Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychology, relationships > Can a Man Who Was Emotionally Abused By His Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Have a Relationship with a Healthy Woman?

Can a Man Who Was Emotionally Abused By His Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Have a Relationship with a Healthy Woman?

picasso-wounded-bird-and-catHi Dr Tara,

I had some questions after reading Why Men Are Attracted to Crazy, Emotionally Abusive Women and the question from Anonymous  in your last post, Can a Man Break the Cycle of Emotional Abuse After Being with a Crazy Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend?, could’ve been written by the man I was just dating! I know your site and advice are geared toward men, but want to say how helpful I find the information you provide. I’m also hoping you can shed some light on my situation.

I stumbled across your site while trying to find answers about why a truly decent man with a history of horrible relationships and a Borderline Personality Disorder mother wouldn’t be able to accept (or reciprocate) the love of a kind and emotionally healthy woman (although I don’t feel like I am that now!) even though he seems to want to. Intellectually, I know it has nothing to do with me, but the whole situation was so confusing toward the end that I started to feel like it was me and that I wasn’t good enough. I still have doubts about some of the decisions I made, which  is why I’m posting this.

He held me at such a great distance most of the time while telling me I was the greatest girl he’d ever met. He almost never opened up about anything personal in 6 months, but near the end I got tidbits about his mom and some of his exes. None of it sounded good—mostly a series of women who made him feel terrible.

When I ended the relationship, I explained that I couldn’t keep feeling like sh** and confused and pulled around all the time. He said he was surprised by what I was saying because it sounded so familiar except he was the one who usually said that stuff. He was never mean to me though, just thoughtless—similar to what you said about the abused becoming the abuser in your response to Anonymous.

I said I have a lot to offer and deserve to be with someone who knew, at the very least, whether or not he wanted me to be his girlfriend after 6 months. I said I felt like a place holder until someone better came along. He said didn’t see me that way and was also confused because he’s never known another woman as good as me. He asked if we could try again after he sorts himself out. I said I won’t make promises I don’t know if I can keep, but would like him to be in my life. The conversation ended well and seemed fine and friendly.

Did I do the wrong thing by ending the relationship? Did I bail out just when he was starting to actually get to the point where he could open up to me? In your response to Anonymous, you said he should just “ride out the weirdness.” What if the woman can’t ride it out? Did I compound the trust issues he already had? I don’t think so, but the whole 6 months we were together were so confusing and so filled with “give a little and then run and hide a lot,” that I don’t really know anything.

I care a great deal for this man and don’t want to be just another woman who lets him down. I’m also afraid that I may not have been patient enough. Maybe if I’d just waited a little longer… but then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be in a committed relationship with someone after 6 months—yet the thought still pops up.

Since this site is about men who have been through the same things my ex has been through, I’m hoping you could give me some insight. What it is that he needs before he is capable of a loving relationship? Did I do the right thing for both of us by ending this relationship since he wasn’t ready? I’ve never dated a man with his background and want to gain a little more understanding since I truly care.

– Nicole

Hi Nicole,

My site is geared toward men, but women are absolutely welcome to participate in my blog. Women who date or marry a man who’s been emotionally abused are definitely affected by the aftermath of his previous abuse. It’s sort of like being the girlfriend/wife of a veteran with PTSD.

I was once in a relationship similar to the one you describe. It left me feeling confused, angry, not good enough, and questioning my own sanity. There’s something extremely intoxicating about hearing, “I’ve never known a girl like you before. You’re so kind and understanding. No one has ever been this nice to me.” It makes you determined to be even more loving and try even harder to help him heal. Sometimes this is possible; sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the length and severity of the man’s history of abuse and his ability to tolerate the strangeness and discomfort of not being abused by someone who loves him.

Men who’ve been involved with emotionally abusive women need to go through a period of “deprogramming” and relationship “re-education.” Being with crazy, abusive narcissistic or borderline women warps these men’s perspective on love and relationships. They view crisis, criticism, conflict, drama, insults, neglect, etc., as normal because, with these women, it is the norm. Sometimes, it’s difficult to break  this pattern because of the rush from being on constant high alert and the exquisite thrill of the rare occasion when these women are nice to them.

Men who don’t have a previous history of being emotionally abused have a much better prognosis when it comes to having healthy relationships in the future. They can remember how it feels to be treated well and they want to have that experience again.

These men were somehow sucked into a relationship with an emotionally abusive, BPD/NPD woman. The abuse is just as disorienting and damaging, but they’re better equipped to heal and move on to healthier relationships.

Men who had an emotionally abusive, distant and/or intrusive parent(s) who believe love is supposed to hurt and, on some level, get turned on by the abuse. It sounds like your ex is in this group. These men equate the conflict, crisis, chaos, conditional or transactional love/acceptance, and the exquisite tension of trying to please the NPD/BPD woman while avoiding her wrath with “chemistry.”

If these men are able to enter into a relationship with a healthy woman in which the tension is absent, it feels “off” to them. They generally can’t articulate what’s missing, which is very confusing for them and you. If they’ve never met anyone as wonderful as you, then what’s the problem?

The problem is that they don’t have a mental roadmap of what a healthy relationship is. You don’t compute. Consciously, they know that they hated being criticized and abused by their exes, but it’s what they know. It’s familiar. Change is scary; even a change that you want. It means dredging up and acknowledging a lot of painful memories they’d rather not deal with and/or they don’t want to stop nursing these old wounds because it means letting go of the past and moving on.

These men often get stuck in a weird, in between twilight space. They don’t want to be abused anymore and desperately want to be in a healthy relationship, but miss the adrenaline rush from the drama and conflict. Intellectually, they want something different, but can’t quite get there.

Many of these men just can’t seem to let go of the self-destructive impulse to recreate their abusive relationship(s) from childhood with a woman (or series of women) in the present who is the psychological embodiment of the abusive parent(s). They’re drawn to these women because they’re seeking an emotionally corrective experience, which is never going to happen. “If only I can make Emotionally Abusive Annie love me and be nice to me, it will mean that I really am a good person, deserve to be loved and then everything will be ok.”

This is what I call being in the right neighborhood, but knocking on the wrong door. Part of the healing process does involve having an emotionally corrective experience, but he’s not going to get it with a woman who has the same traits as his emotionally abusive parent(s). He’ll only experience this phenomenon with someone who is capable of love and acceptance. He may need to address these issues in a therapeutic setting before trying with a “civilian.”

When these men meet a healthy woman woman, the thrill of being abused and the possibility of being able to stop the abuse vanishes (i.e., winning acceptance and love from a woman who isn’t capable of it). They miss that. Other reasons these men can’t fully transition into healthy relationships include not being able to let go of the “knight in shining armor” thing or the Stockholm syndrome effect.

They find the lure of crazy, emotionally abusive women all too seductive and, unfortunately, being patient with them, hanging in there, and giving them time usually only results in wasting your time.

This is truly heartbreaking because these men have many wonderful qualities, but sometimes, people are just too damaged. You can’t help someone else by sacrificing yourself. Well, you can sacrifice yourself, but that won’t help the other person to change. I believe these men can break the cycle, but they have to consciously work at it while mourning the loss of the past.

Men like your ex can find their way out of the in-between world they inhabit, but they have to be the ones to pull themselves out of it and that requires a lot of work and probably some professional help. You can’t do the work for him.

Additionally, some men who get stuck may begin to behave like their abusive exes when they’re involved with a healthy woman. They recreate the abuse pattern that’s familiar to them, in which case, you must end the relationship.

I don’t think you did the wrong thing by ending your relationship. He’s the one who needs to resolve his issues and ride out his weird feelings and confusion; not you. You did not compound his issues. If anything, you’ve shown him that a person has the right to be treated well in a relationship and the right to move on when the relationship becomes hurtful.

By your account, you were extremely patient and gentle with him. You didn’t blame him when you ended the relationship. You told him how you were feeling and that you needed to take care of yourself.

The emotional pursuit and distancing behaviors, which you describe as “give a little and hide a lot,” aren’t unusual for men like your ex. However, in their emotionally abusive relationships, they were the pursuers of intimacy, which NPD/BPD women avoid. I’m sure he didn’t know how to handle it when you not only didn’t avoid emotional intimacy with him, but sought it out.

You did not let this man down. You showed him that kind and loving women really do exist. As you point out, he’s just not ready for a healthy relationship yet. Sadly, he may never be if he won’t confront his past and make the conscious choice to move forward.

You need to figure out if being attracted to men with these issues, who can’t commit to a healthy relationship is a pattern for you, what it means, and start making different choices. If you have a pattern of being attracted to men with emotional abuse histories and/or who are otherwise emotionally unavailable, this may be an issue of your own that you need to resolve. It could be your way of avoiding intimacy and a reciprocal relationship.

If you do have a pattern of being attracted to or wanting to “save” someone like your ex, it might mean that you’re not ready to make yourself completely vulnerable to someone either. Perhaps you recognized this similar aspect in your ex, which made the attraction “safe.” In other words, a lasting, intimate, healthy relationship isn’t going to happen. I wonder if this is what’s going on with you?

If so, the good news is, you can un-stuck yourself. Consider this relationship with your ex another step in your development toward having a mutually satisfying, reciprocal relationship. Maybe you were trying to prove (to yourself) that you are “good enough” by trying to make him see that he should want to be in a relationship with you. Conversely, it sounds like he wanted to be in a relationship with a woman like you, but didn’t feel good enough about himself because of his abuse history. This can get very circular.

It’s important to really understand what happened in your last relationship. Look at it in the historical context of your previous relationships and see where it falls in your progression toward achieving what you consider to be your ideal relationship. Keep trying and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in a relationship.

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.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.


