This was one of the bigger questions I faced, after things ended with my ex. Admitting to myself that I needed therapy was akin to admitting guilt to all of the things I had been accused of. It felt like I was surrendering and agreeing that she was right – that it was all my fault. My ex, in the meantime, seemed to be skipping merrily along, looking for her next boyfriend. She seemed to be dealing with things okay. She must’ve been right. It must have been all me.
Nothing could be further from the truth. THIS is why you need therapy.
I’d originally started therapy while she and I were together. She’d been nagging me about it for a couple of months. She wanted me to stop “sabotaging our relationship” by deliberately doing things to anger her (such as spending too much time in the bathroom or not enough time washing my hands or opening the door for her or buying a book or countless other infractions). By doing all of these things, I was “rebelling against her” (her words) and it needed to stop if the relationship was to be saved. Naturally, I wanted things to be like they used to be at the beginning, when I could do no wrong. Obviously there was something inside of me that was driving me to rebel against her.
Finally, after a particularly egregious rage episode against me, coupled with another incident that I’ll write about momentarily, I sought help. I was doing it for us. I was doing it to save the relationship (she was fond of telling me I “needed to fight for the relationship or die trying”). And these were all the wrong reasons, as I soon figured out.
The first time I sat down in my therapist’s office, I completely lost it. I literally did not know where to begin. I remember a non-stop flood of tears. I was a wreck. The rage episode I mentioned above was the one where my ex finally broke me. I had literally heard a *snap* sound in my mind, as she finally convinced me of the truth of all of her accusations. She finally convinced me that I had done all of the things she had accused me of, but since I didn’t remember doing them, I was the mentally ill one. It was obvious to her that I had multiple personalities and that they were out to get her. Additionally, she had recently informed me that a friend of hers had raped her during a camping trip the day after I’d proposed to her. At this point, as much as I am loath to say it, I have my doubts that the rape actually happened.
My therapist listened patiently as I explained all of my sins and how I needed to find a way to stop rebelling against my ex. She listened as I told her how horrible I was. She listened.
Even though I was rote-repeating everything my ex had told me about myself, she listened, and did not pass judgment. As I began to explain things and defend my ex rather than myself, I began to notice something: even if what I was saying was wrong, somebody was actually listening to me and allowing me to speak. This, in itself was huge.
My therapist didn’t take sides, until she knew I was ready for her to take mine. When things finally ended between me and my ex, she told me what I already knew deep down inside: it wasn’t my fault. I was not the person I’d been convinced I was and that my ex had some serious, serious issues. We talked about Borderline Personality Disorder and though she wouldn’t diagnose my ex, she agreed with me that it sounded like things definitely leaned in that direction. And this is where the real work began in my therapy sessions and why, like it or not, if you’ve been through this sort of relationship, YOU need therapy, too.
This does not diminish your ex’s problems. Your ex most definitely has problems and needs her own help. You need to come to terms with the fact that she’s never going to acknowledge this nor will she seek out this help – most likely, ever.
The problem is, she has infected your mind to such an extent that figuring out who you were and who you are versus who she led you to believe you were is no longer easy.
Some of the literature I’ve read online about coming out of these relationships refers to the phenomenon of “fleas” – as in “if you lie down with dogs…” If you come out of a relationship with someone who has BPD, there will be remnants in your psyche that need to be dealt with. My own personal metaphor was a bit worse than fleas – I likened it to having slept naked in a bed of raw fiberglass and picking out the seemingly endless supply of shards.
This will be a long and painful process.
I’m not going to lie to you about that.
Ultimately, though, you can handle it. And you will find it easier with time and well worth the effort you put into it.
Over the course of time, therapy has helped me not only rediscover who I was (and what made me susceptible to this sort of relationship), but helped me find who I am now.
My weekly 50 minutes were like a safe-zone where I could take a time-out from the world around me and explore things in a manner that was non-judgmental and allowed me to be who I needed to be in the moment. Honestly? At one point, I literally, physically beat the hell out of the couch, even though I’m not a physically violent person. Yes, it helped.
Admitting you need help is difficult and perhaps even more difficult for men (there’s a reason people say we don’t ask for directions). In this instance, though, you are lost. You do need help. You need to ask for directions. It doesn’t make you less of a man. There is a lot of detritus in your head that isn’t yours and you need help sorting out what belongs to whom.
Your ex may will never take responsibility for what she has done to you. But you can take responsibility for how your life unfolds from this moment onward. A good therapist can help you with all of these things. You may not find the perfect therapist at first. Keep looking. Whether you decide to avail yourself of Dr. T’s services [full disclaimer: I have not, other than by being a reader and contributor to this site] or those of someone else, find someone compassionate and willing to listen and help you. They are there to advocate for you, to you.
I wish I could say there’s a set time-limit on therapy. I wish there was an equation of 1 year of relationship with a Cluster B = 1 year of therapy. Each of us are different and each of us have our own resilience.
You can bounce back and you can have a life again. A good therapist will help you and support you in that goal.
My ex eventually decided that she didn’t like the thought of me going to therapy, as I was “turning it into something all about me” instead of focusing on why I was rebelling against her. She probably also became afraid that my therapist would figure out the truth (or help me figure out the truth) about what was really going on in the relationship.
Therapy is about you. It’s supposed to be.
And it’s about rediscovering yourself and making sure that relationships like these never happen to you again.
This is not defeat. This is about living well.
And if you need to couch it in these terms, as George Herbert said, “Living well is the best revenge.”
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.
never again says
I went through this as well. My ex insisted I needed anger management therapy and I finally went to a psychiatrist for a full assessment. When it was complete, he simply looked at me and said “You don’t need anger management therapy, you need marital therapy.”
Prior to this, I’d also gone to see a counsellor. The reason I went was “because I love my wife, and I want to learn to accept the change in her so that I can save my marriage.” Even though I recognized that she was the one who had changed so drastically, I loved her so much I was willing to undergo therapy in order to change myself into someone she could love. Weird, eh? The counsellor told me that I couldn’t fix my marriage by myself, but by that point my ex refused to attend counselling with me.
I even went to a psychotherapist after I’d seen the psychiatrist, but stopped going to him because he wouldn’t help me change, he wanted to help me leave. Weird, revisited.
