Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Marriage, relationships > 10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully

10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully

mood-swingsDoes your girlfriend or wife yell, scream, and swear at you? Do you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your relationship because they just wouldn’t understand? Is your relationship making you feel like you’re slowly going crazy?

If so, you’re probably involved with a woman who is an emotionally abusive bully. Most men don’t want to admit that they’re in an abusive relationship. They describe the relationship and their girlfriend/wife using other terms like crazy, emotional, controlling, bossy, domineering, constant conflict, or volatile. If you use words like this to describe your relationship, odds are you’re being emotionally abused.

Do you recognize any of the following behaviors?

1) Bullying. If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay. She wants to control you and resorts to emotional intimidation to do it. She uses verbal assaults and threats in order to get you to do what she wants. It makes her feel powerful to make you feel bad. People with a Narcissistic personality are often bullies.

Result: You lose your self-respect and feel outnumbered, sad, and alone. You develop a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which you identify with the aggressor and actually defend her behavior to others.

2) Unreasonable expectations. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, it’s never enough. She expects you to drop whatever you’re doing and attend to her needs. No matter the inconvenience, she comes first. She has an endless list of demands that no one mere mortal could ever fulfill.

Common complaints include: You’re not romantic enough, you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re not sensitive enough, you’re not smart enough to figure out my needs, you’re not making enough money, you’re not FILL IN THE BLANK enough. Basically, you’re not enough, because there’s no pleasing this woman. No one will ever be enough for her, so don’t take it to heart.

Result: You’re constantly criticized because you’re not able to meet her needs and experience a sense of learned helplessness. You feel powerless and defeated because she puts you in no-win situations.

3) Verbal attacks.This is self-explanatory. She employs schoolyard name calling, pathologizing (e.g., armed with a superficial knowledge of psychology she uses diagnostic terms like labile, paranoid, narcissistic, etc. for a 50-cent version of name calling), criticizing, threatening, screaming, yelling, swearing, sarcasm, humiliation, exaggerating your flaws, and making fun of you in front of others, including your children and other people she’s not intimidated by. Verbal assault is another form of bullying, and bullies only act like this in front of those whom they don’t fear or people who let them get away with their bad behavior.

Result: Your self-confidence and sense of self-worth all but disappear. You may even begin to believe the horrible things she says to you.

4) Gaslighting. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It wasn’t that bad. You’re imagining things. Stop making things up.” If the woman you’re involved with is prone to Borderline or Narcissistic rage episodes, in which she spirals into outer orbit, she may very well not remember things she’s said and done. However, don’t doubt your perception and memory of events. They happened and they are that bad.

Result: Her gaslighting behavior may cause you to doubt your own sanity. It’s crazy-making behavior that leaves you feeling confused, bewildered, and helpless.

5) Unpredictable responses. Round and round and round she goes. Where she’ll stop, nobody knows. She reacts differently to you on different days or at different times. For example, on Monday, it’s ok for you to Blackberry work email in front of her. On Wednesday, the same behavior is “disrespectful, insensitive, you don’t love me, you’re a self-important jerk, you’re a workaholic.” By Friday, it could be okay for you to Blackberry again.

Telling you one day that something’s alright and the next day that it’s not is emotionally abusive behavior. It’s like walking through a landmine in which the mines shift location.

Result: You’re constantly on edge, walking on eggshells, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is a trauma response. You’re being traumatized by her behavior. Because you can’t predict her responses, you become hypervigilant to any change in her mood or potential outburst, which leaves you in a perpetual state of anxiety and possibly fear. It’s a healthy sign to be afraid of this behavior. It’s scary. Don’t feel ashamed to admit it.

6) Constant Chaos. She’s addicted to conflict. She gets a charge from the adrenaline and drama. She may deliberately start arguments and conflict as a way to avoid intimacy, to avoid being called on her bullshit, to avoid feeling inferior or, bewilderingly, as an attempt to avoid being abandoned. She may also pick fights to keep you engaged or as a way to get you to react to her with hostility, so that she can accuse you of being abusive and she can play the victim. This maneuver is a defense mechanism called projective identification.

Result: You become emotionally punch drunk. You’re left feeling dazed and confused, not knowing which end is up. This is highly stressful because it also requires you to be hypervigilant and in a constant state of defense for incoming attacks.

7) Emotional Blackmail. She threatens to abandon you, to end the relationship, or give you the cold shoulder if you don’t play by her rules. She plays on your fears, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, shame, values, sympathy, compassion, and other “buttons” to control you and get what she wants.

Result: You feel manipulated, used, and controlled.

8 Rejection. She ignores you, won’t look at you when you’re in the same room, gives you the cold shoulder, withholds affection, withholds sex, declines or puts down your ideas, invitations, suggestions, and pushes you away when you try to be close. After she pushes you as hard and as far away as she can, she’ll try to be affectionate with you. You’re still hurting from her previous rebuff or attack and don’t respond. Then she accuses you of being cold and rejecting, which she’ll use as an excuse to push you away again in the future.

Result: You feel undesirable, unwanted, and unlovable. You believe no one else would want you and cling to this abusive woman, grateful for whatever scraps of infrequent affection she shows you.

9) Withholding affection and sex. This is another form of rejection and emotional blackmail. It’s not just about sex, it’s about withholding physical, psychological, and emotional nurturing. It includes a lack of interest in what’s important to you–your job, family, friends, hobbies, activities–and being uninvolved, emotionally detached or shut down with you.

Result: You have a transactional relationship in which you have to perform tasks, buy her things, “be nice to her,” or give into her demands in order to receive love and affection from her. You don’t feel loved and appreciated for who you are, but for what you do for her or buy her.

10) Isolating. She demands or acts in ways that cause you to distance yourself from your family, friends, or anyone that would be concerned for your well-being or a source of support. This typically involves verbally trashing your friends and family, being overtly hostile to your family and friends, or acting out and starting arguments in front of others to make it as unpleasant as possible for them to be around the two of you.

Result: This makes you completely dependent upon her. She takes away your outside sources of support and/or controls the amount of interaction you have with them. You’re left feeling trapped and alone, afraid to tell anyone what really goes on in your relationship because you don’t think they’ll believe you.

You don’t have to accept emotional abuse in your relationship. You can get help or you can end it. Most emotionally abusive women don’t want help. They don’t think they need it. They are the professional victims, bullies, narcissists, and borderlines. They’re abusive personality types and don’t know any other way to act in relationships.

Life is too short to spend one more second in this kind of relationship. If your partner won’t admit she has a problem and agree to get help, real help, then it’s in your best interest to get support, get out, and stay out.


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: Mood swings on ccmbuzz.

  1. Broken
    July 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I am going through this with my wife at present. I have been married 7 months and we dated a year before we got married. During the dating process I saw no signs of these bullying but 2 days after we were married on our honeymoon it all started. I have been suffering nearly the whole 7months and because I am in the ministry I have been trying so much to save our marriage. I suggested we go to counseling and when we went to counseling, my wife went in, lied repeatedly in each session and put on performances that would have won her an Academy Award. There is physical, emotional and mental abuse in this marriage and I feel as if i am losing my mind sometimes. Nothing is ever good enough for my wife. Now let m not mention how she is an only child and constantly brings her mother into our marriage. That has gotten on my last nerve. I have been accused of everything under the son. She as hit me screamed thrown things u name it and its happened. I struggle with the fact that I am 38 years old and I waited a long time to get married and now I cant see myself living with this person the rest of my life. I think i would have to be committed if I did this. I am struggling and part of me still loves her. We have been ordered to seperate for 2 weeks and I am not sure I want her to come back in 2 weeks seeing how peaceful it has been here. I am constantly praying to God and asking him what to do. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank u so much
    Sincerely Broken

    • SUREN
      July 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Broken, every situation is unique and so is yours.. however there are some clear signals of abusive women. I realised that too late. I spent 2 years with one, and I lost a lot. I can understand your situation now, contemplating. I contemplated for 2 years and paid the price for it. I am 37 years and stayed on, trying because of my age. No matter what, now that I am out, the losses dont seem to have any signifance compared to the freedom. Do a pro and con list if you stay and if you get out. I did mine and got out. Good luck.

