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Sex and Control: How Men Get Screwed by Emotionally Abusive Women


giant screwSex is a very important part of a healthy and loving relationship. If you’re involved with an emotionally abusive narcissistic and/or borderline woman, the sex has probably become bad for your self-esteem and general well-being, just like everything else in your relationship.

NPD/BPD women basically have three behaviors toward sex: hyper-sexuality, hot and cold, or frigidity. Sometimes, the same woman can alternate between all three behaviors.

[Note: Sex drives may vary greatly from person to person and aren’t necessarily an irresolvable issue in an otherwise loving and compatible relationship. This post focuses on the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors these women have toward sex.]

First, let’s explore the essential elements for love and a fulfilling sex life.

Vulnerability, trust, intimacy, empathy, and  respect — or the lack thereof.

There are 5 prerequisites for love and great sex:

  1. Vulnerability. This means taking a risk, exposing your true self, your needs and desires. It’s risky because you could be rejected or ridiculed. It’s impossible for an NPD/BPD woman to make herself vulnerable because she’s invested most of her life in crafting an elaborate and rigid false self to hide her highly damaged true self.
  2. Trust. You trust your partner to accept you and to not deliberately hurt you. This woman trusts no one. She believes everyone is out for themselves and trying to “get one over” on her. This is an example of projection. She’s out for herself and tries to constantly get one over on you.
  3. Intimacy. This is about sharing and getting close physically, psychologically and emotionally.
  4. Empathy. This requires being in tune with the other person and being able to experience how they feel and what they want and need.
  5. Respect. This woman treats her husband or boyfriend like an object; not an equal partner whose feelings and needs are just as important as her own. Bottom line: She doesn’t respect you.

An emotionally abusive NPD/BPD woman is incapable of empathy. She’s incapable of seeing any viewpoint other than her own and only cares about her needs and feelings. She’d rather stick bamboo splinters under her fingernails than feel vulnerable and she cannot, cannot tolerate emotional and psychological intimacy. She can tolerate some physical intimacy, as long as it doesn’t lead to the other forms of intimacy. Basically, in order to avoid emotional and psychological intimacy, she either engages in hyper-sexuality or avoids sex altogether. But why?

True intimacy means sharing your good qualities as well as your faults and insecurities with your partner, which this woman will never do. Not only does this woman not let down her guard, she ‘s constantly attacking you or pushing your buttons in order to keep her vulnerabilities from being exposed. Consequently, you feel unsafe and on your guard, even though a love partner is the one person with whom you should feel safe enough to let down your guard. This doesn’t bode well for a mutually satisfying sex life.

So why is she even in a relationship if she doesn’t trust, respect or love you?

1. You’re her normalcy prop. Being married or in a committed relationship gives her the appearance of normalcy to the outside world. You play an integral role in maintaining her false self. “See. Someone wants me. There’s nothing wrong with me. Normal people get married. Therefore, I’m normal because I’m married.

2. She can’t exist without attention. Good attention, bad attention; it doesn’t matter. For her purposes, you could be anybody. She likes the idea of having a boyfriend or husband in the abstract, but the reality of being in a relationship is filled with frustration and disappointment for her because you’re not “perfect” or “good enough” for her highly inflated false sense of self. She soon grows to resent you and then the covert and overt abuse and rage attacks begin. Conversely, you try to hold her accountable and point out her imperfections. She can’t have that.

As a result of not living up to her lofty and unrealistic expectations (by the way, no one is capable of doing so), she doesn’t really like you very much. She plays the role of martyr to the hilt, professing her love for you in one breath and cutting you down and shutting you out with the next. You can’t have a satisfying emotional and physical connection with  someone who doesn’t like you and sees you as a “disappointment.” This is another example of projection. In reality, she’s the disappointment and failure as a life partner.

It all comes down to control and bolstering her ego.

Sex isn’t about expressing love, lust, intimacy, passion, affection or mutual pleasure. Instead, many of these women use sex to lure you into the relationship. Once she feels confident that she’s hooked you, sex becomes one of the ways she controls you—either by sexing you up or by withholding it. There are two primary ways of doing this.

1. The insatiable sexual virtuoso. The sex starts off with a bang. The sheer intensity of it is mind blowing, but deceiving. The intensity is actually a symptom of the severity of her pathology. What seems like intense passion to you, is really her intense need to control and dominate you into submission. I repeat, it’s about controlling you, not pleasing you.

You’re also her sex prop. She treats you like a mechanical object/scratching post/human vibrator and/or a way to make herself feel desirable, sexy or “the best.” Roger Melton, M.A. explains: “I love you” means “I need you to love me.” “That was the best ever for me” means “Tell me it was the best ever for you. Show me that I have you.” Sex isn’t an act of true intimacy, but rather another way for her to feel admired and in control. Eventually, this will cause you to feel used and distant instead of loved and emotionally connected. This form of sexuality may be constant or blow hot and cold. It depends upon how often she needs this kind of validation and/or how great her need for control is.

