What Makes your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick

control a man remoteDoes your wife or girlfriend tell you what to do most or all of the time? Does she become enraged or sullen and withdrawn if she doesn’t get her way? Does she needle you endlessly until you capitulate? Controlling behaviors and attitudes are just another aspect of emotionally abusive women with Borderline and/or Narcissistic personality traits.

It’s natural to want to have control over your own life. However, most of us realize you can’t control everything, especially other people. You can make requests or try to influence others, but you can’t control them. Psychologist Dr Thomas Schumacher writes, “When you have to be in control of the people around you…when you literally can’t rest until you get your own way . . . you have a personality disorder.”

Here’s the rub: You can’t control others. Not really. When you spend your every waking moment worrying about what others are doing, compulsively trying to control them, you’re the one who ultimately becomes controlled by your desire to control. It’s a paradoxical effect. For those of you who are involved with an emotionally abusive, controlling woman, you probably recognize that maniacal, “out of control” look in her eyes when she’s trying to bend you to her will and you’re trying to resist.

Are control freaks and Narcissistic and/or Borderline women one and the same?

There’s a lot of overlap between the characteristics of “control freaks” and emotionally abusive NPD/BPD women. This isn’t a great leap since many men who are involved with these women describe them as “controlling.” If you think of this woman as a cubic zirconia, “control freak” is just another facet that flashes in the light like “bully,” “professional victim,” “pathological jealousy,” “hypercritical,” etc. Or, put another way, it’s another piece of the fragmented BPD/NPD woman jigsaw puzzle.

Control freaks and abusive, high-conflict women:

  • Have difficulty trusting others.
  • Have a profound fear of having their flaws exposed.
  • Cannot tolerate feeling vulnerable (and, therefore, can’t handle intimacy).
  • Are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity and anger.

What’s really going on?

Why does she invest so much in trying to control you and your reality? Because she tries to manage her anxiety by trying to control you. Control is her anxiety management technique of choice. She doesn’t experience anxiety like a relatively healthy person does — an unpleasant sensation that will eventually pass. To this woman, anxiety is a painful reminder that something is wrong with her. To acknowledge this is akin to being lowered into a dark, bottomless pit with no way out. There is a way out, of course; facing her issues and feeling her feelings, but she’s not going to do that!

Facing her fears and working through her issues would mean admitting she actually has issues, which would mean holding herself accountable and not blaming others. It makes much more sense (to her and remember, she’s the only one who matters) to deny and ignore her problems and push and poke at you because you’re the one with the problem, not her.

Her strategy is unconscious for the most part and goes something like this: If you’re both totally focused on and consumed by what a useless, screw-up jerk you are, no one will notice her glaring flaws, especially her. Get it? I feel dizzy from typing that last piece of emotional reasoning, but that’s what goes on in the dark recesses of her brain.

She tries to stave off her deep-seated fear of having her true self exposed by controlling every aspect of her life and her relationship with you, including imposing her distorted version of reality upon you. She views her ability to control you as a matter of survival—her psychological survival, that is. “Being in control gives her the temporary illusion of a sense of calmness. When she feels she is prevailing, you can just about sense the tension oozing out of her” (Schumacher).

Think about it. When does she come close to being in a good mood or smile with pure pleasure? When she feels like she’s in the catbird seat because she’s gotten her way, pulled one over on you or pulled the rug out from underneath you. The size of her smile is in direct proportion to the number of times she twisted the proverbial knife.

More defensive mechanisms: Projection and projective identification.

Projection and projective identification play a part in her controlling behaviors. She maps her feelings onto you and controls you by inducing these feelings within you. Her controlling facade masks her true internal experience. Deep down she feels frightened, out of control, incompetent and helpless.

Les Parrot (The Control Freak) writes:

“People who want to exert control over everything can make those around them feel inadequate, insecure, nervous, angry, anxious and physically sick. Their message is: I don’t trust you to be able to do it right; I don’t respect your judgment; I don’t think you are competent; I don’t value your insight.”

Whether or not this woman is aware of it, this is how she feels about herself. Once you recognize the defense mechanisms at play, it becomes a little easier to take her hurtful behaviors less personally. She’d be like this with anyone.

In order for her to win, you must lose.

Because this is a matter of psychological survival to her, she has to steamroll you in order to avoid feeling helpless. “To relinquish control is tantamount to being victimized and overwhelmed” (Schumacher). Unfortunately, her fears also fuel her lack of empathy toward you and create the mindset: “Victimize or be victimized; dominate or be dominated.”

To the abusive woman, it’s not enough to merely control you. She only feels in control and good about herself if she makes you feel less than. Her mood becomes buoyant as she cuts you down. She has to make you feel useless, disoriented and helpless, so that she doesn’t feel this way.

This is evidence of a faulty belief system. She has a one-up/one-down mentality. She believes that in every interpersonal interaction there’s a winner and a loser and she will fight tooth and nail against being the “loser.” This is why it’s virtually impossible for this woman to compromise or make concessions. To her, compromise and concession are humiliating defeats. She’d rather blow the house up and everything in it than compromise or take personal responsibility. Anyone who’s gone through a high-conflict divorce with a BPD/NPD/Sociopath knows this only too well.

