The articles What I Wish I Knew Before Marrying a Man with a Crazy Ex-Wife, Fortifying Your Fortress: Healthy Boundaries Are Your Best Defense Against Abusive High-Conflict Personalities, and Dating After Divorcing a High-Conflict Woman: Are You Ready to Date Again? raise several issues men and women face after being married to Crazy.
Many men and women in abusive marriages and relationships with high-conflict people and/or abusive personality disordered individuals, henceforth known as Crazy, often become institutionalized. This doesn’t mean that men and women who partner with Crazy are in straight jackets and padded cells.
In the context of this article, the abusive relationship is the “institution” and the abusive spouse is the cruel warden, prison guard, nurse or doctor. Crazy gives new meaning to the term “institution of marriage” as men and women ending a relationship with Crazy often refer to it as “breaking out of prison” or “escaping the looney bin.”
People in lock-down facilities or abusive relationships rarely walk away unscathed. Being institutionalized can lead to institutional syndrome:
Institutional syndrome refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills, which develop after a person has spent a long period living in mental hospitals, prisons, or other remote institutions. In other words, individuals in institutions may be deprived of independence and of responsibility, to the point that once they return to “outside life” they are often unable to manage many of its demands; it has also been argued that institutionalized individuals become psychologically more prone to mental health problems.
Institutionalization incorporates the norms of an abusive relationship, which are far from normal, into your day-to-day habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. Not all individuals ending an abusive relationship have trouble adjusting. However, an abusive relationship, much like a prison sentence, “is painful, and incarcerated persons often suffer long-term consequences from having been subjected to pain, deprivation, and extremely atypical patterns and norms of living and interacting with others” just like the partner of an abusive partner does (Haney, 2001).
ChangingMinds.org discusses the deliberate institutionalization process frequently used in prison systems. The parallels between the institutionalization process and abusive relationships are striking:
1. Depersonalize from the beginning. This involves the dismantling of your old identity. Your beliefs, opinions and feelings must be identical to hers. You cease to be yourself and become someone you don’t recognize.
2. Force a break with the outside world. Isolating you from friends, family and loved ones is typical abuser modus operandi.
3. Force obedience. If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay — be it hot (e.g., explosive rage-outs) or cold (e.g., emotional withdrawal, the cold shoulder, guilt tripping or shaming).
4. Destroy the self. This involves taking away things, pastimes and people you once enjoyed and/or making you perform tasks, menial work, etc., to put you in an inferior position to her. Many of my clients’ wives require them to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves. It’s part power play and part narcissistic entitlement; i.e., “Filling out this online form is beneath me. You do it for me.”
5. Physical [and verbal] assault. Again, this is a power play to show who’s in charge. She’s the boss; you’re the bitch.
6. Control every aspect of your life. “Controlling every element of your life takes away your ability to decide. When you speak, how you eat, how and when you use the toilet, may all be controlled. What you do, including the repetition of futile and useless work is dictated to you.
Institutionalization also involves the introject of prison life (or life in an abusive relationship) as normal, while everything outside the institution (or the abusive relationship) is projected as abnormal or bad.
Institutionalization is complete when the inmate or abused spouse “fears and rejects the outside world, feeling at home only within the institution” (ChangingMinds.org).
There’s a scene in The Shawshank Redemption that illustrates this phenomenon very well. Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, is released on parole after being incarcerated for most of his adult life. While at work, he needs to use the bathroom and asks his supervisor if it’s okay. His boss tells him he doesn’t have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. Freeman narrates:
Forty years I’ve been asking permission to piss. I can’t squeeze a drop without say-so. There’s a harsh truth to face: no way I’m gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole so maybe they’d send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won’t have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me – a promise I made to Andy.
