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Male Anger and Other Emotions, Part Two

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s a new article on www.Shrink4Men.com that discusses male anger and how men have been taught to ignore and bury their anger. It addresses the negative effects of repressing anger and other emotions and explains why anger can be a very healthy and positive emotion.

Here’ the link:

Male Anger and Other Emotions, Part Two

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.

Male Anger and Other Emotions, Part One

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s a new article on www.Shrink4Men.com discusses and dispels the myth that men don’t have emotions. It explores the social and familial constructs that teach boys to ignore and mistrust their feelings. It also challenges the myth that women are better at expressing and managing their emotions.

Here’s the link:

Male Anger and Other Emotions, Part One

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.

5 Stages of Letting Go of a Relationship with an Emotionally Abusive Woman

July 20, 2009 136 comments

still rainingMany of my readers have expressed how difficult it is for them to let go of their relationships with emotionally abusive, Borderline and/or Narcissistic Personality Disorder wives and girlfriends. Several men who were involved with these women refer to them as “monsters.” One man in particular (Run4TheHills) writes that he prays to get cancer everyday because his marriage is so bad. It goes to show how terrifying these women can be when the prospect of a terminal illness is more appealing than another 15 years of marriage or a cutthroat divorce process.

There seems to be two categories men with abusive exes fall into:

  1. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I am free at last! These men are able to recognize that their relationship wasn’t based on love, but upon control tactics (fear, shame, guilt), unmet emotional needs, dysfunctional dependency and projection. Once they work through any lingering trust issues and why they were attracted to this kind of woman, they’ll move on and be just fine.

2. Just can’t get enough of your “love,” babe. These men appear to have bought into the lies their exes told them, such as: “No one will ever love you as much as me.” “You’ll never find anyone as wonderful as me.” “You’re crazy if you think anyone else would want you.” “You don’t know how lucky you are that I put up with you.” “You owe me after I sacrificed everything for you.” They swallow these lies hook, line and sinker and pair them with a handful of good memories. The result is a powerful, distorted belief, which keeps them from moving on and makes it difficult to have a happy, healthy relationship with someone new.

Despite the relentless abuse, rage episodes, mind games, projection, gaslighting and demoralization, these men believe they’re still in love with these women “on some level” and/or “will always love” them. They continuously remind themselves how bad the relationship was so they don’t fall into an illusory, sentimental nostalgia for their ex and get back together. This attitude is evidence of how emotionally abusive women brainwash or program their targets.

It takes time to grieve the loss of a significant relationship. No matter how awful your ex is, you still need to mourn the loss. This may be confusing because ending a relationship with an abuser should ultimately feel like an act of liberation, but for many, it’s also experienced as a loss. Not the loss of the “monster” she is in reality, but the loss of the ideal, fantasy image you constructed in your head and the relationship you wished you could’ve had with her. This fantasy image of the great sex and fleeting moments of sanity is not her true self; the abusive bully is her true self. The woman and the relationship you love and miss exist solely in the Land of If Only.

In other words, “if only she weren’t so crazy…” “If only she weren’t so cruel…” “If only she wasn’t such a liar…Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the five stages of grief (On Death and Dying, 1969) to explain how people “deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss.” You have to go through this process in order to get through it, let go and move on. The five stages include:

1. Denial. You were in denial when you were with her and you are in denial whenever you consider getting back together with her. When you catch yourself thinking, “She’s not that bad. She really does love me. I’m not perfect either . . .” you’re diving headlong into an ocean of denial. She is that bad. She doesn’t love you. She’s not capable of loving you or anyone else because deep down she loathes herself. She views you as an object to control and to bolster her false image. To BPD/NPD women, people are props to use in their distorted, twisted fantasy world in which they’re special, entitled, above reproach and not subject to the rules of civility and decency most of us abide by.

If you think you can help the NPD/BPD woman to see the truth about herself, the way she treats you and the relationship in order to get her to change; you’re also in denial. Even when this woman is hurling the most abusive bile at you, in her mind, she believes she’s being magnanimous for pointing out the error of your ways, so you can improve yourself and be the kind of man she “deserves.” In her mind, you should be grateful she takes time from her “busy” schedule to criticize, abuse and condescend to you.

2. Anger. This is a good stage. Hold onto it for awhile. It’s what keeps you from going back. Try not to get stuck here, however. Feel the anger and then let it go. This is when you’re aware of how badly she’s treated you. You’re angry with her for treating you the way she did and angry with yourself for putting up with it. It’s natural to feel anger when someone is deliberately cruel, dishonest or treats you unfairly. You had to stuff your anger when you were with her because expressing it would’ve led to more conflict and nastiness. You have a right to feel angry. Just express it in a productive manner (i.e., don’t hurt yourself or others), create boundaries for yourself and channel the energy into something healthy like sports, exercise or a project.

