Mary Richardson Kennedy tragically and selfishly committed suicide by hanging herself in the barn of the Kennedy’s Westchester, New York home in May 2012. She killed herself during the midst of a 5-year acrimonious, high-conflict divorce from Robert Kennedy, Jr., after threatening to commit suicide multiple times throughout their tumultuous and abusive marriage.
The Richardson family has gone to great lengths to portray Mary as a long suffering victim of Bobby, Jr. and his multiple infidelities during their marriage. Of course, the Richardsons conveniently forget that the Kennedy’s relationship began as an extramarital affair while Bobby was still married to his first wife, Emily Black Kennedy.
So who is the villain and who is the victim in this sordid mess?
Was Bobby Kennedy, Jr. the abusive, philandering husband who drove Mary Richardson Kennedy to drink and suicide?
Or was Mary a highly destructive, emotionally and physically abusive, yet publicly high functioning and charming woman who kept Bobby trapped in a violent relationship by employing FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) and drove him to seek comfort outside of their relationship?
The Women-Are-Always-The-Victim/Mommies-Can-Do-No-Wrong Brigade have been out in full force condemning Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and his family since her suicide. They also condemned Kennedy for wanting to participate with his children in their mother’s funeral after the stunt the Richardson family pulled trying to bar Kennedy (further traumatizing the Kennedy children). It’s been pretty ugly, in fact. The Richardsons and Women-Are-Always-The-Victim proponents have vilified Bobby and his new partner, Curb Your Enthusiasm actress Cheryl Hines, ever since.
In what seems to be an effort to set the record straight in a particularly nasty smear campaign being conducted by Mary’s negative advocates aka her family of origin, Bobby Kennedy’s divorce and custody affidavit was recently leaked to Newsweek. News reports have been published by The Daily Beast, The New York Post, and several other publications. Newsweek released 8 pages of the 60-page document.
Kennedy’s affidavit begins with the following statements:
I, the Plaintiff in this action . . . am writing this affidavit in support of a motion requiring Mary Richardson Kennedy (“Defendant”) against whom I filed this divorce action of May 2010, to sign a temporary child custody agreement guaranteeing my fair access to our four children . . . until such time as a permanent custody agreement and divorce decree is so ordered by this court, and in support of a motion for a protective order:
a. To require Defendant to stop her physical attacks against me;
b. To require Defendant to remain sober in the presence of our children;
c. To require Defendant to stop efforts to physically restrict my movements including preventing me from driving my car or moving freely from room to room or acting to remove myself from her presence;
d. To require Defendant to stop verbal abuse directed toward me including refraining from all telephone calls and conversations with me that are not directly pertinent to scheduling for our children.
e. To require Defendant to stop stealing my personal property including suitcases, cell phones, toiletry kits, prescription drugs, wallets, passports, computers, papers, briefcases and other items.
f. To forbid Defendant from making uninvited visits to my home at ———– and my summer home at ———–.
g. To forbid Defendant from entering my car uninvited.
h. To prohibit Defendant from following me on vacation trips or business travel where I have asked Defendant not to come.
i. To prohibit Defendant from making disparaging remarks about me to our children,
j. To stop Defendant from engaging in discussion about our marriage in the presence of our children.
k. To prohibit Defendant from threatening suicide in front of the children.
1. To restrict communication between Defendant and myself to written communication by fax, email, text or by a special website http://www.ourfarnilvwizard.com/0fw/ which empowers families to help themselves, track parenting time, reduce divorce conflict and remove the “he said/ she said” that keeps families returning to family law court over joint custody and co-parenting issues. The mandatory use of this website has been court ordered in contested custody cases throughout the USA and Canada.
I read the publicly available portion of Mr Kennedy’s affidavit and it was like reading one of the hundreds of thousands of comments posted by men and women on the Shrink4Men Website, Blog and Forum who have been the targets of abuse of Narcissistic, Borderline and other high-conflict personality disordered partners, exes and family members. By his affidavit, it seems clear that Mary:
- was both physically and emotionally abusive to Bobby and the children from his first marriage and, at the very least, emotionally abusive to the children he shared with Mary;
- was an active alcoholic
- engaged in stalking and harassment behaviors
- engaged in parental alienation
- used suicidal threats to manipulate and emotionally blackmail Kennedy
- engaged in gaslighting (e.g., stealing documents, passports, keys and then claiming no knowledge of the items whereabouts), smear campaigns and other classic abusive behaviors
- murdered a small family pet in order to force interaction with Kennedy after the separation
Many Relationships with Borderlines are Forged through Similar Childhood Traumas
Bobby Kennedy, Jr. comes from a famously dysfunctional family marked by very public tragedies, addictions and other issues. His father was murdered when he was a young child and he became a heroin user in early adulthood (he has been in recovery for many years now). Mary had a similarly dark childhood, including the loss of her father and struggles with anorexia and alcoholism. It would seem that the former couple’s early life tragedies helped to create a strong and codependent bond between them, which is the case in many BPD couplings.
An Intense, Passionate, “Fated” Beginning and the Urgency to Commit
In his affidavit, Kennedy recounts how he and Mary fell in love. He describes their intense bond and all the many wonderful qualities Mary possessed during their courtship that caused him to fall in love with her. They shared similar backgrounds, shared similar struggles, Mary was best friends with Bobby’s sister, Kerry, they were both passionate about environmental issues and social justice and enjoyed travel adventure.
During the courtship and love bombing stage with a BPD, the individual with BPD will mirror their partner’s passions and interests. These relationships are often characterized by an accelerated intense intimacy (fueled by the borderline pathology to secure a love attachment) with a rush to commit either through emotional pressure or “accidental” pregnancies.
Kennedy states in his affidavit that he fell passionately in love with Mary in 1993 while he was still married to his first wife. They then married in 1994 three weeks after his divorce from Emily Black was finished. At the time of the marriage, Mary was 6 months pregnant with their son Conor.
When the Mask Starts to Slip
Once a relationship has been established with a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder, it’s very common for their personality to dramatically change after they have secured an attachment either through marriage (i.e., because they know Family Court will aid and abet women in financially raping their ex-husbands and grant even the most abusive women primary custody) or the birth of a child (i.e., a child becomes an abandonment insurance policy, hostage and/or weapon. Borderline women are especially adept at abusing and controlling their partners via their children).*
The Daily Beast reports that Kennedy says Mary’s abuse and violence began after she became pregnant with their first child before they were married:
“Mary’s violence and physical abuse toward me began before we were married . . . Soon after Mary became pregnant with our first son, Mary, in a sudden rage about my continued friendship with [my ex-wife] Emily, hit me in the face with her fist. She was a trained boxer and I got a shiner. Her engagement ring crushed my tear duct causing permanent damage … Mary asked me to lie to her family about the cause of my shiner.”
In the beginning of their romance, Kennedy states that Mary was warm and loving to his children, Kathleen (“Kick”) and Bobby, III. After they were married and Mary was pregnant, her behavior changed and she began to abuse the Kennedy children. He writes:
“During our early courtship, Mary was a wonderful friend and mother to my children from my first marriage, Robert Francis (“Bobby”) born on September 2, 1984 and Kathleen Alexandra born on April i3, 1988. However, soon after our marriage, Mary began to be abusive toward both my children and particularly hateful toward Kick.
For many years, I was unaware of the intensity of Mary’s abuse and violence toward Kick. However, after only three years of marriage, I saw enough evidence of troubling conduct to trigger my efforts to divorce Mary.
By that time, Kick’s mother, Emily, had remarried and was living in Washington D.C. Bobby and Kick flew up to stay with me three weekends a month. Nearly every Sunday, before I drove them to LaGuardia, Kick would lose some vital item of her travel kit, for example, her wallet or plane ticket. Exasperated by the weekly stress of this routine, I gently chided Kick, then 9 years old, that she had to be more responsible about keeping track of her things. Her eyes filled with tears and she said to me, ‘Daddy, I think Mary is stealing from me.’ I hugged her and said, ‘don’t say that, Mary loves you, she would never do anything to hurt you.’ She looked me in the eye and said, ‘No, Daddy, Mary hates me.’ A few weeks later, looking for something in Mary’s bureau, I found a collection of lost items concealed beneath a layer of Mary’s clothing.”
