Whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member, emotional blackmail can be one of the most toxic and destructive emotions in relationships.
Emotional blackmail is one of the most toxic forms of manipulation in relationships. It’s also the most damaging because it keeps its victim trapped in an unhealthy situation.
It’s also a form of control where the emotional blackmailer manipulates their partner into doing things they don’t want or need to do.
These activities may include changing plans for their wedding, giving up a family member or loved one, or staying silent regarding their partner cheating.
And in some cases, they may even get involved in affairs or make false promises to get their partner to do things.
So what should you do if you’ve been emotionally blackmailed?
It all depends on how your partner has manipulated you. However, I’m going to advise you on how you can respond to an emotional blackmailer to end this destructive situation.
If you have been experiencing emotional blackmail, then chances are you are feeling as if you are trapped in a relationship that is not working. It may seem like there’s no way out, but you can use these tips to change your mind and break free.
There are many ways to handle emotional blackmail. However, there is only one way that works, and that is not to succumb to it.
The term “emotional blackmail” was coined by leading therapists Susan Forward and Donna Frazier in their 1974 book.
Emotional blackmail is a serious issue that can destroy relationships. If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s vital to take action. This article will provide you with 15 tips on how to handle emotional blackmail in a relationship.
What Is Emotional Blackmail?
Emotional blackmail is a type of relationship dynamic in which one person uses emotional outbursts and manipulation to control the other. It might involve making threats, using guilt or shame, or playing on the other person’s fears.
The goal is to get what the blackmailer wants: attention, money, sex, or anything else.
While emotional blackmail can happen in any relationship, it’s particularly common in romantic relationships.
We often invest deeply in our partners and want to please them. We might also be afraid of losing their love or approval.
It can be challenging to know what to do if you’re in a relationship with someone using emotional blackmail. You might feel trapped, scared, and even guilty.
But it’s important to remember that you have the right to set your boundaries and say “no” to anything that makes you uncomfortable.
What Is Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship?
In a relationship, emotional blackmail is when someone tries to control the other through manipulation, fear and doubt, or guilt.
It’s a form of psychological abuse that can make victims feel like they’re not allowed to express their emotions or needs.
Victims of emotional blackmail often stay in relationships because they fear what will happen if they try to leave.
They might be threatened with violence or told no one else will ever love them. Their self-esteem might be so low that they believe they deserve the treatment they’re getting.
If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re being emotionally blackmailed, reaching out for help is essential.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or call a national helpline like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
How Do You Know If You Are Being Emotionally Blackmailed?
A few key signs are that you may be emotionally blackmailed in your relationship. If your partner regularly tries to control or manipulate you with guilt, shame, or fear, that’s a red flag.
If they threaten or force you into doing something you don’t want to do, that’s also a sign of emotional blackmail.
Elements Involved in Emotional Blackmail
There are four key elements involved in emotional blackmail.
1. The Blackmailer
2. Power Statement
3. The Victim
4. The Impact
Warning Signs of Emotional Blackmail
Here are some of the common warning signs of emotional blackmail:
1. Being Accused of Everything Negative that Happens
If you’re being accused of everything negative, that happens. This is a sign of emotional blackmail.
2. Keeping You Out of Their Good Grace
If you’re being kept out of your partner’s good graces, it may be a sign of emotional blackmail.
3. Lack of Compromise or True Apology on Their End
If your partner never compromises or offers a genuine apology, it may signify emotional blackmail.
4. Making You Seem Irrational for Questioning Them
If your partner makes you seem irrational for questioning them, it may be a sign of emotional blackmail.
5. Exhorting Sacrifices from You for Their Happiness
If your partner makes you feel guilty for not sacrificing your happiness for theirs, it may be a sign of emotional blackmail.
6. Intimidating You or Threatening
If your partner makes you feel scared or threatened, it may signify extreme emotional blackmail.
7. Cosmetic Concerns About Your Well-Being
Your partner’s constant comments about your appearance or weight may signify emotional blackmail.
