Bad Relationships: Change your Role and the Rules of Engagement


Many people engage in abusive behaviors, covert and overt, to get what they want. Whenever you appease, capitulate, ignore or simply stay in an abusive relationship, you reward and reinforce your partner’s abusive behavior.

An abusive personality will continue to rage, withdraw, name-call, degrade, shame, guilt-trip and other more subtle abuse tactics such as dirty looks, smirking and gaslighting as long as there aren’t any consequences for doing so. Even when there are consequences they’ll often continue to engage in destructive, abusive behaviors. It’s their nature; just like it’s a snake’s nature to strike at you with its fangs when you get too close.

Unhappy couples tend to engage in what psychologist John Gottman calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. “They get stuck in negative, destructive patterns, have fewer positive interactions than happy couples and are unable to resolve problems.” These four behaviors are frequently how abusive personalities, particularly narcissists and borderlines, control and communicate with their partners.

When you tell someone that their behavior is hurtful and unacceptable, there are several possible outcomes. She or he can:

  1. Hear what you say, hold themselves accountable, respect your feelings and actively try to change. Translation: I love and respect you. I care about your feelings and will make every effort to change.
  2. Hear what you say, hold themselves accountable, respect your feelings, communicate which of your behaviors are contributing to the situation and you both actively try to change. Translation: I love and respect you. I care about your feelings and will make every effort to change.
  3. Acknowledge their hurtful behavior, but hey, you knew what they were like when you married them so get used to it and stop complaining. Translation: I don’t care about your needs and feelings. I won’t change.
  4. Acknowledge their hurtful behavior and then blame you for it. Translation: I’m not responsible for my actions. It’s your fault. You deserve it. I don’t care about your feelings. I won’t change.
  5. Acknowledge their hurtful behavior, make a lame apology while justifying their actions (blame you), repeat the same hurtful behavior over and over again as if you never talked about it and become angry if you don’t forgive them. Translation: What I want is more important. I don’t care about your feelings. I won’t change.
  6. Deny their hurtful behavior and accuse you of being the abusive one. Translation: I’m above reproach. You’re crazy. My needs and feelings are the only ones that matter. You need to adapt yourself to my silences and rages and pretend like nothing is wrong. I don’t care about your feelings. I won’t change.
  7. Minimize their hurtful behavior and accuse you of being oversensitive and unreasonable. “It’s not that bad. Don’t be such a baby. You’re so thin-skinned.” Translation: I’m not accountable. Your nose broke because it got in the way of my fist, so your nose should apologize to my fist. I don’t care about your feelings. I won’t change.

People persist in both positive and negative behaviors because there’s a payoff; a primary gain or secondary gain. They’re rewarded with pleasure, they avoid punishment or an unpleasant consequence, their beliefs are validated or they get to feel good about themselves. There’s always an emotional, psychological and/or physical stake—feeling good or avoiding feeling bad.

Scenarios 1 and 2 are the only mutually satisfying long-term relationship outcomes. Scenarios 3-7 are either “get out now” or “live a life of resignation” outcomes. This may seem black and white, but if someone won’t acknowledge their bad behavior, blames you for it or acknowledges it and refuses to do anything about it, you’re not in a mutual two-way relationship. You’re in an abusive, one-way relationship.

Staying in the relationship and engaging in the same pattern over and over again, telegraphs that the abuse is okay—even if you actively complain about it to your partner and specifically say “it’s not okay.” If you really weren’t okay with it, you’d communicate with your feet.

If you’re not ready to end the relationship just yet, you need to change the one person you can change: YOU. If you’ve told your partner how hurtful her/his behavior is and she/he refuses to acknowledge it and/or attacks you even more, you need to change how you react and respond to the hurtful and abusive behaviors.

A relationship is a “field.” Field theory was developed by Kurt Lewin, a Gestalt psychologist and founder of Social Psychology, in the 1940’s. “Field theory holds that behavior must be derived from a totality of coexisting facts. These coexisting facts make up a ‘dynamic field,’ which means that the state of any part of the field depends on every other part of it. Behavior depends on the present field rather than on the past or the future” (Wikipedia). In other words, a change in one part of the system creates a reaction or ripple effect throughout the entire the system, just like throwing a pebble into a pool of water.

