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How to confront emotional blackmailer?
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Posted 13 September 2019 - 02:42 PM
Hello - I am after some tips and advice on how to approach the situation I am in at the moment.
I've tried to keep it brief - so thanks for getting to the end.
Last Christmas my best mate presented me with the opportunity to heal from an ongoing stressful situation where I was at my lowest point mentally. I was on highest dosage of meds and trying to hold everything together by single parenting my 2 kids, studying part-time and working full time. The kids and I came up north to holiday last year (she lives here; happily married etc), and she was very concerned about my mental health. One morning, just after Christmas day, I was at my lowest point and probably going through some sort of panic attack and I said ‘I don’t think I can face going back home’ she said ‘so don’t’ and long story short I stayed here. A few things she said I only noticed were a little off now that I think about it. Like, if you don't accept my help now I won't offer it anymore (not exactly those words but to that effect). So anyway, she helped me tie up loose ends at home with the house etc. My daughter stayed with me but my son – who is in year 10 – begged me to let him go back home and live with my folks and keep going to his high school. I let him and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done. Even though he’s doing well at school and life, he has asked me numerous times to please come home - my parents aren't enough for him (in terms of parenting and support).
He is a very mature kid and understands the reasons I made such a knee jerk reaction but now that the dust is settling, I don’t know how much longer I can continue to live here. Its isolated and its not for me long term. Trouble is, the first time I mentioned this to BF, she got very upset with me and told me (verbatim) 'if you leave, I will never speak to you again or forgive you'. She used all the usual tactics to change my mind. Talked over me as I tried to explain the reasons. Keeps telling me my son 'is fine, he doesn't need you', over and over again.
I in my usual reaction, agreed and let it go. Meanwhile, in my heart and in my gut, I want to go home. My daughter wants to return home too. She's starting high school next year and I don't want to move her during those years.
Anyway, a couple of months go by and the other night, we found ourselves discussing the same thing. I got another 'wont talk to you or forgive you'. But, she won't oppose me leaving the country. Just not returning to the place where I got to my lowest point mentally.
And now, I find myself where I always seem to find myself – forgoing what I want to make others happy/to not rock the boat. Apparently, my going back home is a ‘backwards move’. I actually got a ‘don’t be stupid!’ when I mentioned it the other day. Apparently, I’ll be back to my anxiety and what I was before - riddled with mental health issues.
I’m seriously looking for any kind of advice – does my friend have a point? Of course, I want to do what is right by my kids and me as a family but I also need to factor in my mental health.
How on earth do I approach her – and risk losing 20 plus years of friendship!? I get where shes coming from - shes concerned I'll end up in the state I was before but I feel like I'm being manipulated.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 02:59 PM
I think her talking to you like this is having more of an adverse effect on your mental health. If she'd withold friendship because you want to be home with your children then as much as she's helped you, she's no friend. Your responsibilities are first to yourself and your children. They want to go home and so do you.
Make sure you book in an appointment with a GP or psych though so that you can get a mental health plan together when you return.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:09 PM
I would ask her to outline exactly what her concerns are, shes making a blanket threat with no reasoning at the moment.
is there genuine concern for your mental state? then make sure you have support systems in place for your return home.
or is it more, I saved you, you owe me situation? if thats the case, then id follow heart and gut..
and you do not have to justify your reasons to her- that is a tactic (in my opinion) for you to start doubting your desire to move back- having a chance to rebut/attack your reasoning for wanting to do so.
she has no say in what you do, unless it is from a genuine case of concern for what it is you are going back to. Are the triggers that caused you stress and anxiety in the first place at play at home? Are they at the moment-, will they be in 2, 6, 12 months time?
Edited by mum2_1, 13 September 2019 - 03:12 PM.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:10 PM
Going back to the same area and going back to the same situation are 2 different things. Xena is right. You and your children come first. Only you can decide what is right for you. Your so called BF is being emotionally manipulative. That's toxic as far as l'm concerned. Both your children have voiced their opinion, l think that deserves some very serious consideration.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:17 PM
Wow, although she seems supportive, and was probably what you needed back then, she seems rather destructive now.
