Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, divorce, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychology, relationships > How to Find a Good Therapist If You Are Involved with an Abusive Woman

How to Find a Good Therapist If You Are Involved with an Abusive Woman

needle-haystackIf you’re a man who’s in a relationship with an  abusive woman, finding a good therapist can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Although couples counseling is often futile when one partner has NPD and/or BPD, if you must pursue couples work, protect yourself by screening out therapists who will collude and enable your partner to further abuse you.

A far better use of your time and money is individual therapy or consultation in which you seek support and guidance to understand the effects of your abusive relationship, to decide if you want to end the relationship, to learn coping skills, to mourn the loss of the relationship and/or to understand what attracted you to this person and the faulty belief system that kept you in the relationship.

Making the decision to seek therapy.

There are several scenarios by which men who are being emotionally abused seek counseling:

  1. Your wife or girlfriend wants you to go to couples counseling with her. This is usually to blame and shame you into submission with the help of a therapist that she cherry picks. You have the problem and she wants a therapist to second her opinion. Meanwhile, the real problem is her. If your wife has been working with this therapist individually, you’re probably walking into a turkey shoot. The therapist is unlikely to be objective and probably believes your wife’s lies and distortions. Instead, find your own individual therapist and then do joint sessions with both therapists present. Otherwise, you’re likely to be tag teamed.
  2. You want to go to couples counseling to save the relationship, but she doesn’t want to because therapy “doesn’t work” or she “doesn’t need it” because you have the problem, not her.
  3. She tells you that you need help and insists that you attend individual therapy. She does this to pathologize and shame you. The reality is that you do need help, but not for the reasons she thinks.
  4. You’re considering ending the relationship and want advice and support.
  5. You’ve ended the relationship and are in distress.

If your wife or girlfriend finds a couples therapist for the both of you, I encourage you to speak to the therapist before agreeing to the session. First, to make sure you’re not walking into a trap. If your wife likes this therapist, it’s probably because she feels confident that she can control him or her.

Second, you need to establish if the therapist has certain gender biases that will turn every session into a blame and bitch fest about you. A good therapist doesn’t allow one partner to criticize and blame the other partner. It’s counterproductive and antithetical to good treatment.

If you’re seeking individual therapy, you should also screen potential therapists to ascertain if they have experience working with people who are in relationships with personality disordered individuals, if they understand the dynamics of these disorders/traits and if they are comfortable counseling a person on how to end a relationship rather than to “work harder” to “save” the relationship and thus keep you on the never-ending hoop jumping track.

Screening Criteria

You have the right to consult with a therapist before beginning treatment. If you get a receptionist or service, tell the person that you want to have a brief 5-10 minute screening interview to see if the therapist is a good fit for the issues you’re currently facing. If the receptionist or the therapist refuses to do this and insists that you come in for a session, find another therapist. Even exorbitantly paid attorneys typically offer free brief initial consults. Here are some screening questions you may want to ask:

1. Do you believe women can be the abusive partner in a relationship? If the therapist says “no,” is noncommittal or replies that it’s highly unlikely, rare or unusual, politely end the call and find another therapist.

2. Do you have experience with Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other Cluster B disorders? If they say, “no,” move on.

3. Do you have experience working with male victims of female perpetrated abuse? If not, keep looking.

4. What do you typically advise men who are being abused by a woman who may have BPD, NPD, HPD and/or sociopathy? If they avoid the question by explaining that these are severe mental illnesses and that you have to exercise patience and learn how not to trigger their behaviors; end the call and keep looking.

5. Do you encourage a client to keep working on a relationship no matter how painful and damaging it is to him or do you accept that some relationships can’t be repaired because one partner is too damaged and/or abusive to be in a healthy relationship? At this point, explain that you’re currently married to/dating a woman you strongly suspect meets the diagnostic criteria for HPD, BPD, NPD and/or sociopathy.

The therapist may ask if your wife/girlfriend has ever received an official diagnosis and “how do you know?” Explain that after years of craziness, verbal attacks, emotional distance, etc., you researched your wife’s behavior and believe it meets the criteria. If you’ve been journaling or keeping records of your wife’s/girlfriend’s behavior, offer to bring them with you to the session. It’s hard to say you’re “exaggerating” or being “too sensitive” when you have a compendium of abusive events.

6. If you know or are fairly certain that you want to end your relationship, explicitly say so. Calmly and firmly state that you’re not seeking support for your wife, but for yourself. Explain that you recognize that this relationship is causing you psychological and physical distress and you’re looking for coping techniques and support for yourself through the break-up process.

7. Ask the therapist straight up if he or she is a feminist. Feminists believe men are almost always the perpetrators of domestic violence and that women are the victims, even when it is the woman who is emotionally or physically violent. Their belief is that abusive women are reacting to “the patriarchy” and eons of oppression, therefore, even if you have the black eye and broken cell phone to prove it, she’s still the victim. Feminist therapists view the people they “treat” through the lens of a hateful and discriminatory ideology.

Other points to consider:

Level of education and training. Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors (MD). Only psychiatrists can prescribe medication. In fact, most psychiatrists no longer do talking therapy and do 15-minute medication sessions instead. Psychologists hold either a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) or EdD (Doctor of Education) and have at least two times the course hours and supervised training hours of Masters level clinicians.

