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As an introverted homebody, I don’t take many trips. However, I am all too familiar with guilt trips and the internal struggle it creates. I decided to stop letting guilt trips affect me and unpack all the baggage. Keep reading to figure out how you can hop off your next trip before the wheels start rolling!
What Is A Guilt Trip?
Put bluntly, a guilt trip is emotional manipulation in attempt to control or affect someone’s decisions or actions.
Most people who use guilt trips will make you feel like your relationship or their feelings will be hurt if you do not do what they want you to.
You may recognize a guilt trip to sound something like:
- “You just don’t care about all the stuff I do for you…”
- “Don’t worry about me. I hope you have fun on your trip. I’ll just be here all alone in an empty house.”
- “If you really loved me, you’d take me with you on your trip.”
- “You haven’t visited in such a long time, I’ve almost forgot what you look like.”
While the typical intention of a guilt trip is to make you do something for them, a true manipulator can use a guilt trip for anything.
- “I really wish you’d find a job that is less demanding of you.”
- “If you were more responsible, you could get better grades in school.”
There are many types of guilt trips and types of people that send you on guilt trips… but lets talk about the people first.
Guilt Tripper Types
It can really help you better understand guilt trips if you first figure out what type of Guilt Tripper you’re dealing with.
Side note: While I did come up with cutesy little names for the ‘Tripper Types’, all of these behaviors and personalities are from psychology sites and blogs around the web. This is not a psychology site, so I had to spice it up to make it a bit more fun to read.
The ‘Yeah But…’ Tripper
This is one of the most frustrating guilt trippers you’ll ever come across.
They respond to any positivity with a not-so-subtle “I agree to disagree” and a twist of negativity.
Say you’re excited because you just bought a new house… you can expect something like “Yeah, it’s a nice house. But you’re further away from me” or “Yeah, I’m excited for you. But are you sure you’re ready to be a homeowner?”
The ‘Yeah But..’ Tripper claims to be a very positive, happy, uplifting person, but their words and actions say the exact opposite.
Eventually, they become the very last person you ever want to tell good news… but they also get extremely upset if they’re not the first one you tell about the good news.
“Yeah, I really like your boyfriend. But are you sure he’s the one?”
Then they wonder why you don’t run to them to celebrate when you get engaged!
The ‘Yeah But..’ Tripper usually seems like they’re just a Negative Nancy, and not a Guilt Tripper. But they are still using a form of guilt trip to affect your emotions.
By putting a negative twist on your good news, they are implying that you have either disappointed them or bothered them in some way.
“Yeah, I’m excited about your new promotion. But working later hours means you won’t be able to pick the kids up from school and they’ll have to ride the bus.”
You’ll immediately feel guilty that you’re letting the family down and maybe your new promotion isn’t what’s best for the family.
Even though the promotion means financial freedom for your family and it generally has more positive aspects than negative. You will still feel like maybe you made the wrong decision somehow.
Since they’re the kind to really beat around the bush, their motives for manipulation are usually a little deeper or maybe even completely hidden.
They may say they don’t want you to take the promotion because of how it will negatively affect your time with the kids, but in reality, they don’t want you coming home later because it means they’ll have to help more with the kids.
The Dependent Tripper
The Dependent Tripper is incredibly needy, clingy and helpless at times.
They will make it seem like they will die without your affection, attention and praise.
The Dependent Tripper will want constant contact with you regardless of what you have going on in your life.
This is probably the easiest type of Tripper to identify…. because it is constant and very obvious.
The Dependent Tripper loves to use the ‘If Fear Factor’.
If you don’t act according to how they want you to act, something bad will happen…. and they know exactly how to word things to trigger that fear inside you.
Think about these two statements: “Give me a call before your shift starts” vs “If you really cared about me, you’d call me before you go to work.”
The first statement is a request.
The second statement is meant to make you feel guilty. It makes you think “if I don’t call, they’ll think I don’t care.”
It’s damn near impossible to have a healthy relationship with The Dependent Tripper because they expect you to provide them with happiness.