    • July 17, 2010 at 2:44 am

      Here’s a couple of websites that offer a refreshingly different perspective (from a Christian belief):

      Have at it…(Dr. T, hope you don’t mind) –



      And…my 2 cents: One thing I’ve noticed, as a Christian (faithful) woman, is how sometimes, those with “good intentions” will pull a Christian guilt-trip on you for wanting to end a marriage to an abusive spouse –they don’t get how damaging this is.

      I was brought up pretty strict, with the whole “marriage is for life, no matter what” concept, and it was a real struggle for me to finally end the relationship, as there was so much shame involved.

      Here’s what I’ve learned on my own:

      If God is not involved in the first place, it’s not really a true “marriage.” In other words, if your reasons for committing to that person were based on things such as fear, guilt, lust, obligation, loneliness, desperation, financial security,feelings of low self-worth / self-loathing, or anything that is decidedly NOT of God (but rather, of the enemy), then did God sanction that marriage? Is it even possible for Him to do so?

      And, IMO, if God’s not involved, it cannot truly be Love, as God is the creator of Love.

      Would the God I choose to believe in want me to promise myself to someone who would make me feel worthless, useless, (also not of God), who would drag me down so much, that I felt ready to turn my soul over to the devil (i.e. contemplating suicide / violence against my ex)? Would my God want that? I think not.

      Not all marriages are sanctioned by God. When we let things of this earth, especially those of us who grew up programmed with lies about our own worth, choose our spouse rather than God, we set ourselves up for failure. Yes, some people can make it through, and are happy and find Love, but for most of us, it is a set-up for abuse.

      I’ve heard many times “God hates divorce,” and will tell you right now, that’s not the only thing He hates. The two webpages from above will explain in greater detail.

      Many times in the Bible, it discusses how a husband should treat a wife and how a wife should treat her husband. Isaiah 61 states that God hates iniquity and injustice. Meaning, He hates abuse!

      Committing to someone who God may not have intended for your spouse, out of a sense of obligation (a tool of the devil, IMHO), guilt, or whatever, to end up miserable and with a damaged / murdered soul is NOT what I believe God ever intended for marriage.

      Marriage was intended as a partnership, a coming together of two people, helping one another, growing together. What happens in abusive relationships is not a marriage. Marriage requires two people working together. That cannot ever happen in abusive relationships, unless the abuser really takes a long hard look at themselves (as opposed to pretending for the sake of keeping their ‘puppy’ on its leash…good luck) and really tries to change (not likely).

      Marriage is a covenant: a promise to one another and in front of God. She uses the ‘for better or worse’ part to manipulate you. Ask yourself, When’s the last time she faithfully executed the “Love, honor and cherish” part of those vows? If you’re truly honest, ask yourself: has she been fully committed to the “Foresaking all others”? If she broke the covenant, broke her promise, refused or has been unable to hold up her end of that promise / contract, you are therefore no longer obligated to continue putting up with her abuse for the rest of your life.

      Choosing to live in misery is never a part of God’s plan for our lives.

      My former MIL actually told me once that I should apologize to God…for marrying her son. Now, I wish someone would tell her that she ought to apologize for daring to use the Bible to judge and shame someone else, rather than to look for her own shortcomings to work on. I guess the apple don’t fall too far from that tree.

      Hope this helps,

      Psalm 37, which says quit wasting time with the wicked, they’ll pass into history – instead “consider the blameless, observe the upright, there is a future for the man of peace.”

      Another one, from a woman’s and Godly perspective: http://www.rbc.org/uploadedfiles/Bible_Study/Discovery_Series/PDF/Gods_Protection_of_Women.pdf

      I so wanted to send that to my former MIL…but, revenge gets you nowhere.

      Good Luck and God Bless,

      • JustMe
        July 23, 2010 at 5:45 am

        TheGirlInside, thanks so much for posting this! It really really lifted some weight off of me because I was staring down the “God hates divorce” brick wall. For almost 10 years I’ve been standing in faith that God would touch my wife’s heart, heal whatever wound or pull down whatever stronghold was built that allowed her to withhold herself from me physically and emotionally and keep my children from me. I started looking forward to getting out of this marriage and finding a woman who would love me the way God intended, but would ended up feeling guilt and condemnation for a supposed “lack of faith” that God could resurrect this dead marriage. I started praying that the marriage be saved, but what I eventually heard as a response from the Lord is: God does hate divorce and desires that my marriage would work, but my wife has made a contrary decision and the Lord won’t invade our will and force us to obey HIm. He asked, does He hate it when a husband or wife hires an attorney, fills out paperwork and splits their property or does He hate it when a husband or wife breaks the marriage covenant and withholds what they are bound to share with their spouse? The answer is the latter and, in my situation, the divorce has already happened. I shared your comments with a friend and wanted to post her comments: “Wow…I love when people can talk Truth from their experiences like this post! How come ‘divorce hate’ is opposite from all other hates in assumed correct response? God hates many things…things we can also hate. He hates the fool, the unclean that issues forth out of a person’s mouth…hating divorce is to hate horrid abuses of marriage vows. We do not tolerate abuse and we do not tolerate foolishness. God hates broken relationships of all kinds…but only in marriage are we told that we must act/pretend there is nothing broken and stay participating in a lie…? Illogical.”

  2. Ace
    June 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hey Gracie,

    Post away, you’ve joined the club as a survivor, re spelling, check this out you’ll love it ;

    I Cdnuolt Blveiee Taht I Cluod Aulaclty Uesdnatnrd Waht I Was Rdanieg. The Phaonmneal Pweor Of The Hmuan Mnid, Aoccdrnig To A Rscheearch At Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, It Deosn’t Mttaer In Waht Oredr The Ltteers In A Wrod Are, The Olny Iprmoatnt Tihng Is Taht The Frist And Lsat Ltteer Be In The Rghit Pclae. The Rset Can Be A Taotl Mses And You Can Sitll Raed It Wouthit A Porbelm. Tihs Is Bcuseae The Huamn Mnid Deos Not Raed Ervey Lteter By Istlef, But The Wrod As A Wlohe. Amzanig Huh? Yaeh And I Awlyas Tghuhot Slpeling Was Ipmorantt!!!

    We’ve shared much of the same Gracie, post away

  3. Gracie
    June 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Before I say anything else, I’d like to identify myself, I’m a woman. I feel like I’m in the boys bathroom though. My situation is exactly the same just with a husband rather than a wife. Well, actually, he is my X husband. I am 17 years into this abusive relationship, I have not found a site that lays it out so clearly. I have figured out from what I have been able to read that My X is a bully. He hasn’t hit me before, but he hascrossed every other line there is to cross. I have a complete paragraph prepared to post here, but I’m always second guessing myself and his voice lives in my head all the time now.I’m afraid I’ll sound stupid, or say something that I shouldn’t. I am very afraid that I’m not even welcomed to post on this site. I misspell words a lot, and that causes me stress because I have to stop to check my spelling if a word doesn’t look right. Then I usually just end up copy and pasting what I start with into a word document, that way it can check my spelling, and grammar… then I can read it a few times and take out things that sound wrong.This is what 17 years of living with someone that keeps you always unsure of yourself will do to you. You guys that are considering staying involved with a bully, oh please don’t. It’s not a fun life. The house is always filled with a heavy feeling of stress or anger. It’s a lonely life. I’ll stop now and if it’s okay to have a girl in the boys room let me know, or redirect me. I’ll save the longer post for next time. Take care guys, Gracie

    • Lighthouse
      June 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm


      1. Abuse is not a gender issue.
      2. The intent of abuse is to undermine your security so you’d expect to be ‘unsure of yourself’ after 17 years of it.
      3. Spelling and grammar only become a problem when they undermine communication.
      4. Learn to put the toilet seat up, i.e. be respectful that this site provides a sandbox (‘safe forum’) for men’s personal growth (the first step of which is lots of unhealthy inappropriate venting).
      5. Now you’re in the boy’s bathroom you may be pleasantly surprised by how many of us have learnt to practice good hygiene when it comes to bullies.


