Have you ever wondered why your abusive wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend or ex blames others, makes excuses or rages when you question their behavior? Do they often behave like an out of control child? Does conflict feel like a pointless, circular losing battle with them, no matter how fact-based and reasonable you are?
Does she or he have an emotionally charged comeback for everything you say? Do they make legitimate counter-arguments, or just push your buttons? When you try to discuss relationship issues, do they pout and say “not fair!”
Do they take responsibility for their words and actions? Or is nothing ever their fault? Does it seem like they set traps (i.e., put you into no-win situations) during arguments? Have you ever wished you could put them in a timeout chair just like you would a toddler?
If so, you’re not alone.
Believe it or not, several of the questions just asked are adapted from a parenting article, Child Outbursts: Why Kids Blame, Make Excuses and Fight When You Challenge their Behavior, by James Lehman, MSW on EmpoweringParents.com. Clients in relationships with emotionally immature personalities often say that they feel like they’re dealing with a child in an adult’s body.
This is especially true if they have a Cluster B personality disorder or traits (i.e., Histrionic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder). Not all, but many individuals with these diagnoses or traits are developmentally arrested at an emotionally immature age somewhere between infancy an adolescence. They’re basically children in adult bodies.
Kids will often blame others when an adult holds them accountable for their bad behavior. This is a natural reaction in children. Good enough parents teach their kids to take responsibility and face the consequences of their actions, so they can become responsible, functioning adults. If this developmental milestone isn’t reached in childhood, it creates stress and dysfunction in adulthood — for everyone involved with the individual. Several clients have observed their children surpass the disordered parent in terms of maturity, problem-solving, logic and integrity. This isn’t unusual.
Professional Victimhood or Victim-Playing Begins in Childhood.
“Very often children see themselves as the victim, no matter how aggressive or abusive their behavior is. Thinking of themselves this way gives them the ability, in their mind, not to take any responsibility — and if you don’t take responsibility, then you won’t have to change” (Lehman, EmpoweringParents.com). A victim mentality is the result of immature and distorted reasoning or thinking errors in troubled children and adults.
Thinking errors allow these individuals to blame others for their behavior, shirk responsibility for their actions and remain as they are — dysfunctional and chronically immature. Their distorted reasoning allows them to disregard how their behavior impacts and hurts others.
Children and adults with these issues experience others holding them accountable, no matter how gently conveyed, as an attack. Lehman recommends parents who identify these behaviors in their children break the pattern by challenging their distorted thinking, setting boundaries and enforcing consequences. Great advice.
As a parent you can make rules, enforce them and model good problem-solving skills. But what do you do when it’s your adult spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend who’s acting out aggressively and abusively? What do you do when they attack you even harder when trying to discuss these issues with them?
You can’t ground an adult or take away their car keys or credit card. Well, you could, but then she’d claim you’re trying to control and abuse her. So what do you do?
Disengage, detach, don’t step into her traps and avoid power struggles. Easier said then done, of course.
The Narcissist’s or Borderline “Problem-Solving Skills” Are the Problem.
To be blunt, these individuals have extremely dysfunctional problem-solving skills, or lack them altogether. (For that matter, so do codependents who tend to appease, people-please, avoid, minimize and/or ignore). Instead of holding themselves accountable for their bad behavior and making positive changes, the disordered shift blame, make excuses, verbally attack and vilify others and/or become physically violent.
Bullying, lying, pouting, throwing tantrums and changing the subject aren’t effective problem-solving techniques. Unless your idea of problem-solving is to get the other party to agree with you and then shut up about it.
For narcissists, borderlines et al, these are their problem-solving techniques. For rational adults, these behaviors are problems in and of themselves. They also compound other issues and are highly destructive to any relationship. There’s often a predictable sequence to how these dysfunctional behaviors play out.
For example, you confront your girlfriend with something hurtful she’s done like being rude to your family. She justifies, “I only act like that because you know your family hates me! I wouldn’t say those things if they were nicer to me!” Translation: “It’s your family’s fault. It’s your fault. I take zero responsibility. Stop bothering me.”
If you persist, she adds force and venom, “You’re not fair. You always blame me when things go wrong. Your family’s a bunch of liars. They always give me dirty looks. They hate me. You never stick up for me. You’re such a #!%@*!”
Now you’ve been warned: “Agree with me or face more abusive acting out.” She uses aggression and intimidation to get you to back down and leave her alone. This has probably been a highly effective technique she learned in childhood.
If you persist, she may then escalate to the fight or flight response because this type of person perceives criticism as life threatening: “I can’t talk with you when you’re like this! [Breaks dishes, slams door.] Screw you! [Stomps off to bedroom to Instagram men are narcissists memes.]”
Victim-playing results in relationship problems.
When theses individuals retreat and give the silent treatment, it usually means they’ve exhausted their primitive defense mechanisms. They hurt others, break things and/or withdraw in a misguided not to solve problems, but to make the problems disappear.
How adult toddlers get problems to magically disappear? You take the blame, apologize to them for their bad behavior and then shut up and pretend like nothing happened. These are highly dysfunctional, crazy-making and abusive behaviors. They don’t resolve the actual relationship issues; they make them worse.
According to Lehman, these behaviors and distorted beliefs are indications of:
. . . their inability to communicate, their inability to solve problems and their world view that they’re a victim and ‘it’s not fair.’ If things aren’t fair, then the rules about cursing at people or breaking things don’t apply to them, because it’s not their fault. And that lets them off the hook. These kids [and adults] have a way of thinking that justifies violating other people’s boundaries and that sees them as a victim of everything. When you try to interfere with or challenge that kind of thinking, these kids [and adults] will get more upset, threatening or destructive.” (EmpoweringParents.com)
It’s a parent’s job to challenge their children’s distorted beliefs and hold them accountable for their behaviors. However, it’s not your job to re-parent your adult spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend. Even if you want to do so, you’re unlikely to be successful. Mental health professionals are unable to do this. What makes you believe you can? (HINT: Codependency and repetition compulsion).
