Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, bullying, divorce, Marriage, Psychology, relationships > 10 Lies Men Tell Themselves In Order to Stay in Abusive Relationships with their Wives or Girlfriends

10 Lies Men Tell Themselves In Order to Stay in Abusive Relationships with their Wives or Girlfriends

pinocchio puppet

We all tell ourselves lies from time to time in order to avoid making a difficult change that we know is in our best interests. Deciding to leave a bad relationship with an abusive woman should be a no-brainer, but it’s often a painfully difficult and heart wrenching decision for many men. The following are some common lies men tell themselves in an effort to avoid making this choice:

1. I’m strong. I can take it. Maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take it or should take it. The relationship with your wife or girlfriend is supposed to be about intimacy, mutuality and love; not a sentence at Guantanamo Bay. Psychological waterboarding, anyone?

Furthermore, you can’t take it, at least not without long-term, pervasive damage to yourself, your psyche and your body. Emotional abuse takes its toll in the form of cumulative trauma, specifically betrayal trauma. Sooner or later, you’ll develop PTSD-like symptoms and other stress-related medical conditions.

Yes, you’re strong and that’s an incredible, well. . . strength. You’d have to be strong to endure the covert and overt emotional abuse and host of other crazy-making, toxic behaviors. If you have the strength to survive (*surviving and thriving are NOT one and the same) in this relationship, you also have the strength to end it, whether you realize it or not.

2. It’s not that bad. Yes, it is. If you’re using this particular lie in order to convince yourself to stay in the relationship, keep a journal for the next 30-60 days. You can do it on your computer and keep it on an easily hidden thumbdrive or CD-RW; it doesn’t have to be an old-fashioned diary. Do it in a spreadsheet if that’s more comfortable, but record every outburst, every time she blindsides you, criticizes you, undermines you and rejects or withdraws from you. Read through it and then tell yourself “it’s not that bad.”

Seeing the daily minutiae, the venomous attacks, the disconnection to reality and the disproportionate reactions to minor absurdities in black and white can be a real eye opener. Writing it down makes it difficult to minimize, negate or question your perceptions later on. It also gives you a great record of her unpredictable and abusive behaviors should you divorce her and need evidence in a custody battle or to negate false abuse charges by her.

3. If I just work a little harder at the relationship, it will get better. I call this the “Sisyphus Syndrome.” You keep pushing that boulder up the hill only to have it roll over you on its way back down. There’s no winning with this woman. There’s no pleasing her. You can turn yourself inside out and upside down and it will never, ever, ever be enough. Even if you totally capitulate and submit, it won’t satisfy her. In fact, this kind of woman will then insult your manhood and accuse you of being a spineless coward.

Bottom line: You may as well do what’s good for you and, in the long run, for your kid(s) (if applicable). She’ll never be happy, even if you do everything she wants you to do. Additionally, the more you focus on caring for yourself, the stronger you’ll feel and be in a better frame of mind to decide if you want to remain locked in the abusive pattern or get out of the relationship. Taking care of yourself will also have the added benefit of driving her mad.

4. All relationships have conflict. Conflict is healthy. Yes, BUT it depends on the kind of conflict, how it’s handled and if it’s resolvable. Blaming isn’t part of healthy conflict. Neither are name calling, demeaning, belittling and having the same fight over and over again. It’s also unhealthy to bring up previous conflicts that happened months or years ago.

This kind of woman confuses conflict with intimacy. She substitutes anger for passion. Furthermore, don’t confuse her pathology for passion. Passion and intimacy require a certain degree of vulnerability in expressing your desires. This woman only knows how to express angry demands. It makes her feel powerful and invulnerable. Her desire is for total control and anger is her hook. She uses it to keep you engaged in one pointless conflict after the next.  Do you even know what you’re fighting about anymore or does it all seem like the same god damned thing? That’s unhealthy conflict.

5. Things will get better if I’m more patient and pay closer attention to her needs and feelings. This is a variation of #3. This is also a trap. The nicer you are to this woman, the more she’ll view you as weak and pathetic and interpret it as a license to steamroll you.

6. Sex and affection aren’t important. Yes, they are. Enough said.

Seriously though, sex may not be the most important thing in a relationship, but it’s in the top three along with kindness and respect. Aside from shared pleasures, tension relief and physical closeness, there’s oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter released during orgasm that’s “associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.” Good stuff.

Small signs of non-physical affection are equally important. It’s not the infrequent big gestures that count; it’s the little things a couple does for each other that really matter over the long haul. For example, picking up the other person’s dry cleaning because you happen to be in that part of town, going to a chick flick when you’d rather gouge your eyes out with red hot pokers, making the other person’s favorite dinner when it’s not your fave, etc.

Emotionally abusive, narcissistic and borderline women are rarely affectionate, considerate or generous. If they do something nice for you, they experience it as a loss and a degradation. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in a lopsided, nonreciprocal relationship?

7. My kid(s) are okay because she doesn’t yell at them. Witnessing physical and emotional abuse is harmful to children, even when they’re not being targeted. Just because your wife/girlfriend isn’t currently attacking your children doesn’t mean it’s not affecting them. We learn about relationships from our parents and other caregivers.

What do you think your children are learning by observing mom’s and dad’s relationship dynamic? If you could choose a relationship partner for your children when they’re grown up, would you want it to be like your relationship with their mother? By staying in the relationship, you’re telegraphing that it’s okay for the person who “loves” you to abuse you and that one individual’s needs and feelings are more important than the other’s. Additionally, when and if the children ever begin to assert their own identities and challenge mom in any way—that is if they’re not terrified to do so after witnessing the way mom treats dad—they’ll typically be subject to the same hot and cold abuse.