Masters level clinicians have either an MA (Master of Arts), MS (Master of Sciences), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Clinician), MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), MSW (Master of Social Work) or LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker). Most of these programs are under 2 years and they’ve far less supervised training hours. Furthermore, in my experience, there’s a reason for the negative “man-hating” social worker stereotype. Caveat emptor.

Faith-based counselors. If you want to divorce your abusive spouse, you should probably avoid christian counselors. Typically they advise you to practice forgiveness, turn the other cheek, remind you of the vows you took before God and encourage you to pray with your abusive spouse. Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t “cure” BPD or NPD. Unlesss you want to be the sacrificial lamb to your wife’s/girlfriend’s pathology, I’d find a secular counselor.

Therapeutic style. I suggest you also base your choice on therapeutic style. For example, do you want a more active therapist or one who primarily listens and asks questions to help you reach your own answers? Do you want a therapist who works with you to develop solutions or one that lets you develop the solutions on your own? Do you want someone who is more insight driven (i.e., psychodynamic) or learning and task-oriented (cognitive-behavioral)? Do you want someone who’s very nurturing or more confrontational?

It’s really the luck of the draw and being very clear about what you want in the therapeutic relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask potential therapists about their theoretical orientation and their working style. It’s important that you find a shrink that’s a good fit for you otherwise you’ll never reach the level of trust and comfort necessary to do the work.

In closing, I’d like to share a therapy anecdote one of my readers emailed awhile back. It’s priceless:

I’m going to marriage counseling with my wife now, and the therapist keeps saying “it takes 2 to tango” and is trying to find things that I did wrong.  She started off with “you were part of this marriage, so you must take some responsibility.” When I rejected that, she back pedaled and said that “you should have left earlier.”  I told her how ridiculous that was because it’s blaming the victim, and she replied, “Do you want to be a victim?” “No,” I told her, “that’s why I’m leaving.”


by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.


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Photo credits:
Needle in a haystack on istockphoto.com
  1. Ron
    October 19, 2009 at 3:05 am

    I finally, after being driven crazy and being so exhausted walking in a minefield, sought therapy. My XW was incensed and derided the whole concept. She admonished me to never talk about her in therapy. So, rather than face her rage, I simply lied and told her i was dealing with family of origin issues.
    Interestingly, after a number of session where I described my wife’s behavior, the therapist kept recommending i read a book byJanis Abram Spring, “After the Affair”. I had no inkling my wife was cheating. Turned out she was with two different guys.The therapist spotted the cheating behavior almost immediately. No wonder my XW was threatened by her.
    Also, my XW ridiculed people with mental health issues and would “never, ever. talk to a third party about her problems(not that she had any,right_}

  2. "Clint"
    October 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Great article. I think therapy has an anti-male bias. My wife got to speak first to explain the problem, which wasn’t such a big deal. But then, when I said, “We’re here because it was an abusive relationship that only stopped with me leaving,” the therapist asked almost reflexively if I was the one abusing. Way to go.

    My experience has been that your BP / NPD wife will import all of her combativeness and control-seeking behavior into the session, and it will be completely non-productive. Remember, couples counseling is for NORMAL couples who care about each other and are trying to work through a tough situation. But if one person is systematically abusing the other, you’ve probably already talked; in going, you’re just paying for more abuse.

  3. Phil
    October 18, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Dr T.

    I went for reason #2 but my wife would not go and did not want me to go but finally said go “you need it”. After the first session she started throwing tantrums to get me to stop. She resented me listening to someone else when according all I needed to do was “to listen to her”. She has called my therapist (who is a PhD) a “shrink, whore, your girlfriend, and that bitch.” Plus according to my wife I’m not getting better I’m getting worst.

    Early in our marriage I remember my wife telling me “you don’t fight fair, you don’t get mad.” Well after a time she learned how to make me mad. I accept responsibility for that, you can’t let others push your buttons but I did. The thing that really got to me was she learned to use intimate details against me in fights. For instants I confided in her that when I was a child my father would call me names and how much that hurt. From that point on when she got mad at me she started calling me names. I’ve learned not to react her pushing my buttons but most important I’ve learned to set boundaries and she does not like boundaries, hence the resentment toward my therapist and the statement “you’re getting worst.” I’m trying to get back to that guy who didn’t used to get mad, maybe he’s still there somewhere. In the meanwhile I find I’m finding fewer excuses to put up with her behavior. Thanks again for all your efforts and support.

  4. melove54
    October 16, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    How about this one,”PEOPLE”..Permanent Elimination Of Predators Living on Earth!” That’s what I’m talking about!! I didn’t get much sleep either!!:)

  5. Laura
    October 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Professional Goal-Oriented Adaptation Mentoring?


    I can hear the testimonails now, “Dr. T’s PGOAM saved my life and my sanity!”

    It can be new-age-y too… PG (rated with guidance) OAM (soothing!)

