Are You Being ‘Guilted’ By Someone You Love?


Are you being ‘guilted’ by someone you love? This occurs when the person you love leverages your experience and/or actions with guilt. “If you don’t give me what I need, my life will fall apart!” “Please don’t leave, I’m nothing without you.” “If you see your friends tonight it will hurt my feelings.”

The act of ‘guilting’ involves making someone who loves you responsible for something he or she is not responsible for (blaming), along with the attached negative consequence of what is supposed to happen to the abusive lover if you don’t comply, and the implied guilt that is supposed to happen to you (victim) if you don’t comply. All three parts are required to use guilt as an emotional manipulation.

‘Guilting’ is most effective when the target of your guilt happens to love or care about you. If he or she will feel bad over the thought or image of you being subjected to dire consequences, he or she is susceptible to guilt. The introduction of ‘chronic guilting’ into a love relationship is a form of emotional abuse simply because it is a psychological corrosive that erodes a victim’s self-esteem as well as freedoms of choice and action.

Ultimately guilt is used to manipulate and control a lover. Common forms of guilt in a love relationship involve the absence of a realistic differentiation between a ‘guilter’s’ personal feelings and the victim’s personal feelings. The assumption being that the victim’s feelings can ‘magically’ create an abusive lover’s thoughts, feelings, or actions, with the victim being guilty of this effect if and when it takes place.

What gets left out of this interpersonal equation is the abusive lover’s own will, choices, and personal responsibility. The blame inherent in this projection of responsibility identifies the responsible person. Once that’s established, guilt is charged when the abusive lover determines that the evidence for the crime of ‘making’ the abusive lover think, feel, or do something unacceptable, is justified.

People who are easily ‘guilted’ are people who have been taught to be over-responsible in a love relationship. They were taught to be self-critical and this plays out in relationships as a pronounced tendency to feel guilty. ‘Guilters’ prey on these self-critical people. They can spot them a mile away. Abusers are attracted to their low self-esteem and a stronger than usual need for praise or acceptance.

Chronic ‘guilting’ is a sickness. It’s done as a psychological defense against a backdrop of very poor self-esteem. If I find you guilty of the things I would otherwise accuse myself of, I will experience a temporary reprieve from harsh self-judgments and personal loathing. The problem for the abusive lover occurs during those periods when they cannot find a victim for aggressive ‘guilting’ and forced to experience their true feelings about themselves alone.

The best way to fight ‘guilting’ is to remind yourself that you are not responsible for someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. Along with that self-supervision, you want to turn down the ‘power’ another person’s words have over your emotions. Just because you are being held accountable for someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and actions doesn’t mean it’s true.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

1 Comment

  1. Ashe on June 21, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I’ve been reading quite a bit about abuses in relationships. The concept of another person not being responsible for your feelings, actions and thoughts confuses me: especially when it comes to an abusive relationship. It confuses me because abusive people tend to provoke their victim in any way shape or form–just to get a reaction. It tends to be the first thing an abuser utters “I’m not responsible for how you think, act and feel.” They are provoking emotions in you, then minimizing their role, or ignoring you all together. All while you “say nothing” they tend to enjoy hurting you-in whatever way that is. When you sp am up? It’s like “wut? Not me. That is you.”

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