Emotional Blackmail Book Summary By Susan Forward with Donna Frazier

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

The Emotional Blackmail book (1997) is an essential guide for understanding and dealing with manipulation in close relationships.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the topic, exploring its true nature and presenting readers with effective methods for putting an end to these toxic dynamic.

In essence, this book is designed to help us identify emotional blackmail when it happens, confront it and find solutions that are right for our particular situation.

It's filled with insightful explanations about this type of manipulation and tells you the tools needed to break out of the cycle so you can move on with your life.

Emotional Blackmail Book

Book Name: Emotional Blackmail (When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You)

Author(s): Susan Forward with Donna Frazier

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 16 Minutes

Categories: Psychology

Author Bio

The author of the acclaimed book Emotional Blackmail is Susan Forward, PhD.

She is an internationally renowned therapist and expert in relationship and familial conflict with a string of number one New York Times bestsellers to her name including Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and Toxic Parents.

Her work has helped many people around the world improve their relationships and understanding of emotional dynamics.


Forward brings her expertise in psychology to her writing, making for a truly compelling read.

How To Recognize And Avoid Emotional Blackmail

Emotional Blackmail

In order to fight against emotional blackmail, it is important to understand, detect and resist the extortionists of the heart.

In “Emotional Blackmail” – a book by author Dr.

Susan Forward – readers will meet various couples from her therapy practice who give us insight into how emotional blackmail works.

Learn how the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt) often fabricates feelings amongst people and why some have character traits which make them more prone to emotionally abusive behavior.

You will also come to understand how particular insecurities or points of pride can become weapons used by others against you in order to manipulate your thinking and behaviors.

Most importantly, this book will help you recognize when you are being emotionally blackmailed so that you can put a stop to it and fight back with confidence.

How To Protect Yourself From Emotional Blackmail In Relationships

Emotional blackmail is a subtle, but powerful form of manipulation that often shapes our closest relationships.

Much like other forms of blackmail, it involves making threats or implying consequences if you don’t do what the blackmailer wants.

It can happen when someone threatens to end a relationship by capitalizing on the fact that you care about them too much.

The problem is, emotional blackmail is hard to recognize because we don’t want to believe that those closest to us are manipulating us in this way.

And even worse, because the blackmailer knows us well, they usually know how to exploit our weaknesses and make us suffer if we don’t give in to them.

If you feel like some of your relationships are toxic, it may be time to identify any instances of emotional blackmail and work on dealing with them so it no longer becomes an issue in your life.

Recognizing The Symptoms Of Emotional Blackmail To Prevent Abusive Dynamics

Learning to recognize the subtle signs of emotional blackmail can be a challenge, but Anna and Artie’s story is a perfect example that can help us identify the symptoms.

When it comes to emotional blackmail, there are six key symptoms: desire, resistance, pressure, threats, compliance, and repetition.

We saw all these dynamics at play in Anna and Artie’s relationship when Artie wanted to move in with Anna faster than she was ready.

He started by pressuring her in various ways – such as asking whether she really loved him or not – before escalating his demands into veiled emotional threats like claiming he might leave her if they couldn’t live together.

In this way he won her compliance through her fear of losing him.

What makes emotional blackmail especially dangerous is its tendency towards repetition; once someone discovers they can get away with it once, they may continue to use it again and again – creating a nasty cycle of coercion and bullying.

How Fear, Obligation, And Guilt Manipulate Our Relationships Through Emotional Blackmail


In Emotional Blackmail, author Susan Forward explains how fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) can prevent us from recognizing manipulations in our relationships.

FOG is often used by those who want to control their partner’s decisions and behavior, enabling the blackmailer to make unrealistic demands.

Fear is a powerful weapon for emotional blackmailers, as they may use it to manipulate their loved ones out of fear of abandonment.

This fear can arise from negative childhood experiences that create a deeper sense of insecurity in the present.

An example of emotional blackmail borne out of this type of fear would be when Mark cautioned Margaret – his wife and breadwinner – that no other man would take her if they split.

Obligation and guilt are also used in emotional blackmail.

A perfect scenario might be if a mother uses her children’s loyalty to pressurize them into taking her on a vacation.

Here, the mother will likely refer to what she put into raising them or how it’s the least they could do to show their appreciation according to her standards – even though her kids have been supportive all along.