This is common behavior for many BPD women whose partners have children from a previous relationship. She intensely hates and resents anyone, even a child, whom her partner also cares for and loves. Children, parents, siblings, friends and exes are viewed as competition for her husband’s or boyfriend’s time, attention, resources and love and, as such, they must be eliminated. Isolation and forced family and social estrangement is a common abuse tactic employed by many individuals with BPD.
Oftentimes, a BPD woman will actively campaign to eradicate these other relationships that she perceives as a threat. It appears that this is what Mary Richardson Kennedy was attempting to do by gaslighting both Kick and her husband. Her twisted logic was probably something like this: “If I make the visits as stressful and as unpleasant as possible and make Kick look irresponsible, etc., perhaps the visits will stop and I will no longer have to compete for attention with a 9-year old girl nor will I have to be reminded that Bobby had a life and a relationship before me.”
“Soon afterward, I began to see additional evidence of Mary’s subtle but relentless campaign to make my children unwelcome in my home and to make them feel that they were a burden on her life. Mary’s conduct caused me daily anxiety and a kind of heartbreak beyond my prior imagination, but it would be years before I knew the whole story.”
The Daily Beast also reports that Kennedy alleges:
“Kick told him that Mary would take her into a closed room to harangue her about her many supposed faults, including the way she dressed. On at least one occasion, she slapped Kick for speaking critically to one of Mary’s children, according to the affidavit.”
No One is Safe from the Narcissistic Rage of a Desperate BPD, Not Even the Family Dog
The passages above are only the tip of the iceberg concerning the abuse Mary perpetrated upon Kennedy and their children. She killed the family dog in order to entice Bobby to return home to comfort her the children:
“On May 26, 2011, Mary ran over and killed the dog, Porcia, in the driveway [after the separation]. She had [our youngest son] Aidan call me to tell me. He was disconsolate and crying. I asked to speak to Mom and Mary came on the phone. She said I should come over and spend the night in my old room with the kids who were distraught. She said she intended to kill herself unless I called off the divorce and unless I promised to recommit to the marriage. She promised that if I came over she would stay in her room and wouldn’t see me or harass me.
I drove over in a tow truck with my boat on the trailer in preparation for a planned trip to Cape Cod the following day. When I got there, Aidan was in Mary’s room. Mary was intoxicated. I opened the door and she leapt out of her bed and hit me with a roundhouse punch that, had I not blocked it, would have undoubtedly broken my face.
Pointing to Aidan, she screamed, ‘You told this child you didn’t love me?’ and hit me again, raining blows down on me as I backed down the hall. She struck me maybe 30 more times or more. I moved slowly backward because she was drunk and unsteady and I didn’t want her to tumble over the banister. She screamed at Aidan as she hit me. ‘He is a demon. He is a demon. He is the most evil kind of man in the world. Everything he does is evil and a fraud. He is a philanderer, an adulterer, a sex addict.’ Aidan was crying. I backed down the back stairs blocking her blows—and dodged out the kitchen door. She pursued me, pummeling and pushing me with her fists all the way.”
Although killing a dog is extreme, it is not uncommon for individuals with BPD to manufacture crises in order to manipulate their partners, exes and children. I work with several women clients whose partners were once married to women with BPD, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. They have recounted incident after incident of non-emergency emergencies and crises BPD exes create in order to get their ex-husbands/boyfriends to come back and rescue them the children.
The Kennedy’s long-time housekeeper told The Daily Beast about additional violence she witnessed:
“Once, during dinner, Mary grabbed a plate of spaghetti and threw it all on Bobby in front of the children . . . Once they were having a fight while Bobby was taking a bath. We heard lots of noises upstairs. Mary came down the stairs and took the car and left. Five minutes later, Bobby came down. My sister asked, ‘Are you OK, Bobby?’ Bobby’s face was really white. And then my sister said, ‘What happened to you?’ And he said, ‘Mary attacked me in the bath with scissors.’?”
Physically assaulting your husband is domestic violence. Assaulting your husband in front of the children is child abuse and so is parental alienation. Mary Richardson Kennedy appears to be a batterer. Killing a small animal also makes her a sociopath, in my opinion.
This is beyond manipulative and sadistic. She killed the children’s beloved pet in order to score some face time with her ex. She didn’t care about the children’s feelings or the dog or even about Kennedy. All she seemed to care about was herself, her wants and her pain. This is another trademark of Borderline Personality Disorder. Little to zero empathy and utter tunnel vision regarding their feelings.
If the roles were reversed and Bobby Kennedy had abused Mary in the ways she abused him, rationalizing that her alcoholism drove him to attack her, would so many people be so quick to defend him as they are doing for Mary? Violence is NOT an acceptable response to marital infidelity, no matter what some women (and men) think.
If the roles were reversed and Kennedy had hung himself and Mary came out with this tale, she would be lauded as a brave and courageous woman. Because it’s a man who is being honest about the abuse he suffered at the hands of an incredibly disturbed woman, there’s public outrage. Double standards much?
Nighttime Rages, Otherwise Known as the Midnight Feeding Frenzy
Many of my clients and Shrink4Men participants report that the attacks, rages and abuses of their BPD partners become worse at night after they’ve been at work all day. It’s as if many of them are just spinning their wheels throughout the day and then lash out, needle, poke, harangue and want to “talk” at the end of day when their partners are tired and wanting to relax and/or go to sleep.
Bullies and abusers like their targets to be in a weakened state. It makes it easier for them to abuse. Also, by depriving their victims/partners of sleep, it keeps them off-kilter. Sleep deprivation is a common torture tactic used in POW camps. It would seem Mary Richardson Kennedy exhibited this behavior as well. The Daily Beast reports:
“Bobby couldn’t understand what was happening to this beautiful woman he adored. She would be fine during the day, but he came to dread the evenings. ‘She would go into a kind of altered state which we came to call her ‘episodes,’?’ Bobby said in his affidavit. ‘Her features would change with her jaw set forward, her face paled, her eyes notably darkened, her voice alternatively breathy or hard. Mary’s mood vacillated between rage and self-pity. Her behavior often became violent and destructive.’
Sometimes in the middle of the night, Bobby would awake to find Mary standing over his bed, beating him, according to the affidavit. Bobby tried to protect himself from her punches and even once jumped out a second-story window to escape.”
Suicidal Threats, Selective Amnesia, and Meaningless Promises to Change
Kennedy tried to divorce Mary for the first time in 1997, just 3 years after their marriage. According to the affidavit, her response to impending “abandonment” was volatile. She threatened to commit suicide after she first told the world that Kennedy is a “monster.” From The Daily Beast:
“Whenever Bobby mentioned divorce, she would threaten suicide, but the next morning she would be calm and gentle. She would say she was sorry and didn’t know why she was acting this way. For a time she would be her old wonderful self at night as well as during the day, and Bobby had renewed hope, the affidavit said.”
It is very common for the BPD to return “back to normal” after raging and spewing vitriol. I liken it to emotional projectile vomiting. As their partner, you are expected to pretend as if nothing untoward happened, even though you’re standing there, still dripping in their emotional vomit. If you do not accept her “apology” and apologize for “your part” in her rage, you will often be subjected to more rage and emotional projectile vomit.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of BPD individuals is often confusing to their partners. How can she go from being so sweet to something like that scene in The Exorcist in which Linda Blair’s head spins round? This causes a profound cognitive and emotional disconnect for many of my clients. It’s very hard to reconcile the fact that the sweet, charming woman and cruel, controlling abuser both reside in the same person.
