Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Marriage, relationships > When Love Hurts: The Emotionally Abused Man

When Love Hurts: The Emotionally Abused Man

Does your relationship with your girlfriend or wife leave you feeling bad about yourself? Do you frequently feel misunderstood, rejected, vilified and devalued in your relationship? Do you feel trapped or stuck? Do you believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally abused by women?

Believe it. It happens all the time. The stereotype of an abusive relationship is that of a man physically beating a woman. Society has yet to acknowledge the vast number of women who emotionally abuse men.

In fact, the men who are being abused oftentimes don’t realize that their wife’s or girlfriend’s behavior is abusive.

2569321033_221a5b6a20-copy-2They use different terms to describe this behavior like nagging, bossy, difficult, strong-willed, tough, harsh, argumentative, “passionate,” or aggressive, which they always follow up with some excuse such as, “She had a really tough childhood. She was abused.” Lots of people have had less than ideal beginnings, but they don’t take it out on others in their adult relationships.

Men have been brainwashed into believing that it’s normal for women to be irrational, moody, emotional, and demanding.

Most men accept these behaviors under the guise that a woman is ‘just expressing her feelings’ and men are uncomfortable with because ‘men aren’t good at expressing their feelings.’ This is ridiculous.  This behavior makes men uncomfortable, just as it would make most women on the receiving end of it uncomfortable because it’s abusive.

Men, you need to wake up and stop blinding yourself to the obvious.

If you walk on eggshells around your partner because you’re afraid she’ll flip out on you for minor transgressions or simply because she’s in a bad mood, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If nothing you do, no matter how hard you try pleases her, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she regularly puts you down, criticizes or demeans you through name-calling and humiliation, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she shuts you out, gives you the cold shoulder or refuses to have sex with you in order to control your behavior, you’re experiencing emotional abuse.

There’s no shame in admitting this. In fact, it’s your wife or girlfriend who ought to be ashamed.

Emotional abuse is like a cancer that eats away at your psyche until you’re left feeling powerless, worthless, anxious and/or depressed. Most of the time it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it. You explain away the first few tantrums, emotional outbursts and rage episodes. You take her criticisms to heart because you want to please her.

You’d give anything for her to go back to the way she was during the honeymoon phase of your relationship when she was fun, sweet and loving and therein lies the problem.

2569321033_221a5b6a20-copy-2-copyShe’s not abusive all the time. Sometimes she’s nice. Now and again, she’ll even make a grand loving gesture and you convince yourself that the relationship isn’t that bad. Abusive personality types frequently have a very charismatic and seductive side. If she was all bad all the time, you’d have never become involved with her, right? Their charming side is how they suck people in. Over time, the charm wears thin and their abusive traits dominate.

You can’t fix this. You can’t make her stop. You can’t make your relationship better. You can go to all the therapy sessions in the world and read all the How to Understand Women books on Amazon, but you won’t be able to change her behavior. Why?

First, it’s highly unlikely that your girlfriend or wife will see her behavior as abusive because “everything’s your fault” and, most importantly, her abusive behaviors are how she gets what she wants. It’s a learned and highly effective behavioral technique, which, even if she gains awareness about it, will be terribly difficult (if not impossible) for her to break.

The goal of an abuser is control and the way they control you is through emotional abuse.

Don’t want to admit you’re being controlled or abused? Ok. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you spending more and more time at work because you don’t want to go home?
  • Have you dropped out of touch with friends and family? When you communicate periodically, do you smile and tell them everything’s great as you feel the knot in your stomach tighten and the lump in your throat harden?
  • Do you feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop?
  • Have you withdrawn from life while retreating into alternate realities, e.g., books, films or the Internet?
  • Are you experiencing feelings of shame, worthlessness, low self-esteem or emotional numbness?
  • Are you experiencing physical symptoms like chronic stomach pain, nausea, headaches, digestive problems, insomnia or fatigue that your doctor can’t diagnose beyond “may be stress-related?”
  • Are you drinking more or using recreational drugs more than you used to? Are you using them to escape from or numb yourself to the unhappiness of your situation?
  • Do you feel unlovable? Like something’s “wrong” with you or that you’re “bad” or “crazy?” Do you worry that if you left your partner that no one else would want you?
  • Do you experience symptoms of depression, including thoughts of suicide?
  • Do you engage in risky behaviors in which your death would be considered “accidental” like reckless driving, riding your bike alone through rough terrain, going into dangerous neighborhoods,or walking into traffic without looking?

If you answered “yes” to more than one of these questions it’s highly likely that you’re suffering the effects of emotional abuse. Most often women (and men) with these traits either have Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and/or Narcissistic Personality Disorder characteristics, if not full blown personality disorders. These psychiatric conditions are extremely difficult to treat.

All four can be extremely emotionally abusive types who are incapable of feeling empathy or holding themselves accountable, which does not bode well for you.

You need to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life being treated like this or if you want a chance at real love and happiness. You should probably seek some form of formal support to:

  1. Help resurrect your feelings of self-esteem and worth.
  2. Understand why you were attracted to this woman in the first place so you don’t end up in another abusive relationship again.
  3. Learn some behavioral techniques to deal and cope with these behaviors.
  4. Help you decide if you want to end this relationship and, if so, support you through it.


Dr Tara J Palmatier_Shrink4Men_02Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.

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Photo credits: Jekyll and Hyde by That Damned Redhead on flickr.

  1. artzygirl
    June 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Macinaw, I understand the anxiety and pain you are in. It is very scary to take that first step “out”. My recommendation is NOT to wait. That will get you nowhere and only deeper into pain. Yes, things will get rough, but they will get better for the long term.

  2. Macinaw
    June 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you. I will keep you posted. I know one option may be to wait. I will see how it goes.

    • jp
      June 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm


      Taking action is a wonderful antidote to depression and feelings of powerlessness.

      Take it one step at a time. You don’t have to hire the first attorney you meet…most give free initial consultations so shop around until you find one that feels like a good fit. You want someone who’s in your corner, understands high-conflict spouses/divorces, and will work with the constraints of your financial situation.

      Good luck,

  3. melove54
    June 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Glad to hear you’re taking the first step, and I would not hesitate to mention that your wife is potentially, personality disordered. If he has any experience, or knows colleagues that have, he will know how to proceed. If you follow through with the divorce, you will see what I mean. She will be relentless in her pursuits to discredit you, and possibly use the children against you. She cares only about herself. Good luck on your consultation.