2. The withholding welcher. Alternately, an emotionally abusive, NPD/BPD woman lures you into a relationship with the unspoken promise of passionate sex once you’ve “proven” yourself and she “feels” she can “trust you.” Alexander Lowen, M.D. explains this kind of seduction as “a false statement or promise to get another person to do what he or she would not otherwise do. The promise can be explicitly stated, or it can be implied. Psychopathic swindlers openly promise something they have no intention of giving. But most seductive ploys involve promises that are not clearly stated” (Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, p. 102).

This is a trap because the passionate sex never materializes. You have to keep proving yourself “worthy” of her and, as many of my readers know, nothing is ever enough for these women. You can never be nice enough, do enough or meet any of her other ill-defined, diffuse, shifting rules and requirements enough for her to “reward” you with sex. Sex is a chore for this woman, an obligation or a “favor” she begrudgingly bestows with growing infrequency and ultimately becomes a transaction.

A transactional relationship is one in which person A provides a service in exchange for person B providing a service. Prostitution is a kind of transactional relationship and so is sex with this kind of NPD/BPD woman. In other words, if you want to get laid, then you have to give her something she wants or behave how she wants you to behave. This is another way she controls you.

There’s always an agenda, even if it’s having sex so you won’t end the relationship. It’s still a transaction. “You owe me because I let you have sex with me. I did my ‘duty,’ so now you can’t leave.” Most men are so grateful for even the smallest scrap of affection that they ignore the perfunctory and disinterested way in which their wife or girlfriend treats sex. Like a man who’s been wandering through the desert views a thimble full of water; you’re grateful for what little you get.

No matter the scenario, you’re not her beloved, equal partner; you’re either a to-do list item, a human vibrator, and/or a way for her to feel like she’s still “got it.”

Shame and sex don’t mix.

This kind of woman may also increase her control by combining sex with shame. For example, she labels you as “perverse,”  “sick” or “abnormal” for wanting sex, when she’s the one who has a perverse, twisted sexuality and relationship beliefs—this is more projection. Typical statements include: “There’s something wrong with you. You’re a sex addict. You’re a pervert. All you want is sex.” Shaming you for the very natural desire of  physical intimacy in your committed relationship is incredibly abusive and can leave emotional scars.

The NPD/BPD woman will only have sex when she wants it, which is usually after you’ve been so beaten down that you no longer have any interest in touching her. Contrary to what she believes, criticism, rages, and the cold shoulder do not make for great aphrodisiacs. When you tell her that you’re not in the mood (go figure), she insults your manhood, accuses you of infidelity, of not loving her and so on and so forth.

She expects you to perform a thousand and one feats of devotion before she takes the lid off the cookie jar, yet expects you to perform on demand whether you want to or not. This is another example of her utter lack of empathy. Sex is about what she needs in that given moment and has nothing to do with you. You’re nothing more than object who exists to service her every whim, need and insecurity.

Screwed, but not in the good way.

In the end, a Narcissistic-Borderline woman tends to make a poor lover. Even if she’s mastered a range of techniques, sex is ultimately a mechanical act devoid of true intimacy. If you view sex as simply a mechanistic, impersonal stimulus/release interaction, this may be enough. If you view sex as a medium of expression in which you share love, lust, playfulness, raw animal passion, desire, tenderness and mutual fantasies, sex with this kind of woman will never be enough. Sex becomes just another empty and dissatisfying exchange with your partner.

For those of you who think you’ve lucked out because you’re with the sexual performer, think again. It may be more difficult to end your relationship because you’re also confusing sex with intimacy and can fall back on the lie, “at least the sex is good.” Is it really? Or is it making it more difficult for you to recognize the degree to which you’re being abused, to end the relationship and to find a woman who’s capable of true emotional and physical intimacy?

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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Giant screw by horobin on Picasa.

10 Things You Need to Do After Breaking Up with an Emotionally Abusive Woman


wicked witch ruby slippersDING DONG THE WITCH IS GONE!

1. Spring cleaning. Purge your home or apartment. Get rid of mementos of “the good times.” If you’re not ready to throw them away, put them in a box and store it somewhere out of reach. If she’s left personal belongings, tell her it’s fine if she comes back to get them later and then quietly pack them in a box on your own and ship them to her or, if you don’t know her new address, send them to her mother, her friend (if she has one) or her office. When she sends you a nasty email or leaves a nasty voicemail for doing so; ignore it.

