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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. Karen knerr
    August 2, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Exel I have been looking for help and gone to a few counselors throughout my 33-year marriage and spending the 15 minutes to read your article right now has honestly changed my life I had never even heard of detachment I was battling myself trying to decide what to do and this is giving me some time to understand and learn what I’m going through and just to see it in writing is mind-blowing thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart

  2. Don
    October 31, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I believe She was trying to turn me into an abuser. When that failed, She had no respect for me and started an affair with a real genuine junkie POS woman beater.

    I stopped her from beating on my 13 year old son, then went to a batered women’s shelter to seek counseling. They contacted CPS who came to the house, and photographed my son’s black eye, recorded the statements, but then aided with the abusser who was given a two houe private interview. To this day CPS has not given me a private interview. She lied and accussed me of abuse after I quit lying for her to cover up who she really is, a cruel, abusive woman! Once I quit lying for her she through me out like garbage by lying to CPS for abuse that I reported!!

    She has delighted in knowing that I have been struggling while she enjoys the comfort of having the children with her in the home that I built with my resources. She contributed little labor, and Not one penny of her money!

    She was also awarded free legal aid since she reported abuse, and the inexperienced CPS investigator, ignoring the facts and all three children reporting that she beat on my son and I, completely enables the abuser!! Insanity!
    Then, when I file a complaint against the investigator for lying to me as evidenced in a text message from my wife, the “investigator” quickly closes the case altogether!

    I’ve been depressed, suicidal, anxious, very much alone and feeling victimized by the system.
    To make matters worse, She listens in on every call to my children, knowing she can’t touch them these days, She works on their hearts and minds by punishing them for telling the truth. Denying them outside play time, video game time, sleep overs with friends or play time with friends.
    Her equally insane violent family, all conditioned by a hardcore violent Mexican alcoholic father, seek to abuse as well. They’ve hated me from the moment I met them. “Blue eye devil” was the name they called me from the first time we met.

    I just want my children out of the environment. She continues to see the real abuser, the junkie whose been arrested 8 times for sending women to hospitals and battered women’s shelters.

  3. January 29, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I stumbled across this sight after another unprovoked attack on me this evening. I was looking for answers. Wondering, “What the hell is wrong with my wife”? After reading articles and post for nearly 2 hours. I started to crumble. It was if you were talking directly to me. The characteristics described were so on point to my life it was Chilling. Without giving to much info or rambling on. Thank You. For confirming that I am not alone and I am not the crazy one. My biggest and only concern is getting my 3 year old daughter away from this women before she does anymore damage. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  4. James
    August 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Have split up with my abusive partner, but we own a house together which has taken 7 months so far to sell (UK).

    The end is (finally) in sight now; she’s steadily got worse and worse all year.

    This rings SO MANY bells.

    My impulse control is not great at the best of times; you can imagine how I’m coping.

  5. Jes
    July 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Tara, God bless you. Will implement these practises immediately.

  6. Edward
    September 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve been in a painful marriage for 3 years but we have been together for 10 years. I am reading these testimonials and I’m saying, “that’s me,” “that’s her.” I have always felt alone in my predicament but have always said to myself “things will change.” “If I explain to her what she’s doing she will change.” This despite repeated rants from her that she will “not change for anyone.” I have finally realized recently that IIIII am the one who needs to change. And if she doesn’t change who cares. However, it has not been easy since I have been on the job hunt for 2 years and have yet to find one. This lack of employment adds to my lack of confidence, ceding control to her and “accepting” her nasty and vile behavior. I left once but came back after a week at my sister’s apt but I don’t want to inconvenience her or anyone else in my family. I finally broke down last week and called my sister, (who put me up for that week) and mentioned to her that if I had a job where I could support myself I would have left a long time ago. My sister made no offer to take me back in and I won’t ask her after that response. Though she did give me the ear I needed and some good objective advice it still bothered me that she didn’t offer. Yet I understand why she didn’t. I am currently attending grad school and work as a tutor part time so she makes the big bucks and supports us. The other day, I explained to her that I may have to attend school for an extra semester because of the work that is required to complete my thesis. (She doesn’t pay for my tuition I took out loans and I supported her when she was in grad school.) She earns about $84k a year but all she could think about was the “financial burden” that would besiege her for that extra 6 months. Meanwhile, we are not starving or lacking shelter and as upset as I was for having to tell her and knowing she would lash out and not be supportive I still expected more. Well that taught me not to expect more and I am emotionally drained! The only thing stopping me, (despite the uncertainty and fear) is a job where I can support myself and more importantly be rid of her. Not to mention, being under her spell for another 6 months kills me more than her. Nevertheless, Dr. Tara’s advice had made me realize that it “IT IS HER AND NOT ME!” Writing this and reading these testimonials has given me renewed hope, for me not for her.
    Stay tuned and thanks!

