Relationship Stages, Abusive Women and the WTF Moment, Part One

What is the WTF moment?

Oprah and her minions talk about having an “a-ha” moment or a defining moment of wisdom that you use to change your life.

It is my belief that men and women in abusive relationships often have the WTF moment when they see behind an abusive partner’s mask for the first time. The WTF moment can be just as defining as an a-ha moment, in that it can be a critical point in an abusive relationship.

The WTF moment is when the non-abusive partner, typically after weeks, months and sometimes years of love bombing, hoop jumping, guilt, manipulation, obligation, fear, self-doubt and blaming and shaming tactics, has a moment of clarity. It’s when you finally realize, “Wait a minute. Something’s wrong here, but it isn’t me.”

Having the WTF moment should be enough to help most people realize they’re in a relationship with an abusive, unstable and possibly sociopathic individual and that you need to end it. However, if you have codependency issues, rescuer tendencies, and other attachment issues, the WTF moment is only the first step of your journey to freedom and emotional health.

Most intimate relationships go through approximately 5 stages, which include:

  1. Honeymoon
  2. Power struggle
  3. Re-evaluation and identity formation
  4. Re-commitment
  5. Acceptance

The WTF moment typically occurs during the second stage, the power struggle. Most relationships with abusive personalities don’t seem to progress past the third relationship stage of re-evaluation and identity formation, no matter how long the relationship remains intact.

During the first relationship stage, the honeymoon, you tend to view a new love interest through rose-colored glasses. It’s a time of infatuation and mutual idealized projection. Their idiosyncrasies are cute and attraction and passions run high. You focus on all the ways you’re alike and ignore pesky differences.

You may have unrealistic expectations that your new love will be able to meet all your needs and desires and vice versa. Biochemically, your brain is awash with dopamine, testosterone and endorphins, which elevate mood, increase sexual desire and create an overall sense of well-being. In other words, you may not thinking straight nor seeing things and each other as you are in reality.

You may focus exclusively on each other to the detriment of other relationships. This is when a sense of “we” develops and boundaries may become diffuse. There’s often lots of laughter, flirtation, playfulness, sexual desire and a compulsion to reveal everything about yourself to your love interest and learn everything about her.

The honeymoon phase is temporary and lasts anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. If a strong enough bond develops during this period, a couple is more likely to be able to ride out the power struggle stage.

Many relationships don’t last beyond the honeymoon phase, however. Some people are more in love with falling in love than they are with the actual person. They seem to be addicted to the feel-good sensations, novelty and other blissful illusions. They lose interest and move onto the next person who makes their hearts go pitter-pat after the idealization and positive projections stop and the rose-colored glasses are removed.

If you have a history of becoming involved with abusive, sociopathic, high-conflict and/or personality disordered individuals, the honeymoon stage is the most dangerous time for you. This is when you have the “good times” that you cling to later. Emotional predators add to the to the idealization and mutual projections by intuiting what your needs, desires and fantasies are and giving it to you. It’s when you’re the most vulnerable to love bombing and other high-pressure tactics to make a binding commitment.

Warning signs and other red flags are often minimized, rationalized away or ignored during this stage. The good feelings, intense sex, pleasing behaviors and adoration can be so powerful and addictive that it may make it very difficult for you to end the relationship once you have the WTF moment and see behind your abuser’s mask.

Once you enter the FOG of fear, obligation and guilt, you long to go back to the pink cloud of the honeymoon phase, but that never happens. You may see glimpses of the honeymoon behaviors if your abusive partner senses you’re about to make a break for it. This is often when the abuser tries to hoover you back in by engaging in many of the same behaviors she used to reel you in during the honeymoon stage.

The hoover is temporary. It is nothing more than a tactic to avoid abandonment and/or to get you back under the abuser’s control.

The second relationship stage is the power struggle phase, which can last indefinitely. Your brain chemistry returns to normal and disillusionment, disappointment and conflict may arise. It’s when reality hits the fan and is when the WTF moment is likely to occur.

Many of the positive attributes you both projected onto each other are withdrawn and you see each other more clearly. This is when the negative projections begin if you’re involved with an abusive personality. In other words, you stop being the most wonderful man ever, and become the recipient of her twister-roo “You” statements.

You’re selfish. You’re insensitive. You’re angry. You’re mean. You’re a cheater. You don’t care about anyone else’s feelings except your own.

She projects her negative qualities and misbehaviors onto you and expects you to carry them for her. This is when you may both look at each other and exclaim, “You’ve changed!”

The reality is most people don’t change. You’re the same. Maybe you’ve started leaving your dirty underwear on the floor or started to drink directly from the milk carton again, but you’re still pretty much the same guy you ever were. An abusive personality, however, does change.

The fantasy Dr. Jekyll personality diminishes and Ms. Hyde surfaces and takes up residence. For example, the intense sex and pretending to be interested in football stops, and Nasty McCrazy comes out to play.

