Manipulation and Control: The Inside Story

wolfControllers, Manipulators, Manipulation and Surviving

Some are manipulated, controlled, harassed, or assaulted in some way and can’t figure out how they got there or how to get out. What is confusing is that the perpetrator tries to make them feel as if they deserved to be treated this way. ¬†However, these actions are never right and they must stop. What are some of these actions?

They include put downs, outbursts, humiliating remarks, lies, “gaslighting”, rages, assaults, yelling, intimidation, threats, belittling, betrayals, judging and criticizing. The reaction can be a mixture of rage, fear, timidity or confusion.¬†Quite often the person controlling or manipulating is trying to define the victim so his actions are validated. If lies are told about the victim, making her appear in a negative light, the abuser then feels justified in his actions. At this point, he may enjoin others in his betrayal and manipulation by telling them lies about her, and by portraying himself as the victim he is rewarded with their sympathy.


One situation where we see this happen a lot is divorce. There is much to be gained by controlling the spouse you are divorcing and manipulating the situation to your advantage. Perhaps one spouse wants a divorce and begins attacking and criticizing the other to put them in a vulnerable position. Now, he can say, “look, you can’t do anything right, you don’t know what to do.” She is frightened and intimidated and cowers. He tells her how the divorce will work, what “belongs” to him, what he will take and what she can have. Or, he begins the popular “she” statements to make the victim look bad with attorneys, judges, evaluators and anyone else he wants to have on his side. “She can’t do anything.” “She can’t understand numbers” “She harasses me.” “She won’t stop communicating.” “She’s too emotional.” “She can’t cook.” “She can’t drive.” “She’s only after money.”

Lack of Preparation

After many years of marriage and taking care of children many women are not prepared to fight back against the lies and abuse. They become emotional and this is just what the abuser wants. It makes him look calm and in control, and the judge sees an emotionally fragile person in the woman .

A victim IS emotional. It is the normal reaction to being abused. But in a divorce a controller will work very hard to convince others he is the normal one. Briefs and declarations will be written with lies and it can be very destructive. The more the manipulator convinces others of his lies, the more justified he feels and the more “alive.” One perceptive controller can engage an entire family in his “separate reality” and turn them against a family member who becomes the bewildered outcast. Or the neighbors can be “warned” of someone and the person will never know why they have been targeted.

What the abusers do not realize is that their own lives will become increasingly horrific and chaotic from their abuse. They are shocked to find themselves in endless battles, litigation and paying enormous attorney fees to disentangle the escalating chaos they have created.

What can you do?

There are many things depending on the situation. It is helpful to find a validator who can help you regain a sense of self to fight back. In conjunction with that, we speak the truth, we do not respond to nonsense as if it were reality, we escape, we help others, we protect our children, we look the abuser in the eye and say, “What are you talking about?”

We make sure we are safe. We recognize our boundaries and do not let others cross them. We connect with others, and we wake up to our own strengths. Trauma can expand us and help us grow, it does not have to destroy. And we know that change is a reality, for ourselves and for the controllers. Sometimes, they wake up and see the chaos and the destruction and they stop. But we can’t count on that and we have to save ourselves. If this is being used against you in a divorce, document the lies, the nonsense and the many ways he manipulates. Remain calm and the lies become obvious as the manipulator loses control. Read books and websites on narcissism, verbal abuse, and learn to recognize the signs. You are not alone, you can define yourself, and you can survive and thrive.


If your controller is physically abusive, do not do any of the above if you sense it will harm you. Physical abusers need to be left. Contact a therapist or someone who can help you make a plan to leave. Being confrontational with a physical abuser is not the best way to take charge of the situation. Take it slow, set aside money, have a support system and be sure you have a safe place to go. Warn the police or a domestic violence shelter if you want others to knw you are afraid and might need help.

Ann Bradley


  1. I have been punished by my abuser since Domestic Violence was involved in the year 2000.He swore I would be paid back for the humiliation and embarrassment this caused him. It is been 14 years later and he continues to manipulate and control me! He uses my daughter who has Down Syndrome to do it.

    His manipulating ways, money lies and calm demeanor “won him custody in court. It was 2009 when I asked him to care for my seven children while I sought help at an inpatient rehab. Little did I know I was traumatized, dissociated! He made me and my children,court,etc….believe it was drug addiction. Thank goodness I have proof of my diagnosis today.

    The problem is when he sought custody I” being dissociated, the court believed his accusation. The children have no idea of my diagnosis or want to know. I haven’t seen my daughter with the disability since September 2013,the 27th to be exact. I am poor,live on disability income and cannot afford a lawyer.

