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Can a Man Break the Cycle of Emotional Abuse After Being With a Crazy, Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend?

some birds aren't meant to be cagedHello Dr Tara,

I’m a man with a history of toxic and abusive relationships with Borderline and Narcissistic traited women who managed to accidentally break the cycle of emotional abuse by dating some one who doesn’t fit that mold.

In my case, I had just got out of a toxic relationship and met a great girl who was the complete opposite of anything I’ve ever had — emotionally open and supportive, patient, understanding, etc., etc. We dated for 6 months and I still couldn’t completely commit. Even though I felt like I wanted to, I just never got there, so she left. And by commit, I mean that I couldn’t even call her my girlfriend or even consistently treat her like my girlfriend.

Is it really possible to break the cycle of abuse—especially after you have an opportunity to be in a healthy relationship and recognize it as such, but still can’t act on it?


Breaking the cycle of emotional abuse doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take awhile for you to truly believe that you deserve to be treated with kindness, warmth and respect. You didn’t develop your penchant for toxic relationships overnight and it’s going to take awhile for feeling good in a relationship to feel normal.

You say that you just ended an emotionally abusive relationship and accidentally met a kind and loving woman. Being able to recognize the difference between your emotionally abusive ex and the non-abusive woman is a good first step. Perhaps, on some level, you’re ready to begin the process of breaking the cycle of emotionally abusive relationships and that’s why you were able to recognize this woman as “open, supportive, patient and understanding.” Odds are, you’ve met women like her before, but weren’t able to see the difference in the past because you weren’t ready.

Recognition is growth. Now you have some insight regarding healthy vs. emotionally abusive relationships, however, to paraphrase Irvin Yalom, M.D., insight alone isn’t enough to effect change. Insight only gets you into the vestibule of change. In order to get through the door, you have to combine your new found insight with action. This means consciously making different relationship choices and tolerating any initial feelings of discomfort or anxiety.

Now that you know the difference, you can begin to actively pursue what you want in a relationship and avoid what you don’t want. Keep in mind, being in a healthy and loving relationship is going to feel really weird initially, even when you know what’s going on intellectually. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool. At first, it’s a shock to the system, but then you adjust and the water feels cool and refreshing. There’s no magic solution for this. You have to ride out the weirdness, get over whatever resistances or fears you have about being loved and accepted for who you are, and take the plunge.

You may not be able to sort through this on your own. A man who’s been involved with an emotionally abusive, Borderline or Narcissistic woman or string of these women can benefit from individual or group counseling that helps him:

  1. Mourn the loss of his abusive relationship, old relationship patterns, beliefs and old ways of being.
  2. Understand what secondary gain (an unconscious or hidden reason for staying in a painful situation or engaging in self-destructive behaviors) he derives from abusive relationships.
  3. Understand why he’s attracted to these women. For example, determine if he has a pattern of being attracted to these women because he’s recreating an abusive childhood relationship with a parent.
  4. Work through these issues in order to make healthy relationship choices in the future.

Whenever we resist doing something we know we need to do, something that’s good for us, it usually means there are some very painful emotions, self-doubts, fears, and self-limiting beliefs connected to it. That’s probably why you couldn’t “completely commit.” Also, from what you wrote, you appear to have just ended your previous toxic relationship.

Have you sorted out the reasons you were in abusive relationships? Do you know what patterns you’re repeating or early childhood relationships you’re recreating? You need to get a handle on these questions before you’re ready to fully commit to any new relationship.

Sometimes, men who have been treated badly, treat non-abusive women the way they were treated by their abusive exes. I wonder if you did that with the nice woman? When you’ve been in sick relationships for awhile, you get a warped perspective on relationships. This is something I encourage you to be cognizant of as well. The abused sometimes turn into abusers when treated with kindness.

You can get through this, break the cycle and have better relationships if you can get honest with yourself and face whatever emotional ghosts you’ve been avoiding. Part of this usually involves mourning the loss of your old relationships and old ways of being. Try to be patient with yourself. You’re just getting started. You’ll get there, but you need to sort through your issues before you’re ready to commit to another emotionally healthy woman.

