Abusive Women, Cults, Brainwashing and Deprogramming, Part II

In Abusive Women, Cults, Brainwashing and Deprogramming, Part I, I discussed the shared characteristics of cult victims and abused men and the similarities between abusive women’s courtship behaviors and cult recruitment. This post explains common techniques cults and emotional predators use to break you down and control you.

Techniques Used by Cults and Abusive Women

1. Isolation. Emotional predators and cult recruiters isolate you from the outside world. They make you totally dependent upon them, which makes you more susceptible to their distorted reality and other abusive behaviors. They “cut [you] off from the outside world. . . to produce intense introspection, confusion, loss of perspective and a distorted sense of reality. The members of the cult become the person’s only social contact and feedback mechanism” (Layton).

Sound familiar?

Abusive intimate partners isolate you in a multitude of ways. For example, they explicitly forbid you from seeing or speaking with your friends and family. They start smear campaigns against them –“Your family is so controlling. They’re dysfunctional. It’s unhealthy for us to be around them. Your friends are a bad influence. They’re disrespectful to me. They’re trying to break us up. It’s me or them.

They schedule activities or plan crises that conflict with holidays or special occasions — e.g., she gets a migraine when you’re supposed to have dinner with your parents or desperately needs your help when you’re supposed to go out with your friends. Spending time with friends and family means you don’t really care about her, don’t respect her, she’s not important to you, you’re a momma’s boy, you’re an immature jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.

2. Thought Stopping. Cults use methods like chanting, meditating and repetitive activities to induce a state of suggestibility and to help the target shut off their ability to engage in critical thinking. Abusive women use non-stop talking, verbal tirades, rage episodes, chanting and withdrawing in cold silence which causes you to obsessively ruminate about what you did to upset her rather than wondering what the hell is wrong with her.

Thought stopping techniques include anything that gets you to turn off your better judgment, reasoning and any counter narratives such as, “This is nuts and I need to get out of here.”

3. Induced Dependency. “Cults demand absolute, unquestioning devotion, loyalty and submission. A cult member’s sense of self is systematically destroyed. Ultimately, feelings of worthlessness and “evil” become associated with independence and critical thinking, and feelings of warmth and love become associated with unquestioning submission” (Layton). The same is true of abusive relationships. Taking care of yourself and healthy pursuits are seen as a betrayal to her. Love means control.

Inducing dependency employs several techniques including:

a. Fear and Guilt. This involves sharing secrets, fears and other intimate “confessions.” Abusers use this information to create instant intimacy and to keep their targets in an emotionally vulnerable state by using covert and overt threats and alternating punishment and reward. She accomplishes this by:

  • Punishing you for any doubts, challenges to her “authority” and your ties to friends, family and colleagues through criticism and alienation. They are bad and you are bad if you continue these associations. You are bad if you question, challenge or disagree with her. She turns everything around so that you feel bad for speaking the truth and pointing out the facts of a situation. To quote a client’s wife, “The truth is mean. Facts are mean.” She was saying this in the face of being confronted by her own behavior. I kid you not. I heard the audio recording. You receive “love” or are “rewarded” (or aren’t actively abused) when you renounce your other relationships and your own will.
  • Making you feel bad, embarrassed, worthless, ashamed, guilty or afraid to express any special skills, talents or gifts you have. They’ll punish you for being creative, musical, outgoing, funny, business savvy, competent or any quality you possess that makes you feel good and that she envies. This causes identity confusion and diminishes your self-worth.
  • Alternating love and praise with contempt and punishment to keep you unbalanced and confused. This creates feelings of self-doubt and a desire to “work harder” to please her. It also makes you cling to belief that the kind and loving person is her real self and that the abusive behaviors are an aberration. In reality, the opposite is true.
  • Making you publicly confess your “sins.” This subjects you to public scorn and ridicule, which induces self-doubt, shame and a sense of worthlessness. You are loved again when you publicly commit to devoting yourself to her and her happiness. Several men have told me they were coerced into making public confessions about how they “wronged” or “sinned” against their girlfriend/wife via Facebook and other social media websites. It’s crazy. They did it in a vain attempt to finally prove how much they loved these women. If your partner wants you to publicly shame yourself, you need to end the relationship. This is beyond abusive. A person who really loves you protects you from public scorn; they don’t subject you to it.
  • Putting you in no-win situations. Creating double-binds to ensure that you fail. No matter what you do, you’re wrong. This creates a sense of learned helplessness and increases your dependency.
  • Punishing you for the sins of others. If your mother is disrespectful to her, it’s your fault. If the kids are misbehaving, it’s your fault. If one of the other school mothers snubs her, it’s your fault. If something doesn’t go her way it’s your fault. If anything goes wrong, it’s your fault.
  • Holding you to unrealistic and super-human expectations of perfection. This keeps you in a perpetual state of jumping through hoops in order to make yourself worthy of her. When in reality nothing you ever do will be good enough. You will never measure up.

b. Sensory Overload and Deprivation. She dismantles your self-perceptions, beliefs and values by telling you that you’re wrong, bad, sick, dysfunctional, angry, selfish or evil. She then feeds you her version of reality — how you should feel and how you should act “if you really love me…” or “a real man would…” — in a relentless torrent with little or no chance for critical examination. She accomplishes this by:

  • Making you account for every minute of your time and monopolizing your time. You have no time to yourself or with others. If you’re not actively paying attention to her, you’re performing tasks for her. This leaves you little time to focus on yourself or to engage in effective reality testing.
  • Criticizing everything you do. This includes criticizing what you eat, how you eat, what you wear, how you talk, how you laugh, how you take care of the children, how you drive, how you do the dishes, how you fold the laundry, how much money you make, how undesirable you are, etc.
  • Stripping away your autonomy. She decides where you’ll go on vacation, how to discipline the children and how to spend the money you earn. When she gives you the illusion of choice, it’s usually a set-up for failure or disappointment. Alternatively, she doesn’t offer suggestions. When you ask for guidance, she makes you feel stupid for not intuitively knowing what she wants you to do.
  • Depriving you of sleep, sustenance and other basic physiological and safety needs. This includes sex, money, shelter, stability, material resources and emotional support. This keeps you destabilized and vulnerable.
  • Taking control of your finances including credit cards, bank accounts, stocks and other assets and making you account for every nickel you spend. Taking charge of the finances is another control technique. If she controls the cash or you’re worried about losing your assets, it makes it difficult for you to leave. If you try to hold her financially accountable, she accuses you of being controlling.

4. A Sense of Dread. Once dependency is induced, you develop a persistent sense of dread. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and are hyper-vigilant to triggering the displeasure or wrath of your “leader.” If you don’t keep her happy — an impossible task, by the way, she makes your life a living hell.

She rages at you, belittles you, denies you affection or ignores you as if you don’t exist. Because she’s isolated you, you may not feel like there’s anyone you can turn to for support. You probably believe no one else will ever love you and that you couldn’t live without her. You try to “act right” and learn how not to trigger her.

“Indoctrination, or thought reform, is a long process that never really ends. Members are continually subjected to these techniques. . . Some adjust well to it after a period of time, embracing their new role as “group member” and casting aside their old sense of independence. For others, it’s a perpetually stressful existence” (Layton). Many men become desensitized to the abusive behaviors and let the fear of real and imagined punishment keep them stuck. Breaking free of a cult or an abusive relationship can be difficult and often terrifying, but it must be done if you want a chance at health and happiness.

Next week, I’ll explore different ways to “break the spell” and free yourself abusive partner’s control. Meanwhile, I repeat, don’t drink the Kool-Aid.


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  1. A Lonely Dad
    March 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have a different kind of a situation. I have a daughter-in-law (DIL), married to my wife’s son, that is and has been working me over for over 2 years!! In Sept. of 2009 she sent me quite a few E-mails bragging of her deeds exploits, making me out to be some kind of freak to my wife’s other 3 children. What has transpired is beyond belief!! My wife who has always benn wonderful, after getting the “business” from not only the DIL but also from her children, from the DIL, flipped out!! After having a great tradgedy in June 2009 (My son hung himself) DIL has really outdid herself, going as far as to say that I “May not have put the rope around his neck, but I killed him just the same”.. This has gotten so disjointed that my wife and I are now living apart, in the process of divorce. The lies that DIL works up and gets my wife and her kids into just go on and on. The wife is starting to get a handle on this, but with DIL coming at her from all of her children it is quite a thing to grasp. I am quite sure that DIL will stop at nothing to further her “cause” as she is also using her children to terrorize myself and my wife, all the while putting on the RITZ that she is all wonderful, all good. My wife and I have had a great 9 years together until this DIL decided that things were too nice for us. She has even threatened my wife that if she doesn’t follow DIL’s program she will not allow my wife to see the grandchildren or her son. This is very powerful medicine to a loving, caring, kind,normal, grandmother, woman. Another kicker to all of this is that wife went to see Father Bob, a huge NARCISSIST, who mis doing all he can to “control” the situation to his favor, unfortunately neither the wife’s nor mine. What a mess!! Happily though the wife is starting to come out of the fog, and I hope for the best. These people are very heartless and get the greatest joy and satisfaction out of destroying other’s lives.