I also started going to Al-Anon, to learn to deal with her drinking, as well as the effects of my father’s alcoholism. This actually helped me a lot, so much so that after 3 months she noticed the difference and gave me an ultimatum that I either had to quit, or she’d leave me. Of course, I quit. But after I finally left her, I returned to Al-Anon, and it has helped me immensely.
During the most trying times after I left her (when I missed her and really, really wanted to get back with her), I did avail myself of my Employee Assistance Program, but found that usually after speaking to a counsellor on the phone, or having one or two face-to-face sessions, I was able to re-adjust my bearings and get my head on straight. YMMV.
Superb piece Kev. Thanks for that
I’ve been journaling myself quite a lot as of late. And I wrote the same thing a couple of weeks back. What it can do is get you to think about YOU. Why did you let this happen. If you allowed this, there is something that you need to address. The person with the disorder will not, more than likely, ever take responsibility for their condition or actions. You can’t change them. You can only change you. Therapy is helping me see things clearly. You are terrified to tell friends and family that “you are in therapy”. A majority, you find out, have been there as well. There is no shame in it.
I’m very careful not to be resentful but you do come to realize that you are going to improve your life and the person with the disorder will still be blaming, screaming, lying and leading a very low quality of living for years (if not all of their remaining years) to come. And you feel for anyone who becomes their next target.
One thing I would like to add, I’ve read about (and was guilty myself) of making the mistake that thinking “this person raised a level of emotion in me like never before”. That’s malarkey. YOU raised that level emotion in you. It’s yours and you can do it again…with a healthy partner. Don’t give them credit for your passion and ability to feel.
They were attracted to you because of all the wonderful things you have. They need you (and people like you), you don’t need them.
“Why did you let this happen. If you allowed this, there is something that you need to address.”
-PRECISELY. This is something that I’ve been working on for some time. I have vowed, “never again.” I’ve come to the realization that I’ve always been a pleaser, and too accomodating. I’ve been building stronger boundaries, and the results are amazing. The word “no” can be wonderfully empowering, when used correctly. 🙂
“the person with the disorder will still be blaming, screaming, lying and leading a very low quality of living for years (if not all of their remaining years) to come.”
-This, too, was an epiphany I had at one point in therapy. As I said to my therapist, “I may have spent my time with her in Hell, but it is ultimately her Hell, and not mine. She is still there, and will remain there. I have left it behind, and don’t need to participate in it anymore.”
I’m glad to hear things are working out for you… Keep up the good work!
Ah yes, the lightbulb moment in the therapists office…
I think its something we all have gone through. Mine is very similar to yours.
I used to tell friends and family “something seems off with her. I cant really explain it or put my finger on it. Its a undercurrent of hostility. Shes gets snide and nasty at the drop of a hat, over things most people wouldnt give a second thought to. Like she’s hypersensative and paranoid. She’ll take some neutral comment or something and get offended and hide in the bathroom for hours and cry. Its like living in Bizarro world.” (before I knew of BPD)
After 6+ months of being blamed for everything, being raged at, having my words twisted and just insane fights over just mundane things – i.e. I accidentally skipped her turn in a board game. She went banannas and screamed that i did it on purpose and raged for hours – I went to a therapist. I told her I was just losing it. I couldnt do anything right and the woman that once saw me as the knight in shining armor and used to just gush with emotion of how wonderful I am and how lucky she is to have me, now fights with me over everything. She gets wound up and gets so snide and nasty and venomous it just doesnt fit the crime I committed. It was like a switch went off and the sweet, angelic woman I fell in love with has become this evil person that is upset about everything and takes it as a personal attack on her.
I thought if I could just stop doing things to piss her off everything would go back to what it was. If I could just act right, if I could just anticipate what would set her off and NOT do it we would be back ok again. If I could stop being insensative as she said, if I could stop being passive aggressive (which I never HAVE been, that was HER perception because of her paranoia. If I left the toilet seat up it was because I was mad at her about something and trying to get back at her)
We continued talking and thats when the therapist told me about BPD. It was definately a lightbulb moment. The more she told me about it and the behaviors the mroe it fit. The patterns, the rages, everything. I read volumes on it. I joined several message boards and the light bulb just got brighter and brighter.
I tried for another 18 months or so to make it work, even going through with the wedding we had planned. I finally cracked October last year. After all the time and trying to make it work and all the special memories of special things she had given me, cards and such. Items I held dear, its what kept the love alive in my heart. In what would be our last fight (over who looks at the mail first) she told me ‘I didnt really mean all those sweet things, its just what youre supposed to say in relationships.’
Thats when I heard the crack. It never was to her what it was to me. It was all just an illusion and I was just the entertainment.
I went to therapy for a few months after that. Im not sure if it really helped or not, but I know im 100% better than where I was last year.
“I finally cracked October last year. After all the time and trying to make it work and all the special memories of special things she had given me, cards and such. Items I held dear, its what kept the love alive in my heart. In what would be our last fight (over who looks at the mail first) she told me ‘I didnt really mean all those sweet things, its just what youre supposed to say in relationships.’
Thats when I heard the crack. It never was to her what it was to me. It was all just an illusion and I was just the entertainment.”
When I read that part, my heart broke for you. I could actually feel it sinking in my chest. It was like I was hearing someone say that to me at that moment while I was reading it, that’s how much it affected me. Not only was what she said incredibly cruel, but here you were putting all this effort into this relationship and the one thing that sustained your efforts (the special memories) was not even real – at least not from her end. I’m so sorry you went through that. All I can hope is that you came out stronger and better, and now you are smarter and wiser and hopefully haven’t given up on love. xo
Believe me, thats only one of the cruel things. Ive got quite a list. I try not to dwell on them much anymore, but they were pretty outrageous. Take a look at my blog if youre interested, my screen name links to it.
I havent decided yet if ive given up on love. Its something ive been thinking about pretty heavily during the holidays. I just recently turned 39, im now twice divorced, 39, no kids, and I really dont know if I ever want another relationship at this point. The thought of starting all over makes my stomach churn right now. Ive lost a great deal of faith in humanity and in the female gender. I wouldnt say ive given up, Im not a giving up kind of person. I like to think of it as just on a break for an undetermined amount of time. I dont know if I will ever take someone at face value with the sweet, syrupy, romantic things. Im a little jaded yes, and maybe that will pass with more time, but for right now if I were to hear those things from anyone Id have a hard time believing them.
