How to Have a Healthy Relationship After Being With an Emotionally Abusive, Borderline or Narcissistic Woman
The following is a comment posted by a man who was married to an emotionally abusive woman with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). His advice on how to heal from and get over an emotionally abusive relationship in order to prepare yourself for a new, healthy relationship is so excellent, that I’m posting it as its own blog.
I stumbled upon this site when I was doing research on how to initiate Mother’s Day events between my ex and my children when their mother is emotionally abusive and has not had a consistent relationship with her children in many (16) months. As I began to read the blog entries, I was struck by the fact that few men had posted. This is an excellent site for men , but only women seem to frequent it.
I am a 45-year old man who finalized an 18 month separation/divorce a year ago. I spent my whole relationship hoping my wife would “grow up” and had no understanding of BPD and its impact. What I got from the relationship was adoration, but not love and I mistakenly confused the two as the same thing for many years. I loved that she adored me, I loved being the savior, I loved having the answers, I loved giving my ex-wife the life that she never had as a child – but that was not a loving adult relationship. It was a parent-child relationship.
I would have continued in this cycle for who knows how long if she had not released me through her behavior during the separation. I give thanks to god that it happened and that I have the opportunity to grow and make changes in my life and emotional well being.
I believe the following:
1. Recognize that you were attracted to this person for a reason. Most likely that you were comfortable with the behavior you received from them. Reach deep into your childhood and recognize parental behaviors that might have felt similar.
2. Do not get into a relationship too quickly (I am talking years). When you have been emotionally battered for years, you need time to heal before you try to jump into another relationship. Also recognize that jumping too quickly might push you back into a relationship with your ex-wife. You may begin to compare the new relationships before you are emotionally ready. In-turn you may go back to what feels emotionally comfortable for you – BIG MISTAKE.
3. You must end your relationship with the ex-wife. As adult as you may think you are being by developing a “friendship”, this is not a normal adult relationship and you need to end the behavior patterns in order to move on. If children are involved, communicate by email with very direct, but not curt communications. Do not initiate or engage in any dramatic episodes even on email – Kind, Direct, Simple, the end.
4. Do not identify with being victimized. Be a big boy and realize that you made decisions and you knew the outcomes whether you admitted them to yourself or not.
5. Frequent a therapist. Try to understand why YOU made the choices that YOU did. It is not always easy, but definitely worth it. I remember one time my therapist told me to “stop going back into the museum”. What she meant was stop looking at the past. There is a time for this, but not too soon. What I told her was that the museum was a mess. Valuable artifacts had been broken, overturned and everything was in shambles. I needed to go back into the museum no matter how painful it was and clean it up. Once it is clean, lock the door and only visit it on the occasion when you determine a better spot for a memento.
It has been 2 1/2 years since I separated from my ex-wife. I have concentrated on my children and normalizing their lives and my own. Recently, people have begun to ask me if I am ready to date since they know someone they would like for me to meet. I feel I am now ready to take that next step and will let you all know how it is progressing.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I am ready to have an adult relationship and my future seems wide open and full of possibilities. However, I have to admit, there is a little piece of me that is afraid I will be attracted to the same type of person even though the greater part of me is determined not to do it again.
—Man with ex-wife with BPD
Thank you for reading and leaving such a heartfelt and well considered comment. It’s all the more impactful when given by someone who’s had your firsthand experiences.
Men who’ve been involved with an abusive woman (or women) desperately want a healthy relationship. Yet, they’re not going to get there unless they do exactly what you describe above. Even men who wait before jumping into a new relationship can muck it up with a healthy women if they maintain a ‘friendship’ with the ex, don’t do the work to heal from the abuse and/or don’t connect the dots regarding their attraction to abusive women and past relationship choices.
I’ve always found the maintaining a friendship thing puzzling. Would you invite the man who waterboarded you and beat you in prison over for Sunday barbecue after you’ve been released? “Maintaining a friendship” is code for “not ready to let go.”
I’m very happy that you managed to end your relationship and put yourself back together. You’re living proof for other men in similar straits that they can also break the cycle of abuse. I think you’re going to be ok and will find a healthy, loving and reciprocal relationship. You’re an expert on women like your ex now. Pay attention to the warning signs when you meet a new woman. Here’s what I recommend:
How to Avoid Getting Involved with Another Crazy, Emotionally Abusive Woman
1) Do a little gentle digging (i.e., no police interrogation tactics) about her past relationships and why they didn’t work out. Does she blame all of her exes and make them out to be bastards? If so, steer clear. You want to hear a potential love interest take some responsibility for the demise of her past relationships. “I was young and immature. I didn’t know what I wanted. I realize now that I…”
Taking responsibility for her choices and holding herself accountable is a good indication that you’re probably dealing with a grown-up. However, don’t confuse self-blame and responsibility. If she trashes herself, puts herself down and blames herself for her failed relationships, get out while the getting’s good.