    • Mellaril
      March 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about both your son and your marriage.

      September 16, 2010 at 10:18 am

      Sue her, keep all e-mails and record all phone calls.

  2. Almost_Free
    March 20, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I’ve been reading all the information on this site. Absolutely fantastic.

    When you mentioned “Momma’s Boy”, I just had to write. Anytime I tried to do anything with my folks, I was labeled this and told that I put them above her.

    The “migraine” example is so true -it was always around my family’s events – never hers!

    You are dead-on with these articles.

    Keep up the great work.

    • Brady
      March 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm

      Same here… my X hated going to any functions dealing with my family… I remember one Christmas we were supposed to go to my parents and she slipped on the stairs (wearing slippers I had gotten as a present) and threw a fit as if it were my fault it happened. She was in too much pain to make it to my parents but somehow felt better to make it over to her mom’s later.

  3. tannen
    March 20, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Excellent articles (1 & 2) once again, Doc T. The scales are steadily falling from my eyes. Thanks for blog, I’ve learned much in the last 5 months reading your archives. Keep up the good work!

  4. anonymous
    March 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Fantastic article Dr. T. You nailed it yet again. The funny thing about reading this particular series is how it connects and culminates all of the research I’ve been doing for the past year or so. The connections between abusive relationships and cults are staggering. And once you start researching into how prevalent cult and cult-like groups are in our current societal structure – you’ll be amazed. In my particular case, the irony is not lost on me. My ex-NPD/BPD girlfriend was actually drawn to and involved in what I have come to understand to be cult-like organizations. For a period of time, she even tried to recruit me into the group insisting that it will help me to be “a better communicator” and that “If I loved her, and wanted the best relationship possible” I’d join the ******** ***** group. Of course, I would always counter with, “Why is it that YOU are the only one that seems to think I have communication issues? My job is completely dependent on my being a good communicator. That doesn’t make any sense…” I never did join.
    In a way, I feel kind of sorry for her because she was drawn into this same group originally by her mother – who definitely has issues of her own. So, I really don’t think that she had much of an objective viewpoint to be able to see what she’s really involved in. I think the brainwashing had gone that deep. And yet, on another level, I think it might be some of that same brainwashing that taught her how to treat people in her life. The abusive tactics she used on me are exactly the ones you’ve described in this article. Frightening and eerie to read about it – and then, as you research it further, you find that pretty much ALL coercive groups use these methods for the one simple reason: they work.
    Just glad that I got out when I did. It took me a long time to recover from that experience. But I can only imagine how much longer it would have taken had I actually drank some of the kool-aid that she was drinking.
    Thanks again Dr. T.

    • jp
      March 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      Just curious, why not name the organization? Your identity is protected by your screen name so I don’t see the harm.

      • anonymous
        March 20, 2010 at 6:34 pm

        true enough. She was involved with Landmark Education. Otherwise known as “the Forum”. A very dangerous group.

        • jp
          March 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm

          Ha…my BPD older sister’s into that now. Before that it was Christian Science, before that, aroma therapy, then chrystal healing, then wicca, then Silva Mind Control, all the way back to high school. I’m sure I’m leaving a few out.

          What do they have in common? They fed her fantasy (for a while) that she has magical healing powers (all the while being a raging bully) instead of, you know, actually learning a skill and making a contrubution.

          Her spiritual journey was underwritten, of course, by a succession of husbands who, in addition to shouldering all the financial burdens of home and children, had to endure her endless criticisms for being insufficiently spiritual. lol.

          Years ago, when our mother was in a coma in the ICU from a head injury sustained in a car crash and her recovery far from likely, my sister insisted on laying crystals on her chest, rubbing cucumber oil on her feet, and making up incantations on the fly about feeling the white light, lol.

          Besides embarrasing family and staff, she got in the way of the hospital personnel who were trying to give actual reality-based care. Why they didn’t kick her out of the ICU is a mystery that I ponder to this day.

        • Mellaril
          March 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

          I guess answers are where you find it. My ex-gf paid for astrological birth chart on me (very positive), had a Tarot Card reading done for us as a couple (the gypsy said she’d
          “never seen such chaos in a reading” and “didn’t know how we had been friends let alone lovers”) and underwent a Past Life Regression (she was the village crone). All this from a woman who had a BA in Psych and a Masters in Nursing.

        • Chris
          March 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

          I just saw an excellent article about The Forum (formerly EST) in MotherJones. Here’s a link:


  5. Alnico
    March 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    “Spending time with friends and family means you don’t really care about her, don’t respect her, she’s not important to you, you’re a momma’s boy, you’re an immature jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.”

    This describes my relationship with my ex. Except that she was sexually demanding to me, which makes it double embarassing to talk about. I actually had a pastor ask me if I was gay when I told him our relationship was so bad I did not want to have sex with her…

    • Born Free
      March 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      I have not wanted to have sex with her for six month now, and definitely not gay. Actually, since I started the break-up process I have insisted that we sleep in different beds and different rooms. Till I started insisting on this I was getting a cold shoulder from her. Now, as she senses that she is losing me for good, her behavior is ultra nice and tries everything to get me sleeping next to her. I am sorry, but that ship has sailed.

      I am much happier when I am on my own. In the future perhaps I will share my bed with someone, but right now am very glad that I am setting boundaries based on what I want.

      • Ron
        March 22, 2010 at 11:18 am

        It truly is a relief, albeit lonely, to get a seperate bedroom. Amazing, my XW is pretty good looking. But, I lost all desire due to her abuse, particularly the emasculating stuff( a real confidence booster).

      • eraserhead
        March 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

        Wow. It’s some of a relief to hear that I wasn’t the only one to go through this. I couldn’t stand the idea of having sex with XN towards the end of my relationship. How could I want to be intimate with a women that completely drained me of life on a daily basis. The only time she was nice to me was when she wanted some action. Otherwise it was head game .. and well you all what its all. :) I too ended up sleeping in the spare room.

      • KO
        March 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

        Yep, a sadistic-masochistic sex attitude can only go so far.

        Can’t use spices as substitute for nutritious food.

        • skip
          May 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

          Real S&M is about trust and not a vehicle by which someone uses it as an excuse to literally murder your soul and make you feel bad about yourself for wanting a healthy way of connecting to them.

          It’s amazing how someone who hurts you and plays games with your head will actually wonder for a split second why I wouldn’t have any desire to sleep with them.

          In my case it was the carrot on the string routine, but eventually I no longer was turned on in any way shape or form by this person and it wasn’t because of how they looked. They were just an ugly human being that enjoyed hurting people and got a sick thrill out of doing so.

          T was really messed up and once I no longer wanted the one thing she felt she could use against me and I really paid attention to how hurtful she was on a regular basis, I was no longer under her spell and she dropped me like a hot potato.

          Strangely enough I wondered what had happened to her and contacted her mother, and her own mother laid it out to me that she just does this to guys and I was one of many who she preyed upon.

          It was very interesting to hear from this young woman’s own mother the depths of her deception, even within her own family.

          I was in contact with her for almost 5 years and she never mentioned that fact to her mother, it was a revelation that I wasn’t dealing with someone with a full deck and leaving her alone was the best damn thing I could have ever done for myself.

          That conversation completely eliminated my doubts that I made the wrong decision by cutting her completely out of my life.

          I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but if a girl just sucks and is an *sshole, I don’t find that very sexy.

          I find zero desire to want to be with someone who hides me from her friends, lies to me about who she really is and mind-f*cks me and plays psycho-babble to try to make the truth about the matter seem like something that just wasn’t.

          I laugh at her stupid games now and feel sorry for the poor SOBs that fall for her crap.

          This person was sick and cruel and played hurtful nasty evil disgusting games to amuse themselves and I don’t regret at all not being around or in contact with a person like that.