Changing how you respond to your partner’s hurtful behaviors, will change how your partner responds to you. If you’re dating or married to an abusive personality, they’re unlikely to respond well to any changes you make. Abusive individuals make the rules and break the rules. Thus far it’s been your role to go along with her whims, tirades, and more subtle forms of abuse. Her hurtful and insensitive behaviors are designed to get a reaction from you. She wants to see pain flicker in your eyes. She wants to see you wince and become crestfallen. She wants you to sink down to her level and lash out in return so she can play the victim and portray you as the bad guy—never mind how much she provoked you.

Here are some possible primary and secondary gains for remaining in an abusive relationship:

  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of losing money and assets
  • Fear of losing access to children and parental rights
  • Fear of being viewed as the “bad guy”
  • Fear of “failure”
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Need for approval
  • Need to be liked or loved
  • Need for acceptance
  • Need for affiliation or feeling like you “belong”
  • Reinforces your beliefs that you’re unlovable
  • Reinforces your beliefs that you have to be perfect to be worthy of love
  • Reinforces your beliefs that you have to work hard to earn love
  • Reinforces your beliefs that the people who love you are supposed to hurt you

These needs, fears and beliefs are what make it possible for your abusive spouse or partner to hurt you and keep hurting you. They prey upon these fears, needs and beliefs even if they’re not consciously aware of it. Many abusers, narcissists, borderlines, sociopaths and bullies are intuitive predators. They intuitively know what buttons to push to get a reaction. In order to change your role and the rules of your relationship, you need to rewire your “buttons.”

Since your abusive spouse or partner is unlikely to change their behavior, real change is up to you. Here are some alternative ways to respond to her abusive behaviors:

  • Practice emotional detachment.
  • Develop a blank, benign facial expression when you’re under attack, baited, ignored or made to feel stupid, wrong or bad.
  • Work on maintaining a non-defensive body posture.
  • Learn to modulate your voice so that it doesn’t betray any anxiety, agitation, fear, hurt or anger.
  • Meet her attacks, put-downs, smirks, eye rolls, hysterics, etc., with unblinking calm and firmly state, “These tactics of yours don’t work anymore. Let me know when you’re ready to respectfully discuss these issues one at a time” and then end the “discussion.”
  • Plan ahead and designate a place you can go if she won’t let the matter drop like your office, den, workshop or a friend’s house.
  • If she follows you and continues to try to get a reaction out of you, look at her as if you’re watching a toddler throw a tantrum and tell her you’re taking a timeout.

When you change your role in the relationship dynamic, your partner will probably begin to escalate her hurtful behaviors. Another tenet of field theory is that all systems fight to maintain homeostasis or the status quo. An abusive partner will use every weapon in her arsenal to keep you under her control. When you refuse to give her the reaction she wants she’ll frantically try pushing all of your buttons at once—kind of like when the TV remote control isn’t working and you push the power button repeatedly so you don’t have to get off the couch.

If you can maintain your cool, she’ll eventually give up and walk away in frustration or pout. She may even become physically aggressive when she realizes her typical verbal aggression isn’t working. Adopting the above behaviors and changing your role in the relationship is for your well-being; not hers.

Behaviors and beliefs are strongly related. When you change the way you behave, your beliefs and attitudes will change, too. You’ll grow out of your old familiar role of target/frustrated spouse/scapegoat-for-everything-wrong-in-her-life-and-every-bad-feeling-she-has and become a person who stands up for and respects himself. This is a significant piece of identity development that may very well cause you to outgrow abusive, one-sided relationships altogether—and that’s a good thing.

When she sees that these are lasting changes and she can’t control you anymore, she’ll accuse you of having changed, engage in projection and tell you that you’re being abusive and controlling and/or may actually end the relationship herself. She may enlist friends, family members and professional therapists or pastors to force you back into your old role in an effort to maintain the status quo.

Alternatively, she may withdraw entirely and become the sullen martyr. Nevertheless, her power over you will be gone because she won’t be able to manipulate you and your emotions like a puppet on a string anymore. Are you ready to change your role, the rules and the balance of power in your relationship?

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Photo credit:

Ripple effect by Tom Bunny on flickr.

  1. Aapeli
    August 9, 2010 at 4:02 am

    “She turned into a completely different person than the one i met and fell in love with. The shitty part was that i got roped into falling in love with her before she decided to let her gaurd down and show the real monster in the beautiful shell. It hurt me so much that she would hvae tried to hide this from me.”