Teaching skills like personal accountability and empathy to children at appropriate developmental stages can be challenging. Teaching these skills to adults is impossible. The best you can hope for is teaching them that actions equal consequences. And if they wish to avoid unwanted consequences, they need to reign in the worst of their impulses and behaviors. There’s a big difference between doing right because it’s right and doing right to avoid the consequences of doing wrong.
For real change to occur, the narcissist or borderline must recognize and own that they’re a big part of the problem — without making excuses — and give up their victim mentality. If they won’t do this, then they’ll continue to blame you, the world, the dog — whomever or whatever is the easiest target and stay developmentally arrested in childhood.
These behaviors are barely tolerable in children. However, at least with kids there’s a chance they’ll grow out of it. These behaviors are intolerable and inexcusable in adults. And there’s very little chance an adult with these issues will grow out of it.
If only you could put these adults in timeout. However, there’s no reason why you can’t give yourself a timeout in the form of a mental health break. Like ending the relationship and seeking support for your codependency, for instance!
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Old Guy says
I think this trips many people up in dealing with a PD individual because the person looks and talks like an adult but largely operates on the emotional level of an infant, child or teenager.
It becomes extremely confusing because you can have an “adult” discussion with them on many topics … so long as it does not involve anything about them.
Things become “easier” when you accept that you’re dealing with an emotional child and have about the same chance of having a rational conversation with them about any aspect of their behaviour as you would with a five year old, e.g., rather than getting a “I understand what you mean” response, you receive a “no I’m not, you are” reaction.
Like the picture too.
Too bad it isn’t an option … but then you’d just end up being labelled a paternalistic male with no respect for women as equal adults.
I gave up trying to get her to show accountability for her behavior long ago. Prior attempts were usually shut down with a, “You try to blame everything on me!” If you question something they did, they hear blame. If you point out their hypocrisy, they hear blame. If you explain to them that you’re not blaming them for anything, but are merely expressing displeasure, the hear blame.
Your observations about their problem solving skills are spot-on, Dr. Tara. The NPD in my life claims to be a great problem solver, but in fact is nothing more than a knee-jerk blame assigner. Last week our son got himself into some trouble at school, trouble for which he initially wouldn’t come clean. I knew exactly where the conversation was going to go, and I could almost set my watch by the moment where she would blame his behavior on my role modeling. It is almost comical how scripted these conversations with them (or I should say, monologues) really are. The absolute irony of course is that they devote equal amounts of energy to deflecting blame from themselves as they do to finding a scapegoat (i.e., husband/boyfriend) for all of their life’s little miseries.
My NPD likes to tell me that she feels like she is dealing with a 13 year old. The little voice in my head says, that still puts me 8 years ahead of you my dear.
My NPD is only able to hold me accountable for everything – if she can’t hold me accountable she’ll hold virtually anybody else accountable except herself – holding herself accountable for anything is something I never saw happen. I knew it was a ‘red flag’ the first week of dating but I was in denial, and just kept telling myself she was just embarrased to “admit” – embarrased hell – she knows no shame.
The new site looks terrific!
Now that that’s out of the way, I think Old Guy hit the nail on the head perfectly. “The person looks and talks like an adult…” Unfortunately, in this case, when it looks and quacks like a duck, it’s not a duck.
In trying to explain my ex’s behavior, and in talking to others who are unfortunately going through something similar, this is what I try to explain to them; that they are dealing with a cognitive dissonance. Every visual cue tells us it’s an adult, and we expect them to behave and function in a certain way. Unfortunately, inside, it’s something else entirely.
I have to (sadly) laugh about the bit about being a paternalistic (and controlling) male. Yeah, I got hit with that one, too.
Honestly, at this point, I’m not even sure taking a time-out for one’s self is as healthy as just leaving. Given the inability of a BPD (or, my ex, anyway), to respect boundaries (“why does your file cabinet have a lock on it?! what are you hiding from me?!” – um, nothing? I don’t even have a key? I bought it at a yard sale?), me taking some “me-time” away from whatever failure of mine that the argument du-jour was about would have been nigh impossible. I have no doubt she would have literally broken down doors to get at me.
I gave her an (eh-hem) time out 7 years ago in the divorce court.
I often wonder if somehow she could be profiled into this article? Well, people say she’s nutz.
Thanks for the validation Dr. T. Although our house rules have been the subject of public ridicule by BPDex, we understand how critical it is to foster accountability and responsibility in our children. Despite her protests and yet another smear campaign (amazing how we still question ourselves and our choices when this happens), the children are demonstrating positive changes in their choices, their accountability, and their ability to solve problems with dialogue and not tantrums. This is really important for children of cluster Bs, so thanks again for addressing this issue.
“Very often children see themselves as the victim, no matter how aggressive or abusive their behavior is. Thinking of themselves this way gives them the ability, in their mind, not to take any responsibility—and if you don’t take responsibility, then you won’t have to change” (Lehman, EmpoweringParents).