These women leave personal belongings behind as a way to keep a “foot in the door.” Your goal should be to firmly close that door—for good. Furthermore, if she has any of your belongings or owes you money, either get them back on the day of the break up or kiss them goodbye. Your peace of mind and a life without her is far more valuable than a sweatshirt or $200.

2. Delete emails and all other electronic messaging equipment. Delete the 700+ emails you exchanged with her. They’re just something you’ll torture yourself with in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep wondering, “What if I’d responded like this? What did she mean by that? How could she say she loved me and that I’m the greatest guy she’s ever known and then do x, y, and z? Look at how great things were between us for that hour on March 9th. Why couldn’t we stay like that forever? I wonder if she’s thinking about me as much as I think about her? Maybe I’ll just email her to say ‘hi’ and make sure she’s okay. . .”

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Delete these emails unless you need them for potential legal proceedings. For example, she’s taking you to court over money she claims you owe her and you have emails in which she states she owes you money. Or, she’s made false abuse charges or there’s custody issues. You’ll want to give the crazy, abusive emails to your attorney. The same thing applies to texts, sexts, voicemails and hand-written notes/letters/cards.

3. It’s times like these for which Caller ID was made. You’ve got Caller ID, so use it. Screen you calls. If her name appears on the screen; don’t answer it. If it reads, “private caller,” “unknown number” or a number you don’t recognize; don’t answer it. It means she’s figured out you’re not taking her calls and has either blocked her number or is calling from a different phone.

Let it go to voicemail and then delete it. If she begins to harass you by phone, for example, calling and hanging up multiple times daily, call your phone company and have them trace the call records. Then you have the option of contacting your local police department or sending an email to your ex saying you have the records and if she doesn’t stop, you’ll contact the police.

4. Avoid your favorite hangouts for awhile. Don’t go to the restaurant or bar you used to go to together. Go to the gym at a different time of day or join another gym if you think she’ll start popping in at your current one. Your goal is to keep as much emotional and physical distance between the two of you as you can. Granted, that won’t keep her from “accidentally running into to you” (i.e., stalking you), but you don’t have to make it easy for her. If you can’t avoid these places due to work, geographical limitations or that’s where your friends go, at least change your schedule.

Change beer and darts night from Tuesday to Thursday. Go to the gym before work instead of after work. Park you car on a different street or in a different lot. Go to a different grocery store. This is for your benefit as well as hers. Sometimes all it takes for these women to start messing with you again is to see you drive past them on the street or if they bump into one of your friends. It’s much better for you if you can stay out of sight and out of mind.

5. You gotta have friends (and family). Get back in touch with the people who care about you. If your ex isolated you from your friends and family whilst you were together, reconnect with them. The same advice applies if you isolated yourself because you didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment of her nasty and unpredictable behavior. You need your friends’ and family’s support now more than ever.

You don’t have to have weepy heart-to-hearts with them. Just distract yourself for a few hours doing things you enjoy together. It will help to debunk all the lies your ex fed you during the relationship like, “You’re a loser. You don’t have any friends. No one likes you. There’s something wrong with you.” The reality is your ex is the loser that no one likes and, if she has borderline/narcissistic traits, there’s definitely something wrong with her.

6. Spill the beans. Stop lying, making excuses for and defending you ex to your friends and family. It’s time to be honest and expose her for the crazy, out-of-control abuser she is. First, it’s a good offense. Emotionally abusive, NPD/BPD women often begin smear campaigns against you after you break up and, sometimes, while you’re still together to play the “victim” and gain sympathy.

Second, you’ll probably be surprised when the people you confide in are not surprised by what you tell them about your ex. Some of these women are especially adept at putting on a good front and making you out to be the bad guy, but most people can tell something isn’t right—no matter how well you think you hid it.

Third, one of the things women like your ex fear most is having her nasty, crazy behaviors exposed. It will also make it more difficult for her to worm her way back into your life. Once your support system knows the full story, they can serve as “sponsors” à la 12-step program-style. When you’re feeling nostalgic for the few nice moments you had with her, call your friends and family for a much needed reality check.

7. Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Improve your nutrition. Exercise. Start doing the things you used to enjoy again. Establish a new routine without her in your life. Do everything you wanted to do that she bitched and moaned about while you were with her. Leave the toilet seat up. Drink directly out of the milk carton. Give yourself permission to be yourself again. She’s not around to come down on you for it anymore.

8. Take a break from dating. You need time to recover from this relationship. Rushing back into the dating pool while the wounds from your ex are still fresh leaves you vulnerable to other female predators. Like cats in the wild, these women can spot the antelope with the limp at 50 paces.

