Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, bullying, divorce, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, relationships > Can an Abusive Borderline Personality Disorder Woman Really Change?

Can an Abusive Borderline Personality Disorder Woman Really Change?

Hi Dr Tara,

First off, I want to thank you and inform you that your website has been great for opening my eyes and helping me in my healing process.  These may be questions to use in a blog post:

Starting in 2008, I began dating a single-mother whom I believe may have been a BPD/NPD.  Although she never verified to me that she was diagnosed as one, I do know she had her own personal therapist she called every so often and took “anti-anxiety” pills at times.  The relationship started out fantastic.  The sex was great, she gave me Hallmark cards telling me how wonderful I was, and we had so much fun together.

There were little things here and there, “red flags” so to speak, she did every once in a while, but I blew them off.  One of which was constantly accusing me of looking at other women, which I can tell you I NEVER did.  My focus was ALWAYS on her. Once at a concert, at the beginning of our relationship, she even pulled me out of a line by my arm while I was getting us drinks, telling me that I was standing too close to the female in front of me.  I ignored that issue….even thinking to myself that she must really love me to get that protective.

After a couple months of dating, she asked me to move in with her. I politely declined saying that it was too early, and since she was a single mother I did not think it was the best thing at the moment.  I was not ready to be the father of her child after a couple months, and I just did not think it was the right thing to do.  She seemed to accept me not moving in, but that is when everything started getting out of hand.

During the next several months I was subject to much verbal, emotional, even physical abuse.  She constantly checked my cell phone; wanted to know my email password, etc. (would kick me out of the house if I did not give passwords to her); set-up a fake online cell phone account in my name (with my number) so she could monitor my phone activities (which she lied about when I confronted her about it); attached my email to her Blackberry so she could receive every email I received; chased me down in her car when I left her house after an argument telling me she was going to crash into the back of my car; got mad when I did things with my “guy” friends and told me I should only do those things with her and her child; physically hit and assaulted me on two separate occasions during an argument in which she accused me of somethings I never did (I never laid a finger on her or verbally attacked her); chased me with an object while I was leaving in my car after she assaulted me, causing me to be terrified, open the door while forgetting to put the car in park, and being dragged by my car down the driveway and across the street; told me she didn’t want me around, just wanted me for my money; cursed at me and insulted me with name-calling; called me a “baby” and too “sensitive” when I expressed my feelings; told me that “I” needed therapy because “I” was a “baby” and too “sensitive.”

During these times, somehow I was in denial about the abuse and did EVERYTHING I possibly could to help her and make her happy.  She had a troubled family life in which her father left her mother when she was 1, her mother was an alcoholic, and she rarely sees her father. I tried all I could to show her true “love” and make her world a better place.  Yet, she did all these things to me and nothing I did was good enough.  When our relationship ended, she even had the nerve to tell me I had no “backbone.”  In a way, that was the most honest thing she ever said to me.  I should have left LONG ago.

However, for some reason, I am still looking for closure from her.  I wait for some kind of apology.  She has kept in contact with me over the last 4 months from time to time (we broke up 4 months ago) emailing me telling me she has come “a long way” in the past year…whatever that is supposed to mean.  And texting me telling me that she is trying to “reach-out” to me. Yet, I still wait for this “apology” from her for her behavior.  Can a person like this ever apologize?  Can they really change? What happened within me that wants this apology so badly?  Did she have traits of BPD?

Thanks for your time,
Hi Scott,
I can’t technically diagnose a person I’ve never met. However, given your description of your ex’s behavior, it’s highly likely she has some strong BPD traits, if not the full-blown disorder. Many undiagnosed borderlines, narcissists and other abusive personality types are best identified by the damage left in their wake—just like archaeologists know that Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Pompeii by the layers of debris they unearthed. You lived through it, which makes you the expert of your own experience. If you’ve read the diagnostic criteria and it seems to fit, your conclusions are probably correct. I’ve organized my response into 6 sections. Hope this helps:
1. Kaboom! The Love Bomb. It appears your relationship began with the classic abuse tactic known as love bombing, which is often used by abusive personalities and cult recruiters. You write: The relationship started out fantastic.  The sex was great, she gave me Hallmark cards telling me how wonderful I was, and we had so much fun together. Predators often drug their prey with love, admiration, validation, affection, adoration, flattery, laser beam attention, responsiveness and sexual and non-sexual touching. When love bombing, they hang on your every word and create a sense of instant rapport, connection and intimacy.

Don’t feel bad. Many people are seduced by this kind of behavior. Abusers play to your ego needs and then turn the tables on you, which is why it’s so difficult to break away once the abuse begins in earnest. Bottom line: The faster and higher someone puts you on a pedestal early in your courtship, the longer and harder you fall when they kick the pedestal out from beneath you. Intense valuation is always followed by intense devaluation with most borderlines or individuals with borderline traits.

2. Emotional Bullshit and the Toxic Trio. In Emotional Bullshit (2008), Carl Alasko, PhD refers to the foundation of all relationship emotional bullshit as the Toxic Trio, which includes denial, delusion and blame. I would argue that most relationships with abusive personalities run on the methane emitted by Grade A Emotional Bullshit. (*To purchase this book via Amazon please use my affiliate link above or click on the image).

Alasko writes:

“I call denial, delusion and blame the Toxic Trio because they always work together, and whenever they’re in action, a relationship is filled with toxic, negative energy. The result is an increase in the harmful emotions: anxiety, anger, fear and pain. Once the cycle begins, the relationship is either doomed to failure, or its full level of satisfaction is compromised” (Alasko, 2008, p.7).

To understand how the Toxic Trio works—the language and motivation—Alasko offers this typical script:

“DENIAL SAYS: There is no problem. Everything is okay. You’re exaggerating. The issue doesn’t matter; it’s irrelevant. (So I don’t have to change anything.)

DELUSION SAYS: Let me tell you what’s really true. Don’t believe what you see. Believe me. (The imaginary world I’ve created works for me.)

BLAME SAYS: You’re the problem. I was forced to do it; I had no choice. Or, it just happened. Destiny willed it. (No one understands my true motives. Your accusations only make things worse)“(Alasko, 2008, p.8).

You write: There were little things here and there, “red flags” so to speak, she did every once in a while, but I blew them off. You made the classic mistake of ignoring the early warning signs that something isn’t right. This is a form of denial from which delusion, myriad rationalizations and minimization of her bad behavior and your unfounded self-blame spring. She was just having a bad day. It’s not that bad. I can take it. I must have done something to really upset her. She must really love to get so angry and jealous.

Denying and deluding yourself to your ex-girlfriend’s problems got you into that hot mess. Don’t make the other classic mistake of believing that a predator can change her spots and re-enlist for Round 2. This type of person doesn’t change without hardcore, long-term treatment and even then, there’s no guarantee of any real change.

3. Boundaries Shmoundaries. When it comes to intimate relationships, many borderlines follow the sales credo, ABC—Always Be Closing. They invade your boundaries and move in fast. If it feels like your relationship is on warp speed; follow your instincts and put on the brakes. These individuals typically disarm you with love bombing while pushing the relationship forward at an unusually fast speed. Wanting to move in after only 2 months of dating is a definite warning sign and good for you for heeding that one.

Your instincts were correct and healthy, which is why your ex-girlfriend escalated her abusive behaviors. She was punishing you for having healthy boundaries. Abusers come down hard on any barriers to their ultimate objective—total control. They will vilify you for any self-care acts. They want you to be in a weakened state. You’re easier to control that way.

4. Abuse is Abuse. No One Gets a Pass—Not Even Poor Little Waif BPDs. Please re-read the long paragraph of emotional and physical abuse perpetrated on you by your ex-girlfriend. It shouldn’t make a rat’s behind of difference if your ex had a troubled childhood. It may explain some of her behaviors, but it does NOT excuse them.

Enough of this, “but she had bad parents and a bad childhood. We should all pity her and learn how to be more patient and forgiving.She dragged you down the driveway with your car and we should feel sorry for her because of her shitty parents and terrible childhood? BPD is not a Get Out of Jail Free card. Many BPDs are as sane and as well-behaved as they want to be when conducting a charm offensive or when they’re with people who won’t tolerate their bad behavior. She is responsible for her actions.

If you were a woman and your ex-girlfriend was a man; she would be in jail. In fact, she should be in jail for the physical abuse and reckless endangerment. SHE IS A DANGEROUS PERSON. You don’t treat abuse with patience and understanding. This is a load of crap promoted by BPD advocacy groups and other feminist organizations. Tolerate, understand and forgive the abuse if it’s perpetrated by a woman. Punish, prosecute and impoverish if it’s perpetrated by a man. No double standards for emotional and physical violence. Period.