          I actually feel sorry for her. I used to be very angry towards her but the only I can feel these days is total pity and indifference towards where she is, who she’s doing, what she’s wearing, I think she’s just gross as a person and that is my final answer.

  6. Chem_geek
    March 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    jp :I fought against this for years when we were together, btw. I pushed back constantly. She’d say, ‘why do you always make a stink about the littlest things?’ etc. I told her I had three choices: 1) do nothing and become her handpuppet, 2) push back and cause an argument everytime she treated me like a helpless idiot, making it so unpleasent for her to do it that eventually she would stop, or 3) get divorced. I couldn’t do #1, and #2 didn’t work, so eventually, after years, it became #3.

    An illuminating question would be to reply to that with, “Why do you make a stink about those little things?”

    Not that the answer would make any sense…

    • Mellaril
      March 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm

      “It’s different when I do it.” – I got that answer for any number of questions I asked.

    • jp
      March 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm

      Believe me, I asked that question and a million more like it. She framed everything in terms of her anxiety and that I needed to just understand that all she was looking for was reassurance. Which I can accept up to a point, but the fact is when your partner CONSTANTLY treats you like a retarded infant for years it chips away at your self-esteem and sense of self, I don’t care how competent or confident you are out of the gate.

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:54 am

      Good one, Chem geek, but you’re right. The answer probably wouldn’t make any sense.

  7. Alex
    March 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I have a fairly unique problem with my ex, who i *know* in my gut is a serious chronic abuser. She’s incredibly smart. In fact, i’ve gone through everything and am absolutely sure i’ve been abused, brainwashed, messed around and treated like crap by. I began to recognise the signs in the last third of our relationship (a year or so) and even 48hrs with no-contact helps me to see clearly and trust myself again.

    I am slowly coming out of denial but it’s made so much more difficult and confusing by the fact that..

    Her thinking, what she’s done and the way she is, SOUNDS healthy. She’s doing and done what a normal healthy person SHOULD do if they are in a bad situation with an abuser. She appears to be doing everything i should be doing, almost for me.

    We had talked about BPD and depression when i tried to work out what was going on. When she was down she appeased me with my strong “boundary-setting” (not exactly strong btw) saying she realised she was abusive. It never lasted.

    She broke up with me because we were in the “bad situation” of an “unhealthy relationship”. She wasn’t happy because we “aren’t right for each other” and couldn’t take any more, due to arguing all the time (never mind she started all the arguments with her provoking a reaction every time). After having plenty of “just be single” support from her friends, she finally left me very dramatically in Jan (i couldn’t leave her even though i wanted to), moved to the other end of the country and got her life back “for her own happiness” within a few weeks with a new job, flat and life plan. She minimised it constantly as a normal break up that was really dramatic.

    But within a few weeks (Feb), she started to crumble, and it started all over again (1000+ texts in a month etc). No contact sent her absolutely crazy. She pulled me back in and pushed us back together, and twisted/turned for weeks while making a “final decision” that i should live with her in her new place as a fresh start. After we spent some time together in March she pulled the rug from under me the night before i was due to leave, saying she was “listening to her gut” that things would go wrong, she wanted to be on her own for her own happiness, that we had “tried to make things work” but a “totally final” decision that we weren’t right for each other and i needed to “walk away”.

    The separation was calm, formal, clinical and “healthy”-sounding. At weak moments she’s admitted she needs help, wants counselling, has said “i end up projecting my self-loathing onto you”. It was the same “break-up” routine she did the first time round a month later, although like a healthy person – someone who tried it, but when they did, it firmed up their original decision. It would be normal, but the craziness of it in between the 2 incidences makes me believe it’s abusive and bunny boiler extremes of emotion.

    She has now closed off and gone no-contact from me as she “doesn’t want to get sucked back into all of this”. Just as i should have done with her. It’s like she’s mirroring and dispatching everything i should do and exactly what a healthy person would do in abuse recovery. It’s like she’s being me and what i am supposed to be. Almost as if she’s read everything on this site, although i know its like she’s following her friends/family advice to “do the right thing” because the situation is “unhealthy”. She is “so clear away from me”, says she has “come back to me so many times because she hasn’t want to hurt me” (no, actually just crazily dependent) and is almost doing it for me.

    She has minimised the craziness and it’s simple for her, just a normal thing. Waivering in her decisions and choosing against them in the end. But the emotional drama rollercoaster that accompanies them is so painful and chaotic.It is massively abusive. I know from 9+ months of dealing with her that i have been suffering constant emotional abuse, control freakery and slow, steady brainwashing. She completely refuses to accept she is abusive and never wants to be with anyone who believes she is, when she’s not.

    Her past seems healthy but i know it’s not. She’s regularly had clean breaks from people that she portrays as normal and is happy being single on her own for long periods. She’s not promiscuous, is very smart, appears well balanced. On the surface for all to see, she is doing the right thing. And i am convincing myself she’s normal.

    She appears to be doing exactly the healthy thing that a healthy person would and should do, but i absolutely KNOW 100% she is an abuser from my counselling and dozens of pages of examination/journal writing on it. Not to mention what my own head and gut say, and how it’s affected me. She sounds so normal and healthy, but i know she’s not. It’s massively confusing because she is almost like a schizophrenic – one half is normal/healthy, the other is emotionally crazy. It’s making me feel like i’m going crazy again as her abuser and it’s me who has the problem because i’m not recovering like she is. She talks the healthy talk, but now appears to be walking the walk, and it’s making me nuts. I feel like she’s being the consumate actress and trying to be normal.

    In my gut i know the cycle is going to come around again when she tries to draw me in, but i can’t work out what’s going on so i know how to deal with it again when she does.

    She is a crazy person who is doing the right thing. How is it possible someone i know is seriously controlling, abusive and unstable appear to finally have such sound and healthy reasoning, and doing what i should be doing for my own good?

    • finallywokeup
      March 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

      Alex, this sounds familiar. My xw seemed, on the surface, to be “doing all the right things” as far as other people might see. She began a quiet campaign telling key relatives and friends that I was verbally abusive; she sued and then left me for a “separation”; she journaled against me; she went secretly to counselors of her own choosing for validation, etc. She read books.

      But, behind the scenes, she controlled and manipulated the finances to her advantage; she slept all day and drank herself to a stupor at night; she refused to work and also refused to keep house; she neglected our child and pressured me to get rid of her to an adoption agency; she melted down periodically and screamed real verbal abuse/threats at me; she cold-shouldered me for weeks at a time if I dared criticize or complain about any of the above; she routinely threatened me with separation for not earning enough, or

      • finallywokeup
        March 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

        … said she didn’t love or like me anymore, etc. The “separation” was permanent (her lawyer accidentally let that one out to mine), but she publicly portrayed it as trying “to save the marriage”. Meanwhile she was seeing someone else and was feverishly setting up her new life without me.

        When I got a lawyer and a real counselor involved, my lawyer caught on to her right away, her own lawyer apparently could not figure her out (he said so), and the female counselor told her that SHE was the one with problems.

        Meanwhile she was successfully able to hide the fact that she had left me and our child from most of her daily social circle for months!

        These women are chameleons, and instinctive liars not only to everyone else BUT ALSO TO THEMSELVES. They are masters at putting on a fake image to the public. They know how to do it, they have spent their whole lives perfecting their craft. Only those living with them get to see behind the curtain. When THEY are trying to destroy you, they “project” what they are doing to make YOU appear to be the destructive and crazy one. Superficially they say the right things, they read the right books, they appear to take all the action that an abused person would do, in order to simultaneously make you look bad and cover their tracks.

        It makes you feel crazy. But it seems to be the way they operate. And once you are away from it, it is much easier to piece together.

        Good luck. Get the opinion of a lawyer and a counselor if you feel isolated, it might help.

        • Alex
          March 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

          Thanks so much. It’s amazing how it works. She split up with me, and deliberately, because of how “unsure” she was about the relationship and all the things i was doing to make her unhappy (which eventually became the reason that she needed to do it for her own happiness). I wonder if she read books on it or how much research she’s been doing on here. The smear campaign has been very hidden though, as it’s only to close friends and relatives, but vicious nonetheless.

          She’s been talking about counselling for months and seems desperate to get into it because of her depression, which is hopeful. That’s the confusing bit – she knows she is a real mess, and wants to get help. That’s what keeps you hooked in.