  4. Macinaw
    June 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Of course, she said this while walking through the Dairy Queen lobby. The realtionship with each child is different. The younger boy is with us always. He is what I call a typical 10 year old. He likes his fun, loves his “daddy” (I put it this way because his biological father is not in the picture and wants nothing to do with him. He won’t even acknowledge him when they are in the same room.) He likes to help when I am working on a car or something. He seems to want to genuinely learn. He is at an age, it seems, where he is no longer a small child, but not yet an adolescent. He seems to be torn between playing old games with small children, and doing things “the big kids” like to do.

    That being said, the other three are not necessarily with me…or anyone else for that matter. They are as self-centered and self-seeking as their mother. They will go with whomever has the better deal to them. She plays them the same way she plays everyone else.

    The oldest wanted to go to the gym with his dad today. She refused to take him claiming that his dad is “kissing his a** right now” in order to influence the boy. This may be true, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. However, since this something she would do, it follows that her ex would do the same, does it not?

    I have a phone appointment today with an attorney. I will need to think about what I do next following that consultation.

    • Ace
      June 27, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      Hi TonyJ,

      I think the putting down of your thoughtfulness, ‘Card & Flowers’ is the pits, and the whole ‘were did the money come from’ again it seems to be a common trait to degrade gifts, I take it you didn’t get anything from her, apparently not even a good wish, it was your anniversary too :-)

  5. Macinaw
    June 25, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have come to the knowledge that my wife is not going to change. (About time, huh?) Yesterday was our anniversay. Now we are short on funds, so I went to Walmart, picked out a nice card and a nice plant, and went home. She was at her daughter’s softball game. Okay, she’s the coach. She should be there. I went there and showed her what I had. She smiled and said she was busy. I accepted it and went home. She later called and said that the team was going to Dairy Queen, to grab the boys and meet her there. We did. There the younger boy started to cut up with his sister so I corrected him. I even took him to the bathroom to make it clear that his behavior was not acceptable. I got called out by her. “This is a casual affair,” I was told. “I will check you for bruises and take pictures,” she told the boy. When we got home, I presented the card and plant again. She said she didn’t want them and wanted to know how I paid for them. I explained that I had checked the bank account before I bought them. She explained that her deposit would not be available until the next day and the money would not be there. (She had put $15 worth of gas in her car on the way home using this same account. There was enough then, what happened?) I told her if she didn’t want them then to throw them into the trash. I walked out and set them in the kitched on the counter. I went back to our bedroom and got into bed. Later that night, she casually tossed the remote on the bed, out of her way. Later she asked where it was. I told her how she had tossed it and had no idea where it was. She found it, turned off the TV and that is how the day ended.

    • melove54
      June 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      When she stated to you/her son in this public setting “I’ll check you for bruises and take pics”, was it loud enough for others to hear? If so, were any of those people(other parents) known to either you or her? Has she ever made such a statement to you before? This boy could have bruises just from standard activities, and she’s taking pics of it to build a case against you already. I could happen to you, because it’s happened to others. You must be totally aware of all her actions from here forward. Do not take anything she says for granted, see if any of her patterns of her day to day behavior is changing, her language towards you, if she engages you more frequently and with more intensity. How the kids are responding to you. Think seriously about the relationship you truly have with her children,..she don’t care and would drag them into the divorce as well. So with that being said, would you stand a chance in court between the children and her? Believe me, you won’t go to hell for seeking dissolution of your marriage,however, if you lay and wait, she will make your life hell for years to come.

  6. artzygirl
    June 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I’m an ex-girlfriend of a man who is still controlled and abused by his narcissistic abusive ex-wife. I dated him for a very rough and bumpy year, trying to help him break free from this “prison”. I know I hung on way too long, but our chemistry was off the charts, at least to begin with. Over time I realized that he didn’t really want to be free and I couldn’t understand that. She was/is blatently cruel and demanding. Then it became clear that he had some issues of his own. He seems to be at least somewhat bi-polar. With things being “the best ever!” or “a night to remember” to ridiculously cynical and negative thoughts and comments. I did a lot of reading and found that this man was/is the perfect victim for someone like her. He does not have any confidence or self-integrity to recognize the terribly sad situation that he lives in. She is sucking him dry financially and I doubt he will ever be free. Terribly sad. I pray for him every time I think of him. I’ve been out of the relationship for a few months now and can look back and see the crazy zoo that can be. And how easy it is to explain some of it away and not recognize it for what it is…. abuse.

    • Closure, at last
      June 22, 2010 at 2:48 am

      I’m sorry to hear your story. I too once had a relation with a man diagnosed as bipolar (but he actually had BPD – they always make the mistake with the men on that) and he just couldn’t get over his NPD ex. It’s very sad – it’s like you have to pay the price of the she-vampire of his past. There’s an article here that helped me a lot – I think it’s in the index of ‘can a man free the cycle..’ or something.

      I too had a lot of chemistry initially and loved him unconditionally but then I realized her emotional hold on him was just too strong. Like you, I looked back and understood the abuse I took for a long time in the hope that I could ‘fix’, or keep ‘giving till he understood how good it could be’…..Now through this site, I’ve recognized my own folly of ‘fix it’ tendencies and the ‘training’ to keep loving Ns and Bs that I got through my N sister who I’d keep trying to please as a child and teen. It took me a while before I could learn to ‘receive’ love in a healthy relation with a healthy giving man and I am very happy now.

      But it’s sad to look back sometimes or wonder ‘what might have been’ – since BP men are so intense (but now we know they’re really, clinically crazy – that’s why it feels intense.) It’s one of the saddest things, no? To love a man who gave the best of his love to a narcissistic ex and cannot look at the present or refuses to let go from her clutches emotionally? The innocent women end up paying the price of the manipulative women….

      Best wishes.

  7. Macinaw
    June 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks, MeLove54. I am aware, intelletually, of what needs to be done. I must sever the connection and go on. However, I have a devotion to my Christian beliefs that marriage is forever. “For better or for worse”, isn’t that what we promise? That is at least what I promised. Now if she chooses to “put me away”, then I am free to leave. Until that time, well, I must suffer with my own Gomer just as Hosea did.

    I do appreciate the support that I have found here, though. It simply verifies what I have been thinking for some time.

    • June 22, 2010 at 11:48 am

      I can appreciate the seriousness you accord to your marriage vows.

      Keep in mind though that if your spouse is a BPD/NPD, there was never any possibility of her holding up her end of the bargain.

      Based on my own experience, BPD/NPD types are incapable of “love” in any sense beyond how a two year old might define the term, e.g., “I need you”, so any vow she made “to love and to hold” you was empty and if you thought she’d actually be there “in sickness” … at least your sickness … don’t kid yourself.