8. Setting Boundaries Is Close to Impossible
If your partner constantly demands and it’s impossible to set boundaries, it may be a sign of emotional blackmail.
9. Controlling What You Do
If your partner constantly demands and it’s impossible to set boundaries, it may be a sign of emotional blackmail.
How Can You Tell if Someone Is Emotionally Manipulative?
If you’re wondering how you can tell if someone is emotionally manipulative, there are a few key things to look for.
First, see if the person tries to control your feelings by making you feel guilty or playing on your emotions.
Second, notice if the person tries to gaslight you or make you question your memory and perception of events.
Finally, pay attention to whether the person is always trying to get their way or make you do things you don’t want.
If you suspect that someone might be emotionally manipulative, it’s essential to trust your gut and pay attention to how they make you feel.
If they consistently leave you feeling upset or confused, or your opinion doesn’t matter, they might try to control and manipulate you emotionally.
Why Do People Use Emotional Blackmail?
There are many reasons why people use emotional blackmail as a way to control and manipulate others. Sometimes, it may be because they want to get their way.
They may also try to keep the other person in the relationship, even if it’s abusive.
In other cases, it may be because the person is insecure and wants to control the relationship.
Some of the most common reasons why people use emotional blackmail are:
1. Lack of Empathy
One of the key reasons why people use emotional blackmail is because they lack empathy. This means they don’t understand or care about how their actions impact others.
2. Low Self-Esteem
People who use emotional blackmail often do so because of low self-esteem. They may need to control the relationship to feel good about themselves.
They may also fear rejection or abandonment, so they use emotional blackmail to keep the other person in the relationship.
3. Guilt Trips
One of the primary ways that one partner blackmails is guilt trips. Guilt trips are a common form of emotional blackmail. The blackmailer may make you feel guilty for something to get you to do exactly what they want.
For example, they may guilt you into staying in a relationship, even if it’s abusive. Or they may try to control the relationship by making you feel guilty for not giving them enough attention.
4. Excessive Dependence
Excessive dependence is one of the reasons why people emotionally blackmail. It can be hard to tell when someone crosses the line from healthy dependence to excessive reliance. However, there are some warning signs that you can watch out for.
Your consistently needing your partner’s approval or validation may indicate excessive dependence. If you can’t make decisions without consulting your partner first, it may indicate that you’re too dependent on them.
People who excessively depend on their partners often feel they can’t live without them. This can lead to feelings of insecurity and anxiety when the relationship is threatened.
If your partner threatens to leave you or ends the relationship, you may feel like you will lose everything.
This desperation can lead to desperate measures, such as emotional blackmail.
5. They like to Boast
Many people who use emotional blackmail like to boast about it. They may brag to their friends or family about how they manipulated their partner into doing what they want. This can be a way of making themselves feel more powerful and in control.
6. Tendency to Blame Others
Some people who use emotional blackmail tend to blame others for their issues. They may try to manipulate their partners into taking responsibility for their problems, or they may constantly accuse their partners of being the cause of their unhappiness.
7. They’re Not Good at Taking Advice/Criticism
Some people who use emotional blackmail are not good at taking advice or criticism. They may try to manipulate their partners into thinking they are always right, or they may become defensive and refuse to listen to constructive feedback.
8. They Criticize the Opinions of Others and Play down Their Successes
Some people who use emotional blackmail tend to criticize the opinions of others and play down their successes. They may try to manipulate their partners into thinking they are always right, or they may become defensive and refuse to listen to constructive feedback.
9. They Blow Hot and Cold
Some people who use emotional blackmail tend to blow hot and cold. They may be loving and attentive and then withdraw all affection the next. This can be confusing and frustrating for their partners, who may feel they can never please them.
What Types of Emotional Blackmailers Are There?
There are primarily three types of emotional blackmailers:
1. The Punisher
This type of emotional blackmailer often uses fear to control their partners. They may threaten to hurt or abandon their partner if they don’t do what they want. This can be extremely frightening and leave their partner feeling helpless and alone.
