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More on Emotional Detachment: Surviving Ongoing Abusive Relationships


Emotionally detaching from an abusive relationship can be extremely difficult. Many men believe they still love their abusive wives, girlfriends and exes. Therefore, developing indifference and detaching from their abusers—even when they’re a consistent source of pain—seems antithetical.

Nevertheless, learning to detach is vital if you ever hope to regain your health, happiness, sanity and sense of Self. This also applies to people who have divorced or broken up with their abusive spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, but have to maintain some degree of contact because of shared children, working for the same company or attending the same school.

Emotionally detaching requires that you change many of your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Detaching is not about enabling your abuser; it’s about disarming your abuser by eradicating her or his ability to hurt you. It’s not about changing your behavior so that you don’t trigger your wife or girlfriend. In fact, if you successfully detach it will probably provoke your her to become even more nasty and controlling for awhile.

When your wife or girlfriend takes an ugly turn into consistent abuse and other controlling behaviors, attaching your self-worth to how she treats you and placing all your effort into her and the relationship guarantees exploitation and self-destruction. For your psychological survival in this kind of relationship, you need to develop and feel indifference and emotional detachment. Before you can begin to detach, you need to accept the following:

  • Love does not conquer all. What you’re experiencing in your relationship probably isn’t love; it’s a distorted, twisted version of it.
  • You can’t fix or rescue someone from being abusive, sick, dysfunctional and lost in their own highly distorted reality. In fact, trying to rescue an abuser—particularly if she’s a borderline, a narcissist, a histrionic or a sociopath—is akin to trying to rescue to drowning person who’s crying for help and then holds you under water until you begin to drown. The more you try to rescue her, the more she’ll drag you under.
  • You give your abusive spouse or partner the power to hurt you.
  • You can survive and thrive without your abusive relationship. You don’t “need” her or him. You had a life before this person and eventually you’ll have a much better life post Ms. or Mr. Crazypants.
  • You’re not responsible for your spouse’s, partner’s or ex’s happiness, failures, shortcomings or bad behaviors.
  • The person who you want your spouse or partner to be is in conflict with the person she or he is in reality.
  • Continuing to hope for the best from someone who consistently gives you the worst is a set-up for more pain and disillusionment.
  • You are not helpless, powerless and incompetent. The relationship with your abusive spouse or partner causes you to feel that way, which is why it’s often so difficult to take care of yourself and break free.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need to walk away from a relationship that’s destructive and toxic. It’s vital that you begin to develop a rational perspective and distance yourself from an ongoing hurtful relationship that you can neither control nor change. Many people remain in abusive relationships well beyond a point of personal pain and devastation that defies reason. You need to come back to your senses and see your partner for who she is and your part in it.

Here are some detachment techniques:

1. Make yourself solely responsible for your own well-being and happiness. Catch yourself when you begin to utter, “If only she could . . . If only she would . . .” and knock it off. Coulda, woulda, shoulda is the language of regret and pipe dreams. Keeping you in a beaten down and depressive state makes it easier for an abuser to control you. Feline predators don’t target the swiftest and strongest impala in the herd; the one with the limp usually becomes lion lunch. Take back the control you gave her over your feelings, happiness and well-being and start meeting your own needs by making different choices and acting on them.

2. Accept that you can’t fix, change, rescue, save, make someone else happy or love someone enough to make them be nice to you. Don’t just pay lip service to this. Really wrap your brain around the fact that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. Understand that no matter how much you do for her; she’ll always expect and demand more. Acknowledge that the more you appease, compromise and forgo your own needs; the more entitled, demanding and ungrateful she’ll be. She’s like the Iraqui War; you’re throwing good energy after bad with no victory or end in sight.

3. Eliminate the hooks of your abuser. A hook is typically an emotional, psychological or physical stake that you have in the other person and the relationship. For example, GUILT is a big hook that keeps many men in abusive relationships with destructive narcissistic, borderline and histrionic partners.

“I don’t how she’d take care of herself. What would she do without me? I’d feel guilty if I left because of the kids.” The flip side of guilt is EGO. If you leave an abusive woman, I hate to break it to you, but she’ll do just fine without you. She’ll probably try to suck you dry financially while lining up her next target to control and abuse. It’s not personal—especially if your wife or girlfriend is BPD, NPD, HPD and/or APD. These personalities view others as objects to be used. She’ll simply replace you with another object and do the same damn thing to the next guy. Guilt is a control device she uses to keep you in line.

Other hooks include shame (e.g., of failing or not being strong enough), loss of status (e.g., being perceived as a nice or good guy), loss of material assets or access to children, perfectionism and your own need to control others, situations and outcomes.

4. Learn to control your body language. Your body language and facial expressions can betray what you’re feeling and thinking on the inside without you saying a word. Since your wife’s/girlfriend’s covert and overt attacks are designed to elicit a reaction, you need to learn how not to give her the reaction she’s seeking. It doesn’t matter if you don’t yell back. Seeing the pain flicker in your eyes, your face wince and your shoulders slump in dejection is often reward enough.

Stand in front of a mirror and think of some of the nastiest and most hurtful things your wife or girlfriend has said or done to you. Maintain eye contact and practice a calm, blank facial expression or a knowing, slightly amused smile. Practice slow, steady and relaxed breathing. Lower the tone of your voice (higher pitched voices reveal anxiety and agitation). Your shoulders, arms and hands should hang loose. Keep practicing relaxed and detached body language until you actually feel indifferent and unruffled by her barbs, jabs and eye rolls. In other words, fake it ’til you make it.

5. Lower your expectations. Ordinarily, I encourage people to expect the best from others to create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. However, expecting the best from an abusive woman will result in you feeling broadsided, perpetually disappointed and hurt most of the time.

For all their crocodile tears and hyper-sensitivity, abusive narcissistic, borderline, histrionic and sociopathic women are emotional predators and bullies. If you stay in the relationship, the best you can expect is more of the same. You may achieve some periods of “peace” if you can learn how not to trigger her (remember, she’s not responsible for her behavior; you’re responsible for her behavior and your behavior and all the other problems in the universe), how not to take her attacks personally (even though they’re extremely personal in nature) and how to maintain your boundaries through implementing behavioral consequences.