  4. SUREN
    June 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I find your article to be spot on. I was in a relationship with an abusive woman for over 2 years now. I just ended it a month ago. In fact, I really couldnt see it coming when I first dated (maybe I was naive and missed all the flags). And get this, she threats about leaving the relationship all the time, over the smallest reason.. and expects me to beg my way back… but on May 3, I didnt beg (because I had enough), I said “OK. I agree we should break up”. She went into a mental rage. Breaking things, taking a knife to cut her wrist, throwing things from the 19th floor apartment and here is the best part.. she left the house, stayed in the car park all night.. and the next morning, when I went to the car park, and at the moment she saw me…she rammed her car into a wall ! Days after that she sends me apologetic emails… giving all kinds of excuses for her rage. I ran that day, and I never turned back. Two days ago (after more than one month) she turned up again in front of my door wanting to meet for the last time and apologize in person. I did not budge as I knew this was one of her tactics.

    • shrink4men
      June 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      Wow! That takes a lot of strength. Good for you and keep looking forward. Oh, and don’t be surprised if she continues to pop-up from time to time—-like when she discovers you’re dating again.

      By the way, I hope it was her car that she rammed into a wall and not yours. Crazy.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  5. June 7, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Hi RC.

    My ex tries to make out its all my fault. She once turned to me and said..”So “now your trying to make out its my fault are you”?
    I replied…”Are you telling me that it was my fault that you Hit, spat, kicked, verbally abused me” etc… Her reply was “YES” If I was a much nicer person she wouldn’t do those things…Nicer to her meant… if I didn’t collapse at work and go into hospital for 52 days,,, but instead went out and worked.
    It is hard to be free from the emotions and manipulation. I often tell my ex wife that I only feel safe to talk to her with a mediator present. Last night she tried talking at me on the phone regarding what dates I wanted the kids during school hols and then told me “NO” it was toooo long…

    In the end I just hung up on her.

    • July 17, 2010 at 2:31 am

      Her response “If you would be nicer, I wouldn’t _____” reminds me of the all-time number one abuser’s line, “See what you made me do?!?” Like that creepy old bag in the movie “Misery.”

      Hanging up on her – priceless!! I’d say that was the best decision at that time.

  6. alex
    May 30, 2010 at 5:53 am

    i had a bully of a girlfrind for a while, but like you say there was the stoockhom syndrome so to speak. glad this article and some friends snapped me out of it

    • RC
      May 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      I have been separated from my “bully” wife of 20 years for 5 months now. The first three were emotionally horrific for me. Feelings of guilt and separation anxiety. However, over the last 60 days my mind and personality have come alive again. I am shedding to oppressive shadow that has for so long been over me. I have a lifelong friend that is a big help in this. It is interesting that my wife was at first willing to talk with me about our relationship and the issues we have. Last month, she started laying everything on me in our last discussion. I told her that as long as she takes that approach, we will not be able to resolve our problems. She left and stopped talking with me. As I see it, she was appealing to my guilt and desire to end her pain in order to bring me under control. I think she is realizing that this is not going to work and is either trying to “silent treat” me or is at a loss for an approach to gain control over me again. There are other little things she does to mess with me that I will not bore you with.
      This whole thing is disgusting to me, but I have no choice except to ride the wave. I should have been far more careful before marrying this woman. But, this is all water under the bridge now. The good thing is that I am starting to gain my emotional independence again. It feels great! I spend far less time with my daughters since they live with her and two of three are treating me differently than before. I am concerned, but time will tell how it all will work out. Don’t let a spouse or “girl friend” emotionally dominate you. Once you see signs of this run, do not walk to the nearest escape.

  7. Lucy
    May 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Just because a woman withholds sex from you doesn’t mean she’s abusive, it probably means that she’s irritated about something or is just not in the mood. If you’re so desperate to get off when your girlfriend is pissy, rub one out.

    • shrink4men
      May 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm


      Withholding sex is abusive when it is part of a larger pattern of behavior as explained in this post and others. Withholding sex is abusive when it is used to punish or manipulate. Turning sex into a reward or transaction may not be abusive, but it certainly isn’t part of a healthy relationship dynamic.

      Dr Tara

      • July 17, 2010 at 2:27 am

        …nor should it EVER be viewed / treated as legal tender!!

    • chester
      May 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Lucy….spoken like a true “commodities broker”

  8. Bob
    May 21, 2010 at 3:15 am

    I just wanted to take a minute to write in with the latest incident that I had within the past week. I work out of town and have been for the past year. I get home on the weekends but not every weekend. This past weekend I wasn’t able to make it home so my wife came out to spend some time with me. When I’m on the road and working, it’s work 24/7. What else is there to do? So when she arrived I met her at her car but didn’t run up to her pull her out and kiss her passionately like she felt I should have done. This caused a problem that just compounded after that. Within the first few hours we were at odds and it all came out. She said that she is always excited when I get home and can’t wait to greet me when I get out of my truck so when I wasn’t at her door immediately when she showed up (in her mind), I don’t love her as much as she does me. Then she complained about how I talked to a life long friend (I’ve known him since I was 13) for longer than her and I talk. She has access to our cell phone account online and she looked it up. The date, phone number and duration of my call, I know this because in the course of our arguement I asked and she admitted to it. Then she went into a rage about how much she hates my friend, his wife and family and how she felt they had treated her badley when we were dating and met them at a club one night (about 3 years ago). She also went on to say that I should have stood up for her and told them about their mistreatment of her and that I should never see them again. She also said that it didn’t matter how long I have known him, she is my wife and I need to stand for her. I agree with her to a point, I will stand by her through anything that I feel is wrong but I won’t stand by her if she is in the wrong. I did not feel that anyone was mistreated that night and that we had a great time together and if there was really something wrong she should have brought it up then, not 3 years later. The arguement continued mostly about how wrong I have been and that I have failed her as her husband. But she followed that statement up with, “I’m ok with that, I forgive and forget quickly”. At that point I walked out of the hotel room and went out for some air and peace. This is just a quick little blurb of what I have been going through over the past few years and I could write in every week with another story. I have been watching this for a short period of time now and after reading the articles on this web site I have started to noticed more of the signs of NPD and BPD. I’m meeting with my old friend this weekend, which I haven’t seen in over a year (we live only 10 miles apart) and we’re going to talk about this. I have sent him this web page address and he has been looking at it also. I just want to get another persons opinion, especially someone that I have known for a long time and who also knows me. I value his thoughts and opinions and I know he wouldn’t steer me wrong.

    • July 17, 2010 at 2:28 am


      I hope you continue to write – and review what you have written…especially in your own handwriting. I found it so very powerful, when trying to decide which course of action to take re: my AXH, to read over my thoughts, in my own handwwriting…and some amazing mental clarity broke through…that gave me some big ‘aha’ moments.

      Best of luck to you,

  9. May 20, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I am sitting here saying yes yes yes. The abuse I suffered came to a head in a very real and horrible manner which I have written about on my blog. http://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/ and I have the same group on facebook.

    I am doing some advocacy work in NSW Australia to try and change the public information given about domestic violence by government departments…its a hard slog.

    Thank you for your site. Craig B

  10. esm
    May 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Hi all,
    I am trying to arrange for marriage counseling with my BP wife, and am having difficulty figuring out how to do it in a way she does not feel threatened. Thanks to this blog along with other sources (including visiting family who have witnessed the situation) I am very clear my wife has issues. She bashes men, so a male therapist may not be the answer. Thoughts?

