Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationships? 8 Risk Factors

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

What is Emotional Manipulation (EM)?

Free yourself from EM!

Free yourself from EM!

Big question, the short answer is: You are being emotionally manipulated anytime someone else is able to get you to doubt yourself; move away from your boundaries; and not take care of yourself, by their words, actions, or inactions. EMs hurt your self-esteem. They seek to serve themselves at your expense.

Giveaway Girls are very susceptible to emotional manipulation.

What is a Giveaway Girl? I have a website called where I refer to caring, considerate, smart, wonderful, beautiful women as possible Giveaway Girls. Check it out to see if it fits you at all.

Psychologist James Fogarty, a specialist on emotional manipulators, writes that the following qualities make women more vulnerable to emotional manipulators:

Continue reading… »

Is Your Family Having Caregiver Conflict?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW
photo 3

A cute house like many you see in Faribault, MN.

My Grandma Wanda is 95. A German farm woman, she raised five children, 20 grandchildren and 40+ great-grandchildren.

Grandma Wanda’s five adult kids are trying to make decisions about her care for this final stage of life.

Wanda’s daughters are trying to decide where Wanda should go live because the nursing home she was placed in last month failed to adequately take care of her. The nursing home gave her the wrong medications; she fell six times in two weeks, and she was misdiagnosed with dementia because she was on too many opiates.

My family’s caretaking dilemma is shared by so many in this country. I have heard that our family experience isn’t unusual. You think that when you place someone in a nursing home, they will get nursed. However, in many nursing homes there is just too little staff-to-patient ratio. The nurses are booking it and doing the best they can. However, they just can’t do what they are not set up to be able to do. People fall through the cracks, understandably.

The nursing home setup works well for some, but it didn’t work for my grandmother. She needs help getting around, needs help eating, and needs encouragement to do safe exercise. For us, nursing home care was a bust.

Now Wanda’s adult children are figuring out where she should go. She needs to live with someone. Two sisters have stepped up to take her, one down South and one up in Minnesota. Tension is in the air about who knows best and what should be done. There have been some arguments and uncomfortable confrontations about ridiculous things—like who called who and when. This tension is understandable.

Usually, when family members are fighting about stupid things repeatedly, there are deeper issues going on. What this underlying tension is really about is fear, love, sibling roles, tensions about who did what in the past, and who knows what is best, etc.  These fears and hurts are burbling to the surface. Many families experience old stuff when there is a family crisis or when expectations for caregiving are getting ironed out.

Downtown Faribault, Minnesota

Downtown Faribault, Minnesota

Marvin’s Room

It all reminded me of the movie Marvin’s Room, a movie about the challenges of taking care of aging parents, one that I recommend if you haven’t already seen it. Diane Keaton stars in this movie as the mousy 50-year-old sister who becomes a spinster while taking care of her aging parents in their retirement home in Florida.

Her sister, played by Meryl Streep, comes to visit with her teenage kids. You can tell she is annoyed and disgusted with the whole thing. As a single mom who has just finished beauty school, her kids growing up and out, she thinks she’s finally reached a time when her life can be about her. Her character is NOT excited about taking over the caretaking duties in any way shape or form. However, her sister is dying of cancer and somebody needs to step up. Meryl is six seconds from busting out of all the responsibility and duty throughout the movie. You can tell  she thinks her sister “giving her life away” to care for her elderly parents as they disintegrate into death is a mistake.

Family Caregiving Across the U.S.A.

One second you have a life almost free from the duties of caregiving. Then you turn the corner and the aging parent life stage is upon you. Here are some facts from the Family Caregiving Alliance:

  • Estimates of the percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 59% to 75%.6, 7
  • The average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000.8
  • Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.9

Interestingly, during the movie, the character played by Diane tells her sister that she has been so privileged and blessed to do her caregiving. In a heartfelt moment that I PROMISE will put you in tears, she tells her sister that it has has been an incredible honor to show love for her family in this way. Her sister mistakes this as her saying she is grateful to be loved by others. “No, ” she says. She explains that she has been so grateful and privileged to love them. She is happy with her life choice and not embittered or regretful in the slightest. She has loved others deeply, and for her, this is a life richly lived—enough.

From Conflict to Peace: A Beautiful Moment of Connection

Despite all the tension present throughout my visit, the tension dissipated for a while. All three daughters sat with Grandma Wanda. They laughed together when she made wisecracks about the nursing home care she had received. My grandmother proved that without being overmedicated, she was still as spry and quick witted as she was before the trauma.

Wanda wanted to sing. She sang old hymns. Her voice cracked, but she sang them fiercely loud with depth and joy. Her daughters joined her, and they laughed and smiled.