Id have to say though the biggest thing that helped me break free was the online support groups and blogs like this. I have to wonder how many people suffer in silence, they KNOW something isnt right with their spouse, but they cant put their finger on it. If it werent for the support groups and websites I would have had no where to gauge the irratic behaviors. I would have had no where to bounce stories off people and ask ‘Is this normal?’ Its really easy to lose ‘normal’ in these relationships.
Id also say that going through this has helped me in some ways. I can spot crazy from a mile away now.
Great article, Kevin….I have been told by her the house has been sold becuase according to our Real Estate Agent, if we don’t hear any thing, then the Condition upon Financing has gone through, so I haven’t heard anything…great service from our Real Estate Agent she picked to let us know personally from himself. Anyways, she told me tonite that she will be moving in with her mother because she cannot afford anything with all of the debts she has. I told her, “Well…isn’t Karma a bitch? The 3 times you threw me out, you kept saying, “Awww, what’s the matter? You going to move in with your Mommy? It felt so good to say that back to her after all these years…I knew this day was going to come and I was waiting for it…..
“She wanted me to stop “sabotaging our relationship”…”
Boy, did I hear that a few times.
I went into therapy because of my angry reaction at my bro & SIL when they tried to meddle in my civil, but distant relationship with my mother. I’d gone limited contact and they thought we should be closer. I thought I had an anger management problem. While I do have some “fleas” from having grown up with a PDed parent, my therapist helped me see the problem was I was being scapegoated. While researching scapegoating, I found out about Personality Disorders and it all made sense!
I’ve been with my current therapist for about a year and a half now and I’m making a lot of progress.
Whose your therapist?
Don’t answer if it gives away identity.
I’m on the west coat of the U.S., so I don’t know if that helps you out, or not.
If you want to e-mail me at kev AT shrink4men DOT com, I can let you know, if it’s geographically feasible for you.
Phoned the Real Estate Agent this morning and he told me the Condition on Financing is still on so the house isn’t sold…I guess she wanted to ruin my night…
they have a way of doing that, don’t they?
I hope it all gets sorted out easily and quickly.
Kev this was a really good article. Thank you. I am female with male BPD ex and increasingly find solace in understanding that others have had experiences that echo mine. The particularly poignant moment in the article for me was when you wrote, “The rage episode I mentioned above was the one where my ex finally broke me. I had literally heard a *snap* sound in my mind, as she finally convinced me of the truth of all of her accusations.” I remember my snap moment vividly – even though I am now five years and many therapy sessions down the track. Thank you for this. Defending the ex in my therapy sessions was also a constant. Well done and thanks for sharing. 🙂
thank you… and I’m glad you’re finding the help you need with your therapist.
It’s interesting to me, to be able to say “I know my breaking point”… it’s a level of self-awareness many people (fortunately) do not experience.
I hope things continue to go in your favor, and I’m very glad that you’re finding useful information and comfort here.
take care of yourself, and I hope the holidays treat you well…
Closure at last says
Thank you SO much for all your heartfelt posts….only those who have gone through this nightmare can understand how it feels. Those who haven’t often advise us “Just get over it, already” etc. but how can one describe ‘soul-rape’ or here as you state ” bed of raw fiberglass and picking out the seemingly endless supply of shard.” You certainly have a remarkable way of expressing and a style of writing that hits close to me, and I’m sure to all readers.
In the post on the ‘abyss’ – I could not even comment because it hit so close and my eyes welled up – I certainly did not feel like taking the extreme step – but when I wrote for weeks like an insane person as self-therapy simply to get out of the darkness that borderpath narcissist had left me with, I described that cavern too as an ‘abyss’ – one which I explore and keep filling with my own love for my sanity till the hole is filled and I can float up to the light. In my journalling, the N hypothetically ‘kills’ me with a sword watching while I writhe – a metaphor for the cutting, cutting words used.
How well I can relate to everything you have written! My N actually gave me ‘instructions’ I had to follow strictly and I was subjected to insurmountable rage if I moved even a tiny bit from those divine ‘instructions.’ Journaling a metaphorical story finally after the last ‘devalue and discard’ helped me rediscover back my Self. Of course my confidence and self-esteem had been reduced to dust by the time N did the last sting. I had to take time out from work, which so far had kept me strong. I may write to you directly, because I just want to let go, let go and be able to release all the horrors I faced. Priding myself to be too ‘strong’ I too initially faced my own false pride that I could overcome the pain simply through ‘toughness’ till I took out time to cry and let go my tough stance. The release was the first step.
I broke too, but in the story I wrote for myself, realized that I could break only if my cup was empty or I viewed myself as brittle. Instead I imagined myself as liquid mercury metal, that dissolves under pressure but then reforms, but never breaks. Somehow I decided I would not let my abuser to take away that last shred of light, that love and integrity I carried inside. When the N spewed on me all the past garbage of N’s life, I said mentally: “No! The buck stops here. I will not let that garbage infect me.” It was my first grappling for strength.
I remembered Nietzsche’s quote in Beyond Good and Evil: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
I wrote and wrote till I found myself back again. Worse in my case, the N works as a psychiatrist (go figure!) and gets into papers by flaunting ‘social causes’ (typical mask-to-the-world, monster-in-private) so it was ALWAYS made to be ‘my fault’ till I saw the hollow darkness that lay underneath that false face. I have understood that such vampirish-hook-and-suck is not love. Because of N’s position and insistence on the privacy of the misdeeds, I was not able to even freely speak to any therapist lest they recognized my abuser in seminars. N (as in narcissist) wanted to be both my abuser and ‘confidante’. It was an awful situation – where control was of a most sadistic nature.
Your posts are very heartfelt. Thank you. Between Dr. Tara’s humour and rationality and your expressive posts, – I have found incredible solace.
It is amazing how looking back, these experiences turn us into impromptu poets and philosophers! Only when one has experienced the abyss, can one appreciate the freedom of light.