    • jp
      March 20, 2010 at 11:37 pm


      I know exactly what you’re talking about…her chin-up-in-air, boundry-setting, healthy-seeming departure leaves you feeling confused and doubting yourself. She seems instantly powerful and her aura of strength makes you feel diminished.

      I think part of it is that if our self esteem is low we tend to idealize people who reject us. (And someone’s strong moving-on behavior can easily be experienced as rejection on top of the rejection of being dumped. Plus, you see how easy it is for her and you wonder, did she ever care about me?)

      Have confidence in your own reality. You were close to her. You’re the one that knows what she’s like in an intimate relationship, not her girlfriends, not her therapist, not her lawyer, not her family. Intellect aside, if your gut tells you she was abusive to you, then she was. The fact that she can put on a nice show when she walks away doesn’t change that fact. If she demonizes or dehumanizes you and makes everyone believe you’re an abuser, it doesn’t change that fact. Even if you were an a$$hole to her at the end, or messed up and did something to break the relationship, it still doesn’t change that fact.


      • jp
        March 21, 2010 at 12:16 am

        Alex, re-reading your post just reminded me of a couple more points.

        When my ex and first split, 4 yrs ago, she decided I had NPD and after emailing me some links to articles, etc., began referring in emails to “my illness” as a matter of course.

        I felt so guilty about leaving her and some stuff I’d done that I was ready to believe anything. So I asked my old therapist (retired) who’d known me for 20 years AND my then current shrink–they had over 60 yrs of experience between them–if I had NPD and they both literally laughed out loud.

        Eventually my ex stopped with the NPD/”your illness” language, but she continues to this day to treat me like a mental patient. Sometimes it still rattles my cage even though I know it’s a hurtful and destructive power move designed to dehumanize and dominate me.

        It stinks when someone who’s known you for years decides to treat like someone you’re not. But I know it’s BS so I do my best to ignore it and do what I have to do.


        • Alex
          March 22, 2010 at 10:00 am

          Thanks JP. It’s only now i’m realising just how damaged and low my self-esteem is, and its so low its hard to find the motivation to get it back. I’m trying to tell myself one day at a time, and we’re on day 4 of no-contact so far (she’s only ever managed 3 days without going crazy with texts). I wanted to leave her so many times but just couldn’t find the strength. She eventually left me several times and she feels so much stronger than me.

          Last night i read a journal entry i did a year ago, and i could have written it yesterday. It was a huge turning point for me as i realised this is just who she is. Normal people do NOT behave like this. They keep you hooked in with the slim light of self-realisation/hope of change.

          All i feel is so much regret.

          • jp
            March 26, 2010 at 2:57 am


            My guess is you’ll keep feeling horrible as long as she still occupies the center of your thoughts as you try to make sense of all this.

            Forget about her. Accept that you’ll never have a neat, logically flawless theory or story that sums it all up in a way that leaves you feeling at peace and good about yourself.

            Accept that it’s the connection to her itself that leaves you feeling confused and diminished and not some personal failing or weakness.

            Whenever you start to ruminate about her force your mind to think instead about YOU. What do you want? Not just with respect to her and to healing from the relationship, but what do you want in the big picture? What do you want your life to look like ans what steps do you need to take to get there?

            The mind is habitual and it has to be thinking about something. You need to change the tape through deliberate mental action…it won’t change by itself.

            Your perception of her ‘strength’ is probably a distortion, but even if it isn’t, the way to get your personal power and self-esteem back is to mentally take her out of the equation and put yourself at the front and center of your life.


        • Chris
          March 22, 2010 at 7:24 pm

          My remedy to situations like this is to literally laugh out loud at my gf. When she starts saying crazy things like how she supports me (she doesn’t) or how “fucked up” I am because I won’t defend her bad behavior, I just start laughing with a kind of laugh that just says “Wow you’re crazy!”. I don’t actually respond verbally that much anymore because she will always find a way to twist and turn everything around. Laughing at her eases the my own tension without giving her too much ammunition. Then I find something else to do in another room.

        • Aapeli
          September 16, 2010 at 4:59 am

          “she continues to this day to treat me like a mental patient”

          Well, I get the “you are crazy” comment usually many times a week, maybe even many times a day (I lost count!)

          I have also been told that our neighbours think that I’m crazy and that they think that I am disabled! That’s “a fact” according to my “girlfriend”. Maybe I will go and ask our neighbours if it really is a fact, that would leave them confused I am sure of that.

          Maybe I am crazy, but it did not happen without her pushing me into it! LOL! Years of emotional abuse DOES work! LOL!

          But seriously, I think she is the one here who has an incurable problem, as I think I am depressed, but this is not permanent, it can be healed. But her problem, the NPD, is much harder to cure, it may in fact be impossible to cure. She will be stuck with it for the rest of her life, whilst I can go away and start getting better by getting healthier things to do and healthier company, i.e. “normal” people who won’t treat me like crap no matter what I do.

      • Ron
        March 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

        My first wife did this,as well.She convinced herself and others thatshe had acted as she had done(it was egregious),due to alcoholism.
        She began going to AA and ,eventually, became a CD couselor and ‘spiritual advisor”.
        This is a woman who is monstrously abusive.

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:46 am


      This woman is psychologically dangerous. Do your best to stay strong and do not let yourself be Hoovered back in to her twisted mindf-ckery.

      From your description, it sounds like she’s had just enough therapy or learned just enough jargon to be really, well, again, dangerous. She admits that she’s abusive in a rare moment of honesty and lucidity and then flips it.

      Ultimately, I suspect she knows she’s nuts and her role reversals are nothing more than the textbook BPD/NPD, “I’m going to abandon you before you abandon me, but because I can’t admit how messed up I am—even to myself—I’m going to make you out to be the whack-a-doo.” This is gaslighting to the 10th power.

      Change your number. Spam her emails. I also encourage you to get some professional support to get all this straight in your head so that you’re not vulnerable to her anymore. If you can’t find anyone to work with locally, contact me via email and I’ll work with you. Do not waste one more minute of your life with this woman. She will probably come back for more and I hope you don’t let her.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • Tim
        August 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

        Dr. Tara, do you still take on clients?

    • Ace
      April 15, 2010 at 10:55 am


      Very similar experience, but equally very similar in every detail to what Dr T has described in this personality type. In one of her responses to a woman placing a thread on this site Dr T, cut the thread into sections and explained the behaviour traits she was exhibiting, the members were WoW !! Dr T didn’t see that in there.

      You should re read your own thread, you answer as much as you ask and the common behaviour is there.

      My ex has been on and off over a 5 yr period, she’s always the one who pulls the plug. She always does the whole rebirth, head held high, look at me sort of thing, she has said to me before she does this anyway every now and then to re-invent herself. In her mind she changes her image, hair, clothes, make up etc. in reality anyone outside would say it’s exactly the same, she might change her hair by a shade you would not even notice. She will get a different style and 3 days later it’s the same.

      She’s had many failed relationships, 2 marriages and at least 3 other relationships I’m aware of. As has already been pointed out on the site, the last guy (you) was always the worst, that is until the next guy.

      She also changes job, location, in some instances country, she’s now lived in 22 different homes, childhood included.

      She posts pictures of the inside and outside on facebook everytime to show just how well balanced and perfect her life is to her 250+ facebook friends !!!! (Dr T profiled this behaviour in her networking piece) in reality she has no real friends, she has a group whom she can feel superior over, interestingly she has always to travel to them, they never travel to her. The one nearest to her own age whom she calls her best friend and sister is a very nice person but insecure and suffers from depression (Again classic Dr T profile) The rest range from 40 to 25yrs senior to her many are retired. They are pleased to have a young good looking lady their friend, they would never be judgmental on anything she says or does and of course always agree that ‘yes dear you’re better off without him’. I have seen her be unbelievably ruthless with girl friends her own age over nothing, casting them to the kerb, banished for ever. Usually because they see through her (again Dr T profiled) She strives very hard to project the perfectly successful single young female, also trying to project younger than she is. ( again aging process will be a lot more difficult for her profile type)

      But the reality is she’s far from it, she never does anything with extensive calculation and planning. She exits jobs when she feels threatened, though she’d project that they didn’t appreciate her etc. She does the whole melt down into uncontrollable crying wreck piece, she did that in the last job a few months before she left at a meeting where she was obviously receiving some criticism. She of course blamed me on that as she would not normally be like that but I was responsible for her state of mind !!

      So as you can see very similar and basically conforming to the profile.