Also, the moments of kindness and promises to “make things better” often give my clients false hope, which is inevitably dashed after each new rage out or act of covert abuse. According to The Daily Beast, Mary was in and out of therapy for years, including family counseling, but nothing got better. Unfortunately, many BPD sufferers are highly treatment resistant and Mary Richardson Kennedy had the material resources to obtain the very best psychiatric care. It didn’t help.
Extramarital Affairs Do Not Cause Borderline Personality Disorder
It may exacerbate the condition, but marital infidelity is not the cause of the kind of behavior Mary exhibited as the Richardson family claims and so many female commenters on the Internet claim. In fact, Mary’s abusive and unstable behavior may have led Kennedy to seek comfort elsewhere. This is also not an uncommon situation.
While it is better to end a marriage before beginning a new relationship, many men live in fear that their BPD spouses will carry out their threats regarding divorce. Common threats include the threat of suicide, false allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence, the threat of financial destruction, the destruction of the man’s reputation, and the destruction of the man’s relationship with the children. These are very real threats. Thanks to VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act), all a woman need do is point her finger in accusation at a man, without any evidence, and she can destroy his life. According to Kennedy’s affidavit, Mary made all of these threats.
Kennedy writes in his affidavit:
“She regales her family, her friends, and our children and strangers with a wide range of disparaging falsehoods about me. She repeatedly says she will call the police and say that I beat her if I threaten to leave her. She makes extraordinary efforts to turn our children against me.”
If Kennedy’s affidavit is true, then Mary no doubt had these issues long before her relationship with him. These kinds of characterological issues begin in childhood because of extreme abuse, neglect and/or faulty brain wiring, which is probably why her family of origin is working so hard to deny her problems and blame Kennedy. The Richardsons no doubt have a stake in hiding their own dysfunctional family secrets.
As Mellaril, one of the Shrink4Men Forum moderators and site contributors, has so astutely observed, “These individuals aren’t who they are because of the relationships they’ve had, they have the relationships they have because of who they are.”
DARVO – Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender
Many individuals with BPD and related personality disorders are masterful at portraying themselves as victims, when, in fact, they are the aggressors. There is a psychological phenomenon described by Dr. Jennifer Freyd, PhD of the University of Oregon who specializes in trauma called DARVO. DARVO stands for Deny Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender.
Many abusers engage in DARVO when confronted with exposure of their disgusting behavior and/or when they experience unwanted consequences for their abusive behavior. One could argue that Kennedy’s affairs were a consequence of the abuse and instability in his marriage. Instead, Mary used his infidelities to portray herself as the victim, gather sympathy from friends and family and to smear Kennedy.
The Daily Beast reports:
“By 2003 Bobby wanted out, and he started living a single man’s life. He began an affair that lasted three years, but after Mary made several halfhearted suicide attempts it scared Bobby so much that he broke off the relationship, according to the affidavit. And then he returned to trying to forget in a series of short-lived affairs.
But Mary learned about the affairs, and she began telling her friends and her family. And a number believed that by having these outside relationships Bobby was emotionally abusing his wife. ‘Mary talked about going to therapy a lot with Bobby and talking about all his affairs,’ says one of Mary’s friends. ‘She tried very hard, and part of it was going to therapy and talking about it’.”
It is regrettable that Kennedy had a series of affairs, but it is certainly understandable that he would seek peace and comfort, no matter how brief or illicit, elsewhere. Kennedy’s affairs seem to be a symptom of Mary’s many abuses rather than the cause of her abusive behavior.
It’s the BPD backward logic that many individuals with the condition seem to exhibit. It’s like saying, “My husband abused me! Just look at this cut on my knuckles!” What did your husband do to cause the cuts? “His nose got in the way of my fist when I took a swing at him! Abuuuuuuuuse!”
The WTF Moment and the A-Ha Moment
In 2006, Mary’s psychotherapist, Sheenah Hankin, told Bobby that Mary suffered from BPD. She recommend the standard reading material, such as I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus. According to The Daily Beast, that’s when Kennedy first began to understand what was going on with his wife. Many men and women who arrive to Shrink4Men experience similar WTF and A-ha moments. Apparently, Mary met 9 out of the 9 criteria to be diagnosed with BPD (only 5 are necessary).
Kennedy and Mary arranged for her to see prominent Harvard psychiatrist and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) pioneer, Dr. John Gunderson in an effort to get her help. Dr. Gunderson has publicly acknowledged that Mary Richardson Kennedy suffered from BPD. He states:
“I was convinced the diagnosis of BPD was correct. At the heart of this disorder is a hypersensitivity to other people, such that they can perceive rejection and anger from others when it isn’t there, and when it is there, they react with even more desperation. It is thought that this hypersensitivity is present even in childhood, during which they will often feel neglected or mistreated. That sets the stage for their search for an idealized caretaker. The caretaker oftentimes gets exhausted by the unrealistic expectations. But the caretaker finds it difficult to leave as the partner threatens to kill him or herself.”
Many of my clients and participants on Shrink4Men comment on the overlap of narcissistic and borderline behaviors in their wives, girlfriends, exes, parents, and siblings, etc. This is because narcissism is very frequently present in individuals with BPD.
In fact, the greater the degree of narcissistic traits, the more treatment resistant they are (and sociopathic), in my opinion. Mary seemed to have many narcissistic traits. According to The Daily Beast, she appeared to be overly concerned with public appearances, status conscious, materialistic and a bit of a social climber. I’m not surprised she went through over a decade of treatment with zero results. The alcoholism also no doubt exacerbated her condition.
A Relationship with a Borderline Individual Rarely Ends Well
They cannot tolerate rejection, abandonment, feelings of inferiority or exposure. Mary was facing all four with her impending divorce and loss of custody. Many BPD sufferers try to destroy their partners for “abandoning” them and often destroy themselves and the children in the process.
Allegedly, Mary had been trying to block the children from spending time with their father. When she discovered Kennedy was about to file the affidavit cited here, she begged him not to expose her true nature and used access to the children as a bargaining chip in the summer of 2011.
Kennedy writes in his affidavit:
“On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, after reading this affidavit and pleading with me not to file it in court, Mary told me by phone that she would allow me to keep the children during July and August at my house at the Cape. I am grateful for this settlement, but based upon her past behavior, I have little faith that she will abide by this. The following day she told me she had finally signed a child custody agreement and sent it to her lawyer. She promised I would have it in my hand my Tuesday, July 5. On that date, my lawyer called Mary’s lawyer, Peter Bienstock, who told him he never received anything from Mary. Mary called me many dozens of times every day over the July 4 weekend, screaming, crying, threatening to destroy me and telling me she was on her way up to visit.
For the sake of my children and for my own safety and sanity, I need protection from this court to minimized any contact between Mary and myself by granting the requested injunction for a protective order and requiring Mary to sign a fair child custody agreement.”
Less than 8 months later, when it became clear that Mary would not be granted custody due to her continued active alcoholism and non-compliance with court-mandated therapy appointments, Mary hung herself. She seems to have staged it so that Bobby would find her body, and he did.
Bobby and the family housekeeper found her hanging in the barn; her last angry and emotionally manipulative act. No one should have to see something like that. Mercifully, the children did not, but in her blind selfishness, self-inflicted pain and self-pity, Mary does not seem to have considered the children.
In fact, she seems to have been more interested in proving what a bastard she thought Bobby was to the children and the world than staying alive for her children and choosing to fight to get well. One wonders what she told the children about spending time with their father? Did she accuse them of abandoning her, too, as so many alienating mothers do?
Regarding Mary’s suicide, Dr Gunderson states:
“Her suicide was both a statement of hopelessness about her prospects of staying married and it was an angry statement of her perception that she had been abandoned and betrayed. There were two sides to it. One was that she was a horrible person who nobody wanted. The other was that she was an abandoned waif who had been mistreated. And both of these things are inherent in this dramatic suicide.”
