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Interviewing Susan Forward: Exploring Emotional Blackmail and Empowering Relationships

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Welcome, readers, to an engaging encounter with one of the most influential voices in psychology and self-help literature. Today, we have the privilege of interviewing none other than Susan Forward, a renowned therapist, author, and advocate for personal growth. With her vast experience and profound understanding of human relationships, Susan has touched the lives of countless individuals, empowering them to break free from destructive patterns and embrace healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Susan Forward’s contributions to the field of psychology are nothing short of extraordinary. Her passion for helping others navigate through complex emotional landscapes has led her to write several bestselling books, such as “Toxic Parents” and “Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. These works serve as guideposts for those seeking healing, offering invaluable insights into the dynamics of toxic relationships and the transformative power of self-awareness.

During this interview, we will delve deep into the heart of Susan Forward’s expertise, exploring her unique perspectives on communication, personal boundaries, and the impact of childhood experiences on adult relationships. Through her compassionate approach and unwavering determination, Susan has enabled numerous individuals to rewrite their narratives, conquer emotional pain, and cultivate healthy, loving connections.

Prepare to be captivated by Susan’s remarkable ability to blend empathy with pragmatic solutions. As we unravel the layers of her wisdom, we hope you will gain valuable insights, whether you are seeking personal growth or simply hoping to deepen your understanding of human dynamics.

Join us as we embark upon a meaningful conversation with Susan Forward, where she will share her wealth of knowledge, profound experiences, and transformative strategies that can empower you to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Who is Susan Forward?

Susan Forward is a renowned therapist and author who has made significant contributions to the field of psychology and self-help. Throughout her career, she has focused on empowering individuals and helping them overcome emotional pain and dysfunctional relationships. With her compassionate approach and extensive clinical experience, Forward has touched the lives of countless people and reshaped their perspectives on personal growth and healing.

Born in 1937, Susan Forward obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Rochester and later pursued her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California. She went on to become a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in family therapy and the treatment of emotional abuse.

Forward gained widespread recognition with her groundbreaking book “Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them,” published in 1986. The book delves into the dynamics of abusive relationships and examines the various psychological profiles of both the abuser and the victim. Her insightful analysis shed light on the complexities of these destructive partnerships, providing victims with validation and strategies for breaking free.

Apart from her work on abusive relationships, Susan Forward has written several other influential books that address different aspects of personal growth and recovery. Her notable works include “Toxic Parents,” which explores the lasting impact of childhood abuse and neglect, and “Emotional Blackmail,” focusing on manipulative tactics used by people to control others emotionally.

What sets Susan Forward apart is her ability to connect with readers through her empathetic writing style and practical advice. She combines her clinical expertise with real-life examples, exercises, and step-by-step guidance, offering readers actionable tools to transform their lives. Her books have become invaluable resources for individuals seeking healing, understanding, and personal empowerment.

Here you can get more information about her by clicking Susan Forward’s official website.

20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Susan Forward

1.Can you provide ten Emotional Blackmail quotes which can represent it’s theme?

1.If you love someone, let them go. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.

2. The only people I owe my loyalty to are those who never made me question theirs.

3. Never let anyone control your happiness, your self-worth, or your decisions.

4. You don’t have to accept everything that is thrown at you. You have the power to set boundaries, to choose what works for you and reject what doesn’t.

5. People may try to manipulate you, but don’t forget you own the power to choose.

6. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

7. You deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t ever allow anyone to take away your self-worth.

8. You don’t have to stay in a situation just because everyone says you should.

9. You are in charge of your own life. Don’t let anyone else dictate the choices you make.

10. Don’t be afraid to call out emotional manipulation and set boundaries.

2. What is emotional blackmail, and why is it important to address this issue?

Emotional blackmail is a form of psychological manipulation where one person uses fear, guilt, obligation, or other negative emotions to control or manipulate another person. It involves threatening or manipulating someone emotionally in order to get what they want, ultimately undermining the victim’s autonomy and well-being.

Addressing the issue of emotional blackmail is crucial for several reasons:

Preserving personal boundaries: Emotional blackmail can erode personal boundaries by coercing individuals into doing things against their will or compromising their own values and needs. By addressing this issue, individuals can learn to establish and maintain healthy boundaries, fostering self-respect and assertiveness.

Promoting healthy relationships: Emotional blackmail often occurs within close relationships, such as intimate partnerships, parent-child dynamics, friendships, or workplace interactions. Addressing emotional blackmail helps individuals recognize unhealthy patterns and develop healthier ways of relating to others, fostering trust, respect, and mutual understanding.

