How to spot emotional blackmail in relationships

One of the main myths about relationships is that the ones that are successful are the ones that last the longest.

The idea behind this belief is that the ability of a marriage or courtship to make us happy is related to its stability and persistence. However, the truth is that many relationships last for many years and are seemingly stable, despite being based on some totally toxic dynamics that keep you away from happiness.

This is often reflected in relationships where emotional blackmail is a constant. There are even situations where what prevents rupture or separation is precisely this tendency to blackmail the other.

With that in mind, in the next few lines we will review the main warning signs associated with emotional blackmail in a relationship.

    What is emotional blackmail?

    Emotional blackmail is a psychosocial phenomenon in which one of the communicators offers manipulated information so that the other feels the pressure to take responsibility not to harm the first. which means distorted versions of the sense of duty are used to generate a feeling of guilt or an emotion of fear in the face of losing something important.

    It is a term popularized by psychotherapist Susan Forward and is generally used to refer to toxic dynamics in friendships, family or relationships, and in many cases comes to constitute psychological abuse, and is considered a type of violence in which there is not necessarily physical harm. or harm the victim.

    As almost all relationships today are built around the idea of ​​commitment and the need to strive to keep that bond alive and take care of the other person, emotional blackmail is used to make the victim believe who is being forced to adapt to demands. of their boyfriend, husband or wife.

    which means the system of expectations and roles associated with the concept of “romantic relationship” is used blurring their borders and making them, apparently, also cover unjust and unequal situations, making them pass for what is expected of a person wanting the other.

    This is why victims of emotional blackmail in a relationship and a partner often take several months, or even years, to realize what is really going on. And that is why it is essential to identify the characteristics of these destructive dynamics as soon as possible.

      Warning signs of emotional blackmail in a relationship

      One of the characteristics of romantic relationships is that by mobilizing our emotions so much, they can lead to situations in which we develop a very biased view of what is happening. Therefore, it is not uncommon that we do not realize to what extent the emotional bond turns into a harmful relational dynamic, toxic for one or both people.

      In that regard, here is a summary of the most common identifying signs of cases of emotional blackmail in relationships.

      1. He maintains that the problem he feels jealous of is the other person

      Jealousy problems always come from the person who experiences them. Remember that jealousy is based on the fear that the person will break with the commitment of fidelity to the couple or be exposed to situations that may predispose them to break this commitment; that is, they are given regardless of whether the other person has shown signs of willingness to be unfaithful.

        2. Expresses disappointment or frustration at seeing that you want to continue to go beyond the relationship socially.

        This kind of attempt to socially isolate the person is one of the clearest and most serious warning signs, and should be viewed as a threat that is part of the dynamics of abuse.

        3. Claim emotional support that can only be provided within the couple

        Another form of emotional blackmail consists in assuming a role of total dependence in the face of a crisis, such as the death of a loved one, lack of work … dependence which implies that it can only be supported by having a partner. That is, the idea that you can get out of the role of boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife is canceled.

        4. It makes the other person feel bad about their professional progress.

        Another common sign of emotional blackmail is trying to blame someone for improving their professional career, even earning more than the person they are complaining about.

        In other words, it is more or less indirectly requested that the other devote less time and energy to his work to devote it to the relationship, but not because he lacks time together, but because this difference in “success” produces discomfort between the two.

          5. Ask him to stop forcing you to be celibate.

          It is a way of manipulating the other so as not to break up with a partner even if the latter is unhappy. Consists of present the experience of celibacy as a very particular way of life in which the other person is unable to live, although there is a virtually endless variety of ways to not have a partner.

          The truth is, anyone can be single, and even be happy without a partner, since we humans are not biologically obligated to have a boyfriend, husband, or wife. There are many other ways to fully enjoy a social and emotional life.

            6. He places all the responsibility for raising children on the other person

            In some heterosexual relationships it is very typical use gender roles to try to ensure that the education and upbringing of children is primarily the responsibility of women. That is to say that all the pressure is put on the good development of these children and adolescents (and with it, the well-being of the family) on the person being manipulated.

            7. Evoke the crises of the past to justify your claims

            Emotional blackmail can be fueled by previous relationship issues, using them as an excuse to constantly demand special treatment and which will not be granted under normal circumstances. East a way to bring up experiences in which the manipulated person may have done something wrong, but that he has objectively already repaired. In this type of dynamic, he acts as if it is impossible to get to a point where these insults are 100% repaired, and therefore does not specify what to do so that both parties are “at peace”. .

              Are you looking for professional psychological support?

              If you wish to benefit from psychological assistance, whether in individualized psychotherapy or couples therapy, contact us.

              A Advanced psychologists We have more than 20 years of experience and we help people of all ages, either in person at our center located in Madrid or by video call from the online therapy modality. Beyond psychotherapy, we also offer speech therapy, neuropsychology, sexology and psychiatry services.

              Bibliographical references

              • Cacioppo, J .; Hawkley, L. (2010). “Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 40 (2): pages 218 – 227.
              • Belloch A., Sandín B. and Ramos F. (2008). Manual of psychopathology. Volume II. Mc Graw Hill.
              • Jordan, CH; Spencer, SJ; Zanna, MP; Hoshino-Browne, E .; Correll, J. (2003). High, confident and defensive self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85 (5): p. 969 – 978.
              • Montero Gómez, Andrés: Paradoxical adaptation syndrome to domestic violence: a theoretical proposition. Clinic and Health, vol. 12, no. 1, 2001, p. 6-8.
              • Rodriguez de Medina, I. (2013). Emotional dependence in interpersonal relationships. Creative Teaching Electronic Research Journal, 2: p. 143-148.

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