Presto, Change-o, DARVO: Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender

Have you ever marveled at how your abusive wife, girlfriend or ex is able to do and say the most hurtful, underhanded and contemptible things and then portray herself as the innocent victim? Have you ever wondered how she is able to convincingly accuse others, usually her victims, of the abusive behaviors and attitudes of which she is actually guilty? Wonder no more, the answer may be DARVO.

Dr Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD of the University of Oregon identified DARVO in the 1990s at the tail end of the repressed sexual abuse memories hysteria. In spite of its dubious origins, DARVO is a helpful concept with broader applications than Dr Freyd seems to have originally intended. Freyd writes about DARVO in conjunction with her work on betrayal trauma, which I discuss on the original Shrink4Men blog. According to Dr Freyd’s webpage:

“DARVO refers to a reaction that perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.”

DARVO seems to be a combination of projection, denial, lying, blame shifting and gaslighting. Dr Freyd notes that other observers have identified the same phenomena using different terms. My male clients experience this behavior when they try to hold the abusive women in their lives accountable. It also seems to be common behavior in most predators, bullies, high-conflict individuals and/or abusive personality-disordered individuals. DARVO especially seems to occur in high-conflict divorce and/or custody cases.

Of course, not everyone who denies wrong doing is engaging in DARVO. Many partners and exes of abusive women are accused of things they didn’t do or of things that never happened. Naturally, when this happens, you deny the accusation and perhaps feel a little (or a lot) bewildered. How do you know if an individual’s denial is the truth or an instance of DARVO? Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24) proposes:

“It is important to distinguish types of denial, for an innocent person will probably deny a false accusation. Thus denial is not evidence of guilt. However, I propose that a certain kind of indignant self-righteousness, and overly stated denial, may in fact relate to guilt.

I hypothesize that if an accusation is true, and the accused person is abusive, the denial is more indignant, self-righteous and manipulative, as compared with denial in other cases. Similarly, I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of lawsuits, overt and covert attacks, on the whistle-blower’s credibility and so on.

The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem instead of intellectual/evidential issues. Finally, I propose that the offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. The more the offender is held accountable, the more wronged the offender claims to be.”

This is similar to how William Eddy, LCSW, Esq describes the persuasive blaming tactics of high-conflict individuals.“Persuasive Blamers persuade others that their internal problems are external, caused by something else or someone else. Once others are persuaded to get the problem backward, the dispute escalates into a long-term, high-conflict situation. One that few people other than persuasive blamers can tolerate” (Eddy, 2006, p. 29). Getting the problem backward is precisely what happens when DARVO occurs. Figure and ground are completely reversed.

“It’s only the Persuasive Blamers of Cluster B who keep high-conflict disputes going. They are persuasive, and to keep the focus off their own behavior (the major source of the problem), they get others to join in the blaming” (Eddy, 2006, p. 30). This is why many Narcissists, Borderlines, Histrionics and Antisocials effectively employ smear campaign and mobbing tactics when they target someone—be it a spouse, attorney, court evaluator or therapist. By blaming others for everything that’s wrong in their lives they keep the focus off the real problem; themselves. This seems to be the exact denial-attack-reverse victim and offender behavior Freyd describes.

Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24) states:

“The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is on the defense. ‘Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender’ work best together. How can someone be on the attack so viciously and be in the victim role? Future research may investigate the hypothesis that the offender rapidly goes back and forth between attack and reverse victim and offender.”

This behavior is crazy-making if you are the target of it. You know you’re being attacked while your partner/ex plays the victim role for all she’s worth, insisting on her distorted version of un-reality. Worse yet, many people believe her; their reasoning being, “She’s so upset it must be true.” Even some of my male clients who know their wives’accusations and lies aren’t true, sometimes doubt themselves and what they know to be reality. I believe that many women and men who engage in DARVO come to believe their own lies after they repeat them enough times. I call it the “O.J. Simpson Effect.”