Protecting mental and emotional well-being: Emotional blackmail can have severe consequences on one’s mental and emotional well-being. The constant manipulation, fear, and guilt can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a sense of powerlessness. Recognizing and actively addressing emotional blackmail allows individuals to prioritize their own emotional health and build resilience.

3. How does emotional blackmail differ from other forms of manipulation or abuse?

Emotional blackmail is a specific form of manipulation and abuse that primarily involves exploiting someone’s emotions, fears, or vulnerabilities to gain control over them. Although it shares similarities with other forms of manipulation or abuse, emotional blackmail stands out due to its distinctive characteristics:

Emotional manipulation: Emotional blackmail is centered around manipulating the victim’s feelings to manipulate their behavior. Perpetrators often use guilt, fear, shame, or obligation to make the victim comply with their demands.

Power imbalance: Emotional blackmail typically occurs within a relationship where there is an unequal power dynamic. The perpetrator may hold a position of authority or have certain advantages that they leverage to control the victim emotionally.

Threats and consequences: Emotional blackmail frequently involves explicit or implicit threats and consequences. The perpetrator may threaten to end the relationship, harm themselves, or reveal damaging information about the victim if their demands are not met.

4. Could you share some examples of common emotional blackmail tactics that individuals may encounter?

Here are some typical tactics employed by emotional blackmailers:

Threats: Blackmailers may threaten to end the relationship, harm themselves, or reveal damaging information about the individual unless their demands are met.

Guilt-tripping: They use guilt as a weapon by making the individual feel responsible for their feelings or actions, even when it’s not justified. They may say things like, “If you loved me, you would do this for me.”

Withholding affection: Emotional blackmailers may withhold love, attention, or intimacy as a way to punish or manipulate the other person. They might give the silent treatment or withdraw affection until their demands are met.

Playing the victim: They constantly portray themselves as the victim, bringing up past hurts or using their vulnerabilities to make others feel guilty or responsible for their well-being.

5. What are the potential consequences of succumbing to emotional blackmail in personal relationships?

Emotional blackmail refers to a manipulative tactic used by one person to control or manipulate another through fear, guilt, or obligation. Succumbing to emotional blackmail can have several detrimental consequences for individuals and their relationships:

Loss of autonomy: By giving in to emotional blackmail, individuals surrender their personal power and decision-making abilities. This loss of autonomy can lead to feelings of helplessness, resentment, and a diminished sense of self.

Diminished self-esteem: Emotional blackmail often involves belittling, criticizing, or devaluing the victim’s thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Over time, this erodes self-esteem and self-confidence, making the individual doubt their own worth and capabilities.

Increased dependency: When someone uses emotional blackmail, they create a dynamic of dependence, making the victim feel reliant on them for approval, love, or validation. This dependency can lead to a cycle of seeking external validation and becoming increasingly entrenched in unhealthy relationship patterns.

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6. In your book, you mention four main types of blackmailers. Could you briefly describe each of these types?

The Punisher: This type of blackmailer is driven by a desire for control and power. They use threats, punishment, and intimidation to manipulate others into complying with their demands. Punishers often resort to emotional or physical abuse to exert dominance.

The Self-Pitying Victim: These blackmailers use guilt and self-pity to manipulate others into doing what they want. They play on people’s empathy and compassion, making them feel responsible for their unhappiness or suffering. By eliciting sympathy, they aim to secure compliance.

The Tantalizer: Tantalizers employ a seductive approach to manipulate others. They create a sense of urgency or excitement around a desired outcome and then dangle it as a reward. By withholding affection, attention, or support, they keep others in a state of anticipation, making them more likely to comply with their demands.

The Rescuer: Rescuers exploit the need to be needed. They offer help, support, or advice to others, but with strings attached. By positioning themselves as indispensable, they seek to control and manipulate others into meeting their own needs and desires.

7. How can someone identify if they are being emotionally blackmailed?

Identifying emotional blackmail can be challenging, but there are several signs that may indicate you are being emotionally blackmailed:

Feeling manipulated: Emotional blackmail often involves manipulation tactics like guilt-tripping, threatening, or using fear to control your behavior. If you frequently feel coerced or pressured into doing things against your will, it could be a sign of emotional blackmail.

Experiencing constant fear or anxiety: Emotional blackmailers often rely on instilling fear or anxiety in their targets. If you constantly worry about the consequences of not meeting someone’s expectations, or fear their emotional reactions, it may be a form of emotional blackmail.

