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Why We Stay in Bad Relationships


Who hasn’t remained in a bad or go nowhere relationship longer than they should have? We’ve all 218028477_8c4a0a958ddone it against our better judgment, whether we want to admit it or not.

Many people, both men and women, stay in go nowhere, dead end relationships even when their personal dissatisfaction is so palpable it fills a room. Why?

1) Familiarity–the comfort of dysfunction vs. the discomfort of the unknown. Oftentimes, relationships are a matter of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” We all make choices about how much we can deal with and what we can tolerate. Some people worry that they’ll end up in an even more dissatisfying relationship. They tell themselves that their current situation is a better option to meeting a new, possibly even more damaged mate or being alone.

I  used these rationalizations in my late 20s when I was involved in an emotionally abusive relationship. I didn’t want to “go back out there” (dating) and wanted companionship beyond my dog. After giving myself a much needed reality check, I realized that a psychologically healthy dog with a bladder control problem is preferable to a crazy, emotionally abusive person any day.

2) The investment of time and energy. Sometimes, people don’t let go of relationships that they know they need to end because of the time and energy they’ve expended into them. It’s hard to admit you’ve spent months or possibly YEARS in a relationship that, for whatever reason–emotional, psychological health or “it’s just over”–needs to END. In fact, the longer you stick with it, the harder it is to walk away.

3) The trap of working harder. Yes, relationships take work, but they shouldn’t be a continuous struggle. Healthy relationships are a source of mutual comfort, support, and growth, which often involve challenging each other to be your best selves. Every relationship hits some bumpy spots in the road, but it shouldn’t be the Bataan death march.

If you keep having the same problems without resolution, the same arguments, the same hurt feelings and resentments, and have been to couples counseling for a significant period of time and can’t reach a place of understanding, just end it. If you can’t resolve the issues that bring you to couples work in 6-18 months, you should reconsider your choice to remain in that relationship.

Maybe you’re just not compatible. Maybe you’ve just grown apart. Maybe it’s an emotionally abusive relationship, in which case counseling rarely helps because the abusive partner uses treatment to blame and control and/or quits when confronted with his or her bad behavior and goes “therapist shopping.” Don’t confuse “working harder at the relationship” with entrenching yourself in the problem. It’s better to get out than dig your heels in deeper.

4) Shame and failure. It’s difficult to admit a relationship needs to end. Many experience ending a relationship with a sense of shame and failure. The real shame and failure is to waste your life in conflict and dissatisfaction or, in extreme cases, an emotionally abusive relationship.

Growth and change occur across a lifetime. Partners we choose for ourselves early in life when we’re still sorting through childhood baggage make sense at the time. However, as we resolve those issues, if our relationships don’t evolve with us, they will no longer fit.  It’s never too late to let go of misery or resignation and embrace change.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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  1. l j akers
    March 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I have been in an emotionally
    abusive relationship for almost 3 years now. I could be a poster child
    for every point you mentioned. when
    I realized I couldnt change him I bough every self help book I could find to learn how to deal with him. what I learned about borderline personality disorder is there is no cure and if I ever want to be happy again I have to let go and continue to work on rebuilding my self esteem. I have no external support because he drove away every my family and friends. I refuse to be bitter. I realize I was in love with the hope of what could be, and not what will ever be.
    these people, male or female are emotional vampires. they will take your love, money, your self esteem and have no empathy because they only care about 3 people. me, myself and I. Breaking all contact is your only hope. ljm

  2. Mike
    November 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Dating a woman with BPD is like watching a 2 hour movie, with emotional highs and lows – euphoria, pain and disappointment, becoming completely invested in the outcome – only to learn at the end that it was all in the mind of the crazy main character who’s been sitting in a mental ward the whole time.  Nothing really happened.  No catharsis.  No resolution.  Only confusion about which one of you was the crazy main character.