As your real identities emerge and your differences become apparent, problems arise. An abusive personality often sees these differences as a betrayal and/or a personal attack. Instead of adapting and realizing that everyone has little quirks and irritating habits, she will punish you for not living up to her fantasies and not meeting all of her physical and emotional needs.

Many couples break up at this point if their differences can’t be resolved. Other couples ignore their differences and engage in distancing behaviors, which may foster resentment. Alternately, an abusive partner may begin the process of bullying you into submission.

This is when the struggle for control over you begins in earnest. For example, an abusive partner sets forth an unending series of hoops for you to jump through with the empty promise that she’ll go back to the person she was during the honeymoon phase if only you can successfully jump through all of her hoops and navigate her shifting landmines. Sadly, many men and women fall for this lie.

If you’ve coupled with a healthy individual, this is when you start to merge your friends and families. If you’re with an abuser, this is often when she will try to isolate you from your support system.

For a healthy couple, this stage is also when the real relationship work begins. The partners learn how to adapt, to build trust, to listen, to solve problems, to resolve conflict, to make compromises and appreciate one another’s differences — or at least accept them. In this respect, the conflict during this stage is healthy as both partners figure out their roles in the relationship and helps them separate from the enmeshment of the honeymoon phase.

High-conflict, abusive and/or sociopathic personalities aren’t capable of compromise, give and take, and conflict resolution. It’s her way or there’s hell to pay. This is the stage when the abusive personality’s control issues become evident. Minor differences and disagreements elicit disproportionate rage or emotional withdrawal. Blaming and shaming tactics start and then it hits you.

The WTF moment.

Please check back next week for part two.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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  1. azcameron says

    There aren’t many times i get a visceral, truth-bombing, overwhelming wisdom download, but this was one. Don’t get me wrong; i love every article, but this one hit me hard. Almost exactly as i experienced, and very insightful as to _why_, which is often the toughest battle. It would be interesting to see a stage-by-stage comparison of dysfunctional vs. healthy behaviour, as many of us who didn’t get the education young still have a harm time detecting maladaption because we’re unaware of the other (healthy) side. Nice one Dr T!!!

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Thanks, Alex. Coming from a gifted truth bomber such as yourself, that’s high praise. That’s a great suggestion regarding a comparison of healthy vs. unhealthy relationship development. I touch on it a bit more in part two, but could go more in depth in a second iteration.

      Happy belated New Year.

      • azcameron says

        Same to you. If i had a book educating me on the healthy alternative to dysfunctional behaviour, i’d have saved a lot of time. Something like “X is happening as a maladaptive response to meet a need. At this stage in a healthy relationship, by contrast, two healthy people are resetting their boundaries and deepening their mutual respect by…” etc. A “this is what should be happening” approach, so you can actually detect the crazy patterns. Part of the problem is not knowing any different, and if like me, you had dysfunctional parents, they wouldn’t have been an example, or taught you. Where do you go after that, apart from to stumble forward, slipping up, falling, and learning the hard way?

        • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

          Where do you go after that, apart from to stumble forward, slipping up, falling, and learning the hard way?

          You step into the unfamiliar and the unknown of healthier choices and healthier people, which can be scary at first. If you come from a dysfunctional and/or abusive family of origin, you don’t have a road map for healthy. It’s only natural that uncharted territory is anxiety provoking. I find it’s best to take baby steps and be gentle with oneself.

          Or were you asking a rhetorical question? :)

          • KenP says

            That’s good advice. After 27 years of marriage to an NPD, my divorce was final three weeks ago. I feel like a long-timer let out of prison, as I really don’t have the tools to function as a free man.

            I’m learning some basic skills, such as setting effective boundaries, before I try to start dating. Once I get out there, I’m going to go very slowly, and I will have a strong support system to keep me on the straight and narrow. I just don’t trust myself at this point to not fall into another disaster.

          • StrawMan says

            KenP — I’m 20 years into my DISASTER! I have to stick it out for a few more years for my kids! I wonder how I’ll manage when I finally make parole! Until I found this site I thought I was crazy; but now I see the sad truth!

            I don’t think I’ll EVER get married again! NEVER EVER!!

            I wish I could just say I hate women; but I don’t! I’m attracted like a magnet, visa versa. I seem to find the real nut jobs; or they find me!

            Anyways, good luck FREE MAN!! :)

      • azcameron says

        e.g. “If you’ve coupled with a healthy individual, this is when you start to merge your friends and families. If you’re with an abuser, this is often when she will try to isolate you from your support system.”

        This is gold!

      • StrawMan says

        Me too! Exactly how I have spent the last 19 years! WTF? I’m a nice, decent, give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back guy! ..a friend-in-need rescuer of the highest order! This is what she exploits!