“Your ex may will never take responsibility for what she has done to you. But you can take responsibility for how your life unfolds from this moment onward.” Well said! The crazy one asked to meet me suddenly after 2 years to “apologize”. It was more to dig to know that I had kept all the atrocities a secret so as to not let any external therapist know the ‘real’ person N was. Within half hour – I was devalued and discarded again. But this time, since I had used Dr. T’s advice as a shield, believe it or not, I actually laughed at the ridiculousness of renewed accusations (though I still shudder sometimes in pain of that meeting). I felt pity for that N – just pity. And I was set free. At last I found I’d reached the Rhett Butler stage of “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Thank you for sharing your stories.
Yet another heartfelt thank you. Also, closure, I appreciate your words.
I came to this site at first for a friend, and to assess whether I was imagining things when he would talk about his relationship…was I right in guessing it as abusive? It also helps me continue to come to terms with my past romantic and child-parent relationships.
The thought I had when thinking “why do I need therapy” is…because there is a vast difference between an awakening and recovery.
Awareness of what’s really going on is very important to begin to gain one’s sanity and self-worth back. But especially if you have a pattern of on-again-off-again or confusing relationships, therapy is needed to keep us from getting into yet another ‘crazy’ coupling.
If for nothing else than to just experiencing the freedom to speak your mind without constant worry or fear of hurting / enraging the listener.
I made the mistake years ago of telling my NPD mother that I had been to see a counselor…he first comment, “Did you talk about me?” (yes! b/c it always has been and always will be about U! *rolls eyes*)
Also, what Closure wrote about…reminds me of the image I had when my AXH – NPD would say he loved me, but it felt like he hated me; it was akin to someone shouting, “I LOVE YOU!!!” while throwing Chinese stars into your skin as hard as they could, while you are cowering on the floor beneath their profession of ‘love.’
Using Love as a weapon / tool of manipulation in and of itself is abusive, IMO.
Keep writing, Kev!
Closure at last says
Thanks TGI –
I was quite okay and spunky since going No Contact, but the last meeting just this October keeps bringing me back to that nebulous zone of the ‘devalue & discard’ after having been sucked in again by the ‘idealization’ ( I am a girl – but as mentioned earlier on another post – think much more like a guy, work in a guy’s field and somehow Dr. T seems to be more like that no-nonsense feisty and outdoorsy type of gal whose words speak much more to me, than the sappy ones geared towards women – which are always with those new-age ‘flying-spirit-inner-child’ type of sites that I just can’t relate too. But I do love reading good writers and secular philosophy – Niezsche, Wittgenstein, Russell etc. so Kevin’s style of writing also appeals to me.)
Right now after all the work on recovery, I feel I’m going into an abyss again tonight and almost feel like talking to Dr. T or anyone but don’t know who. My first relation was with a BPD – lasted 18 months, did affect me – but I said ‘be tough’ to myself and moved on. The second and longest was very nice, calm with an inner-geek like myself, and ran its course for 8 years and we parted as friends, sane, well -wishing and with great goodwill. It was after that I met the N mentioned above in a personal way, not professionally. We didn’t have an intimate relation, it was often long-distance due to his travels but it was a total mindf*** from which I am still recovering. He was a master in the art of manipulation, control, mind games and I’m still trying to understand what N did – for a time I felt I suffered from Stockholm syndrome. He was a very good writer, and seduced me with words first. It is the craziest thing I’ve experienced and the greatest swings of idealization-devaluation. He knows he is disturbed himself, but due to his position and reputation I can never talk about it to others- even now I am so so afraid to write this, I fear N’s anger if he ever finds out – just the thought makes me shake. “Cowering’ as you state.
In fact I am not sure I’m doing the right thing even writing it here. My present partner who is sane and healthy and never had a N or B relation of his own is the ‘get over it already’ type so he does not understand and has forbidden me from mentioning N’s name, so I don’t talk of the trauma I faced. I wish I could confide to even one person the extent of instructions and control and insanity and pleasing-every-N-mood I’d to follow and insane projection that ate away at my sense of self. I’m so used to putting a ‘tough’ front due to my field of work, it is very hard to be vulnerable. The part of me that defends the N thinks he made me feel ultra-feminine, yet the mind knows that it was an abusive insanity.
The same strategy the BPD-women use in these articles but reverse gender. I wish there was a site for women who think-like-men, as I don’t want to write here, yet I haven’t found another like this site (I’m an INTJ on Briggs-Meyers, only 0.005% women are.) I just wish I could say to at least one understanding human being privately what I went through, yet because of the N’s public reputation, I’m terrified to. He told me he had a problem, begged me for kindness etc. so I kept giving, till my insides were sucked out. Like Kev’s ex-girlfriend – though my N was the one with the problem and was in extensive therapy himself (in fact became a shrink so he could continue his own therapy) he would say I should see a ‘psychoanalyst’ after all the hurt, pain he was causing! Like a strange circle – he wanted to be both the abuser and the confidante? Isn’t that crazy?? I pity his real patients, since I was in a personal relation – not a professional one. I felt like a pet dog used for an experiment by a crazy vet.
Sorry – but when I read Kev’s posts, it’s like reading my experiences. Mine was a comparatively short period like his, but the intensity of control and rage seems similar. Sometimes I laugh looking back – Dr. T’s humour is wonderful, but I wish I could laugh more, or rather purge the secrets I still hold to at least one person, while that N merrily goes around as an “advocate against abuse” in the psych community and talks in seminars sometimes against abuse and ptsd!! (Yes – THAT is the level of hypocrisy.) Sometimes I feel angry at myself that it is taking me so long to get over the hooks and D & Ds. Does it ever go away? The damage they do seem to be like holes – you can place a manhole cover but every once in a while the cover can slip and you can find yourself slipping till you pull yourself out again.
I used to pride myself so much on my strength and chutzpah before. N would say he loved my ‘fire’, my sense of life, my ‘heart – with -its-overflowing-cup’. Now I feel it was sucked away. I wish I could get that life force back again – it is there inside me, I just have to re-ignite it again. Sorry for writing so much – but it truly helps relieve the pain.
You shouldn’t worry whether you’re doing the right thing posting. I can tell you from experience, 22 years worth, that not dealing with it is the way to go. I’ve been married to another woman for almost that long. She didn’t want to hear about my exgf then and I’m sure she like hearing about the exgf now.