If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Related content:

Photo credit:

Picasso’s Wounded Bird and Cat on chessaleeinlondon.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
  1. Autumn
    April 3, 2012 at 12:05 am

    This article fits exactly what happened to me and my ex BF, and I let his back and forth flip flopping trigger my worst insecurities. I swear every detail is spot-on.
    He is back with his abusive wife now, I hope some day he realizes things don’t have to be the way they are for him now :(

  2. Amy
    January 31, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Good article

  3. Mat
    May 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Have been “re-assessing” my own relationships (of all sorts) in the wake of formerly being married to a clinically diagnosed NPD/BPD. And perhaps it’s simply a reflection of just my own little world, but lately have been looking around and wondering, if maybe Narcissism isn’t really the “default” human condition, and it’s all simply a matter of “degree”?

    Christopher Lasch (The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an age of Diminishing Expectations, 1979) thought that modern society basically “breeds” narcissism thru cultivated “needs” and perpetual anxiety. Or maybe it’s always been “thus”, and now we’ve just created a culture that caters to it as various “marketing segments”.

    But in a practical sense, how would we know, or what if advanced Narcissism (on some sort of continuum) has simply become the new “normal”?! And what do you do when everyone around you (including present company) appears to be a Narcissist?

  4. Miriam
    May 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Dr. T,

    I wanted to ask you if you could do more articles on the recovery from having been in an abusive relationship. I was in abusive relationship, which by the grace of God and my inner strength, did not last long, 2 yrs, and that was only because we have a child together. After the “high conflict” court proceedings, we are having to share our son, the abuse has reduced dramatically because I keep the contact to nothing but texting and emails, and he is now in a new relationship. Oddly enough, I have been able to befriend his common law girlfriend in order to have more knowledge as to what may have been happening to my son while under his custody. I have been thru counseling, and have in many ways healed my past and the abuse I endured. I can’t say that I am in a total state of emotional health, but I am working thru the uncomfortable feeligns with a very supportive and understanding partner. In seeking friend for a help, I found your website and it has also helped me see how far along I have come. Thank you so much for the work you do. M

  5. wife#2
    December 30, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Eegads. I just discovered this post. I guess it answers some of my questions. While amazed at all of these stories, it’s hard to admit that I recognize so many of these things. The post also helped me sort out some thoughts. I keep feeling pulled back to this site time and time again, so I must be starving for info.

  6. Kimberly
    November 12, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Dear Dr. T:

    After reading the postings on your site, I have found some really useful information, but there is still something missing. Please allow me to share my experience with you. Maybe you can help shed some light on things for me.
    I am currently dating and living with a man that was married to an emotionally abusive woman for 13 years. They do NOT have the kind of relationship where she calls or comes over or contacts him, but he still has issues. We have been together for a little over 2 months and I adore him, but everytime we start to talk about something in our relationship, good or bad, she gets brought up into the conversation. Let me give you a few examples: We are thinking about moving into a larger place because our current one is cramped. During the course of the discussion, it went from talking about our hopes and plans for the future to rehashing his previous problems with her over their previous mortgage and remodeling of the house they had shared. Another time we were talking about buying a new car sometime in the future and once again, he veered off into a rant about how many cars her mother had financed for them during their marriage. This happens almost on a daily or weekly basis, no matter what we are talking about, from the most inane subjects to more serious ones. Last night, I had finally had enough and confronted him about it. I explained to him that I feel like she is the third person living in this house and it is likened to living with her ghost. It painful for me. I try to be supportive and understanding of his needs and his past. I know he didnt get this way overnight and that he wont magically “be better” overnight, but it still hurts me. How do I deal with this situation? Am I only kidding myself that it will get better? I have a lot of soul searching to do and need some guidance. Thank you, in advance, for your assistance.

  7. Mat
    September 24, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    There’s no shortage of “bad behaviors” & “drama” to point to in dealing with Narcissists. But it always “takes two to tango”, and without stepping back and examining our own motives and weaknesses that are so easily being exploited, then we’re denying responsibility and simply relegating ourselves to the role of “victim”.

    I don’t see this mentioned much, although it’s just my opinion. But if we’ve allowed ourselves to be caught up in a Narcissist’s “stuff” in any way, then it seems to me that’s automatically a strong clue that we probably have some narcissistic issues of our own to work on.

    Cheers, -Mat

    • shrink4men
      September 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

      Hi Mat,

      It takes “two to tango,” yes, but not in the sense that you’re responsible for the NPD’S/BPD’s behaviors. If you’re the target, you’re responsible for your own issues that attract you to this kind of woman and for voluntarily staying in the abusive relationship. I always encourage men to first get out of these relationships and then do their own work. If you don’t understand how you landed in one of these relationships and make different choices, you’re going to repeat the same relationship mistakes over and over again.

      If you’ve been “caught up in a Narcissist’s stuff” I don’t think it’s necessarily an indication that you have NPD issues, too. I think it’s usually an indication that you have “co-dependency” issues, people pleaser/fixer tendencies and/or are recreating abusive relationship patterns because someone in your family was and NPD/BPD and it’s a familiar role.

      Kind Regards,

      • Mat
        September 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm

        Sorry if any misunderstanding, but I’m not suggesting that anyone else is responsible for a Narcissist’s behavior, except for them. To stretch the “tango” metaphor, what I am saying is that, does it really matter “who’s to blame”, if you choose to “dance” with a Narcissist and you still get your toes “stepped on”? And if it becomes anything more than just a “quick dance”, then we need to ask ourselves how we (not someone else) “found” them, and what made us accept their “invitation to dance” in the first place.

        So whether we define those reasons as “co-dependency”, “people pleasers/fixers”, whatever… doesn’t that still come down the fact that we were probably raised (and “conditioned”) by Narcissists ourselves, so we very likely have some attendant “blind spots” of our own that can be “exploited”, re: boundaries, self-esteem, entitlement, specialness, criticism, etc.?

  8. Danielle
    September 23, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Carolyn, I am writing on my blackberry, so please excuse me if this is a little odd looking. I couldn’t help but chime in in response to your post. As a woman (as you can see from my prior posts) that went through a similar situation, my first instinct with your situation is to have a conversation with him and if he is not willing to cut her completely out of his life, run! Don’t look back except to think about how much more you deserve. I tried for two years of my life to love someone who is still in a codependant relationship with his abusive ex and it never worked. In fact, the more I addressed his situation with her, the more abusive he became with me. In the end, after devoting my life to “his causen” so to speak, he sided with her against me. That was possibly the most hurtful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I have been through some significant struggles. It still hurts today and that is why I am still chiming in and writing to you. Dr T can advise you much better than I can, of course. Iii She

    I just read

  9. Carolyn
    September 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I know a guy who is dealing with a girlfriend like this. Or rather she is his ex-girlfriend but won’t allow him to end the relationship. She makes him feel very guilty about what he is doing to her, asks him to try it again for 2 months etc. The thing is they have been broken up for 2 years. She no longer lives in the samecountry as him, but they email each other frequently and call from time to time. She is back for 2 months now and has been making his life miserable. She uses guilt and emotional blackmail and insists that they must get back together. He does not go out with her on weekends and that causes her to erupt and bombard him with abusive and insulting texts and phone calls. Then a day or two after she will be fine acting like nothing ever happended and telling him she was just stressed out.

    He and I have been seeing eachother during this breakup period. We have had a great time together, gone on vacation in Europe etc. Everytime I do something basic like give him a compliment he looks at me in amazement. Even a Christmas or birthday present causes him to remark that no girl has even done anything this nice to him,

    I know all that he has been through and I really feel as if I should be as nice and possible to him to help him through this rough time in his life. He says he wants to marry me but then he also says that whenever he thinks about getting into another relationship that he almost has a panic attack.

    I am reading on this site and now think that he and I should not have jumped into anything that serious until he had given himself time to heal.

    Will be ever really be ready to be in a relationship? Is it dangerous that the committment he wants, when he is ready is a marriage?

  10. Mat
    July 19, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Great site, with alot of useful (and I think accurate ) info., at least in my experience, having been married to a woman who was clinically diagnosed as an NPD (and also presented symptoms of BPD & ADD). Have been examining my own role in all this, and no doubt being raised (“bred”) by Narcissistic parents played a big part, among other things.

    But would like to make a couple points. One is that if you really want to discover all your weaknesses, just get involved with a Narcissist (of course “getting out” is the tricky part)! Because it seems to me that BPs & NPs have an extraordinary talent for recognizing and exploiting the weaknesses of others. So that I often had the sense I was fighting myself as much as my partner, whenever I was trying to get out of the relationship, because she really knew all my “buttons” (and had no qualms about manipulating them).

    The other point is that once one has learned the “clues” to watch for (the little signs of “entitlement”, “specialness”, lack of empathy, hypersensitivity to any criticism, “it’s always about me”, etc.), sometimes it seems like the modern dating pool for singles (especially in middle age) is actually very full of Narcissistic women (and no doubt men as well). Which probably makes sense, since they don’t “do” normal relationships so well to begin with. But one “red flag” for me personally, and which seems surprisingly common, are the many women now who not only make it clear that they’re very attached to their dog (“must love animals!”, post separate pics of the dog, etc.), but it’s also clear that dog has actually become an extension of them, their life, and their identity. At the very least, it seems to say alot about the emotional development of someone, who would derive all their needs from a creature that can’t talk back.

    • Tony
      July 20, 2009 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Mat.

      Thanks for your post. As somone who is in a relationship with an NPD wife after 21 years, I am sure that if I escape this relationship, I will NEVER return to this type of relationship again.

      So, I imagine that I will be sensitized to signals of NPD. I guess I will not commit to a woman until we have had a few real ding-dong arguments and see how she behaves in them. If a Narc attack results – hit the ground running. If she can never accept responsibilty for some part of the argument – alarm bells, run. So few heated arguments, in my opinion, can result in only one side behaving badly. Even the victim of a Narc attack can behave badly. I don’t like myself in my arguments with my wife. UGLY scenes. She knows the buttons to press and boom! (Not anymore – I understand now!!)

