A reader who wishes to remain anonymous asks: I am 30-years old. I have been living in the UAE for the past four years.
Let me tell you in detail: I am from India. Currently, I live and work in Abu Dhabi. I am having a very stress full and painful time. I am in a relationship with a girl, I met her online through a dating site.
First year we had a perfect relationship. After a year she started to ask me money, I was like so blind in love with her that I never thought about myself and my future and I started sending her money as per her wish.
I was so dedicated to her that as if she was more than a family member to me. I preferred my girl friend above my family. All was fine between us until one day. It was my job appraisal time and like always it was the biggest blunder I committed. She told me whatever the appraisal is I need money, from that time I realized that she was just behind the money. It was late but I realized she wasn't loving me.
When I wanted to end my relationship with her she started blackmailing me, I tried ending my relationship several times, but she won't spare me: "You took away four years of my life, I won't leave you until my death," she says. If I start ignoring or tell anything about ending relationship she starts blackmailing: "I will ruin your career, your house, put all your family members behind bars".
She blackmails me and I don't know what to do. I can't even discuss with my parents. If I stop calling her she threatens of exposing our secrets we shared during our relationship. She said she will post it online.
I am still on talking terms with her. At the moment, I have lied to her that I have been terminated from my job otherwise she will keep asking for money. What do I do?
Carey Kirk, Program Coordinator for the Raymee Grief Center and a licensed counselor with The LightHouse Arabia, Dubai, replies: It does sound like you are having a very stressful and painful time. Let me be very clear, people who love each other do not threaten or blackmail each other. My first advice to you is to alert the police that this woman is threatening you and blackmailing you for money. Do you have any documented evidence of these threats? Has she sent you threats via email or do you have any taped phone conversations? If so, I encourage you to take this evidence to the police. This evidence can also be used as the basis for a restraining order, which may be needed if this woman refuses to stop harassing you.
From your description, it sounds as though this woman is very manipulative. It can be very scary and emotionally exhausting to deal with a person who makes such intense threats as ruining your career, house, putting your family members in jail, and spreading the secrets you shared in the confidence of your relationship to the media if you do not play by her rules. This is a form of desperate psychological control on her part to trap you into doing what she wants (eg: giving her money). I encourage you to contact a lawyer to help assess how realistic her threats are and to explore your options for taking legal action against her. You might think that legal action is an extreme measure, but her behavior is extreme and you have a right to live your life without this type of harassment.
I also encourage you stop all contact with this woman. If you feel comfortable, you can let her know that you have informed the police about her threats and will take further legal action against her if she continues to harass you. You do not need to be on speaking terms with someone who is making your life miserable. She will most likely continue to call you and make threats. You have to be very firm. Do not answer her calls. If the frequency of her calls escalates to where she is calling you numerous times a day or if she is leaving you threatening messages, you can talk to your phone provider and work with them to block her calls. These phone records and messages can also be used as evidence by the authorities in any legal action you take against her.
Having the strength to cut ties with this woman and then weathering the storm will be hard. You will need emotional support during this time. I know you said you can’t bring yourself to discuss what you have been going through with your parents. Is there anyone else in your life you can confide in and get support from? If your answer is no, then I encourage you to get support from a licensed counselor or psychologist who can also work with you on strengthening your personal boundaries and learning who to trust. It is natural to feel anxious and guarded after this experience. Some supportive therapeutic work may be needed to reinforce the idea that not everyone is so untrustworthy.
Lastly, if you were to consider using an online dating site again in the future, keeping the following tips in mind may help lessen the likelihood of negative experiences in the future:
- Use a reputable site. These generally employ more safeguards to screen users.
- Slow interactions down and try not to share really personal information early on. Online dating sites and long-distance relationships create an artificial atmosphere where people are more likely to share intimate information at a faster rate than they would have done in-person. This can set us up for trouble later if the person turns out to be untrustworthy.
- Always bring a friend when you meet in-person for the first time. Never go alone to meet someone you have only interacted with over the internet or by phone. This is important to ensure your safety.
- Do not send the person money or give them access to your property, passwords, or any other valuables. Online dating sites and long-distance communication create one-dimensional relationships where our perception of the other person is based only on what they say about themselves. When we don't have experience of how they really behave in social situations and can't get feedback about them from friends and family, it becomes easier for people to misrepresent themselves and their intentions.
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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.