    Yes! That’s what happened to me as well! I could not believe what was happening. I think I subconsciously blamed myself for it. But now I realise it was not me – it was her who was having a serious behavioural problem and I shall not blame myself for that.

    You know what? I could say that my girlfriend, the one and only I have lived with, is both the best and the worst thing that has happened to me. But now I will have to admit that she was never the person I thought she is and therefore it would be right from me to end the relationship on the basis of a fraud on her part.

    I have told her that she hid her true personality very well when we were only dating and not living together and that when we moved to live together she stopped hiding it. She is in total denial about that. But I see her do the same to other people too. When we have guests visiting our house she will be the same kind and considerate and polite person that she was when we started dating. When the guests leave she comes back to her normal self and starts abusing me. She also abuses her mother, father and brother, but she never showed that to me when we didn’t live together yet.

  2. Aapeli
    August 9, 2010 at 3:54 am

    I totally agree to everything said in the article.

  3. harish mah
    July 15, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Reading your artical made me realize I am married to abusive, borderline personality woman. Only reason I am still living with her is our chield. Is there way anything I can do to change her behaviour? Would you give one on one counsuling?
    Thank you.

  4. July 4, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Dr T, I have one problem however, I am consumed by deep shame for being duped like I have. She still calls me stupid, and I wonder how she does that seeing as it’s taken her 8 years to complete a masters programme, meanwhile I completed mine in a year, when she started hers, I am a CPA with many years work experience, while she has never worked as a lawyer since graduation 8 years ago. Yet she still calls me stupid. That cuts deep.

    I know I’m no Dr. T, but…here goes. I am very VERY sensitive to being called stupid, and had to take a girl at work to task for saying that to me recently…I was called that ALOT growing up, and so to prove to everyone that I wasn’t, I worked at always being the smartest person in the room, and probably seemed like a know-it-all (bleah!). At any rate, I’ll tell you what I’ve told my friend, who tends to call himself ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’ – Ask yourself (NOT her – you won’t get anywhere that way):
    1. Is that true? Can I prove it?
    2. What evidence is there to the contrary (see your full paragraph at bottom of post)?
    3. What I can say to myself instead of those words (or, in response to her saying that to me)? I made a mistake? I was vulnerable, perhaps naive. I didn’t do things then as I would do them now… Try something like those sentences.

    She knows it’s a weakness. You could be 6 ft tall and weigh 180 lbs, and if you were sensitive about your weight, she’d call you ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’, depending on which you found more hurtful. WHATEVER you are sensitive about, she’ll use. It has nothing to do with who YOU are, and everything to do with WHAT she is.

    Take care,

    • metalman
      July 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      First of all; why do you call yourself ‘TheGirlInside’ if you’re a man? Are you a man, or a woman?

      Second; this woman is a manipulator, and her goal is to remain on the ‘One-up.’ In order for her to be ‘Up,’ she needs to keep you ‘Down,’ and she’ll say or do anything to maintain that. Doesn’t matter what’s TRUE or FALSE. Manipulators don’t care about TRUE or FALSE; they only care about what WORKS for them.

      The answer is to grow a pair of cojones and tell her to go F herself. And change your screen-name from ‘TheGirlInside’ and start acting like a man. Yes, there is such a thing.

      • Ace
        July 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm

        Hi Metalman,

        I think girlinside is a girl, there are a few on here who’ve shared the same experiences with their partners.
        Room for all & gives an additional perspective, I may be wrong, but I guess girlinside will answer you.

        • shrink4men
          July 4, 2010 at 11:05 pm

          I would appreciate it if posters would refrain from personal attacks. Thanks.

      • July 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

        I am female. My first paragraph was attempting to “quote” iamfree, but I must not have gotten it right.

        The rest was an attempt at offering my perspective to iamfree. I come here concerned for a male friend, and having been through it (with both men and women family and friends, I come here to read, gett some ideas, help, and just hope to do the best I can do for those I see in need.
        I’m biologically incapable of growing ‘cajones’ but got a working set of ovaries that are comparable!! LOL ;)

        I wish you all the best – we all deserve to feel free, happy and loved.

    • I am free
      July 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      Hi, Thanks for your reply. The only stupid thing I did was stick around too long in an abusive relation. Then carried on with the dance long after it had ended. What a scamster, I saw her today, we ignored each other.