You seem to have grown and need to get back to your own life.
I dunno doesn't seem very helpful, its hardly a backwards step if your son is still there and is asking for you.
If she truly was a friend she should see that you are back on track and need to get back to your son, and she should support you in that.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:20 PM
Although she sounds over the top how many times over the years has she had to help you? maybe it is her way of saying think carefully before you act again?
again she comes across as a bit strong but we are only hearing your side of it
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:23 PM
Are you currently accessing counselling? I think this is the kind of situation that would benefit from professional help as there are a lot of complex issues.
I know from experience that in some situations supporting someone through something can become to draining and the support needs to reduce or stop. Or when going back to a situation will mean increasing support and that is no longer possible. However saying that shouldn't be, I'll never speak to you or forgive you. That's a very manipulative way of saying it.
What do you think about why you got to the low point you got to? Is it tied to the location or the people? What have you worked on to be in a better position now and have you worked on how not get to your low point again?
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:27 PM
There are people who crave feeling needed for a variety of reasons, and they can start acting irrationally once they feel the person they “rescued” slipping away. Does that sound like it could be the case with your friend?
She could be justifying the feelings to herself by thinking “I know best” and “look what happened last time” but it is still a controlling action that isn’t putting the other person’s best interests at heart.
Without knowing your situation you could ask yourself if you have a good support network at home, where will you and your kids live, what about work, are the original factors that made you feel on the verge of breaking now over or do iii have the ability to overcome them by some means (and think of practical ways how etc)
I would not factor your friend in right now, I would concentrate on what as best for you and the kids and go from there. Best of luck x
Posted 13 September 2019 - 03:40 PM
I got another 'wont talk to you or forgive you'. But, she won't oppose me leaving the country. Just not returning to the place where I got to my lowest point mentally.
While her response is extreme I think you are not telling the whole story.
We don't know why your friend is so violently opposed to you returning back to your old home.
Keeping the story private is your privilege, but without more information any advice someone here can give is ill-informed and possibly damaging.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 04:15 PM
Hi and thanks for all the replies
I understand how not showing the full picture may lead to some people saying 'hmm...are BF's reponses justified' so I'll clarify.
I have a long history with anxiety and my mum was very emotionally manipulative throughout my young life and as a result, I enabled the 'no boundaries' situations I get myself into. Having never addressed this issue through counselling - I don't know why I never have been aware of it as much as I have now - I have complained to BF about certain people over the years manipulating me and emotionally blackmailing me.
She is afraid I will allow those people and situations back into my life when I go back and hit rock bottom again. I have cut ties with those people because being away from them made me realise how toxic they were.
Also, my parents lived with me for a couple of years and BF is afraid I will go back, move in with them and be the single woman that lives with her parents until everyone dies. Admittedly, there were a few arguments with my folks up until I left last year and BF would be on the receiving end of my venting phone calls. BF also saw my 15 year relationship with the ex go from wonderful to icky - again, on receiving ends of phonecalls and tearful visits etc. She has said to me she is sick of me never having done anything about changing my situations - even though I did make changes, I feel because they were not in her 'acceptable' timeframe, the changes are not good enough.
I resent that she cant see the difference between me then and me now. Fact is, I have really faced my demons. My biggest demon is my mental health. I have been in counselling since July and its really highlighted all of the things I should have been dealing with since my early 20s. I do still struggle considering I went from highest dosage to nothing. My second demon is enabling toxic behaviours from other people - which I am also working on. But that is super hard. Exhausting.
I do have a wonderful and supportive group back home who have already offered their homes to me when I go back while I re-settle and get back on my feet. BF is convinced I'll go straight to my parents house and never leave. This is her reason she is 'fine with' me moving to - I dont know - Sweden! But, in her words, anywhere but "place I used to live".