Not to get too philosophical about happiness, but no one can provide you with happiness. That is something that comes from within. If someone is not happy, they need to look inward– not at another person.
The Dependent Tripper can be very toxic because because they see their needs are more important than yours.
Regardless of what it is, they feel that their needs should always come first and their feelings matter more.
I shouldn’t need to explain why that isn’t healthy… if you are being Tripped by the Dependent Tripper, you know why it isn’t healthy. You feel it.
The Gossiper uses other people’s words to get their point across.
They will say they heard something from someone else… but they’re using someone else as a shield to convey their feelings.
This is in an attempt to shift blame so they don’t have to take responsibility for their words.
A majority of the time, they’ve twisted or warped the other person’s words to sound a certain way… or maybe they just flat out lied about what someone said.
My absolute favorite quote from a Gossiper I know: “Madison said that you were being dramatic the other day, but I told her you’re just really sensitive.”
The Gossiper hoped that I would end up being upset with Madison for what she said instead of being upset at The Gossiper for telling me.
In reality, The Gossiper was the one who thought I was dramatic and overly sensitive.
The Gossiper just used Madison’s name because they knew that her opinion mattered to me.
The Gossiper hoped that I wouldn’t confront Madison.
The Gossiper hoped that I would just shrink down and internalize what ‘Madison said’. They hoped I’d just be sad and feel awkward around Madison. Therefore feeling distance between me and Madison that isn’t real.
Because I knew the games that The Gossiper plays, I confronted Madison and the stories didn’t match up.
Madison therefore confronted The Gossiper and The Gossiper denied ever having said a word to me about Madison.
Again, it’s a complete shift of responsibility.
The Gossiper does this so you feel like they have your back while simultaneously alienating you from other friends and family.
It’s so much easier to manipulate someone who feels alone, alienated and small.
The Gossiper also likes to start small nasty rumors to make waves. They’ll tell other people that something in your life is spiraling downward (and they usually brag about how much they’ve done to help you.)
Again, they’ll completely deny ever saying anything at all.
But pitting people against each other helps keep The Gossiper in control… and this is all about control.
This person thinks they are the New Age Jesus.
They think they give, give, give to everyone they meet.
They picture themselves to be like Oprah. Just handing out gifts and good deeds like it’s their job!
However, they aren’t doing these favors just out of the goodness of their heart….. and they aren’t necessarily doing favors that were asked of them or even really needed.
They constantly do things that are not asked of them in order to seem like they are self-less and always thinking of ways to make you happy.
They don’t understand (or maybe don’t care) that doing something for someone just to do it isn’t always helpful and considerate. Sometimes it’s actually intrusive and unnecessary.
The Martyr will consistently remind you all they have done for you so you feel guilty and obligated to return the favor.
However, the only way to keep The Martyr happy is to return their favors….. with the favor they have in mind.
Say they randomly bought you a new goldfish tank… you can’t just bake them cookies as a thank you.
They already had a favor in mind when they were headed to the store to buy you that goldfish tank! They want to borrow your winter ski home and your car for the week!
Everything they do (whether helpful or not) can…. and will be used as a bargaining chip for another favor.
The Martyr only does favors to make you feel like you owe them…. and yes, they are keeping a list…
And you will hear the list in its entirety if you decline to return the favor as they see fit.
You can also expect to constantly hear about the ‘many ways‘ The Martyr has ‘selflessly’ helped other people. They just forget to mention that they asked for even larger things in return from those people as well….
The Martyr knows no boundaries, so they burn bridges often. People stop associating with them because they know that everything has an ulterior motive.
Unless you 100% disconnect from The Martyr, the will still pop up randomly from time to time to do a random, unnecessary favor for you… and of course request their return favor.
It might be best to say you sold the ski house and your Costco membership ran out… or they’ll continue to pop into your life with goldfish bowls and leftover lasagna for all eternity.
I’ll eventually do an entire post about narcissists….. because there’s so much to a narcissist and their actions.
When speaking about The Narcissist as a Tripper Type, they are the most intrusive of all types.
The Narcissist is generally miserable in their own skin and try to control others as a way of making themselves feel better.
