FA 017 Emotional Blackmail

Feral  Attraction
Episode 017 - Emotional Blackmail (MHM) 05/04

Intro 00:00:50

  • Welcome to Mental Health Month (MHM)!

  • FWA and Con Ghosting

    • Revit’s Analysis on the Ghosting Report

    • Ghosting is a bad practice and should not be done, however it is difficult to track accurately

    • The more that you ghost, the more that you potentially harm a con’s ability to grow

Topic 00:11:25

Emotional blackmail comes up not only in romantic relationships but also in Parent / Child relationships. It is important to identify the patterns involved to ensure that you do not repeat them yourself.

What is emotional blackmail? 00:13:00

  • Coined by Susan Forward in her book Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

    • Not available electronically, but we have complained to the publisher about this

  • When someone manipulates your emotions to get his or her own way, using F.O.G.

    • Fear

      • Being made to fear that the blackmailer will cause you physical, emotional, reputational, or financial harm

        • Physical abuse, verbal abuse, slander, libel

      • Being made to fear blackmailer will cause himself or herself physical, emotional, reputational, or financial harm

        • Neglect, sabotage, become depressed, hurt themselves

      • Being made to fear termination of a relationship

    • Obligation

      • Using prior commitments and your relationship to force an agenda

      • “If you really loved me, you’d…”

      • “Most spouses wouldn’t have a problem doing this… why do you?”

    • Guilt

      • Making you feel guilty for not complying

      • May appeal to your sense of reciprocity

        • “After all I’ve done for you…”

        • “Why are you being so selfish?”

        • “I thought you cared about me…”

        • “I didn’t think it would be such a big deal”

        • “I thought you were different”

        • “I never expected you to be so disloyal”

  • Profile of a blackmailer

    • Assumes you will:

      • Always give in to their demands

      • Drop everything to help them

      • Take care of them physically/emotionally/financially

      • Always do what they want during free time

      • Listen to their problems, no matter how you’re feeling

      • Put work, interests, friends, lovers lower in priority

      • Never leave them, no matter how miserable you are

    • Regularly ignores or discounts your own feelings, needs, and wants

    • Makes you promises contingent on your obedience that are forgotten once you comply with their demands

    • Calls you names to get their way

      • Selfish, greedy, uncaring, evil, disloyal, stupid

    • Uses money / financial support to get their way

How to handle emotional blackmail  00:37:33

  • Learn to recognize it

    • What emotions does it create in you?

      • Feeling anxious, trapped, insecure, inadequate, unlovable, hurt, resentful, guilty, stuck

  • Create time and space before replying to a blackmailer’s demands

    • Respond without strong emotion, when things have settled

  • Tell blackmailer directly that blackmailing behavior will not be tolerated

    • Advocate for your own wishes and needs, even if blackmailer strongly disapproves

  • Try to disarm blackmailer by co-opting them, inviting them into a conversation

    • "Can you help me understand why this is so important to you?"

    • "How might we be able to solve this problem together?"

    • "I wonder how it would feel if…"

  • Give matter-of-fact responses (that you practice in advance)

    • “I know you aren’t happy about this, but this is how it has to be.”

    • “There are no villains here. We just want different things.”

    • “I’m sure you see it that way.”

    • “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’ve made my decision.”

  • Do not respond to attacks on your character reflexively with “I am not!”

    • Responding will inspire a defensive, emotionally charged argument you can’t win

    • Try these canned responses (practice them!)

      • “You’re entitled to your opinion”

      • “I’m sure that is how it looks to you”

      • “That’s interesting. You might be right.”

      • “I’d need time to think about that”

      • “I’m sorry you’re upset”

      • “We won’t be able to settle this if you keep insulting me.”

  • Do not respond to threats

    • “That’s your choice”

    • “I hope you won’t _____, but I’ve made my decision”

    • “Let’s discuss this when you’re less upset”

    • “Threats/suffering/tears aren’t going to work on me anymore”

    • If it is a physical threat of harm, please take it seriously and ensure the safety of yourself and others

Thought patterns that make you vulnerable to being blackmailed 01:16:50

  • “It’s okay to give a lot more than I get”

  • “If I love someone, I am responsible for their happiness”

  • “A good, loving person would do whatever it takes without being selfish”

  • Fear of disapproval

    • Stop worrying about what other people think!

  • Fear of losing love / relationship

    • If the only thing keeping you together is emotional blackmail, the relationship should end

  • Fear of anger

    • If person is likely to cause you harm, you need to terminate relationship

    • If not, do not let another’s anger control you

  • Disarm these with “where is it written that ____?”

Check yourself to make sure you are doing right by your mate(s) 01:31:40

  • Don’t claim partner is blackmailing you to dodge legitimate responsibilities / commitments

    • Is what you want to do malicious, cruel, or abusive?

    • Is what you want to do insulting or demeaning?

    • Is what you want to do truly harmful to someone’s well-being?

  • Maintain your integrity

    • Take a stand for what you believe in

    • Do not let fear, obligation, or guilt run your life

    • Confront those who injure you

    • Define who you are; do not allow others to do so

    • Keep promises you make to yourself and to others

    • Protect your physical, emotional, and financial health

    • Do not betray other people

    • Be honest and tell the truth

Question(s) 01:44:44

  • Mental anguish at STI status of partner despite knowing risk is low. How do I handle this?

    • Follow-up to STI episode received via Telegram (name withheld)

Feedback 01:50:13

“I'm still working my way through your list of episodes, but I'd like to mention an excellent book if you haven't read it - "More Than Two."

There's several books on poly-whatsit; I've read three or four at this point, and The Ethical Slut is a good and well-rounded beginning. But most of them that I've read (including "Ethical Slut") are very soft and squishy, with a lot of anecdotes, and forgive me for gender stereotypes, written in a very female, emotion-focused style.

I really like "More Than Two" and recommend it to my friends. It's got some great breakdowns on vocabulary and language, some hard personal exercises to ask questions about your own relationships/needs (which in my life told me why my own approach to polyamory was doomed to failure, and in one of my friends' lives broke up a marriage...I don't know if that's good or not...)

Overall, it's much more like an instruction manual than a relationship memoir. I think that's very useful.

One of the author's great bits is the "Relationship Bill of Rights," which is a strong resource on its own:


I'm hearing some of the edges of this book's material in your discussion, but it's hard to know if that's because the book is from the poly community, or if you're referencing it, but I wanted to mention it by name, just in case — it's a remarkable book.”

Closer 01:54:00

  • Next week’s topic: Gaslighting

Metriko Oni

Metriko Oni is a former government environmental disaster mitigations expert with a focus on outreach, education, and policy writing. He now works with computers. He has been active in the fandom since 2013 and has been an advocate for transparent lines of communication. His interests include philosophy, media, futurism, and speculative fiction.