  11. CC
    May 16, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Hey SA, just wanted to say hi and see how you are doing. Nothing has changed for my friend, but after bringing it up and getting complete denial I’ve kept my mouth shut and now he talks about it every once in a while. I’m distancing myself because it’s just too hard to take. I feel tremendously guilty but there is no good solution. I hope you are well. CC

    • SA
      May 17, 2010 at 12:07 am

      CC~ Good to hear from you … I’ve been thinking about you. Sorry things haven’t gotten better w/ your friend. I’m afraid my friend isn’t faring much better from what I can tell. He’s become withdrawn again (emails once/week; used to be 3-4 times a week) – claims he’s “busy” (still doesn’t have a job) so I sent him a note and told him I needed to talk to him and when he could find the time, let me know. He answered pretty promptly and we’re setting up time to talk this week. The dynamics of my relationship w/ him are different than yours so I have a little more “freedom” to request this. I don’t plan on discussing his NP wife, but I want to ask him point blank if he’s OK and let him know I feel like he’s shutting me out. This is painful for me (since I love him like I do) and I need to let him know how I feel.

  12. SA
    May 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Hi Dave – I just commented on your pros/cons list. Want to give a little background on why I (a female) am on this site. I have a childhood friend (male) with a wife who is, I believe, NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). I was seeking both validation from what I think about her behaviors as well as ways that I can approach him about this. (I “love” him and I am very worried about him!) He trusts me more than he trusts anyone else but I still have to be guarded on how I approach it. I’ve seen what this type of behavior has done to him (developed cardiac issues in his mid 40’s, for example). Based on things he’s told me coupled with reading A LOT of books, I am convinced that she’s narcissitic (tho I can’t diagnose her NPD because I’m not a professional). In the process, I’ve learned a lot and hope to be able to, someday, talk frankly with him. In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to pass on some names of books that I read that might be helpful to you. “Loving the self-absorbed”, “Narcissitic lovers”, “The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop being abused and how to stop abusing.” Additionally, you sound a lot like me in being the “nice guy”. I’m one of those women that would DO ANYTHING for people (to a fault) but unfortunately, we can set ourselves up to get less than we deserve. That being said, another book that has been recommended to me is called “Pleasers”. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. HOpe this helps – keep me posted.

    • Dave
      May 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks SA. I’ve now been on the receiving end of “silent treatment” since Friday evening. I understand this is a huge sign of emotional abuse, as I’m aching to talk to her. I’ve written my thoughts down in a letter to my girlfriend, and am deciding whether to give it to her or not. Basically, I told her all the great things I see in her and in our relationship. I also explained 3 emotional abuse signs that I observed:
      1) silent treatment lasting for days (this is the first time it’s lasted this long though)
      2) name calling (she’ll get frustrated with my ADD tendencies and call me “dumb” or “stupid” at times)
      3) isolation from friends/family (she will always give me a curfew if I go somewhere without her)

      I then explained that I tried denying the abusive behavior, and I just realized the abusive behavior is the underlying cause of my hesitations to get married. This will likely catch her off-guard, as I’ve never mentioned my observations of her abuse before.

      I gave her the two options of either breaking up now (and making myself available to be friends with her), or having her move out for 4 months allowing her time to end the abusive behavior (which will only work if she admits this problem and is willing to change it herself).

      This is extremely difficult for me. I’ve been with her for 6 years of my life, and we’ve had so many wonderful memories and experiences together. She has been a great help in my life. Yet at the same time, I can see that her actions are abusive towards me, which is unhealthy and not acceptable.

      I’m sure I’ll get through this. It’s a bumpy road ahead no matter what. But I can get through this.

      Wish me luck, and I’ll let everyone know how it goes. As far as the ring goes, maybe I will ask the jeweler if I can pay a deposit to have him hold the ring while I get through these issues.

      • shrink4men
        May 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

        Hi Dave,

        I hope your letter is effective, but I doubt it will be. First, abusers don’t take very well to being called on their bad behaviors. They’re quite adept at turning the facts around to accuse you of being the abusive one. How cruel and controlling you are to point out her abusive behavior! Don’t you know how lucky you are to be with her? You don’t deserve her. You’d better apologize or else she’ll deny you the privilege of marrying her and signing up for a lifetime of being her emotional punching bag/doormat!

        You seem to be bargaining with her (in your letter) to treat you well and just be nice to you. This should be baseline behavior. You shouldn’t have to negotiate with your potential fiance to be kind to you. Alternatively, you may scare her straight until the deed is done and she legally has you on the hook. Tread carefully. I don’t think you should put a deposit on the ring. Tell her because of her behavior, you think you should wait a year to get engaged. If she can maintain good behavior for a year while making a sincere effort to resolve her issues to the point where you feel good about her and binding yourself to her legally, then give her a ring.

        You’re about to roll the dice with your life and assets and potential children. I’m sorry, but she seems like a dark horse.

        Good Luck,
        Dr T

      • SA
        May 17, 2010 at 12:15 am

        Dave~I am no expert like Dr. T. but from an outsider looking in (and witnessing the deterioration of my friends health and esteem, I believe due to his narcissistic wife) I think Dr T makes some excellent points. I noticed that you said making yourself available as her friend. Can you do that emotionally? From everything I read about splitting from an emotional bully, one should abide by the “no contact” rule. Maybe Dr T can interject her thoughts on that.

  13. Dave
    May 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I’m going through a rough patch (and maybe the end of the road) with my girlfriend. We’ve been with each other for 6 years. As with previous relationships I’ve had, she had to push me to ask her to be my girlfriend. She set up a deadline, and I finally asked her out with a minute to spare.

    I’m a “nice guy” type of person. I’m generally quiet and to myself, but always willing to help people. I’m an easy target for people to walk all over me, and if someone is controlling, that makes the situation even worse.

    My girlfriend has many qualities I like, and I love her. She cares for the earth, animals, and for other people. She goes to church, doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, has great morals, and stays out of trouble. I get along very well with her family.

    However, my family recently approached me and said they see some “red flags”. They already didn’t like the fact that she’s 6 years older than me (I’m 29). My brother even called my mom a couple weeks ago and was crying when explaining his observations about us. My family noticed that my friends have disappeared from my life, and my family has a hard time scheduling time to spend with me. Any time I tell my girlfriend about some event I want to go to involving friends or family, it either needs to be scheduled well in advance or I have to make a HUGE deal about going to it. My mom sees all of this as emotional abuse. I see some BPD tendencies as well.

    My girlfriend will tell me what to eat, where we are going, she’ll choose my clothes and my hairstyle, among other things. I sometimes put up a fight, but don’t have the energy to constantly put up fights. I was also recently diagnosed with adult ADHD (only having the lack of attention problems…no hyperactivity). She is very organized, I am not. This encourages her to help me organize my life, but I am wondering if it’s helping or hurting me (by causing her to be more controlling of me).

    She always comes up with negative observations about the friends and family in my life. It’s always more important form her point of view that I spend time with her than with my friends/family. I have a friend that drinks (so I can’t spend time with him as she worries I may encourage his drinking). Another friend said some negative things in a stressful situation to my girlfriend (so I can’t spend time with him). My dad also has controlling tendencies (and my girlfriend threatens to confront him in front of everyone). She has even told my brother about her thoughts about my dad, which caused my brother to be greatly upset.

    She has been pushing me towards marriage for the past 2 years. Recently, she forced me to go out and look for rings. I did, but it was extremely difficult for me as I had doubts in my head. At this point, I even had a jeweler make a custom ring, and I’m stringing him along by not getting the courage to pick it up and pay for it. Going to pick it up and pay for it is VERY difficult for me, as I feel very uneasy about a potential marriage right now. And I am very worried about what my family will think if I marry her since they told me about the red flags.

