Hostile Dependency: Is your Wife, Girlfriend or Ex a Child Masquerading in the Body of a Woman?

Does your wife or girlfriend believe it is your responsibility to take care of her emotionally, physically and financially? Worse yet, does your ex-wife or ex-girlfriend believe the same despite the fact your relationship is over? If so, you may be dealing with hostile dependency.

The Root of the Problem

Children rely on their parents for their care and safety needs. Good enough parents do their best to respond to their children’s needs while teaching them how to meet their own needs as developmentally appropriate. Even infants can learn to self-soothe by sucking their thumbs, chewing on a blanket, holding a toy and reaching for their bottle or pacifier.

Unfortunately, not all parents are “good enough.” Some parents shame their children or become angry/frustrated/impatient with them for expressing wants and needs.

When a parent punishes a child or tells them that they’re bad/selfish/demanding/inconvenient for expressing needs and feelings, the message is: It’s unacceptable to have needs and feelings and to depend upon me. Since most children actively avoid parental disapproval, these kids intuitively find indirect ways to get their needs met.

A child who has to disavow or mask their needs and feelings from a parent eventually develops an ever-growing anger and resentment. Since it’s especially unsafe to directly express anger and resentment toward their parent(s), these children often develop passive-aggressive behaviors and attachment issues.

Passive-aggression is not necessarily less aggressive simply because it’s passive. Essentially, passive-aggression is an indirect form of aggression–not necessarily a milder form of aggression (Seltzer, L.F., 2008).

Attachment issues arise from the conflicting messages and discomfort these children are made to feel about being dependent.

It should come as no surprise that adults who weren’t able to get their needs met directly, who didn’t have parents teach them how to self-soothe and who were made to feel bad, guilty or ashamed about being dependent upon their parents, bring these leftover childhood issues into their adult relationships. In more extreme cases, these issues are manifested in personality disorders and other emotional disturbances.

Healthy relationships between adults are interdependent:

Interdependence is a dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with others. This concept differs distinctly from “dependence,” which implies that each member of a relationship cannot function or survive apart from one another. In an interdependent relationship, all participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally self-reliant while at the same time responsible to each other.

A woman stuck in hostile dependency maps her unhappy childhood, dependency needs and anger about not having every single need met, no matter how small, onto her partner and/or her ex-partner. She is inappropriately dependent on her partner/ex while simultaneously furious about her self-imposed dependency. This kind of woman casts her intimate partners and ex-intimate partners into a parental role.

Women who have a hostile dependency upon their husbands, boyfriends or exes are, emotionally speaking, children in adult bodies. They’re stuck in a state of arrested development on a continuum of infancy to snide, bitchy, ungrateful teenager. This kind of woman-child doesn’t know how to meet her own needs, that is, if she even knows what her needs are. Many of these women are ambulatory masses of unmet, unnamed needs.

I want, I want, I want. I need, I need, I need,” but damned if she knows what it is she wants and needs. She just know she wants and needs . . . something and your job is to figure it out and give it to her. Adult partners are expected to magically know and meet her needs and if they fail to deliver—look out!

This woman is very much the infant who uses the same distress cry for wet diaper, physical pain, “Validate meeeeeee!” and, “Pick me up, I’m bored!” Every need and want, no matter how trivial, is experienced and expressed with the same extreme urgency.

On the other end of the continuum is the woman-child who knows exactly what she wants—everything. She tells her partner or ex in excruciating detail everything she wants, needs and is “owed,” well, more like demands. She wants total financial and emotional support, blind loyalty and unconditional love—especially when her behavior is horrid and abusive. Furthermore, you must not expect her to reciprocate. Ever. This is the selfish, haughty teenager.

Kids are basically selfish beings; they’re supposed to be. The lid off the id-enfant terrible can sometimes be cute—in actual children. However, the same behaviors and attitudes in adult women aren’t at all cute. They’re obnoxious, contemptible and abusive. In her mind, it’s your job to provide her with the unconditional love mommy and daddy didn’t provide and/or the over-indulgent, permissive, no accountability, “you’re wonderful and special” parenting that created this overgrown child.

Childhood Development

During adolescence, parents help teens individuate into autonomous, responsible adults. Meaning that teens stop attributing their difficulties to parents and others and begin to assume responsibility for their own actions (Bios, 1968). The other developmental tasks of adolescence are identity/personality formation and consolidation, separating from parents, sexual maturation and sexual identity formation, and mature time perspective (Buhler, 1968; Neugarten, 1969).

Identity consolidation is “a process of investing oneself in new adult roles, responsibilities, and contexts and evaluating one’s ongoing experience in order to construct a coherent, grounded, and positive identity” (Pals, JL, 1999). Mature time perspective involves “being able to foresee the future implications of [one’s] present behaviors and envisage how [one’s] present behavior can serve the attainment of future goals” (Simons, Vansteenkiste, Lens and Lacante, 2004).

These are essential developmental milestones that many HCP (high-conflict) and abusive personality disordered individuals (histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, etc.) fail to achieve at the age appropriate time. If you’re dealing with a woman whose hostile dependency is part of a personality disorder or personality disorder traits, I don’t know if it’s possible to successfully navigate this developmental task in adulthood. In fact, it may be impossible.

All about the Anger

Most children experience hostile dependency primarily in adolescence. It’s part of growing up. You see it in teens who want to be treated like independent adults, but are still dependent on mom and dad for food, shelter, etc.

Teens still need their parents, but resent their parents for needing them; much like women who resent and hate their husbands/exes for their own self-imposed dependency. This mentality is obvious when a hostile dependent woman angrily asserts, “Screw you! I don’t need you!” while she has both hands out to jack her ex-husband for spousal support or her husband’s/boyfriend’s hard-earned paycheck and when she relies on her partner/ex for an ego massage to make her feel good about herself.

The telltale sign of hostile dependency is the anger it generates, in both the dependent person and the person depended upon. Most ex-husbands are incredibly angry and resentful about having to financially support their ex-wives—grown adults who either refuse to support themselves or who erroneously believe they’re entitled to a better lifestyle than they can generate on their own. This is also evident in husbands who have to play nursemaid to their wives’ every emotional need and/or are stuck shouldering the entire financial burden in their families because their wives refuse to work.

Given that these women project their unresolved mommy and daddy issues onto their partners/ex-partners/children, it makes sense that they feel entitled to ungodly amounts of lifetime spousal support/attention/time/special treatment/etc.

Unfortunately, since these women’s parents failed to teach them how to self-soothe, to be responsible for their choices, to have empathy, to experience consequences for their choices and raise them into responsible adults, we’re stuck with these perpetual greedy infants, terrible two-sters and arrogant, nasty adolescents. Worse yet, these women-children are passing their dysfunction on to the next generation.

These women are children and you simply can’t treat them like adults or try to reason with them like adults; nor can you use logic. They are children and are not capable of reasoning beyond an adolescent’s mind on a good day.

You can also forget gratitude for their “allowance,” ego massages, blind loyalty and acceptance and humoring their delusions of grandeur to keep the peace. Much like a child, this woman believes it’s daddy’s/mommy’s (i.e., her partner’s) responsibility to take care of her and make her feel good. She sincerely believes she could be a CEO, have her own successful business or be a prima ballerina/president/astronaut/cowboy if she hadn’t “sacrificed” everything for you.

When you try to point out the flaws in her reasoning, you get the same convoluted reasoning you’d get from a kid. Ultimately, it comes down to this: “You’re supposed to take care of meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” and, in many cases, thank her for the “privilege” of doing so.

The bottom line: You can’t have a reciprocal, mutual, interdependent relationship of equals with a child and this includes a child masquerading in the body of a woman. You either need to resign yourself to the thankless parental role in which she’s force fitting you, find a way to get her into long-term psychotherapy that focuses on re-parenting her to help her achieve the missed developmental milestones, emotionally detach from her and the relationship or end the relationship.

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.


Bios, P. (1968), Character formation in adolescence. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 23: 245-268.

Buhler, C. (1968), The course of human life as a psychological problem. Hum. Develop., 11:184-200.

Pals, J. L. (1999), Identity consolidation in early adulthood: Relations with ego resiliency, the context of marriage and personality change. Journal of Personality, 67 (2): 295-329.

Neugarten, B. L. (1969), Continuities and discontinuities of psychological issues in adult life. Hum. Devel., 12:121-130.

Simons, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Lacante, M. (2004). Placing motivation and future time perspective theory in a temporal perspective. Educational Psychology Review, 16, 121-139.

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  1. Mellaril says

    “I want, I want, I want. I need, I need, I need.” – It’s been 25 years since I’ve heard that expression but I can still hear the voice saying it, escpecially stringing out the last plaintive “…neeeeed.”

    It was often followed by,

    “If I had a boyfriend who loved me, he’d (fill in blank).”