Her need to control, however, will come back to bite her on the backside. Instead of feeling and appearing in control, this woman comes across as out of control when trying to exert control. Oftentimes, those living under her tyranny eventually stage a revolt and/or bolt from the relationship ultimately causing her to lose control.

Losing control

Schumacher cites the rapid phases this kind of woman goes through when she’s not getting her way or feels she’s losing control. For example, when you challenge her or threaten to end the relationship, she probably exhibits the following emotional states in quick succession:

  1. Angry and agitated. (You’re treated to a rage episode and/or nasty commentary, blame and accusations.)
  2. Panicky and apprehensive. (She exposes fleeting vulnerability as she tries to “feel you out” in order to see how and if she can regain control. She may worry that she’s gone too far and is testing the waters before gearing up for another control maneuver.)
  3. Agitated and threatening. (Because anxiety is ego dystonic—i.e., painfully uncomfortable—she quickly reverts to form and begins to bully you and issue ultimatums and threats of punishment.)
  4. Depression and despair. (When all else fails, she becomes sullen and withdrawn and suffers a temporary identity crisis.)

Her unhealthy coping mechanism (control) becomes an unhealthy and rigid pattern. Because it’s impossible to control others, she’s locked in the endless loop of fighting off real and imagined threats to her control. Since she won’t look at her own issues and focuses solely on controlling you and her environment, she never gains mastery over the fears that plague her. Her attempts at mastery (control) over her emotions and fears instead become a replay of misery for herself and others. But remember, she’ll probably never be able to see herself as part of the problem, which means it’s highly unlikely she’ll ever change.

Psychologist, Dr Patricia A. Farrell, states: “They’re highly resistant to any therapy, and there is no medication for the personality disorder.” To seek help themselves, she says, “the control freak has to be convinced the price is too great not to, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Yes, this woman is deeply troubled, but it is NOT your responsibility to tolerate, accept or change her. The only way to gain mastery over a relationship with this kind of woman is to end it. Otherwise, you’ll begin an endless replay loop of your own misery.

Next week I’ll post ways to manage an emotionally abusive “control freak,” so please check back.

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

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

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  1. June 9, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Thanking everybody on this website for finaly waking me up.

  2. james clip
    May 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you for this great article. I wish I had the power to describe my situation. I am married to a woman since nearly 10 years. Roughly after ( or during ) the first year of our marriage, my health started to deteriorate rapidly. I became anxious, had panic attacks, and often found myself in a state where I just wished I could leave and never see her again. In the environment I was raised, we never screamed. We never insulted or yelled one another. In our daily life, screaming, yelling and insulting is the routine. Unfortunately, we have 3 children. I hate myself that I was so immature and didn’t realize what I would put these innocent beings through.
    She controls everything, from the daily routines, to what we are allowed to eat, drink, say, see or think. Our children are not allowed to watch TV, play video games, or eat candy. They have to hide these actions. She has to be in total control of everything. When we go to vacation into a hotel, she’ll pack food and mobile stove etc., so that she can cook in the hotel to make sure the kids don’t eat ‘unhealthy’. She is constantly tired and demands that I play with the children however, I have to play the way SHE wants. Meaning, I can only do the Waldorf-style approved things like painting, reading, or anything that doesn’t have to do with technology, or plastic toys etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a healthy lifestyle and east amount of TV exposure but this all has gone to a level that we are essentially all under emotional stress. Weekends, or holidays have become nightmares because she is around 24 hours. She will watch us and either stand in the kitchen or wherever she thinks she has to be and expects us to live the life she imagines as correct. Of course, the kids are bored, most of the time. It’s virtually impossible to entertain three children all day the way she demands. I work roughly 50 hours a week, commute 90 minutes every day to work. I deleted my instant messenger because she would send me messages of how terrible her day is and how terrible I am for not being there and helping her. She still sends SMS.
    Now, if I oppose or disagree with any of the things she says / wants, she will insult me, tell me I have Satan in me, and threaten me with divorce. She will write emails to my family and friends telling them what a terrible person I am. On top of that she become so consumed with the idea of putting all our children in this hippie / earth style private school. Tuition for such a school is way more than 10k+ for a child. She wants all three in there. Obviously I am not making that type of money and obviously that is a huge problem. She send me around the country to find schools of that type that are less expensive and plans on moving out there ( even if that means we would move to the end of the world in the most remote place there is ). In our relationship there is not real intimacy. She always just turned her back to me and told me to ‘do it’ and hurry up. I am only scratching the tip of the iceberg here.
    Certainly, I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and I probably forget things or think on myself every now and then but all her demands are gone out of proportion. I so wish to leave her. I would have done so long time but these poor children…leaving them with her, I could never forgive myself for that. All these years, she kept her wealthy ex-husband around, so he can help her out with money when she needs it ( and he does so gladly because it allows him to stay in touch with her. He never got over the divorce with her in the first place and would take her back in an instant, but that’s another story).
    We’ve both went to a Psychiatrist, because she claimed to have anxiety and according to her the reasons for her problems are all caused by her divorced father, her ex-husband and now me. The doctor said she needed therapy but she refused and said that it can’t be right but that I AM the one who would need therapy (to which the doctor said ‘no’).

    I apologize for rambling. I just feel I am at the end of it all. I used to be a happy person, but now I wish I was dead or for some reason far far away from her with my kids. Again, thank you for your great article.