      Your point, and I share your concern, as I suspect that I might be there myself soon. In the ‘middle age’ market, so many unmarried woman will be single from failed marragies. Is this because they have NPD/BPD, or are they damaged by NPD/BPD men. II might be – over sensitive to signs of NPD. Still keep looking and be choosy – above all, respect yourself. If you don’t feel respected – run. (YES RUN!)

      • shrink4men
        July 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

        Hi Tony,

        You’re absolutely right re: paying attention to how a romantic interest handles conflict. It will tell you quite a lot. In fact, how a person handles conflict is far more important than how they conduct themselves when things are peachy keen. It’s easy to be charming when things are great and everything’s going you way. It’s when you hit a bump in the road that a person’s true character surfaces.

        Ok. Now I’m definitely going to write a post on how to spot potentially NPD/BPD women online.

        Dr T

      • Tony
        July 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

        Oh, and I would suggest, don’t jump into bed too soon. The heady rush will cloud your judgement.

        Mind you that depends on what your looking for.

        Well, it would me. Incurable romantic. From what I read here, these woman are like sirens. Attractive, alluring, irresistible at first. Then gullible little you are hooked.

        Do I sound damaged?

        The irony, in my situation, was that my wife was not especially pretty, she was just so darn warm, sweet, funny and innocent that I picked her over a prettier girl competing for my attention. I thought she was an angel (Pure fantasy)
        Real mature choice, huh?

    • shrink4men
      July 23, 2009 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Mat,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your participation! You make some excellent points re: NPDs/BPDs being able to spot and exploit the weaknesses of others. They’re instinctual predators. It’s a little frightening how it can be so innate. I love your line: “It seems to say alot about the emotional development of someone, who would derive all their needs from a creature that can’t talk back.” I’ve seen some of these women in LA when I’m there. They treat these animals like accessories and props—which is kind of how they treat the people in their lives. I could write chapter and verse about Internet dating. In fact, that’s a good idea for a blog post. Stay tuned!

      Dr Tara

      • Mat
        July 24, 2009 at 12:43 am

        Yeah, I think there’s definitely an opportunity there for someone to write a book about navigating the “perils” of online dating, especially if it’s aimed at “older” & middle-aged folks (maybe you could call it something like “Dozed-Off in Seattle”!).

        Perhaps it’s just where I live (rural NorCal), but actually it seems like there’s a heck of alot of serious Narcissism out there these days. I have the growing sense that rather than being a “special condition”, much of what we think of as classic NPD is actually pretty widespread nowadays in modern culture. Just think about things like the surprising amount of public tolerance for the use of torture & “rendition” by the U.S., which is only possible thru a total absence of empathy. Or the wave of unrepentant “entitled” post-modern financial, political & religious corruption (Jack Abramoff, Eliot Spitzer, Madoff, Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Tony Alamo, et al…). And speaking just personally, I think there’s a good case to be made that the “fixed” and solipsistic thinking of right wing politics, along with it’s continual need for a “rage fix” (at the government, “liberals’, “socialism”, whatever) is all manifestly Narcissistic (BTW, not that liberal politics is immune, just that a whole media culture has grown up to service the “needs” of ultra-conservatives).

        In fact, when one consider so many of the horrors that humans have inflicted on each other over the millenia, I sometimes wonder whether what we consider as “normal” psychological & emotional development, may actually be a relatively recent bit of human evolution. Certainly the parts of the brain that regulate self-awareness, empathy & the so-called “higher functions” (which are usually defective in psychopathic types), are also fairly recent developments in brain evolution.

  11. carolyn
    June 5, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    What a great website–utterly fantastic. I empathize will all these writers, having also once been in love with a man unable to break the chains to a borderline and abusive ex-wife. I am writing to let others know there are sunny skies ahead after you leave a man like this. Even though you love him, it is not your job to listen to him defend his abusive ex or deny his dysfunctional relationship with her. It took me a long time to confirm how enmeshed my man was with his mentally ill ex and to see that he was too guilty to proceed with a healthy relationship when she was (obviously) unable to have one with anyone. He denied this, but then you have to use your own judgment, not succumb to the other’s obviously very skewed view. After recounting in detail the numerous examples of his ex’s treachery and documentable lies, and enumerating repeated instances of his “defending” and “denial” that his ex was out to destroy his happiness (or alternately, get him back), I left. A couple years later, I am in a longterm happy relationship with a man with no such issues. My ex is still tormented by his borderline ex — but still subject to Stockholm syndrome–but now is old, sick, and almost destitute with children who never visit him because they can’t stand up to their mother. It is really sad– but it is what he chose and it was his right to choose this ( thinking it was all he deserved?) But, I thank good therapy for helping me see it was not what I deserved and I chose NOT to go down with that ship. Please, everyone, follow Dr. T’s advice–years from now you will thank Dr. T. and others on this website for helping you set healthy boundaries and ONLY get involved with men who are available and capable of sharing happiness with you. Some men are not able to do this–this is not your fault. But it’ s also not your job to “fix” them. Just leave. If it’s God’s will, God will help him.

    • shrink4men
      June 9, 2009 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, Carolyn. I’m pleased to read that you moved on and found a mutually rewarding relationship. It just goes to show, if you can let go, you will heal and have room in your heart for someone who is capable of love based on mutuality and not guilt and distortions.

      When you’re with a man or woman with these issues, feeling bad begins to feel normal. You don’t even realize it until you’re in another relationship that doesn’t cause you to have a perpetual knot in your stomach and lump in your throat. That’s when feeling good in a relationship feels normal and it’s amazingly wonderful.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Carolyn!

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  12. Mary
    April 30, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Thanks Danielle and Dr. T,
    Yes, Danielle, you made a lot of sense to me. And Dr. T, finding this site has been one of the best things to have happened to me in 2 years. I have been so confused trying to figure out all of this. Nothing made any sense. I could not figure out why he seemed to want to take the blame for his divorce. (Once, after a very intensive arguement the poor guy broke down and told me that I didn’t understand. He said that he had ruined a perfect marriage. He said he felt lucky that she still talked to him.) In February I found a Valentine’s card she sent him from the dog. She has also sent him an email from the dog, asking him to come visit and rub him behind his ears. He still called her on their anniversary, Christmas, birthday, etc. I cannot imagine what her boyfriend thinks of all of this. Or if he cares at all.
    I hung in there only because I know he is miserable like this. I also know that when we dated and he wasn’t calling her, he seemed like a different person. He was happy, content, relaxed. Even when I had no idea they were talking I noticed a change in him. I kept thinking that he was still adjusting. (It’s been 7 years now since his divorce.) I kept thinking that he was just still hurting. That since she had left him for another man it was an ego thing. I had a hard time letting go because I kept thinking that she would eventually get tired of this and move on. I also thought that eventually he would realize that I wasn’t the problem. That he is the one that has had this same problem in his other relationships. Not me. And that he would realize that if he wanted a healthy relationship that he would have to let her go. And I wanted to be there when he realized that.
    Thanks Danielle for helping me to realize that these two are not unique in this. And that I can move on without regrets, because she isn’t going to change, and he isn’t going to change. I think that is the biggest problem I had. I was too afraid to let go because I was afraid I would be making a mistake. I am still in the middle of this. Still very hurt. But this helps a lot. I am very sorry for him, very angry at her, and very disappointed in myself.


    • Danielle
      April 30, 2009 at 5:24 am

      Hi Mary,

      When you met your ex was he wearing a sign around his neck that read:

      Hi, I am still hung up on my ex-wife. My moods and relationship with you will fluctuate according to her presence in my life. This will carry you deep into confusion and a sort of emotional hell. You won’t know what is going on and I can’t help you. What I will do is keep things as ambiguous as possible with you so there is always room for her within my life. I am her puppet.

      No? Ok, then you probably shouldn’t be disapointed in yourself for choosing him, being confused or hoping that things would get better. These sorts of situations are terribly confusing and you have already suffered enough.

      Besides, you wouldn’t want me to be disappointed in myself for choosing D and hoping/fighting for the best would you? I’m sure you wouldn’t. I don’t know about you, but in a selfish way, I am glad Dr T had her experience with McB because she might not be helping people today if she hadn’t suffered then.

      What I am getting at is my belief that, as long as we learn from our “mistakes,” they are no longer mistakes. They are experiences that can actually improve our lives–and other people’s lives–in the long run. It’s all what we do with what we learn. I am positive that you will be able to use what you have already learned and will continue to learn to help yourself and other people. Heck, you already have! Your story has definitely already helped me to know that I am not alone in my experiences and that is a major gift! It is also a gift to be able to share my story with a receptive audience of people with similar backgrounds–especially after feeling so alone for so long.

      Thank you and hang in there,

      • shrink4men
        April 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm

        Well said, Danielle. It’s natural to go through a period of, “What if…? If only I’d…? I should’ve…” But then you need to realize that this guy wasn’t honest with you or himself about his relationship with his ex. I’s also natural when we’re falling in love or lust and are attraction is riding high to ignore, minimize or excuse the little (or big) red flags that pop up.

  13. Danielle
    April 30, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Hi Dr. T and Mary,

    Yes, it is me again! ;-)

    I forgot to mention something important that occurred to me recently about my situation with my ex, “D.” It was a difficult and painful realization, but it helped me tremendously in my process of telling him off and letting him go. Here it is:

    I was dating a married man.

    Before you gasp, please know that I am speaking figuratively. D and his ex, “M” did legally divorce in early 2006, after a couple of years of marriage. I met him in April of 2007 through an online dating site where he neglected to list himself as being divorced. It wasn’t until our 2nd date (which followed an absolutely amazing, sweep-you-off-your-feet first date) that he told me that he was divorced. He apparently didn’t like to list that he was divorced because he didn’t like the women that he was being matched with. Yes, this not-so-little white lie did cause me to pause at the time, but I quickly dismissed my concerns after asking a few questions. I was also already totally “hooked” on him.