    We were talking about the “ring” situation yesterday (as she can see I’m dragging my feet). I told her I’m just feeling uneasy about the marriage thing, and I need to work through this. She wanted to set an ultimatum (threatening to tell my family she’s living with me (she is), or that we’re engaged when we’re not). I told her an ultimatum would make things worse, and it’s up to me to decide how to proceed.

    Now she is refusing to speak to me (or even look at me). She left last night for 3 hours and her good friend tells me she went to a coffee shop and they talked on the phone. I made her pancakes this morning. She took her shower and then ate them in a separate room with the door closed. She then got dressed and left, and I have no clue where she went (probably to lunch or to spend time with a friend).

    She mentioned that she wanted me to pick up the ring today. I do not feel good about this whole situation, and can’t imagine asking her to marry me right now. Instead of picking up the ring, I am writing this comment looking for advice.

    So far, I only told her I’m uneasy about getting married. I never explained her emotionally abusive tendencies, and I’m wondering if I should or not. I also need to decide if this is something that I should try to work through (knowing that I can’t force her to change unless she decides she wants to change). Or if I should throw in the towel and move on with my life in the hopes that I can find someone else. It’s also difficult for me to tell if my family’s observations are valid or not (as my girlfriend does a great job of pointing out times when my family’s opinions are flat out wrong or even crazy), and I can’t tell who is right or wrong (my girlfriend or my family).

    • SA
      May 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      Dave: If you are having this much difficulty in picking up a ring that signifies committing your life to someone, DON’T do it! This is coming from a woman (myself)who has been married 18 years and I can tell you that it will NOT get easier. Marriage is difficult in the best of situations. Take some time for yourself and decide what YOU want from a relationship and then evaluate if this girl is capable of meeting your needs. Ask yourself if her controlling personality is something you want to live with for the rest of your life. Don’t worry about what your family thinks in terms of making a decision – focus on YOU and what YOU want and need from a partner. It is much easier to move on now than after the “knot is tied”.

      • Dave
        May 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

        Thanks for the advice SA, that is very helpful. To add to my challenges, I have never taken the initiative to break up with a girl before. Due to my “nice guy” syndrome, I will do everything I can to avoid hurting people, including my girlfriend. I find myself telling her that I’ll work things out, and encouraging her not to worry (even though in the back of my head, I’m not sure if I want to work things out). Obviously I need to work through these issues of my own!

        I put together a pro/con list of my relationship for people to comment on here:

  14. Bob
    May 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Wow, I’m glad I came across this page. I’ve been feeling this way about my current wife for some time now. I say current wife because this is my second marriage. My first was eighteen years long and very loveless but at least it wasn’t like this one. We never fought, we always discussed major purchases and options when there was a issue brewing in the household. We didn’t have children, that was both of ours decision and we let a boring happy life. I relocated and my ex didn’t want to leave home, family and firends. That’s ok, it worked out for both of us. I fell in love with this new woman and everything was great, then we got married and slowly, ever so slowly things changed. It was such a slow change I didn’t even notice until recently. She stopped working to go back to school to follow her dream of becoming a RN, now that’s too difficult so she’s changing her major and when I remind her why she went back to school she becomes angry, short and blames me for the outside influences that are distracting her. She plays the guilt game very large with me and she’s a pro at it. She has been talking to me like I’m a child, always being very stern and condecending. She has told me that I let her down and haven’t protected her like I said I would in our marriage vows because she had to drive home one night in the rain (which she is deathly afraid of). I don’t work out anymore, I use to play organized sports and I don’t do that anymore, I haven’t seen my closest friend that I grew up with in almost a year, I haven’t seen my family in three years and I generally have no contact outside of her family and friends. When I bring up doing some of the things I liked to do before we met, I’m shot down and told it’s not really important right now and maybe next weekend. Financially ruined, pyhsically shot and emotionally confused. Like I said in the beginning, I’m glad I found this page and I now have a vague idea of how to start moving forward and beginning my life again. Thank you…

  15. Langdon
    May 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I have been in a long distance relationship for over a year now, my significant other does make me happy don’t get me wrong, but she will become upset by something even if I had nothing to do with it and then she will take it all out on me. I’m ok with ranting or telling me what’s wrong but when it becomes things like calling me names and saying she doesnt love me and saying that I should just leave her and stuff like that it just gets emotionaly draining and i’ve gotten to the point where i’m just ignoring her when she exhibits this behavior and then shes fine a few hours later. I just wish she would stop.

    • Lighthouse
      May 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm


      The only difference between your girlfriend “ranting or telling me what’s wrong” with someone else and “calling [you] names and saying she doesnt love me and saying that I should just leave her and stuff like that” is the direction of her inappropriate behavior. Irrespective of the immediacy of the target, it is bad behavior.

      Immediate venting in the aftermath of a shock is healthy (or at least normal). Sustained ranting is the conscious manifestation of a reflexive (unconscious) rejection of the emotions. As you have expressed, that behavior “just gets emotionaly draining”.

      As the acts are without conscious thought she dose not recognize that her behavior is egregious. So the only question is how long do you plan to stick around as her victim of choice ? (Before you answer that question, you may want to consider how long a “few hours” feels if she has demands to maintain responsibility for your children while she checks out and acts out on them!)

      Do the right thing,


      • Langdon
        May 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm

        Thankfully were not gonna have kids.

        Right now I cannot see myself leaving her, I wish I just knew how to help her calm down sometimes without leaving her to herself.

        • Lighthouse
          May 24, 2010 at 7:43 pm

          Sadly one of the symptoms of a disordered personality is the inability to follow through on prior commitments to future actions.

          While she may have agreed that your “not gonna have kids”, I’m hoping she is not the gatekeeper of that decision, i.e. keeper of the birth control, or you could be in for a little surprise!

          As for you “help[ing] her calm down”… her emotions are driven by differences between her expectations and her interpretation of reality. Only her learning from her experience to set her own healthy expectations will reduce the magnitude of her reactions. Nowhere do those sentences refer to you so you have very limited abililty to affect the outcome. While you can share the above sentences, if she rejects it then leaving her with a kind, respectful explanation why you are leaving is the best way you can “help her calm down”. Otherwise, start setting your own expectations to include a life of escalating emotional tyranny.

  16. Emily
    May 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I am writing because I need a reality check. I am dating, or rather no longer dating, a woman who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I can’t seem to let go… We are living together with her father and renting out the upstairs of his home in order to save ourselves some money. Things have been very confusing for us for the last year and 8 months that we’ve been together, and I can’t seem to leave (both emotionally and physically) with out first understanding and obtaining some sense of closure about what happened between us.

    I have numerous detailed accounts of things that have happened in our relationship because it has been my only refuge and means of trying to understand. I have fallen into a great depression as a result and do not feel good about myself.

    I simply no longer have the energy anymore to expend trying to describe to patient friends and family things all the things that happen. I am writing you because you have particular knowledge of this subject, and I am hoping that your expert advice will help provide me with a reality check and a rational basis of what it might be that I’m experiencing. I am beginning to doubt myself and my own sanity, making it even more difficult to leave.

    I am going to share a little of what has gone on in our relationship, and I will apologize now if I start to tangent and go all over the place… this has been mentally exhausting and taxing for me, and I just want to know what’s going on. I also want to know if she’s really bipolar? As for me, I know that I personally struggle with codependency, which I am willing to get help for, but I am stuck trying to spend so much time understanding what’s gone on with us and an argument that may have just occurred that I am too mentally exhausted when the time rolls around.

    To describe my relationship with Erin…

    I would say that Erin rushed right into things with me… She literally was all over me when we first met… and it continued. We hung out every day from the first day on, and most (not all) nights she stayed at my place. I told her that I just wanted to be friends, and she told me that if I didn’t want to be with her right then and there then she would find someone else and spend all her time with them. (You will later see that Erin has an inability to be alone for any short period of time, as little as a day).