    The county I live in doesn’t want to help me. It is a rural community, My daughter is now twenty years old and I cant petition the court for my ex husband not allowing visits at all, nor phone calls etc…!Because of her being of this age I am stuck!! I tried advocating for myself, for a year now .There must be someone who can help me out there, must be!

    My ex husband was removed from our home in June of 2000,because of the violence and attempted rape of my (then) 13 year old daughter. She is 27 now with two children. My ex husband had gotten himself an apartment a few towns away after his removal by police. Six months later: “my oldest son killed himself! I began disconnecting then! My ex took advantage of my trauma to really start punishing me for domestic violence/police. While my children were grief stricken to the point of despair “they were only five years old to “well my oldest son would be turning 17,a month after he died. Again I had seven little children, no family, I knew no one in the state he moved me to. He took such advantage of such a horrendous time for us, He had the heat ,electric, turned off! He stopped paying the car insurance. He stopped paying for food ,diapers etc..

    He is such a manipulator, my children would never believe this or they don’t want to know. During this time as I am reeling with pain, this man was so evil, he moved to another county to avoid the domestic violence charges against him! He won!! He won. I am recovering as I write this, I have been. When he is asked why he wont let me see my daughter, By adult protective or schools etc.. He says I am a bad influence, or im using street drugs again. Neither are true. I have proof of all my doings and so on. What I don’t have is support, family or knowledge as to where or what to do next. I need to see, to hold my daughter. Please!! Please help me.I am tired ,sad .I raised my daughter by myself, for 16 years before he took her. I am lost without her. My older children are afraid of helping her or myself, due to the fact they have seen what he has done, and gotten away with. I just want someone to hear me, help me!

    • Oh how you have been through more than anyone, anywhere should have to experience. I am certain all who read this join me in that thought. Evil is so so hard to counter in the best of contexts, but your situation makes it so much more difficult. I want you to understand that you need air – oxygen, breathing space. You are out of it and without it, no one can function. Like on airplanes as they instruct parents to get oxygen masks on themselves first, you need to do the same. The reason for this is that you cannot save or help anyone without the oxygen yourself – it isn’t selfish to get air. It is necessary to life. I don’t know what brings you peace or air, but you must find time to do something right now to get it and then you will have the energy to proceed. He has sucked you dry. Love yourself for all you have done for all you tried to do. YOU ARE FANTASTIC for having gotten to this point. Now, you asked what to do next – and I am telling you – love what you have done, who you are and the parenting you have provided to the children. When you are more peaceful, calm and have rested and acknowledged all the superhuman things you have done, you will be ready to make a decision as to how to proceed. Maybe that is filing a criminal complaint. Maybe not. I don’t know and right now doesn’t sound like the time to make a decision like that. Write to the Justice Department? Make a video? Look up “protective parents” on Google (you will find some good resources there)? All in good time. Right now, breathe. And know this, you are not alone. You have a cosmos full of invisible supporters and I mean those who understand what you are going through.

      You can do this, you are amazing in all you have done so far.


  2. I completely understand your pain. I was also a victim of d.v. but did not come to the realization that I was also being emotionally abused by a narcissist until his most recent stunt 7 years after I walked away from our marriage with nothing.

    The latest stunt was a little over a year ago when he accused my son of molesting our daughter. I was injured in a crash by a drunk driver a week before the incident supposedly happened. His girlfriend’s daughter was also involved. All 3 of the children were under 10 and all within a few years apart. After dcf reports from 2 counties unsubstantiated the allegations he filed for custody of our daughter.

    This has gone on for over a year with lie after lie and continuing to make himself look good and me look like an emotional wreck. We finally made it to trial. While up on the stand this man testified that he never made those allegations and that the whole paragraph of the dcf and police report is a typo…my children have had to be seperated for 6 months and he even went so far as to say that I would coach my kids to say nothing happened. Luckily their therapists are amazing and testified that my children were very forthcoming and admitted to typical childhood exploration but show no signs of any sexual abuse at all..

    Needless to say, our original judge resigned and we are our new judges very first custody case (ever). after 15k in attorney’s fees I had to offer a settlement granting more parenting time because the judge is not sure she can rule on this case. I am just horrified that he admitted that my son had nothing to do with this and with documentation of a history of d.v. this judge is asking us to settle this. I almost wonder if she’s aware and waiting to see if he will accept. Either way, I am so done feeding into this disgusting behavior. Who willingly puts their children through stuff like this… I’m glad for information like what is available on this site to help me realize what I am really dealing with. Now to try and heal myself because I’m sure this isn’t over. I have a little under 10 years left until I can be free of this nasty individual. I wish there was a way to raise more awareness of these behaviors so that others don’t fall into these traps…. good luck everyone, praying for your battles! I hope one day we will all experience freedom and liberation from such a disgusting personality disorder!

