8 Signs of Emotional Blackmail You Need To Look Out For In a Relationship

by April Maccario

When you’re in love with someone, you often turn a blind eye to how your partner acts, and sometimes you might not even realize they are acting in an unhealthy, harmful way. At the same time, when you’re getting to know someone new and are in the stages of dating, it’s difficult to know if someone is toxic, or if they just go around getting to know you in a different way to others.

However, if someone you are in a relationship with is emotionally blackmailing you, it’s vital that you realize it sooner rather than later so that you can protect yourself from it by nipping it in the bud or leaving. 

Unfortunately, the signs of emotional blackmail can be very well hidden, and that’s exactly why this article is here. We’re going to take a look at the top 8 signs of emotional blackmail, so you can see if it’s occurring in your relationship, and also how to deal with an emotional blackmailer.

Is He Emotionally Blackmailing You?

1. They always play the victim.

One of the biggest signs that someone will give you that shows they are an emotional blackmailer is that they will always act like the victim. Even if you’re the one being reasonable and right in an argument or disagreement, they will always act like they are being hard done by. 

They love to play the victim role because it makes you feel sorry for them, and you feel obliged to apologize and make it better. Even if they have said something nasty to you, or they’re the reason you’re upset, you’ll always find yourself apologizing, and they never will.

2. They intimidate you until you do what they want.

People that use emotional blackmail in a relationship will always try to intimidate their partner. This may sound contrary to the previous point, but it’s actually disturbingly impressive how an emotional blackmailer can both play the victim and terrify someone at the same time with intimidation.

Intimidation techniques differ depending on the individual. These techniques can vary from showing superior knowledge to getting physically aggressive. Regardless of the severity of the intimidation, it’s not acceptable. Intimidation doesn’t exist in a healthy relationship.

3. They gaslight you.

Although gaslighting is technically seen as a more specific type of emotional abuse, it can be used to emotionally blackmail. Gaslighting is where an individual makes another person feel like they’re going crazy and therefore they can’t trust themselves. 

Gaslighting can be used in emotional blackmail because it benefits the blackmailer to break down their victim because they won’t believe themselves or trust themselves. This makes it easier for the blackmailer to get what they want, as the victim will listen to them and trust them.

There are many signs of gaslighting, but some of the most obvious being: 

  • Your partner telling you you’re going crazy.
  • Your partner telling you that you’re a bad person and others are speaking negatively of you.
  • Your partner moving your things but denying it and make it out like you’re losing your mind.
  • Your partner making you question every move you make.

4. They want to know all of your secrets.

Although a lot of couples share their secrets with one another, they normally do so in trust. However, when someone is trying to emotionally blackmail their partner, they will want to find out all of their secrets, pretty much as soon as they can. 

Emotional blackmail often starts as early as the dating stage in a relationship, with the victim being lured to share all of their secrets and open up fully. If you think this has happened to you, one thing you will notice is that the person doing the emotional blackmail will never share their secrets, or they will share things unimportant, whereas you have probably shared your darkest depths. 

The secrets that are shared are the perfect leverage for emotional extortion. For example, if you ever try to do something that the blackmailer isn’t happy about, they might threaten to expose you. This instills a huge sense of fear into the victim.

5. They threaten to make a scene in public. 

Someone that uses emotional blackmail in relationships is most likely going to be a person that is not only extremely calculated behind the scenes, but also actually knows how to put on a scene and use some drama skills.

If you’re in public and your partner wants you to do something, whether that be to give them in a kiss in front of someone else, complain to a waiter, or agree with everything they’re saying, you might not think anything of it. However, if, as soon as you disagree to do what they want you to they threaten to cause a scene in front of everyone around you, you could be in a relationship where emotional blackmail is present. You will most likely oblige to their demands because you don’t want to cause any drama in a public place

6. They drag you down.

In a healthy relationship, there’s obviously an abundance of love and joy, but one of the most important things is support. A good partner is someone that supports your individual aspirations, believes in you, helps you to achieve your goal, and, most of all, someone that makes you see the good that perhaps you don’t see in yourself. Romantic relationships are one of the strongest support systems available to you.

However, in the type of toxic relationships that emotional blackmail occurs in, your partner will not support you. In fact, they will drag you down. They will mention your flaws, tell you when you’re wrong, and they will most importantly not support any independent aspirations or goals you have. Before you do anything you will feel fear, obligation to ask your partner for their help and opinions, and generally quite downtrodden. 

This is just another way that even the strongest person can get turned into a victim of emotional blackmail - they are worn down over and over, and have very little self-worth, so it’s easy to be pushed around and walked over.

7. They want your attention all the time.

If your partner is using emotional blackmail on you, they will make you feel guilty whenever you are not with them. Your partner will want your undivided attention at all times because they want to have you wrapped around their little finger, and quite obviously they can’t do that if you’re not with them.

If you are afraid you’re experiencing emotional blackmail, you’ll be able to notice that your partner is always by your side when you leave the house, they will always come with you to meet your friend and if they aren’t present, they’ll always want to know who you’re with and what you’re doing.  However, most of the time, if you go out without them, they will make you feel guilty and they will blackmail you into either apologizing or doing something they want you to. 

This, therefore means that every time you think about seeing a friend you will feel fear, obligation to invite them everywhere, and guilt if you do go without them.