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara

Counseling, 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 or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

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Some Birds Aren’t Meant to Be Caged by calvina on flickr.

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  1. Louwrens Roos
    September 16, 2016 at 7:14 am

    Dr T

    This site and advice helped me to escape 21 years of hell. Thank you so much.

    After an extremely abusive marriage of 21 jrs and a very painful and lengthy divorce I have remarried to a wonderful woman with a lot of understanding for the situation I came from. We belong to the same congregation and have known one another for 14 years before we got married earlier this year.

    My biggest problem is that I now struggle to initiate intimacy between us. It is not that I do not enjoy sexual contact but I wait for her to initiate. We have a healthy sexual relationship with really good sex, but she has to initiate, I don’t know how.

    How do I get my head around this?
    Am I still captured by my fear of being insulted as a sex maniac for wanting it more than once a year?

    Maybe I answered my own question!

    How do I get my head reprogrammed to initiate sex with my wife, not waiting for her to do so every time?

    Thank you for these life saving pages

  2. richardsecor
    April 11, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Stop being abused. waiting for your controlling ex to tell you what you are going to do with your life. Think about it all she ever does is criticize you, spy on you,make you feel like less than a man.She will never change not ever. You can change and have a wonderful life if you choose to have one. Take the new beautiful loving woman you found and begin this life today. don’t look back to the past as it was a nightmare and you know it. Build a life with this new woman who will love you, support you emotionally and always make you feel wanted and cared for after all if you don’t act now you will die alone lose this wonderful woman .So start new and make your life what it was meant to be happy.

  3. In Love
    March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    This site has been tremendously helpful. THANK YOU! To everyone that have shared their heartfelt insight and experiences.

    I have been dating a Amazing man for the last 7 months(we know each other platonically for 5yrs). I have no knowledge of his abusive relationship with his ex wife. They were married for 9 yrs, but have known each other since they were kids. They have a 6 year old son together.

    Since we have been dating, bits and pieces of his past abuse have been slowly been brought to light. And especially so now that they are finalizing their divorce. They were separated for 2 years before we started dating.

    He is highly successful in both businesses and took care of everything in his past relationship. Paid for everything and took care of his son and 2 dogs and she doesn’t work. The abuse got progressive worse throughout the years and had a case of physical violence where She was cuffed and had to spend a night in jail. There are a tons more types of abuse he suffered in silence that i am sure some reader out there can relate.

    I am in my early 40s, successful and have my own business, I was married and divorced and my ex husband and I and his new family have managed to be best of friends. I am also good friends with a long term ex-boyfriend.

    I am secure and know what I want to commit to in a relationship. I love this current boyfriend so much and have grown to love his son like my own( I don’t have kids). I take tremendous good care of him and he also acknowledges that.

    Recently his father passed away and he got 50% custody of his son(his asked for full). And now they are sorting out the financials, and his Grandfather is passing away too. I
    Know that he is under a tremendous amount of stress.

    We had an argument one evening which resulted to him exploding and he said some mean things to me that I would never believe could come from him. He apologizes immediately and was very remorseful. After some talking we made up, but the next day, I had some residual apprehensions about that particular episode, so we talked about it again. We see each other everyday, but when he wanted to talk on the phone instead to resolve the issue, I knew something was wrong.

    Eventually, he asked for a few days to sort things out by himself as he is so stressed and feels like he is “going to split in 2” I relunctantly agreed.

    It’s been 5 days and I have not gotten much contact, I texted to let him know that I love him and his son and misses both terribly.

    This complete and utter Shut out is unbearable. I know it’s his way of protecting himself, but how do we move forward??? He is not very good about sharing what is going on emotionally till its too late and he pulls away. He won’t go to therapy. He had a very negative experience with a therapist with his ex.

    He is such a good man, capable of so much love and is such a Champion for others. How do I help him? What should and can I do?? I do love him so….