The red flag for me in all of this is that she doesn't realise how much she is stressing me out - my heart goes into overdrive when I think of confronting her - and if I tell her, she will talk over me and turn it around and make it about herself. I am willing to talk about how seeing me in stressful situations make her feel, or have made her feel. Of course I will. I love her, she is like my sister. I am so grateful that she offered me her home to heal. But the way she is speaking to me - I just don't want to face her at all.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 04:40 PM
But, she won't oppose me leaving the country.
Who the hell does she think she is in your life that she even thinks she has the right to oppose/not oppose you leaving.
I think you serve a very distinct purpose in her life - that of the poor, vulnerable friend that she has 'saved'.
That she dismisses the needs of your son is pretty bloody disgraceful in my opinion and shows just how much her need to have you about trumps your needs and those of your children.
OP, you do not need to explain your decisions to her. Yes, your friendship is longstanding, but it should never take priority over your relationship with your children. Your son needs you far more than she needs you or you need her.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 04:54 PM
It sounds like she's been emotionally invested all the way along and she's feeling burned out, hence not wanting to face you going back into what she's worried will be more drama. I think if you do go back (and honestly, it sounds like it might be the right choice) you need to not emotionally off load onto her from this point on.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 05:44 PM
Personally I’d start making plans to head back home without her knowledge. You don’t need her permission to leave.
She gave you the lifeline you needed to get out of the mental position you were in, however, a good friend will also allow you to go home because you don’t need her say so or permission to go! Your son and daughter need you before she does.
If she doesn’t speak to you anymore, she wasn’t a good friend to start with.
Please see a GP ASAP and get counselling for yourself too.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 05:51 PM
To be honest if I was in your friends shoe I would not want you moving back either but completely understand why you want.
While I wouldn’t ever do what your friend is doing and be so strongly vocal with opposing you, I would probably distance myself from you afterwards just in case things hit the fan again.
I know a lot of people would argue that a friend’s support should be unconditional but I disagree. I’ve been emotionally drained when assisting my friends out of the same hole and I just now don’t have the emotional capacity to assist with other people’s problem especially if I’ve already helped them and they returned to the same situation. Your friend is probably feeling the same way.
I think you should definitely do what you feel right for you and your family. I would prioritise going back to your son but I think you should also expect that the fall out will be the end of a friendship until such time she realises you are more than capable of returning without spiralling backwards.
Good luck OP!
Posted 13 September 2019 - 06:04 PM
I would thank her for the help and support that helped you to get back on your feet, let her know how much you appreciate it, and that now you’re stronger you can return to caring for both your children and support them. Then I’d look her in the eye and say ‘I know you would agree the best place for my two children is with their mother, so I’m so grateful you’ve helped me to get to a place where I can do that’.
Then just quietly make plans to go. Don’t explain or defend.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 06:05 PM
It sounds like you want to return.
I'm trying to understand why you'd prioritise your friend's wishes over your son's. Your son needs you, IMHO it's your duty to be with him as he negotiates the difficult final years of high school.
Yes you are going to disappoint and anger your friend, but frankly, that's a lesser evil than continuing to not be there for your own son.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 06:12 PM
You don’t need her permission to move. However, I would look and plan closely for mental health support before I moved anywhere else
Posted 13 September 2019 - 07:05 PM
Its like she wants you to be dependent on her for your wellbeing...
Posted 13 September 2019 - 07:23 PM
Thank you everyone for taking the time to offer your thoughts, I really appreciate it.
I get how some people might take a step.back at a friendship that is emotionally draining, I really do. What upsets me is her choice of words and the fact that she floats around as if she has not ever made the wrong choices. It's her attitude that disappoints me the most. If she were to be honest and not so aggressive we could come to a mutual understanding but that's not the case. She is trying to punish me for my life choices and yes, I agree 100 percent, my children will always come first above everyone.
