Emotional blackmail can ruin a relationship: 5 telltale signs you shouldn’t ignore

Blackmailing someone emotionally in a relationship is more common than you think! Recognise these signs of emotional blackmail if you want to get out of a toxic relationship.
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Signs of emotional blackmail to keep in mind. Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Dr Yuvraj Pant Published: 16 Feb 2024, 02:30 pm IST
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When you are in love, you tend to get lost in the swirling emotions. This can sometimes take your mind away from reality. It feels surreal to imagine the worst in your partner, especially when all you have ever done is bestowed them with love. Sometimes, things take a darker turn in a relationship and you find yourself losing your individuality because you are too afraid to lose your loved one! If you have suddenly felt your partner is manipulating you or making you feel guilty for things you never did, or trying to instill fear in you – you might be a victim of emotional blackmail. The worst part is you don’t even recognise these signs unless you are aware of how emotional blackmailing works and what you can do about it.

What is emotional blackmailing in a relationship?

Emotional blackmail in a relationship happens when one partner tries to control the behaviour of the other using manipulation, fear, guilt, or other emotional tools, explains psychiatrist Dr Yuvraj Pant. The person who continues to tolerate the arbitrary behaviour of another person without showing any reaction becomes a victim of emotional blackmail. The nature of this manipulation technique is often so subtle that it becomes difficult for the victim to recognise or address it.

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You should never ignore the signs of emotional blackmail in a relationship. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

How to spot signs of emotional blackmail by your partner

1. Guilt trips

Does your partner make you feel guilty all the time? It is a normal tactic for someone trying to emotionally blackmail you to send you on fat guilt trips. If they make you feel that you owe them something, you should take it as a sign that they are making you feel guilty about something you haven’t done.

Also Read: 5 things you should never feel guilty about

2. You feel manipulated

Emotional blackmail is very toxic for any relationship. The most basic form of manipulation is when someone plays the victim card when they are the one manipulating their partner. Even the praise or affection you receive is often a reward of compliance, then actual appreciation.

3. You feel threatened

Your partner may threaten you or give you ultimatums if you don’t listen to what they say. You might feel you’re stuck and have no choice but to do what they ask you to do. Even when you try to leave your partner, they give you warning that if you leave them, they threaten you by saying they will destroy you, or something.

4. You get a silent treatment

Not communicating properly or affection as a form of punishment is a classic sign of emotional blackmail. The victim may feel compelled to apologize or meet demands to end the silence.

Also Read: Why you’re not being kind when you’re giving someone the silent treatment

5. Constant criticism

People who emotionally blackmail other people tend to employ constant criticism, belittle their partner, or undermine the self-esteem of their partner. This makes it easier for them to get manipulated and stay in the relationship longer.

How to deal with emotional blackmail?

Emotional blackmail can make your relationship toxic. Here are some expert-approved ways for you to deal with emotional blackmail in a relationship:

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1. Spot the red flags

The first step is to recognise problematic behaviour and red flags in a relationship. If it doesn’t seem right that your partner holds the best interest in the relationship, it is probably a sign that you should break off before its too late.

2. Set boundaries

Boundaries are important for every relationship. Maintaining boundaries is key to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. When you feel that your partner is emotionally blackmailing you, make sure you spell it out for them and tell them your boundaries. When you set boundaries, you maintain transparency in the relationship which makes it harder for them to manipulate you.

3. Prioritise self-love

Self-love is key to finding yourself in a relationship that’s doomed from the beginning. Take care of yourself by doing what you love. When you love yourself enough, you don’t rely on someone else for a sense of belonging and that will help you get out of the grip of a manipulative partner.

Also Read: How to love yourself in a relationship?

4. Walk away

Is your relationship wearing you down? Is it affecting your physical and mental health? Ask yourself whether your relationship is healthy or not. If your relationship is too much to handle and manage, you need to recognise the signs and should walk away from the toxic relationship while you can.

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Walk away from a toxic relationship. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

5. Speak up for yourself

Emotional blackmail can traumatise you permanently and affect your mental health. If you don’t speak up and address these problems, it might scar you for life. You may start living in fear and worry. Raise your voice for yourself to stop emotional blackmailing and protect your image.

6. Stop blaming yourself!

Your partner will blame you for everything when they are emotionally blackmailing you but that doesn’t mean you start blaming yourself. It is a tactic and you need to find a way to get out of it. The best way to tackle a toxic relationship like this is by presenting your point of view so that you can avoid manipulation.

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About the Author

Dr Yuvraj Pant is a well-known psychologist at Nirvan Hospital, Haldwani, Uttarakhand. He specializes in child counseling and is skilled in taking therapy sessions.  ...Read More

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