Abusers typically employ different types of denial. Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the following ones:

  • Outright denial or gaslighting. “That never happened.”
  • Minimization. “It wasn’t that bad.”
  • Amnesia. “I don’t remember doing that.”
  • Redefinition. “I have a bad temper, so you shouldn’t upset me.”
  • Projection. “You’re abusive and controlling. You hurt me.”
  • Conversion. “I did wrong, but I’m a changed person and won’t do it again.”

Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24) concludes:

“The offender takes advantage of the confusion we have in our culture over the relationship between public provability and reality (and a legal system that has a certain history in this regard) in redefining reality. Future research may test the hypothesis that the offender may well come to believe in [her] innocence via this logic: if no one can be sure [she] is guilty then logically [she] is not guilty no matter what really occurred. The reality is thus defined by public proof, not by personal lived experience.”

It may be difficult to sort out who is telling the truth in these cases. However, I’ve found that high-conflict individuals who engage in this behavior often can’t substantiate their claims or, if they just make up more lies to try to substantiate their claims, they’re inconsistent over time, so pay close attention and document their lies. This may help you hang her with a rope of her own making, if and when you need to prove your version of events as opposed to her ever evolving versions of the truth.

If she is threatening to call the police and make false allegations against you and/or you’re considering divorce, it’s extremely important that you document the abuse you’re experiencing in a journal, a digital recorder or some other medium. Abusive, persuasive blamers rely on the force of their emotions to sell their lies, half-truths and distortions. Since most people are suckers for drama, especially in the form of a tearful, self-righteous woman, you’ll need proof if you want to be believed. Think of it as making yourself DARVO-proof.

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.


Eddy, W. (2006) SPLITTING: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist.

Freyd, J.J. (1997) Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory. Feminism & Psychology, 7, 22-32.

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  1. Mellaril says

    Another great article! Have you ever thought of setting up a lecture series that you could give at places like Law Enforcement Conferences, etc.? You could call it something “Sorting through High Conflict Domestic Situations, Making Sure the Real Abuser is Identified.” Give a similar kind of presentation to divorce attorneys and trial lawyers. You could make a buck and target a specific audience who are positions to directly affect peoples’ lives. I think you could do really well in this area and the timing seems pretty good.

    This is the kind of material that belongs in places like law schools and criminal justice curricula.

    • Closure at last says

      I second that, Mellaril. Another terrific analysis Dr. T!

      And not just in law schools, but taught also to men in high schools and universities too and all other professions where there are more men (armed forces, engineering etc.) since these men do not come across a large cross-section of women they are often naive about not knowing that not all girls are the same, and lack the tools of deciphering the bad apples from the good. (to develop an x-ray vision to see the poisonous-worm in the apple BEFORE he takes a bite.)

      Can you believe how much time, love, patience, energy, money and mental peace could have been conserved if these facts and knowledge had been made available before in our society?? (Perhaps that’s why the mainstream institutes never talk openly of this. I often say that the whole world is self-immolating in an orgy of ‘political correctness’. It seems easier to lynch truth-tellers than bring justice to cunning manipulators.)

      Thanks, doc, for another great piece.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi Mellaril,

      Thanks, I appreciate the positive feedback. I’ve never considered doing a lecture series. It’s a good suggestion. However, it might put the horse before the cart. I think I would need a book first and some guidance as I’ve no idea how to assemble something like that.

      • JPJ says

        If you do ever write a book,it will be a reference book for sure.This is a groundbreaking gathering of information on a subject that has,up to now been totally swept under the carpet.
        I have had to re-read this piece several times to totally get it.
        Thank you so much.

      • Autumn says

        I think a book is a fantastic idea Dr. Palmatier! I have been on Amazon looking for something, ANYTHING on this, and its always about women. Not that that’s a bad thing, but where is the awareness about abuse against men?

        This is one of the only places I’ve found that acknowledges it and doesn’t turn around and encourage the man to stay with the abusive wife, change his behavior to adapt to her needs (more catering to the pathology!), and continue to be a slave and better learn to live with the misery. They even admit that things will only get nominally better, if at all.