  7. September 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I came across this post and it was great to see so much common sense. As a psychology post grad studying for a diploma in psychotherapy, the idea of detaching yourself from abuse, physically and emotionally, and so diluting it’s potential consequences is excellent advice.

  8. KGrath
    October 28, 2010 at 4:20 am

    I know this is an old thread here, but in light of events that have happened to me and the realization that ‘it takes 2 to tango’, anyone in a relationship that has become abusive should also ask what they have done to contribute to the situation.

    Us guys can be confused about what’s expected of us. With all this feminism where do we fit in? Some women are just plain crazy, but that is the minority. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the rise in BDP type behaviors is happening at the same time as feminism – women are getting more confident and assertive – which is a good thing, but at the same time the guys less sure of ourselves (myself included) are easily ‘steamrollered’ by these women which leads us down the path of passive-aggression.

    I feel a lot of the issues reported here could be ‘consequences’ of passive-aggressive behavior. Yes it’s not healthy to be a man threatened by their partner that they’re going to stab them in the night, or give them black eyes while they’re driving – there’s no excuse for that, but fighting for what is right for you at the START will ultimately lead to things being a lot better. The mistake is to try to appear ‘perfect’ at the start and accommodate the girl to show you’re not some misogynist caveman, which might be harmonious for a few months but if you’re serious about the girl and end up staying together you’re headed for her changing into a BPD-by-proxy.

    – If you -don’t- want to go to that rom-com movie, say there and then, don’t go just to appease her and then be surly for the rest of the night. Or if do go along with it, accept that you’ve been beaten and laugh at yourself and still make it a good night. You could always insist on going to your favorite pub for a couple of pints afterwards, so at least the power balance is equalised. DON’T let her suggest that though.
    – If you’d rather eat at a different venue, say so, in fact make a point of disagreeing with her choice now and again and going somewhere different.
    – If you don’t like what she says about your parents/friends/siblings ask her why she doesn’t get on with them. Fix the problem. If there’s no resolution then DON’T talk about her around them. Defend her actions if they were validated, preferably in front of her.
    – Get up off your ass, get the ‘mans’ things done (bills, lawns, pruning, car stuff) and if you must play Xbox do it after you’ve finished those things but make sure you spend the evening with her. Sometimes us guys would LOVE to just spend the evening playing Xbox with some male friends; involve her and if possible invite friends who have wives/partners so at least you’re thinking about her. If not, do it anyway but make sure you have a night that she likes

    I used to think my partner’s mother’s husband was a bit of an over-the-top control freak towards his wife (ie GF’s mother), as I got all the second hand whining via my GF. After I got to know him I learned that he had similar behaviors to me in previous relationships and was determined it wouldn’t happen again. He balances the ‘control-freak’ tendencies by also being very emotionally available to his wife. Sure they have spats like anyone but they are definitely in love.

    I would recommend reading:

    http://www.angriesout.com, especially the section about passive-aggressive behavior, and maybe also


    which is a bit harsher but has some useful insight. If you have been passive-aggressive and the relationship has come to a crisis point … it’s probably too late to do anything about it (as in my case – I made too many stupid mistakes), as you’re not going to be able to suddenly start standing up for yourself, but it’s something to work on in your next relationship. I feel it has to come at the start of the relationship.

    Of course, if the woman is actually a psycho then it won’t matter, but for those ‘nice guys’ we need to actually say when we’re not happy, say when we want to do things there and then, within reason of course (for guys in relationships strip clubs are the domain of stag parties only!). Otherwise we’re not really ‘nice-guys’ at all, but passive-aggressive torturers.

