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Posts Tagged ‘emotionally abusive relationships’

NARC’D! Encounter with a Female Narcissist

October 5, 2009 77 comments

narcisisstic-rageI received the following email from a reader who believes that his ex-girlfriend is a narcissist. He asks for my feedback about their relationship and wants to know if he really is “weak and insecure” as his ex claims.

Dear Dr. Palmatier,

I recently had an encounter with what I think to be Narcissistic woman and wanted to share some of my experience. I had met this young woman around 6 years ago. She was around 23 at the time and now 29 and had grown into a gorgeous, seemingly intelligent young woman. I decided to pursue a romantic relationship with her and in the end nearly ended up putting my head through a window because I had truly had begun to  think I had gone insane.

There were many warning signs along the way. I chalked up some to regular woman stuff, like trying to get you to change your hairstyle etc., but then she started to exhibit many signs that I now see as narcissistic. Initially, I didn’t understand what she meant when she explained she she could be physically intimate, but was incapable of emotional intimacy.

She had wild mood swings. I never knew which girl to expect on our dates, but her default mood was very negative. For example, she was always putting others down and actually made fun of small children, whom she open claimed she hated. She also explained that she hated public displays of affection and even wouldn’t hold hands in public until she did a 180 one night.

She showed up for our date all prim and proper, decked out in her mother’s jewelry and played the darling sweet girlfriend, holding my hand and being openly affectionate in public. She said she wanted to go on holiday together (something she’d always avoided). I couldn’t figure out what was going on until her assistant from work suddenly showed up at the table. Little did I know that my ex had invited her. I figure this whole act was a display to show her assistant that she could actually be normal.

Things got weirder as our relationship advanced with so many twists and turns in logic that my head was spinning. About 3 months into a very hot sexual relationship she dropped the A-bomb. We’d been apart for a week due to our work and she began a very flirty text messaging campaign. It culminated with an invitation to her apartment after work one night. Since work would keep us apart for another week or so, I thought we were both anxious to get together. I arrived, we got to business and, as usual, I took care of her first. Once she “got hers” (sorry there’s no delicate way to put this), she rolled over while I was kneeling in front of her and declared she no was longer interested in me F*#king me and that we shouldn’t see each other for awhile.

I was dumbstruck, but tried to be compassionate and told myself it was work stress.  When she said we shouldn’t see each other, I got up angrily and started to leave when she she stopped me. She was crying and acting all sad that she hurt me. She then sat me down on the couch “to talk” and proceeded to rip into me for not leaving and said I was being “too nice” to her. Huh??

Things got even better after that. She went away for work and started the whole flirty texting campaign again. I thought everything was healing and we were moving on until she invited me for dinner at a crowded restaurant and very loudly broke-up with me. . . again.

Ok, I should have walked then, but I thought I was in love with her, so decided to go back for more punishment. The next three weeks were filled with barbs and jabs and poking for weaknesses that you write about in your column. The sex was gone and she kept me around for when she needed to be cuddled and held on the couch. At the same time, she was quick to proclaim that I wasn’t her boyfriend anymore. When I asked her what we were doing or where our relationship was headed, she got very defensive and basically made me feel stupid for asking such questions.

This last weekend was the final straw. We canceled our plans for dinner because she said she was ill. Later that night, I learned she was out partying with other friends. I called her on it and she flew into a rage blaming it all on me for checking up on her. She shouted that I was weak and insecure and an idiot and hung up on me. I actually started to think that she was right and called to apologize. Then she said I was humiliating myself and never to talk, text, or email her again and to stay out of her life.

So know I’m left wondering if this is narcissistic behavior or if she’s right and I’m just weak and insecure? My head just spins. Any advice or feedback would be appreciated.

Jay

Hi Jay,

You just got Narc’d!

It’s sort of like getting “Punk’d” by Ashton Kutcher except that it’s not a prank and there’s nothing funny about it.

I can’t diagnose a person I’ve never met, however, your description seems to indicate that she meets many of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If she’s not a full-fledged NPD and/or BPD, she’s at the very least incredibly unstable and emotionally abusive.

You are not weak and insecure. Come out of the fog this woman has you wandering in and re-read the email you sent me as if your younger brother or best friend had written it to you. Would you think he was insecure and weak or would you tell him that this woman is a head case?

Honor her request (i.e., command) to never contact her again. *By the way, only a narcissist or someone with narcissistic traits “punishes” people by denying them access to their special brand of sunshine. In their mind, cutting you out of their life is akin to a death sentence. Meanwhile, most people feel better after time away from their NPD. Being banished serves two purposes: It’s a form of punishment so you can “think about what you’ve done.” It also sets the stage for you to play the role of the humbled and contrite supplicant who comes back on bended knee to plea for her forgiveness. If I were you, I’d run and never look back.

Unfortunately, it’s rarely that easy. As soon as she realizes that you’re not crawling back for more, you’ll probably hear from her again. Either she’ll pretend like nothing ever happened to test the waters (i.e., are you open to being Narc’d again) or will express displeasure and offense that you didn’t chase after her to try to win her over (forgetting that you were actually respecting her wishes—remember, there’s no winning with these individuals). Then she’ll give you mixed signals and imply that she wants you in her life or something equally ambiguous—just like she did before. As soon as she feels confident she has your affection, she’ll emotionally sucker punch you. Bam! You just got Narc’d! Again.