You’re lucky to be out of this relationship physically intact and alive. If someone with BPD truly is incapable of controlling her behavior, particularly if she engages in violent behavior, then she should be in a facility—penal and/or psychiatric. (*Note to BPDs reading this: I did not say incapable of controlling her emotions—you can feel as crazy and out of control as you like; acting out your crazy emotions is another matter entirely)

5. You Can’t Save Everybody. Just Pray You’re Not Living Next Door to Them When They Decide to Go Off (Dennis Miller, Black & White, 1990). You can’t save someone who won’t admit she has a problem and attacks you for the many kindnesses you show her. This is the classic fable of The Frog and the Scorpion. You cannot save people like your ex. She has to do the heavy lifting. You can’t do it for her. All you will get for trying to help her is more heartache—just like the frog in the fable.

Many borderlines and other abusers treat their intimate partners as need gratifying objects instead of individual autonomous beings with their own needs, feelings and rights. “Many people with BPD, for instance, will be empathic towards, and care for, other people only under the expectation that the other person will ‘be there’ for them on demand. Many habitually make impractical claims that others are not ‘there’ enough and make unrealistic demands for amount of time spent together. They often inappropriately respond with intense anger to even brief separations or slight changes in plans” (APA, DSM-IV-R, 2000). You’re not an object; you’re a person. You will more than likely never be more than an object to be used by this woman to fulfill her bottomless pit of unquenchable, unreasonable needs.

Oftentimes, trying to rescue a Borderline is like trying to rescue a Big Bank; they’ll deplete your resources and you’ll be left with nothing to show for it except extreme losses. Furthermore, you’re the one who needed rescuing; you needed to be rescued from your ex-girlfriend. If this is a recurring relationship pattern for you, I encourage you to find someone to work with you on nipping this in the bud. Being a “rescuer” attracts women like your ex like bees to honey.

6. Closure Means Closing the Door. It’s natural to want closure at the end of a relationship. Unfortunately, you will rarely find closure with this kind of woman, so you’re probably not going to get an apology—unless it’s to manipulate you back into the relationship. Women like your ex rarely take responsibility for their actions and, as you’re well aware, blame you for their own transgressions. You want an apology because she wronged you very badly. She owes you an apology, but her pathology won’t allow her to give you one.

These women only value what they don’t have, which is why she’s reaching out to you now. This is called hoovering. Hoovering is a metaphor used to explain how abusive personalities, such as borderlines, histrionics and narcissists, try to suck their victims back into relationships by temporarily displaying improved or contrite behavior and/or claiming to have “changed.” BPDs tend to act like boomerangs and try to maintain contact after you break up, which also makes it difficult to find closure.

If you were to reconcile, she would probably devalue and abuse you again. As previously noted, you may get an apology from her, but it would ultimately be meaningless. It would be a manipulation, i.e., she figures out that if she apologizes she might be able to get you back. As for getting closure, I think the best you can hope for is the realization that this woman has serious issues that have nothing to do with you. You were the unsuspecting target of her pathology. The best closure is moving forward in your life, going totally NO CONTACT and finding a healthy and loving partner next time around.

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. Paul
    July 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    As I see Scott wants an apology, I myself have been waiting 7 months for an apology for verbal abuse and yet still waiting and I always will. In the beginning she would apologize for her half but it always totally her all the time. Now she doesn’t apologize for anything.

  2. Stefano
    July 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Hi all…I have read here about partners with holding sex but mine was completely the opposite! She would constantly want sex and then when I was tired or just plain not interested due to her poor treatment of me, then she would use it as a weapon to cause another row, this was almost like sex had become a tool to beat me up with. I used to say Jeeeez woman I’m not 21 anymore I don’t want it every night and then the row would start from there and that is when she would get verbally and physically abusive.

    Anyway my point is they can use different approaches to cause unrest and pain and remember the old English saying “she’s bother that woman” well I guess some woman are only happy when they are putting you beneath them in any way they can.

    At first I thought she was over sexed and maybe had issues that way but after a while the penny dropped that it was just another tool to have a go! Hope this helps anyone who has gone through same because it took me ages to see the light and felt bad for not as she put it “being there physically for her.”

  3. geronimo
    July 11, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Well she pulled another one tonight…She cannot resist turning each and every ten-second kid exchange into a ridiculous little pissing match.

    See if any of this sounds familiar:

    Some background: My divorce did not become final until last month. “Julie,” my fiancee, and I agreed that we would not bring the kids into our picture until that happened. And it got dragged out and dragged out because of my ex and her incompetent lawyer. We seperated last July and there really was very little to fight over, and I shoveled tons of stuff her way she wasn’t entitled to in an effort to move things along, but I digress…She wanted the damn thing to take a year so it took a year.

    And it dragged out to the point where my son had to go to camp for a month before he could meet Julie or see our house — the one he would be staying in when he came for visitation. My daughter did get to meet Julie and the two of them have really hit it off; so much so that I hear my ex (to her credit) has started seeing a counselor again because she is having trouble dealing with my daughter’s praise of Julie.

    Another digression: I foresaw this, and I tried half-heartedly to get my daughter to tone it down, but how can you tell a 5-year-old not to express her feelings? And I have to say here that I am grateful to my ex for not poisoning the kids against me or Julie. I believe that’s one good thing about her winning over Elena and a few other members of my family — with them all agreeing that (even though the affair was strictly emotional until after I moved out) I am a philandering scumbag and Julie is a homewrecker, she can vent with them and thus we don’t get the brunt over here. So ha ha, maybe my family does know what they are doing in taking her side.

    Anyway, back to today. We are in the midst of my month of primary custody of both kids. (Of course that happened to overlap with my son’s trip to camp, but I am okay with that, because this was a truly great adventure camp he got to go to). Anyway, Julie and I agreed that since he has never even been to his new house or met his dad’s fiancee, it would be best for my son to go back to his mom’s house for his first night back from a month away from home, and we made that offer to my ex, who accepted it. She agreed that she and my daughter would pick him up from the airport and that they would all spend the night there and then she would return them to me the next day. En route to the airport, he would also be picking up my daughter at my new house — which would require about a 30-minute detour.

    So meanwhile, Julie and I take my daughter to the beach today, and on the way back home we stop at a restaurant that is much closer to my ex’s house than Julie’s and my house. I call up my ex and tell her we are in the neighborhood and would she like it if we just dropped off my daughter? I thought this would be a nice gesture. After all, I wasn’t fudging the time of the exchange any, and my ex hates to drive, and I was saving her a half-hour of cross-town big-city traffic. So she says sure, and I think this might be one kid exchange that goes okay, unlike the one the other day where she accused me of infecting my daughter’s ears, or the one in November where she sucker-punched me in the face while I had my glasses on.

    Not so much. After smiling and embracing our daughter, she immediately turned her guns on me, like in a split-second: Why haven’t I sent her home with a suitcase full of clothes? I remind her that our daughter is only staying the night, and that I presumed that she would still have some clothes in her bedroom. My ex then claims that she sent every pair of underwear to my house and that she has hardly any clothes to wear at home. She makes it sounds like she sent a wagon-train over here, but it was really just a wheely-bag that would fit in an overhead compartment. Then she says “Every time you bring her here, you have to send her home with *all* her clothes.” I just kinda shrugged and walked away and told my ex about it, who just said she was being completely irrational, which she was. God, I love Julie.

    Note: This is the thanks I got after I gave her a day of bonus custody of the kids, and then delivered them to her when I didn’t have to.

    • jp
      July 11, 2010 at 4:31 am


      She has to find something to berate or criticize you for. Lack of clothes was probably the first thing that popped into her mind. If you’d brought the clothes back she’d tell you it’s inappropriate for you to bring your fiancee to a drop-off. If you left your fiancee out of it, she’d find something else. Whatever you do for her it won’t be enough and it won’t be ‘right’, especially now that you have a another woman in your life.


      • jp
        July 11, 2010 at 5:14 pm

        Also…I’d stop doing nice/extra things for her. Look what happened with the extra money you said you’d give her.

        If your trying to be nice is an attempt to assuage some guilt for the overlapping into your new relationship, forget it.

        I had an affair which ended my marriage and I spent years after the split trying to make it up to her, at tremendous cost to myself in dollars, health, moving on and the terms of our divorce, and in the end it did nothing to repair the damage or end her hostility to me. In fact as time went on she got nastier.


        • geronimo
          August 8, 2010 at 5:16 am

          Well, I kinda thought we had turned a corner for a while there, but not anymore…

          After I returned the kids from their month-long visitation last week, she was almost pleasant to me. She actually asked if I had fun with them, and seemed sincere.

          So this time I go to pick them up and hand her the $300 check I’ve been freely and voluntarily giving her (over and above child support) monthly since I left. She responds by demanding I pay $200 more for extra fees my son incurred at summer camp.

          This would be the same summer camp my aunts paid the tuition for and my dad paid the airfare for. My dad also gave her another grand after paying my son’s airfare.

          (This would also be after she has had a month collecting checks from her old job as a teacher as well as more from her new teaching job, plus my child support, plus the bonus “alimony” I have been paying, all while I had custody of the kids. When I called to verify that my child support had been getting zapped into her account, she didn’t even know because she didn’t really even need it.)