Take some time to figure out what attracted you to this woman, what needs you were trying to meet, if this is a pattern for you and then educate yourself on how to identify this kind of woman in order to avoid another abusive relationship in the future. If this is a pattern for you, I encourage you to do some work and learn how to become attracted to healthy women. It can be done.

9. Distract yourself. Focus on your career. Strengthen your friendships. Take up a new activity. Take a class. Go back to school. Read all those books and magazines you’ve been meaning to get to “when you have the time.” You have the time now. An abusive, NPD/BPD woman is a huge time sink. She demands constant attention and, when you’re not showering her with attention, you spend the rest of the time thinking about what you did wrong and how you can please her so that she doesn’t go ballistic or give you the cold shoulder again.

If you don’t find something to occupy the chunks of time she used to consume, you’ll inevitably begin thinking (i.e., obsessing) about her, what you used to do together and what she’s doing now. It’s like giving up cigarettes; you need to replace the unhealthy habit with a healthy habit.

10. Get real with yourself. Commit the following statements to memory:

  • She won’t change.
  • You can’t make her better.
  • She doesn’t love you.
  • Things really were that bad.
  • You can’t be friends with her.
  • She’ll keep abusing you for as long as you let her.
  • She isn’t going to move on to a new man and suddenly be great and normal. She’ll continue to be the same miserable woman she was when she was with you, no matter how much she rubs your nose in how “terrific” her life is without you. THIS IS A LIE.
  • A few wonderful moments don’t make up for how abusive she is the majority of the time.
  • You deserve better.
  • You had a life before her; you’ll have a much happier life without her.

Write this list down. Tape a copy to your bathroom mirror, next to your phone and on your nightstand. You can break the psychological and emotional dependency this woman fostered within you.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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10 Lies Men Tell Themselves In Order to Stay in Abusive Relationships with their Wives or Girlfriends


pinocchio puppet

We all tell ourselves lies from time to time in order to avoid making a difficult change that we know is in our best interests. Deciding to leave a bad relationship with an abusive woman should be a no-brainer, but it’s often a painfully difficult and heart wrenching decision for many men. The following are some common lies men tell themselves in an effort to avoid making this choice:

1. I’m strong. I can take it. Maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take it or should take it. The relationship with your wife or girlfriend is supposed to be about intimacy, mutuality and love; not a sentence at Guantanamo Bay. Psychological waterboarding, anyone?

Furthermore, you can’t take it, at least not without long-term, pervasive damage to yourself, your psyche and your body. Emotional abuse takes its toll in the form of cumulative trauma, specifically betrayal trauma. Sooner or later, you’ll develop PTSD-like symptoms and other stress-related medical conditions.

Yes, you’re strong and that’s an incredible, well. . . strength. You’d have to be strong to endure the covert and overt emotional abuse and host of other crazy-making, toxic behaviors. If you have the strength to survive (*surviving and thriving are NOT one and the same) in this relationship, you also have the strength to end it, whether you realize it or not.

2. It’s not that bad. Yes, it is. If you’re using this particular lie in order to convince yourself to stay in the relationship, keep a journal for the next 30-60 days. You can do it on your computer and keep it on an easily hidden thumbdrive or CD-RW; it doesn’t have to be an old-fashioned diary. Do it in a spreadsheet if that’s more comfortable, but record every outburst, every time she blindsides you, criticizes you, undermines you and rejects or withdraws from you. Read through it and then tell yourself “it’s not that bad.”

Seeing the daily minutiae, the venomous attacks, the disconnection to reality and the disproportionate reactions to minor absurdities in black and white can be a real eye opener. Writing it down makes it difficult to minimize, negate or question your perceptions later on. It also gives you a great record of her unpredictable and abusive behaviors should you divorce her and need evidence in a custody battle or to negate false abuse charges by her.

3. If I just work a little harder at the relationship, it will get better. I call this the “Sisyphus Syndrome.” You keep pushing that boulder up the hill only to have it roll over you on its way back down. There’s no winning with this woman. There’s no pleasing her. You can turn yourself inside out and upside down and it will never, ever, ever be enough. Even if you totally capitulate and submit, it won’t satisfy her. In fact, this kind of woman will then insult your manhood and accuse you of being a spineless coward.

Bottom line: You may as well do what’s good for you and, in the long run, for your kid(s) (if applicable). She’ll never be happy, even if you do everything she wants you to do. Additionally, the more you focus on caring for yourself, the stronger you’ll feel and be in a better frame of mind to decide if you want to remain locked in the abusive pattern or get out of the relationship. Taking care of yourself will also have the added benefit of driving her mad.

4. All relationships have conflict. Conflict is healthy. Yes, BUT it depends on the kind of conflict, how it’s handled and if it’s resolvable. Blaming isn’t part of healthy conflict. Neither are name calling, demeaning, belittling and having the same fight over and over again. It’s also unhealthy to bring up previous conflicts that happened months or years ago.