Exactly right. Furthermore, it was very prudent of Kennedy to insist upon supervised visitation of the children, otherwise, this could have ended with the murder of the children and a botched suicide attempt of Mary with the always popular, “I blacked out. I have no memory of murdering MY children, My husband was abusive and I murdered MY children to protect them” spin by “clever” defense attorneys and the lemming-like critical reasoning skills of mainstream media — much like Theresa Riggi, Fiona Hutchinson, Kelli Lynn Murphy and other disordered, high-conflict women who murder the children to punish their ex-husbands for divorcing them.
Nevertheless, Mary’s suicide is the ultimate act of violence and anger directed at her loved ones. Yes, she was no doubt in great pain and emotional turmoil, but this is ultimately a woman who had every advantage and resource at her disposal and chose not to do the hard work to try to get well. By staging her suicide in such a fashion, she got the last word and showed the world what a “victim” she was” or as another Shrink4Men moderator stated, “She SHOWED THEM ALL!”
Mary chose to do what many individuals with BPD do, continue to blame others for their misery and lash out and abuse the people who love them. It’s very sad, but at least she didn’t take the children with her.
Wherever Mary Richardson Kennedy is, I hope she is finally at peace. And now, maybe her surviving family members can finally find some peace as well.
*There are similarities in relationships with men with BPD, however, because of law enforcement and Family Court female/mommy bias, it is far easier for women with BPD to abuse their male partners via children, the police and family court through PAS (parental alienation syndrome) and false allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
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.
Wow… Excellent article, Dr. T. Unfortunately, I see shades of familiarity in it.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks, knotheadusc. It’s a sad situation. Some of the S4M FB followers seem to think I’m excusing RFK Jr’s infidelities. I don’t condone them, but if what he wrote in his affidavit is true, I can understand them. I also understand how stuck, trapped and afraid men and women who are married to/share children with abusive, personality disordered individuals feel.
They have their own issues, of course, too. People who remain in abusive relationships have reasons for doing so, and they’re usually pretty unhealthy. Then there are the fleas from being in an abusive relationship that people develop on top of whatever the original issues were that caused them to be attracted to their abuser.
As I just posted on the S4M FB page, the reasons I chose to write about this are:
1) I think the case is a good illustration of how the perceptions of friends and family can get twisted:;
2) that even powerful, famous men like RFK Jr can be the victims of DV;
3) that women perpetrators of abuse come from all social strata – just like their male counterparts;
3) society’s reaction to this story -many people have a tendency to excuse female perpetrators and blame male victims; and
4) RFK Jr, whatever his issues may be (perhaps this was a NPD/BPD pairing – don’t know) is getting a raw deal in the press.
How many men who follow S4M have had their worlds upturned because of smear campaigns and false allegations of abuse and PAS?
How many of them don’t have the financial resources to fight back?
RFK Jr’s affidavit was 60-pages long. 60-pages of highly detailed abuse. I don’t think he’s making it up, and I think it takes a great deal of courage for a man to publicly own this kind of stuff. Men with far less social status, power and money are too humiliated to ever admit they’ve been abused. So like the guy, hate the guy, or be angry at him because he’s a “cheater” because you were once cheated on — that’s not what this story is about. I think coming out publicly took guts — especially because of his troubled past and affairs.
Mary Richardson Kennedy was certainly off-the-charts BPD. Does it appear that the revelations contained in the affidavit released by Newsweek have in any way quelled the chattering among her apologists?
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Nope, they appear more incensed than ever and are threatening to cancel their Newsweek subscriptions. They’re also now saying RFK Jr is a sleazy character assassinator who is being disrespectful of the dead.
Meanwhile, if the genders were reversed and he was Roberta Kennedy, she’d be be the new DV celebutante poster girl/heroine going on Oprah’s Next Chapter.
The circumstances of this high-profile case may turn out to be very unfortunate to the cause of creating better awareness of BPD and its destructive nature. So far it is creating mostly sympathy for the deceased allegedly PD individual. Even if her sympathizers believe that she had a PD, they will argue that it should have been treated earlier, or in a different way. They won’t recognize the treatment-resistant nature of BPD. If creating awareness is one of the causes of this site, then unfortunately this case is likely to only hurt that cause in the public sphere.
I do think it is good, however, that you wrote this piece, Dr. T. We may never know for sure of the accuracy of the claims in the affidavit due to the ugly conflict it came out of, but this side of the story also needs to be told, as much as possible. Your experience puts you in the perfect position to analyze the allegations in the affidavit and verify whether they are believable and accurately depict the actions of a woman with BPD. If this affidavit is an accurate depiction of what transpired, then this woman surely was a toxic individual who deserves little sympathy, regardless of whether or not we can condone Bobby’s behavior in the relationship.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
According to the articles I read, MRK was in counseling for many years and was diagnosed by both a therapist and a psychiatrist with BPD in 2006. That was 6 years ago, more than enough time to get some real treatment prior to the divorce and suicide.
Diagnosing an individual with a personality disorder can be difficult for several reasons:
1) PD’d individuals tend to lie/minimize/blame others/portray themselves as victims to therapists. They can be very proficient at playing the sweet, injured party and as such, are able to fool a lot of people, even well-trained therapists.
2) They often refuse to acknowledge their problems, blame others and drop out of therapy once the therapist starts to recognize the real issues and tries to make the PD’s behavior the focus of treatment.
3) Many therapists, even when they strongly suspect/believe the individual has a PD, do not give them the diagnosis for a variety of reasons.
Even if half of RFK Jr’s claims in the affidavit are true, MRK was an incredibly disturbed and abusive individual. I am sorry she was in so much pain, but I am even more sorry for the people who loved her who were on the receiving end of her violence and insanity.
I’m dealing with a less extreme form, but still disturbing nonetheless, as a couple who are likely NPD/BPD are making my life miserable at the moment. It fits the descriptions I keep reading on this blog: DARVO, trying to destroy me for speaking up, etc. etc. Basically, as people keep saying about BPDs, it’s like they’re following the same script….My husband and I both wonder: Do people like this act this way on purpose, or do they think they’re somehow justified, doing the “right” thing?
Have you checked out
•Is a Borderline or Narcissist Woman’s Emotionally Abusive Behavior Premeditated? (April 13, 2009)
I think this one also relates:
•Do Narcissists Feel Remorse? Bernie Madoff Says, “F-ck My Victims!” (June 7, 2010)
You know what’s so sad? My aunt, who was angry at me for going against her in her divorce, threatened to commit suicide if my Grandmother (who raised me) didn’t write me out of the will a few days before she died. She didn’t get her way entirely, but she did succeed in changing the will and taking away the heirlooms previously promised to me and getting additional things for herself. She has always threatened or made suicidal gestures whenever she wanted something or to avoid accountability. I read this article and there’s a part of me that just wishes she would do it already. I’m sure this woman thought she was going to finally “show” everyone and be the victim she always longed to be, but I would speculate that her loved ones just drew a great sigh of relief.
Cousin Dave says
Interesting point, FancyNancy… given Mary’s past history of threatening suicide to get her way, I wonder if she only intended this to be another episode meant to throw a scare into Bobby. It would be a kind of Greek tragedy if the suicide was acting-out that went bad. I’ve read that some BPDs commit suicide when their past actions catch up to them, and I’ve wondered about how often they really meant to kill themselves, and how often they only meant to act out but carried it too far.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
And welcome to S4M. I’m very sorry to read the pain and chaos your aunt has caused.
I suspect that, even in their grief, there is some relief, which probably causes them to feel even more guilt. I hope they’re all in therapy.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Just added this to the original copy:
Bobby and the family housekeeper found her hanging in the barn; her last angry and emotionally manipulative act. No one should have to see something like that. Mercifully, the children did not, but in her blind selfishness, self-inflicted pain and self-pity, Mary does not seem to have considered the children. In fact, she seems to have been more interested in proving what a bastard she thought Bobby was to the children and the world than staying alive for her children and choosing to fight to get well. One wonders what she told the children about spending time with their father? Did she accuse them of abandoning her, too, as so many alienating mothers do?