  2. ron7127 says

    This technique is, frequently , employed by cheating spouses who are busted. It is fairly common and the attacking and projecting are sure signs you got it right.
    I have noticed how adept these folks are at playing to their audience, too. They are very convincing and try to provoke the abused through making the abused look bad to others.
    The best way to handle them is to simply refuse to engage in any form of debate or argument with them. Just walk away.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      As with everything else with these types, the more disproportionate their reactions, the more likely you’re hitting too close to home or have hit the bullseye.

  3. jonsid says

    Absolutely bog-standard behaviour that I got to recognise so well. I do however think it should be emphasised that the denial part of the acronym is NOT the denial we hear so much of in psychology forums, usually referring to defence mechanisms. That denial is classically a refusal to accept something that is too painful or upsetting for us to cope with. The denial in this case is denial as in bare faced, conscious lying, deceit and manipulation. I suppose you could say it is, if anything, an offensive mechanism

  4. david says

    “…high-conflict individuals who engage in this behavior often can’t substantiate their claims or, if they just make up more lies to try to substantiate their claims, they’re inconsistent over time, so pay close attention and document their lies”.

    Invaluable insight. I’ve been doing this for the last several months. Every lie, every distortion and possible “spin routine” she could throw at me. It also keeps you grounded and a “shield” from future gaslighting or hoovers. Great stuff (as all the articles here are).

    [Mellaril] A friend and I were talking of this just the other day. All law enforcement officers should be required to be educated about Cluster B types and their behaviors. It would save everyone time and heartache in the long term.

    [ron7127] How true. When they spend every waking moment doing something, you get very good at it. But when you understand the behavior and their ways….they’re just “one trick ponies”. And in so many ways, they’re all the same…like a blueprint. I can spot a NPD or BPD in a matter of minutes now, it seems.

  5. exscapegoat says

    Excellent work in describing the blame shifting. Even when they’re responsible for doing something to someone else, they’ll try and blame the person who was hurt and/or wronged. When I was 2 years old, perhaps getting close to 3 (as I do have some memory of the event), my mother accidentally burned me on my hand with a cigarette while she was trying to get me out of a snowsuit. It was truly an accident, not intentional on her part. She was a very young & inexperienced mother and it was the 60s and people chain smoked while caring for their kids. So I don’t think it’s fair to judge by today’s parenting standards. Basically, what I remember is some pain, cold water and a very nervous mother telling me not to cry.

    I think she felt guilty about it and was scared that people would judge her. The scar eventually faded to where you can hardly see it, but for awhile it was quite noticeable and people would ask about it. When I was 4 or 5, so many people had asked about it, I mentioned it to someone once without being asked about it.

    Here’s how all of this was spun in family lore:

    1) I was squirming and that why I got burned. Yes, apparently 2-3 year olds are supposed to know not to squirm around and there’s no responsibility on the part of parents to keep toddlers and the parents’ own cigarettes away from each other (we need an eye rolly smiley).

    2) I embarrassed/humiliated her by telling people about the scar from the burn. Yes, because apparently at 4-5, I wasn’t just commenting on it because other people were, I was commenting on it because I wanted to humiliate and embarrass her parenting skills (again eye rolly smiley).

    At some point when I was between 5-8 (don’t remember the exact age), my dad did another of those “that’s what they did back in the 60s” parenting moves and threatened to burn my hand if I didn’t get over my fear of turning on the stove. While I was very frightened by that, I don’t know that he really intended to follow through. We weren’t supposed to talk about the actual burn on my hand, but this was fair game and she’d bring it up periodically. I’m guessing it may have been an attempt to deflect onto him? Despite that and some other issues, he spent a lot more time with us than most men at the time did with their kid and did enough household tasks to where people would comment on it being unusual for the time.

    Another time, she tried to subtly blame my younger brother when she got drunk because apparently junior high schoolers are supposed to know the proper ratio of scotch & soda vs. wine spritzers. The words were along the lines of “it’s not really his fault, but he mixed them wrong because he was used to the wine spritzers”. Even though it attracted some of her wrath, I stood up to her on that one. I told her he was just a kid and shouldn’t be expected to know how to mix drinks.