The blogs and the forum are wonderful places to start wrapping your head around what a relationship with a Cluster B was like. If you want to pull the pyschiatrist string, check out some of Shari Schreiber’s articles. Where this site does a lot of explaining effects, Shcreiber’s site looks more at causes.
I think of my time with my exgf like an abscess. The puss may be gone but it takes a long time to fill in the void.
She didn’t want to hear about my exgf then and I’m sure she wouldn’t like hearing about the exgf now.
Closure at last says
Just writing out here helped a lot and the pain went away. What a great way to compare to an abscess: “The puss may be gone but it takes a long time to fill in the void”
I had checked Schreiber’s site on googling “BPD men” a while back before discovering Dr. T’s. That site’s well -written (though I think the design of the site it too loud – sorry that’s just the ‘fix-it’ in me talking.) I did look deeper to see why my ‘docility’ in front of Ns and Bs came. My sister (with who I am NC now for 2 years to great relief) was an incurable N with an ample dose of histrionics. I used to love her a lot as a little girl so my ‘N-tolerance -training’ came from there. So did my attitude of ‘being the strong one’ to please my parents and most of all the overwhelming ‘fix-it’ and ‘puzzle -solving’ attitude which I found many of my fellow engineers share too. Therein lay our weakness and the tendency to go for the ‘mysterious’ types.
When I stayed in that warped relation with the N (the psychiatrist) even then I recognized this in myself – an insane curiosity to ‘know’, to ‘solve’, to ‘figure-out’, to be ‘the one to help, fix, be the care-taker’. Through him I was also trying to understand the first BP. I have humbly understood now that this insane ‘fix-it’ or ‘hoping-my-love-and-kindness-will-cure-your-cluster-B’ was my hidden subconscious pride and therefore my Waterloo. It was a “how much can I take? If I hold on a little longer, and do everything right, my love will be understood.” I also suffer from a tendency to “logically” parse out everything. But the submissiveness to my own sister I was replicating here.
In fact it was something you Mellaril had written here once that gave me an ‘aha’ insight. You’d written something to the effect that perhaps your sadness was that you couldn’t be the one to ‘fix’ her. Wow – so true. In my case, it was that eternal optimism of being the one to be there unconditionally and take everything thrown and unconditionally accept in the hope the person would understand the depth of my caring and therefore ‘heal’ from his pain. My first BP did understand – though of course he had to do some drama by sending me a 20 page letter of what he’d missed out on 2 years after breaking up, when I was securely in my second relation. Now I recognize that as a failed ‘hoovering’ attempt although there were lines of great self-analysis where he wrote:”There was anger inside me, not about you, though most of it got directed at you. I would hurl nuclear missiles at you in response to minor trade disputes.” At some core level I thought the second N would also understand. Being a shrink himself, he did – that’s when he asked to meet, literally writing “I want to honour your person and integrity through my atonement.” Of course I fell for it, but within an hour the d & d started with him yelling: “it was ALL you fault!” Then because by mistake I casually mentioned ‘Atlas Shrugged’ talking of the ‘bail-out situations’ innocently, he went ballistic! (he hated Rand, not that I’m a cult-fan, but like it only on how there’s at least one book written about engineers.) I was very very polite, almost Spock-like, and felt pity that cluster Bs must feel great pain inside. Even at that moment I felt if only I could hug hard and take away his pain. Now I see my own mistake. I do have a problem expressing loud emotions. maybe it’s a quasi-aspie thing. He said it was my calm that was the cause of his rage. My “refusal to break.” Either way I was damned.
Only this time I was wiser to not offer myself as the receptacle of that pain. It must be sad for Bs to not be able to change inside. My ‘role’ in his life had become to receive his rage and control and then give him feedback on how he affected people so he could self-improve. Hence -the-abuser-and-confidante-role. But at the end we both realized, the condition is irreversible, only controllable to some extent. Perhaps because these were intelligent men with Cluster B, at some core level, their own ‘fix-it’ tendencies were making an effort to improve their own mental health. Unfortunately I think the women HCPs do not even have that self-awareness to even try self-improvement. My N at the end said : “For your own good, you should not trust me. My demons will never go away.” It was a sad but enlightening moment for both of us. I’ve been lucky in both cases to get a human closure – albeit each did it after 2 years of silence.
My present partner is a neuroscientist which is great, and we’re in a loving committed relation – also thanks to him I have read many brain-imaging books. Unfortunately that ‘remorse and empathy’ connection in the brain IS missing in cluster Bs. Medicine can curb their depression, but as for the missing remorse, empathy connection – alas, it is absent much like the soc—–th. (sorry not writing it full here, but you know.)
Thanks again Mell. I feel all completely relieved now. Often looking back at some situations there is a lot of comedic value, or ‘Seinfeld’ moments, but stabs of pain occasionally come too. The only regret I have is the time I’d to take out from work. Men who go through all this especially with kids etc., have the greatest ordeal as many of my engineer friends have. I have been far far luckier. I think Cluster B women are 50 times more emotionally destructive than the Cluster B men. (key word being ’emotionally’.) But well, we live and learn, lick our wounds, pick ourselves up from the exhaustion, explore our abysses and abscesses and move on. (and comically , for me for some reason listening to the music of the movie ‘300’ helps!)
Cheers and thanks. I think I’m healed now for the next year or so… Thanks Kev and Dr.T.
Closure at last says
That should read: “Perhaps because these were intelligent men with Cluster B, at some core level, their own ‘inherent male fixing tendencies’ which at times overcame their Cluster B rage were making an effort to improve their own mental health.”
oh my….I’ve seen this many times. I think a lot of these personality types go into the psychology field as a way of “self analysation”…what it usually becomes is an unbalanced individual who learns highly effective ways of manipulation and control.
Closure at last says
@ David, Yes – it is true…which is why it is very important for men (and women) to find good therapists who are not disordered themselves. The ‘disordered’ ones can side with the HCP and make it ‘all the innocent party’s fault.’