    I didn’t get much sleep… ;)


    • shrink4men
      October 16, 2009 at 11:18 pm

      Hi Laura and melove,

      Interesting suggestions. I’ll keep thinking on it though;-)

  6. Jim
    October 16, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Hey Dr. T,

    I’ve been in therapy now for a little over a month. It’s been pretyy beneficial and I’ve gotten myself in a better place personally (i’m no longer drinking and covering up the pain that this relationship caused me). I’m still having a great amount of difficulty coming to terms with my Ex though, and her behaviors that still seem to be affecting me. We broke up 5 months ago and I’ve been no contact for over 3 months. I still have these attacks of obsessive thought patterns. Obsessing about her and this new boyfriend she has had for over three months. I mainly obsess about how this person could “act” as if she was in love with me and say it every day but then turn around and throw me away in a heartbeat. It seems that I am constantly coming back to this neurotic mindset that there is something more that I could have done.

    The thing is I feel in my heart that I am still very confused and hurt. Mainly because I can’t convince myself that someone could lie as much as she did. This is the biggest difficulty I think. After being lied to and deceived as much as I was by her I don’t know what this has done to me or how to fix it. So much so that I am confused as to what at all about our relationship was genuine and true.

    Are there any specific tactics or issues I can discuss with my therapist that might be more beneficial in uncovering the damage done by my BPD ex?

    • Kev
      October 16, 2009 at 6:55 am

      Hey Jim,

      I don’t know if I can offer you any specific tactics, but what I can tell you is that what you’re going through 1 month into therapy is probably normal for what you’ve been through. I’ve been in therapy (with only a slight break) for a little over a year now, and I can tell you that I’m also still having difficulties coming to terms with the ex’s behaviors and how they still affect me, too. The intensity of these feelings does diminish with time, though, and you begin to accept that you may just never really understand how she can behave in the manner she did, and how she appears to have moved on so quickly and easily.

      I think part of the problem is, we’re trying to understand these behaviors as if our exes are rational, sane, human beings who operate in a manner most people would equate with “normal.” The thing is, this doesn’t apply to her (your ex, mine, or anybody else’s here). I think I wrote about this elsewhere, but we are trying to reconcile two conflicting signals from these people. Their adult bodies signal to us that they should behave/act/react in a certain manner. Their actual behavior completely contradicts our visual input. At best, they’re stuck in the logic and behavioral patterns of two year olds (give or take), and at worst, they’re simply monsters (there, I said it, for anymore BPD lurkers who feel like coming out of the woodwork).

      The important thing to remember is you did not deserve this (I also write this to remind myself). None of us did. We WERE lied to. We WERE tricked. We WERE betrayed. The next guy will be, too. He probably doesn’t know it yet. The thing is, if anything, as others have said, we were susceptible to these lies, tricks, and betrayals because we cared. Because we loved her, and trusted her. Because we opened our hearts to her. These are not bad attributes to have.

      What I’m working on right now, is what I’m calling “installing a screen door on my heart.” Basically, I want to allow love to flow in and out of it again one day, and not completely block it off, or shut it down. However, there will at least be a permeable barrier to keep the bugs (and larger critters) out.

      Good luck with the therapy. You will gain perspective on the confusion and hurt you’re going through. You have a long road ahead of you, but you are strong, and can do it. One step at a time. You’ll be tempted to give up at times. Don’t. Slog through. Get to the core of it all, and you’ll come out the other side stronger than before. And you’ll know how to avoid all of this in the future. I’m not there yet, myself, but there are times that I have glimpses of it. And I know I’ll get there eventually.

      You will too.

      • melove54
        October 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

        If I may, I would like to break down your well stated points,as well to add a couple of additional points, as they are 6 rules I live by to get through it all:

        1) Only time will heal your thoughts. It a process, a natural progession we all must endure.

        2) You are not on an equal mental playing field with your abuser, so throw logic and rationale out the window. She is not normal. Read the stories of all us here on Dr.T’s site and you will begin to understand. It will not get any better, despite what you did to make her happy, nor should you believe that you could have done better,..it would not have mattered.

        3)There is an ulterior motive for everything your abuser does.Under NO circumstances believe what she says nor what her actions may convey, she is not to be trusted. Even if she shows you once that she could be trusted, it is probably a self-serving ploy/manipulation tactic.

        4) She WILL indeed do to the next person, what she did to you!! He will either figure it out soon enough or he will fall prey to her long term like you did. COUNT ON IT!! Better him rather than you! Sorry for you new guy!!

        5) Take care of self first and foremost. Place your hopes and dreams into the future without her, for you cannot change the past, you did everything you could do within your power. If there are children involved, you will need to interact with her on a very specific basis, limit your conversations to the interests of the children and don’t allow her to engage you as she did before. One parent at least should have the where-with-all to understand such priorities in life.

        6)You must fill your empty space/time. This is so important. Allow yourself to reestablish personal relationships, tell them you’re done with the relationship and stick by your word in doing so. It’s a form of commitment, as well, your credibilty/friendship with these people close to you will be rekindled. Avoid at all costs, talking about your X at any length in conversations, especially when you start dating again. If someone asks, be brief and think of something else to talk about. Believe me, it’s the “kiss of death” and people will avoid you like the plague. You are no longer a victim,so visualize yourself as the normal, stronger individual that did what was in the best interest for himself, and all those who sincerely care for him.

