Emotional blackmail: How to defuse relationship time bomb

Are you a victim of emotional blackmail? Does your love partner use your weaknesses and vulnerabilities to manipulate and pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do? Emotional blackmail occurs when your partner or mate uses fear and guilt to force you to do what they want (and what you don’t want).

In the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship, you may find it cute or romantic that your honey wants you to text them throughout the day. But later when you don’t keep it up, they may become angry and use fear (“I’ll leave you”) or guilt (“You don’t love me anymore”) to control your behavior (texting them constantly).

If you’re the victim of emotional blackmail, here are some things you can do to regain your integrity and emotional freedom:

*Recognize that you deserve a respectful “blackmail free relationship.” Realize that it takes two people to create an emotional blackmail relationship: The abuser and the victim. You can choose not to be the victim by withdrawing your participation in this unhealthy type of relationship. By doing so, you recapture your self-esteem and emotional well-being.

*Create a contract with yourself. On a piece of paper or on your iPad, tablet, laptop, or phone, write out a “No Blackmail” contract with yourself. You can write something like “I commit to getting emotional blackmail out of my life and relationships. I won’t let fear or guilt control me anymore.” Read it aloud to yourself every day and incorporate it into your interactions with your mate and the important people in your life.

*Set Boundaries and keep them. A boundary is a set of social rules you maintain for how others should treat you. For example, you won’t tolerate your partner demeaning you in public, calling your derogatory profanities, or being physically abusive. Once you set a boundary, be firm in keeping it—letting your partner know you won’t stand for it when they try to violate it (e.g. Yelling at you in front of other people).

*Practice saying “No.” When you’re by yourself, practice saying “No.” Say, “No, I won’t do that,” and “The answer is ‘no.’” You can start by saying “no” to small things you don’t want to do; for example, you may not want to see a movie your partner likes. You can say, “I don’t want to see this one; let’s choose a movie we both like.” The more comfortable you get with saying “no” in small things, the more your confidence will increase. You realize that you can be loving and committed in your relationship without having to go along with every single thing your partner wants you to do.

*Communicate with “I Feel” statements. Instead of using “you” statements in an accusatory way (“You’re so controlling”), practice saying what you feel with “I” statements. For example, you can say, “I feel stressed and less loving toward you when you try to make me things I don’t want to do.” Doing this will soften the interaction while getting your feelings across to your partner.

*Create a safe space to think. When you’re feeling emotional pressure to do what you mate wants you to do, don’t respond immediately. Take some time away from them. Go shopping, work out, take a walk. Let your cooler head prevail as you detach yourself from the situation and ask yourself, “Are they asking me to do something reasonable or unreasonable?” and “Do I really want to do this, or do I feel pressured to give in to keep the peace?” All love partners ask things of each other; the key is whether you feel you have the right to say “yes,” or “no,” and whether your partner respects that. With a clear mind, you can respond in a more intelligent and rational way to what they are asking of you.

Seek Professional Help: Your blackmailing partner may not want therapy if they don’t think they have a problem—they may blame you and say that you are the one who is causing the problem (you’re not doing what they want you to do). If that’s the case, you should seek therapy yourself so you can have the tools to deal with the emotional blackmailer and possibly leave the relationship if it’s the right thing to do.

Everything starts with loving yourself. When you love yourself with self-kindness and self-compassion (not in a selfish or egotistical manner), you have more true love to give to a partner. Loving yourself means that you won’t put up with emotional blackmail, pressure, and abuse. It means that you will treat yourself and your partner with kindness, compassion, and respect as they do the same toward you.

It’s true: Only a truly respectful and compassionate relationship—both inwardly and outwardly—can give you the satisfaction and joy you seek. Make sure you fulfill your relationship potential and maintain your emotional freedom so you can love more fully.