    Thank you all…

  4. Paranoid
    October 15, 2011 at 3:53 am

    It was both comforting and distressing finding this site. Just today, for the first time I did a search on the internet for “breaking the mental abuse cycle” as just today realized that that’s where I’ve been for the past 23 years. (2 years courtship, 21 years married, 11 of them separated)

    It is comforting in that I see that there are other people in my shoes and that things can get better. It is distressing reading and article and comments that clearly mirror my situation.

    Me? (as viewed by other people)
    – A happy person (which is not a mask)
    – Very intelligent
    – Very caring
    – Very knowledgeable
    – Active
    – In the top percentile of attractiveness
    – Professionally successful
    – Adored by her parents (which by the way are good people)
    – Avoiding real friendships as I try to avoid coughing up my situation
    – (so paranoid that I deleted what was on this line for fear that she “may see it”)
    – Always walking on egg shells
    – Otherwise strong and fearless

    – Diagnosed with clinical congenital depression
    – A Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde
    – Very intelligent
    – Have you heard “everything you say can and will be used against you…” ?
    – Lazy beyond belief
    – In a same sex relationship but stil saying that she loves me
    – Feared by her parents

    – Separated
    – Living in the same house (different floors, kitchen, bedrooms)
    – With two wonderful young adult children in University. Hardworking, responsible and social.

    I was originally afraid of the divorce for fear of her reaction. Trying to protect the children. I wouldn’t be able to stand her getting even partial custody, at least this way I think I can shield them.

    Now, still affraid of her reaction, but I don’t even know why.
    I think I am affraid of hurting her (seeing my self as a bad person). Of her financial well beeing (remember she is mentally ill), Of my financial well beeing in an acrimonious divorce (Remember I have two children in university). Are those my “secondary gains”?

    Sounds crazy, eh? It’s been painful to write this.

    Thank you for your post. Now I know I can look for help.

    • Paranoid
      October 15, 2011 at 4:09 am

      Oh, to make things worst, I feel personally quite successful and it pains me to feel I have failed at this, eventhough I tell my self that it’s not me, it’s she.

  5. Anita
    January 14, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Reading this posts has been of tremendous help, thank you all for sharing your intimate stories.

    I am an emotionally healthy woman who has just met a great guy, he was in an abusive marriage for 5 years, he is an awesome human being and loving father and I admire and respect him, we are getting along great, have similar interests,and love to spend time together, but I do see what Dr T mentions about how the new girlfriend is affected by the residual of the abuse, Like I said before he is amazing in every way but I can tell that he still feel guarded and like he just waits for me to snap…
    He has asked me for patience as he is very very interested in me, but he still feels that way… and my answer to him was that I am here for him and I will not be going anywhere, and I only hope that he can trust me soon.

    We have only been dating for a few months, so I won’t worry about how much time it takes for him to realize that NOT all women are abusers.


  6. junkyardsaint
    November 19, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I found the email contact – you know I have to post this question that keeps coming to me – don’t know if anyone will see it and/or answer but I’ll give it a go – I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wondered this we probably all do – I won’t do myself the harm of getting my hopes up BUT – let’s say hypothetically that this person this woman that abused me had an epiphany and suddenly realized I was right, that she obviously has major issues and needs help – is there ANY hope for someone with these issues that they might recover granted of course that they were willing to do that work? I just wonder if there’s any examples even just a single example of someone with these sorts of issues working them out and eventually making it into a healthy relationship – fat chance huh? – Well – can’t blame a guy for wondering – dang I swear I miss her sometimes so bad it just really messes me up.

