Archive

Posts Tagged ‘emotionally abusive women’

Do Narcissists Feel Remorse? Bernie Madoff says, “F— My Victims”

June 7, 2010 97 comments

New York Magazine is running an article on Bernie Madoff’s life in prison. The piece reports that Madoff unrepentantly declared to fellow inmates, “F— my victims. I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.” In an excerpt from the NYM piece, one inmate recalls a conversation in which he and Madoff discussed how he took advantage of old ladies:

Pollard thought that taking advantage of old ladies was “kind of fucked up.”

“Well, that’s what I did,” Madoff said matter-of-factly.

“You are going to pay with God,” Pollard warned.

Madoff was unmoved. He was past apologizing. In prison, he crafted his own version of events. From MCC, Madoff explained the trap he was in. “People just kept throwing money at me,” Madoff related to a prison consultant who advised him on how to endure prison life. “Some guy wanted to invest, and if I said no, the guy said, ‘What, I’m not good enough?’ ” One day, Shannon Hay, a drug dealer who lived in the same unit in Butner as Madoff, asked about his crimes. “He told me his side. He took money off of people who were rich and greedy and wanted more,” says Hay, who was released in December. People, in other words, who deserved it.”

My jaw dropped when I read these statements because they so perfectly illustrate what I have long believed: Narcissists/sociopaths do not feel remorse for their hurtful and/or criminal actions and believe that their targets deserve to be screwed. According to Madoff, his clients deserved to be fleeced by him and should be grateful that he “carried them” for 20 years (carried them into bankruptcy and out of retirement, that is). Madoff’s statements also illustrate how narcissists and other scam artist/predators rewrite history in order to be able to live with themselves.

Are You Married to Madoff?

If you are married to a woman with similar traits, she may never explicitly articulate, “Fuck my victim(s)” (a.k.a, you and your children), but this is the fundamental attitude from which she operates. Not only does she not feel bad for her bad behaviors, but she also believes you should be grateful that she makes the time to abuse you.

Narcissists, borderlines and other predatory sociopaths—even if the ones who portray themselves as victimized, fragile “waifs”—view people, including you, as need gratification objects. You aren’t seen as an individual human being with needs, feelings and rights. You are an object to be used at her discretion just like a pair of shoes or a car or a nail file or a punching bag. Inanimate objects don’t complain, which is why your complaints, requests for kindness and affection or your basic expressions of emotions are met with alternating bewilderment and impatience. A shoe doesn’t complain when she wears it too roughly, so it’s unthinkable that you would complain if she treats you too roughly. In fact, who do you think you are to complain about anything she does? You live to serve. Period.

You can’t fix a relationship with someone who doesn’t view you as a human being. You also can’t use reason or the facts to resolve these issues. Just like Madoff, these women are better historical revisionists than the Texas Department of Education. If you can’t even agree on the same reality there’s no fixing the relationship or her. Just like Madoff’s clients, you will rarely see a return on your emotional and financial investments with this kind of woman. They will eventually leave you broke, brokenhearted and just plain broken.

Postscript: I had to Google “prison consultants.” Please follow the link above if you haven’t already. Who knew? A booming business serving white collar criminals. You really can learn something new everyday. Here’s another link from wikiHow on How to Survive in Federal Prison. I’m thinking of doing an adaptation for Shrink4Men.

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.

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.

How Do I Get My Crazy, Abusive Girlfriend Out of My House and My Life?

May 4, 2010 58 comments

I received this email from a woman involved in a lesbian relationship. This site is for men involved with abusive women. I am publishing this variation on abusive women for two reasons: 1) to illustrate that abusive women’s behavior isn’t exclusive to men. Abusers are abusers; it’s not you. They target their nearest and dearest no matter your sex and; 2) to debunk the claims by the trolls who periodically visit this site that women aren’t really abusive and that men are always to blame. Acknowledging same sex (woman-on-woman) violence (psychological or physical) is a dirty “little” secret that’s often swept under the rug by feminists and our society.

Dear Dr Tara,

I hope you can help me. I am a woman. A gay woman. A gay woman in the middle of trying to lose her extremely disturbed girlfriend.

We were together for 7 years. It is only in the last few weeks that I’ve realized she’s “not on the planet.” Until I get out of this situation, I am terrified of becoming emotionally paralyzed by how blind and stupid I have been.