Why would you even give this woman a second thought? According to your email:

  1. She flat out told you she can’t handle emotional intimacy. The whole point of being in a committed relationship is intimacy, emotional and physical. You need both to have a truly satisfying relationship.
  2. She doesn’t even reciprocate physical intimacy, but uses you as a stud service and/or “security blanket” when she wants a cuddle.
  3. She only shows you affection when she’s putting on a show to appear normal to others. You’re her relationship “prop.” This is yet another way this kind of woman uses people as objects.
  4. She has wild mood swings that cause you to walk on eggshells so that you can never really relax in her presence. Over time, this will create a trauma response within you if it hasn’t already.
  5. She has a negative attitude, which doesn’t make for very good company.
  6. She puts people down for her own amusement and to make herself feel superior. This includes you. After a while, this will erode your self-confidence and riddle you with self-doubt and other insecurities—i.e., more trauma.
  7. She makes fun of small children and explicitly states she hates kids. She doesn’t sound like future-mother-of-my-children material, to me. In fact, if she were a cat, I’d have her spayed.
  8. She got mad at you for being “too nice to her.” This seems to indicate that she has some script in her head that requires men to be jerks while she plays the long-suffering victim. This is not good. If you stay with her long enough, you may start reacting to her like a jerk once projective identification begins and the emotional abuse continues to escalate.
  9. She got mad at you for busting her in a lie when she should have apologized to you for lying. Instead, she attacked you and blamed you for her dishonest and abusive behavior.
  10. She broke up with you in a crowded, public restaurant. Even if she isn’t a narc, at the very least she seems like an insensitive jerk.
  11. She belittled you and tried to make you feel stupid for asking very legitimate questions about your relationship after the highly confusing mixed messages she gave you. “Hold me. Make me feel desirable, but, hey, don’t think I’m your girlfriend or that I want to be in a relationship with you. What are you? Stupid?

You’re neither weak nor insecure. You got Narc’d!, which can leave you feeling weak and insecure. Consider yourself fortunate she cut you loose and don’t respond when she comes trawling back around to make you her human scratching post again. You deserve better and by better I mean someone who will treat you with basic decency, kindness and reciprocity, which should be your baseline requirement for all future relationships.

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

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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Why Couples Counseling Rarely Works with Narcissistic and Borderline Women

September 28, 2009 83 comments

queen of heartsI receive a lot of emails and comments from men who are involved with emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline women who want to know if couples counseling will help. Many readers have shared stories in which they recount how therapy was a waste of time, money and energy because it only emboldened and validated their wives’/girlfriends’ crazy and hurtful behaviors. Why is this so?

The Perversion of Psychology

If used properly, Psychology’s ultimate benefit is personal responsibility and freedom. At its best, it can help a person:

  • Become more aware of how he or she is affected by and affects others.
  • Make clear, conscious choices.
  • Strengthen their ability to say “no” to unhealthy and/or abusive situations, people and relationships and open up the possibility of new, healthy opportunities.
  • Set an example for others to become fully developed, conscious individuals.

Ideally, therapy is used to help an individual explore his or her past in order to understand their pain in the present. It is then the individual’s responsibility to use that awareness to make different choices, change self-limiting behaviors and free themselves from the past and unconscious forces that control them.

Unfortunately, many practitioners have allowed Psychology to become a big cop out and blame game. As a result, we now have a few generations of professional victims who take little to no responsibility for their own happiness and who blame everyone but themselves for their difficulties and misfortunes. “It’s not my fault because my parents did x, y, and z to me, so you have to excuse and put up with my bad behavior. I can’t help it.” “If you weren’t so angry, selfish, etc., I wouldn’t have to yell at you right before bed and refuse to have sex with you.

NPD/BPD women usually fall into three categories when it comes to therapy:

1) Professional shoppers. This woman is usually the one who suggests therapy because she wants to portray you as the one with the problem. She wants a “professional” to say, “Yes, Mrs. Crazypants. You’re right. Your husband is an obnoxious jerk. You’re right about everything. If you don’t criticize him and tell him what to do and how to do it every minute of the day, it will bring on the apocalypse. So, by all means keep hammering away at him. You’re absolutely right to do so and he’s a defensive, overly sensitive crybaby for being upset about it. How ever do you tolerate him?

A BPD/NPD woman rarely attends therapy for her own issues, because it would mean admitting she has issues. Therefore, she has a different agenda for counseling than you do. Alternately, she may admit she has some issues, but stipulate that you need to work on your issues first because you’re the “cause” of her issues. By the time you fulfill her laundry list of grievances and it’s her turn to do some work; she ends treatment. (Please note: A good therapist doesn’t let one spouse/partner hijack couples therapy like this).

The professional shopper will often spend years dragging her husband/boyfriend from one couples therapist to the next. If she does individual “work” it usually amounts to weekly hand holding with a lame therapist who acts as cheerleader, confidante and expresses empathic statements about how much she “puts up with” and what an “angry, insensitive, unfeeling, selfish jerk” you are without ever really challenging her or making her the focus of her own therapy. Basically, she’s buying herself a best friend. Do you really want to pay for this?

2) Hell no, I won’t go! This woman refuses to go to therapy and believes it has no value. While it may be frustrating for her partner who’s desperate for relief, she’s actually demonstrating a rare moment of personal insight. She’s right. Therapy probably won’t help her. Alternately, she may have had therapy in the past and received a diagnosis she doesn’t want you to discover. She may fear her controlling, abusive behaviors will be exposed for what they are—abnormal pathology. She knows a good therapist will see through her and expose the truth.

3) Go to therapy or the relationship is over. A husband/boyfriend issues this ultimatum out of desperation. Here’s the problem: First, if you have to issue an ultimatum in order to get your wife/girlfriend to work on the relationship and treat you with basic kindness, it doesn’t bode well. Second, like everything else with a BPD/NPD woman, it’s about control and she certainly isn’t going to let you usurp her control even under the threat of divorce/break-up.