8. I’ll lose my home, my kids and all my assets. Yes, you’ll have to part with some of your assets and you won’t be able to spend as much time with your children. However, if you’re prepared to fight like hell, prepare in advance and arm yourself with strong legal representation, you may be able to recoup your financial losses over time and hopefully forge a new and healthier relationship with your kids. Healthier because you’re setting the example of not tolerating abuse in a relationship. Don’t confuse being a martyr with being a parent.

Your kids are going to have issues, especially around relationships, whether you stay in the marriage or not. You’ll be in a much better place to help them later on if you’re healthy, strong and happy. This half lie/half truth is a fear that’s planted and encouraged by your wife/girlfriend. She controls you through  your fear of loss.

9. Love conquers all. It all depends upon what you define as “love.” Is love control? To these women, love is control, anger and keeping others down in order to raise herself up. Do you really love her? Does your heart skip a beat when you think about her? **Please note, your heart skipping a beat should be accompanied by a smile on your lips and a twinkle in your eyes; not a panic attack.

If she wasn’t your wife or girlfriend, is she the first person you’d want to hang out with? Do you feel loved and accepted for who you are? Or have you convinced yourself that you must love this woman otherwise why would you be trying so hard to make the relationship work?

Now follow the trail backwards and ask yourself where this belief came from? Has your wife/girlfriend told you it’s your job to make her happy and that you “have to fight for this relationship?” Sorry fellas, that’s not love; that’s brainwashing. Break the spell.

10. I made a commitment and I honor my commitments. Okay, but is she honoring her commitments to you? Is she loving, honoring and cherishing you? I’m sure she thinks so. As a former couples’ patient once said, she believed it was her “job” to criticize her husband and tell him what to do to “make him the kind of man she deserved.” You could argue that wedding vows are open to interpretation, much like the Constitution, but come on. My mind still reels when I think about this woman.

Are you honoring your commitments to yourself and your dignity as a human being? Are you respecting yourself by remaining in a destructive and abusive relationship? Are you living your best life by being with this woman or do you feel like you’ve been sentenced to life imprisonment? Healthy relationships don’t feel like a jail sentence. I think when one partner abuses the other, she or he has reneged on the marriage vows (or other form of commitment).Abuse is a betrayal and you ultimately end up betraying yourself by staying in an abusive relationship.

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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Pinocchio puppet by Abstract-Thinking on flickr.

  1. Andrew
    July 6, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Thanks everyone,

    I ended it yesterday, and am back living in my own house again. There have been a few abusive emails the last day or so. I haven’t really read them all the way through before deleting them. Glad there are no kids involed. She won’t be able to pay her mortgage, she’ll have to take her car to a mechanic next time it breaks down, cook her own meals, look after her own lawn and garden, clean her own house etc.
    If she could of only acknowleged how much time and effort i spent keeping her life together, I would of been happy.
    I guess there will be another schmuck along soon enough to take over.


  2. Andrew
    June 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hi Dr Tara,

    I’ve been with my fiance for 3 years now, I’ve changed jobs twice to try and make things better between us, because i work on a ship. I live with her in her house, and pay her rent, while my house is being neglected. I know I don’t love her anymore, but I just can’t seem to end it. I’ve tried a few times previously, but I always end up going back after a few weeks.
    She wants us to sell our houses and buy one together, but I know inside this is a bad idea.
    I feel like I should just sell up and disappear for a while.
    She never really speaks to me, and never really has. I’m depressed when I have to go home. I say all the right things so she doesn’t get upset. But its so draining on my energy, and this affects my work.

    I don’t know how to end it. Last time I tried, she sent terrible emails to all my friends and family.

    • shrink4men
      June 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      Try saying “this isn’t working. It’s over.” Then get on the boat and leave and don’t look back. You don’t owe an abusive personality an explanation. She’ll only twist it around, project and clobber you with it. You owe a woman who has treated you well a reason; not this one. Life is too short. Don’t feel soory for her. Would you pity a rattlesnake? Just take a deep breath and end it. Do it via phone or email if it’s easier. You don,t have to be ‘honorable’ with someone who has never honored you.

    • Mr. E
      June 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      What Dr. T said.

      Also, if she sends terrible emails to your friends and family, the ones who truly care about you will think something along the lines of “Wow, she has no class at all,” and that will be the end of it.

      I know, because a friend of mine asked his wife for a divorce after some heinous behavior on her part, and she sent an email to EVERYONE in her address book about how he’d victimized her. I don’t know that he lost any friends because of it, but I know for a fact that she did.

      • Lighthouse
        June 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

        From my experience a divorce is a polarizing event – the judgmental, reactive, freeloading whiner types end up in one corner and the perceptive, proactive, hard working productive types end up in the other corner.

        Be thankful that everyone had an opportunity to show their true colors and take advantage of the opportunity to selectively upgrade your friends.

        Abuse is abuse no matter the source – partner, children, parents, “friends”, co-workers, acquaintances… all the way to random strangers.

        Let them send their e-mails, recruit old friends and family, shoot us ugly looks and launch barbed comments because you will have the last laugh as long as you have the self-control to compassionately apply healthy boundaries to all.

        I’m with Dr.T, honor yourself and do whatever you need to do to protect yourself from further abuse.


    • debo
      March 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Do NOT stay with her. Do NOT marry her. You’re on this website, and you’re asking for feedback. Here it is: walk away on your own terms before you’re destroyed mentally, emotionally, physically, financially. Seriously, read your own comments. EVERY SINGLE thread on this helpful website helps you identify with and move away from your current dilemma.