2. The Self-Punisher or the Sufferer
The self-punisher tries to control their partner through guilt. They may threaten to hurt themselves if their partner doesn’t do what they want. This can be highly confusing and frustrating for their partners, who may feel they can never please them.
3. The Tantalizer
This type of emotional blackmailer tries to control their partner through fear. They may threaten to hurt or abandon their partner if they don’t do what they want. This can be extremely frightening and leave their partner feeling helpless and alone.
Emotional Blackmail Tactics
1. They Always Play the Victim
One common tactic used by emotional blackmailers is always to play the victim. They may make their partners feel guilty by threatening to hurt themselves if they don’t get what they want.
2. They Intimidate You until You Do What They Want
This type of manipulation is another common tactic used by emotional blackmailers to intimidate their partners until they comply with what they want.
They may threaten to hurt or abandon their partner to trigger fear in the victim if they don’t do what they want. This can be extremely frightening and make the victim feel helpless and alone.
3. They Gaslight You
One of the most dangerous tactics used by emotional blackmailers is gaslighting. This involves manipulating and confusing their partners so that they question their reality and memory.
They may deny things that happened or try to make their partners think they are crazy. This can severely damage their partner’s mental health and leave them isolated and alone.
4. They Want to Know All of Your Secrets
One of the most intrusive tactics of emotional blackmailers is trying to pry into their partner’s secrets. They may try to dig up dirt on their partner or even threaten to expose their secrets if they don’t get what they want.
This can be extremely humiliating and scary for their partner, who may feel they have no privacy or control.
5. They Threaten to Make a Scene in Public
These blackmailers use our fear of embarrassment or anxiety about making a scene to control us. They often play on our need for approval or fear of rejection.
6. They Drag You Down
If your partner constantly puts you down, it may be an emotional blackmail tactic known as “dragging you down.”
This involves making their partner feel bad about themselves to control them. They may do this by negatively commenting on their partner’s appearance, intelligence, or abilities.
This can severely damage their partner’s self-esteem and leave them feeling worthless and helpless.
7. They Threaten to Hurt Themselves if You Do Anything They Don’t Like.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of emotional blackmail, you know how difficult it can be to deal with. The blackmailer will threaten to hurt themselves if you don’t do what they want, leaving you helpless and frightened.
It’s important to remember that the blackmailer is using their threats to control you. They may be feeling insecure and powerless in their own lives, and this is their way of trying to regain some control.
9 Stages of Emotional Blackmail
Almost always, demand is the first stage of emotional blackmail. It is a way of pressuring someone to get what you want from them. The demand may be for money, sex, time, or anything else you think the other person can give you.
Isolation is when your partner constantly isolates you from your friends and family.
The blackmailer applies pressure to get what they want: money, sex, or attention. Emotional blackmail, when it involves pressure, can take many forms.
If the victim does not comply with the blackmailer’s demand, the blackmailer threatens to carry out the negative consequence.
5. The Ultimatum
The abuser gives the victim an ultimatum: comply with the demand or suffer the consequences.
An ultimatum is a common form of abuse in which the abuser gives the victim a request: comply with the demand or suffer the consequences.
The ultimatum is one of the ways that one partner controls and manipulates the other partner (victim) into doing what they want. An ultimatum is a dangerous form of abuse that can have severe consequences for the victim.
Victims of emotional blackmail often feel as though they are stuck in a compliance stage – always doing what the blackmailer wants to avoid further pain or conflict.
This can be a complicated and draining way to live, always walking on eggshells and feeling like you’re never good enough.
If the victim still does not comply, the abuser punishes them by carrying out the threatened negative consequence.
Your blackmailer will try to convince you of something repeatedly, hoping that you’ll eventually give in and do what they want.
It’s a form of mental manipulation that can be hard to resist. If you’re constantly being told that you’re not good enough or that you’ll never amount to anything, you may start to believe it.