I know some of you re-read the articles and don’t want to gaslight you! 😉
How very sad for both Bobby and the children. I am a grown child of a BPD who committed suicide. I am glad that the Kennedy’s have the resources available for the children and Bobby to get the help that they need in order to overcome this highly destructive situation. For all those out there that have “survived” a BPD, there is help for you, seek it and heal, you have been more affected then you realize.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for registering with S4M. I am very sorry to read what you went through with your mother. I can’t begin to imagine the kind of pain and chaos you must have lived through. Your advice is excellent. Survivors of these individuals very much need to focus on their own healing.
Well, I’m not saying he did everything right. For example, talking about her demons during her funeral, fighting the family on the burial spot. But it was her circle who came out swinging from the start, with “friends” giving interviews about how the divorce devastated her and led to her downward spiral. My guess is her family has something to hide. BPDs usually get that way due to early childhood trauma.
He first filed for divorce in 2010. She’s had a couple of years to adjust to the idea. I know friends who’ve gone through divorce, sometimes unexpectedly. But they’ve managed to get through, even when they’ve been cheated on and lied to (some of the friends who’ve been cheated on and lied to are men, btw).
As for the cheating? Well, dude was married when she met him. I know there are sometimes shades of gray in that type of situation, but I would regard it as a heads up. It astounds me how many people try to blame his cheating for her killing herself. If that line of reasoning were true, how did his 1st wife not only manage to survive, but per the affidavit stayed on friendly terms with him? An argument over that resulted in one of MRK’s physical assaults on RFK Jr.
What’s really astounding is what’s on the public record alone.
1) Not one, but two arrests for impaired driving. Her defenders tried to claim the courts let her off because it was prescription meds for one. I’ve had to take some prescription meds for insomnia/anxiety. Maybe it varies by state, but per the research I did on them, one should either skip driving altogether or be very careful. Because you can still get DUI/DWI even if it’s prescription. Not to mention the safety factor.
2) The police had to be called for domestic disputes. In one incident where she called, she was so out of it she couldn’t clearly articulate to the police why she called them. In the incident where he called, she was out of it.
3) He tried to take her for psych help and she jumped out of the car.
Here are the news articles:
Never mind all of the allegations in the report. IMO, this alone is enough to raise some serious questions about the children’s safety. Yet thanks to Golden Uterus Syndrome pretty much every story I’ve seen about this has comments yabbering on about what a cruel, cold, heartless person he was to take the kids away from her.
WTF was he supposed to do? Let her kill them in an impaired driving accident or run them over like the dog? Or an Andrea Yates or Leisa Jones style murder/suicide? He may have very well have saved their lives by limiting her access to them. But few want to acknowledge that because it challenges our society’s Mother Myths.
I thought it was her children that were fighting with regard to the burial site, not Bobby. Bobby is getting blamed for SO much of this. To read the opinions of some, he paid off the housekeepers and the psychiatrists to create an elaborate tale of falsehoods. And if anyone tries to point out what you said – that she was documented as being drunk and disorderly – they blame her behavior on his infidelity. I’m with you – she got pregnant while he was still married to wife #1; she had fair warning of his character. The comments on the Newsweek article have me sick to my stomach. Women saying they’re “not fooled” by the media spin, that the “poor woman” was “driven” to this by his trying to keep his own money away from her and taking his kids away. Others saying that she must not have been that crazy if he went back to have so many kids with her, and even others saying that they know people with BPD and no one could call them such complimentary things as Mary’s friends and relatives did.
Still, what I think is the worst travesty is that there are STILL courts which refuse to recognize what BPD is when deciding custody. There are STILL judges who will give primary custody to the mother unless a father can come up with compelling reasons not to – which almost requires that every man worried about having a relationship with his kids create an affidavit like the one unsealed to write this article. If the judicial system would just catch up and examine both parents equally – ability to earn a living without support from the other, stability, testimony from friends/family, mandatory psych evaluations, examinations of arrest reports, drug tests, and testimony from older children – before determining custody then maybe dirty laundry would NOT be necessary to air in public.
That’s a good point. I don’t know if it’s the kids or RFK Jr. who wanted her buried at Hyannisport. I think given the situation, her family’s not going to feel welcome at Hyannisport, so they won’t get to see their sister’s grave. I had thought that at least if she was buried where her FOO wanted, her kids could see the grave without impediment, but I’m really beginning to wonder now, given the way her family’s been acting.
I agree with you, it’s scary how even RFK Jr. had a hard time getting custody. Can you imagine what it would be like if he didn’t have that kind of money and influence?
As for the money issue, the woman had a degree in architecture. She’d done renovations to her own home to make it greener. Why not a “green” home consulting business? With her background and connections, she’d have a chance of making some money from it. The kids are between 10-17. So they were old enough for her to start working outside of the home. I know women in middle age who had to start all over again after divorce as grocery cashiers or fast food workers, being paid minimum wage. She had a hell of a lot more options than most displaced homemakers do, yet she squandered them.
I saw the comments about how no one would say anything complimentary if she really had BPD, such as the complimentary comments Kerry Kennedy made about her. First off, anyone who’s dealt with a CB knows they can control it. It’s behind the closed doors the mask comes off. Secondly, what was the woman supposed to publicly state about her sister-in-law? Especially right after the death?
Agreed. I have yet to see that RFK Jr. or Kerry supplied any information or photos to the author *for the purpose of this article.* Author Laurence Leamer is a longtime Kennedy biographer and would have had access to almost all of the information and photos without cooperation from the family.
IMO, mental illness is not a mitigating factor in an act of violence against yourself or another, it’s a GIVEN. I hate when people claim it as a defense. I’m not sure I can name one person who intentionally killed without being mentally unstable. But what’s interesting is that Mary’s proponents seem to think that it was noble and gave her the last word – that you should “respect the deceased” and “let her rest in peace” but tear apart the living, grieving man in the same breath.
The double standards are appalling.
He was MARRIED when she met him??
Why am I not surprised.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I agree with you 100%, exscapegoat.
Love the Kennedy’s, hate the Kennedy’s, RFK Jr protected his kid. And, YES, there are many children who need to be protected from their mothers. I wish society would wake up to this fact.
I love how those most opposed to this are accusing Bobby of character assassination and media spin. Where is the indication that it was Bobby who was behind this document reaching the press? I think it far more likely it was an underpaid court employee wanting the money, or someone who loved Bobby (girlfriend or child or staffer) who hated to see him victimized because the world didn’t know what he went through. If it was Bobby then it is very, very poor taste. But it still doesn’t excuse Mary’s behavior. I do not understand why there are people out there claiming that he drove her to drink and mental illness and suicide, but that it’s a ridiculous assertion that she drove him to infidelity. When are people going to be responsible for their own behavior?
I hope the children get the help they need. I’m sad to think that even if, one day as part of the healing process they share the truth about their mother, people will say it is just the Kennedy influence making them lie. There are people for whom denial is a very comfortable place to live and they become irate at anyone who threatens to take that away.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I love how those most opposed to this are accusing Bobby of character assassination and media spin. Where is the indication that it was Bobby who was behind this document reaching the press?
Great question, tenquilts, and who cares if it was RFK Jr’s people who released it? If I were being publicly vilified like that, I would want the truth to come out whether or not my abuser was alive or dead. Furthermore, the affidavit was written almost a year before MRK killed herself and he appears to have written it to get protection for himself and the children, which is EXACTLY what a responsible loving parent does.
I never said I believe RFK Jr is a saint. Don’t know him and don’t know MRK. His accounts have been corroborated by several people who knew both of them, however. The reality is, unless you have firsthand experience with BPD/NPD, most people just can’t wrap their minds around the human horror show that goes on behind closed doors.