        How could I piss someone off 24/7? Make them fly into blind rages just by breathing? I’ve wasted 1/2 my life trying to fix MYSELF when I was NEVER the problem! Talk about an exercise in futility!

        I’m still the same guy I was 20 years ago, but balding and a little mellower! She is the one with the issues; not me! My problem is that I don’t have stomach to leave my kids in her care! I would get 4 days a month with them; that would just be awful for them and me! I also fear the unknown, like everybody else!

        As soon as I can I’m out that f#cking door for good!

        Thank you Dr T!

  2. Robert Full Of Rage says

    I guess you could say I was “lucky.” If my abusive ex-girlfriend didn’t leave me for another guy, I would still be stuck in an abusive relationship. My WTF moment came after she left me. After months of mourning, I realized it wasn’t my fault. In a moment of clarity, I realized I didn’t deserve the abuse. In my opinion, one of the hardest parts of having a WTF moment is the overwhelming feeling of betrayal. A bitter taste was left in my mouth when I realized someone who I loved more than life itself had returned my love with hate. It really hurts to be the one left out in the cold, and have no one there to try and warm your soul. I am not naive anymore about “love.” Maybe one day I can tear down the wall I have constructed around myself, but I am not holding my breath.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      That kind of betrayal is often experienced as trauma and it is very bitter.

      Walls can be a good thing while you’re healing. I’m sorry that happened to you, Robert.

  3. Verbal says

    “You’re selfish. You’re insensitive. You’re angry. You’re mean. You’re a cheater. You don’t care about anyone else’s feelings except your own.”

    Have you been wiretapping my phones again, Dr. T.?

  4. danfromchelan says

    Mastery of this information should be required to graduate from high school. Even healthy relationship would be greatly benefited, but just think how much it would help the victims of an abusive relationship!

    Bless you, Dr. T!

    • tallwheel says

      I think that’s an excellent idea. High schools have sex education. Why not “Relationship Education”? It’s an important life skill that everyone should know!

      • killswitch says

        In an ideal world sure. However, a class like that would be geared towards “empowering” women (re: how to mentally castrate your man.) and forcing boys into mantihood (men wearing pink panties.).

        I prefer teaching loving equality in relationships.

  5. says

    All these patterns and signals ring so true.

    In my case, my partner had (still has, only he’s not my partner any more) OCPD. What makes this particular disorder so confusing is, behind the abuse, there’s a genuine sense of concern/love, unlike somebody who’s a narcissist or game player.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I needed ABC; he was willing to offer Y, on alternate Tuesdays, provided he wasn’t having a meltdown over minor thing blown to Tragic Proportions. I realized, whether he was mentally ill or not, staying in the relationship wasn’t helping *either* of us.

    I have since come to know many many who struggle with a partner with this condition, as well. They stay because of shame, because they are afraid of what will happen to the kids in a custody dispute, because they think they should be strong enough to “fix” their partner…

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hello Writing Goddess and welcome to S4M. You write:

      They stay because of shame, because they are afraid of what will happen to the kids in a custody dispute, because they think they should be strong enough to “fix” their partner…

      This is true in many cases and it’s heartbreaking. You can’t fix anyone else, but many of these types want you to believe just that.

  6. director17 says

    Thank you for this article Dr. T.

    Been following the site, articles, and imbeds for awhile, but first time posting since I initially wrote in asking you to help me understand if I was in an abusive relationship. It’s so helpful to think back to the “wtf” moment in my previous relationship. Truthfully, I had quite a few “wtf” moments that I should have recognized as red flags and acted more decisively. Instead, I let those moments accumulate and stayed too long (3 years) at the party. I always chalked it up to stress due to our being apart from each other at the time. I told myself to have patience and be understanding and to not take her extreme criticisms, attacks, demands personally. I also wanted to be a compassionate partner that took my partners wants, needs, and desires into account and treated her (and our relationship) as equal. Something repeatedly gnawed at me though and my gut kept telling me something was seriously amiss. It wasn’t until those “wtf” moments became so glaringly obvious (and the fact that our wedding date was fast approaching), that I started to question what the heck I was doing continuously putting up with such treatment.

    You wrote that, “High-conflict, abusive and/or sociopathic personalities aren’t capable of compromise, give and take, and conflict resolution. It’s her way or there’s hell to pay.” This is what I experienced over and over in my particular situation; I couldn’t have described the dynamic between us any better; it was as if my life and my needs as a human being didn’t even register with her. I was often utterly astounded at some of the demands and criticisms she would make of me and what felt like complete lack of empathy and/or compassion.

    Where I start to run into questioning myself is the labeling of my ex as a high-conflict/sociopathic/borderline/narcissistic disordered individual. It’s still hard form me to wrap my mind around the fact that she could be one of/combination of these types. I suppose that’s because my mind still often goes back to remembering the “sweet” side of her…In any case, it’s been six months since I ended our relationship and I have to admit it hasn’t been an easy road (still deal with grief, anger, and guilt), but your site – and everyone who contributes – has been immensely helpful (btw, last imbed about grieving the loss of an abusive ex, was another very helpful and timely post).