        Once again, well put Kev,.. and Jim, KIT in touch with shrink4men, it will open your eyes and your mind. Jim’s story is “oh so familiar”,like the proverbial broken record, we’ve all been there.

        THe irony of life is that men have been labeled since the beginning of time by women, law, etc. as the one with the highest propensity to be the culprits where abuse is concerned, and women have taken advantage of how the law, and social perceptions protects them. What has evolved over time is a “female predator”, sucking the life out of good men, men that care, have emotions, and want more from life than a 9-5, to feel equal in a relationship, instead, more and more women subscribe to equality,yet, expect men to be literally subservient to them in irrational ways. The tides have turned and more men are victims of this abusive thought pattern many women convey. There are plenty of good women out there, we simply have to be more cognizant via our bad experience and sift through the b.s. Times have changed, therefore, the courting process must change for us guys now that we know such predators exist.

        • Jim
          October 16, 2009 at 11:54 pm


          Thanks for the reply. What you say makes a lot of sense.

  7. Mike91163
    October 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm


    “The truth is, peace, serenity, gentleness, etc…are signs of weakness and attempts (on our part) to appease…appeasement never works. Appeasement isn’t reconciliation. It’s only a willing submission to someone else’s controlling and dysfunctional behavior.”

    Amen, brother. And why do we appease? To do our damndest to keep the rages at bay…

    • edgar
      October 15, 2009 at 8:34 pm

      I can honestly say that when i fought back/called bullshit i was in the game. once i clammed up and accepted someone who threatened divorce every other month…once for not putting a tie on at thanksgiving…the whole mess came unraveled. The more i took the more i got hammered. I’m a guy that never took shit off anybody, man or woman. I totally lost respect for myself. It was evident that i should split within the first 3 months but i hung in for 18 years. As for therapy, I say go ALONE. Tell counsel every rotten thing about yourself youn can think of. Next list ALL whacky behaviors and experiences from crazypants. Finally, do exactly as the shrink says and DO NOT look back. HE WILL SAY LEAVE! DO IT. Earlier in this thread someone got all Biblical…well here’s one from Proverbs-“better for a man to inhabit the corner of a rooftop-than to live with a quarrelsome woman” I’m on that proverbial rooftop…the sun is coming up…cup of coffee and dog by my side. Meanwhile she is undoubtedly kickin the snot out of her next inductee to the “never good enough club”. Better him than me!

  8. Steve
    October 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    “…while peace, reconciliation, and serenity must be awakened, gently mentored, and nurtured.”
    These are the words that stood out to me and show exactly what most of us have been trying to practice (unsuccessfully I might add) for many years. The truth is, peace, serenity, gentleness, etc… are the tools and openings that someone with BPD uses to control others. They are signs of weakness and attempts (on our part) to appease. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize (and this web site has helped) that appeasement never works. Appeasement isn’t reconciliation. It’s only a willing submission to someone else’s controlling and dysfunctional behavior. On the religious front I did visit with an elderly clergyman who seemed to hit it dead on. He told me that in his many years of counseling he has encountered many women such as my wife. The common denominator, he said, was that they all had overly indulgent, overly empathetic and overly patient husbands. It just doesn’t work, he said. In fact, it only makes it worse. If we were to go see this family therapist who wrote to you, Dr. Tara, I’m sure he would be promoting more symptahy, more empathy, more patience, and more of what simply doesn’t work, but only makes things worse. So far my experience… Eager to here your reply Dr. Tara.

  9. Laura
    October 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    What about finding a therapist that is willing to work like a life coach? You already have your goal in mind. You tell them what it is and they help you sort out all the mental, emotional and physical things that need to take place in order to reach your goal and help you throughout the process. That way you really feel like you’re achieving something at each session and you have tangable things to work on in between sessions. That way you’re boosting your self esteem and moving forward in a healthy way and are supported. I find that men like to work hard and if they have a plan and encouragement, they tend to sort it all out quite easily. Achievement based therapy/life coaching :)

    • shrink4men
      October 15, 2009 at 5:53 pm

      Hi Laura,

      It’s good to hear from you! I agree with your suggestion. In fact, that’s how I approach the work in my own consulting practice. I use coaching techniques, but hesitate to call myself a “life coach” or “relationship coach” because, frankly, I find the title so lame. Like therapists, I’ve met some wonderfully dynamic, truly excellent coaches and some woefully lame ones. “Consultant” is better, but still not quite “it.” Methinks I need a “branding coach.”

      Dr T

  10. Mr. E
    October 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    As Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

    • shrink4men
      October 16, 2009 at 11:15 pm

      I guess that means I’m permanently erect then;-)

  11. jham123
    October 15, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    In our Society, many times the voice of descent (and reason) is painted as the bad person. “How can you be so cruel” type of statements are thrown out when a person states the obvious.

    The reason I relate to you, Dr. Tara, is because you tell it like it is. No Sugar coating. The honesty is quite refreshing for me. I can deal with honesty anytime over riddled Pop Psych. Others, however, attack the person that states the blatant truth for…..stating the blatant truth and stating out loud what most are thinking.

    Crazy I know, however, I’ve seen many that are content to remain with their head comfortably in the sand……and they get pissed when one pulls their head out to show them a danger that is nearing. They’d rather not know.