This kind of woman confuses conflict with intimacy. She substitutes anger for passion. Furthermore, don’t confuse her pathology for passion. Passion and intimacy require a certain degree of vulnerability in expressing your desires. This woman only knows how to express angry demands. It makes her feel powerful and invulnerable. Her desire is for total control and anger is her hook. She uses it to keep you engaged in one pointless conflict after the next.  Do you even know what you’re fighting about anymore or does it all seem like the same god damned thing? That’s unhealthy conflict.

5. Things will get better if I’m more patient and pay closer attention to her needs and feelings. This is a variation of #3. This is also a trap. The nicer you are to this woman, the more she’ll view you as weak and pathetic and interpret it as a license to steamroll you.

6. Sex and affection aren’t important. Yes, they are. Enough said.

Seriously though, sex may not be the most important thing in a relationship, but it’s in the top three along with kindness and respect. Aside from shared pleasures, tension relief and physical closeness, there’s oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter released during orgasm that’s “associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.” Good stuff.

Small signs of non-physical affection are equally important. It’s not the infrequent big gestures that count; it’s the little things a couple does for each other that really matter over the long haul. For example, picking up the other person’s dry cleaning because you happen to be in that part of town, going to a chick flick when you’d rather gouge your eyes out with red hot pokers, making the other person’s favorite dinner when it’s not your fave, etc.

Emotionally abusive, narcissistic and borderline women are rarely affectionate, considerate or generous. If they do something nice for you, they experience it as a loss and a degradation. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in a lopsided, nonreciprocal relationship?

7. My kid(s) are okay because she doesn’t yell at them. Witnessing physical and emotional abuse is harmful to children, even when they’re not being targeted. Just because your wife/girlfriend isn’t currently attacking your children doesn’t mean it’s not affecting them. We learn about relationships from our parents and other caregivers.

What do you think your children are learning by observing mom’s and dad’s relationship dynamic? If you could choose a relationship partner for your children when they’re grown up, would you want it to be like your relationship with their mother? By staying in the relationship, you’re telegraphing that it’s okay for the person who “loves” you to abuse you and that one individual’s needs and feelings are more important than the other’s. Additionally, when and if the children ever begin to assert their own identities and challenge mom in any way—that is if they’re not terrified to do so after witnessing the way mom treats dad—they’ll typically be subject to the same hot and cold abuse.

8. I’ll lose my home, my kids and all my assets. Yes, you’ll have to part with some of your assets and you won’t be able to spend as much time with your children. However, if you’re prepared to fight like hell, prepare in advance and arm yourself with strong legal representation, you may be able to recoup your financial losses over time and hopefully forge a new and healthier relationship with your kids. Healthier because you’re setting the example of not tolerating abuse in a relationship. Don’t confuse being a martyr with being a parent.

Your kids are going to have issues, especially around relationships, whether you stay in the marriage or not. You’ll be in a much better place to help them later on if you’re healthy, strong and happy. This half lie/half truth is a fear that’s planted and encouraged by your wife/girlfriend. She controls you through  your fear of loss.

9. Love conquers all. It all depends upon what you define as “love.” Is love control? To these women, love is control, anger and keeping others down in order to raise herself up. Do you really love her? Does your heart skip a beat when you think about her? **Please note, your heart skipping a beat should be accompanied by a smile on your lips and a twinkle in your eyes; not a panic attack.

If she wasn’t your wife or girlfriend, is she the first person you’d want to hang out with? Do you feel loved and accepted for who you are? Or have you convinced yourself that you must love this woman otherwise why would you be trying so hard to make the relationship work?

Now follow the trail backwards and ask yourself where this belief came from? Has your wife/girlfriend told you it’s your job to make her happy and that you “have to fight for this relationship?” Sorry fellas, that’s not love; that’s brainwashing. Break the spell.

10. I made a commitment and I honor my commitments. Okay, but is she honoring her commitments to you? Is she loving, honoring and cherishing you? I’m sure she thinks so. As a former couples’ patient once said, she believed it was her “job” to criticize her husband and tell him what to do to “make him the kind of man she deserved.” You could argue that wedding vows are open to interpretation, much like the Constitution, but come on. My mind still reels when I think about this woman.

Are you honoring your commitments to yourself and your dignity as a human being? Are you respecting yourself by remaining in a destructive and abusive relationship? Are you living your best life by being with this woman or do you feel like you’ve been sentenced to life imprisonment? Healthy relationships don’t feel like a jail sentence. I think when one partner abuses the other, she or he has reneged on the marriage vows (or other form of commitment).Abuse is a betrayal and you ultimately end up betraying yourself by staying in an abusive relationship.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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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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What Makes your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick


control a man remoteDoes your wife or girlfriend tell you what to do most or all of the time? Does she become enraged or sullen and withdrawn if she doesn’t get her way? Does she needle you endlessly until you capitulate? Controlling behaviors and attitudes are just another aspect of emotionally abusive women with Borderline and/or Narcissistic personality traits.