    Thanks again for all you do.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      You’re welcome, director17. For what it’s worth, try no to get too hung up on the label. What’s most important are the behaviors, which by your description, were emotionally abusive. You can call it BPD or Flaming Kumquat Polymorphism, it doesn’t matter. Abuse is abuse, it hurts and you don’t have to tolerate it nor accept it.

  7. losingmyself says

    Very timely article for me, as I feel I had the WTF moment last night when my wife very calmy stated if I piss her off enough, she would kill me. This isn’t the first time she’s said she’d kill me. The best one being that if I left her, she’d hunt me down and kill me. I posted the full scenario on the forum, but after asking her multiple times to tell me that she is kidding, she held her ground. I actually felt a weight coming off my shoulder, because now I know that I can not feel bad leaving her (as soon as I get the courage) because I have every right to not live with someone that thinks it is okay telling their spouse something like that. Up until then, I thought I was crazy and a bad husband for all the times I upset her.

    • danfromchelan says

      You know what you have to do. Be sure to make a well thought out plan, as Dr. T says, before you “pull the pin”. This is absolutely critical. Best wishes to you.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        Hi danfrommchelan,

        You’re absolutely correct. Plan as if you’re invading the beaches at Normandy. Have contingency plans as well and do as much reading on high-conflict divorce as you can.

        • SNM says

          Hi Dr. Tara. This was the best advice you gave me. You were proven right and I needed to approach my situation this way. Can’t imagine how it would have gone if I didn’t take this kind of preparation. Took almost a year but now I am separated. And on the mend. Thank you so much.

    • davep says

      Dr T,
      I’m new to the forum. Just divorced a HCP wife. I have 2 small children with her, so I’ll be interacting with her for many years to come. Your site is invaluable and I read it frequently.

      I had the same exact wtf moment you did. Like that frog in the water who has the heat slowly increased over time, I was tolerating worse and worse behavior over time. Finally something was said that was clearly out of bounds. I needed that black/white, on/off, digital sort of event to clarify for me that I wasnt the problem. I gave her multiple opportunities to retract the statement or apologize and she only dug her heels in and reaffirmed what t she said. Even though I never really felt threatened , it was that threat that made me think that if I didn’t go into action,then I was the problem. It has been a long slow process moving out and divorcing, and I still question myself despite the craziness.


      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        Hi Davep,

        Welcome to S4M. I’m glad the site has been helpful. Sorry you have a difficult ex. Are you parallel parenting? If not, you may want to consider looking into it to reduce the stress of dealing with her.

        Kind Regards,
        Dr T

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi losingmyself,

      I saw you’re post on the forum. What your wife has threatened is horrific. Please make a safety plan and actively work on GTFO. If possible, I’d consult with an attorney about getting a protective order and having her forcibly removed from the home.

      Please stay safe,
      Dr T

    • HurtLocker says

      Make sure to record her saying that. Check the wiretapping laws in your state. You’re often OK if you record it in a public place, such as a restaurant.

      Death threats can be taken seriously by the court.

    • Siggie says


      If I had a nickel for every time my ex said “I will slit your throat” or “I will beat you with a bat while you sleep” my therapy bills would have been heavily subsidized. And like yours, it was said with the eerie, unholy calm that cuts to the core. Dr. T and this site is a great resource during the mending process.

  8. SineNomine says

    Another great article, Dr. T. I had my WTF moment a relatively short time ago, but it was long overdue. There were many instances along the way where it should (or at least could) have happened. I just didn’t have the wherewithal or enough self-esteem at the time to realize that something was very wrong with what was happening. It took a long time to learn to stop accepting blame for the raging, taunting, hatefulness, and acting out.

  9. ron7127 says

    My WTF moment, with my first wife, ocurred, roughly, 20 years ago. I was putting up with so much abuse and criticism. Nothing I did was right. I was told how deficient I was , repeatedly, as I “did not meet her emotional needs”.
    Well, after our two boys were born, I ended up both working full time and taking care of them by myself most of the time. My wife would seldom come home at night after work before midnight, claiming she was “journaling” re her problems(she was, in fact, meeting men in bars and sleeping with them).
    In any case, I pointed out that in the previous 6 months, she had bben out 112 out of 180 nights until 12-4 in the morning.
    She was enraged by this and told me”I have more friends than you. Of course I will be out more than you.”
    At that point, it dawned on me:She really beleived she was entitled to more than me. She had no problem with the factual basis of my complaint. She merely could not grok that anyone would not realize that in this life , she was just entitled to more than other people, especially a peasant/servant like her husband.
    One thing I have consisitently seen in the women I believe have NPDin addition to their lack of empathy, is this incredible sense of entitlement.
    A sibling who has this disorder has repeatedly criticized her boyfriend for not buying a house for them or marrying her to enable her toget health insurance through him.
    Yet, she brings nothing to the relationship, financially, and, behind his back,she puts him down to others.
    The truly amazing thing about these folks is that they are not, neccessarily, dumb. Yet, they are abolutely blind to how absurd their views are.
    My first wife was a magna cum law school grad. Yet, in her warped world, she could make the statement that she had more friends etc. with a completely straight face.
    Same with my sibling. She is bright, but completely oblivious to the disrespect she shows others.
    I never knew how to categorize these types before learning about NPD and BPD.

