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Needy and controlling girlfriend makes me feel guilty about everything I do!!

Tagged as: Dating, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (27 May 2011) 3 Answers - (Newest, 28 May 2011)
A male United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

I have a very needy and controlling girlfriend who makes me feel guilty about everything I do. The thing is she does it with her voice, tone, and physical body language in the way she reacts to things I do. She then gets silent if I just ignore her response (because I know she is playing games and being unreasonable) and refuses to talk to me or disconnects herself from me emotionally. Then typically, this bothers me very much and I give in to her and she makes me feel bad by telling me why she disapproves of what I did.

I think this stems from the emotional trauma she grew up with as a child. Her dad never seemed to be around, always out with his buddies on vacation and putting his personal life first before his kids and family. Additionally, the mom, divorced from the husband is bi-polar and can snap at her at the whim of a bucket. They grew up in a very wealthy part of LA and are materialistic. But when it comes to their daughter they don't seem to care about putting her first.

For example, the mom would not get her a parking spot but will buy herself tons of expensive clothing when the parking spot is needed and the mother already has a ton of expensive clothes. The dad spends tons of money on his girlfriend taking her to Hawaii and trips skiing to beaver creek in Colorado but won't give his daughter money for shopping or gives her a hard time when she needs a dress for a special event. This often ends up hurting my girlfriend who then takes it out on me or is emotionally damaged when dealing with me in our relationship. What should I do?

View related questions: divorce, money

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A female reader, chocoholicforever United States +, writes (28 May 2011):

Your girlfriend is using emotional blackmail. everyone may do it from time to time unwittingly and that's normal, but it becomes a problem and makes for an unhealthy relationship when it's a persistent pattern or a recurring theme as it seems to be with you.

she may have had a deprived childhood that has led to her having these issues, but that doesn't change the fact that now as an adult she needs to take responsibility for her behavior and if necessary re-program herself in how to think and relate to people in healthier ways. Otherwise if she continues to hide behind her childhood baggage, she's not changing and trying to better herself instead she's perpetuating the hurt that she experienced and continuing to be a victim. Adults who refuse to take responsibility and own up to their character flaws (and we all have them), do not have the right to demand that other people "owe" them a committed romantic relationship just because they had a hard time in the past.

So I would say that regardless of why your girlfriend is the way she is, doesn't matter at this point because she is now an adult, she's not a kid anymore, she needs to take responsibility for her behavior and actions when they hurt other people.

Emotional blackmailers, like your girlfriend, are basically controlling and manipulating you by playing on your negative emotions - guilt, fear of loss, fear of their anger, your sense of obligation and responsibility etc. They make things uncomfortable for you (by provoking negative emotions in you) and the make it so that the only way for you to get rid of those negative emotions is to give in to what they want.

And unfortunately, whereas you will give in so as to appease her and thus 'save' the relationship or your sanity in the moment, every time you give in, you have basically reinforced to her that this tactic works for her to get what she wants. So it's no surprise that she will do it again and again and it becomes an ingrained pattern for her. And you will continue to appease her because appeasing her is what worked to get you immediate relief from her anger or the guilty feelings she provokes in you\, so appeasing her then becomes an ingrained pattern in YOU. And thus both of you fuel the cycle and it starts to become the predominant dynamic in your relationship.

but it's an unhealthy pattern because even though she is getting what she wants by playing on your guilt and fear and anxiety, and you are successfully "getting rid of" or avoiding that guilt and fear and anxiety by doing what she wants, in the end you feel like crap all the time because it's all about her wants and needs and she doesn't care about you. The relationship becomes very unequal and one-sided. Even if she does also do nice things for you, it doesn't erase the fact that the relationship is on her terms and hers only - nice things happen to you when she decides it. And you have to do nice things for her when she decides it. So you basically have no say, it's an unequal relationship.

over time as you continue to appease her (because by now you have learned that this is the easiest way to get the discomfort over with or avoid it altogether), you don't feel "happy" in the relationship instead you feel resentful and bitter and angry , which is completely normal and why emotional blackmail is a toxic thing to relationships.