  3. B2
    March 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Staying with this woman is killing me. She really pulled all the stops when we were dating and first married. She smothered me with sex and charmed me with her words. It has been so tough since she changed and cut me off from all of these things. I keep clinging to the memories. I think I am over her, then they come back.
    What a mess I am.

  4. B2
    March 18, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Wow, so much of this happened to me!
    I’m married to her for 20 years!

    Constant complaints about my driving. “You’re going too fast! You’re going to slow! Why did you take that road?” Yet, she always drove aggressively.
    She criticized everything I did. If I was going to do a project she would immediately say, “do you know how to do that?”
    She constantly accused me of cheating.
    She ruined my credit.
    She would be furious if I was 5 minutes late coming home from work and demand to know where I was.
    She complained about my income.
    She complained about the size of our house.
    She never wanted to do anything that I wanted to do, yet I was supposed to do everything that she wanted.
    She would call me nonstop the few times she did work and I managed to have a day off.
    When I was off she always found a million little things for me to do.
    She has withheld sex and affection for the last 15 years.
    She would tell me that I was “too sensitive” or that I “sounded like a woman” when I said we should go and do something together.
    I’m going to be leaving the marriage in a couple of years. I have blocked her out mentally.
    I was exhausted. Completely exhausted by her and her constant complaints and demands.
    The bad thing is, so many of her friends were like this that I thought all marriages were like mine.

  5. Candide
    March 17, 2013 at 11:38 am

    This really explains the cycle of abuse and confusing and conflicting messages my partner of 23 years issues! we don’t live in the same house so i insanely visit her virtually every night.

    Here’s the thing, i dont think she is all that cleaver (whoops i mean clever) and still she can manipulate, insult, browbeat, mock, diminish, bully, control and criticise me .when i on the rare occasion point out her abuse she rationalises her behaviour by saying ‘ she’s trying to help me’, then she goes on an emotional tearful route and i end up conceding fault and apologising.. But i go back for more.
    I’m terrified of her, i just dont have the ability to handle her.i must be worse than her. I’m too afraid to end it for fear that she was right all along. I know it sounds sick but i feel so guilty even saying all this.
    your article is brilliant, for the first time i have seen a perfect description of what I’m experiencing. thanks Shrink 4 men.

    • 20yearsin
      June 17, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Welcome to the club.
      Yes it is as if they lure you in acting normal and loving, establish control and power, have kids and rule by ruining your world.
      They just want to breed, after that: full scale black widows.
      I thought there was more to humanity.

  6. Char Baber
    March 12, 2013 at 1:39 am

    All your posts have helped me immensely. I stumbled across this blog and read every single one of them to fully comprehend that I am not alone. Granted, I had to change the gender since this is referring to my ex-husband but it helped me a lot to comprehend the challenges I faced since we have a child and he’s the custodial parent.
    My best form of revenge is twofold: sharing an amazing bond with my daughter and in living well. I hope that you all heal enough to realize that there are good women out there,…and they’re looking for good men like you. I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and it has helped tremendously. Best wishes!

  7. chester
    February 1, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Holy shit JP..your posts are always good. 17 years of the EXACT same shit. She still calls or texts to reel me back in. I’m no contact.

    ” I didn’t even understand how bad it was until after we split. It took months before I stopped hearing her critical voice in my mind, paralyzing me from making even the most basic decisions” Me too JP…me too.

  8. jp
    January 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Big_Gill the Survivor! :
    So, in all this, my advice is let them go! Forget them!

    So why are you still with yours? :-)

    Great post. Really. I lived what you described for 15 yrs. Once we had children it got 100 times worse. The cycle of control, double-standard mind f*cks, and just general henpecking played out relentlessly all day. Nothing I did was right or enough.

    Totally controlling in all things, from what I was permitted to say in social situations, to which parking spot to pick, and, of course, in the bedroom.

    Divorced now. Broke and single, but loving every minute I spend with my kids, finally able to be the competent, spontaneous, fun, supportive leader to them I always wanted to be.

    I didn’t even understand how bad it was until after we split. It took months before I stopped hearing her critical voice in my mind, paralyzing me from making even the most basic decisions, like should I go get a carton of milk at the store. I’d become completely trained to seek her approval–and expect criticism–over the most basic human activities.

    After we split, she ended up alienating many friends. Turns out that having me to control relaxed and validated her, made her seem more together. Once she was on her on she generally became verbally aggressive, bullying and a bit unstable. The false front collapsed, and those closest to her ultimately had to get their distance. But she’s very charming and vivacious, so plenty of new fans.

    Like you point out, you cannot win with this type of woman. You find yourself practically begging just to be treated like her equal and she has no idea what you’re even talking about. Her presumption of her superiority and your incompetence that permeates your interaction diminishes your self-worth and leaves you second-guessing yourself and doubting your own reality. And of course the set-ups, the double-standards, shifting rules, gaslighting, etc.,make you feel crazy.

    Whatever doesn’t kill you does NOT make you stronger. Enough time spent with a woman like this and you’re reduced to a husk of your former self. And she will only get worse with kids and age. And as she becomes ever more the miserable shrew , she blames you for that too.

    Get out and let your psyche heal.

    Great post, thanks.

