Dealing with manipulative ‘needy’ relatives

liff Orwa, 38, a procurement officer in one of Nairobi’s firms, dreads going to Siaya, his home town. His father and three siblings live there. He always comes up with an excuse not to go to the village, and while he feels guilty about it, he believes that there is nothing he can do about it.

“My father will never let me forget that mum died as she was giving birth to me. And he always makes me aware of the fact before he makes various monetary requests. That is despite paying school fees for all my older siblings’ children at his request,” he says.

Salome Mwaura hasn’t spoken to her elder sister for two years. And she is on the brink of giving up the fight to repair relations.

“She says I married a rich man with connections. That I should help her with her bills and get her a better job. This is despite getting my husband to secure her husband a job as an administrator and she embezzled funds. I can’t ask him to get her a job too. So she won’t talk to me, until I give in.”

While helping is a good thing, and what you should always do for family, sometimes it can cross over to toxicity and manipulation.

This is especially the case when you start feeling anxious about communication with the subjects. And when it starts affecting your life. But what can you do especially when the manipulators are close family members?

Nairobi-based counsellor and therapist Paul Ngetich explains.

1.     Know the signs

The common signs of a manipulative person are:

·        Always acts like the victim, where everything is your fault and never theirs.

·        Insinuating that you are at fault for their woes thus making you feel guilty.

·        Using guilt to meet their goals.

·        Discouraging you from pursuing things/people/friendships they would deem as a threat to your relationship with them. They want to interfere with every aspect of your life to maintain a modicum of control over you.

·        They use your weaknesses against you.

2.     Maintain some secrecy

When your life is an open book for everyone, you invite vultures and predators. Hold your cards close to your chest. You don’t have to share all the successes, failures and milestones with them, because this gives them fodder. When you flash your money and promotions to manipulators, what is going to stop them from wanting a piece of the success? And how can you refuse?

3.  Grow up

You control what happens to you. You can’t take out a hefty loan to fund projects that you don’t know about. You are an adult. And you only get the manipulation you allow. Trust your judgement. If you feel that you are lending your cousin money that is going to be spent on liquor, say No. If it sounds like a genuine plea, help appropriately, like say pay school fees for his child directly to the school.

4.  Don’t feed a pit

What is your usual dealing with this person? Are they always asking for money say every week? Are they asking for school fees every school term, or pocket money? How about you find a solution that lasts. Help them acquire a skill that can make them self-reliant. And explain clearly the reason for this endeavour. So that they know that the well will run dry at some point.

5. Lending huge amounts of money? Put it on paper

Ideally, you shouldn’t lend money to manipulators, at least not with the intention of getting repaid. The rule of the thumb usually is that when lending relatives and friends money, be sure that it is money that you can afford to lose. And when it is a large amount, have a lawyer draw up a legally binding document. They shouldn’t hesitate to sign it if they had the intention to repay.

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