When we met, she was married with three children and four grandchildren. She fell in love with me. She left her husband and children. I got hooked. I now realize it wasn’t love. Nevertheless, we bought a house together and she quit her job to go to college full-time. I supported her for five years. The fighting, rage and abuse was always present. Initially, I questioned and blamed myself. Was I not sensitive enough? Was I communicating badly? Did I really not understand the pressure she was under? The abusiveness really escalated 3 years ago when I wanted to start a family by artificial insemination.

At the beginning of our relationship, she thought a child was a great idea, but when it came down to doing it, it was a very different story. I was an “airy fairy” if I thought I could bring up a child. How was [I] going to support a child when she claimed that [I] couldn’t even take care of [her.] When I pointed out that I managed to buy our home and support the both of us comfortably while she worked on her degree, she called me a “whore” and an “unsupportive c****.” Every time I asked her to discuss our relationship and how to improve it she would launch into a tirade within seconds.

I was on the receiving end of the following diatribes: ‘You always spoil things’ – ‘Why can’t you just let things go?’ – ‘You think your God, but your not’ – ‘You can’t control me.’ I stupidly persisted and insisted we go to counseling. Well, that backfired. She told the counselor I made her life hell and that if I would just change, we would have a wonderful relationship. My physical and mental health declined rapidly. The emotional pressure (i.e., tirades about what a “useless martyr” I am into the early hours of the morning after which I would have to go to work while she went to sleep off her rage buzz) was tremendous. My financial pressure was extreme.

This culminated in her standing outside my place of work screaming that I was a “disgusting whore” and should do the world a favor and kill [myself]. Even that didn’t stop me trying to “fix” myself to make her happy. I stopped jumping through hoops and began to detach from the relationship the night she told me she had more love, respect and loyalty to her ex-husband than she did for me. Her timing was beautiful. She had just completed her Masters exams, which I emotionally and financially supported her through. Over the past year, I have very slowly distanced myself from her.

But her rages continued. A few weeks ago, I stepped back and said to her, “If everyone else in my life thinks so highly of me, why am I listening and believing this?” She has been unemployed for the last year (I’m still paying the bills) and she is still telling me this crap. That’s when her attacks became physical.

I fought her off me. It lasted two hours. She got up the next morning, showed me her bruises and told me I needed help. How could someone as small as she was defend herself? I was in absolute shock. She attacked me and sustained bruises when I pushed her off of me. After this episode, I knew I need to get her out of my life.

I got a solicitor to try to remove her from my house. He sent two letters requesting that she vacate the premises. She ignored the first two letters until my solicitor sent a third one stating that he was going to petition the courts. She responded claiming she had been very busy on her Masters exams and that is why she ignored the letters. This was a lie as she had completed her program a year ago. She requested that all legal matters be halted so she could have ‘space and time’ to acquire my interest in the house.’ She then strutted her stuff around the house as if to say, ‘I’m not going anywhere – screw you’ and engaged the neighbours in what was going on.

My solicitor then responded by telling her she has 1 week to come to an agreement and that if she does not not that [I] will cancel the electricity, house insurance, life insurance, waste management and remove fittings, furnishings and appliances from the premises. She received this document 2 days ago. I know because of her behavior.

For the last 48 hours, she has been slamming doors, sitting in front of me, humming, getting up at all hours to take over the bathroom to cause me to be late for work and playing loud music to prevent me sleeping. Prior to this, there had only been one rage outburst in the last three months. I think purely because I have not engaged on any level with he. I have a huge sense of foreboding, which I can’t shake. I used to be really good at assessing people, but all I seem to think about is getting rid of her and what her next move is going to be?

Can you advise me in anyway at all?

Thank you for your site. It is enlightening and comforting to know I’m not losing my mind.

Ruth

Dear Ruth,

By your description, this woman sounds like a total nightmare and probably has one of the Cluster B personality disorders. Cluster B personalities rarely see themselves and their abusive, destructive behavior as the problem; it’s usually someone else’s fault. Additionally, Cluster B individuals refuse to hold themselves accountable for their behavior most of the time and have zero to little capacity for empathy, which seems to apply to your girlfriend.