      I would say that you know “how” to end it (but like me), you’re unwilling to end it. I’ve been with my SP for 15 months (separated the past 15 months), and it was the worst year of my entire life (and that includes the past 12 months of our marriage). Let me say this again: the first (and only) 12 months of our marriage were the ABSOLUTE WORST time of my ENTIRE LIFE (and I’m in my 40s, married/divorce already, no children, traveled the world, EXTREMELY experienced). I remember the “aha” moment when I literally said (in my head, and then finally out loud) this is the WORST NIGHTMARE of a relationship I could ever have suffered. But ya know what? LIke you, I was UNWILLING to walk away.

      I wish you the best.

  3. February 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Its all about not leaving the kids or, in my case, kid behind. Never leave a man behind, right? When it gets dangerous its time to get out; scissors. Then you worry everyday that your child is ok.

  4. rocknagain...
    November 1, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the site Dr. Tara.

    It good to feel good again. These type of women are destroyers and don’t care. It’s the classic scorpion and frog story. The scorpion wants a ride across the creek because it’s terrifed of water and ask the frog to ride on its back across the creek. The frog says no, you will sting me and I will parish if I let you ride on my back while swimming across the creek. The scorpion does not agree, and insists the sting will cause both of us to drown so why would I do that. The frog finally submits and half way across the creek the frog feels a sting and begins to drown. And then the frog asks why did you sting me, now we will both drown. And the scorpion answers I know but I am a scorpion and that is what I do.

    I got out, I almost lot my job, my teenage son was at risk, I owe the IRS money, my truck broke down and now I take the bus and walk to work. But hey, I still have my job, my son and I get along, it’s only money, and now I can stop and smell the roses again on my walk to work.

    Gentleman do what ever it takes to take of yourself and your children first. My experience has been these women some how know how to survive so don’t worry about what will happen to them. They are responsible for their behavior not you.

  5. October 19, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I’ve stayed home at great expense, since the birth of our daughter. I have skirted, avoided, and thwarted neglect and abuse towards our daughter more times than I can count. I keep, however, thinking that just maybe something can “wake up” in my wife. That she can just simply stop the verbally, emotionally, and even physically abusive behavior. Also, I’ve yelled. I mean, after the onslaught of insults, of demeaning words, of threatening body language, of interrupting before I can even complete a thought…I’ve yelled “stop stop stop!” I’ve brought in books and therapists and CD packages. I’ve done a lot of personal work. I’ve tried to explain, to show, to share in the growth of “coming out” of this destructive pattern…but the most painful thing is that I, as a man, really do yearn for intimacy, for care, for honesty…for touch…and for a woman to hear what I have to say. I’ll also say that I bopped her with pillow, but she’s left welts and marks. I called the cops on her once. Is there a difference in “severity” of physical abuse? What about “regularity?” If she pushes me around our house basically daily, especially if she’s “in a mood,” and I’m whisking around to get out of her way…but I sometimes don’t make it and she pushes me and later denies it…if that happens chronically, yet I’ve reacted abusively rarely (intervals of multiple years), but I have done it…does it matter? Also, does it matter that I’ve never actually hit her with anything hard? That I’ve never actually caused any harm, but that she has?

    It feels like she has this huge hammer over my head that she can just beat down any second. I once tried to hold her while she was running away from a discussion. That turned into me “restraining” her, but it really was for just a second, it was like “please calm down,” and then I let go. But it’s enough for her to threaten to put me in jail. And that’s really scary, because she can be really cruel.

    My daughter and I have a very good connection, and frankly, I feel our daughter is a beacon of light and joy mostly because of my intervention in parenting. Because I stepped up to the plate when it was clear that my wife was out of control. And I did it with a smile.

    Another aspect worth mentioning is that my wife won’t mother out child in public. What I mean is that if the three of us are out somewhere, my wife will allow our daughter to get into danger, even if she is closer, and I have to run to help our daughter. I carry her around. She sits on my lap at church. And my wife just really “does nothing.” If I get tired and ask her for a break, often she’ll say yes, but not 5 minutes later, she’s doing something else, like talking on the phone, and I’m back taking care of our daughter. I love my daughter, and I will take care of her 24/7, if necessary, it’s just tough when someone who I expected to be a partner basically refuses to participate. Now, it seems like she does “parent” when she is out alone with our daughter (and I’m not around), so that’s what seems odd to me.

    I guess, my question is, no matter how appealing getting out of this relationship seems, and no matter how fooled I feel and lied to I feel about our wedding vows and how my wife has treated me since we’ve been married: is it really true that the only way out is OUT?

    Isn’t there THROUGH, as in, “this can be healed?”

    I really hate it that all of your points match with my experience with my wife. We are working with a counselor, and there has been marginal improvement, but basically, our counselor said “I have to go first, because my wife is the one who is more traumatized.”

    So, basically, I’ve been making breakfast, taking out garbage, etc. etc. etc., to “create space” for my wife to heal.

    It’s been pretty sucky actually, since I’ve really felt like a servant, and because the verbal abuse hasn’t let up significantly over 6 months of counseling.

    My whole life revolves around my wife and everything I look at in my apartment speaks to her contempt for the the things I find important. If we agree on a time commitment (of any kind), she’ll break it. If we agree on who is going to take our daughter to kindergarten, she changes that in the last minute. If I would want to organize a shelf a particular way, well, that ain’t gonna happen.

    Anyway, I do accept my part in this relationship, but I also feel very strongly that I am committed to honest and caring communication. So, it’s tough. My current counseling has me labeled as an “enabler,” but with the kind of stuff my wife says to me behind closed doors, I’m starting to question that.

