How to recognize emotional blackmailing in a relationship and what you can do about it

What is emotional blackmail?

Emotional blackmail is an abusive manipulation tactic used to pressure someone into doing or feeling something by influencing their emotions. In other words, someone may use your feelings of kindness or sympathy to make you comply with their wishes. Emotional blackmail most often occurs in romantic relationships where one of the partners is toxic. The following sentences are some examples of emotional blackmail:

  • If you try to leave me, I will kill myself.
  • You say you love me, but you refuse to give me your passwords.
  • If you do not stop talking to him/her, I will leave you.

The above sentences are designed to evoke guilt and to put the blame on you. By using them, the blackmailers play on your emotions and make you succumb to their demands.

What should you do if your partner uses emotional blackmail?

1. Analyze how you feel

Observe your partner’s behavior and the way they treat you. Ask yourself how it makes you feel. Do you constantly apologize for things you do not think are wrong? Does your partner make you feel like you have to take responsibility for their actions? Are you intimidated by your partner? If so, they are most likely using emotional blackmail in your relationship.

2. Try journalling 

It is helpful to write down the way you feel, the interactions you have, and what your partner says when they use emotional blackmailing. The reason behind this is that we tend to forget the exact words that were used in an argument and we may subsequently excuse behavior which should not be tolerated. Therefore, having a record of exactly what was said can make you realize that their words truly are abusive. This way, you will not be tricked into forgiving their manipulation.

3. Make sure that you are safe 

Emotional manipulators can threaten you and make you feel as though you are in danger. If they blackmail you and say that they will hurt you (or your children), you need to seek help and ensure that you can protect yourself and your family.

4. Take action

If your partner truly is an emotional blackmailer, try to talk to them and ask that they listen to what you have to say. It is possible that they do not realize the severity of their words. If this is the case and they acknowledge that they need to change, ask them to seek help. However, it is also possible that they may not understand or want to change. In this case, you must take action to protect your safety and wellbeing. More often than not, this means ending the relationship.

It is important that you remind yourself that just like everybody else, you deserve to feel loved, respected, and cared for in your relationship.

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