Don’t beat yourself up for staying in a relationship with this woman. Your girlfriend is beating you up emotionally and physically enough for the both of you. Now is the time for you to get very clear, attend to the business at hand, protect yourself, your reputation and your property and focus on how great your future will be without this woman.

When you try to end your relationship with this type of person she will typically escalate the craziness and abuse and can become physically violent. Rejection is a grave blow to this kind of woman’s ego. In her mind, she’s perfect and you’re the one with the problems. How dare you leave her? Who do you think you are? She’ll show you, by god. Even if she’s the one who initiates the break-up—it doesn’t matter. These women often approach divorce and break-ups with a “winner takes all” mentality.

Ending a relationship with a woman like your girlfriend also represents a loss of control—over you, the relationship and her distorted view of reality. It challenges her world view and self view. These women react by amping up the craziness in a frenzied effort to get you back under their control. When she realizes she can no longer control you, she will then set out to try and destroy you.

She will try to take all your money, all your possessions, your relationships and your reputation. The goal is to have you walking around wearing nothing but suspenders and a barrel and to be shunned as an object of ridicule. It’s the equivalent of a General publically ripping the stripes off of a soldier for insubordination. Some targets of abuse cave at this point and try to appease the beast—many of these women can be truly terrifying when backed into a corner and/or if they feel like they’re about to lose control and/or be abandoned.

The menacing behavior you describe in regard to your girlfriend playing loud music so you can’t sleep at night, etc., reminds me of what the FBI did to the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas back in the 1990s. She’s trying to scare you and/or make being in your home so unpleasant as to drive you out of it.

Talking trash to your neighbors and shaming you at your place of work are classic smear campaign tactics and is common behavior for women like your girlfriend. These women will often tell the most outrageous lies and make up abuse allegations to anyone who will listen—your family, friends, boss, colleagues and authorities. Your best defense is a good offense. Tell the people in your life what’s going on. Tell them you were embarrassed to admit that you were in an abusive relationship and didn’t want to involve anyone else. There’s no shame in this.

Abusive women like your girlfriend maintain their power by keeping their abusive behavior hidden from the outside world. Exposing these women for who and what they are diminishes their control. Oftentimes the best antidote for abuse is to shine a light on it. Some people will believe her lies. However, the people who know and care about you will be supportive and want to help.

My advice is: Don’t cave. It will only reinforce her bad behavior. Stand your ground. Don’t engage in the content of her accusations and insults. Calmly observe her as you would an out of control 5-year old child. Protect yourself and strengthen your resolve. It’s the beginning of the end of your life with her and the beginning of a much better life without her. Metaphorically, it’s like slaying the dragon to attain the treasure. The treasure, in this case, is getting your life and your sanity back.

If you haven’t already, I’d invest in a small digital recorder to document her abuse. Conceal it on your person and don’t let her know you’re recording her. You might also want to consider hiding a video camera to record her antics. Then, when she engages in her truly abusive behavior again (the physical abuse and the loud music playing into the night) call the police, show them your evidence and have them remove her from your home.

The recordings may not be admissible in court, but you need physical evidence to prove her behavior. I’m not a lawyer, so consult with your solicitor about this. Don’t feel guilty about surreptitiously recording her abusive behavior. Women like your girlfriend don’t play fair, so you have to protect yourself while not breaking the law.

Is the house is in your name? If so, I don’t understand why you just can’t have her forcibly removed from the premises—especially if she’s not paying rent and doesn’t have a lease. Change the locks while she’s out and give the local police a head’s up that they can expect a call and some high drama. The fact that you supported her through school could gain you some leverage. Even if she isn’t working right now, you could threaten her with a claim on her future earnings. I’m sure you don’t want support money from her, but you could use the threat as leverage to get her out of the house and your life.

You may also want to consider inviting a friend or family member to stay with you until you get her out of the house. These types will often behave themselves in front of witnesses. Meanwhile, if you have any treasured keepsakes or other valuables, I’d quietly remove them from the house so that she can’t destroy them or steal them. I encourage you to also discuss these matters with your solicitor. Hope this helps.

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.

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.

How Do I Divorce My Abusive Wife?

