Emotional Blackmail- the cost of fear, obligation, and guilt

Emotional blackmail- what a charged topic!  Do you know what it is?  Emotional blackmail is when someone close to you threatens you either directly or indirectly to get what they want.  They use guilt, obligation, and fear of reprisal or negative consequences to manipulate you into compliance.

It is “emotional” because it isn’t usually a tangible threat like “if you don’t pay me a million dollars I’ll tell your constituents you cheated on your taxes.”  The blackmailer uses an emotional hold on you; they are usually someone you care about.  Face it, if you didn’t care they wouldn’t be able to hold you hostage.

Some examples are:

  • The person who over-rides you no matter what your needs or wants are.  They convince you that their needs and ideas are more important.
  • The person who never gives something without a string attached.  The string may be visible like the directly spoken “you owe me a favor now” or foggy but no less powerful, “A good friend would do ____.”
  • The person who threatens harm to themselves in order to get you to act a certain way.  “If my parents don’t let me ______ I’ll stop eating” (heard from an eating disorder client in my office.)  Another example, “If you leave me I’ll kill myself.”  The blackmailer makes you responsible for their stability and health.
  • The person who makes you responsible for being the “adult” in the relationship at all times.  This is the person who demands that you be available for them whenever they are falling apart and are mad when you aren’t.
  • The person who refuses to do healthy things for the relationship because “It’ll make me [suicidal, crazy, fall apart, etc.]”

What an emotional blackmailer does is makes you afraid to cross them because of what might happen.  They want it to be their way and no other way.  You are an emotional hostage caught in the extremes of what in a healthy relationship would be give and take.  It is all take.

Emotional blackmail is abusive.

What can you do?  Don’t play into it.  If you can, imagine how you would ignore or help a child throwing a tantrum.  We are talking about another adult here; they are responsible for themselves.  They need to be honored by allowing them to control their own behaviors and accept any consequences of those behaviors.

You can clearly and succinctly let them know you care, and tell them what you see as the consequences of the behavior they are threatening.  Remind them they are an adult and you are treating them as such.  

One serious note- if someone threatens self harm, call 911 immediately.  Do not take any risk or responsibility for their behavior when they are making a self harm threat.  If your child refuses to eat, then let them know it will result in an evaluation for possible admission to an inpatient unit for treatment.  If someone threats they will “go crazy” or “lose it” then remind them there can be repercussions like a call to 911 if they are unsafe or destructive.

Bottom line: you are not responsible for another adult’s feelings or needs.  Don’t be blackmailed.  Use healthy communication skills in order to negotiate each others’ needs.  Practice healthy boundaries and self esteem.  It isn’t yours and you are enough no matter how the other person is trying to make you feel.  Give the responsibility for self, feelings, and behavior back to them. 

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4 thoughts on “Emotional Blackmail- the cost of fear, obligation, and guilt

  1. The emotional blackmail used against my husband has backfired in every ones face. It started out as a way to ease him back into his civilian life after being gone for three and a half years mostly under water on submarines, When he came home I was asked to help keep him from disrupting peoples lives by him taking his contractual rights under a UAW contract in the plant he worked in, it developed into a way to control him for the society at large. make him work holidays, weekends, and even not take his vacation slots at any time he would like in favor of others deemed more worthy by his father, his friends and many o my friends, From 1985 to 2009 he had only six days off all after he had a surgery to relieve adult onset hydrocephalus by drilling a hole to the center of his head from over his right eye to remove4 a tumor, then he was forced by armed intimidation after he took a job from the son of his fathers best friend with his 23 years of seniority.
    The only way I could influence my husband was with refusing sex, I never felt right about it but hen casualties started mounting when someone tried to get him to just do as they wanted, he started refusing then someone would make the mistake of trying to force a man trained in combat arts in two military services. the time since a MRSA abcess was discovered in his spine in 2009 has been the worst, he was never supposed to get out of a wheel chair, over the next three years he developed a hate for any control, Since getting out of rehab in 2013, he forced me to have sex two weeks after he got out of a stress center for anger management and rage control after destroying my affair partner for trying to humiliate him. things over the last two years have become progressively worse, he has trashed family holiday and vacation traditions built from 1985, the last after his father got angry about him not being willing to wait until the hawaie vacation in three years and then him and others would decide if he was going top get a vacation then, My husband refused to allow me to loan somebody else the price of a berth and told me if he was not going this time then I was not using his funds to go myself, This infuriated many his father especially that he did not have any more patience after 33 years and was mannerless about the way he was inserting himself into the vacation, my husband got so mad when his father became drunk bought a base ball bat and came to our hotel room to teach his son a lesson and came through the door swinging only to hit a ways down the hall with a broken neck, the tradition of a family and friend trip for every three years was scraped because my husband would not accept I could work on everyone this time and he could go the next. I know the rest of use had promised at least seven times over thirty years he would be on the next vacation trip in three years but this time I was willing to go to the mat for him, but since he died twice to be revived on the table that night in 2009 he does not ever think there is a guarantee of tomorrow and wont wait and get agreement for what he considers his due for 33 years of work and pain,.
    I give this as a warning for those that think emotional blackmail will not be a harmful thing, Sometimes they turn out like my husband who turns into a Frankenstien when crossed now. We have even learned what will happen for armed intimidation, he just shows up when firearms are produced and breaks the men that used them up in front of as many as he can.
    We were asked to give up our boarding passes for what was tried, we had to come home after hoping to be in a warn area the last two weeks.
    All I do now is try and beg forgivness for the last thirty two years, we received double our fares and other moneys spent to keep[ things quiet and not get any lawsuits, in three years I told everyone they may as well become resigned to my husband being with me as well as my 15 month old son then, the result of my husbands forcing me. 26 months ago now.
    In my case the emotional blackmail made everyone hurt, not just the one it was commited on.

