FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) can keep you stuck and unhappy in a relationship. In this post, I'll list several exercises that can help you deFOG your life. Read More
I am trying to maintain a relationship with an emotional blackmailer, and I have not heard very much other than just leave, which seems like a knee-jerk reaction and not the best thing for either of us, as we all know it is all based on fear and can only become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we allow it. I have already seen this in action, and its reversal. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this individual cares a great deal about me, despite the blackmail, and I them, and I have watched as their self-esteem and trust (both in me and in general) have slowly risen to the point where they can now go long periods of time without feeling the need to manipulate. As they grow, they also repeatedly go further and further out of their way to demonstrate that they care about (and are amazed by) me. (Among other things, I'm pretty stubborn and refuse to give up on them.) However, old habits die hard, and they still resort to less honest methods of trying to get what they want when they are particularly worried or stressed, especially if it is about something within themselves with which they are uncomfortable. (I think at this point it is more worrying about I will think of them than whether or not they could get it otherwise, and when particularly stressed they resort to what they know. To use the turtle metaphor, to them they can always poke their head out later, but if they poke it out at the wrong time it could get cut off... Of course I wouldn't do that, and they know that, but emotional reactions don't always pay attention to what we know rationally.) There are also outstanding layers of stories between us that I believe are not true and were told as groundwork for future manipulation before the current level of trust developed, and that while they would like to break down some of those barriers they erected before they knew they were not needed, they are now too ashamed to admit they put them up in the first place. My question is #1, is there any further help or support for the day-to-day task of remaining vigilant regarding the (much less frequent but still present) episodes of emotional blackmail triggered when they are particularly frightened, and #2, do you have any suggestions for tearing down some of the more lingering original attempts to manipulate? Just continue being patient and striking that precarious balance between firmness and reassurance? Thanks for any help you could offer.
FOG was proposed by Susan Forward in her book Emotional Blackmail. It's a very good book and I urge you to get it!
I appreciate hearing about good strategies to combat my reactive responses which seem to only prove I am a bad guy. Sometimes I feel set up by the "question-led conversation" by my spouse since my answer may activated the fears of my spouse and then follows a tirade or more questioning that digs my hole deeper and deeper until I give up or get frustrated. Then I have to really be careful that I don't do something again that only seems to prove myself as the bad guy. Like wanting to flee the house, take a walk, shout back in anger etc.
So strategies will be a good tool in this strange dance that I didn't see coming after I got married to a wonderful wife but with very, vary bad habits. Thanks Randi for this approach to the problem of the dance.
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Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.
It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.