April 26, 2010 157 comments

I received the following email from a man who has finally realized that he is in an abusive marriage and that he needs to divorce. He describes his abusive wife’s behavior and concludes by asking, “How do those of us entrenched in these horrific relationships get out?  What is the first step?” My reply follows:

Hello Dr. Tara

I’m so “happy” to have found your blog “A Shrink for Men” and have, within the last 12 hours, read every single article that you have published so far.

I am sitting at work having just spent the day doing absolutely nothing.  This isn’t because I’ve been moping over my wife’s last screaming and yelling fit, but because during my wife’s last outburst she took my work computer and tossed it to the floor, fatally damaging the disks and losing me many months worth of documents and emails.  Why such an extreme outburst?  I bought her a spiral bound notebook instead of a glued notebook – who would have thought? – and she became quite aggressive: “you cant do anything right!”, “I should have done it myself”, “you just don’t care!”, “you’re an a**hole”.  I made the mistake of telling her that I wasn’t taking this and that I would go upstairs and do some work.  That’s when the bomb went off.

Today, of course, I lied to my boss and said that I had tripped on a child’s toy and the laptop had slipped out of my hand.  How could I admit that my wife had grabbed it off my desk and lobbed it across a room?  There’s quite a bit of stigma attached to “not being able to control one’s own wife” and I’m not taking any risks.  As it is, I don’t think it really matters.  This marriage has put such a strain on me that my once fantastic career is in tatters and within the next few weeks I will be facing the dole queue.  I have watched myself go from being a successful, happy, professional with a lots of friends to a depressed, henpecked, debt-ridden, isolated man.

She is the absolute dictator of my life.  She controls my finances, who I see, what time I come home from work.  I have to take my shower by 10 o’clock, take off my shoes when I come into the house, feed/bathe the baby when I get home from my 12-hour working day, take care of said baby when she decides to go out with friends.  Failure to do any of these things results in insults, silent treatments, screaming, yelling.  Of course the content is usually the same: I am worthless, I do not take responsibility for my family, I am lazy, I am inconsiderate, I do not listen, ad infinitum.  Any decision she makes is final and enforced while all of my decisions are up for debate.

Oh, I didn’t mention that she doesn’t work in any real sense.  Last year she had the idea that she wanted to run a web business, so I helped her set it up (read: I did most of the work).  Our baby is in day-care so that she can work, and I can honestly say that within the last 3 months, I don’t think she has put a single hour into her business.  That’s not to say that she’s not interested in her work as all her friends know that she’s a “business owner” and that she “has an accountant”.  All of this goes to her somewhat self-processed independence.  She hasn’t brought in a penny since the business started.  Of course, I don’t see a penny of my quite significant salary.  It all goes into maintaining the house, our child and whichever whim she’s on (new front door, lumberjack to unnecessarily chop down trees, in-house child minder, groceries for her out of work sister….)

I have let her ride roughshod over me for so long that my finances and support network are gone.  House payments will be due, there is my son to take care of, and I could well be out of work within a few weeks.

So my question is simple.  How do those of us entrenched in these horrific relationships get out?  What is the first step?

Kind regards,
Glen

Hi Glen,

What is the first step to getting out of this kind of relationship? Be very clear about what you want to do and then pursue it clearly, purposefully and strategically. Don’t harbor any illusions about divorcing this kind of woman. A difficult wife equals a difficult divorce. Think of all her worst personality traits and then multiply them by 1,000. The divorce process is designed to be adversarial and will compound her entitlement issues, deceptions, distortions, vindictive streak and general cruelty.

Here’s what I tell my clients who are about to begin the divorce process:

1. Don’t tip your hand. Don’t let your wife know what you’re thinking about doing. Many men make the mistake of trying to be noble and honest. They believe they’re obligated to be up front with their abusive wives and tell them what they’re planning. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Alternatively, many men think telling their abusive wife that they want a divorce will scare her straight. It might get her to be nice to you for a short time, but it won’t last. Plus, that gives her time to make her own plans and or stage a drama and call the police on you.

First, you can’t be straightforward with someone who has no sense of right and wrong other than she’s always right and you’re always wrong. You can’t be open and transparent with someone who deliberately tries to hurt you. If you offer this information to her on a silver platter, she will use it to hurt you. This is a battle for your financial, physical and psychological freedom. Do not underestimate how low she will go just to “make you pay.”