    We had incredible chemistry, he was sweet, attentive and oh-so into me. It seemed almost impossible that someone so great even existed in this world! Even his imperfections were beautiful. I was high on love drugs and I thought that, after a string of lame experiences with men, I had finally met one that was almost too good to be true.

    The thing is, he wasn’t almost too good to be true; he was too good to be true. In time, he became more and more withdrawn and depressed. (I have no doubt about the fact that he was depressed–he had divorced M and lost a parent all in the course of 1 year.) Eventually it was so bad, we had to stop dating. Just so you know, this was after I was emotionally very supportive and understanding. I did not make unreasonable demands of him like other women that are discussed on this site.

    After we stopped dating, I spent the following year absolutely heart-broken. I exercised off 40+ pounds (a fantastic side effect of heartache, which I have still kept off!), eventually went on antidepressants and saw three different therapists so I could attempt to get over losing him. When we stopped seeing each other, he said that if I was still single when he recovered from his depression/grief, he hoped that we could date again. I took this to heart, because I was in love with him. Remember, at this time, he still was the fantastic and amazing guy that swept me off my feet. He also was not spending much, if any, time with M.

    When we started dating again last October, I learned that M had sold her condo in another neighborhood and moved just two blocks away from him. I was so delighted about having him back in my life and rekindling our romance that I overlooked this situation. D even said that she was like “one of the guys.” Even though my gut feeling was akin to “uh oh” when I learned of her close proximity, I chose to believe him. (Not listening to my intuition once again.) As I described in my previous posts, this was the beginning of my own (temporary) undoing.

    As I’ve noted in other posts, M’s presence only got worse and more intense as time went on. She even staged a weird event one night that made it so he had to leave me alone at his place so he could run over to her place to check on their dog. At the time I didn’t think it was an intentional stunt, but now I have NO doubt in my mind that she did it so she could demonstrate her control over him. She also called him over once, because a circuit breaker blew and she didn’t know what to do. (Open the box and switch it back! Duh.) These were in addition to her threats to commit suicide, inability fix her computer or kill spiders, etc…

    Oh yeah, that reminds me that she once told him that their dog was miserably upset when she had sex with someone after they were divorced. The dog apparently cried and jumped on and off the bed while she and this random guy were (an ugly visual just entered my mind) having sex. I’ve spent time with D when their dog was over and I have plenty of reason to doubt that his dog reacted that way. But because the dog is D’s weakness, she uses it as a pawn to manipulate D every chance she gets. She even screamed at D after he introduced their dog to my dog at my place on Christmas day. She started ranting about how my dog (who wouldn’t hurt a flea) could have eaten their dog, blah, blah, blah… and how he should have been smarter about it.

    She really knows how to push his buttons and you know why? Because she installed them.

    (I wish that I could claim that as an original saying of mine, but I adapted it from a saying on a greeting card.)

    As an honest person with good intentions (who admittedly had her moments of vocal frustration), I didn’t stand a chance against her. She did everything that she could to control him and ruin our relationship–including reaching out to me as a friend. I’ve also listed what happened with that in my other posts.

    I was inspired to write this post after reading Mary’s story. I know how much pain she is in, because I have been there and I NEVER thought that I would get through it. I was absolutely determined to make it work with D–no matter what anybody else said. In my heart, I felt that nobody could possibly understand the depth of our attraction and our potential together. I even distanced myself from friends that gave me tough love style advice about him. I subconsciously thought that he was IT for me and that I (Hello, codependent behavior!) was the woman that would finally get him to see the light and disconnect from his ex. (Silly, I know now…)

    When D aligned himself with M against me, I realized that he has no problem asserting himself when he is defending her! After two years of listening to him persistently complain about her to me, I was very disappointed in him. When I compassionately insisted that he was a victim of abuse and that he no longer needed to take it from her, he accused me of being rude and stated that he now definitely couldn’t date me anymore (but wanted to remain friends!).

    A woman that I know who works with domestic violence victims warned me ahead of time that this would happen. She called it the “abuse triangle.” The triangle includes the abuser, victim and rescuer. I was in the role of the rescuer and that meant that I was at a major disadvantage. Odds were that they would align against me and that is exactly what happened. It turns out that I had been laboring under a misapprehension all along. It was time to call him out for his crappy behavior and say goodbye.

    I am currently surprised by the fact that I can write about the experience so objectively. I never, ever thought that I would get here… and neither did some of my family and friends, I’m sure!

    His lie by omission at the beginning would ultimately be our undoing in the end. It feels good to be able to finally see the irony and humor in the fact that he never listed “divorced” on his single’s ad. He couldn’t, because he was–and still is–married to the washed-up hag!

    (Yes, I confess that is what I called her in my goodbye email. It might not have been classy for me to call her that, but his good opinion was no longer important to me and so I felt no need to hold back. Plus, it may somehow, in someway, help him to see her the way that other people see her. I am not sticking around to find out, though!)

    Mary, I promise you that if I can get to this point, you can get to this point. You may not want to get to this point and I understand that, because I have also been there, as well. I wasn’t ready to see this man that I had cared so much about for so long in a negative light–especially after I gave him a second chance! This was the second chance that I was sure would work out so well!

    I wanted to be right about him. I was “chasing the dragon,” so to speak. I wanted to feel that wonderful high that I felt when we were originally dating. Who wouldn’t? It was the best! This meant that he would have to detach from her and return to being the kind and loving man that I still believe he is underneath his codependent behavior. This was the man that I still knew to a degree in our more intimate moments.

    The problem is, like a drug addict or an alcoholic, he has to hit rock bottom with her. Their ties (codependency) runs deep, because divorce wasn’t even enough to break them apart and he is still in denial about his attachment to her. They even went to a therapist together (who he is still seeing) that worked to make it so D and M have an on-going friendship! Ugh. I’ve had to accept that it is entirely possible that he could spend the rest of his life under her spell. That doesn’t seem right, but it could happen.

    I don’t know about you, Mary, but I would like to meet and be with a man that is only under one spell. That “spell” being the experience of falling in love and making a life with me! Instead of viewing it as a setback, I look at this recent painful experience as a necessary (and educational) step forward toward having that with someone special. I know that I subconsciously chose to participate in this experience because I had a lot to learn. Now that I have finally gotten to this point, I am thankful for everything–even the most painful parts–because they taught me what I don’t want/need within a relationship and, in turn more about what I do want/need. Before this experience with D, I don’t think that I really knew.

    I hope that all of this makes sense. Sharing my experiences is all that I can do to reach out to other women that are going through something similar. I know that I felt incredibly confused and alone as I went through most of my experience. Finding this site was the best thing that could have ever happened! Dr T’s advice/insight has proved to be unbelievably helpful. She has definitely helped me get to this point. I owe a lot to this site and her work. I definitely recommend listening to what she has to say.

    All the best,

    • shrink4men
      April 30, 2009 at 1:39 am

      Thanks, Danielle. The bottom line is that you can’t “save” someone else. “Saving” someone implies that you are the one who is doing all the work. A person can’t change unless he or she does the work him- or herself.

      You can support someone as he or she goes through the change process, but you can’t make them “see the light” or get help. Mary and Danielle, before either of your exes can break out of their self-destructive relationships they have to acknowledge that there is a problem and that their attachments are supremely unhealthy. Then they need to educate and empower themselves. They may never get there. It’s heart breaking, but that’s just the reality. Short of locking them in a hotel room for a month with a cult deprogrammer, there’s no way to force it.

      In cases like this, the emotional abuse acts as a contagious cancer. My advice is don’t get sucked into the drama. I’ve been there. It’s not worth it.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

      • Danielle
        April 30, 2009 at 2:20 am

        You are absolutely correct. It really is like a form of cancer (or a “psychic wound”) that grows and grows and GROWS until you finally outgrow it.

        Give me a little bit and I’m sure I’ll be in remission. I’m getting there… Writing about all of this is cathartic and it definitely doesn’t make me want to go back. There really is no going back, anyway. My goodbye was honest and therefore harsh enough to make him probably dislike me greatly. (Don’t worry, nothing below the belt–aside from the hag comment.)

        As far as creating this same situation with another man. NO WAY. Even if someone emotionally unavailable tugs my heartstrings, after all of this, my pride and ego will, at very least, keep me from returning to that place.

        I agree with you–you can’t save somebody else. I especially know that after this experience. I don’t know that I was trying to save him exactly, I was just trying to help him see the situation from a different perspective and hopefully support him on his way out… but that didn’t happen and I had to let go.

        I also had this realization that I have never looked back on anybody that I dated (aside from D after our first time dating) and wished that things had worked out with them. I am sure that I will especially feel that way once I have a wonderful relationship with a healthy man!

        I think that it was Maya Angelou that said, “Thank you God for not giving me every man that I ever prayed for.” I’m not particularly religious, but amen to that!


        • JA
          August 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

          Danielle, my boyfriend was away from his ex 4 years. She has used the legal system against him in every way shape form…sat in a jail cell for 7 hours, lies to DV, she tried to get DYFS involved who dropped the case, but got court suspend his overnight visitation.. many TRO’s over 18 years, I could go on, you wouldnt believe. He started acting odd & telling me he was staying with his dad some nights (he lived with me the past year)..until one night I got a bad gut feeling & his phone was off. very early i went past where he was supp to be…not there! I then drove over an hour to his old house & sure enough there was his car in his old driveway. His phone still off, I left a mssg to call me & tell me where he really was. He called hours later at noon…he lied & lied til he couldnt anymore & admitted he was there. We went to counseling 2xs and the 2nd time i got a text out of nowhere, she started harassing us “you control how this goes down…” I had no idea what going on cause he had told me & the counselor that he was there, but not as a couple & they told the kids they werent reconciling. All of a sudden this changed & they suposedly still love each other & want to try again (for the 25th time! lol) To me a 43 yr old man should know better. I am sick. He is there. How he can choose hiw worst enemy over the only person who has ever been there for him (Ive known him 12 years, she has 22). It is not comprehendible to me at all. He is living in another world I just cant seem to get him to come back to reality :(

          • JA
            August 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm

            to Danielle, Mary & Dr T too :)
            Is there anything I can do to make him see? For 4 yrs he swore he’d never go back to “that” meaning her. How can he just do this?