    • director17 says


      It’s helpful to read your post. So much that I’m move to reply to it…You describe how this type (NPD) has such lack of empathy and incredible sense of entitlement and how blind to how absurd their views are. Your description might as well have come straight from my mouth – for so long, I was doing mental gymnastics, trying to wrap my mind around my ex’s views and reasoning of her behavior (not to mention trying to have rational discussions with her), but always felt even more confused. Part of that confusion was trying to understand how someone could have so little empathy and the entitlement!…Oh my god, the entitlement was shocking to me…still is when I think about it.
      Anyway, thanks for posting…makes me feel like I’m not crazy for coming to the conclusion I did to break off the engagement and that the behaviors I experienced from her are simply not things a normal, healthy, well-adjusted adult would do – especially to someone she claims to love.
      Peace to you.

    • StrawMan says

      If I could describe my wife with one word it would be “ENTITLED!”…

      Nothing is EVER good enough — NOTHING! She’s not stupid either — but she reads Cleo, Woman’s Day etc, ad nausium! That just feeds her sense of self and general arrogance! She also watches Desperate Housewife, Property Latter, Extreme Makeover CONSTANTLY!

      It’s ALL ABOUT HER; EVERYTHING! Her behaviors are just a reflection of her egocentric self adsorbed existence! I’m nothing but a handy accessory when it suits her!

      I wish I had known about these types 20 years ago!

  10. Mellaril says

    I not only remember my WTF, I remember hers.

    My WTF moment came a year after she declined my marriage proposal and had moved across the country. We were still a couple on paper. She was back for the holidays and staying at my house. We were asleep when my eyes popped wide open and I said to myself, “It’s over. We have no future.” I didn’t think it was possible to be so close to someone and feel so distant from them. Suddenly, my house wasn’t big enough for both of us and it seemed like I couldn’t get far enough away from her.

    Her WTF moment came over a year later after we had broken up and she was back on her second hoovering run. A few weeks earlier, she had committed her fatal mistake of admitting she might come back to town and settle for me. At our first meeting after that, she said I semmed different. I told her:

    (1) I didn’t trust her anymore and would never let her get close to me again.
    (2) I was looking for something and when I found it, I was gone and not to make long term plans for spending time together.
    (3) I was convinced that I would never get what I wanted from her and the time I was spending with her could be more productively spent finding her replacement.

    Until I read this, I kind of struggled to describe the look on her face after she heard it. WTF?! describes it perfectly.

  11. Lovekraft says

    Let’s remember we are men first and foremost. We suffer, sure. This is not surprising, considering the weapons high-conflict women, social stigma promoting such behaviors, a biased and impersonal legal system etc etc.

    But we didn’t come this far to just whimper like children. Forget about her. Wounds will heal. Don’t let others continue to label you a victim. Get control of the situation!

    (this isn’t meant to disparage Dr Palmatier’s work. Not at all. In fact, it was this site and others that allow one to see through the mist).

  12. mrhoneyfritz says

    For me, there were a few WTF moments. The first happened only a few months into our relationship when she presented me with our “life plan” and she became quite upset when I told her that this was something we should have talked about before she made our plans all on her own. And when I said I could not realistically achieve some of her plans…she became more upset and called me selfish and withdrew. After a few days…she dropped it all but a couple months later she kept saying that I “owed it to her” to realize her plan. Even though she was very loving, very sexual…within 48 hours of making plans for a romantic weekend getaway…she dropped me for another guy. It devastated me that she moved on so quickly. So coldly and harshly. True to form…she came back 4 months later wanting to get back together and stupidly, I got back on the roller coaster for a few more months before I finally ended it. Now after almost a year of recovery and reading and listening to Dr. T and Shari Shreiber…now I know better that I was not to blame for her erratic behavior. I too was obsessed in trying to define her with having BPD or NPD or whatever. But as Dr. T stated on her last posting…abuse is abuse. When you see the WTF moment…embrace it…and start walking away because it will only get worse!

    • clgIsNuts says

      I came back too. But I was the one who initiated the seperation/divorce in that I filed soon after I was arrested. She claimed that she only wanted them to talk to me.