This kind of woman views divorce as the ultimate rejection. It’s a huge narcissistic injury. The primary reaction to a narcissistic injury is rage and violence. The violence may not be physical. However, purposefully setting out to bankrupt you and destroy your relationships with others—including your own children—is an especially cruel form of violence.

You need time to plan without her trying to manipulate and railroad you. I know it’s difficult. It was probably hard for you to set and enforce boundaries with this woman during your marriage. It is imperative that you and your attorney do so during the divorce.

Lastly, don’t talk to mutual friends and family members about this unless you’re absolutely certain that they won’t betray your confidence. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to keep her in the dark during the earliest stages. Don’t think of it as lying; think of it as not volunteering information. Don’t fall into the familiar pattern of being her hapless victim when it comes to divorce.

2. Do your homework. Visit divorce and father’s rights websites. Schedule consultations with attorneys in your area. You want to find a lawyer who:

  • Has experience and is respected in your local family court.
  • Has experience working with high conflict personalities. That’s lawyer talk for crazy Cluster B women and men.
  • Has experience working with negative advocates. Controlling abusive women gravitate toward attorneys who are adversarial (or more adversarial than the norm), drag out the legal process (to inflate fees) and encourage them to make up false abuse allegations. Water seeks its own level, so you want representation that knows how to handle “peers” who engage in what should be illegal law practices.
  • Inspires realistic confidence. How your attorney handles your divorce will impact your quality of life for years to come—including access to your children if applicable. Don’t go for the cheapest representation (by the way, the most expensive attorneys aren’t necessarily the best). If your attorney is incompetent, an appeaser or doesn’t have experience with high conflict personalities, it will end up costing you far more than attorney’s fees in the long run.

3. Documentation. Start keeping a record of abusive incidents—especially if they occur in front of the children. Invest in a small digital recorder to keep on your person. If you do a lot of direct childcare, keep a record of how many days you drive them to school, bathe them, prepare their meals, watch them, attend parent-teacher meetings, etc. This will serve as evidence when your wife later claims that she does most or all of the childcare and should thus have full custody.

The digital recorder will also come in handy if your wife is the type who likes to call the police. Remember unless you have some record of what goes on behind closed doors, it’s your word against hers. You can be the one with the black eye and cut lip and the cops will still cart you off to the county jail.

4. Protect your ass-ets. Many abusive woman take financial control in their marriages—especially when they don’t actually have a job. This has always mystified me. Nevertheless, if your wife has kept you in the dark regarding your finances, it’s time to get up to speed.

Begin to quietly (i.e., don’t alert her to what you’re doing) gather copies of any and all financial records that you can get your hands on. Scan them and put them on multiple disks or thumbdrives that you can store in a safe place. Create a new email that she can’t access. Get a personal mail box if necessary. If she monitors your calls, get a new pay-as-you-go phone for divorce related communication and keep the phone in a safe place. Don’t surf divorce websites on your home computer if she tracks your internet activities. Use your work computer or go to the public library.

These four steps are just the beginning of the process. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst possible case scenarios. Don’t be duped by your wife. Many of these women claim that they want to amicably separate, but their actions belie their words. You don’t want to be wondering 6 months into the divorce process how she managed to trick you and twist things around just like she did in the marriage. Figure out what leverage you have and then maximize it.

Rest assured, if your wife has shown you little to no empathy, has treated you unfairly and made outrageous demands during your marriage; she will be the same, if not worse, during your divorce. Even if she is the one who initiates the divorce, this kind of woman typically has a seek and destroy attitude. You know too much about her and for that, you must be punished and discredited. If this kind of woman “wins” in the divorce, she takes it as proof that she’s in the “right”—the “injured party”—and you’re the bad guy. Your assets and shared children become her war trophies.

Pretend you’re planning to invade the beaches of Normandy. That’s the degree of thoroughness and secrecy that’s required when trying to free yourself from one of these women. Also, don’t let her push your buttons. If you lose your cool at any time throughout the process, it will be used against you. Negative advocates have been known to coach their female clients on “how to get him to hit you.” It’s sick, it happens and you need to be prepared for anything. The good news is that once you get through the process, you can start to rebuild your life rather than let her stress and torture you into an early grave.

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.

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.