  5. I am free
    July 4, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Dr T, I can never thank you enough for this site. I have read all of your postings and most of the replies/comments posted. I have had a very rough two years, 18 months spent in a very tumultuous relationship with a woman that I now suspect is a pwBPD or one of the others as her behaviours seem to traverse all of the,. NPD,BPD,HPD. Boy didn’t I pick one?

    I have posted my comment on this specific post as even though I encountered abuse during our relationship. It escalated after she walked out on me. Each time I’ve established boundaries she has trashed them completely. Has gone on the offensive, befriended some of my friends, and generally become very destructive.

    She’s recently formed a friendship with one of the girlfriends in my circle and they’ve gone on a bender. I also suspect she’s started an affair with one of the guys within the circle (whatever happened to honour,eh?).

    What really galls me, is how she seems to carry on causing havoc in my life, yet she’s the one that left me. I am having to reorganise everything, from the church I attend to the people I spend time with. I am slowly disenganging from my friends as they seem to have bought into her victim stories.

    One major positive for me has been my self examination journey that this whole thing has forced me to take. I have also managed to educate myself on matters surrounding PDs etc. I am scared that I drifted through life with such naivetty.

    Dr T, I have one problem however, I am consumed by deep shame for being duped like I have. She still calls me stupid, and I wonder how she does that seeing as it’s taken her 8 years to complete a masters programme, meanwhile I completed mine in a year, when she started hers, I am a CPA with many years work experience, while she has never worked as a lawyer since graduation 8 years ago. Yet she still calls me stupid. That cuts deep.

    Thanks again Dr T, I have grown in so many ways since discovering your site in January.

  6. Ibrahim
    May 31, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Dr. T,

    I would like to take this opportunity and say that I really admire your dedication and find that your advice is like a beacon of light guiding thousands of lives amidst what can only be best described as an emotional turmoil that normally turns ugly.

    I have been visiting your website on a daily basis now, since I have came across it about a week ago. The way I found your website started with me throwing the following words at Google “How to deal with a Selfish and arrogant wife.” I guess you know why I am here.

    Me and my wife have been married for about 2 years now and not once have she in any way, direct or indirect, said that she’s sorry regardless if it was her fault or not and always blames it on me. “I am the one who is always right and you are to blame”, she says. Furthermore, all the decisions that she has taken so far have to in one way or the other be of some direct benefit to her or her family, which I will touch on in a bit.

    Since day one, jealousy towards my family especially my mom started manifesting it self slowly but surely into an ugly beast that became the spark to almost any fight we had. I am labeled by my wife as a jerk, a weak person, someone who lost his manhood simply because I listen to what my mom has to say sometimes. Ok, you may wonder if my mom has anything to do with this situation but let me assure you that she has a rule never to interfere in personal matters between me and my wife. She does like to give me her opinion of things that relate to me directly (I guess that’s what mom’s do).

    The reason why my wife has been behaving the way she is right now is because of her mom and dad. Her mom is the dominant figure in the family. This behavior was due to the nature of her fathers work. He is required to travel frequently and during the course of 1 year would come back and visit his family for a month every six months. Thus, her mom is who makes all the decisions related to the whole family and her father is simply there to provide the money for the family to spend (he is of the passive kind, who apparently at one point in his life decided to give up and leave his wife do the controlling and burry himself in his job). My mother-in-law is basically the man in this relationship. At one point, I did point this out to my wife and she agreed with me that this was a problem.

    Now, a bit about my family. I have 2 other brothers and 2 sisters. I am the eldest in my family and thus, my mom and dad depend on me for important matters. One of my brothers has schizophrenia, and my eldest sister had been through an ugly divorce from her ex-husband about 3 years ago, who deceived her and held custody of their daughter by taking her and leaving the country.

    You are probably asking about me by now right? Well, I guess what I went through with my family, required me to be a very positive person, have deep compassion, be able to forgive and forget easily in order to stand strong through the different challenges we faced as a family. AND THAT IS MY WEAKNESS when it comes to my wife. She knows that and uses it to her advantage, knowing that no matter what she says or do, I will eventually forgive her.

    After carefully reading through your different posts during this week, I have come to a conclusion that I was to blame for the way my wife treats me. I also discovered that I was by default doing some emotional detachment in one way or the other to counter act this abuse, but would give up at the end and try to resolve matters by forgiving her.

