When I was a kid, one of my best friends had a swimming pool.
Her parents were generous about allowing the neighbor children to come over to swim. But my friend's mom was quick to admonish us never to pee in the pool.
She told us that urine would turn a purple color, and the purple trail would follow us around the pool, identifying the guilty party.
As an adult, I've often thought about how convenient it would be if a purple trail or a warning light or some other obvious marker identified people you need to stay away from.
You walk down the street and see a light flashing over someone's head: "Warning: I am toxic and manipulative."
If we knew from the get-go that someone had these traits, we wouldn't be fooled by their charms, neediness, passive-aggressive behaviors, and guilt trips.
We could just walk right past them and find other people to associate with who don't leave a trail of connivance in their wake.
Unfortunately, no such clear warning system exists. Even if it did, we sometimes don't have the option to avoid these people. They might be family members, work associates, or members of our social circles whose paths we must cross for better or worse.
Manipulative people also have an uncanny way of making us believe that they are charming, supportive, and kind -- until they aren't. By that time, we are caught up in their web of subtle deceit, mind games, and control.
I'm sure you've experienced this in a relationship before, and it can take a while before you wake up and smell the coffee. Over time, you know things are starting to feel weird, but you just can't put your finger on it.
You might notice that you're uncomfortable, irritated, or confused in the presence of this person. There's a toxicity that lingers in the air when you spend time with him or her.
Extricating yourself from a relationship with a manipulative person can be excruciating, especially if you attempt to be gracious and mature about it. You will simply not be met with anything but more manipulation and attempts to exploit your kindness.
You've heard the expression, "The best defense is a good offense," and I fully endorse this strategy when it comes to manipulative people.
They may not leave a purple trail behind them or flash a warning sign, but they DO show their true colors if you know what to look for.
If you want to avoid the pain and suffering of entangling yourself in a relationship with a manipulator, you need to be proactive.