    For the longest time, I thought she was making a joke. Time and experience taught me she wasn’t.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      “I want, I want, I want, I need, I need, I need” is actually from “What About Bob?” However, I’m sure many men experience the same phrase in their relationships.

      Out of the mouths of “babes.” Ugh.

      • Mellaril says

        Then my exgf should be making a fortune in royalties since she was using from at least 1984.

        You reminded me, she used to tack on the soft “uh” after the last “need.”

        • Freedom says

          I said it many times when i was going thru this… “what they want from you is more, More, MORE… and what you get back from them is more of the same. Not in reciprocity, but in drama… just more of the same…

    • lifeonborder-line says

      I experience that constantly. “I want, I want, I need.” I married into that family. I thought it was novel that my wife wanted to be a housewife. She doesn’t want to work nights or weekends. Unfortunately with young children it is hard to justify putting them in full-time daycare. It was a dream to live a modest lifestyle and raise a family. Now I know the dream is a nightmare. With constant barrage of I hate everything about you. You aren’t emotionally available. You are a good Dad to my stepson. Why didn’t you adopt him in the first months we were married(I have only known her now 2 years). The abuse is physical at times. Mellaril I totally identify with your post.

  2. weeeblo says

    Once again, Dr. T., your ability to articulate an area of the dysfunctional relationships so many men find themselves in is amazing and appreciated. Thank you for shining the light on another dark layer of relationship hell. My ex was an oppositionally defiant teenager (is this related?) who made my life truly woeful and maddening. Thankfully, since my divorce, I only have to do deal with her in very measured doses in a co-parenting capacity. That said, I’m still worried sick about the long-term well-being of my children, considering the emotional and psychological terror she inflicts on those all around her.

  3. the_mathemagician says

    This resonates so much with me and my experience with my ex. I endured expectations that I would alleviate her boredom and be responsible for entertaining her, provide her with validation that no one could possibly provide other than herself, just live with the fact that she has violent outbursts, and best of all, just accept her and her issues, because that’s just who she was/is. Even now, she occasionally rails at the fact that “I have the upper hand” because I’m giving her alimony. The idea that she could get a job and be more independent is completely lost on her and always has been.

    • weeeblo says

      I feel your pain the_mathemagician. I know this has been said many times before in other comments on this site, but I continue to be amazed at how many times it feels as though these women operate off of the same script. Once I saw my ex’s madness for what it was (which sounds nearly identical to how you’ve described your ex) and began to discover I wasn’t in complete and desperate isolation, I marveled at how many of the men’s stories on this site are similar to one another and to my own. It’s tragic and scary.

  4. Free at Last says

    These women are children and you simply can’t treat them like adults or try to reason with them like adults; nor can you use logic. They are children and are not capable of reasoning beyond an adolescent’s mind on a good day.

    Wow, is this ever spot on! I remember so many times where I wouldn’t back down and my ex-girlfriend would pout and sulk just like a six-year-old for days on end. And although highly educated, when we disagreed about anything, she’d get very angry and her reasoning skills dropped down to the same level — “Now We Are Six” in A.A. Milne’s words.

    Gratitude? My ex told me many times that I should be grateful to her for allowing me to live in her house — although I paid her entire mortgage every month.

    Absolutely perfect conclusion. It’s almost four months since I moved out, and my life is returning to its previously calm and happy state. There’s just no way to get a six-year-old to become a mature adult overnight — I suspect that any successful therapy would require going back to her childhood and “re-raising” the woman-child through her teens and early twenties, which would certainly take several years.

    My own recommendation: get the hell out of there, because the relationship is pathologically broken and there’s no way you can fix it.

    Thank you Dr. T for another terrific and insightful article.

    • Peter says

      Free at Last,

      Thanks for your post. It is also about four months since I moved into my own rented house close to where my children and former wife live. Night after night I am experiencing the kind of peace and a wonderful sense of order, safety and bliss that mystics speak about instead of the tension and fear and emotional persecution that plagued my life as a hostage to a hostile dependent woman. My new house is surrounded in a protective bubble of peace, safety, perfect quietude and exudes a sublime sense of warmth, comfort and order.

      When I married “the hostile one” she had two business degrees including an MBA and she earned a very good salary – significantly more than my salary as a design professional. Within a month of our honeymoon she had quit work and never worked again until about 3 months after we separated. She sponged off me for 15 years and sent our kids to expensive day care or got her mother to look after our kids while abusing me and them and complaining about everything and taking all the credit for my income because she had sacrificed her career in order to be a full time mother.

      I stuck it out the emotional abuse for much longer than I needed to because I thought it was the right thing to do for the kids but now that I have left they are doing better than ever at school at sport and in their music studies and they are very happy, well adjusted with part time jobs (even though they are only 11 and 13). I took a lot of trouble to prepare them and I now find it much easier to maintain a polite “business-like” relationship with the ex. I do not support her anymore financially (but provide support for the kids) and she has now started to work full-time. Consequently, she is far happier and her physical health and self esteem is far higher.

      I have survived with the help of friends and a lot of counselling and I continue to learn, learn, learn. Every single aspect of my new life is now wonderful, safe and good and I agree with you that the only effective option when dealing with these perennially parasitic hostile-dependents is to bail out!

      • justo73 says

        I’m about to take this step and am scared of the unknown; living on my own, living away from the kids, paying alimony. I know I’ll be a better dad but keep bottling it at the last moment. She’s a psychopath and her upbringing is of psychopaths . She’s attacked me three times. I need to escape

  5. Free at Last says

    Sorry, apparently WordPress can only properly handle one “blockquote” per post. The two other quotes were supposed to be:

    [2] You can also forget gratitude for their “allowance,” ego massages, blind loyalty and acceptance and humoring their delusions of grandeur to keep the peace. Much like a child, this woman believes it’s daddy’s/mommy’s (i.e., her partner’s) responsibility to take care of her and make her feel good.

    [3] The bottom line: You can’t have a reciprocal, mutual, interdependent relationship of equals with a child and this includes a child masquerading in the body of a woman.

  6. moundbuilder says

    This article is really helpful. I first heard the term “hostile dependency” maybe 10 years ago but have never seen much written about it. One thing I wondered about is if it’s possible for someone to be a hostile dependent who has a job. I note that there are references to women who expect their husband/boyfriend (or ex) to take care of them financially, etc. while they don’t have to work. I’m thinking of someone I know where the woman does work but seems to expect the man to do everything else– housework, dinner, chauffeuring, making sure she’s happy– and making sure she has abundant time off when she’s not at work so she can go shopping, out with friends, etc. As a working person, she is contributing financially, but expecting the man to do everything else and using work and the stress from work as justification for being taken care of. It seems that even the overspending is a way of subjugating the man, keeping them so far in debt that that becomes a kind of mutual dependence. Anyway, was just wondering if there are also cases where hostile dependent women do work and do earn money but manage to use that to control the man by spending it all, being too stressed to share in the work of homelife, etc.

    • exscapegoat says

      There are many types of hostile dependency other than finanical. There’s emotional for one and housekeeping for another. My perspective is a bit different as it’s my mother who’s the primary Cluster B in my life. She worked, but she definitely expected first my father and then after the split, her boyfriend to take care of her emotional needs and buy her certain material things. While she wasn’t demanding of my brother and I for material things, we were expected to meet her emotional needs and I was expected to pretty much run the household from 11 on, not just normal kid chore stuff.

    • Mr. E says

      My wife has a good job, but expects me to handle all the booking details for vacations, maintain her car, handle any house repair issues including finding and calling contractors, decide what’s for dinner (but actually tease out of her what she actually freaking wants. She does not want what I think would be good.), grab the attention of the waiter behind me, make EVERY phone call to anyone that isn’t her immediate family… basically do EVERYTHING. Because she has a job and has to make phone calls and decisions all day and she shouldn’t have to once she gets home.

      And then she scolds/lectures me about how I don’t do anything except for cleaning the kitchen now and then.

      Just last night she sat down next to me and started scolding me because I hadn’t done/said anything about getting a gym membership she wants. Then when I didn’t respond fast enough to this out-of-the-blue criticism, I got criticised some more.

      I suspect that might count as hostile dependency. (I also think she had a bad day at work and wanted a fight to make her feel better. I didn’t give it to her.)

    • never again says

      MB, my NPD worked part-time at a very well paying job. But virtually all of her income, and the child support she got from her kids father, went to pay for her horse habit. She contributed less than 20% toward the household expenses. And, I found out later, the horses were the reason for her complete emotional and physical withdrawal from me. The intimacy that should have been shared with me was instead given in the form of lavish attention on the horses. So I got double-whammied – the same thing that was draining our finances was also destroying our relationship.

      She couldn’t be bothered with household details, that was up to me. Even though I worked more than an hour away, and she worked part-time 8 min. from home, I was expected to deal with all the “things” that came up, service people, etc.

      When I confronted her about the state of our finances during our final round of marital counselling, she just said “I thought you would take care of everything.” I can’t take care of everything when I have no control over where the money is going!!!!!