          My dad told me she could take those fees out of the money he sent her. The ex tried to tell me that my dad expressly told her that money was for our daughter, not our son, but my dad told me that wasn’t the case.

          At any rate, I flat told her I wasn’t paying. Every month she finds some new way to chisel a few hundred bucks beyond what she is entitled to, and I am bled dry.

          So I told her no. She said that my son had the time of his life on that trip and I hadn’t paid a penny. Well, no, I didn’t, and I am not ashamed of it at all. My family paid for the whole thing. As far as I know, her family contributed nothing, which is not all that surprising because she has cut herself off from them. (At least from allowing them to visit her in America — she will visit them in England.)

          Her next gambit was to say that she wasn’t about money, that she was about “fairness.” This was after she had just accepted my 13th straight $300 monthly bonus payment.

          To show just how “fair” she was, she handed me a bacpack full of clothes, and said they were for our daughter and that she could keep them at my house. Which seemed generous indeed, but of course when we opened the bag I discovered that some of them were clothes I bought our daughter and the rest were all hand-me-downs. I think she just got sick of washing our “foreign” detergent off our daughter’s clothes and refolding them the “right” way.

          I told her I would be glad to pay this extra money, but that I would then request that my father funnel all his donations to the children through me and not her. She told me that was none of my business. That’s right — my father sending money for the benefit of my children is none of my business.

          God she makes my head spin, but I am not giving in this time.

          • jp
            August 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm

            No matter what you do for her it will never be ‘right’ and it will never be enough.

            It sounds like the hook she has is your desire to be seen as the good guy doing the right thing. That gives her a lot of power she shouldn’t have.

            Since she treats you like a jerk anyway you might as well stop doing extras for her. She’ll ramp up her criticism and crazy accusations but so what? She already hates you.

            One of the hardest post-split psychological adjustments I had to make was accepting that my ex hates me. For years I kept being generous, helpful, attentive, etc., then would drive away from her place baffled by her continued hostility. It’s bizarre when someone who loved you now hates you–and treats you like somebody you are not (a jerk vs. decent guy trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation), but it is what is.

            Once you accept that no matter what you do for her it will never be ‘right’ and it will never be enough–and that she may never again acknowledge your decency or treat you with even the baseline respect you deserve–it will be a lot easier to deal with her.


            • shrink4men
              August 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

              Let me tell you what I tell my clients, geronimo (it’s a variation of what jp wrote). This kind of woman does not respect you. She especially doesn’t respect you when you give into her demands, appease her or try to find a happy compromise. When you give her what she wants, appease or try to compromise, not only does she not respect you; she thinks you’re a sucker.

              In other words, no matter how nice and accommodating you are, she will think you’re an asshole. When you roll over and give in to her demands and give her more money then you’re legally required to; she thinks you’re a stupid asshole. She’s going to portray you as an asshole no matter what you do, so you may as well do what’s in your best interest and not hers.

              Nothing she does or claims she is doing “in your child’s best interests” is ever about the children. It’s about using the children as an excuse to torture you and bleed you dry. It is not in your children’s best interests to have their father impoverished. Good for you for not biting on it this time. Furthermore, definitely have your dad send money gifts for the children to you in the future. At least you’ll know that the money will actually be spent on the children and not to line your wife’s coffers.

              • geronimo
                August 8, 2010 at 7:33 pm

                Thanks JP and Dr. Palmatier.

                Looking back, she has probably hated me for a very long time and she has porbably viewed most of my contributions to the marraigeas those of a stupid asshole.

  4. jp
    July 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    geronimo :…my often and widely-praised memory, while admittedly superior for historical facts, sports stats, music history, pop culture minutia, and in every other interpersonal relationship I had, had this unaccountably strange knack for breaking down when it came to the two of us.

    Like when we go out of town. My ex saw to it that we never pulled out of the driveway without the two of us screaming at each other. She wouldn’t let me help pack, because she didn’t like the way I folded things, but then she hated that I didn’t help. Note that I didn’t say I wouldn’t; I was not allowed to. So she would be resentfully packing for hours, thinking about what a worthless shit I was, but then not accepting any offer of assistance I would give.

    Wow, we really were married to the same woman. Seriously, this is uncanny…I used to say the same thing to my ex, eg., “how come nobody else in my world thinks i have a bad memory?” and she even used to joke how I could remember everything about history, politics, music, etc. but then turn it nasty and say “but you can’t remember anything important to her” which was a lie and another way of keeping me on the defensive, always eager to prove I was a good guy who cared.

    I actually asked her once, “do you really think that everytime we have a different recollection of a past conversation, arguments, plans, etc. that you’re ALWAYS right, and actually incapable of being wrong?” and she said “yes”.

    And your example of packing is right on. I remember being in counseling with her and explaining to the shrink how her mind worked and I used the same example. I said: “Let’s say we agree to go the beach for a day next week. Until then, she’ll be thinking in minute detail about exactly what needs to get packed and how. Then, when the day comes, and I jump in and start packing, she thinks I’m doing it ‘wrong’ because it isn’t what she thought of. And she literally is incapable of thinking to herself, ‘well, it’s not how I would have done it but he’s a competent guy and his way will be good enough.’ No, she’ll either insist on doing it and then resent me for it, or she’ll ‘let’ me do it as long as I just follow her instructions to the letter while she directs me like I’m a retarded infant.”

    She’s like this with all the people closest to her. There’s no room for anyone else to make a contribution or be spontaneous or lead. And if you try to confront her about it you get attacked or gaslighted or she pulls some Jedi mind trick that leaves you feeling like an ungrateful dirtbag for not celebrating her gifts for organization, or remembering how important it is for her to ‘feel safe’, i.e., in control.

    It’s all about control.

    Great stuff.

    No more though. :)

    Hey, congrats on the new relationship! Give her a baby, man.


  5. jp
    July 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Old Guy :
    So, I figured if my wife understood she’d get little or nothing from me in respect of support for our child, she wouldn’t decide to just up and leave with her.
    However, my wife contributed practically nothing in our marriage financially or the home, other than misery, so I don’t feel I “owe” her anything other than what I’ve previously given, which has been substantial, and have no desire to subsidize her sitting around on her butt for the next who knows how many years.

    Great post, Old Guy.

    Have you spoken with a lawyer? I don’t know your jurisdiction, and while your views on your financial culpability make perfect sense from an ethical and common sense view, I think you are under a false impression about the fairness of family courts and your ability to dictate the terms of separation. From what you’ve written you’re much more vulnerable than you think should she decide to fight you on the arrangements (and maybe even if she doesn’t–judges will occasionally award more child and spousal support to the wife than she’s even asking for if he thinks the amount might leave her in a position to bother the court again for more later when she finds she “can’t” make ends meet).

    First off, thinking you can take a low paying job to avoid paying her a too-high child and/or spousal support is incorrect. Period. If men were able to do this, they all would. In practice judges award support all the time based on salary history, former employment, earning potential, etc. and if the judge thinks you tried to play the system he can be quite tough on you. Even men who in this economy have been laid off are frequently unable to get downward modifications to their payments. Their obligations continue and if they can’t pay they accrue arrearages, interest, fines, even jail time. Many so-called ‘dead-beat’ dads fall into this category. The don’t pay because they can’t.

    And while your wife may be fine with the arrangements you’re dictating to her now, it may be only a matter of time before some friend tells her she’s getting a raw deal and she sees a lawyer and finds out that precisely because she never worked she’s actually entitled to alimony. Somehow I don’t see her hesitating from pursuing this option.

    I don’t know your paticulars, and I’m no lawyer, but I think you should be talking to one if you’re not already because if she does you’re vulnerable.

    Anyway, on to your question about my ex being a good mother. For the most part she is. She’s not like your wife (in putting on a show but in reality doesn’t do much). Mine is very focused on them and maintains a good home. She’s got a big social circle and the kids have plenty of nice friends over to play with.

    If I have any complaints it’s that she doesn’t seem particularly empathetic when it comes to their inner life. My 7 yr old tells me it’s hard to talk to mom about her (my 7 yr old’s) feelings. My wife doesn’t like involved deep convos about feelings. She thinks it’s best for the kids to give a short simple answer then change the subject. I think it’s better to ask the kids a lot of questions when they’re expressing their feelings and give them plenty of time to get them out, and then validate them best I can. I think this helps them develop confidence in their reality. My ex isn’t a waif/helpless…she’s powerful and into control…she wants them to buy into HER reality.

    For example, when we first split, my older daughter would occasionally get very upset when I would drop her back at mom’s house and then start to leave. My response was to get out of the car, soothe her, talk to her, hold her, etc. until she was ok to make the transition. It never took more than a few minutes. To me that was infinitely better than watching in my rear view mirror my daughter sobbing on the stoop as I drove away. My ex, on the other would get angry at me for “drawing it out”. She argued the kids, even if upset when I left, were fine a few seconds after I was gone, and that I was not only prolonging their pain by comforting them but was secretly, somehow, encouraging the behavior for some kind of self-serving reason she never bothered to identify.