  3. Diane
    August 24, 2012 at 1:55 am

    I keep telling friends that the reason I stay is because I have self esteem issues, which is partly true. But one friend told me she didn’t think it was so much self esteem but that I am just too nice. I don’t want to be the catalyst that sends him over the edge – back on a drinking binge, losing his job, losing his home. I’m afraid it will be me that causes it, even though intellectually I know that I’m not responsible. It’s like if you run over someone by accident and kill them. You know it was an accident but that doesn’t stop you from feeling bad about it and having it negatively impact your life for an indefinite period of time. Then there’s the aspect that it’s just too easy to stay in it. I’m a forgiving person. I can overlook a lot just by nature of my self-protecting denial mechanism. If I don’t think about the bad stuff, I don’t remember the bad stuff, and I can live in the right now, which can be awesome with this person. But the awesome doesn’t last, no matter how often he promises certain behaviors will never occur again. What is wrong with me? I feel ashamed and crazy for staying so stuck. I hate myself for staying so stuck. He cheated on me, on my birthday when I was out of town on business, and I FORGAVE HIM. What is that all about? What kind of a self respecting woman does that?

  4. Osh
    July 18, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Need advise

    Married since 15 years , for he ATS 5 years all I have faced is ABUSE. Emotional, financial, threats, denial of intimacy, been called names and threatened that she will ate my child away to a different town and that she will get the custody as she s the mother.

    I am ashamed that I still love my abuser, or the image of what it was 6 plus years back.
    Help.

  5. Sal
    June 20, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Glad I found this site, helped me out so much

    What if I feel that even though things ain’t working out and she might be a PV and it could be EA, I’d feel terrible to leave her cause I suffer from being too nice, how do I get over the guilt and just realize it’s time to leave, cause its not always bad now

    • Sal
      June 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

      I gotta say, what I didn’t remember when writing this is she’s a threatener, it’s always like “If you don’t do this, I’ll (Call/hang with my ex, post this online, get you fired or at least make you look bad with your managers, ect.). I won’t say my mom’s a saint, she does have her flaws, but she doesn’t realize that my mom means no ill will and while there was an instant or two in the past where my mom did something wrong, overall it’s nothing bad and we all make mistakes, but as long as I love her, my mom loves her too.

      Problem is, she DWEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLSSSS on topics and if she gets started on something, It’ll last for HOURS and I’ll be drained afterwards, even though we technically solved whatever was the problem right away. She’s not always bad, there is love and I do enjoy her company, but she’s not reasonable at all and does insult and taunt me. I explain that times are tough and I can’t come over, somehow I gotta find a way to come over anyway or she’ll threaten me or call me names or threaten to tell my ex friends/people I don’t like things about me that I wouldn’t want them to know. She’s convinced that my families holding me back and feeding me lies and whatnot, even though I know that’s not the case and times just are tough, otherwise things would be different.

      one thing I notice is that no matter what I do or say to defuse a situation, it’s often ignored or in vain and the best results happen when I get her parents involved in our problems, they set her straight and she stops it, otherwise I got a better chance of convincing a pig to fly or teach an old dog new tricks. Whatever it is, all I know is that she drains me, it’s been like this for a year and a half, she’s gaslighted me into thinking I was attracted to other women cause of an episode where I was making weird faces while at a Dr’s office where the dr was dressed rather revealingly while I had an upset stomach, and now I needed adderall to calm myself down.

      Problem I really got is even though I want out, part of me (The Really Nice guy) plays devils advocate and talks me out of it, even though I realize that while it’ll hurt initially, it would be better off in the long run to end it, plus when she’s loving, she’s the best.

      So what I wanna know is, what should I do?

  6. Autumn
    April 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    My friend stays for all the reasons listed, but #1 is especially poignant to me. At one point he had told me “____ (wife #1) was a control freak” -well, he went from a control freak to a psychopath! I kind of see why he’s stuck in that “better the devil you know mode.”

  7. Sabrina
    December 4, 2011 at 4:13 am

    This was incredibly helpful. I just came to the acceptance that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for over 3 years. It took me to date a great guy for me to realize what I had put myself through. Reading this helped me understand what happened and why I stayed and in turn is helping me figure out future relationships. So thank you for this.