Thus, being in an institution or abusive relationship subjects you to conditions that may make you initially ill-suited to life on the outside. Living with an abusive, high-conflict personality can cause you to develop habits, behaviors, beliefs, fears and emotional and psychological tics that make it difficult for you to function and adapt to life and new healthy relationships after breaking up. Even worse, being in an abusive relationship can prime you for another abusive relationship (i.e., a return trip to the institution.)
After your ex became secure in your relationship and removed the mask hiding her abusive nature, you probably had to make adjustments within yourself or face very unpleasant consequences. The changes in perspective and behavior you underwent because of your abusive relationship were a natural adaptation to a maladaptive situation.
Haney (2003) explains:
The dysfunctionality of these adaptations is not “pathological” in a traditional sense (even though, in practical terms, they may be destructive in effect). Instead, the adaptations themselves are normal reactions to set of pathological conditions that become problematic when they are taken to extreme lengths, or become chronic or deeply internalized so that, even though surrounding conditions may change, many of the once-functional but ultimately counterproductive patterns remain.
Some Shrink4Men community members use the idiom, lie down with dogs and rise with fleas, to describe this.
If you are or were involved with an abusive, high-conflict and/or personality disordered woman, it’s very important to be aware of how being institutionalize” has changed you, so that you can transition back to life on the outside rather than carry the maladaptive behaviors and beliefs you developed while with Crazy into your next relationship. For example, perhaps you forgot how to set boundaries or how to handle conflict productively. Perhaps you’re afraid to express emotions or to let others get too close. Perhaps you have difficulty making decisions or saying no. Perhaps you map the motivations and malicious intent of your abusive ex onto your new partner undeservedly. Perhaps it’s time for a flea dip.
Counseling 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. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.
Haney, C. (2001). The psychological impact of incarceration: Implications for post prison adjustment. University of California, Santa Cruz.
Haney, C. (2003.) Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families and communities. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.
Shawshank Redemption was a really good but really depressing movie. Depressing because the characters were developing really bad coping mechanisms in response to a situation that was impossible to cope with.
It really makes me hate people who have the capacity to be so cruel and selfish as to crush another person’s soul this way.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Shawshank can be a tad depressing, but ultimately, it’s a testament to two individuals who chose not to let the abuses of the institution, corrupt guards and wardens and violent inmates break them.
I find the scene in which Tim Robinson (Andy Dufresne) breaks out of prison by swimming through a river of shit to be particularly analogous to what many men and women go through when divorcing an abusive, high-conflict personality.
Unfortunately, when children are involved, you often have to dip your toes back in the sewage.
I’m with you, MB, re: people who crush others’ souls cruelly and selfishly. It’s difficult to have any compassion for them. I do in the abstract, because it must suck to be so wretched. On the other hand, most of my compassion and sympathy are for the folks who get caught in Crazy’s wake of collateral destruction.
Oh my. This is heartbreaking to read because it is so so true.
Before meeting J I was in a 7 year long marriage with my own HCP man. Our story is long, and complicated but J ultimately saved me from that relationship and he lived through the first year of my “freedom” with me, just as I’m living through his first year with him now.
He couldn’t believe how much I repeatedly said, “I’m sorry” for things that weren’t my fault, and how I asked permission to do EVERYTHING from making certain things for dinner to buying tampons (yes, my ex once screamed at me for an hour straight because I bought tampons without asking first). After the shock wore off, I soon discovered that even though I was free…I wasn’t free. I was still locked in my own psychological prison that was built quite well by my ex. It took several months to really start breaking down walls. And honestly, a lot of them are still there and I really don’t know when they are going to go away.
J jokes all the time that instead of telling me, “Hey baby, don’t worry about that…I will take care of the dishes.” He has to say, “Just get away from the dishes and go sit on the couch…now.” in order to get me to not apologetically insist on doing everything to avoid any kind of conflict or adding any perceived extra stress on him. This is all leftover.
J is only a few months out of his relationship with his HCP wife and we are still stumbling across his own labyrinth of prison walls. They tend to pop up out of no where when you least expect it.
