Emotional blackmail: a powerful form of manipulation in the couple

the emotional blackmail and the handlingUnfortunately, they can be common in relationships, but also between friends and family. The emotional blackmailer acts in accordance with his interests and blames, disturbs and frightens the victim of blackmail.

According to Susan Forward, author of the book Emotional Blackmail, emotional blackmail is “a powerful weapon of manipulation with which people close to us threaten us, directly or indirectly, to punish us if they don’t get what they want.”

Causes of emotional blackmail

There are many causes that lead a person to become a blackmailer. For example, low self-esteem, which can cause an individual to be constantly seeking confirmation of his partner’s love and provoke protests that the other person will not let you do.

Narcissistic people with borderline personality disorder may also engage in constant emotional blackmail with their family, friends, and partner. It is a way of reaffirming and consolidating your personality.

The fear of abandoning the victim also prompts the blackmailer to try to take a position of power over her, in a situation that can be compared to emotional dependence. On the other hand, people who have been emotionally blackmailed from an early age, or people who have been “pampered” and “overprotected”. they are more likely to adopt a manipulative personality. They have a low tolerance for frustration and, moreover, have become accustomed to having whatever they want. Something that can affect your interpersonal relationships.

Strategies of the sentimental blackmailer

The sentimental blackmailer you can use different strategies to achieve your goal. By the power he knows he has over the other person, the blackmailer “turns the tortilla” and takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability.

For this he can use psychological strategies (More or less consciously) like the following:


The blackmailer uses phrases like “if you leave me, it’s not worth staying alive”. This way it makes the victim guilty and permanently obliged not to question the foundations of the relationship.

the punishment

The person who is blackmailing uses threatening phrases like, “if you do this, don’t blame me if I leave you.” In this way, he makes the other person feel constantly linked to “correct” behaviors, thus guaranteeing their freedom and personality.

However, it is one of the less subtle forms of emotional blackmail, and that is why it is not as dangerous as the others, because from the start it is relatively clear what is going on. However, in some contexts, a severely abused person may not be aware that these are threats, due to their emotional investment in the relationship.

the silence

The emotional blackmailer creates a negative torque atmosphere, As he can show his anger through the silence. This makes the victim think that the “bad weather” situation is her fault. This is another way to make the victim of blackmail feel guilty.

Additionally, this form of blackmail is powerful because it uses passivity to make the victim obsessed with what is going on due to their confusion and misunderstanding.


Emotional blackmail too understands victimhood. An example could be the following sentence: “if you go there with your friends, I will be lonely and bored.”

  • More information on victimhood in this article: “Chronic Victimism: People Complain About Vice”

The promises

Blackmailers too they are experts at promises they never keep. For example, “if you give me another chance, I will show you that I can change”. This type of behavior can be a red flag, as it is one of the typical behaviors in cycles of domestic violence.


Make the couple feel guilty for their own bad behavior is one of the most used strategies. For example, “I am aggressive because you provoke me” or “I have been unfaithful because you do not give me enough”. This is another sign that can alert us that a situation of emotional abuse may occur.

Protect yourself from an emotional blackmailer

On many occasions it is not easy to recognize that a person is being blackmailed. The emotional cost of sentimental blackmail is very high. For example, the loss of a loved one or the feeling of shame or guilt at having been manipulated.

The blackmailer is a skilled person who knows how to manipulate and can sometimes seem (or say) to be very much in love with his partner or can justify his behavior in a thousand different ways, but the consequences on the well-being of the victim can be very negative. . Outraged, the blackmailer is not necessarily a bad or bad personPerhaps it is his emotional instability that prompts him to do this. We must therefore be aware that each situation is different and value it calmly and serenely, but also firmly if a decision has to be made.

However, since in emotional blackmail there are two actors and the blackmailer behavior cannot always be changed, the blackmail can work on itself to no longer be the victim of emotional manipulation. Working on emotional intelligence, self-esteem, or practicing mindfulness, are some of the tools that can be helpful in this situation and will help the victim take responsibility for life.

Serious or potentially serious cases of emotional blackmail

In severe cases of emotional blackmail, the affected person may need psychological help to overcome the situation and recover from the emotional wounds caused.

Talking to friends and family and seeing a psychologist are important for regain emotional well-being of the person who has suffered emotional blackmail for a long time.

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