Anna asks: How do you really know if someone is manipulating you or whether it’s you that’s really the one with problems and can’t admit to them?
One of the things that people who are lean on empathy or who tend to blame others struggle to do is admit when they have an issue or are at fault, which means that they’re also unlikely to truly reflect and ask this type of question. The type of person who asks this question is invariably somebody who is a habitual blame absorber. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues but what it does mean is that they tend to take responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviour which includes assuming that because they have issues that they must be the one at fault or solely at fault. This makes them an easy mark for people who seek to influence and control via covert and more aggressive means.
The question you have to ask yourself Anna is, Do I feel influenced and controlled by this person?
Every moderately healthy relationship does need two parties who are cognisant of where each ends and the other begins. You each need to be able to trust that yes, at times there will be conflict and criticism but that there is ownership–maturity, responsibility and integrity–at the heart of these more difficult interactions.
Anna, you need to be able to trust that when this person is flagging something up to you or doing something, that they’re not trying to influence and control you as a way of gaining an advantage over you or deflecting from their own issues. This is unscrupulous, unfair, and yes, manipulative behaviour.
You also need to have trust in you and I would take this questioning as a wake-up call to have a very real and honest conversation with yourself because this relationship is bringing up a lot of self-doubt for you.