    • lbon
      July 2, 2012 at 3:48 am

      very normal of you to think or maybe even hope for her to come around with a healthy mind. guys like us don’t even want an apology but only for the madness to stop. I separated three times for the same reasons, control issues, physical abuse, power over, verbal abuse, not being able to share my children with my family. All symptoms of borderline behaviour which I hoped would go away. After bringing home the moving truck three times I realized after 5 years things are never going to be normal with her so my two young sons enjoy every minute of our three days per week that the court gave me. I pay her what I have to pay, she works as little as possible and now has found a new man to move in with. I sorta hope she treats him the same which inevitably will happen but deep down do not wish this on the poor guy and am just happy that my sons and I do not have to live that way and mostly that the boys will never see me in such a vulnerable bewildered state as they were too young when the abuse occured and only see the happy loving , happiest dad in the world. Of course I will be more happy when a healthy loving woman comes into our lives,and this in turn will teach them the most important reasons for having a relationship. My pains will turn into their gains which is my reasoning for what I endured in the toxic marriage. don’t go back, forgive ,learn and expect the best. Life is too short to wait, clean out the closet and move forward…

  7. junkyardsaint
    November 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I was interested in checking out the individualized session but the “Services and Products” link seems to be dead now. How do you go about getting confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services including advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes as posted about – the link on the above post (near the pay-pal button) goes to an empty page.

    • shrink4men
      November 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      The link worked for me. Also, there’s a Services tab in the top nav bar of this blog and the new site. Please contact me directly at shrink4men@gmail.com for inquiries.

      • junkyardsaint
        November 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm

        oh cool thanks – well maybe it was my pc or something or who knows – if it works for you then i won’t worry about it i did send you an email – i wish i had more time to spend here it is the only thing that keeps my resolve strong i get so weak when i’m too far away from reading these articles i start thinking differently and think i want to get back together with her – I look forward to your correspondence thanks!

  8. Ms. S
    May 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I have a friend that is a Christian man and he tolerated this behavior for over 20 years. Finally, he found the strength to get out. My question is how does he explain to his young adult children the dynamics of what went on during these twenty plus years, and the reason why he stayed so long? I know he did it for the kids, but they experienced some damaging behaviors. The woman was very abusive to her husband and their daughter, but the son could do no wrong.

    • junkyardsaint
      November 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Good question – I was wondering the same thing – it’s pretty complex and certainly won’t be explained easily – the kids probably need therapy I would imagine.

  9. joe
    May 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I need help, broke it off with a beautiful BPD – treated me like dirt, why I am still obsessed with her…?

    • Joe
      December 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm

      Hey Joe,
      It’s called “Tramatic Bonding”. It’s exactly like a drug addict going cold turkey. It’s going to take a lot of time but you have to be strong. Stop thinking about her. Moreover, don’t think she gave you her worst and she will be giving her new man her best. She is not capable. Go find a NORMAL woman who will treat you with respect and Real Love.

  10. ted
    May 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Dr. T is right on the money again. The day after I left, my ex filed for an EPO (emerg. protective order) falsely claiming domestic abuse. Between getting served with notice and the hearing (which was set for a few days later) I hired a lawyer and prepared divorce papers. Before the hearing she called me repeatedly and said she would make it “go away” if I would agree to work things out with her. Fortunately, the judge decided at the hearing that there was no basis for her claims and denied the EPO petition. That was the only correct decision that judge ever made on my behalf though. The EPO hearing was also when we notified my ex that I was filing for divorce. She virtually ran from the courthouse, went home, piled all of my clothes into my other car, cancelled my credit cards, email access, checking account access, etc., and thus began a legal fight that end up costing me more than $50k, and I still got screwed in the end.

  11. Mr. E.
    May 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Whoops – I think I worded my comment poorly. I’m not out yet. Getting out is the goal, and I’m getting my ducks in a row so I can get out and stay out.

    I’ve been keeping a journal of her nastiness so I can judge her actions instead of her words. It’s ridiculous how confusing her behavior is – especially because she’s trying to help a friend of hers out of an emotionally abusive relationship. How is it they can recognize abuse in others, but not in themselves? Denial is incredible to watch.

    • shrink4men
      May 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

      Getting your ducks in a row is very smart, Mr E. Like all abusive, controlling types, these women are at their nastiest and most dangerous when they’re threatened with losing control. By ending the relationship, you’re inflicting the biggest narcissistic injury imaginable to her and the resulting narcissistic rage will be in direct proportion.

      The journal is a good idea. Although, it’s difficult not to engage in or react to the content of the abusive things these women say. And, yes, the denial is incredible to watch.