  9. Big_Gill the Survivor!
    January 31, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Hello all.

    Thanks for some great posts here! This site and some of these posts has really opened my eyes and yes, I am involved with a complete control freak. A lady who “isn’t an evil person nor has a problem at all. Well, that’s what my friends tell me…” she says.

    And this is how most conversations or arguments, or attempts at control on her behalf begin and end. For 2 years I have been subjected to emotional neglect, double standards, confusing behavior that changes so rapidly, sometimes from hour to hour, and then back again?

    I was a mess, I was so confused, I was so… lost and uncertain of myself that I thought I was actually crazy? Yes I have gone through it all.

    I am a former Special Forces operator who, as most know these types, is quite confident, successful and driven. This woman destroyed me to the point I thought I was the most useless human on the planet!

    It started before we met her folks/friends about 3 months after we got together. I got the big run down… don’t talk about this; don’t say this; don’t discuss this; don’t say anything about this or that opinion; don’t do X when they do Y. Don’t talk about your family and that you had a rough upbringing. Don’t tell them about your job or what you did overseas.

    Lets just say, I sat there meeting these people like a stone in the corner of the garden and continued to do so for 18 months. I was monitored, checked and scolded if I disagreed with anything they said or believed or stated my view on things. Why? Because she: “wanted all of her friends and family to like me”. I mean, “how could they like me if I didn’t share the same views and opinions as them and how can I fit in to their family if I’m different?”

    In other words, she wanted people to think I was just like her and then, if they ‘obviously’ like her, then they will hopefully “Love me”?

    After 18 months, her sister says to me: “I think you’re weird. I’m not a huge fan of yours. Because all you do is sit there. You’re like a mute. We (the family) have no idea who you are!”

    When I responded in turn by explaining why, the stunned look on her face was priceless. “Well I’m being controlled and told I can’s say this or that or do this or that…”.

    She couldn’t believe the ‘princess’ was like that. This, the girl they all viewed as: “The kindest, most caring, loving, giving person. The girl who always, ALWAYS puts other peoples feelings and concerns before hers. She’s the most thoughtful person” was actually the complete opposite of how I described her and what she told (or controlled me in this case) me to do amongst them.

    I could give you 10,000 examples of the control she dissipated in our relationship.

    How about: I had to beg her to have quality time with her? Yes, I had to beg to have 1 night alone with her, without seeing/being/contacting others to ‘make sure they are ok! To check in and make sure her friends are still her friends and help them with their problems. Never mind addressing ours or talking about our life.

    How about: I had to repeatedly reminder her on average, at least once a week, not to speak to me like I’m a dog and railroad me. “Please respect my concerns and requests for your help” I would say. Is this normal? Of course not!

    How about: She creates an online billing account with my personal details unbeknownst to me and then monitors all of my calls and texts to people. Then questions me about whom I’ve spoken to and for how long and what about? When I failed to mention people’s names I had spoken to etc. there was hell to pay and my life was hell until I told her who it was and what for. Yes! Total control.

    Her reasoning – So I know you’re not cheating on me and I know that you’re ok. So I know that you’re not talking about me behind my back! (Insecurity? Need to be in control?)

    Or how about giving me an absolute earful and demanding to see my phone because I had organised a thank you/best of luck/birthday present along with flowers and a card for a girl who was leaving our work who had given so much of her life to support the teams?As I was available to do it, I took on the responsibility. Yet, this kind gesture was me “having an affair and I want to check that your not!”

    After screaming at me and demanding I show her the 3 x thank you texts from this girl, she wanted to know why she didn’t send anymore texts than she did? “Only three?” “Why only 3 texts?” “huh?” “Have you told her not to contact you at home?” “Oh there must be more, you’ve deleted the evidence!”

    Having been abused for over 3 hours on the topic and a tantrum, she realizes she had forgotten her wallet to buy a pair of shoes needed for a friends wedding the following day.

    Yes, all this was being played out in a shopping centre with everyone watching to Domestic. No shame or care. When I refused to help her pay for the items because she had treated me so poorly, I was then berated and disrespected even more! “You don’t love me” and “You’re not up to the standard of a boyfriend I deserve! (Dam right goose! I’m better than that standard and you are not even close to my mark!)

    Yeah right lady! You’ve just abused me for over 3 hours about nothing, and then, when you want help, have this expectation I owe it to you to help you out? Are you 5 years old?

    “This is what couples do for each other. Even though I am angry at you (For doing nothing wrong at all) you’re still supposed to help me out. I’m desperate. I need these shoes. Help me now and do what a good boyfriend would do!”

    No it isn’t. People in love don’t abuse their other half and then tell them they should respect them in their time of need’.

    So when I then refused to pay, I had “ruined my day and ruined my memories of my best friends special event!”

    “This is another special event you have ruined! You always ruin my special events”

    Can you see how this is panning out? Her insecurities, her issues, her inability to deal with anxiety, her lack of control, all put on to me and projected on to me. Instead of taking a look inside and saying “I am wrong, it was my mistake” I am made to feel like I am the bad one.

    They never accept they’re wrong because heaven forbid they would look bad!

    I’ll leave you with one final one to ponder:

    Her 30th birthday is coming up. I asked her what she wanted to do for it? I was repeatedly told: “I don’t know? I’m not too sure?” “I’ll think about it and let you know”.

    I said: “Well, tell me exactly what it is you want to do and I will get it and arrange it for you”.