The corollary to this is just because they refuse to accept responsibility doesn’t mean we have to assume responsibility for them. You can’t be legitimately blamed for something you’re not responsible for. For example, when you ask a Cluster B what kind of wine to buy and you accept an “anything’s ok” response, the responsibilty for the decision shifts from her to you. Cluster Bs are masters at getting others to assume responsiblity for them and making you pay for it, justified or not. Assigning responsibilty and enforcing accountability is a key element in estabilishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Early in my relationship with my exgf, I’d accept an “anything’s ok” answer until I started to notice I’d be criticized for it. After that, I’d either force a specific answer or tell her up front, “I’m getting xxx, if you want something else, speak now.” If she tried to criticize the decision, I’d make her take responisbility for the decision, even if it was nothing more than “Too late.” My exgf didn’t being painted into a corner but after ahwile she learned not to play that game with me. As a naval officer, I was used to having to work like this. It took a lot longer for me to catch on that it was a crappy way to operate in a relationship.
Assuming responsibilty for things that aren’t rightfully ours is a problem with us, not them. The more responsibility we assume for them, the more vulnerable we make ourselves.
Another great article. This behavior is a close description of my ex-wife. Five months post-divorce, I am now just starting to enjoy me own personal Time-out or Time-Away from the problem. No amount of attempted help, professional counseling for her helped at all.
As hard as it was, Divorce Court was the only answer….. The one that continues to be the gift for myself and my sons that keeps on giving!
I clearly recall when the realization that I was dealing with a ‘child mind’ crystallized in my mind. At the time I’d never heard of narcissism, bi-polar or other personality disorders. Unfortunately, it was in the aftermath of a bitter and ugly divorce. I actually spent a couple of years (this was six years ago) searching on the behaviors that I observed and finally narrowed it down to NPD/BPD, though I lean more towards NPD in the case of my ex. So, I find sites like this especially useful for those who are looking for answers as I once was. I am still baffled that I couldn’t see it for so many years.
One of the biggest problems I see regarding these behaviors is that the ‘family court’ reinforces them without ever seeking to uncover them. In our adversarial kangaroo family curt system once one of these ‘child minds’ seeks the advise of a predatory attorney your fate is pretty well sealed as the legal shield effectively prevents any form of proper remedial action. To add further insult to injury, the (quack) psychologists in the employ of the courts as custody evaluators are loathe to uncover such conditions. My observation is that predatory attorneys salivate like a Pavlovian dog when one of these individuals walks into their office and the pay-day dinner bell goes off. NPD’s and family law practitioners are very dangerous predatory people, make no mistake.
The carnage on families and society are predictably reaching critical mass. Hopefully, sites like this will start educating people. What is needed is a mechanism for getting these issues in front of men proactively before the need to ‘understand’ arises. I don’t have an answer, but maybe the new Mens Studies curriculum offers some hope.
Thanks for yet another site providing information for men.
Major Malfunction says
Wow. What an awesome site. I only wish I had discovered it a decade ago.
I have nothing to add with my personal tale of woe. It’s all been said by others in spooky detail.
Perhaps once upon a time these unhealthy people were kept in check, or kept a low profile, under threat of raised hand. Physical violence really seems to be the only consequence they understand.
Maybe they were smacked too much &/or have Daddy issues? I don’t care. It’s not my problem. You sort that shit out yourself.
The law has fallen like a golden apple into the hands of these manipulative types, as has social opinion, and at the same time mental health services have virtually been abolished (except for the most extreme cases). They have free reign and are bolting, encouraged by the whip of sexist mass media to take advantage of and crush everyone underfoot. A narcissist’s utopia!
Here in Australia there is a government-sponsored campaign, ‘To violence against women; Australia says, “No.”‘
How about violence against men? It seems that Australia says, “Meh.”
Seems like the world says the same. Men have been hamstrung. We can’t even act in self-defence. Anything we do or don’t do, or say or don’t say, will be held against us in a court of law.
Anyway, rant over. I’m not the kind to dwell. In fact, the day she left was the best day of my life, and things just keep getting better! Freedom! And a lovely girlfriend who has had a similar experience on the other side of the gender divide, who is self-aware, and understands the important things in life.
So maybe I do have something to add… Two things, in fact…
Firstly, the realisation that I only care for the opinions of people that care for me. She didn’t care for me, only how she could manipulate me. With this realisation she lost all power over me.
Secondly, all is not lost. You’re a survivor. You’ve proved it. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. You’re aware of the signs. So go forth and find for yourself the life *you* choose. Not all women are the same! Thank the gods!
And thank Dr T (et al.) for egalitarian activism and this forum.
I read an article by a guy named Richard Skerritt, an author who has several books dealig with relationships with the disordered. Thye are very good.
In any case, he addressed this issue of comparing the disordered with children. Initially, the idea appealed to him , as well, as his wfe’s behaviors were reminiscent of a child’s.
But, he analyzed the behavior a little more and took issue with the comparison. Essentially, he felt the comparison did a disservice to children. I cannot recal exactly the distinctions he drew between the disordered’s reactions and those of kids. I do remeber he pointed out that a kid’s tantruming was, generally, not evoked by some irrational trigger. Usually, despite the anger etc. the reaction was the result of some easily understood stimuli, like taking a toy away or something. Whereas, the triggering of the disordered can come about as the result of something that, to a normal person, is completely innocuous.
He also pointed out that a tantruming child can be comforted, eventually and , once the tantrum is done, the child is soothed and reverts to normal. But, the ragig disordered person can not be soothed and continues to go ballistic even if the offender tries to remove the offending stimuli.
Again, he made several other points distinguishing the disordered’s thought ptrocess from a child’s. He did admit that, initially, the comparison seemed very valid. But, he felt that when looked at closely, the disordered did not rally behave like angry kids. They were much worse.
One thing my SO is doing with his children aged 13 and 10 is to help them establish self-management when the arguments are getting emotional. Everyone in his newly established household is starting to use “time out” when a debate becomes overwhelmed by feelings.
I hope and pray this will be enough on a 50:50 time basis to help his daughters develop adaptive skills instead of mirroring their NPD/BPD mother’s traits.