  8. Joe
    October 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Spent all our money, never admits she’s wrong, highly arrogant and egotistical when confident, she is in major debt, can’t see the forest from the trees, doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her, thinks I put her in her huge debt crises, raising a Narcissistic son with no boundaries (the Golden Child), her 16 year old narcissistic son owns his own car which his daddy bought for him, she never tries to improve herself…this and many other things….hmmm…yeah I can see where I destroyed this poor soul…

  9. zyra
    May 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I like your article. It helped me a lot in verbalizing my current situation with my live-in partner. I’m trying my best to stay with the relationship but it’s not working. Even during the first week that I was with him, I know that we are not meant for each other yet I stayed and we are now approaching our 2nd year together.
    For me, I have been choosing the comfort of dysfunction and I am experiencing the struggle like it’s a bataan march.
    Because I always tell myself that it is better to deal with him everyday than waking up one day and all things have changed. I think I can’t bear that although all signs point to leaving him for good and moving on with my life without him.
    do you have an article on how I can start ending the relationship? Do I just do it abruptly? Or, do I just simply tell him, it’s over? Or do i have to go through a long process of disengagement before leaving him for good?

    Thanks so much and more power to you!

    • Free at Last
      May 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Zyra, I can tell you from personal experience that ending it quickly is the only way to go. When I decided that our 18-month relationship was just too dysfunctional back in January, I did not have the benefit of knowing about this site, so I chose a gradual strategy (which took about six weeks) to ending it. That was a really big mistake.

      I tried to explain that our mutual trust and respect had dropped to nearly zero, our love and frequency of lovemaking was so low, and that it obviously wasn’t working for either of us. I started working on tying up loose ends and preparing to move out, silently hoping that she would mend her ways when she realized I was serious. But her attitude became one of complete contempt for me the entire time. A couple of weeks later, I received a thousand-word email about how EVERYTHING was all my fault (yes, this is what happens when you try to treat a six-year-old child like an adult). I really think that she thought that if she insulted me intensely enough, I would apologize and stay with her.

      It was the worst six weeks of my life, and probably hers also. Everything I did was wrong, wrong, wrong. The most ridiculous episode was when my phone rang and I turned down the stereo (which was blasting her favorite radio show, Howard Stern – yuck!) to answer it. She yelled at me for over an hour because I had been “so disrespectful to her” for interrupting her radio program. WTF?

      These people are truly twisted. We normal folks have a basic instinct to treat everyone
      fairly and with kindness and respect, but it just doesn’t work with disordered individuals. So I believe there’s no choice but to treat them firmly but not rudely – exactly the way you would send a six-year-old child to his/her room for misbehaving. Except that you’re sending them out of your life for misbehaving.

      The concept of “no contact” is extensively discussed throughout this site, so I won’t explain it here. I suggest that after briefly explaining your reasons for leaving (again, the way you would to a six-year-old – because your partner will probably not understand anyway, but this is the closest you’ll ever get to “closure” for yourself), emphasize that you do not wish to have any further contact regarding the relationship, and that any outstanding financial or property issues be dealt with in short, factual emails. True “no contact” is the eventual goal, but there will always be a few important things that will need to be taken care of over the first couple of months.

      Remember that it’s normal to feel apprehensive about change. But change is what moves us forward and makes us grow. Compared to the “comfort of dysfunction” (as you so aptly put it), it sure looks like a change will be very beneficial for you. I suggest that you talk to your longtime close friends and family members before moving forward. You’re likely to find them very supportive. I wish you all the best.

      • Irishgirl
        May 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm

        Good stuff as usual Free…you’re tryin to get into ‘Comment of the Week’ huh lol…you may have some competition ;)

        • Free at Last
          May 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

          Hello IrishGirl… umm, thanks very much for the kind comments, but frankly, please scroll up a little and look at what COtoAZ wrote a couple of years ago. I first read his comments about a month ago when I discovered this site (post-breakup), and his writings left me stunned and speechless and tearful. I was just too messed up and shell-shocked to write a response back then, but now I finally could. If anyone deserves the “Comment of the Week” award, it is he.

          (Dr. T: if you’re reading this, a few hours ago I copied COtoAZ’s comments into a local file, fixed the spelling and grammar and punctuation errors, and would be more than happy to provide the improved version should you wish to bestow the “Comment of the Week” award to COtoAZ.)