Sacrificing personal boundaries: Emotional blackmailers tend to push boundaries and disregard your needs or desires. If you find yourself consistently sacrificing your own well-being, values, or priorities to appease someone else, it might be a red flag.

8. What strategies do you suggest for individuals who find themselves victims of emotional blackmail?

Recognize the signs: Firstly, it is important to be able to identify emotional blackmail when it occurs. This involves understanding the manipulative tactics used by the emotional blackmailer, such as guilt-tripping, manipulation, threats, or sulking.

Set boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries is crucial in dealing with emotional blackmail. Clearly communicate your needs, desires, and limits to the person using emotional blackmail against you. Be firm and consistent in enforcing these boundaries.

Build self-esteem: Emotional blackmail can often target individuals with low self-esteem or a lack of confidence. Therefore, it is essential to work on building your self-esteem and self-worth. Surround yourself with supportive people, engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself, and acknowledge your own value.

9. How can setting boundaries help in dealing with emotional blackmail? Do you have any specific recommendations?

Setting boundaries is essential when dealing with emotional blackmail. Emotional blackmail occurs when someone uses fear, guilt, or other negative emotions to manipulate and control another person’s behavior. Establishing clear boundaries helps protect your emotional well-being and maintains healthy relationships.

Here are some specific recommendations on how setting boundaries can help in dealing with emotional blackmail:

Identify your feelings: Understand your emotions and recognize when you feel manipulated or controlled. This self-awareness is crucial for setting effective boundaries.

Define your limits: Determine what behaviors or actions are unacceptable to you. These boundaries should reflect your values, needs, and personal boundaries.

Communicate assertively: Clearly express your boundaries in a calm, confident, and respectful manner. Use “I” statements to convey your feelings and explain why certain behavior is not acceptable.

10. Are there any specific communication techniques or skills that individuals can develop to counter emotional blackmail effectively?

Yes, there are specific communication techniques and skills that individuals can develop to counter emotional blackmail effectively. Emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to control others through fear, guilt, or obligation. To counter it, it’s important to establish healthy boundaries and assertively communicate your needs and limits.

Here are some strategies you can employ to counter emotional blackmail effectively:

Recognize the signs: Familiarize yourself with the common signs of emotional blackmail, such as threats, guilt trips, manipulation, or intimidation. Being aware of these tactics will help you identify when emotional blackmail is occurring.

Set clear boundaries: Establishing and maintaining personal boundaries is crucial. Clearly define what behavior is acceptable to you and communicate these boundaries assertively but calmly. Be firm and consistent in upholding your limits.

Focus on your needs: Prioritize your own well-being and consider your own wants and needs before succumbing to emotional manipulation. Practice self-care and ensure your decisions align with your values and goals.

11. What role does self-awareness play in recognizing and dealing with emotional blackmail situations?

Self-awareness plays a crucial role in recognizing and dealing with emotional blackmail situations. It is the foundation upon which we can effectively respond to manipulation and protect our emotional well-being. Here’s how self-awareness comes into play:

Recognizing patterns: Developing self-awareness allows us to recognize recurring patterns of emotional blackmail in our relationships. By being attuned to our own feelings and reactions, we can identify when we feel manipulated, controlled, or coerced into doing something against our will or better judgment.

Understanding emotions: Self-awareness helps us understand our own emotions and the impact they have on our behavior. We can explore why certain actions or behaviors trigger specific emotional responses within us. This understanding is essential in recognizing when emotional blackmail is at play and distinguishing it from healthy negotiation or compromise.

Identifying boundaries: Being self-aware enables us to establish and maintain healthy personal boundaries. Emotional blackmail often involves crossing these boundaries, making us feel guilty or responsible for someone else’s negative emotions. Through self-awareness, we can clearly define our limits, understand what is acceptable or unacceptable to us, and communicate these boundaries assertively.

12. How does one differentiate between healthy compromise and giving in to emotional blackmail?

Differentiating between healthy compromise and giving in to emotional blackmail is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships. Here are some key points to consider:

Self-awareness: Developing self-awareness is vital in recognizing your own needs and values. When you engage in healthy compromise, you are making a conscious decision to find a middle ground that respects your values while considering the needs of others. Giving in to emotional blackmail, on the other hand, involves sacrificing your values, desires, or well-being out of fear, guilt, or manipulation.

Motives and intentions: Understanding your motives and intentions behind your actions is crucial. Healthy compromise is driven by the desire to reach an agreement that benefits both parties, fostering mutual respect and understanding. Emotional blackmail, however, stems from someone intentionally using fear, guilt, or manipulation to control or manipulate your choices and actions.

