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Posts Tagged ‘emotionally abusive relationships’

The No Contact Rule: Committing to It and Making It Work

November 19, 2009 124 comments

The Power of “No”

Whether you’re a man or a woman who’s been on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, here’s why the No Contact Rule is the best policy after breaking up:

  • The sooner begun, the sooner it’s done. The sooner you make a clean break and stick with it, the sooner the healing process can begin. It’s natural to sentimentalize an ex after a break up, however, you’re playing with fire when you wax nostalgic for an abusive ex. She may have been nice from time to time and occasionally very sweet, sexy, etc., but these fleeting moments don’t make up for the pain and damage she caused you. Each time you initiate contact or respond to her overtures, you have to start the healing process all over again. Re-initiating contact only prolongs your pain. It’s the difference between ripping a band-aid off quickly and all at once or peeling off the adhesive very slowly, one arm hair at a time. Ouch.
  • Do not apply salt to an open wound. Engaging in contact with your ex, even a little bit, is like rubbing salt into an open wound. Some men maintain no contact for a year or more, run into their ex and bam! They’re caught up in all the old painful feelings again. This is why it’s just as important to really explore why you were in that relationship while maintaining no contact so that you’re not susceptible to your ex or others like her in the future.
  • If you give her an inch, she’ll take a mile. You may think you’re being nice by accepting her calls and responding to texts and emails, but you’re not. You’re giving her permission to keep yanking your chain. If you give an abusive ex an inch, she’ll take a mile. This woman interprets your willingness to maintain contact as interest in rekindling the relationship or that she still has you on a string—and if you respond to her, she does indeed still have you on a tether. She’ll continue to be possessive and intrusive. All she needs is the smallest bit of attention—negative or positive—to keep her going.  If you want her to move on and find another target, you must starve the beast. That means no contact and no attention.

How to do it:

1. No calls, no texts, no emails, no smoke signals, no carrier pigeons. Make a list of every nasty hurtful thing she said and did to you and keep a copy near every communication device you own.

2. No “accidental” meetings (if you can help it). Change your routine. Go to the gym at a different time or on different days. Find an alternate sports pub. Go to a different grocery store. Yes, it’s unfair that you have to change your lifestyle for the moment, but time and distance is how you’ll heal. Alternatively, even if you have to have your best friend lock you in your apartment/house, do not go to places you know she’s likely to be. Even if you think you’re doing this to show you how happy you are without her, this will backfire on you. Don’t do it.

3. Avoid places that remind you of her. If it makes you turn into a sentimental mess to go to the restaurant the two of you went to every Friday night; don’t go.

4. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Ask your friends, family and associates not to tell you news of your ex or act as her intermediary. For example, when a woman like your ex can’t reach you because you’ve gone No Contact, she’ll often enlist others to contact you for her. Alternatively, some people think they’re being helpful by telling you about your ex’s latest crazy antics or newest boyfriend. Nip this is the bud and explain that you prefer not to hear about your ex. Tell them that you know they mean well, but for the time being, you don’t want to know what she’s doing, who she’s dating or what her Facebook status is, etc.

5. Don’t keep a foot in the door. This applies to your foot as well as hers. Whether it’s leaving a few things behind at your place or negotiating visitation with a pet, you must cut your losses. When you break up, get all of her stuff out of your home asap. Pack it up yourself and drop it off at her new place when you know she won’t be home or have it delivered. If you’re the one who moved out, do your best to get all of your belongings at once. Don’t leave anything behind that you can’t live without. Do not allow her or yourself an excuse to resume contact. If you adopted a pet while you were together, I know it’s painful, but just let her have the dog, cat, ferret, etc., and be grateful you only shared a quadruped and not a child.

6. Don’t take the bait. Many of these women send cruel, demeaning and often obscene emails, texts and voicemails. Your initial impulse may be to defend yourself or be “right.” Don’t fall for this. If you do, you’re taking her bait to keep you engaged. The only way you can “win” with a woman like this is not to play her sick games and get on with your life without her.

7. The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. Pack away photos, gifts, notes, etc. that remind you of her and “the good times”—all 2 or 3 of them.