      • knotheadusc says

        Wow… what a creep. She should be using that child support to support her kid! It’s situations like this that make me think that non-custodial parents ought to be able to demand an accounting of how child support is spent.

      • wastedtime24 says

        My wife did the horse thing to, except she needed a cowboy and had a 2 year affair with him until I found out. She was pissed when I sold her horse LOL. Now we are in the process of getting a divorce. What a waste, should have divorced her years ago. She thinks she is going to get alimony for life, what a joke, she is in for a surprise. She will probably be “in Love” with me again when she finds out what she will get in alimony and have to work full time.

    • LU says

      My BiPD ex expected me to watch the kids, clean, cook, home-school and do everything else including contributing financially. It was also my job to drop everything and spend every second with her as soon as she got home from work until she fell asleep at night.

      She managed to control me by making sure that none of my attempts for SSI were approved and by spending any extra money on her (unknown to me) pain pill addiction. She was always stressed at something or another and did use that as an excuse not to do housework. Then I would do the housework and because I did a good job of it – I was accused of being OCD. At the same time, she would tell stories of 20 years ago when she did the housework even better than I – thus putting me down in yet another way.

  7. exscapegoat says

    That first photo really caught my eye. I remember as a kid, my mother would sometimes literally throw herself onto the floor, and throw a tantrum. When I was younger, we’re talking around kindergarten, I was completely perplexed and had no idea how to handle it. She did this another time on what I think was 11th or 12th birthday and my dad basically talked soothingly to her like you would a child to coax her off the floor and back into standing up.

    She is also toddler like in that she can’t articulate what she wants or changes it when she does. When I was growing up, when she was upset, even over an adult matter which should have been discussed with her friends, such as a fight with her boyfriend, she would be angry at me for not being able to give good advice. Sure mom, just let me finish junior high, so I can get some more romantic wisdom first (sarcasm).

    From the age of 11/12 on, I was expected to do the laundry, clean/scrub the bathroom, clean/scrub the kitchen. Dust and vacuum the living room, my room and her bedroom. She and my brother would strew their crap from one end of the living room to the other. Games, toys, sock, etc. in his case. Dirty ashtrays, jewelry and clothing removed in the living room, including her bra in her case. They would both leave glasses, cans of soda and food around. Normally there wasn’t leftover food/drink, but I’d have to rinse out glasses & plates and put them in the dishwasher and dispose of the cans. As for their stuff, I “only” had to put it back in his room in my brother’s case. In her case, I had to put things away. Jewelry in jewelry box, bra in hamper, etc. I also had to make her bed. If it were up to me, the rule would have been, living room doesn’t get cleaned ’til everyone gets their crap out of it.

    If any of this was done improperly, it would be a screamfest when she walked in the door. She wouldn’t even teach me how to do it properly, such as scrubbing the bathroom. I was using a regular old kitchen type sponge and not even the kind with a scrubbing surface, instead of a brush. I’d use that and Comet and sometimes I’d miss a spot or not scrub hard enough. Then I’d get to hear how stupid and lazy I was.

    While they act like toddlers, when they’re looking for a vocabulary to insult with, they’re more sophisticated. Sometimes it wouldn’t even be done wrong, she’d just be in a bad mood and look for something to go off on. I did try to argue back a few times that I did x, y & z, it only escalated things. Since things could get violent, slaps, shoves, etc. when escalation happened, I stopped arguing back.

    To THIS DAY, I F**KING hate housework!!!! One week I was paying extra attention to my body and how it feels when an instructor for a body awareness class told us to note tension, how we were holding our bodies. I noticed mine was all tensed up/cramped while doing housework. No wonder my muscles hurt after!

    I’ve bought some of the green friendly spa smell products to try and make housework more pleasant (I really like citrus and mint smells) and I try to listen to music to make it more pleasant. But it’s still my least favorite chore, even though it’s been decades since I’ve had to deal with her screaming. Anyone else have any tips about how to make this better? Even with this, I put off housework because I hate it so much and it’s really a self-defeating kind of thing to do. I’m not in danger of being featured on Hoarders any time soon, but I’d like to be able to spontaneously invite people over without worrying if it’s clean enough. And I hate that feeling of “oh, I really should clean” and the guilt accompanying it.

    If I ever get finanically successful enough, I’m hiring a housekeeper. The bright side is I had no trouble adjusting to taking care of myself in college because houseworkwise, it was a lighter workload! :)

    When I’ve tried to talk about the overload in housework, either at the time or before our estrangement when I was an adult, she’d go on about how she had to work, so someone had to do the housework and as a single parent, who else was going to do it? I dunno, how about distributing it more evenly among the 3 of us or cleaning as a family together on the weekend or a weeknight? Oh that’s right, it would’ve cut into her dating/drinking time. And if I had to do the housework with her screaming as I cleaned, I’d probably be a candidate for Hoarders. Btw, even after my dad moved out, he still helped with many household and car repairs because he figured making life easier for her would make life easier for me and my brother. It was a source of tension between him and my stepmother that he spent time there, but he was worried she might get upset and take it out on us even more than she did.

    • jham123 says

      I mentioned you in one of my post and used your father as an example. I hope you don’t mind. I empathize with your Father and the way he tried to help out even though your parents were divorced. He was protecting you in a sense.

      • exscapegoat says

        @jham, that’s fine with me. I realize he was trying to protect us. It was tough for him because this was back in the late 70s/early 80s and men had even less rights than they do now when it came to custody. Also, it was the dark ages as far as information about personality disorders go. After he died, I found out from my stepmom he used to refer to her mood swings as her “Sybiling out” after the movie based on a woman with dissassociative disorder. He could see that I’d be upset by her many times, but he was afraid if he was too assertive with her, she might prevent us from seeing him.

        The 2 pieces of advice I have for the non-PDed parents are:

        1) don’t pass messages through your kids. You may hate to deal with your PDed ex, but they will take it out on the kids if they don’t like the message. If you’re going to be late getting back with the kids, call the ex yourself, don’t make a child call. My mom got angry that my dad was late with us one time. She yelled she wanted someone to call. And when I did the next time we were running late, weeks after, she got angry that I woke her up with my phone call. *Mr. Rogers voice* Can you say double bind? I knew you could! *Mr. Rogers voice*

        2) if you’re paying child support for a child who is in college and not living in the household, make it part of the agreement that the money will go directly to the child after high school. My dad left it up to me and I made the mistake of asking my mother which resulted in a whole tirade about how she still had bills to pay in the household even though I was away at college. And that was with a choice left up to her!

        Yet, despite claiming she still had utilities regardless of whether I was there or not, she would claim the electric was higher when I was home. Probably because it was during Christmas when lights were on and summer (the one year I made the mistake of going home for the summer) when the air conditioner was on. I was afraid to call her on it, but how could the bills both stay the same and require the child support money when I was gone, yet rise when I was home? Even if they did rise, wouldn’t having the child support year round compensate for that?

        She would do things like pressure me to have a phone line in my room, instead of sharing with neighbors, (back in pre-cell days) and say she was going to pay for the basic charges. Then when bill time came, she’d cry poor and go back on her word. Sometimes I’d pay, sometimes my dad would help me out. I had no problem paying because I was an adult and I was using the phone. But then since I was the one paying, I should have been the one deciding if I would share with my neighbors (basic charges split 4 ways) or have it in my room (basic charges split 2 ways with me & my roomie).

        • thinking says

          I haven’t left my wife yet as I feel I need to protect our daughter from her. As someone that went through this can you tell me, do you wish your father had been able to tough it out and stay so he could have helped you more, or at least been a sane anchor point in your home? If there was some way to get full custody of my daughter I’d have filed for divorce a few years ago when I discovered she had no interest in being a mother, or doing anything other then telling everyone how amazing she is while doing nothing at home. I’m happy to pay for daycare for our child as the thought of her home with her mother all day is not a pleasant one. I’d love to have a peaceful home for her, and sometimes I think divorce would make that possible, but as there’s probably no chance I’d get full custody whatever time she isn’t with me would leave her alone with her mother probably dealing with a lot of what you describe. I need to do what’s best for our daughter, I just wish that was getting divorce, but that’s probably just me being selfish. I just can’t believe I got myself into this situation in the first place.

          • cicak says

            I think that you should divorce her. Borderline mother is not so evil toward her kid when raising a child separately from the other parent. There are not much triggers for her or whatever it is, but they’re much calmer when they’re alone. Abused parent is “weak” and not perceved as a good role model for child.
            That’s my experience and experience of several friends of mine who also had bpd mother.

            Just be carefull with the thing called parental alienation, be prepared for that, talk to your child about what’s mommy up to.

            Your daughter is in great danger of becoming borderline herself, and then you can say goodbue to her, nothing will ever help her in that case.