I read these articles and comments and always find comfort in knowing that it wasn’t me that had the issue… my crime was getting sucked into the wacky world of someone with BPD. I stayed in the relationship long after I knew it was wrong and dysfunctional, from fear of retribution and the small glimmer of hope that she would start to behave as she did at the beginning of the relationship when I was the greatest thing ever, we had sex ALL the time, and life was going to be happy ever after. After she had me hooked, she flipped the switch and unleashed her inner monster. She has created a reality where there are 2 kinds of people; the first are people she has fooled with her looks and her faux personality and can therefore use. The second are people that have figured her out and they have therefore become her MORTAL ENEMY. I can’t tell you the number of people she has threatened, slandered, character assasinated… all because of the aforementioned inability to take blame and skewed problem solving abilities. She is cruel beyond belief, and has no idea why all the people around her eventually abandon her. When they do abandon her, its always that they are assholes, jerks, bitches, crazy, mentally disturbed, losers, etc.
My children aren’t like this…their tantrums stem from the denial of a basic and immediate pleasure like staying a few minutes longer at the swimming pool or playground. They don’t lash out in attempts to beat me down and rob me of my dignity or self confidence. They don’t withhold their hugs and “I love you daddy” to punish me for a perceived slight. I see no real correlation in the small fleeting tantrums of my little boys and the fiendish, intense anger and abuse that was directed towards me (and many other people) by my BDP former fiance.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
“My children aren’t like this…their tantrums stem from the denial of a basic and immediate pleasure like staying a few minutes longer at the swimming pool or playground. They don’t lash out in attempts to beat me down and rob me of my dignity or self confidence. They don’t withhold their hugs and “I love you daddy” to punish me for a perceived slight. I see no real correlation in the small fleeting tantrums of my little boys and the fiendish, intense anger and abuse that was directed towards me (and many other people) by my BDP former fiance.”
This is a good point, carbenez. Most kids don’t have the level of malice nor do they withhold affection. Children who don’t have serious behavioral and psychological issues can get past their tantrums and learn more positive interpersonal skills. It’s like the difference between a light rain shower (healthy kids) vs. a category 5 hurricane. However, I believe, in many cases, the reasoning behind the behaviors is the same. As mentioned in the article, most children with these issues can grow out of them with good parenting and guidance; most adults with these thinking errors do not grow out of them. They’re out of control enfants terrible in adult bodies.
“my crime was getting sucked into the wacky world of someone with BPD. ”
You and me both, brother. But try not to think of it as a crime. If anything, a “mistake” perhaps, based on hope, love, trust, and being lied to. Out of those four things, I wouldn’t call hope, love, or trust a mistake. We believed she was who she presented herself to be, because we didn’t know the extent to which it was possible to be otherwise. And we stayed in the relationships because we cared, and wanted to make things better. Our mistakes were based in ignorance. We didn’t know that in some instances, that not only can’t you make things better, but making things better isn’t even the point.
Now we know. Now we are wiser.
If I had my way, nobody (including ourselves!) would have to go through what we’ve been through. As I think I may have said on the old site, finding out there were others who’d “been there” was a double-edged sword for me: “you mean I’m not alone?!” coupled with “Christ, there’s more of these women out there?!” 🙂
There will, unfortunately, always be people out there with BPD, just as there are fires, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes. You can’t stop a force of nature.
But having been through this, we are stronger. We are wiser. And we can be there to help others who go through this particularly nasty baptism of fire.
good luck, and be at peace
I’m not alone?
Natalie Malonis says
You’re certainly not alone.
My wife recently went to treatment after a suicide attempt. My sons (ages 25-19) and I told my wife “No more abuse!”, get help or else.
We have had couples counseling for the last month while she’s been in treatment. She went to treatment meek and humble but now has got her BPD/NPD/HPD strength back. I feel like I’m in therapy with a 5 year old! You hit the nail on the head Dr. Tara!
I’m thankful for 2 things at this point.
1. Her psychiatrist”rediagnosed” her with all of the Axis II PD’s right before she left for treatment.
2.I have found this site! (I want to laugh and cry at the same time.)
I remember swimming at a public pool as a kid and one of my friends dunked me under the water. I remember him letting me up right when I thought I would drown.
That’s how I feel right now. I can breath. I’m not drowning.
I was thinking today (again! Iknow–2 days in a row!)…anyway…that, as much as BPDs and NPDs (?) claim they want to stop and they want to be different, there is a conscious CHOICE involved in abusing those they claim to ‘love’.
Case in point: they know how to treat men so wonderfully when:
1. Attempting to initially ensnare them
2. After acting crazy then being contrite (in case he decides to say F-off)
3. When the men gets sick and tired of it and decides to leave/dump her.
All of a sudden, EVERYTHING you’ve ever wanted her to be…*POOF* she is! You wanted sex for years? *POOF!* You wanted her to clean and cook?? *POOF!* Like magic…so how is it, that someone who is supposedly “out of control” can completely control herself to be the *perfect* wifey-poo / angelic girlfriend…when it suits her.
And not unlike a true antisocial / psychopath, they use human beings to get tangibles…stuff, status, reputation, whatever…rather than using things and Loving people. Other people are tools for them to use as they please when they want you…then toss you aside into the dirt pile in an old rotting shed until they find another use for you.
2 more shiny pennies,
So true….a couple of weeks ago, I was p***ed off at my gf again and was thinking of changing the password on my Bank Account online, but instead Ichanged the password to get into the computer but also put on “Guest” profile to get in. When she noticed that I did this, she freaked with a big “F”. Just not to cause big problems, I even volunteered to give her the password but to no avail. Now this computer was given to me by her for my Birthday and she actually took the computer back and it is now “Hers”.