    Can I use an analogy like this?

    You say to your wife: “I want to go to a football game”.

    What you really mean is: I want to go to that football game and watch team A play team B. That would make me really happy and tick every box I want and need ticked to feel totally awesome about the event/experience.

    But she simply gets you tickets to a trial game between some no name teams. Yes, you’re at the football, but it isn’t what you really wanted and so, you don’t get the ‘full’ experience or fulfilment you were after.

    Remember this. I’ll come back to it.

    Months go by, still undecided? Then I get an email from the sister saying: “here are the details for the party (the family had organised it without discussing anything with me mind you)”.

    I show my girlfriend the email and say: “Hey, is this exactly what you want to do on your birthday? I want you to do exactly what it is you want to do that will make tick every box?” (Remember the football analogy?)

    Instead of seeing my actions or considering them that I am merely trying to give her: EXACTLY what she wants/would like/needs/ or desires.

    Instead of praising and thanking me for wanting to go to such lengths for her I got:

    “How FU*&^NG dare you! That was an email to you and not me from MY SISTER! From MY FAMILY. My family has planned a surprise party for me and now you’ve ruined it! You’re so selfish and so inconsiderate!”

    Really? Am I? But I’m the one thinking of you and your needs and ensuring that you get exactly what you want – not what they think is a great idea or what they think you might like?

    If that’s being selfish, then I must be crazy?

    For an entire month, we argued everyday about this. I explained my side of the situation about 200 times! I was simply trying to get her exactly what she wanted and I was making sure that is exactly what SHE wanted on HER special day? (So- my actions and intentions are never good enough? The standard is never there? The standard shifts and changes to suit her! Can you see the point here?)

    I was in the wrong, and I was told I must “Call my sister and tell her what a bad thing I’ve done in ruining their efforts”.

    “Sure” I said. “But I’m going to tell her my side of the story and I WILL be explaining why I did it! Oh, and I will be telling them I was waiting on you to make the decision and tell me what YOU wanted to do.”

    It instantaneously went from “you will call my sister and apologize” to “don’t you dare call my sister! She is my sister and has nothing to do with you. It’s not up to you to call her and apologise or explain yourself!”

    I know! WHAT THE F&&*!!! Right?

    See the confusion in her mind? She’s out of control, she has the torment and indecisiveness inside and I’m the one it’s projected on to.

    She knows internally that I am only being kind, but to her, me being kind isn’t simply that. I’m out to get her. I have an ulterior motive and in order to protect herself from that possibility of feeling vulnerable and believing that’s it is harmless, she attacks in order to defend her inner demon. She cant let go of that fear that rises when she knows nothing is going to happen, but she has trained herself to think that something will.

    I ended up giving her the football analogy and after all this time, after 1 month of fighting she said:

    “Oh well that makes sense. I can see the point you’re making now. Why didn’t you just say that you are only trying to make sure that I get exactly what I wanted?”

    I’m not kidding you! She used my exact words back at me. I had to laugh!

    Then it was followed by this:

    “You don’t communicate effectively with me! It’s your communication style that I can’t get. You need to change it so I can understand better where you’re coming from and what you mean when you talk to me!”

    “Is this exactly what you want?” Hmmmmm. Seems pretty straightforward and an easily understood and effective communication statement to me! Does it need to be any better? Of course not!

    I laughed out aloud and thought of this site and the ‘cycle’ that perpetuates on an endless road to nowhere. This is her way of trying to control me and make me think I’m the crazy one! Make me think it’s me that has to change to ‘help her and make her life better’. Rubbish!

    So, in all this, my advice is let them go! Forget them! Stop for a while and look at the behavior. Is it really you? No, of course it isn’t! Sit and watch the games that are played out. Watch how your good honest intentions are turned on you! You know if you’re actions have malice in them. If they don’t, then there is nothing wrong with them. It’s her, not you!

    Watch and see how she tries to control what you do and how you do it. How it’s never good enough and “You’re always in the wrong! If you don’t change, people won’t like you!”

    Notice how she doesn’t want anyone else to know what really goes on? If you have a great relationship where you’re treated fairly, evenly, and respected, there is nothing to tell others.

    But when it’s not, and if you speak up, watch out! You are evil. The world knows exactly what she is like now and the front she puts on (“The kindest, most caring, loving, giving person. The girl who always, ALWAYS puts other peoples feelings and concerns before hers. She’s the most thoughtful person!”), the person she wants everyone to believe she is…. is nothing more than a monster, and SHE KNOWS IT!

  10. matt fairclough
    November 5, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I have found all this very fascinating as i have finally sussed out what was wrong with an ex girlfriend who i split up with about six months ago.
    She described her illness as depression/ anxiety(which I have suffered from myself in the past,so know the symptoms)but I thought this must have been much deeper as she admitted to being a self harmer after a few weeks.(she denied it at first after I questioned her about the scars).Thinking back she all but admitted being bpd when she turned round to me in bed and said “I’m not the person you think I am”!.At the time I thought this was a sign of a guilty conscience.
    Anyway,all the abuse started early in the relationship(she liked to do it more subtly and underhanded rather than full on abuse)when she turned round and said” .I dont think you are mentally strong enough to deal with me,i think you might be a bit boyish!”I spent the next few days wondering where the hell this had come from and what she meant by it.(I’m 36 by the way).
    This is just an example and could list more,but I will get to the point.A few weeks after we split up (after the police had been involved) I bumped into her in a pub.I was very drunk and had been mithering her to continue the relationship(although looking back this was a mistake!)She came out with the most venoumous,vindictive things I had ever heard anyone say!Amongst the tamer comments she said “did you think you where clever enough to keep me,I’m going places(she’s now studying to be a social worker at college,she can’t even look after herself!)I was just using you for sex till something better came along!At the time I just thought she was retaliating to the cruel things I had said leading up to this,but I just can’t be sure..Although i only spent a matter of months with this girl,i have since been depressed and lacking in confidence and am afraid this experience will affect future relationships..any feedback will be appreciated.