In my case, in the crazy personal relation with the psychiatrist, although in seminars/talks he used to present himself as some ‘campaigner for abuse against women’ ( a mask) his actual work is as a forensic psychiatrist. He goes to maximum security prisons as part of his work and work with defense lawyers. In a chilling moment he told me he could understand criminal minds very well. I had a strange feeling in my gut at that moment, something I have now learned to listen to and follow – to run! (I recently discovered two of his mentors were indicted for patient- abuse when I came across a wordpress blog called psychsex.)
It is better to find therapists who are more the ‘caregiver’ or ‘rational problem-solver’ types. At least those ones joined the profession to truly care and solve. But yes, it seems there are quite a few loonies in there too.
Closure at last says
..meaning “he could understand criminal minds very well because he thought like a criminal too.” A rare insight and a warning. Women cluster Bs therefore also have that criminal streak. I’ll soon be reading the book ‘the sociopath next door.’ These warnings should be taught back in schools so the trusting optimists like us don’t suffer so much later.
I can relate to all that you have written. You are lucky to have a sane, normal partner. You should Not talk about your exs to your current partner or else you will ruin what you have with him. Absolutely get all the therapy you want and need. Do find other friends who can listen to you. Come and write here. I have just come out of a relationship with a man who had an exNwife and I am exhausted from hearing all the horrible stories and I have now applied No contact rule with him because I don’t want to hear another sad story. Yes I was so supportive, patient and understanding and tried everything to fix his pain because he was so traumatised. He blamed the ex for everything and rightly so but when I asked him to stop talking about her then it all became my fault. He was a professional victim and I realised there was nothing I can do for him until he got himself the help that he needed.
Closure at last says
It is true that just writing within a safe community itself is extremely therapeutic. Thank God, for me – with the second N who I’ve talked of here, we never went ‘all the way’ – if you know what I been. It was more of an INTENSELY and insanely psychological, intellectual, emotional and intense letter writing/listening on the phone/ talking in person(or rather being raged at and dumped emotional garbage-on)situation – and though the physical attraction was intense too and he came on very strong and in very erotic and often demanding ‘command-like’ words to go all the way, due to certain (thankfully now) scheduling and travel conflicts and distance for both of us, the relation did not culminate ‘all the way.’ Had it gone that way, I can only imagine just how much longer recovery would have taken once our enzymes cause further bonding through sex….which is why victims of Cluster Bs who have been in intense physical relations as well as emotional/mental have such a long road ahead, and the Spock-like detachment takes waaaay longer.
Just the emotional, psychological, mental turbulence these encounters cause require intense ‘de-toxing’ – blend in all the other factors – and my heart goes out to men (and women) who have spent years in intimate relations and had kids with Cluster Bs or High-Conflict people. (That’s why I recognize how lucky I’ve been to escape that. Looking back, I’m not only glad that he’s not ‘the one that got away’, but ecstatic that ‘he went away’ or rather that ‘I got away.’)
Congratulations on your taking the steps towards your peace and freedom! I don’t know if you’ve read this post – but this was an older, incredibly insightful post by Dr. Tara which might help you understand your personal ordeal better and sounds very similar to what you went through (this one helped me tons, too. Of course in my case too – both Ns would alternately glorify/blame their past toxic women, till I understood that ‘perpetual victimhood’ can become contagious in itself and can be very exhausting to the listener): http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/can-a-man-who-was-emotionally-abused-by-his-narcissistic-or-borderline-wife-or-girlfriend-have-a-relationship-with-a-healthy-woman/
Good luck indeed to men who have encountered these women and friends and future girlfriends who love them and want them to heal. Certainly need all the luck and wishes. Society always bends over backwards to ‘understand’, ‘accommodate’, ‘ease’, ‘rescue’ high-conflict women; thank goodness there is this site that tries to instead understand, ease, lift and heal the tired shoulders which had to carry the weight and exhaustion of endlessly giving and being patient to Cluster B women – directly through relations with them and/or through collateral damage by proximity of the injuries they have caused to their previous partners.
never again says
CAL, just as we shouldn’t “bend over backwards to ‘understand’, ‘accommodate’, ‘ease’, ‘rescue’ high-conflict women”, we men need to take responsiblity for our own health and wellness. Yes, we were victims, but that doesn’t get you far. I’d prefer to be a “survivor”. That means I get to go on with my life.
I’ve recognised some of the patterns I developed in my relationship with my NPD, and they continue to recur now that I’ve left her. But in recognising them, I can work to change them.
Most recently, something happened that really illustrates that. I have a good, understanding female friend that I’ve gotten to know over the last few months. A couple weeks ago I did something that, while completely innocent at the time, ended up causing her some real emotional pain. There was no intention to hurt her, in fact, quite the opposite. The interesting thing about it was that she didn’t know that I’d done it, and I could have easily denied it and she never would have known it was me.
With my NPD, I’d have been running for cover, because I knew what the penalty was for even an innocent mistake (endless rants, demeaning comments, cataloguing of it for later retrieval, etc. etc). But knowing that, I decided that I had to break the pattern, own up to it, even if it meant the end of the friendship. I’m human, and I’m ALLOWED to make mistakes.
So, I owned up, and prepared to take my lumps. And my friend forgave me. Just like that. I waited for the other shoe to drop. Didn’t happen. I stewed on it for 2 weeks, distancing myself from her as my own penance for my screw-up. When I talked to her again, nothing had changed. She had forgiven me, and it was in the past. It wouldn’t be brought up again, and our friendship is intact, and stronger than ever.
As a victim, I couldn’t have taken that step. I wouldn’t have had the courage to say “I’m going to do the right thing, even if it ends the friendship (marriage).”, because I NEEDED that friendship (marriage) to bolster my self-worth.
As a survivor, I have my own self-worth. I don’t need that friendship (marriage). I want it, because it’s important to me, but I’ll still be me, flaws and all, with or without it.
Closure at last says
Excellent point, never again. And beautifully worded – ‘the self-worth of the survivor.’
And truly wonderful that you recognized that in yourself and the way a healthy woman behaves and forgives vs. the crazy ones who use it to hurt and kitchensink. As Mellaril had once written on a comment in another post,’you can recognize the good ones from what they don’t do or don’t make you feel like.’