      Currently we are in break up mode, I think I’m much stronger than previous occasions, largely because I’ve read up an awful lot more on this and understand it and appreciate I’m not alone .
      My friends certainly hope I wouldn’t entertain her again and none of them have ever even heard her verbal abuse, they have witnessed some of her actions and they merely see the effects it has on me.

      Interestingly in the last few days she blocked me & my kids from her facebook, there was no action to provoke this. I texted her asking why ? She said she’d sent a mail to the kids explaining that she dumped them so as I couldn’t see her ! yet she retained close male friends of mine ? Of course the mail to kids went on to exonerate her by saying ‘there are things about your Dad you don’t know and I can’t tell you as they’re adult issues )

      I get soles in the fact that as Dr T has pointed out several times, this type won’t change, next victim will likely have a worse time, she is getting worse with age and she rationilises her thoughts and actions to herself, no matter how deluded.

      I unfortunately do love the woman, or as pointed out ‘the ideal of the woman she could be’ I’ve tried for long enough to find that woman, but I don’t think I or anyone else ever will. I can’t say at this point I’d ever completely draw a line through her name as I convince myself that deep down she’s a good person and hope she’ll improve, but honestly the odds are stacked against it.

      Hope you see something in this that might help Alex,

      And thanks to Dr T & the members


    • sensitivity
      December 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      My answer: She is just faking it!

      Some BPD girls (like my sister), should get an Oscar prize for their perfect acting. DON’T FALL FOR IT, IT IS A TRAP! My BDP sister can be for months acting normal, seeming successful, and happy… until the sh*t hits the fan again. She will seem like she is doing the right things, acting as an adult, but once you get trapped, you get hurt again. Even if she appears to be the most loving and caring person of the universe, please don’t fall for it!

  8. March 19, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Just remember the one who cares the least “controls” the relationship. Or the most insecure ones control it.

    Knowing how they operte unload all their weaponry. Let´s make some donations! lol

  9. Christophe
    March 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Regarding Finances – I must confess that I pay most of the bills but in the past 6 months I refuse to give her much money in her hand because I figure that it’s one thing to be ridiculed and humiliated for free but to pay for it is adding insult to injury. There is little I can do to influence how she treats me but I can decide whether I give her money or not. I wish her family would question me about it so I could tell them why but they never do. Oh well.

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:36 am

      Good for you, Christophe! I don’t think you should reward bad behavior and that’s what handing money over to this kind of woman does—it rewards them.

      Perhaps her family hasn’t questioned you about it because they know what their darling daughter is like and don’t want to rock the boat since you’ve taken her off their hands.

      Dr T

  10. Nina
    March 18, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I really appreciate these articles, very well-written, clear. A thought and sort of a question about how an abusive woman controls the finances. The usual way that I see this described is that a person will take control over the finances, not giving the spouse any money. I keep wondering if there are other ways to control that don’t involve taking over the money and not giving it to the spouse. I think a woman might control indirectly if she has an overspending problem, keeping credit cards constantly maxed out, running up debt that can’t be easily or quickly paid, or getting a partner to agree to building projects or other big ticket items, like a room renovation or painting the house, or purchasing a fully-loaded car. Or possibly having credit cards she never tells the spouse about. It seems like these would also be ways to financially control someone, though they wouldn’t look as much like control as if a woman were to give only herself access to the bank accounts. More effective, in some ways, to run up debt and leave the other person trying to figure out how to pay for everything.

    • finallywokeup
      March 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

      Nina, my xw was the indirect control type. She had a banking background, and seemed to enjoy what I regarded as a chore (paying bills, balancing checkbooks, budgeting, etc.), so I let her do it. She also viewed herself as a great planner and budgeter, and frequently told me how much better she was at it. After a while she began paying herself a monthly “salary” for doing this. She made most of the big-ticket proposals (bigger house, new car, exercise equipment, vacation, country club membership), and my only questions was usually “can we afford it?” She would say yes, and I would say fine. I trusted her.

      But, before she left she began a campaign of “we’re in poverty”, and pushing me to make more money, while seeming to continue spending on herself. After she left, from the last tax return I got a glimpse of her dishonesty – credit cards opened up or names switched without my knowing; money stolen from kids’ savings; money stolen from family finances to give to high profile social groups where she was active, or to join groups I didn’t know about; a home equity withdrawal that was unclear as to what it paid for. She pressured/convinced me into opening the home equity line for reasons that weren’t terribly clear, and now I believe was part of a years’-long plan to buy herself out of the marriage. The various accounts also seemed to be rather neatly set up in terms of joint/individual ownership to let her cleanly take the assets she wanted.

      She spent A LOT of time fussing with financial stuff, on her computer, bent over her calculator, poring over statements in her “office”, making “budgets”. Probably a bad sign.

      I can only guess how much she might have stolen or socked away over the years, since I am no-contact with her, except that I hear from the kids that she lives pretty high for someone with a mediocre job.

      • finallywokeup
        March 19, 2010 at 11:33 am

        P.S. In her job she is in a financial control position.

        • Mellaril
          March 19, 2010 at 11:37 am

          If you really wanted to be stinky, you could drop a suggestion to her employer to do an audit. It may not only be your funds she was messing with.

      • Chris
        March 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm

        This sounds all too familiar. My gf claims she is great at keeping the finances in line but even after collecting half of the electric bill and half of the cell phone bill every month somehow they still get turned off. Then when it costs 5-6-700 dollars to get it turned back on I’m expected to pay half AGAIN. She claims to be broke all the time but she has a good job and I’m unemployed right now. Instead of helping me out (or just being fair) as I have done for her in the past she is bleeding my dry.

        • jp
          March 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

          At least you can attempt to enforce some kind of accountability. With child support, in my state, the ex wife is totally unaccountable…she’s under no obligation whatsoever to demonstrate where the money goes and it’s not based on what the expenses of the children actually are. It’s just a confiscation of a % of my income…the more I make, they more she can take. She doesn’t even have to work. She could quit her job and ask for MORE money.

          I pay her 2K per month, 40% of my after-tax, take-home pay, and she can do WHATEVER SHE WANTS with it. If I ask where it’s going it’s ‘harassment’.

          Do not marry your GF.

      • Henry
        March 24, 2010 at 8:01 pm

        My ex controlled the money for most our marriage. Towards the end I finally put my foot down and at least putting my salary in an account only I had access to (didn’t stop her from forging her name to my checks though!!!!)

        She claimed to be so good at budgeting but between late fees, reconnect fees, overdraft fees, and just wasteful spending, I probably lost tens of thousands of dollars (on a meager income) over 4-5 years.

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:28 am

      Hi Nina,

      You’re absolutely right re: running up debt and buying big ticket items. However, many men willing cede over control of the finances to their often non-working wives who open the accounts, transfer money around and make their husbands account for how much they spend and what they spend it on. Of course, none of their purchases are ever called into question.

      Many of the men I work with discover too late—in the divorce process—that their wives have basically embezzled money from their savings over the years. Emptying out accounts and opening new ones in their sister’s or mother’s names. This is one of the biggest mistakes men make with this kind of woman.

      Thanks for the important observations.

      Dr T

  11. Happy Now
    March 18, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Dr T, again a great post. It never ceases to amaze me how obvious it is as to who and what there are when you an look back. My xwife must have studied this at some kind of alternative university for women.

    She started to alienate me from my friends and my children – this process started within weeks. She disliked my friends and my children (although she had only met one on one occasion)…..but told me she always encouraged me to spend time with them….but that she would have to leave the house if they came over as they didnt like her (LOL).

    The lack of sleep was draining – and she knew it. She would rant as I was trying to sleep and then wake me up for a further rant every hour or so…this would go on for several nights.

    She would rant and rave if I was even a few minutes late home from work – but she would enjoy a social life that often excluded me……with the obvious follow up texts from guys etc..

    The most amazing part was how she manipulated her family and how they just seemed so ambivolent to this fact. She was only 34 and I was her 3rd husband (for only 7 weeks) – her former husband was only married to her for 8 weeks. Even when she assaulted me and was arrested, charged and pleaded guilty, her family simply blamed me and told her we simply were no match.

    Thank you for showing us all that we are not the only ones. For me it is now just one of lifes lessons – but reading posts such as yours does help, as does the posts from others who help to correct the distorted reality they try to indoctrinate.

    • chester
      March 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

      Funny thing about sleep…mine could start a fight in the late evening and get me so ramped up-sleep was impossible. After what seemed like seconds, she’d be snoring away….probably dreaming of pulling legs off little insects!!!