      Best wishes on your escape plan. You may even want to contact your local police department to warn or ask them how to handle it if she calls in a false report on you. I’d ask an attorney about this, too. Many of these women file an abuse report with the police when their bf/spouse tells them they’re leaving. I could get into the psychological reasons for this, but, suffice to say, they’re nuts and when they’re hurt, they seek maximum damage.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  12. Mr. E.
    May 1, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I wish I had learned about emotional abuse when I was younger.

    I’m coming to terms with the fact that, yes, I was probably emotionally abused when I was a kid. At the time I thought it was normal to get screamed and swore at on a regular basis, and that I just screwed up a lot. Now I see times when there was obviously no way I could have behaved “correctly.” I was constantly told I wasn’t capable, or things I wanted to try were impossible. Some of the stuff that happened, in hindsight, was just cruel.

    So when I got out of the house and into college, I met a nice girl right away. She had some issues (who doesn’t?), but was far from abusive. After a couple months, I decided to break up with her for no real reason. I told her I wanted to see other people. I told people who asked about her that she was very sweet, but “too boring.”

    Now I’m married to the “exciting” girl I met next. I learned about “emotional abuse” as a subject in the middle of last December after hearing and looking up the term “Gaslighting.” It struck me that something like that had happened just a few days prior.

    A couple of objects had disappeared and I got in trouble for not being able to find one after searching extensively while she sat on the couch and looked pissy. The next day I went into that room again and both items were sitting in plain sight. When I saw them, I laughed and said, “well, here they are.”

    I was then called a dork, (the current name of choice) and she made a few cracks about my lack of observation (a favorite flaw). I felt confused and crazy, of course.

    Needless to say, my stomach dropped into my feet when I read about gaslighting, and I spent the next week reading about emotional abuse with growing horror. I’ve read the warning signs and checklists and answered way too many questions “Yes.”

    I’ve kicked myself a lot for not getting out earlier, especially since things definitely didn’t improve after we got married.

    Of course, I also doubt my perceptions, and wonder if maybe I just need to stick up for myself and stop being a doormat / paranoid / defensive.

    Anyway, last night I was mulling over what I’d read on your site and realized that I’d bailed on the nice girl because she treated me well, and hooked up with another girl just like my mom. It was an uncomfortable realization.

    • shrink4men
      May 3, 2009 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Mr. E,

      You’re not the only man who’s let the nice girl go for the “exciting” (i.e., psycho) girl. You probably confused the tension, abuse and conflict for “excitement” because on some level it was comfortable for you because she reminded you unconsciously of your mother.

      Don’t doubt your perceptions. If you’d stuck up for yourself with your ex, she’d only have become nastier toward you. Standing up for yourself, taking care of yourself, and protecting yourself are seen as acts of insubordination by women like your ex. You took care of yourself by ending that relationship.

      Now you need to work on putting yourself back together again and break the pattern of becoming involved with women like her. You can do it. Ending the relationship is one of the most difficult things and you did it. Think of all the time and energy you spent in the past trying to make your relationship work with that train wreck and apply it to someone worthwhile—yourself.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s always good to hear from you, Mr E!

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  13. Man with Ex-BPD
    May 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Dr. T,

    I stumbled upon this site when I was doing research on how to initiate Mother’s Day events between my ex and my children when their mother is emotionally abusive and has not had a consistent relationship with her children in many (16) months. As I began to read the blog entries, I was struck by the fact that few men had posted. This is an excellent site for men , but only women seem to frequent it.

    I am a 45 year old man who finalized an 18 month separation/divorce a year ago. I spent my whole relationship hoping my wife would “grow up” and had no understanding of BPD and its impact. What I got from the relationship was adoration, but not love and I mistakenly confused the two as the same thing for many years. I loved that she adored me, I loved being the savior, I loved having the answers, I loved giving my ex-wife the life that she never had as a child – but that was not a loving adult relationship. It was a parent-child relationship. I would have continued in this cycle for who knows how long if she had not released me through her behavior during the separation. I give thanks to god that it happened and that I have the opportunity to grow and make changes in my life and emotional well being.