    Damn junior high kids, getting their parents drunk, that’s always a troublesome developmental phase! You think they’d learn better in home ec about proper alcohol to mixer rations for different drinks! :) The smileys may seem inappropriate, but as one Mr. Buffett said, “If we couldnt laugh we just would go insane”. Much like the translations, I find applying reality to the things they say/do in a humorous way to be helpful. It helps stop the target from buying into the mindbleepery and laughing seems to help with the tension. Though not around them, I wouldn’t recommend that! :)

  6. jonnevi says

    I see this all the time in my Ex through out our relationship and especially thru the divorce. It really is sad that it is so pervalent that there is a term of it.
    I really am confused how people learn to behave this way. My ex was so good at spinning a story so fast and moving on to something else and turning it around on me. And before I can even reply she starts to bombard we with accusations so fast that I cannot catchup to talk about each of the accusations.. Then you cannot even remember what the arguement was all about, your head is just spinning and all you want to do is get away.


    • B Experienced says

      They do it because they are fragile narcissists. They can’t deal with pain competently so they deflect blame on to others to ward off further loss of self esteem and pain in themselves. The more accusations she throws at you the less loss of self esteem and pain she feels.

  7. SweetJones says

    My ex was quite proud of her ability to DARVO, and even had her own name for it. She called it “the twist” and explicitly claimed to be its master. Of course as the years went on, she even started projecting that technique, claiming that I and not her was the true master-twister, alongside my “raging narcissism,” and mad manipulation skills. (If so, I was like that kid in that anti-drug ad: “But I learned it from you, crazy ex!”) I also regularly heard conversion out of her; in the rare cases that she would accept some blame for one of our fights, she would often say “I’ll make a change,” but over time the smirk got a little bigger every time she would say that. She had no intention of changing because she refused to believe she needed to. She would only accept blame as a way of calling a cease-fire, a lull between combats. Cats toying with mice often appear bored for a minute or two at a time before they resume their tortures, the Western Front in World War I was not non-stop attacks and counter-attacks. There were respites, and her little non-apologies were very much in the same vein. There was no intention to ever resolve anything, only truces to gather strength and marshal strategems.

    • B Experienced says

      It is all psychopathic. She thrives on the adversity for stimulation and to feel alive. When her opponents starts to get sick of it she lets the rope slack a bit to give them some room to breath. She then lets it go well for a while to give people some time to believe her false promise. Then she yanks the chain again. It is sadistic.

  8. ron7127 says

    I am gld you mentioned the ad hominem technique, as it is one with which I have been dealing, lately.
    I have been hearing from a disordered family member, lately, regarding a number of issues. But, here is an example of how she goes about it.
    Recently, my deceased mther’s house was put on the market and a certain amount of work had to be done on it to ready it for sale. I live very far away, so the bulk of the work was done by my siblings. It was not all that arduous, IMO, as most of it involved getting contractor’s to do work on the house. But, one sibling, in particular, seemed to think it was very taxin(note, she is not used to working very hard and goes through a lot of jobs).
    In any case, I did drive 1200 miles to help with some moving. I got a letter, upon my return, criticizing the amount of my contribution( I am pushing 60, work a sedentary job and heavy lifting is tough for me).
    I had no real problem with this criticism, as I dismissed it, considering the sourdce and her perception of what constituted a lot of work. But, in the course of this critcism, she interjected a number of other attacks on me: my taking a much needed vacation(none of her business); pretending to have consulted with another sister re an agreement I reached to repay a looan(my older sister kept insisting that I refrain from paying the entire amount ,while I kept telling her doing so was no problem). She also informed me that her boyfriend felt I was interferring with his ability to have a conversation with my other brother because I was conversing with the boyfriend too much.
    I checked with my older sister, the one who loaned me some money and she was shocked at how this sister both interferred and misrepresented things.
    Anyway, I can rcognize these tactic right away, now, after all this reading. These folks are very adept at trying to turn simple discussions about differences in opinion into personal attacks. Just walk away.