Emotional well-being: Pay close attention to how you feel during the decision-making process. Healthy compromise may involve some level of discomfort as you navigate differing perspectives, but it should not leave you feeling coerced, violated, or emotionally drained. Emotional blackmail often leaves you feeling manipulated, fearful, resentful, or guilty.

13. Can you discuss the impact of emotional blackmail on children and young adults?

Emotional blackmail can have profound effects on children and young adults as they are still developing emotionally and learning how to navigate relationships. Here are some potential impacts:

Low self-esteem: Constant exposure to emotional manipulation can undermine a child’s confidence and lead to a diminished sense of self-worth. They may internalize the belief that their needs and feelings are unimportant, leading to low self-esteem and self-doubt.

Fear of abandonment: Emotional blackmail often involves threats of abandonment or withdrawal of love. Children and young adults who experience such tactics may develop a deep fear of rejection and become overly dependent on others’ approval to feel secure in relationships.

Difficulty setting boundaries: Emotional blackmail can blur the lines between personal boundaries, making it challenging for children and young adults to establish healthy limits. They may struggle to assert their own needs and desires, fearing the potential consequences of doing so.

14. How can parents recognize and prevent emotional blackmail within their family dynamics?

Understand emotional blackmail: Emotional blackmail occurs when someone uses fear, guilt, obligation, or manipulation to control another person’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. Recognizing these patterns is crucial for parents.

Identify common signs: Parents should be alert to signs of emotional blackmail, such as frequent use of threats and ultimatums, playing the victim, withholding affection or approval, and using passive-aggressive behavior to get their way.

Foster open communication: Encouraging an open and honest dialogue within the family creates a healthy environment where everyone feels safe expressing their needs and desires without resorting to manipulation.

Set and maintain boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries helps prevent emotional blackmail. Parents need to communicate their expectations and limits, and consistently enforce consequences if those boundaries are violated.

emotional blackmail

15. Is there a connection between emotional blackmail and codependency? Could you explain further?

Emotional blackmail refers to a manipulative tactic used by individuals to control or manipulate others through fear, guilt, or other negative emotions. It involves the use of threats, punishment, or withdrawal of love and support to coerce someone into complying with the blackmailer’s desires or demands. Emotional blackmailers exploit their targets’ vulnerabilities, making it challenging for them to resist or assert their own needs and boundaries.

Codependency, on the other hand, is a behavioral pattern where individuals excessively rely on relationships with others for their self-worth, identity, and well-being. Codependents often have low self-esteem, struggle with setting boundaries, and have a strong need for validation and approval from others. They tend to prioritize others’ needs over their own and may feel responsible for their loved ones’ emotions and choices.

The link between emotional blackmail and codependency lies in the fact that emotionally blackmailed individuals are more likely to develop codependent behaviors. Emotional blackmail undermines a person’s sense of autonomy, fosters an unhealthy power dynamic, and reinforces the belief that their worth is dependent on meeting others’ expectations. Codependents, due to their tendencies toward people-pleasing, fear of abandonment, and difficulties with asserting themselves, can be especially susceptible to emotional blackmail.

16. How does emotional blackmail manifest in workplace environments? Are there any unique challenges associated with it?

Emotional blackmail in the workplace refers to manipulative behaviors used by individuals to control or coerce their colleagues or subordinates. It typically involves the use of fear, guilt, or obligation to gain compliance or advantage. Here are some ways emotional blackmail may manifest at work:

Threats and intimidation: People engaging in emotional blackmail may use threats of negative consequences, such as job loss, demotion, or spreading rumors, to manipulate others into doing what they want.

Excessive criticism and blame: Emotional blackmailers often employ constant criticism, blame-shifting, or undermining one’s self-esteem to keep others on edge and under their control. They might create an environment where employees feel constantly criticized or that they can never measure up.

The unique challenges associated with emotional blackmail in the workplace include:

Power dynamics: Emotional blackmail is often exerted within hierarchical structures, where superiors hold authority over subordinates. This power imbalance can make it difficult for victims to speak up or set boundaries due to fear of retaliation or professional repercussions.

Professional reputation: Victims may fear damage to their professional reputation or worry about being labeled as difficult or incapable if they confront emotional blackmail. This concern can lead to a reluctance to report or address the issue.

17. What advice would you give to individuals who feel trapped in emotionally blackmailing relationships but fear the consequences of confronting the blackmailer?