Men like yourself learn, heal, grow stronger and become more authentic through these experiences. Men who are Cluster Bs themselves do not learn. My N was always surprised at the unconditional non-conflict way in which I would forgive his rants and rages, but unfortunately he was so used to the dramas and abuse of his past girlfriends that he could not reciprocate to a kind and giving woman and saw it as a ‘weakness’ in me. In his warped vision, kindness in a woman was now viewed as a weakness, not a strength. And even when his intellect could see the difference, his habit or pattern could not. I think that that understanding and discernment marks the difference between healthy men who had relations with Cluster B women and recovered vs. unhealthy men who had the same and can never heal for various neurological reasons.
Survivors like you learn strength, discernment and intrinsic self-worth from these experiences. And then, as I wrote, we survivors say – “the buck stops here.” i.e. the cycle of abuse ends; and the infection of an HCP is no longer passed on but rather annihilated for a better, healthier and happier future with other healthy partners.
Sites like this, together with two years of therapy post divorce have really helped me in dealing with disordered folks. I absolutely needed to take qa look at who I was tolerating and interacting with the disordered people in my life. I had the power, all along, to take myself out of the environment, but fear kept me in.
One disordered family memeber has, recently, switched her focus to me, after years of taking shots at my older sister. I have received two e-mails from her, recently, couched in terms of cating about my mental health. But, when you read them , they are full of lies and attacks. It’ sort of fascinating to wathc the techniques she tries to employ to engage me in battle.
Lately, she began holding herself up as an example of how I should act relative to dealing with my XWs. This from a person who constantly bad mouths her boyfriend behind his back.
At the latest gathering, on Thanksgiving, she made sure to inform everyone, out of his earshot, that she had broken up with him and that she was a bit ruffled by the fact that he insisted on attending our family’s function despite this.
Knowing this guy , I have no doubt that this was untrue. In fact, my son disclosed to me that he had used her phone and seen her texts to him urging him to attend.
I get advised to be more thoughtful of others and hear lies about what my siblings have said about me. When I check with them, they deny having said such things.
I have learned to simply excise these types of toxic peole from my life. There was a time when hearing this type of crap would have hurt me a lot more than it does now. But, I can see much more clearly how inappropriate and mean spirited these attacks are and I consider the source.
I am currently seeking treatment, I have begun EMDR with one therapist, talk with another counselor, I’m meeting with another through our local Safehouse (Domestic Abuse Organization) and have to get in touch with another therapist through my Church – I don’t know if it makes sense to do it this way but I’m basically trying to get any and all counseling that may be available to me and I’ve already learned a lot more than I ever imagined about myself. Since I’m unemployed and money is an issue I am seeking out inexpensive or free services – so since that’s what I have to work with I’m getting ANY and ALL I can.
I sometimes have to almost force myself to come here and peruse these articles I try to keep this stuff out of my mind but even if it’s not on my mind I carry the years of guilt and shame with me… I know from experience that this abuse stuff does a NUMBER on you!!! I have been in SEVERAL abusive relationships and was abused as a child and at age 53 I’m only NOW realizing this up until now I have ALWAYS blamed myself for EVERYTHING – realizations like these are HUGE – and very very true – I am miserable because I have come to believe all this false stuff about myself and have for so very long.
Thanks again for another great post – as usual you are so right – you hit the nail on the head – and I can’t get myself into therapy quick enough. Wish me luck!!!
never again says
JYS, keep workin’ it. You’ll get back on track soon enough.
Having said that, I know that there were times I was a bastard. I was angry and sullen. Co-dependence can do that to you, and trying 24/7/365 to be perfect, but never being quite good enough is more than anyone can handle.
I’ll readily admit my mistakes. But I also know that I was a good – no, GREAT, husband and stepfather and that I did not deserve ONE BIT of the treatment I suffered at the hands of my NPD. She, herself, told her friends AFTER I left, that I was “99% wonderful”. Doesn’t make it any easier, though.
never again, I have read countless stories of guys who, after a lot off provocation and years of frustration, finally acted out of character. And, once they do, it plays right into the real abuser’s hands, as they take that behavior and use it as proof that you are the abuser.
My first wife was an expert at this. Here is an example or two:
I had just returned from seeing my dad on his deathbed, a long trip and I was exhausted emotionally and physically. He weighed, probably,100lbs and was suffering immensley,
My first wife had been cheating for about 2-3 years, but I had not confronted her as of yet. So, there was much hostility between us. She was even meaner and more verbally abusive once she began having affairs with strange men she met in bars.
In any case, Sunday was the day I normally took out the garbage and, having just returned from seeing my Dad,I forgot.
My senstive wife proceeded to tell me how irresponsoble I was and how angry she was at me for forgetting this task. Finally, after years of taking this crap, I told her she was a selfish, abusive asshole.
She latched onto that and, forever after, I was an abuser.
Once, she returned home at 3 in the morning and proceeded to describe the physique of the young man she had been with that night. I am sure she hoped to provoke me into something. I just ignored her. We divorced soon thereafter.
Quite the article,
Not that my story is a different than anyone else’s, I just took me alot longer to realize how bad it was, or i just ignored it for years. I have been married for 24 years, 6 children, four at home.
Though it was not until the last few of therapy which started was started by the wife telling me i needed it. And then marriage counseling, because the individual therapist said it was needed. She worked with me for 3 years, telling me it was not me, she helped me change a few things to better my self. But then told me, I cant do anymore for you. It’s not you, your need to make a decision to end the marriage. So I asked the wife if it was ok to see the marriage counselor as individual also. she agreed. It was here that all the ground work from the first therapist started to sink in. The marriage counselor only validated what the individual counselor had been telling me along. Between both these wonderful Dr’s, I was able to start to have a better understanding of the dynamics of my broken marriage and what was the contributing factor. It has now been 6 months since I started seeing the marriage counselor alone and together with the wife. well as most of us now by now, as soon as the attention was turned towards the wife, she no longer wanted to go. So we started again with another new marriage counselor, that lasted two visits. This counselor had been filled in by the others and by the second visit, she had already determined the wife needed help. But as we all know the wife said no more marriage counseling ever, never again.
