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How do you shut down a manipulative relative?

(117 Posts)
CatsLoveCatkins Wed 28-Dec-16 23:07:30

I've just had yet another argument with my family, and I need to learn some coping strategies, fast.

My younger sister is nasty, manipulative and controlling. I've spent far too much time with her and our parents over Christmas, and today it just got too much.

We had a ridiculous petty argument, which was embarrassing (we were in company), and pointless - Forgive me for going into detail here, but I really need to get this out in black and white and for someone to please tell me I'm not going mad.

We went out shopping with my parents and friends and I had gone off on my own for a bit. We had agreed to give each other a call when one of us figured out where to meet for lunch. My sister rang me to say they were heading for a cafe - we'll call this Cafe A. I agreed, and headed off there.

Before I got there, she called me again and said they'd changed their minds and were going to look for somewhere else. I said that's fine, and said I was actually close to a place which looked nice and suggested we went there instead - we'll call it Cafe B. She agreed and we all met there for lunch.

During lunch I asked her what had made her change her mind about going to Cafe A. She said it was because I had suggested Cafe B.

I said no, that wasn't what happened, they had already decided not to go to Cafe A when she rang me, that is why she rang me - and it was only during that second phone conversation that I suggested Cafe B. She insisted that they only decided not to go to Cafe A because I had suggested Cafe B.

Despite me telling her that it was physically impossible, she wouldn't have it. I kept trying to ask why she had decided against Cafe A, and she insisted it was because I'd suggested Cafe B. She insisted that I had suggested Cafe B before she rang me (which is impossible). She then tried to imply that I was denying I'd suggested going to Cafe B at all - which of course I wasn't, I was just trying to point out that I'd only brought up Cafe B during the second phone call, which she made after deciding not to go to Cafe A. She said I was going mad, and she refused to understand what I was trying to say.

At this point I looked at our friends, and asked whether any of them understood what I was trying to say. Nobody said anything, and my parents told us both to shut up. My sister stuck her fingers in her ears going "la la la" and refused to discuss it any further (I should add at this point that we're both in our 40s, we're not children). When she went to the toilet, I asked my Mother whether she understood what I was trying to say, and she did - but wouldn't admit it in front of my sister.

I was so bloody angry and frustrated I was shaking. And I'm left arguing about a bloody phonecall and a cafe which is totally petty and pointless.....!!! But I couldn't let it lie because she was trying to make out I was going mad!!

She does this all the time - she will misunderstand / misrepresent something minor, and when I try to correct her version of events she will always somehow twist, deny and manipulate the conversation so that I end up arguing about something ridiculous and feeling like I'm going mad. She could argue black was white, then tell me I was mad for ever suggesting such a thing. My parents are terrified of standing up to her and just allow her to manipulate us all. And I've slowly come to realize she has done this all our lives.

How do I deal with it? The obvious answer is to stay the hell away from them, which I intend to - but when I can't avoid being in their company, how do I shut down this sort of manipulative behaviour?? How do I control my emotions so that I don't go to pieces the next time she does this??

BusyHomemaker Wed 28-Dec-16 23:41:08

Didn't want to read and run! I wish I knew the answer to this. I agree you should go low contact but when you so see her you could just try hard not to engage. Either take a deep breath and walk away or ask her to repeat the question over and over until she gets bored. Try to stick to texts messages instead of phone calls so that you're not sucked in to her games.

Good luck!

CatsLoveCatkins Wed 28-Dec-16 23:49:09

Thank you for making all the way through my post - I know it's long and petty!

Low contact is definitely the way to go. And yes, deep breaths and asking her to repeat her preposterous statements would help. God I just wish I could be calm and controlled when she does this - instead, I just get tongue tied and flustered and end up making it worse.

NormaSmuff Wed 28-Dec-16 23:49:14

why did you keep arguing with her though?
sounds like she is a liar, i think you could have let it drop.

CatsLoveCatkins Wed 28-Dec-16 23:50:35

And yes to texts not phone - we never usually speak on the phone.

She tries to manipulate me by text too, by dropping hints about being sad and waiting for me to take the bait. I try to ignore, ignore, ignore.

CatsLoveCatkins Wed 28-Dec-16 23:53:30

why did you keep arguing with her though?
sounds like she is a liar, i think you could have let it drop.