      At any rate, if she’s already told you that she doesn’t love you any more, I’d say all bets were off.

      Remember that BPD/NPD types take advantage of their partner’s sense of decency, ethics, right, honour, etc. and use these as weapons against them. They count on you to do the “decent”, “right” thing and turn this to their greatest advantage.

      If your wife is anything like mine, I expect that while she is the one who has said she doesn’t love you, there has been no discussion of her leaving the home and that you will be the one expected to go … while of course still paying for the house, her car, etc.?

      At the end of the day, houses and cars are only things and can be replaced if lost, while our time on this earth can’t. So I’d suggest you just accept you might lose financially and materially, chalk it up to experience and move on with your life without her as quickly as possible. Life is too short to be wasted in abusive relationships.

      Keep in mind that the longer you draw this out the greater your financial responsibility may be found by a court to be in respect of her and potentially, depending on the law where you live, her children, even though they’re not biologically yours, when things finally collapse.

      Out of curiosity, what has she had to say about her former husband throughout your marriage?

      Good luck

      • melove54
        June 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

        Oldguy opens the door of rationale and reasoning as we all have for you. Well stated oldguy.

        God gave you the ability of intellect and higher reasoning. “For better or for worse” relates to times of personal need, in support of one another intimately,financially,children, i.e. mutual collaboration towards all interests in common. It’s apparent, that does not exist between you. In “sickness and in health”- NPD/BPD/Histrionic does not fit into this category either, she has bad unrepairable human habits.he is not sick,crippled, nor unhealthy, she has a personality problem. She is YOUR sickness. Believe me, that was the hardest admission for me to give into, and you may not even understand that until you are divorced, when you’re single and attempting to date again.

        You have stated that you need for her to make the first move(divorce) so that you can feel better about conviction to your faith and your vows, in other words, “I stayed faithful to her, and my vows,.. she’s the one that gave up!”

        Is it possible you gave up instead?,..logic and reality is, Divorce laws still favor the women, even in no-fault states. If she files, that will be to your disadvantage as well. You are truly not prepared for what will result when she files. Remember, she is manipulative, and controlling, you will be made out to be the bad guy, and the reality is, she doesn’t have to say very much to discredit you in the eyes of the courts. Her fabrications, manipulations of truth will be your burden to prove otherwise. As well, it could end up much more drawn out if she files,.. more expense you can’t afford. This is only the tip of the ice-berg my man, think of all the emotional turmoil forthcoming..

        So, with this in mind, you’re going to stand there, let it happen, all in the name of your conviction to your marital vows?! You know what rationale and logic tells me about you Macinaw.. It’s more about your ego than it is your faith,.. it is self-serving in that she should be the one to give-in, give-up, in order for you to feel better about the divorce, yourself, and your faith. Nothing personal,not passing judgement upon you, just a perception based upon logic, rationale, and personal experience. Even though I don’t know you, I do wish you the best life has to offer Macinaw, that’s what humanity is about. You sound like a good guy, just a little misled.

      • June 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm

        Good point, melove54, re: the “your sickness” (our sickness) remark.

        I expect people to give me the same respect I give them, so why have I through the years made an exception for my wife in this regard and accepted behaviour from her that I wouldn’t from anyone else?

        I can give all sorts of “noble” reasons for this, such as “love”, “understanding”, “support”, etc. but, there has to be something more.

        I’ve remembered recently that I mentioned to my wife on a few occasions that she reminded me of my father in certain ways, such as her capacity to be fully in touch with her own “feelings” while being totally oblivious to the reality that other people have feelings as well.

        Thinking about it, she shares other qualities he had as well, such as nothing I do ever being good enough and ensuring I’m fully aware of every inadequacy she perceives me to have, while being blissfully unaware of her own and apparently incapable of any sort of introspection.

        Then there’s the whole “it’s all about me” attitude the two of them share … and much more.

        Perhaps a level of behaviour I demand from myself and others in every other part of my life isn’t the same as what I was accustomed to … having grown up with it … in my “closest” relationships.

        Who knows?

        Anyway, what matters now is that once escaped from my wife, I don’t fall into the same sickness again.

        Certainly don’t want to or believe I deserve to.

        • melove54
          June 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

          old guy,
          These women have no retrospect nor are they capable of introspection. They typically, live in the moment, memories are limited to storing emotional artillery, the future is about self-preservation. Trust me old guy, being back out in the real world, I’ve already discovered there’s alot of personality disorder potential amongst women, and all us previously victimized men are savvy to it. Likewise, I’ve met some absolutely wonderful women. It’s been great to be free and unencumbered by the daily lashings. You’ll figure out where you want to be, set new standards for yourself and begin to enjoy life once more. I come back here every once in a while for a reality check, and to pass reality checks onto the newbie victims. As well, to let them know they’re not alone.

  8. melove54
    June 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    The additional information you’ve provided after JP’s comments should be enough for you to surmise the positon you are truly in, i.e., her demented rationale, confirmation from former husband,changing her perceptions/outlooks despite what her opinion/beliefs were minutes to days before,lack of courtesy, need to control, no mutual respect, etc, etc..
    Jp is right, your choice is clear, and it will indeed cost you far less to initiate some way out. Many consultations are free, so you have nothing to lose. See if you can find an attorney that will work payments out, begin to get the ball rolling.

    If what holds you back is because you believe you’re in love, then she has done her job well. She has the control and strong-hold she requires. If you truly believe it’s love, then let me say this as well,..the institution (no pun intended) of marriage is pretensed upon love. So, with all the shit that you are taking, what is the single most important thing that you can hang onto that would make you feel good,..love my man. You want to feel good, but can’t, so you fall back on love, it’s what you believe will make it all better, yet, it does not exist. Not in her mind, not truly in yours either. It is a facade created by her, and she knows full well, you will maintain this facade. Too much effort for her to maintain, so she simply pushes your buttons to activate maintenance mode. Sounds pretty deep and you can’t imagine she could be capable of such,..just remember, her former husband verifies it, therefore, she’s been at this for awhile. She seems a bit juvenille in her approaches, yet, seems effective none the less. You’re here now seeking help, right! Enough said.. Hope I’m making sense and helping you understand the reality of your situation.

    JP, myself and many others here can attest that “IT WILL NOT GET BETTER!!” She’s literally broken and cannot be fixed. We can only open the door of rationale and reasoning,.. you must be strong enough to walk through it with conviction to self. Best wishes.