      Its always the same thing. No responsibility for their actions or consiquence of the action.

      Can you give some advice on how to re-pull the trigger? I’m in a tough situation in that I don’t really have steady income because I’m building a business and it’s not always steady. My plan is to wait but I can’t handle it. I really have no place to go.

  13. ron7127 says

    The really weird part is how, after a period of time, I became used to the weird behaviorand questioned what i was doing so wrong that caused it.
    I am embarrassed to admit that had it not been for the intervention of one of my XW’s sisters, imploring e to divorce her sister, my wife, I may have stayed even longer than I did. It was this sister that made me see that I was not nuts.

  14. clgIsNuts says

    I have the WTF moment all the time. Her lies about her actions example, she threatens me all the time to call the cops. She actually has 3 x, 1 time resulting in an arrest for something I didn’t do.

    Every threat is “I’m calling the police and telling them I feel threatened”. The township knows me thanks to her and if she did hit me (again) they would take her side, defacto.

    She has me at a disadvantage from the start, with councilors, law, people, etc. That advantage she has is that I take pain medication for a legit medical reason. So anyone who doesn’t know me, automatically thinks I’m an addict because, and that is really hard to deal with. Paints me in a corner from the start. People look down on anyone who takes pain meds.

    But I need them to be able to work and function, otherwise I’m in serious pain in my stomach and back. 6 years ago I had my large intestine taken out and still suffer from irritable pouch syndrome
    and 2 herniated discs. I’ve been hospitalized a few times since the surgery. Everyday I’m in the bathroom 14+ times. So I’ve had to build a business to have the freedom to be in the bathroom, as it is hard for employers to understand.

    My clients, friends, kids parents who know me, see that I work real hard building a thriving business, and knock on wood it is thriving. It is because I do put so much effort into every facet of my industry.

    I rarely ever sit on the couch and watch TV. If I do it’s to develop new strategies and promotion, or read industry related stuff.

    You would think a spouse would be more than happy, and give their spouse the space needed to meet deadlines, network, create, etc. NOT HER.

    It’s always when are you going to spend time with me, you don’t tell me I’m beautiful.
    Your a Drug addict, Your a Drug addict, Your a Drug addict, Your a Drug addict, .

    I’ve tried so hard to build a business so that she doesn’t have to work. So not appreciative of anything

  15. David001 says

    Hi all, firstly I would like to say, as many have before THANK YOU! Dr T. I read and listened to your description of a WTF moment, I am currently feeling a wave of relief, a loss of guilt, confusion, depression, frustration but mostly understanding. I know what I am dealing with, I read and listened to your articles yesterday and last night for the first time recognized her behavior for what is was, manipulative guilt laden bullying, emotional dumping. Again this morning the irrational “every morning you skive off to work leaving me to deal with “daughter” — hang on I only go to work at 9 am two days a week, the other two I start at 11am. I have changed my practice hours to suit her because she is “so busy”. I am meant to come home after work and “use my initiative” and get our 4 year old daughter showered into her PJs brushed teeth put to bed, do the dinner dishes and sometimes its the breakfast lunch (if her friends have been around) baking dishes etc to do so she can have “5 minutes peace to herself”
    I thought whats wrong? What did I do? I know our daughter isnt the “F%^&ed in the head B(&^h” Im told she is (and that is while our daughter is 3 feet away), why cant she manage? Am I expecting too much? Should I do more? How much more? Do I sell my soul?
    I am now sitting with this fresh almost euphoric state. I can see ahead, I can see a road to walk, I am now creating an exit strategy, preparing, I know how to deal with this person to save my daughter and myself.

    Sincerely, I thank you.

    Ps dont start me on alienation of family, she has made me feel guilty about ringing my other daughter in Australia and travelling to see her too or having her stay with us.

  16. david says

    I sat a looked at a picture of her and realized that I was nothing but a means of blame, hate and a way to get what she wanted. Her dog was treated with more respect than I was. I was nothing but something to serve a purpose…I remember looking at the cell phone at her feet, in the photo, and feeling that I meant less to her than that piece of plastic on the ground. my heart sank and I just collapsed.

  17. says

    Just what I needed to read this morning! There are many men like myself that had the wtf moment years ago. Navigating through separation, divorce illness, economic recover all the while having to co parent without any support until I found you Dr Tara! I am all done being the victim.

  18. Dr. F says

    Dr Tara, – thanks mate.

    This article that flowed out of your pen is a cracker isn’t it ? Reading it as I did just now I knew I was in for a treat and you didn’t disappoint.

    Thankfully I surgically removed myself from a spider’s web of mood swings that swooped cold to warm in a blink and the violence served to me.

    It was many years ago now, and I remember my WTF moment came as I looked in the mirror at the red ring around my neck. She had given it to me moments before when she grabbed the back of my shirt and violently pulled it back as I was walking out the door to see some friends that had dropped off the radar.