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:21 am

      Thanks, Happy Now.

      Ah, the disruption of sleep or, what I refer to as “midnight feedings”—all the better to keep you tired, weakened and disoriented. Many of my clients experience the very same phenomenon.

      Plus, their wives are the stay at home variety, which means they have all day in which to do nothing but sit and stew, then they unleash the daily build up of toxins onto you after you’ve had a hard day at work.

      Very glad you got out so quickly and that you’re “happy now.”

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  12. Almost There
    March 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Dr. Tara, thank you so much for #2 of this article. Are you a fly on a wall in my house? Almost everything you describe sounds like you are getting it directly from my life.


    Every friend I have ( even the ones before I met “her” ) are “not good friends” to me for one reason or another. I had a good friend who was actually the husband to HER friend. After a few years, they stopped getting along and so I couldn’t hang out with him anymore. We still text eachother now and again, but nothing more.

    Whenever I do anything with my guy friends outside the house, I will get text messages and phone calls throughout the evening. If I don’t reply within a certain time frame, I am assumed to be doing inappropriate things and probably have a girlfriend. She will throw in “don’t you want to know how YOUR kids are doing? Do you not care about us? I guess you don’t care as long as your get to have fun.” Family is the same way. I had a great childhood with two loving, supportive, married parents. SHE does not like them because they are too negative and don’t show enough appreciation to her.

    Thought Stopping

    I have never heard this phrase before today and it relieves me greatly that I am not the only one. I never know what to do right anymore. If I loved her I would do it her way to show my respect for her. Which variables should I take into account before I make a decision? If she is on her period, try this way. If she is having a bad day, do it a different way. If the price of lobster goes up considerably, do it another way… *brain explodes*

    If I have any advice for other guys out there, it’s trust the people that love you and care about you. Think of yourself as a horse with blinders. You only see what “she” wants you to see… while the people on the outside see it all.

    • KO
      March 28, 2010 at 7:16 pm

      RE: Thought Stopping

      I thought she was meditating. Actually she tried to cancel all thought: instead of detaching from the flow of thoughts and perceiving that thought and reality can and often do differ, and that thought is just another tool to understand reality, just as falleable as all the other senses.

      Next time I see meditation, i hope not to confuse it with thought stopping….

      Thank you, Dr. T!

    • shrink4men
      March 31, 2010 at 12:13 am

      Hi Almost There,

      You’re welcome. The behaviors you describe rarely get better. Once of the worst things you can do is let this kind of person isolate you from your family and friends. She will continue to give you a ration of sh*t for it, but maintain these connections. They’ll prove invaluable once you finally decide to get out.

      Love the line about the price of lobster going up, by the way.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

  13. Janice
    March 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Dr. Tara: Again, — thank you thank you thank you for all you’ve done on this website!!!! I cannot even begin to tell you how much you’ve helped my son. Your counsel, along with the support of his family and his religious upbringing, has helped him immensely in breaking away from this monster! You have given him (and us) insight that we would not have had in order for him to break away. May God richly bless you for your ministry of helping others who are held hostage in these abusive relationships. (I just donated to this website under my ‘real’ name to help the cause!)

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:33 pm

      Hi Janice,

      You’re very welcome! I’m delighted to read your son got out and is regaining his life. Thank you as well for you very kind and generous donation. It means a great deal to me to know that people value my work and that I’m making a difference.

      My best to you and your family.

      With Gratitude,
      Dr Tara

  14. jp
    March 18, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I’m also told that I think too slowly, because when she does ask something, I’m thinking ahead, trying to figure out what to say two or three cycles down the line, to avert lines of attack and so forth.

    You described that perfectly.

    I lived that for years. It was awful. Your mind locks up with the mental gymnastics of trying to anticipate what she wants so you don’t have to endure being corrected or criticized, or to have to go through the time-killing and demeaning hassle of having to pre-explain or justify and defend every little on-the-fly decision you need to make in the course of normal human functioning, like which parking spot to pick or exactly how many feet behind you it’s ok to let the dog walk. That kind of control is confusing, emasculating, disrespectful, depressing, and contemptuous.

    After we split up it was months before I stopped hearing her voice in my head criticizing every mundane decision I had to make. It was onbly then I realized how deep the damage was. If their control came on suddenly you’d tell her to get lost and move on, but it comes on slowly, disguised as love at first, and over time erodes your sense of yourself as a competent grownup man no matter how much evidence there is to support the fact that you are.

    I’m fine now. What’s amazing is how clearly I can see it all now that I’ve had almost 4 yrs of time and distance from her. I still see her every other day for kid pickup/dropoffs that last for a minute or more, and she still can’t help herself. If, for example, I mention anything that I did with the kids, she has to say something implying there was a better way to do it. If she manages to keep her mouth closed it comes through in snarky body language anyway. Yesterday we had conferences with the kids’ teachers…I start to make a comment to one teacher and she interrupts me and qualifies what I’m saying, as if I–at 44, an educated professional–can’t communicate effectively with the 25 yr old teacher.

    It’s constant and relentless. I experienced it for half my adult life and I know it’s coming and yet, even now, I’m still surprised at the extent and inevitability of it. It’s totally absurd really, and she refuses to see any of it. She believes everyone else around here is an idiot or at best not as good at ‘planning’ at her, and only she knows the right way to handle every situation now matter how trivial. And she believes this incredible ability she has, this prescience, is a tragic burden she has to bear.

    I fought against this for years when we were together, btw. I pushed back constantly. She’d say, ‘why do you always make a stink about the littlest things?’ etc. I told her I had three choices: 1) do nothing and become her handpuppet, 2) push back and cause an argument everytime she treated me like a helpless idiot, making it so unpleasent for her to do it that eventually she would stop, or 3) get divorced. I couldn’t do #1, and #2 didn’t work, so eventually, after years, it became #3.


    • Karen
      March 18, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Wow – really, really well aritculated. Thank you. This mirrors my experience with my former friend perfectly. The scary part is – for a long time, I genuinely thought she was better and more capable at parking the car (or whatever mundane task of the moment came up) than I was, and that I was just hopelessly wrong about (fill in the blank). It’s still occasionally sort of mind blowing to understand that it was all some kind of illusion – and I’ve been away from her for more than a year now. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to type this out. It’s really comforting to hear when someone has such a similar experience.

      • Verbal
        March 19, 2010 at 3:32 am

        What is it about Cluster B’s and parking the car? As soon as i pull into a parking lot, she is directing me to where I need to park. Her goal is to find the absolute best spot in the lot. In the time it takes her to drive around finding the optimum parking space, I can park in a pretty good spot, walk into the restaurant, and order drinks.

        • Mellaril
          March 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

          Check out the forum on crazy things we’ve done for them. The discussion on Cluster Bs and the dishwasher had me in stitches.

        • Bob194
          April 27, 2010 at 5:21 pm

          I can’t believe this discussion about parking spots–it is “spot” on! I was accused most recently of being a “control freak” because I pulled into the closest spot to a bookstore, rather than where we “usually” park!

          I’ve been trying to figure this out, and can only imagine it has to do with physical safety?–some places feel safer and others she would feel more vulnerable?

          And here’s a new one re: dogs–I don’t pick it up the right way like she does, folding the plastic bag in two!


      • Aapeli
        August 6, 2010 at 2:30 am

        Hah. In the first couple of years of living together with my NPD girlfriend, if we would need to go somewhere together *using her car*, she would often have massive problems with something I did if I was driving. Like, she would start yelling at me already before we got out of our parking lot. I would get the car ready so it would be easier for her to step into it and then she would scream at me “WHY ARE YOU DRIVING! IT’S MY CAR!” after she had happily sat down at first.

        Or, a few metres after exiting our parking lot, she would start yelling at me for the way I drive the car. Some time I thought pulling the parking brake on right there and then and leaving her sitting there wondering what happened. Because that’s just so crazy and offensive behaviour that it must not be tolerated at all.

        I have 7 years in total of education from the field of automobiles, plus education and experience of several months of the same stuff in our military, and then SHE is the one telling me what to do with a car? WHAT THE *BEEP*?! I did tell her that a few times… but no she wasn’t getting it – she wasn’t getting it at all that it is wrong if she thinks she needs to tell me what to do with a car. I tried to explain to her that it is actually a good thing that she has me taking care of her car and driving it as I happen to have a lot of experience and education for that, but no, she was just not getting it – she kept doing the yelling again and again.

