Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, bullying, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychology, relationships > Traumatic Love: Is Your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Making You Sick?

Traumatic Love: Is Your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Making You Sick?


woman yelling at manDo you have trouble sleeping? A perpetual knot in your stomach? Do you experience chronic indigestion or gastrointestinal pain? Do you get stress headaches? Are you afraid to let your guard down with your significant other? Do you censor yourself because you’re afraid to speak the truth to your girlfriend or wife?

If so, you may have developed a trauma response from being involved in an abusive relationship. Stated more simply, you’re suffering post-traumatic stress from being involved with an abusive narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, sociopathic or non-pathological insecure and controlling woman.

Trauma, whether it’s physical or emotional, develops in two ways. It can be caused by a single, isolated event like being mugged, a horrific car accident or a natural disaster. Trauma can also develop from ongoing, chronic, relentless stress such as being in a war, being bullied at work or being in an abusive relationship.

Can you really compare being involved with an abusive woman to water-boarding, jail, hurricanes, and war?

Absolutely. Being emotionally and/or physically abused by these women can have the same effects as being in a war or a cataclysmic event. Combat, torture, imprisonment, tsunamis, and life with a controlling abusive woman share the following characteristics:

  • It’s unpredictable.
  • It has the element of the unexpected.
  • You feel powerless to control your environment.
  • The psychological or physical abuse is repetitive.
  • It’s intentionally cruel.
  • The abuse occurs in a setting or is inflicted by someone whom you once trusted and with whom you felt safe.

Being emotionally abused by the woman you love, who supposedly loves you, is experienced as betrayal and a fundamental violation of trust. Betrayal trauma is caused by emotionally abusive behaviors like gaslighting, mood swings, verbal attacks, rages, alienating your child(ren) from their normal affection toward you (Parental Alienation), being nice to you only to lure you in closer for another emotional sucker punch and/or physical abuse.

Being attracted to crazy, abusive women and being predisposed to trauma share many of the same risk factors. An abusive relationship causes psychological trauma and the same reasons you became involved in an abusive relationship also prime you for developing trauma. Because you experienced emotional trauma as a child, you’re attracted to adult relationships that recreate these conditions. It’s a vicious circle.

Some of the these factors include:

  • Having emotionally or physically abusive parents (e.g., they were overly critical, intrusive, neglectful and/or violent).
  • Being a parentified child (having to take care of your parent(s)’ emotional and/or physical needs instead of your parent(s) taking care of you).
  • Having unresolved childhood or adolescent abandonment issues.
  • Having a painfully traumatic first love experience in adolescence or early adulthood with an abusive woman.
  • Being the target of childhood bullying.
  • Being chronically ill in childhood, which may have led you to develop a dependent personality.

What’s the difference between PTSD and Betrayal Trauma?

The primary difference between PTSD and betrayal trauma is fear vs. anger. Historically, PTSD is considered to be caused by extreme fear; betrayal trauma is thought to be caused by anger. Both evoke a fight or flight response.

However, prolonged repetitive emotional abuse can create a third response. If you can’t fight (i.e., because your abusive wife/girlfriend twists reality, blames you for everything and puts you in no-win situations) or can’t or won’t take flight (i.e., dump her warped ass) you default to the third response. You numb out, shut down and experience a pervasive sense of profound learned helplessness.

When most people are hurt or betrayed by someone, they get angry, possibly end the relationship and steer clear of him or her in the future. However, if you’re predisposed to relationships with abusive women and trauma, it’s not in your nature to respond to hurtful behaviors the way most people do.

At first, you may  experience denial and disbelief that the woman you love could treat you so callously and cruelly. Then you essentially ignore her abusive behaviors. You minimize and excuse her indefensible behavior, almost seeming to forget the most vitriolic verbal attacks and rages. In fact, you really may not remember the worst of it.

Men who have developed a trauma response actually dissociate during the most bitter attacks. Dissociation is a defense mechanism in which your conscious mind shuts down, like when she’s screaming at you and you go someplace else in your head. After her rage has subsided, you actually can’t remember what happened. Your mind took you away to protect you from the abuse.

In order to protect yourself, you block out and forget the abuses (a form of psychogenic amnesia) in order to maintain the relationship. It’s a sort of “functional forgetting” or selective memory to protect you from the cognitive dissonance of being with this woman. However, there are psychological and physical consequences to ignoring the painfully obvious.