3. Bargaining. This stage has a little bit of denial mixed in with it. You deny the reality of the situation (or the severity of it) and make deals with yourself. For example, “She said she’s really sorry and that it’ll be different if we get back together. I’ll give her one more chance and if she starts acting crazy again, I’m out of there.” “Maybe if I’m a little more patient and am very careful and avoid pushing her buttons, it can work.” Or this old chestnut, “I’m just going to have sex with her, but not get emotionally involved.

You can’t bargain with someone to treat you well. Being treated with kindness, common decency, consideration, respect and acceptance should be a prerequisite for an intimate relationship; not something you’re rewarded with for meeting one of her unreasonable demands or if she’s trying to manipulate you into doing or buying something for her. Either she’s capable of a reciprocal relationship or she’s not. It doesn’t matter what you do or how nice, patient and understanding you are with her. She is what she is; a controlling, cruel, abusive, emotional predator and bully. You can’t appease a bully or persuade them to be nice to you. If you do, she’ll see you as weak and bulldoze you all the more.

4. Depression. This is when it sinks in there’s no going back to this woman and that the woman you loved never existed. You mourn the loss of time and the abuse you tolerated. You direct the anger at yourself and feel stupid for being with her and fear getting into another relationship, lest you become involved with another woman just like her.

Like the Anger stage, you don’t want to get stuck here either. Feeling sadness over this relationship is natural, but don’t let your experience with this woman distort how you view all relationships. Not all women are like her and, if you can feel the painful and difficult feelings that ending this relationship brings up, you’ll get through it.

5. Acceptance. While you’re not ok with what happened, you accept the reality of who this woman is and chalk it up to a learning experience. You’ve let go of the anger and sadness and are ready to move on in your life. You may always feel a little pang when you think of this woman, like when a combat veteran remembers some wartime atrocity, but it won’t control you anymore. Eventually, that little pang will turn into a “What was I thinking?” attitude when you remember this woman, followed quickly by murmuring to yourself, “nutjob.”

These five stages aren’t always a lock-step, linear process. You may bounce back between a few of the stages and cycle through them a few times before you reach acceptance. You can expedite grieving for and healing form this relationship if you:

  • Maintain a strict NO CONTACT policy.
  • Disabuse yourself of the notion that you can “be friends” with your ex (“being friends” translates to “not ready to let go”).
  • Understand why you were attracted to this woman and resolve these issues.
  • Focus on taking care of yourself, reconnecting with who you are and rediscovering what makes you happy.

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Photo credits:

  • Still raining by azli jamil on flickr.
  • Defense mechanism by Ray Fenwick on flickr.

Is It My Fault that My Borderline Girlfriend and I Broke Up?

May 14, 2009 9 comments

angry womanI received the following email from a young man who recently broke up with his Borderline Personality Disorder girlfriend. He’s struggling with blaming himself with what went wrong in the relationship and maintaining a “friendship” with his ex.

I met my ex online several months after my previous long term relationship ended due to infidelity on my partner’s behalf. When I met my ex online, she was the sweetest, smartest, most passionate and loving person I’d ever met. We immediately hit it off, and fell in love with each other in less than 2 weeks.

She was planning to move to the city where I lived, but plans fell through with her roommates, so we decided she could live with me a for a few months until she found a place of her own. As soon as she got off the plane (the first time we met in person), I knew something was off.

She was so anxiety ridden that she could not even look at me. It took a few days before we had our first fight. It was shocking too me how emotional and aggressive she became. This pattern of behavior grew more common and I grew distant, not wanting to get hurt anymore. My distance was also fueled by the grief from my last relationship, which she eventually discovered by breaking into my email. I went to therapy to get past all of this, but she still used that distance during the last 2 years we were together as a valid reason to resent me.

Once a week we would have an earth shattering argument that she would start, usually about something so minor (like me not liking her favorite band) that it seems ridiculous. Fights start with her getting offended, her anxiety grows, and then the shouting and tears begin. This was usually followed with name calling, insults, and sometimes physical abuse. The night often ended with her making a rough attempt at suicide, hitting herself, and me forcibly holding her down until she fell asleep or had a seizure.

At one point, she knew she was going to lose me unless she got help, so she visited a therapist, started medication and therapy, and things got better. Friends noticed how happy and upbeat she was. She was cleaner, more independent, and I was falling for her again. She kept on this routine until my father died (the time I needed her most) when she stopped taking her medication.

Her emotional stability became my responsibility again, and at this time, I was having a hard enough time keeping myself together. I was grumpy, sad, and easily annoyed, and at the same time, she was unstable and messy again. A perfect storm!

After a few months, I got myself together and realized I was acting controlling because I felt out of control after my dad died. I admitted this to her and apologized, but she still resented me for it. She was mad every night, yelling and screaming, until I ended things. She moved out after a few months, but in the mean time she flaunted that she was dating other people and had sex with someone else in front of me. When she saw how much that hurt me, she berated me for breaking up with her and that this was my fault.

I have only had one serious relationship before this. I was with her 4 years. She had some issues, but I nothing this serious. For the most part, it was a normal stable relationship until she cheated on me a few weeks before I was going to propose (with my roommate who knew this) and things fell apart after that. She cheated on me again a few months later with a coworker, which in therapy I realized she was running from her problems instead of fixing them.