    I think the problem will come when they become adolescents and begin to assert their independence. But for now, she’s a decent parent.

    On the other hand, as I wrote about in another post, she’s become involved in an affair with a married colleague and until I confronted her about it in email, she was sort of including the kids in a lot of their ‘dates’…seemingly innocent stuff like taking the kids for ice cream and stuff and having him over the house for visits (he wasn’t spending the night). I told her to knock it off since the kids, in my view, were sensing something was going on and were getting a bit confused. As far as I can tell she’s toned it down.


    • July 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks, JP.

      Good advice re: the lawyer and I’ll be looking into it.

      My wife has worked and has better academic credentials than me, which she earned while we were living together prior to our marriage.

      However, she chose to never look for work that matched her academic credentials due to her self-identified “lack of confidence”.

      The work she was “confident” enough to do consisted entirely of low paying retail type employment, mostly part-time.

      I never saw much of whatever money she earned and her contribution was mainly buying a few goroceries from time to time. Never any money for bills, mortgage, etc.

      To top things off, when she was working it was often evening and weekend shifts and I ended up being the one picking up the kids from daycare and getting home to make dinner.

      Once in awhile, I got tired of finding myself working all day and then having to pick up the kids and see to their needs so that she could work a three hour evening shift somewhere to earn a minimal amount that was rarely used for anything to do with household expenses, so suggested to her that we’d both be better off if she found something of a full-time nature with regular hours and maybe some benefits and room for growth.

      I don’t need to tell you how that went over.

      She ended up leaving most of the jobs she had on a spur of the moment basis when she was unhappy about something.

      I never gave her a hard time about this, mostly because her jobs generally made my life more difficult without adding anything beneficial to the family, i.e., no financial contribution, kids didn’t see her because of the evening and weekend work and family activities were mostly the kids and me.

      At any rate, she has worked and is fully capable of working and in the jurisdiction I’m in would be expected to provide for herself to the extent that it should be possible for her to do.

      She is much more pleasant to be around when she is working, rather than sitting around the house all day brooding and creating problems in her own mind.

      I am actually providing her with some financial support now and will happily continue to do so as long as things stay as they are.

      I know I may be coming off rather nasty here however, it all has to do with my concerns about my child based on what I know of my wife. If there was no child, I’d be happy to pay her support just to be rid of her and as long as things stay as they are, I’ll continue to provide her with some financial support.

      On the other side of the coin, my wife has done the math and knows that even with the child support I’d be required to pay under my jurisdictions guidelines and spousal support, she will not be able to support herself and our child without working in some sort of full-time job.

      My wife can handle being a mother by her definition and working by her definition however, both she and I know she isn’t willing or able to do both at the same time for any extended period of time on her own. It would just be “too much” for her, which I’ve seen on more than one occasion, even with me there to prop her up.

      At this time, she can still play the role of “good mother” who has decided sacrifice her own feelings for the sake of her child and portray me as the “bad husband” who has done her wrong … which filts nicely into her reality.

      If our child was living with her, eventually the facade would crack and others might begin seeing her as a not so good mother … which wouldn’t suit her at all.

      And if things did end up in court, some stuff will come out that might really damage her portrayal of good mother, such as her statement during a recent one of her self-induced blow-ups that she wished our child had never been born, which of they heard, the numerous times her children have seen and heard her insane ravings, the numerous times we’ve seen her falling down drunk and many other “special” moments the whole family has shared with her throughout the years.

      Both my and her family know I am a good father and if push came to shove, even some members of her family that she has alienated in recent times might admit that our child is better with me.

      However, as you say, you never know what the legal system will do, so a lawyer is alikely a great idea.

      Anyway, just want to say again that if I knew my wife was a mentally healthy person and knew she was in fact a “good mother” who could provide our child with the necessary support, guidance, values, empathy, affection, etc., I’d be content to have our child live with her and wouldn’t have a problem paying whatever support was required.

      Were that the case though, I wouldn’t be posting here.

      The “empathy” thing you mentioned is also true for my wife. She never did well at those types of conversation or in any spontaneous affection types of things, e.g., rarely initiating a hug with one of the kids or any open display of affection.

  6. geronimo
    July 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    1. Man, that is one of the best things to come from getting away from her. Things are so relaxed with the kids now. We also have a son who just turned 14. Since I left he has been coming to me with more questions about things he never asked about before and no we look each other in the eye. I don’t know if he will ever consciously know this, but I think he has much more respect for me now that I have left. No boy likes to see his father force-fed crap all the time.

    2. I was with that woman for 17 years, married for 15. I would fight each individual situation as it cropped up, but over time and in the big picture I succumbed to allowing her to portray me with those same “flaws” you allegedly had. It was just a given that I would be wrong in any situation, that my restaurant or movie was not the “right” choice, that my often and widely-praised memory, while admittedly superior for historical facts, sports stats, music history, pop culture minutia, and in every other interpersonal relationship I had, had this unaccountably strange knack for breaking down when it came to the two of us.

    Man that really rings true about the carton of milk. My new gf is puzzled when she sees me walking on eggshells at weird times and for no real reason…

    Like when we go out of town. My ex saw to it that we never pulled out of the driveway without the two of us screaming at each other. She wouldn’t let me help pack, because she didn’t like the way I folded things, but then she hated that I didn’t help. Note that I didn’t say I wouldn’t; I was not allowed to. So she would be resentfully packing for hours, thinking about what a worthless shit I was, but then not accepting any offer of assistance I would give.

    My new love lets me help pack and we leave the house with only the usual stress of travel. Imagine that!

    I kinda know what you mean about being both hugely relieved and yet not feeling that great. My sense of relief is all but counteracted by a tanker-full of regret. I let the better part of two decades get away from me while I wallowed chest deep in poison that threatened to drown me every month.

    I do have two great kids to show for it, but honestly, perhaps I would have had kids with a woman I really loved and who really loved me, like the one I am with now, who I just might have ended up with many years ago had I not embarked on this 17 year fool’s errand to fix that broken woman. (By the way, both of the kids were unplanned, and both were “all my fault.” This is not to say they are unwanted or that I don’t love them.)

    I could easily have gotten with my new woman long ago, as my new flame is actually an old flame, the big one who got away from me when I was 19 and who I never, ever got over. We parted all those years ago on friendly terms, even though I was absolutely heartbroken, and while she always left the possibility open for us to get back together, I was too ignorant and reckless to see that then.

    Well, we are now engaged. We are pushing the envelope as far as whether we will be able to have kids together. She has none but has said she might like to have one with me, but fears the complications that could come with her age (40). Also, neither of us is exactly rolling in dough. It wouldn’t make any sense for us to have kids, but what can I say? She makes my DNA scream.

    Agreed on the part about these psychos not being all bad, all the time. I have read several books about the history of slavery, and slaves had fun sometimes too. Pure unrelieved misery scarcely exists. I think the key is respect. If she doesn’t respect you, the two of you should part ways. And if you even suspect deep down that she doesn’t respect you, you’re probably right.

    That beach thing sounds so familiar. They have to lie to make themselves feel honest sometimes.

  7. geronimo
    July 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Wow JP. It’s like we were married to the same woman. I remember there was one and only one time that we had a fight via email; I thrashed her so soundly (via pointing out her lies, half-truths and inconsistencies in black and white) that she never did it again. From then on it was phone or face to face only, where she could deploy her bag o’tricks to full effect. She actually prides herself in being “the master of the twist,” with “the twist” being turning blame away from herself and on to me, or whoever else is in her orbit. Seriously. She thinks it’s hilarious and awesome how manipulative she is.

    To answer your question, I try to just take the crumbs and move on, but when my daughter parroted that bullshit blaming crap I couldn’t resist calling her out. I do not want her making my daughter into the monster she is. I know that she will never apologize, never acknowledge that I might be right, but I keep on doing it anyway. I guess that’s old definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” and all that.

    • jp
      July 9, 2010 at 1:22 am


      Two good things came out of my separation and divorce.

      1. I could finally be the father I wanted to be: spontaneous, in charge, fun, relaxed, confident, not always worrying about or trying to head off the next criticism, correction, smirk, eye roll, ‘suggestion’, etc.

      2. By eventually communicating chiefly through text and email, and having a record of our exchanges, I was able to see finally that my ex was an expert manipulator and very dishonest. And that the mythology that had developed during our marriage–that I had a deeply faulty memory, that she was always right when we had an argument about something one of us said or did–was a big fat f*cking lie. I can’t believe I allowed it to take root. By the time I got out of the marriage I could barely decide to go to the store to get a carton of milk, and I thought she walked on water and I was piece of dirt who didn’t deserve to live.

      It’s a huge relief to be finally vindicated, although to be honest it doesn’t feel that great. On the other hand, I learned something valuable which the newbies reading should take particular notice of: if your instincts are telling you your being tooled/manipulated, etc. but you’re reluctant to believe it because your girlfriend/wife/ex is so funny or sweet or generous or loyal or some other combination of great qualities, believe your instincts. It’s not incongruent at all for a woman to give you a lot of what you want and need and tell you she loves and needs you while simultaneously controlling you in subtle and not-so-sublte, destructive, and dishonest ways.