            • Danielle
              August 9, 2012 at 12:16 am

              JA–Please accept my apologies for not responding sooner. I subscribe to a number of sites and so I don’t always notice it when something comes through my email from WordPress. Sorry about that! I will respond to both of your posts where you mentioned my name here:

              First of all, I am so very, very, VERY sorry you are going through all of this. I know that it is exceedingly painful. (Probably more painful than you could have ever imagined.) You wish that you could just get him to wake up and stop hurting himself, which, in turn, also hurts you. The problem is–and I hate to say this–there is no way on Earth that you, or anybody else, can do that. He is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Getting him to break his addiction to her (and all of the drama that surrounds her) would be like getting a heroin or meth addict to stop using their favorite drug simply because it is bad for them and they’ve been sober before. They know it is bad for them (at least on some level) and they probably remember a bit of how good it felt to be sober at one point in time, but those aren’t reasons enough for them to stop today. Those might not ever be reasons enough for them to stop.

              I think that what makes it so hard in your position is that you have probably listened to countless hours of him complaining about her, blaming his emotional unavailability on her, etc. With each of those talks, you probably felt closer to him. You probably also felt as though he was successfully releasing the emotional hooks that she had in him. However, as Dr T (love you Dr T!) said to me 3 years ago, “The bottom line is that you can’t ‘save’ someone else. ‘Saving’ someone implies that you are the one who is doing all the work. A person can’t change unless he or she does the work him- or herself.
              You can support someone as he or she goes through the change process, but you can’t make them “see the light” or get help…. they have to acknowledge that there is a problem and that their attachments are supremely unhealthy. Then they need to educate and empower themselves. They may never get there. It’s heartbreaking, but that’s just the reality. Short of locking them in a hotel room for a month with a cult deprogrammer, there’s no way to force it.”

              Her insight and advice is dead-right. I will add this: We all know how hard it is to change ourselves. Expecting someone else to change in order for us to be happy and get what we want is supremely difficult–if not impossible. That is like expecting someone else to take a breath, so our lungs will expand. The world simply doesn’t work that way. Never has and never will. My advice for you is to take all of that energy that you have focused on him and focus it on yourself in a healthy way. I ran myself ragged with my situation several years ago. I have no doubt whatsoever that the stress that came from that situation is what led to my MS diagnosis. That may sound extreme, but the mind-body connection is super strong and illness often comes on during times of severe interpersonal stress. Don’t let that happen to you. No man in the universe is worth it. Likewise, you don’t want to become as addicted to him as he is to her… and nobody in the world is above having that happen. Our neurological make-up as humans makes us all vulnerable to that. Once that happens, it takes a lot of work to undo it. Just look at how hooked he is on her!

              I know that it is hard to surrender to the fact that she has more influence on him than you (I was so insulted and hurt by my ex’s loyalty to his ex–especially after listening to him complain so much about her–that I am sure a part of me wanted to “win” the battle and get him. Unfortunately, that is just ego and it has to be released.) Once again, I do not mean to make this sound easy. It is anything but easy. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things that you will ever do. Getting to that point is a process… not an event. You will have to do it in your own way, in your own time.

              A number of years ago, I told my then-therapist that it was so hard to imagine not being with my ex, because we “had such great chemistry.” To that she responded, “Have you ever mixed bleach and ammonia?” I gasped and said something to the effect of, “No way! That’s toxic.” She responded cooly, “Yeah, and that’s chemistry.”

              I cannot tell you how helpful that little interaction was… I have referred back to it time and time again–especially when I would start retrospectively romanticizing experiences that I had with him. Not all chemistry is good chemistry. In fact, a lot of it is toxic. We do have the power to change our draw to toxic relationships, though. That is the good thing. Once I finally focused my energy on helping myself, I was able to work on the issues that lead me to accept the sort of behavior that he exhibited. I processed a lot of my own issues. (My dad is very selfish and unavailable. Likewise, he often prioritizes friends over family and is extremely critical of my mother. This upbringing was what made me think that a guy that omits the truth, leaves me hanging, prioritizes his ex over me, puts me down, and causes me pain is normal and/or acceptable. In no way, shape, or form is that acceptable. I know that now and so I will never step into the same river again.

              Last thing: Yes, I am still attracted to unavailable men. Absolutely. That is something that may never subside completely, because it was something that got deep into my psychology as a youngster. However, just because something is attractive to me doesn’t mean that it is good for me, meant for me, or even important to me. I observe that attraction as it comes up, give it the ol’ nod of acknowledgement, stand in awe of the innate draw, and let it float by. Our minds produce all kinds of thoughts that we don’t act on and I see that one as one of them. I suspect that many people on this site have had similar revelations as they worked on themselves. I have no doubt that you will get through this, eventually see him as you need to to move on, and love yourself more, so you never accept this sort of treatment again. You sound like a very kind and compassionate person. Imagine yourself getting the same love and compassion that you have given to him and don’t accept anything less.

              All the very, very best,

              • JA
                August 15, 2012 at 1:58 am

                Danielle, thank you for your kind reply. It is beyond difficult. Im not so good replying from a phone opposed to computer so will write more to you tomorrow, just wanted to acknowledge your kind reply right away :) it means a lot!

            • Zibot
              August 9, 2012 at 2:25 am

              Hi Ja …

              Your description of your boyfriend makes me think that in the 4 years he’s been away from ‘that’ … he probably hasn’t done any personal therapy work to figure out why he hung around ‘that’ for so long, or kept going back over and over again – despite being treated like shit by her.

              It’s one thing to say something like ‘I know she’s crazy, I’ll never go back’ … it’s quite another to understand she really is just trouble and absolutely nothing of interest.

              Her hook into him is something he’s actually carrying around inside himself and until he sees it clearly and cleans it out, she’ll always remain a temptation to him.

              It could be something referred to as ‘repetition compulsion’ (google it) or some thought he’s carrying around in his head guiding his behavior, like something about ‘doing the right thing’ … whatever it is, he has to become curious about what the ‘payoff’ is to him of being with her.

              This isn’t logical stuff by the way – the ‘hook’ could very well be being treat like shit. Or maybe some addiction to trying to ‘fix’ her so she treats him nice (replaying stuff from his past).

              Until he takes a deep look inside himself, I’d say he’ll always be susceptible to her … because she provide something he’s looking for (not in a healthy way of course, but something he wants nonetheless).

              There may also be some interesting reading for you over on the gettinbetter dot com website – see the article OBSESSED WITH A BORDERLINE.

              All this should also be a big warning flag for you and your own health. He needs to address your well warranted concerns about what this means for you. If he can go back to all that mess after these many years, I wouldn’t feel secure about the future unless he really jumps into a therapist’s lap and starts working this out for himself, pronto.

              (BTW – you’re writing on a rather old thread from 2009 so it may not attract attention from the original posters. I suspect the website’s forum might have more to offer to you).

              • JA
                August 9, 2012 at 3:00 am

                Oh thanks, I didnt realize this was from 2009! I just googled & found it last week & have been reading. I will look up the stuff you mentioned. What you say makes sense. No, I dont believe he was ever in therapy to a true point. He does what he feels he says. But I tell him to use his brain. No other man I ask would ever go near her again, which makes it even more confusing for me to understand…why him after all the hell? This whole thing is just beyond me and my comprehension. Thanks so much for your reply means a lot!!

                • Mellaril
                  August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

                  You might want to check out The Forum. There are several threads there from women who have been in relationships with men who’ve gone back to their abusive exes.

  14. Mary
    April 29, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I don’t think I was attracted to this man because of his emotionally unavailableness. At least I hope not! I really have done some soul searching on this one. Before this relationship I had been divorced for 7 years, and had not even been out on a date for 5. The main reason for this was my daughters were still young. I didn’t want to complicate their lives any further, and I thought that my time with them was limited. I had plenty of time to pursue a relationship when they were gone. I was very content and happy.

    When this man first called me, I was hesitant to go out with him, but he was an old friend whom I adored. I had worked with him previously. I had heard he had had a difficult divorce, and that he had a job offer in another state, but his ex asked him n ot to move because she felt that if he moved they could never work things out. He stayed in the area, mainly because she wanted him to. However, they never seemed to work things out. She continued dating her new boyfriend. I knew he had been hurt badly, and really felt that I could be a good friend to him. I never dreamed that I would fall for him. I never fall for anyone.

    It was the way he interacted with my daughters that made me fall in love with him. And the way he seemed to need not only me, but all of us. He seemed so hurt and lonely. He seemed so ready to commit. I do think he was ready at that time. However, I think once his ex realized that he was no longer pining over her that her tactics changed. She suddenly “needed” him. She would call him to complain about her boyfriend. She had suddenly realized that he wasn’t the “one” for her. She had several issues with him, and I think that this was irrestible to my boyfriend. His ex-wife, who had left him for someone else suddenly realized that her new man did not measure up to him. He felt such guilt for destroying their marriage, and now he is her prince charming. He assured me that he didn’t want to get back with her, but did feel responsible for her happiness on some level.