I smiled too, remembering standing next to my grandmother as a little girl in the small German church pews, singing those hymns. I would look around to see  if anyone heard her way off-pitch singing.  I was young and a little embarrassed by her crazed staccato that rose so highly above everyone else’s.

As a little girl, I was too young to appreciate the loveliness of Grandma’s fierce singing commitment to her Higher Power. She was normally a feminine and fashion-focused grandma who never walked outside the lines of social decorum. When she sang those hymns, though, she sang them loudly with a crackly voice, and she wasn’t self-conscious at all.

The sisters and Grandma sang hymns together. Then they talked patiently about taking Grandma to live somewhere different. No one completely agreed, and no one completely disagreed. There was a peaceful connection in the room.

The peace of that sweet moment may not last. The arguments may start up again. Resentments could get hurled. However, I love what Diane’s character said in the movie about it all just being an honor to love each other, no matter what comes. Underneath it all, the love and connection is there, and we can try and be grateful for the ability to be present in our imperfect loving of others.


From conflict to peace: Despite the disagreements, tension and conflict, love and connectedness will bring people together. We can be grateful for the honor of loving one another, especially in times of need, when things are hard.


Do you have a caregiver conflict story you can share to help others?

Take care,

Lastly, could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.


Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at


Do You Blame Yourself First When Things Go Wrong? Are You On Your Own Team?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

A girlfriend of mine just finished putting on a magnificent affair for 1000+ people to honor our servicemen on Veteran’s Day. She spent hours and hours, 220px-The_Birds_original_postervoluntarily, to help in this huge event. As well as everything went, there were still a few glitches, one of which led to some pretty icky interaction with a demanding, ungracious guest.

My friend, a wonderful, smart, capable, and confident woman named Melody, apologized for the inconvenience and quickly solved the problem (of course). Melody handled the guest well, but what she did to herself wasn’t so good.

“I blamed myself first. Then, I reviewed my emails, sorted through all of my notes, and realized it wasn’t even my fault.”

While Melody handled the guest well, she blamed herself first for the mistake. What followed (the negative self-talk) made the situation worse. How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed! I am terrible at this. Why am I here? I must be stupid. With so much going on, she gracefully rode out the guest’s rant but proceeded to punish herself (here’s the really important part) without sorting out the details that went with that problem.

Taking responsibility versus accepting blame

Taking responsibility for a situation and accepting blame are two totally different decisions we can make when the going gets tough. The words we use to the outside and to ourselves can make a huge difference in the experience of it all. “It’s like I wasn’t even on my own team,” Melody said.

Have you ever blamed yourself first — felt guilt, shame or punished yourself — before knowing the facts or having the whole story? 

Continue reading… »

Are You Pissed Off Right Now? What Is “The Upside To Anger?”

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

The Upside To Anger

The Upside To Anger is a fabulous movie starring the wonderful Joan Allen. Joan plays a miserable, annoyed, spiteful housewife who220px-UpsideofAnger has become an alcoholic and is over the top with anger at her husband, who she thinks disappeared with a young Swedish secretary. Joan’s character hurls herself into drinking and fuming about him while her four daughters deal with her bitterness and their lives, as well as struggle with their father’s abandonment.

Kevin Costner is also in the movie. He is hilarious and likable as a middle-aged ex-sports star who is anxious to bed the bitter abandoned wife. They are so funny in their midlife crankiness. The movie is beautiful in how it captures relationships and trials as well as family connections. In addition, the end is a huge surprise which helps you realize how often our anger is all about what we tell ourself in our heads. You have to see this movie!

So the title got me thinking … What are the upsides to anger?

What do you think?

Continue reading… »

Damaging Relationships: Why Don’t Women Leave?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

WomendontleaveWhen the Rice scandal hit, everyone’s first response was outrage. Then they went right where they always go when domestic violence comes up: Why doesn’t she leave?

Why Don’t Women Leave?

I find it fascinating that nobody asks the more obvious question: “Why do men beat their wives/girlfriends?” Why doesn’t this topic make headlines? Instead, it’s all about the chick and “what’s wrong with her …” Hmmm.

In my new book, Stop Giving It Away, I write about unequal partnerships and unhealthy beliefs. Now, I don’t know why Janay stayed with Ray, but I know what I’ve seen during my 20-plus years of social work and counseling.

Unhealthy Beliefs

1) Love is about sacrifice and giving, no matter what.
2) If I stick with this, I can “fix” it.
3) If I ignore our problems, there won’t be any problems.
4) I need to adjust to how things are. I need to change to make things better.
5) It’s my fault.
6) I have nowhere to go. I’m afraid to leave. Who will help me?
7) I have to go along with this, but it will get better and things will eventually be okay.