    There I was, no friends, a red ring and the sounds of a screeching woman pounding on the bathroom door.

    I just stared at myself staring at myself and the fog was sucked right out of the room forever.

    I tell you this guys, if the spell breaks it’s not like a fridge and get it repaired. Game over chums. Get the h e l l out I swear it and you will not – repeat – not – look back with indecision ever again.

    Tara, again, thank you. You really are an acre of gems I tell you.

  19. parmo1 says

    After Reading this article most of us will think this is what happened to me , it is so obvious now. Why didn’t I do something at the time ? I suppose I didn’t have the courage to leave , didn’t want to be alone like Dr. T wrote. We are wiser and stronger but men only get one chance if we have kids. Hopefully we will make much much better choice the next time and we have been hardened by a terrible experience.

  20. gooberzzz says

    I can site several WTF moments with people that I have been in close interpersonal relationships with (ie: partners, friends, co-workers, etc.) Many comments here echo the same situations that I have had. There’s really no better way to explain it than “WTF!” They blind side you and split on a dime with very little notice. All by design. They want to cloud your judgement and confuse you, because it keeps them in control. And control is the objective to a BPD/NPD/HPD/ASPD animal.

    These people are like a bad virus, and their antics have no end. NO END AT ALL. If you find yourself targeted by a PD type, you may as well kiss your ass goodbye. They are nothing more than bullies. They come from a place of revenge and punishment. Bullies on the playground become bullies in adult life. They never change. Never? Never! The only difference is that as an adult they have to be more covert (ie: dirty looks (stink eye), gossip, smear campaigning, blame shifting, false accusations, assumptive thinking process, etc.) Any kindness they do extend is loaded with a personal agenda, or used later as their rationale to emotionally abuse someone. I give some of them credit as far as their intelligence goes, but unfortunately they use their power for evil instead of good.

    When you look at it this way, they’re pretty much textbook…a one-trick pony.

    What’s heart breaking is “good-enough” people get hurt, or turned into a monsters themselves. They can bring the worst out of a person. Again all by the PD person’s design. It confirms and reinforces their negative assumptions about you. The same ‘assumptions’ they smear campaign you about. What hurts the most to a PD is being wrong. Their constant need to project I believe comes from their feelings of scarcity, and emptiness. As if there is not enough of something to go around (ie: love, attention, affection, money, time, etc.), so they have to take it from someone else.

    I recently started a new job. I work in a place that is predominately female. It’s about 50/50 in terms of those that have DEMONstrated PD tendencies and those who have been professional, nice and helpful, without any prejudice. Unfortunately it only takes one to make a snarky comment about a new employee for the rest of the office to split black. I walk on egg shells. Fortunately, and because my job duties require a skill set that is different from what most people do here, I have been able to resign to a more private work space. No contact is the ONLY way.

    Educate yourself, see the signs and go no contact when you can. There is NO other way. They carry this with them until they die. My grand-mother, a suspected BPD was 90 when she finally died. Until the end she never changed. 90 years of this? Really? Yes, really. They never change.

    Best to everyone and thank you Dr. T. for your contributions.

  21. HappyLucky says

    By year 7 the girls were born. In year nine, I gently confronted her and asked that we (she) seek help. I added that had run out excuses for her behavior. I went on to assert that if I exhibited the same behaviors that I did not think she would stay. I promised to stand by her and she immediately stepped her rage up to a new level. Not to be ran over, I quietly interjected that from this point forward I would hold her 100% accountable for her negative behaviors. Not good.

    The drama occurred in cycles within the first two stages detailed. I tried to make mental notes in an effort to determine if her behavior was triggered by natural hormones, birth control pills or any number or prescribed or over the counter pharmaceuticals she was taking.

    By year 10, while in the middle of another one of the ex’s rages, I misjudged her. I thought by seeking refuge in the dark calm of my daughter’s bed room the ex’s raging would cease. Eventually, she flipped on the hall light to see if I were awake, and therefore, still receiving the full brunt of her emotionally abusive assault or, if I had escaped via sleep.

    I was awake. I was then that I looked over to what I expected to be my eldest daughter’s sleeping eyelid . She blinked. She too was awake and realized, like me, she was awake and witnessing the assault. This six year old child, without moving, so as not to give her alertness away to her mom, looked into my eyes and said, “Papa, You don’t have to take that from her”…

    It was time to act. Mistakenly, I thought that I was ushering my ex and I into, what I discovered today, stage three. Six months into year ten of the marriage and six months after I agreed to renew our vows in front of family and friends she release the Cracken. I was too late. Her odd outbursts and behaviors were being picked up by our daughters. Sadly, I had no clue and no plan when I confronted her with her irrational accusations and behavior. My response was one of total shame and hock after discovering that so many others have been damaged by these “people”.