And if your blackmailer is someone close to a you-a partner, friend, or family member, you may feel like you have no choice but to give in to their demands.
9. The Forgiveness
The abuser punishes the victim for their wrongdoings. After the victim has been punished, the abuser then forgives them.
This is an act of forgiveness that is often seen in abusive relationships. The abuser can control the victim through this cycle of abuse and forgiveness. The victim may feel guilty and responsible for the abuse.
“Our actions may be making us miserable, but the idea of doing anything differently is worse. Yet if there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty, both personally and professionally, it is this: Nothing will change in our lives until we change our own behavior.” – Susan Forward
The Traits that Make You Vulnerable to Emotional Blackmail
Certain traits can make you more vulnerable to emotional blackmail.
For example, if you’re a people pleaser or tend to avoid conflict, you may be more likely to give in to demands from your partner.
Other traits that can make you vulnerable include being a perfectionist, a caretaker, or having low self-esteem.
If you recognize these traits in yourself, you must be aware of the possibility of emotional blackmail in your relationship.
10 Examples of Emotional Blackmail
Many different types of emotional blackmail can occur in a relationship. Here are some examples:
1. Guilt Trips: “If you loved me, you would do this for me.”
2. Threats: “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll leave you.”
3. Ultimatums: “Either you do what I want, or I’m out of here.”
4. Manipulation: “I’ll never forgive you if you don’t do what I want.”
5. Mind Games: “I’ll make you feel guilty if you don’t do what I want.”
6. Isolation: “You won’t see your friends again if you don’t do what I want.”
7. Exclusion: “You’re not a part of this family if you don’t do what I want.”
8. Invalidation: “Your feelings don’t matter; what I want is all that matters.”
9. Blame: “It’s all your fault that I’m unhappy if you would just do what I want.”
10. Shame: “You’re so selfish, all you care about is yourself.”
15 Tips for Handling Emotional Blackmail?
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s essential to take action. Here are 15 tips on how to best handle emotional blackmail.
1. First, Recognize What Isn’t Emotional Blackmail
One of the first steps in handling emotional blackmail involves recognizing what it is and isn’t. Many people mistake normal relationship conflict for emotional blackmail.
It’s important to remember that not every disagreement or demand from your partner may look like emotional blackmail but in reality, it may not be emotional blackmail.
Healthy relationships often involve occasional conflict. What sets emotional blackmail apart is manipulation tactics to control or punish the partner.
If you’re not sure whether something is emotional blackmail or not, ask yourself if you’re being coerced into doing something against your will. If the answer is yes, then it’s likely emotional blackmail.
2. Acknowledge the Different Ways You’re Being Blackmailed
If your partner constantly demands that you comply with or suffer the consequences, this is a form of emotional blackmail.
Similarly, if your partner threatens to leave you or punish you if you don’t do what they want, this is emotional blackmail.
For example, a husband might blackmail his wife, making her feel guilty for not spending enough time with him or not doing what he wants her to do. This can be a very effective form of manipulation, making the wife feel like she is always in the wrong.
Isolation is another common tactic used in emotional blackmail. If your partner starts to isolate you from your friends and family or tries to control who you see and what you do, this is a form of emotional manipulation.
This tactic often makes victims feel like they have no one to turn to but their abuser.
3. Keep Calm and Stall
One of the best ways to handle emotional blackmail is to keep calm and stall. This brakes the cycle of emotional blackmail and gives you time to think about how to approach the situation and determine the best response. This is one of the easiest steps to engage in a relationship with an emotional blackmailer.
It’s important not to give in to blackmail demands immediately, as this can reinforce the controlling behavior. If you can, try to stall for time by saying you need to think about it or asking for more information.
This will help you avoid making rash decisions that you may regret later.
4. Determine if You Are Safe
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s essential to determine if you’re safe.
Is your partner isolating you from your friends and family or trying to control who you see and what you do?
These are all red flags that indicate your safety may be at risk. If you’re in an unsafe situation, you must reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support.