  11. Allen
    October 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for your support. I have a great job, and great life other than the one at home. Getting in and out of the house tonight, in order to grab some clothes and leave, is going to be tough. The stories I could tell would make your heads spin but I’m going to try very hard to take the high road and just move on.

    • George
      October 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Allen, it sounds like getting out is the right answer, but you might want to plan your exit more carefully. My advice to you is to go through your closet and get your clothes/shoes/etc. Get any papers or financial records that you might want. Grab an external drive and backup your PC. Grab any pictures or momentos that you would like to have. Go through each room of the house with your digital camera and document everything. The issue is that once you leave, you should consider it as you may have left that house for good. When I left, there were several things in the house which disappearred never to be seen again. If you are going to court, you will likely need your financial records. Be sure to grab your passport, ids, degrees, etc. When it comes time to split up the assets, much of what you have will be gone. Getting out is the right idea, just do it very strategically.

  12. jp
    October 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Allen :
    I am at the bottom of a bottomless pit. I’ve been with an abusive, mentally unstable woman for 20 years, married to her for 18 of them. I’ve stayed with her so long to support her from one crisis to the next. As horrible as I feel right now, your article has offered me an epiphany… so many things suddenly fell right into place and everything was suddenly explained. Everything in life is not my fault. As hard as it’s going to be I am going to move out tonight. We don’t have kids. I can’t take the cycle anymore. I’m exhausted. Luckily I have a good friend that will put me up for a while so I won’t have to be alone. I feel sorry for my wife but know that I must get beyond this in order to move on. I want a life w/o emotional pain and suffering. I deserve one. Thank you for your insight.

    Good for you. Keep us updated on how it goes. As miserable as you are you’ll may be tempted to go back especially when she starts to “fight for you” so be ready. Use this site and the forum for help staying strong.


  13. Allen
    October 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I am at the bottom of a bottomless pit. I’ve been with an abusive, mentally unstable woman for 20 years, married to her for 18 of them. I’ve stayed with her so long to support her from one crisis to the next. As horrible as I feel right now, your article has offered me an epiphany… so many things suddenly fell right into place and everything was suddenly explained. Everything in life is not my fault. As hard as it’s going to be I am going to move out tonight. We don’t have kids. I can’t take the cycle anymore. I’m exhausted. Luckily I have a good friend that will put me up for a while so I won’t have to be alone. I feel sorry for my wife but know that I must get beyond this in order to move on. I want a life w/o emotional pain and suffering. I deserve one. Thank you for your insight.

  14. Mark
    October 8, 2012 at 4:20 am

    The article is excellent, and it is so true. I have an addiction to BPD women, and I went almost two years without one but fell off the wagon recently. I just broke up with her and left her house about an hour and a half ago because I was going absolutely insane. We reached a point where she was insulting, hostile, commanding, intrusive, and/or nagging almost 100% of the time, and I was going out of my mind myself, so I finally ended the relationship. I came home, ate some supper, and then went straight to this article because I remember how therapeutic it was after my last relationship with a BPD control freak ended. I have read tons of Palmatier articles because they do so much to restore my sanity. Dr. Palmatier, you are a heroic woman. Thank you for doing what you do!

    My new ex and I did not last very long because I refused to be controlled. That is my deal. I am attracted to the nuts, but I won’t let them control me, so the relationships end pretty quickly. I never get very far past the love bombing phase. The control initiation phase always pushes me away. With that being the case, some interesting words came out of my new ex’s mouth recently. They are words I will never forget, and there is a fascinating admission encoded in them. She said, “Do you always have to fight back?!!!”

  15. George
    October 7, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Here is my two cents. Get out. Make a plan and get out. I was just like you. I wanted to stick it out for the sake of my son. Trust me. This does not play out well. Get out and get out quick. Protect yourself and try to minimize your losses. Find a lawyer who will help you with an exit plan. There are even some good articles on this site which are very helpful. Find a therapist who really knows how to treat parental alienation, because that is in your future if it’s not there already. Make sure that the therapist you pick is willing to aggressively tackle this problem and make the tough calls. I would also opt for a full psychological examination of everyone right from the start. This will cost you some money, but it will save you money and grief in the long run. I’ve learned that psychologists are cheap, but lawyers are expensive. The psychological exam will cost a fair amount of money, but it will save you thousands in legal bills down the road. You are not helping your son by staying along side him and being abused. You are really providing very bad modeling for him. Get out and start a new life for yourself with good and healthy relationships. Get as much time with your son as you can. Go for full custody if you can. The best thing you can do is provide an alternate healthy and safe home for your son. If you stay in that relationship, it will eventually destroy you and scar your son as well. If yourself and your son a chance at a healthy life. Don’t delay. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the more damaging it is for both you and your son. Get on the road to recovery and start a better life. It will be challenging and extremely difficult at first, but it’s the best thing for you and your son in the long run. I’m sorry if my response is a bit harsh and direct, but your story struck a chord with me. I was just like you. I told myself the same things that you are telling yourself right now. I’m just a few years down the road on this path. I made mistakes. I’m just replying to you so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I made. Good luck on your journey. Dr. T and this website are absolutely awesome and a great resource. Read everything on here. You are not alone. You will find that several of us have gone through similar experiences as you are right now.