Patience, kindness, and understanding is crucial when you start dating a person who was once in a relationship with an HCP. It is so easy for them to slip back into old habits so you have to be willing to be that person to hold them when they cry and to gently push them to re-blossom when they are ready and support them as they change and rediscover who they are now, post HCP.
So kudos to those ladies on here who stand by their guys!
Thanks again for the fantastic read.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for sharing your experience with this. Abuse is a learned behavior and responses to abuse are also learned. If it’s learned, it can be unlearned with enough self-awareness and effort—at least responses to abuse can be unlearned. It’s much tougher to unlearn using intimidation and bullying to control others, unfortunately.
I can relate very well to this article. Not only was I in two relationships with HCP women but I am also a correctional officer at a state prison (23 years). So, I have a very clear understanding of what it means to be institutionalized from both perspectives. I have been separated/divorced…paroled…from my second wife for about a year. It has taken about that long to regain my sense of self and confidence.
I sometimes still hear her voice griping at me about the way I address envelopes, not folding the towels “efficiently”, and for not rotating the toilet paper (old to the front, new to the back). But everytime I hear that voice I just silently say to myself, “Shut up, Bitch!” and do the task the way I want to do it.
She left some very deep wounds, most of which I never realized were there until after breaking away. Being told what to do and how to it did indeed severely handicap me. However, I am slowly recovering and beginning to enjoy life again.
I remember the first relationship I had after divorcing my abusive, cheating wife. The woman I was with was always so consistently nice and rational, that I was just waiting for her to explode. I’d get stuck in traffic and be 5 minutes late or something, and she would not even notice, let alone go ballistic like I was used to. I kept waiting for her to criticize my parenting skills or to belittle my family, but it never happened. It was quite nice, but it took me a long time to relax and enjoy it.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
What you describe is very common amongst “parolees” in new relationships with non-abusive women. I call it the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” phase. Gentleness and patience with yourself are an important part of the healing process. It’s also important to discuss what you’re feeling and thinking with your new partner—that is if your new partner isn’t like the last one.
I hear ya, Ron. That walking on eggshells syndrome is a tough one to get over, isn’t it? For me the story is a bit different. I met someone a few months ago when I was invited to go along on a single’s hike. She was pretty and nice. I thought we were getting along pretty good until one day she just disappeared. Didn’t see her, didn’t get a call from her, no email, nothing. We weren’t serious in any way so I didn’t want to appear like a stalker and drive by her house to check on her. However, I did send her three emails and got no reply. Then out of the blue three weeks later she reemerged and wanted to pick up right where we left off at without even so much as an, “I’m sorry but…” I dropped her right away because to me that was a HUGE red flag a’wavin’. Looking back I might have been a little hyper-vigilant (an eggshell moment) but to me going forward in the relationship wasn’t worth the risk.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I’m happy to read you’re getting yourself and your life back. It never ceases to amaze me the degree of control/micromanagement many abusive types exert. Seriously, do they really care how the towels are folded? Probably not. The “issue” is rarely THE issue. Maddening.
Dr. T – I can laugh about it now (5+ yrs out), but that old ‘fold the towel this way’ bit reminds me of a disagreement I had with my NPD AXH – I wanted to put the silverware in one drawer, and explained my reasons, and move the extras to another drawer. He insisted it be the opposite. I asked him why he wanted it that way and he answered, “I just do.”
It wasn’t that it made a damn bit of difference where the stupid silverware went…I suspect that he just wanted it where HE wanted it because I said I wanted it elsewhere.
There was a lot of that kind of crap. Complain about the garage being dirty, so I cleaned it and he essentiall undid everything I had done. He had to control where all the groceries went in the cupboard, and fire & brimstone! if I dared try to move it…talked about cleaning up the garden shed, so I started moving things out of it, and when he got home, he moved those same things right back in…
It does get better. And healing does take time and active work. And the healthier you become, the healthier people (romantic, platonic, business relationships, etc) you will attract.