5. Write It All Down
One of the best ways is to write everything down. This will help you keep track of the blackmail demands and also help you remember what your options are.
If you’re in an unsafe situation, writing everything down can also help you reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support.
6. Set Strong Boundaries
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s important to set strong boundaries. Setting boundaries is the best way to protect yourself from emotional blackmail.
Knowing your limits makes it easier to stand up for yourself and say no when someone tries to manipulate you.
7. Share Your Situation
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, you must contact a trusted friend or family member for support.
Sharing your situation with someone you trust can help you determine how to respond to the blackmail demands.
8. Identify What Makes You Cave in
This can help you figure out how to respond to future blackmail attempts.
Do you cave in when the person threatens to hurt themselves? When do they threaten to hurt you? When do they threaten to tell your secrets?
Once you know what makes you cave in, you can develop a plan for dealing with the toxic behavior.
9. Think about whether Your Partner Is Capable of Change
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s essential to consider whether your partner can change.
10. Present the Opportunity for Change
Presenting the opportunity for change can help to diffuse the situation and may help your partner to see the error of their ways.
11. Consider Counseling
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, counseling can be a helpful way to deal with the situation. Counseling with a relationship expert can help you understand the dynamics of emotional blackmail and how to better deal with it.
12. Walkway from Their Tears and Screams
No one ever wants to be in a relationship where they feel like they’re being emotionally blackmailed. A feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness can leave you feeling trapped, scared, and alone. A safer environment in the relationship is an absolute necessity.
If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re being emotionally blackmailed, it’s essential to understand that it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this treatment and don’t have to put up with this kind of relationship.
There is help available if you’re being emotionally blackmailed in a relationship. There are people in your life who are close to us, understand what you’re going through, and can help you find a way out. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
13. Buy Yourself Time
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being emotionally blackmailed, it is essential to remember that you have options. One option is to buy yourself some time.
This can be done by telling your partner you need time to consider their demand. This will give you some time to assess how to handle the situation and devise a plan.
14. Change Your Mindset
If you’re being emotionally blackmailed, someone is using your emotions against you to get what they want. This can be a tough situation to deal with, but there are some things you can do to change the way you think about it and take back control.
First of all, try to understand why the person is doing this.
What do they stand to gain by making you feel guilty or manipulated?
Once you know their motivation, it will be easier to see the situation for what it is and not let their tactics affect you so much.
Remembering that you have a right to say no is also important. Just because someone tries to make you feel guilty doesn’t mean you have to do what they want.
15. Consider Leaving
If the emotional blackmail becomes intolerable, you may have to consider leaving the relationship.
This is a difficult decision, but it may be the best option for your safety and well-being if you feel like you’re being constantly manipulated and controlled.
Contact a trusted friend or family member for support if you decide to leave. They can help you through this challenging time and provide a shoulder to cry on.
In Good Relationships, It’s about Needs, Not Wins
In romantic relationships, it’s not about who wins or loses. It’s about both partners having their needs met.
Unfortunately, some people use emotional blackmail to get their way in relationships. They may threaten to break up with their partner or withhold love and affection if they don’t get what they want. This is not a healthy way to relate to someone you care about.
Both partners need to feel like they’re being heard and respected. If one person is always trying to control the relationship, it will eventually lead to resentment and conflict. Instead, try to find mutually agreeable solutions that satisfy both of you.
How to Stop Emotional Blackmail in Relationships?
One way to do this is to call out the behavior when it happens. This can be not easy, but being assertive and standing up for yourself is essential.
Getting Help for Emotional Blackmail: 3 Vital Steps
You can take three vital steps to get help for emotional blackmail:
1. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support.
2. Write everything down.
3. Consider leaving the relationship if it becomes intolerable.
These steps will help you assess the situation, remember your options, and make the best decision for your safety and well-being.
Why Some People Are More Likely to Be Emotional Blackmail Victims than Others
There are a few reasons why some people are more likely to be emotional blackmail victims than others.