She may agree to go and then play games and stall in regards to choosing a therapist and scheduling a date and time. Or, she’ll lead you on a merry chase, going from one shrink to the next until she can find one she “likes” (i.e., one she can control). Or, she will go to therapy and spend the entire session criticizing you. If the therapist challenges her in any way, she’ll refuse to see them again and accuse them of “siding with you,” of having an affair with you or something equally preposterous. She will also twist your ultimatum into accusations that you are the abusive controlling one. There are many ways for this to blow up in your face, even though, ironically, you’re trying to save the relationship.

Why Couples Therapy Rarely Works

A BPD/NPD woman typically can’t tolerate effective therapy because it puts boundaries in place and holds her accountable. In this case, therapy often degenerates into yet another vehicle to complain about and blame others, namely you. It becomes a device to a) get you to do whatever it is she wants you to do (e.g., stay in the marriage or quit asking her to get a job); b) get you to shut up and do as you’re told; and/or c) co-opt the therapist into validating her distortions, forcing you to “prove” yourself and placing the entire onus of the relationship on you. Meanwhile, she continues to play the “Queen of Hearts,” declaring, “Off with his head!” when you inevitably displease her. The following are some key reasons why therapy rarely works with narcissists and/or borderlines:

1) Ego syntonic vs. ego dystonic. Personality disorders, particularly the Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic, Borderline, Histrionic, Antisocial) cause the most pain and suffering to those who come in contact or have relationships with the personality disordered individual rather than the person with the disorder. NPD/BPD individuals often experience negative consequences for their bad behaviors, however, they don’t see themselves as the ones with the problem. They believe they’re okay (syntonic) and blame everyone else for their problems and unhappiness. They will not connect the dots back to themselves, until their behavior becomes dystonic, i.e., they see their own behavior as the source of discomfort, pain, etc.

2) You can’t help someone who won’t admit there’s a problem. A NPD/BPD woman will readily admit that you have problems, but that doesn’t count. Therapy not only doesn’t work with an individual who takes no responsibility for their actions, it also becomes another mechanism by which this woman controls and emotionally bludgeons you.

Just like your wife/girlfriend twists the things you say and do, she’ll also twist what a therapist says—especially if the therapist holds her accountable. This woman “shops” for therapists she can use to blame and shame her husband/boyfriend into submission. The moment a therapist tries to hold her accountable, they’re denounced as a quack and she moves onto the next “expert” for hire or denounces therapy altogether and refuses to see another therapist.

Everything is about control. Controlling your reality, controlling the therapist’s perception of her and you—i.e., she’s great; you’re a boorish ogre. If she senses she’s losing control of the therapist and the session and the focus shifts to her behaviors, she’ll probably flee the scene and begin a smear campaign to devalue the therapist and/or the entire field of Psychology. She behaves this way in order to avoid being “outed” and held accountable.

3) Predators don’t get “better,” but they do become “better at being predators.” Predators don’t get better and they often become better predators with the help of an unwitting therapist. Bad therapy helps a NPD/BPD woman to manipulate her partner. It helps her maintain the pattern of blame and  zero accountability.  It strengthens her role of the professional victim, which hides the true aggressor lying just beneath the surface.

An ineffectual colluding therapist can also be used as an “ally.” In other words, she uses the therapist as an authority figure to beat you down. For example, “Dr Ann Abler said that you need to forgive me.” Translation: Let her get away with and forgive her abusive behavior. “Dr Ann Abler says I should do what my heart tells me to do.” Translation: I can act as badly as I want and you can’t say anything about it. “Dr Ann Abler said you need to be more sensitive to my feelings.” Translation: Tolerate her criticisms, put-downs, rages, and emotional/sexual frigidity. You get the idea. Sometimes, the therapist doesn’t actually tell her any of these things. A BPD/NPD woman is masterful at twisting everything to support her distorted beliefs and demands.

BPD/NPD predators use Psychology to engage in name-calling. They learn just enough psycho-jargon about their own pathology, but instead of recognizing the abusive behaviors, distortions, and emotional issues in themselves, they project it onto everyone else. Everyone else is crazy. Everyone else is a bully. Everyone else is a narcissist or a borderline. Some of them even buy books on these topics and begin diagnosing their partners, friends, co-workers, and family.

A BPD/NPD woman also uses therapy (usually with a shrink she’s manipulated into believing her tales of adversity in the face of lesser beings such as yourself who can’t appreciate how wonderful she is and who stifles her creativity, talent, intellect, blah, blah, blah) to cloak herself in a false shield of individuation. “I’ve done my work, you haven’t. I know, you don’t. I solved my issues, Dr Ann Abler says you’re an angry person and says it’s normal not to want have sex with such an angry person.” Meanwhile, the opposite of everything she claims is true.

4) FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE AND ADMINISTER APPROPRIATE TREATMENT. Many therapists fail to detect the real problem when a BPD/NPD woman enters couples or individual therapy. Or, worse yet, willfully don’t diagnose their condition and encourage the husband/boyfriend to “hang in there” and be more patient. NPD and/or BPD don’t improve on their own nor do they improve when you instruct the target of the abuse to jump through hoops and walk on eggshells. These conditions only improve if they’re accurately diagnosed and the individual with the disorder undergoes a highly structured form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Working on “communication skills,” “exercising patience” and scheduling a “weekly date night” simply doesn’t cut it. It’s like putting a band-aid on an open chest wound.