  9. Macinaw
    June 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    True, JP…very true. I guess I just have not decided that enough is enough, yet. Maybe I am waiting for her to make the first legal move. I didn’t mention that I did leave once. For 24 hours, I was gone. She told everyone that I had left her. She played on people’s sympathy. you should have seen the look on her face when I walked back in. It was a mixture of shock and anger. I think she was surprised that I came back and angry that I had disarmed her from being able to bash me to other people for a while longer.

    Truth betold: I don’t know what I am waiting for. Perhaps, it’s my Christian belief that marriage is to be forever. PErhaps, I am waiting for her to make the first legal move, so when she does cast me aside, I can stay away believing that I have done all I can on my part to save the marriage.


  10. Macinaw
    June 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    We have been maried since 2006. We are about to celebrate(?)our 4th anniversary. Since she has had her last child, she has had her tubes clipped and burned. There will be NO other children, none. So aside from the financial investment and my emotional investment, I have no other reasons to leave. She has also made the claim that I would probably kill her because – are you ready for this? – since I have expressed that divorce is not in my book, and a former boss of mine found it possible to murder his own wife, then I must be capable of murdering her. Isn’t this type of logic wonderful?

    I have also talked with her ex husband who confirms that she abused him and seems to live in her own version of reality. A one time mutual friend has told me that he could not be married to her, because he sees how she behaves at work.

    She also finds it easy to switch positions in an argument depending on how she feels about a particular person at the time.

    She has no real friends and does not try to make new ones. If I try to visit some of my friends, then I am made to feel that I am deliberately leaving her out or trying to do aomething in secret or I just don’t care about how she feels about a person.

    Did I mention that she has created a separate checking account in her name only? I am supposed to be okay with that. She actually says that she doesn’t care how I feel about it. She’s done it and that’s that.

    If she knew I was posting to this, she would probably become angry that I am telling everyone about our personal business.

    • jp
      June 21, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      Well, she’s already said she doesn’t love you and has zero trust for you and now she’s created a sep. checking account and says she doesn’t care what you think about it. To me, opening a solo checking account is in fact a major decision that impacts the relationship and your finances and her not caring what you think shows she has zero respect for you too.

      No love, no respect and no power. So what exactly are you getting out of the relationship, other than the ability to forestall–for a time–the pain of splitting up?

      Are you hoping she’ll get better? She is who she is. Adults don’t change that much, and those with personality disorders/bad characters tend to get worse as they age. She ran her script on her ex, and now on you. After you, it will be someone else.

      Also, it sounds to me that while you consider your options, she very well may be taking steps to leave you first.

      Finally, while you consider all the tactical issues–the finances, logisitics, etc.–keep in mind that her abuse and gaslighting is having a negative, cumulative effect on you. Over time you will become more defeated, confused and depressed and it will be harder to get back your confidence in your own reality and to find the strength to rebuild.

      Of course she’d be angry if she knew you shared your personal business…she wants you helpless and isolated so she can control and abuse you.


  11. jp
    June 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Macinaw :The problem is that I have so much financially invested in the relationship, that leaving would be very difficult, at best.

    My friend, with all due respect, if the car and house payments are all you’re on the hook for at this point, then you don’t know what “financially invested” is. How’d you like to be on the hook for a lifetime of alimony and child support and college tuition for her children or yours should you have any with her?

    The longer you stay the more at risk you are financially, in other words, it can only get worse, while leaving sooner will mean cutting your losses and having more time to rebuild.

    The house can be sold, the car can be traded in for something cheaper.

    You don’t say how long you’ve been married but if it’s a short term thing you can extricate yourself.

    She sounds like a nightmare. Managing conflict is absolutely essential in a marriage. If she won’t forgive, apologize, compromise, or share power easily and graciously, then she is simply not marriage material. If she portrayed herself as someone who could manage conflict like a grown up then she deceived you and, in my view, you owe her nothing.

    Get out now. It will be hard but it won’t last forever. Staying married to her, of course, will seem like forever, until she decides down the road that you’re the abusive jerk and would make a better indentured servent than husband and serves you divorce papers.

    Talk to a lawyer in secret and find out what your options are.


  12. Macinaw
    June 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Dr. Tara, I believe I am a battered husband. My wife and I met on eHarmony. On the surface, we seemed a good match. She seemed in a hurry to get married, which concerned me at the time. Especially, when I asked her and she replied that she was afraid that I would find a reason NOT to marry her. I calmly reassured her that I am skeotical, but I look into things thoroughly. Unfortunately, her family was not very forthcoming with any information, either for or against. Their response was that I would need to find out for myself. Not too reassuring.

    Going into this relationship, I had $1,800 in the bank and my bills were paid on time. My suffering credit was slowly being rebuilt. In May 2006, before we were married, my car died. She convinced me to buy a new one instead of repairing the one that I had that was paid for. She found a deal in which she would get a new car out of it, also. Both vehicles were put in my name. The car she had was a 2003 Kia Sedona. It was being replaced with a 2005 Kia Sedona. My car was a 1989 Ford Tempo. Mine was replaced with a 2006 Kia Rio. Suddenly, we had $700 in car payments. Also, about this time, I bought the house she was living in. After all, we were going to get married, right? Now I have a $950 house payment.

    She has 4 children – 15, 13, 10, & 9. Her position is that she will discipline her kids, not me. I am to see to their every other need, however.

    If there is any conflict, she is totally unwilling to forgive. When we have an argument, she states that all is my fault. If I make a valid point, she refuses to acknowledge it. We cannot have a calm discussion about anything. She raises her tone and immediately wants to assume control of the discussion. She says that she is not yelling. My response is then why are you raising your tone? She is unwilling to compromise on anything. I have seen a counselor. The counselor has met both of us. The counselor believes that it is her way or not at all. That seems to be a fair assessment.

    If i challenge any of her arguments, the discussion is over. If I take no action at her “bait” that she throws out, then I am uncaring. If I bite, then an argument insues.

    She says she has no love for me anymore. It is my position that she has no idea what a deep committed love really is. Love is not a feeling. Feelings come and go. Love is a committment to accept another person – faults and all. You are committed to making the relationship work. Compromise is a given. You must be willing to compromise to get along.

    I realize that I am at a crossroads. I need to decide if I want to stay or go. The problem is that I have so much financially invested in the relationship, that leaving would be very difficult, at best.

    Am I on the righ track or am i reading into this too much?

    Sick and tired of being sick and tired

  13. Jason
    May 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I thought I would add something else to help solve a mystery that has been puzzling me.