“Happiness reflects the difference between what you expect versus what you actually get in life—so if you keep expecting good things to happen, but they never do or take a turn for the worse, you will suffer constant unhappiness.” (Sutton, 2007, p. 134) Your wife/girlfriend is abusive. She probably has significant characterological pathology and is unlikely to change. Therefore, keep your expectations for her behavior low, but continue to believe that you will be okay once you remove yourself from the situation and/or stop giving her the power to hurt you.

6. Do something that removes you from the abuse and centers you. Meditate or whatever your version of meditation is—reading, walking, woodworking, painting, music—anything that’s restorative. Find pockets of sanity and safety with friends and family or physical spaces like your office, the gym, the pub or social/professional organizations. Find activities that will take you out of the line of fire and minimize your exposure to her and the abuse. Find a hobby or activity that makes you feel good about your self and restores your confidence and esteem. Ignore her when she becomes jealous or puts down these new activities and friendships. She does so because she sees them as threats to her control.

7. See the big picture and don’t get distracted by her minutiae. The ultimate goal is to not let her abusive behavior effect you anymore and to end the relationship. Expect her to hit even harder—emotionally and/or physically—when you stop reacting to her tried and true button pushing. It seems counter-intuitive, but if she becomes nastier in response to you setting boundaries and detaching, it means your new behavioral strategies are working because she’s fighting harder to retain her control. By detaching, you’re taking back the power that you ceded to her.

These new behaviors will take time for you to learn and perfect. It takes a while to develop indifference. It runs counter to our fundamental beliefs about love and relationships. However, if you’re in a relationship with someone who verbally and/or physically attacks you, devalues you, makes you feel less than and who raises herself up at your expense, you must learn how to make yourself less vulnerable and eventually immune to her. Abusive personalities have no soul and they will destroy your soul if you let them.

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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  1. mike
    April 21, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Hello,

    Its gonna be five months away from ‘her’ and its been difficult…lots of changes, living places, miss this girl at times still…but the great reminder of all the little and big hells keeping me straight…I quiet smokes and so I’ve used same method to quiet her. Not easy at all but with time and some changes, its slowly paying off with me being a bit more myself. I lost myself with this lady and I actually was sold that it was normal to fight over the dumbest things and have it
    turn into the whole neighborhood knowing of it…

    But, I’m definitely in stuck mode as far as really picking myself up and moving on..I have my days and I hope with time I get my confidence in myself back and learn to trust people, which has slowly gotten better but difficult dealing with people in general. Is this normal?

    Good thing is she hasn’t really contacted me or maybe she has through family but I’ve told them not to share that with me if she tries…so who cares really.
    The most difficult part for me is when I’m down I do end up justifying a lot for the benefit of her, then I literally at times have to smack myself around and wake up!

    She wasn’t even that attractive, and I never judged people like that and most told me that I could do much much better considering they noticed her character also, I take it. And yet this short little girl had that much influence on me that five months later I’m still caring her ghost is a little scary and when I listen or hear women talk, and I hear code words (I’m a princess (my @$$) and need to be treated as such…and all the rest), its reassuring to know that I react appropriately–run the other way.

    The other day I was a bit depressed and I started doing a search on her on the web and it took me awhile to say WTF am I doing!!! and stopped it, felt better. The good thing is that when I’m around friends and family or I keep myself busy has been the answer for me. When I’m alone is when I’m in danger..so I keep myself busy..or need to more.

    Anway, this is difficult man (woman) but I’m glad I don’t have no kids and no other attachments…I made a clean break and stuck to it and I hope that nothing comes around to bite me..

    I’m starting to think of other women, cause I do need a woman! But I take it its still early and I need to figure out alot…one advice a good friend gave me was “why don’t you take this time that you have and find out what qualities your really looking for in a woman”…

    anyway, thanks for listening

    mike

    • Ken
      July 19, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      My abusive wife has become very clever with her attacking strategy. She realizes that I will not stay in the room and listen to her verbal vomit when I calmly say, “I can see that you are angry and you are entitled to your own feelings; however, I’m simply not willing to be your whipping boy.” Now, she traps me when we are in the car together. Typically, this is on any out of town trip or any trip lasting more than 20 minutes. I’ve considered stopping the car, giving her the keys and taking Uber, but her explosions happen so often I’ll go bankrupt if I follow though. Any suggestions?

      • bill
        July 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        Same problem with me and the car. sometimes car trips seem inevitable (moving kids to and from college for example). I haven’t come up with a solid strategy yet but am utilizing “I am not going to talk about that topic now”, and ultimately , if all else fails, there is stoney silence. I can tell that not engaging does seem to be helping. I have had one or two recent, uneventful car trips. Just try to keep the distance and exposure to a bare minimum

  2. Rob
    March 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Thank you so much for this. I understand. My wife and I have been seeing a counsellor because of an incident that happened with my parents who she has persistently sought to alienate me from. She escalated and escalated a situation over a joke my father told which she didn’t approve of until in the end she threw me down the stairs and knocked me unconscious. Apparently I had an epileptic seizure and my doctor thought I had a hairline skull fracture and some bruising on the brain. My mother then pulled her to the ground as she didn’t know what she was going to do next. Of course it has all been my fault that my B**TARD mother assaulted her and if I was any sort of a husband I would never let them into our lives again. The last 5 months have been drama and hell. This sounds so ridiculous telling other people that I have even tried to patch up this relationship – but I have three wonderful kids and I know alienation is going to be a problem. I guess I know what I need to do and I have just been trying to keep it together long enough that I have a bond with all of them that is harder to break. The youngest is 3.
    I listed to ‘Hands’ by Jewel a lot. “I won’t be made useless, won’t be idoled with despair – gonna gather myself around my faith because it’s light that the darkness most fears” and I’ve taken up running. I have lost 30 pounds and physically feel great. I’m also starting an MBA. I come from a family of proud men. I will not be broken by this woman.