5) Couples therapy doesn’t work if there’s ongoing abuse in the relationship. Couples therapy typically isn’t viable you’re in an ongoing abusive relationship. Since the BPD/NPD uses therapy to continue to blame and attack, all it does is set you up to be re-victimized. If you insist on couples treatment, it’s probably better to start off with individual therapists who consult one another—that’s if the abusive spouse will attend treatment and consent to sharing information. Since most abusive types fear a loss of control and being exposed, this is highly unlikely

How Therapy Can Help You

If you’re involved with an emotionally abusive BPD/NPD, you can benefit from treatment that:

  • Helps you decide if you want to end the relationship and, if so, how to best extricate yourself and mourn the loss.
  • Helps you work through your fears and worst-case scenarios about ending the relationship.
  • Helps you decide if you want to continue the relationship and, if so, learn how to manage and cope with her abusive behaviors.
  • Helps you understand what secondary gain you’re deriving from this relationship.
  • Helps you understand why you’re attracted to this woman and determine if you have a pattern of being attracted to abusive women.
  • Helps you work through these issues in order to make healthy relationship choices in the future.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

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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Queen of Hearts on flickr.

Emotional Vampires: How Emotionally Abusive Women Screw You Up Flow Chart

September 27, 2009 4 comments

I found this flow char while looking for images for a new post I’m writing. I think it’s a good summary of what happens when you’re involved with an emotionally abusive individual.

emotional vampire flow chartThe text is a little small, so here’s a summary:

1. Normal person feels love, gives care to

2. Emotional vampires and monsters (disguised as regular people) who

3. Rip you apart, reciprocate lovingly, suck you dry!, and disappear unpredictably. Intermittent reinforcement results in

4. Pavlovian fear and vigilance, which inspires you to

5. Run away and declare

6. No vampires and you undertake

7. Hard work which results in

8. Good relationships that are

9. Open, honest, loyal and consistent except that occasionally you respond with

4. Pavlovian fear and vigilance to the non-vampire showing you care and love and repeat steps 4-9. Except that in time, you go around this loop less often and your relationships stabilize with a non-emotional vampire.

Photo credit: clevergirl.

Dr Tara J Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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10 Reasons You Can’t Communicate with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

September 17, 2009 271 comments

Foaming-at-the-mouthEmotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline women are masters of spin control and pile driving their “reality” home through brute verbal force and emotional reasoning. If you’re involved with a NPD and/or BPD woman, you know these invective communication strategies firsthand.

This kind of woman clings to her belief system no matter how many times she’s confronted with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. In fact, the more wrong she is, the greater the outrage and histrionics she displays.

The next time you challenge your BPD/NPD partner’s points of view, lies, distortions, unilateral pronouncements or unfounded accusations, notice how she responds. Your discussion probably turns into a one-sided argument replete with vitriolic theatrics and threats very quickly.

Here are some common communication control tactics of emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline woman:

1. The Big Bamboozle. Here’s how it works: Emotionally abusive woman  begin a conversation/attack with one topic. When you present facts that contradict her beliefs, she bamboozles you by going on off-topic tangents, changing the subject or making a brand new accusation. While you’re still defending your original point and why it’s valid, she blows you off (because you’re making sense) and distracts you by jumping to another topic that’s completely out of left field.

mouth_tape2. SHUT UP! When you try to explain your feelings or point of view, this kind of woman may explicitly tell you to, “Shut up!” Narcissists, borderlines and bullies not only “can’t handle the truth,” they go to great lengths to deny and obliterate it.

Your wife or girlfriend probably uses other tactics when you challenge her like walking out of the room, giving you the silent treatment or simply refusing to listen to you. In both cases, this is the adult control freak’s version of, “La, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” They believe if they ignore or stop you from speaking the truth that it doesn’t exist like a small child who closes their eyes to “make you go away.”

3. Name-Calling. This is the last resort of bullies, such as NPD/BPD women. Because they can’t intelligently defend their position or their behaviors, they resort to emotionally-based personal attacks. It’s another distraction technique that sidetracks you from the original point of contention by disorienting you and putting you on the defensive.

Calling your boyfriend or husband names doesn’t prove your point; it’s merely an ad hominem attack. Here’s the logic: “Okay! Fine! Maybe the world is round, but you’re a bleeping, bleepity, bleep bleep! So there! That’s why I don’t have to listen to you. The world is flat!” You have two choices when presented with this kind of “logic;” sink to their level or walk away with dignity and sanity.

4. Projection. NPD/BPD women accuse their targets of things that they themselves are actually guilty of. This is a primitive defense mechanism. It’s the grown up version of the maddening childhood taunt, “I know you are, but what am I?” “But you’re the one who just…” “I know you are, but what am I?

5. Splitting. This is another very primitive defense mechanism. NPD/BPD women see people and the world in all-or-nothing, good vs. evil, black-and-white terms. They have no capacity for context or nuance. Either you see things her way or you must be crushed into the ground. You can’t respectfully agree to disagree with this kind of woman. Any criticism, difference of opinion or challenge to her “authority” is seen as a threat and will be treated as such in that you will be devalued and demonized.

6. Smear Campaigns. First, they split, then they smear. It’s not enough for NPD/BPD women to disagree with and despise you. Everyone else is the world, including your own family and friends, must hate you and see how wrong you are, too. These women go after you by attacking your ethics, integrity, sexuality and manufacture the most ridiculous nonsense in order to destroy your reputation. Unfortunately, the bigger the lie, the more gullible people tend to believe it.

7. Gaslighting. Women with these issues both deny things they’ve said and done and accuse you of the very same transgressions they committed. They also twist a grain of truth into a huge distortion until you begin to doubt your own sanity and look like the crazy person when you try to defend yourself.

8. Increasing the Volume; Not the Logic. The more wrong an emotionally abusive NPD/BPD woman is, the louder and/or more resolute she gets. Her level of fake outrage, vindictiveness or emotional withdrawal is in direct proportion to how accurate you are. She will either talk over and shout at you, repeating the same simplistic, emotionally-charged statements over and over until she drowns out all reason or give you the silent treatment until you submit and apologize for your “offense.”