The Difference Between Problem Solving And Emotional Blackmail In Relationships

If you find yourself in a conflict with your partner, it is essential to understand whether it is just case of a regular conflict or if it is one of emotional blackmail.

The only way to do this is by looking at their attempts at finding solutions – are they really trying to reach a compromise or are they simply trying to win an argument?

The story of Jack and Jill shows us how it’s done.

After Jack cheats on Jill, she requests counselling and reaffirms her commitment to their marriage.

Rather than allow her emotions control the situation, she remains calm and composed while making sure that both parties acknowledge their involvement in creating the conflict before any solutions can be found.

With Ron and Rori, we see a contrasting scenario where emotional blackmail was present – whenever Rori wanted something from Ron, she would use his past mistakes against him as leverage in order to guilt-trip him into giving in.

In such cases, finding a fair solution involves separating other conflicts from the emotional blackmail itself: recognize that someone else’s mistakes must not be used as leverage for getting what one wants when negotiating for establishing healthy boundaries.

The Consequences Of Emotional Blackmail And How To Counter It

Victims of emotional blackmail should by no means become enablers.

The story of Elliot and Eve clearly illustrates why this is the case.

Even though Eve had a desire to take graphic design classes and potentially compete with her boyfriend, her need for validation from him, difficulty with confrontation and low self-esteem made her prioritize his needs above her own.

As a result, she gave in to his blackmail and dropped out of the class to accommodate him.

Unfortunately, giving into blackmail only leads to more episodes as seen in the cycles that Eve and Elliot went through.

Each time it happened the tension grew stronger because they felt ashamed that their integrity was being challenged by someone they love.

The key lesson here is that even if victims have ingrained traits that make it easier for them to be subjected to blackmail – they are still responsible for resisting its existence.

By becoming aware of this dynamic, victims can gain control over themselves instead of becoming enablers in someone else’s manipulative schemes.

With enough resolve and courage, everyone can find a way out of being an unwitting pawn in someone else’s emotional games.

How To Stop Emotional Blackmail: Resist Provocation, Detach For Perspective And Make Connections

Stop Emotional Blackmail

If you are the target of emotional blackmail, it’s important to nip it in the bud by responding at your own pace and objectively observing the situation.

To start with, resist reacting too quickly to any provocations from a blackmailer.

Take some time for yourself to think before deciding how best to respond–this can be as simple as telling them that you need time to think or make a decision, and standing firm.

It’s also important to detach yourself from the situation in order to get a wider perspective and view things objectively.

Ask yourself questions about what your partner wants, how they asked for it, and how they reacted when you didn’t comply with their wishes.

Pay attention especially to your own reactions–are there any feelings of guilt, helplessness or fear? These could be signs of blind spots or willful ignorance.

Lastly, make connections between the blackmailer’s actions and your reactions by writing everything down.

This will help end the cycle of emotional blackmail once and for all!

How To Put An End To Emotional Blackmail And Establish Healthy Boundaries

If you’ve realized that you’re a victim of emotional blackmail, in order to put an end to it, the first thing you need to do is set boundaries.

You need to be able to recognize when your partner’s manipulative behaviour has been too much for you and know what boundaries should never be crossed.

Once you understand your own boundaries, it will be easier for you to communicate them with your partner so they know exactly what you won’t tolerate.

When it comes time to actually have these conversations with your partner, it’s important that you remain understanding, frank and calm- don’t get confrontational or offensive.

Be sympathetic that they might be upset, let them know that while their opinion is respected- but this isn’t something both of you can agree on and walk away peacefully if need be.

It takes a lot of work from both parties to make sure the cycle of emotional blackmail stops permanently.

If things still don’t change after working on communication skills and putting boundaries in place, then maybe walking away from the relationship could be necessary.

Wrap Up

The main takeaway from the “Emotional Blackmail” book is that it is possible — and essential — to take control of situations where you feel trapped and overwhelmed within a relationship.

By recognizing the signs of emotional blackmail, you can begin to create change in your relationship by learning to set boundaries, standing up for yourself, and understanding when and why you feel powerless.

This book gives readers actionable advice on how to do this: start by listening to your inner voice.

If something doesn’t sit right with you, get curious about why that might be.

Recognize that any feelings of guilt or fear may be coming not from the situation itself, but from long-held beliefs about yourself.

By sharing this accessible guide with concrete tips for taking back control in emotionally charged relationships, “Emotional Blackmail” offers its readers hope for a healthier future.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.