    I know this is a long post but I just feel we do need to take stock of our game and take it on the chin when we’ve been doing the wrong thing. I’ve been coming to this site for some months and I was convinced my partner was in the wrong and abusing me. I saw her behaviors in the articles and comments.

    While that is true to an extent, I have a larger portion of the blame for that than she did.


    • Ron
      October 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      KGrath that may work well if the woman in question has some sense of reason & knows the difference between right & wrong. As you stated though some women are NUTS!!!…LOL Okay so you didn’t use those words but… The problem is there are some with BPD who you can’t win no matter what approach you take. They will never see the wrong in their positions no matter how off base their position is on anything.

      Standing up to them will only cause their anger to grow. These are people that thrive on conflict & some even get a sick kick out of making anybody who does not agree with their insane position pay. No amount of showing them how wrong they are through “standing up” to them will matter. We have to keep in mind that they will never admit the wrong of their position because in their mind they are NOT wrong.

      The only solution is to leave them. That in itself can be a scary thing because now you must really pay. They will go out of their way to “get even”. They will stop at nothing to punish the person who dared to leave them when they (in their mind) were not wrong for what they did.

      It is just yet another power play. But while leaving can be scary there is no other solution. That is unless you want to spend you life being abused. If it were an abusive man then nobody would question that the abused should leave. Why? because everybody knows that an abuser doesn’t change. Because all abusers, men or women will always blame the abused for their problems. After all if I am not at fault then THEY were the problem. We have to recognize that the only difference between a male & female abuser is their genitals..LOL

  9. August 10, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Okay, this is THEE creepiest song I’ve heard in a long time: Reminds me of the typcial BPD / NPD push-pull b.s…if your gal can ‘relate’ this this song, or asks you to turn it up…RUN…RUN LIKE HE**.

    I don’t know if I can yell any louder
    How many times I’ve kicked you outta here
    Or said something insulting?
    Da-da-da, da-da

    I can be so mean when I wanna be
    I am capable of really anything
    I can cut you into pieces
    But my heart is broken
    Da-da-da, da-da

    Please, don’t leave me
    Please, don’t leave me’
    I always say how I don’t need you
    But it’s always gonna come right back to this
    Please, don’t leave me

    How did I become so obnoxious?
    What is it with you that makes me act like this?
    I’ve never been this nasty (TGI says – “BULL”)
    Da-da-da, da-da

    Can you tell this is all just a contest?
    The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest
    But baby, I don’t mean it
    I mean it, I promise
    Da-da-da, da-da

    Please, don’t leave me
    Oh, please, don’t leave me
    I always say how I don’t need you
    But it’s always gonna come right back to this
    Please, don’t leave me

    I forgot to say out loud how beautiful you really are to me
    I cannot be without, you’re my perfect little punching bag
    And I need you, I’m sorry
    Da-da-da, da-da

    Please don’t leave me by Pink – these are not the lyrics in their entirety.

  10. Ace
    August 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Hey well, news update :-) It’s now ‘tomorrow’ and I do actually feel the same as I did last night when I scripted the above, perhaps even better :-) I realised how much I’d still been allowing her influence my behaviour even in her absence. I think the fact that I know the guy she’s moved onto is also a help, a complete stranger would’ve likely had my mind in a swirl, this guy whilst a nice enough decent sort of guy is just the next victim and it’s obvious. Perhaps it will work out for them, but as I read on another article, ‘that’s as likely as reaching the moon strapped to a banana’ :-)

  11. Ace
    August 9, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Ok, I know the no contact rule and all that, but !!!

    Anyway I’ve been on off relationship wise with ex for the last 5 yrs, she would always be the one to walk. So this current break is like 7 months, it’s been that before and she even lived with a guy in one of the break ups. So the last 2 weeks, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to make contact, even scripted some mails to send but didn’t. Even though we’re apart I still had all the guilt tripping and was still going about my daily business as though she could see everything and I needed her approval. She’s actually in another Country. So today I checked out her facebook and whilst she still has like 100 photos of me on there she’s involved with a guy the last 4 months at least, but only put up the photos today as it happens. She doesn’t have her usual ‘in a relationship’ status up.

    Its text book, you’ll need to focus here, this guy is the twin brother of her very best friend’s husband, and her friend actually lived with him prior to hitching up with her husband, a weird dynamic or what !!