So in thinking back over the years to when it all started, I am not sure, but i do now I was really thinking about it 16 years back. And was talked into staying, so 16 years later and three more kids, I’m stuck, screwed and will be finicially destroyed,let alone trying to get back to law enforcement, is now out of the question. I now wonder who i am, where i am going and when will the depression be over.
Closure et al: great insights and lightbulb moments!
It occurs me, on occasion, that there is beauty from the ashes of abuse. I believe I have been surrounded by NPDs and BPDs, not to mention a so called ‘best friend’ who was a true sociopath, my whole life…so I have sought out therapy over and over again to try to ‘get to the heart of’ my problem.
Maybe we’re the lucky ones…we have the ability to grow and change (unlike PD’d people)…we can evolve from the abuse, and move forward, and do what we’re doing here…offering insight that hopefully is of some help to others who are going through it / recovering from past abuse.
Yes, we become somewhat disordered, confused and will act abusively toward an abuser when pushed to the limit. I know that the condescending smile of my NPD-AXH after he’d said or done something in public that would remind me of the crap he put me through behind closed doors used to fill me with rage.
However, what a revelation when I realized, little by little…it wasn’t me! I did have some emotional issues, without which I never would have put up with that…however, I have always believed that there is alway room for improvement in myself, so when my actions were called into question by anyone (yes, including TV talk show hosts and televangelists–who didn’t even know me!), I would constantly adjust myself to be a ‘better’ person because, obviously he/she knew who and what I was supposed to be better than I could. No, really…I actually did believe that anyone who disapproved of me must have known better…so I kept turning myself into someone ‘better’ over and over and over…and lost myself, and forgot who I was.
To me, poweful recovery is an act of remembering who we are…not who we used to be, but who we still are, underneath the ‘protective shroud’ we’ve wrapped around our hearts, minds and personalities.
I started with “Who was I when I was 10?” For some reason, that seems to be an age where I knew what I wanted in life (to be a writer…bet you couldn’t have guessed!) and felt comfortable with myself…right before puberty and junior high got the better of me.
Closure wrote: “…an insane curiosity to ‘know’, to ‘solve’, to ‘figure-out’, to be ‘the one to help, fix, be the care-taker’. Through him I was also trying to understand the first BP. I have humbly understood now that this insane ‘fix-it’ or ‘hoping-my-love-and-kindness-will-cure-your-cluster-B’ was my hidden subconscious pride and therefore my Waterloo.”
TGI responds: OMG…holy sh**…wow. I’ve also always been one to get to the heart of a problem…matter of fact, a ‘personality test’ once described me that way. And, I have also always had a bit of a ‘hero’ complex…probably from childhood, trying to prove that I’m capable of not only taking care of myself, but fix and heal others too. A sincere Thank You for the lightbulb moment your words have given me!
Closure wrote: “I was very very polite, almost Spock-like, and felt pity that cluster Bs must feel great pain inside. Even at that moment I felt if only I could hug hard and take away his pain. Now I see my own mistake. I do have a problem expressing loud emotions. maybe it’s a quasi-aspie thing.”
TGI responds: That reminds me of a conversation I had with my NPD(?) sis, after making one polite request, and repeating it over and over again, that blew up into a huge screaming confrontation…then I repeated it again, quietly, and she walked off, yelling insults to me from down the hall. I felt good that I didn’t fall prey to her victimhood or her demeaning insults, but stuck to my guns…and watched her go into a major meltdown without reacting to it. I took it for what it was…an attempt to protect her ego. That was kinda cool!
I was reading a magazine that suggests that people with asberger’s / milder forms of autism tend to gravitate towards engineering. A contributor even suggested that asperger’s shouldn’t be looked as so much as a disorder, as a different perspective.
Closure wrote: “..meaning “he could understand criminal minds very well because he thought like a criminal too.”
TGI responds: That reminds me of something an abuse recovery counselor told me; that abusers tend to think like criminals, in that they believe they are above the law, rule are for other people, and that they are never to blame for their own actions
Ron7127 wrote: “I had the power, all along…” that reminds me of an o-o-l-ldd REO Speedwagon song, “All I really know is what I see; and everybody sees it differently, I wish someone could open up my soul and set the demon free…but I’m the only one who holds the key.” There’s an Eagles song with a similar theme, too, but I can’t remember it just now. A universal truth, IMO.
Junkyardsaint wrote: “I am miserable because I have come to believe all this false stuff about myself and have for so very long.”
1. You are NOT the definition of the word miserable…you feel miserable. Changing the way we use language can make a difference in how we see things.
2. it is so true that all the degrees on a wall, experience, money, status, things we possess have NO bearing on our present or future success; what we believe is the most powerful and accurate predictor of our success in life. For such a long time, I believed I wasn’t worthy of a decent relationship, platonic or romantic, so I gravitated towards people with huge, glaring fatal flaws, b/c anyone who didn’t, obviously wouldn’t be interested in a loser like me…lies. All lies. It was harder than steering the Titanic to change my thinking…but, ooh, baby! Well worth it!!
The healthier we become, the healthier people, jobs, business deals, we attract in life…and the less we are able to stomach abusive people.
God Bless and here’s to New Beginnings in the New Year,
wow,enlightening.i am going thru all this,its insanity and yes,its my fault i let it go and stayed.
i to am accused of doing things on “purpose”.its insane.she knows what im thinking and why i do things i do.we were robbed once and half her jewelry was stolen and half left.nothing else was touched opr taken.i beleive it was a family member who copied her keys,she has nieces and nephews and she always were at their houise and she is careless with her pocketbook.anyway,i was accused.i called the police and because it was 95 degress and i wanted to stay in the ac room and not be in the hot hallway with the police i was guilty.i sweat a lot and cant take heat she knows this and still said it was weird.
the door wasnt broken and they used a key.
she says i dont talk to her and ignore her,i have to,its a fight all the time.i always fall into the trap,we talk and i let my guard down and open up to her and wham,it goes off.its always the wrong thing i say or do.for yrs she wouldnt talk politics or religion with me,now she openly talks about it with people at work.but when i do it its wrong.
im accused of wanting her dead,she tells friends this.that hurts.i have never hurt her.we were seperated and she was whoring and used me to pay rent and bills.she even let me move in and still went out wiht others and told me to fuck off.
anyway i could go on for hrs
i need help