    • B Experienced says

      She is bored and feeling unloved and left out. She picks fights for stimulation and because she is jealous of your relationship with your sister who loaned you money. The Cluster B’s are full of jealousy and anger. She is looking to blame someone for her problem with your brother. Her narcissism good give a hoot about your health problems, age, or that you went over the top and drove 12,000 miles! She is and will always be a bottomless pit of need because of her abnormal boundaries and immaturity.

      The Cluster B’s National Anthem in their Land of Distortion is Me, Me, Me.

      • ron7127 says

        It is amazing to watch her work. In no time at all, she can offend another. My older sister was telling us about some advice my mom had given her re one of her old boyfriends, advising her that he was not very nice and she should stay away. Out of the blue, the disordered sister smirks and flippantlly says “I never heard her say that.”, trying to imply my older sister was making it up.
        Well, duh. I wonder if the sneering sister ever considered the fact that our mom had seperate relationships with each of us and might mot have consulted with her before advising my other sister.
        This is but one example.

  9. Verbal says

    DARVO is somewhat similar to something my dad once observed in my Cluster B wife, which he called simply “The Technique.” The way it works is:

    “She badgers a person until they sue for peace, and then she extracts a concession.”

    My dad compared her technique to how the old Soviet Union would approach deals with the West. Eventually, we wind up conceding that there is partial truth to their accusations (even if we don’t believe it is so) in the hope that it will end the attack. Thus, we begin our slide down the slippery slope of caving in to their abuse.

  10. Jimmycr says

    Abusers typically employ different types of denial. Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the following ones:

    * Outright denial or gaslighting. “That never happened.”
    * Minimization. “It wasn’t that bad.”
    * Amnesia. “I don’t remember doing that.”
    * Redefinition. “I have a bad temper, so you shouldn’t upset me.”
    * Projection. “You’re abusive and controlling. You hurt me.”
    * Conversion. “I did wrong, but I’m a changed person and won’t do it again.”

    This is the absolute cornerstone to the abusive behavior. If I have learned anything during my experiences, I have learned the above traits are the bedrock of the abuse. All of these tactics are employed with precision. You can bet that once the abuser finds the one that works best, it will be employed the most. All of it is crazy making behavior. If you start to think things are “not right” and you know you are not crazy, you need to document, document, document. Believe me, the abuser hates documentation. Why? Because then you have taken away their ability to create “revisionist history.” Revisionist History is abuser class 101. They must pass this class to move on to next levels. They master revisionist history so they don’t have to move on to denial, minimization, amnesia, redefinition, projection or conversion. Once you take away the ability for them to create revisionist history, the fun really begins. Good luck and if you think you are nuts document, document, document.


    • jonsid says

      And there is also of course distraction. That’s the one where when they don’t want to discuss, explain why or even admit something happened they throw in some totally irrelevant critisism, insult or abuse about you, your friends or your family that is GUARANTEED to start an argument about something totally different. Outcome, an argument about a totally different subject, they don’t have to explain themselves and you’re the baddy again.

      • Jimmycr says

        Absolutely. How could I forget that one. That is abuser 101 also. Divert the attention to something totally irrelevant to the situation at hand.


  11. david says

    “Kitchen Sinking” is a way of someone justifying their anger, perceived persecution and to feel better about themselves through the exploit of assaulting a person with events or misdeed (real or imagined) from years past. In a disagreement, it keeps the present issue from being addressed, overwhelms the individual on the receiving end and concentrates things in the past (of which no one can change or control).

    • JPJ says

      Wow.Yes. Once we have been broken down by fear,the abuser can start to get away with making up stories.Then through by constantly repeating the false tale as though it were true,we may even start to believe it is true.
      There are some good articles here that do address this issue as well.

      • jp says

        The really skilled manipulators know that the best Kitchen Sinking attacks will include a combo of real things you did wrong in the past (to remind you you’re flawed and give a hint of authenticity to their attack), a few accusations containing a kernel of truth but exaggerated or distorted (you slammed a door once, but now you “always slam doors”, this shames you further but also gets you questioning your powers of recollection, i.e., were there other times I slammed doors but don’t remember??), and one or two outright fabrications which you know are BS but you’re so defensive about the made up stuff you figure you’ll let them slide.

