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Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationships’

Why Men Should Not Put Women on Pedestals

April 19, 2012 7 comments

There’s a new article on www.Shrink4Men.com that explains why men should not put women on pedestals and, if you have the women in your life on pedestals, how to remove them from their perches. Placing your partner on a pedestal is not the path to a relationship of equals, but a relationship between a superior and an inferior.

Here’s the link:

Putting Women on Pedestals: Don’t Do It

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.

Fortify Your Fortress by Developing Healthy Boundaries and Crazy-dar

July 27, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s a new article on www.Shrink4Men.com by resident CrazyBuster, Micksbabe, that discusses the importance of developing healthy boundaries after being in an abusive relationship with a high-conflict person or abusive personality disordered individual. It also discusses the importance of learning to trust your instincts and developing radar or Crazy-dar so as not to become involved with another abusive, predatory individual.

Here’s the link:

Fortifying Your Fortress: Healthy Boundaries Are Your Best Defense Against Abusive High-Conflict Personalities

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting 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.

How to Crazy-Proof Yourself After Breaking Up with an Abusive Woman

March 29, 2011 1 comment

There’s a new article on www.Shrink4Men.com that explains how to break the pattern of dating and/or becoming involved with crazy and abusive women by learning how to Crazy-Proof your romantic life in 10 steps.

Here’s the link:

How to Crazy-Proof Yourself After Breaking Up with or Divorcing an Abusive Girlfriend or Wife, Part 1

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting 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.

Healthy Self-Love: The Foundation of Good Relationships

January 4, 2010 32 comments

You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself. . .” Everyone knows this platitude. Self-help “gurus” and therapists regurgitate it as a mindless mantra ad nauseum.

I don’t know its exact origin, but whoever first uttered the phrase confused things terribly. Accepting and loving yourself is a precondition to being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. However, the oft-recited advice has it backwards: Before you can LET YOURSELF BE LOVED by another, you must first accept and love yourself. If you’re not capable of receiving love, you will attract and be attracted to others who will give you anything but love.

There are men and women who have no trouble chasing after quarry; “loving” them without rhyme or reason, only to have their feelings rejected. These are usually the same people who run in the opposite direction when they’re offered real affection by another person. When they have a chance at a real relationship and love, they’re uninterested for a variety of reasons.

If you believe the cliché, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,” then there should be no pursuit of a love interest until you learn to love yourself. If you’re attracted to others who can’t love you in return, you’ll begin a futile cycle of pursuit and distancing behaviors. Think of it as “mutually assured unhappiness.”

This pattern of behavior typically reinforces your inner and oftentimes unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. In other words, you seek intimacy and love from others who either can’t tolerate or aren’t capable of intimacy and love, which confirms your faulty beliefs about being undeserving or having to work for love.

The end result: When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who sees your positive qualities (that you can’t or won’t see in yourself) and who offers you affection and acceptance; you push her or him away. You devise many reasons and excuses why the other person isn’t “the one.” Typical excuses include:

  • The other person is nice, funny and smart, but there’s some missing ephemeral quality you can’t quite articulate. (Like a proclivity to be rejecting and/or abusive, perhaps?)
  • You’re just not feeling “it.”
  • You only date a specific “type.” (e.g., abusive).
  • He or she is “too nice.” (Isn’t that what we all claim to be looking for?)
  • He or she is “boring.” (This is usually because the thrill of having a corrective emotional experience with an abusive personality who reminds you of mom, dad or some other early formative relationship is missing and you don’t have to work for or prove yourself worthy of love).
  • There’s no “chemistry.” (Mind you, the only “chemistry” you’re likely to feel is with someone who isn’t interested in you, has their own intimacy issues and keeps you at arm’s length and/or an abusive personality).

Buying into the above excuses are how many men and women end up in relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other abusive personality types. These excuses enable you to reject people who are capable of love and who would accept you as you are.

“Loving” someone else is easy enough, especially since people who languish in this position tend to idealize those whom they “love”—at first. If you’re caught in this pattern, you may tend to have an unrealistic, highly selective vision of the other person—until one of their flaws are exposed and then your “love” disappears as soon as you realize the other person isn’t “perfect.” Alternatively, if you’re attracted to abusive personalities, you probably minimize, rationalize or ignore their hurtful and abusive behaviors and tell yourself you need to “work harder” to win their love.