    • melove54
      October 19, 2009 at 4:50 pm

      It doesn’t surprise me you’re labled the “enabler”, due to the fact that many counselor’s must attach “blame.” Statistics still reflect men with the highest propensity for abuse, despite the type of abuse. If the counselor is not trained, well experienced in the various personality disorders, then most of your efforts to convey the experiences you endure with your wife will fall upon deaf ears. Likewise, and you will read this throughout Dr. T’s writings, the more you try to create an environment for her benefit, the worse you will be taken advantage of, cut and dry. In her mind, you convey your guilt by seeking counseling, she believes you have finally succumbed to her thought that you are the problem, not her. Hence, she wins. She will use this against you through family, your children, and your friends. I attended counseling for anger management and after a few short weeks of testing and counseling, I was classified as a healthy personality and that continuing to stay in the abusive relationship would inevitably result in PTSD/Severe depression. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen and stayed for another two years and I’m paying the price as a result. Today, you’re both engaging and enabling one another. You’ve come to some understanding that by staying you’ve accepted some responsibility for certain outcomes. Here’s the one you must pay closest attention to, your daughter. As much as many people subscribe to both parents being there for the children, in your case, this is not a viable train of thought if you want your daughter to have a chance at being an emotionally healthy adult. You’re trying to fix the unfixable, it’s the nature of us men to do so. And I truly understand and commend your efforts to do what you believe is right. The question is, “right for whom?” There are two of you in a losing proposition here, that is what needs to be fixed, not your wife! The space you presently have created is not going to heal your wife, she is wallowing like a pig in slop in this space, knowing full well she has you by the nape of your neck. She is in total control. How do you think she convinced the counselor that she is the one that is “traumatized.” She convinced them and apparently, they are not skilled in such personality disorders, otherwise, she would not be attending, she’d run for the hills if they were on to her antics!! People that show BPD/NPD traits and characteristics are savvy manipulators and many Psych’s and counselors cannot sift through the b.s. they feed them. Speaking for myself, it took a long time for me to gain confidence in myself, to go back to my roots, my beliefs and my rationale to free myself from the beast I was dealing with. I assure you, you will probably gain more from Dr. T than the present counseling you’re receiving.

    • Edgar
      October 20, 2009 at 3:08 am

      Hey annonymous,

      I’m five years past my divorce and there is not a day goes by that i don’t miss my wife. The wife of FIFTEEN years ago that is. Fact is, the woman I fell for has been gone one hell of a long time. Yours is gone too! DO NOT WASTE ANOTHER MINUTE expecting her to come back. That was an illusion. It SUCKS! I, you…every guy on this board got duped! But dammit…we are alive. YOU ARE IN DENIAL and that’s OK..we all did it…just don’t get stuck.Set some solid boundaries with her and leave when she crosses them. Can you actually look yourself in the mirror and say your the same man of your younger years! HELL NO! It’s an unnatural state for a man…we become sqeakin little gerbils…shadows of our former selves.

  6. jham123
    September 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm


    If they are in the early stages, She is using her sex to completely overwhelm his senses. He’ll see nothing else at this point. Like me, it may take 2 decades for him to figure it out.

    Hopefully a “Better Deal” presents itself to her and she dumps him for one that is richer

  7. September 23, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Over several painful months of therapy, I’ve come to accept that my mother is a narcissist who emotionally abuses me in order to control me. (And I just thought I was a dutiful daughter!) My 21-year-old son is in a serious relationship with a narcissistic girl–they lived with my husband and me for 2 months, and it was impossible to miss. I blame myself for modelling his current behaviour patterns with his grandmother and, to a lesser extent, his father, and for putting their “needs” over his for years out of fear of emotional abuse.
    Is there anything I can do to help him admit his girlfriend’s true nature and extricate himself from the relationship–and get into a healthy one next time! Or will I just make things worse if I try to intervene?

    • AnonymousT
      September 23, 2009 at 1:15 pm

      I wish someone had warned me convincingly early on! The problem is that, at that age, I probably would not have listened to my parents’ opinion only.

      Maybe explain one or two of the more obvious NPD signs, but in terms of how her NPD behavior manifests itself in HIS uncharacteristic reactions/behavior to it. Then suggest that, rather than take your word for it, he do a reality check with a close friend or two.

      Just an idea, I have no training in this other than hindsight.

    • Mr. E
      September 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

      The most important thing you can do is make sure he knows you’re there for him, and that you won’t say “I told you so!”

      You can try to explain to him that her behavior is not right, but be aware it’s very likely he’s going to think you’re just trying to come between them.

      Good luck!

  8. melove54
    August 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Your last statement should give you enough reason. Implying that you “don’t know how much longer I can go on with things right now”, is not a good sign. It means you are losing your sense of value, dignity, logic, rationale,etc. What is important here is you. Let me clarify,.. taking care of yourself in the sense of regaining dignity, your values, logic, rationale, take back all those things that your wife has purposely, and with no conscience, stripped you of, for her own self-serving needs. You cannot provide a healthy atmosphere for your children when they see you in an emotional mess. You must take care of self and work towards a goal of improving the situation for your kids, you must lead by example, for your actions speak louder than your words.

    As for your wife, there is no clean break, however, once you’re divorced, think about this realistically, how much time will be truly invested in dealing with her? Answer: As much as you will allow. It’s your life thereafter, so you can control the outcome. You will incorporate ways to have minimal contact with her, especially if you take the time to go through Dr. T’s Archives. Most anything you need to know about survival after the breakup is right here at your fingertips.