    Erin and I hooked up after a month. She pushed to have sex with me… I did not want to have sex for at least a few months, and she was pushy about it, and I was lead to believe that if I did not “give it up” then she would not continue to be with me. I almost felt like I was in a way being held responsible for her ex’s (what she told me about them… the stories) and had to do things I did not want to do. Erin’s sex drive was really high… it always has been. One night, about a month and a half or so after we had been dating, we were messing around and she would not stop when I told her to. I told her a few times and she just didn’t stop. I never talked about it again for months… nearly a year later. When I brought it up to her, she didn’t seem remorseful at all, but she did happen to say that a girl, a “butch” girl “did it to her.” That does not make it okay. Anyway.

    In Oct. Erin asked if she could use my car insurance for her trip home. She had a rental car and wanted to use MY insurance should she get in an accident. Shortly before that she asked me to sign her STUDENT loans! Note this was also around the time that I discovered she had great debt… I had no idea, and then I quickly found out in a matter of hours that she was in great financial trouble… apparently she couldn’t “hold it together” (her façade) anymore. Regardless, she asked ME to sign her student loans! Out of her mind?? She also talked with me at this time about getting joint checking accounts, etc. when we get married. I absolutely refused at this time because of her financial situation. Again, I did not realize it was as bad as it was and quickly came to find out it was out of control. It was also around this time that I found out that she had had an $8,000 cocaine addiction and had stolen money from her family’s business for 3 years… (I believe she told me explaining how she got so in debt to begin with).

    Also in October Erin and I had been talking about moving to California together (Supposedly Erin had always wanted to go, and I just so happened to be going, so we planned to go together) and freaked out one day while at her dorm either due to student loans or some bill, saying that she could not go anymore because she might not be able to take out another loan… note, this was while she was telling me that I was the “one” for her and she would not let “anything” tear us apart, etc. This was I believe when I first learnt of Erin’s great financial trouble.

    In October I believe I saw Erin’s trunk of alcohol… Huge bottle of Vodka and two smaller travel-size bottles of Vodka, along with another alcoholic drink… and sex toys/stuff. Sex cards.

    In Nov. I believe she tried contacting Nina, her ex… Erin and I had planned on going to visit her family for the first time (she had already seen her family; I was meeting them for the first time), and supposedly Nina and her band were playing at a bar and Erin wanted to know if it would be okay if we went to see them. She had been talking to Nina a few times, and I had no clue… I was also slightly insulted that after 3 months of being together she would ask me if we could go see her ex who she was still JUST in love with and cheated on her last ex (Katey) for! (Erin told me that she hadn’t been over Nina while with Katey).

    November Erin bought me a ring (it was $11 LOL), and wanted to call it a pre-“engagement” ring then (complete honesty) THAT week, possibly within a few days, she asked me if I would be willing to have a 3-some. She said that she had never had one and always wanted to have one, and asked me, after just asking me to MARRY her (I said no, but that I would “pretend” and take the promise ring) RIGHT after she had proposed to me! At first I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. I found it appalling. It also sent a shock and knot straight to my stomach. And while I should not “analyze” her behavior, I cannot help it because when something is not normal, it’s normal for a normal person to want to make sense of it… and even though I logically know that I cannot make sense out of something that is illogical (her train of thought/behavior), I still try. Anyway, so I figured that the commitment scared her and she wanted to break out/free immediately after she had made it, which just goes to show, or tells me that she is immature and not ready to have a commitment. Even so, the fact that she would ask me that after giving me a ring blows my mind… I also believe that Erin used the engagement ring to get closer to me. (See other situations below).

    She told me in Dec. 08, 3 months after we were together (When I had asked to have a few days by myself because we had spent every single day together, literally) that if I wanted time to myself she would not be with me and basically in some way, conveyed to me that she might find a new girlfriend.

    Dec. 08” Christmas… I witnessed the chaos of Erin’s family for the first time and issues with Erin’s alcohol abuse. This was the first time I had ever seen it! (See journal entries in book).

    At the end of Feb, 2009 Erin’s mother came to visit… It turned out that Erin contacted Nina again and played it off as though she had not contacted her at all… she was clearly gauging my response. (See older journal entry).

    March 2009 Erin blows up. We had gone out shopping together and had planned the day before to go to Recycle North as the last errand for the day. We had both innocently forgotten after the grocery, and I was exhausted. I told Erin I would take her the next day and she threw a fit (literally), and I told her she was being manipulative (which she was), and she went into hysterics, reserved a rental car and packed all of her stuff at the front door within a matter of an hour. (See older journal entry).

    In Jan 10” she told me that if we decided to make it official and break up, she would still stay in VT and re-sign. That same night after I’d been away for an hour and a half at alanon, when I walked in the door, she stated going back to Philly. She claimed to “miss home” and convinved herself she could find better work opportunities back home (mind you, the unemployment rate was 2/3 higher). Sometime between that night and maybe a few days she stated the only way she’d stay in VT is if we were together. I, being afraid I might not be able to make ends meet by myself and also wanting to give things another shot, agreed to getting back together and giving it another try. Once we were back together she wasn’t intent on staying in VT like she had spoken of and stated she might still go back to Philly. The doubt apparently never went away for two months because for two months she was in limbo.

    March 2010- Erin ignores me at the GLBT youth center and acts like we’re not together. Wouldn’t even move her hand or touch me. (See journal entry 3/20/10).
    Erin pulled me along a string. Erin wanted to break up before moving to Philly March 30th, 2010. We had originally planned to stay together and then re-evaluate a few weeks later around the end of April, but she decided to break up with me earlier, likely (I imagine) to say that I chose to come, failing to mention that she begged me to come. Erin begged me to come with her on Monday, the day that the landowner needed to know whether or not I was staying. Funny thing is, Tuesday, the very next day she told me I should stay in Vermont, after it was too late, and I had already told the landowner I wasn’t staying.

    Erin sexually molested her little brother Sal when he was 6 or so? Erin was 12 or 13… supposedly Erin had been molested, too, by her nanny’s (housecleaner) son.

    We get to Philly Tue night (March 30th) and Erin wants to have sex… even though we’re not “together” we agreed to be exclusive and to also re-evaluate in a few weeks, so I thought it would be okay and not “immoral.” (It’s important for me to do the right thing). So… Erin was all up on me and kissing me and stuff. The minute I consent, she pulled back and said “This isn’t right; I don’t think we should be doing this.” I felt like she was completely playing with my head. Erin has NEVER done this by the way… she has never just pulled away like that, EVER. Erin has a very high sex-drive and does not back out of something like that. She has also never teased me like that and then been so insensitive about it…

    It seems like most of our relationship has been one-sided. Erin started being selfish in the very beginning when we first started dating. She would always want me to please her sexually and would not return the favor. She would literally turn her back on me after I finished pleasing her. She would also push for sex. She claimed to need it in order to feel desired. It was excessive though. I specifically remember a few times (this was seldom) when I was not in the mood, and Erin would lay on the guilt, causing me to feel like a mediocre partner. I can specifically remember feeling fear (“pressure” is the only way I can describe it) that if I did not comply and do as she wanted (she often demanded covertly; blackmail?) then she would leave me and seek it elsewhere.

    One time Erin let her enthusiasm and ego get the best of her and she did not stop touching me when I told her to. I will not go into details, but she has some serious issues with boundaries. Anyway, she pushed me to be intimate with her and pushed for involvement and threatened that if I didn’t she would direct her attention elsewhere to other pursuits.

    Erin has had violent outbreaks off and on throughout our relationship… rages… she will kick and slam doors and yell. She almost always yells. One time she got pissed off that I wouldn’t take her to this thrift store called Recycled North. Erin and I had run many errands that day and had come home and had innocently forgotten about Recycled North, and she kept pushing me to take her. I told Erin that we had both innocently forgot and that I would take her tomorrow. She would not accept this response and began laying on the guilt.

