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Emotional Blackmail: What it is, how it works, and more

emotional blackmail

Although it’s difficult to remember everything, I have heard some of these stories before. I’ve been there.

This is what you are being emotionally blackmailed if you don’t already know. Susan Forward says that emotional blackmail involves manipulation.

This happens when someone we love uses our weaknesses, secrets and vulnerabilities to get what they want.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a good thing that I grew my spine to take back the life that is mine.

Maybe it’s my Zodiac sign (I am a Libra), which is represented by the scales. It can also be that something higher than me tells me something’s not right. What I did know was that I didn’t want my life to be worthless.

Let me show you how emotional blackmail can be used to make someone a victim or a victor.

When they are desperate to get you to do something, they use emotional blackmail.

It is a manipulative tool that is used by close friends, family members, and parents.

These relationships are where emotional blackmail is strongest.

This article will explore the concept of emotional blackmail, its manifestations, and how to handle them (and get out unscathed).

What is an emotional blackmail relationship?

It is an intentional tactic that our closest friends use to manipulate and hurt us.

Blackmailing someone emotionally involves telling them that if they don’t do what they say, they’ll suffer for it.

Blackmailers might use the following words:

“If you leave, I’ll kill myself”

Nobody wants to be the one responsible for someone’s suicide. So, the blackmailer wins.

Sometimes, the threats are not as extreme but still intended to play on victim’s natural fears. Blackmailers might try to make victims believe they will be isolated or disliked if the victim doesn’t comply with their demands. They might say, “For example:

“Everyone agrees. That is not what you should be doing.

An emotional blackmailer will not just make big statements every now and then. Their emotional blackmail is part of a larger pattern of emotional abuse in which they will use minor forms of blackmail and blame frequently.

They could say:

“If I could have had a lift, it would have saved me from being late to work.”

Even though they know you were busy, they will still say it even though you knew you couldn’t provide a lift for them.

emotional blackmailWhy do people use emotional blackmail?

Most people resort to some minor form of emotional blackmail from time to time.

We all have been guilty of feeling frustrated when others don’t do what we want.

You might be complaining that your boyfriend did not buy you chocolate when you got home from work, even though you knew you were sick.

It can be a problem if it happens often, but it is not something you should be concerned about.

Abusers who attempt to control the thoughts and emotions of another person are known as serious emotional blackmail.

Emotional blackmailers can make victims feel helpless and confused.

They are able to make the victim believe that they are being totally reasonable and that it is actually the victim being unreasonable.

Many victims of emotional blackmail will try to predict their blackmailer’s moods, and then apologize profusely for the things they didn’t do.

Fear, guilt, and obligation

In 1974, leading psychologists and therapists Donna Frazier and Susan Forward popularized the term “emotional blackmail”.

The book introduced FOG, fear, obligation, and guilt.

FOG is the foundation of emotional blackmailers’ success. They can manipulate their victims because they feel afraid of them, obligated and guilty for not complying with what they have been asked.

Blackmailers know that the victim feels this way and can quickly identify which parts of FOG triad work best to manipulate them. They learn which emotional triggers work.

Like all abusers, emotional blackmailers are skilled at spotting those who will respond best to their demands.

What are the different types of emotional blackmail?What are the different types of emotional blackmail?

Forward and Frazier identified four types of emotional blackmailers. These are:


Blackmailers might threaten to harm the victim they are blackmailing. If you don’t agree with their demands, they might prevent you from seeing friends or withdraw your affection.


Self-punishers may threaten to harm themselves in blackmail and tell you it is your fault.


Sufferers will accuse you of their emotional state. To make them feel better, they will expect you to follow their lead. They might tell you to go out with friends, but you’ll feel sad and lonely the rest of the evening.


Although they won’t directly threaten you, Tantalizers will offer the promise of better things if you comply with their requests. They might offer to book us a vacation if you come home this weekend.

The stages of emotional blackmail

Forward and Frazier identified six stages in emotional blackmail.

Stage 1: A demand

The blackmailer tells victims what they want and then adds an emotional threat: “If you leave me, I’ll hurt myself.”

Stage 2: Resistance

Unsurprisingly, the victim resists the initial demand because the demand is often unreasonable.

Stage 3: Pressure

Blackmailers force their victims to submit, regardless of how they make them feel. Often, they will make their victim feel confused and scared so that they begin to question whether or not they were right.

Stage 4: A threat

The blackmail. “If you don’t do what I say, I …”.

Stage 5: Compliance

The victim succumbs to the threat

Stage 6: The pattern has been established

Although the emotional blackmail has ended, the pattern is set and blackmail will almost certainly occur again.

