What to Do if Your Boyfriend Blackmails You

Never agree to meet the demands of a boyfriend who uses blackmail to get what he wants.
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A boyfriend who blackmails you is violating your trust -- and should never be accommodated. Though you might fear what will happen if he carries out his threats, you are teaching him how to treat you in the future. Blackmailers learn what buttons to push to have their demands met, so take the sting out of his threats by showing you are not afraid.

1 Don't Give In

Don't give in to a boyfriend who blackmails you by complying with his request. For example, if you boyfriend is threatening to tell your parents about a late-night escape from your bedroom window with a best friend -- unless you cover for him when he skips school -- simply tell him "No." If he uses emotional blackmail instead of threats to talk to your parents, such as giving you the silent treatment or cutting off contact if you refuse his request, use positive self-statements such as "I can handle this." Blackmailers rely on your fear, obligation and guilt, as discussed by psychotherapist Susan Forward in the book "Emotional Blackmail." Don't reward his behavior and don't give in, though it might feel uncomfortable.

2 Share With Others

When you take a stand with a blackmailing boyfriend, it is possible that he will follow through with his threats. In the case of him threatening to disclose something to another person, consider whether it might be best to come clean on your own, suggests therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker, in the "Psych Central" article "Boyfriend is Blackmailing Me." Be up-front and talk to your parents about what you did that was wrong. You might also take the opportunity to tell them about your boyfriend's behavior and how it is affecting you.

3 Let Him Follow Through

If you don't think coming clean is in your best interest, or if the blackmail is emotional, take a backseat and wait to see if your boyfriend follows through on his threats. Though you might be afraid of his anger, fear other people thinking of you as a bad person or even fear being abandoned, none of these fears is worth rewarding his control over you. Your sense of self-respect needs to be stronger than your feeling of obligation so that he can't take advantage of you, says Randi Kreger, author of "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder" in "Psychology Today." Even if the worst happens and he shares something embarrassing, he will not have control over you anymore.

4 Share With Caution

Whatever the outcome of the blackmail situation, realize that you are in a relationship with someone you can't trust. Blackmail is a sign of insecurity and instability, not love. A boyfriend who would put you in that position is a bully with his own issues that are not your responsibility to solve. You should never have to compromise your integrity to keep someone else happy -- so make sure he knows you will not bend in response to his threats. At the very least, realize that you can't place your trust in him, advises licensed clinical social worker Najma M. Adam in "Blackmailed by My Ex" -- and be careful about how much you share in the future.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.