        It’s not worth defending against the Kitchen Sink.

  12. B Experienced says

    Dear Dr.T:
    I have figured out the Bull Roar of many a Cluster B by watching for patterns and mentally notating them or writing them down. I checked out what they said when I could with reliable sources. Every Cluster B has a distinct patterns according to what they find inferior in themselves. For example, if they are jealous or envious of someone with a higher education they may say they have a degree as an Occupational Therapist or a Nurse. If they are bitches or bastards they will set it up so you become the bitch or bastard so they don’t look so bad. They are not as good liars as you think and there is always a stupid side to them. Even in their insanity and craziness there are always patterns and plenty of bad behaviours to chose from to discredit them. The more you can get on them the merrier it is for you.

    The other part to this though, is that you must keep a poker face and never, never, reveal what you know to them or confront them with it. You hold your hand until you are certain you can win and are safe. I used to call my method A Reversed Psychopath Approach because they excel at knowing your weaknesses and fears. If you have a need to lash out or want to hurt them with it, you really have to stop it. It is normal to want to let them have it with truth that is irrefutable in self defense. Time and circumstance is well worth the wait. Don’t be surprised if they still hang on to their lie. However, you will be vindicated. Stand your ground and do not bend for any reason. Never say anything to the contrary to appease them or get them off your back. Not changing the truth is evidence of you not being guilty so they try to get you to do this.

    • JPJ says

      Dear B Experienced,

      Thank you for the wonderful post.It is full of support with brilliantly calming tips on how to weather the storm.
      Along with many others here,I will take to heart these words of wisdom and stay the course until we can live in peace again.

      • B Experienced says

        Dear JPJ,

        Thank you!

        One of my greatest passions in life is to help people with the Cluster B’s because they are prevalent. I see the need for people to have calm brought into their lives as well as supporters who have dealt with these devils successfully. I have been competently studying them for over 30 years- some formal education and years of self continued studies. I lived with them as well. I have seen homicide attempts made by them while I was living with them. They can lead double lives very comfortably as well.

        You can get yourself killed if you don’t know what and who you are dealing with. I can’t and won’t ever support anybody living with a Cluster B for any reason. I have competent knowledge,experience,judgment and a conscience! You may get long honeymoon’s that can even feel like Heaven, but these people always want to go back home to Hell.

        It is a neurological fact that the less emotional a human is the more thinking ability you will have. Remember that their goal is to destabilize you because they did not get a lot of validation growing up or get back at you for not doing so. They will tear the hair of your head to get it if they see fit. It is all about a warped and disturbed way of getting love and feeling valued. It isn’t your job to validate them if you don’t want to or meet their needs and wants either. They have to learn to meet most of their needs by themselves as all adults must do. Sound easy, no way with a Cluster B. In regards to the Cluster B’s you can never be armed enough and you must have a wide variety of skills to disarm and deal with them individually.

        I have noticed that a lot of woman are getting charged more frequently and people are seeing through their masks.

        • JPJ says

          The timing is amazing that the latest article her is about Dr Phil.( I have not read it yet.) No wonder there are no shelters for abused men. He is going to take awareness to the issue back a few steps unless there is a strong reaction to his stand.
          Where is Oprah on this issue? That would be interesting.
          Once again,thank you “B” for the great post

  13. ron7127 says

    My dad was employed this technique all the time, the changing to a different topic, especially one where he could personally attack you. I could never figure out how a discussion on politics could morph inot my being cut from the basketball team or my academic failings.
    Funny thing is, he was supposed to be a good trial lawyer. Yet, he needed to employ these tactics to defeat a 15 year old in an argument. One would think he would have been embarrassed at his lack of debating skills.
    I can see these personal attacks coming a mile away , now. When they start, I just walk away.