    Also, it depends upon what stage you are in at this point. If you have not filed for divorce, or are simply in the status of discussing, then you need to begin creating a plan. I noticed too, you have not proclaimed that your wife is abusive, that she is NPD/BPD or otherwise. You need to disclose what your situation is regarding the mentality of your wife so Dr. T can surmise what it is you need to do.

  9. T
    August 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I don’t know what to do- emotionally, I know it’s in my best interests to cut all my ties with my wife so she can’t continue to hurt me, and I’m not overly concerned about my losing my home or assets, but if we divorce I WILL see my kids every chance I get- but that would mean zero chance of a ‘clean break’. I would still have to see/deal/be affected by her on a regular basis. That being the case, why leave? I want to, but without being able to be ‘free’ of her, what’s the point? In other words, I don’t see an upside to getting a divorce, but at least if I stay, I’ll see my children every day instead of weekends and holidays.
    Please, someone give me some advice, because all my options (as far as I can tell) SUCK, but I don’t know how much longer I can go on the way things are right now.

    • shrink4men
      August 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm

      Hi T,

      Why leave? Because by staying in this relationship you’re teaching your children that being abused is okay, that’s it’s alright to devalue men and your love partner, that anger, emotional coldness, intimidation and other coercive behaviors are acceptable ways of getting people to do what you want.

      Also, although you may see your children less often, it will be more valuable, enjoyable and healthy without your wife there to beat you down and make you miserable. Your children will see their father healthy, strong, happy and free of abuse. You will be better able to teach your children your values by the example you set for them. Yes, most divorce options for men and fathers suck, but doing the right thing for yourself (and your children) is rarely easy.

      There are fathers who frequent this site who can offer far better advice on this subject than I because they’re going through it. To the best of my memory, based on their comments, all of them are far happier after they leave and state that the time they spend with their children is better without the controlling, negative presence of their exes.

      There are many extreme cases in which the mother turns the children against the father after he leaves and it’s heartbreaking, but what’s the alternative? Letting your children grow up believing that the relationship you have with your wife is normal and something to aspire to?

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • Ty
        October 30, 2013 at 12:28 am

        Dr. T,
        It’s been over 4 years since I wrote that post; it’s been one year since she told me she wanted a divorce, and 7 months since the divorce finalized.
        I’m OK.
        I got 50-50 custody of my children, my house is being foreclosed on because I couldn’t keep up the payments by myself (couldn’t barely do it when she was here due to all her spending), but- I’m OK now. And getting better every day.
        My life was an inner hell before our split. As much as I hate to admit it, at my lowest point (in the middle of the actual divorce) I thought about suicide a lot. Didn’t make plans, but I dwelled on it way more than was healthy. But among all the things that factored into keeping it from being more than a “What if? All the pain would go away…” thought in my mind, your site was one of the major ones. I felt more love, support, and understanding here than in 17 years of marriage. I didn’t feel alone anymore, like I was in a situation no one else would understand. Men don’t get much sympathy, empathy or compassion, but I found some here, and it was enough to help me keep hanging in there in my darkest days.
        Thank you- from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I think I’ll come back some time, because I think maybe I can help someone else who was in my shoes.
        With all the love in my heart, thank you, Dr. T. I might not have still been here without your site, and your insight. Now, I’m rebuilding my life, enjoying (stress-free!) time with my children, and trying to let go of the past so I can trust another woman- wholly and whole-heartedly- again. At the ripe old age of 42, I have hope again.

    • jp
      August 27, 2009 at 11:13 pm


      I’ve been separated for 3 years and only just now finalizing the divorce.

      My wife isn’t the nightmare you typically see described on this site…she never calls me names, throws tantrums, goes into rages, etc., but she is extremely controlling, which was a stone-in-the-shoe kind of problem before our kids were born that became a nightmare after they arrived.

      Because she’s not a maniac and she cares deeply for the kids, I’ve always had decent visitation…basically every other day and most of the weekend because she’s a realtor and needs to show houses on Sat and Sun.

      I can attest that the time I have with my children is far, far better now then it was when my wife and I were together. We have a blast all the time and they see me as a confident, relaxed, positive force in their lives. If I were still with my wife they’d see me henpecked, furstrated, emasculated or constantly fighting against the treatment that was leaving me feeling that way.

      But I won’t BS you…if you love your kids it’s devastating not to live with them. And the absurd laws in most states make it hard for even caring, involved fathers to get shared equal physical custody if the mother doesn’t want it.

      And don’t even get me started on the subject of child support. I’m sick of being angry all the time and I’m trying to accept it and focus on moving on. But it’s hard when a woman who worked full-time as a professional her entire adult life can take half your take-home pay just because the kids spend more time at her house than at yours and there isn’t sh*t you can do about it. Once you’re in that situation you can see where all these so-called ‘dead beat dads’ come from. You want to move on with your life and you’re happy to do the right thing, but the system requires you to live in poverty while forcing you to the periphery of your childrens’ lives.

      But f*ck it…it is what it is. Grownups deal with reality, not matter how messed up it is.

      Once you get divorced you can rebuild, and though you’ll see your kids less, your time with them will be far more fulfilling.

      Yes, you’ll still have to deal with your wife. Once you have kids there’s no such thing as true divorce. But you won’t have to suffer the daily grinding down of being constantly abused, whether overt or covert.

      I’m still pissed off after almost every interaction with my ex. She’s just as controlling and bullying as ever. But I try and reframe it into: “thank you for reminding me why I got out. Your toxic spew gives me the strength to move on.” At least now, after her BS, I get to go to my new home instead of having to crawl into bed next to her.