    • shrink4men
      October 16, 2009 at 11:13 pm

      Hi jham123,

      Your comment reminds me of a session I had recently with one of my clients. His extremely NPD wife was subjecting him to yet another right before bedtime accusation, blame and criticism fest, which was triggered because he didn’t accept her apology earlier in the evening for some nasty thing she did that morning. He practiced some of the techniques I’ve been working on with him. For instance, not engaging in the content, calmly stating “that’s not true,” asking for specific examples of why he’s a “bad husband” (she couldn’t come up with anything concrete), and pointed out the hurtful things she’s done over the past couple days.

      He explained her apologies are meaningless because she keeps doing the same hurtful things over and over again and she became incensed and finally accused him of not respecting her.

      He calmly explained he was just stating the truth and she replied, “the truth is mean.” I think this says it all about these folks. Truth is their worst enemy. Her statement seems to indicate that there is some level of awareness, but she prefers her distortions instead.

      Dr T

      • Irishgirl
        May 3, 2011 at 10:44 pm

        I’ve been wondering about that alot lately, if BPDs/NPDs are aware of what they are doing, but just prefer to believe their own bullsh*t instead. How does one consciously choose to believe one’s own lies all the time? If they are aware of it, it would explain some of the self loathing and rage that exists at their core. If they aren’t aware of it, then they are severely delusional. Maybe it’s a little of both? The sociopath is aware but doesn’t care, and the rest of the HCPs aren’t aware and don’t care? It seems like sometimes you can reason with people who have these disorders, and sometimes you can’t…depending on how sick they are and/or how well you present your argument. If you can give accurate examples to support it, if you are very specific and articulate while behaving in a calm and controlled manner…then maybe you have a chance. It seems as though logic does penetrate their minds, like the above scenario of ‘the truth is mean’ and this would corroborate their ability to function normally at work for the high functioning HCPs, and their ability to behave in other social settings. To beable to pick and choose when and where to behave shows some kind of cognizance. The creation of a false self to hook you sounds like self awareness too, and the mask comes off once they are comfortable in the relationship. The mask goes back on when their is a threat of an end to the relationship. They are professional performers and actors looking for their cue. Also the idea that she/he will behave badly (bully) when she/he ‘knows’ they can get away with it, or when they are in front of others they are not threatened by seems to show some sort of self awareness. It seems as though alot of the behaviors are very similar from one HCP to another, like they all learned from the same BPD/NPD playbook…and if the behaviors are so similar (projection, playing the victim, blaming, temper, etc.) right down to the way things are said, like ‘You need to fight for this relationship’ or ‘If you loved me you would do x,y,z’ then maybe the level of self awareness from one HCP to another is similar too? Maybe it’s mild delusion with some self awareness coupled with a lack of empathy and denial? Very peculiar in trying to understand intent in all of this….

  12. melove54
    October 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Dr. T,
    This person is having difficulty being retired and probably analyzes everyone in his world. JMHO, the benefit of your site is REALITY, you awaken peoples minds. Most who come to your site have been in a coma for months,possibly years. Apparently he puts himself on his own pedestal, feeling compelled to be involved in what he perceives as a person’s conflict(s)”,a bit righteous,and arrogant if you ask me! Why would he care, he’s retired! Apparently he wants to “gently mentor” you,and awaken your serenity(lol!) He prefaced his critique by stating, his “experience is probably obsolete, so take this with a grain of salt”, then he rips your arms and legs off! Seems your site provoked him, compelled him to tell you what HE BELIEVES you are not, a gentle, caring, understanding human being, not professionally worthy of fulfilling clients needs. Most professional’s tend to be more open-minded and discuss one’s methods or approaches, not shove it up their arse(ever so gently, lol) Also, if he has taken the time to peruse your site to any degree, he would notice all the positive responses, so, is he jealous, is he stewing in his retirement pot and feeling insignificant, and less valuable in his field, needing to criticize others to maintain his idea about himself as a true “mentor.” Maybe he’s been like this all his career, who knows. I seem to believe, he feels he is fading away, that he’s not getting the attention he used to before retirement and needs a supply outside his retirement to feed his need. Seems to be a more plausible explanation based upon his initial approach.

  13. ron
    October 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    On the anger issue thing, I think it is important to accept that after a ton of this crazy abuse, one will, undoubtedly, be angry. The provocation is often extreme. My first wife, in my mind a clear NPD, would try her hardest to provoke me, in order to support her theory that I was a monster. She began having a series of affairs and , on one occassion, awakened me i te wee hours of the morning when she came in to describe the physique of the younger guy she had been with that night.
    She was clearly sadist.
    So, yes, you may have a lot af anger. But, look at how you are in other relationships. I bet most folks like you and you are just fine/normal.

  14. ron
    October 15, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I would say the retired therapist that wrote to you has probably never been in a relationship with a NPD.
    On the surface, his advice sounds kindly and conciliatory. And, I have no reason to believe he is insincere.
    However, I can see from reading the comments on this board, that most of the guys that post comments are intelligent, nice men who are at their wit’s end, confused as hell, and in a ot of pain from dealing with the type of crazymaking that a NPD , BPD or ASPD dishes out.
    The basic premise of this retired therapist seems to be that iwth patience and help, there can be peace in a relationship with a disordered spouse. Yet, we can see on this board that the men have incredible patience and , probably. too much empathy and compassion for their spouses. Despite this and all attempts to find a way to have a peaceful relationship, these guys are being destoyed by the crazy and abusive things that happen to them.
    In a nutshell, this ostensibly kindly old therapist is naive. I doubt he has treated folks that habve been abused as happens in a relationship with a disordered spouse.