8. Delete her from your life. Delete her name and number from your phones. Delete her email addresses. Delete her from MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn and every other website on which you’re currently connected. Block her incoming numbers, texts and emails. Do not answer calls from unknown or private callers. An abusive, crazy ex is the reason Caller ID was invented. Exception: If she is physically threatening you, blackmailing you or threatening to lie about you, save these communications and contact an attorney. You may need them for a restraining order and/or to press cyberstalking charges.

9. Avoid alcohol and other inhibition reducing substances. Drinking and dialing is generally always a big mistake. You don’t want to let this woman back into your life because you had one too many gin and tonics. Plus, if you’re feeling down or depressed about the break-up/divorce, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and will only make you feel worse.

10. Reconnect with yourself, your family, your friends and your life. Get in touch with the people you weren’t allowed to see because your ex threw a fit if you did. Start doing the things you used to enjoy. Pursue your interests again. Make a commitment to exercise/working out if that’s one of the things that fell by the wayside while you were with your abusive ex. The goal is to make yourself healthy and strong in body, spirit and mind.

One of my readers refers to No Contact as “living in the bunker.” Here’s a list he shared with me on how to be a successful “bunker dweller.” Everything on this list may not be feasible for everyone, but I think it’s a good example of the level of personal commitment No Contact requires:

  • Ability to give up personal comforts and not care at all.
  • Refusal to be influenced in any way by threats, further intimidation, or bad consequences.
  • Ability to change residences quickly and frequently. I have moved three times, soon to be four.
  • Decisive severance of any residual communication links–mutual friends, Facebook, etc.
  • Absolute refusal to feel shame or be put on the defensive–especially in your own mind.
  • Insistence that any discussion of the facts begin with the words “abuse,” “destruction,” and “control”
  • Refusal to negotiate until there is absolute capitulation (*he’s in the process of divorcing).
  • Satisfaction that she picked the wrong guy to F*** with
  • Accept collateral damage philosophically as the cost of freedom and further evidence of the rightness of your cause
  • Extreme patience–don’t be worn down by any reversal, surprise, or consequence. Stay in the bunker as long as it takes

Next week, I’ll post the third piece in the No Contact series about developing emotional distance for those of you who can’t go No Contact because you share a child(ren), work in the same office or some other reason.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/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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Friendship, Enabling or Collusion? Email from a Friend of a Potential NPD or BPD Wife

October 20, 2009 151 comments

sisterhoodThe following is an email exchange I received from a concerned friend of a woman whose husband is divorcing her and citing the information on A Shrink for Men as a reason to end the relationship. I decided to open this dialog to my readers because there is important information to be gleaned from it. I’d also like to know your thoughts.

What are your thoughts on couple’s counseling before divorce?  I have a friend whose husband (soon to be ex) refuses to go see a counselor with her, siting many of the articles on your web site as his reasons.  It seems to me that if he has really done nothing wrong as he says, he should go to at least 1 session with her before throwing in the towel.  He simply quotes you, saying there can be no closure with a narcissistic/borderline woman, so there is no point.  Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated, as I hate to see my wonderful friend’s marriage fall apart because he found a blog he can relate to.

Thanks,

Lois

Hi Lois,

If a couple has decided to divorce the only reason I can see going to couples counseling is if children are involved. In which case, the couple would have a session or two re: how to tell the children and so a therapist can explain what parental alienation is and, in no uncertain terms, that neither parent should trash the other in front of the children.

Couples therapy isn’t supposed to be used to assign blame or to coerce someone into remaining in a relationship. When you write, “if he has really done nothing wrong as he says, he should go to at least 1 session with her before throwing in the towel” it sounds as if he’s on trial and that his claims of emotional abuse aren’t to be believed. Would you encourage a female friend who was being abused by her husband to go to therapy before “throwing in the towel?” He’s the one who lived with the woman. I don’t know who this man is, but if that’s his experience, it’s his experience and he shouldn’t have to prove it to a therapist, to you or to anyone else. If your friend truly does have the issues I write about, then it doesn’t matter what her husband has or hasn’t done. He could’ve been the kindest, sweetest man in the world and she still would’ve dumped on him. If this is the case, I can see why he wouldn’t want to go to therapy to become the marital scapegoat again.