      What’s scary is you’re more abused than you know. You don’t realize the full extent until you get free. You’ll probably find that she has a mental hold on you for months after you split up.

      But let’s be real: divorce is hardcore…not for the faint (feint?) of heart. But you can do it. It’s a tunnel of pain and loneliness but that part passes. You’ll discover just enough hidden stengths to get you through it.

      And then one day you’ll realize you’re stranding tall. You’ll like yourself again and you’ll be free of this poison that’s been making you miserable.


    • John
      August 28, 2009 at 3:20 am


      Get out and don’t look back. Its very easy to get sucked into the fear of the unknown. Don’t let the fear paralyze you, like most things in life, you can and will eventually handle your current challenges.

      I’m finalizing my divorce this week! We signed the collaborative settlement agreement on Tuesday, the Decree will be entered in the next few days. Dr. T’s site has tremendously helped me in gaining clarity. I can’t thank her enough.

      I live in Texas and I have the standard visitation plan. Joint Custody is presumed. I will have my girls (ages 6 & 8) about 41 – 42 % of the time. Lots of overnight time and taking them to school.

      The time I have had alone with them this summer is 10 times the quality of the time I had with them while my stbX was in the house. And I did not see them very much at all in June, July and August. No belittling, no undermining, no complaining about how I was the cause of tantrums or making her job difficult, no more “you’re not the boss of me, Mommy is,” etc…

      I know now that the time I have going forward is more time than I would ever have with them had I stayed in the marriage. If I focus on being the best I can be, living a positive and happy life, my girls are going to see and experience that. They will be much better off than if I stay in this misrable, hen-pecked, dreary state of affairs. Without me saying a word about their mother they will eventually know the difference.

      Another way I’ve looked at things is that there is nothing I can really do with S___ around. I’ll never be able to teach the girls basic values I believe in like picking up all your stuff off the the floor or washing your face off with a wash cloth before you go to bed. Yes, ya’ll can see that I want to “run an authoritarian military dictatorship” in my house. It would be quite a gag to dress them in uniforms, put a whistle in my mouth and send a picture of them marching around like little soldiers to my stbX.

      This is very interesting and I don’t know what to make of it yet: Since S___ moved out about 6 weeks ago, I haven’t missed her. Yes its been lonely and different not having a “family” around. Specifically not having my kids running around the house being kids and just there, I missed them, but I don’t miss S___.

  10. bloke
    August 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I have read and re-read this page about a hundred times now.

    While my situation wasn’t half as bad as some with more strings attached, my gf exhibited many of these symptoms- Confusing conflict and passion was one, and complaining that I was no longer as assertive as before (after she’d spent months undermining my self confidence!) As someone who has a real need for a nurturing relationship, I found it so confusing to give love and support and receive abuse in return.

    The other thing which makes it so hard is that for most of the time she was wonderful- we had great times together and I miss those terribly. But in the end she had some dark aspect to her personality which caused her to behave like this. I told her so too- probably a bad idea, but you never know, maybe she can mend her ways.

    Anyway SINCERE thanks for stating what should have been staring me in the face.

  11. Frank
    August 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Reviewing your above prose, it brings to mind things like culpability, responsibility, blame, also what we as the abused, contribute to the dynamics of the abusive relationship. I’ve been researching material about blame where it concerns being in an abusive relationship and it seems to be all over the board. Breaking it down, there seems to be three basic trains of thought 1) The abuser is to blame, you are the victim, cut and dry. 2) you are to blame if you stay in the interpersonal relationship more than 6 months. 3) Abuser and abused equally share blame if the relationship goes beyond 6 months.

    By virtue of the dynamics of these dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, could you expound on your views of where the blame line is drawn where it concerns the abused?, i.e., the point in the relationship where the abused is contributing to the dynamics of the relationships and when their responsibility to self puts them in the position of all blame, equal blame, or no blame? Is there a timeline where the abused now must take responsibility for their actions?

    • shrink4men
      August 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Frank,

      Okay, let’s see. In general, I don’t like assigning blame, but rather responsibility and accountability. The abuser is responsible for her behaviors and the target is responsible for his behaviors. It’s not your fault she’s unhappy, dissatisfied, abusive and demented; you’re responsible for taking the abuse, for ignoring or minimizing it, and for denying the reality of the situation and staying in a relationship you know isn’t good for you. You’re also responsible for your own bad behaviors in response to her abuse tactics. Yes, you were probably provoked, but it’s your responsibility to get out before you let yourself sink to her level.

      I don’t think a specific time frame matters. Once you’ve identified her behavior as “not right” or abusive and accept that she’s not going to change, the onus is on you to get out. This is a good question and something I’m currently working on. What are your thoughts on the subject, Frank?