It’s so deeply ingrained in their psyche that it affects every bit of their life. Home, work, school, friends, children….
They require constant admiration, support, praise and attention to feel like they aren’t losing control.
They’re insanely entitled, they will twist your words and the truth like a bendy straw, and they will intentionally step over any and all boundaries you set.
The Narcissist also thinks that you should believe any and everything that comes out of their mouth.
Even if you show the slightest bit of skepticism about something they’ve said, they will guilt you into believing you were wrong for even questioning them in the first place.
“You think I would lie about how much I spent on our weekend in the mountains? Wow, you must think I’m a real piece of trash!!!!”
Even though you saw the credit card statement…. or it’s just not logical that they said it was $4,000 for a 2-day trip…
By not trusting them (regardless of what they say), they believe you have betrayed them in some way.
They will make a big scene and flip it on you in order to make you forget that they lied to you in the first place.
Because there’s so much to a relationship with a narcissist, I won’t go on.
Just know that if the person sending you on a guilt trip is The Narcissist, be prepared for some fighting words and drama as you try to take back your freedom.
However, please don’t let my words make you feel like you can never escape the grip of The Narcissist. You’re just going to have to be firm and consistent with your boundaries.
A Word About The Trippers
I write this as a way to share my knowledge and experience with guilt trips.
I do not think people who send other people on guilt trips are evil or bad people…. they actually just need help.
Most people who manipulate were either manipulated as children themselves… or they have gone through something that made them feel so wildly out of control in their own lives that they feel the need to control everything.
Something as traumatic as losing a child or having their home burn down is enough to trigger someone into becoming a controller or manipulator.
However, I also find it important to note that not everyone who goes through trauma will become a manipulator.
I’ve done a lot of research and a ton of soul searching lately, so my opinion of these types of people has drastically changed.
I do not think that they are mean, hateful people that just want to watch the world burn.
I think that they need to find help and heal. Many of them live truly miserable lives and I really feel for them.
I can’t even imagine how chaotic it must be to live in the mind of someone who needs to control something all the time.
I also want to say that I know I may have offended some people with the words that I use to describe their actions: manipulate, control, shift responsibility.
I know they’re not ‘pretty’ words, but they are the correct words to fit the situation.
It’s similar to the negative connotation to the word ignorant. No one wants too be called ignorant because the emotions we assign to the word are deeper than the technical definition.
However, the technical definition of ignorant is just the absence of knowledge about a particular subject or event.
I believe it is very important to talk openly and frankly when talking about such serious topics.
So, I do apologize if I have hurt anyones feelings. That is not my intention.
Start By Asking Yourself
Maybe you found what type of a guilt tripper you’re dealing with… or maybe they’re a mix of a few of the types…
Now, you need to think about the guilt trip itself and really break it down.
Here are a few questions I ask myself when trying to evaluate a guilt trip or a conversation with someone who guilt trips me.
“Is this actually a guilt trip?”
I’ll admit that I am a highly sensitive person, so sometimes I walk away with unintentionally hurt feelings after a conversation or interaction.
Like I’ve said before, I hate the words ‘highly sensitive’ cause it sounds like I’m an emotional wreck that cries at the drop of a hat.
I just catch onto things like body language, tone of voice and word choice…. I catch on to ‘unintentional communication‘. Things your body does during a conversation that tells your truth without you actually saying it.
So, as a HSP, I rely heavily on journaling to decide if something was a guilt trip or if I’m reading too much into it.
I always start with writing it down.
Say you’re running errands and a friend asks you to grab some party supplies for her party this weekend. You planned on just bringing them over the day of the party and helping decorate.
She calls and says “Oh, I thought you’d go ahead and bring them by now. I’m home all alone the day before my birthday…”
To me, that is a guilt trip.
They are using their own personal assumption to come to the conclusion that you should come over now. They assume that you should spend the day with them even though neither of you discussed any actual plans.
It’s a manipulative way to say ‘You owe it to me to spend time with me because it’s almost my birthday.”
Every guilt trip is different and they all change meaning depending on who is trying to trip you…. so this will take some analyzing on your part.