Just this morning, I asked her if she was ever planning to give my computer back and she said, “No”. I explained to her how wrong it is that you give a Birthday present to someone and take it back for something as minor as that. You don’t have to guess how that turned out. Dr. T. is right…it is exactly dealing with a 5 year old. She told me this morning I looked sad and aggrivated and asked what was wrong. I told her my feelings exactly and as expected, she would not accept responsability.
Thank the Lord for this website for I know now what is exatly making her tick.
Oh and another footnote, I will not even fantasize of even asking her to go into Counselling because “there is absolutely nothing wrong with her”.
Also told her this morning that the more dumb excuses and dumb things she says only makes it easier for me to leave and once we are split consider me dead.
This is unbelieveable – and a very restoring site.
I have been suffering for Three full years in a marriage with a woman – who clearly displays many traits of being NPD.
She with holds affection (i have not heard my wife initiate an expression of love for me in over 6 months. I’m totally isolated and secondary in every detail of acknowledgement and treatment when she is with her family.
I am to blame for any inability on her part to be responsive to my desires or needs.
Any time she needs reason for her ‘attitude’ it’s largely due to errors or things I did a year or more prior to our wedding.
Any and Every time I try – no matter how gently to bring to her attention how she may be doing things that hurt me – It’s never her fault – I’m the one who does this, or does that… I have never heard this woman accept responsibility for anything I have eevr brought to her attention as an issue…
I walk on egg shells – I feel alone
I’m constantly working to show I’m worthy of her loving me… I always think if I just give it a little more time..
But I’m reading here that I really may be living an illusion, and if I contimue to drag this out ( My sense of diminished value – is only destined to bew trampled on further…) Agggg… cause I love my wife…? at least i hope it’s not some sic level of personal insecurity… I just deep down feel that life, and love, and sharing both with some one should be about equal value… I only feel valued when it’s convieient for her.
Can't buy me love says
Wow . . . I know your comment is 6 and a half years ago . . and you are probably in a different place in your life now . . or at least I hope you are . ..but your last line is very helpful . . . “I ONLY FEEL LOVED WHEN ITS CONVENIENT FOR HER” . . . how sad but true that this is the way many woman think that love works.
My Wife’s version of problem solving…
“I forgot.” This is the catch all for most everything. In her mind she is off the hook after uttering these two little words.
“You talk down to me.” Shifts the topic from whatever I / we were trying to solve or figure out to me being mean. This stopped when we started counseling and I have not heard it since.
“You are angry.” Yes I am angry at you for doing your passive / aggressive crap. When I stopped responding to the games this form of problem solving went away.
“You are anal.” I don’t like clutter. I expect anyone in the house, including kids and guests, to pick up after themselves. So when I ask you when you are going to clean the messy room (spare room…throw stuff in and close the door. Wah-lah clean)I’m not anal, I’m just tired of tripping over your crap. She is still on this one.
When all that fails she spins the “random wheel of accusation”. The current favorite is “Go see you girlfriend.” I don’t have one; I’ll get divorced first.
Very wekk said, Motiondo. You described what I experienced to a T.
What a relief to find this site. For over 2 years I have struggled with my gf and the effect that this has had on our relationship. We have a 15 month old son together. After 3 months of dating someone I thought was going to be the love of my life became pregnant and it has been one crazy rollercoaster ever since. Im far from perfect however there have been times I questioned my own sanity during all this. We have broken up more times than I can remember. With a child involved now that I love more than anything it has kept me comming back. I have a court order in place incase there is a breakup. It was out of necessity but I do feel better its there. I also love this girl. Things can be great at times but if there is ever a conflict then watch out. I have said many times its like dating a 10 year old. The same age she was when her father was killed so obviously theres a huge connection. She has bashed me to her family during these breakups so they really havent been any help even though its probably more that they just dont want to deal with her drama. I dont blame them. If I did not have a son with her this would have been a 3 month relationship at best. She has a 15 year old son whose been witness to all this. His father and I have actually become friends because in the beginning it was a relief to talk to someone else that knew I was not the crazy one. I actually recorded the fights because I was deseperate looking to prove I was not causing this. Every problem, every fight, every instance of a problem during this has always been my fault. She has never taken any form of responsability for anything she has done or caused. Out of deseperation I tried couple counseling which always made things worse. It was the only time I voiced my issues with her. She is extremely good at portraying the victim and gets almost violent and has in the past if ever told otherwise. Unfortunatly this has also brought out the worst in me. To play the victim role she will push every button she has on me until she gets the reaction shes looking for. Even knowing all this its very hard not to fall into.
At some point I realised that the only way to deal with this is to first see her for what she is. Sick. It was becomming contagious. Remember, I do love the girl and she is the mother of my only son. Having him has really changed me. Im in counsling and so is she. She admits to having an anxiety issue. Of course its because of me in her mind however she does take an anti depressant now. She did in the beginning also and during the pregnancy she stopped so it obviously does help things. She constantly accuses me of lying in my counseling and “not telling her how bad I am”. To make this work Ive had to really work on myself. I would love nothing more than to be a full time father and also to give him and his mother stability and a happy life. Ive never felt frustration like ive felt over this issue. For me, things are much better today but its not because of anything other than acceptance of what Im dealing with and that I cant change it. Who knows what the future holds. I would love to be married and have a good life with them all. Reality is that may not be possible if I cant accept this rollercoaster. She may never change. Im a goodlooking guy. Im sucessful. Dealing with a partner like this caused me to doubt my own sanity like I said before. I started believing the craziness and that maybe it was me. Im no saint but my self esteem and confidence was almost beaten down to nothing. If your involved with someone like this my advice is to be very carefull and seek counseling for yourself. You are going to need it.