        Then she wonders why I eventually became disinterested to take care of her car and to travel with her somewhere in a car. It makes me feel she can’t think. I know she is smart but with these things she is being very irrational and no talking to her can fix it.

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      You articulated what happens so well, JP. It’s a slow, painful process that wears you down over time. It reminds me of something Morgan Freeman’s character in Shawshank Redemption said once he was released form prison and working in a small grocery store. After being locked up for so long, Red said, “Forty years I been asking permission to piss. I can’t squeeze a drop without say-so.”

      I believe that’s what happens after you spend a significant amount of time with this kind of partner. Ultimately, I think it’s always best to make a break for it, no matter the negative consequences. Your freedom, soul and peace of mind are worth it.

  15. Chem_geek
    March 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Verbal :She will talk non-stop for hours on end (up to 4 or 5 hours on a few occasions), looping through the same stuff on a 10 or 15 minute cycle. I could record the first loop of one of her diatribes, then set it on repeat for the next several hours and get the same effect. She will stop talking and pretend to let me have my say, only to shout me down as soon as I speak. I silently beg God to please make her stop talking and go away.

    Yep. The best part is when my wife asks a question, waits a fraction of a beat, then continues unabated. If I actually start to answer, I get told to shut up.

    I’m also told that I think too slowly, because when she does ask something, I’m thinking ahead, trying to figure out what to say two or three cycles down the line, to avert lines of attack and so forth.

    • nick
      March 20, 2010 at 4:43 am

      My nutjob was the same way. She actually used to tell me that her mind just fired way ahead of everybody elses! She also used really weird words…actually whole nonwords that combined two words into one…the english language wasn’t adequate…had to create her own. Also used to tell me that she felt things on a much deeper level than others. She was just sooooo special.

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:15 pm

      Hi Chem_geek,

      You can save yourself the energy of thinking things ahead. There is no right answer. Everything’s a trap. She just wants you to nod your head and agree with her. Then she can criticize you for being too submissive. No matter what you do, it’s wrong, so you may as well say what you really think and stand up to her.

      Dr T

  16. Verbal
    March 18, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Thought Stopping.

    NPDw simply shouts me down if she doesn’t like what I say. Often, she doesn’t even wait to hear what I have to say before she shouts me down, as though she has some prescient knowledge that my thoughts won’t align with her views.

    She will talk non-stop for hours on end (up to 4 or 5 hours on a few occasions), looping through the same stuff on a 10 or 15 minute cycle. I could record the first loop of one of her diatribes, then set it on repeat for the next several hours and get the same effect. She will stop talking and pretend to let me have my say, only to shout me down as soon as I speak. I silently beg God to please make her stop talking and go away.

    • Christophe
      March 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      Twice in the past week mine has shouted me down when she doesn’t even know what I’m going to say. I asked her what she thought I was going to say and she was way off but by then I thought FY, why bother. My ‘partners’ ability to talk non-stop is truly mind numbing but now I don’t feel obliged to listen because I’ve lost all hope of having a proper relationship and am now constantly thinking about how to get out. I just drift off upstairs. She won’t even admit that conversations should be two way. She’s a poor wee frightened thing who can’t be contradicted but I can’t feel sorry for her as she’s caused so much pain. I’ve been recording conversations secretly hoping that I might catch her being outrageously abusive but the worst tirades come when you least expect them.

      When I’m thinking of a reply she’s so impatient she says, ‘you’re too slow’. Last week we had to go to a meeting about my son and she tried to imply that the whole room was looking at me disapprovingly because I didn’t reply instantly to a question – and therefore proving that she is totally justified in labelling me an idiot. They seem to be astonishingly similar these women. But it may run in the family as her dad also asks questions and after a microsecond carryies on talking oblivious, like her, to the sound of someone starting to speak.

      General point – my partner is someone who left school with absolutely no qualifications, in anything!, and yet she can tie me up in knots and render me speechless in seconds with her verbal acrobatics and undefeatable logic. They are playing by a different rule book it seems.

      Everytime she gets a cold/fever and has to stay in bed for a few days it’s like I’m on the best holiday ever. Peace floods my soul.

      I even get a little buzz of relief when she leaves the room!

    • Who Are You?
      March 21, 2010 at 2:20 am

      I had to laugh about your shut up prayers and share that when I would get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, she would awake and return to the loop of what I have done from days and months ago. As soon as I would return to bed, the push button activated and it could be hours of the same issues that I thought were resolved from days/months ago.

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm

      It’s like being in a communist China re-education camp with the loud PA systems blasting propaganda night and day. I truly believe this is a form of torture.

  17. Verbal
    March 18, 2010 at 5:19 am


    She has banned a number of people from “our” life, but one in particular encapsulates the whole enforced isolation technique. An old female friend of mine who was a single mom would periodically visit us from out of town. My wife always invited her to stay at our place. On one visit, this friend was an “earwitness” to one of W’s profane verbal attacks on me. My friend was absolutely mortified at what she had heard, and later confided to me that if I should ever decide to divorce, I could count on her in my corner.

    No sooner did W catch wind of this, but the friend was banished to the wilderness.

    But it gets better. True to form, W completely revised history. She maintains to this day that I had an “inappropriate emotional relationship” with this friend, who didn’t just visit periodically but every weekend (she said). Further, I spent these weekends with this friend while W was working the weekend shift, and my relationship with this friend was more important than my relationship with W.

    Once W had revealed her true nature to someone outside the family, that someone went from white to black (split). It wasn’t sufficient simply to excise that person from our lives. That person also had to be demonized through W’s distortions and delusions.

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:07 pm


      It’s the one thing bullies and other abusive personalities such as narcissists and borderlines fear the most. This is why they don’t have too many close friends—unless they find devoted followers to act as their enablers and echo chamber.

      Your friend saw your wife for who she was, so she had to be eliminated. They do this to anyone who is wise to them including in-laws and therapists. It’s not enough for them to banish them from their presence; they must be vilified as well. Textbook behavior.

  18. bunker dweller
    March 18, 2010 at 4:32 am

    Excellent article Dr. T. You got me thinking, and I wanted to share this with your readers.

    I left my incredibly abusive wife last summer. She did the isolation, control, and everything else that Dr. T talks about, and I’ve been recovering ever since. I’ve worked through the acute pain phase, all the anger, sorrow, and thinking things through, but coming out of it, there is something key I’ve realized that goes beyond being mad and stringing her up for being such a bitch, which make no mistake, she is.

    For everything she did, I see now that there was something reciprocal inside myself that allowed/encouraged her to do it. Her being controlling met with me wanting security; her clinginess and taking over my life met with my loneliness and wanting to belong; her horrible family met with my desire to rescue and be a hero–All of this is hard to admit, particularly when you have been mistreated, but it’s the heart of the problem. Forming an unhealthy relationship lets these people in, and in time, they only follow-through the patterns you have already set in motion. Healthy people don’t wind up getting abused–certainly not in the way Dr. T lays out. You set yourself up early on by making bad choices for bad reasons. It’s as simple as that.

    But don’t blame yourself. Take control back. You allowed it to happen in the beginning, and you can finish it too. These women are only as powerful as you ever allowed them to be. Mine got pretty bad too–just like Dr. T describes, but now the whole thing is healing over nicely and passing like a summer storm. Your life is yours, even 20 years into one of these things. Own up to it and take control back.

    • Born Free
      March 18, 2010 at 5:23 am

      I am in the process of regaining my life after 13 years of marriage and two kids. The amazing thing is that I did not see the pattern of verbal and emotional abuse for such a long time. But the recognition itself has been tremendously liberating. I have no doubt that the immediate future will involve lot of effort, but it is a relief to learn that I am not the crazy one.

      • shrink4men
        March 25, 2010 at 7:31 pm

        Hi Born Free,

        Things will probably get a lot more difficult before they get better, but the effort will ultimately be worth it.

        Good luck navigating the process and please check back and let everyone know how you’re doing.

        Dr T

    • shrink4men
      March 25, 2010 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Bunker Dweller,

      What you’ve written is very insightful and spot on. In order for their machinations to work, there’s needs to be a “hook” for them to catch onto. It’s so important to understand your “hooks” in order to a) extricate yourself from one of these relationships and b) Cluster B proof your future relationships and life.

      Onwards and upwards,
      Dr T

      • KO
        March 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

        “so important to understand your “hooks” Dr T.