  3. kowiki
    February 26, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    The day my Father died I had to get up and go into work. The week leading up to the Funeral, my life lay on the settee, with a ‘kidney infection’. She also, on the same day he died, informed me that life goes on, as if I didn’t know.

  4. LEE
    February 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    this is a great & insightful article!!

  5. akn
    February 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Three weeks ago, dissatisfied that my now cluster B persecutor lover and friend of 10 years was up to her awful abusive manipulations again, I began reading here and revisiting other sites on NPD that have been good resources in the past. This entry on how to do emotional detachment has been fundamentally important in stiffening my spine and growing up enough to say no bleedin’ more mate, I’m done.

    Five nights ago I terminated the relationship. Gently, with dignity and very great resolve. To my delight none of her usual strategies had any impact at all – screaming, guilt tripping, lies and the vigorously made argument that I have a mental illness. I actually had detached. I saw through it all. I did not feel hurt.

    I sought support through this and my gorgeous 19 yo daughter moved in to stay with me for a week for decent company. Tonight I went to a Buddhist meditation group and bumped into two colleagues and an old friend from a decade ago. I feel so free. This is without doubt the easiest process of separation I’ve ever had. Practice detachment. Watch and learn about your persecutor and, when you are ready, walk away from them as if it means nothing to you because it means nothing to them. Nothing at all.

  6. akn
    February 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Christie: I know this is gonna sound odd but it worked for some friends of mine in a similar situation and what they did was take their daughter/cousin to India. Showed her it is a big world. If the bucks aren’t there for that then my personal favourite for a change of pace is wilderness walking. I write this because I know how much the pathological contollers dominate your mind sapce. It is like wearing (what were those things they used to put on horses to limit their field of vision to straight ahead?) blinkers.

  7. Christie
    February 5, 2010 at 6:10 am

    How do I help my 25 year old son break away from his abusive, demeaning, cheating wife of almost 2 years? She has been controlling him since he was 19. She has told him she doesn’t love him anymore, but she won’t let him go or leave him alone. She has done so much damage to his self esteem, that he now seems powerless.
    Where do I start?

    • Mellaril
      February 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      As far as helping him breakaway, there’s not a lot you can do until he decides he’s had enough.

      This may be a little off topic but my cousin remarried shortly after her first husband died. She married one of her husband’s associates mostly to fulfill her dying husband’s wish that their son have a father. It wasn’t a good choice. I was her closest relative in the area and would occaisonally visit. We were standing in her garage. Her new husband was on a business trip. I asked her if she was happy and she burst into tears. She left him shortly after. Maybe if you can get him to start thinking about his happiness and why he’s unhappy, you’ll be able to guide him to people and resources that can help him. This may carry some risk as she may be hyper-vigilant to any perceived threat to her control and any retribution would be directed at your son. You might try asking something about long term career plans that might plant seeds of where he sees himself in 5 years.

      In addition to other blogs on this site, I recommend you check out Ch 8 of Marion Solomon’s “Healing Trauma , attachment, mind, body and brain” and Ch-8 of her Short-Term Therapy for Long-Term results.” I think the latter might help you understand the clinical dynamics of what’s going on, especially the “push-pull” characteristic you described above. The books are directed to therapists and provide background. I found the combination of the books and this site to be a really helpful combination. The books will explain the clinical environment (big picture) and Dr. T will teach you how to recognize and deal with it. The books explains what’s happening but doesn’t excuse them.

      • Sunshine2
        February 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm

        More such advice welcome too for my poor dear brother please. I feel like family, friends & i are drained of giving advice. My bro has been mentally & physically abused by this vile NPD wife (hopefully to be ex-wife). She’s using the police, courts & their 3 yr old daughter as weapons.

        She has such a hold on him that his obsessive love for her is truly sickening. i’ve been obsessed with an ex a long time ago & am now embarassed at how I tried to hold onto him. But my bro is begging, begging, begging to her all the time to save their marriage. What an ego massage for the crafty woman.

        She’s playing tricks with my bro by filing for divorce but not yet putting the decree nisi through. She is more interested in money. He’s about to lose all that he’s worked for. Even his lawyer who is amply cashing in on this case says he doesn’t look well & should see a doctor. He does have a lot of respect for this site & loves articles such as 25 Reasons not to be a Princess, but he seems to have totally lost his self-respect and sometimes even talks about committing suicide.

        I fear that he has taken on some of her NPD and professional vicim traits.

        How do we convince to get immediate professional help in the form of a dr & counsellor? He needs more than just books to save his sanity,indeed his life!

  8. NarcLvgFlly
    February 3, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I sense that something is wrong but can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I see it in our daily dealings with one another, which in many cases have become less kind, courteous, or inclined towards generosity. I feel it in our home and workplace, which are permeated with resentment, anxiety, and debilitating job-related stress. But perhaps the place where we are most affected is in those intimate relationships with friends and family that give life its richness and meaning. I stumbled across this website in a search to determine what’s going in my relationship. I’ve been married for 4 years (we dated for 4 years before we got married). We have a handsome 2 1/2 year old son whom I love him dearly. It is time for me to protect him and myself from Narcissistic wife abuser.

    On our wedding anniversary day, I happen to look up “10 Reasons You Can’t Communicate with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman” (September 17, 2009). It is a turning point for me to confirm what Dr. T wrote about list of common communication control tactics of emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline woman.

    One of my good friend share with her perspective with me about abusive relationship. I would like to share this with you.

    I think it’s going to be good for all of us to set our limits and stand up for ourselves — again, do it safely.  You know your narcissistic abuser better than anyone else so you’ll have to be the best judge of that.  I understand why we’re feeling ashamed of ourself.  All of our victims feel that way.  But please remember that you are not responsible for what your narcissistic wife has chosen to do and say.  Many victims believe they are and chastise themselves, stay in an narcissistic abusive relationship, endure the narcissistic abuse, and try to figure out what they’ve done “wrong” and do whatever it takes to get the loving partner back.  Let me offer an analogy.
     