    • Kay says

      This reminds me in some ways of the BPD “friend” I tossed out of my life nearly a year ago. Her husband, who (I thought) was my friend, would tell me how she kept resisting doing the housework or helping out with the kids. Another friend stayed with them for a time and saw how she would sit at the computer all frickin’ day long, so my former friend had no help with the kids or the housework. The place was a pigsty. I was told that the kids were even taken away for a time because it was so bad. When they moved to our state, I saw for myself how bad it could get. And I kept hearing how, whenever my ex-friend confronted her with the need for her to pull her weight around the house, she would pout and complain and act like *he* was the one with the problem. 😛 He said her sisters would do all the housework, so she had no clue what it takes to keep up a house. I noted that myself when they stayed with us for several weeks, and she complained because I was doing housework for hours instead of sitting and chatting with her. 😛

  8. tomg says

    Wow. These are all very interesting situations.
    My case does not seems that simple. I’ve been married 20 years and shortly after we got married I felt something was wrong. I worked and my wife was finishing up her undergraduate teaching degree in science. She graduated with high honors.
    To further rewind the tape, I knew early on that my wife had issues with intimate relationships and that when we got closer her opening up to me attracted me to her even more. It was bliss and it felt like our needs were both being met.
    The resent with me started some time between her student teaching and about three years after we had our first child. There was just no discussion about going to work or even seeking employment.
    My Wife is not a yeller whatsoever. She holds it all in and has this infuriating way of stonewalling and ignoring me. I feel that if I press her on these important issues she will crumble like a china doll. So things just drift along and I got angrier by the day and at times verbally exasperated. You could call it abuse but it was truly like nailing a lemon marang pie to a tree. It’s incredible and when she eventually got upset, I felt terrible for even asking the question and guilty for losing my cool.
    I actually said YEARS ago that our family felt like we had three children and one adult. I sought out therapy and soon peeled back some patterns which seemed obvious. My Wife grew up without a Dad, nor her Mother or Grandmother. I started to hear the nickel drop. It wasn’t all me, but i was still upset that nothing was going to change. Marriage counseling went just so far and my Wife simply chaulked the situation up as me being a moody crab and me needed medication to tamp that down.
    Everyone loves my Wife. She is engaging, funny, caring, smart and loyal. She is also frugal.
    She just shrinks, retreats and shuts down which makes me feel like I’m bearing down on a baby seal on pack ice. In other words, this ends the conversation and then the resentment builds since I am prevented from expressing my needs and fears. I’ve expressed myself lately in very concise, unemotional fashion and have been told that everything is about me. In other words I should just man up and get on with it. Discovering this web site has clued me into this behavior as code for really saying: continue taking care of me, and by extention, our children totally ignoring the fact that she bears as much of that responsibility as I do.
    I just don’t see this changing and firmly beleive, as this article says that she is in need of years of psychotherapy.
    I must confess that she did see a social worker last year, but because it was our former marraige counselor I was really put off and angry that my privacy was not being protected. A great therapist, but this was just unethical and I openly objected and said so.
    In retrospect, that was a situation where I should have canned the beans and just let it play out. I probably was working against my own interests and regret even taking notice of that arrangement. My fear was being painted as the devil himself, whereas the counselor probably knew me better than that. A mistake.

    How should a man deal with a Wife who has these characteristics, but does it in the image of the Easter Bunny?

    • never again says

      Tom, my wife was very much like this, she’d just shut down and ignore me. The passive-aggressiveness was maddening. Then, when I finally couldn’t stand the withdrawal and spoke my mind, I was accused of having “anger management” problems.

      • jham123 says

        Typical behavior from an NPD. Withdrawal or withholding of affection is a trait of the NPD and is a form of mental/spousal abuse. Tom’s situation is so so typical, the NPD abuser is such a social butterfly to everyone else, but withholds affection to the Spouse……it’s abuse, pure and simple

        • tomg says

          Again, I can’t explain it. It’s been going on for years. Her silence does anger me and that anger then seems to do a few things. It neatly and cleanly transfers the issue into my anger management “issues.” It seems to support her persona of the good person, and assigns blame for the very issue we disagree on me. I consider myself a very sensitive person, so this discord makes me feel very guilty and out of sorts for a long time.
          I guess to keep the persona of “the good partner” you need a really big SOB to prove it. Yeah, I’ve heard it all. Mood issues. Anger issues. Being unavailible. Not being an attentive father. Guys, it hurts. it really hurts.
          Then my wife sees her therapist and she seems to have developed a more self rightious way of dealing with me. I don’t know whether I’m on foot or horseback alot of the time. Then I expess my feelings and an told “It’s all about you”, or ‘It’s not all about you.” Is she right? Am I missing something? How do I cope with or reason with this? Oh, and I can’t leave out her claim that I am too dramatic. I do feel literally emotionally cut off at the pass.

  9. B Experienced says

    I agree with the displayed behaviors and arrangement of them, however, I differ with the etiology. I do not believe that the psycho dynamic perspective is always or largely true with the Cluster B’s. Given that the psycho dynamic field has long falsely blamed parents for everything, I am careful and skeptical. If you ask a BPD or N if the Mailman did it and they are responsible, they will agree with you that the mailman did it. Thus a new branch of Psychology opens up. This one would be called Social Contact Job Victims! Therefore, blaming their parents is a given and I have no doubt that they will agree with the psycho dynamic perspective for that reason alone. I tend to agree more with Hervey Cleckley’s perspective of love and psychopathy. Even if the love is there, a psychopath will see it differently and will falsely accuse people of wrong doing when there was none. In that context, he largely describes narcissism and the paranoia that is common and usually seen in BPD and Narcissism. Since narcissism is the root of psychopathy and both are inherited, I find that answer more compelling because I have seen no abuse to low abuse with the BPD and N; yet they react as though they were water boarded on a daily basis. A look becomes a death threat(paranoia) etc. Another interesting fact is that Schizophrenia often runs in the families of people with BPD and Narcissism. I myself find their paranoid traits very similar to the onset of decompensation seen in Paranoid Schizophrenia before the grandiosity is full blown. Both BPD’s and N’s often become psychotic and/or live in a psychotic fantasy world and have the comorbid diagnosis of Schizotypal PD; which I believe is a milder form of Schizophenia.

  10. James says

    I always love the particularly appropriate photographs that go along with these insightful articles. Given all of the misery one gets in dealing with people like this, every bit of humor helps.

    The thought that I spent twenty years in bed with a woman that is emotionally a toddler is revolting. It is amazing how these people are high functioning and mask their true selves.

    Thank the Lord she left.

    • Chevy says

      James, I just re-quoted what you stated. Only I was married almost 14 years. It makes me sick to my stomach. “The thought that I spent twenty years in bed with a woman that is emotionally a toddler is revolting. It is amazing how these people are high functioning and mask their true selves.”

      Thank the Lord she left.
      Amen James. I never thought I would say that.
      This is my first post. After reading a number of replies I realize their are others like yourself that have experienced much of what I have. Physical – hitting me in the face not once but twice for giving our son some extra plastic hangers to use instead of the metal hangers he was using. Threatening to divorce me if we got into an agrument about something. She would never except no for an answer. She would always get her way no matter who she hurt or what the consequences were. And she didn’t care as long as she got what she wanted. One day she was yelling at me in the kitchen and I told her that I couldn’t talk to her with her acting like this. I said I was going to run a couple errons and I would be back. She came outside and yelled that I hope you get killed in a car accident. Who’s says that to their spouse? We had separated after 4 years of marriage for 2 years. I always stayed faithful to her, I thought she stayed faithful to me as well. Now I’m not sure. We got back together and she now had run up $15,000 in credit card debt. We had agreed we wouldn’t use credit cards. She tells me a couple months after getting back together that it’s now my responsiblity to pay her debt off because I’m the husband. Really? I was willing to help, but my responsibility? Where’s the conscience? I realize now there was none. Her mother was married 5 times. I always stayed with my wife because I was going to be the guy that would never leave her. I always thought one day we would work through things. Our church even paid for counseling for her a number of years ago. We counseled with our church counselor. I took her to another counselor about 2 years ago and she only went a few times. She told me she wasn’t going to go anymore. Counselors just give her a headache she said. I counseled a couple more times and I asked the counselor in desperation what can I do to change to try to help things. She said you can’t do anything. She told me that she will probably always be the way she is. I couldn’t believe she said that. And I didn’t want to believe it. Everything ended this past April. She divorced me and moved to South Carolina to live with some guy who she went to prom with in high school. I think they met on Facebook. Imagine that. This was a snap shot of what my life has been like. Sorry for being so long winded. I’ve had a lot on my mind.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        Hi Chevy and welcome. I’m glad you found your way here. Keep reading and commenting. Sadly, you’re definitely not alone.