2) Beware of an inexplicable, instant, powerful and overwhelming attraction to a woman or feel like you already know her because of an instant connection. Odds are you do already know her. She’s probably just another embodiment of the old issues. Yes, instant chemistry exists and this new woman might be as wonderful as she appears to be, but go slowly.
The wonderful, but illusory façade of emotionally abusive women usually cracks fairly soon into the relationship, but gradually, which is why so many men minimize, overlook, deny and/or excuse the abusive behaviors. She seems amazing and then there’s an attack out of nowhere. She goes back to normal for a few weeks and then there’s another incident and another and another and another. In most cases, the period of time between abusive episodes becomes shorter and shorter. Don’t wait that long to get out.
For example, the two of you meet and she’s great. Two weeks go by and she has her first rage episode in which she accuses you of being insensitive or selfish or something equally unfounded. You’re bewildered and left wondering, “What just happened?” This is when you should go on high alert and pay very close attention to what she does next:
- Does she pretend like it didn’t happen? Does she minimize or deny that it happened? This is called gaslighting and it’s abusive. Get out now.
- Does she apologize prettily, cry and say she was having a bad day at work and her boss was being mean to her and then when you didn’t call her at the exact minute she was expecting you to call and she just couldn’t take it anymore and snapped? Don’t fall for it. This isn’t really an apology. She’s not taking responsibility for her bad behavior. Rather, she’s blaming her boss and you. Everyone has a bad day from time to time and maybe you want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Ok, but when it happens a second and a third time, she’s not just having a bad day, this is who she is.
- Does she blatantly blame you for her bad behavior without even feigning an empty apology? There’s no gray area here. She’s an abusive personality and you need to walk away.
- Does she cry and beg you not to leave her, flushed in high drama, saying things like “I don’t know what I’ll do if you leave me. No one has ever made me feel this way. I don’t want to go on without you. Please don’t leave me!?” Get a restraining order, change your phone number and get a new email account. This is probably full throttle BPD.
3) Beware of grand gestures or extreme selfishness. If she gives you an extravagant gift or orchestrates some incredible fantasy date within a few weeks of knowing her, be alarmed. If she expects you to take care of everything, make all the plans, entertain her, pay for everything and doesn’t reciprocate, be alarmed. The former shows inappropriate boundaries and she’s probably working from the angle of “now he’ll owe me” and the latter indicates you will always do for her and get nothing in return except complaints and criticism. Nothing will ever be good enough for this kind of woman.
4) Getting too close, too fast—BOUNDARIES. Another warning signal is if she tries to insinuate herself into your other relationships and personal space too quickly. For example, you’ve been dating for two weeks, she finds out it’s you dad’s birthday that weekend and buys him a gift. Or she has roommate troubles and could she stay at your place temporarily after only knowing you a month. Or she wants to introduce you to her family in record time. This is evidence that she has poor or zero boundaries and it only goes downhill from here.
When you meet a kind, loving and healthy woman, it’ll probably feel a little strange to you at first. That’s normal. Ride it out. Remind yourself this is what you want and let yourself enjoy it. Consciously make the decision to be open to it and you’ll get there. Relationships really can be that mutually rewarding and satisfying.
You’ve already undertaken the two most difficult steps: You extracted yourself physically and psychologically from the cycle of abuse. You seem to have an incredible amount of awareness and maturity from your experience. I have every faith that if you take your time, exercise good judgment and open yourself up to being treated well, you’ll do just fine.
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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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- Can a Man Who Was Emotionally Abused by his Narcissistic or Borderline Wife Have a Relationship with a Healthy Woman?
- 25 Signs your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend is Traumatizing You
- Can a Man Break the Cycle of Emotional Abuse After Being with a Crazy Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend?
- Traumatic Love: Is your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Making You Sick?
- Ending a Painful Relationship and Starting Over
- How to Make Changes in your Relationship and Life
- Why We Stay in Bad Relationships
Still from Shawshank Redemption on 100ker.