No Contact Includes Not Keeping Tabs on your Ex Via Facebook, Twitter, Blogs or MySpace

April 9, 2010 184 comments

For those of you who are following the No Contact Rule and have stopped calling, emailing, texting and staging accidental run-ins or have stopped responding to calls, emails, texts and are actively avoiding probable run-ins, congratulations! It’s difficult to remove the hooks of an abusive ex—especially if they’re personality disordered (e.g., narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or sociopathic).

If you’ve recently broken up with a crazy and/or abusive wife or girlfriend, the No Contact Rule is explained in the following articles:

Many readers have shared that while they’ve been able to go no contact and stop telephonic and electronic communication with their exes, they’re still visiting their exes’ Facebook, MySpace and other social network pages, blogs and Twitter feeds. I hate to break it to you, but visiting your ex’s various web pages—even if there’s no interaction—is a form of contact and is just as unhealthy as talking, emailing or texting with her. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

Visiting your ex’s web pages is worse than going through your old scrapbook, photos, letters or emails or mentally revisiting whatever happy moments or infrequent episodes of normalcy that you shared. These events are in the past. Actively remembering them is an unhealthy and masochistic form of nostalgia.

Keeping yourself abreast of her current activities online creates fresh pain for you every time you do it. The same holds true for well-intentioned news updates. If friends, colleagues or family members are carrying tales about her latest misadventures, respectfully and firmly tell them that you prefer not to hear about her anymore. The pain is supposed to stop once the relationship ends. Monitoring your ex’s ongoing shenanigans has several unhealthy and unproductive consequences.

1. Rubbing salt in your wounds. An abusive narcissistic, histrionic, borderline or unspecified crazy ex will use her online presence to:

  • Rub your nose in her brand new, “most amazing boyfriend ever!
  • Rub your nose in her “new found happiness and peace” that she’s never known before.
  • Trash you publicly.
  • Use your old photos, etc., as normalcy props.

Observing these four behaviors or some variation of them will only hurt you and/or make you crazy, so stop taking the bait.

2. Giving you a false sense of connection. When a relationship ends, most people need to go through a distancing period in order to recover from the loss. If your ex wasn’t abusive and your relationship was basically healthy, perhaps you can be friends some day in the future. A relationship with an abusive person is neither healthy nor normal. Therefore, there is no basis for a future friendship.

Perhaps she’ll keep you on a string for future ego boosts or to torment you if she’s bored, but that’s not friendship—it’s more of the same old same old that caused the relationship to unravel in the first place. Keeping tabs on her keeps you connected to her; even if it’s only morbid curiosity. Surely there’s a better way to spend your time that will help you feel good.

3. Giving you new information to ruminate upon. Again, there are better ways to spend your time. If you really want her out of your heart, mind and life, keeping abreast of her most recent train wrecks and distortions is not the way to do it.

4. Falling into the trap of analysis paralysis. This is another form of unproductive rumination. Why is she like this? Why couldn’t she be happy with me? What’s wrong with her? What could I have done differently? How could she move on so quickly with another guy? Why does she still have photos of us together on her profile? Why? Why? Why?

You can torture yourself endlessly with these questions. Over-analyzing her and the relationship is not the way forward. It won’t change anything. Furthermore, if trying to make meaning out of her crazy and meaningless behavior isn’t bringing you peace and closure, you need to knock it off.

There may very well be good reasons why your ex is the way she is. Ultimately, however, the reasons why she is abusive do not matter. What matters is how she treats the people she claims to love. Abuse is wrong no matter the reasons. There’s no excuse for abuse. It’s a slippery slope from finding excuses for her abusive behavior and making excuses and enabling her abusive behavior.

5. Keeping your anger and hurt alive. She’s not worth your sanity and your happiness. You have a right to be angry for the way she treated you. However, nursing your anger by finding new reasons to be upset is not productive. Feel your anger. Express it in healthy ways and then let it and her go.

6. Continuing to feed the beast it’s favorite treat: Attention. Even if you don’t respond to her online attention seeking behavior, you’re still giving her attention by visiting these sites.