– Scott

Hi Scott,

From what I can see, the biggest mistake you made was letting a woman you knew for only 2 weeks via phone and email move in with you from another city without having spent any time together in person. You fell for a classic BPD trick, “My roommates are mean, unreliable, flaky,” etc., etc., “Can I just stay with you temporarily until I find a place of my own/other roommates?

The answer to this question if you’ve only known a woman for a short time and/or if you’re already having relationship problems should always be a resounding, “NO.” I’d be skeptical that she had “roommates” lined up at all. Her plan all along may have been to move in with you. Even if she had a potential apartment/roommate, she probably sabotaged the situation before arriving to your town. When women like your ex-girlfriend have roommates, they typically have trouble getting along with them because of the same erratic, needy and abusive behaviors she directed toward you.

These women are like cockroaches. Once you let them in your home, they’re damn near impossible to get out. Don’t feel embarrassed about this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read similar stories except that in those situations, these women also had their pet cat or catsssss in tow.

When you meet a woman online, especially when she’s dating outside her own geographic area, BE SKEPTICAL. Why is she choosing to date so far out of her zip code? Does she have intimacy problems? Is she having a long distance relationship as a way to avoid building intimacy? Or, is she so freaking crazy that she burned through the dating pool in her town?

Sometimes people who contact you from other cities that express an interest in you are perfectly sweet, good people; but sometimes they’re not. When beginning a relationship, most people don’t want to start off with the extra hurdle of a 100 + mile distance. I’d be willing to wager your ex didn’t plan to move to your town until she met you online. That was probably a ruse so that you’d “date” her even though she was living in another city. She most likely saw you as a “geographic cure” for her problems.

For future reference, when a woman like your ex comes to you “in crisis”— a crisis she probably created, by the way—and “needs” to stay with you “temporarily,” she’s violating the ultimate personal boundary. Your response should be a very gentle, but firm, “Gosh, I’m sorry you’re having trouble finding a place to live or with your roommates, but I just don’t feel that we’ve known each other long enough to let you move in, even temporarily. However, if you want, I’ll help you find another apartment.

The bottom line is, when you really need to find another place to live, you find it—whether it’s with a friend, family, or a temporary sublet. There are always options, so don’t fall for her “damsel in distress shtick.”

Setting the boundary and telling her, “no,” won’t be the end of it. She’ll amp up the tears, anger and guilt and probably say things like, “You don’t really love me/care about me. I spend the night here a couple times a week, so what’s the big deal? I can’t believe you won’t help me? Do you want me living on the streets? Is that what you want?!! You’re a selfish jerk! Maybe we should break up!

Your response to this level of manipulation and emotional blackmail is, “I hear how upset you are and I know it can be tough to find an apartment (especially if you’re a crazy, self-destructive lunatic), but I don’t think moving in is a good idea. If you like, I’ll help you find another place to live. If you want to break up over this, it’s probably a strong sign we shouldn’t be together because you’re asking me to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable.

She’ll probably continue to rev herself up and rage and accuse you of having “commitment” and “intimacy issues” all the while threatening to end the relationship. Most men panic at the thought of her ending the relationship or begin to feel guilty and believe her manipulations. BIG MISTAKE.

As for the rest of her behaviors you described, she appears to be an off the charts BPD—especially the suicide threats/gestures. What a nightmare. Count yourself fortunate that you got out.

It seems like you became involved with this woman on the rebound from a very painful relationship with your previous ex. While the last girlfriend doesn’t sound as crazy and erratic as this one, she dealt you a double betrayal—sleeping with your friend/roommate (he also betrayed you and I hope you don’t consider him a “friend” anymore) and then her co-worker. Clearly, this woman has her own set of issues. Then you rushed right into a relationship sight unseen with Ms. BPD who also betrayed you in numerous ways.

During your 2 week online courtship, she put on a false front of sweetness and normalcy. As soon as she showed up, the mask was removed and the horror show began. Then she had sex with other men IN YOUR APARTMENT knowing full well about your previous relationship. Lose the guilt, man. You should’ve kicked her out of your apartment and sent her back to where ever it was she came from the first time she threw one of her fits. I understand you wanted to help her. Hopefully, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. You can’t help these women. All you can do is protect yourself from them and end all contact.

My advice to you is to NOT start dating again right away. Please give yourself a dating “timeout” until you sort through these last two relationships, examine your codependency issues and get wise to these kinds of women. You seem like a very kind, supportive and generous guy. Exactly the kind of guy who is a prime target for abusive women.

When you are ready to date again, TAKE IT SLOW. Really get to know the next woman before you commit to a relationship much less cohabitation. NPD/BPD women put on a good front at first, but they can’t maintain the Dr Jekyll persona for very long before Ms. Run and Hyde appears. And when Ms. Hyde appears, don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel obligated to help her. The only obligation you have is to yourself and to get out of harm’s way

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Photo credit:

Angry woman on brandsizzle.