          Still, I heartfully appreciate your comments, IrishGirl, especially since you’re a regular and valuable contributor to this site.

          “No contact” is not as easy as it seems; in my case, my ex still has my beautiful and loving silver Persian cat (in a moment of weakness, I left my cat with her because she was afraid of feeling lonely). My ex has caught on to the fact that I’m concerned about my cat’s well-being, and is now using this as a manipulation tool. “No contact” can be a very frustrating state to be in, particularly when children or pets are involved.

          I’ll close by saying that discovering this site has been a HUGELY therapeutic experience; Dr T’s wisdom and experience and the shared experiences of those who comment here (especially you, IrishGirl, and COtoAZ) have been very, very helpful to my healing process. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

          • Irishgirl
            May 5, 2011 at 4:35 am

            Understood Free…I don’t mean to make light of what has been posted, I tend to use humor to make things a little more bearable – but it’s tricky to do that appropriately within sensitive discussions sometimes. I was trying to compliment all of your comments as a whole – but maybe it was not the best place for me to put my comment. I like how you really take the time to elaborate on your advice with specifics and examples so that whoever reads it gets a clear picture of what you are trying to say. I think alot of men on here who choose to post their story or advice are very intelligent, articulate, and write really well. Yes, this site has been therapeutic for me too…maybe it’s odd to gravitate towards a site designed mainly for men but my situation (involving a man who’s ex is a HCP) is relevant and similar. I guess I fall into the ‘non abusive family and friends who love them’ category. Dr. T’s articles have a way of justifying our anger and pain in the struggle to heal that no other site or blog has done that I can find, and I’ve been reading up on this topic like a mad woman (no pun intended ha) for the past year or so. She’s not only good at what she does but also a pioneer into a new social movement that is just getting started. Thanks for your compliments too…we try don’t we? :)

      • Nicholas Bartzelai
        September 18, 2011 at 8:02 am

        your views helped me a lot at this stage…thank you!

  10. LewsTherin
    October 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I just stumbled upon it after going through a difficult breakup. Gf broke up with me for not meeting her needs on the phone, then the next day in the counselors office. Not 3 hours out of the counselors office, she is asking “why did you do this to me?” and “if you would only see it from my point of view!!” I don’t know what I did or did not do to set it off. This has been going on for 2 years and she has left me countless times, only to back extremely sweet and loving, and the cycle starts over again. I have been stuck in the “maybe i can help her see the damage done” cycle, but it is shredding my sanity. I am a recovering addict and that has even been thrown at me as “sometimes i forget you are an addict and have problems you have to deal with on a daily basis”!!!! Is it just me or does that sound crazy?? Anyway, thank you for the post and it does my heart good to see that I am not alone, and this is not terribly uncommon.

    God Bless!!

    LT

  11. ted
    May 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Lately for me, it helps to remember some of the “slightest and strangest” things that would set my ex off. In stark comparison to “normal” moments/moods, she raged and/or threatened divorce over:

    – washing silverware and non-stick pans with the course side of a sponge
    – my son taking “too small” bites of a pizza
    – a male friend asking me to go watch a game with some other guys at a sports bar
    – kids not making their beds correctly with the multi-size decorative pillows she bought for each
    – my pre-teen and teenage sons not leaving their bedroom doors open as she instructed
    – me asking to listen to anything besides country music on cross country road trips
    – me wanting to make my kids from a previous marriage (whose mother died when they were very young) beneficiaries of a life insurance policy. Eventhough I offered to take out a separate policy for her worth even more.
    – the fact that I did not cry at our wedding (this one came up time and time again and each time it would take hours and sometimes days to get her off the subject)
    – me not remembering: her favorite color, flower, ice cream flavour, etc., etc., etc.
    – and many, many more. And, it would be hilarious if not so absurd, her last rage episode, the one that inspired me to tell my boys to pack their bags we are leaving and never coming back, was over a brownie. That’s right. My son, who was thirteen at the time had asked if he could make a pan of brownies. She said yes, but on the condition that each of the three kids have no more than one before dinner. While she and I were outside arguing over the quality of the landscaping job the boys and I had just completed for her after two full days of hard labor, my son cut the brownies and arranged them on a platter. He came outside and offered her one. When we went in the house a little while later, she took all of the brownies off of the platter and started to re-fit them into the baking pan to make sure no more than three were missing. Well, they didn’t fit because someone had eaten more than one (not really, she had eaten the fourth one). She began to interrogate, accuse, and threaten a whipping (with a belt) for whomever was lying and she was going to make everyone stay in the room until someone confessed. I tried to reason with her and explain the math but I knew from a thousand previous incidents how this would end. She was queen of making mountains out of molehills and this one was well underway. Long story short, we left and never went back. She has never apologized for any of these incidents, claiming they were my fault or the kids fault for upsetting her. But as our marriage counselor told me, it’s not up to me and the kids to control her anger, it’s up to her. Anyway, my point is the same as what someone else here told me. When you start to think you made a mistake by leaving, understand that what you are “missing” is a dream. I think we all tend to remember the good times and romanticize how wonderful they were, especially when we’re lonely, but the reality of my relationship at least, was that it was way out of balance and I had to continually agree to a distorted viewpoint in order to keep the peace. My kids suffered as a result and so did I. Her new knight in shining armor can have it.