      BTW, the example I wrote about in my earlier post above, the kids at the beach saga, etc. happened today. It turns out some family of hers who was coming to visit for a week and were supposed to arrive tomorrow, actually arrived today. So she wanted to skip my dinner date with the kids at the beach so she could get back to town to be with them. All she had to do was tell me my plans for the kids wouldn’t work cause she had to get back to town. But instead she lied and manipulated to achieve the same end, and when that didn’t work, she just changed the plan anyway and gaslighted me, saying it was my fault. Pathetic.


    • July 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      jp, based on your last couple of comments, I’m going to assume that you assessment of your ex as a “fine mother” some years may have changed somewhat in the interim.

      If I’m wrong, please accept my apology.

      Anyway, the reason I asked earlier if you still had the same opinion of her being a “fine mother” was that based on my own experience with my wife, I really can’t see how these personalities can be what I’d define as a “good parent”.

      Maybe my experience isn’t common to every “cluster b” person.

      To give a little background, I met my wife in my early twenties.

      I realize now that I ended up as the target of classic love bombing.

      Part of it was that I knew she’d had a “troubled” childhood and had some “issues” but, I saw a lot of good qualities in her and believed her claims that she wanted something better for herself.

      Of course, I was “the only man she ever trusted”, “the only person who had ever believed in her”, etc. All the usual stuff, which I of course bought right into.

      The end result was my complete focus on “her and I”, which saw me pretty much wrecking various other aspects of my life. When my life was for the most part in shambles, she left me.

      We fell out of touch for a few years, during which I just couldn’t let go of the “if onlys”, convincing myself that she really had loved me and “if only” some things had been a bit different, we’d have been okay.

      In retrospect, most of it was simply a matter of not being able to admit to myself I’d made a mistake and made a shambles of my life at the time for what ended up to be nothing.

      Eventually, we ended up back in touch, with her having had two children in the interim. By the time I started seeing her again both kids, one a toddler and the other a couple of years older, were pretty much out of control, primarily due to their mother’s lack of consistency and boundaries, etc. she was willing to give the effort to enforce.

      Several years later, my wife and I had another child.

      It was always very important to my wife to be seen as a “good mother” and she was pretty good at projecting this to others. And she did make sure her children were fed … though often the meals were hotdogs and french fries, macaroni and similar stuff because she “didn’t like cooking” … and when she was home kept things reasonable neat and tidy … until she got upset about “messes”, e.g., dirty bath tub, clothes on the floor, couple of dishes in family room, either I or the kids made and told us she no longer be cleaning this or that.

      This was when she was playing the “stay at home Mom” role and I was working and the kids were in school all day.

      My wife was good at buying (too many) Christmas, etc. presents for the kids, and making sure otherss knew about it, and taking the kids on activities where they could entertain themselves, e.g., a water park, and making sure everyone knew about these outings as well.

      But, through the years, I noticed she wasn’t comfortable with showing affection to the kids, which in my view is of crucial importance in the parenting role, or letting them know she was proud of and loved them

      She never was consistent in setting boundaries and consequences for the kids, generally because she preferred them to be off playing while she did whatever she enjoyed doing, and her idea of “discipline” seemed to be to let everything go until she finally blew up over some trivial thing.

      And of course there were screamed insults, etc. directed at me which of course the kids often got to hear and … never followed up on … threats to “take the kids and leave”, which of course the kids also heard and which I doubt did much to give them a sense of stability or security, and her consistently negative attitude towards just about everything.

      Through the years, I often heard her tell perople about all the activities, e.g., crafts, games, etc. she’d done with the kids. When I’d mention to her that I’d never much of this … certainly nowhere near the extent she led others to believe was the case … I was told it was when I wasn’t around, i.e., with her kids before we got back together or while I was at work, etc., and was given the impression that it was my fault she wasn’t interacting with the kids when I was home.

      To this day, I have no idea of how much of what she said had actually happened and how much was just a creation of her own mind. I have noticed through the years that my wife considerably exagerates certain things that might cast her in a good light to others.

      I could go on but, you get the picture.

      Anyway, at the end of the day, the best I can say about my wife’s role as mother is that her kids were fed, clothed and housed and she bought them lots of gifts on special occasions and took them to an amusement park or something similar once in awhile.

      I really can’t see how an individual who is as self-absorbed as my wife could ever be a “good parent” by my definition of the term … though they are good at projecting the notion that they are a “good parent”.

      I think any of use who’ve had the pleasure of a cluster b personality in our lives would generally suggest to any man or woman in childless relationship with one to head for the hills.

      But, as we with children know, the situation is somewhat more complex when children are involved, and I don’t think there’s any one size fits all ideal solution for dealing with a relationship with a cluster b when children are involved.

      Any illusions I’d had about my wife were pretty much gone after a couple of years of marriage and I’d come to the realization that I was dealing with three children rather than an adult wife and two children … with the oldest demanding to be treated as an “adult” when it was beneficial too her but avoiding most of what the average person might see as adult responsibilities or behavior.

      It got to the point where I didn’t want to come home after work because I knew I’d be walking into a fight between my wife and one of her children … which I’d be expected to resolve … and a stream of complaints about one thing or another.

      I considered just walking away from the whole situation but, never did because, among other reasons, I just didn’t feel good about leaving the kids with her because I believed their lives would be completely wrecked. As to why I believed this, having read many of the posts on this blog I would best descibe my wife as an NPD “waif”.

      In my view, leaving would just consign the kids, at the time only her two, to a life where with me gone, one of them, or each at different times, would have to be in the role of “enemy” and the target of blame for everything wrong in my wife’s life and with a mother who was unable or unwilling to handle things on her own and would seek out whoever she could find to “protect” her. Based on seeing who she’d ended up with before me, I shuddered to think who could end up entering the kid’s lives.

      I also couldn’t help but remember a discussion I’d had when we re-connected as to how she just “couldn’t handle the kids” and was considering placing the in foster care.

      In hindsight, I realize this was just a play on my sympathies because giving up the kids would have eliminated her social assistance meal ticket as well as making her look like a “bad mother”. But, I fell for it then.

      After we had our own child, there was no way I was leaving as I couldn’t stomach thinking about what my child’s life would be alone with Mom … and whatever sleazebag “protectors” came and went in her life.

      I believed at the time that there was no way I could work and properly raise an infant on my own, particularly as I had no family supports to fall back on where I was living and as I wasn’t willing to leave my child to my wife’s tender mercies, I could see no viable option other than trying to maintain the marriage.

      Throughout the years, my wife often talked about “separating”.

      And as time went on, my child grew and became more independent with each passing year, so eventually I told her I’d be quite willing to separate if it meant her leaving as I knerw that I and my child would do fine, perhaps better, without her.

      However, her notion of “separation” was me leaving and she and my child remaining in the home with me paying to maintain them.

      I still wasn’t ready to leave my child alone with her and definitely wasn’t going to be the one who chose to leave and give her ammunition for any custody battle that might ensue.

      So, we were at an impasse for many years.

      My way of dealing with my wife and the possibility that I might come home some day to find her and my child gone was to let her know very clearly that I would do everything I could legally to gain custody of my child and failing in that, would just leave my job and find employment in something that paid enough for me to get by and left little or nothing for her.

      While this might seem unfair to my child, it ultimately left the decision as to my child’s future in her hands.

      Now, this isn’t a route I’d ever have taken in a marital separation with a “normal” however, I wasn’t dealing with a “normal” person and frankly would be damned if I went down without a fight custody-wise and was damn sure I wasn’t going to fund my wife’s inevitable destruction of my child … which I was convinced would be the case whether I provided suipport or not.

      Over the years, I came to believe that while my wife does “love” her children in whatever her way is, her primary interest in them has been as meal tickets to provide her with support.

      So, I figured if my wife understood she’d get little or nothing from me in respect of support for our child, she wouldn’t decide to just up and leave with her.

      Which turned out to be the case.

      I never did see my relationship with my wife continuing past the time my child left home however, in the past few months, I’ve been pondering whether I could wait that long. Coming across this blog and finally realizing what my situation has really been has certainly factored into my thoughts in this regard.

      We sold our home awhile back so now have no shared financial ties and not a heck of a lot else in material things to show for our “marriage”. I’m living in a city I never wanted to be in … and am in only because of circumstances related to one of my wife’s family members needing assistance.

      So, I told my wife a few months back that I was just going to look for a living situation that was more satisfactory to me and wasn’t sure whether this would include her.

      I told her that if I decided to go on my own … which would involve a move to a different city …and our child wanted to remain here and with her, I’d be happy to pay my required child support.

      While I don’t believe remaining with my wife would be in my child’s best interests, they are old enough now to have formed a sense of what is right and wrong and a value system and relationship with me that I am more confident than I was a few years back would not be ruined by my wife.