Obviously, if your partner always wants to be your side and doesn’t like you seeing other people without them, it could just be jealousy that your partner is suffering from. If it’s emotional blackmail though, your partner will make you feel fear and guilt.

8. They threaten to hurt themselves if you do anything they don’t like.

One of the most well-known and most extreme signs of emotional blackmail is someone threatening to harm themselves if you do something they don’t want you to. For example, if you want to break up with someone that’s emotionally blackmailing you, they might threaten to harm themself or even kill themself. 

This is obviously incredibly scary, and it will really instill fear into the heart of the victim. However, the person that’s emotionally blackmailing wants the victim to feel fear, and they want them to come back and adhere to their demands and fulfill needs. Most of the time in situations where this happens, the victim will go back to the blackmailer, out of fear they will hurt themselves otherwise. 

How To Deal With Emotional Blackmail

Now we’ve taken a look at the signs of emotional blackmail in a relationship, you should hopefully have a good idea about whether this is what’s happening in your relationship or not. 

Although it can be really painful coming to the realization that your partner has been using emotional blackmail against you, it’s vital that you act and deal with it. No one deserves to be treated like this. 

How To Deal With Emotional Blackmail

Acknowledge the different ways you’re being blackmailed.

As we have seen with the signs above, there are many ways a person can emotionally blackmail someone. It’s really important to acknowledge and recognize what ways your partner blackmails you so that you can then look deeper into the issue and understand it further. 

Also, while you’re trying to figure out the ways in which your partner is blackmailing you, it is vital that you do not let on to your partner that you know they are blackmailing you. Firstly because you want to be able to monitor the behavior they normally exhibit, but also because you could put yourself in danger.

Think about whether your partner is capable of change.

Once you have identified the ways in which your partner blackmails you, you will need to think very seriously about whether you think your partner is capable of change, or not. You do not deserve to live in fear of blackmail, so the only two options you have are either your partner changing their behavior and realizing it’s wrong, or, you leave. 

The majority of the time, the best option is to leave. However, if you truly believe (with unclouded judgment) that your partner can change and needs help to change, you might be able to stay and have a successful relationship in the future.

Think about whether you’re in danger.

One of the most important things you need to consider when you realize that you’re in a relationship with an emotional blackmailer is if you are safe, or in danger. You will probably be able to grasp whether you are in danger or not by thinking about your partner’s behavior when they blackmail you. 

Is your partner really aggressive with you normally? Has your partner ever physically abused you? Does your partner have a quickly changing, fiery temper? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you might be in danger. 

If you are in danger, it’s important that you leave the relationship as safely as possible. Don’t let your partner know that you have realized what they’re doing to you, and definitely don’t let them see that you’re attempting to leave. It can be extremely helpful to gain support from loved ones and even professionals.

Share your situation.

You can find support in sharing details of your situation with loved ones and trusted friends. They will be able to offer you advice, check up on you, and support you emotionally. You might also find it useful to speak to a professional about your situation, such as a therapist or relationship counselor. They will be able to help you further understand what emotional blackmail is, and assist you in dealing with it.

As well as these people you can confide in, you could also connect with others in the same position. Although no one deserves to live with constant fear, obligation, and guilt, you’ll be surprised by how many people do. There’s an array of online blog sites and forums for people dealing with this situation and it can be comforting to have a support network like this.

Leave or work through the problem.

Once you fully understand the situation you are in and have a game plan of how you are going to deal with it, it’s time to take action. Leaving someone that’s emotionally blackmailing you might be hard, but it’s the best thing to do in most situations. Make sure you’re not in danger, have a good support network, and leave him!

However, if you are going to try and work through the issue with your partner, now’s the time to safely confront them and see if they’re willing to work at it together and see a professional to help them.

FAQs

What does emotional blackmail mean?

Emotional blackmail is when someone manipulates another, using the emotions that person has towards them. The emotional blackmailer will make the victim feel guilty and might use fear to get what they want in the relationship. A lot of the time, emotional blackmail is present with other types of abuse.

What is an example of emotional blackmail?

As mentioned above at more length in point 6, an example of emotional blackmail is when someone threatens to harm themselves if you want to end the relationship with them. Due to the fact you don’t any harm to come to them, you will stay in the relationship.

How do you emotionally blackmail someone?

It’s not healthy to try and become an emotional blackmailer, and therefore I’m not going to share details on how to blackmail someone. If you feel like you have a tendency to control or manipulate those that you care about, you may want to consider seeking professional help, in order to move forward into more fulfilling relationships.

How can you tell if someone is emotionally manipulative?

Someone that’s emotionally manipulative will always, always put the blame on you when bad things happen. They will also twist your words, guilt trip you, undermine you in front of others, gaslight you, and overall, make you feel lesser than they are, so they can rise above you. 

How do you outsmart a manipulative person?

The first thing you need to do is recognize a manipulator. Then, you need to make sure you are strong enough to ignore the manipulation tactics and rise above it. Once you are strong enough, leave the manipulator and never go back to being in a relationship with them, in any way, shape, or form. You don’t need to play games to outsmart a manipulative person,  just need to stay strong and overcome their attempts to control you.

In Summary

I really hope this article helps you to not only understand more about the signs that will be showing if emotional blackmail is occurring in your relationship, but also helps you realize how you can deal with this situation. No one should live in fear, or feel obligation and guilt. 

Did you find this article useful? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from reading.

April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

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