It is a great article, I married a woman in this state of mind unaware of what I was getting into. The difficult part became apparent when our problems became exposed to her parents. And they began to side with her while she remained this way. Where I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt I am not what they believe I was. It was all the frustration of dealing with the wife. Her reckless behavior gets defended while I am minimized into a shell of myself, depressed, unhappy, and unmotivated. The threats have made me to be eager for her departure, I used to be opposite desiring to keep the family intact. It stemmed from a secret that was disclosed to me about her past, which I believe has been instrumental in the behavior by the approach of the families mishandling early on following the situation. Anyway, men keep your heads up if you are hanging on that “Bull”…
Excellent Article. This is 100% accurate. I am now in the divorce process, so that should tell you how my experience went. I was with my soon to be ex-wife for 7 years (5 years married). I often remembered fighting with here and her response being just childish and me commented on that. We had quiet a few fights with heir saying : “You are a teenager”, and me answering “You are a child”. It’s been literally now almost 4 years now of me walking on eggshells and often times being emotionally abused. She has no friends on her own. All her family members (except for her dad), mom, sister seem to exhibit the exact type (we are all victims) personality behavior. Rational discussions about career, pets, kids, goals, quickly escalated to real arguments with no solution. I can be impatient, but certainly wasn’t all the time. The warning signs were there from the beginning. As the saying goes “the way the relationship starts is how it goes”. I not once won an argument with here and got her to compromise. Last year (been kind of in the planning), when more insults came and came with no end in sight i started distancing myself further and further. What’s a guy gonna do?
Oh lord God…I cannot believe that what ive been going through for the last seven years can be rationally explained.
I actually feel close to tears after discovering this site, and finally working out why I have had to indure a living hell from my ex gf for the last seven years.
I left 3 months ago, it was actually her decision. She kept the house and everything i bought for it, i allowed this so that my kids wouldnt go without. I left was homeless and lost everything, I had to start my life from scratch again at the age of 32. I suceeded in doing so amazingly quickly and now 3 months later Im in a better place finacially, personally and emotionally than I can ever remember being. It feels like this constant pain and frustration had finally been lifted from me, I had actually gotten used to it over the years and thought it was me and I couldn’t understand why.
Then recently she started contacting me again, only via text and calls about the kids then she came to visit me. I started to get that feeling again. Like barbed wire in my brain, how everything is always my fault although im a very nice person. How she would still be trying to hurt me and I would have no logical way of explaining to her what shes doing , without her tying me up in knots. She came to my flat one day to tell me about all the wonderful sex shes having with her new man and how he’s been ‘sorting her out proper’ and then acts all innocent and accuses me of having anger problems when I get annoyed and tell her I dont want to hear about her sex life.
Anyway I have broken off contact with her completely now. Thanks so much for information like this, I cant begin to tell you how comforting it is to know im not alone. Nobody , freinds or family have ever believed or understood what ive been through. She comes across as this wonderful, caring person to everyone else, and I was always painted as this controlling domanating, male. It feels like reading my life story on this site its amazing. I feel a fool for staying with her so long.
Anyone else experiencing this kind of abuse, please, please just leave. Its the only answer. Dont waste another day of your life
new beginning says
I stumbled upon this website by accident. And I thank God and every in here for freeing me from this invincible cage.
I have been with my wife for nearly ten years. I must admit how our relationship started should have been a warning sign for me to stay the fuck away.
But I really cared for her. She doesn’t have any relatives here all over seas, so I felt the need to shelter her and support her in her time of need. I felt that since she was older than me I would be dealing with a secure and mentally stabled person. I really though she was the person I was looking for to settle down with.\, And committed I did.
Throughout the whole time with her I have been in a constant criticism, my feelings and needs neglected. I have always trying to prove my self and do more to prove to her that I do lover her and even though its not my fault or its out of my control. She blames me for it which in turn I accept and try to fix something that I never did to begin with.
this was our common arguments, every time she will distance herself from me neglect my needs to feel appreciated wanted and cared for. And when I bring it up I get blamed for things that Happened in the past.
3 days ago same thing. this time she told me she doesn’t love me any more. She told me that she feels numb and that I have made her feel that way. I beg and pleaded as we have a son that I didn’t want to grow up with a broken family.
My pleas went of deaf ears. I have contemplated ending my life that night. I was so broken and hurt, I could never understood where I went wrong or why haven’t I been more of the husband she needed. I have given her everything of me and that I have nothing left of my self.
I recently started a new job so that I can better provide for her and our son…..and her family overseas… Found it difficult to perform
sometimes tears would run down my face in front of a client. or I would break down 3 times a day in a pile of blubbery mess.
not eating, no sleep staring into emptiness. I asked my self a question if there is any one out there or am I just alone.
Your story resonated to me that I actually cried, not of sadness but of freedom. Feeling of Closure and at peace with my self. I no longer feel like im worth next to nothing.
I’m walking away from this marriage of 9 years with nothing. I will be living everything to her. not because I want her to have it, but I want my son to live in an environment that he deserves.
before I stumbled upon this website I honestly couldn’t see myself being able to continue on. Funnily enough when I used to appologise to her when shes blames me for everything and she come down from her tantrums I would always jokingly say that I would set up a organisation or group for Hubands like me. and call it Battered Husbands Annonymous (BHA).
She laughed at my jokes and saying that I was the abusive one,
Also I would like to thank so much, the wonderful, caring people who run this website you are a true credit to society and humanity.
I thought I had suffered alone through this, it is both comforting yet disturbing to realise im not alone and others have struggled with this type of abuse.
Ive read a lot and watched videos from this site in the last few days, its jaw dropping to realise that this type of covert abuse has a well worn pattern and thousands of others around the world are suffering because of it.