    We have been recently blessed with a healthy baby girl our first born child. And this brings me to the matter on hand; since she gave birth, we agreed that she will stay at her parents home until she recovers and would then move back to our home. Last week she had completed 1 month, and I had come to a realization that she is now capable of returning back. When confronted with this request, my wife simply refused to come back and for no reason. I asked her if she had missed me, and answered that she did not. At that point, I made the following clear to her; 1. She is in defiance by not following my wish to return home, 2. I was not happy with the way she didn’t allow for any room for discussion and 3. I will not cave in to her request and that simply if she doesn’t like the way I am right now then she has always the right to get divorced and I will be more than fair with her.

    Dr. T, Its been a week now, I haven’t called or seen my wife and in return she is playing the same game by not even calling me once. I know that by being emotionally dethatched will not improve things but I feel that I am running out of fuel to keep me going. I know that I need to stand my ground this time once and for all for her to get the message. I am ready to let my wife a daughter go if that is the end result but don’t know if I can make it till the end right now. Please advise me on what to do.

    • shrink4men
      May 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm

      Ibrahim,

      GET AN ATTORNEY and find out what your rights are as a parent. Your wife should not be able to keep your child from you indefinitely. This is bullshit.

      Furthermore, I suspect your wife has more problems than simply having an absentee father and a mother who wore the pants in the family. “I am always right and your are always to blame” is not just indicative of a person who has some control issues; it’s indicative of an abusive personality who is not capable of being in a reciprocal relationship. It would have been better had you not fathered a child with this woman, but that’s where you’re at now. If you don’t stand up for yourself and your rights as a father RIGHT NOW, you will become just like the submissive, shadowy father figure that your wife had as a child because her mother put him out to pasture to go make money so she could rule the home roost.

      Good luck. My guess is you won’t just be dealing with your wife’s pathology, but her entire family’s pathology—including her mother.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

    • jp
      May 31, 2010 at 6:20 pm

      Ibrahim,

      You wrote: “I am ready to let my wife a daughter go if that is the end result but don’t know if I can make it till the end right now.”

      Stop thinking with that kind of defeatist attitude. Your daughter needs both of her parents! Don’t let her down, no matter what happens.

      Good luck,
      JP

  7. torn and frayed
    May 14, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for this website. I have recently ended a nightmare 4 month relationship with a woman with BPD. It was the longest 4 months of my life and pure hell on earth at times. She turned into a completely different person than the one i met and fell in love with. The shitty part was that i got roped into falling in love with her before she decided to let her gaurd down and show the real monster in the beautiful shell. It hurt me so much that she would hvae tried to hide this from me.

    I tried my best to make it work. There was a tipping point exactly half way into the relationship where i considered leaving right then and there. But I tried to make it work. I studied up on her condition as best i could, but in the end it wore a hole in my heart. The constant up and down and no matter what i did to show her i loved her…no matter how nice i treated her…she still treated me like garbage.

    About a month a ago i finally said enough was enough. I could go on and on about the reasons for me wanting to end it, so i’ll spare the gory details. All i know is that i am still in a lot of greif and pain over this situation and i question if i will ever be able to feel “whole” and “loved” again.

    Thanks for the advice you give on this website. It really is all i have had to turn to this past month to try and make sense and assess the damage done to my heart and soul.

  8. akn
    May 13, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Still de-programming after the relationship has been ended and I have to say that Dr T’s advice on this post in particular is extremely valuable. Thanks again Doc. Had I known about this site things would have ended more rapidly

    As it is I realise now that after therapy and considerable study of a few key books I concluded that she was somewhere on the personality disorder spectrum. In fact I think mainly BPD with situational narcissism. I’m still annoyed with my therapist for letting me work things out instead of offering a diagnosis and then helping me develop a strategy to get the hell out in safety. That’s how it goes.

    The point here is that it was only when I changed the dynamic of my behaviour that it really became clear how bad (read genuinely disordered) she is. In particular I want to highlight Dr T’s comment that when you change how you behave then you also change how you feel because there is a feedback loop between behaviour and feelings. I set boundaries and gently and reasonably asserted them. The abuse escalated. I declined to be drawn into anger at minor and major and incessant critique. The abuse escalated. In the end it was like being involved with a human firework. I knew the length of the wick and the precise length of time that particular behaviours on my part, genuinely self respecting behaviours, would take to burn down the wick and set off the explosion.