Continue reading… »

Feeling Bad? Maybe Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Boundaries are imperative for leading a well-balanced life. If you’re feeling the squeeze of boundary pushers and crossers, it might help to try what I call the 167909146_bdb8682d54_zFirewall Strategy.

Build your own firewall — a strong mental boundary. 

A firewall separates your stuff from someone else’s malevolent intentions. Computers use a firewall to protect against virus attacks. It works much the same way in encounters with out-of-control people. Let’s say someone starts honking at you and screaming because you didn’t turn right on a red light fast enough. You hear the driver yell, “Hey idiot! What’s your problem?” Clearly, you don’t have the problem, but having a strong mental boundary protects you when someone’s issue, bad day or judgment threatens your positive emotional state, as in the above example. A simple visualization or behavior can help you mentally define and see where someone else’s boundary ends and your firewall begins. Meet Give Away Girl Martha

She finds that whenever her husband comes home, he is in a seriously bad mood. He grunts, pouts, sighs, criticizes and complains. She tries to be empathic, listen to how he’s doing, ask him about his day, cook him a nice dinner, massage his shoulders. But after being home all day taking care of three kids, the agitation starts to rub off on Martha. “Bad mood?! What are YOU talking about? I’m fine!” Martha becomes agitated and they fight. Bad moods are contagious. Martha sees the problem regularly, despite expressing how she feels and making requests for him to stop this behavior. It’s not getting better. So she decides to build a firewall, a strong mental boundary between his stuff and her space.

Solutions at Work

With her firewall in place now, Martha has new strategies for protecting herself from her husband’s bad moods. She leaves the room and takes the kids onto the porch, or she puts peanut butter sandwiches in a bag, and she and the kids go for a walk. You got it, Martha puts a literal wall in place so her husband can stew by himself. His behavior is neither useful nor good for her or the kids. His frustration becomes their frustration. And since he won’t talk things out, Martha decides it’s better to just leave the room and focus on good things. I have another client who uses the Wonder Woman stance: She crosses her arms just like she saw beautiful Lynda Carter do on the 1970′s TV series. She says no one knows what she is doing, but it makes her feel strong, that she can deflect bad feelings effectively that way. (She says it’s really useful in her car — but not while she’s driving of course!) And a third client, Annie, told me she pictures herself in a phone booth, protected by glass. It helps calm her down and allows her time to decide how to respond.

Boundaries As Tools For The Give Away Girl

I’ve spent some time on boundary tools because I think that these represent the easiest-to-grasp, effective strategies Give Away Girls can use to win back their depleted selves. I owe a debt of gratitude to “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” a book by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan, 1992). This helpful guide contains excellent examples of how people can be deeply affected by a lack of boundaries and is written from Christian perspective with Biblical support. However, even if you aren’t this religion or any religion, it is still extremely useful. I recommend reading this text for guidance and support.

How do you protect yourself from the frustrations, hostility and bad moods of others? How do you stop those feelings in  yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

Follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.

Take care, Cherilynn Pic from Flickr

Are You In The Middle Of A Divorce Or Other Life Challenge? Here’s An Inspiring Story

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Lean Into The Learning Around You

Are you going through something really big like a divorce or an important life challenge? I am a big believer in looking for your learning. Inherent in that learning are opportunities for gratefulness. It is a lifeskill that if you don’t already have, divorce could be a time to start. After all, divorce is such a tumultuous and difficult a time. Instead of just watching the hard stuff come at you, look for the opportunities

Picture of my grandmother Wanda and her best friend, and twin sister. They supported each other through all of life's big challenges.

Picture of my grandmother Wanda and her best friend, and twin sister. They supported each other through all of life’s big challenges.

for growth and inspiration.

A Nasty Divorce

My friend Beth just finished with a nasty divorce. It dragged on for years. Her husband had tricked her into signing stuff she didn’t know she was agreeing to before the divorce, they had fights over custody… You know the drill. Yucky shenanigans all the way around.

Beth is a lovely woman-giving and smart. She is a good friend and mother. In addition, she was a good wife too. So, her husband planning for the divorce and springing it on her one day without even a warning was traumatic and dreadful. On top of that surprise, she had built a company on her own without any help with the kids or with the running of their household. Because of the divorce,  she had to sign a big piece of that company over to him. (That is an incredibly painful task for anyone!)

Continue reading… »

Are You Too Codependent In Your Relationship?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Thanks Rita, for your feedback. This blog article is in response to your request.

As I lean in the codependent direction myself, it would be helpful to have a third example in this article — one of a healthy, balanced individual. Something to aim for, you know?-Rita

Givers and Takers

I just posted a blog about givers and takers. For women, a whole lot of them end up heavily in the codependent/self-sacrifice/giver healthybalancecategory. (Not always!) However, women do tend to lean more onto the extreme end with their self-sacrificing. This is partially due to our cultural expectations of women.