  3. I have read the comments posted and I do have empathy for what the individuals are going thru. It would be wonderful to offer inspiration and hope in this battle, I am just not able because it is just that, a battle. It really feels like standing alone with the whole of humanity with its back turned or fully in support of the abuser. I try to spend some time getting to know God, the creator, the higher power. It feels good to have that conversation, speaking my mind, being direct, but being respectful. I know that I do not know or understand, but that I am a child of God, and that is something. It hurts very much to go thru this abuse, but I also thank God for giving me the strength to endure someone who is so weak. I feel very good about being strong. I am but a very small person, but what strength and courage it has taken to survive all that I have from a man who really is not a man but destroys a life that is not his, who is unable to be honest, and is a coward and lies about me. He can not begin to face me until I am completely broken down and in tears, shattered by his battering and gouging out my soul with his cruelty and in such despair and frightened, then he gets closer with his arrogance. I am happier to know the truth of who I am and what a weak, dishonest and cowardly person he is. He has had me sentenced to death by his lies; he really gets people vicious with his lies at me. I have already been almost beaten to death. No one came to help. His hell is real and he let that loose on me. I condemn him for his evil. I never thought something like this could ever be, for I honestly wanted love. I now realize he could not risk loving anyone, his ego could be injured and if that happened there most certainly would be severe consequences. I never thought I would stand before God and what can I say but that I was given this life but a murderer has judged that I shall not have it – and destroys it. I know that it is not right. I wished a hundred million times that one person would push him off me forever. How good it would be to be free to live and love again. I thought perhaps cancer was the worst battle and I have no doubt it is a nasty one. Somehow this battle with the narcissistic abuser seems the most horrible. It really feels like fighting the master of evil, the demon flying around and raising an army against me. I still feel in moments – I am but one and this evil needs an army coerced by lies to destroy me, amazing what strength has been given to me. I certainly wish none of this had happened – I have been driven to the point of suicide, hollowed out of love, crying and begging God to take me home. It has been a real tragedy knowing this person; an inhuman cruel monster who fools everyone, who fooled me. The destruction and horror are unreal, too cruel. I was given a gift a couple of nights ago. I had my dog with me at the market and a little angel around 6 years old was petting him and she was naturally friendly, confidently so and sweet and we were talking and when her parents were ready to leave she stood up from petting the dog and came right to me and embraced me. It was so beautiful and kind, something in her being trusted to express love for me. I thank God for that precious moment to be alive for some innocent loving being to express love toward me was amazing, beautiful and honest, more fantastic than all the ugly lies told about me and the violence carried out upon me. We are part of divine creation and meant to reflect it, to be it and a child naturally understands it just as thirst does for water. I can offer that much, to embrace ourselves with the truth that we are apart of divine creation and we are meant to reflect that truth about ourselves, it is necessary. A child can remind us of our human being and our natural need to express love and to receive love, even if in the moment we are alone, than someone cares, we do. Each one of us cares and is making our best effort to love ourselves and that is being true to ourselves. It is important for us to live our truth each step, it can be very difficult. These are big shoes to wear – being human being, it is not so easy. Love ourselves for our courage to live, to love, to care about being human being, that is huge, gigantic, and beautiful. May we embrace ourselves gently thru our loss, our agonizing cries, but mostly through our brave and beautiful courage to live to love to be happy and loved is lovely, is good and kind and necessary for humanity and for the evolution of life – selected by God for this important mission – snow plows in a blizzard so humanity can safely come home. Its is a very big job and we have done well. God bless you all for the hard and dangerous job and angels keep by your side and take your hand into theirs and comfort you in sorrow filled moments to help you thru. We, us, me and you, have been so strong and brave even when we did not want to be, but we have to admit we have been so brave and strong – a smile to yourself – a tear, you have been so good to you to have survived. That is you in there, brave beautiful being so strong in storms you did not need, but assisting humanity and serving God by honoring life in you, in us, in living and surviving. Thank you, I need you to live, to be happy for I will also know happiness.