    Let’s say you’ve had a couple of good days with your narcissistic wife.  You’ve gotten along, and she’s been wonderful — the woman you fell in love with in the beginning.  Later, you are walking down the street and see your wife enter a building.  You follow her and knock on the door expecting that the sweet woman of the past few days will answer and open the door.  Instead, the cruel, narcissistic abusive woman who lives inside your wife answers.  She’s nasty and slams the door in your face, and you’re confused. 
     
    Where did the sweet wife go?  What happened?  Did I do something that “made” her mad?  Maybe if I smile and give her some flowers or something she likes when I knock on the door, she’ll be good to me.  You go get the flowers and knock on the door again.  Your wife answers again, takes the flowers from you and smacks you over the head with them.  She looks just like your sweet wife, but she’s acting like the narcissistic monster who’s been abusing you for a long time.  Because you’ve had times with her when she’s treated you well, with respect and courtesy, you keep knocking on the door hoping that the good wife will emerge and answer the door.
     
    You’ve done your best: you’ve smiled, bought flowers, and tried.  You’ve done nothing “wrong,” and you haven’t “made” your wife angry.  She’s CHOSEN to behave that way, and she, not you, is responsible for what she does, how she feels, and how she interprets your encounter.  Everyone has a world view — a belief about what things mean and what the “real” message is in the words we hear people saying to us.  Our world view is formed by and is the result of our life experiences.  Narcissistic abusers try to make their victims believe that their behavior is the reason for the abuse, but the TRUTH is that it is the abuser’s interpretation of the victim’s behavior that gives him or her the “right” to abuse.  But no one has that right, no one.
     
    I hope this makes sense.  The point is that it’s not your fault that your narcissistic wife abuses you — it’s her choice and decision to do so.  There’s no shame in trying to have a good life with her, the shame is hers for refusing to be a partner in and choosing to destroy the possibility and potential of a good marriage.

    I’m moving on with my own life. It is not easy but I have learned by being observant of her and at the same time not becoming emotional in any way. It is hard but we need to learn to control ourselves effectively. You can free yourself from the narcissist’s abuse.

    I hope I’ve been of some help.  It’s hard, I know, but we’re all not to blame.  It is what Dr. T try to tell us about this BPD/NPD abusive.

    Hey guys and Dr. T, I do appreciate your writing very much. You all inspire me to be free and to be the loving person that I was before… I am determined to get my life back once again.

    **(Note for you: Dr. T, you have my permission to edit my grammar, please. Thanks)

    • KS
      February 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Good one NarcLvgFlly!

      “..It is not easy but I have learned by being observant of her and at the same time not becoming emotional in any way. It is hard but we need to learn to control ourselves effectively. You can free yourself from the narcissist’s abuse.

    • Lighthouse
      February 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      No offence meant, but I believe we are half to blame for the abuse, narcissistic or otherwise.

      While they are completely at fault for their behavior, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, cultural values or family values when we choose to believe our partners excuses and allowed them to persist in subjecting us to their bad behavior we became half to blame for facilitating any further abusive interaction.

      If I was a victim it was partly a result of my own messed up thinking. I may have inherited a poor definition of love by observing my parents marriage, but I have to take responsibility for perpetuating the erroneous thinking or I am playing the helpless victim role like those that have chosen to abuse us by willful ignorance of their responsibilities.

      As always, in the final analysis it remains our responsibility to answer the only valid question is “What can I do about it?”

      Nowadays I realize that I can only love someone as much as they are prepared to reciprocate or it is adoration NOT love (by definition).

      Lighthouse

      • shrink4men
        February 9, 2010 at 8:34 pm

        Hi Lighthouse,

        You make a highly poignant observation/comment. Once you recognize that you’re being victimized, it’s up to you to stop the abuse. Abusers rarely stop abusing of their own accord or out of the “goodness of their heart.” Part of this includes, as you point out, taking responsibility for one’s erroneous beliefs about love and relationships is very important, if only so you don’t make the same poor relationship choices again.

        This statement is spot on and should be committed to memory by all:

        I can only love someone as much as they are prepared to reciprocate or it is adoration NOT love (by definition).

        Wow and thank you,
        Dr T

  9. g
    January 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I was in an abusive marriage for 13 years. I finally caught her cheating on me with a low life loser. I was so devastated since my parents were divorced and the last thing I wanted for our 6 yo adopted son was to be involved in a divorce.

    There is so much I could say about this experience. After being separated for 4 years and formally divorced for almost two, the guilt, pain and manipulation is still as bad as ever. I am court ordered to have contact with my son. If I was not, I would probably rarely see him. Seeing my ex is so destructive to me. Even for one minute. It is beyond description.

    Financially, her actions have cost me over 100k. I am paying her a court ordered 1000k mo out of a 45k/yr salary, this person I am trying to get away from has me on the hook for half of my income, which she is still taking me to court to get more. Always threatening, harassing, never good enough, always abusing, hanging up on me, using the child against me. She acts the same as when we were living under the same roof.

    I left her and started over with nothing. I now have a great life and have since met someone very wonderful. The opposite of the ex. She has taught me a lot about moving on. She forced me to make tough decisions that I would not have made on my own. Still, in spite of all of this there is a nagging sadness that I allowed this dark part of my life to occur.

    I used to wonder why men left their spouses and children and moved far away. I do not wonder any longer. The example above about the drowning person taking the rescuer with them is so appropriate. To all of the abused spouses out there- save yourself! Do not feel bad about your future decisions. If you want to feel bad, understand that you are as much to blame as your spouse. It takes two, and you allowed it to occur. I wish I had the self esteem 10 years ago to see something better for myself. You deserve the best! do not settle -it is very dangerous and you will wind up losing far more than you could ever imagine including yourself if you are not careful.

    • Lighthouse
      February 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm

      g

      I feel your pain. It is a shock to discover the wolf within the sheep’s clothing !