    He would tell me all the time that they were no longer talking, yet I would find out differently. At this time he would try to take all the blame. It wasn’t her. She would not ever want to interfere in our relationship. Why did he feel the need to protect her? I was there many times when she called him. She texted once to tell him that her neighbor’s house had been broken into, and she was “a little bit scared.” When I told him it was ridiculous for a grown woman to say this to her ex-husband when her parents live across the street from her, he answered that what was ridiculous was that she didn’t feel comfortable calling and had to text. He said that she should have been able to call him, but was afraid of interfering. This does not explain why she felt comfortable calling all the other times.

    Once, when she did call, I answered his phone. She was caught off guard at first, but then said, “Let me talk to (her ex)”. I handed the phone to him, and he apologized to her. After he hung up he said “I hope you are happy now. You have upset her.” He told me I had no business answering his phone and that I had done it deliberately to upset her. He tried to call her back several times that weekend, but she wouldn’t answer. This made him feel very upset. Never once did he apologize to me when she called and it upset me.

    Every time that one of her nieces would graduate, have a ballgame, etc, she would invite him to go. I asked to go once and was told no. This would make everyone uncomfortable. Never did he seem to be concerned that I was uncomfortable with it. I told him that if he really felt the need to go, could he please not sit with his ex or her family. That maybe he could go, and sit apart from them. Then afterwards maybe he could say hi to everyone. That way he could start to distance himself slowly, and eventually it would not make everyone uncomfortable if he brought me to these things. He couldn’t make me any promises he said. He ended up sitting with his ex and her family.

    I know that from this he seems like a jerk. If he was, I would have no problem with leaving him. But he isn’t when she isn’t in his life. When we first began dating she wasn’t around much at all. He was wonderful and attentive. It wasn’t until he began talking to her regularly and visiting her that he changed. I did not know this was going on, yet I sensed that he had changed. During our relationship there were periods where they wouldn’t talk and he would return to his terrific self, but these would be brief. I could always tell when he would start talking to her again. He would be a complete different person. He would become very inconsiderate to me. Almost as if he couldn’t stand me at all. I tried everything. I tried to ignore it, thinking if I made him happy enough he wouldn’t need her anymore. I tried to confront the issue, but this seemed to make him angry. I tried to talk to her. All this did was give her a reason to complain to him. I had “upset” her by stopping by. The lies hurt so badly. I turned into someone I didn’t know. I would go into angry rages. I have even hit him on more than one occasion. I even got to the point that I just wanted to die. I don’t think I was suicidal. I never tried to plan anything out, but death became a very comforting thought. This was very disturbing to me, as I have two daughters. I have never been this depressed before. I never understood depression. Suddenly I was crying all the time. Even spending time with my children did not make me happy. I would try to plan outings with them to take my mind off things, but would spend the time crying. They were confused. It damaged me emotionally. And I felt this was my fault. He would constantly tell me that he and his ex had never fought. Every time I would try to discuss the issue with him he would remind me of this. Therefore, if we fight it must be me. If I would cry in front of him he would get uncomfortable and ask me to leave. I wanted him to comfort me and he would push me away as if I disgusted him. I was afraid to show any emotion around him. After the first year of dating, we broke up over this. During this time she told him that she wanted her old life back. He replied that he wanted his old life back to, but that if they were to start dating, he didn’t want to do this behind anyone’s back. She replied that she didn’t see it as doing anything behind anyone’s back. She just wanted time to do what was right for her. In otherwords, she wasn’t going to break up with her boyfriend. She told him that she wanted to break up with him, but she was afraid of hurting him. Eventually he started calling me again and we started dating again. At this time he told her that he felt that they should give each other a little space. During this time he returned to the Terrific Guy again. She would email him occasionally to let him know how depressed she was. Once she said “You treat me like I don’t exist. I’ve done nothing to deserve that.” He would always have a nice reply, but it would be brief. However a few days after Christmas she called him upset. They talked for an hour and a half. He did tell me about this. He said that she was upset that he didn’t call her on Christmas. It was the first Christmas that he didn’t call. He said she was right, he should have called her. He didn’t understand why I was upset. I told him that he had opened the door all over again. He kept telling me that he was happy with me and would not let anythign ruin that. Unfortunately it all began again. The secrecy, the distance. I knew he was spending time with her again. Again, nothing I did ever seemed to help. I even tried to ignore it, knowing that she really didn’t want to get back together, and he didn’t either. However, it didn’t matter. For some reason when he has her in his life he can’t seem to commit. I once found an email from him to her saying that when he was with me he felt like he was cheating on her. Unless he is able to cut her out of his life completely he will not be able to emotionally commit.

    I still love him dearly, and hope beyond reason that he will see the control she has on him. I have waited for him to work this out for so long. At this point he still calls me, visits me sporatically, but doesn’t seem to want to date me. However, he is asking out his ex-girlfriend and on dating sites. He is also talking to his ex-wife several times a week. Last week I asked him to leave me alone. He stopped by that night wanting to talk to me. HE NEVER WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THIS. He said he wanted me to understand how he felt. He said he was sick of being alone. He wants to be in a relationship. He says that when he spends time with me, he wants to get back into the relationship. But he is afraid of “jumping right back into things.” I guess what he means is that he isn’t ready to give her up yet. He is a miserable man. It breaks my heart.

    Do you think there is any hope for him? He still is not able to see any fault in his ex. It seems that he sees me as the problem. Like he saw his ex-girlfriend as the problem. He goes from relationship to relationship trying to excape the drama, but doesn’t seem to get that he is the one causing it. Is there any way at all for me to help him?

  15. Mary
    April 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    The past two years of my life have been indescribly painful, mainly due to my involvement with a man who I had once felt was perfect. Finding your website has been like seeing all the pieces of a puzzle fall into place.

    This “perfect” man had been divorced for around 4 years when we began dating, but he had told me that his past relationships had been troubled by his relationship with his ex. However, he told me that he had realized that he needed to “let go” and had quit calling her and visiting her. Around 4 months into the relationship he seemed to change, yet I couldn’t put my finger on what was different. Any attempt to discuss this seemed to make him very uncomfortable, so I dropped the discussion. I suspected he was talking to his ex, but when I would ask he would reply that they did exchange emails from time to time, but that was the extent of their contact. He assured me that she was happy that he had found someone and would never want to interfere. Still I suspected there was more, but he seemed so sincere and honest.

    After 3 months of this, I checked his email. I discovered that exactly around the time I had sensed a change in him, he had gotten an email from his ex reminding him that he had promised to always keep in touch with her. She said she felt as if she had been “cast aside”. She asked why he didn’t visit or call. It had been two weeks since she had heard from him, she said. He replied with an apology and she emailed him the next day thanking him for stopping by and visiting her.

    By the time I discovered the emails he was visiting her weekly, and they were exchanging very flirtatious emails. (“I want to go on a date with you”—“Let’s make it happen.”; “If we were both available, would you ask me out?”–“Yes, and I would be the luckiest man on earth.”) I was very hurt and confused. When I confronted him he said that she was having a hard time dealing with several things and that she was feeling badly about herself. He said that he wanted to make her feel better. He said he didn’t want to lose me, but he didn’t want to lose the “connection” with her. He promised things would change.

    Right after this he did email her telling her that I had discovered that he was visiting her and calling her and was hurt. He said he cared for me very much and didn’t want to hurt me. Her reply was troubling. She said if he wanted her to quit calling and emailing to let her know, but she couldn’t imagine her life without him. (She had left him for her dance instructor.) She then went on to say that she was making an appt to take the dog to the vet, and that she was going to make it so it would be convenient for him to go along also.

    I did not tell him I had seen this email, and a week later he told me that she wanted him to take the dog to the vet, and after all it was his dog. He said he felt an obligation to take it. I asked if I could go along also, and he said that this was ridiculous. He couldn’t take me to his ex’s house. It would make her uncomfortable. I reminded him that he always went with me to my ex’s house to drop off my children, or to pick them up. My ex was always friendly to him. He just said NO. End of discussion.

    Long story short, this was how the relationship continued. He would always assure me that they were not talking, yet everytime I checked his email or phone bills I would discover that they would talk several times weekly. Actually almost every day, and the conversations would last for 1 1/2 hours sometimes. What troubled me was that my name was never mentioned in the emails. He also told me that when they talked, they never talked about me because this made his ex uncomfortable. Yet, if I got upset when he talked about her with me he would get angry and tell me that she was 20 years of his past. He didn’t have a past without her. He expected me to be ok hearing stories about her, yet it was ok for her to be uncomfortable hearing about me.

    He tried to introduce me to her once at one of his art shows, and she walked away. When I commented on this I was told that she probably did this because of the “look” on my face. Of course I had been surprised that she showed up there, but was going to be friendly to her. She had no desire to meet me. I saw her out one other time when I was alone. I tried to make eye contact with her to say hi, again she wouldn’t meet my gaze. I got the feeling that she pretended as if I did not exist.

    The most troubling thing about all of this is how he protects her. Their divorce was all his fault. He tells me that he destroyed a “perfect” marriage. He says he hurt his ex very much and had promised her he would never hurt her again. However, from the bits and pieces he has told me about the marriage, it was far from perfect, and it appears that she was as much to blame as he was. He also would always tell me that I should not be angry at her. He was the one calling her he told me. She NEVER called him. Yet I was over at his house several times when she would call. The phone bill showed that she called him just as much as he called her. He said she only called him to return his calls. Yet, when I read the emails, she was the persuer. She would get upset if he didn’t visit her or call her. I never saw an email where he was upset with her.

    The relationship deteriorated from what seemed “perfect” to me feeling that he couldn’t stand to be around me. Nothing I could do would help. I tried ignoring this relationship, thinking that if I just made him happy enough that he wouldn’t need her. I tried confronting the issue. I even tried talking to her. Nothing helped. My self-esteem dropped. We have broken up several times over this, but always get back together. This is the longest we have been broken up. It has been around 5 months since we have really dated. He does call me regularly and will stop by and visit occasionally, but this is the extent of our relationship. Lately he has been also calling his ex-girlfriend and has set up profiles on dating sites. This also hurts very much. I don’t understand his line of thinking. His ex-girlfriend broke up with him over this same thing. And surely he doesn’t think that he can find anyone online who will be ok with this relationship. I have told him that I would understand a friendship with his ex-wife, but I would want to be included also. This is not an option. I don’t think this is anything sexual. In fact he has told me that even when they were married they were not sexually intimate.

