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- Nobody wants to be thought of as a manipulative partner.
- In fact, if you think your partner is constantly tricking you, it’s a major red flag.
- But according to a divorce lawyer, a little manipulation here and there can be beneficial to your relationship.
If your partner is manipulative, by always blaming you for things that aren’t your fault and making you feel inferior, it’s probably a red flag.
But according to divorce lawyer James J. Sexton, nudging your partner in the right direction every now and then isn’t an issue. In fact, he said in a blog post on Psychology Today that some manipulation can actually make your relationship better.
Sexton says that in general, it’s easier to change other people than it is to change yourself. This means that although we are conditioned to believe it’s immoral to try and change someone else, and to love someone for “who they are,” we should ignore these rules if we want to help each other become better versions of ourselves.
The traditional method used to be to praise the positive and punish the negative, Sexton said. But after watching his clients for two decades, he said he wasn’t convinced. Instead, he said the most effective thing to do is both praise the behaviour in your partner that you like, and also say how much you like the opposite of whatever it is they’re doing that you don’t like.
For example, if you want your partner to be more spontaneous and adventurous, try hinting at it when they suggest going to the same restaurant you always go to.
Instead of saying “but we always go there,” and “it’s boring going to the same place all the time,” exaggerate how much you like trying new things.
“Wait until your partner does something, literally anything, that shows some hint of the trait you would need to enhance in him,” Sexton said.
“In this case, to get the restaurant result you’re ultimately looking for, it would be something that has an element of spontaneity. Then praise your partner like you’re praising your niece’s performance after one of those atrocious kindergarten ‘Holiday Concerts.'”
It’s not dishonesty, according to Sexton, but misdirection – which is a “key ingredient to magic.”
“But honestly, it’s just a nice way to get what you need,” he said. “It leaves you or your partner feeling a little bit better and a little bit more loved and appreciated.”
In fact, if you try the opposite approach, such as telling your partner that you don’t like it when they grow their beard, they will probably end up resenting the act of shaving to please you.
“You’re not manipulating to serve merely your needs,” Sexton said. “You do it to serve the greater union of the two of you. If you do it right, you make yourself happier, your partner happier (or at least no less happy)… and the marriage incontestably better.”