      Here are my suggestions for ‘reduced contact’ developed from my own experience so you may shoulder your responsibilities for your son when he needs you most without suffering undue emotional harm from your ex-:

      1. Establish a list of volunteers to meet with your ex- for transfer and pay them so they are reliable and you don’t feel guilty. Never see her again until you feel you are strong enough to reliably apply points 2 through 7 below.
      2. If you must meet, keep it short and keep to the script. Say something such as “Here he is, we had a good time. See you next time”. Then leave.
      3. If she initiates something, keep it short and keep to the script. Say something such as “I can see you have some energy around that subject, feel free to call me later to discuss it”. Then leave.
      4. If she does call later and starts to get angry, keep it short and keep to the script. Say something such as “I would like to discuss this with you, but I refused to be shouted at/called names/falsely accused/etc. I’m going to hang up now, but feel free to call me later when you are calm”. Then hang-up.
      5. When you have your son, refuse to take anything except the boy, the clothes he comes in and a toy he wants to bring. Make sure he is given to his mother with all the stuff he came with dressed in a set of clothes from your house so the responsibility of returning clothes is shared.
      6. Never speak badly about his mom – the difference between her words and actions and yours will speak loudly enough.
      7. Use a safe environment to express your frustrations (this website being a good start).

      The financial outlay associated with the above should be offset in your mind with the emotional expense of loosing contact with your son.

      One last thing for your consideration: If your current girlfriend advocates giving up your son (‘moving on’) instead of defining new boundaries (‘personal growth’) then I fear you may be about to repeat your mistakes as I fear she will ‘move on’ from you one day rather than use ‘personal growth’ to meet the challenge of an emotionally intimate relationship.

      Lighthouse

  10. Chris
    January 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    In the end you really have no choice. Unless you are forbidden and just ego stroke them to the point of exhaustion you can never help these women. they will cheat lie to keep feeding a very damaged ego from the past that really has nothing to do with you.
    Had I known what I know now I never would have married and had a child with my wife.
    I may still be married in a sham of a marriage but i have let go. I no longer care if we make it or not at all.
    I have carried her and my burdens for far too long and accepted so much BS it is unbelievable.
    You have to take care of you and let go…

  11. Mr. E
    January 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    “Would you guys have tried to consider some sort of treatment option if it was very much earlier in the relationship?”

    No. I would have run to Alaska.

    Understand, it’s not cowardly to get the heck away from a bomb.

    There are some extreme examples around the site, but as you think about it more, you’ll realize she really IS that bad. Yes, things can always be worse, but that doesn’t mean that your situation doesn’t suck as it is.

    Her bad childhood is her problem. You can’t help her, because she doesn’t want help. She’s perfect. Her bad behavior results in her getting EVERYTHING SHE WANTS, and she doesn’t feel bad about hurting others. Would you give up something that gives you everything you want if you thought it was all awesome?

    She’s NOT wonderful. The wonderful part is the lie.

    DTMFA.

    • Skip
      April 21, 2010 at 5:52 am

      I agree. The only wonderful part is what your eyes are currently blinded to, not what actually is. I kept asking myself how a person so “nice” could be so cruel. The truth is that she isn’t “nice” at all. In my situation I was blind to how ugly of a human being she was until it almost cost me my life.

  12. redevil
    January 29, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I have been reading this site and comments since two hours and after reading the post from Chris i finally decided that i need to comment and be a part of it & let go of all the crap thats been building inside me ..Firstly I have to thank and be really grateful to Dr Tara and this website for helping me out in this emotional trauma .. to me its been like god just picked me up and pushed me here to help me sort myself ..cos i couldn’t just let go yet ….coming back to chris … it felt you were me and your gf is my gf ;)
    Our background: living together since 3.5 years, both 26 and all of the below happens when we are living together

    After a crap 2 weeks and going no where and me having no clue what just happened all of a sudden my gf behaves super strange like an alien to me and all the blame comes on me saying i dont talk , i am suddenly become too aggressive and i dont talk like before etc etc bullshit… I then realized the same thing happened two years back where all of a sudden she meets a charming dude on the net (all a secret to me but i could see it all over) and she is all ga ga over him cos he seems to be the perfect guy etc etc in the military, plays guitar , listens talks etc etc ..the bla bla she told me then made me feel that i was the idiot on planet earth who did not seem to understand shit at that point of time ..but at the same time she never seemed to comprehend or realize for once that just a month back i was the rock in her life which she kept telling the whole world. But like how every movie comes to an end this also came to an end with the guy now not interested in what she wanted..she realized it was a mistake ,she cried etc etc.I was still there the big rock, boulder, mountain who stood by her, I then understood that it was a mistake, a fantasy ..it did not go too far etc etc so it was worth forgiving and saving the relationship cos I really cared. Now again i feel the same thing is happening all over again with all the blame being me nothing doing this, not doing that etc and she comes up that she fed up and she no longer needs any thing. I still have a strong feeling that she has come across some other guy who she is chit chatting with and making her feel too good or miss universe i dont know what..This time I finally decided its it, she wants it.. you give it .. I said ok i am moving out as soon I get a job cos i just finished my masters ..we are done and i cannot be a normal friend to you cos you mean much more. Thats cos i should move out, take a break but we should still be friends, meet every weekend come home etc. acc. to her. Now this she is not ready to accept.. to her, i have to be friends, and how can it be possible i stop all contact. I said i am done i have decided that if i move , no contact absolutely, you have your break, if you want me to be that guy you will live as per my norms and no longer according to what you want. The knowledge of me going and being never in her life is just unacceptable to her. Now it makes me feel better after reading this site and the posts that i can’t do much here cos no matter what i have done was never enough. Most of the people who have commented here under different articles mostly have kids or married or probably in the mid 30’s or 40’s i am assuming but i am just 26.. you guys have experienced more of it and probably figured the whole concept (narcissism and borderline) late .. i never knew these terms existed until tonite. Would you guys have tried to consider some sort of treatment option if it was very much earlier in the relationship. My gf i would say is not one of the extreme borderline cases like the some of you guys have experienced but she has lots of traits related to these terms..She would never humilate me in public ..stuff like that . But everything as a whole currently my love life if exists one or my present relationship is in complete “MERDE”.. She is a wonderful girl.. the most wonderful heart a girl could ever have , she has so many wonderful traits but when it comes to a relationship and loving me back ..like NORMAL NORMAL love its just not possible .. She just cannot get lovey . AFter reading more about the bPD i realised it related to her childhood. I know she had a very bad childhood where she was abused and that is why I want to help her in every possible way so that she opens up to relationships and accept that there are people who love her and are ready to take care of her.. the question is it possible Dr T ..if not its not possible for me to handle any more cos now even iam loosing my temper !!!