How do you begin to love and accept yourself?

First, you must acknowledge and wrestle with your inner daemons. Explore your faulty relationship beliefs, for example, the belief that you’re unworthy or undeserving of love. Figure out where these beliefs come from, challenge them, lay them to rest and adopt healthier beliefs.

Second, you must accept that you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, but that doesn’t make you unlovable and unworthy. “Perfection,” if there is such a thing, has nothing to do with peace and wholeness. If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, you won’t be able to tolerate them in another person. Others will always fall short and you will reject them. Alternatively, you will accept hurtful behavior from others because you’re not “perfect” and on some level believe you deserve to be treated badly

Third, you must develop the ability to hold and sit with the discomfort and strangeness of the new and unfamiliar, such as being with a kind, loving person who accepts you warts and all. Being with a woman or man who is capable of returning love and values you—including your imperfect parts—will initially feel really strange and uncomfortable. At first, you might feel the urge to flee or push away. You need to ride out any feelings of discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal and feeling bad feels strange and uncomfortable. It will be a big change from your previous relationships. Remember, if change felt the same as what you’re accustomed to, it wouldn’t be change. (Repeat the last sentence to yourself a few times.)

Fourth, you need to be able to tell the difference between forgivable imperfections and abuse in all its forms: covert, overt, emotional, physical, psychological and financial. For example, leaving the toilet seat up, talking too much or difficulty expressing emotions are forgivable “imperfections.” Abuse is unforgivable—at least while it’s active and ongoing. Loving yourself also means creating boundaries and not accepting bad, hurtful, crazy and abusive treatment from others.

The fear of being loved is related to the fear of being “discovered;” of having your vulnerabilities and those aspects you don’t like about yourself exposed to another. This is fundamentally silly because we all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. It’s the fear that he or she won’t love you if they find out how “horrible” you think you are. At heart, this is what causes narcissists, borderlines, bullies and other abusive personalities to lash out and try to control others and it’s what causes you to be the target of these emotional predators.

Having a healthy and happy relationship begins with you loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Once you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself and let go of old, counterproductive relationship beliefs, you’ll be surprised how good being in a relationship can be.

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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credit:

Self-love by fernando’s_graphicos on flickr.

Can a Man Who Was Emotionally Abused By His Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend Have a Relationship with a Healthy Woman?

April 27, 2009 69 comments

picasso-wounded-bird-and-catHi Dr Tara,

I had some questions after reading Why Men Are Attracted to Crazy, Emotionally Abusive Women and the question from Anonymous  in your last post, Can a Man Break the Cycle of Emotional Abuse After Being with a Crazy Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend?, could’ve been written by the man I was just dating! I know your site and advice are geared toward men, but want to say how helpful I find the information you provide. I’m also hoping you can shed some light on my situation.

I stumbled across your site while trying to find answers about why a truly decent man with a history of horrible relationships and a Borderline Personality Disorder mother wouldn’t be able to accept (or reciprocate) the love of a kind and emotionally healthy woman (although I don’t feel like I am that now!) even though he seems to want to. Intellectually, I know it has nothing to do with me, but the whole situation was so confusing toward the end that I started to feel like it was me and that I wasn’t good enough. I still have doubts about some of the decisions I made, which  is why I’m posting this.

He held me at such a great distance most of the time while telling me I was the greatest girl he’d ever met. He almost never opened up about anything personal in 6 months, but near the end I got tidbits about his mom and some of his exes. None of it sounded good—mostly a series of women who made him feel terrible.

When I ended the relationship, I explained that I couldn’t keep feeling like sh** and confused and pulled around all the time. He said he was surprised by what I was saying because it sounded so familiar except he was the one who usually said that stuff. He was never mean to me though, just thoughtless—similar to what you said about the abused becoming the abuser in your response to Anonymous.

