The fear of being played or used by your ex is real. It’s always a possibility especially if when you were together your ex displayed manipulative behaviour and/or you felt used in some form or another.
That fear does not go away when you break-up. Most people who have experienced manipulation, being used or abused tend to scrutinize their ex’s every word or action. They’re constantly on the lookout for signs of being used or abused by their ex. They ask this friend and that expert “what does this mean?” because deep inside they sense something is not right, and are trying to get a second opinion or confirmation that what they sense is not just their fears, what they sense is real.
I’ve worked with men and women who do not even realize that they have gone from trying to “get their ex back” to trying not to be used and/or abused again.
Here’s the skinny. We all have, whether we admit it or not, been manipulated by a man or woman we thought was the real deal. Some of us have been the manipulators (or at least have attempted to) in some way or the other, and have acted in ways that are selfish and self-interested rather than loving and selfless.
But are some people more prone to manipulation than others, and are some people more manipulative than others? Yes, absolutely to both.
Who is more prone to manipulation?
Men and women with moderate levels of self-esteem are more susceptible to manipulation than those with very low or high self-esteem. Let me explain why.
When you try (unsuccessfully) manipulate someone with high self-esteem, you create conflict within the individual. They know how they should feel but aren’t feeling the way the know they should. The conflict between what they know and how they feel makes leads to questions about the source of the conflict between reality and feeling. The more they look into what is causing them to feel ‘conflicted’, the more likely they are to zero on your manipulation.
Solid self-esteem can serve as a buffer against manipulation, external influences and pressures, but interestingly, so can very low self-esteem.
While people with low self-esteem are more likely to place more confidence in others other than themselves and therefore appear to be more susceptible to manipulation, they are also more inwardly focused (shy, distrustful, aloof) and generally preoccupied with their insecurities and fears that overall, they tend to be less open to external influences and pressures. Luckily for them, their over hesitation makes them less appealing to manipulators.
This narrows the field down to those in the middle of the self-esteem scale.
Men and women who have moderate levels of self-esteem are outwardly-oriented enough to be open to external influences but not so self-confident or assertive enough that they’re easily influenced and easily taken advantage of by others.
They may find themselves questioning the words and actions of a manipulator and even doubting the attraction and the feelings they’ve developed, but take no action to protect themselves because they don’t trust their own judgement or even feelings.
Many later regret having been taken in and wish they were more skilled at resisting manipulation. But the more they dwell on how they should have seen it earlier the more they doubt their own judgement, feelings and ability to protect themselves.
Even when they finally meet someone they really like and one who might genuinely like them back or even possibly fall in love with them, they find it hard to trust the other person’s words and actions and often wonder if they are being taken in for another ride.
Sometimes it’s just fear of being deceived, used and hurt again, but sometimes that fear has a basis. There are people out there that deceive, use and manipulate us, if we let them.
This brings us to the second question. Who is more likely to be manipulative, use or abuse the people they say they love and/or care about?