  13. Martin
    January 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Chris,
    I know what you mean, I was in a simialar relationship, for 5 years, but Dr T is correct, they don’t get better, because they don’t want to! Control is all they are after, may loose it for a while, but that only gives them time to distort reality, yours, for next time, they get better at it.

    Mine would often say ” ohh you are so easy” that was my marker, when it cam the last time, it was me that set a plan into motion that eneded it, by knowing what she would do. She left in a fit of rage, normal for her. The expectation that I would come a running, I changed the lockes and waited, the rest was a treat to watch. Pure insanity, police, courts, abuse to my family you name it.

    That was nearly 9 months ago, has it been easy NO WAY! I have made no contact and that is what works, no matter what she does I have moved on.

    Keep a plan, Chris you are in the right direction in life, next time help your self to move, body and mind.

    It is different for all of us but the problem is the same, Dr Tara is the kingpin and after your understanding goes a little deeper, I think you will be much stronger. All I want to say, is, it is not her you are going to help in the long run…you can’t…it will be you, all the people around you who love as well.

    good luck
    Martin

  14. Chris
    January 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Dr T

    I can’t thank you enough for all your articles. I am someone who is deeply embedded in a relationship and has not yet made the ultimate detachment, but I can say whole-heartedly that emotional detachment works. And your guidelines and encouragement are spot-on. My example comes from a recent fight my fiancee and I had. Our fights go in approximately 2 month cycles. That’s how long it takes for the pressure to build to breaking again. Usually when conflict arises, I get easily overwhelmed emotionally and don’t function rationally. It’s like the synapses don’t close in my brain and I stutter and stammer, unsure of what to do or say. When the latest conflict started (sparked by my use of Face Book – which I was informed is a ‘dating site’ btw) I could feel the blow up coming on and I maintained my cool while she accused and built to boiling. When the inevitable insults and name calling started I excused my self and went to another room. She followed me and continued to harangue me. Thinking that I was leaving her because I left the conversation, she started screaming ‘get the f%*k out.’ I told her I would oblige her. At that point she threw my keys into the front yard and then started pulling my clothes from the closet and throwing them into the hallway. I calmly put together the few items I felt I absolutely needed and headed for the front door. I found my keys and was almost to my car when she ran after me and threw her arms around me, preventing me from moving. It’s here that my intentions derailed because I came back inside and didn’t leave. Once inside, we sat down and I took the opportunity to calmly but emphatically tell her the things have have been bottled up inside me for so long – which is something I rarely do. I am more of an encourager (enabler?) than an accuser. But it felt so good to say the things that had been pent up. Whether she chooses to take responsibility and change aspects of her behavior that hurt others or not, I have benefited by rationally speaking my mind and standing up for myself. And even though the ideal outcome to the situation didn’t occur (actually making it to my car and driving away), I feel like I’m utilizing tools for my own growth, and have come through the situation not feeling like a punching bag. As I said, I am deeply embedded in this relationship. And while I’ve recognized its detrimental impact on me, I have been emotionally unable to leave. I have also beat myself up for that inability (not married, no kids, it should be easy, right?). But little by little I’m taking my life back. And I know that I will have the strength to leave. These articles and techniques are a big help in that direction. Keep ’em coming.

    • Lorenzo
      February 2, 2010 at 5:43 am

      CHRIS

      I feel for you, our stories appear identical in how we each feel. I myself have only been married for 1.5 years but together for 8. I want you to know that there is someone out there that feels the same as you do. You are not alone, I hope that one day soon we can each say this was an issue we learned from and left behind but yes for now we are both in the Lion’s Den. I wish you happiness and strength to both of us in this difficult time. Stay strong and true to yourself, I am trying to do this as well. If anything, as I fight my way out of this situation and I find myself getting lambasted I will think of you and some others and know we are all only interested in having a Happy & Healthy life…whether alone or with someone. Thanks for your post

      • February 11, 2010 at 12:59 am

        Lorenzo, thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I wish the same for you. I hope you can use your situation to learn and grow, and eventually, when we both come out the other side, we’ll be stronger, wiser, and better men. Feeling alone and as though you’re the only one going through it is frightening. It becomes easy to doubt yourself. Especially when their is someone telling you that YOU have the problems. I find it so hard to leave in the peaceful times, because I’m reminded of everything that I wanted and thought I had. So I fool myself into thinking the status quo is good enough. I know it isn’t though, and that it’ll just take one big fight to blow everything apart. And I’m secretly hoping for that fight. On the surface I feel like I’m working for peace. But Einstein said “One cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” Below the surface I’m preparing for war. And once the war is over, I’ll be okay. All the best, Lorenzo.

        • Nick
          February 11, 2010 at 3:59 am

          Chris,
          “and it’ll just take one big fight to blow everything apart” My friend, I have been there! I was dumped and reconciled maybe 30 times…that’s how sick I was. Always took her back…definition of crazy…you know the saying. Finally, I knew I had to go on my own accord. I used to laugh because I literally could PICK the day, and I did. Just decided not to do as told and disagreed on a minor thing or two….kablooooweeee- over! I released the hounds of hell upon myself. A histrionic display of dumping me “FOR GOOD.” But funny thing is- she called within a week to pour more poison in my ears. Didn’t work.I hung up and will continue to for the the rest of this life. Cry me a river baby. Remember, you can PICK THE DAY…now thats power brother….she can’t take that away from ya. Thanks for sharing. The people that blog here give me strength and resolve. I’d be screwed without you guys.