  16. Vince
    October 6, 2012 at 1:12 am

    This is sooooo true. I cannot believe that there are other women out there as sick as my wife… I don’t ever plan on leaving her because my child’s happiness is more important than mine. Plus, I have made a commitment to her before God. Please pray that I be able to maintain my sanity in this personal Hell.

  17. Steve
    September 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    And what do I do, I have a son from such a woman? I cannot leave the child with her, since he will go crazy. If I stay, apart from I am going crazy, my son sees a constantly dominated “poor” father which is also not good. But at least he is not alone with the lion in the cage.

    I would like to raise my son (of 6 years) alone, since this seems to be the only way that he becomes a healthy person. This will, of course, never happen as I am only the father.

  18. jp
    September 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Abusedand Confused :
    …there’s part of me that wants to see if there’s something else we could do to work things out.


    Your post is like many on this site. The writer posts a lengthy nightmare of a list of bizarre and abusive behaviors by his gf/wife/ex, then asks what can be done to make the relationship work. WTF?

    This cognitive dissonance is indicative of how prolonged interaction with these crazy women can erode one’s self-confidence, reality testing and instincts for self-preservation.

    This woman is a nightmare. Why would you want to ‘work things out’? How many more examples of crazy do you need before you decide to cut your losses and run.

    Staying with a psycho because you’ve already invested a lot of time, or because you don’t want to be embarrassed by having a short marriage that was obviously a mistake, is crazy thinking.

    This woman has already gutted you. Get back with her and the nightmare will continue and even get worse because now she’ll need to punish you for challenging her supremacy by splitting up with her in the first place.

    She will not get better, only worse. With her, nothing…NOTHING…you do will ever be right, or enough. Why are you even contemplating getting back with someone that makes you feel that way.

    Fact: It’s not you….it’s her.

    If you made a mistake it was marrying her so quickly after meeting her. If you’d given it some more time her crazy would have emerged eventually and you would have been able to make a more informed decision before the wedding. Frankly, though, I’m not sure you would have been able to break up with her even then….she seems to have quite a hold on you. No shame in that either….we’ve all been under some wing-nut’s spell or we wouldn’t be visiting this site.

    In any case, instead of regretting the brevity of your marriage you should be celebrating it. You got out. Consider it a lesson learned, forgive yourself and, most importantly, spend some time figuring out how it is that you find yourself longing for a reconciliation with a woman who is so destructive and contemptuous of you.

    Good post.


  19. Abusedand Confused
    September 11, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Hey Guys,

    I’m hoping you can help me diagnose a STBX wife as potentially having BPD. We were only married 14 months and entered counseling after only 6 months together. I felt she was extremely controlling, critical and non-compromising.

    She was 34 and I turned 40. Seemed very pleasant but with an independent personality (which I like). Dated for 6 months (which was really 3 mos. due to my Mom’s impending death to breast cancer). She was somewhat aggressive in moving the idea of marriage forward (she wanted to have kids and didn’t want to wait further).

    I also then had to put down my dog of 13 years. Then I had a prostate cancer scare. But when we got married, I started to discover how she wasn’t able to compromise very much. I had a house that I was preparing to sell and she offered very little in assistance in getting it ready to sell but was right there when the check was cut to make sure it was put into “our” checking account. And because I asked very little from her, the times that I did ask for her help, I somewhat was expecting her to reciprocate. More times than not, she wouldn’t do it.

    To add salt to the wound, I was unemployed but had financial means so her lifestyle did not change one bit. In fact it was readily improved. Over the course of 14 months I spent over $50k on the two of us yet she felt she was carrying the financial burden because I wasn’t working and she had to get up at 5:30am to go to her teaching position. When I pointed this out to her about how I spent far more than what she made and that I was no financial burden to her, she ignored it and changed the subject.

    My issues: she’s pretty OCD when it comes to a clean house. We had one fight about how I wasn’t cleaning the bathroom right. Mind you, this was while I was cleaning it and was told I was doing it all wrong and she stepped in behind me to do it ‘her way’. She’s controlling as well. Since I’m in-between jobs, she won’t let me get a dog again because she says that I’ll spend too much time on it. Then it changed to, we could get a dog once we got a bigger house. Then it changed to getting a smaller dog because a lab was messy (they shed and get drool everywhere). Having a dog is important to me and she was initially open to having one and of my choosing (since I’d be taking care of it).

