourself and that others appreciate about you as well.

Your self-respect starts to dissolve. Your self-trust, your self-love, your self- compassion… Everything starts to disintegrate when you’re with someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind. They’re not there to support you, they’re there to support themselves. And the nicer you are, the more they take advantage of it.

And so this is somewhat extreme, but it does happen. And if you tuned into this show, it might be happening to you or someone you know. If it is happening to someone you know, pass this show along. Pass information like this along to them because the people that are the kindest, most generous, most sincere people – when they end up with someone who’s controlling and manipulative – it doesn’t normally get better, it usually gets worse.

The kind person in any type of relationship ends up trying to give more and more until they themselves have nothing left to give. At that point, that’s when all of those wonderful qualities about them start to disintegrate. And the disintegration that takes place keeps them in a situation that they don’t necessarily want to be in, but they’re not sure how to get out because now they’ve developed a trust and a bond with someone who’s not very kind to them. They developed a dependency on them. They’ve developed a full-blow relationship with them.

And this could be a relationship that started since they were born. This could be in a family with someone you think you love and you think loves you, or you do love, and they do love you (but they show it in a way that’s hurtful and harmful).

I define love as supporting someone else’s happiness; supporting someone else’s path, even when you disagree with it. And when you’re with someone, and you can say “That person really supports my path. That person really supports what makes me happy.” When you can say that, that is meaningful and empowering and it feels so good.

That, to me is love. And that’s the only kind of love that I believe matters in most relationships. Because when you have someone that supports your happiness, and you’re supporting theirs, it works. And it works well.

But if you’re supporting their happiness and they want you to feel bad, I don’t see that as a “relationship” anymore. Whatever it is (whether it is family, a friend, a co-worker, or anyone else), and when you don’t have a “relationship”, what do you have?

When you look at this in the romantic sense, when you have a romantic partner that doesn’t support your path to happiness nor do they support what you want to do in your life, and they themselves only want to make you feel bad about yourself, or make you feel responsible for all the problems in the relationship, or make you feel guilty for wanting things for yourself, or wanting to visit friends or family – making you feel guilty for all kinds of things (guilt is a huge one for the controller and the manipulator), when you are with someone like that in a romantic way, then do you really have a relationship?

Do you have a relationship in an equal sense like the way I just defined it? This is an important question because if you think “Well, I started this relationship and I’m committed to it. And now I’m invested into it.” Then you really have to ask yourself if it really is a relationship or has the initial contract been voided because of their behavior?

That contract is the commitment to each other’s happiness and each other’s path and journey through life. Whether it’s just a regular romantic relationship or a marriage, it could be anything, but the question needs to be addressed: Has the contract and voided by the behaviors of the other person that doesn’t seem to have your best interest in mind anymore?

At one time they may have. At one time, maybe it was all about you. And then when things settled down, and it becomes about “us”, but when did it become about them?

You can tell when it’s about them because you try to make them happy and they don’t try to make you happy. Not that you have to make someone happy. I mean, you’re trying to enjoy each other’s company and be happy because they’re with you, and you do things for each other anyway, but there’s a clear contrast when you’re doing your best and humbly trying to make someone else happy.

When they just seem to be blaming and accusatory and always pointing the finger, there’s no humbleness there. There’s no kindness there. There is just someone that wants you to feel bad, so that you’ll try harder. And this brings us back to what I was saying in the beginning, which is:

How are you enabling the bad behavior?

How are you enabling the manipulative or the controlling behavior? That happens because you try to be kinder in hopes they’ll be nicer. But when they’re not, and you keep returning kindness, what you end up doing is reinforcing their bad behavior.

If you continue to try to be kinder and kinder, trying harder and harder to fix things and improve yourself to make them happy, and it never seems to work, then what you’re doing isn’t designed to work. It’s designed to keep you in a state of feeling bad about yourself.

And if you go through life feeling bad about yourself and that’s what makes you kind, you need to take a look inside a little bit deeper and figure out why you continue to be kind if you get those kind of results.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to be kind, you just have to be really careful if your kindness results in you feeling bad about yourself or results in someone else’s bad behavior, or disappointment in you. Because when you’re kind to “normal people”, or when you’re kind to people that actually care and have empathy and want you to be happy, they’re going to reciprocate and give you a smile, they’re going to feel good that you did that for them.

But when you have someone that knows that when you feel bad, you try harder and give more, they’ll probably take more. And that’s important for you to know. Are you continuing to give more and more to the person who continues to take (because you think that will be the best course of action) in hopes they will be happier then treat you better?

You have to look at the trend. How has the trend been? Have you been supporting their bad behavior by being kinder and nicer and more compassionate, and seeing them as the victim, and seeing them as the one who needs your nurturing and support?

Again, these are all qualities of a wonderful person, but they are being used against you and taken advantage of because the other person knows you won’t change because that’s who you are.

And that’s tough! I just want you to be aware of that. If you find yourself doing these behaviors, ask yourself if it’s getting good results.
Ask yourself if it’s making the relationship better.
Ask yourself if you even have a relationship because are you getting any type of behavior back that shows that they care about you? Or that they want you to be happy?

When someone wants you to be happy, you know it. You feel it. You feel so supported. And you can make mistakes, and they’ll be forgiving. They may not forgive you on the first day, but they’ll forgive you. And they’ll move on. Because that’s what a relationship is: It’s moving on past the challenges and getting over the past.

They’re not going to make you feel stupid. They’re not going to make you feel like you make bad decisions. They’re not going to make you feel like you’re a bad person. And if they are doing that, then why would they choose someone who’s not smart, or a bad decision maker, and an overall bad person? What does that say about them?

You’re not a bad person, but that is one of the things you can say to them: “Well, if you really think I’m that stupid, why do you continue to be with me?”

I love that question.

“If you think I’m a bad decision maker, why do you stay with me knowing that I could ruin things for us?”

This is kind of where I go with this. I get a little sarcastic and I make them face their own decision of choosing me. They think I’m a terrible person or need so much help or that I can’t run my life right or whatever, so I make them face their decision to stay with me.

I’m not telling you that’s what you should do, but I am saying that it does put into question if they continue to put you down, why would they want to be with someone that they keep putting down?

That doesn’t sound like a very happy life for them! I would like to ask them that question but no matter what, I want you to be aware of your behavior and how it enables their behavior toward you. What is the cause and effect? If they continue to put you down, treat you badly,and make you feel bad about yourself, was it your kindness that led to that? And if so, does that make sense? Should that be the way a relationship goes?

I’m all for standing up and saying, “Look, I’m being kind to you and you’re trying to make me feel bad about myself. Why?” just to see where it goes.

It’s not necessarily a winnable argument and it’s not necessarily something that’s going to give you a “one up” on anything, because if they are like this, they’re probably going to find ways to make you feel bad for even asking that question.

I just want you to be aware of this scenario. This is why I do this show, spreading this kind of information so that you don’t feel like you’re going crazy and you don’t feel like nobody understands what’s going on in your life because you’re dealing with this person.

Nobody sees this side of this person but you experience it every day. And the emotional abuse continues to build through the compound effect of little things every day. But when a particular abusive act is taken out of context, the behavior by itself may not necessarily appear too bad to someone looking in from the outside.

But since you experience it every single day, or often, it slowly wears you down. And I don’t want you to get worn down. I don’t want you to get to that point. I want you to keep your power because you’re important. You really are!

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Paul Colaianni is a Behavior and Relationship Coach, and the host of The Overwhelmed Brain and Love and Abuse podcasts.

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