That’s what’s so sick, people get caught up in the appropriateness of “speaking ill of the dead”, thay’re not even concerned if the accusations are true or not. If they are true, and they do sound consistent with the behavior of someone with BPD, then RFK Jr. and the kids from both marriages were abused. To me, that’s a far bigger issue and concern than speaking ill of the dead.
Some of what he’s alleged should be fairly simple to verify. The conversations with the doctors, for example. The email to her family where he asks for their help in intervening to get her assistance. The arrests for her driving under the influence, the police calls to the home.
Excellent article. Interesting that Mary Kennedy met all 9 of the 9 criteria for BPD. Unfortunately, she is not unique and so many men (and their children) are suffering from viscious women like Mary Kennedy. It just happens that MK is famous (by proxy).
The BPD sympathists clearly have never been on the receiving end of the BPD’s “suffering” wrath.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks, MB. I agree. People who have had the good fortune not to have an abusive personality disordered person in their lives, just don’t have a clue. They’re ignorant, frankly, and, in my opinion, re-victimizing RFK Jr and his kids.
As usual stellar break down and analysis. I see a lot of my own relationship in this situation. Thankfully I have no kids from a previous relationship but I’m the scapegoat for that relationship. This is the epitome of a NPD/BPD couple. I never thought I would identify with a Kennedy, definitely not Bobby Jr but I was wrong.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Just because RFK Jr isn’t a saint (and who is?) doesn’t negate the abuse he suffered. I would love to know more about why he stayed and why he kept having kids with her after he saw behind the mask.
I suspect, like many of the men and women here, he held out hope that she would go back to being the woman he fell in love with and get better.
My guess would be a combination of Hoovering & oopsing. Though it is possible since his FOO was so large and his father’s FOO was so large, he wanted a large family too.
Also, not to stereotype, but my family is of similar ethnic/religious background. I don’t know how much is cultural and how much is personal or just people in general, but there’s a real resistance to therapy or even admitting anything’s wrong. Instead, people deny, self-medicate and/or seek refuge in religion. Anyone who doesn’t deal with it those ways tends to be labeled a wimp and over-sensitive. Some tv series which have dealt with this include 30 Rock (Jack & Colleen) and Rescue Me (all of the Gavins).
Plus from what I’ve read about his FOO, it seemed like things completely fell apart after RFK Sr. was killed and the kids were pretty much left to their own devices. Plus a lot of golden child things going on in that they were above the law for many things because of their influence and money. That’s pretty chaotic and confusing for a kid. He may not have realized it was unusual or abusive.
I’d be interested in hearing directly from him and his kids (if they so wish) about how they realized it and how they coped with it.
I agree. Anyone can be a victim of abuse. It is terribly depressing and enlightening that even with the resources of a Kennedy and getting BPD treatment it still resulted in a very bad outcome for Mary and the survivors she so selfishly used. Once I came to terms with how bad things were with my situation the desire to have more kids died. I definitely fall into that camp that the woman I fell in love with will trump the woman who emerges from the dark place to hurt me when she feels abandoned.
I strongly identify with the sentiment of how Bobby Jr viewed the relationship. The situation and problems are not near as extreme in my marriage but the same pattern and underlying feelings, good and bad, are there. Like Bobby I have done actions that damaged the relationship but not as extreme. Most of the damage was done by minor things being blown up into major things via the way that BPD suffers decide to turn the whole situation black.
I fall into that camp that the woman I fell in love with will get better or I will figure out a way to make it bearable and not damaging for my children.
Hi Dr T I guess with the general public perception of all PD’s that once they’re diagnosed there is no hope, well at least for most PD’s!
Your statement struck a cord with me that there probably was a part of their marriage that was entirely normal, I feel for them all ….
Thanks for an enlightening article Dr. T.
I’m curious what the 9 criteria happen to be for BPD.
The diagnostic criteria are listed in the article.
Thanks for that.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You’re welcome and thanks to Mell for posting the link.
Great viewpoint, but there are sides to the story which may never be shown to the public. First, I would like to thank Dr. T for her continued support on the site and for other members who share their stories. The public eye can only see so far into the depths of such a high profile case. After reading this article, (the first I read about the case in general) I did a search online and was immediately askew by the different perspectives, what-if’s, and comments listed under headlines. I tend to think that Dr. T hit it pretty close to the head with her article but I have to question the efficacy of the “sealed” affidavit. From what I gather “sealed” means shielded from view from the public. Perhaps considering the death of the deceased, such documentation can be revealed posthumously. Regardless, the affidavit was a part of an initiation of divorce and I have to give it to him for going that far. In my relationship with a PD, (gulp) I have had the notion to get a divorce and run for the hills for, well, longer than I am willing to admit. Anyway, to get to my point, this type of “thing” occurs throughout any and all classes and cultures, and as far as I am concerned it is beginning to look like a “norm” (if you will) of one of the many complexities which encompasses human interaction and relationships in general. That being said, it has been happening, is happening, and will inevitably continue to happen. Just as the incessant cycle of abuse rolls its course, predators (leopard story) will continue to stalk, play with, and mangle their prey into oblivion. Now, to really get to my point, predators come in all shapes and sizes and have any number of “tastes” when it comes to prey and not all predators are going to “win” their game. To relate to the article above, Mr. K had all the general “traits” that make for good prey for those predators we all know, all too well (prior addiction/dependence). Now the “predators” on the other hand seem to all want the same thing. I believe its part of their “crazy-making” in that nobody really knows exactly what they are after (if you do, please share) but they all seem to be reading from the same script in terms of their behavior. In a sense, they just want what they want, I guess, and want to “win” all the while. But, fortunately/unfortunately, they don’t always get what they want and I believe that regardless they are always at a disadvantage, frankly because what they are doing just is not right and once the “prey” senses or becomes familiar with their predators, well, instincts are quite powerful attributes. –I do not have much time to continue on but I hope you get my point–
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ryan.
You’re right, no one will ever know the whole story.
I think one of the reasons there is such a lack of sympathy for RFK Jr is because the Kennedy’s are polarizing figures. So forget he’s a Kennedy. What if he were Joe Shmo from Kalamazoo? Would people be able to muster some sympathy for him then?
Perhaps, through the years, misinformation has led the general public to become a bit biased and are so through jealousy as well. Some may not be able to show or feel any sympathy toward the man as they do not understand what it is like to live in a relationship with such a character. Mr. Schmo would acquire quite the different headline.
What? This happened to Joe Shmo from Kalamazoo?! Poor Joe… I believe every word in his affidavit.
While I think the reputation of the Kennedys is somewhat influencing public perception, I think Joe Schmo would have a hard time too. Anytime some mentally ill mother offs her kids, people try to blame the father. Meanwhile when a father kills his kids, the mother isn’t blamed. People are really afraid to admit that women/mothers can be abusive too. They always want to think a man drove her to it.
Ryan – I too have pondered why the predators prey on their victims – whats the ‘gain’. Some are plainly out for the financial gain only, but BPD/PD, its whole other ball game. I say this seriously; These are mini-Hitlers. Why did Hitler do all he did? Hate Jews, Gypsies, bomb innocents, murder the helpless, and many other atrocities. It’s about ‘winning’.
So what is ‘winning’ to these Hitlers? Its inflicting as much emotional, psychological, financial and even physical pain as possible. Hitler began a war many of the generals knew they couldn’t win; yet sure as shit, they were going to inflict as much damage and harm as possible. Hitler was a dumb, bumbling fool to begin with, yet became a popular, divine figure in the public’s eyes.
So too can our current/ex BPDs. Bottom line, they take pleasure inflicting emotional pain and trauma on those around them including their own children, stepchildren, other relatives. They have a keen sense for people’s weaknesses, how to maninpulate them, and engaging in war-like behavior. Again, just look at Hitler.
I could really relate to the false affection a BPD stepmom employs toward one’s kids during courtship.One we were married , her gloves came off and she began mostreating my kids right away. It was so weird and painful for me and my boys.