Your story sounds a lot like the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Scary…
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Very scary. The movie, that is. Nevertheless, it’s the kind of mindless controlling behavior that can slowly drive you mad over the long-term.
Thank you Dr. Tara. I really appreciate the encouragement. I came across your website while I was still married. Reading through your articles made me realize that I wasn’t the horrible guy I was accused of being but I still had trouble believing it. …That is until one day she checked the history on the computer and saw your blog listed. (It was the ‘Crazy Bitch’ check list). She came completely unhinged and screamed at me, “I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU NOT TO READ THROUGH THOSE TYPES OF WEBSITES!!!” I thought to myself, “Wow, who are you? My mother?” It was at that moment everything you had written was confirmed and I knew I had to get out. You and others have played an instrumental part in my release from a hellish prison. And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
“I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU NOT TO READ THROUGH THOSE TYPES OF WEBSITES!!!”
Wow and this is why I recommend that men married to Crazy not print out articles I’ve written for them to read. I can almost guarantee that it won’t help them to see the light and change your ways.
You’re very welcome, jward21us. Glad the website helped you to leave such a horrible relationship.
Free at Last says
Dr. T, thank you for yet another very illuminating article. I admire your choice of The Shawshank Redemption to clearly illustrate the effects of long-term abuse, and your oh-so-apt analogy of “swimming through a river of shit” to escape it.
I liked the movie so much that I eventually bought my own copy on DVD to watch it again, and watched it yet again just a couple of months ago. Although very disturbing in spots, I didn’t find it depressing. But my parents are both originally from Eastern Europe and survived World War II; my father spent several months in a Siberian labour camp. So I grew up learning that no difficulties or hardships were insurmountable; one just needs to stay calm, find solutions, be patient and keep moving forward – just like Andy Dufresne did.
As you’re probably thinking right now, yes, it’s precisely this part of my childhood that I used to justify staying in a ridiculous relationship for an additional three or four months. I believe what my parents taught me is a good thing, but it applies without question only in times of war or during prison terms – certainly not in relationships. If I ever find myself feeling imprisoned by or at war with my partner again, I’m outta there!
In my opinion, Warden Norton was a textbook psychopath: controlling, manipulative, abusive and completely lacking remorse, compassion and empathy. The most obvious incident was the incredibly evil and manipulative way he designed and carried out the murder of Andy’s young protégé Tommy. Less obvious was his callous disregard for how his dirty cheap-labour scheme was destroying the livelihood of legitimate businessmen in the nearby towns. Norton’s solution? Bribe me if you want to stay in business.
A must-watch movie for all of us here, I think. Some encouragement for those who haven’t yet seen it: imdb.com rates it as 9.2 out of 10, and they’re typically rather critical.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks, Free at Last. I own a copy of Shawshank, too, and watch it every now and again.
Sometimes, the best solution is to tunnel yourself out quietly, skip town with your assets and head for a beach in Mexico without a trace (if children aren’t involved).
Unfortunately for me The Shawshank Redemption was incredibly difficult and disturbing to watch. Perhaps because I was in the middle of an abusive relationship and the part of me that was still alive was screaming that this is so wrong. I found it depressing and in some places so unsettling that I had to leave the theater. Or maybe I really am the monster she portrays me as. At any rate this article hits a bit too close to home for me. I’ve felt quite literally a prisoner in my own home being interrogated repeatedly by the warden and the punished for imagined transgressions. So how does one overcome the damage and relate to the outside world in a healthy manner?
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I apologize if this article caused you pain, alreadylost. It’s difficult subject matter. The important thing to remember is that YOU hold the key to any cage you find yourself in, whether you realize it or not.
You overcome the damage by getting out of the prison and reconnecting with the things and people that were important to you before Crazy entered your life. You heal by taking care of yourself physically and emotionally.
