The Enlightened Caveman


Interpersonal Truth – Part 2 – Emotional Coercion
September 11, 2004, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Culture and Society, Enlightened Living, Relationships

There’s a little thing I call emotional coercion, and it is going on all the place. It’s wrong and it needs to be talked about. Because it doesn’t get much attention, I’ll admit that I find it a bit awkward to describe. But hey, my intentions are good, so here goes.

To coerce is to bring about by force or threat. To emotionally coerce is to bend the actions of others by threatening emotional turmoil. It takes place most prevalently between people in close romantic relationships. It exists because many people choose to appease the desires of hotheads and manipulators because it simply isn’t worth it to do otherwise. For example, a husband with a quick temper emotionally coerces his wife by asserting his wishes upon her, even though he knows that he is making her do what she doesn’t want to do. In some cases, the threat of real force underlies the emotional coercion. In other cases, the outbursts are enough to bend her will. Husbands will often complain about wives who give them so much grief that they avoid behaviors rather than running the risk. Who hasn’t been held hostage by a loved one in tears?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that people need to be allowed to express their emotions. However, some people, the emotionally coercive, are aware of the power they have, and they use it to get what they want. This is no way to interact with people we care about. To those for whom this notion of emotional coercion hits home, I’d say you need to think about how it feels to be forced to do something you don’t want to do. Then think about how despicable it is to do this to a loved one. And to those who find themselves emotionally coerced, I say stand up for yourself. It is never acceptable for someone to wield emotional power over you to get you to behave as they want, not as you want. Yes, there is compromise, but this is beyond compromise, and there is never any chance of confusing the two. Relationships must be built on mutual respect and admiration. Anything less is settling.

I am convinced that good romantic relationships are available to everyone who’s willing to do what it takes to be desirable. Unfortunately, too many people get into relationships that are fraught with emotional coercion. Instead of seeing this as a deal breaker, they suffer on. In doing so, they miss out on the opportunities for real relationships with solid foundations. If the idea that emotional coercion is wrong were articulated alongside the idea that honesty is the best policy, we might end up with a generally more content population. But nothing will ever happen until people realize that this is a human phenomenon that has no place in our modern world of reason.

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