9. Blame and Shame. NPD/BPD women blame others for everything that is wrong and never consider how they contribute to and often cause the issues and their own unhappiness. They shift responsibility to make you seem bad and crazy in an effort to shame you into submission.

10. Playing the Victim. When NPD/BPD women are called out for their bad behaviors and dishonesty, they then play the victim. They claim they’re being unfairly attacked for “standing up for the truth” and having the “courage” to speak out. This kind of woman frequently defends her indefensible behaviors by saying she was swept away by her emotions or passion and offers such chestnuts as, “I did what my heart told me to do.” Nonsense. These women are known to have temper tantrums when their bad behaviors are exposed and lash out with a verbal attack or pout in cold silence.

At heart, an emotionally abusive woman is a bully who will try to steamroll anyone who disagrees with her. It’s not just about controlling her reality, but controlling everyone else’s reality, too. When you allow a narcissistic and/or borderline woman to determine reality, you’re letting one of the inmates control the asylum. So the next time you’re on the verge of being sucked in by one of the above tactics, calmly look your wife or girlfriend in the eye, quietly say “No” and walk away.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

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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Foaming at the mouth from Getty Images.

Mouth tape from Getty images.

Will My Emotionally Abusive Girlfriend or Wife Be Different With the New Guy?

September 7, 2009 144 comments

jealousy_munchWill my emotionally abusive girlfriend or wife be sweet, normal and wonderful with the next guy? The answer to this question is no, No and NO. Many men torture themselves with this highly unlikely possibility when they contemplate ending the relationship, after they’ve ended the relationship or when their on-again-off-again exes are treating them like a cat toying with a half-dead mouse.

What’s the Origin of this Irrational Fear?

This fear and faulty belief can be traced directly back to the source of all irrational distortions, insecurities and lies—your ex. This kind of woman explicitly or implicitly conveys that she’s always been a sweet, kind and loving person until she met you and that you bring out the worst in her. The implication is that there’s something wrong with you, which is why she treats you the way she does. Malarkey.

This is yet another example of how these women refuse to take responsibility for their behaviors and blame the victim instead. If it were possible for you to interview her past and future boyfriends/spouses you would hear eerily similar tales of the same relationship atrocities you experienced with her.

Unlike reasonably healthy people who change and grow across a lifetime; these women remain disappointingly the same. We grow and learn by acknowledging our mistakes and through loving and being loved. These women never acknowledge their myriad mistakes and don’t know the first thing about love. She won’t be different in a new relationship. A woman like this replays the same misery over and over again. The only things she learns from her relationships are how to control, manipulate and hurt others more effectively.

Lies that Feed the Fear

The following lies are control devices that undermine your confidence, fuel your insecurities and cement your emotional dependency upon your NPD and/or BPD girlfriend or wife. Some of these women deliver these messages loud and clear; while others imply or insinuate them so subtly that you don’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

No one else would want you. This is nonsense. There are 6.7 billion people on this planet. Roughly half of them are female. Surely there’s at least one other woman who will find you attractive. Your wife/girlfriend/ex wants you to believe this because you’re less likely to fly the coop and she retains control.

No one else will ever love you like I love you. Let’s hope not. If by “love” she means, “no one else will ever treat you like crap the way I treat you like crap” then it’s a translation problem from crazy-speak to English rather than a lie.

I don’t know what’s wrong with you. You bring out the worst in me. Why do you make me act like this?! You don’t bring out the worst in her. Anyone who tries to get close to her and seeks intimacy and kindness from her brings out the worst in her. Therefore, all of her “love” relationships will bring out the worst in her.

How Can She Move onto a New Guy So Quickly After our Break-Up?

Just because your ex instantly lands in a new relationship doesn’t mean she’s healthy and moving on with her life. This kind of woman unravels  when she’s not in a relationship and receiving attention. She doesn’t have a core identity. The only time she comes close to feeling like a whole person is when she’s in a relationship because it provides her with the illusion of normalcy.

Being wanted validates her existence. If she’s not receiving attention from someone—it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive—then she might actually have to look at herself and her behavior and she can’t handle that. She needs to have someone tell her she’s wonderful and someone to blame for the train wreck that is her life.

This is also a clear example of how these women don’t relate to others as individual people with whom you have a connection, but as objects with which to abuse and amuse themselves. These women usually discard you and move onto the next shiny object when:

  • You stop playing by her rules and she notices that you’re becoming immune to her tricks and manipulations. She senses she’s about to be confronted with the truth of her behavior and pulls the rip cord.
  • She finds someone with more money, more status and more time to devote to her never-ending needs.
  • She senses you’re about to end the relationship, so she abandons you before you abandon her.
  • She craves more attention and orchestrates a competition or rivalry for her “affections.”

Why Does She Flaunt Her New Relationship(s) in My Face?

She does this for several reasons, including:

  • To hurt you
  • To let you know “what you’re missing out on”
  • To see if you still care
  • To see if she can still jerk your chain and push your buttons
  • To make you feel bad and jealous about all of the alleged men who are “madly in love” with her
  • To rub your nose in the illusion that she’s moving on in her life and is doing “great” and is happy without you
  • To see if you’re still available (i.e., not dating). A BPD and/or NPD woman likes to keep her exes in a cupboard for a “rainy day,” so she can seek attention when she’s feeling alone and abandoned by the most recent guy she’s scared off
  • To test the waters to see if she can lure you back into a relationship with her.