Mr. E says
“Many of my clients’ wives require them to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves. It’s part power play and part narcissistic entitlement; i.e., “Filling out this online form is beneath me. You do it for me.“”
If you want to have an exciting evening, refuse to place her order for her. Mine threw my wallet at my head from across the room, and mocked me when I failed to catch it (I simply blocked it from hitting me in the face). I kept refusing, and left the room. Later, she informed me she’d decided to spend an extra $100 since I was being a jerk.
Another great post. I marvel at how these people are all so similar that their behavior can be predicted. I’m glad that the effects of their behavior are also somewhat predictable – it may make recovery a bit easier.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Let me guess, she wouldn’t have thrown the wallet at your head if you had only . . . and it’s your fault she had to spend $100 because you had to be taught a lesson.
I don’t know how you do it, Mr E.
Mr. E says
Yep, it was all my fault, according to her. I don’t know how she puts up with me. If I were her, I’d have left me for sure by now. [end sarcasm]
As for me, my resolve to get out is getting stronger every day. I’ve made the breakthrough of remembering what a total, uh, piece of work she was the day before on those occasions when she starts acting nice. Next leap is to lawyer up, take a deep breath and crawl through that river. I’ve heard all rivers lead to the ocean, and from there it’s an easy sail to pug island.
Another good quote from that movie: Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Ron On Drums says
Interesting post. I enjoyed it as always. I guess I had it better than most after breaking it with a HCP girlfriend some time ago. I did however go through a phase of wanting to feel validated as a man. My resolution wasn’t the smartest play in the book but looking back understandable.
I wont go into great detail as it would be TMI….lol But being a drummer in a rock band provides opportunities that few things will. I just needed to feel wanted & validated. My behavior wasn’t the smartest & I would never do that again today. I am lucky I didn’t get seriously burned through unwanted pregnancy or even worse. It was a learning experience.
But in a weird way it really helped. It helped me to know that another would want me. When I broke it with the HCP like most I was told “nobody would ever want you” etc etc. I did later meet & marry a wonderful woman who didn’t hold that past against me. I also didn’t meet her at a show so I know she wanted me…not “Rock Star” me. Not that I am a rock star but dating women from shows fall in love with the image, not the man. When they see we are normal average men the fantasy is over. Anyway I am rambling again. Thanks Dr T. You do a GREAT service
Keep on Rockin
Dr Tara Palmatier says
See, you’re living proof that you can heal and find a healthy relationship after Crazy. Very happy for you and the Missus that you found each other. Being involved with an abusive HCP can very easily sour even the most optimistic soul on romantic relationships. If you lose your faith in others and ability to love then “the terrorists win.”
Rather than Shawshank, I would compare marriage with children with HCP to be more like a POW camp. The verbal and emotional torture is felt in PTSD like symptoms that can be life long. Attempts to escape can lead to complete identity loss. Emotional scarring is your parting gift. Any attempts to save your children means going back into the camp which will undoubtably result in more pain and suffering and blood loss.
When my husband’s first wife finally left him for her “soul mate”, he believes she thought he would shrivel up and die. He’d been told for years that he was good for nothing and the bane of her existance. He did the opposite, he began to breath again. Took it one day at a time. Interestingly, when I came into the picture, she suddenly took interest in him again and the drama escalated to even higher proportions. Out came the big guns of a HCP’s arsenal.
He came home one day and found her on the porch. She smiled and waved to him as he came up the driveway. When he got out of his truck, she told him that he was going to fix the brakes on her car. He told him that he would do no such thing. She proceeded to give him the universal sign of friendship (two middle fingers) and within earshop of the pre-teen children, proceeded to tell him that he hopes his new girlfriend teaches him how to …..(rhymes with “cluck”).
This was only the beginning.
“Interestingly, when I came into the picture, she suddenly took interest in him again and the drama escalated to even higher proportions. Out came the big guns of a HCP’s arsenal.”
