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April 29, 2013

Moving Beyond the Manipulator’s Tactics


Tough Decisions Ahead

In my last newsletter, you learned the nine (9) most common tactics of manipulators. It’s important that you understand that you will never change the manipulator when you confront their manipulative tactics directly. They will just switch to another tactic. So if you want to change, change begins with you.

You must recognize that someone is
attempting to manipulate you.

Awareness is the first step of all change, but you are not going to change the person doing the manipulating. You are going to change you. Manipulation is only effective if it works to control you. Therefore, you must begin to identify what is going on in you that keeps you easily manipulated by others.

Identify the three (3) triggers that keep you within the manipulator’s power.

The three most common triggers that manipulators use to keep us in their grasp are guilt, fear, and our constant need for approval and acceptance from others. 

  1. Guilt:  Manipulators imply that it’s ungodly or wrong for us to ever say “no” or put our own needs ahead of theirs. They will say things like, “If you loved me, you’d…” or “If you were a godly wife (or spouse), you’d certainly do...” These statements make us press pause and reevaluate ourselves, and we may feel guilty because, on the surface of things, our behaviors may appear unloving or unkind. Think of a small child who says to their parent, “You don’t love me if you won’t buy me that toy” or a teenager who says, “If you don’t’ let me go to that party, you’re a terrible parent.”  Manipulators define love as always doing what I want/or need you to do. 

  1. Fear:  Fear comes in many forms. We may fear making someone unhappy with us or the loss of relationship if we don’t do what they want. We also fear the threats and consequences of the manipulators actions. What if they actually succeed at doing what they threaten?

  1. Need for approval and acceptance from others.  When we are ruled by our approval ratings, people will have us under their power. The slightest hint of disapproval or anger can cajole us into doing his or her bidding. We can’t bear that someone would think less of us or be upset with us in any way.

Breaking Free from a Manipulator’s Grasp

  1. Discern the difference between true guilt and false guilt. Jesus was perfect and therefore never guilty of sin, yet he disappointed people and didn’t always do what they wanted him to. Jesus asked the Father to help him discern between the good things and the best things. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices—to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God. Jesus describes himself as always doing what his Father wanted him to do. That focus regularly cost him the disapproval and disappointment of others including his disciples, religious leaders, and family (see Matthew 26:8; Mark 3:21-22).

    Manipulators will exploit our sensitive conscious and try to make us feel guilty for not making them a priority or making them happy. When we allow ourselves to feel guilty for those reasons, we are putting them as our center and falling captive to the fear of man, which the Bible tells us is a snare (Proverbs 29:25). 

  1. Learn to say “no” in the face of someone’s disapproval. Healthy people live in reality. The truth is, when we can’t accommodate someone else’s desires nor needs, they naturally will feel disappointed. That’s human, and most people will adjust and move on. Healthy people know that they don’t always get everything they want even if what they want is legitimate.

    However, if we cannot tolerate someone else’s disappointment or disapproval when we say “no,” then it’s harder for us to say it or have boundaries. Manipulators capitalize on this weakness and use disappointment and disapproval in extreme forms to get us to do what they want. 

  1. Face your fears instead of giving in to them. When a manipulator realizes that you aren’t going to give in to his/her demands no matter what, usually one of two things will happen. Either the manipulator will begin to back down and learn to treat you with respect, or the relationship will deteriorate and possibly end for a season because the manipulator is retaliating.

    Most of us don’t want our relationship to end with someone, but consider the alternative. Do you want to be held hostage by your fear of what might happen, your fear of being rejected, your fear of losing the relationship or the unceasing demands on your time, your energy, and your money?

As we center ourselves on God’s love and aim to please him first, we can trust him with the outcome of our relationship.

P.S. I want to warmly welcome ALL new subscribers who have joined our community since last month! You are going to love the resources you find to help you grow. I'm thrilled to have you here!

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Leslie Answers Your Questions

He Says He's Sorry, Sort Of, But Now What Do I Do?

Question: I am currently deciding whether to separate from my emotionally abusive husband. After months of asking for help, his family has staged an intervention of sorts. I am trying to be positive about it, but it seems it is a little late, as I am so, so weary.  I am now expected to forgive and not harbor resentment towards him (he has halfway apologized to me....). However, I am checked out at the moment and do not know if I want the relationship to continue, as it has been so, so destructive (we have had three marriage counselors tell me to get out...).

How can I hold him accountable? How can I make sure he is following through with what he says? (he has lied a lot in the past....places he goes, coming home late, texting other girls...).

You mentioned in your article not opening the spouses' mail...what about checking his phone to see who he is texting? I am not sure where to go from here.....while recognition of his bad behavior is huge, what is the next step for him...and how can I become open to receiving?

What boundaries can I set that aren't deemed controlling?

Answer: You ask very good questions that are at the heart of whether a marriage can truly be reconciled and healed, or whether the couple just stays together for other reasons – financial, the children/grandchildren, because of peer pressure among church or family.  I hear you weary of the “just staying together at all costs” path.  I hear you asking, “What needs to happen to see real change”?

