Emotional Blackmail in Relationships and How to Handle it

“If you go out with your friends I’ll know that you don’t care about me!” Has the person you are dating ever told you something like that? If the answer is yes, then you are probably going through emotional blackmail in your relationship without even realizing it. Emotional blackmailers usually tend to give the people they are close ultimatums that then cause fear, guilt, or obligation to get what they want. In most relationships, emotional blackmail is usually so subtle that those in such situations don’t realize it. Pressuring or reminding someone of their duties can be one low-key tactic of emotional blackmail. A romantic partner who is emotionally blackmailing you can say, ” You say you love me, but you won’t stop talking to your friend because I want you to.” In such a scenario, the manipulator is reminding the victim that because they are in love, they are obligated to do what the other partner requires them to do.

How Do You Know If You Are Being Emotionally Blackmailed?

Believe it or not, you might not know if you’re being blackmailed. It might seem like you should know, but sometimes people are too close to the situation and therefore, they don’t recognize the warning signs.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should be on the lookout for:

  1. Do you apologize a lot? In other words, do you feel like your partner thinks everything you do is wrong and so, you have to constantly beg for forgiveness?
  2. Do you take responsibility for your partner’s actions? In other words, if they are having a temper tantrum, do you automatically think it’s because you did something wrong?
  3. Does it seem like you are the only one who gives in or makes sacrifices in the relationship?
  4. Do you often feel intimidated by your partner? Do you feel threatened into obeying what they say or forcibly comply?
  5. Do you make changes to your life just to make your partner happy?
  6. Do you find it difficult to stand up for yourself? Or do you feel like you are walking around on eggshells and that you can’t talk about things that are bothering you?
  7. Do you find it impossible to set up boundaries in your relationship or to say no to your partner?
  8. Do you find it extremely difficult to communicate with your partner? And that if you do, he/she will not hear what you are really saying?

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, then you are probably being emotionally blackmailed. And you need to do something about it.

How to handle the situation

It’s not all on you

If you have just come to the realization that your partner is emotionally blackmailing you, remember that it is not your responsibility to fix someone who is treating you badly. Remember that the manipulator has choices about their behavior and dilemmas and they are trying to shift that responsibility to you. Don’t let them.

Lay boundaries

There are ways to bring up your concerns with a loved one if you believe that their emotional blackmail is something they’re unaware of.

For instance, if your partner threatens to leave because you have declined to do something for them you should directly and firmly state a boundary by telling them to stop. This can feel scary, but it usually works.

Threats often don’t materialize, because they’re usually a plea for more attention. You can also assure the manipulator that you love them and want the relationship intact but are unwilling to do what they want.

Communicate

If you’re dealing with a repeat offender of emotional blackmail, all good solutions start with communication.

You should talk to your partner to express concern. If their goal is to hijack your emotions, then you first need to be clear with yourself what you are willing to accept. Express this to them, and hold to it. You can say, clearly, that you won’t be manipulated.

If insecurities exist, ask what you can do to help them feel more secure. Maybe your partner needs more regular romantic gestures.

Step away

If this person won’t stop despite your requests and continues, then it is time to consider stepping away. Emotional blackmail is an abusive dynamic, especially if it continues after boundaries are clearly laid. You deserve to feel loved and supported, not threatened.

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