Emotional blackmail: 8 signs your 'romantic' efforts are crossing the line

MANILA, Philippines – We're all familiar with overt acts of sexual harassment like catcalling and physical assault, but oftentimes, there's creepy behavior that falls between the cracks that people misconstrue or try to pass off as romantic.

Microaggressions (tiny, seemingly innocent words or actions that intentionally or unintentionally put down a gender or race) and emotional blackmail are both straight out of the Nice Guy playbook, and if you're a Nice Guy and not aware of it, sit down and read on. 

Here are 8 things you might be doing that's crossing the line:

1. You shower the object of your affection with lavish gifts, even if you barely know each other.

It's one thing to buy nice things for your significant other, and another thing completely to send stuffed animals and cakes to some woman who made small talk with you at the office party. What's wrong with it? Lavish gifts put women on the spot by making them feel emotionally indebted to you. It's sweet, BUT only if it's something she's comfortable with. It's always better to establish that she's open to accepting them first before you send them her way. Don’t put her in a position where she would have to feel guilty for turning you down because you spent a lot of money to show her how much you like her. When in doubt, it’s always better to ask. 

2. You add her on Facebook even if you’ve never met, then proceed to message her there.

Facebook is not Tinder. Most people use Facebook to communicate with people they’ve already met. It doesn’t matter if your message to her is sheepish and confessional (“Pasensya na, I hope you don’t mind that add, I just had to let you know, etc”). The fact remains that you imposed yourself through a medium meant for people she actually knows. Nobody normally sets up a Facebook account to get random confessions of admiration from strangers. Images of you Googling to find out more about her personal life and combing through her social media accounts come to the foreground, and that would make anyone feel unsafe.

3. You confess your feelings to her publicly.

This is right up there with number one. If the woman barely knows you, putting her on the spot with a huge audience subjects her to emotional blackmail. If she says no, she'll look like a jerk for turning you down. You're robbing her of agency and a say on whether she wants to go out with you or not. After all, isn't it better to be on a date with someone who actually wants to get to know you instead of someone who said yes because she felt emotionally obligated to do so? If you want to ask someone out, do it in a way that gives her the emotional safety to say yes or no.

Okay, so you've never done any of these things. You're in the clear, right? Not necessarily. If you find yourself saying the following lines, you might be in the danger zone:

4. 'I'm sorry for the all the missed calls. I just missed talking to you.' or 'Why aren’t you replying?'

Just because a woman casually responds to you from time to time does not automatically mean that she is beholden to reply to all your messages or is required to answer your calls. Apart from the likelihood that she may have a perfectly good excuse for not being able to reply, an onslaught of non-stop messages and missed calls will just cross the line from friendly conversation to blocked territory. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter whether or not she has a good excuse for not replying. If she doesn’t feel like talking, you can’t make her. Simple as that. Oh, and before you say it, we know, we know… 

5. 'But I'm such a nice guy!'

Louder for the guys at the back: “BEING A NICE GUY DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO SOMEONE’S AFFECTIONS.” Be a decent person to someone because it’s the right thing to do and not because you expect them to fall madly in love with you. If you want to be more than friends, tell them. If they say they’re more comfortable keeping you around as a friend, respect that. And no, nice guys don’t finish last. It may come as shocking to you, but being a good person isn’t enough to make you right for someone. There are other factors at play too like, well, the preferences of the other person. The problem with the Nice Guy syndrome is that it fails to take into consideration how mutual interest should be a factor in starting a romantic relationship, and presumes that a woman should be thankful that someone is being decent to them. Again, be a good person because it’s the right thing to do and not because you want something more from them. It’s really that easy. 

6. 'Hayaan mo na lang akong ligawan ka' (Just let me court you) or 'Let me do nice things for you'

Again, mutual interest! If a woman does not explicitly express her interest (please, there’s no such thing as “signs a girl is into you”), don’t doggedly insist that she let you pursue her. If she wants to get to know you better, that’s great, but always make sure that she is comfortable with whatever you do and that your actions don’t violate her boundaries. Don’t insist on picking her up from work if she doesn’t want you to. Don’t insist on bringing her lunch even after she’s politely declined. Don’t buy her tens of thousands of pesos worth of makeup to give to her on the first date. Persistence isn’t the magic ingredient that will make a woman interested in you. As with any relationship, whether it’s friendship or the romantic one you’re so keen on starting with the object of your affections, CONSENT IS KEY. Respect her boundaries and her choices. Give her breathing room to decide what she wants instead of smothering her with unwarranted affection.

7. 'She was leading me on' or 'She was just using me' when she rejects your advances.

When a woman gives you the time of day, that does not immediately equate to her leading you on. Unless she explicitly said that she likes hanging out with you because she may be romantically interested in you, her spending time with you likely just means that she is a human being who appreciates socializing with other human beings. Believe it or not, and this may just blow your mind, but a man and a woman can interact outside of the context of sex and romance! If you think someone’s genitals dictate your expectations of a person, you have a grossly limited view of the human condition.

8. 'I'd like to apologize on behalf of all guys. I would never...'

Ah, the hero who has come to save the day. First of all, props to you for acknowledging that sexism and the patriarchy oppresses women but please, don’t use this as an opportunity to set you aside from “the other guys”. It’s one thing to stand up for women and another thing completely to use it as a tool to insert yourself in the narrative. It’s great that you believe in equality and speaking up for women’s issues, but to be a true feminist ally, you should also be aware that it’s more important to amplify women’s voices rather than insert yourself and hijack the conversation – moreso if you’re doing it to get a woman’s attention or if you expect women to place you on a pedestal. Be an ally because you believe in equality and it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect a reward for it.

Dating can be murky business, but before diving headfirst with misguided acts of what you think is chivalry and romantic gestures, it’s always better to keep in mind that it takes two to tango. Don’t look at women as prizes to be won, because surprise, surprise, that’s objectification. Instead, acknowledge that they are human beings who have the agency to decide for themselves. Approach a relationship with a mindset that what you’re looking for is a partner, and in order to do that you have to account for their preferences, their choices, and their capacity to make their own decisions.

Emotional blackmail or putting them on the spot with over-the-top gestures and proclamations of love robs them of breathing room to make their decision. While you might think it’s adorable or brave that you’re going after your heart’s desire, have you ever taken into consideration what she even wants? – Rappler.com