I am in finacial difficultly at the moment, but it wont last forever, im very eager to buy your book and donate some money, I believe the work you are doing here is very important. There appears to be a whole underclass of invisible victims, who unknowingly struggle with no support. Although we are not really victims but more the targets of abuse.
Thank you so much
I stumbled across this site trying to find out answers after my relationship with my ex. This article is golden even though its years old– thank you for taking the time to shed light on this issue.
Something wasn’t right but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Red flags were everywhere before our relationship was official. She displayed depression, hopelessness and despair. I don’t know if it was only a scene or it was what she was really going through, but I still went on to making our relationship official
The relationship: After our third month of dating, she wanted us to move in and started to speak about marriage and kids at the 4 month mark. Second of all, whenever I tried to have a talk with her regarding her behavior, it usually ended up with her crying her eyes out, displaying temper tantrums and reversing our discussions to make it seem like I was the abuser— total VICTIM MENTALITY. There was absolutely no reasoning with her— it seemed to me like I was dealing with a kid.
Sex was amazing, but it isn’t worth my sanity.
My wife just blamed me today for her not having friends. I, in at the statment, paraphrased what she said to me and she gaslit and told me that she didn’t say it. i know…Its crazy making to the extreme. I am not a controlling person…never have been. Her one and only friend is crazier than my wife and this friend acted out one too many times. She did it for the last time during our christmas party this past year, and I set a healthy boundary with her and politely asked her to leave. Needless to say, her friend cut ties with my wife because my wife didn’t publically defend her craziness. But, I get reminded regularily that I’m to blame for her lost friendship. I get blamed for “always”, “never”…as she tends to put it…constant extremes in thought. The thing is that my wife does not have many tantrums, but when she does…theres hell to pay. If I am careful (walking on eggshells) she is cool as a cucumber and methodical and appears to almost take enjoyment out of screwing with my head. Whats even more confusing is her almost split personality…either I get psycho susie or sweet susie.
I kow this is an old post but recent reply. Your story, and others above, resonated with me in ways i never thought another human could.
A recurring feeling i see here and am feeling as well is liberation. Feeedom. The proverbial weight off my shoulders knowing now that it really wasnt all happening because of me. As a person. Im a good guy with a big heart and i think thats the problem in my case. Ive been through 3 years of 3-4 months of awesome, then one night of complete terror.
She claims she cant control herself when she rages. Took 8 “episodes” over almost 3 years for her to finally say that instead of blaming me.
And i too get chastized for not “backing her up” when i dont agree with her perspective. Or if i try to explain a different one to her in an attempt to offer some insight into how disproportionate her rage is to the “offense”
Its happened so many times now where i feel numb now. I dont feel excited to come home. Im not being my usual romantic-im-so-in-love type of guy.
Her 7 year old son loves me. We all live together. Im lost and dont knw what to do. I feel like im unable to recover after so many rages that have slowly chipped away at my self-esteem.
Thank you for the site, and precious insight. Im greatly saddened that i need to get out but cant muster the cajones to pull the band aid and walk. I worry about hurting her child
I have endured a marriage similar to many expressed here for eight years now and I am at the end of my rope. The only thing keeping me in the relationship is my son as I don’t want him to be left to be reared by his mother. Can anyone please offer advice as to what the best course of action might be in ending these relationships when kids are involved?
This site is a god send. I have read everything and all the comments. I do not even have to tell my story. It is all right exactly in one shape or another the same crap. Sadly. Mine will end our relationship. I have no choice 3 years of pscyho susie and sweet susie up and down and she things our marriage is great. hahaahhahaha omgosh no! god bless you all.
What a Godsend finding this site has been!
I know now I am not alone. I won’t add too much about my tale, suffice to say that it’s pretty much the same story: she won’t accept responsibility (other than the occasional “I know I don’t react well to things”), begged her to go to counselling with me (wouldn’t go, apparently I’d make it all about me – I guess what that really meant was “I don’t want to face my issues”), full on tantrums with things being thrown, driving off with no communication, calling me names, locking herself in the bathroom, screaming, shouting and on and on it goes until it finally ended up with physical violence – again, this is apparently my fault for trying to restrain her when she had a rage attack and I didn’t want any more broken windows or things thrown around (or at me for that matter). She has a teenage son who behaves in exactly the same way, but she cannot or will not see any correlation between them which just boggles the mind. Such a sad and sorry state of affairs but I am glad there was a catalyst to finally get me out of there, even if I spent much of the time following the break of blaming myself for her behaviour.
I got kind of stuck in a loop of self-blame and thoughts of “What could I have done differently, how could I help her?” and fears over what could happen in the future, but finally I have turned that corner. I did all I could to be there and support but, in the end, a person must be able to recognise their issues and want to change before they can or will accept any kind of help.
What I have realised is that there’s no way you can help steer this behaviour into something more normal, rational or manageable because the result of a discussion about it results in walls being put up and tantrums being thrown.
Sad to say, but if this is ringing a lot of bells, then being in a relationship like that is not something that you’d be able to sustain in the long run. Like the article says, even professional therapists find coaching this mentality out of adults incredibly difficult if not impossible.
More power to you if you can get out! Move on and think about ‘What now’ rather than ‘what if’.
Always remember this guys:
Accept the reality that she never really loved you, not in the true sense.
Understand that it’s not because you are unlovable, but that she is incapable of loving anyone, including herself.
She has tried to force you to believe that love is based upon the conditions of what you can give her.
A relationship that is based upon selfish expectations and a sense of entitlement is destructive. she is unable to participate in a nurturing, supportive or intimate relationship. Even on those times when you are intimate, and the sex will usually be mind blowing, she will be working a fantasy. You will feel a connection, but sadly it is only a one way thing. She is not being intimate with you, she is being intimate with whomever is in her mind at that moment.
