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Published on July 16, 2020

How to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship

How to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship

Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner makes you feel crazy? Or where they wanted to control your every move? Or perhaps you have felt like you were being emotionally blackmailed?

If you have felt that way, you are not alone. Many people find themselves a victim of an emotional blackmailer.

But what exactly is emotional blackmail? Let’s take a look.

What Is Emotional Blackmail?

Emotional blackmail is a very dysfunctional dynamic that happens in some relationships. It is a form of manipulation that a person uses to make demands on and threaten their victims to get what they want.

Just like “regular” blackmail, the message of emotional blackmail is this: “If you don’t do what I want and when I want it, you will be sorry. I will make you suffer.”

An example of “regular blackmail” might look like this. Perhaps you walked in on your married boss fooling around in his office with one of your co-workers (who is not his wife). Since he doesn’t want his wife to find out, he will likely do anything to keep you from telling his secret. So, it would be blackmail for you to say, “I won’t tell your wife if you double my salary.”

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Emotional blackmail is not really that different from this. It just happens in close, intimate relationships.

Someone who is trying to emotionally blackmail you will create feelings of fear, guilt, and anger to get you to comply with what they want. While they are doing this, they try to blame you (the victim) for their own negative behavior.

Examples of Emotional Blackmail

A person who is an emotional blackmailer tends to be emotionally immature. They don’t have any other ways to communicate with someone, and they don’t know how to be in a healthy relationship. Instead, they rely on their negative behavior to bully their partner into compliance.

Emotional blackmail occurs in many romantic relationships. In fact, this is probably the most common type of relationship in which you will find this occurring.

Let’s take the example of cheating. If a woman is caught cheating on her husband (and she is an emotional blackmailer), then instead of expressing remorse and apologizing for her actions, she will instead deflect the blame onto her husband.

In other words, she may say things like “If you were just more loving and attentive to me, then I wouldn’t have had to cheat on you!” In saying this, she is justifying her behavior and confusing her husband so much that he might actually start to believe that it is his fault that she cheated on him.

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He may even start to internalize this and wonder if maybe he is not good enough for her or that he is somehow a bad husband.

Here are some other ways that someone can emotionally blackmail another person:

  • If you ever break up with me, I will commit suicide.
  • You say you love me, but you won’t stop talking to your friend because I want you to.
  • If I ever catch you looking at another woman, I’ll kill her!
  • I’ve talked to my friends and family, and they all agree that you are crazy!
  • You have ruined my life, and now you’re trying to tell me to stop drinking?

You see, an emotional blackmailer will always try to make the victim feel like they are to blame for everything. Here are a couple of more examples:

  • It’s your fault that I didn’t get that promotion at work.
  • If you would just buy healthy food, then I wouldn’t be fat.

They also use strategies that create confusion in their victims. The ways they do this is by making their demands seem reasonable, making their victim seem selfish or crazy, or partnering with someone else to help intimidate them.

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:

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  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.

Tips for Handling Emotional Blackmail

If you are a victim of emotional blackmail, there are some ways you can handle it.

1. Be Honest With Yourself

First, you need to be honest with yourself and really take a hard, objective look at your partner’s behavior. Try to recognize their controlling behavior – of all kinds.

2. Keep a Journal

Writing down

your daily interactions with the other person will allow you to go back and review what was said and done by them. That way, you have a written record of the actual behavior that is happening. Because sometimes, our memory can play tricks on us, so it’s important to get it on paper.

3. Seek Help

Try to understand why you are allowing this behavior in your partner. Is there something in your past that makes you think you deserve this negative behavior? If you have the resources to do so, try to seek help from a therapist to help you uncover why you are allowing this in your life.

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4. Determine If You Are in Danger

Many people have their occasional emotional outbursts, but if this has become something regular in your relationship, you need to protect yourself and your children (if you have them).

5. Take Action

Try to get your partner to seek help if he/she is an emotional blackmailer. And if they refuse, then you need to seriously consider ending the relationship if they will not change.

The Bottom Line

No one deserves to be emotionally blackmailed. It is a horrible, mean way to manipulate another human being. So, if you find that you are a victim of emotional blackmail in your relationship, you need to realize that you deserve better.

Save yourself and your happiness, because that is all that really matters.

Read More About Emotional Manipulation

Featured photo credit: Naomi August via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

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5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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