      However, the deal remains the same in respect of spousal support and I made it clear that if she ever sought this from me, I would go the route I mentioned above.

      Again, this isn’t something I would do in circumstances involving a “normal” spouse where we’d worked together for years to build something and one or both of us decided to separate.

      However, my wife contributed practically nothing in our marriage financially or the home, other than misery, so I don’t feel I “owe” her anything other than what I’ve previously given, which has been substantial, and have no desire to subsidize her sitting around on her butt for the next who knows how many years.

      Anyway, I found a home in a different city. My wife decided she doesn’t want to move there and my child does. So, at this point my child and I will be moving to our new home and my wife will have an opportunity to do all the things she has claimed she wanted to do for many years, e.g., find full-time employment.

      I’m not under any illusion that the future will be smooth where she is concerned but, I’m hoping for the best.

      You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with these types and the unfortunate reality is that if you play by the orf their rules and try to do the right and honourable thing … which they depend on your doing … you’re going to lose. Unfortunately, good doesn’t always … or often … triumph over bad in the real world.

      Anyway, I made my decision in this regard, which was to change what she views as the rules of the game.

      Re: geronimo’s comment about the pointless lies, I’ve seen this from my wife and to an even greater extent some of her family members, one of whom constantly lies about almost everything, including things no one else cares about or in some cases knew about before she told the lie, e.g., she talks about having to miss a party because she was sick to people who never knew, or cared, about the party and whoever gave it but know she wasn’t sick on that particular day.

      Weird stuff.

      Anyway, all we can do is hope things eventually turn out okay for one another and share our various experiences to hopefully help other readers.

      Wish you the best, jp and geronimo.

  8. geronimo
    July 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Thanks, JP, Lighthouse. It’s a process, but I am getting there. You are both right that I still allow her to suck up to much of my soul’s resources.

    The family thing really sucks. It’s very complicated. She lives next door to one of my aunts — who we will call Elena and who has a child who is actually younger than my daughter — and the house we rented belongs to the husband of another of my aunts.

    They are the much younger sisters of my late mother, who had me very young, so they are more like sisters to me. My mother’s side of the family is dysfunction personified seven times over.

    Elena vehemently took my ex’s side early on and has not budged. It did not matter when I told them how my ex used to punch me (she busted my lip twice) and throw kitchen ware and hot food at me. Just before I left her, my ex threw a heavy cocktail tumbler at the back of my head. Elena told me “You probably deserved it.” She also said I should have been able to take it becase I was much bigger than her. She did not temper her stance even after my ex punched me again when I dropped off the kids.

    Elena also forwarded all my ostensibly private emails, all the ones wherein I was explaining how abused I had been for all those 17 years, to my ex.

    Elena was my godmother but she is dead to me.

    • jp
      July 8, 2010 at 8:56 pm


      Deciding not to engage is very difficult, especially in these two cases:

      1. You’re concerned about the kids. You worry if your silence = throwing the kids under the bus.

      Real life example: Ex becomes friends with a couple who also have small kids. I meet them. They seem great. They spend a LOT of time with ex and our kids. A few months later my 4 yr old complains, out of the blue, that the dad “yells at me when I cry”.

      I ask her for details, she repeats that sentence but offers no more. So I ask her 6 yr old sister if she knows what the little one is talking about. She does and she explains that the guy babysat them so ex and the guy’s wife could go out. My younger daughter cried from missing her mom, and according to my girls the guy yelled at her for crying.

      Now, in 4 years my kids have never complained to me about an adult. Not once. So I have to assume this was a disturbing event and obviously it was upsetting enough for them to both recall it and bring it up to me out of the blue weeks later.

      So I’m concerned, but I don’t want to get carried away. So I emailed my ex and said, “I know [the couple] are great and love the girls but tonight the girls told me [the story] and I’m a bit concerned. Obviously I don’t know for sure what happened, but if this guy doesn’t know how to manage a 4 yr old who’s crying because she misses her mom then I’m sure you’d agree that he shouldn’t be babysitting.”

      Note the measured language, note the “I know your friends are great…” assurance I’m not attacking them personally, note the admission that I don’t know what really happened [with the implication I could be wrong but feel the need to express my concern anyway]. All in all, something a grown up would write.

      The measured language didn’t matter. She attacked me, claiming I was accusing her friends (plural) of ‘abusing’ our kids, and attacking my sanity, etc. Two years later, and over another issue I raised recently, she included in her gaslighting rage response a reference to the event, telling me I had “abused” her friends and that I “nearly cost her” the friendship (which is hard to imagine since I addressed the email only to my ex).

      So was it worth it? I don’t know. She’s still great friends with them. I know and like the guy and now assume he or my daughter just had a bad night. And although her response/attack was painful to me at least she knows I’m paying attention to what goes on when the kids aren’t with me. But if I’d done nothing I don’t think anything would be different and I would have spared myself both attacks and all the anger and anxiety that goes with them.

      2. When she’s manipulating you, and you know it, and yet you give her/do what she wants not because she’s manipulating you but because it’s the right thing to do or you have no choice. The hook is that you’re offended by the contempt she’s demonstrating by blatantly trying to tool you and so you want to call her on her bullsh*t to let her know it doesn’t work.

      Real life example: Ex takes kids to the beach for the week. You agree ahead of time you’ll come down one night to take kids to dinner at fave summer restaurant. The night before you’re due to go down she texts you:

      her: so, what’s the plan for tomorrow night? I heard from the kids you might be coming down early in the day instead. [A lie. She wants me to come early for some reason, probably cause she wants to come back to town that night to see her married BF but doesn’t want to be seen as breaking the plans]

      me: [Don’t take the bait, stick to plan] I’ll come get em around 5:00 pm, work for you?

      Her: Sounds fine. But you know, if you want, I can bring em to you earlier in the day so you don’t have to come all the way down. We’re coming home the next day anyway.

      me: [I still don’t bite.] Still planning on the restaurant. Is 5:00 ok?

      her: Yes.

      [half hour later I get another text:

      her: Really, i don’t mind bringing them back earlier. Then you won’t have the long drive.

      [I ignore this one as I’ve already told her three times–once at the beginning of the week and twice that night–what I want, and she’s agreed each time.]

      Next moring, I’m on conference calls and she leaves a vox mail. I don’t get to it, but I’m certain it’s her wanting to “ask” YET AGAIN what the plan is as a way to now verbally attempt to change the plan without seeming to change the plan.

      A little while after the vox mail I get an email:

      “I’ve left a Vmail and a few texts [sic]. Haven’t heard from you, so I am planning to head back to town this afternoon. Was trying to accommodate you, but I’ve got too much going on to wait around to see what you’re planning.”

      Ok, so this an old tactic of hers. It’s called ‘Keep asking what he wants, even after he tells me what he wants, but ask in a way that gets him to see the benefits of doing it the way I want. If I can’t get him to do what I want in a way that makes him think it’s his idea, then I’ll keep asking until he gets frustrated, takes it off email and on to the phone where I have a better chance of starting an argument in which I can use gaslighting, guilt and shame to get what I want. Then if that doesn’t work, I’ll just change the plan anyway and somehow put the blame on him. Usually he’ll be so busy defending himself from the accusation…in this case that he rudely left me hanging when I was merely trying to accomodate him…that I’ll get what I want plus the side payoff of seeing his wheels spinning about something unrelated to the issue that I just made up on the fly.]

      So, she’s already made the decision to leave and scuttle my plans with the kids, which is what she wanted all along. I’m powerless to do anything about it. She’s thrown me a crumb in offering to drop them at my place in town. I want to tell her to f*ck off, but I want to see the kids more, so I tell her to drop the kids at my place.

      Of course she could have been honest all along and said up front, ‘tonight’s not gonna work as we planned. I have to get back to town today. Sorry. How about I drop them with you instead?” I would have been irked but at least I wouldn’t have felt the contempt of her trying to manipulate me and the fury at her attempts to gaslight the blame onto me.

      Question, do you just take the crumbs and let it go, or do you call her on her bullsh*t so you know she knows you know what she’s up to? Remember, confronting her will mean you get attacked…she will NOT admit it or apologize or even address the substance of your complaint.


  9. geronimo
    July 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Richard :

    geronimo :“You have to clean her ears. They are infected from those earrings YOU bought her.”

    Perfect example of BPD crap talk. The only useful information in the above is that your daughter’s ears need attention. I just parse that out and ignore the rest.
    Next, I drop mom a txt or email letting her know that she should pay more attention to the situation so she does not end up getting embarrassed when it ends up at the school nurse, grandma’s or wherever makes sense in the particular case. Any response will generally have to be ignored, but your message will have it’s intended effect…
    The goal is to train her that she needs to take care of this too…not only your responsibility (as implied in her statement). The possibility of being embarrassed is very powerful for behavior modification. ;-)
    But you are correct, they won’t change. My goal is not change, I just want to deflect the BS so she will find another target for it and give up on using it with me.