    I told her that she was being manipulative (she was literally acting like a child and being abusive/controlling), and she exploded and packed all of her belongings and lined them up at the door. This all happened within an hour. She also managed to go online and rent a car at that time. I remember feeling completely devastated at this time and wondering how she could just leave someone she claimed to “love so much” over something that seemed so trivial. I set a boundary that she did not like, and she coerced and guilt-tripped me until I called her on it, and not liking what she had heard, she out frustration, impulsively packed her things up to leave for a 9 hour trip back home. I cannot explain the hurt that resulted from this incident and the lack of trust that followed. Trust was completely undermined by this incident.

    This was not the first time that Erin had undermined the trust in our relationship… 3 months prior to that, 3 months into our relationship, after frequent talk about “marriage,” Erin actually proposed to me only to ask me no more than a few days later, on Thanksgiving, if I would have a 3-some (group sex) with her and someone else! I was astonished. Absolutely appalled. I thought it was a joke. I literally could not believe what I was hearing or make sense of that “reality.” It was not a reality to me, and certainly not a “reality” that I had lived in before. I could not believe, after 3 months of being together, the woman who proposed to me would have the audacity to ask me if I wanted to have a 3-some. I was horrified. I said “Absolutely not.” I asked her why she would ask me such a thing, and she said “Because I have always wanted to and have never gotten the chance.” Again, this was 3 months prior to when she had packed up all of her stuff over me not taking her to the store. I experienced similar feelings of disgust and betrayal in my stomach that I did at the latter incident.

    Several events have transpired in between these two events, as well as before, and shockingly –and worsly, after. Erin has had a history of lying, cheating, stealing, and alcohol and drug use, and I guilt myself for not having left when I learnt of all of this. Unfortunately I did not learn of this until 3 months after we had been involved, and certainly not voluntarily. I mean, Erin did not volunteer the information. I discovered that she had a whole slew of problems in the midst of one of her many crises. I have somehow fallen in the middle of it. I seem to have gotten entangled. She has lied to me on numerous occasions, and I actually have detailed accounts of this as a result of trying to cope with the horror. I wrote as a constructive outlet for my anguish, loss, and grief.

    There were so many times when Erin would not tell me things. She would purposely withhold information, as well as affection, claiming that it was her “right,” yet it was uncharacteristically out of line, and if I had (which I wouldn’t) ever done anything of such nature I would be characterized as a “villain.” I say “villain” because that’s how her mind seems to work. She sees things in “black and white,” “all or nothing” and acts much like a child. Erin has serious mental disturbances, including paranoia and entitlement issues which can be expressed in frequent anger bursts to intolerant pushiness. She likes to see herself as the victim and often engages sympathy from people to elicit attention and affection. When she was little she used to feign being sick, often, to avoid having to go to school. She will also push you away if you get too close to her and pull you close if you seem the least bit distant. There is rarely a moment “in-between.”

    I may never understand why Erin has done so many reckless and cruel things, and I may never understand why I stuck around for the time in which I did except out of guilt and a natural tendency to shoulder responsibility and protect and provide for those I love. I do not want to endure this horrific situation again, and I hope that I, for the sake of my own sanity, can learn to grieve this loss and develop better trust and boundaries and learn to re-rely on my intuition so that I can guard against being manipulated and used again.

  17. akn
    May 9, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    That is an interesting discussion above on the nature of abuse. For what it is worth my view is that we all have strong feelings, both positive and negative, in intimate relations. We have anger, for example. Experiencing anger is OK. It is a useful feeling that lets you know something is wrong. Saying that you feel anger, noting how it feels as an embodied experience (eg, heat in the stomach and face, agitation, tension in the legs) and talking about how to resolve the circumstances that gave rise to your own anger is how a skilful adult deals with anger. An abuser shouts, yells, threatens, busts things, hits, kicks and spits at you to name only a few forms of abusive angry behaviour. Knowing whether or not you are in an abusive relationship really comes down to how you intereact with the other. If your intimate other routinely acts angrily then it is likely to be an abusive relationship.

    Becoming aware of your own feeling state is the other major pathway to understanding the abusiveness of your other. Plenty of people end up simply depressed and confused. That is a major sign of being abused. In my situation, after therapy, anti-depressants and considerable study of the issues I hung around her (while not living together) for quite some time to really check out her bahviours and stategies and my responses to them. It was a cool exercise in hardening my abuse identification and prevention skills. For me it was also a way to regain some self respect.

    Many of the behaviours noted by Dr T and contributors were part of her armoury of abuse. What I really want to highlight, though, was that I learned to watch my own reactions and feelings states as signs that I was being abused. Skin crawling sensations, a tight feeling in my scalp tending towards a sensation of the hair on my head standing up and a very great sense of tension in my legs were the consistent signs that I noted immediately prior to or during even her mildest episodes of casual abuse. BTW: the sensation in the legs is the flight/fight response kicking in. Of course, one doesn’t want to live with or be deeply involved with someone caqpable of producing in you the same sort of biochemical signals that happen when confronted by a Bengal Tiger in the Indian forests.

    Finally, if you experience undiagnosable body pain (lower back usually) that mystifies your medic then you’ve probably somatised your abuse. It often happens because no-one can be on guard against attack 24/7.

    One more thing: anyone who lies to you is an abuser. Telling lies is their major strategy for being alive. They lie. That is mostly what they do. Lies = abuse.

    • July 17, 2010 at 1:48 am

      Wow…thanks for the eye-opener! I just made the logical link to the way I feel after going to the chiropractor…slowly, slowly, slowly, my body stiffens, the aches come back, until they are constant and I stop paying attention to them…I do notice them, but then ‘forget’ about them as the day wears on.

      Only after going to the chiropractor and getting ‘put straight’ do I realize, “Wow, I can move my arm now!” and how good it feels to NOT have the pain anymore!!

      This is what it’s like living in and then moving away from abuse…the pain comes on so slowly, that over time you hardly notice it / or accept it as normal. Then, once you get away, it feels weird at first (like the muscle pain from gettinworked on at the chiro), but then you realize…”Wow! I AM good at _____.” “I DO enjoy ______.” You begin to laugh, not out of nervousness or fear, but out of true joy and joviality. People notice you seem happier now, and the your face doesn’t look so stressful…perhaps you never noticed that…. Freedom never felt so good!

      Thanks again!!

  18. not crazy
    April 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    this website has been a blessing to my sanity thank you for giving me some light at the end of my tunnel im just glad to see this happens to other people and i am the rational logical person that my grandmother brought me up to be (mum and dad just as messed up as well the messed up parents of this world) again thank you

  19. Mr. Man
    April 25, 2010 at 2:26 am

    Hello Dr. Tara,

    I want to begin by thanking you for having this website. I only wish that I had known about it two years ago. You see, I was in a relationship once that was one hell of a roller coaster ride! I’m trying to be sarcastic, but believe me, it was the worst time of my life.

    I met a woman who worked at the same school district and we hit it off really well in the beginning. She would laugh at my bland jokes. We would flirt and hold hands. The sky seemed a beautiful shade of blue and the birds would sing a lovley tune. Then, all hell broke lose!

    I must confess that she had recently broke off an engagement with another guy and would ignore his phone calls. The poor guy tried and tried to get her back. He would buy her roses and jewelry, etc. She loved the attention, but would not take him back. In the mean time, we were cutting the rug in her living room and staining her new sheets in the bedroom. You get the point.

    The relationship lasted two and a half years. Within those two years, she was extremely unpredictable. In the mornings, I would wonder who she was going to be for the remainder of the day. In the afternoons, we would have decent conversations or simply go out and enjoy a good lunch. In the evening, however, she metamorphasized into the devil and would unleash the wrath of hell. right before going to bed she would argue about the dumbest and silliest things. She would accuse me of things I never did or reminded me of things that I said months before. She would intentionally wake me up and ask me why I was tired. She would tap my shoulders to prevent me from sleeping. A few times, she pushed the panic button on my car keys at set the alarm off. One night I woke up and heard my car alarm. I immediately stood up, put on my shoes and she conveniently handed me my keys (at 3:00 in the morning). I checked my car and nothing was wrong. Absolutely crazy!