    • Thank You so much (as I’m trying to control my tears and breathe) Its as though you were telling my life the past year, my thoughts exactly. After 22 years of a great life with an amazing man (that never disrespected me let alone abuse me in any form)and father of our 3 girls, that would have died for me in a second and I as well. One year ago I came home to a man I didn’t know, a man that hated me, a man that told me he would make me so crazy I was gonna kill myself. I lived in a hell, mental and physical abuse stories that are unbelievable, ones that I wouldn’t tell my closest friends because they would send me to the nut house. I was stripped of family, friends, car, phone, everything. I have been in utter shock, trying to figure out WHY??? Pain became my only friend, my drive to stay strong and live, until now. I just learned I was never crazy, he is a narcissistic psychopath. WOW…. What to do now??? Only thing I know right this moment is i can still breathe…. Thank you.

  4. I was mentally, physically and sexually abused my the man that was supposed to be my father. To this day he says that he has done nothing wrong. When you don’t do what he wants, he threatens to kick you out of the house or he would threaten to take away your medical insurance. He wouldn’t let us go to friend’s houses or go to sleepovers or do anything like the normal kids could do. I am out of that situation now

  5. OMG. I’m one of THEM! I’m the abuser. I feel trapped like I can’t break the cycle and keep from being such a jerk. I manipulate social interactions, intimidate, emotionally abuse, all of it. I hate it. I’m a miserable lot and try to bring my awesome wife down to my cynical level. I made an appointment to see a counselor, but I fear I’ll resort to trying to manipulate him in to making me feel that I’m not as bad as I am. I hate that people like me exist, I really do. You are all lovely people & deserve a life sans bullying and a-holeness. I’m ashamed I can’t figure out how to re-program my brain.

    • If you are able to be forthright and forgo manipulation you will be able to work with the therapist and address the feelings that force you to abuse. It’s a leap out of your comfort zone and that takes courage. You identified what motivates you: fear. There is only one antidote to that – confront it and refuse to let it control you.

      Kickstart the process by taking that leap. Let the analysis come later. You don’t need to reprogram anything right now – over time you can do that. Good luck – and BTW, moving from abuser to non-abuser is awesome for you as well as your victims. You also deserve a life that feels good.This is a beginning…follow through. Best, Ann

      • I wonder if I was with a narcissist and if he will change for his new woman. I left him in Dec 2014 but got back with him in Jan 2015. In this time he cheated on me saying we had drifted apart but wanted to remain friends and didn’t want a relationship, but I found out on facebook which he deliberately put on for me to see.

        He either wanted to end it but couldn’t because he was a coward or wanted best of both worlds or me in case it didn’t work with her. I know he has a bad track record but wonder why he didn’t or couldn’t want me,he also turned it into him being the victim and she is everything im not, personally he cant be happy if he has to rub it in about her. PLEASE HELP

  6. Hello,

    Can you offer any insight in how not to respond to my narcissistic wife in anger? I rarely get angry in life, I’m mostly laid back, flexible and straight forward. I would much rather discuss a problem/situation calmly and openly, arriving at a successful understanding, or at least to an agreement to disagree. However, my wife is inflexible, intransigent, unfeeling, defensive and belittling. I feel badly writing that, but that is the way I perceive her. I usually start out calmly and hopefully when we need to discuss something, but invariably I get to a point of anger due to the above traits that I outlined. I feel like I’m talking to the wall because all she does is keep on reiterating her point of view. I have not figured out how to discuss things with her because she doesn’t want to entertain the possibility that there may be another way to approach things. Its her way of the highway. I need a tool or two to help me remain calm at these times until I can exit this relationship and regroup in life. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you for your time.

    PS- I’m a man and I’ve never cheated on my spouse. There are some men who are decent, honest people. Thanks again.

    • There most assuredly are wonderfully decent men and I am happy to know some of them, hear from others and include my two boys in that category. I have often devoted an issue of my newsletter to a male’s viewpoint on narcissistic spouses or SO’s.

      If she is everything you say it may not be possible to communicate normally. Her POV (point of view) is all she may be capable of seeing. It’s hard to come to terms with this but when you do it leads to a plan of action or radical acceptance. She may have borderline personality disorder – have you researched that? I suggest stopping the cycle by taking charge and not allowing it to get to the point of no return. You may have to act rather than speak – say, “I’m tired” and go to bed. You may extinguish some behavior this way instead of playing out the drama which rewards her in some way – probably surges of dopamine in her brain knowing she has pushed calm you to an angry point. Try reading about BPD (this is not bipolar disorder – it stands for Borderline Personality Disorder) and see if that helps.

      Best, Ann

  7. Do a well check to an abuse hotline in the state you live in. If he tried raping your daughter when she was (13), I wouldn’t put it past him that all seven children have been sexually assaulted by this pedophile. There may be reasons, he is keeping you away from your daughter with the down syndrome. No excuses, stay strong, and fight back. Do it for your children as well as yourself. Do not let him win.

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