    And there’s more, the guy she lived with during one of our break ups, was continually mailing her all along, when he heard of the current break up, he did so again, wishing to be just friends, ( we know that feeling) anyway he was living with another woman. So she sent all the texts and mails to this woman the spoke with her on the phone. She spoke badly of this woman whilst she was with me, suggesting she was a slut. Surprise surprise she’s now her best friend on facebook, commenting on every single item on her wall. And she’s ditched the poor *astard whom she was with.

    Of course my ex does hit all the controlling behaviour on the head as she does the demeaning and emotional abuse etc etc. She was also doing it with my kids, (not hers)

    The thing is I’m so glad I didn’t send and mails nor make any contact, I was actually doing a job interview 4 miles from her house in another country remember and I avoided knocking on her door.

    I have an absolutely unbelievable sense of calm after discovering this today; it’s like a weight off. I’m sitting here reflecting on how much even up to recently I was allowing her to control my life even in her absence and whilst she’s with another. That’s me no one else, I’m the one doing and allowing that.

    But rather than being devastated I genuinely feel relived, and there is a huge chunk of ‘it does exactly what it say on the tin’ She fits the profile exactly even down to the 200+ facebook friends, she’s moved home 22 times, constantly making fresh starts, she does exactly the same things house wise every time. Items laid out the same etc, the photographed and placed on facebook, she has 73 photos of the current house which is by the way a rental. She painted the whole inside of the last rental property herself !!!! Lucky landlord.

    I’m sitting here saying finally the closing chapter, I feel good about it, better than I would’ve thought, of course I may feel different tomorrow, but I don’t think so, usually the shock is what does the damage, and it hasn’t. I know this is a bit of a rant and way longer than I intended but thought it may help someone in a similar position.

  12. Kevin
    August 6, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    I believe that my ex was one or more of the personality types mentioned however she wound up dumping me. She did try to maintain contact even after the 2nd time we broke up. I just couldn’t believe that I was a target at 1st until a friend told me that she just didn’t fall into my lap. He was the 1st to tell me that she was a predator- amazing!!

    Although I did allow somethings get past me I wasn’t completely gullible and non-confrontational to everything. I was able to see her behaviors early and I called her on a lot of it, thats probably why she wound up letting me out of the misery.

    It hurt like hell not being with initally but once I started reading up on DPD, Histrionics and Narcissistic traits, it feels like a weight has been lifted because I left that relationship feeling as though I was to blame for everything.

    Are these types of women subject to become abused themselves or do they only want to target what they perceive as the vulnerable and/or weak?


  13. Tbone
    May 30, 2010 at 4:26 am

    I have read several of the articles on BPD/NPD/APD and it fits my wife to a “T”. She was an abused child. For some reason I fell in “love” with her. She can be a wonderful person and has many, many good qualities. However, she witholds affection/intimacy, controls me with her cursing, screaming, yelling, belittling. We have two young children and she gets SO verbally abusive with them. Our daughter cut her hair awhile back and my wife sent me a txt message saying, “Get your F’ing a$$ home now, you have exhausted my patience.” When I walked in she went on a 20 minute rampage around the house, dropping the F-bomb in front of our kids, telling me, “You make me the worst possible mom I could be. YOU DO THIS TO ME.” She kept saying, “What are we going to do about her F’ing hair.” My reply was, “, kids cut their hair. It will grow back.”

    We are in the middle of a divorce proceeding, and yes…I’m trying to keep the family together. I am scared that she may get the children and I fear for their emotional well being. She has a grown son and I saw her phsyically abuse him on several occaisons (before we had children together). I don’t believe she would phsyically harm them at their young ages, but I do believe she is capable of it as they get older.

    She has been going out drinking 2-3 times per month for about 1 year. She doesn’t come home until 2, 3, 4 and once until 6am in the morning. When she gets home she tells me that I am the reason she “does this.” Then she’ll wake up the next day hung over, cry, aplogize and tell me she doesn’t know what’s wrong with her. I have been seeing her psychiatrist, of 8 years, weekly for the past 10 months. He believes she may have Dissociative Identity Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified. I know he has diagnosed her with PTSD and OCD. She doesn’t have fugue but does seem to forget what she has said or done, especially when she goes into a violent fit. For example, she honestly doesn’t remember hitting me, kicking me in the groin, throwing things at me, etc.