Usually, just writing the words down will make it clear to me if it’s a guilt trip or not. But sometimes you have to go with how it made you feel.
“How did it make me feel?”
So if you determined that it is a guilt trip, you need to figure how out it actually affects you.
Guilt trips from different people about different things will invoke different emotions within me.
Sometimes it makes me sad or angry. Sometimes I just feel small and hopeless.
Just know that resenting someone who guilt trips you often is completely normal.
If someone is consistently facing guilt trips, they will start to feel like they’re losing a battle with an energy vampire.
Eventually any type of contact with their Tripper can become draining and weaken their spirit.
Try to pinpoint if what they said just hurt your feelings or actually damaged your confidence and happiness on a deeper level.
Some guilt trips use up more fuel from your tank than others. It’s all about connecting with your feelings and addressing your own internal gauge.
The ‘if you really love me…’ guilt trips used to be my kryptonite. I would feel guilty, get emotional, cry and then eventually cave in to their request.
Once I learned to get in touch with how the guilt trips made me feel, I really began to better understand how to loosen their grip on me.
“What do I believe their intentions are?”
Is it manipulation or advice?
It’s human nature to throw your two cents in when someone you care about someone. Advice is a normal part of any relationship. Giving thoughtful, self-less advice is a sign of love.
If they are regularly trying to influence your actions through guilt trips, they’re not just ‘giving advice’.
A Guilt Tripper acts like they’re just giving advice for your better good, but it’s usually very self-serving.
You need to break down their intentions behind what they’re saying.
Do you regularly change your actions or opinions after speaking with them? Do you feel like you can’t make decisions without their input? Do you feel the need to run small decisions by them before acting?
If they are adamant that you follow their way of thinking, it’s not advice. It’s emotional pirating and they’re driving your ship.
If you truly can’t figure out what their intentions are, ask them.
However, if you’ve spent a lot of time with them and they guilt trip you often, their intentions are usually pretty clear.
It’s also important to look at the frequency of their advice. If they are adamant that you do things their way, they are clearly not just offering helpful advice.
“Are they expecting too much of me?”
This is something that so many people forget to consider about guilt trips.
Are they being realistic with their expectations of you?
I had an ex-boyfriend that never wanted me to be with any of my friends unless he was there.
He would say things like ‘Well, I guess you like them better than me….” or “I must not be cool enough for you”.
To expect someone to always be in a certain group of people- with zero exceptions- is insane.
Therefore his guilt trips were based on an unrealistic, impossible expectation.
It’s really important to realize when they are expecting too much and to give yourself a little break.
Is it realistic for you to drive an hour away to see them after you get off work at 10pm? Is it realistic to ask someone to stay at their house for a week with zero notice? Is it realistic to ask someone to change their number so that no one from their past has their new contact info?
Don’t let them control you with unrealistic expectations. Especially if it’s a one way street.
“Would they do this for someone else?”
A lot of people who use guilt trips on other people are quick to ask, slow to return the favor.
So, if someone asks you to watch their kids 4-5 days of a week, but they can’t when you ask them to pick up your mail… something is off.
I had a friend back in the day that always wanted to borrow my notes from school.
If I said ‘no’ or ‘I didn’t take any’, she would respond with ‘Well, I guess I’ll just flunk this test!’.
It was real dramatic.
Sometimes she would say things like ‘My folks are gonna be real mad when I don’t get into college’….
(Let me take a second to say ‘Yes, I know‘ this person was a user. If she was worried about getting into college, she shoulda gone to class occasionally…. moving on!)
However, on the rare occasion that I wasn’t in class and she was, I’d ask for her notes. She’d always deflect and say ‘Ask Clara. She took better notes than I did.’
If they wouldn’t do it for you, don’t go out of your way to do something for them.
I’m not saying it always has to be 50/50.
Just pay attention. If their taking becomes noticingly more frequent than their giving, that’s a good sign that you’re being manipulated and used.
“Are your needs being met with this relationship?”
Wow…. that’s a heavy one to unpack.
But constant manipulation and control will usually cause you to lose sight of your own needs.