First, if you’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship, you may be more likely to be targeted by emotional blackmailers.
Second, if you’re a people-pleaser or tend to put your partner’s needs above your own, you may be more likely to tolerate emotional blackmail.
Finally, if you’re facing a difficult situation in your life, such as a job loss or illness, you may be more vulnerable to being manipulated by emotional blackmail. If you find yourself in any of these situations, you must be aware of the risks and take steps to protect yourself from being exploited.
What if They Threaten to Harm Themselves?
If your partner threatens to harm themselves if you leave the relationship, you must contact a professional for help.
This is a serious situation; you should not try to handle it alone. A professional can help assess the situation and provide resources and support. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
If you need to find ways to deal with emotional blackmail in a relationship, start by being aware of what emotional blackmail is.
Is your partner threatening to leave or end the relationship because of what you did or didn’t do? How are they trying to control you? Do they expect you to apologize or to change your behavior? Do they demand certain behaviors that you disagree with?
If so, emotional blackmail might happen, and you need to take appropriate action. The first step in dealing with emotional blackmail is awareness. Once you know what it looks like, you can take corrective action. Ultimately remember that you deserve to be treated with respect.
Let’s talk if you’re struggling with emotional blackmail and need help.
FAQs | Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship
How to handle emotional abuse in a relationship?
The best way to handle emotional abuse in a relationship will vary depending on the situation. However, some tips on how to deal with emotional abuse in a relationship include the following:
-Identifying the signs of emotional abuse.
-Communicating with your partner about the problem.
-Setting boundaries with your partner.
-Getting support from friends or family.
-Seeking professional help.
How to recover from emotional abuse in a relationship?
The best way to recover from emotional abuse will vary depending on the situation. However, some tips for recovering from emotional abuse in a relationship include seeking professional help, talking to supportive friends or family members, and practicing self-care. It is also important to remember that you are not alone and that others have been through similar experiences.
What is emotional abuse in a romantic relationship?
Emotional abuse in a romantic relationship is defined as a pattern of behavior in which one partner repeatedly uses verbal and emotional tactics to control, degrade, and undermine the other partner. This can include but is not limited to: gaslighting, stonewalling, withholding affection, demeaning comments, and public humiliation. Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse and often affects the victim’s mental health.
What emotional abuse looks like in a relationship?
There are many forms of emotional abuse, but some common signs include the following:
-Making belittling or hurtful comments
-Withholding affection or love
-Constantly criticizing or putting your partner down
-Isolating your partner from friends or family
-Threatening or manipulating them
-Making them feel guilty or worthless
If you’re experiencing any of these things in your relationship, you must seek help.
What are emotional blackmail examples?
There are many examples of emotional blackmail, but they all involve using someone’s emotions against them to get what you want. For instance, you might threaten to hurt yourself if someone doesn’t do what you want or try to make someone feel guilty by telling them how much they’ve hurt you. Emotional blackmail is a very manipulative and harmful tactic that can damage relationships and leave people feeling powerless.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
A relationship coach can help you by providing guidance and support as you work to improve your relationship. They can offer advice on communication, conflict resolution, and other areas that may be causing difficulty in your relationship. A coach can also help you set goals and plan to achieve them. If you are struggling in your relationship, a coach may be able to help you get back on track.
Do you take responsibility for your partner’s actions?
No, I do not take responsibility for my partner’s actions. I believe that each person is responsible for their actions and choices.
- Positive Psychology: 18+ Ways to Handle Emotional Blackmail (+ Examples & Quotes)
- Healthline: Emotional Blackmail: Definition, How It Works, and More
- Marriage: 10 Ways to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship
- Lifehack: How to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship
- A Conscious Rethink: 4 Types Of Emotional Blackmail Manipulators Use Against You
- Huff Post: What Is Emotional Blackmail? Here’s How To Spot The Toxic Behavior
- Hack Spirit: The toxic cycle of emotional blackmail and how to stop it
- Calm Sage: What is Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship? Examples & Signs