There is so much information out there about love and how we can make love work. The one thing love brings us, is hope. We hope that our parents love us, we hope our friends see the good in us, and we hope we find lasting love with a partner that is sustaining and empowering. It sounds easy, and yet so many of us either love, have fallen in love with, or have been loved by those who aren’t loving to us in return. It was/is the hope that kept us locked in, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The differences between healthy love and manipulation are to follow.
1. Healthy love is clear, manipulation is confusing.
If you want one clear indication on if you’re in a healthy relationship or not, ask one question; is this relationship clear or confusing? The more confusing a relationship is, the more you have to guess about where you stand, the more you walk on eggshells, the more unhealthy the love is, and the less chance of survival the relationship has.
In healthy relationships, nothing is withheld. Everything is out on the table, and partners feel clear and comfortable in the dynamic. These relationships are full of love because there is room for it. When you’re being manipulated there is no room for love because it has been replaced with chaos. Wherever there is consistent confusion there can be no resolution, and therefore no love.
2. Healthy love disagrees, manipulation fights.
There is a saying that all couples fight. Healthy couples are able to disagree and move on. When love is healthy, a difference of opinion isn’t taken by either partner as they are being blamed as ‘wrong.’ Different people have differing opinions. Healthy love allows and encourages this. Healthy people accept and expect their partner to be different from them.
Manipulation is based in my way or the highway dynamics, where a difference of opinion is seen as offensive and belittling to the opinion of the other. Disagreements escalate into full blown arguments or horrible silent treatments until the more passive partner succumbs, and either apologizes for their difference of opinion, or changes their opinion all together to fit the manipulator’s needs.
3. Healthy love is relationship-based, manipulation is agenda-based.
It’s often hard to tell the difference between love and manipulation, which is why many of us end up with manipulators thinking what we have is love. Healthy love is relationship oriented, not agenda oriented. It is not about having control or power over our partner. Healthy love is open and flexible. There is no need to be coercive because there is a level of trust which allows for each person to be real and vulnerable in the dynamic.
Unhealthy love is based in manipulation, the avoidance of vulnerability, and is largely skewed towards meeting the agenda of only one partner. In this dynamic one person’s idea of love is based in measuring how much their partner is willing to do for them. Manipulators aren’t interested in loving you, they are interested in you loving them and conforming to their needs; then convincing you that this is love.
4. Healthy love is honest, manipulation is hypocritical.
When love is healthy both people possess the integrity to be honest with each other, even when it hurts. There is an empathy present where active listening occurs, defenses are down, and feedback can be received and given with a level of respect and understanding. This type of love inspires both to want to change certain things about themselves to keep their love healthy.
Manipulation functions around rules one partner rigidly places upon the other, but the manipulator does not at all live by the same rules they apply. Whenever the manipulator is confronted on this hypocrisy, they become immediately defensive, deflect, and project all the problems, in a circular fashion, back onto the other person.
5. Healthy love is positive, manipulation is negative.
Healthy love is fun, easy, joyful, open, relaxed, active and quiet. Each partner knows it is up to them what type of emotion, attitude and effort they bring into the dynamic. In healthy dynamics, partners consciously choose to focus on the positive qualities of the person they love. When we consciously focus on what we love about someone it makes loving them easier, and it makes it easier for them to love us.
Manipulators focus only on what they cannot stand about their partner, and each time an infraction occurs it creates a nuclear war. It becomes a bashing session over the smallest of oversights, not allowing their partner any room for human error. Manipulation creates a tremendous amount of hurt and division, where the connection is largely based in hate, rather than love.
6. Healthy love is free, manipulation controls.
For love to exist there has to be space for each partner to think rationally about the relationship. Healthy love allows each person the necessary rope to be passionate outside the relationship, and for each person to do the things they need to do for themselves to be independently happy, healthy, and successful. It isn’t possessive.
Unhealthy relationships are socially isolated, have very few friends, and do very little in terms of exploring or having involvement in passions or activities outside the relationship. The relationship is controlled by the manipulator whose insecurities squash the independence of the other. When two people become isolated in this way, the relationship becomes codependent and toxic.
7. Healthy love compliments, manipulation insults.
Healthy love is empowering. Each partner is proud of the other, with each acknowledging this verbally and emotionally. This type of love is communicative, supportive and nurturing. Each person encourages the other to live their dreams, and to get up and keep going when there is any type of personal failure. Each partner wants the best and highest life experience for the other.
Manipulators neither enjoy or celebrate the independence of their partner, and seem to relish in their partner having a failure, often backed with an, “I told you so.” Manipulators fear the independence of their partner, so purposefully withhold emotional support. The dynamics of these relationships are emotionally violent. Manipulators thrive on keeping their partner down, so their partner doesn’t become confident enough to leave and find something better.
8. Healthy love finds the humor, manipulation is nit-picky.
Healthy love allows for human error. There are always going to be things about our partner that annoy us a little, or even a lot, but in healthy dynamics these idiosyncrasies come to be seen as adorable, endearing, or at least tolerable. Healthy relationships are bigger picture focused with each partner feeling grateful to be accepted for who they are.
Manipulators sweat the small stuff so intensely that if their partner, for example, is ten minutes late it can literally ruin the entire day for the manipulator. These partnerships focus on rigid rules around chores, cleanliness, eating habits, time frames and other small things as the determiners of the manipulator’s importance and respect. This rigidity keeps the relationship in total distress over issues that don’t matter.
9. Healthy love is sexual, manipulation is resentful.
Healthy love is fun, open, and intimate. When two people love and respect each other, physical touch is their playground. These couples cuddle, hold hands, kiss and have sex regularly. Unhealthy love is so consumed with broken rules, no-win games, and conflict that these couples don’t like each other enough to want to have sex. When people are angry and resentful, the last thing they want is to be touched by the person who has been manipulating them.
We most clearly learn what love is when we have the experience of what love is not. Healthy love is possible. It is shared between partners who are willing to consciously add love and grace to every aspect of their dynamic. They are mindful of who they choose to love before they fall in love, and are mindful to pace their love from the beginning; allowing it grow healthfully. Unhealthy love is usually a crap-shoot. The pace is fast, with the manipulative partner quickly dominating the other by moving the other person into the role of the subservient. Love that works long term is a love where both people choose to be conscious, respectful and contributing to the dynamic they share.