Are they nurturing? Are they supportive? Are they kind? Are they boosting or hurting your self confidence? Are they willing to listen to you? Do they consider your feelings?
This may be something that you have to analyze over time….
I’ve had a few friendships where the other person would occasionally use guilt trips. But because I still felt like a valued partner in the friendship, I was able to overlook the trips (for the most part).
However, if you are feeling emotionally battered, lonely, desperate or unimportant, you need to take a long hard look at why you feel this way.
Would you be upset if this person wasn’t in your life anymore? Or are you only continuing the relationship because of your fear of their reaction to you distancing yourself?
Again, this isn’t an overnight decision…. but you cannot continue to drain yourself to satisfy someone who only loves you when it benefits them.
Get Off The Guilt Trip
This is so much easier said than done and I know that!
Especially if it is someone close to you that tries to trip you…. or if you’ve been sent on guilt trips often.
But you have to loosen the grip to be able to live a happy life.
Realize Their Need For Control
Regardless of what type of Tripper they are, they need to feel like they have control over you.
This has nothing to do with you. Nothing at all.
Just because they feel the need to control you or others around them doesn’t mean you have to act based on how they expect you to.
Free yourself from the expectations and assumptions.
It is not on you to create their happiness or acquiesce to their every request.
A manipulator that feels like they are losing control will actually begin to hold tighter.
They’ll be more dramatic, more condescending and they’ll start to use even stronger forms of manipulation.
Noticing the patterns of manipulation and control will help you realize that you are not to blame. It’s something they need to fix about themselves.
Decide on Boundaries
Again, this part is definitely easier said than done.
It’s not easy to put up boundaries in any situation, let alone when someone feels like they have unrestricted access to your emotions and actions.
But this is truly the only way to cancel your one-way guilt trip and start living for yourself.
Is the guilt tripping so frequent that you want to completely disconnect with this person? Or do you feel like setting some strong boundaries will be enough to gain your mental freedom back?
Setting boundaries can be as simple as setting clear expectations by saying something like “I’ll call you every Friday” to release a Dependent Tripper’s control over you…
….. or it can be internal and a bit less simple. You can work through healing on your own and decide to not let their words affect you on a deeper level.
We’re all going to need different boundaries because we’re all dealing with different people in different situations.
Remember: you are dealing with an adult.
As humans, we must abide by each others boundaries to have a harmonious existence.
You wouldn’t allow someone to physically punch you in the throat every day, so don’t allow them to mentally punch you in the throat every day.
So when you decide that you’re going to set a boundary, make sure that it is clear to them and that you are capable of being firm in this decision.
Not to compare a human to a dog, but it’s classic conditioning.
If the house rule is that the dog isn’t allowed on the counter, you must reinforce every attempt to break that rule with a firm ‘no’. If they find that they can get away with it occasionally, they will continue to reach for what they want.
Working Through It
If you feel comfortable speaking to the person who guilt trips you, try to start an open dialogue with them.
Usually someone who feels the need to manipulate or control is deeply sad themselves.
Ideally they need to see a therapist to really work through their issues, but that depends on their willingness to change.
If the person you are dealing with is somewhat open to the idea of listening to you, then I suggest you try this first. Give them a chance.
Just remember to be very kind and calm when beginning the conversation. Approach them using I/me statements like “I feel like we need to talk. I have been feeling as though my opinion doesn’t matter.”
Chances are, if you come at them with anything like “You hurt me” or “You are just so judgmental”, the conversation won’t go very far.
Just test the waters by walking into the conversation as calmly and rationally as possible…. and be prepared for fireworks so you don’t panic and begin to back down.
Remember: communication is not the key to a healthy relationship. Comprehension is. If they are listening, but not absorbing and understanding, then any communication is meaningless.
However, it’s important note that some people aren’t willing to be honest in a conversation about how they treat you, so the door to discussion is closed.
Some people just won’t hear you.
No matter how loud you scream, you cry, you beg.
No matter how many facts or examples you bring up. No matter how you express your feelings or emotions…. they just won’t hear you.