    • shrink4men
      October 16, 2009 at 11:01 pm

      Exactly, Ron. When you try to “build a bridge” with a BPD/NPD it ends up being like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” a great deal of expense and absolutely futile.

      Dr T

  15. shrink4men
    October 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Here’s an example of the kind of mental health professional you should try to avoid. I received this email last month from a retired family therapist. At first, I had a strong reaction to the email, until I recognized some behaviors with which many of you are probably very familiar. I’m interested in reading your reactions and thoughts and then I’ll share mine and my response to him:

    Hi Dr. T,

    I am a retired couples therapist. What any therapist might ask themself is, “am I building bridges, or inflaming conflicts?” “is it my role as a therapist to give advice, or to support the client’s own processes in getting there?” “when does introducing diagnosis terminology into the process help, and when does it hurt?” “Am I mature enough, or do I need counseling myself to work thru any remaining relationship issues?” “Have I had enough supervised hours, and benefited from a mature, balanced, mentor who can help me see my own blind spots?”

    I’m just an old man with too much time on my hands, and my experience is probably obsolete by this time, so take this with a grain of salt: I sensed three things from your internet writings: #1) You are hurting. #2) You are hurting your clients and their families. #3) You need more training and supervision to hone your therapeutic skills.

    It seems conflict is on a hair-trigger, always eager to explode at any provocation, while peace, reconciliation, and serenity must be awakened, gently mentored, and nurtured.

    I hope you find a mentor and keep working on yourself. That can be truly rewarding…best regards, _________

    What do you think? Have you encountered this kind of therapist in couples counseling?

    Dr Tara

    • Mike91163
      October 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

      YIKES, Doc! Who the f**k does this clown think he is? “You-you-you…” touch of BPD there, Pops?

      I love this line of excrement: “…while peace, reconciliation, and serenity must be awakened, gently mentored, and nurtured.” Sounds like the old guy practiced in the 60’s and 70’s…I can easily picture this old fart sparking up a big fat doobie or poppin’ some ‘Ludes…


    • NoSeRider
      October 15, 2009 at 5:07 pm

      I’m always wondering why our emotions and feeling trump normative ethics and altruistic behavior? Dr Tara’s website seems to be more about how men have been taken advantage of at a very subversive level, that is our sense of trust and all that we were taught about social conduct have been thrown out the window by these predators.

      How do you resolve conflict without be conflicting? Either the behavior is damaging or it’s not.

    • shrink4men
      October 15, 2009 at 7:48 pm

      Okay, here’s the deal with the “old retired family therapist” who tried to chide (i.e., shame) and pathologize me. My first reaction was, “he’s probably an elderly (in his 70’s or 80’s) old school therapist who was trained not to use diagnostic terms with patients to maintain the power/mystery of Psychology.”

      Then I thought, “Wait a minute, if he really is old-school, he’d agree with my stance on borderline and narcissistic behaviors because the enabling school of thought in Psychology didn’t begin until the late 1970s and early 1980s when women began to dominate the field.” Something didn’t add up.

      And then, I Googled him. Oh how I love the Google (when it’s not diluting my searches with paid advertising results and sites that game the system with SEO). Anyway, turns out this guy is neither old nor retired nor has he even been practicing for very long.

      He is 57-years old; no spring chicken, but certainly not a sage old wise man. He worked for the insurance industry for 32 years as an actuary helping insurance companies not pay out claims. He claims he retired from this (although he still maintains profiles on professional network sites advertising himself as an “independent consultant actuary specializing in health insurance” at the age of 48 and obtained a MA in counseling.

      A full-time MA (Masters) program takes at least 18 months to 2 years to complete, which means he began practicing around age 50. He still advertises his therapy services on the web, which is confusing since he claims to be retired in his email. He’s listed as a christian counselor and has worked with Catholic Charities.

      It’s ironic that he tries to belittle my clinical experience by telling me that I need more supervised training when, in reality, I’ve had more than 4x the training hours through my combined MSc and Doctoral work than he has with only a Masters degree. I completed 900 hours for my MSc (300 more hours than I needed to, but wanted as much experience as I could get- also a Master of Arts program requires fewer training hours than a Master of Science)) and over 4,000 hours of training during my doctoral program (including my pre-doctoral internship) plus 4 years of weekly supervision hours after I completed my doctoral degree.

      I also find it highly dubious that a man who spent over 30 years working for the Health insurance industry retired to become a therapist, probably because he’d made his money and now he wants to “help” people. There were a lot of adult learners in my MSc and PsyD programs. Mostly moms whose kids had gone off to college and were looking for something to do with their lives (God help us all) and a few men men who wanted to make the focus of their next 20 years “helping others.” I attended many process sessions with these former classmates and I wouldn’t recommend clients to any of them. Ever.