    I feel like I love her, else I wouldn’t have stayed in the relationship this long. Before we were married I left her once and she called crying, admitting she had a problem and that she would get help. That was YEARS ago. Being the honest, supportive, loving guy that I am I tried to help and be there for her.

    Any thoughts on how to keep this together? I do like your suggestions on disarming her. She TOTALLY tries to pick fights to justify whatever it is she is feeling guilty about at the time or to justify her “going out”. I’ve learned to deal with her verbal abuse…but the going out partying all night while I sit at home with our children is more than I can take and it has caused me to “blow up” at her verbally and be very suspicious of her.

    • jp
      May 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm


      I’m confused…you say you’re divorcing her, but then ask how to “keep this together”. Are you asking how/if you can salvage the marriage and call off the divorce, or are you asking how to get through the divorce while preventing total chaos from erupting?

      You cannot divorce her AND keep the family together. (You may be able to get full custody of the kids if you can demonstrate her abuse towards the children…there are other posts on that on this site.) Once you split up, you will only be able to care for the children when they are with you. You will have less power to influence their reality than you have now. Divorce will not be a solution to the problems related to the raising of the children. The only thing it will get you will be some distance from her. But since you care for you kids, and presumably will have some custody/parenting time, you will still be involved with her. Things might calm down eventually, but it’s likely you will be opening up yourself to extremes of drama in the short term certainly, and perhaps much longer, but, like I said, with less ability to influence outcomes.

      You are in a crappy situation and it will take all the detachment, perserverance and wisdom you can muster to negotiate your way through it. You also need to abandon hope that you can have a decent, peaceful relationship with this woman. She will always be the abusive wing-nut. Also, I sense you are not doing the homework you need to get the divorce you need. You should be laying the groundwork to get full custody. Sounds like you could have a case, but winning custody requires a special kind of battle plan and tons of stealth-mode preparation.

      One thing that will help and that you need to start doing right away is to stop sentimentalizing and idealizing her and the marriage. You had to leave her briefly BEFORE you were married. Serious problems were there from the beginning.

      Also you write: “I feel like I love her, else I wouldn’t have stayed in the relationship this long.” Well, there are plenty of reasons people stay in bad relationships and they’re not always about love. Maybe you like being a rescuer. Maybe you get a sense of self-worth from noble suffering and giving endless forgiveness. Maybe you can only imagine being ‘loved’ by someone who’s a mess. I don’t know…I’m just saying there are lots of reasons besides love, and you should ask yourself what secondary gains you’ve been getting out this situation. Getting a handle on that will help you understand your role and help you see her more clearly for the crazy and destructive person she is, her occasional flashes of wonderfulness notwithstanding.


  14. peter
    May 24, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Wow this is so helpful I dated a women like this for one year (thank god) I thought I was going crazy it was like she wanted to turn me into a dick head she had to have constant drama.Its been three months and at first I felt guilty for giving up on her.She was so nice and kick ass at first then the nasty little comments started and she stoped doing things for me and with me and just loved shooting down every idea I had.She loved to make out and and turn me on out side but when we got home she would not do anything I think she just got a thrill form denying me.She was like a 33 year old brat she hated the word no and loved the word mine.She was a bitch and loved being mean any way she could towards me Im still hurt and feel used I just dont understand how this women can look me in the eye and tell me she loves me and then treat me like she did If you all got any tips on how to move on I could use them I know shes no good for me but some times I cant stop thinking of her

    • Skipper
      May 23, 2011 at 11:02 pm


      You hit the nail on the head when you said that your perception of the events of her getting a thrill out of denying you is deadly accurate and incredibly insightful on your part, a sign that your detachment has given you the clarity you need to see the situation in it’s true light.

      The truth is, there is a monster out there called repetition compulsion. Victims of abuse as well as others whom went through some trauma in their lives have this thing inside of them that causes them to repeat a situation from their past and this time they have the power and control that was denied to them when they didn’t have it way back whenever the events in that person’s life occurred.

      Her power comes from denying you and your reaction to her. The energy she bleeds from your painful longing feeds some sick black hole of lack of life inside of her that in order to feel alive, she must steal that energy and life from you because she herself lacks it inside of herself.