Kind Regards,
Dr Tara

In rereading Lois’ first email, I neglected to mention in my response that my blog is not the cause of her friend’s divorce, but her friend’s abuse of her husband. I nearly missed that twister-roo. Very subtle mis-assignment of blame. Hat’s off, Lois. Have you ever wondered why he can relate to my blog?

Here’s Lois’s reply three days later. My guess is that she had to consult “her friend” for a pow-wow:

Thanks for the quick response.  The only problem I see with the advice on your website is that so many men could claim some of these personality traits applied to their wife/GF at certain points.  What woman doesn’t go a little “crazy” now and then? If you say a normal woman doesn’t, then you’re not living in reality.  It’s almost like you’ve created this fabulous brand and are selling your product to these men without them realizing that they are being controlled by yet another woman.  I think the woman you describe on your website is actually a small percentage of the women all these men claim have npd/bpd.

It would be interesting for you to write about the possiblilities of some men using this as an easy way out.  What easier way to not have to deal with the repercussions of divorce than to simply say, “She’s crazy, there can be no closure, so I can’t even discuss this with her further.”

I guess I’m so bothered by all of this because I’m watching your advice in action.  My friend is a good, nice person.  She deals with anxiety issues and can have some pretty bad pms moments, but overall she is great (she is like a sister to me so I’ve seen her at her best and worst.).  Her husband is a good, nice man that deals with some anxiety issues and addiction issues (he is most recently being prescribed to 40+ mg of Adderall a day- having been prescribed to this before I know how it can make you feel by the end of the day).  She questioned his abilities to own his own business which was probably a serious blow to his manhood and he has never been the same (she supported him while he was starting a business; he had already abandoned one business and decided to try this one out).  They immediately separated and he has since taken to quoting your advice when she tries to talk about anything with him.  Your advice seems to have gotten in the wrong hands! No where do you talk about the fact that this can happen.  It seems that a good dr. would lay this all out for her patient.  Unless they are more like customers and what customer is going to come back if they’re not hearing what they want to hear.  I’m not sure if this is the case with you, but you need to realize that these are real people’s lives you’re playing with, and it’s frightening to think of the damage you are doing.

This website is a great resource for men involved with npd/bpd women- definitely.  I’m just inclined to believe that it is a small percentage of women that actually have this disorder.  Can you honestly say you’ve never had a “crazy bitch” moment in your life?

In my opinion, maybe you shouldn’t look at marriage as so disposable.

Thanks again for your time,

Lois

Here is my open reply to Lois:

Hi Lois,

Let me address your most recent email point-by-point.

1. The only problem I see with the advice on your website is that so many men could claim some of these personality traits applied to their wife/GF at certain points.  What woman doesn’t go a little “crazy” now and then? Actually, this isn’t the only problem you have with my advice as you go onto cite many more. If you have at all bothered to read my site, you’ll notice I’m very clear that these behaviors aren’t isolated, one-time incidents. They’re a pervasive and consistent established pattern of behavior demonstrated across time.

Furthermore, most healthy non-abusive women do not go “a little crazy now and then” like NPD/BPD women do. No one’s perfect, but having a bad day isn’t on the same par as being emotionally abusive. Having a bad day isn’t the norm and an adult acknowledges that he or she was out of line, doesn’t blame their partner and tries their damnedest not to behave like that again.

2. It’s almost like you’ve created this fabulous brand and are selling your product to these men without them realizing that they are being controlled by yet another woman. First, I don’t get paid to produce this website. I write it in my spare time and it’s free of charge. Second, just because your friend’s husband recognized his wife’s behavior as abusive through the information I provide (which is documented on many other websites and publications, but usually directed toward female targets of abuse) doesn’t mean he’s being controlled by yet another woman.

It just means that your friend is losing her ability to control her soon-to-be ex-husband and he’s making choices for himself. There’s a difference. I can’t make anyone do anything nor would I even try to do so. I believe in empowering through education. This means encouraging an individual to gather as much information as possible to make the best informed decisions. Additionally, I don’t go out trawling for readers. They find my website by searching the Internet for explanations for their wives’ or girlfriends’ behaviors.