    First, I want to reiterate that my wife is not full blown narcissistic. My mother-in-law is and the difference is stark. I should also point out that while my wife has an obvious need for control, she is really good with dealing with children and is a very good girl scout leader.

    Seven years ago, my wife became a girl scout leader (versus assistant leader). Very soon after, our sex life went down the drain. It makes me wonder if once she was getting emotional fulfillment from her girl scouts, she didn’t need me and thus, didn’t need to be intimate [emotionally and sexually] any more. Once I started drifting, guilt would kick in and she’d get “hot” again.

    Now it may all just be total coincidence, but is it?

    The weird thing is that I’ve watched my wife interact with my children and her girl scouts and while she has to be right and in control, I don’t see her playing the games she plays with me. A lot of that is opportunity–she can’t lie about the past since there is no past with such a transitory bunch–and the lack of an intimacy component–she doesn’t ever have to truly open herself up to these girls. Perhaps that kind of absolute control fulfills my wife’s emotional needs.

    Any thoughts?

    • jp
      May 26, 2010 at 1:47 am


      Your assessment is totally plausible and quite familiar. My ex is a controller, also great with people, including children, as long as she’s the dominant personality/playing host/coming to the rescue, etc.

      Intimacy was a problem from shortly before we married. I spent 10 yrs waiting/trying to recapture the vibe we had in the beginning, then the kids came and she virtually checked out in that department. She began focusing all her efforts outward, toward building a big circle of new-mom friends and families.

      It was great in a way….I’d come home from work to a back yard full of toddlers and other weary but overjoyed parents, sit down, crack open a beer and have a ball. But interest in ‘us’ became an afterthought. I’d bring it up at night and she’d be totally surprised I was asking for closeness, and virtually always say no. (She might change her mind later, or say ‘how about tomorrow?’ but the effect of all the rejection was depressing and emasculating.)

      In counselling she claimed I was as essential to her as ever, but the words she used to describe how she saw me were very revealing…I can’t recall exactly but I remember the impression she left…that I was basically there to provide a kind of love and validation that she needed in order to enable her to go out into the larger world in this new broader, maternal role she was carving out for herself among old and new friends. She didn’t see my efforts at intimacy as something she should be returning or meeting me halfway at. And she was suprised and cross that I found her “helpfulness a turn off”. I said, “it’s not a turn off, I actually like it, but I’m being neglected because of it and if I had to choose between watching you run out the door to deliver yet another birthday cake as a favot to some friend’s sister’s cousin who forgot to bake her own, and you staying home and f*cking me once this month, well, I’d choose the f*cking.”

      She tried to reassure me, saying it was temproary, and just because we had babies/toddlers, and once they got a little older things would get back to normal. And I said, ‘yeah, but I was trying for 10 yrs before the kids arrived to get it back to the original normal…now you’re telling me the pre-baby level of intimacy–which was a problem for me, as you know–is now the new baseline I have to aspire to?”

      I’d like to point out that like you, I lovd me wife, and I loved her big personality and generosity and sociability…it was just that it made it even harder to understand and tolerate the missing piece at the core of our own relationship, which after all is what the whole thing is about, right?

      Sound like your situation?

      Anyway, I ended up having an affair, which I regret terribly, and it led to the end of the marriage.

      Four yrs later and her circle is still growing at a full clip except now I get to watch her spend my absurdly high child support to keep her fridge full of chardonnay and humus for all her buddies who, despite the fact that they’re all married and have two incomes, spend all their time being entertained by her–a single mom–and 40% of my take home pay.

      Fact is, not all people want or need the same things.

      I recently had lunch with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in years. He was married for a long time, had kids, struggled always to get his needs met–before kids and after, ended up cheating, wrecked his marriage, hated his own guts for it, etc.. Same basic story. Except now he’s with a woman (10 yrs now, they’re in their late 40’s-early 50’s) and he said they’re totally sexually compatible and that he’s had his needs met since the day they started dating.

      He said, “…you know…not everyone wants the same things in that area…there are actually woman out there who want the same kind of sex life you do…and also there are plenty of guys who are not that interested in sex and they’re perfect for women like our ex-wives…”

      Hard for me to recommend divorce though…my ex has (or at least claims to have) moved on, but I found the whole mess tremendously traumatizing and still haven’t made up the lost ground. I guess it depends on what you have the stomach for, how well you rebound from loss generally, how determined you are to detach from her and rebuild, how well you can manage solitude, etc.

      I strongly urge you, however, not to have an affair, whether it’s undertaken to fill the gaps in your marriage or as an exit strategy.

      Much better to be honest and say, I’ve never had my needs met in this marriage and I’m afraid I never will…I love you and want you to be the one that meets my needs…just as I want to be the one who meets yours…but if you’re not willing or don’t want to be that person for me, or at the very least go to counselling to discuss it, then I’ll have no choice but to leave you.

      It’s harder to do that than to skulk off in another woman’s arms, muddle along in secret until the sh*t hits the fan, and then make your wife pull the trigger on ending the marriage, but you’ll feel a lot better about yourself, you won’t lose as many friends and she’s less likely to hate your guts and devote her days to making you miserable post marriage.

      But don’t be rash. Single life for the middle aged isn’t a picnic…people don’t know what to do socially with a single, middle aged man…a lot of people you’d expect to be there for you socially may surprise you and head for the hills. That’s been my experience anyway.

      A friend of mine once said about contemplating divorce vs staying…it depends on what kind of pain you prefer…staying is like having a pebble in your shoe the rest of your life…leaving is the worst pain you can imagine, but you know it’ll end.

      I do think there’s a tendency in mental health literature to repeat the trite formula of “once you leave your imperfect spouse you’ll be free to find someone who truly gives you what you need” with the implication that there are loads of compatible, eligible potential partners out there and once you’re free it’s only a matter of (not that much) time before you find one. I think that’s a bit pollyanna.

      You’ll lose a lot if you leave her…a sense of connectedness, of being truly known, a place and status among friends and family that is so much a part of you that when it’s gone can be quite a confusing and painful disruption, etc. Holidays and kid’s birthdays become fraught and complex and typically painful events. And you’ll find you’re more connected with and psycholigically dependent on her than you probably realize, and that detaching from that is quite difficult.

      However, if you’ve been systematically abused by her, and I do believe controlling behavior is abusive, then a split may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

      I would get into (or continue counselling) on your own, in any case. Either she’ll realize she’s being discussed every week and will eventually join you so she can tell her side, or you’ll continue on your own and have an opportunity to figure out whether to stay or go.