      This is the etiology of a personality disorder and the concept of what is known as narcissistic supply. Once you free yourself of the feelings of inadequacy and feeling somehow that you are to blame for her issues it is the most liberating awesome feeling of freedom one can ever experience.

      My “friend” never told her own mother about our friendship and in fact validated that I was one of a laundry list of men to whom she had acted a certain way towards and that the smartest thing I could ever do for myself was to forget about her and she went so far as to apologize for her own daughter’s incredibly cruel and sadistic behavior and that is a highly abnormal thing.

      Mother’s usually are genetically programmed to stand by their daughters and regardless if they are wrong, the present a unified front and she deals with her kid behind closed doors when the apparent threat (me) is past. It was incredibly revealing to me how many clues and signs I had missed along the way, I mean I reached out to find out if this person was even alive anymore, one day she just disappeared and I felt bad about the way things ended, she brought out the worst in me and I felt guilty for my actions towards her in the end, I turned into as much of a monster as she was.

      To hear those words from her own mother’s mouth validated each and every creepy there is something just not right here feeling I ever had about this woman from my experience of knowing her almost ten years.

      It was then that I realized that yes, indeed she fed off my pain and enjoyed working me up and sending me mixed messages and this was just some sick game she plays with men because something is seriously spiritually misaligned inside of herself.

      It is very liberating to finally understand that it’s not us.

      I spend my time on the one’s I can save and the next time I want to donate time to someone in need, I’ll volunteer my time at a soup kitchen and spare myself the misery of knowing someone who feeds off other’s pain.

      I grew stronger as a result of knowing her and in the end all the rage and anger I felt for her turned into a deep sense of sadness for someone whom will never live a normal life and will harm each and every partner she ever has, in the end it is her loss and her cross to bear.

      I have my scars and will for the rest of my life, but I’m still here and I survived her. Stay strong, with time comes perspective and strength and life gets better, I promise.

  15. John
    April 30, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Hi everyone,

    I’m in struggle town too. Last night it had all finally built up once again and for the second time i tried to break up with her. I said i’m not in love with her anymore and i’m unhappy and have been for a while. At first she got angry but after i ignored this she was in tears and begging for me to stay and saying anything like i’m the only one in her life who has stuck with her and she doesn’t know what she will do without me. She admitted to being a bitch to me and said she was so sorry for taking her issues she got from her childhood out on me. We are both young 20 and 21 but have been in a relationshop living with each other for a couple of years now. It has been going on for so long it has taken me a while to figure out that its not my fault that the relationship was failing all the time (the usual conclusion of most arguments). I have always been the one to avoid confrentation or avoid upsetting people. Its hard for me to just leave because we live in an isolated town which is far from her family and friends and i want to make sure she will be safe. I feel like I have duty of care to make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid. She called her mother who she has never told anything about our arguments who recommended we give each other some space and talk about it again later. I like her family in that they have always treated me like their own son and they know i wouldn’t be doing this if i did not have a good reason. She will even come and get my girlfriend if need be. Space is a hard issue for my girlfriend and she cried the whole night and all morning before i came to work, i had to tell her i would be coming home for lunch so she would go back inside the house. She has told me that she knows its her fault and she will get a job and go back to counselling to try and fix things. I still don’t know what to do, the emotional detachemnet worked great in keeping my head straight last night but after a whole night of her crying and not eating or drinking anything I’m starting to feel like the bad guy again which i know is not right. I want to give her a chance because she has not tried councelling before and when she used to have a job and friends i guess i was a bit more free. Emotional detachment is essential for figuring out what to do for yourself and would not have been able to do it without this website. thanks for the help.

    • Mellaril
      April 30, 2010 at 2:38 am

      It sounds like you haven’t quite made up your mind yet. Some of the things you said reminded me of another blog, “BORDERLINE WAIFS AND UNSUNG HEROES;
      Rescuing The Woman Who Doesn’t Want To Be Saved” at http://gettinbetter.com/waif.html. It’s a different grouping of the information you’ll find here.

      Your statements “It has been going on for so long it has taken me a while to figure out that its not my fault that the relationship was failing all the time (the usual conclusion of most arguments). I have always been the one to avoid confrentation or avoid upsetting people. Its hard for me to just leave because we live in an isolated town which is far from her family and friends and i want to make sure she will be safe. I feel like I have duty of care to make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid” fit right in.

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