3. It would be interesting for you to write about the possibilities of some men using this as an easy way out.  What easier way to not have to deal with the repercussions of divorce than to simply say, “She’s crazy, there can be no closure, so I can’t even discuss this with her further.” Divorce is never an easy way out, especially if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. Prolonged abuse disorients a person, causes you to doubt yourself and your judgment and completely strips you of your self-confidence. Ending this kind of relationship is often painfully difficult because when the abuser senses she’s losing control, she ratchets up the abuse and bombards her target, for example, by enlisting her friends and family to interfere in the process.

4. My friend is a good, nice person.  She deals with anxiety issues and can have some pretty bad pms moments, but overall she is great. . . PMS or Narcissistic rage episode? Anxiety issues or borderline insecurity riddled accusations? Po-ta-to—Po-tah-to. To-ma-to—To-mah-to. PMS is not an excuse to take your rage and anxiety out on another person. Unless she has pre-menstrual psychosis, in which case she should be hospitalized.

5. Her husband is a good, nice man that deals with some anxiety issues and addiction issues (he is most recently being prescribed to 40+ mg of Adderall a day. . . I assume a licensed Medical Doctor is prescribing him Adderall for attentional deficits and not because he’s addicted to crank. How do you arrive at the conclusion this is an “addiction?”

6. She questioned his abilities to own his own business which was probably a serious blow to his manhood and he has never been the same (she supported him while he was starting a business. . . So which is it? Did she undermine his confidence and belittle him or support him? You can’t do both simultaneously. How do you define “support?” Financial? Emotional? Do you mean your friend had to work while her husband was starting a business? If so, that’s not going above and beyond. That’s what a well-functioning couple does for one another.

7. They immediately separated and he has since taken to quoting your advice when she tries to talk about anything with him.  Your advice seems to have gotten in the wrong hands!  No where do you talk about the fact that this can happen. Separation and divorce doesn’t usually happen out of the blue. There’s typically a build-up of hurt and frustration. However, for many women with BPD/NPD, it does seem to happen “all of a sudden” because they do not have the capacity for introspection nor the ability to hold themselves accountable.

As for my advice “getting into the wrong hands,” I’m sure it happens. Just like it happens when emotionally abusive NPD/BPD women find sites for female targets of abuse and use the information therein to attack and abuse their husbands or boyfriends and justify their bad behavior. It works both ways and I can’t control this.

8. You need to realize that these are real people’s lives you’re playing with, and it’s frightening to think of the damage you are doing. Again, I don’t force anyone to do anything. I offer information and options. Instead, you might want to consider the damage women with NPD/BPD do to the people in their lives. It’s very real and, contrary to your beliefs, it happens far more often than you think. For every man who shares his experiences on this website there are thousands more out there suffering in silence.

9. This website is a great resource for men involved with npd/bpd women- definitely.  I’m just inclined to believe that it is a small percentage of women that actually have this disorder.  Can you honestly say you’ve never had a “crazy bitch” moment in your life? Thanks for the backhanded compliment, Lois. As previously noted, the statistics indicate that the gender ratio of abuse in a relationship is about a 50-50 split. Why is this so hard for you to accept? Would it cause you to have to look at your own behavior in relationships?

Also previously noted, everyone overreacts from time to time and says or does things that they regret. However, these moments are out of character and infrequent, not the norm. When I have a bad day, I don’t go crazy. I maintain control over my emotions and insecurities by thinking them through rather than lashing out at others. On the rare occasion when I become inpatient or short-tempered, I recognize my behavior as hurtful and out of line almost immediately, get myself in check, acknowledge what I’ve done, apologize and then make the effort not to do it again.

However, this isn’t about me. You’re writing to me for your friend.

10. In my opinion, maybe you shouldn’t look at marriage as so disposable. Nowhere do I state that marriage is disposable. I take marriage just as seriously as I take abuse. Emotionally or physically abusing your spouse is a deal-breaker. It breaks the most fundamental marriage vows to love, honor and respect. I would argue that emotionally abusive women view marriage and their partners as disposable because they certainly treat them like garbage.

Instead of focusing on helping your friend try to keep her husband in a marriage he clearly no longer wants, perhaps you can help her think through how she arrived to this outcome, so that she doesn’t replay it in future relationships.

Best,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/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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Sisterhood on Sistersincelebration.org.

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

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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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Photo credit:

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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