Also, Kennedy was a coward not to have divorced vs cheating. He does sound like he has his own set of problems having cheated on his firt wife, as well. I haven’t heard that she had BPD.
IMO, this story is not getting a fair shake among the stepmother community (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stepmonster/201206/mary-richardson-kennedy-stepmonster) as we, as a whole, cringe whenever there is a “stepmonster” reference, and some media sources seem to be harping on this angle. There are manipulative, insecure stepchildren as often as there are manipulative, insecure stepmothers, and if you think about it, an event triggering the development of BPD could equally arise in a child/teen from a parent’s divorce as it could have been aggravated in an adult woman from her husband’s philandering – both fear abandonment and may manipulate the other to save oneself. When you are a stepmother who is repeatedly coming to terms with the fairy tale villainesses and other stereotypes, I understand fully that watching the press highlighting the stepmother angle to drive a point home is sensitive. However, I think that the fact that stepmothers get a bad rap does not belie the fact that there ARE evil stepmothers, and I also think that when you get horrible stepmothers in the mix, it is often due to a personality disorder or mental illness in women who have otherwise presented themselves as confident, polished, independent and charming. Just because the truth hurts doesn’t mean it can’t be true.
While my mother launched coffee cups and other nasty things to my father, I don’t remember a single time she was ever abusive to me. Too drunk to cook and do laundry, yes. Abusive, no.
My stepmother on the other hand was abusive. She was my father’s secretary at one point and she’d been married before. She seemed to go off the deep end after she lost the twins she was carrying and the marriage ended shortly after.
I once read an old version of Cinderella. As I remember that version, there was a greater description of Cinderella’s fahter’s role and how he came to marry the step-mother and how events transpired. I got the distinct impression that he knew what he’d gotten himself into and made himself scarce by choice. I was angry at him for failing to protect her. Now I know why I was angry. For a long time, I kind of felt like my father had failed to protect me but he did. He got us out.
I agree. I think step-moms are unfairly stereotyped, but in this case, the stereotype happened to be true. If a BPD/NPD becomes a parent or step-parent, they’re still going to be abusive to the kids or stepkids. My step-mom is a non and a wonderful person. My CB mother was abusive. That’s why I’m in contact with my step-mom and not my mom.
I hope RFK Jr is making amends to his daughter for not protecting her from MRK.
Ron, if you’re referring to ‘cowardly’ when he cheated on the 2nd wife (the BPD wife) then I disagree with you. Yes Kennedy had lots of issues; regardless, its an emotional tug-of-war and also some denial issues when you’re married & have children with a BPD. If anything, I’d say he’s quite (perhaps foolishly) brave to have tried to stick it out and hope the BPD would get better or go away. He’s getting punched & kicked & abused and trying to make the relationship work, somehow. Kudos to him for that, and points lost for being a philanderer…but still nobody deserves to be beaten, threatened, and have their kids used as an emotional weapon. That’s bullshit. We as a society need to stop this.
Thank you for this website Dr. T. I have been married for nearly 16 years to a woman who I know recognize is afflicted with these issues. Only in the last six months did I finally decide to confide in someone regarding the abuse, manipulation and the depressing state of my marriage/life. Finally trusting someone enough to open up about this humiliating situation has enable me to begin to at least defend myself a bit more.
However, now that I finally stand up to the more egregious verbal attacks, it has caused the episodes to increase. I am fortunate that I found your site, for over the past few weeks I have learned a great deal about what I have been dealing with and how her behavior has really affected me.
I am now into the planning stages of my exit strategy. I have a teen aged son who I am very concerned about though, as he has at times been subjected directly to the same types of abuse I have been. More frequently though, he has just been a witness to her abuse of me. I now realize how devastating and emotionally/mentally damaging this must be for him. I am finally seeing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and can’t believe I allowed myself and my son to be abused in this way for so long.
Again, thank you for the work you do and sharing your expertise to freely. Also thank you for giving others a chance to share their stories, knowing others have and are suffering in the same manner allowed me to see that I wasn’t the problem in the marriage.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
When you implement boundaries and provide consequences for violating them, BPDs/NPDs will often escalate their abusive behaviors, manipulations, hoovering, etc. They hate boundaries, but look out if you cross one of their boundaries.
Even after setting a boundary, it will require continual maintenance. They are like kids who keep testing limits. It’s exhausting.
Good luck with your divorce/escape. Please take every precaution to safequard yourself and your son.
Paul Elam says
Excellent article and analysis, Dr. T. I have dealt with a lot of men who have lived for years on “suicide row,” where the standard of choice for manipulation from their PD partners was the suicide threat. It is a horrible place to be.
The shame here is that Kennedy men have been so vilified (and sometimes deservedly) over the years that the knee jerk public perception is often that any woman in their lives is a victim. That is the way this tragedy will play in the MSM.
Thank goodness at least this site is available to present a more balanced approach to breaking this one down. Fine job, Dr. T!
I think articles like this should make it standard practice to quote an expert as saying the most effective thing to do for a suicide threat is to call 911. Not many people know that, they get sucked into trying to help the person threatening suicide. When the best thing for all concerned, especially the BPD, is for the BPD to get a psych evaluation. A several day hold will also be a lesson to the one’s who are doing it for manipulation. My friend’s mom pulled that and my friend had to call 911 because there was no one local to check on her. The police/doctors put her on a mandatory hold in a psych hospital and she never pulled that stunt on them again.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thank you for the 911 reminder, exscapegoat. I usually do make it standard practice, but forgot to include it this time.
If someone is threatening suicide and they’re serious, they need to be evaluated and helped. If someone is threatening suicide as an angry/pity me/don’t leave me manipulation, they also need to be evaluated and they need a consequence like a mandatory stay in the psych ER ward.
Actually I meant articles like the Newsweek article. I know you do that pretty consistently here. But I rarely see it in mainstream media. They persist in the myth that no one threatens suicide for manipulation. Your site is one of the few that’s realistic enough to acknowledge this does happen and how to handle it.
From a NY Times article closer to the time of her death:
“Mr. Kennedy, in a somber interview, recalled meeting Mary Richardson when she was 14, not long after her father, a college professor in New Jersey, died. (After his death, she ran away with a puppet theater group for six months, he said.)
She had met Kerry Kennedy, a sister of Mr. Kennedy’s, at the Putney School in Vermont”
Losing a parent at a young age is tough. But running away with a puppet theater group for six months, if he’s being literal/truthful about it, strikes me as a bit extreme. Was she in boarding school at the time? Or did they send her there after she ran off to try to reign her in? There’s been very little written about her childhood background.
That’s a beautiful tribute and does not contradict the allegations in the Newsweek document. Unfortunately there are too few people familiar enough with BPD to think that it is.
At the BPDfamily.com site I read an intro from a new member who had read the Kennedy story and finally come to seek help and answers for his own situation because it rang so true. So my prayer was answered – this tragedy has at least opened the eyes of someone else who had been living with a BPD spouse and thinking it was somehow normal.
Glad to hear the awareness helped someone get help
The irony of life. Just this weekend I took my wife to a treatment center for BPD. This center is the last hope we have for her to finally get the help she needs (hopefully!).
If you have never been with someone directly who has BPD let me tell you that it is a nightmare. The advice you can find ranges from feeling bad for the person (due to what most likely was an awful childhood and years of this disease untreated) to “run as fast as you can and don’t look back”. For me, and my children, there is always calm when she is not around. Ultimately at the end of the day for my family, I have to be able to look them in the eye and tell them truthfully “I did everything I could do for your mother”. The ending is almost never pretty, suicide, nasty divorce etc, and there is a slim possibility of getting “better”. That being said, you do have to have a little compassion as the BPD probably isn’t living a “fun” life either with their torment, it is called BPD for a reason, on the edge of insanity.