  12. ted
    May 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks everyone for your replies. I really appreciate the comments and support. It’s great to have a forum where people really understand what it’s like. My friends and family are so tired of hearing about it all. They know what an absolutely horrible person my ex is and think I should be able to just erase her in my mind. I wish it were that simple. Thanks again.

    • fromCOtoAZ
      May 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm

      Good morning Ted…
      yeah, i know what you mean. i am abolsutely positive that i made the right choice in leaving my relationship, 100% certain that i did the correct thing by not staying. and yet… there is still a part of me that wishes i could have made a different decision. it really is a struggle to me when i find a girl that can be sweet and kind and loving and nurturing and giving… but yet her flip side is so bad that it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s the same person. but as time has gone on, that sweet, kind loving, giving person was slowly being taken over by the other side. the fights we had were coming with more frequency, gaining in intensity, lasting longer, causing more damage, and taking me a lot longer to get over. and the fact that they were happening over the slightest and strangest things…

      right now it’s tough… i have moments where i struggle greatly. but i also know that it’s part of the break-up process, part of the grieving process, and part of the getting over process. i try to take it day by day and keep myself busy.

  13. ted
    May 3, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    “i’ve read all of what you have to say as a reminder that i am on the right track and that i was thinking the correct things about her and getting out of that relationship.”

    The articles and posts here are great reminders. I re-read them every day to help stop ruminating over whether I made the right decision to leave. I know down to my bones that it was the right decision but my self esteem is shot and self doubt ever present. Meanwhile, my ex who I think is more NPD than BPD has blissfully moved on to the next victim. I know I should be happy about this, as it keeps her occupied and away from me, but on some deep, disturbing level, I’m disappointed that I failed to make her happy. If I had a dollar for every time she said “if you really loved me, you would (fill in the blank here with whatever, from the really mundane like “not use the scratchy part of the dish sponge to wash the silverware” to “let me buy a horse,” “buy an investment property,” “convert to Catholicism” even though she wasn’t Catholic, but a house painter she hired convinced her it was the one true religion and we better hurry or we were all doomed. When I told our marriage counselor about the “if you loved me…” comments during one of my last lone visits, as she had dropped out by then after the therapist told her something she didn’t like, he told me to say “well I guess I don’t love you that much then.” I never got the guts to do it, but wish I had. I spent ten years trying to prove to her that I loved her. All the while her abusiveness made it increasingly more difficult and finally impossible. But now, the new guy of approximately 6 weeks has made her “happier than I ever did.” Part of it she says is because of his looks, he’s “more my type and you were not the kind of guy I’m normally attracted to as all my previous boyfriends were georgeous,” and part of it is because “he’s going to help me with my trust issues and help me heal.” Good luck fella. Oh, and she says he wants to ask me one simple question: “how did I let such a wonderful catch get away?” I’ve come up with a thousand different answers in case I ever get the chance, but my latest favorite is “give her your credit card for a week and you’ll know.”