Funny how that happens…and actually, really funny how they are so amazed and seemingly devastated that there IS LIFE after HCP!! That their ‘creature’ they once ‘owned’ is not crawling back, begging for more of the same!! (“Please, captain, may I have another?” – Dead Poets Society)
Here’s a litmus test (not that anyone here needs one) – if someone goes from ‘hating’ something to ‘loving’ that exact thing (or vice versa)–like their ex / STBX / your interests / family, etc. – this is the sign of an abusive personality.
When someone is sickeningly sweet, always giving, doting on you, giving you all you ever wanted…so much so, that you can’t believe (*ahem*) that they are really THAT nice…that, believe it or not, is another sign.
It’s kind of like a pendulum – if it swings ‘so far’ over one way, it will eventually swing that same distance or farther over the other way.
“exciting” doesn’t always mean ‘fun.’
My 2 cents~
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You are on fire tonight, TGI! Great comments. Spot on.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I swear these people are like perpetual toddlers with an old toy they neither want nor play with anymore — UNTIL someone else shows interest in their discarded toy. Then they screech, “MIIIIIIINNNNNNNNE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” ANy kind of emotional involvement with these types makes them believe they own you for life.
Has the ex left you and your husband alone or is this still going on, santamaria?
Scene: 14 months after we broke during which time I don’t think we so much as shook hands but 10 minutes after learning I was seeing another woman:
Her: “If I sleep with you now, you’ll own me again.”
Me” “Neither of us wants that.”
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Predictable (the ex, not you, Mellaril).
We’ve had 5 years of no significant contact with her. We both run into her from time to time and it’s usually quite humorous and odd when we do. She hid behind a dumpster one time when she saw us coming, has waved to my husband as he’s driven by her in a parking lot and looked sad when he didn’t return her wave, and she has spoken to me at the grocery store. That was a wierd experience because I honestly didn’t recognize her when it happened. This woman came up to me, visibly shaking while pushing her cart and said hello. Not realizing who it was, with a great big smile I said hi and asked her how she was. She told me she was well and thanked me for asking. It was about two aisles later that I realized it had been her. My first reaction then was that I wished I had ripped a strip off of her but then after thinking about it, I believe that my friendliness had been the perfect response.
It hasn’t ended though. His children haven’t spoken to him ironically also, in about 5 years. That was after she brought them out to the house to pick up the dog, if you can believe it, so that they could have a “family outing”. She seemed to find ways to continue to come to the house. Whether it was to be nosy, or as a way to show her power over him with now having the children “on her side”, I suspect really both.
Dr. F says
When it comes to bad behaviour I think there are three sources from which it comes.
1/ The Ignorant.
2/ The Mentally deficient.
3/ The Mentally disturbed.
For the life of me I haven’t been able to think of a fourth one, and while there is simplicity and neatness in the idea of there only being these three sources, it should be noted that there are subsets with number three.
The mentally disturbed by this measure means all those that fit the description in the OP and there are all the others we know.
This means the psychotic, depressed, drug addled, sufferers of severe PTSD, sociopathic etc. ( I might include international bankers and traveling side show medics but restraint and good manners hold me in check )
We all have to deal with difficult people and their thwartive ways from time to time and there is no escaping this. Living in an imperfect world of imperfect people made by imperfect parents will make this always the case. It always has and will always be so.
My heart goes out to the lousy stories I have read here just now and I can’t really hold a candle to some of them. I know that I am just one of the mill having been in a buggered set up with a woman but I’ll tell you right off the bat that one thing made it much easier to see that glowing exit sign.
It was holding close to my chest the knowing of the truism of the those three sources.
All I had to do when faced with extraordinary behaviour from this woman was to ask myself quite simply something like, “Now what number is this ?”
Time and time again the answer was number three.
