I learned that I could be manipulative when I was 17. I was involved with David and I manipulated him by being 100% honest. Given his neediness, my honesty was guaranteed to get him to do what I wanted. I didn't get it for long and it wasn't satisfying, but that doesn't change what I did.
I was spending a lot of time with David. I'd kissed him a couple of times, which was huge for me. In fact, he was the first boy I kissed after getting my braces removed. I hated wearing braces. There is only one picture of me where you can see them. In the other pictures taken during the two years I wore braces, I smiled with my mouth closed.
I knew that the something going on between David and me couldn't be sustained. I knew he wasn't available, but I didn't want to let him go. I went to his dorm room on a Saturday morning. It was bright and white in his room.
David said, "It's different with you."
I said, "You don't know what you want."
He said, "I never thought that we were going out."
D: Do you consider that we're good friends?
J: Yes. [Silence.] So, so…I know it would be easier for you to just be friends but I really don't want that. I mean, now it's something.
D: But I just don't want to hurt you.
J: Well, I'm going to get hurt no matter what--that's the truth. If you decide that you really want to just be friends, then it's ok. I'll be angry at you, maybe hate you for a while--but then we'll be friends.
D: But I don't want you to hate me. Why can't we be friends?
J: It's not just you--It would just happen--I'm only being honest. Sorry.
D: So you want it to be something?
D: Do you want to be going out?
J: No. I mean, that's what I would want if you weren't leaving [He was moving to California in a few weeks.] Now I just want something.
I offered to let him keep me in the grey zone--neither friend nor girlfriend, but something in between. It's not what I wanted. I wanted him to be my boyfriend, but I was willing to settle on being more than friends. It was something.
I walked away and I knew I'd done wrong. David couldn't stand the thought of being hated. He would do anything to be liked, including agreeing to something that would make both of us unhappy. It certainly didn't do me any good.
When I was a teenager I valued being "open and honest" above everything. I was adamantly against manipulation. I still am. But telling the truth can be just as manipulative as being honest. When I told David that I might hate him if he broke up with me, it was true, but I shouldn't have said it. It was a way to get what I wanted.
I still didn't get anything close to what I wanted. Our "something" didn't last more than a week. Not even until he left town. And I was just as miserable as before. Plus, I felt guilty because I'd manipulated him.
My recent encounter with Tim brought this story to mind. Tim said things he shouldn't have said. When I asked him why he was telling me those things, his response was, "I'm just being honest." And I remembered saying "I'm only being honest" to David, almost twenty years earlier.
I doubt Tim was intentionally manipulative, but he would have felt better if he had someone waiting for him at the other end of his divorce (if he ever gets one). He also probably wanted to make me feel better about what happened between us. He may even have felt that, in some way, he betrayed me. The things he said implied that he would not reconcile with his wife and that he missed me. I was not blinded by his words. His words didn't change a thing.
Grateful for: knowing manipulation when I see it.