    I think that the reason I find it so hard to move on is that I know he is a very lonely man. He desperately wants to be in a healthy relationship, but does not seem to be able to break from his ex. I don’t feel that either of them want to get back together, they just cannot let each other go completely. He has told me that more than anything he wants to be in a relationship where he doesn’t have to worry about hurting everyone’s feelings, yet he seems to blame me that our relationship is not like this.

    How long can he go on this way? Going from relationship to relationship refusing to face the real problem? Do you think that he really does not see any fault in her? Am I wasting my time waiting on him to see the light? I love him very much, and see so much promise in him. His self-esteem is in the gutter. He feels so much guilt that he cannot seem to let go of. I have begged him to get counseling, but he says he is working things out on his own. What is my best couse of action here? I hate to give up on him, yet you cannot begin to imagine the hurt I have felt over this. Emotionally I have been ripped apart. This he sees as a weakness in me.

    Sorry this is so long, but I need some help.


    • shrink4men
      April 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for the kind words about my site. I’m admittedly surprised that women are using my site now, too. In hindsight, it’s not so very surprising. There are a lot of good women out there who love men with emotionally abusive exes who refuse to go away and/or have left psychological scars even when they do move onto new prey.

      I hate to use the word “co-dependent” because it’s become such a cliche, but he sounds like he is extremely codependent on his ex. I don’t care how he describes it, he was having two relationships simultaneously with you and the ex. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t having sex. He lied to you about it and excluded you from his “friendship” with her. If you have to hide another relationship from your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse—it’s a problem.

      Let me tell you how women like his ex work. I don’t think she’d have been pursuing him if he hadn’t been involved with you. If he had been single and available, she wouldn’t have given him the time of day because there’s no challenge in that. NPD/BPD women have grossly low self-esteem and reservoirs of self-hatred—no matter how inflated and grandiose of a front they put on. It boosts this woman’s self-esteem and makes her feel superior to be able to take her ex away from you. These women only value what they don’t have and once they get it, they’re no longer interested, which is why your ex-bf is back on the dating sites. Once your relationship ended I’m sure he became a hell of a lot less desirable to her.

      As soon as he starts dating someone new, she’ll resurface, using guilt and their 20 year history to keep him chained to her. The answer to your question, “How long can he go on this way?” is indefinitely. Things will continue in this vein until she either gets tired of him and moves on—which is unlikely because these women take pleasure in their “cat and half dead mouse” style of relationships—or he comes to his senses, gets help and cuts her completely out of his life.

      It’s uncanny, another one of my readers left a comment about a relationship very similar to yours in which her ex couldn’t let go of his ex-wife. She also used their dog as a way to guilt/keep him tied to her. Kids, dogs, it doesn’t matter. These women use whatever and whomever they can to manipulate and control. The bottom line is that if your ex-bf really wanted her out of his life, she’d be gone.

      Do you think he really does not see any fault in her?” Yes and no. I think when they’re together and she’s torturing him 24/7, he probably sees plenty of fault. When they’re apart and she does the sentimental, nostalgic spin on their relationship, he gets sucked back in. You said she tells him that they had a “perfect relationship” and that he’s the one who “ruined” it, yet, she’s the one who left him for a dancer? WTF?

      This guy needs help. I don’t think he can sort through this on his own, especially since he continues to leave himself open to her manipulations, propaganda and brainwashing. As long as he maintains contact with her or responds to her emails/calls he’ll never break free of this self-destructive pattern. You can only heal from these kinds of relationships with time and distance— a lot of distance, i.e., cease all contact. You won’t heal if you continue to expose yourself. Exposure is like being re-infected.

      From what you described, this guy doesn’t think there’s a problem with his relationship with his ex. Worse yet, he blamed you for not being ok with their sick attachment. Not good. I’m sure he’s just regurgitating what she tells him to think, but that’s a moot point. This guy may have technically ended his relationship with his ex, but not in the ways that matter. For all intents and purposes, they’re still together. In her mind, you were the other woman and it sounds like that’s how he was treating you toward the end.

      Unless he can recognize there’s a problem and that it’s unhealthy to maintain a relationship with his ex, yes, I think you’re wasting your time. I’m sure he has many wonderful qualities, but it doesn’t make up for the hurt he caused you and the hurt he allowed his ex to inflict upon you. Her refusal to look at you or acknowledge you was a clear message, “You don’t matter. You don’t exist.” You ex-bf went along with this.

      I wouldn’t think of moving on with your life as “giving up on him,” but rather as not giving up on yourself. Figure out what attracted you to this man, if it’s a pattern, what unresolved issues it brings up for you, make different choices and move on.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  16. Danielle
    April 29, 2009 at 1:27 am


    Thank you for creating this site. It is very helpful for men, I am sure, but it is also helpful for me–a woman that just lost her romantic relationship largely because of the man’s on-going “friendship” with his abusive ex-wife. It is a very difficult and heart-breaking situation that I can’t quite reconcile. I was told that they were just friends, after being divorced for three years, and that she was supportive of him dating me. Although their divorce was very difficult, they both assured me that they had a sibling-type relationship. Maybe there was a little rivalry here and there, but they had worked through their problems in therapy and arrived at this sort of “platonic bliss” or whatever.

    I had a difficult time accepting this as the truth and even challenged the man early on, because it just seemed odd to me that she would still be so needy of him. She moved just a couple of blocks away from him over a year ago and depends on him for computer repair, moving, car trouble, spider killing, etc… (You get the picture.) This seemed strange to me from the very beginning. I wasn’t concerned about them having an ongoing romantic or sexual relationship (and I’m still not), but it seemed to me that he still wasn’t divorced from his role as her husband. I brought this up with him and he assured me that they were just friends and that, basically, they had healthy boundaries.

    When I met her on New Years Eve, she made an absurdly exaggerated effort in front of friends and family to make it seem like she was not just ok with me, but that she thought that I was “More beautiful than all of the pictures” she had seen of me. She also later joked to a waiter that I was her daughter. She is only 13 years older than me (and 5 years older than the man), but because of the seedy, drug addicted lifestyle that she led for so long, she has aged very poorly. Nevertheless, her attempts to overcompensate were outrageous and made me very uncomfortable. I don’t like it when people put themselves down, let alone do it in relation to me. The underlying suggestion is that I am responsible for how they feel at that moment and I feel obligated to compliment them or assuage their feelings of inadequacy. I won’t do it, though. I could tell that the man was very uncomfortable with her behavior. (In fact, his posture completely changes around her and he looks extremely stressed.)

    Anyway, she made a point of befriending me during that visit and then online, via myspace, as well as regular email. When I saw her again at another group function, she made a point of asking me how I had lost weight since a picture that was taken of me 4 years ago. I shared my exercise routine with her and she seemed interested and receptive, although she kept making statement after statement about how fat she is and how she used to be thin and on and on… I have been heavier at different times in my life and so I felt for her. I also used to be a plus-sized model and worked for several years to help friends develop a plus-size clothing line. I think that it is important to be healthy and that means not being ashamed of your body, whatever weight you are in the moment. Anyway, I digress…

    That night she joined the man and me for another cocktail at a nice bar close to the group function we had attended. When we were there, she started tearing into the guy, calling him a “whiny little bitch” and then telling me, once he got up for the bathroom, that she has “ruined him for all women.” The situation was overwhelming, but I held it together until we got back to his place later and I told him how bothered I was by what she said to him. He downplayed everything, because, I know now, he was accustomed to that sort of talk.

    In the following weeks and then months, she sent me some childhood pictures of him and tried to get closer to me. Meanwhile, I knew from him that she was telling him that he was treating me poorly ( I realize now, so she could diminish his self esteem, which led him to be closer to her and pull away from me). She also threatened to commit suicide several times. Her life wasn’t worth living, because of this, that or the other. She was getting her will together and she didn’t want him to be surprised if she killed hersel. He could have the dog… Basically, it was threat, threat, threat… (I am in no way suggesting that suicide threats are something to take lightly, HOWEVER, in this case, it was quite obvious that she was doing this to manipulate him.) As this went on, he and I saw each other less and less. I wasn’t entirely aware of the extent of her behavior, but his distancing from me was quite obvious. Also, when and if he and I had a disagreement over something, he blew it out of proportion and was overly reactionary, like someone that is already stretched to the max. Meanwhile, I see her on Facebook all the time (even the same day that she is supposedly going to kill herself), having a gay old time sending messages and posting pictures and reminiscing over the good old days. It was all very strange and, because I didn’t stick to my gut feeling and suspicions from Day 1, I got sucked into the situation. As he continued to distance himself for somewhat mysterious reasons, she made a point of getting closer and writing me these really cryptic messages about how she has a friend that is dating a guy and he is a really big jerk and that the woman keeps taking him back. And so on… She was implying that was my situation, of course.

    He and I had dated for a short period of time more than a year earlier, but his father died and he was overcome with grief and not capable of dating. It was very hard for me to handle at the time, but I had always felt strongly about him and that we would eventually pick back up again. We did and it was going really well until she became part of the dynamic (although, I suspect now that she was always part of the dynamic, behind the scenes, anyway).

    She and I continued to correspond and I was very positive with her (mom always recommended killing people with kindness). However, to make a long story, even longer, she called the man up to say that I was sending her pictures of grossly overweight women and telling her the things that he had said to me about her privately. He then sent me a message saying that our dating situation had gotten out of hand and that he couldn’t believe that I would send her pictures of overweight women! I was stunned. He said that I should have known better than to do that, because she is sensitive about her weight!