    There were countless times when she would snap! Honestly, her behavior really freaked me out. She would have fantastic moments and then she would crash and go into a brief depression. She blamed me for her break up with her X and would compare me to him. She would call me horrible names and tried to bring down my self-esteem. Even thouh the sex was great, I wanted so badly to end the nightmare. I gained weight, became disconnected with my family and friends. She hated my brother. He saw the signs and warned me but I was in complete denial.

    Ofcourse, she began to cheat on me. The sad part is that her sister would set her up with these guys. I remember confronting her about a few pictures that I found of her with another guy in Las Vegas. She was speechless. The confusing part was that I would end the relationship, but she would come after me like a tornado. She apologized over and over. My self-esteem was so low that the cheating did not bother me, anymore. I was exhausted.

    I guess the all-time low in the relationship was when she accussed me of being responsible for my ex-gilfriend’s death. Kim and I were together for seven years and she was the nicest person in the world. She was diagnosed with liver cancer and fought the disease to the very end. She past away in her sleep. She was a wonderful woman. One day, my current X and I were arguing and she told me that I gave Kim cancer and that she needed to get checked, herself. I was in complete shock. It was incomprehensible.

    At the end, I knew that my sanity was hanging on the balance. The more I tried to run away, the more she would go after me. She would call and hang up hundreds of times. When I was strong she would call me names to destroy my spirits. When I was down and depressed, she loved it. She was a black widow who survived off my vurnerability. She was a BITCH!!!

    The sun finally set one evening and I said, fuck this. I’m out. I walked out of her door a new person. I no longer blamed myself for her childish behavior and manipulative, phsychopathic ways. I was fucking free!!! I simply ignored her

    I have been in a new relationship for the past seven months. What a difference!!! Oh my god!!! A breath of fresh air and a new beginning. Christina is an awesome person. She has a beautiful heart and treats me like a human being.

    Now here is the irony of it all. I was invited to speak at a school conference and guess who was in the audience. That’s right. The devil, herself. She could not look me in the eye. She had no shame. My heart never skipped a beat. So, I found the courage to walk up to her and shake her hand. She wanted to run away so fast. As she shook my hand, her eyes began to twitch and she forced herself to look the other way. Later that afternoon, as I was walking to my car, we crossed eachother one last time. I called her name, but she breifly looked back and walked away. She never stopped and said a word.

  20. RC
    April 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    To me, abuse is often a matter of perspective. None the less, our society has largely omitted the perception that men can be emotionally abused. I believe many men suffer from emotional abuse at the hands of their spouses. I have for many years. I have been separated from my wife for 4 months now and I am only now starting to even think clearly. Here is what I have experienced:
    1. Wife treats everything (home, children, money, etc…) like it is hers alone. My job is to help her with managing her stuff.
    2. Independent behavior on my part is frowned upon and I am made to feel guilty for not spending all my time helping her.
    3. Her denial of trying to be in control of everything. As she has stated, “I am just trying to do the right thing”.
    4. I am given the silent treatment, treated with angry indignation, or outright yelled at when I do not do things her way. Often, when I try to do things the “right way”, I get the above or she will simply come behind me and do it herself and then get the above.
    5. I am denied an understanding of how our finances are managed. She refuses to use a budget. I have to ask for money as my paycheck goes into our “joint” account that she controls.
    6. We have three daughters. My attempts at providing discipline and guidance are often subverted by my wife. She has repeatedly stated that I do not understand the girls.
    7. Jokes from my wife (often with my daughters) made at my expense with a male bashing tint. Reciprocated humor is not tolerated.
    8. Double standards of behavior wherein my wife can behave a certain way (criticize, get angry, demand control, demand respect) and I cannot.
    9. When I attempt to stand up for my feelings and perspective, I am demonized and she behaves like a victim.
    After years of this kind of interaction, I became depressed and felt hopeless. I began to withdraw from common interaction with my family as she was always in the middle of everything, always demanding control. My behavior simply made her angry. She would get mad because I am not engaged. I felt my only choice was to do what she wanted, when she wanted. Unfortunately, often I did not meet her standards. So, it has been a dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t scenario. All the while, I cannot discuss this with her as she does not respect my perspective and if we seek counseling, she simply plays the victim and attempts to demonize me. This just throws the counselor off track as he or she does not know the truth. The last straw that pushed me to leave was her angry outburst that she is lonely. I was unable to have sex with her for several months before leaving. I have tried to discuss my feelings with her around this, but she did not understand. It was just my fault. I moved out.
    We are talking now and hopefully and seemingly slowly moving in a direction of real dialogue about why our 20+ year marriage is failing.

    • jp
      April 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm


      Tough situation. Sorry to hear it.

      You should read the post on this forum called “What Makes Your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick” — https://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/what-makes-your-control-freak-wife-or-girlfriend-tick/ — it’s a real eye-opener.

      I could have written your post about my own marriage. What made it so hard to deal with was that my wife wasn’t only the things you describe, she was also funny, smart, beautiful, etc., and when she wasn’t treating me like a hand-puppet we had the best conversations, loads of laughs, etc. But I was paying a huge price in self-respect, confidence, etc, to get the good stuff, and like you it wasn’t until I had some physical distance and time that I realized how damaging it was.

      It sounds to me like your wife’s need to control is so much a part of her that you will never be able to be the father and husband you want to be in that marriage. My prediction is this: Even if the pain of separation causes her to look at your point of view with fresh eyes, the best she’ll be able to do is limit her verbal shredding of you through a great act of will, but her feelings and beliefs–which are that she’s the smart, competent one and you’re something between a child and full grown-up–will not change and you’ll be subject to the same kind of contemptuous treatment but it will just be expressed more “subtly” in eye-rolling, dismissive smirks, lip-biting (as she struggles to stay silent and not tell you you’re doing it all wrong), angry sighs, and other disdainful body-language. You’ll still feel put-down and your feelings of worthlessness and confusion will continue to grow.

      Divorce is a horrible thing but it well eventually give you the opportunity to be the man and father you want to be. Of course you won’t see your children as much but when they’re with you they’ll see you walking tall and not as some joke being henpecked and ridiculed into some kind of weird mental paralysis. You’ll regain your confidence and authority with them and provide an example that counteracts, or at least offers an alternative to, the poisonous, insidious modelling your wife is providing them. Best of all you’ll be able to finally have the kind spontaneous unscripted fun with them you’ve always wanted to without half your mind on the alert waiting for the hammer (her crazy BS) to fall.


      • jp
        April 17, 2010 at 5:53 pm

        P.S. I have girls too. My relationship with them is totally rewarding and a source of joy. My tiny apartment feels just as much like home to them as their mother’s place. They confide in me and seek my advice, and they love the different (quieter, less scripted) vibe. I can’t tell you valuable it is to me to be able to actually lead as a parent without the criticism, interruption, and undermining I had become so used to when I lived with their mother.


        • RC
          April 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm


          Thanks for the comments. They are insightful. My wife’s company can be enjoyable as well. It is tough because I miss the woman I fell in love with. I am afraid you may be right about her changing. This is not the first time we have separated. In the past, we would get back together and things would be different for a while, but then the same old pattern developed.

          I strongly believe her need for control comes from her abusive mother and subsequently passive father (sound familiar?). She had it hard growing up. I have tried to get her to seek counseling to work through this, but she won’t. Sucks that the very environment she hated growing up in is being fostered by her own behavior. This validated your point though. I really doubt her need for control will change. If it can’t, I don’t see us living together again. I can’t take it.

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