If your ex directly tells you or broadcasts her dating escapades in such a way that you’re guaranteed to learn of them, she has not “moved on” nor is she happy. First, if you’ve really moved on after a relationship, you’re not preoccupied with your ex to the point that you parade your new relationships in front of him or her. In fact, you maintain a healthy distance and just go about your life. If you’ve moved on, you don’t invest time and energy trying to “get at” your ex. This behavior is indicative of not having moved on, being unhappy and trying to maintain some kind of connection, albeit a sick and hurtful one.

Second, when has your wife/girlfriend/ex ever been honest to goodness happy?

The closest she gets to experiencing happiness is when she’s controlling and hurting you, but this isn’t true happiness. It’s about making you so miserbale that she seems happy by comparison. If she’d truly moved on and was having a grand old time dating other men, trust me, you wouldn’t be hearing from her.

Some of these women are capable of “flipping a switch” and totally cutting an ex out of their lives. Finding a new boyfriend/husband/emotional punching bag is the equivalent of the “geographic cure” described in Alcoholics Anonymous—it’s their attempt to get a fresh start with a new partner. However, like the AA saying states, “Wherever you go, there you are.” In others words, they’ll continue to take the same problems, behaviors and craziness into each new relationship because they are the primary source of their relationship problems, not their most recent ex.

If your girlfriend or wife is this variety of NPD and/or BPD, consider yourself fortunate. She won’t be back for round 2 or round 1001. It may seem more cruel, but it’s for the best. It hurts because you’re not able to get closure, but you can’t get closure from these women whether they’re the “cut off” variety or the boomerang variety (i.e., she keeps coming back after every break-up).

Why Do I Care that She’s Dating Already?

The fear of her miraculously changing her personality (disorder) and being great with the next guy is completely irrational, which many men know intellectually. It’s like when children hate going to bed because they’re afraid they’ll miss something — like their parents bring out the best toys after they’re asleep.

You probably still care about her being with other men because you’re not quite over her yet. Trust me, she’s not going to be great and normal with the new guy. If he doesn’t snap to his senses soon, he’s in for the same nightmare ride she took you on. These women lie and distort everything. Remember how she would twist the truth and reality when she was with you? Then why would you believe this new man makes her happier than she’s ever been?

Here’s the deal:

1. When a woman like your ex tells you other men are pursuing her, it’s oftentimes confabulation, exaggeration or an out and out lie. She does this to make herself feel desirable and appear like an irresistible siren to others.

I had an acquaintance in college who used to go on and on about guys who were “so in love with [her].” By chance, I met one of these men at a lecture. We were introduced and I said, “I feel like I know you already, Frank. Dorothy’s told me a lot about you.” He looked confused and I then explained who Dorothy was. Turns out, she sat near him in an accounting class and he let her borrow a pen once. He wasn’t “madly in love with her,” he barely remembered her.

2. “My ex(es) won’t leave me alone/my co-worker won’t stop flirting with me/dozens of men on Facebook want to date me” is a control tactic she uses to destabilize you, make you feel insecure and get you to psychologically invest in fighting to keep her from being “snatched” away by would-be suitors. She’s trying to control you with the threat of loss of the relationship.

The message is: “If you don’t do as I say, put up with my crap and treat me like a Queen, Joe is waiting in the wings to take me away, so don’t you forget it.” If you’re not afraid to lose her, this (usually) empty ploy falls flat.

3. Oftentimes there really is another man or men waiting in the wings. Never underestimate the number of people who are willing to take a number and wait in line for their share of abuse. And, let’s face it, many of these women are incredibly attractive and can be very charming when they’re trying to suck you in. However, you know firsthand the monster that lies beneath the surface and how quickly her charms fade.

I recommend that you retire from active duty and let the new enlistee have at her. You’ll probably find him knocking around this site in 6 months to a year because he, too, will eventually be right where you are now. And so the cycle begins again and again and again.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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Divorce and Break-Ups: There Is No Closure with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

August 28, 2009 278 comments

please close the doorClosure is a healthy part of ending a relationship. You each get to say your peace. You both apologize for any unintentional and/or intentional hurts. You say goodbye and wish each other well. This is how closure works between two reality-based, reasonably sane adults who basically had a good relationship, but didn’t work because you ultimately had different goals, values, interests, a lack of compatibility or you grew apart instead of together.

A less satisfying form of closure is when you had a relationship with someone who wasn’t considerate, wasn’t invested in the relationship or just wasn’t ready for commitment. If this person is a reality-based, reasonably sane adult then you break up and state how they hurt you. They apologize and give you an ego massage by offering, “It’s not you; it’s me. You deserve someone who really loves you.” You accept his or her apology and you both go away feeling a little better.

Trying to get closure with a narcissistic and/or borderline woman usually results in reopening your old wounds, not healing them

Attempting to obtain closure with an abusive, narcissistic and/or borderline woman (i.e., Crazy) is almost always a maddening exercise in futility. You’re not going to get closure with this kind of woman for several reasons. First, she doesn’t meet the three most important prerequisites for giving and receiving closure:

  1. A reasonable degree of sanity
  2. A foothold in reality
  3. Empathy

Being able to give an ex closure means you’re able to accept your share of responsibility for the demise of the relationship and when has your BPD and/or NPD ex ever taken responsibility for her behavior, especially when she was clearly in the wrong?

Don’t you remember how she would rewrite ancient and recent history when you were together by portraying herself as the long suffering heroine and you as the terrible ogre, after every nasty blow-up, attack or cold shoulder episode that she initiated? Do you really think she’s going to admit to any of the relationship atrocities she committed during the relationship now that it’s over? (*Unless, of course, she’s attempting a Hoover.)

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re waiting for this to happen or, heaven forbid, an apology from this woman; IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. If you try to get closure from your NPD and/or BPD ex by detailing the many ways she hurt and tortured you, she’s unlikely to acknowledge what she did.