    • fromCOtoAZ
      May 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

      Ted,
      i’ve come to the conclusion why so many people get off on reality TV such as the Bachelor, Rock of Love, Paris Hilton, etc, is that all too many people see the outer beauty of people and dismiss the inner beauty. how else can people who are an absolute train wreck think they’re all that and a bag of chips? let’s face it, self-confidence is sexy, but only to a certain point. then – for me – it quickly becomes something very ugly. for me, a sense of humility, a sense of groundedness is so much more important than her cup size, or how much she makes, where she lives. but it seems your ex is like mine… you show them your weakness and they exploit it. or, they just barrage you with whatever they can think of, knowing that something will stick, something will hurt. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. don’t buy into her opinion. you could have Brad Pitt’s looks, Bill Gates’ money, and Tom Cruise’s fame… and she’d still find a way to cut you down.

      just a reminder to keep telling yourself that you did the best you could. some people are just broken, some people are just users. if you give 200% to a relationship, that doesn’t mean it averages out to 100% for each person. and who knows… maybe getting rid of the cancer in your life will mean becomming a healthier, happier guy, and a great catch for the next girl. just make sure you don’t make the next girl pay for the mistakes of the previous girl. all women aren’t like this. thank god…

      go find a better girl.

    • Man with Ex-BPD
      May 4, 2009 at 4:52 am

      Ted,

      What you are expressing are feelings of betrayal. Believe me when I tell you that I have felt everyone of the feelings you describe. How could you not feel betrayed. You are going through the proper emotions of loss, sadness, anger and doubt and she is acting as if she has simply moved on with no regrets. Everything you have given and sacrificed to make her happy has no meaning to her – but it would to a person that was emotionally well. And believe me when I tell you that she has not just moved on. She would take you back at any moment if she thought she could have you, but also believe me when I say you would pay a terrible price for making such a choice.

      It is time to release her emotionally. Cut your losses, understand that what you are missing is a dream, but you can forge a new dream that is normal and better once you get your feet back under you. Mourn the loss, feel the sadness and trust the anger. It is like a cycle that churns round until eventually it stops and the doubt is 100% gone. Don’t date while you are in the midst of resolving these emotions. Just because she is back in the game does not mean that it is healthy and she is moving on with her life. She is trying to prove to you that she has value that you did not see because she herself does not believe it.

      She is never going to tell you that you were right or that she made terrible mistakes. You have to take solace in the reality that this decision was for you and your own well-being and no one need validate that choice – only you.

      Good luck!

      M

      • shrink4men
        May 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

        Hi M and Ted,

        M, you make an excellent point re: just because Ted’s ex is back in the game doesn’t mean she’s healthy and moving on with her life. These women unravel (more than usual) when they’re not in a relationship. They don’t have a core identity. The only time they come close to feeling like a whole person instead of the fragmented mess that they are is when they are in a relationship. Someone wanting to be with them validates their existence. If they don’t receive attention from someone—it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive attention—then they have to look at themselves and they can’t handle that. They need to have someone telling them they’re wonderful and someone to blame for the train wreck that is their lives.

        This new guy is nothing more than an ego boost, a way to stick it to you, and Plan B in case you don’t “realize what a mistake you made and beg her to come back.”

        Best,
        Dr T

  14. fromCOtoAZ
    May 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    i wrote this to a family member who went thru a similar situation…