    I believe the following:

    1. Recognize that you were attracted to this person for a reason. Most likely that you were comfortable with the behavior you received from them. Reach deep into your childhood and recognize parental behaviors that might have felt similar.

    2. Do not get into a relationship too quickly (I am talking years). When you have been emotionally battered for years, you need time to heal before you try to jump into another relationship. Also recognize that jumping too quickly might push you back into a relationship with your ex-wife. You may begin to compare the new relationships before you are emotionally ready. In-turn you may go back to what feels emotionally comfortable for you – BIG MISTAKE.

    3. You must end your relationship with the ex-wife. As adult as you may think you are being by developing a “friendship”, this is not a normal adult relationship and you need to end the behavior patterns in order to move on. If children are involved, communicate by email with very direct, but not curt communications. Do not initiate or engage in any dramatic episodes even on email – Kind, Direct, Simple, the end.

    4. Do not identify with being victimized. Be a big boy and realize that you made decisions and you knew the outcomes whether you admitted them to yourself or not.

    5. Frequent a therapist. Try to understand why YOU made the choices that YOU did. It is not always easy, but definitely worth it. I remember one time my therapist told me to “stop going back into the museum”. What she meant was stop looking at the past. There is a time for this, but not too soon. What I told her was that the museum was a mess. Valuable artifacts had been broken, overturned and everything was in shambles. I needed to go back into the museum no matter how painful it was and clean it up. Once it is clean, lock the door and only visit it on the occasion when you determine a better spot for a memento.

    It has been 2 1/2 years since I separated from my ex-wife. I have concentrated on my children and normalizing their lives and my own. Recently, people have begun to ask me if I am ready to date since they know someone they would like for me to meet. I feel I am now ready to take that next step and will let you all know how it is progressing.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    I am ready to have an adult relationship and my future seems wide open and full of possibilities. However, I have to admit, there is a little piece of me that is afraid I will be attracted to the same type of person even though the greater part of me is determined not to do it again.

    • shrink4men
      May 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm


      Thank you for reading and leaving such a heartfelt and well spoken comment. What you write is extremely important information. I thank you again for posting it here.

      Actually, most of the comments on my site are from men. The female presence is a recent thing. I think they found their way to my site via the post Why Men are attracted to crazy, Emotionally Abusive Women in an effort to understand their broken relationships with men who have been emotionally abused by their exes, but are still tethered to the exes psychologically. Women who become involved with men who were abused by their ex(es) are affected by the residual of the abuse, so I understand why they find my site useful.

      Men, like yourself, who’ve been involved with an emotionally abusive woman or women desperately want a healthy relationship. Yet, they’re not going to get there unless they do exactly what you describe in your comment above. Even men who wait and don’t jump into a new relationship right away can muck it up with a healthy women when they find one. They don’t do the work to heal from the abuse, they try to maintain a “friendship” with the ex and/or don’t connect the dots regarding their attraction and choices. I’ve always found the “maintaining a friendship” thing puzzling. Would you invite the man who waterboarded you and beat you in prison over for Sunday barbecue?

      I’m very happy for you that you managed to end your relationship and put yourself back together. I think you’re going to be ok and will find a healthy, loving and reciprocal relationship. You’re an expert on women like your ex now. Pay attention to the warning signs when you meet a new woman. Here’s what I recommend:

      1) Do a little gentle digging about her past relationships and why they didn’t work out. Does she blame all of her exes and make them out to be bastards? If so, steer clear. You want to hear a potential love interest take some of the responsibility about the demise of her past relationships. “I was young and immature. I didn’t know what I wanted. I realize now that I…” Taking responsibility for her choices and holding herself accountable is a good indication that you’re probably dealing with a grown-up. However, don’t confuse self-blame and responsibility. If she trashes herself, puts herself down, and blames herself for her failed relationships, get out while the getting’s good.