        “Those who forget (do not understand) history are bound to repeat it. Don’t remember who said it.

        Yes, free ourselves…from “hooks”, “push buttons”,”handles”,….all kinds of fears, guilt, shame, and obsessions.

        Easier said than done. But working on it.

        yes, getting dehooked, dewarmed, and putting on a coat of protective slime to bounce off these predators…Nemo!!!!

        Thank you, Dr. T!

    • shrink4men
      March 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks, Bunker Dweller.

      For everything she did, I see now that there was something reciprocal inside myself that allowed/encouraged her to do it. Her being controlling met with me wanting security; her clinginess and taking over my life met with my loneliness and wanting to belong; her horrible family met with my desire to rescue and be a hero–All of this is hard to admit, particularly when you have been mistreated, but it’s the heart of the problem. Forming an unhealthy relationship lets these people in, and in time, they only follow-through the patterns you have already set in motion.

      What you’ve written is so very true. In order for a hat to stick to the wall, there has to be a hook there to catch it. Find out what your hooks are and start to dismantle them. That’s the best shark repellent there is—otherwise, you just end up being her chum. How’s that for mixing metaphors?

      But don’t blame yourself. Take control back. You allowed it to happen in the beginning, and you can finish it too. These women are only as powerful as you ever allowed them to be. Very, very true. It’s like “The Wizard of Oz;” you have the power to free yourself of this strange head trip. You just need to exercise it.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

    • Lorenzo
      March 31, 2010 at 4:17 am

      Hey Bunker. Thoughtful and well presented, enjoyed your post. I was wondering, if not too intrusive of me, you mentioned “her horrible family met with my desire to rescue and be a hero” would you be able to elaborate on that a bit? I am where you were and I also deal with n-laws, specifically the Queen Bee Narc mother-in-law who is beyond anyone I have ever met, which adds an additional amount of un-needed stress to the my situation with my wife. I wonder how you dealt with that issue or what it was, that is if you are willing to share some of your story about that topic? Was your wife completely obedient to her family members? Treated them far better than you? Yet to the contrary would often get into big arguments with any of them? My wife jumps for my mother-in-law yet she also has her rage attacks against her but never to level that I see b/c she looks up to her, she worships her, she seeks her approval on all levels. My MiL is the Queen Narc and commands attention from her family at all times. To put in perspective, every holiday is ruined by her and her demands and if the demands are not met she says stuff like “well nobody gives a shit about me so do whatever you want to do” or has said stuff on Christmas opening gifts from her children stuff like “well i guess nobody knows me, all I got was clothes while everyone else got what they wanted”. Hardly something to expect to here from an adult woman to her children on Christmas day while opening gifts. In closing, while my wife will get into some major rage argument wiht her mother she will tell me all kinds of nasty words describing her mother to me yet if I disagree with a paint color that my MiL will suggest (many times) I will get lashed out against by my wife. Its a no win situation right now so I wonder if you endured some similar stuff? Thank you kindly for any input and once again thanks to Dr T for this stage for us guys to express and explore on.

      • IowaShorts
        April 15, 2010 at 12:21 am


        My ex (whew!) had a family that was quite a piece of work. I have begun a novel about the whole experience, actually.

        I am Caucasian and my wife was Chinese. Her father is passive-aggressive, I think – or mostly passive. He’s actually a sweet guy and I liked him a lot. Wife’s younger sister and brother are both messed up emotionally. But her mother – that is another story all together and quite telling. Her mother committed suicide about two years into our marriage. We lived a half block down the street and when my wife got the call from her father, she had ME run down the street. Wouldn’t you think that if your mother died, you’d be the one hightailing it down there? So I came into her parents house, her father on his knees inside wailing, and I went to find her mother on the patio out back. I will only say this – her mother’s suicide was clearly meant to be a punishment on the rest of the family. Besides her father, I was the only one to see the body and what and how she had done it. I saved my wife and her siblings from the horror of it. To that end, I believe I thwarted her mother’s desire for ultimate control and punishment. I ended up cleaning up the patio for two days so that none of them would have to experience what I did. I dealt with the coroner, the detectives, etc.

        In the end, was I the hero of my wife for dealing with this so well? Nope! I got a small, perfunctory, “thank you” from my wife a day or so later. After that, I was tasked with designing the memorial service and photoshop work, etc. despite having come down with a raging case of conjunctivitis. No matter my inconvenience, though. I believe the tears my wife shed were really for herself, how things looked, and for her own loss of a relationship that was love/hate, as described here. I understand that often, personality disorders are “inherited” from one parent or the other. And yes, her mother usually held family get-togethers hostage if things did not go to her liking. She was often the martyr, too. My experience was very similar to yours.

        One of the things I really wanted to mention was that when I became awakened to what was really going on in my marriage – what had happened in my previous marriage, also – it was a very scary shock to the system. Be warned, those who are just beginning to understand their predicament – it can really throw you for a loop if you’re an otherwise intelligent, caring, “normal” person. It was very difficult for me to wake up to was happening. I’m glad I’m awake and it will never happen to me again – and I’m still the caring, willing-to-love guy I’ve always been. Just much wiser and healthier! Thank God.

  19. jp
    March 18, 2010 at 4:09 am

    About isolation…

    She might not even need to actively isolate you. Perhaps you grew up in a broken family and are estranged from siblings and/or one or both parents. Maybe you’re an ophan or just far from home, having recently arrived in a new city or country or at a new college or job.

    There are a million possible scenarios in which you could already be isolated to one degree or another. Then along comes this seemingly great girl who focuses on you like a laser. You have instant closeness and for the first time in months or years or maybe in your life you feel connected. Maybe she has a big fun family, or a bug circle of friends, and overnight you go from loner to social scenester.

    Now she has a powerful hold on you.

    Guys, ABC…Always Be Connecting. Create and maintain your own social networks before, during and after your romantic relationships. It will help keep the predators away, and if it doesn’t, it will help you get and stay away once you’re involved with one.

    • jp
      March 18, 2010 at 4:12 am

      oops…that’s a “big circle of friends” not “bug circle”, although maybe she has one of those too.

    • shrink4men
      March 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      Excellent points and advice, JP! As always, thank you.

      Dr T

    • KO
      March 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm

      “About isolation…

      She might not even need to actively isolate you.” JP

      So true. Alone on this site of the Atlantic as all my family and friends used to be abroad. And being busy studying and working, and not having the “ABC”…

      Thank yo, JP! Right on! And thank you, Dr. T, you are a mind saver!

      • shrink4men
        March 30, 2010 at 10:55 pm

        You’re welcome, KO and thanks to JP again.

        Men aren’t the only ones who forget to ABC. I’m a bit on the introverted side and hate small talk, which of course, one needs to do to make initial connections. It’s a good reminder for everyon no matter what kind of relationship you’re in.

        Dr T

  20. "John"
    March 18, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Excellent article (both part one and two). This is my ex-girlfriend to a tee. Thank goodness she never fully isolated me or I might be still with her. My friend kept my head out of the FOG long enough for me to make the decision to end this destructive relationship. I’m still picking up the pieces of my soul but your articles have been an excellent tool.

    It’s good to know that it wasn’t my fault.

    Thank you

    • shrink4men
      March 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm

      Hi John,

      Thanks, I’m glad you find the articles helpful. Sorry for my delayed reply. I love springtime, but not the allergies it triggers in my sinuses—speaking of being in a fog.

      I’m glad she was never able to fully isolate you. I can’t stress enough how very important having someone—anyone— you can turn to for supportive reality check is. It also serves as evidence that there are people who don’t think you’re an unworthy ogre undeserving of love when these types spoon feed their targets this tripe.

      Keep looking forward and leave her far behind—exactly where she belongs.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

      • Mike
        July 31, 2010 at 6:17 am

        Tara there´s something missing in there!! There´s one thing these BPDs do very well to control you, it´s when they act like a helpless child who will die if you stand your ground!! They love to use Baby voice to hoover you back!

        Neediness is the foundation of her little-girl routine. Initially, it might seem flattering when she calls you five times a day, but most guys know that this aspect of her little-girl routine gets old quickly. Neediness, as it relates to her little-girl routine, goes something like this: Whenever you’re not around she tells you she’s “lonely,” and when you are around, she wants your undivided attention. You might convince yourself that she really does “need” you, but don’t be fooled. The truth about neediness is that it’s a kind of selfishness; it indicates that she doesn’t really care about you, your desires or your responsibilities. She’s only thinking about herself.


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