I know, I should have let it drop and in the end I made a fool of myself by insisting on trying to get to the bottom of something that really didn't matter. But I was so frustrated at her trying to imply that I was going mad for not remembering things the way she insisted they were. I'm not going mad, that's not what happened and I just saw red and needed to try to get my point across.

I am really bad for this - I won't let something drop if I feel I'm wronged. But her classic trick when we reach a point where she is losing an argument is to shut it down and refuse to discuss it further - thus ensuring that she always comes out on top before I can have my say.

But yes, I should have let it drop. It wasn't fair on our friends who were with us. But I was pissed off with them for not sticking up for me too!

CatsLoveCatkins Wed 28-Dec-16 23:55:14

I think at first I went on about it because I was so astonished that she had re-written the version of events into something that was physically impossible - so I was just trying to point that out and let her see that her version couldn't possibly make any sense.

But I failed spectacularly.

How do I deal with it if she does it again?

Superjaggy Thu 29-Dec-16 00:00:32

I *am really bad for this - I won't let something drop if I feel I'm wronged

I think you've nailed it here - and she's playing you like a fiddle. For those occasions when you just can't avoid contact with her, you need to let things drop. You're not going mad, but she's able to cast you in a poor light in front of others every time you pick up on her misrepresenting what's been said. It will be tricky the first time you resist - she'll probably try other ways to get the reaction everyone is used to - but if you manage it you'll feel so much more in control.

Superjaggy Thu 29-Dec-16 00:00:40

I *am really bad for this - I won't let something drop if I feel I'm wronged

I think you've nailed it here - and she's playing you like a fiddle. For those occasions when you just can't avoid contact with her, you need to let things drop. You're not going mad, but she's able to cast you in a poor light in front of others every time you pick up on her misrepresenting what's been said. It will be tricky the first time you resist - she'll probably try other ways to get the reaction everyone is used to - but if you manage it you'll feel so much more in control.

PassiveAgressiveQueen Thu 29-Dec-16 00:01:10

Simple answer "whatever you say" roll eyes. And drop it.

AtrociousCircumstance Thu 29-Dec-16 00:01:16

Perhaps just say something like, "We both know that's not what happened, but there is no point discussing it further". And then change the subject. If she presses you, just repeat.

Good luck, she sounds a nightmare. But with practice you can learn to remain firm and not get dragged into her toxic nonsense.

Rubyslippers7780 Thu 29-Dec-16 00:01:58

Just stop arguing with her. It is what she wants. Use a simple statement like ' well, that's not what happened' repeatedly until she shuts up. There is no point going round in circles which is what she seems to enjoy, just don't let her. She will never say what the reason was as it would spoil her game. Keep low contact a day don't engage in her nonsense.

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:13:15

You're not going mad, but she's able to cast you in a poor light in front of others every time you pick up on her misrepresenting what's been said.

Yes, that's exactly it - and thanks to everyone here who has advised I do the same thing - just find a stock phrase and repeat. Of course with hindsight that's what I would have loved to do - I should have just said "No - what I'm asking is what prompted you to phone me the second time". But she managed to escalate it into claiming i was denying the conversation ever happened... it was just so preposterous that I just couldn't articulate my words at all.

I just get the rage when she misrepresents what's been said, or winds me up, or whatever she does. She has a couple of friends who hang off her every word, and they've had to witness a few of our family arguments over Christmas. But she will portray me to be the trouble maker, and I guess they'll just agree with her as I play into her hands and show myself up.

Another thing she did the other day was when we sat at a table which was uncomfortable - my DF didn't like it, and I said I didn't either. I found us another table to move to, and left them all to move table while I went to get a drink. When I came back, they'd all moved back to the original unsuitable table - with my sister making a huge drama proclaiming there to be nothing wrong with the table and blaming me and DF for making a fuss. So she created more drama, and managed to make it look like our fault the whole time, whereas if they'd just moved table like I had suggested it would have been over and done with with no fuss.

It's little things like that, constantly chipping away, which make you start to believe that you're the one in the wrong all the time.

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:17:24

I've just read an article about gaslighting - she ticks every single box. Withholding, Countering, Blocking, Trivializing, Denying - she does all of those things in the course of a normal conversation.

How the hell do you have a relationship with someone like that?

iwasyoungonce Thu 29-Dec-16 00:18:31

How fucking annoying, I can see why this makes you so frustrated.

