I’m new here and primary carer for my mum, although she is manage most things at the moment, I am finding that she uses emotional blackmail at times which I find difficult to handle. any advice please
Yes, just let the emotional blackmail comments go over your head.
I care for a very elderly mother in law who resorts to this kind of thing. I don’t even no why she does it because she gets everything she needs and is very comfortable and well catered for.
It’s a learned behaviour I think, to induce guilt and a feeling that we should somehow be doing more.
This has impacted on my mental health but I am learning to distance myself from it and recognise that however much we do she will still have her health “crisis “ or mini tantrum because it’s what she does.
It’s taken a while to learn that !
My disabled housebound mum always assumed that if she couldn’t do something, I should do it instead.
Here’s the most ridiculous request. (Bear in mind that at the time I was running a business and supporting my son with learning difficulties). A long lost cousin was visiting her the following week, and finally she wanted to get the roll of kitchen flooring they’d bought years ago, laid before his arrival. Not just lay the flooring, but empty out all the units, take the units out plus dishwasher, cooker unit with oven, and 6ft fridge, so the flooring could go under the units, put the units back and refill them, all in under a week. I told mum I couldn’t do it. Then mum said well I WANT it done. I ran out in tears and didn’t go back for a long time.
Then my husband died, I was nearly killed in an accident, and had a blue badge, barely able to walk, yet still mum left me jobs to do.
I was referred to counselling, on the verge of a breakdown. This was life changing. I was always taught to be a good girl and never say No to my parents. The counsellor helped me to change this, it WAS OK to say No, I had my own life, and it was mine to choose what I did in it.
Better still, he taught me how to manage mum’s expectations. Never to say NO as such, but to just say that I had something else on that day (NEVER feel you have to add a because…) When presented with a list of jobs (usually as soon as I put my head round the door) I would decide what, if anything I was going to do. Once started, I’d say “you asked me to do this, I’m going to finish it before starting anything else”. I’d do it at whatever speed I wanted!
Looking back, the list was just mum’s attempt to get me there and keep me there as long as possible. She wanted my company more than anything else. In fact especially after my husband died and I was disabled, I visited less and less, the last thing I needed was another job. If she had just let me make her a coffee, and one for me too, then let me go, she could have seen me so much more, as I regularly passed the end of her road, but I would be lucky to escape after three hours.
I would do anything now to go and see her for a coffee and chat now.
Give us a few examples of your mum’s blackmail, we may come up with a solution!
Tell us more about your mom. The selfish pig’s handbook to caring is a good resource.
Emotional blackmail is an attempt to manipulate another person by appealing to that person’s generous, selfless and caring nature, in order to satisfy one’s own selfish desires. Examples include:
- Reminding that person of many of the kind favours one has done for that person in the past.
- Exalting other people that have done that person favours, in the expectation that that person will match those favours.
- Pointing out errors made by that person, in the expectation that that person will do something to compensate for those errors.
- Making an unreasonable request to a person in the presence of friends, in the hope that that person will not wish to appear unwilling or difficult in the presence of those friends.
- Making gifts or other unexpected favours in the expectation that the other person will feel obliged to do something in return.
- Pointing out a person’s religious commitments, referring to doctrines and dogmas they have learned at a faith school, making selective and brief references from the Bible.
- Refusing to discuss with a person a difficult situation likely to occur soon in the company of others, so as to try to agree on a mutually acceptable way to deal with it; instead expecting that person to knuckle under rather than “make a scene” in front of others.
The last of these, excercising “passive aggression”, is particularly manipulative. Emotional blackmail is most effective on those people with a devout, religious or highly caring nature. For this reason I regard it as one of the most grevious transgressions of our society.
How to deal with this? One can learn how to counter blackmail in a dignified way, but it takes time and practice. Often, a straightforward “No” is in order. But most of us do not like to say “No”, even though we recognize it is sometimes necessary; it seems to go against our caring nature.
Michelle, if you tell us a bit more about you and your mother, and why you need to care for her, and some examples of her emotional blackmail, we may be able to offer some suggestions.
I agree with those above who tell you to give us an example of your mother’s emotional blackmail and tell us about what she’s like, how she talks and why you’re caring for her and also how long have you been doing it?
Here’s an example, was it anything like this?
I’ve been caring for my mum for 10 years and after all these years I’ve finally decided to stop being her carer and move out. Me and her have had many a discussion about it and her main emotional blackmail she uses on me is that she’s going to die within the next 2 years after she is left alone to care for herself with all her problems, just as her mother did. She’d say HER mother died after 2 years of doing everything and died at 70, and now she (my mum) will be 70 in 2 years.
So first she’s going to die of doing everything herself with her disablement problems plus breathing problems, but now she’s threatening to actively take her own life shortly after her 70th birthday if I move out, because she will have nobody/nothing to live for.
This has been the worst one yet!
More subtle ones before this were just the classic shouting and complaining at me if she deems I don’t do enough even though I did loads for her. It was never enough, or good enough.
Another was saying that she had raised me for 18 years, given me everything I needed and wanted, did all these nice things for me, given me great gifts and this is h ow I repay her by being a sh* tty carer
The religious thing was one of the ways my mum would emotionally blackmail me: she’d say god was watching and if I carry on being a rubbish carer then I’ll be going to hell… or as she’d put it “god is watching how you treat me badly, better be careful as if you don’t mend your ways you’ll be paying in the after life”
that sort of thing
When mum starts off like this next time, just say “I don’t have to listen to you, I’m going to my room”. Stop whatever you are doing, stand up, and leave her. Then you are taking control of your life. Remember, you are responsible for your own happiness, and this is making you unhappy.
“god is watching how you treat me badly, better be careful as if you don’t mend your ways you’ll be paying in the after life”
It must be so tempting to say “Right back at you, Mum…” Not that it would help.
I agree with BB - you don’t have to listen to any of it.