      Dr Tara

      • melove54
        August 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm

        In my life time, there has always been kind of a general public rule where it concerns relationships, and it seems to have a mean that is consistent with some of my research. The”6 month rule.” This however, seems more applicable to more normal relationships though. In other words, it’s the general time line, for a healthy relationship to move onto other levels,i.e. you decide if there is an intimate, loving bond, as well as, compatibility in interests be it activities and/or core values. As we all realize though, the ulterior motives of the NPD/BPD’s rears it’s ugly head, usually long before 6 months. At 6 months, I believe the abused has already reached the confusion stage, and misinterprets their emotions. So where it concerns the intuition of one’s self to realize there is something amiss, that they are cognizant of the abuser’s behavior long before six months is the quandary. At what point does this manipulation, deception and control become realized for what it truly is? There if definitely something long before 6 months that occurs that binds, attaches the abused to their abuser. I have read countless papers about what I would refer to as “the big bang” sex theory, where it concerns many men’s attachment to these women. Sometimes I believe that these women understand that if they can manipulate men within the 6 month limit with “incredible sex”, then they can proceed to their next step.Which is one that does not include whether there is a intimate bond, or whether their interests are similar where it concerns activities and/or morals and ethics. None of these things concern the NPD/BPD, they only want to close the deal and move on with their ploy. It seems the confusion and disorientation are realized early (30-60 days), yet, the evolution continues despite such realization. It’s most certainly a dysfunctional bond, so there is most likely underlying, maybe unconscious reasons to stay. Do the tatics of the NPD/BPD take such rapid effect upon neural pathways that so influences rationale to the point that men hyperfocus upon sex (maybe something else?) Timelines I suppose would depend upon the individual and their inner emotional strength. Some could probably go 6 months with absolutely no effect, others could be hooked in less. Some women I have read behave well until the marriage is consumated, or even hook the man into having a child and then unleashing their evil ways. So the question really is, how can you flush the evil nature of the beast out before a man falls into their trap? As unemotional, and manipulative as this may sound, men would almost have to develop a protocol of some kind to bring out such behaviors. I know that the women who trap men with marriage and babies are not as prevelant as those who will display their egregious behavior openly, however, it would still seem to apply in order to cover all the bases.If this is the case, then you are correct, timeline may not matter, it’s a matter of what actions to take in preserving one’s self from the evil witches we encounter. People whom are savvy and educated (layman level) about verbal and emotional abuse are typically the ones that have endured it already. As for those still seeking relationships, they are subject to the possibility of being exposed and trapped. How do we as men expose them before they trap us? I’m rambling here now, so, I will let you respond with those thoughts in mind.


  12. Freedom
    August 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    “Now follow the trail backwards and ask yourself where this belief came from? Has your wife/girlfriend told you it’s your job to make her happy and that you “have to fight for this relationship?” Sorry fellas, that’s not love; that’s brainwashing. ”

    there’s a guy i work with and we talk about or exes quite often. he finally started talking to her again and she used those exact same words on him last weekend. that she wanted him to fight for her. keep in mind that they’d been together for over 5 years and his story is the same as the storeis we’ve all been relating. so my reply to him was something the lines of “let me get this straight… she wanted you to fight for her when you broke up, continues to say that you should fight for her… and yet the person or entity you would have to fight in order to obtain her, IS HER!!!” eeeegads that right there is enough to make my eyes cross!!! and it sounds eerily similar to what i went thru.

    • Mark
      August 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm

      My ex definitely said it was my job to keep her happy. She use to say that I shouldn’t pay so much attention to the kids, that I should take care of her and she would take care of the kids … the problem was … if I did that, no one was taking care of the kids. In later years … one of her favorite sayings was “if the mother is happy, then everyone in the family is happy” … so we would all knock ourselves out trying to make her happy …. but she never was.

      I can’t believe I did this for 14 years and knocked myself out for the last year trying to save our marriage.

      • shrink4men
        August 19, 2009 at 7:02 pm

        Hi Mark,

        “If the mother is happy, then everyone in the family is happy.” But what if the only way mother is happy is if everyone else is miserable?

        I’m very happy you’re getting out of this relationship. Wow.

        Dr T

    • shrink4men
      August 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm

      That’s priceless, Freedom!

      “. . . and yet the person or entity you would have to fight in order to obtain her, IS HER!!!” And herein lies the insanity of these women and relationships with them.

      Oprah Winfrey is famous for her “a-ha” moments in which she has some new insight about life. With NPD/BPD women, I think guys have a “WTF” moment in which they realize something ain’t right.

      Thanks for sharing this anecdote. It’s definitely illuminating.

      Dr T

  13. melove54
    August 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    If I may suggest a thought that should remain prevalent in your mind.. Your actions speak louder than your words to your children. Believe me, they are more cognizant of this than probably realize. They are absorbing your every move. Your mental attitude, your emotional health, every ounce of you exuded in your family circle will reflect upon them. To create a healthy atmosphere means you must take care of self first and foremost, and the rest concerning your children will naturally fall in place. The rate at which this transpires, is up to you. Sooner the better.

    Best wishes to you..

    • shrink4men
      August 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

      Excellent point, melove54. Just like the negativity and dysfunction of these women is contagious, so are healthy attitudes and behaviors. We all learn by example.

      Dr T

  14. Mark
    August 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I am having an epiphany. After a year of trying to fix our marriage my wife wanted out. For the last year I have been working through that process and trying to figure out what happened to me, how I failed, and why marriage counselling didn’t work (even though it worked for me). Several months ago a friend suggested that my ex is an narcissist … that sort of made sense to me even though I didn’t fully understand what that meant. Over the last few days I have been doing some reading online and I am shocked that the details of my life over the last 14 years seem to be so precisely reflected in the descriptions of the men who are married to narcissists.

    Suddenly everything is making sense … including why I changed so much during our relationship and why I isolated myself from the family and friends who loved me. When I first moved out it seemed like life was full of possibilities and I reconnected with those people and it was amazing. Oddly my ex became very depressed … and overtime has managed to control me again. Most recently she moved an hour away to live with the man that she entered into a relationship with within weeks of us deciding to break-up. I now have our children living with me full-time at her request. I no longer have time to heal and rebuilt the way I would like to … although I am pushing myself to be resourceful and find a way. Even the every other weekend that I am supposed to have to myself is threatened because one of my children often refuses to visit her mother. Mom is not doing much to fix that relationship.

    Anyway … thats a lot. Thank-you for your website and the people who post here. This is really helping me.

    Ontario, Canada.