    What I sent her (and later posted to FaceBook) was a front cover story about my friends that own a super cool boutique with cutting edge clothes in larger sizes. I was excited about my friends and had even noted in my email to her that I had worked and modeled for them! Still, she called the man up to go on about how he had betrayed her by talking about her weight issues with me and that I was basically a bitch that was calling her fat! I was really upset that he aligned himself with her before asking me about my intentions. He had NEVER taken that tone with me before. It was clear that he felt that he had to protect her from me. Also, I never disclosed anything to her that he privately told me. She told me everything that I was responding to.

    He and I talked immediately after I got that message from him and while we were in a heated discussion, I received an email from her THANKING me for the article! I told him that immediately and he was very confused and said, “That’s odd…”

    In a recent conversation with her that preceded this event, she had been ragging on him about some issues with me and I politely asked her not to criticize him and said that he and I would sort it out on our own. I think that really threw off her equilibrium. Also, she told me in the email where she was criticizing him, that she couldn’t talk about him with me anymore, because they were once MARRIED (she is the one that capitalized it) and it was basically too painful for her to have him dating someone. This is after going on and on about how they are just friends and how much she wishes that he would put more effort into making things work with me! What the hell?!?!

    After he and I finished talking, we agreed to stop dating, which really sucks, because things were so good before she came into the picture. i know that he is responsible for his role, but I also think that he has a lot of emotional issues after being married to her (I just got a taste of her craziness). I have had some of the best times of my life with him and it is very hard to let him go, especially so he can get sucked back into the clutches of this narcissistic and cruel woman who has already inflicted so much damage. (I didn’t list all of the other nasty things that she said about and to him in my company. The worst being how she ripped about how he grieved the death of his father, because SHE is the one that has a real reason to be sad, since she lost her dad, brother, etc…)

    My brother, who is a very sweet and kind man, was married for many years to an abusive, alcoholic and most-likely narcissistic, woman. I saw how it changed and diminished his self worth. It was (and still is) very sad.

    I hate that this has happened to the first man I ever really loved. It is very painful for me and yet I feel so helpless. The only thing that I could do was send him a message stating my clear feelings about the situation and how he needs to disconnect from her due to the ongoing abuse (which I am sure ended their marriage to begin with). I also emailed him pdf copies of my online conversations with her, so when and if he is ever ready, he can review them and get a better sense of how she played the situation.

    He wrote me back a couple of days after I sent him the message and told me that he is not ignoring me, but he needs time to absorb everything that I have told him. I told him that I wanted him to take his time. I don’t want him to rush to any decision or judgment of the situation.I don’t think that applying pressure will help at all. He needs time and space (and so do I!). In that time I hope that he will see the situation for what it is, but I can’t expect anything. I know that the cycle of abuse is seductive and he is fully entrenched in it.

    I suppose that my point of view is unusual for someone on here, but I thought that it was worth sharing, since it is yet another example of how abuse effects more than just the couple caught in the cycle. I am sure I will always wonder how much better things could have been without her influence on this situation. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t be into me, because I don’t have enough problems or need to be saved! Who knows…

    Thanks for reading,

    • shrink4men
      April 29, 2009 at 1:44 am

      Hi Danielle,

      Egads, she sounds like your typical BPD nightmare. I’m thinking she’s more on the BPD end of the continuum because of the drama, gross boundary violations, and manipulative suicide threats.

      Your ex sounds pretty co-dependent from your description. You’re right, emotional abuse effects more than the couple. For the men who can move on, if there are children involved from their former relationship, their new girlfriend/wife has to deal with the toxic ex and sometimes extended family members.

      There is no being friends with or being nice to women like this. The only answer is to minimize or avoid all contact if possible. No matter how good the good times were with this man, it doesn’t make up for the hurt you suffered by his continued ties with his crazy ex. He should have been protecting you from her—not the other way around. Definitely not good.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment, Danielle. I wish you all the best in moving on and meeting a man who is completely and totally available for just you. There are men out there who don’t have this kind of baggage, or, if they had baggage at one time, managed to throw the old bag out.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

      • Danielle
        April 29, 2009 at 5:30 pm

        Dear Dr T,

        When I first read your most recent post, I felt the sting of knowing that your insight and advice was spot-on. It took me a bit to accept it, because, I kept thinking and hoping that somehow my situation was different. Yes, I do have a pattern of going for emotionally unavailable men and emotionally unavailable men have a pattern of going for me. I know where this comes from (emotionally abusive, narcissistic father) and it has taken a lot for me to admit that my most recent ex falls into this category–just like the rest of the men that I have dated.

        He didn’t seem unavailable when I met him. In fact, he seemed like the most available man I had ever met. He was dashing and persistent and oh-so-understanding. I thought that I had finally met “the one” (whatever that means).

        When things started going awry, he gave me many excuses and reasons that never felt right, but that I accepted out of denial and fear. I couldn’t admit that he was just another unavailable man in a long line of unavailable men. I wanted him to be special and he felt special, because our attraction was remarkably strong on many levels (stronger than anything I had ever experienced). I felt that we would eventually get past the issues and move forward together. (Oh yes, another classic situation where everything would be fantastic “if only…”)

        Of course things never got better. Last night I told him goodbye for good.This was only after I also came to terms with the fact that, just like his ex-wife, he is selfish, deceptive and emotionally abusive. The emotional abuse wasn’t immediately obvious, because it took the form of “gaslighting.” (Also, after reading my original post, you said that it sounded like she has BPD and that he is majorly codependent.)

        Instead of saying goodbye by exchanging pleasantries or disappearing into the ethers, I articulated exactly what I thought of him, his ex and the way that he treated me. I left him no way to reenter my life and when he responded to my email with a one-word, condescending response, I sent it to the trash. I’d already said goodbye and I meant it. As my friend Sharon used to say, “I was d-u-n done!” ;-)

        I know that the things that I said to him are going to sting, but he needed to hear it. I don’t think that he is proud of who he has become in recent years and he shouldn’t be. He didn’t treat me well–even though he played the sensitive guy act very well. He was always so apologetic about this or so sorry about that, but he never modified his hurtful behavior.

        It took a while, but my love for him eventually transformed into anger and disgust. Eventually I could barely even remember what I liked about him in the first place. It sounds odd, but being openly angry and disgusted was a major breakthrough. I’d made too many excuses for him for too long (just like my mother for my father).

        I will never regret my relationship with him, because I was able to work through a lot of childhood issues and release a lot of unhealthy beliefs along the way. Although it might be a bit of a challenge, I am now willing to ride out the “weirdness” of dating an available man. I know what that weirdness is, because I have run from it several times in my life (thereby missing out on good relationships with healthy men). I am positive that I would never have run from these men if I’d been raised by parents with a healthy relationship.

        It’s a good thing that I don’t have to repeat their pattern (again) now isn’t it? I am moving onward and upward in my own development. There is no looking back…

        Thanks again,

        • shrink4men
          April 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm

          Hi Danielle,

          Not all men who have been in emotionally abusive relationships are your ex. Many of them can and do get over the past. They don’t miss the drama and conflict. They’re sick of it. They want someone who is kind, gentle, loving and exciting in the non-psychotic way. If you read through the comments on my site, you can get a good idea of which men are ready for change and the ones who can’t let go and are stuck.

          Here are some questions men and women can ask to determine if they’re ready for a healthy relationship or if they’re stuck:

          1) Does he still defend his abusive ex(es)?

          2) Is he still in contact with her? ***For those men who have children with these women, unfortunately, they have to communicate with them. You need to ascertain if it’s proportional contact. For example, is it kept to a bare minimum with appropriate boundaries to share parenting responsibilities or does she have him on speed dial to yank his chain around the clock?

          3) Does he engage in extreme approach and distancing behaviors? Does he place you on a pedestal only to knock you down shortly thereafter? You’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and then you’re Cruella de Ville because you didn’t magically intuit one of his needs.

          4) Is he as mindful of your needs as you are of his? Men like your ex are, emotionally and physically, like greedy infants. This is understandable. They have been deprived of love, approval and affection for so long that they’re starved for it. However, at some point, he should begin to feel secure that you’re not going to shut him out or abuse him, relax and reciprocate.

          It’s painful and hard to break this pattern, but if you can do it relationships and life get a whole lot better.

          Kind Regards,
          Dr T

        • moedee
          August 14, 2013 at 3:10 am


          This is probably out of the blue (4 years after your post), but I’m in the throes of ending a relationship with a man with a bpd ex and your letter struck a chord. I was much more on my guard when I met the ex but, after our first meeting (where she attacked and rampaged at me, then suddenly became all sweetness and light), she tried to make me her ally. I had none of it, but was extremely clear that boundary violations would not be tolerated, so I had no further direct issues with her.

          But the whole situation just blows. There are two children, who she uses as weapons constantly, and an abused, beaten-down, incredibly co-dependent and boundary-less man, in addition to his unbelievably enabling parents. It’s a frakking mess. I don’t need to go into details, they’re all kinda the same, but I’ve decided that I can’t be in a healthy relationship with him as he is now, so we’re winding down.

          I’ve shared your thoughts about things being “okay” before she got more active, but that’s probably not really true. His personal problems existed whether he was actively engaging with her or not. A person that co-dependent would never be good for me, they would bring out all my worst qualities and the relationship would be crap. I can’t say that breaking up is a blessing right now, but maybe one day my perspective will change.


  17. Danielle
    September 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Dr T, I just tried to post something to Carolyn on my blackberry and it ended up weird or else it didn’t post at all. Will you please take it down if it did post? I will write a better one later from my real computer! Thank you!

Comment pages
  1. February 12, 2011 at 6:24 am
  2. December 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm
  3. July 8, 2009 at 7:01 am
  4. April 27, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: