Manipulated in relationships because you are overly generous? This is a classic problem that you are participating in. Listen to learn how to interrupt your participation.

Manipulated & Overly Generous in Relationships?

There are many lopsided relationships where one person is catered to & the other partner is what I call overly generous. Partners like to be the nice one but getting stuck in the niceness can evolve into a giant hidden pile of resentments. There is a price to be paid for too much kindness, you can lose track of who you are because you are so busy pleasing others.

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All relationships start out lopsided. One person usually loves the other person more. The danger is when the lopsidedness gets stuck. Ideally what happens over time when there is enough respect for both partners the love gets spread out more evenly because you are both able to influence each other. When influence goes back & forth then power is shared & there is a greater possibility of relationship survival.

There are many relationships where one person is catered to & the other partner is what I call overly generous. Partners like to be the nice one but getting stuck in the niceness can evolve into a giant hidden pile of resentments. I remember a Gestalt saying that obedient children turn into angry adults. It’s the same principle that if a partner swallows too much of their own wants they will be resentful.

The best movie example of this is Glen Close in the 2017 movie The Wife. It would be terrific homework to go see this movie if you are wondering if you are an overly generous partner. You watch her smile, smile, smile & swallow her feelings over & over again. She makes threats to leave her lopsided marriage to a narcissist but doesn’t follow through.

In our culture many women are taught to be overly nice & too easily forgiving. On December 15th there was an article in the Sunday NYT about the comic Ellen DeGeneres. She talked about “…feeling boxed in by her reputation for kindness”. She acknowledges her show is about feeling good which has always seemed a bit boring to me. I suspect she should give up her daytime talk show to push her boundaries & feel more whole. Like everything kindness has two sides to it. Kindness is of course lovely & it can be overdone. Kindness can absolutely box you in.

There is a price to be paid for too much kindness, you can lose track of who you are because you are so busy pleasing others or end up manipulated. It can be boring to live a life only for others & not know your own wants. So many people come into my office saying they’ve lost track of who they are……

So consider the idea of speaking up to add to your own self respect. It’s fun to be fierce when something is important to you. It’s harder to erase someone who is challenging. Disagreement adds depth to relationships, constant agreement can be boring.

Anger is a useful tool. It does not have to be ugly when used. There is a purpose to paying attention to the small beginnings of anger….irritated & annoyed are usually the clues to wants. Anger says I’M IMPORTANT TOO
Feeling important also & knowing wants add greater depth & balance to the always kind profile.

We are often attracted to our opposites. So someone overly generous is often attracted to someone who is self focused & good at knowing what they want. We are supposed to learn some new skills that expand who we are. They learn to be more generous & you learn to consider yourself & what you want. We exchange learnings to be more whole, to grow.

When I ask any client what is the opposite of being overly generous (answer this question right now for yourself)…….everyone immediately says “selfish”.

Who wants to be seen as selfish? ABSOLUTELY NO ONE who is a NICE person.

My suggestion for the opposite would be self protective. That’s a good thing that overly generous, manipulated partners can consider adding to their skill set to have more range to who you are. No one wants to be a one trick pony.

People who are self protective tend to be able to know what they want & to go after it. Being more whole as a human being on the planet is really a good thing. Just as selfish people need to learn to be kinder & more generous, overly generous people need to define themselves not only cater to others. Achieving balance not sainthood is the goal.

Allowing yourself to be manipulated is a second deeper level to the pain of being overly generous & overlooked.

Manipulated by others in relationships can be a dangerous pattern. Someone can learn to be manipulated in childhood, by a parent or in an abusive relationship with a babysitter or someone who is an alcoholic. They learn very early “your job is to be there for me”. Then they carry this on as a pattern into adulthood.

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Every important relationship has important emotional dependencies as a part of it. There also needs to be the balance of independent interests & desires that both individuals seek for themselves to be more whole.

When someone is manipulated they allow themselves to be erased.

You may be wondering what’s the first step to stop being erased? LIMITS & BOUNDARIES, it is your job to make yourself understood. Let people know when they are crossing a line, begin with a small boundary. When people call me Rhonda I correct them to Rhoda; sometimes I make a comment that since the Valorie Harper show has disappeared in people’s memories no one gets it right anymore.

So practice speaking up in small ways, instead of wishing people should just know how you feel & what you want IF THEY REALLY LOVED YOU, because you pay attention to others & you are good at it. Really you are avoiding your responsibility to make yourself understood.

Stop swallowing your wants & pretending they don’t matter. Glen Close is terrific at this in the movie. Allow things to matter, I don’t want to stay home tonight. I’d like to try a magic show. I’d like to have more fun. etc etc. Consider writing down the words “I want” & “I don’t want” then brainstorm as many endings to that sentence as possible. If you still struggle with that pretend you have an illness & you will die in 3 years what would you want to do with the time you have left on the planet?

Allowing yourself to be manipulated because you don’t want to rock the boat has to stop being a priority. Again it’s being choiceful that makes you mentally healthy so there are times to rock the boat & times it’s a good idea to swallow. It’s swallowing too much that allows manipulation to happen. Another example this time from television would be Rose Weissman in season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel who runs off to Paris to enjoy her own life. Isn’t her character much more interesting after Paris than in season 1……Absolutely no doubt about it.

Change is all about becoming more self aware of how you are lopsided. A kind, other focused person will die with that lopsidedness intact. Change is about dipping your toe into the cold water of being a little less lopsided. It’s about expanding the range of who you are in order to be more whole. You become more interesting to yourself & are less willing to participate in being manipulated. You will always still err on the side of being overly generous because it’s how you are wired, it’s who you are. Change is about evolving to be more three dimensional.

Your emotions can trick you into doing what is familiar, doing what is comfortableor into being manipulated. You need to think through your emotions that are resistant to change. THINK about the difference between being happy enough & swallowing too much crap by allowing yourself to be manipulated.

My challenge for you today is to make a list of first names of 75 people from your past to the present. Then write down something positive or negative that went unspoken by you. Something that you swallowed and never said. Then imagine having said each of those things & reflect on how much you’ve swallowed. Pick out 3 you might try saying or emailing about & say to yourself “It’s an act of courage to share small truths that help others know more about who I am.” Make a list of 5 things you have not shared with your partner. Then try sharing 2 of them with your partner & consider repeating what you say to make certain you are heard.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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