Mandy Kloppers

How to deal with emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail is a form of emotional abuse. It’s a manipulative attempt to control some one else by playing with their emotions. A manipulative person displays passive aggressive behaviour by pulling on your heart strings. They try to instil fear, obligation and guilt into their victim in order to get their way. People with low self esteem often end up being subject to emotional blackmail. The more you respect yourself, the more inclined you are to be intolerant of emotional blackmail and unhealthy demands.

What is the best way to deal with emotional blackmail?

Recognise that emotional blackmail is a form of abuse

When someone tries to manipulate you to do something by trying to make you feel bad, it’s a form of abuse. There is nothing wrong with asking for what you want but it’s not acceptable to go about it in an indirect way. Abusers are adept at triggering the right emotions in you. They have a knack for knowing how to get you to react. They may attempt to make you feel that you are selfish if you don’t go along with their needs.

Don’t give in to emotional blackmail

You teach people how to treat you. If you give in to emotional blackmail you encourage it to continue. Giving in may seem easier to do but you create a problematic future for yourself. Don’t accept being belittled, bullied or pressurised into doing something you don’t want to do.

Maintain clear boundaries

Establish boundaries and let the emotional blackmailer know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Be very clear and direct about what you want.

Be assertive

Ensure that you stand up for yourself and let your blackmailer know when you feel they are crossing the line. You have every right to be treated respectfully.

Example of emotional blackmail

One scenario is if a man/woman in a committed relationship is caught cheating on their partner. Rather than taking ownership and apologizing for their actions, they may twist the story. They may blame their partner for not meeting their needs or being there when they needed them, therefore, seemingly rationalizing or justifying their behavior. This can be confusing for the victim, as she/he may be inclined to question herself/himself or start believing the claims. They may wonder if they’re good enough or if they could have done more in the relationship.

Emotional blackmailers commonly attempt to make the victim feel responsible for their (negative) actions.

  • It was your fault that I was late for work.
  • If you wouldn’t cook in an unhealthy way, I wouldn’t be overweight.
  • I would have gotten ahead in my career if you had done more at home.

Emotional blackmail can be subtle. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong it probably is. A healthy relationship is about open communication and collaboration. If you feel you having to give more than you feel willing to, explore that feeling. If clear boundaries aren’t maintained, you could end up anxious and depressed. The emotional impact of emtional blackmail can be huge. It takes an emotional toll but you may not always be dealing with it effectively.

Mandy X





Photo by Amadeo Valar on Unsplash