Instead, she’ll puff herself up, look at you like you’re the crazy one, and mystifyingly tell you, “I was a wonderful and loving wife or girlfriend. How dare you say these things to me? You must be crazy or someone’s brainwashed you. Don’t you remember how good I was to you and the many things I did for you?”

Somebody has a memory problem, but it’s not you. If you seek closure from this woman, she’ll regale you with her revisionist relationship history as you have yet another NPD/BPD induced WTF-moment. You’ll be understandably rattled after walking into another one of her traps and  she’ll tell you how worried she is about you because you seem so unhappy now (the “without her” is implied).

Evidence that the hard wiring in these women’s heads is truly out of whack:

1. They don’t get that when you look hurt, unhappy and in pain it’s because of something they’ve done. They think it’s because of something you’ve done because if she hurt you, you deserved it and she was right to hurt you. She’s confused hurting you with “showing you affection” and trying to take most of your assets as “generosity.” You cannot reason with this.

Once most men finally get out of an abusive relationship, they feel an intense amount of relief. They have regret and sadness that they fell in love with a woman who doesn’t really exist and put up with the abuse for so long, but that’s normal. Nearly every man I know who’s broken free from one of these women is infinitely happier — even with less money (if it’s divorce—a reader describes it as “the price of freedom, sanity and happiness”) and/or less time with their kid(s). Once the abuse stops, it’s a tremendous relief.

2. What they call love is really abuse and control, but they doggedly insist, it’s love. Enough said.

3. Some of them truly believe they were the best wife or girlfriend. You could show this kind of woman a video tape of one of her unprovoked rage attacks and she’d still deny she did it or find a way to blame you for it. Her defense mechanisms are impenetrable.

This is why it’s crazy for you to seek closure from this woman. She may have brief moments in which she can recognize the truth of who she is and what she’s done. However, the reality of it terrifies her and shakes her to the core. Instead of apologizing to you, she’ll quickly revert back to her idealized false self or image that no one (who knows her well) believes.

Narcissistic women in particular believe that their facade is so slick that no one can see through it and many people don’t until they get too close, which is why these women don’t let anyone get too close. In other words, she believes her own bullshit. She has to believe it because if she doesn’t she fears she will fall apart. It’s a matter of ego preservation vs. ego annihilation except that she’s actually preserving her false self.

Then she will either attack you or gaslight you by rewriting history yet again. Do you really want to get caught in one of these crazy-making, never ending loops with your ex? Didn’t you learn your lesson while you were with her?

Here’s how you get closure from an emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline woman: Get as far away from her as you can and then get on with your life. The best form of closure for you is living well and that means a life free of abuse, filled with love and happiness. This woman will never have the kind of relationships other people are capable of — she will be left with herself and that’s a fate I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

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Sex and Control: How Men Get Screwed by Emotionally Abusive Women

August 17, 2009 118 comments

giant screwSex is a very important part of a healthy and loving relationship. If you’re involved with an emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline woman, the sex has probably become bad for your self-esteem and general well-being, just like everything else in your relationship.

NPD/BPD women basically have three behaviors toward sex: hyper-sexuality, hot and cold, or frigidity. Sometimes, the same woman can alternate between all three behaviors.

[Note: Sex drives may vary greatly from person to person and aren't necessarily an irresolvable issue in an otherwise loving and compatible relationship. This post focuses on the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors these women have toward sex.]

First, let’s explore the essential elements for love and a fulfilling sex life.

Vulnerability, trust, intimacy, empathy, and  respect — or the lack thereof.

There are 5 prerequisites for love and great sex:

  1. Vulnerability. This means taking a risk, exposing your true self, your needs and desires. It’s risky because you could be rejected or ridiculed. It’s impossible for an NPD/BPD woman to make herself vulnerable because she’s invested most of her life in crafting an elaborate and rigid false self to hide her highly damaged true self.
  2. Trust. You trust your partner to accept you and to not deliberately hurt you. This woman trusts no one. She believes everyone is out for themselves and trying to “get one over” on her. This is an example of projection. She’s out for herself and tries to constantly get one over on you.
  3. Intimacy. This is about sharing and getting close physically, psychologically and emotionally.
  4. Empathy. This requires being in tune with the other person and being able to experience how they feel and what they want and need.
  5. Respect. This woman treats her husband or boyfriend like an object; not an equal partner whose feelings and needs are just as important as her own. Bottom line: She doesn’t respect you.

An emotionally abusive NPD/BPD woman is incapable of empathy. She’s incapable of seeing any viewpoint other than her own and only cares about her needs and feelings. She’d rather stick bamboo splinters under her fingernails than feel vulnerable and she cannot, cannot tolerate emotional and psychological intimacy. She can tolerate some physical intimacy, as long as it doesn’t lead to the other forms of intimacy. Basically, in order to avoid emotional and psychological intimacy, she either engages in hyper-sexuality or avoids sex altogether. But why?

True intimacy means sharing your good qualities as well as your faults and insecurities with your partner, which this woman will never do. Not only does this woman not let down her guard, she ‘s constantly attacking you or pushing your buttons in order to keep her vulnerabilities from being exposed. Consequently, you feel unsafe and on your guard, even though a love partner is the one person with whom you should feel safe enough to let down your guard. This doesn’t bode well for a mutually satisfying sex life.

So why is she even in a relationship if she doesn’t trust, respect or love you?

1. You’re her normalcy prop. Being married or in a committed relationship gives her the appearance of normalcy to the outside world. You play an integral role in maintaining her false self. “See. Someone wants me. There’s nothing wrong with me. Normal people get married. Therefore, I’m normal because I’m married.