Always remember this guys:
Accept the reality that she never really loved you, not in the true sense.
Understand that it’s not because you are unlovable, but that she is incapable of loving anyone, including herself.
She has tried to force you to believe that love is based upon the conditions of what you can give her.
A relationship that is based upon selfish expectations and a sense of entitlement is destructive. She is unable to participate in a nurturing, supportive or intimate relationship.
Even on those times when you are intimate, and the sex will usually be mind blowing, she will be working a fantasy. You will feel a connection, but sadly it is only a one way thing. She is not being intimate with you, she is being intimate with whomever is in her mind at that moment.
I’ve been dealing with this for 6 years of marriage. Thankfully I have grown and become stronger to not get sucked in so much to try to get an apology, or see some evidence of willingness to take accountability. I’ll be surprised if we make it to 7.
One thing I’ve noted that I didn’t see in the article or comments is a link of the behavior to a fragile ego. I don’t think my wife is *capable* of taking responsibility without falling apart and becoming despondent about how she is a failure. What I observe is a person with such a poor self esteem that taking any accountability is overwhelming. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but it’s what I see over and over. It’s not just about ‘it feels better’ to take the place of a victim, but that its the only place she can continue to maintain a sense of worth.
WOW! I have been suffering with an abusive relationship for over the past ten plus years. I met my wife close to 15 years ago and during that time I was going back to school, I was struggling to make ends meet, and I was going through some health issues. My wife was freshly divorced, had two young boys, and just moved back to live with her parents. Our first date was a HUGE red flag, she was not the type of woman I ever dated. She was disconnected and our conversation went no where. I made the mistake of trying to get romantic with her because to be honest I didn’t see the relationship going anywhere and I was lonely.
Fast forward a few years…..We were dating, I was not taking the relationship super serious, at least as not as serious as she was, but she was always there for me. I went through a surgery and she was by my side the entire time. I appreciate it…..Eventually she got pregnant and from that moment on the script flipped. She had me…..she became a different person, but I wanted it to work because I was about to have my first child. I married her, we moved in together, and started a family. I have raised her two older boys, the oldest showing little to no connection to me since day one, and I have raised our two boys, one being in first grade the other now in fifth. Both my boys are awesome, I would do anything for them, and my wife knows this.
Needless to say….our relationship has pretty much sucked…..yes we’ve had some good times, but those are wedged in between constant fights. I have tried not to give in but sometimes you just get to the point where you can’t take it anymore.
Every single thing I have read on this forum from other men who have posted is EXACTLY and I mean EXACTLY what I have encountered. My wife is ALWAYS the victim. She always calls me a dick after fights and demands an apology. I have in the past apologized just to keep things moving forward in hopes that she changes and grows up but she never does. My wife is petty, immature, at times our conversations don’t go anywhere, and there are awkward silences. She withholds affection from me, she is not affectionate to be honest. I have gone to bed with her for over ten years and we have to go to bed hugging or kissing or making small talk.
She has also attacked me about my anxiety issues, I have had some health concerns, and she knows this, so she attacks me over it and tries to make me feel worthless. She attacks my parents and family…..she tries to attack any woman who is my friend. She has made fake emails pretending to be other women I have known to see if I would respond. Yes! She even was able to check my phone messages for the last year without me knowing, waiting for the moment where she had pissed me off so much, I would contact someone I know and then she would attack me over it.
She NEVER apologizes, she never owners her behavior, she has bad self-esteem, she is at home during the day watching two babies which brings in extra income, but I work long hours….she always makes her job at home of cleaning or cooking seem like a big deal, and makes me feel I don’t do enough even though I pay most of the bills.
We are not really compatible despite attempts to keep this together…..even when I proposed to her she didn’t like the way I did it, so she said no and pushed the 5K ring back into my pocket…..great memory right? I lived my entire life waiting for that moment and now I will live with the memory of her rejecting me.
Anyway…..Today was the last straw…..We got into it and I can’t take it anymore. I have been googling “my wife is a victim” and have read some blogs which have been useful but this blog with it’s comments was a home run. Thank you guys! I really needed that tonight. I am about to go through one of the toughest times of my life. I know I will be very lonely…..I know I will have to make even more sacrifices in my life and will struggle……but I will be done with her…..and I will hopefully find a woman who appreciates me and can show me the love I deserve. I am a nice man. I am a good husband. I am kind and loving. Yes I am not perfect but who is……but for the most part I have tried tirelessly and now I can try no longer. Wish me the best guys……I am certainly going to need it.
Some advice from me, since I am now free of my abuser. Take it from me guys, you need to be prepared for what can happen after you get free. The abuse does not necessarily stop. Remember that these people are so deeply insecure and volatile, so completely irrational that anything and everything is going to be YOUR fault. They will not take responsibility in any way. If you leave – her reaction to that will be your fault: you left her. If SHE leaves, it’ll be YOUR fault because of whatever she perceives you did to make her leave. She will not ever acknowledge her behaviour had a huge role in the breakdown of your relationship.
It’s not going to be easy, and they set up traps for you to fall into – just get out, get away and for goodness sake take everything that’s yours with you, and then stay away. Don’t even try to make contact. I know they are ill with mental health issues, but they are not stupid and they are cruel and vindictive, and they are consummate actors. They will use any and all means to break you, and at the same time plead the little miss innocent to their friends, who will be fooled into thinking that this person is simply being strong and independent. They will not be told the truth of things and you will be the bad guy.
You have to be prepared for this because if you’re not, it will break you and that’s exactly what she wants to do.