    While I was unemployed, I did all the cooking (she cooked less than 15 times during our 14 months together), did the grocery shopping, cleaned the majority of the house, did the dishes and did all the financial stuff. I felt that since she was at work, it was the least I could do. But when the few chores she had on her plate that she agreed to do, started moving over to my plate and would get upset with me if they weren’t done, I started to get resentful. When I pointed this out, she got defensive and said that until I got a job, my job was to take care of things at home (which I agree with, to a certain point). Each day I had a litany of things that I had to complete by the time she got home. If the dishes that she was to clean and put away the night before were note done because she didn’t feel like it, there’d be hell to pay if they weren’t clean and the dishwasher emptied before she arrived home.

    Anyway, we went to several rounds of counseling and naturally the counselor said that I needed to get a job, even if it meant cleaning toilets. I’m re-employed now but that was after we separated (straw that broke the camels back was when she called the cops after I had a 5 beers in 4 hours (I was in no way drunk) and we got into an argument about how I was sitting around drinking all day. She came at me and was physically assaulting me and egging me on to hit her “So others can see what you’re doing to me on the outside, that you’re doing to me on the inside”. I threw a cup of water on her when she came at me again. She said I assaulted her and was in fear of her life because I had guns in the house (never, never have threatened her or anyone else). Next day I went down to the bank, took all my pre-marital money from our joint checking account out and left $5k that I had placed into another joint checking account. She then promptly took all of that out (which was not hers to begin with). She later asked that I “pay” her for being married to her.

    I realize I’m rambling but there’s part of me that wants to see if there’s something else we could do to work things out. I am concerned about her lack of compromise and the fact that at 35, her longest relationship lasted one year. She seems like she’s wanting to reconcile but I have my reservations given what’s happened in the past. I know you can’t change anyone and wondering whether it’s worthwhile to see what can be done to salvage the relationship. BTW, our counselor said that maybe we weren’t meant to be married! He was having a bad day that day, but still, it does make me wonder if I’m crazy to try and give it another go.

    Anyone here separated and then was able to successfully recover their marriage? I hate to be divorced given our short time together and wondering if I’ve done everything that I could to salvage it. I do feel that I wouldn’t be happy living under her ‘requirements’ as I often felt like a guest in a stranger’s house. And I’m wondering whether marriage is really everything people say it should be, especially with the wife entitlement mentality that many of them have nowadays. Any advice or input?

  20. rod abr
    September 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    i really appreciate this blog, its like turning on a light in a dark room that i was banging about in. I came from the UK to be with my American wife. We hadn’t known each other that long and the foundation of our relationship took place over Skype.

    In retrospect, the warning signs were there. “i am right, I am going to be right, occasionally you may be right.”

    that was the ground rule laid out once we got married. i was unable to leave the country or work because of Visa restrictions. She took full advantage of my situation. Around 10 mutual friendships were dismantled, she controlled who i could speak to and what about. Isolating me from my family.

    My brother had been through a similar scenario, but with him, he had kids. And he told me two things that come to mind. Firstly, if this is what she is like, then DONT HAVE KIDS with her. if you think you are having stress now, with kids in the mix, stress would be in a different league. Secondly he said, tell her you dont want to be ritually humiliated in public, i dont want to be controlled, you dont own me. The night i brought this up over dinner, it ended with her throwing a cast iron candlestick at my face.

    Internally i knew it was time to get out. In a new country with limited resources. She wouldnt even let me drive the old car. but i was resolute, something would work out. My belief in life had not been eroded by her. I wasnt going mad, even her workmates were coming up to me saying the same thing ‘i seriously dont know how you do it?’

    as chance would have it i was asked to sail the Pacific. she knew about the trip since the day i was asked. at first she was OK about it, but as it became a reality and the arguments escalated. She got physical again, pushing me out of the house. Punched in my sleep.

    i arranged to meet my friend for a coffee…she didnt want me to see him. I went anyway. igot a text 20 mins in, her saying that her father had been rushed to hospital. when i hurried back to see whats happening it became apparent that it was a lie.

    my friend saw right through this.

    but a great friend gave me support…he said ‘just get your belongings and i will pick you up’

    i went into survival mode…start with passport, then greencard, bankcard and laptop. everything else is just material.

    as i extracted myself from the house, i was lying to her…”why are you wearing that jacket, its too warm, where is your laptop’ the jacket was stuffed with precious things’ i just edged out the door, foot by foot, ‘oh, feeling a bit cold, lent the laptop to a friend’ I was glancing about the kitchen for potential weapons she could pick up.’ i made it out.

    my friend waited for me and drove me back to his house, and the next day i flew out to Hawaii for 3 weeks at sea. knowing that i was stepping into the unknown.

    i arrived back late in California, and i slept on a park bench in the neighborhood rather than go back to her. within a few calls in the morning i had a roof over my head and a job with the greatest guys. I made no contact with her. i never want to see her again. or deal with her.

    However i am disturbed as on Friday her sister, who is a cop..tracked me down at my local coffee shop and ‘Served’ me the divorce papers over breakfast. And i know My Ex will be thrilled by this.

    i am going out of my way, not to contact mutual friends, not feeding her in anyway. I am hoping that there is just a simple procedure of paperwork.

    but i hope that what i went through inspires other men. I felt my EX played on my fears. Elaborated them just to discourage me from leaving. But somehow i made that leap of the cliff and just believed. And i landed. Happier than i have been.

    i feel sorry for my family back home, they dont really understand what has been going on, as i have been suffering in silence. My brother will fill them in.


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