It’s natural to want to have control over your own life. However, most of us realize you can’t control everything, especially other people. You can make requests or try to influence others, but you can’t control them. Psychologist Dr Thomas Schumacher writes, “When you have to be in control of the people around you…when you literally can’t rest until you get your own way . . . you have a personality disorder.”

Here’s the rub: You can’t control others. Not really. When you spend your every waking moment worrying about what others are doing, compulsively trying to control them, you’re the one who ultimately becomes controlled by your desire to control. It’s a paradoxical effect. For those of you who are involved with an emotionally abusive, controlling woman, you probably recognize that maniacal, “out of control” look in her eyes when she’s trying to bend you to her will and you’re trying to resist.

Are control freaks and Narcissistic and/or Borderline women one and the same?

There’s a lot of overlap between the characteristics of “control freaks” and emotionally abusive NPD/BPD women. This isn’t a great leap since many men who are involved with these women describe them as “controlling.” If you think of this woman as a cubic zirconia, “control freak” is just another facet that flashes in the light like “bully,” “professional victim,” “pathological jealousy,” “hypercritical,” etc. Or, put another way, it’s another piece of the fragmented BPD/NPD woman jigsaw puzzle.

Control freaks and abusive, high-conflict women:

  • Have difficulty trusting others.
  • Have a profound fear of having their flaws exposed.
  • Cannot tolerate feeling vulnerable (and, therefore, can’t handle intimacy).
  • Are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity and anger.

What’s really going on?

Why does she invest so much in trying to control you and your reality? Because she tries to manage her anxiety by trying to control you. Control is her anxiety management technique of choice. She doesn’t experience anxiety like a relatively healthy person does — an unpleasant sensation that will eventually pass. To this woman, anxiety is a painful reminder that something is wrong with her. To acknowledge this is akin to being lowered into a dark, bottomless pit with no way out. There is a way out, of course; facing her issues and feeling her feelings, but she’s not going to do that!

Facing her fears and working through her issues would mean admitting she actually has issues, which would mean holding herself accountable and not blaming others. It makes much more sense (to her and remember, she’s the only one who matters) to deny and ignore her problems and push and poke at you because you’re the one with the problem, not her.

Her strategy is unconscious for the most part and goes something like this: If you’re both totally focused on and consumed by what a useless, screw-up jerk you are, no one will notice her glaring flaws, especially her. Get it? I feel dizzy from typing that last piece of emotional reasoning, but that’s what goes on in the dark recesses of her brain.

She tries to stave off her deep-seated fear of having her true self exposed by controlling every aspect of her life and her relationship with you, including imposing her distorted version of reality upon you. She views her ability to control you as a matter of survival—her psychological survival, that is. “Being in control gives her the temporary illusion of a sense of calmness. When she feels she is prevailing, you can just about sense the tension oozing out of her” (Schumacher).

Think about it. When does she come close to being in a good mood or smile with pure pleasure? When she feels like she’s in the catbird seat because she’s gotten her way, pulled one over on you or pulled the rug out from underneath you. The size of her smile is in direct proportion to the number of times she twisted the proverbial knife.

More defensive mechanisms: Projection and projective identification.

Projection and projective identification play a part in her controlling behaviors. She maps her feelings onto you and controls you by inducing these feelings within you. Her controlling facade masks her true internal experience. Deep down she feels frightened, out of control, incompetent and helpless.

Les Parrot (The Control Freak) writes:

“People who want to exert control over everything can make those around them feel inadequate, insecure, nervous, angry, anxious and physically sick. Their message is: I don’t trust you to be able to do it right; I don’t respect your judgment; I don’t think you are competent; I don’t value your insight.”

Whether or not this woman is aware of it, this is how she feels about herself. Once you recognize the defense mechanisms at play, it becomes a little easier to take her hurtful behaviors less personally. She’d be like this with anyone.

In order for her to win, you must lose.

Because this is a matter of psychological survival to her, she has to steamroll you in order to avoid feeling helpless. “To relinquish control is tantamount to being victimized and overwhelmed” (Schumacher). Unfortunately, her fears also fuel her lack of empathy toward you and create the mindset: “Victimize or be victimized; dominate or be dominated.”

To the abusive woman, it’s not enough to merely control you. She only feels in control and good about herself if she makes you feel less than. Her mood becomes buoyant as she cuts you down. She has to make you feel useless, disoriented and helpless, so that she doesn’t feel this way.