    In our schools we have developed programs for our children that teaches them how to respond to social, physical and sexual harassment. Many of this abuses are initiated by people with mental behavior issues, be they short, mid or long term.

    Mental Illness should be addressed in school. So many people only learn of an mental illness or sociopathic behavior only after having experiencing the terror first hand. As it has been stated, it not what name you give the behavior, bur rather acknowledging that the behavior exists and is damaging.

  22. tomg says

    So here’s the deal. Very early in our marriage I was physically assaulted in front of my wife’s family. Hair pull and some harsh words. It was over an extended period of time it took for me to return to a family party with a few chairs.
    I was stunned, but buried it deep. I guess as a man I really thought that was a good reason to bury it. After all, I’m not a baby….
    A few years later it happened alone while on vacation. It was violent and I did defend her attack in the dark. I cried so hard.
    Call that a WTF moment.
    After that I lost respect and verbally I defended myself and admit I am at times pretty nasty. Fast forward 20 years and two kids later.
    My wife covertly set up boundries and exacts them in an attempt, not to protect herself, but manipulate my behavior. Sometimes her mood changes in seconds, sometimes days. No passion. No attention. Nothing. She never worked and our sons are 17 (almost 18) and the other will soon be 16. Yet, no work, but a new fulltime hobby. Animal rescue.
    Our oldest is into drugs, dealing, all of it. Thrown out of school….does not get any worse. After arm twisting and finally our yongest son flipping out over all the fighting, I relent and we sent him away to a wilderness program and a theraputic boarding school ($150,000). The wife still saves animals and our yougest goes to private school. My income to expense ratio is 226% and, yet, no job or even a half ass attempt.
    Now the son who feels entitled to more, hates the boarding school and wants to finish out and plans on going to college……Backdrop. I begged, pleaded, reasoned, yelled, threatened and then sat him down and explained that the cost of his “rehab” exceeded what I set aside for his college. Meaning he had a chice. Well, he chose.

    Now, reading up on how kids manipulate and emotionally blackmail parents, she has decided that it is me who is abusive and emotional blackmailer. Her family is onboard and her therapist echos the same danger signals. I read the articles and agree with some of the ideas might be me, but the worst are certainly not. In fact, I see her in alot also.

    I’m so confused, hurt, sad and dispodent, but realize couples can love each other and yet not get along to the point of not being able to be under the same roof. The most hurtful is her family “The Greek Chorus” freezing me out and treating me like Rhasputin. Saying I am the cause of everything bad in my marriage and our son’s addictions and our familie’s dysfuction.

    Wow….! never knew I had so much power…..

    Couples break up over toothpaste brands, but this is without a question the worst relationship ever. Financially it will ruin me. Hoever, I also have medical issues (seizures) that have been going off under the stress like Japan’s after shocks. Stress is my number 1 trigger. I am 5 foot 6 and weigh 125 poounds. I sleep with the help of medication, but am so goddamn lonely.

    It’s 8 PM and I’m in bed alone. With my dog who seems to stay with me before during and after seizures. A very protective JRT. A comfort.

    I want my marriage to work, but am a good old boy who when cornered blows shy high. I recently told my son he blew his college fund, and as expected he flipped out because he feels entitled. I want him to understand what HE has done to himself. He can redeem HIMSELF, but on my terms. If he’s worthy of the trust and motivated plus committed.


    • tomg says

      Oh, when I bring up her physical abuse I have been told to stop being a baby. Also, when I cried a few times after our son was physically removed from out house in the middle of the night, I was scored for doing so ‘What are you crying for?” Nasty. Evil.

  23. LiberalGuy says

    I was wondering what percentage of the Population could be considered 100% “Normal”? Since it seems the majority of the people I know are either Co-Dependent or Narcissist, or Borderline Disorder, Bi-polar..I thought about last night as I lay in bed and I almost couldn’t think of anyone I knew who was 100 % stable. I counted maybe two people. Is Normal real or just a setting on the Dryer? I am Co-dependent and so is my wife..

  24. Chris5315 says

    Dr T. I just wanted to say thank you! Seeing this in black and white really made me understand that my decision to get out ofmy marriage aand move on is exactly the right thing to do. Although my wife and I have not been married but almost 4 years, she had me convinced I was a bad person. I never saw my family, kept my kids from their grandparents and lost every friend I had…or so I thought. When I finally decided enough of being told im hated, enough of the accusations, enough of being told I didn’t care about my family…all my friends came back and my family has welcomed me back with open arms. How somebody can have so much control on another I don’t know or better yet, why would anybody ever want that much control? So I’m working on happiness and enjoying spending quality time with those who truly love and care about me. So thanks again cause I don’t know about all the others that read this but seeing it in black and white that I wasn’t the problem at all really makes moving forward in life so much more easier.

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