  15. Mike
    January 22, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Hi….I’ve posted here before. My marriage of eights years went up in flames in September. I moved out she stayed with the kids. I endured about three years of merciless verbal abuse and chronic drinking. . She sold her business about three years ago to stay home with child no. 2. I am now basically running two households on my income, which is stable at the moment. Just as I left, she and her evil dwarf mo-in-law began a distortion campaign that I was an “abuser” and “beat her” and she has to “sleep with a knife under her pillow” Meanwhile, you guessed it, she was physically abusing me the entire time. She was and is a nasty, entitled drunk. A real horror show. Then, very recently, she’s nice as can be! Hmmmmmm. What’s up with this? Well, it seems that the questionably-employed 50ish son who lives with his mother next door has been stopping in to “help out”. My two boys, 5 and 3, are telling me that “Mark’s here!” when I give my good-night call. My point to all of this is that a real mother, in my opinion, would not bring a man into a house at this point in the relationship cycle. But that begs the questions…what kind of mother is this? Whose interests is she looking out for? These women are very very dangerous indeed. I should have known many years ago when she quit during the middle of a hand job and said to “finish it yourself” that I was in for it.

    • Skip
      April 21, 2010 at 5:36 am

      Once I finally comprehended the level of deception that came so easily to this person and what kind of person they really were it was easy for me to not care anymore. I can remember how absolutely nauseated I felt just looking at a picture recently of her and how much I had built her up in my mind to be somebody she just wasn’t. I underwent a paradigm shift and no longer looked at her the same way ever again. THE ULTIMATE FORM OF BEING OVER A SITUATION IS ACTUALLY FEELING SADNESS FOR PEOPLE WHO ONCE HURT YOU, UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY WILL NEVER BE A GOOD PARTNER TO ANYONE AND THAT THEY WILL ALWAYS BE A PARASITE LOOKING FOR A HOST… IT’S A SAD, DISHONORABLE UGLY EXISTENCE AND THE PERSON WHO I HATED FOR SO LONG I FEEL NOTHING BUT PITY TOWARDS TODAY…

      • Skip
        April 21, 2010 at 5:44 am

        I’m just happy to have my sanity back… I blamed myself for so long and it wasn’t me. I don’t deny the fact that I got a few issues but knowing that the person who I was around had a true pathology of their personality made it easy for me to accept that I was abused by this sick disturbed person and the way I felt was not something that was unique to my situation and I could take comfort knowing that it wasn’t me. I’VE ACTUALLY CONSIDERED TAKING STEPS TO PREVENT THIS PERSON FROM EVER WORKING AS A COUNSELOR OR EVER BEING ALLOWED TO WORK IN THE FIELD OF COUNSELING OR THERAPY, I CONSIDER HER A THREAT TO ANYONE SHE COULD POTENTIALLY HAVE AS A CLIENT WHO SHE WOULD BE ENTRUSTED WITH THEIR EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING. IF ANYONE KNOWS HOW TO EXPOSE PREDATORS LIKE THIS, LET ME KNOW…

        • skip
          May 4, 2010 at 6:43 am

          I know this person is working as a model/actress and is seeking to become an artist’s manager in the music industry and that she is currently located in the *********. I consider ********* to be a danger to anyone she emotionally involves herself with and I strongly urge anyone who crosses her path to heed my warning and stay as far as humanly possible away from her. She is a graduate of ******* and she used to live in **********. She recently completed a film by the name of ******** with an amateur film producer by the name of *********. Do yourself the favor and heed my warning and save yourself the misery of knowing this person. She will bleed you dry emotionally and you will harm yourself if you come into contact with her unusually cruel brand of sadism she practices. Consider yourself warned.

          ALL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION REMOVED BY DR TARA

          • skip
            May 4, 2010 at 6:58 am

            I’m in the life-saving business. I get this incredibly sick gross feeling when I see people harm others and abuse is something that really angers me. The lowest point in my life came during my encounters with this person where in sheer emotional desperation, I became the person I swore I would never be and acted in ways that resembled my emotionally abusive father towards this woman. To this day I feel disgusted with myself for the things I said and did towards her and I strongly believe that entire toxic relationship was entirely driven by this person feeding off of my pain she caused in me with these behaviors I described. My attitude is that if you are so evil that you are willing to engage in these behaviors, you should be willing to hold yourself accountable in public and if that bothers you, well you should have thought of that before you decided that being an emotional rapist and a parasite towards someone who cared deeply about your well-being. If you want to sh*t on the people who care about you and hurt them, be willing to be exposed. I consider it my civic duty to warn others about this woman.

            • skip
              May 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

              I wish a national movement could be mobilized where the equivalent of “Megan’s Law” would be passed for emotional predator’s much akin to sexual predator’s. I think it would act as a serious deterrent for people who act this way to stop the abuse.

              Predators fear exposure. Period.

              If they are exposed, it limits their capacity to do it to others. Knowledge is power in these situations.

    • BigSucka
      November 11, 2011 at 4:35 am

      My live-in girlfriend seems to want me to hit her, But i wont give her the satisfaction. Our “fistfights” as she so dramatically states are me just trying to hold her arms whenever she swings at me. and oh yes I am
      verbally abusive she’ll mention to others that they don’t see “what really goes on!” while she screams like a deranged pcp user in front of everybody.
      I’m getting out I’ve made my decision. Ican definately relate

  16. Steve
    January 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Three years ago I lost my rather high paying job … suddenly. When I told my wife she literally freaked out…. because we wouldn’t have the money to do whatever it is she liked to do with our money. Understandable I suppose in the face of shock, but she really didn’t show any concern about me and how I was feeling about this, etc… for almost two weeks. In that time it was all about her and how her life might be changing. She finally got around to asking me how I was doing after a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t very sincere and I honestly didn’t share much. I knew I was in a no-win situation. I took a few part time contracts to keep things moving and between that and severence we had resources. But during that entire 6 months of unemployment for me she never once looked for a job herself…even part time…didn’t reduce her spending one bit (in fact she increased it) and rarely showed any concern whatsoever as to how I was doing other than to ask…repeatedly….if someone was going to give me a job yet… that paid at least 85K and paid full benefits, etc… Such an enmormous sense of entitlement!
    3 or 4 years before this it would have drove me nuts and I would have spent my time trying to coddle her and soothe her. But I had been practicing some detachment techniques and I honestly expected absolutely nothing from her, so I wasn’t disappointed at all, but did the best I could to find a job that paid the bills and kept my kids in school. The detachment helped me, but she changed not one bit. So in summer of 2009 I filed for divorce. Living detached helped keep my sanity, but that’s not a marriage…at least not what I wanted in a marriage. The one thing I could sum up our marriage with was that I never had a partner… I just had another dependent, a rather spoiled, ego-centric, ornery, emotionally stunted dependent. I’ve raised two teenagers, I didn’t want to be married to one.

