Emma’s husband of 20 years used emotional blackmail as a means of controlling her and his family – often resorting to suicide threats. His actions finally had deadly and tragic consequences.
*** Emma’s story has been published in her own words, with her permission. Names have been changed to protect her identity ***
I just read your article about emotional blackmail that you had written in 2014. You are right on target with your advice. My late husband and I had been married for 20 years. I married him when I was 17 and he was 18. We had five beautiful children together.
But, the emotional blackmail was torment. He was perfectly fine as long as he got his way and I didn’t protest too much, but when he didn’t get his way, the threats of suicide would start. In 2004 I had as much as I could handle and he knew the kids and I had had enough. He threw all of my things out of our bedroom and I literally stayed in my girls’ room for the two weeks prior to our leaving. He would go stay with his parents for a few days, but come right back.
It culminated when my two boys and I came home to gather our things. He was sitting in the living room watching a blank TV screen. All of a sudden, he went crazy, screaming at me and coming towards me. My older son stood in front of him while we started heading down the hall out of the house. When we got outside, he picked up a suitcase and threw it, hitting my older son and knocking him off the porch. My 11-year old had ran next door to get his grandparents to help us.
We left to stay with my mom, but a week later, he walked into his parents house and grabbed his own father by the shirt and started fighting with him. There was a handgun on the counter. He picked it up, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was about three feet from his father when he did it. Again, that was a threat. I seriously don’t believe he thought the gun was loaded.
The night my husband took his life, he was following the pattern he had been doing for so long, but this time with deadly consequences.
I had and still have no guilt from it. I tried to help him with his anger, but he didn’t want to help himself. I am thankful that none of us were taken down in the process. This Father’s Day was the 11th anniversary of his death. Father’s Day will always be tainted by this and my kids will never fully get over it.
When people talk of suicide, thoughts immediately turn to depression. But not many talk about mental control that can last for years, even decades. When a teenager tells their boyfriend/girlfriend they can’t live without them and will kill themselves if they break up, that is a form of control. It is not a form of love, and not necessarily a sign of depression (at least not the definition of clinical depression). I hope others who have experienced that kind of loss will be able to move on.
I’m deeply sorry that you, your children and his parents experienced all that. I hope you and your kids are doing okay. Suicide threats are such a powerful and deeply destructive play for control, and it is so sad when it results in a life lost – and the devastation it creates.
I am glad you feel no guilt, because it isn’t yours to shoulder. Wielded as a manipulation tool, such threats can be deliberate attempts to – as you point out – get the emotional blackmailer what they want .You are in no way responsible for the choices of another. Giving in to blackmail tactics, in any form, serves to reinforce the blackmailing behaviour.
I’d recommend people who are faced with such terrifying tactics check out my article ‘Emotional blackmail: Suicide threats in abusive relationships’ – and the Comments section, where others share their experiences – for more information and also that they seek support from local providers specialising in domestic violence abuse.
Which emotional blackmail tactics have you encountered? How did you respond? Please share your experience in the Comments.
*Cover photo of model, courtesy of Trevor Richter