Here’s how to tell if you are being emotionally blackmailed in your relationship

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While research has shown that good relationships can limit our stress levels and leave us feeling positive, bad relationships have the opposite effect as they can affect your mental health, self-esteem and leave you with a lack of trust towards other people.

This happens as a result of different factors which could have been avoided but since we most times see them as no big deal we let them slide and they propound to become serious issues. One of these factors is emotional blackmail.

What is emotional blackmail?

As the name suggests, emotional blackmail is a form of manipulation where someone uses your feelings as a way to control your behavior or persuade you to do things their way.

The term was first pioneered by Dr. Susan Forward, a therapist, author, and lecturer, in her 1997 book, Emotional blackmail. Since then, it has become a well-used term in different societies.

Emotional blackmail can happen anywhere, in our workplaces, family, friendships, but it’s most common in romantic relationships. Sometimes, it is so subtle that we do not realize we have been blackmailed emotionally.

Here’s how to tell if you are being emotionally blackmailed in your relationship:

Manipulating your decisions 

This happens when your partner tries to influence your decisions even after you’ve established grounds concerning them. For example; I don’t want you hanging around with this person and when you ask why they can’t give a valid explanation. In healthy relationships, the partner should be able to give reasons why they don’t want you doing certain things.


This is a situation where your partner tries to induce the feeling of guilt to make you agree to their decisions. For instance, if you are in a relationship where you are always the one apologizing even when you’re right then there is a possibility that you are being emotionally blackmailed.

Constant blaming

A person being emotionally blackmailed is always blamed for anything that goes wrong. Once this happens, the person is made to believe they are not good enough so they accept any kind of allegations leveled against them. Making them do things to keep up with their partner and be on good ends with them. This usually leaves the person with low self-esteem issues.

Emotional insignificance treatment

An emotional blackmailer will continually ignore the emotions of the victim making their feelings seem insignificant. This could in turn make them think they are overreacting regarding the way they feel.


This is the most dangerous stage of emotional blackmailing. This happens when the partner has tried other ways but they yielded no results. The threats can come in subtle ways like, if you don’t do, this we are done or using past secrets to blackmail you.

People remain in these kinds of relationships because emotional abuse can be hard to detect but once you begin to notice these signs there are ways you can handle or avoid them.

Some of these ways are:

  • Recognizing these behaviors
  • Determine whether you are in danger and if your partner can change
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Know what’s best for you
  • Regain your confidence
  • Take action to improve or end the relationship
  • Most, importantly watch out for these signs to avoid being in a relationship with an emotional abuser.


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