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Emotional blackmail in the relationship: these are the reasons

Emotional blackmail in the relationship: these are the reasons

Maybe you know that nagging feeling of having a guilty conscience because you didn’t fulfill one of your partner’s wishes and he then reacts with reproaches and great disappointment. Or maybe you are the one who consciously or unconsciously tries to manipulate your partner into doing your bidding. Emotional blackmail occurs in almost every relationship – in some only once in a while, in others to such an extent that the blackmailed person always finds himself exposed to high pressure of expectations and gets into conflicts of conscience. Should he fulfill all of his partner’s demands or is he also allowed to simply say “no”?

How does emotional blackmail work?

Emotional blackmail can be exercised purely through words or also through certain behavior. It always involves expectations that are addressed to the partner in the form of demands. At the same time, it is signaled to the partner that one feels unloved or is sad if he or she does not comply with these demands. In order to emphasize their demands, emotional blackmailers often tend not only to arouse the partner’s pity, but also react by sulking, keeping silent or withdrawing attention and affection. The goal is always to trigger a guilty conscience in the partner or to punish him for his unwillingness to cooperate so that he ultimately behaves the way you want him to. A typical phrase that emotional blackmailers often use is “If you really loved me, then …”

Why do emotional blackmailers succeed with their behavior?

If you love your partner, don’t want to lose him or simply like to avoid conflicts, you sometimes do things that you don’t necessarily want to do. Up to a certain point, this is also understandable, after all, you should take the wishes and needs of your partner seriously. It is good if you meet your partner out of conviction and free will. However, if this happens only because one fears threatening consequences such as love withdrawal or a guilty conscience, it is emotional blackmail. Emotional blackmailers quickly notice whether they reach the desired goal with their ploy and whether their partner can be easily manipulated. If they are successful with their method, they use it again and again – at least until the blackmailed person can no longer stand the situation and calls the relationship into question.

What are the most common reasons for emotional blackmail?

People who emotionally blackmail their partner are not necessarily acting maliciously. Often they are not even aware of what they are doing to their partner. Their motives are varied. Here are some of the most common:

Emotional blackmail as a learned behavior pattern

Those who have had the experience early on in their own family of origin that emotional blackmail can be used to enforce the fulfillment of their own wishes will also tend to manipulate others later on. This can happen either through copying, if one of the parents is a very manipulative person, or through self-made experiences. A child who gets his way again and again through petulant behavior or crying learns that he can get his way in this way.

Excessive expectations of the partner or the relationship

Most people have a certain idea of a functioning relationship or an ideal partner. If they do not succeed in having a relationship that corresponds to this idea, some frantically try to optimize it. In their eyes, the partner must behave in a certain way. To get him or her to do this, they resort to emotional blackmail.

Inability to express his needs

Anyone who cannot clearly express their own needs in a relationship or who has the expectation that their partner must sense them on their own will at some point be disappointed to find that they fall by the wayside. Some people then feel downright compelled to use emotional blackmail to get their partner to meet their needs, because they believe that he or she is deliberately disregarding them.

Lack of self-esteem

One reason for emotional blackmail can also be the blackmailer’s lack of self-esteem. He needs a high dose of affirmation from his partner and only feels sufficiently loved by him if the latter does everything for his well-being. However, if the partner does too little according to his perception, he manipulates him by giving him a guilty conscience and presenting himself as a pitiful victim.

Here's how to deal with emotional blackmail in your relationship

You may have noticed yourself that you tend to manipulate your partner. Or you may be emotionally blackmailed by your boyfriend or girlfriend on a regular basis. If emotional blackmail is an issue in your relationship, you should address it openly. Try to figure out together why manipulation is happening in your relationship and how you can improve your communication. This includes talking about your fears and clarifying where this behavior is coming from either of you. The blackmailer needs to learn to express their needs without pressuring their partner. This way, both of you can talk openly about which of these expectations can be met and which may not and why. He cannot expect the other person to do everything to satisfy him. It is important for the blackmailed person to come to the realization that he is not fundamentally responsible for his partner’s feelings. So if your boyfriend or girlfriend feels bad because you’re not functioning according to his or her expectations, you’ll just have to put up with that feeling in some situations. It is important that you meet in the middle and not one becomes a permanent wish-fulfiller while the other only demands. In particularly serious cases, the couple should seek outside help if they cannot handle the problem themselves. This may be the case, for example, if the blackmailed person is already suffering so much because of the situation that he or she develops symptoms such as sleep disorders or even physical pain, or if the blackmailer falls into an obviously unnaturally strong dependence on his or her partner. Couples therapy can help save the relationship by helping the two partners develop new rules for dealing with their expectations of each other.

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