    • shrink4men
      August 19, 2009 at 6:52 pm

      Hi Mark,

      First, congratulations on getting out. That’s big.

      Second, your ex probably became depressed when you reconnected with friends, recovered your former life and began feeling good again because you undid all of her hard work during your marriage and felt her control waning.

      How did she manage to control you again? Jealousy because she moved in with her next target? Or, because she’s dumped all of the parenting onto you?

      Kids are time consuming and exhausting, but there are so many fathers who would give anything to be in your shoes. A lot of dads get cut out of their kids’ lives by these women. Also, this isn’t such a bad thing. It’s probably best that your kids aren’t exposed to your ex’s toxic behavior.

      You’re absolutely right. You need time for yourself and your adult relationships to heal. Do you have grandparents or siblings who could take the kids for a weekend if your ex bails? What about the parents of their playmates? Weekend camps?

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Congratulations on getting out and getting your kids.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • jp
        August 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm


        I’m one of those dad’s Dr T describes. I’d give anything to live full-time with my kids again. But I recall how overwhelming it can be when they’re young enough to require constant care or just close monitoring while you have nothing going on to meet your adult needs.

        But this too shall pass. One thing that’ll help is to get out there and meet other parents in your situation.

        Check meetup.com…there is probably a group in your area for single parents looking to connect with other adults and their kids. If not, start one. A guy in my city launched one a couple years ago and the group has well over 100 members.

        You only need one or two friends in the same boat and your situation will be vastly improved as you help each other out with baby sitting, play dates, whatever.

        Best of luck!


        They or close In fact I’m meeting with my ex and our lawyers tomorrow to iron out our divorce agreement. I’m asking for shared physical custody and she’s saying no. Her reason? “I’m no(less than 50/50 because I no she needs to feel she’s won(not even

  15. melove54
    August 12, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    In my experience my X PD, “fear of loss” was her most valued tool. It was her “big tool” (like a 48″ pipe wrench!) She beat me about the head and shoulders with that tactic!

    You are also spot on about all the other reasons as well. JMO, I think us guys lose ourselves through our innate reaction to be logical, to fix what we percieve to be broken, and to be appreciated for what we do. In our efforts to please, to seek resolve and rectify the inadequacies of the relationship, these women relentlessly perjure the hearts of a loving and giving man to prevent vulnerability. They are a walking sophisticated “security system” of sorts, protecting the perimeter (boundaries) of their vulnerability. This security system has complex protocols that initiate simple and predictable measures of action and outcome. Protocols being methods of manipulation and submission/control being the final action or outcome.
    If the common man can visualize himself attempting to enter a highly secure military installation, then he would have some idea what it’s like in attempt to reach the the “black hole” of emotion the PD protects. It’s an effort in futility! It’s unreachable!

    Like Mike said, it’s repeatable and predictable, (1)manipulate,(2) seek submission, (3) and gain control. Recognize the simplicity or as I sometimes refer to this as, “the less is more theory”, and leave out all the other bullshit that goes along with it and you will begin to understand their ulterior motive, which is simply “self-preservation.”

    Sorry for the rant, I was pumped on this one!

    • shrink4men
      August 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

      Hi melove54,

      No apology necessary. I like your comparison of the security system. It’s very evocative and accurate. The control tactics are about self-preservation. It’s draining for them and all those who come into contact with them. In fact, I feel tired just thinking about it!

      Dr T

  16. Mike
    August 11, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Dr Tara. I have been ‘lurking’ on the site and I find it very interesting that the pattern in these women is so predictable and repeatable. My relationship was roughly 4 years, and included briefly getting engaged but never married. We do own a rental house together, which is a likely target for her to cause issues I believe (but as of yet nothing thankfully). It was just odd that yesterday, after her passing me in traffic in town (I haven’t seen her in about 6 weeks), the indirect attempts at communication started. Thanks again for the site, it makes for good reading when times get anxious!!!

    • shrink4men
      August 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Mike,

      I’m catching up on comments today. Yeah, sometimes all it takes is for a mutual acquaintance to simply mention your name to your ex and it reactivates her desire to mess with you.

      My advice is to ignore her communication attempts, direct or indirect. Hang in there! It gets easier with time.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

  17. Mike
    August 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I am coming out of one of these relationships, and thankfully found this site a month or so ago. It is nice to see that the pattern exists, and that my situation is not unique. I find it interesting that, after no contact at all for roughly a week or so, I have now received emails related to social networking sites that I do not really use (such as the ex ‘following’ me, etc…). I knew to expect something like that (i.e., reaching out in some indirect way to stir up contact) due to the articles and stories shared on this site. Also, the attempts to sound ‘grandiose’ with the ex’s current plans as it relates to her social life and dating, etc are funny since she attempts to communicate that through mutual friends that she normally has no use at all for. My guess is that is an attempt to rouse up a response from me, but as of yet I have not done so. Thanks for the wonderful information shared here.

    • shrink4men
      August 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Congratulations on getting out! I’m happy for you, but you’re not out of the woods yet. When your ex realizes her current tactics to bait you aren’t working, she will probably escalate her efforts. It’s excellent that you can see them these attempts for what they are as it helps to “build your immunity to the pathogen.” Remember, never underestimate these women. They’re absolutely cunning in their ability to hook others and drag them back down into the depths with them. They can be very resourceful when desperate. In other words, these women often have a deep bag of tricks from which to pull.

      You’re welcome for the information and thank you for the positive feedback. If you stay firm in your no contact/no reaction strategy, she will eventually go away and find someone else to torture.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

Comment pages
  1. December 2, 2010 at 10:52 am
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