I said I have a lot to offer and deserve to be with someone who knew, at the very least, whether or not he wanted me to be his girlfriend after 6 months. I said I felt like a place holder until someone better came along. He said didn’t see me that way and was also confused because he’s never known another woman as good as me. He asked if we could try again after he sorts himself out. I said I won’t make promises I don’t know if I can keep, but would like him to be in my life. The conversation ended well and seemed fine and friendly.

Did I do the wrong thing by ending the relationship? Did I bail out just when he was starting to actually get to the point where he could open up to me? In your response to Anonymous, you said he should just “ride out the weirdness.” What if the woman can’t ride it out? Did I compound the trust issues he already had? I don’t think so, but the whole 6 months we were together were so confusing and so filled with “give a little and then run and hide a lot,” that I don’t really know anything.

I care a great deal for this man and don’t want to be just another woman who lets him down. I’m also afraid that I may not have been patient enough. Maybe if I’d just waited a little longer… but then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be in a committed relationship with someone after 6 months—yet the thought still pops up.

Since this site is about men who have been through the same things my ex has been through, I’m hoping you could give me some insight. What it is that he needs before he is capable of a loving relationship? Did I do the right thing for both of us by ending this relationship since he wasn’t ready? I’ve never dated a man with his background and want to gain a little more understanding since I truly care.

– Nicole

Hi Nicole,

My site is geared toward men, but women are absolutely welcome to participate in my blog. Women who date or marry a man who’s been emotionally abused are definitely affected by the aftermath of his previous abuse. It’s sort of like being the girlfriend/wife of a veteran with PTSD.

I was once in a relationship similar to the one you describe. It left me feeling confused, angry, not good enough, and questioning my own sanity. There’s something extremely intoxicating about hearing, “I’ve never known a girl like you before. You’re so kind and understanding. No one has ever been this nice to me.” It makes you determined to be even more loving and try even harder to help him heal. Sometimes this is possible; sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the length and severity of the man’s history of abuse and his ability to tolerate the strangeness and discomfort of not being abused by someone who loves him.

Men who’ve been involved with emotionally abusive women need to go through a period of “deprogramming” and relationship “re-education.” Being with crazy, abusive narcissistic or borderline women warps these men’s perspective on love and relationships. They view crisis, criticism, conflict, drama, insults, neglect, etc., as normal because, with these women, it is the norm. Sometimes, it’s difficult to break  this pattern because of the rush from being on constant high alert and the exquisite thrill of the rare occasion when these women are nice to them.

Men who don’t have a previous history of being emotionally abused have a much better prognosis when it comes to having healthy relationships in the future. They can remember how it feels to be treated well and they want to have that experience again.

These men were somehow sucked into a relationship with an emotionally abusive, BPD/NPD woman. The abuse is just as disorienting and damaging, but they’re better equipped to heal and move on to healthier relationships.

Men who had an emotionally abusive, distant and/or intrusive parent(s) who believe love is supposed to hurt and, on some level, get turned on by the abuse. It sounds like your ex is in this group. These men equate the conflict, crisis, chaos, conditional or transactional love/acceptance, and the exquisite tension of trying to please the NPD/BPD woman while avoiding her wrath with “chemistry.”

If these men are able to enter into a relationship with a healthy woman in which the tension is absent, it feels “off” to them. They generally can’t articulate what’s missing, which is very confusing for them and you. If they’ve never met anyone as wonderful as you, then what’s the problem?

The problem is that they don’t have a mental roadmap of what a healthy relationship is. You don’t compute. Consciously, they know that they hated being criticized and abused by their exes, but it’s what they know. It’s familiar. Change is scary; even a change that you want. It means dredging up and acknowledging a lot of painful memories they’d rather not deal with and/or they don’t want to stop nursing these old wounds because it means letting go of the past and moving on.

These men often get stuck in a weird, in between twilight space. They don’t want to be abused anymore and desperately want to be in a healthy relationship, but miss the adrenaline rush from the drama and conflict. Intellectually, they want something different, but can’t quite get there.

Many of these men just can’t seem to let go of the self-destructive impulse to recreate their abusive relationship(s) from childhood with a woman (or series of women) in the present who is the psychological embodiment of the abusive parent(s). They’re drawn to these women because they’re seeking an emotionally corrective experience, which is never going to happen. “If only I can make Emotionally Abusive Annie love me and be nice to me, it will mean that I really am a good person, deserve to be loved and then everything will be ok.”