Emotional blackmail: Strategies and signs

To blackmail their victims, manipulators employ three strategies. You can choose to submit to them using one of the three strategies or all three.

These strategies encompass everything that makes you tick. These tactics can help you recognize manipulative behaviors that you may not otherwise have noticed.

These strategies create an FOG in their relationships. This acronym stands for fear, obligation and guilt. Below is a detailed discussion of the three techniques:

They will use your fears (F).

This study shows that fear is an emotion that protects against danger. Fear of something happening and fear of losing loved ones are two different emotions.

Some people make use of our fears to get us to comply with their demands, which is sad. Manipulators can use a variety of fears to hold someone hostage emotionally.

  1. Fear of the Unknown
  2. Fear of being abandoned
  3. Fear of offending someone
  4. Fear of confrontation
  5. Fear of difficult situations
  6. Do not be afraid for your safety

They will use your senses of obligation (O).

Manipulators force us to follow their lead. They use different methods to force us to comply with their demands.

A manipulator parent might remind their child of all the sacrifices they have made and nag them about being ungrateful if the child doesn’t do what they want.

You should also listen to your partner when they claim they will do what they ask you to.

It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever it is, it will make us feel obligated to do what they ask, even if we don’t like it.

They resort to guilt-tripping (G).

After being required to do something, the guilt of not doing it comes. Manipulators can make us feel like we should be punished for failing to fulfill our obligations.

You’re being emotionally blackmailed if you feel guilty for feeling happy even though your friend or partner is feeling down.

What are the different types of blackmail?

Although this list does not include all possible emotional blackmail statements, it will allow you to identify the ones that are.

  • If I ever see another person look at me, I will kill him.
  • I will kill you if you stop loving me.
  • I’ve already discussed this with our pastor/therapist/friends/family and they agree that you are being unreasonable.
  • This vacation is mine, with or without you.
  • How can you tell me you love me, but still be friends with my family?
  • Your actions have ruined my life, and you now want to stop me spending money on myself.
  • It was your fault I was late to work.
  • If I didn’t cook in unhealthy ways, I wouldn’t be overweight.
  • If you did more at home, I would have been able to advance in my career.
  • If I don’t get care, I’ll end up in the hospital/on street/unable to work.
  • You will never see your children again.
  • I will make you suffer.
  • This family will be destroyed.
  • You are not my child anymore.
  • You won’t be sorry.
  • I will not allow you to live with me.
  • I’ll get sick.
  • Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
  • If I don’t have sex with you, I will find it elsewhere.
  • If you can’t buy me a new phone, you’re a worthless sister/mom/dad/brother/lover.

How to stop emotional blackmail

You deserve respect. Period.

Change your attitude and approach to the situation. Although change is difficult, it’s the only thing that can help you. You’ll have a miserable life otherwise

1. Change your mindset

You deserve respect. Period.

Change your attitude and approach to the situation. Although change is difficult, it’s the only thing that can help. You’ll have a miserable life.

2. Be healthy in your relationship

All people have options when it comes to how they engage in relationships: You have the right as a human being to either negotiate for a better relationship or to end the relationship.

You can’t put your mental and emotional health at risk by being in a relationship. You always have the option to end a relationship that is toxic or harmful.

3. Set boundaries

Sharie Stines, a California-based psychotherapist who specializes on toxic relationships and abuse, said:

It tells the manipulator you are done being controlled when you set boundaries. Although it may seem scary at first, once you break the toxic behavior pattern you will be able to love yourself.

Learn to say “no”, “stop” and “stop” when necessary.

4. Face the blackmailer

If you don’t confront the manipulator, it is impossible to set boundaries. These are some examples of how to save a relationship:

  • You push our relationship to the edge, and I feel uncomfortable.
  • When I tell you how unhappy and outraged I am by your actions, I don’t think you take me seriously.
  • We must find ways to resolve conflicts without feeling emotionally abused or worthless.
  • Your demands are always met and I feel exhausted. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
  • Respect is something I deserve.
  • Let’s discuss it. Please don’t threaten or punish me.
  • These manipulative behavior are unacceptable to me.

5. Psychological help is available for manipulators

Emotional blackmailers rarely admit to their mistakes. You can ask for psychological help to save your relationship. This will teach you positive negotiation skills and how to communicate.

They will openly create a safer environment for the couple if they take responsibility for their actions. This is done by eliminating emotional blackmails. Manipulators who are open to learning and changing can be found in those who accept responsibility.

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