        Dr T

  11. tomg says

    Hi All

    The problem in a nutshell (no pun intended) is I don’t want to break up my family. I love my Wife and at times actually feel sorry for her that she is not capable of expressing herself. I long ago gave up the notion she wouldn’t share with me. She just can’t and that must be a very lonely place to be.
    I am just stuck on how I can help bring about change. I have detached over the years, but later accused of “not being present.” I even consulted with an attorney when I was very convinced there was zero hope, but relented for marraige counseling instead. The result was my Wife beat me to the punch and started seeing our former marriage counselor alone w/o even discussing it, before, during or after she went. This is her MO. No discussion, no problem. Stand in a room with your eyes shut and nobody can see her.
    Now our son is going through some heavy duty emotional stuff, drugs, sex, booze and outragious behavior and verbal abuse. We did reach out for a family counselor, but my son refused to go. I wanted to go back to marraige counseling, but stopped making and cancelling appointments when she became indifferant to the idea “It’s all about you, it’s all about you!”
    Any ideas? I am toying with the idea of just calling the former marraige counselor and telling her the day and the time and then following up with the same for a family counselor. At this point what do i have to lose?

    • jham123 says

      tomg, you need to read some of Dr. Ts older articles. You are “looking for validation from the one that will never give it” (paraphrased from Dr. T.)

      Some of the older articles will explain how the NPD mind will never never accept any culpability and as I posted before, the withholding of affection is a form or a way of abusing you and keeping you at bay. She has to keep you at arms length as you are a threat to her and letting you inside is a threat. She withholds affection as way to abuse and control you…….I can’t verbalize it like Dr. Ts articles can.

      When I found this site (or Dr. ts old blog) I spent over a month consuming every article and every reply written under the articles. I was quite the eye opening experience and so many…..SO MANY things were fully explained.

      Now days, I just watch my NPD and chuckle inside as I now know her playbook (thanks to Dr. T.)

      Like you, I have decided to stay (see post below) as my kids need some sort of balance from the parental department. It is hard and as a man I am very very lonely. I have learned to deal with the BPD personality and how to keep from setting her off(by non threatening behavior). And by threatening, I mean, I cannot even come home and describe some sort of victory at work…..She see’s this as me “getting ahead” or “flaunting” my good fortune while she sits in mediocrity or total failure. Understand, if I land a big deal at work, the whole family benefits from that monetarily, a normal woman would be happy or proud. Not the BPD, they see it as a threat to their pecking order of the family and that they are now out of control of me. So, the sour look on her face a few months ago after I announced that I just got a $36k P.O. for job I was working…….I lost my edge for just a moment as I was happy….then I snapped back to reality and remembered who I was talking to and I immediately dropped the subject and left the room.

      Sometimes I revert back to my old self with her….I am just me being me…but then I have to remember who it is I am dealing with….a BPD. If I tailor all my comments and replies with the BPD in mind….things go so much smoother in our household.

      Sad, but that is the way I have to work it with her to keep the peace. I’ll be free one day…but today is not the time…..

      • Peter says

        The last thing I wanted to do was to break up my family. I spent literally years waiting before finally leaving. Now that I have left my kids 11 and 13 with the ex, I have found that my relationship with both children has drastically improved. Granted, I did have some excellent support from a Counselor in maintaining post-separation contact between parents and children. My children treat me with far more respect than they ever did before and in a funny way, I believe that I am more “psychologically present” in their minds as a father figure than I ever was before even though I only see them for a few hours each week. Before, I was abused by the “hostile one” and ignored and treated disparagingly by the kids. Now I am respected by them all. “The hostile one” now treats me with a good deal of respect and I am loved by my children. Go figure! It doesn’t make a lot of sense from a rational point of view but these people are not rational or reasonable.

  12. jham123 says

    So here I resist coming here for almost a year. I resist as I don’t want to face what I have to face.

    The ongoing hatred of me from my wife has escalated as of late since I got laid off and then stricken with illness. Luckily we have disability to carry us for a while.

    But, the fact that I don’t make enough to finance two houses is why she doesn’t kick me out. If we were to divorce at this juncture, her alimony/child support would be a mere pittance and she knows it as she has consoled with an attorney and there is a set calculated formula. Understand that I made great money until last summer where business took a turn for the worse

    So, here we sit, she is too stubborn or lazy to get her own job and depends on my income for the whole household.

    This article describes her very very well. She won’t do anything to help herself rather, she would just like to take pop shots at me for being such a loser and only being able to buy a house and two cars in SoCal.

    I stumbled in here and the first article up….explains things that I have been seeing for years and often felt yet couldn’t articulate in such a way that Dr. T is able to do.

    I tried to leave last year as Dr. T suggest (and I know is the only answer) but I have two little girls. It may have been this time last year (to the day)while in my apt. everything hit all at once and I broke down. I missed my girls so much that I cried for almost two hours uncontrollably.

    I closed down my apt and moved back in with the fam after that. I know what I have to do, I just have to wait for a few more years to pass and my daughters to grow a bit older.

    • TheGirlInside says

      Jham: I feel for you. I have a friend who tried to get out a couple of times last year, but has recently seemed to resolve himself to staying, and in so doing must (I believe) put his head back in the sand and buy into her b.s. (cognitive dissonance) the whole “…everything is just fine. She’s not to blame…it was her childhood / her job / etc…it’s not her fault…I really am a stupid idiot. i should be thankful for her continuing to put up with me (and my 3x income plus all the other goodies and chores I do for her)…” sad as hell.

      I will say this from my own personal experience ~ you want to wait for a few more years for your daughters to grow a bit older…and in the meanwhile, they will grow sicker and will come to believe that ‘love’ means pain, control, treating others like possessions, and abuse. Children who grow up in abusive homes (even when they are not consciously aware of the abuse) tend to choose to either be abused or become abusive.

      Isn’t it time you give them an option C?

      • jham123 says

        Option C is me leaving and her getting custody and me getting visitation rights……how is the better than me being here everyday to balance what the children see and absorb.

        People think that the kids don’t understand, but I have non-verbal queues with all the kids…even the 8 year old….they understand a lot more than the adults give credit for. Read the post from the woman that was made to clean the house, she fully understood her Dad working on the car or doing household repairs in order to alleviate the mothers wrath on the children. Kids know what is going on and who is sane and who is “touched”

        I am under no delusions that “things” will get better between My NPD and myself, but this is bed I made. I have to not think of myself in the period of life and make sure I give what I can to the children so they get a good start in life. They aren’t stupid, they know and they see me pampering the NPD and also walking on Eggshells. The also see a very strong stable man that uses logic and tactical skills to circumvent the tantrums of oldest child in the house…….my NPD wife. You have two parents, Children understand who is and who isn’t able to coup in life. The 18 and the 15 year old boys know all too well. They know how to deal with a difficult woman as they have had to grow up with her. They know when they have a real issue to deal with that they can come to me and get centered, balanced help or advice. Funny how me and my 18 year old (nearly 19) don’t have near the Father/teenager issues that I had or that are so typical in teens. I think it is due to our strong bond from me being near home his whole life.

  13. TheGirlInside says

    I’ve heard this referred to as King Baby:

    “…she wants—everything. She tells her partner or ex in excruciating detail everything she wants, needs and is “owed,” well, more like demands. She wants total financial and emotional support, blind loyalty and unconditional love—especially when her behavior is horrid and abusive. Furthermore, you must not expect her to reciprocate. Ever. This is the selfish, haughty teenager….”

    I wonder if doing ‘inner child work’ would help these people….not that I’m necessarily interested in helping them. I did some of that myself by going back in my memory and visualized parenting / comforting myself during / after traumatic situations in which my mother rejected / emotionally mindgamed / overtly abused me.

    You have to have the humility to realize there is something wrong with how you are acting and reacting to people and the world around you before getting to that place where you can be receptive to working through childhood trauma/ spoiling. Humility is a trait rarely, if ever, seen in Cluster Bs.

  14. AmFreeAtLast2010 says

    Doctor Tara,

    … is right! A close to complete diagnosis of my ex-wife.


    The Nile? or as us French say “De Nile”

    It simply is NOT another word for an African river or a large number of “self-entitled” women in the U.S.A. Funny? The women I have met for business in Canada do not seem to act this way.


    • Free at Last says

      Bonjour Michigan… Thank you for your comment. I’m from Canada (Québec, in fact) and met my American ex-girlfriend while living and working for over two years in the USA. in Canada, we barely even hear the word “entitlement” and almost never see it in people.

      All you Americans, please don’t take offence to my comments which follow. Cultural differences are like the air we breathe – they’re all around us, we never pay attention to them, and we don’t even realize that they exist. But when we become immersed in another culture, we certainly see a lot of things that the “natives” cannot.

      I lived in the huge New York City metropolitan area, and entitlement was absolutely rampant! All you have to do is watch the news. Most recently, much of the talk has been around the faltering US economy, mountains of debt, record unemployment and heated political arguments around cuts in social services (humorously referred to as “entitlement programs” in the USA) versus increases in income taxes.