This is what I call being in the right neighborhood, but knocking on the wrong door. Part of the healing process does involve having an emotionally corrective experience, but he’s not going to get it with a woman who has the same traits as his emotionally abusive parent(s). He’ll only experience this phenomenon with someone who is capable of love and acceptance. He may need to address these issues in a therapeutic setting before trying with a “civilian.”

When these men meet a healthy woman woman, the thrill of being abused and the possibility of being able to stop the abuse vanishes (i.e., winning acceptance and love from a woman who isn’t capable of it). They miss that. Other reasons these men can’t fully transition into healthy relationships include not being able to let go of the “knight in shining armor” thing or the Stockholm syndrome effect.

They find the lure of crazy, emotionally abusive women all too seductive and, unfortunately, being patient with them, hanging in there, and giving them time usually only results in wasting your time.

This is truly heartbreaking because these men have many wonderful qualities, but sometimes, people are just too damaged. You can’t help someone else by sacrificing yourself. Well, you can sacrifice yourself, but that won’t help the other person to change. I believe these men can break the cycle, but they have to consciously work at it while mourning the loss of the past.

Men like your ex can find their way out of the in-between world they inhabit, but they have to be the ones to pull themselves out of it and that requires a lot of work and probably some professional help. You can’t do the work for him.

Additionally, some men who get stuck may begin to behave like their abusive exes when they’re involved with a healthy woman. They recreate the abuse pattern that’s familiar to them, in which case, you must end the relationship.

I don’t think you did the wrong thing by ending your relationship. He’s the one who needs to resolve his issues and ride out his weird feelings and confusion; not you. You did not compound his issues. If anything, you’ve shown him that a person has the right to be treated well in a relationship and the right to move on when the relationship becomes hurtful.

By your account, you were extremely patient and gentle with him. You didn’t blame him when you ended the relationship. You told him how you were feeling and that you needed to take care of yourself.

The emotional pursuit and distancing behaviors, which you describe as “give a little and hide a lot,” aren’t unusual for men like your ex. However, in their emotionally abusive relationships, they were the pursuers of intimacy, which NPD/BPD women avoid. I’m sure he didn’t know how to handle it when you not only didn’t avoid emotional intimacy with him, but sought it out.

You did not let this man down. You showed him that kind and loving women really do exist. As you point out, he’s just not ready for a healthy relationship yet. Sadly, he may never be if he won’t confront his past and make the conscious choice to move forward.

You need to figure out if being attracted to men with these issues, who can’t commit to a healthy relationship is a pattern for you, what it means, and start making different choices. If you have a pattern of being attracted to men with emotional abuse histories and/or who are otherwise emotionally unavailable, this may be an issue of your own that you need to resolve. It could be your way of avoiding intimacy and a reciprocal relationship.

If you do have a pattern of being attracted to or wanting to “save” someone like your ex, it might mean that you’re not ready to make yourself completely vulnerable to someone either. Perhaps you recognized this similar aspect in your ex, which made the attraction “safe.” In other words, a lasting, intimate, healthy relationship isn’t going to happen. I wonder if this is what’s going on with you?

If so, the good news is, you can un-stuck yourself. Consider this relationship with your ex another step in your development toward having a mutually satisfying, reciprocal relationship. Maybe you were trying to prove (to yourself) that you are “good enough” by trying to make him see that he should want to be in a relationship with you. Conversely, it sounds like he wanted to be in a relationship with a woman like you, but didn’t feel good enough about himself because of his abuse history. This can get very circular.

It’s important to really understand what happened in your last relationship. Look at it in the historical context of your previous relationships and see where it falls in your progression toward achieving what you consider to be your ideal relationship. Keep trying and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in a relationship.

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and 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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Picasso’s Wounded Bird and Cat on chessaleeinlondon.

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Can a Man Break the Cycle of Emotional Abuse After Being With a Crazy, Narcissistic or Borderline Wife or Girlfriend?