2. She can’t exist without attention. Good attention, bad attention; it doesn’t matter. For her purposes, you could be anybody. She likes the idea of having a boyfriend or husband in the abstract, but the reality of being in a relationship is filled with frustration and disappointment for her because you’re not “perfect” or “good enough” for her highly inflated false sense of self. She soon grows to resent you and then the covert and overt abuse and rage attacks begin. Conversely, you try to hold her accountable and point out her imperfections. She can’t have that.

As a result of not living up to her lofty and unrealistic expectations (by the way, no one is capable of doing so), she doesn’t really like you very much. She plays the role of martyr to the hilt, professing her love for you in one breath and cutting you down and shutting you out with the next. You can’t have a satisfying emotional and physical connection with  someone who doesn’t like you and sees you as a “disappointment.” This is another example of projection. In reality, she’s the disappointment and failure as a life partner.

It all comes down to control and bolstering her ego.

Sex isn’t about expressing love, lust, intimacy, passion, affection or mutual pleasure. Instead, many of these women use sex to lure you into the relationship. Once she feels confident that she’s hooked you, sex becomes one of the ways she controls you—either by sexing you up or by withholding it. There are two primary ways of doing this.

1. The insatiable sexual virtuoso. The sex starts off with a bang. The sheer intensity of it is mind blowing, but deceiving. The intensity is actually a symptom of the severity of her pathology. What seems like intense passion to you, is really her intense need to control and dominate you into submission. I repeat, it’s about controlling you, not pleasing you.

You’re also her sex prop. She treats you like a mechanical object/scratching post/human vibrator and/or a way to make herself feel desirable, sexy or “the best.” Roger Melton, M.A. explains: “I love you” means “I need you to love me.” “That was the best ever for me” means “Tell me it was the best ever for you. Show me that I have you.” Sex isn’t an act of true intimacy, but rather another way for her to feel admired and in control. Eventually, this will cause you to feel used and distant instead of loved and emotionally connected. This form of sexuality may be constant or blow hot and cold. It depends upon how often she needs this kind of validation and/or how great her need for control is.

2. The withholding welcher. Alternately, an emotionally abusive, NPD/BPD woman lures you into a relationship with the unspoken promise of passionate sex once you’ve “proven” yourself and she “feels” she can “trust you.” Alexander Lowen, M.D. explains this kind of seduction as “a false statement or promise to get another person to do what he or she would not otherwise do. The promise can be explicitly stated, or it can be implied. Psychopathic swindlers openly promise something they have no intention of giving. But most seductive ploys involve promises that are not clearly stated” (Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, p. 102).

This is a trap because the passionate sex never materializes. You have to keep proving yourself “worthy” of her and, as many of my readers know, nothing is ever enough for these women. You can never be nice enough, do enough or meet any of her other ill-defined, diffuse, shifting rules and requirements enough for her to “reward” you with sex. Sex is a chore for this woman, an obligation or a “favor” she begrudgingly bestows with growing infrequency and ultimately becomes a transaction.

A transactional relationship is one in which person A provides a service in exchange for person B providing a service. Prostitution is a kind of transactional relationship and so is sex with this kind of NPD/BPD woman. In other words, if you want to get laid, then you have to give her something she wants or behave how she wants you to behave. This is another way she controls you.

There’s always an agenda, even if it’s having sex so you won’t end the relationship. It’s still a transaction. “You owe me because I let you have sex with me. I did my ‘duty,’ so now you can’t leave.” Most men are so grateful for even the smallest scrap of affection that they ignore the perfunctory and disinterested way in which their wife or girlfriend treats sex. Like a man who’s been wandering through the desert views a thimble full of water; you’re grateful for what little you get.

No matter the scenario, you’re not her beloved, equal partner; you’re either a to-do list item, a human vibrator, and/or a way for her to feel like she’s still “got it.”

Shame and sex don’t mix.

This kind of woman may also increase her control by combining sex with shame. For example, she labels you as “perverse,”  “sick” or “abnormal” for wanting sex, when she’s the one who has a perverse, twisted sexuality and relationship beliefs—this is more projection. Typical statements include: “There’s something wrong with you. You’re a sex addict. You’re a pervert. All you want is sex.” Shaming you for the very natural desire of  physical intimacy in your committed relationship is incredibly abusive and can leave emotional scars.

The NPD/BPD woman will only have sex when she wants it, which is usually after you’ve been so beaten down that you no longer have any interest in touching her. Contrary to what she believes, criticism, rages, and the cold shoulder do not make for great aphrodisiacs. When you tell her that you’re not in the mood (go figure), she insults your manhood, accuses you of infidelity, of not loving her and so on and so forth.

She expects you to perform a thousand and one feats of devotion before she takes the lid off the cookie jar, yet expects you to perform on demand whether you want to or not. This is another example of her utter lack of empathy. Sex is about what she needs in that given moment and has nothing to do with you. You’re nothing more than object who exists to service her every whim, need and insecurity.

Screwed, but not in the good way.

In the end, a Narcissistic-Borderline woman tends to make a poor lover. Even if she’s mastered a range of techniques, sex is ultimately a mechanical act devoid of true intimacy. If you view sex as simply a mechanistic, impersonal stimulus/release interaction, this may be enough. If you view sex as a medium of expression in which you share love, lust, playfulness, raw animal passion, desire, tenderness and mutual fantasies, sex with this kind of woman will never be enough. Sex becomes just another empty and dissatisfying exchange with your partner.

For those of you who think you’ve lucked out because you’re with the sexual performer, think again. It may be more difficult to end your relationship because you’re also confusing sex with intimacy and can fall back on the lie, “at least the sex is good.” Is it really? Or is it making it more difficult for you to recognize the degree to which you’re being abused, to end the relationship and to find a woman who’s capable of true emotional and physical intimacy?

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Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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