      Where I live, we have what most Americans would consider incredibly high income taxes (the top bracket is over 50% for someone single and self-employed as myself), pay an additional 13% in sales taxes on everything we buy, and gasoline costs $1.40/litre (well over US$5.00/gallon). But we have universal free medical care for everyone, regardless of age or income, free dental care for children, and a guaranteed basic pension plan that’s not much, but enough to pay for a small apartment and basic groceries when you retire.

      All these social services cost money, and someone has to pay for them. Here, the taxpayers do, and the government has a reasonably well balanced budget. Canada will not be downgraded by S&P anytime soon, because our citizens generally don’t cheat on their taxes, nor does our government spend trillions of dollars on massive homeland security programs, waging wars on banana republics, and then yet another trillion on bailing out a bunch of clueless, filthy rich Wall Street morons who couldn’t run your local Quik Chek (an American convenience store chain for all you foreigners) let alone a major investment bank. No, they put one of those idiots in charge of the US Treasury. Sigh.

      Hello, is anyone home? These are incredibly large sums of money, much bigger than most of us can even imagine – someone has to pay the bills! The typical American “man on the street” answer? Not me! I want it all and I want it now. Let someone else pay for everything, or borrow more money so that future generations are forced to pay for it. This, my American friends, is entitlement at its finest.

      If you’re a registered voter and still not convinced that this is the majority view, will you vote for a political representative that will raise taxes and reduce the national debt? If not, you’re not accepting responsibility for your situation and you have a strong sense of entitlement. And please don’t use my ex-girlfriend’s non-sequitur escape pod whenever I caught her lies and denials: she’d so often say “Well, that’s different!”

      I’m especially concerned about the deception of the American public by the mass media. Last week, Congress passed legislation to increase the debt ceiling. Each American I’ve talked to since (and even many Canadians) think that’s like increasing the borrowing limit on your credit card.

      My friends, you’ve been deceived. What Congress did amounts to printing more money so that you can pay higher minimum monthly payments on your credit card – without paying down your existing debt at all – that are the natural result of increasing your card’s credit limit and charging more to it.

      Again, I cannot stress enough that it’s this pervasive, universal sense of entitlement that has created the USA’s precarious economic situation. Most people don’t and cannot see this, because it’s everywhere and has been ever since they were born. Politicians and the media use “weasel words” (deceptive ways of speaking) to ensure that the general public remains ignorant of the true gravity of the situation.

      I’m sure I’ve offended many readers by now, so I offer this analogy for cultural blindness. The last car I bought was a Volvo wagon, which I thought was a rather rare and unique automobile. I remember the first day driving it down the highway, and suddenly noticing how many other Volvos were on the road. I was shocked! Previously, I had only noticed Volkswagens and even that eventually faded.

      So it is with entitlement. When you really, fully and deeply understand what entitlement entails, you’ll come out of denial and begin to recognize it everywhere.

      If you’re a Wall Street type, I freely admit that I’ve been nasty and insulting to you and offer no apologies whatsoever. You think you’re entitled to make disgusting profits without contributing to the economy (in fact, you did serious damage), deceived investors about the risks inherent in your products, refused to accept responsibility for the outcome of your incompetence, continue to gaslight the American public with Orwellian doublespeak, and bend and break all the rules to achieve your nefarious objectives. Sure sounds like Hostile Dependency to me.

      Dr. T, I apologize for ranting on such a politically-charged topic. But it is loosely related to your article, and upon thinking about it carefully, decided to put my thoughts on my hard drive. I’ve saved the file – maybe I’ll send it to the New York Times someday, but it will need a serious introduction on narcissistic and psychopathic traits – so don’t hesitate to delete this comment if you don’t think it belongs here.

  15. bpdvictim2011 says

    My God! This describes my soon-to-be ex-wife to a T. She actually says most of the things you say in the article. She is always saying “It is your job to take care of me”.

    The crazyiest thing is she is now saying the same exact things about me that she said about her ex-husband when we were dating. He was bad with money, he never gave her enough money, he was cheap. Now he is a saint, in her words a “very honerable man” and I am the devil.

    The kicker is I make $72K per year and she wants $1500 a month in child support. Her ex makes $125K and he pays her $1400 for 2 kids.

    When I told her there was no way that I was going to pay her $1500 a month her response was, “Well how am I supposed to live”? Ah, get a job.

    She actually is thinking that she should be able to live on what her 2 ex-husbands pay her in child support and that she should not have to work because she has kids.

    The saddest thing is her boys from her first marriage (15 and 17) have inherited this “I should never have to work for anything” attitude. It really is sad and I feel like such a fool for getting involved with this child-woman.

    • knotheadusc says

      :-( I hear ya. My husband paid $2550 for three kids, one of which wasn’t even his…

      I hope the ex’s third husband has been taking notes.

    • Free at Last says

      The Entitlement Monster (or, How to Leech off Everyone)

      Hi bpdvictim2011…

      Entitlement – it’s not just a set of deteriorating American social-services programs.

      My ex-girlfiend also started saying precisely the same things about me as she did about her ex-husband: I was cheap, stingy, never paid my fair share of the expenses, and even accused me of hiding money from her. I had heard it ALL before about her previous ex; it was as if she was playing back a recording she once made many years ago and used every time she needed to devalue and discard (D&D) someone. In fact, I suspect that it’s a full chapter in the HCP Handbook.

      Note that this strategy has a dual purpose; it’s not only great for D&D, but it’s also highly effective as a Pity Ploy when luring in the next victim. In my case, it helped her ensure that my initial cash flow in her direction (in the form of gifts, subsidies, restaurants, and later, shared living expenses) started at an unusually high level, because her stingy husband was now adding injury to insult by burdening her with considerable legal fees related to the divorce. As I pointed out in another post, I later discovered that the “stingy husband” had completely paid for her university tuition, two years of mortgage and living expenses plus some major home renovation work. I figure $100,000 total, if not more.

      Then of course, she would constantly raise the bar – more “rent” because my presence “greatly increased” her hot-water bill, more grocery money because “I had such expensive tastes” (not!), something new and creative every month. HCP Handbook, Leeching Tactics, page 631: “Inflate your living expenses by at least 100%. Never, ever provide documented evidence of your true expenses. Pay all your bills on the internet so that a real paper bill can’t inadvertently arrive and be seen. That would be disastrous, so shroud everything in secrecy and accuse everyone of violating your privacy should they dare to question anything.”

      Her most creative attempt to leech more money: One Friday evening I offered to take her out to a nice restaurant for supper. I arrived home in jacket and tie at the agreed-upon time, and found her wearing a tank top and jean shorts, ready to go out. I looked at her inappropriate attire, smiled and said, “I guess we’re not going anywhere too fancy?” She got all sad and almost weepy, felt that I had insulted her, and then said “well, if you bought me some new clothing maybe I might wear it.” HCP Handbook, page 632: “Never pass up a chance to leech more money – turn everything into an opportunity!”

      Second most creative attempt: I paid her enough each month to have a cleaning lady come regularly. One day, she announced that she had fired the cleaning lady “because she didn’t do an adequate job” (not!) and informed me that I would now do half the housework. OK, I replied, but I expect you to lower my monthly “rent” accordingly. “No way. You don’t pay me enough as it is.” At that point, I was already paying more than her entire monthly mortgage-and-property-tax bill. HCP Handbook, page 633: “Don’t forget that time and effort, like housework and home repairs, are just as good as money. And always remember to raise the bar regularly.”

      When I lost my job and could no longer afford her “ambulatory mass of lavish monetary needs” (thanks, Dr. T!), I quickly became the stingy bastard who was obviously hiding my significant savings from her. The fact that I too owned a house (in a different city) and had paid not only her expenses but also my own – that was irrelevant, and just went in one ear and out the other.

      Perhaps the most saddening thing about getting involved with an entitlement monster is that you completely lose the pleasant feelings associated with doing anything out of simple generosity, for her or for anyone else. You have no choice but to protect your money from her, and then the monster turns you into a “stingy bastard.”

      On one occasion, I made my annual $700 donation to an animal shelter (they do some truly effective and remarkable work) by pre-paying their internet and telephone bill for the entire year. This elicited a visceral attack on me for “not keeping the money in the family.” Yeah, our family of one, the spoiled little woman-child. I have never felt so bad after making a charitable donation.

      One of the things that my ordeal has indelibly etched on my mind is to avoid women who crap on their exes like the plague. If they can vehemently criticize someone who they claim to have loved for years, they’re going to do the same to me one day. And if their criticism includes stinginess about money, me and my wallet are standing up and heading for the door in a flash. Life as a couple should be financially advantageous to both partners, not just one.

  16. gooberzzz says

    Thank you Dr. T. for another insightful article.

    These types of women are walking curses. They’re a curse when you’re with them, and they will continue to curse you for the rest of your lives. It’s really a horrible sham.

