Abuse Tactics: Guilt Tripping

This is all about guilt-tripping you into doing what the abuser wants, including having him/her back, or not leaving, or just not sticking up for yourself. The emphasis here will be on what a loving kind person you are, and how you couldn’t possibly be cruel enough to inflict [whatever] on him/her, yourself, the children, and/or the extended family. It’s all about getting you to think about how much you care for other people (mostly the abuser), making making you feel selfish for wanting to do what you want – be that anything from going out for an evening to ending the relationship. Many guilt-trip tactics cross-over with lying.

Many autistic women are especially vulnerable to guilt-tripping. Contrary to the popular belief that we have no empathy, we often have too much empathy1, and are also keen to please and gain approval. The abuser will play on our autism too, telling us that normal people care (implying that our autism makes us uncaring). Of course we know that we do care, and can be prepared to so almost anything to prove it, giving up ourselves and our own needs in the process.

It’s very unlikely that any one abuser would use all these tactics, and there will be many ways of guilt-tripping you not mentioned here. So, don’t feel you’re overreacting if you don’t see all these particular tactics – you’re not. Every situation is different.

Examples of Guilt-Tripping Tactics
  • “I never wanted children/this life in the first place.”
  • “You’re so self-obsessed”.
  • “I can’t cope with all this. I’m so useless.”
  • “I need you.”
  • “Can we talk about me for a change?”
  • “I don’t feel well… can’t you do it?”
  • “I promise I’ll never do it again.”
  • “I’ll go to anger management/Alcoholics Anonymous/drug rehabilitation/the doctor/a counsellor.”
  • “We’ll get couple’s counselling.”
  • “I can’t cope without you.”
  • “I’ll kill myself,” or more subtly, “I might as well end it all.”
  • “It’ll be your fault if the kids fail their exams.”
  • “We can’t afford two houses.”
  • “Please take me back, I’m living in the car.”
  • “I can’t bear to live without my children.”
  • “I have cancer.”
  • “You can’t break up the family.”
  • “Think of the children.”
  • “I hate being away from you and the children.”
  • “I want us to be a family again.”
  • “All I need is another chance.”
  • “I want another child with you.”
  • “If you don’t want me, I’ll find someone else.”

Please leave a comment below if you would like to add a guilt-tripping tactic.

Please DON’T challenge an abuser, or try to leave a relationship, without getting help first.
There are organisations that can help you work out what to do, and help to keep you (and your children) safe from further physical and/or psychological harm. If you are in the UK, please see the Where to Get Help page for more information. If you are outside the UK, Google your country’s abuse charities – there will be people to help you.

1. Too much empathy: The Intense World Theory – a unifying theory of the neurobiology of autism.

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