Why won't anyone back you up, when they know you're right? That's even MORE annoying!!

But I have to agree with the above suggestions that she's enjoying plying you, because she knows how much it will infuriate you. So you need to deal with it differently and fuck HER off.

Either roll your eyes and say "that's not what happened" (as suggested above) or laugh at her. Properly laugh (not hysterical, bitter laughing) but as if you are genuinely amused by what a fucking daft twat she is. She won't like that.

ClementineWardrobe Thu 29-Dec-16 00:21:54

Sounds like the sort of person to snort at very quietly then change the subject, addressing someone else as you do so.

ClementineWardrobe Thu 29-Dec-16 00:24:05

Oh and yawning, politely, works too. As does a nose blow, if someone is getting up it....grin

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:29:23

Why won't anyone back you up, when they know you're right? That's even MORE annoying!!

I know! My parents are scared of her, and will never challenge her. Her friends just hang off her every word - one of them actually told me to shut up during this argument. I ignored her. The other friend was looking at me like she understood what I was trying to say, so I said to her "You know what I mean, don't you?". She just smiled and said nothing.

I think what really got me this time, was she actually called me crazy, and said I was going mad when I insisted on my version of what happened. I think she thought I was denying mentioning Cafe B, when all I was doing was trying to ask what prompted her to phone me the second time.

I'm glad you can all see how preposterous it was - it really upset me and I did start to question whether i was going mad... I know I'm not, but bloody hell does she try to make it seem so!

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:32:12

Ok I'll practise the laughing, yawning or nose blowing next time!! God it's so hard not to rise to the bait though.

I also try to avoid the passive aggressive 'whatever you say' stuff, because she does that to me when she doesn't want to hear something - and I hate it. But maybe I should use some of her tricks against her.

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:33:49

But I have to agree with the above suggestions that she's enjoying plying you, because she knows how much it will infuriate you. So you need to deal with it differently and fuck HER off.

She's enjoying plying me in front of her friends because she knows I'll explode and validate her no doubt subsequent claims to them that I'm an awful person. I have no doubt that she does this.

iwasyoungonce Thu 29-Dec-16 00:33:59

I feel really sorry for you. She sounds awful, and her friends are pricks as well.

This would be enough for me to cut all contact, but I realise that's easier said than done with family.

Confusednotcom Thu 29-Dec-16 00:35:28

You clearly have her number so my best advice is rise above it. Change your response to her. You say

***I am really bad for this - I won't let something drop if I feel I'm wronged. But her classic trick when we reach a point where she is losing an argument is to shut it down and refuse to discuss it further - thus ensuring that she always comes out on top before I can have my say.*

You need to be the one to drop out of the discussion first. The second you sense she is being illogical, just say, oh okay (Claire) and change the subject. Do not give her the oxygen of your attention. When she's being normal by all means be civil but bear in mind she's a few degrees away from normal and needs special treatment.

You are not backing down or letting her win. You are accepting that she has a peculiar need to control and manipulate, and you are not playing her game therefore you've won before it's begun.

Don't worry if others get the wrong idea about a situation she's misrepresenting, say your version calmly once then simply refuse to discuss it. Do not argue with her, just politely shut down the topic.

iwasyoungonce Thu 29-Dec-16 00:37:04

Yes definitely use her own tactics against her! She realises how infuriating "whatever you say!" is. So use that. It will really piss her off when you don't rise to the bait - keep telling yourself that, and stay calm and strong!

CatsLoveCatkins Thu 29-Dec-16 00:42:29

I need to read and re-read what you've written Confused because that's really good advice which I really want to get into my head ready for the next time.

With hindsight, I just wish I'd stated my version, stated the question that I had asked, and then moved on. I wish I'd done that. I'm ashamed of myself for escalating it in front of her friends. Not that I really care what they think of me now anyway, since I don't have much respect for them given how they indulge her narcissistic ways.

Confusednotcom Thu 29-Dec-16 00:43:44

As to her moving tables, is she, in her mind, in some sort of competition with you - is she proving she can control social situations because she's lacking in another area e.g. Relationship, job, education?
You need a new perspective: for her to make you less angry, ideally not angry at all, you need to either understand her weird behaviour or (more realistically) accept it for what it is and meet every confrontational move with no resistance as that's what she's craving. It'll be very satisfying I bet smile

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