      • Jason
        May 26, 2010 at 2:23 am

        Thank you for your response, it was very thoughtful.

        I’m 48 and under no illusion that the proverbial grass is greener as a single man. I also agree that having an affair is a bad idea; while I’m no longer religious, I’ve retained a very strong sense of morality and I couldn’t live with the guilt, though I know I get in the mood where the right woman could quite easily seduce me. Thank you for reminding me of the pitfalls of that.

        I’ve been debating going to counseling on my own and you’ve helped me resolve to do that. Thank you.

      • uburoi
        May 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

        Jp, I have always been inspired and enlightened by your comments. This particular comment I can connect with on many levels as I too am guilty of an affair, and yes it too led to the demise of my marriage. I have a question in that do you still harbor the guilt of that and if not, how were you able to let go of that guilt? It eats at my very soul to know that I traded 8.5 yrs of marriage just to end up with a BPD woman who covertly abused the crap out of me.

        • jp
          May 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm


          Thanks for the kind words.

          My marriage and the affair ended at the same time, about 4 yrs. ago.

          I was so infatuated with and addicted to the affair partner–and basically out of my mind–that it took a few months of intense ‘withdrawal’ before I returned to earth and realzed the full extent of what I lost.

          I was able, however, to eventually forgive myself, but it took a long time.

          First I did my best to make amends. I took responsibility for the affair (stopped blaming it on my ex’s issues), admitted it to her, let her know I was available to talk about it with her if she wanted details/answers, apologized, asked for forgiveness and told her I was ready and eager to come home anytime and do anything to get back on track.

          Also, my ex and I had always planned for her to stay home for a few years with our babies before she returned to work. I held up my end of that and took a second full time job and worked without a day off or vacation for two years until I ended up in the hospital so she could stay home with the kids and have some runway for building back up her business.

          I’m not sure when I exactly I forgave myself, but it was sometime soon after the hospital. I realized there wasn’t anything else I could do, and if I kept sacrificing myself like that I would get too sick to be of use to anyone and my kids would grow up with this weird, exhausted hermit father, and they deserve way more than that.

          Also, I began to see her inability or unwillingness to forgive as part of the problem too. I mean, if someone is bowing down in contrition, doing everything they can to make amends and demonstrate true regret, and the offended party doesn’t let them off the hook…well at some point you’re entitled to say, ok…I did my best to fix the damamge I caused, if you can’t let it go, that’s on you.

          Similarly, with some time and distance from the ex, and the help of this site, I was able to see some patterns and behaviors on her part that were very unflattering. I realized I was idealizing her and the marriage quite a lot and that sentimentalizing was fueling my choice to continue berating myself.

          Eventually I realized she was exploiting my contrition, and that’s when I was finally able to push for the divorce. (We’d both been procrastinating for years.)

          Also, a therapist I was seeing hammered into me “adultery is wrong but it’s not a life sentence” and he got me to realize that my prolonging my guilt-and-redemption quest was getting a bit weird. :)

          People mess up, man…sometimes they mess up REALLY badly. And there is a time to get meek and real with yourself, make your amends, and ask for forgivness. But that time has to come to an end too.

          Having forgiven myself, however, did not mean that I no longer feel bad about what I did or what happened. I lost a lot, and I still tear up about it from time to time. I don’t think that will ever go away completely. But everyone gets there share of scar tissue given enough time.

          One final thought: just because you get to the point where you’re ready to put down the burden, it doesn’t mean the people you hurt or the friends you lost, will slap you on the back and welcome you into the fold. Some do, but a lot don’t. You really have to focus on moving forward, which is a challenge for me still.

          Be kind to yourself,

  14. Jason
    May 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Dr. Tara,

    I’ve been married 24 years and our marriage has been increasingly miserable starting about eight years ago. Only this very morning did it hit me like a ton of bricks that I’ve been emotional abused. My denial was so deep that it took another few hours to realize that this has been happening since we met! I feel like such a fool. The signs were all there; I’ve even identified every one of them in a sort of marriage biography I wrote two years ago, but I just thought she had “issues.”

    My wife’s mother was very emotional abusive to her. Her mother is a combination of Borderline and Narcissist–she was a kleptomaniac and my wife’s father finally had enough and divorced her. My wife was very aware of how her mother treated her and vowed to not do it to her children. Amazingly, while there are some control issues, my wife has kept her vow and I’m deeply grateful for that.

    I now (and I mean NOW) realize that my wife used me to feed her emotional abuse. I also realize that my mother-in-law was likely emotionally abusive of my father-in-law and my wife both learned from that, but didn’t see it at the same time.

    I’ve suggesting counseling, but my wife has gotten increasingly angry at that. That last time I brought it up a year or so ago, she was livid and said that nobody needs to know our problems. But that hasn’t stopped her from blabbing her side to family, her friends, a mutual friend, our oldest daughter and for one small issue, even faux-friends on twitter. Of course, I know this about her controlling the story and she risks not being able to manipulate a marriage counselor into taking her side.

    I think my wife also worries that I’ll use counseling as a justification for divorce. There is truth in that, but not for the reasons she supposes. The issue of change isn’t me, but her. If she won’t change, that will be the answer I seek.

    We have two children at home, including a 14 year old daughter. I don’t want to hurt them and worry that without me around, my wife will turn her abuse toward our youngest (she already spoils her rotten and countermands anything I say, but she’s NEVER made fun of her, called her names or criticized her outside of what my daughter deserved–like not getting a homework assignment done.)

    My wife is a generally nice person. Her abuse of me is very subtle, but quite real and sometimes offensive. (Her latest has been to tell everyone that I’m addicted to porn. She kind of leaves out the fact that we make love maybe twice a month and half the time, she makes it very clear that this is just to make me happy, which has the opposite effect and has caused me to have sexual dysfunction issues which she brushes off.)

    The bigger problem is that despite my brusque personality, I hate hurting people and crave intimacy. I don’t want to hurt my wife and children and fear that I’ll never find anyone to give me the intimacy I crave. In other words, I settle for the fake intimacy of my wife’s abuse because it’s better than nothing.

    I just sent an email to my oldest daughter (she’s in her twenties) asking her to ask her mother to go to counseling (even if it’s for “my problem”.) If that fails, I have no idea what to do aside from just leaving her and right now I don’t have the emotional strength to do that.

    As you can tell, I’m an emotional wreck. Any guidance will be welcome.