      What I can’t figure out is how this guy found my blog. He strikes me as someone who thinks he has all the answers, so it’s doubtful he’d be surfing the web for new clinical information. My hypothesis is that one of his clients found my site and confronted or asked him about the possibility of his wife being NPD/BPD and why hasn’t he said anything about it.

      I considered not replying to his email and then I decided to send a carefully worded response:

      Thanks for taking the time to write. While I understand some of the concerns you raise, I don’t agree with any of them.

      Shrink4Men is a blog and a support forum for men, not a therapy session. Information is power and being well-informed helps one to make better decisions. I don’t believe in withholding information, especially from a husband or boyfriend who is being emotionally, psychologically and/or physically abused by his wife/girlfriend. A person should know what he or she is dealing with, but I understand where you’re coming from. I think it’s better to demystify psychological information. Perhaps this is a generational difference.

      I’ve logged over 5,000+ hours of supervision at the Masters and Doctoral levels and worked for over 10 years in direct clinical services. I think a better question to ask is why you find the information I provide on my site so disconcerting that you question my emotional maturity and qualifications. I’m quite happy and proud of the work I’m doing. If it makes you feel better to think I’m hurting, am damaging lives (despite the feedback from readers on my site that states otherwise) and am in need of more training, so be it.

      If you’d like to engage in an actual discussion about why I began Shrink4Men rather than making condescending therapist statements, I’m happy to have an email dialogue. If not, that’s okay, too. Thanks again for your perspectives. I wish you the best.

      And his reply, which I didn’t respond to nor have I heard from him since:

      Good points…something for me to think about…

      Although, I should thank him for inspiring me to write this blog post and my previous one about why couples therapy rarely works when one partner is a Cluster B.

      Dr T

      • Mike91163
        October 15, 2009 at 9:06 pm

        Good job, Doc…I retract my former statement about his “BPD-ness”…but helluva way to call this guy out on his BS!

      • jp
        October 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm

        This bit is particularly excellent:

        “I’m just an old man with too much time on my hands…”

        Classic false modesty morphing into passive-aggressive assertion of superiority. He’s saying, “not only am I older and wiser than you, but I’m so confident in my superority that I can easly afford to be self-depracting…in fact not only am I amazing, but I’m humble, which makes me even more amazing.”

        Reminds me of Phil Hartman’s old SNL bit, “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer”. In the skits he’d start all of his court room speeches with, “I’m just a caveman…”


        • shrink4men
          October 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm

          Great point, JP. Alas, Phil Hartman. Murdered by his NPD/BPD wife. An object lesson for all.

      • melove54
        October 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

        JMHO, the brevity of his response delineates he “bit off more than he can chew!” He basically plead “no contest.” Doubt you will hear from him again, unless of course he asks you to lie on the couch and say, “Now Tara, how did that make you feel? Have you reconciled with your inner self, have you allowed your inner self to become awakened and flow with serenity?” Let’s talk about your mother, o.k.? LOL!!

        • shrink4men
          October 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

          There’s nothing like firmly standing your ground and spraying a big can of Reality at one of these folks to make them back right down.

          It’s My version of “Raid”—stops NPDs in their tracks!

      • melove54
        October 16, 2009 at 6:59 pm

        Oh, by the way Dr. T, where do you draw the line whether someone is “not a spring chicken?” “Not a spring chicken? Join AARP!!” LOL!

        • shrink4men
          October 16, 2009 at 11:00 pm


  16. Damian
    October 15, 2009 at 2:21 am

    I spent three bleeping years trying to get over a BPDiva but made very little progress until I started seeing a therapist in January.

    She has been a quality-of-lifesaver. I understand much more, obsess much less and finally feel like I will one day be psychologically free of that powerfully crazy girl.

    This website has been a revelation, too. But I can’t overstate the benefits of individual counseling — with a therapist who knows his/her stuff about being on the wrong side of a personality-disordered lover.

    • shrink4men
      October 15, 2009 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Damian,

      It looks like you found a great therapist and I’m very happy she’s helping you to let go. I think the reason it’s so hard to do for many people who’ve been “borderlined” or “narc’d” is that the crazy, irrational and hurtful behaviors defy logic and leave you in a perpetual state of WTF?

      Not all, but most people try to make meaning out of events and their lives. However, when you try to make meaning out of the meaningless (narcissistic and borderline individuals) it’s throws a monkey wrench into the cogs and wheels of your brain. You replay things over and over again in your head, asking, “but why? Why? Why?

      It’s hard to reconcile the craziness with the sweet moments (if there are any) and to accept that there’s no greater meaning other than “she’s crazy and abusive and you fell for it.”

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

  17. jham123
    October 15, 2009 at 2:06 am

    She did convince me that I needed to go because of “My anger issues”. The Only reason I am angry is the pitiful treatment I’ve received for damn near 20 years of service……only to find that there is no reward in the end.

    Yeah, I feel duped and I’m pissed……But I am not an Angry person. I am an up beat positive person….I have had to drag “us” out of the bowls of self pity for years now. I’ve had to “Sell” her on the fact that we aren’t doing so badly and there are worse things. She falls so low and blames me for us not living in a castle. So, MY individual therapy with “her” therapist ended abruptly once I got my bearings again.