    the cost of truly loving that person comes at too high of a price. and it’s a price that one must keep paying because it will never be enough. the price will always be higher. i will not surrender my self-esteem to satisfy hers, and i shouldn’t have to. that is not a successful and healthy relationship. and even if i surrendered it for her, it would never be good enough to keep her satisfied for any length of time. there is no difference of opinion with her. she controls all the facts, as deluded and convoluted and made up as they are. she is truly unaware of the damage she does, because she doesn’t put any thought into the repercussions of her actions. she is so tunnel-visioned and focused only on her gains (whatever her needs are at that time, no matter how fleeting) that she is – literally – unable to see the price paid by those around her, the price she bestowes upon those who love her. it is an all-or-nothing mindset with her, and if i am not for her, then i am her enemy, tho i have done nothing but try to appease, please, and be the best man that i can be to her. i was the ONLY one that didn’t RELY on hger for anything other than a relationship, the only one who could stand on his own two feet, and she abused me because of it, because she couldn’t control me, because i didn’t NEED her, therefore the power she had over other people she could not apply to me. and i really, truly, with all of my heart and soul loved her with every core of my being. but it would never be enough because she could find some way to bastardize that love and turn it into either i didn’t love her enough or not the right way or whatever she could think of to justify what was going on in her head. she needed ME so much that she thought that that need must be equal, and it never was. i was with her because i loved her, but never because i needed her. sound familiar? there is no amount of my love that would fill up the hole created by her own self-loathing. her identity was using my strengths to counteract her weaknesses, but she expected us to become one identity, meaning hers. she expected me to assimilate her identity, be as sad as she was over whatever was bothering her, or being as angry at me as she was because then it would justify her outbursts. she would do something that was not just a little wrong, but 100% wrong, and would never apologize for it, would blame it all on me, tho i was nothing more than a spectator. and when i saw what it was doing to me is when i started taking a stance. i was not allowed to have a separate thought or to disagree if it meant being contradictory to something ingrained into her psyche. and if i disagreed with something she said or did, then all hell breaks loose, the accusations come without merit or cause, the vile profanity boils into rage, the nasty rotten demeaning words spew like poisonous vomit. i can’t save myself in this relationship by staying in, i can’t save THE relationship, and – even sadder – i can’t save her from herself. all i can do is leave, save myself (which is hard to do when i truly believe in putting the person you love before yourself) and pray for her soul, hoping that God watches over her and guides her to better things. i hope she doesn’t hurt herself. and i hope that somehow, someway she truly finds happiness. i wish her nothing but happiness. she suffers enough… by her own hands… by her own mind….

    • bluegeometric
      June 23, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      Get out of this relationship even if you have to live alone…

    • Free at Last
      May 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      COtoAZ, this is the second time I’m reading your post, and although it’s now two years after you’ve written it, it rings so very true for me. I never expected anything from my ex other than a partner to share life’s joys and trials with, but even that didn’t happen. She’d destroy the joys, and as for the trials, well, my most oft-repeated phrase to her was “Why do you always insist on making bad situations worse?” I repeatedly asked her that if she didn’t want to help, could she at least just not worsen the situation?

      The only thing I could possibly add is that not only did she do many things that were 100% wrong and never apologized for them – but I did so many things that were 100% right for both of us, and was insulted and abused for them, and I never, ever received an apology.

      Thank you very much for a brilliant and accurate expression of our situation.

  15. fromCOtoAZ
    May 3, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    i was taught to have good manners and be a good person, especially to someone you love, do your best and give it your all, give of yourself and your love freely to a person that you truly love, stay vigilant when times are tough, believe in your partner thru good times and bad, be loyal and nuturing, understand that we all make mistakes and that no one is perfect, etc. (all wonderful traits that make up a great person and great partner). so with that in mind, sometimes it’s a very thin line between setting good limits and giving too much or too little. but these types of people have no boundaries within themselves in how they interact TO others, and plenty of boundaries and hidden clauses with how they are to be loved FROM others. i kept telling my ex that i love her the best that i can, the best way i know how. but it didn’t matter what i said because she just kept being abusive. it is important that one understands that it’s not themselves that is wrong, tho we all certainly make mistakes, but it is the abuser who is wrong, and not just a little bit wrong. that’s why i’ve read all of what you have to say as a reminder that i am on the right track and that i was thinking the correct things about her and getting out of that relationship. so i thank you for all of your knowledge and words.

    • thomasd
      April 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      your post is dead on. thanks. i needed it.

  16. TB
    May 3, 2009 at 4:05 am

    The Bataan Death March comparison would be hilarious if it were not so accurate!

    • shrink4men
      May 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm

      “Bataan Death March.” Now that’s funny. Looks like you got out with your sense of humor in tact, which is a very, very good sign.

  17. Gale
    February 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    This article is very heartily moving, most especially since Im into a relationship that Im no longer happy with.

    • shrink4men
      February 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

      Hi Gale,

      I’m gratified you found something helpful in this post. Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  1. October 13, 2010 at 2:13 am
  2. August 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm

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