This is evidence of a faulty belief system. She has a one-up/one-down mentality. She believes that in every interpersonal interaction there’s a winner and a loser and she will fight tooth and nail against being the “loser.” This is why it’s virtually impossible for this woman to compromise or make concessions. To her, compromise and concession are humiliating defeats. She’d rather blow the house up and everything in it than compromise or take personal responsibility. Anyone who’s gone through a high-conflict divorce with a BPD/NPD/Sociopath knows this only too well.

Her need to control, however, will come back to bite her on the backside. Instead of feeling and appearing in control, this woman comes across as out of control when trying to exert control. Oftentimes, those living under her tyranny eventually stage a revolt and/or bolt from the relationship ultimately causing her to lose control.

Losing control

Schumacher cites the rapid phases this kind of woman goes through when she’s not getting her way or feels she’s losing control. For example, when you challenge her or threaten to end the relationship, she probably exhibits the following emotional states in quick succession:

  1. Angry and agitated. (You’re treated to a rage episode and/or nasty commentary, blame and accusations.)
  2. Panicky and apprehensive. (She exposes fleeting vulnerability as she tries to “feel you out” in order to see how and if she can regain control. She may worry that she’s gone too far and is testing the waters before gearing up for another control maneuver.)
  3. Agitated and threatening. (Because anxiety is ego dystonic—i.e., painfully uncomfortable—she quickly reverts to form and begins to bully you and issue ultimatums and threats of punishment.)
  4. Depression and despair. (When all else fails, she becomes sullen and withdrawn and suffers a temporary identity crisis.)

Her unhealthy coping mechanism (control) becomes an unhealthy and rigid pattern. Because it’s impossible to control others, she’s locked in the endless loop of fighting off real and imagined threats to her control. Since she won’t look at her own issues and focuses solely on controlling you and her environment, she never gains mastery over the fears that plague her. Her attempts at mastery (control) over her emotions and fears instead become a replay of misery for herself and others. But remember, she’ll probably never be able to see herself as part of the problem, which means it’s highly unlikely she’ll ever change.

Psychologist, Dr Patricia A. Farrell, states: “They’re highly resistant to any therapy, and there is no medication for the personality disorder.” To seek help themselves, she says, “the control freak has to be convinced the price is too great not to, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Yes, this woman is deeply troubled, but it is NOT your responsibility to tolerate, accept or change her. The only way to gain mastery over a relationship with this kind of woman is to end it. Otherwise, you’ll begin an endless replay loop of your own misery.

Next week I’ll post ways to manage an emotionally abusive “control freak,” so please check back.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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How Emotionally Abusive Women Control You: The Fear of Loss and the Need for Approval


Why is it so difficult for men who are being controlled by narcissistic, borderline, histrionic and other abusive women to end the relationship? What keeps them tethered to these abusive personalities sometimes even after the relationship has ended?

There are two basic hooks this kind of woman uses to keep men on a readily yank-able chain: the fear of loss and the need for approval. These are the two most powerful control devices in their arsenal. The worst part is that, in many cases, men unwittingly play right into their hands.

The Fear of Loss

The fear of loss is an especially powerful mechanism. It could be the fear of losing the relationship, fear of losing your children, your reputation or your money and other assets. Inducing fear, guilt, shame and a sense of obligation are how abusive women control you. If you’re afraid of loss and your wife/girlfriend/ex knows it, you’re basically at her mercy.

Abusive women will:

  • Threaten you with abandonment. “If you don’t ‘shape up,’ I’m leaving.”
  • Threaten to alienate your children from you or deny you access to them. “If you don’t do as I say, I’m going to tell your son what a bastard you are” or “If you leave you’ll never see your kids again.”
  • Threaten to destroy your career. “I’m going to tell everyone at your office what a sick pervert you are.”
  • Threaten to take all your money. “You owe me. I’m entitled.”

Many of these women will implicitly or explicitly communicate that you’ll never meet anyone else like them. Let’s hope not. The resulting fear is that no other women will want you or find you attractive, which is nonsense. The reality is that emotionally abusive women are a dime a dozen. There’s nothing special about them—except for their highly dysfunctional and toxic characterological traits. You need to change your mindset. Perhaps by “losing” the relationship, you will, ultimately, “win.”

There are far better woman in the world who will treat you with kindness, respect, generosity and mutual consideration. You’re not lucky this woman “puts up with you;” she’s lucky that you put up with her. Being alone is better than being in an abusive relationship. If being on your own is too difficult at first; get a dog or a goldfish.

