While I was away for the summer, I got a message from my boyfriend asking me if I was okay with him hanging out with his friend’s ex girlfriend, a girl which I suspected had a little crush on him. I’m just going to leave you with that for now. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it later.
So here I am, thinking about manipulation. Humans manipulate. It starts off by the usual temper tantrum when we’re young. We cry when we’re hungry, when we want ice cream before dinner, when our parents don’t want to buy us a toy, when we’re sick of the furniture store and want to go play. If you had a mother like mine, you were probably given a series of shouts and maybe a little pat on the rear to make you shut up and suffer in silence. Our first encounters with manipulation were responded in similar manners. Therefore, we start to become more creative.
In that effort to become more creative, as preteens, instead of crying, we whine incessantly. That didn’t work either, but we took it upon ourselves to really learn the meaning of the word “persistence”. This too did not work.
As teenagers, we acquire a pair of well-rounded balls and start breaking rules, because life seems so unfair that you have to reach out and grab anything you want. We’re pretty much done with the whining, and we learn to become excellent liars, but, nevertheless, our parents always, always seem to know what we’re up to. And so, to quote a saying that has been repeated to me over and over again, “es mejor pedir perdón que permiso”; “it’s better to apologize than to ask permission”.
Eventually, we realize that our parents aren’t as easily fooled as we think they are, and learn that if we don’t trust them, they probably won’t trust us. So, we ride the train towards adulthood, and, somewhere along the way, we’ll find ourselves stuck right in the middle. “My house, my rules,” our parents will say, but we’re past all that crying, whining, and lying. So we argue. We won’t whine, but we argue with extremely good arguments. Then, those arguments aren’t only directed towards our parents, but they start to infiltrate our day to day conversations with everyone. We’re stuck. How do we get what we want from somebody else if they’re obviously not going to hand it out? We can’t rely on our old manipulation tools, because, look how far those got us. What can we rely on?
Back to the original problem: My boyfriend sends me this message. What to do? First, I told my boyfriend that no, I was not okay with him hanging out with her. But when he didn’t answer, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I proceeded to message this girl that common decency dictates that if a girl wants to hang out with another girl’s boyfriend, she should at least have the courtesy to ask the girlfriend if she’s comfortable with them hanging out. I said this in sugar-coated terms, but that was the general message. Of course, this girl isn’t stupid, so she rats me out to my boyfriend’s friend (her ex boyfriend), who then called me out on my bullshit in the rudest way possible. The most logical thing to do was to retaliate: I told my boyfriend about the whole ordeal, while trying to seem as innocent as possible. Since he’s a great guy, he asked me if I wanted him to stop being friends with those two people. I had managed to play it off so cool that I got my boyfriend to offer to stop seeing one of his best friends. How’s that for a manipulation tool? I got the girl to feel inferior, her ex boyfriend to feel powerless, and I made my boyfriend feel really confused. But, was that what I really wanted?
I didn’t want that at all. The only thing I wanted was to feel safe. I wanted for my boyfriend to make me feel so safe that I didn’t have to worry about him hanging out with this other girl. I’m not going to lie, I can be that crazy girlfriend. Shit, I was that crazy, jealous girlfriend, and it got me nowhere.
So obviously, manipulation doesn’t work. At all. Emotional manipulation, I found, was a way for me to cover up my insecurities at any cost. Most of the time, we manipulate because we don’t really know what we want.
When we’re preteens and whine about not being able to go to parties or not having enough privacy, we’re really trying to acquire our parents’ trust. When we’re teenagers and start to lie, we’re really trying to get our parents to see us as independent individuals. When we’re young adults and create these huge dramas just to be right, we really want something else.
It’s not about being right most of the time. For me, it wasn’t about being right about the fact that this girl severely lacked decency; it also wasn’t about proving that the ex boyfriend really had no business poking his nose in my affairs. I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass if the girl is decent or not, because it’s none of my business. And I also don’t care if her ex boyfriend was in his right to insult me or not. What I really wanted was something completely different.
So the moral of the story is: Get your story straight and don’t make a mess where there wasn’t supposed to be one. Remember, we’ll do just about anything to avoid our deepest fears.