    Yesterday morning, my daughter parroted her mom and also blamed me for allowing her ears to get infected. I told her, very gently, “I wasn’t the one who got your ears pierced, I didn’t put the earrings in your ears, and I didn’t leave them in for over a month.”

    Then I emailed her mother and let her have it. I told her it was ridiculous to blame me for the infection. I told her it was as if I sent our daughter home with a pint of ice cream, which my ex then left out to spoil before feeding to my daughter, who then got sick. That would be my fault too; after all I did buy the ice cream.

    Here is her condescending reply in full:

    “Chill out [Geronimo]. Nobody blamed you.”

    She followed that with a demand for $300 that is not due her. Long ago, I stupidly offered to pay her 133 percent of child support plus our son’s cellphone bill for the rest of the summer, and she was trying to double-charge me for the extra 33 percent. (This in spite of the fact that I have the kids this month and she is getting paid but not working at her teaching job.)

    After pointing out that she wouldn’t be getting that money, I replied that not only had she blamed me, but that our daughter did too. I also told her she was gaslighting. She replied by ignoring all that and asking if our daughter’s ears were better. You see, she always takes the high road and only cares about the children. Yes, she gaslighted the gaslighting accusation.

    And yes, our daughter’s ears are fine now.

    The thing that makes me the maddest is that she still has much of my family on her side. My grandmother and three of my aunts all think she is just swell.

    • jp
      July 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      Ugh, geronimo,

      I just wrote a killer response then lost my connection and the wholw thing.

      Short versio:

      Sorry. Classic example of gaslighting and meta-gaslighting.

      However, you need to stop engaging with her. There is no way you can win. Look what she does…you call her on her BS and she slams you for something else. Classic misdirection. And if you call her on THAT, she’ll attack you from some other angle. You get riled up and she gets the power.

      Stop. By all means correct your daughter’s misconceptions, but don’t waste your breath your wife. Don’t call her on her BS, don’t share your concerns. Give her nothing. And likewise, when she emails/phones you with some complaint or ‘concern’ ignore it.

      You’re a competnent man and father. You don’t need her feedback. She’s just trying to control you.

      And for god’s sake no extra money! You’re already not getting credit for being a ‘good guy’, so why do these extra things? You give her an inch and she’ll ask for a mile. Stop it. She’s not helpless. Let her find some other guy to tool or…gasp!…get another/better job.

      The bit about your family’s disloyalty is heart-breaking. But you’ll have to let go of that too. She’s done a hell of a snow-job on them. It sucks being isolated without family to have your back, but you’ll be stronger for it in the long run.

      Be confident in your reality. Your ex is a dishonest bully and expert manipulator, the only way you can win is not to play. Detach. Detach. Detach.

      Also, Google “parallel parenting”. You can’t co-parent with this women. She isn’t mature enough.

      Good luck,

      • Lighthouse
        July 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm


        I’m with JP on this one. Let it go as the best you can achieve is a Pyrrhic victory – a victory with devastating cost to the victor.

        How much of your life has that one comment cost you in lost time reflecting upon how unfair it is, lost time typing, and lost sleep due to the anxiety ?

        And what did you gain for that investment ? And what could you have gained if you had invested that time adn effort in someone capable of loving you back ?

        Honor your decree, ask for no flexibility, go no contact and use the time getting to know your child’s friends, friend’s parents and teachers. In short, resume making decisions based upon your discretion not as a reaction to her’s and claim your life back !


        • finallywokeup
          July 8, 2010 at 11:15 am

          Geronimo, jp, and Lighthouse, great topic/exchange. Geronimo, these guys are right. Do not engage or argue – simply state your preferences or intentions in email, do what you are entitled to do without worrying about her reaction, and leave it at that.

          When these women hurt you indirectly via your children, I find the “embarassment” advice above from jp to be the best. Let her know that YOU know, and that you have corrected the situation or misinformation with outsiders (teachers, doctors, babysitters, daycare people, etc.). Then drop it. Mine usually goes blissfully “silent” (email contact only) for a couple of weeks after I do this. These women are hardworking fakes, it’s what they do, and being exposed seems to be their biggest concern.

  10. July 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hi, jp.

    You said:

    “With my biased court-ordered crap divorce agreement and her bullying personality I have little power.”

    If it’s not too personal, could you elaborate on why you feel you have “little power”?

    • jp
      July 7, 2010 at 2:38 am

      Hi OG,


      1. Our divorce agreement is lopsided. She has our kids 75% of the time, giving her more influence and control and impact on their lives. If I, or the girls, want ‘extra’ time, either a visit or overnight, I/we have to ask her permission. I wanted split custody but in MA they don’t give it unless the wife says ‘ok’ so I have to take my limited time and then rely on her sense of noblesse oblige for extra crumbs. If we’re getting along, i.e., I don’t assert myself or mention anything that upsets her, I get the extra crumbs…in a good month I’ll put them to bed in my place 8-9 nights a month, otherwise I tuck them in 6.

      Another way I got more time was negotiating into the agreement a right of first refusal for caring for the kids, i.e., she calls me first for babysitting. (She didn’t even want to do this.) I don’t mind cause I’ll take any time I can get to be with my kids, but on the other hand I’m her babysitter and we both know it.

      2. My child support follows the MA guidelines, i.e, she gets 40% of my after tax income to spend on whatever she pleases with zero accountability. In addition to leaving me broke and unable to afford an apt. with a second bedroom for my kids, it leaves me powerless to make financial decisions that affect the kids. Sports, activities, summer camp…I can let my feelings be known, but I don’t have any money to pay for things so if she doesn’t agree it doesn’t happen. (And if she’s spent the child support on her own wants and needs, there isn’t any left anyway.)Sure, I have legal joint custody and these areas are joint areas of decision, but without financial power behind me it’s a joke and we both know it. Eventually you stop trying to have influence because every exchange is a kabuki dance where I pretend to have some hand and she pretends to give a f*ck what I think. It’s an exercise in emasculation.

      3. She’s an emotionally and verbally abusive bully. If I’m concerned about something affecting the kids, I have to think very carefully about whether to mention it because I will be brutally attacked for the crime of challenging her supremacy. She might do the right thing based on my concerns, but she will attack me in the cruelest most poisonous way anyway, and even though I know her attacks are BS gaslighting fabrication narc rage assaults and they only happen in email, and I ignore them completely, they knock me on my ass for about a day before I can shake them off. So I speak up sparingly.

      Basically the imbalance of power in the marriage got solidified and amplified in the divorce thanks to the corrupt and outdated family law system of the state of Mass. BTW, my lawyer tells me I got a good deal…no alimony, which in Mass is for life.


    • July 8, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks, jp.

      Was there ever a chance of the kids being with you instead of their mother?

      • jp
        July 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

        No. I broke up the marriage and she’s a fine mother. Plus they were toddlers at the time and I had to take a second job for the 1st couple of years to pay for everything so I wouldn’t have been able to care for them full time anyway. Then when it came time to divorce (2yrs after we split), I said I wanted to split 50/50 or 60/40 (her favor) and she said no way. Plus, by that time there was a 2-yr precedent…kids live with mom…that would have been impossible to reverse.

        Also, lawyer said that for even a chance for split I’d have to accuse her of being unfit, order psych evals, get GALs involved, etc., and battle in court. I didn’t want to do any of that and couldn’t have afforded it anyway. Basically, in my case as in many others, the battle is over before it’s fought.

        I had to negotiate with her directly and get the best parenting schedule I could.

        The official position of Mass. family law is to support shared parenting provided certain criteria are met, e.g., parents live close, low conflict, both involved in kids’ lives, etc., and we meet all the criteria. But if the mother says ‘no’ then the courts believe this indicates high conflict making equal parenting time untenable. Of course this is absurd…you can have a low conflict relationship and just disagree on this one question, which one would expect the court to adjudicate, but instead the courts defer to the mother, in effect giving her what lawyers call the “hostile veto” over equal shared parenting.

        There is currently a bill in the Mass. legislature (HB1400) which calls for a presumption of equal shared parenting and while preserving judge’s discretion requires him/her to indicate in the decree their reasons for NOT awarding equal shared custody. The bill was supported in a non-binding referendum by 87% of Mass. voters and the governor says he’ll sign it, but it’s been locked up in committee for years and is opposed by all the various bar associations and womens groups so it’s an uphill battle. But we’re doing what we can.

        FathersandFamilies.org is the group leading the fight nationally for shared parenting and child support and alimony reform. You should check out their web site if you’re interested in learning more.


      • July 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm

        Thanks, jp.

        I hope the bill you mention does eventually pass because I believe the presumption of equal shared custody with a judge having discretion to change this based on the particular circumstances of the case is the only fair way to go and the only way the best interests of the child can be protected.

        Is your opinion of her being a “fine mother” still the same as it was?

  11. Anon.Father
    July 6, 2010 at 8:31 am

    My wife seems to be making a significant effort. She read Alan Fruzetti’s “The High Conflict Couple” thoroughly, and when she applies the techniques, our conversations have been better. She does respond to raw foods, superfoods, and natural healing techniques. She responds very well actually. I’ve had more of such foods around, and talking with her has been much easier.