Ask any female if she struggles with self-sacrifice, being a people pleaser, or “the need” to be too nice! Expect an eye roll when she answers.

In my book, Stop Giving It Away, coming out in April 2015, I talk about my concept of detrimental caretaking (DC). Give Away Girls are detrimental caretakers. They are self-sacrificers who find it impossible or very, very hard to speak their voices, set boundaries and say no, fearing what others might think of them (“she’s mean” or “she’s a bitch”) or what others might do to them if they don’t go along.

Continue reading… »

Are You A Narcissist? Or Are You The Opposite? Where Are You On The Lifeline

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Are You A Narcissist? Or A Detrimental Caretaker?

I recently published several columns about narcissism and relationships. These blog posts received a flurry of reader responses: Some people felt they were dealing with a narcissist, and some deemed themselves narcissists. If you’re just now tuning in, take a look at the visual below. From selfless to selfish, see what’s on the far left. See what’s on the far right. See what’s in the middle.

The more we trend away from a balanced life, toward the extreme far-left detrimental caretaking (DC), the more discomfort we feel in daily life. What we give of ourselves feels increasingly out of balance. Putting first the needs, wants and whims of others becomes detrimental to our own well-being.


Neither extreme is good. Both extremes are emotionally destructive and make for destructive, unhealthy relationships.

Meet Cora: Extreme, selfless giver. As a dedicated nurse, Cora works hard every day taking care of other people. She tries really hard to get so much accomplished with her patients. She doesn’t turn down requests from her colleagues when they are feeling overwhelmed. She wants to be known as helpful, not mean. Cora volunteers at her kids’ school, even if she knows she is too busy that month. Cora has gained 20 pounds over the last 5 years, and she is secretly very unhappy. Some of the time, she even realizes she is unhappy. Her husband constantly criticizes her. When she heated up a latenight plate of nachos, he said “God, Cora! Are you really gonna eat all that? I thought you just said you needed to drop a few pounds. What is wrong with you?!”

Cora knows her husband doesn’t mean to sound mean, he has just had a really rough week at work. Besides, who could blame him, she thinks. It has been a long time since she has felt good about herself. The busy schedule, the not being able to say “no” for fear of making people mad: This has all taken a toll on Cora. The nachos she’s scarfing down after 9 at night is about the only time she feels good. Cora is a detrimental caretaker.

Meet John: Extreme, selfish taker. Cora’s husband, John, is totally the opposite. When he goes to work, he is thinking about how he can make himself look as good as he knows he is. He is the first to manipulate others into doing his job, while he manages to take all the credit. John isn’t that interested in his children. He believes it is his wife’s job to handle those menial childrearing tasks. Of course he can’t tell her that is what he thinks, or she might stop doing everything….

As long as his kids are getting good grades and letting the world know what a successful guy he is by their achievements, John has no complaints about them. His wife, however, he has much to complain about. Her weight gain embarrasses him. He is a guy who needs to make a certain impression! How are people going to know how special he is if they think she is connected with him? Her physical appearance annoys him. In addition, he is disgusted with how she gets all flustered and insecure around their mutual acquaintances. He deserves more!

Opposites Attract
Interestingly, the selfless and the selfish often are attracted to each other. For the women out there who fall into the extreme end of caretaking/codependency, it is important that you start moving toward the center—healthy life, balance and self-care. One of the best ways to begin is  by establishing boundaries. Usually, a competent therapist can help with either of these extremes. I have a colleague who talks about this dynamic much more in depthly in his work. Check out his book, The Human Magnet Syndrome, for added insight.

In addition, one of my commenters asked that I include a “healthy version” of a person in the middle. What a great idea! I will do that on my next posting.

Where are you on the lifeline? How is it working for you? We would love to hear about it.

Lastly, could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.

Take care,


Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at



Are You With A Controlling Partner? 11 Signs To Look Out For

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Are you in a relationship with a controlling partner? If so, this could be dangerous to your self-esteem and well- being. In fact, these could be signs or symptoms of behaviors that could escalate into violence. Here are 11 signs to be aware of:15023885737_178a7a574d

1. He/She doesn’t feel comfortable around your friends. They act anxious, around them and  interact in a restricted and tense way.

2. He/She puts down your friends or points our negative things about them. “I am not saying they are bad, I am just concerned for you,” they may report.

3. He/She doesn’t like your relatives. Usually, they start out liking them and then start saying subtle and then more overt things about why your family members  aren’t as loving, good for you, or great as you thought.

4. He/She wants to be in charge of things. This could mean finances, decisions about your life, decisions about the kids, decisions about how you dress or act. They say this is because it is in your best interest. Hmm…

Continue reading… »


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