April 20, 2009 28 comments

some birds aren't meant to be cagedHello Dr Tara,

I’m a man with a history of toxic and abusive relationships with Borderline and Narcissistic traited women who managed to accidentally break the cycle of emotional abuse by dating some one who doesn’t fit that mold.

In my case, I had just got out of a toxic relationship and met a great girl who was the complete opposite of anything I’ve ever had — emotionally open and supportive, patient, understanding, etc., etc. We dated for 6 months and I still couldn’t completely commit. Even though I felt like I wanted to, I just never got there, so she left. And by commit, I mean that I couldn’t even call her my girlfriend or even consistently treat her like my girlfriend.

Is it really possible to break the cycle of abuse—especially after you have an opportunity to be in a healthy relationship and recognize it as such, but still can’t act on it?

-Anonymous

Breaking the cycle of emotional abuse doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take awhile for you to truly believe that you deserve to be treated with kindness, warmth and respect. You didn’t develop your penchant for toxic relationships overnight and it’s going to take awhile for feeling good in a relationship to feel normal.

You say that you just ended an emotionally abusive relationship and accidentally met a kind and loving woman. Being able to recognize the difference between your emotionally abusive ex and the non-abusive woman is a good first step. Perhaps, on some level, you’re ready to begin the process of breaking the cycle of emotionally abusive relationships and that’s why you were able to recognize this woman as “open, supportive, patient and understanding.” Odds are, you’ve met women like her before, but weren’t able to see the difference in the past because you weren’t ready.

Recognition is growth. Now you have some insight regarding healthy vs. emotionally abusive relationships, however, to paraphrase Irvin Yalom, M.D., insight alone isn’t enough to effect change. Insight only gets you into the vestibule of change. In order to get through the door, you have to combine your new found insight with action. This means consciously making different relationship choices and tolerating any initial feelings of discomfort or anxiety.

Now that you know the difference, you can begin to actively pursue what you want in a relationship and avoid what you don’t want. Keep in mind, being in a healthy and loving relationship is going to feel really weird initially, even when you know what’s going on intellectually. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool. At first, it’s a shock to the system, but then you adjust and the water feels cool and refreshing. There’s no magic solution for this. You have to ride out the weirdness, get over whatever resistances or fears you have about being loved and accepted for who you are, and take the plunge.

You may not be able to sort through this on your own. A man who’s been involved with an emotionally abusive, Borderline or Narcissistic woman or string of these women can benefit from individual or group counseling that helps him:

  1. Mourn the loss of his abusive relationship, old relationship patterns, beliefs and old ways of being.
  2. Understand what secondary gain (an unconscious or hidden reason for staying in a painful situation or engaging in self-destructive behaviors) he derives from abusive relationships.
  3. Understand why he’s attracted to these women. For example, determine if he has a pattern of being attracted to these women because he’s recreating an abusive childhood relationship with a parent.
  4. Work through these issues in order to make healthy relationship choices in the future.

Whenever we resist doing something we know we need to do, something that’s good for us, it usually means there are some very painful emotions, self-doubts, fears, and self-limiting beliefs connected to it. That’s probably why you couldn’t “completely commit.” Also, from what you wrote, you appear to have just ended your previous toxic relationship.

Have you sorted out the reasons you were in abusive relationships? Do you know what patterns you’re repeating or early childhood relationships you’re recreating? You need to get a handle on these questions before you’re ready to fully commit to any new relationship.

Sometimes, men who have been treated badly, treat non-abusive women the way they were treated by their abusive exes. I wonder if you did that with the nice woman? When you’ve been in sick relationships for awhile, you get a warped perspective on relationships. This is something I encourage you to be cognizant of as well. The abused sometimes turn into abusers when treated with kindness.

You can get through this, break the cycle and have better relationships if you can get honest with yourself and face whatever emotional ghosts you’ve been avoiding. Part of this usually involves mourning the loss of your old relationships and old ways of being. Try to be patient with yourself. You’re just getting started. You’ll get there, but you need to sort through your issues before you’re ready to commit to another emotionally healthy woman.

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and 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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Related content:

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Some Birds Aren’t Meant to Be Caged by calvina on flickr.

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