  17. ron7127 says

    I’ve seen this entitlement/dependency deal with both my Xws as well as a sibling.
    In the case of my first wife, she was serially cheating and would berate me with her justification for spending most nights out until after midnight, while I cared for our young sons. Her main justification was “I have more friends than you (re affair partners, apparently). Of course I am going to get more nights out than you.”

    My sister dates a nice , successful writer.She was enraged when he would not spring for a house for them, despite the fact that she was putting nothing toward the down payment and had broken up with him multiple times, citing a lack of attraction and dissatisfaction with him (so, he is supposed to buy a house for them?).

    I was also told by my first wife that , despite the fact that she was a successful attorney who had graduated with honors, that she felt that she should stop working so she could go to the health club and play tennis during the day and have leisurely lunches with other rich housewives.

    Bottom line, if you meet a woman who expects you to do all the heavy lifting, financially or around the house, run.

  18. Mark says

    I should send in a picture of my wife as the poster child for hostile dependency.

    Shutting down. Passive aggressive crap. The excuses over not doing simple chores. The HUGE fight the first time I told her she was acting like a little kid.
    The, “Oh by the way (insert chore), I forgot / didn’t get to it””, method of getting me to do stuff. Constant lateness. My inability to read her mind and anticipate her needs. ANY heavy lifting chores, repairs, car maintenance, etc.

    The worst is that I am the closest target for her rage. If she is pissed off at anything or anyone I bear the brunt of it. (Daddy make me feel better!) She saw nothing wrong with it after 18 years of dating and marriage, until counseling brought it out. She apologized (briefly and w/o sincerity) and now just resorts to shutting down, crying and acting the victim.

    • gooberzzz says

      “The worst is that I am the closest target for her rage. If she is pissed off at anything or anyone I bear the brunt of it.”

      My mother does that. For instance, while I was staying with her and working at the dining room table, she made a reference about her ex-boss and said something like, “another man to fuck up my life.” My stomach just turned, and my immediate response was to internalize the comment as if it was being directed at me. It was the same energy anytime she had to fuss with the printer, or the dog, or the remote control not working right, or some other trivial thing. Types of behavior that I know she would never do in a work environment, or around other relatives. For some reason I seemed to be the repository for her anger in which she was expecting validation.

      When I would bring up how that made me feel, it was MY fault for being too sensitive, and she would more, or less, shut down…or go run at the mouth to her daughter (my half sister, where the other half went I don’t know), or her own sister about something negative about me. Which would ultimately create divisiveness. It’s been a never ending pattern throughout my life, and it never really changes when I’m in close proximity to her for an extended period of time.

      I fear that it gets worse with age…the older someone gets, the more set in their pathology they become. It’s really dis-heartening, especially when these are people you’re supposed to love and care for.

      • JPJ says

        Dr Tara,you hit another home run on this one.You would have to see her actually purchasing old Barbie dolls and clothes at a garage sale to believe it.
        Sometimes she even talks in baby talk to get what she wants.(Like the episode of King of Queens where Doug keeps on faking his injured leg to keep Carrie fussing over him)
        Thank you for giving reasons to why this is happening.I am always going back to re-read the older articles…..which never get old,by the way.
        Sometimes,I get a little creeped out when women put postings up here.
        This site to me is a lifeline for men.
        Thank you Dr Tara…again

        • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

          Hi JPJ,

          You’re welcome. However, I’m happy when supportive, kind women who have also been the targets of female abusers and/or whose husbands/sons/brothers/fathers post here and they are welcome. We need more women to openly state that women can be just as abusive as the most abusive men, that it’s wrong and that laws need to change so that these women are held accountable just like their male counterparts. The more people who are aware of these issues the better and that includes women.

          I’m creeped out by the women who try to post here going on and on about how some man abused them thereby trying to negate the reality that many, many, many men are being abused by women. I’m disgusted by women who think the material here is “misogynist” or “woman bashing.” It’s not misogyny or bashing to criticize abusive women. It’s called accountability. I’m creeped out by women who don’t think women can be abusive because they’re women and only men can be abusive. I am grateful and relieved that there are women who come here to support and be supported. We’ve got a long way to go to raise public awareness about the plight of abused men and we need women to help do that.

          • knotheadusc says

            As a woman, I couldn’t agree more that more women need to admit that they can be just as abusive as men can be. I think everybody should have the right to be safe from violence and have access to domestic violence services. But try telling some women that… A lot of times, they try to throw up “statistics” about domestic violence that show how women are more often victims. And maybe they really are, but how many men actually stand up to be counted? I don’t see how anyone can trust statistics involving domestic violence and relationship abuse. They simply cannot be accurate.

            I will never forget the day my husband admitted to me that his ex wife had abused him. We had only been married a year and he was telling me about his time with his first wife. As he described some of the crazy stuff that went on when they were married, the realization hit him and he said, “My God, was I abused?” It really took a lot for him to say those words. Since then, he’s run into other guys in the same situation. They’re with women who prey on the fact that women are much more likely to believed than men are when it comes to claims of abuse.

          • moundbuilder says

            I am a woman and read here (posting infrequently) because I know a man I believe is in an abusive relationship with a woman. I’ve tried saying so; I think he has a hard time believing it or possibly finds it too embarrassing so that he seems unable to admit it. About the most he can admit is that the woman is “difficult”. I do believe that women can be just as abusive. I think that though there are, no question, women who are physically abusive, even sexually abusive, that possibly the much more common form (though no less destructive than these other forms of abuse) women engage in is verbal, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. I speak up whenever I hear women making disparaging remarks, sexist remarks, against men; I also tend to speak up about abuse against children of either gender. I’d like to see all abuse treating equally, no matter who the perpetrator, that is, that the abuser should be seen as abusive and treated accordingly. Not only do women need to admit that women can be and are abusive, but men need to be able to admit that’s what’s happening to them. I think sometimes when it doesn’t involve physical abuse people do have a tendency to minimize it, believing it isn’t really abuse.

          • tomg says

            I can list a few times (two) when my wife either physically struck me or loomed in a way that suggested she was about to or wanted to. She is by far a very quiet person and very much a forgiving and helpful person. Everyone likes her.
            The problem is she witholds emotions.
            I often tell people who I work with who feel put upon by a boss that if this boss were treating you different than anyone else, then your fears probably have some validity. In my case my wife is freindly, helpful, and enthusiastic around others including our children, but I often see her feelings for others stop on a dime when she is in the uncomfortible presence of me. I often feel (today for example) of what I can do to make this relationship better. Is it something I say/said? Is it my approach? Maybe I can’t make her comfortible enough to share with me?
            I discuss these things with her and am treated with a resounding stare, or the ignomity of her asking me the same things I asked her + the newly acquired Shink Talk of “What does that look like to you”? I want to pull my own teeth out thinking of how I’m portrayed in and out of therapy.
            I’m at this very moment feeling shame that I am not mature enough to deal with my wifes therapy (maybe it will help, but I doubt it).
            I’m all over the place.

          • JPJ says

            That sounds great Dr.Tara.Then it is full speed ahead and with everyone on board we can turn this ship around.I am relieved to know that there are now women out there that realize how serious this situation really is.The fact that women are actually going that extra mile is certainly encouraging.Dr Tara,you certainly are setting the biggest example for women,that is for sure.

  19. lifeonborder-line says

    Amazing the consistency of their behavior. One minute we can be talking about our life together, the next minute she is going through her I want, I need list, and then threatening divorce. Beating me up, literally, after I was trying to comfort her and she got out her emotions she couldn’t handle and pushed me away. I would let her go even though I love her except I have two young children who need an influence more than every few weeks and I can’t imagine my life without them in it daily.

  20. MenAreFromMars says

    I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this article has been in helping me understand & deal with the aftermarth of my relationship break up, so a huge thank you from me.

    I broke up with my ex-gf 8 weeks ago, after being together 2 years. Whilst the chemistry between us was fantastic there were just too many signs it had become a one way relationship and I realise I’d been turning a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour for far too long. It has completely and utterly shattered my world since but it’s getting easier day by day. I’m lucky that I still have my self-confidence but I was loosing sight of myself whilst she was able to do exactly as she pleased. I know in time I’ll realise I’ve had a lucky escape – esp considering thre were no kids or marriage.!

  21. Free at Last says

    MenAreFromMars, congratulations for your timely escape and welcome!

    Dr. T, thanks for another very enlightening article. My ex-girlfriend was on the “everything” end of the hostile-dependency continuum, and your article reminded me of a true story that’s almost unbelievable to the point of laughter.

    As I was packing the car on the day I moved out of my ex-girlfiend’s (my spell-checker just caught this, but I think I’ll leave it :) house, she exploded in anger when I began to wrap my nearly-new LCD television set in a blanket. She raged on and on about how I absolutely could not take it with me, and I calmly countered with the obvious justifications:

    [1] this is my television set, not yours,
    [2] which part of “my television set” are you having trouble with?
    [3] you have a perfectly good tube-style television gathering dust in the basement, and
    [4] I’m leaving behind thousands of dollars worth of home improvements which are yours to keep. Why do you insist that I leave even more? This isn’t fair!