I’m not sure if someone’s inability to discuss it shows immaturity, narcissism, stubbornness, righteousness or a mixture of all of the above.
But there are people that have zero intention of changing.
They’ll say things like “I’m sorry that you think I said that… but I didn’t” or “You really blow everything out of proportion”.
You’ll find that they aren’t listening to hear you, they’re only listening to respond.
If you feel like you’ve done all you can to try to rationalize with them and disconnecting is the only option, proceed with some very clear expectations.
- They won’t ever understand or respect your decision to disconnect from them.
- They might tell other people stories that paint you in a negative light and make themselves look like a saint.
- They will most likely respond with larger guilt trips than you’ve ever experienced.
Their need to control does not go away once you’re no longer available to be control- it actually gets stronger.
Be aware of the situation, be true to yourself. Stand firm.
You are not a bad person for wanting to be your own person.
You are not a bad person for protecting your energy.
Unpack Your Baggage
If you’ve been in a relationship where you’ve been regularly guilt tripped, you are carrying a ton of baggage whether you realize it or not.
Dr. Joe Esposito always says that “If you were in a car accident and the car was damaged, you were damaged too.”
Now, Dr. Joe is talking about physically damaged (he’s a chiropractor), but I am talking more emotionally.
The metaphorical car is your relationship with the other person… and every guilt trip is an accident. It might be a fender bender or it could be a full-blown head-on collision.
You’re being pulled, pushed, yanked and spun… (again, emotionally…. not physically).
You can’t just say “I’m healed” and “guilt trips don’t affect me anymore”.
You have some deep, deep soul work that you need to do in order to process it all, heal and move forward.
Especially if the guilt trips have done damage to your self image and confidence. You have to get back to a place where you love yourself again and you feel like you’re in control of your life again.
……aaaaaaand that’s gonna take some work. So, let’s get to it!
You ARE Worthy
Write down all the ways that this person has made you feel.
Then, go through and either validate or dismiss those emotions. Work through it with logic and honesty.
“He made me feel like I wasn’t smart……but——He has been the only person in my life to make me feel this way. He made me feel this way even when I proved him wrong time after time. He used this as a way to make me feel small. This was a tactic used to manipulate me. I am a smart person.”
Let yourself take a step back from the pain of the words and let yourself hear the words objectively.
“He said I was unhealthy and self destructive.”
While that hurts to hear anyone say, look at it as a statement then either validate or dismiss it.
The doctor told me I was as healthy as could be and I am happy with how I am. His opinion matters as a healthcare professional and my opinion matters because it is my life. My Tripper’s opinion does not matter.
You might find that you’re holding onto insecurities from way way way back in the day. Stuff that you didn’t even know was still bothering you.
“He made a comment about me being ‘a bit too big’ for my cheerleading uniform in the 3rd grade…”
Validate it as his own opinion…..but—– You looked fab in that uniform. You had a blast with your team that year. You’re grown now and that doesn’t affect you. Let it go.
As painful as it will be to recall old memories, let yourself dive in to the hurt.
Swim around, take a look at all of it, then get out, dry yourself off, walk away and never look back.
You deserve to be the one who is in control of your own life force. You deserve unconditional love that doesn’t come with strings. You deserve to surround yourself with people who cheer you on instead of tearing you down.
I know that you’ve probably been made to feel like you don’t deserve any of those things…. but you’ll soon find that’s not true. The more you realize that those words and feelings of being unworthy came from someone who was so wrong about you and knew so little about you to begin with.
How could someone that doesn’t see all of your worth…. also decide that you’re worthy of nothing?
That’s up to you to decide and take back.
So take the time you need. Asses. Dissect. Validate or dismiss. Then let it go.
Side Note About Disconnection
It may be impossible to fully disconnect from this person one way or another.
If so, ‘de-brief’ yourself after every contact you have with this person. Go through the healing steps with everything they may have said that hurt you.
Disconnection doesn’t have to mean complete removal from your life.
It just means that your energy will no longer be available for them to affect…. and this will take practice and time.
But you’re strong and I believe in you.
Be sure to follow me on all my socials down below and leave a comment with your own personal experience with guilt trips.