    I have sought out the old therapist that we used to go to….the one that started honing in on her as the problem….the one we had to stop seeing for some nefarious reason of hers. This guy always would ask me how I felt about things. I usually answered that I had resolved any issues and moved on while My Wife answered the same questions with how she felt angry and resentful about this or that. Then I was done with the convo for a while, They would continue to discuss things

    And one point Dr. Tara, Our old Therapist is a faith based therapist. However, in Corinthians, there is a passage that says that Couples must sometimes separate and grow on their own. (Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer;) He did say that Separation may be the only option I have and offered to help me with that if that is what I desired.

    Now you see why I like him and my wife does not. Pragmatism my Good Dr.

    More on faith:
    ii. Do not deprive: Sexual deprivation in marriage has not only to do with frequency, but with romance also. This is why Paul tells husbands to render to his wife the affection due her. Either deprivation gives occasion for the deprived to look elsewhere for fulfillment – to the destruction of the marriage.

    We dealing with the BPD wives fully understand the deprivation of affection….In mine and many others this deprivation has been lasting decades. In clinical terms, “Withholding”….and it is about power.

    Enough about faith, I found the “Singular” faith based Therapist that would “go there” in the entire US.

    • Mike91163
      October 15, 2009 at 3:23 pm


      Two comments, and a question (which will be somewhat off-topic):

      1–You too with the “anger issues”, huh? Yep, it always you, not her…

      2–Interesting word choice here-“…20 years of ‘SERVICE’…” Ain’t that the truth! Yessir, 20 years of being at HER beck and call…being the cook, the maid, the slave…I can count on two hands the number of times she’s actually cooked dinner during the past 5 years…good thing I actually enjoy cooking, or else I’d be quite anorexic!

      Now, my question, and the short version is this: Could you please ask your faith-based therapist what they and/or the Christian faith says about deception by a spouse before marriage on KEY marital issues? I am convinced beyond any doubt that my wife KNEW of her polycystic ovarian syndrome problems BEFORE marriage; that she knew that sex would be painful/difficult; that having children would be impossible, or very close to impossible; and that she CHOSE to withhold this information, knowing full well by my clearly expressed desires to have children.

      Bluntly, while the abuse over the past 20 years provides more than enough validity, knowingly deceiving me into this marriage would certainly put a crimp in any smear campaign after separation or divorce.

    • chester
      December 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      In a perfect world, anything “faith based” or biblical would be the best course for pretty much any conflict. However, with a cluster b all that goes out the window. I recently dropped 20 bucks on a faith based book. I couldn’t read more than a chapter or two. None of that stuff works with “crazy”. It seriously pissed me off. I’m searching for my receipt……

      • chester
        December 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

        I’ll take secular anytime….but only the Dr T variety…the rest is utter bullshit and anti-man…masquerading as in the know-an competent. All one of my male therapist could say is “she’s nuts” Gosh! That was sure worth the hundred bucks. Like I didn’t FN know that already. No mention of cluster b. Even after I read 30 pages of my journal to him….

  18. CohabitatingWithANarcisSister
    October 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    How kind of you to hold our hands through the selection process. I wouldn’t have known how to probe a potential practitioner and be confident that I was not being an interrogator. Your latest gift is received in hopes that peace beyond dramalice [drama+malice] is not a fiction.

    • shrink4men
      October 14, 2009 at 10:02 pm

      The other option to therapy is coaching or consultation services like I (and others) provide. I don’t see my clients as “sick.” They may have depression/anxiety, but I typically view that as a symptom of the abuse, not “the” problem. The type of service I provide helps a person to understand his or her options, problem-solve and make informed and better choices.

      Meanwhile, if you choose to go the therapist route because of insurance issues, just remember, you have rights and your needs and feelings matter.

      Dr T

      • chester
        December 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm

        Dr Tara,

        Why, I ask, do insurance plans not generally sign on as payers for services such as yours? Or should the question be, why do you not accept insurance? I’m a bit confused on the issue.

  19. jp
    October 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    I’m a big supporter of good therapy, but another risk you take in going into solo therapy (and/or going on medication for a related issue like depression) is that you may become the “patient” in the relationship.

    From then on, anytime you have a problem with something she does or says, and let her know about it, you’re likely to get the classic, “have you been forgetting to take your medication?” with its BS implication that without the meds you’re incapable of parsing reality.


    • shrink4men
      October 14, 2009 at 9:54 pm

      Excellent point, JP.

  20. Kev.
    October 14, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    “3. She tells you that you need help and insists that you attend individual therapy. She does this to pathologize and shame you. The reality is that you do need help, but not for the reasons she thinks.”

    This is how I ended up in therapy. I “needed” to go (according to her) to learn ways to stop continually “sabotaging” our relationship by acting in manners that were upsetting to her (which, according to her, I did constantly, either deliberately or unconsciously). Then, of course, when my therapist and I started unpacking some of my issues, I was branded as “selfish” for concentrating on myself, rather than trying to find strategies to keep from angering her.

    You’re right, though. I did need help (still do). But not for the reasons she thought.

    • shrink4men
      October 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm

      Hi Kev,

      I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m soooo happy for you that you’re out.

      Dr T

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