But it takes two to have a relationship. An emotional blackmailer requires a victim or target to manipulate. You need to stop enabling her behavior because it's very unhealthy for you, it makes you resent her which is normal. But resentment kills love and intimacy - which for an intimate relationship is going to be a problem.

You need to stop allowing her to emotionally blackmail you. You do this by simply not complying or giving in anymore. You don't have to yell and scream at her (in fact it's better if you remain calm and rational). But simply stop giving into her demands. It won't work immediately. In fact it will probably enrage her since she's used to you giving in, and she'll likely turn it up a notch or ten...that's to be expected and that is when you must stay firm in not giving in even though she's turning up the heat. You can explain why you're not doing what she wants, but the reasonings won't work by themselves, only your actions will send the message that from now on you will not give in to her inconsiderate behavior.

Only when she no longer succeeds in using guilt tripping and silent treatments and other emotional blackmail tactics to get her way from you, will she give up simply because she realizes that it's no longer working on you and thus why bother. Then maybe she will finally learn healthier ways to relate to you, because her old ways are no longer working for her. If so, you'll be doing not just yourself but her a favor as well.

However, be forewarned that some emotional blackmailers never change and instead get so enraged when you stand your ground, that they will instead dump you and look for a new partner/victim whom they can control. So this is why it's so toxic to be in an intimate relationship with these kinds of people - your choices may well boil down to living in a very uncomfortable relationship where you have to give up your needs and wants and feel stressed, on edge, and resentful all the time, or else they dump if you stand up for yourself.

But which way your girlfriend will be, you won't know unless you do it. And, if your girlfriend would leave you because she can't manipulate you and control you for her selfish reasons, then ask yourself if this is a relationship worth having.

here's some more information on emotional blackmail and dealing with it

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A female reader, Dorothy Dix Australia +, writes (28 May 2011):

Hi there. Your girlfriend is feeling fairly insecure, and it's probably not very surprising, by what you have told us here from her family upbringing.

What she is wanting is something she can count on in her life, that she currently doesn't have in her family life at home.

The only way you can help this to happen, is to reassure her that you won't hurt her or treat her badly, and that she can trust that you will make that a reality.

And she needs to learn to trust people more generally, then she can relax and be her true self.

She has to start believing in herself and that she deserves the best in life. Until she does that, she will go on feeling insecure and unhappy.

She also needs to realize that two people don't have to be together all the time. You do need to also have your own interests and your own circle of friends. It's just not possible to constantly be together, and it can be rather stifling as well.

It's actually very healthy to have some separate time from each other, and it adds richness to your relationship by giving you both more to talk about when you do see each other next.

And the separate time also means limited contact (i.e. texting, phone calls), otherwise you are not really separated. Say a phone call once a week in between when you actually do see each other, just to say hi.

What I'm really saying here, is you both do need your own space. It adds balance to the relationship. And it's vital.

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A female reader, llifton United States +, writes (28 May 2011):

llifton agony auntdoesn't really sound so much to me that she's had a tough upbringing, so much as that her rich parents just didn't spoil the crap out of her. which to me, is a good thing. it doesn't sound like a reason why she'd turn out being such a brat.

she's manipulating you with her emotions. and honestly, she's learned that she can get away with it because you've allowed her to. she sees that it works, so why not do it? it's like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum in a store. if you give in and buy them whatever it is they threw the tantrum over, just to shut them up, they've been positively reinforced that the next time this situation arises, they can act the same way and get the desired result. i'm not defending her behavior by any means, but i'm just simply trying to let you see why this is continuing to happen. if you continue to allow her to get her way in this behavior, she will no doubt continue to do it.

if i were you, the next time you do something that upsets her (and it's unjustified) and she starts getting that tone and body language with you, continue to ignore it like you say you usually do. and when she goes silent and detatches herself emotionally from you, call her out. let her know you know exactly what she's doing and that you know she's just being manipulative. stand your ground. if she continues to persist with her silent treatment, let her know that until she feels she can learn to start handling things in a different, more adult manner, you're not going to speak to her, either. and don't. don't talk to her, text her, call her, etc. even if it's hard, which it will be, don't give in. if she cares about you, she'll start to learn that you're not playing around anymore, and that you're not putting up with her BS. and maybe eventually you can start to diminish some of this childish behavior.

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