Emotional blackmailers use subtle tactics to get you to do what they want. Most victims often feel frustration and dissatisfaction because their needs are not being met, but are unaware that they are being manipulated. Learning to spot emotional blackmail as well as how to put a stop to it can help you achieve your own goals and priorities and can even save your relationship.
Know the red flags
Do you always end up apologizing for your actions even when you know you did nothing wrong? Do you always end up giving in to your partner? Does your partner or spouse never take no for an answer? All of these are signs that you are being manipulated emotionally. Manipulators don't always use violence, direct threats and intimidation to control you. Often, they use your emotions of fear, guilt, duty and pity to get their way.
Analyze your relationship and ask yourself if you often give in to your partner's wishes out of guilt or duty. Keep a mental record of how often you have to make sacrifices for your partner and how many times he accommodates your needs. In relationships with emotional blackmail, you will find this list to be very unequal.
Understand the tactics
Understanding how your manipulator is preying on your emotions to control your actions is the first step in regaining control. In their book "Emotional Blackmail," Susan Forward and Donna Frazier explain that manipulators often use a tactic consisting of fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) to get what they want. Blackmailers use FOG to make you fear angering or disappointing them, obligated to meet their demands, and guilty if you don't comply.
They use these tactics to appeal to your emotions, make their demands seem reasonable, and make you seem selfish if you don't give them what they want. Next time you are resistant to your partner's requests and end up giving in, determine if he used FOG techniques to influence you. Try to use a perspective from someone outside of your relationship to shed light on the behaviors used.
Learn to say no
The people that struggle with saying "no" are usually the ones that find themselves trapped in unwanted situations. If you want to put an end to being emotionally manipulated, then you have to learn to say "no." Learn to get comfortable with the word by rehearsing saying "no" to different situations when you are alone.
Think about what words and what tone of voice you would use. Saying "I don't.." rather than "I can't..." can be more effective in preventing you from giving in, found a study published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.
Researchers from the University of Houston and Boston College asked 120 students to use either "I can't" or "I don't" when they were tempted with unhealthy foods and found that those that said "I don't" were less likely to fall into temptation. Choose words that reflect empowerment to help you feel more in control of your situation. Your manipulator will also feel less compelled to put pressure on you when he or she can perceive that you will not be easily dissuaded.
When your personal priorities become more important to you than pleasing other people, you will no longer fall prey to emotional manipulation. "Value your own wants and needs and preferences. Set boundaries that don't allow others to invalidate you, put you down, or ignore what is important to you," recommends therapist Margalis Fjelstad in her Psychology Today article "When Relationships Are Based on Manipulation." Think about your wants, needs and goals in life.
When your partner is making a request that is making you feel uneasy, ask yourself if meeting this demand requires compromising some of these priorities. Keep in mind that although you love your partner very much, you need to look out for your own well-being first. Share your personal priorities with your partner so she knows where you are willing to compromise and where you draw the line.
The writer is a freelancer
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