      2) Beware of an inexplicable, instant, powerful and overwhelming attraction to a woman or feel like you “already know her” because of an “instant connection.” Odds are you do already know her. She’s probably just another embodiment of the old issues. Yes, instant chemistry exists and this new woman might be as wonderful as she appears to be , but go slowly.

      These women’s wonderful facades usually begin to crack fairly soon, but gradually, which is why so many men minimize, overlook, deny and/or excuse the abusive behaviors. She seems amazing and then there’s an attack. She goes back to “normal” for a few weeks and then there’s another incident. In most cases, the period of time between abusive episodes becomes shorter and shorter. You don’t want to wait that long to get out.

      For example, you meet. She’s great. Two weeks go by and she has her first rage episode in which she accuses you of being insensitive or selfish or some other such nonsense. You’re bewildered and left wondering, “What just happened?” This is when you should go on high alert and pay very close attention to what she does next.
      a) Does she pretend like it didn’t happen? Does she minimize or deny that it happened? This is called gaslighting and it’s abusive. Get out now.

      b) Does she apologize prettily, cry and say she was having a bad day at work and her boss was being mean to her and then when you didn’t call her at the exact minute she was expecting you to call that she just couldn’t take it any more an snapped? Don’t fall for it. This isn’t really an apology. She takes no responsibility for her bad behavior. Instead, she blames her boss and you. Everyone has a bad day from time to time and maybe you want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Ok, but when it happens a second and a third time, she’s not just “having a bad day,” this is who she is.

      c) Does she blatantly blame you for her bad behavior without even feigning an empty apology? There’s no grey area here. She’s an abusive personality and you need to walk away.

      d) Does she cry and beg you not to leave her, flushed in high drama, saying things like “I don’t know what I’ll do if you leave me. No one has ever made me feel this way. I don’t want to go on without you. Please don’t leave me!?” Get a restraining order, change your phone number and get a new email account. This is probably full throttle BPD.

      3) Beware of grand gestures or extreme selfishness early on. If she gives you an extravagant gift or orchestrates some incredible fantasy date within a few weeks of knowing her, be alarmed. If she expects you to take care of everything, make all the plans, entertain her, pay for everything and doesn’t reciprocate, be alarmed. The former shows inappropriate boundaries and she’s probably working from the angle of “now he’ll owe me” and the latter indicates you will always “do” for her and get nothing in return except complaints and criticism. Nothing will ever be “good enough” for this kind of woman.

      When you meet a kind, loving and healthy woman, it’ll probably feel a little strange to you at first. That’s normal. Ride it out. Remind yourself this is what you want and let yourself enjoy it. Consciously make the decision to be open to it and you’ll get there. Relationships really can be that mutually rewarding, satisfying, and content.

      You’ve already done the two most difficult steps: You extracted yourself physically and psychologically from the cycle of abuse. You seem to have an incredible amount of awareness and maturity from your experience. In fact, I am so impressed and touched by what you’ve written that I’m going to turn your comment and my reply into a blog post. I have every faith that if you take your time, exercise good judgment and open yourself up to the experience of being treated well, you’ll do just fine.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  14. April 21, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Agreed! Simple, yes! Easy, no….but necessary.

  15. April 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Dr. T-
    Well said. This issue is such a sensitive and difficult one to deal with. Identifying patterns is a good start, but the question I always hear is “Okay, but now what?” As we have discussed, I believe one of the answers may be found in what I call “Positive Adaptation: A Better Way to Handle Life’s Most Sensitive Issues. Yes, you can think, feel and do ‘better’, your way in to optimal well being” . Please feel free to share my blog, http://www.positiveadaptation.com with your readers. Wishing us all better days ahead. I love and admire your writing and the good works you do.

    • shrink4men
      April 21, 2009 at 8:20 pm

      Thanks, Victoria.

      “Then what?” As I mention in the second half of my post, you do the work and make different choices. You feel your feelings, ride out your anxiety and keep moving forward. It’s easier said then done, but that’s what you do.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  1. November 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm
  2. July 8, 2009 at 7:01 am
  3. April 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm

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