    She went throught the entire range of behaviours described by the Doc and contributors – from withdrawing sex to rage, attacking my spiritual beliefs, outrageous lies and constant negative commentary on me. Just occasionally there would be a huge payoff for me. The end lasted for five or six months. I didn’t care how long it took as I wanted time to study her, time to see with total clarity who she really is. On one occasion after another attack on my character I calmly said to her “Call me when you think you can treat me reasonably” and she replied “Never”. By that point I was ready to hear it. Being able to hear it is a huge payoff because never is forever and that is a long time to wear shit.

  9. Keith
    May 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    skip :I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but when I finally became unwilling to be treated a certain way is when I knew I had closed the door permanently on accepting those types of behaviors from anyone and I knew I had opened the doors to the possibilities that exist after.
    I still feel sadness when I think back on those times and it hurts me to this day to think that someone who I was truly a friend to could have used my most sacred of secrets to extract my most precious of commodities, my emotional energy much like a parasite feeding off a host.
    I don’t like thinking that a once fell in love with a lie, but I recently became aware of just how long this person had lied to me about who they were, i.e. what type of person they were and it pains me to think that I had been fooled for so long, in fact the shame I felt was what held me to the situation long after it was in my best interests to get the hell out and I’m ashamed that I wasted so much time on someone who really was never a friend to me at all.
    I served a purpose and when I no longer accepted the unfair terms of our engagement, how we interacted and demanded fair treatment is when I became aware that this person was only using me for their needs and they could care less if that hurt me.
    I have labeled her by name in my other posts (HER ACTUAL NAME HAS SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN EDITED OUT BY DR TARA. PLEASE DON”T DO THIS) and I went from admiring my friend ******* to thinking she was the most disgusting human being that ever walked the face of this earth.
    The ultimate tragedy is when someone who possesses so much outer beauty is just a gross person on the inside. That sucks. No cream, pill or surgery can fix that and the person is doomed to the sad fate of being an emotional parasite for the rest of her life.
    Thinking that I once thought this person was the most beautiful person I had ever seen truly makes me sad for it proves how much of a schmuck I was for not seeing her behaviors as symptoms of the larger issue that she is faced with and that is a cancer of the soul that is not, was never and will never be my problem.
    It’s unfortunate because I am less willing to give the next girl a chance or the benefit of the doubt when she may deserve it, the experience definitely changed how I operate and what I am willing to accept from people who I allow into my life.
    I now understand that she was mentally ill, no sane person who is a good human being can do those things unless she was truly evil or just sick in the head, i.e. someone with profound personality disturbances.

    Three cheers for you !!! I couldnt have stated my own feelings any better than you did ! Thankyou

  10. Alnico
    March 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Here is the Bill of Right’s I wrote to help me stay the course in dealing with that difficult person who was in my life:

    Personal Bill of Rights

    Autonomy, Privacy, Assertiveness, & Enjoyment of Success

    1.I have the right to make choices for myself even if I have solicited opinions or advice from others. This includes the right to temporarily or indefinitely delay making a choice and the right to change my mind regarding past choices.
    2.I have the right to privacy and secrecy. I do not have to tell anyone anything unless I choose. If I choose to share my private and secret things I have the right to share only the parts that I want to share.
    3.I have the right to have my own feelings and opinions – and the right to choose to express them or to keep them private.
    4.I have the right to decide what to do with my own body. I choose when or if I want to have sex. This means that I have the right to say either “no” or “yes” when it comes to my body.
    5.I have the right to time for myself at a time that is good for me. Whether it is staying up late, hanging out in my office, or going out in the middle of the day – I have the right to time for myself. This includes the right to share that time with anyone of my choice – or I may choose to keep my time private.
    6.I have the right to say “no” without further explanation if I do not want to do something, am not ready, or do not feel safe. If someone compels me to do anything, whether or not that person is able to do it for themselves, I have the right to say “no.” In essence, I have the right to choose whether or to what degree I will meet other’s expectations.
    7.I have the right to make mistakes and the right to succeed. This includes the right to try again if I fail and the right to enjoy the fruit of my successes

    My parents and the small group of tight friends I have tell me that these are the normal rights one should have in any relationship. The reacation from those who share my ex’s cup – are quite different – generally condeming me for having such a bill of rights. The recommendation to come up with one came from an AA book designed to help people who deal with Alcoholics (it suggested people in controlling relationships ought to read the book substituting “Alcholic” with “Controller / Controlling Person”.