    • Mr. E
      January 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Yep. When I’ve been laid off (twice), it’s expected that I keep the house spotless, cook, do the shopping, etc. etc., all while hunting for a job.

      And god forbid I watch a movie during the day. I should have spent that time doing something for her…

  17. Ferdinand
    January 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Recovering Alpha – my close friend / research mentor / co-author died a sudden and untimely death, not only dealing a heavy personal blow but completely jeopardizing my academic career and possibility of finishing my dissertation and research. While I tried to mourn, my wife laid around the house bitching that her iPod got accidentally erased. Not for one day, but the entire week that I was trying to pick up the pieces of my heart and my career, she continued to complain. As if she had to be the center of frustration.

    • Mr. E
      January 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      Wow, Ferdinand, that really sucks.

      Speaking of iPods, when my wife’s old iPod gave up and died, she flipped out at me for not backing it up. The funny thing was that, actually, almost all of the music WAS backed up. And I told her that.

      “Well, you didn’t back up [X music]”

      “Yeah, actually, it’s in there.”

      “Well, you didn’t etc. etc.”

      “That’s there too…”

      So then she just stayed mad at me and gave me the cold shoulder for three or four days – even though I’d done nothing wrong and had nothing to do with her iPod breaking…

      • BigSucka
        November 11, 2011 at 4:22 am

        Wow Speaking of iPods. I’ve finally today awoke from a sleep realizing why I’ve been feeling like shit for the longest time. and the catalyst was when she called me to yell at me (while I was out walking the streets looking for a job.) that I had lost her iPod charger wire. I was looking for a job because she’s lazy,worked p/t hours while I beared 90% of our financial responsibilities. Still I don’t do enough and she questions every decision I have made, not taking into consideration that I always provided for her and did a fantastic job under trying circumstances. By the way the iPod was my b’day gift to her along with dvd players,bedding, stereos, jewelry and much more.
        I got a paperback book as a gift from her once. I tried the detatchment thing tonight and believe me it works !
        She became even more vicious and it gave me a clearer
        picture of the kind of person I’m involved with. I’m outta here first chance I get and there is no going back for me. It is a good night !

  18. Recovering Alpha
    January 21, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    “Love does not conquer all.”

    Regarding getting into and STAYING for 16+ yrs my past abusive marriage, the WORST advice I EVER got came from a self-help book I read in my late teens. The idea was something like, “Love is nature’s own psychology.”

    I interpreted that to mean that by wholly loving another who might be damaged they would respond like in a professional Psychologist’s care and become better. That’s what I did for many many years. I slowly realized that that doesn’t happen.

    What kicked me out was realizing my ex was NOT there for me during the worst time of my life (brother died) and realizing that she would never be there for me. What irked me was that I’d been “there” for her for nearly two decades through all her parent’s alcohol and substance abuse issues and neglect of her and so on. I finally realized that ‘Love is NOT nature’s own psychology.’ and got out.

  19. uburoi
    January 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks D it’s amazing how in her last email to me she said that she did not want to be a regret to me yet she smears me and paints a picture of some terrible ogre. We will get there. It actually was a way for me to let go a little more. I feel I am now breaking out of the fantasy construct of her I had built in my mind. This just proves the point Dr. T makes about gaslighting and rewriting history.

    • D
      January 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

      I was thinking about the why are you torturing yourself question. Maybe because somewhere you think you need to punish yourself? In which case, it’s not her, it’s up to you to take charge of yourself and your life and disengage from someone who is … like, why be attached to someone so horrible? You don’t need to punish yourself with that. I’m not an expert, just putting thoughts out there that occurred to me while trying to deal with my own crap. Ugh. Disengage, disengage, disengage, man! Let her do all her crap, and take responsibility for not engaging and moving on. I had something similar…this person was ALWAYS doing something, like I was the idiot, the dumb one, the loser, and I was always getting upset about it until I realized I didn’t have to participate, I didn’t have to believe it, I didn’t have to try to get back at her, try to tell the truth. It was hard, to find out who my friends really were and weren’t, but in the end, life was easier and happier to just know that in her mind, I was always going to be the bad guy and in the meantime I could move on with my own life, make my own friends, and create my own reality. She’s just not part of it and I’m telling you life is much better. So again, good luck. Carry on!

  20. uburoi
    January 20, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Wow… This was really help Dr. T It’s kinda like me not allowing her to hurt me anymore by reading her blog. (This has been tough to break but after her last entry but I am solid in not looking at it anymore.) I’m just torturing myself. She claims I am the emotionally abusive one because I did not “support: her when she was diaged with BP1 even though I was with her 7 months prior to this and I constantly tried to get her out to walk in the park so the ol serotonin would pump back into her brain and she would feel better about herself. She said I made myself the victim and that I needed to learn coping strategies with a professional that I did not do enough research to see the illness for what it was. AArrgh the lies are infuriating!

    • Vicarious
      January 21, 2010 at 4:19 am

      Blogs are really a great stage for these types, aren’t they? They can custom-tailor servings of poison, or as my friend puts it “bottomless wells of bullshit” for your consumption.

    • D
      January 21, 2010 at 5:04 am

      Funny you mention blogs. I know a couple going through a divorce and one of the things the wife said to me was that he was passive-aggressive, but SHE’s the one writing all kinds of s*** on her blog and it just boggles the mind. So self-absorbed…I really feel for the guy. So glad I’m not really her friend anymore and am staying waaaaaay out of it all. Anyway, good luck. You’re doing the right thing by not reading anymore. Torturing yourself is absolutely the right way to describe it; I had a similar experience and am trying to pry myself off the internet for the same reason (why am I torturing myself, etc.). Good luck again.

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