While in the midst of a lovers’ quarrel the other day, he had the audacity to say that I was being manipulative. This stung a bit, mostly because anyone who is truly good at being manipulative will never be called out for it – that’s the artistry of manipulation.

Generally, when I think of manipulation, I think of lechers or con artists who are trying to cloy sex or money out of unsuspecting rubes. Manipulators curry favor in order to sway a popular opinion in their favor. Manipulators are devious beasts, seducers of sort, but just shy of coercion and a tad more graceful than peer pressure.

But this was a lovers’ quarrel. I wasn’t looking for sex or money from him. I wasn’t trying to coax him into doing something for me that he didn’t want to do. We were fighting. And I mean fighting. Via text message, of course, but on my end there was plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Lots of crying, too. It was one of those fights – the kind where we both teeter on self sabotage and wait for the other person to break first.

We had reached the point in the argument when we had both broken. That’s when he called me manipulative. And the reason why he called me manipulative?

“You’re trying to make me angry!”

Okay, yeah, I was. Or, it’s not that I was trying to make him angry, it’s more that I was in an emotional free fall myself, and I was definitely saying some very emotionally charged things to him. As I was spiraling down towards rock bottom despair and loneliness, he, on the other hand, texted back with a nerve pinching cool that I did not appreciate. I hate being the only hysterical one.

When I was younger, I thought that it was best to try to walk away from lovers’ quarrels, especially if the other party was indifferent to the argument. But in this particular situation, after years and years of bullshit, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I put my cards on the table. I said my piece. And, oooh, did he get angry at me. That’s right. I said a bunch of (what I thought was) heartfelt words on how I had wanted him to be strong for me during a time of need, and how I was in pain because of how things ended, and that I had trusted him but now things had fallen apart.

He didn’t like that.

That’s when he called me manipulative. And I realized: me being emotionally honest and open during our fight is pissing him off. Me speaking my piece makes him angry. Me talking about my emotions is eliciting an equal emotional reaction from him, and now because my emotions have goaded some type of reaction from him over which he has no control, I’m manipulative.

Men and their fear of their own emotions are fucking annoying.

At that point, I figured, if he wants to get mad at me because he’s starting to feel something, meh, I’ll take it.

Now, to back it up a bit, I would just like that state that this was no average, casual fuck thing. This was a legitimate relationship (of sorts) that has spanned years. Over the course of those years, we grew to love each other. Even during our argument, I knew I still loved him. And it made me think about what it took for him to start loving me (because y’all know damn straight that I was the first one to bring love to the table in this relationship). Here’s what it took: me feeling something, and him feeling nothing, and me being confident in my emotions and my ability to express them.

Thinking back on that, I realized: yes, I have emotional control in this relationship. I am the one who knows how emotions works, how to express them, how to cope with them, and how to live with them. I am the reason he loved me, and I am the reason he’s angry right now. So, yes, he’s right: I am manipulative. I know how to push and pull his emotions in the direction I’m going. When I teach him how to love me, he’s not complaining. But when I’m in pain, he can’t handle it.

I imagine that it’s scary to have to succumb to someone else’s emotional control, in any situation. It’s scary to have less power. It’s scary to not know how these emotions work or how you’re feeling them. In the particular situation we were in, I had lost control of my emotions (due to certain common physiological factors), and here we both were: in my free fall. He didn’t know how he got here, and he sure as fuck didn’t know how to get out. But I do. Unfortunately for him, I’m going to leave him there because he’s being mean to me so why the fuck would I help him out.

But enough of the vitriol. I get it. I’m never the person who’s under someone else’s emotional control. That’s because, as a woman, I have been there before with all those manipulative, gas lighting men. I know what it’s like. And I hated it, so I found a way to never have to be there again: through my own emotional power. However, that puts me in exactly the same position as the person I was trying to escape: the emotional overseer in a relationship. To be honest, I don’t want to perpetuate those kinds of dynamics in a relationship. It fucking sucks. But here I am nonetheless.

I thought that I had been using my emotional power for good. I thought that I was using my emotional power to get him to love me. I thought that I was helping share my emotional power in this relationship. But, now that we’re here, I realize that was never the case.

He calls me manipulative, but all I ever wanted was for him to love me. If I had ever been manipulative, it was because that’s what I was doing: trying to win a steadfast, everlasting love from him. He calls me manipulative, but, ultimately, I have failed at that task. He doesn’t love me anymore.

Instead, we are falling apart and I have no idea what to say or who to be in order to make him love me again. He is too far gone. He is consumed by a rage that I placed inside him, and he cannot see through his rage to any love he might have for me. I had hoped that if he could feel anything right now, it would be his love for me. But instead, it is just rage. I wonder if he will ever be able to find his love for me ever again. I certainly can’t see it right now. Poof, it is gone, and here I am. He calls me manipulative, and he calls me lots of other names, too. And I am sitting here, wishing he still loved me. But he doesn’t.

He doesn’t love me anymore.