First, look for a change of heart.  Does your husband recognize what he’s done to injure you and your marriage?  Does he “see” it?  Jesus says it this way.  “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body.  When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness.  And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is.” (Matthew 6:22,23). 

Recently I read that denial is like gauze, covering the eyes.  Willful denial is like an opiate, it keeps us from the pain of what is.  From what you said, I’m not sure your husband is “seeing” properly yet. 

So the next question is, “Is he willing to
  In other words, when you or other people give him feedback that his behavior appears sneaky or secretive, or that his words hurt you, or that his behaviors are unacceptable to you, does he press pause, reflect on your feedback and his behavior and have a change of heart?   Or does he deny, lie, placate, rationalize, minimize, excuse, twist, blame you, or in some way wiggle out of “seeing”?

If it’s the latter, he still hasn’t had a change of heart.  What is motivating his “apology” is fear of the consequences, not sorrow over what he’s done to hurt God or you.  When David repented after Nathan’s confrontation, David recognized the pain he caused God and didn’t make excuses for it (Read Psalm 51). Fear of consequences is not necessarily a bad motivator to start with, but it isn’t sufficient to generate true change.  Only repentance, a change of heart, brings the humility and willingness to be “taught” how to live differently.

As one of my favorite writers Francois Fenelon says, “A persuaded mind and even a well-intentioned heart is a long way from exact and faithful practice.”

Let’s look at this process in our own life.  How many of us are truly convicted that we eat too much, or buy too much, or need to slow down, or get more organized, or be more careful with our tongue?  We know we’re wrong, we feel convicted and sorrowful, but we still do not “do” the putting off and putting on that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:22 – 5:1.

So if we truly want to change, the next step when we’ve had a change of heart is a change of habit.  These two steps are applicable to every Christian, not just for an abusive spouse.  But if you have a spouse who has sinned against you but you do not see the willingness or repentance and the humility of heart present, then it’s not likely someone is going to put the work into learning new habits and new ways of thinking, relating, being accountable, honest, transparent and authentic. 


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He says he's sorry, sort of, but now what do I do?



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Today, Apr 29th, Leslie will be on the Focus on the Family, Everyday Relationships Radio Program at 4pm CT/5pm ET.


Due to a scheduling conflict, the Webinar on Emotionally Destructive Marriages is postponed until late summer or early fall.




How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

Book by Leslie Vernick


There are no perfect marriages or perfect spouses. We know that having a good marriage requires effort and hard work. Yet we often don’t know how to continue to love when we are angry, hurt, scared, or just plain irritated. Nor are we sure what that kind of love is supposed to look like. Should we be patient? Forgive and forget? Do something else entirely?

In How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, you’ll find the answers to these questions and more as Leslie reveals how God uses the imperfections, differences and sins of your spouse to help you become more like Christ.

Through the insights in this book, you will...

  • discover how to respond wisely when wronged.
  • see yourself and your marriage through the lens of God’s eternal purposes.
  • learn how to love and to keep your promises when you don’t feel like it—or when your spouse isn’t keeping his or hers.
  • understand how to act when love must be tough.

Just email your name to assistant@leslievernick.com by midnight Friday, May 3rd for a chance to win one of two copies!

Congratulations to Ranelle G. of Newark, DE and Medina F. of Aliso Viejo, CA winners of the Don’t Quit, Get Fit Book by Vicki Heath.



May 4  Life Christian Counseling Network Conference, Largo Community Church, Mitchellville, MD

May 11  Overcoming Powerlessness, Flying Free Banquet, Heritage Hills, York, PA

May 12  Bethany Wesleyan Church, Morning Service - Speaking on Healthy Relationships and Moving beyond Manipulation (9am ET and 10:30am ET - Open to the Public), Cherryville, PA


Jun 14  Heart Song’s Pastors Conference, Arlington, VA

Jun 29  Excellent Living Women's Event, The Smith Center, McLean, VA


Aug 10  CareNet Women's Ministry Share Fair, Schuylkill Country Club, Schuylkill County, PA


Sep 11-14  AACC Conference, Nashville, TN


Oct 4-5  The Bible Chapel Women's Retreat, McMurray, PA

Invite Leslie to speak at one of your events.
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"You were a God send when I needed an independent voice.

Our coaching enabled me to:

  1. Gain clarity in my situation. Clarity in my role as a wife and female minister in a difficult environment.
  2. Be empowered not to continue enabling and being honest about my feelings.
  3. Learn to rest and be productive in God whilst being in the wilderness 4. To set out goals and achieve them

Finally, it was great to have sessions with a Christian coach who is true to the word of God hence able to give godly counsel leaving me positive and hopeful about the future that even if situations in my life do not change, I will not be bitter but be productive in God and be an instrument of blessing in God's hand. In the final analysis I owe it all to God my creator and He deserves the highest place in my life."

— Bisi from UK


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Send your questions about dealing with difficult people, stress, or relationship issues to:


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Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.