That’s right – It dawned on me that she was a womb to tomb bow-tie spinning, lollipop eyed, quivering, ball of nut cake and there was nothing I could do to make anything different. Nothing.
Sometimes when she got drunk or stoned and she behaved poorly my answer would be that it was a combination of number one and a number three in two ways. Let me explain a bit more.
If she was acting like a ratbag and I smelled dope on her then it would be number three in two parts. One part disturbed by way of “Misappropriated pharmaceutical self administration” and the other part disturbed by way of “Forever nut”.
Her yelling at me was put down to number one as I believed that her background did not support and environment where she could have learned effective conflict resolution.
The thing is though and this is the kicker. whether or not she was ignorant or just in a bad mood, had a lonely childhood or had been ripped off by the hawker down the street She was always the “Forever nut”. This was the touch stone of her and like all stones they won’t change in your lifetime.
It took me a month of adamant and cold introspection of the facts before me and a constant referring to this axiom that had me calculate with certainty my sonic speed exit.
Life could so easily be worse knowing less of matters like this.
I have recently (finally) started dating after divorce from a BPD/NPD.
The amazing thing, is having taken the time (almost 2 years) to really learn about this stuff, and learn about how to hold boundaries and not be too ‘nice’, as well as learning red flags, i feel like its going well so far.
i have gone out with multiple people and its amazing, if you know what to look for and pay attention, what people will show you and tell you up front. i think in my younger, pre-BPD years, i just took what people said at face value and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. now i realize how to BELIEVE them when they tell you ‘what a mess’ they are on the first or 2nd date.
Here are some doozies that I have quickly walked away from, all of which were stated on 1st or 2nd date!:
-talking about her years and years of therapy or ‘rough childhood’
-saying ‘i always have to be in control, what about you? do you always have to be in control too?’ (ie, or ‘can i control you?)
-‘I don’t like puppies or kittens or children’ (no joke…i mean, really? all 3?).
-“I can be a real bitch sometimes.” (laughs, as if very proud of this fact.)
-“I totally used to be a bully/bitch in high school” (again, apparently this is hilarious).
-Me: You look nice tonight. Her: Yeah, i know right? I wish someone had brought a camera bc i really need new photos for my facebook.
-…and then for the love bombing. One woman, on the 2nd date, told me she was in love iwth me and wanted to marry me. (i used to fall for this flattery…she is also a model and very pretty). not again!
So, long story short. this is just a glimpse into getting back out there. there are equally though, VERY nice, sane, smart women i have met. i haven’t clicked with the right one yet, but I am holding out. and im walking away from people at the first HINT of crazy.
in terms of recovery though, even having been intimate with one (very nice) woman other than my ex-BPD…its amazing the reactions/PTSD i have. like i find myself feeling anxious to touch her…bc w my ex it was always walking on eggshells around physical stuff….like ‘is this ok?’ (NO!), how about this? (no! yes!@ maybe!). its been completely eye opening to be with someone who is comfortable in their body, open to sexuality, sets healthy boundaries, and doesn’t make me feel like im in a constant no-win pressurized sexual situation where i can do nothing right. again, my ex had a history of abuse…and i always felt bad for her about it. and, as sad as that is, its SO nice to be intimate with someone who has none of that and is just open and easygoing!
I agree. The institutionalization process does parallel the abusive relationship quite a bit.
My wife thinks it’s odd that I don’t contact my brothers and sisters and why I don’t have any friends. Of course, every attempt to have a close relationship has been squashed with verbal abuse/punishment. And who likes to hear how bad the people are that they care about. So rather than hear that, we push the people we care about away.
I wonder how familiar this quote, from my wife, is for most of us: You need to agree with your wife. I’m your wife. I’m the queen. Other husbands do exactly what their wives want. You should always be on my side no matter what. You should never disagree with your wife! You should do your hair the way I want you to do it! If I ask you to wear a monkey costume for Halloween you should wear it!”