  14. laura says

    Hi Dr. T.,

    Always great articles here. I’d like to propose another: something to do with the men who decide they can no longer cope and opt to commit suicide. Here’s my reason:

    It happens. I lost a friend on Jan 25th for this very reason. His ex took the kids, both under age 10, moved 3hrs away and rarely let him see the kids. She got a new fiance, new house, new career (all in a little over a year)… He was going through the legal process to gain access to his children. Couldn’t handle it any longer, felt hopeless and here’s the kicker…took his life out front of the lawyer’s office.

    For any men out there thinking of going that route: DON’T! You will forever rob your children of even the slightest potential of building a relationship with you even when they become adults.

    For any batsh*t crazy women out there thinking it’s best to rob a man of his children. DON’T.

    We need to change the system. It’s killing people. Literally and figuratively. These children don’t have a father anymore. The alienation was too much.

    Take care everyone and if you know a man going through this hell these women put them through…even if they seem to be handling it and are ok…give them a hug. A BIG LONG HUG and give them all the support you can muster. They need it. I can’t hug my friend anymore.


    • infojunkie says

      my husband and I were just discussing the emotional breakdown that led to his decision to leave his BPDex and 3 children. He stated clearly that if he hadn’t found the courage to leave, his only only option would have been suicide. He is such a loving and wonderful father, I can’t imagine his children not having him in their lives. He chose to stay for way too long because of the children, but ultimately he realized that if he didn’t leave, he might risk losing them completely in choosing to end his own life. It shouldn’t be this way – family law should support fathers and not turn a blind eye to dysfunctional mothers.

      • TheGirlInside says

        It’s a damn crying shame that anyone (probably more than we realize) gets to the point that they think their only option is to do away with themselves…staying in an abusive relationship is slow suicide.

        It enrages a woman like me, to watch a good man go to waste…someone who deserves to be appreciated and shown his value rather than taken to the brink by someone who hates themselves! As we say here, UFF DA!!

        If he stays long enough, the children may grow up and leave…but God forbid, a grandchild comes along…instantly, another ‘hook’ for an abuser!

      • never again says

        When I left, I knew it was only a matter of time before I either died of a stroke from the stress, or walked in front of a train. Either way, I was going to be dead if I stayed with her. That was too big a price to pay for loving her.

        I even said to her once “I love you so much I’d take a bullet for you. As long as you aren’t the one pulling the trigger.”

  15. mikeveal says

    my wife called the police on me once and when they came they saw a wild yelling crazy wopman and a calm sad man.they told her the only one with a problem here is her.that was devestating to her.

    • thelastone says

      I had a similar experience, except after the police officer commented that my facial injuries showed that I had obviously been assaulted, he arrested ME, and while I was in the cells put her under enormous pressure to support a prosecution against me. Luckily once she sobered up (“no sir, your wife is NOT drunk, she has NOT had four bottles of wine today”) she realised just how badly this could end for her and backed off. The pack of lies she had told whilst I was under arrest was incredible.

  16. James says

    Never play cards with a man named Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. And never sleep with a woman has more troubles than your own.

    Don’t say no one warned you fellas.

  17. Ming_on_Mongo says

    Interesting article and comments! My sense is that one of the powerful components behind the DARVO phenomenon in the case of NP’s and BP’s, is the tremendous “gift” them seem to have for detecting the emotional needs and vulnerabilities of others, perhaps not unlike the ability of other “predators” to sense the weakest of the herd. So that when they’re pitching their “story”, it seems to be crafted especially for the “needs” of the intended audience.

    Meaning that just as they were able to first “tune in” on our own emotional needs and “become” whatever we were seeking in apartner, so too, their “victim” tale, is often designed to appeal to the desires of the listener…. who may have unconscious needs of their own to be a “defender”, “protector”, or may have been victims themselves of abusive parents, siblings, past relationships, etc. (giving them an added “interest” in this “story”)!

    BTW, it’s also this interesting predatory “talent”, combined with their tendency for thoroughly ignoring “boundaries”, that’s been suggested as an explanation for the somewhat “messy” instances of therapists and other professionals (with otherwise respectable careers), who suddenly became “involved” with their clients. And which not surprisingly, usually ends very badly!