Legitimate Reasons to Keep Social Media Surveillance. There are some legitimate reasons to keep tabs on your ex via the Internet. For example, if you’re gathering evidence for a divorce and/or custody case, if she is making physical threats and you need evidence for a restraining order or if you want to file a libel lawsuit for an online smear campaign/cyberstalking. If you aren’t compiling evidence for an impending court case, to initiate a protective order or because you’re concerned about your children’s welfare, there’s no reason to visit her profiles (including Internet dating profiles), blogs or follow her Tweets.

Outta Sight, Outta Mind.

Perhaps this isn’t true at first, but it’s the ultimate goal. Unless visiting her web pages makes you feel good—i.e., “I’m so glad I’m not with this wingnut anymore“—or you’re gathering evidence for legal purposes, there’s absolutely no reason to do so. Find a buddy to IM, call or hang out with when you feel tempted to click the mouse. Go for a run. Play a video game. Find something to distract yourself with until the urge passes and you feel strong again. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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.

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.

Abusive Women, Cults, Brainwashing and Deprogramming, Part II

March 17, 2010 237 comments

In Abusive Women, Cults, Braiwashing and Deprogramming, Part I, I discussed the shared characteristics of cult victims and abused men and the similarities between abusive women’s courtship behaviors and cult recruitment. This post explains common techniques cults and emotional predators use to break you down and control you.

Techniques Used by Cults and Abusive Women

1. Isolation. Emotional predators and cult recruiters isolate you from the outside world. They make you totally dependent upon them, which makes you more susceptible to their distorted reality and other abusive behaviors. They “cut [you] off from the outside world. . . to produce intense introspection, confusion, loss of perspective and a distorted sense of reality. The members of the cult become the person’s only social contact and feedback mechanism” (Layton). Sound familiar?

Abusive intimate partners isolate you in a multitude of ways. For example, they explicitly forbid you from seeing or speaking with your friends and family. They start smear campaigns against them—”Your family is so controlling. They’re dysfunctional. It’s unhealthy for us to be around them. Your friends are a bad influence. They’re disrespectful to me. They’re trying to break us up. It’s me or them.” They schedule activities or plan crises that conflict with holidays or special occasions — e.g., she gets a migraine when you’re supposed to have dinner with your parents or desperately needs your help when you’re supposed to go out with your friends. Spending time with friends and family means you don’t really care about her, don’t respect her, she’s not important to you, you’re a momma’s boy, you’re an immature jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.

2. Thought Stopping. Cults use methods like chanting, meditating and repetitive activities to induce a state of suggestibility and to help the target shut off their ability to engage in critical thinking. Abusive women use non-stop talking, verbal tirades, rage episodes, chanting and withdrawing in cold silence which causes you to obsessively ruminate about what you did to upset her rather than wondering what the hell is wrong with her. Thought stopping techniques include anything that gets you to turn off your better judgment, reasoning and any counter narratives such as, “This is nuts and I need to get out of here.”

3. Induced Dependency. “Cults demand absolute, unquestioning devotion, loyalty and submission. A cult member’s sense of self is systematically destroyed. Ultimately, feelings of worthlessness and “evil” become associated with independence and critical thinking, and feelings of warmth and love become associated with unquestioning submission” (Layton). The same is true of abusive relationships. Taking care of yourself and healthy pursuits are seen as a betrayal to her. Love means control.

Inducing dependency employs several techniques including:

a. Fear and Guilt. This involves sharing secrets, fears and other intimate “confessions.” Abusers use this information to create instant intimacy and to keep their targets in an emotionally vulnerable state by using covert and overt threats and alternating punishment and reward. She accomplishes this by:

  • Punishing you for any doubts, challenges to her “authority” and your ties to friends, family and colleagues through criticism and alienation. They are bad and you are bad if you continue these associations. You are bad if you question, challenge or disagree with her. She turns everything around so that you feel bad for speaking the truth and pointing out the facts of a situation. To quote a client’s wife, “The truth is mean. Facts are mean.” I kid you not. I heard the audio recording. You receive “love” or are “rewarded” (or aren’t actively abused) when you renounce your other relationships and your own will.
  • Making you feel bad, embarrassed, worthless, ashamed, guilty or afraid to express any special skills, talents or gifts you have. They’ll punish you for being creative, musical, outgoing, funny, business savvy, competent or any quality you possess that makes you feel good and that she envies. This causes identity confusion and diminishes your self-worth.
  • Alternating love and praise with contempt and punishment to keep you unbalanced and confused. This creates feelings of self-doubt and a desire to “work harder” to please her. It also makes you cling to belief that the kind and loving person is her real self and that the abusive behaviors are an aberration. In reality, the opposite is true.
  • Making you publicly confess your “sins.” This subjects you to public scorn and ridicule, which induces self-doubt, shame and a sense of worthlessness. You are loved again when you publicly commit to devoting yourself to her and her happiness. Several men have told me they were coerced into making public confessions about how they “wronged” or “sinned” against their girlfriend/wife via Facebook and other social media websites. It’s crazy. They did it in a vain attempt to finally prove how much they loved these women. If your partner tries to get you to publicly shame yourself, you need to end the relationship. This is beyond abusive. A person who really loves you protects you from public scorn; they don’t subject you to it.
  • Putting you in no-win situations. Creating double-binds to ensure that you fail. No matter what you do, you’re wrong. This creates a sense of learned helplessness and increases your dependency.
  • Punishing you for the sins of others. If your mother is disrespectful to her, it’s your fault. If the kids are misbehaving, it’s your fault. If one of the other school mothers snubs her, it’s your fault. If something doesn’t go her way it’s your fault. If anything goes wrong, it’s your fault.
  • Holding you to unrealistic and super-human expectations of perfection. This keeps you in a perpetual state of jumping through hoops in order to make yourself worthy of her. When in reality nothing you ever do will be good enough. You will never measure up.

b. Sensory Overload and Deprivation. She dismantles your self-perceptions, beliefs and values by telling you that you’re wrong, bad, sick, dysfunctional, angry, selfish or evil. She then feeds you her version of reality—how you should feel and how you should act “if you really love me…” or “a real man would…”—in a relentless torrent with little or no chance for critical examination. She accomplishes this by:

  • Making you account for every minute of your time and monopolizing your time You have no time to yourself or with others. If you’re not actively paying attention to her, you’re performing tasks for her. This leaves you little time to focus on yourself or to engage in effective reality testing.
  • Criticizing everything you do. This includes criticizing what you eat, how you eat, what you wear, how you talk, how you laugh, how you take care of the children, how you drive, how you do the dishes, how you fold the laundry, how much money you make, how undesirable you are, etc.
  • Stripping away your autonomy. She decides where you’ll go on vacation, how to discipline the children and how to spend the money you earn. When she gives you the illusion of choice, it’s usually a set-up for failure or disappointment. Alternatively, she doesn’t offer suggestions. When you ask for guidance, she makes you feel stupid for not intuitively knowing what she wants you to do.
  • Depriving you of sleep, sustenance and other basic physiological and safety needs. This includes sex, money, shelter, stability, material resources and emotional support. This keeps you destabilized and vulnerable.
  • Taking control of your finances including credit cards, bank accounts, stocks and other assets and making you account for every nickel you spend. Taking charge of the finances is another control technique. If she controls the cash or you’re worried about losing your assets, it makes it difficult for you to leave. If you try to hold her financially accountable, she accuses you of being controlling.

4. A Sense of Dread. Once dependency is induced, you develop a persistent sense of dread. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop and are hypervigiliant to triggering the displeasure or wrath of your “leader.” If you don’t keep her happy—an impossible task, by the way, she makes your life a living hell.

She rages at you, belittles you, denies you affection or ignores you as if you don’t exist. Because she’s isolated you, you may not feel like there’s anyone you can turn to for support. You probably believe no one else will ever love you and that you couldn’t live without her. You try to “act right” and learn how not to trigger her.

“Indoctrination, or thought reform, is a long process that never really ends. Members are continually subjected to these techniques. . . Some adjust well to it after a period of time, embracing their new role as “group member” and casting aside their old sense of independence. For others, it’s a perpetually stressful existence” (Layton). Many men become desensitized to the abusive behaviors and let the fear of real and imagined punishment keep them stuck. Breaking free of a cult or an abusive relationship can be difficult and often terrifying, but it must be done if you want a chance at health and happiness.

Next week, I’ll explore different ways to “break the spell” and free yourself abusive partner’s control. Meanwhile, I repeat, don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

References:

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.

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.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,029 other followers