    Thank you in advance,


  15. Mark
    May 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I have been married 8 years. My wife is often an intelligent, witty, charming, attractive, athletic, and passionately sexual woman.
    But, too many times she is hyper-critical, like her mother, and given to angry outbursts, like her dad. Fights flare up from very trivial events.
    What has concerned me at times during our marriage is an inexplicable lack of physical intimacy. I’ve suspected affairs in the past, especially during the times when she has not worked full-time.
    Month 6: Leaves house angry. Points to finger. “See, I’m not married.” Goes to local bar with girlfriend and gets home at 2:30am.
    Month 15: Go to local bar. 30 year old bartender nods to my wife. She blushes. Immediately after sitting down upstairs, she gets up to use the facilities – something she never does. Gone for very long time. Sits back down – acting odd.
    Months 18 – 23: She goes to dance lessons at a downtown bar. When leaving, she is affectionate and effervescent. When returning at 11:00, 2 hours after lessons end, she is cold.
    Month 24: I go to one of these lessons. I leave the room. When I return, a young man is close – talking to her. He is about 30, my wife’s height, ash colored hair, baby faced. My wife is turned toward the door where I left the room. His head turns my way and he suddenly walks into the crowd. Later, I ask my wife who that was. She says that she wasn’t talking to anyone.
    Month 30: She returns home one afternoon late from a dentist appointment saying she was shopping. Later that evening, I suggest we make love. She says it’s too late. I suggest the next day at lunch. She tenses and shakes her head. I suggest the following day. She says she might set up a meeting with two other church volunteers. I get an awful feeling in my gut.
    There had been a pattern for too long – lovemaking the day after her the end of her period and a day before it started – very rarely in between – not even during the best of times.
    I can’t sleep. I ask if she is having an affair. She reacts hysterically. Later that week, I go to the bar she frequents. The bartender, I now realize, looks exactly like the man at the dance. He starts a bit when he sees me. He seems nervous and jumpy. I confront her again. More anger, denials and accusations. My wife believes I have a mental health problem. The next two months are very unpleasant with no change until I go to the bar. I just talk to the bartender at length about the mundane and expensive aspects of married life. My wife is angry that I spoke with him. Again, cites mental health issues. But, our marriage enters a better period.
    Month 36 – 89: My wife has full time work. Our marriage is rocky but better.
    Month 90 – 102: My wife’s work slows down. She works only a few hours a week. We have work down around the house. One day at lunch, I notice that my wife had uncharacteristically put on perfume before meeting a contractor. I confront her and get extreme anger. Love making now once every three months. My wife is back at the gym daily – just as she had during tense times earlier. Nearly daily criticism of me or my family. Anger and withdrawal for days.

    So here we are now.

    Several weeks ago, we were shopping. I’m following with the cart far behind her and notice a sun weathered but good looking man smiling broadly toward my wife. He turns a bit and sees me. His face changes immediately and I think it odd. I look to see who he might have been looking at. No one else close by. My wife turns to head back to the checkout. She’s uncharacteristically unfocused and then a few minutes later becomes irritable where before we had been getting along so well. Later, I ask her if she is having an affair. She turns sideways to me. She accuses me of paranoia suggesting I need counseling. I don’t think she ever said “no”.

    So I ask: Is there any chance she is not being unfaithful?

    • shrink4men
      May 13, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      Hi Mark,

      I’d hire a private detective and very quietly begin talking to some very good divorce attorneys who specialize in dealing with high conflict personalities if I were you. I’d also put a GPS unit in her car and Spyware for the computer if she uses one.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

    • Kev.
      May 14, 2010 at 12:55 am

      I’d say “probably” having an affair, based on your description, however since she’s not having one with me (sorry, and no thank you), I can’t say for certain.

      That said, just be ready and aware that if/when you find out she is in fact having one, and she finds out how you found out (whether it be by GPS, private detective, etc.), she will most likely do everything in her power to shift the blame to you, and try to attack you for catching her, rather than apologetic for cheating on you.

      I’m not saying this to deter you in your quest for knowledge. I think you need to find this out. Just don’t be caught off guard by the blame-shift.

      Be ready for it. Be firm. And don’t back down when she throws that at you, or attempts to steer the conversation off-topic.

      Good luck…

      • shrink4men
        May 14, 2010 at 5:38 am

        Kev’s right.

        If and when you confront her with the evidence, my guess is her face will turn bright purple and she’ll become indignant with fake outrage and attack you for invading her “privacy.” For example, “You pervert! You fucking, crazy creep! How dare you invade my privacy? What? Are you stalking me? I’ve never known anyone as sick as you! What the fuck is wrong with you? Oh my god! I’m married to a crazy pervert! I’m going to take everything you own and you’ll NEVER see the kids again!”

        Of course, the fact that she was caught red-handed having it off with the local bartender will be completely ignored while you are required to apologize to her because she was having an affair.

        • Mark
          May 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm

          Dr Tara,

          I did a little detective work of my own seven years ago. I confronted her with the incriminating but inconclusive results and I did (and still do) get attacks like your example. During one multi-hour emotional assault, she used the f-word as if it were a mantra, tore up the roses from our wedding ceremony, and, all in all, was just not much fun that day.

          Her trump card has always been to threaten to restrict access to my step-son. But, she repeatedly brings up the violation of her privacy as the worst thing she has ever experienced. A couple of months ago, she made me pledge to not investigate (not her word) anything, not to touch anything of hers. At that point, a red flag shot right up. Lately, she has told me that she hides and washes her own underwear because “You cannot be trusted.” Another red flag. And, lack of trust is why she can’t be intimate with me.

          You are right about the required apology. I’m often in wonder at how she can go so quickly from starting a fight to becoming the victim and demanding contrition. I’m fascinatd at how quickly she can go from wrong to wronged.

          For my wife, the tension is never caused by her actions. Her standard response is “I had no intention of treating you as you say I did. You have no right to tell me what is in my own mind. You are crazy making.” She will then follow up with a diagnosis of me. Here are examples: narcissist, borderline, OCD, Asperger syndrome, abusive, incapable of empathy, addicted to rage, inability to control impulses, and her latest, which she wants me to be evaluated for – bipolar disorder (this last one does run in my family).

          I mentioned this list to a very dear friend who laughed. “I’ve known you for twenty years and I never seen you get angry – not even once. But,” says my wife’s name, “on the other hand…”

          I also mentioned some of the heftier accusations to our therapist in private. He shook his head and said, “No, I don’t see that.” He paused. “I think it would be best to concentrate on helping you two interact in a more healthy manner. You should try your best to not to react and give her something to use. That is your job. My job is to get her to not be so intense. That is how I present it – as an intensity that is appropriate sometimes but not in these circumstances.”