  11. jp
    March 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    melove54 :
    Today I’m sitting here still in awe…

    I’m in awe too…in a good way. You just showed everyone on this forum the right way to deal with crazy behavior…you WALKED AWAY and told her to get lost when she tried to mind f*ck you the next day. Totally inspriring. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. You avoided disaster and protected yourself. Don’t beat yourself up…how could you know she would be such a wing nut?

    Well done!!

    JP

  12. melove54
    March 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Dr.T,
    Just when I thought I had experienced it all with women, this weekend I had the most embarrassing and shocking experience with my latest woman I WAS dating. I’ll preface this by saying, I don’t usually go to bars. It’s fun every so often, as where I live is a tourist area and there a many events here. In any case, my new girlfriend of 2 months (she’s 53 years of age) and I went to a local bar that I had never been to, and spent a few hours there. Her and I hung out together most of that time, and then some people came in that I knew from the neighborhood. There was a small stage in this bar where the band normally plays located somewhat center of the bar. While in conversation with my neighborhood acquaintenances, people in the bar began to get a bit loud, I raised my head and low and behold, there was my girlfriend on the stage NAKED! Completely in the buff!!!! Talk about shock and awe.

    First off, her and I were hitting it off so good for the past couple of months. She seemed very conservative, a great personality, everything about her was simply great. She is stable financially, really thought I found a decent woman this time. Anyways, I walked outside the bar for about 15-20 minutes to gather my composure, I walked back in, and she is hugging all over this other guy and he’s got his hand up her sun dress! I left the bar and walked home. The next day, she calls me, mad as hell trying to make me the bad guy and that it hurt her feelings that I did such a thing, by leaving her there. As well, she said to me ” it you didn’t like me dancing naked up there, then maybe you should have come got me and said, let’s go.” I didn’t even address her comments, I hung up, sent her an email and stated never to contact me again. End of story.

    Today I’m sitting here still in awe, and what’s on my mind now is, not what she did, but, what she said!! What an insult to my intelligence, as well, it brought about old feelings of what I had been through with my XNPD. Ugggh!! So, I feel like shit today, however, this too shall pass. I was totally fooled by this one.

    Have any interpretations on this one Dr. T?

    • shrink4men
      March 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      Koo, koo, ka-choo, Ms Robinson. I would have had a WTF-moment, as in, “Where the F— are your clothes, lady?” Were they taping auditions for “Cougars Gone Wild” by any chance?

      I agree with JP. Bravo on not letting her mindf-ck you. A rational person would’ve, well, scratch that, a rational 53 year old woman wouldn’t do an impromptu striptease at a bar. A non-abusive person would have called you the next day to apologize for publicly embarrassing herself and you and for letting some man grope her whilst she was on a date for you; not spin it around and make it your fault.

      I’m not a prude. There’s a time and a place for nudity, but not in a local pub while I’m trying to enjoy my Old Speckled Hen. Speaking of old speckled hens…

      You’re being tested, melove, and I think you’ve mastered whatever lesson the universe is giving you. Hopefully, the next one will be stable and non-abusive.

      Wow.

    • Mr. E
      March 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      That’s just… Wow. Dude. Glad you walked away from THAT mess.

      You know, melove54, I know a guy who was introduced to me as follows: “the stories you just can’t believe are the ones that are true.”

      Do I know you? ;)

  13. Josey
    March 14, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Karen :My friend was always “great” when I was depressed. It was when I was feeling confident or happy that the fangs came out.

    Mine too! What a relief to find someone else with the same experience. Think she has BPD. I had to match her mood. Ugh.

  14. Nobleheart
    March 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Admire ur insight. Gives me a scary inside look into my abused life n psychology.
    Being this gender-neutral is commendable. Thanks for ur help.

  15. Mellaril
    February 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    While I agree that you shouldn’t actively seek another relationship until you’ve has some time to process out the old one and understand what happened to keep the process from repeating, don’t necessarily exclude something that happens along. I met the woman who’s been my wife for 21 years while my ex-probably NPD GF was attempting to re-engage after failing with the guy who came after me. If it hadn’t been for meeting my current wife, I might have fallen back into the trap although I knew better. The problem with my experience was that I never had a time or place to dump the baggage (can’t talk to the ex-gf and can’t talk about it with new gf/wife). I carried the woman’s ghost around for that long. This site has helped me get rid of a lot of the old stuff.