If you didn’t make excuses for, minimize, forget or deny the pain you experience because of her crazy, hurtful behaviors, then you would have to end the relationship. These are more defense mechanisms you probably developed as a child to protect yourself from the people who loved you. They helped you survive as a child, but as an adult, they’re enabling you to stay in an abusive relationship in which you’re emotionally and psychologically traumatized.

Next week, I’ll post the second part of this post. I’ll explain the three categories of symptoms you may experience as a result of staying in an abusive relationship: physical, psychological, and interpersonal.

Meanwhile, if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, please consider the harm you’re doing to yourself by not ending it. You’re an adult now. You don’t need to depend on this crazy woman like you had to depend on your parents for survival. You can break the psychological dependence and walk or run away.

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Related content:

25 Signs your Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend is Traumatizing You

Photo credit:

Woman yelling at man on corbis.

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  1. Todd
    June 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    This site is incredible. I put myself in a relationship that, 18 months later, has left me in severe depression and medicated. My friends and family don’t recognize me. My co-dependent well of “giving” is depleted and every narcissistic fear I have has been exploited and brought to the surface. I went from strong and confidant (seemingly) to a baby boy left abandoned in a crib.

    My ruminations are becoming less obsessive. But two things remain stuck in my head;

    1. At the end of our 18 month relationship (she broke up with me) I asked to continue to spend time together as “friends” which was just a way to hang on. She started to develop neurological symptoms and was having an M.S. scare (she was always complaining of pain prior). I nursed her for a month. A neurologist sent her straight to a psychiatrist who prescribed her a small cocktail of meds (I wasn’t privy to what or why and was afraid to ask). When the meds kicked in she changed; her intensity level dropped noticeably. It was no longer stressful just to have a normal conversation with her. She became more focused. Her already questionable social inhibitions were dropping. She immediately got another tattoo (a floral harness around her breasts) another nipple pierced. Her confidence was at a level I’d never seen. She looked at me through cold, determined eyes and said, “Now you’re getting the full (name withheld)” She hooked up with a local bartender and they moved in together two weeks later.. My question is, am I missing out on the new improved version of her due to the meds? Is this new guy getting the best version of her. It’s making me sick to think about it and I’m left feeling I was holding her back in some way.

    2. The PARADOX. She comes across to people as the most caring empathetic person in the world. I watched her invest so much interest in virtual strangers. She would cry when people told sad stories (and I would be thinking “huh?”). She considered herself an empath. Bought books about it. She also thinks she has psychic abilities and is actively reading up on the topic. After the 3 month love bombing phase, her interest in my day to day struggles were almost non-existent. It seemed like a task for her to ask how my day was and the topic often turned to her in two minutes. In the end she blamed me for not talking about my day with her after work but what I didn’t tell her was that it wasn’t worth it. I just shut down and made it all about her. The few female friends she has are broken women; cheating on their spouses, or…very discontent lesbians struggling with life. AM I MISSING SOMETHING? Did I let a wonderful caring person go?

    God I’m insane

  2. David Webber
    April 21, 2017 at 3:23 am

    Thank-you. Extremely accurate explanation. This describes my experience in my second marriage which I stayed in for 13 years and which ended 15 months ago.
    My health was trashed and now I am greatly improved.

  3. Joseph
    April 14, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Hi

    Thank you for this site. As a simple man i thought i was in the wrong for making my wife happy untill i found sites like this.

    Due to emotional manipulation i am full of guilt and fear every time i get the courage to end this hell

    It was stated there was another article about the result of staying in an abusive relationship: physical, psychological, and interpersonal…. Where can i find this ….

    Next week, I’ll post the second part of this post. I’ll explain the three categories of symptoms you may experience as a result of staying in an abusive relationship: physical, psychological, and interpersonal.

  4. lionface
    April 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    My questions I’m struggling to get answers on: Can the abusive wife get better? … and with that – can the relationship be healed?

    • shrink4men
      April 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      If she is personality disordered, it’s highly unlikely. Even if she isn’t disordered, this behavior is learned in childhood and is very hard to correct. First, she’d need to admit to herself that there is a problem with her and commit to doing something about that.

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