          Thank you for your insights.

          • shrink4men
            May 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm

            Hi Mark,

            Your therapist thinks your wife is “intense?” Uh-huh. Your wife, from your description, appears to be abusive, which one could argue is “intense.”

            The diagnoses she’s tried to pin on you strike me as nothing more than projection/abuse. She is all the things she accuses you of. She won’t let you wash her underwear. So, let me get this straight. You’re supporting her, a child that isn’t yours, she’s abusive toward you and it’s highly likely she’s having one affair after the next. What are you waiting for? I understand you love her son, but you’re not doing him any favors by swallowing his mom’s crap hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, he’s her child and if you divorce, you’ll have little to no rights.

            That’s sad and heartbreaking. However, if you end this relationship, you can meet a new woman who won’t cuckold you and then paint you as the villain and perhaps have a child of your own.

            I also love how you therapist is encouraging you to stuff your very legitimate and natural emotional reactions to your wife’s abuse and many likely betrayals so that you don’t trigger her. Can you say “blaming the victim?” Reading about that kind of therapeutic advice makes my head feel like it’s going to explode.

            Kind Regards,
            Dr Tara

            • Mark
              May 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm

              Dr Tara,

              In defense of the therapist, he is a wonderful man. My wife went to him first. He has acknowledged many times the roller coaster I am on.

              Today, I notified my boss of some of our troubles and of my intentions. I plan to find an attorney next week. In the past, I have discussed the situation with my personal attorney.

              It’s gotten pretty bad. Physical intimacy is gone. And, I recently identified a pattern – lasting for a couple of days every other week or so. My wife is extremely comfortable nude but there have been an increasing number of times, even when things are good, where she will not be naked in front of me or will tightly cross her legs if she is. Long ago, she had smilingly shown me in the shower – “Don’t be proud, but this is from yesterday.” Again, she was uncharacteristically shy last week and this week. My gut churned.

              It wasn’t so consequential in past relationships. Someone new? Okay. I’ll miss you. Be well. Now, it’s different. Incredible chemistry at times. A wonderful son. A great home and circle of friends. But, no love. Little affection. And a lot of pain.

              Besides hurting my son, I do, in fact, worry about hurting my wife. (When she was younger, she had suicidal thoughts.) I’ve described life with her to the therapist as living with twins joined at the hip – one a saint and the other evil. I truly love the one and am a little frightened by the other.

              And, I am worried about my health. I have no symptoms until the fights begin. And then it feels like something is pressing on my chest. (I will go to the doctor next week.) My wife first reported, actually, the same symptoms. I believe her – she does suffer immensely during the craziness. I do see it wear on her.

              The therapist said that some couples have tried a “healing separation”. He is not recommending it one way or another. He has seen couples reunite in a healthier way afterward. It might assuage the pain of separating our lives a bit. I think there will be tremendous hurt one way or other. I am trying so hard to find the right course to take.

        • Amber
          June 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

          That happened to me only in reverse. My husband was having an affair…I caught him… and I was the crazy one! Don’t fall for it. If you find out about an affair…get the hell out fast!!! I stayed thinking that I could make it work and all I got in exchange for this was more and more and more abuse!

  16. Abused in PA
    May 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. I realize now I am the one in an abusive relationship – almost all of the things you listed have happen to me over the last 20 years. I simply put up with them because I believe I should LOVE my wife no matter what. She accuses me of “emotionally raping” her, controlling her, and says that our problems are 100% mine and I have to change. Things don’t look good, but I’m still trying to work things out.

  17. James
    April 22, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    I have read a number of your essays and finally realize that I am the victim of a controlling emotionally abusive woman. My family has been telling me this for years but I guess I have resisted believing it, or as you state… I have been convinced it is me. Reading some of your essays was like reading a biography or case study of my wife. So many of the traits and tactics you outline exist that I am astounded. My biggest problem is our 6 year old daughter. Three and a half years ago we adopted her from Ukraine. My greatest fear is that if I leave her for my own sanity, what will happen to our daughter? Inevitably the courts will award her custody and I am terrified she will suffer the same treatment, rebel and get into trouble or worse, turn out like her if I am not around to protect her. She has gone through so much trauma in her own life already being abandoned as an infant. I fear our break-up will only add more trauma to her fragile young life. You say that there is no hope for a narcissist/controller to change. This is truly sad if true. My wife is not a bad person, she just has to control everything as you stated to combat her own anxiety. I guess i should have clued in when we first started dating as she was in therapy then, but quit after we met as her therapist told her the change in her since we started dating was very positive. I really am at a loss as to what to do. Do I stay for our daughter or do I go for me? This choice seems impossible to make. What can i do?

  18. Michael
    April 6, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Yep. every word of that article describes me and my world to a tea. Thank you

  19. Capt Steve
    March 18, 2010 at 2:57 am

    If I had found this website three years ago my life would be much different. Instead, I remained in an emotionally abusive relationship for three years and I have paid the price: barely controlled diabetes, on Zoloft, blood pressure out of control, and I even spent a few days in a mental hospital’s crisis unit when I tried to put my fist through a brick wall out of sheer frustration (and when I got home the first things out of her mouth were about how busy she had been shopping, the weather, etc…not even a word of concern…but she sure seemed to like calling me ‘crazy’ or trying to tell me I was imagining her verbal abuse and self-centered behavior).

    I can’t begin to describe the litany of verbal abuse I endured, or the emotional abuse/blackmail. I will give you some examples: when, after she’d been unemployed for over a year, I suggested that she look for at least a part-time job she accused me of being a ‘greedy motherf*cker’ and that I didn’t ‘respect the contribution’ she made to the household. This was while I was working 65+ hours a week, had cashed in my vacation time to pay to get her car fixed, was doing all the cooking and the laundry as well as taking care of the lawn, furnace, repairs, etc…while she woke up shortly before noon each day, sometimes chastising me for making too much noise in the morning while I sat at the table eating oatmeal for breakfast.

    Worst of all: she did the same thing to her daughter (not my biological daughter).

    I finally “woke up” a few months ago. Her daughter is now in the Army in the hope that the discipline, stability and educational opportunities will prevent her from turning out like her mother. This is MY house, so the abusive ex-girlfriend is now paying rent and having to fend for herself…and she treats having to work 40 hours a week as if it were an Olympic event.

    I am sure that surviving this has knocked a few years off of my life.

    But at least I know I’m not crazy.

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  1. March 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm

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