  18. Jason says

    I putting this here for lack of anywhere else. I’ve posted before and stated that my wife was a borderline borderline. To put it another way, I’ve had a friend who is well versed in psychology (and who has cluster “B” personality relatives) conclude that my wife is boderline, but our marriage counselor doesn’t want to go that far. Yet. Whe fits the description, but doesn’t go as far as many, if not most, of the BPD women talked about here.

    Several months ago, my wife conceded to go to a marriage counselor. The first joint session was a disaster, during the second we had major breakthroughs. Since then, our relationship has improved remarkably and my wife really is trying. There have been some setbacks, but nothing major.

    Last year, just before the worse part of our marriage, my wife suddenly started gaslighting me to our family and friends. It was me finding out about this that precipitated the confrontations that led to counseling. In a private session, our marriage counselor said straight out that my wife had been preparing the groundwork for divorce, though my wife won’t admit to all of it.

    The problem now is one of our adult daughters. Without going into revealing details, something happened and she got mad at me. Today, she sent me an email that was filled with the typical early twenty “my life problems are your fault” things, but with a lot of remnants of my wife’s gaslighting from last year mixed in. Worse, my daughter is now trying to gaslight me on a specific event that happened two or so years ago. I think she revised the events in her mind due to things my wife said.

    I wrote an equally blunt email back, but haven’t sent it (I’ve learned to sit on emails like this for a few days.) I don’t know if I should. I don’t even know what most of the exaggerations [I said that deliberately; my wife rarely lies, she just twists events to make her look good and, at the time, me look bad] were or how they were said. Above all, my daughter doesn’t know just how misleading some of those things are and how they’ve perverted her view of many events. Even though I’m able to prove the falsehood of some claims, most become he said, she said and my wife has conveniently forgot some of these (to be fair, I think she was often just spewing and probably didn’t remember what she said five minutes after she said it.)

    At the very least, I want to defend what honor I have. However, to do that, I’m going to have to say some pretty mean, blunt things.

    I suppose the bottom line is that my wife did a damn good job laying the foundation for a divorce where I’m the bad guy. How do we undo that? Can we?

  19. Peter says

    I like to think of the EX’s verbal technique like a martial art of blocking and counter-punching. I call it DENY-OPPOSE. Every statement I made was denied and opposed. For example I say, “you are being unreasonable” Response: “No I’m not – you’re the one who is being unreasonable”. Deny-Oppose was such a common pattern that I learnt to NEVER MAKE A STATEMENT. I was able to talk to her without ever saying anything. I had to basically just reinforce and agree or reflect what she said. It led to a more peaceful relationship but I couldn’t keep on doing it forever because a part of me was being denied and “killed off” inside. In the end I decided to get out.

  20. jj says

    I find it ironic that the origins are from the book, “Feminism & Psychology.” I dealt with this behavior for years on a milder level to keep my Marriage together. When I did decide to divorce thats when the behavior really kicked in. I was amazed by the support the Ex got and how I was isolated with no voice. It almost seemed to be a collective behavior. I had no recourse but to survive and endure. Young men, beware take care.

  21. thelastone says

    What’s always astonished me, here in the UK, is that the police always believe every word the female abuser says without question, regardless of the physical evidence. It’s always the man who ends up in the cells whilst the woman gets to cry on the shoulder of a ‘domestic abuse trained’ police officer who tells her about all the things they can do to protect her from her victim.

    I often wonder how many women end up murdered not because their partners are abusive, but instead because they push their parters beyond the limits of their endurance, and with no-one to turn to their primeval survival instinct kicks in, and they go beserk?

  22. mrkest says

    I know this is an old blog, but it’s an important subject. My wife displays classic DARVO symptoms. The question I have is: Can this disorder be successfully dissolved or diminished in any way, without leaving the relationship?

    • tinhorn says

      My experience is no, it won’t change.

      I’m astonished to read this article (and the responses) since it so accurately describes my TWO previous marriages. And mrkest, my experience in both was the same–when I finally realized that she was living in an alternative universe, and I stopped participating in the insanity, they lost interest and selected their next subject. Not, however, without a final orgasm of hatred–the divorce circus.

      I had no idea this insanity was so common.

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