They are my life and I was worried about the effect I was having on them during my low points. She offered me the chance to get better and I am grateful - but I really cant stay away from my child when he needs me.
I'm sad and angry at her but determined to want to rebuild my life with my children.
A lot of the comments left really hit home. Honestly, thanks
Posted 13 September 2019 - 09:34 PM
Do you actually have some sort of plan, OP? If you don't, maybe that's what her concerns are about... that you've fall back into default patterns / behaviours?
Back yourself and show her that you've done the groundwork for a successful move back to your old town:
- Scope out study or work opportunities
- Have some idea about accommodation (other than your parents) - even if it's moving to local caravan park for 3 months until you find an income source
-Tee up a referral with a local psychologist
-Get your anxiety under control (do you need medication?)
-Reach out to some local groups of interest
-Save up / sell some stuff for a bit of money beforehand as a buffer
-Create a list of contacts you can re-connect with
I think if you have given some thought to planning (and perhaps even involve her), that will allay some of her fears that you'll end up back at your lowest point.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 09:54 PM
Your child's needs absolutely trumps a 20 year friendship. If she was a true friend she would support you and understand that.
All in all, make sure you have a good mental health support network around if you do decide to move.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 10:50 PM
Describe the situation: BF, when I tell you that I know what I need my next step to be in my life and you threaten to abandon me when I take it...
Emotion: I feel infantilised. I feel that you aren't trusting me to make my own decisions, and you are using a thing I value so much - your friendship - to force me to do what you want. I feel betrayed that after seeing so many people take advantage of my poor boundaries, you are now doing the same. I know you are doing it out of love for me, but instead you are repeating the way others have treated me.
Assert: I will be making arrangements to go back home and be with my son. As an adult, I know that is my responsibility and is what I both need and want to do. I would like to keep your friendship throughout this move.
Reinforce: Your friendship means the world to me and I hope it continues for a long time. I will not allow it to decompose into an emotionally abusive situation, because it's too valuable to me. If you choose to end it because of that, I will be devastated, but that will be your choice.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 11:19 PM
OP can I just clarify that you've been getting support from a psychologist for the past 8ish weeks but never before that? And you've made the breakthroughs you are talking about re insight into past behaviours and how toxic some of your past relationships were since you've started counselling?
Have you tried writing your reasons down? *This is why I want to go.
*These are my goals re housing/supports/employment etc etc.
*These are the steps I need to take to achieve those goals.
*Your BFs worries are:
*For each worry - strategies how you'll address them i.e. staying involved with a support worker.
Maybe writing it all down will help you show her without getting into a verbal stoush all the reasons why you know this isn't going to be like last time for you. And maybe it'll highlight any areas where maybe she is right to be worried and you need to make additional plans to go back in a way that will be safe for you long term.
I've been in your friend's shoes once but it involved a friend returning to a DV relationship after finally having made a complete break from him and having him move on etc. A part of me worries there might be something like that in the background as some of what you are saying sounds very similar to my friend and she was really minimising the awfulness of the relationship at that point. Apologies if that isn't the case for you and my experience is creating a red flag that isn't actually there.
Posted 13 September 2019 - 11:31 PM
Nah, screw that. Move, tell her later, if at all. Where you live is not up to her and she is certainly not more important than your own children.
Posted 14 September 2019 - 12:03 AM
Look I can actually see her point. She has listened to your situation for years. You got really really bad. You moved to her, you've come good. And while it's fantastic you're in counseling, it's only been 2 months.
BUT- she doesn't get a say in your choices. And your son needs you.
If you want to move, move! But put plans in place to protect your mental health. Don't move in with your parents. Find a counsellor there.
Seeing as it's already September, maybe you can spend the next couple of months getting more counselling, and then organising EVERYTHING and making a really clear, safe plan, then move at the start of the Christmas holidays, so you can get settled with the kids and enrol your DD in school. I would keep your plans quiet but give her 2 weeks notice, and let her know all the safeguards you've put in place.
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