    I’m still in a state of shock regarding what my wife has said to me, my physical and emotional surroundings, and well, her capacity for cruelty. But a few times now, when she’s been “off” in her statements, she has allowed me to bring things back to rationality.

    JP you make good points, and your circumstances sound horrible.

    What I’ve noticed is it’s not only superiority that gets berated, it’s any kind of “presence” at all. Just starting sentences with “I” can be very dangerous.

    “She” however, does not own the source of your power.

  12. James
    July 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    This has is a fantastic article. After having a lifetime of problems with my mum, problems that niggle and ones that I couldn’t put my finger on I have grwon to realise that she is a proffesional victim and ‘sympathy whore’. I have had a lifetime of her toxic trio and am left with attacks of randomised guilt and fear of upsetting people. Over the last year I have drawn away from mum as I couldn’t take her lying decetfullness anymore. Reading your article has helped clarify some of her more corrosive behaviours. She would say/do something upsetting and I would say that I found it upsetting. She would then twist the situation around so that I was the one causing upset and when I tried to rectify the situation it just made it worse. She would make me feel guilty for standing up to her. Over the years I gave up and wouldn’t say anything further so as to give her no ammuntition however this fed into her denial of wrong doing and reinforced her deluded behaviour that evry body waqs against her and I wouldn’t challenge it. I now have no contact with her and while feeling sad, feel better in myself as I am not constantly being underminded, belittled, demeaned and sutly insulted.

  13. jp
    July 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    ooops…should be “…sidetrack you from achieving your objectives…”

  14. jp
    July 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Richard :“Sorry I did not read past the offensive part where you said ‘bla-bla-bla.’ Try again if there was anything important after that…”- “Nothing you can say or do will change my mind on this…”- “I really don’t think you want to embarrass yourself like that again…”- “Do you really want to embarrass yourself like that in front of them again?”- “I don’t see that working out well for you…”- “We need to focus on what’s best for [insert child’s name]…”

    I think you’ll find that even these are too much. Anything that smacks of superiority on your part will be seen by her as a challenge to her supremacy and will set her off and sidetrack you from achieving her objectives. I look at each of these sentences and I can’t think of a single scenario in which saying them is preferable to saying nothing.


    Her: I want to take the kids on your night next week so they can see their friends who are visiting from out of town.

    You: No.

    Her: You’re so self-absorbed…I can’t believe you would deprive your children of this opportunity…even our friends think you’re selfish…how about if I give you extra time next week?

    You: No [presumably this is where you would say “Sorry I did not read past the offensive part where you said ‘bla-bla-bla.’ Try again if there was anything important after that…”, instead you say ‘no’ or better still, NOTHING]

    I’m finding that only the most complete detachment and silence–saying nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary–protects me from verbal abuse. I’ve recently adopted the most extreme version of it yet since separating 4 years ago and oddly enough she’s started acting “nice” in response. I’m sure it won’t last, and I don’t trust it at all, but I don’t plan on changing my approach in any case.

    With my biased court-ordered crap divorce agreement and her bullying personality I have little power. When I give her nothing–not even a friendly acknowledgement of some conversational crumb she throws me–I take some of the power back.


    • Richard
      July 3, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      Hi JP,

      Yea, nothing’s perfect, but these responses are all done via email and/or text. Face to face and phone contact are minimized.

      Silence does not work for me, as that is taken as acceptance and/or agreement. If I’m silent, she gets a smug smile to let her know I’m onto her BS.


  15. Richard
    July 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    geronimo :
    “You have to clean her ears. They are infected from those earrings YOU bought her.”

    Perfect example of BPD crap talk. The only useful information in the above is that your daughter’s ears need attention. I just parse that out and ignore the rest.

    Next, I drop mom a txt or email letting her know that she should pay more attention to the situation so she does not end up getting embarrassed when it ends up at the school nurse, grandma’s or wherever makes sense in the particular case. Any response will generally have to be ignored, but your message will have it’s intended effect…

    The goal is to train her that she needs to take care of this too…not only your responsibility (as implied in her statement). The possibility of being embarrassed is very powerful for behavior modification. ;-)

    But you are correct, they won’t change. My goal is not change, I just want to deflect the BS so she will find another target for it and give up on using it with me.

  16. geronimo
    July 3, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Based on today’s interaction with the ex, I would have to say no, they will never change.

    I went to pick up my daughter, who is five. About six months ago, the ex (we were still married then but I had moved out months before) decided to get our girl’s ears pierced. The ex never consulted me about it, and I do think my girl is a little young, but I would probably have consented, so whatever…

    Anyway, about six weeks ago I bought her some little stud-type ear-rings from Craig’s, which is a reputable kids’ jewelry store. My daughter took them back to her mom’s house, and her mom helped her put them on. And my daughter has left them on ever since — about six weeks, during which she has been with her mom every week and with me only on weekends.

    So today when I picked up our daugthter, the ex says “You have to clean her ears. They are infected from those earrings YOU bought her.”

    I am so glad I am no longer in a place where I have to even pretend that makes a lick of sense.

  17. Richard
    July 3, 2010 at 4:41 am

    There was one sentence in this article that really struck me:

    Many BPD’s are as sane and as well-behaved as they want to be when trying to charm or when they’re with people who won’t tolerate their bad behavior.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I would have totally glossed over that part in bold.

    I have children, so no contact is not an option for me. I have taken the following steps:

    1) Minimized face time, zero time alone with her (I always want a witness to protect myself from her crazy accusations), pick up kids at the front door of my own house but don’t go in, etc.

    2) Never pickup a phone call, my phone is setup always send her directly to voice mail. I only respond with a text or email. That one feature is worth 10x the cost of a smart phone…

    Those two keep me from getting hoovered. My apologies to the vacuum cleaner manufacturer. ;o)

    Now the really hard part for us “nice guy” targets:

    3) Retraining my ex to make it clear that I don’t tolerate bad behavior. This includes:

    – Ignoring tantrums…no rewards for bad behavior.
    – Ignoring drama and accusations, only responding to selected portions of a communication (where it can advance my agenda).
    – “Sorry I did not read past the offensive part where you said ‘bla-bla-bla.’ Try again if there was anything important after that…”
    – “Nothing you can say or do will change my mind on this…”
    – “I really don’t think you want to embarrass yourself like that again…”
    – “Do you really want to embarrass yourself like that in front of them again?”
    – “I don’t see that working out well for you…”
    – “We need to focus on what’s best for [insert child’s name]…”

    This takes time and consistency, as she has long been trained to expect a reward for her bad behavior.

    I’m open to any other suggestions. I’m just a few weeks into step 3, but so far I’ve achieved things that I previously thought were impossible.

    Also, if you don’t have kids, just walk away…no run away. Trust me, kids will be tortured and used against you without mercy or remorse.


  18. horrified
    July 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Well, I’ve had two sessions with my new therapist and there are some interesting things I’ve discovered. The descriptions on here fit my father and grandmother to a T so I have to assume I was actually raised by people that have these problems so of course I’d learn the behaviors, too. The fact that I made concious decisions not to be like them and was very successful for many years shows I was aware of their issues and determined not to repeat them. Then, years later, I started acting just like them. Why? My dad died. I lost my outlet for my anger….all the things he said and did my whole life, plus the fact that he added new fuel to the fire almost daily (we live in the same small town and saw or talked to each other nearly every day) made it so I was able to keep my anger where it belonged, directed toward him. Without him, all the issues I hadn’t dealt with and things I had stuffed started building up and when my husband would do or say something that reminded me of my dad, I’d come unglued. So, now I’m working out my dad issues and trying to reprogram myself to not see my dad in my husband when my husband’s behavior is hurtful or just not exactly what I want or expect. I started a journal and I’m writing everything down…can’t hide from it if it’s there in writing. My husband also started seeing a counselor–he says if I’m willing to lay myself bare and suffer through this, he wants to make sure he is bringing only positive stuff to the table, too. It’s been 3 weeks today since he told me he didn’t love me anymore…we have a long way to go but at least we’re on the right path.

  19. NoSeRider
    July 1, 2010 at 4:27 am

    How do you distinguish this behavior from a chemical imbalance like bipolar disorder? How do you know it’s a personality disorder as opposed to a chemical imbalance?

    • shrink4men
      July 1, 2010 at 4:49 am

      Chemical imbalances like bipolar disorder usually respond to medication; character disorders do not. Plus, having bipolar disorder alone usually doesn’t include abusive behavior. That’s not to say they don’t do some effed up things, but with the right meds they can usually get it under control unless they have multiple mental health diagnoses.

  20. Mister-M
    June 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    It (almost) never ceases to amaze me how frighteningly similar all of these stories sound. From the moment the two people meet to the astonishing crash-and-burn… and the worst part is that the victimized “normal” person is so often not believed because the stories are too outrageous for everyday folks to comprehend.

    I felt this, too, and there are so many “hidden victims” who can.


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