    • Skip
      April 21, 2010 at 11:24 am

      I can totally relate to this… When you get to the right sites I often feel like asking myself who you are and why are you telling my story. The sense of validation that happens from having other’s experiences that are practically identical to your own is something you cannot place a value on, it’s like somebody giving you your sanity back.

  16. Mike
    February 18, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Thanks Alpha, I will try some of what you say…I’ve been saying this myself but need to do it….Especially your recommendations as far as intense hobbies go…I need a punching bag lol…that usually helps get alot of steam off for me, in a good way.

    thanks again people

    mike

  17. Recovering Alpha
    February 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Mike

    Reading your blogs my immediate response was “sounds EXHAUSTING!”. Glad you’re out physically. Now — my recommendation based on all you are writing — you still need to get out emotionally. I know this first hand myself; one way that might help is substitution but not with another woman! Work more hours, or work out, or take up a really intense hobby, etc. This will allow you to replace your thoughts of “her” with another thing that doesn’t “bite you” if you’re not watching carefully.

    Good luck.

  18. Mike
    February 17, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Just a question, just from the brief explanation I gave about her, what do you think it sounds like she maybe suffering from? I can understand, I’m sure you can’t diagnose people like this but I’m wondering from what you said that a person with bi-polar doesn’t have control over what they might be going through, etc, but as for bpd, npd, ppmd, they do have that control since most go to work and behave yet hurt ones close as you say.

    I don’t know why I’m trying to find answers when from all the readings, I need to let go and move on…

    I’m mike with the last more recent posts on this topic.

    Again, thanks for listening and thanks for your site…

    peace

    mike

    • Skip
      April 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

      Mike

      The glue that keeps you people tied to dysfunctional and abusive situations is what you’re doing right now, blaming yourself for a situation’s outcome (i.e. being emotionally invested in something you have zero control over, the logical fallacy that is the equivalent of being angry at yourself for the weather on any given day and then beating yourself up and trying — in vain — to find answers to things which you should thank God every day that you don’t understand, for if you did, it meant you were nuts too…

      • Skip
        April 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

        and I’ll clarify “you people”… I know because I’ve been there and done what you and a whole lot of other folk out there have done and made myself miserable digging for the golden horseshoe in the pile of poo-poo and I’ve looked for the answer, the other person’s damage, I’m guilty of doubting my own sanity and almost completely breaking down as a result of the abuse over time, so I’m trying not to generalize or claim knowledge where I don’t have any, but I’m attempting to show you the path to freedom through accepting that a situation that you accept and the losses that result of cutting your losses and getting away from the insanity of looking for answers will spare you endless hours of wasted time and energy trying to find what is not you. That lesson took me a long time to learn and the walk through the pain to a better place is a table for one and even though that journey I may understand or relate to, it is your own experience that you must come to terms with in your own terms and hopefully our experiences can help you realize that it’s not you, that small tidbit of info is the key to the lock where your sanity has been locked up for too long and that accepting that it’s not you and you probably will never have all of the answers you seek.

  19. Mike
    February 17, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Hey Doc,

    Good point you made about her being able to control her self, though difficult, around co-workers, etc, and ‘letting go’ around other close ones. I’ve thought
    about this point and now that you’ve shone the light it very true…if you
    can control yourself during those 8 to 10 hours, why can’t you at home?

    And the things you say about control and things is pretty true..Its only been
    a few months for me and its getting easier. I think I gave up maybe I year ago really and started not giving a crap about whatever she said, I’d just throw it
    back and I think she starting losing interest herself, because things had really
    changed and I was not going to give in no more..

    But anyway, thats a very good point you made and I think pretty much my goal
    is to keep myself busy and positive around like minded people as I’ve been doing and with time and distance thing I’m sure will look better.

    And I truely wish her the best…I hope she finds peace and realizes what she is doing and hopefully changes her ways for herself and whomever she runs into, not me.

    Thanks for listening and advice

    mike

  20. Mr D
    February 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I feel for you and am glad to read that you got out. The difference between behavioral conditions and other medical problems, as I see it, is that someone with a heart problem or diabetes or cancer would be more accepting of their condition and the need to do something about it. They are also less likely to abuse those who are trying to help them than someone with Bipolar or an Axis II personality disorder.

    Don’t beat yourself up over this or spend too much time mulling it over in your head. Drop ‘if only’ from your vocabulary. I absolve you “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.”

    There comes a point where the “Whys” don’t matter as much as how she treats other people – including you. Enjoy your freedom, my friend.

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