Educate yourself: Learn about emotional blackmail and understand its dynamics. Recognize the signs, tactics, and manipulative behaviors used by emotional blackmailers. This knowledge will empower you to identify when emotional blackmail is occurring.

Build a support network: Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide you with guidance, validation, and encouragement. Having a strong support system will help you gain the strength and courage to confront the blackmailer.

Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for yourself and communicate them assertively but respectfully. Emotional blackmailers thrive on controlling your behavior, so it’s crucial to establish limits that protect your emotional well-being. Be prepared for potential resistance from the blackmailer when you start enforcing these boundaries.

Practice self-care: Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Engage in activities that bring you joy, reduce stress, and boost your confidence. Make time for self-reflection and self-compassion, as this process can help you regain your sense of self-worth and resilience.

Seek professional help if needed: Consider consulting a therapist or counselor who specializes in relationships and emotional abuse. A professional can provide you with personalized guidance, strategies, and emotional support to navigate the challenges of confronting the emotional blackmailer.

Develop an exit plan: If you fear severe consequences or violence upon confrontation, it’s vital to prioritize your safety. Create a comprehensive exit plan that ensures your well-being and minimizes potential risks. This may involve seeking assistance from legal authorities, local support organizations, or helplines dedicated to addressing domestic abuse.

18. How can therapy or counseling help individuals recover from the effects of emotional blackmail?

Therapy or counseling can be extremely beneficial for individuals seeking to recover from the effects of emotional blackmail. Here are some ways in which therapy can help:

Providing a safe space: Therapy offers a confidential and non-judgmental environment where individuals can openly express their emotions, fears, and concerns. It allows them to feel heard and validated, promoting healing and self-discovery.

Understanding emotional blackmail dynamics: A skilled therapist can help individuals gain insight into the dynamics of emotional blackmail. By understanding how manipulation tactics are employed and the impact they have, individuals can better recognize these patterns in their own lives and make informed decisions.

Building self-esteem and boundaries: Emotional blackmail often erodes an individual’s self-esteem and weakens personal boundaries. Therapy can help individuals rebuild their self-worth by exploring their strengths, setting realistic goals, and enhancing self-compassion. Additionally, therapists can guide individuals in establishing healthy boundaries and assertiveness skills to protect themselves from future emotional manipulation.

Developing coping strategies: Therapy equips individuals with effective coping strategies to deal with the emotional aftermath of blackmail. This may include learning techniques to manage stress, anxiety, and guilt, as well as promoting self-care practices that nurture emotional well-being.

19. What are the key takeaways or messages you hope readers gain from “Emotional Blackmail”?

Recognition: I want readers to recognize and understand what emotional blackmail is. By shedding light on this manipulative tactic, individuals can become more aware of its presence in their relationships.

Awareness of Patterns: I aim to help readers identify recurring patterns of emotional blackmail in their lives. By recognizing these patterns, individuals can break free from unhealthy dynamics and protect their emotional well-being.

Setting Boundaries: One of the essential takeaways is learning how to establish and enforce healthy boundaries. I want readers to understand that they have the right to prioritize their own needs and feelings without guilt or fear of retaliation.

Building Self-Worth: It’s important for readers to realize that they deserve respect and love based on who they are, rather than complying with others’ demands. I hope to inspire readers to nurture their self-worth and cultivate a strong sense of self-esteem.

Effective Communication: Another key message is the importance of open and honest communication. By expressing their needs and emotions assertively, readers can foster healthier relationships and diffuse potential emotional blackmail situations.

20. In conclusion, can you recommend more books like “Emotional Blackmail”?

“Toxic Parents” written by me, it delves deep into the often unspoken and misunderstood realm of toxic parenting. Drawing from my vast experience as a therapist, Forward presents an illuminating exploration into the harmful effects that toxic parents can have on their children’s emotional well-being and overall development. Through compelling case studies, insightful analysis, and practical advice, this book reveals the lasting impact that toxic relationships within families can have, while offering guidance on how individuals can heal from these wounds and break free from the cycle of toxicity.

“Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, this book offers profound insights and practical guidance on establishing healthy boundaries that are essential for personal growth and well-being. Drawing from their extensive experience as clinical psychologists and Christian counselors, they outline effective strategies that empower readers to set limits, overcome guilt, and develop healthier relationships.

“Running On Empty” by Jonice Webb, it delves into the overwhelming exhaustion experienced by individuals in today’s fast-paced, demanding world. In this thought-provoking work, Doe explores the detrimental effects of chronic fatigue and provides practical strategies to regain energy, balance, and overall well-being.

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