As for losing your assets, your children and your reputation, these are very real losses. However, if you’re persistent, you can regain and rebuild anything you lose. It won’t be exactly the same, but the longer you stay with this woman, the more you’ll lose—financially and emotionally. It’s confounding. Men are punished by the courts (i.e., spousal support) for staying in the marriage longer in an effort to work things out. You think you’re doing the right thing by hanging in there, but you’re actually giving your wife more power to hurt you when you finally divorce. Therefore, it’s better to get out sooner than later when you notice how lopsided, hurtful and inequitable your relationship is.

Kids are a tough one. You may well lose time with and access to your child(ren). On the other hand, consider what you’re modeling by staying in an abusive relationship. It’s better for a child to have one healthy and strong parent than two dysfunctional ones.

Exactly what are you afraid of losing? The abuse? The emotional withdrawal and rejection? Being made to feel less than? If this were anyone other than your wife/girlfriend/ex, would you want to even know this person? Have you challenged these fears with your intellect or are you being led by your “gut?”

When you fear loss, you need to stop “listening to your gut” and use your mind to reality test your fears. Abusive women are master manipulators who employ emotional reasoning that has very little to do with the facts of a situation. The emotionally based attacks also serve to confuse you and cloud your judgment. Therefore, when you’re afraid, stop listening to your gut and start reasoning with your brain.

Don’t just succumb to your fears; CHALLENGE THEM with your intellect, not the emotional reasoning that only reinforces them. More often than not, your fears are just distorted, self-limiting beliefs sown by your wife/gf/ex. By giving into your fear, you’re voluntarily walking into a cage and handing her the key. The truth is you have the power to release yourself. You will love again. You will find happiness. But you will only do so without this woman.

The Need for Approval

Another highly effective device abusive women use to control you is denying approval and acceptance. It’s natural to want to be liked and admired—especially by the person you love. Being criticized, demeaned, rejected and told repeatedly, “not good enough,” “you don’t measure up,” or that you’ve “failed again” is demoralizing. It also spurs you on to try even harder to please her and herein lies the problem: These women are never satisfied. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. She will never bestow upon you the kind of love and acceptance you seek.

Why does your wife’s/girlfriend’s/ex’s approval mean so much to you? Do you actually respect her and the way she conducts herself? A woman like this is an abusive, entitled and incredibly self-serving bully, so why do you care what she thinks?  Seeking approval from someone who takes pleasure in cutting you down is a recipe for disappointment and pain.

You’re perpetuating a sick dynamic by seeking approval from someone who’ll never give it to you. Why? Because these women experience giving approval to others as a psychological and visceral loss. To tell you, “nice job” or “I appreciate you” somehow makes her feel less than and, as you well know, these women won’t tolerate that for a second.

The Way Out

Don’t let her solicited and unsolicited opinions get to you anymore. Recognize them for what they are: Abusive control tactics. Your overall goal is emotional detachment, which means you’re not invested in the outcome of this relationship. Once you’re no longer afraid of “losing” or care about receiving her approval, you’ll see the balance of power in the relationship shift.

She will be less able to “get to you,” which is a good thing. You’ll begin to care less, which is psychologically freeing. You’ll become more immune to the traps she sets and she won’t be able to figure out what the hell is happening. As you step out of this dysfunctional emotional dynamic, she’ll escalate her nasty behaviors as she frantically tries to maintain control and bully you back into place. She’ll be uncharacteristically speechless when her tried and true control devices no longer work.

Just remember, the more you commit to taking care of yourself, the more embittered she’ll grow. She’ll accuse you of being “selfish,” “inconsiderate” and “uncaring.” This is a good sign—for you. Abusive women view any attempt you make at self-care and growth as a grave betrayal. How dare you do something positive for yourself? How dare you not let her make you feel bad?

The more you put your needs first, the stronger and healthier you’ll become and your attraction to this supremely unhealthy woman should diminish. Abusive women remain in control by keeping you disoriented, hurting and in a psychologically weakened state. This is why she becomes alarmed when she sees you taking care of yourself.

Even if you don’t initially believe it, the freedom from abuse you’ll gain by ending this relationship will eventually outweigh any material losses you incur. You need to realize that you don’t have an actual relationship with this woman; it’s an autocracy in which she’s the petty tyrant and you live to serve. Furthermore, a woman like this isn’t capable of true intimacy and empathy, which are prerequisites for a healthy relationship.Your happiness lies in the future with someone else; not her.

Sadly, you may well see your children less or suffer through watching your ex turn them into her human shields, protectors and weapons to hurt you. However, by staying in an abusive relationship you’re exposing your children to a very unhealthy model of adult relationships. Nevertheless, this is a heartbreaking choice for many fathers. It may cost you money and potentially damage your relationship with your children, but what’s the cost of happiness, sanity and freedom from abuse?

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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