    Well, nothing worked. She went round and round in circles, hurling insults and accusing me of being so callous and hurtful toward her, and – get this – inventing numerous crazy reasons for why my TV was in fact hers (can you say “entitlement?”). She actually blocked my path to the door with her body. I finally ended this absolutely ludicrous stalemate by offering to leave behind my (much less expensive) DVD player. Then she “allowed” me to take my own TV out to the car.

    This is dementia (i.e. impaired reasoning) at its very finest. Lesson learned: with an HCP, you have to accept that you’re always going to lose, so try to lose as little as possible.

    Now here’s an interesting observation: The exact moment I caved in with the DVD player, her mood changed abruptly from vicious anger to – I can’t think of a word to describe it, but there was this evil grin on her face and a malevolent look in her eyes, something you’d expect from a nasty little five-year-old boy who knew he had just done something wrong and managed to get away with it anyway.

    This incident (and couple of similar ones before it) leads me to believe that HCPs are obsessed not so much with winning, but with making others lose. From what I’ve read, they’re incapable of experiencing the authentic joy that comes from winning (i.e. due to one’s own genuine effort and skill) and can only feel the perverted, sadistic pleasure that comes from making someone else lose.

    MenAreFromMars, I hope you’re maintaining No Contact with your ex. These people can’t help but damage everyone around them; it’s just what they do. No Contact equals No Further Losses.

    • TheGirlInside says

      Hi. I describe that as the “Gotcha, [m-f***er]” or “Gotcha,[B*tch]” look. I experienced that w/my ex one day when i put on a T-shirt with a butterfly and a cute saying as a ‘gift’–as soon as he saw me with it on, he gave me the most bizarre look–“Gotcha,B*tch.” I later realized what that look on his face meant, and that the ‘cute saying’ was really just a continuation of a previous argument we’d had.

  22. Free at Last says

    The Evil Eye, Part II

    Gentlemen and ladies, I thought I’d offer another Evil Eye story for your amusement and insight into how the twisted mind of the HCP works. It’s perfectly consistent with the TV story above, as well as Dr. T’s terrific article.

    First, some necessary context: I met my ex-girlfiend (excuse me, but I’ve come to like this spelling) shortly after she had separated from her soon-to-be ex-husband. She did everything she could to prolong the divorce (claiming all the while that he was causing all the problems) and when she and I parted company, it still had not been settled. Remember, these people are all about doing as much damage as they can.

    After breaking up with my ex-girlfiend, it eventually dawned upon me that she had been fleecing her STBX for their entire five-year relationship. I had recently learned from the court depositions that he had paid her entire two-year tuition for a master’s degree at a prestigious university, and paid all her home expenses during that period. He had also paid contractors to do extensive renovations of her home, which was fully in her name. These were all “not intended as gifts” as the depositions stated. Oh, and not to mention paying 80% of her mortgage and property taxes “because he made so much more money than I did.”

    This was a real eye-opener, and I realized that there was no way that I could trust her with money. This rather quickly led to the demise of our relationship. Her attitude seemed to have become “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine” – sharing is something that’s also learned at an early age, and she had a lot of trouble with this.

    One day, a bailiff arrived and presented her with an envelope containing her husband’s latest settlement offer. She briefly looked at it and tossed it aside. I asked what it said, and she replied “He’s offering $X (a sum considerably more than her accumulated legal fees at the time) but demands an annulment instead of a divorce.” Now, the main reason for the divorce was that he wanted children, but she did not. This is grounds for annulment in their jurisdiction, but both parties must agree to it.

    I asked the obvious question: “Why not accept the offer and just get the whole thing over with?” She immediately replied “Because I have something he wants and I’m going to make him pay for it.”

    After all he had done for her.

    It’s not the response that sent chills up my spine; it’s the way that she said it. I find it difficult to accurately describe how she looked and felt to me at that moment – pure evil and malice, the adamant desire to destroy another human being – think of the most horrific scenes from the movie “The Exorcist” and you might get the right impression.

    If you ever have this scary experience, you’ll know with absolute certainty that you’re dealing with a true psychopath – this is what they look and feel like when there’s no mask at all. It’s truly unfortunate that they can hide this ugly aspect of their nature for months or even years, as long as they’re getting what they want out of the relationship. And it’s certainly not a mere “red flag” to be pondered — I’m not sure how to word this, but let’s say that the soul just knows how to instantly recognize evil and the mind and body experience a powerful urge to run like hell.

    P.S. It’s been six months of No Contact for me, and I now find it actually enjoyable to write about my grotesque experiences. I’ve put this story and the one above into a computer file called “Greatest Hits.” When it becomes reasonably comprehensive, perhaps I’ll ask Dr. T post it.

  23. marika says

    Does Dr T or any other poster have any ideas about this? Or experienced it? My concern is about my ex sister-in-law. She and my brother are recently divorced and have 2 kids. We (my parents and siblings) always found her difficult (she’s the kind of person you always feel like you’re doing the wrong thing around and she’s blunt and critical), but since she and my brother separated things have been even worse. She’s VERY angry at him, for understandable reasons, but also takes this out on the rest of the family, particularly my mother.

    She told us that we weren’t “there for her” enough and didn’t call her enough and she didn’t feel welcome in our lives (even though when he first left I went and stayed with her, my parents babysit for her as often as possible, Mum calls her regularly, we have organised events where we invited her and not my brother, we give her and the kids presents and cards for special events and try to attend their birthday parties, she gets invited over our houses etc) and the thing is we never had the kind of relationship with her where we’d call her or go over and see her without my brother – and she always made it clear she wanted to see us on her terms. We actually felt like she didn’t really like us much and only tolerated us because of my brother. Now it seems like she really wants us in her life but we can’t do enough or the right thing for her. The other day she sent my mother an abusive sms telling her how useless we’ve all been and that we aren’t “dealing” with the situation..whatever that means. Even though she’s clearly unstable these accusations still hurt us, particularly my mother, and we don’t want to hurt her and definitely don’t want to do anything to upset the kids or our relationship with them. Ideas on how to deal with her??

  24. Micksbabe says

    I’ve noticed that with my husband’s ex-wife (probably 13 year old maturity, at best), I can find no empathy within myself for her. If she was a 13 year old, I could muster it. But the fact that at some point she had to have made the CHOICE to stay at this age, is all on her. At age 31 (her age when I met my now husband), and now at age 42, her behavior just disgusts me. I believe our mission in this life is to grown from our experiences. HCP’s have failed at this mission.

    Petulent teenager on a 40+ year old is not attractive.

  25. Joe says

    “The telltale sign of hostile dependency is the anger it generates, in both the dependent person and the person depended upon. Most ex-husbands are incredibly angry and resentful about having to financially support their ex-wives—grown adults who either refuse to support themselves or who erroneously believe they’re entitled to a better lifestyle than they can generate on their own. This is also evident in husbands who have to play nursemaid to their wives’ every emotional”

    My ex-gf makes very good money on her job as well as I do, but her problem is that she doesn’t work, it’s her outrageous spending habits which have finally caught up to her. She also loves to say that she doesn’t read, so self-educating herself about finances and how to help herself is out of the question. It is just a very sad state of affairs whereby this very narcissistic person is blaming me for all of her financial destruction, yetr we have been seperated for about a year now and while I actually have started savings, she has not even made a dent in her own debts.

  26. lifeonborder-line says

    I’m back to this thread. This article says so much about my stbx. My wife is the selfish haughty teenager who does her share of infant behavior too. Unfortunately she is not going to have to grow up. She is going to move back to the cluster b farm with my MIL and Sister

  27. random8 says

    This article is great. I was in a 12 year marriage with this exact person, she hadn’t lived on her own until we got married(at 26) nor paid rent, utilities, car payments, etc. This should’ve been my first giant red flag. She worked part time on and off for the duration of our marriage, endlessly complained about not having enough money, yet never could manage to find a full time job, hiding behind the children.

    In the end, after I had worked for a solid 12 years, I was laid off in 2008. A month later she got her first full time job, refused to pay anything towards bills, filed for divorce, and proceeded to debase me as a dead beat. I lost the house,
    had to file bankruptcy, spent $14,000 in lawyers fees to get my kids half the time, and was ordered to pay $300 a month in child support while I was unemployed.

    While I was in the midst of this hell, I blamed myself for “not being a good enough father” and “not providing enough”. I had been completely programmed to blame myself for all the problems, and take no credit for any of the successes. In hindsight I find it amazing I was actually able to provide and take care of my children with this albatross of a wife around my neck.

    Well, the anchor is now cut loose, thank you Dr. T for this article, it explained in crystal clear detail who I had been dealing with, and why I felt responsible for everything. She was and still is a case of arrested development.

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