  2. I know a woman who works in the adult entertainment industry. She is of ill repute, but has the personality of an angel. She is very convincing and if you met her, you would find it hard to believe all the cons she has pulled, marriages she has destroyed (including her own), and just her overall general sluttiness. She is adept at emotional blackmail, and has ensnared someone I know well. He cannot seem to think on his own any more. Her every wish is his command. I have to say that she is very good at what she does, but I only hope that Providence comes one day to bite her in her big fat ass because she is so good at being bad!

    1. I felt from the day my husband came home from the navy. That All He had to do was wait one more day, one more month, one more year, one more decade. Then All of the sudden its two decades from when we married, six vacation Trips I had told him he had to wait one more time for, because someone needed it more than he did, and he had 23 years of Seniority with his plant.
      One day his father came over after my husband went to work and asked me what we were going to do about him taking a job at the new plant that was just finished. I guess I looked very puzzled when his father told me that he was taking a job on midnights in a totally different department. My husband had not said a thing to me. I thought OMG the last five years I had been dancing as a erotic dancer were over, That The people I had that were friends were now going to go away including an Affair Partner that worked on days where my husband worked evening shift. When My husband came home the next morning he went to bed as usual. it was three days before the Bid was coming down. When his father came over to tell my husband he was to stay right where he was at to allow the son of his best friend a county commissioner who had 15 years less seniority than my husband to have the job. My husband told his father he was tired of being on the hottest worst most stinking job in the plant. That I was time somebody else did It, He was taking the new job. The day before my husband took the job I went to him and begged him to back off just once more, I would let him have the normal marriage bed he wanted, show him the greatest sex he would ever have and even got to the mat with his father and others if he would just stay were he was at for time off. I don’t know where and how but he had learned while using sex denial to him that I had; affairs, He stood there and Called me a tramp, other names even worse and told me that He was going to decide for himself what he was going to do for a new job that I had nothing to say about anything and he wanted me to step in front of a semi truck moving at high speed. I told his father of my offer and he said what did he mean by saying he was the only one to make this decision just because I refused sex. He said That it was to bad his big baby son did not want to be a man, he was to be taught a lesson for his defiance.
      I was told to dead bolt my husband out of the house the night before the bid was coming down, to be taught this lesson. There was a lesson taught just not the one we thought, His best friends son and three others followed my husband onto our porch, They gave him two options both resulting in him removing his name off the bid, being the kind of man my husband is he offered a third option, He said get out of my face and off my porch or die. They decided they need to try teaching him defiance was not acceptable, Two of them nearly died including the man I was having an affair with and the son of his fathers friend the other two had concussions and dislocations and broken bones. I ended up laying under the front door with my husband standing on it promising that the next time I tried getting him hurt he would kill me.
      His father appeared with the police and emergency services crying was a dam job worth this. My husband said apparently his father and the four men thought so or they would have just taken it as it was under the contract With the UAW involving seniority. My ankle had to be put in a cast, and his father and others felt armed intimidation was needed until he was hospitalized 8 years later for MRSA in his spine. 3 years later and two weeks in a stress center for Anger Management and rage control after my next affair was discovered, That man paid for his attempt at humiliation with a fractured scull and three weeks in ICU and another two before he went home on the east coast. Where his wife divorced him.
      Since February 2013, Everyone has been trying to think of some way to a peaceful life, First my husband came back from the center, to find me getting ready to go with his father, mother, and his fathers best friend, Now Just working in the mayors office, to a political fund raiser. His father felt refusing to pick him up would force the center to hold him another day, since it was – 40 below that day. I heard the patio door open and close as I was trying to get a clasp done and when I went out in the living room I ran into my husbands chest.. He looked like a storm about to break.
      I tried explaining to my husband that the 31 years before just had to many peoples needs involved. to let him have his way I was trying to apologize for the way he was treated, but nobody could think of another way. He told me flat out that he had paid for my life the last 31 years for nothing in return, he had paid for the outfit and jewelry I was wearing and he was damned if I was wearing it for someone else. That evening and night were his to decide what happened, I started begging and pleading to Just please let me go to the event. I handed him a 100.00 bill. Told him to pick a place to meet after the event and we would get his grievances out and decide how we would allow his life to go forward.
      He felt that we did not have a dog in that hunt is how he put it, We had stolen 31 years of his life and he was going to start taking it back that evening. The next 45 minutes he raped me, then he threw his fathers best friend face first into the drive.
      He was actually so uncaring about any feelings he handed me the phone and said the number is 911, don’t clean up because the police would want a rape kite and he said the accounts will be frozen so he hoped my mother would take me in. I went in and put a dressing gown on heard his fathers friends scream and the thud, and his father yelling to come help with his badly hurt friend, My husband said he hoped he bleed out, Then my mother in law asked why I had the phone in my hand, She said She knew that one day this was going to happen. The last two years I have seen nothing but defiance out of my husband, to the point he broke his fathers neck at another attempt to teach a lesson with a ball bat. My and his mother think what we have received was more than justified. I don’t know how else things could have been done. Except when my husband came home I told his father that I was standing with my husband against him.

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