Is he manipulating me?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’ve been seeing someone for a little over a month now. He was invited to Easter dinner, that day he called a few times never leaving a message and unfortunately my phone was not with me, I called back immediately and then he did not answer. I called a few more times and he still did not answer. I made it through dinner and then decided to go to his place to see if he was okay. He was and we talked about what was going on with him. He said he got scared and was not sure that i still wanted him at dinner or if something changed. He says this is due to his past with his family and how they have treated him since he bought his own home 6 years ago.

My family is very disappointed and feels that he disrespected me. I understand their concern and listened to everything they had to say, but they also believe that he was playing games with me and they do not want me seeing him anymore. I am in the interim of selling my condo and am staying at home also, so that makes it worse. I tried to tell them that everyone deserves a 2nd chance, but they just do not agree with my choice of seeing him.

I do not see what he did as controlling, yes disrespectful. Is the wool pulled over my eyes? I spoke to the man I am seeing telling him all this and he really wants to fight for me and do anything that will make it work. I want it to work, but I don’t want any disension in the family. I guess I am asking if this was a control issue, manipulating and am I naive for wanting to give him a 2nd chance? In my heart of hearts I do not feel like this is the end of the relationship, but I just don’t know how to get my family to understand it was one mistake and to hear him out.

A: I understand that your family might want to protect you but you are in your 30s and entitled to make your own decisions about who you want to spend time with. Unless you have a long history of jumping into relationships with controlling men, they are overreacting.

You’ve only been seeing this guy for a month. Holiday dinners are loaded with expectations in lots of families. It may well be true that he got nervous about being with your family at such a major event. Was he rude? Yes. Does he owe your parents an apology for not showing up without the courtesy of a call? Absolutely. But it’s far too early in the relationship to write him off because of one lapse in manners, especially given the circumstances.

Give your relationship time to develop. I hope your parents are fair-minded enough to give him a chance. A backyard barbecue is a much lower-key way to introduce someone new to a family. Find something like that as a way to help people get to know each other.

Meanwhile — If you are going to live with your folks, you all need to sit down and have a talk about expectations while you are there. You can’t go back to family rules that were appropriate while you were a teenager. You are an adult. As an adult, you need to contribute to the household by pitching in as much as you can with chores and by paying what is fair for your room and meals. Your parents need to let you live your own life and make your own decisions as long as it doesn’t intrude on their lifestyle or take advantage of their generosity. Be clear about what each side can expect and make sure that you build in regular times to re-evaluate how it is going – say, once a month. That way, tensions can’t build up that make it hard to talk with each other, much less live with each other.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Is he manipulating me?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/18/is-he-manipulating-me/