I don’t know the outcome of my case as yet with treatment, but I am now content that I have given every resource emotionally and financially, and if there is hope/help, this is it. I can relate to everything in the affidavit (thankfully though my other half doesn’t have a drug/alcohol addiction), but everything else is like reading the story of my life. Hopefully the ending is better in my case, but only time will tell.
My mother shows symptoms and behaviors of both NPD and BPD. No, I don’t “have to have a little compassion”. I did at one time. I had a huge amount of compassion which is why I kept letting her back into my life to abuse me some more. And it is possible to survive abuse and not become abusive yourself. I hope that you are able to accept that your children may be angry at the abuse and/or neglect their mother has caused in their lives. Trying to shame them for it will only make things worse for them in a long run. Instead, acknowledge it’s a valid and appropriate reaction to the abuse and help them channel it in a constructive way.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I don’t think the victims of abuse need to have ANY compassion at all for their abusers. I wouldn’t have compassion for a rattlesnake that bit me nor do I have to like nor forgive the rattlesnake.
Why not have a little compassion for the people who this sick woman abused and damaged?
Touche! F— compassion. The BPD/Narcissist/Hitler will view this as weakness and take advantage of it. Curing BPD is like trying to cure Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. Can you cure a serial pain-inflicter as much as you can cure a serial killer? Good luck on that one. There comes a point in time where you have to get out of the burning house and then you can contemplate on what caused the fire and why it happened.
how do you convince them to seek treatment when they blame all the ills of the world on you. I have begun sticking up for myself and my son to her, but she always twists it around to me. her answer to any of my feelings of pain at the state of our relationship is that she is only reacting/acting this way because that is how she copes with my actions.. Its all bunk.
She thinks I am the one who needs counseling to learn how to behave in a relationship after 16 years of marriage.. I just dont see any upside for myself..
Beaten down: Been there, done that, bought that t-shirt. You’re trying to rationalize with a Hitler.
I don’t know how severe the borderline/bipolar/fill-in-the blank issues are in your situation, but if you are married to one of these people you have to plan an exit strategy & be prepared to follow it.
I agree, it is a terrible position to be in, married to a BPD or NPD with kids involved. makes it very difficult to make the decision to divorce.
However, he was cowardy to have cheated, IMO. There are myriald other avenues he could have chosen, especially with his resources.
And, as I mentioned, apparently, he cheated on his first wife. So, the guy has issues, as did Ted , Bobby and JFK, as regards fidelity.
Dr T – another award-winning piece. Great job. I read the FB comments too. Your unwavering, unflinching & uncompromising support for (mostly) men in the face of abusive BPDs/Narcissists/Hitlers is unparalleled. Its precisely your objective and uncompromising support that keeps me coming back and has helped me and many, many more men & women who have suffered at the hands of these Hitlers and the bastardized system that enables them and rapes us. Thank you.
Again, think of Hitler. Who the f— cares what his triggers or emotional issues were? The first and foremost thing to do was STOP HIM. Chamberlain (Great Britain Prime Minister) tried to placate Hitler and let him trample a few countries in Europe before Churchill came along and tood up to the bully and along with the other good nations were able to defeat him.
Point being, you cannot ever negotiate or compromise with sociopathic people whether they be Hitler, Stalin, Ted Bundy…or the average Narcissistic BPD ruining a family. Its the same Goddam story repeating itself over and over again. Our society and culture need to get some balls and start standing up to these issues.
Yeah and a thank you from me to Dr T …. we only need 3 billion more women with similar opinions and you can retire:)
Hilarious but true!
Okay just checked out the wikipedia weblink for BPD. Towards the bottom of the page, it mentions Mary Richardson Kennedy possibly having BPD. Then, the next paragraph says “The diagnosis of BPD has been criticized from a feminist perspective…”.
What a surprise. Femi-Nazis complaining their little Hitlers are being labeled.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I have long believed that, the feminism that exists today, is a hate-filled/women as victims ideology based on borderline pathology. Women do no wrong. Women all good. Men are always the problem. All men potentially evil. Splitting? You bet.
Dear Dr. Palmatier,
I always enjoy reading your well written and thought provoking articles and this one is no different. Superbly done!
It’s a darn shame that more people don’t see what we see.
Wow, I saw what this for what it was when it happened, but I didn’t know all these details. I felt sick to hear how Bobby Jr said something about always loving her at her funeral, playing the good victim of Crazy. Her family’s behavior during all of that — not giving a crap about the kids — showed that the apple apparently didn’t fall far from the tree.
I felt badly for the kids, for BK and for his girlfriend. The Crazy Lady got what she wanted: a bunch of attention, even from th grave. Hurl.
Ig he claimed he always loved her, that would be a redflag for prevarication. If the allegations against her are true, no way would he stil have loved her by that point.
Something is a litle awry with this whole story. We have a mna with a history of infidelity,not just here, but in a previous marriage, making these allegations.
If his infidelity was strictly associated with this woman, I would be more inclined to beleive his claims. But, there is no indication his first wife was disordered, yet, apparently, he cheated on her, as well.
Infidelity is considered by some therapists to be the most severe form of spousal emotional abuse. It also involves an incredible amount of lying and lack of empathy.
Now, if Kennedy had already demonstrated a willingness to subject his first wife to this abuse, and already demonstrated this amount of dishonesty and cruelty in his first marriage, I think his claims re this woman need to be looked at with a fair amount of skepticism.
She may well have been disordered, I do not know. Bur, kennedy, clearly has issues with integrity, as did she, having been involved with him whenhe was still married.
The real sticking point I have with hisclaims is that he is so wealthy, that he had the resources to really do battle for custody, etc, if she was such a witch. If the divorce was brought in Mass., where that family is held isn such high esteem, he had a very good chance of prevailing. So, why cheat?
Mr. Kennedy may be a downright jerk for being a cheater. He has problems. Sounds like some self-esteem issues too. However, many of our female BPD ex’s were unfaithful too – emotionally and/or physically. So the difference between Mr. Kennedy and his deceased ex is that he did not engage in terrorizing his ex, their children, or the stepchildren. Its important to discern between one issue – what could be sexual addiction for Mr. Kennedy – and a plethora of issues that his BPD ex had. For all we know she may have been cheating on him too, in addition to the other abuses that were documented by therapists and other third parties.
I didn’t know anything about this family until I saw some posts on the Internet and was immediately curious when divorce proceedings were followed by a suicide. Nothing rang true when Mary’s family and friends said that she was victimized and attempted to prevent her husband from burying her where he wanted. I finally found this article and it seems spot-on from my experiences with family members with PDs. My dad had OCPD, mom had dependent PD, and both of my brother’s have anti-social PD. Both parents were alcoholics and both brothers are addicted to prescription pain medications. I left home at 21 and never looked back. I had a limited relationship with my parents in the years before they died but I have no contact with my brothers. Some people are critical that I “ran away” but you can’t change others and there is no other option when these people are toxic.
I feel a great deal of sorrow for the devastation the six children have experienced and hope that they all seek counseling. However, the affects of growing up in this environment will be with them forever. Three years of counseling in my early 30’s changed my life but the impact of growing up with my parents will always be with me. I really believe that our society needs to become educated about PDs and mental health issues because they impact everyone in one way or another.
Thank you for an excellent article.
Very educational, thanks for taking the time to break that down.
Thanks for taking the time to break that all down. Very educational. Great job.
Mike Davis says
> “No one is safe from the narcissistic rage of a desperate BPD, not even the family dog.”
Ain’t that a fact. It wasn’t until two pets I had for years before I met the nutcase got disappeared that I put it together …
Probably would have noticed sooner, except for all those red flags blocking my view.
This article was like a slap in the face as I’ve seen this behavior out of my brother’s on-again/off-again girlfriend for about 5 years now. Unfortunately, he is much weaker in spirit than Kennedy and has turned against us calling us judgmental. It’s extremely sad and I worry about how far she’ll push him each day
Such an excellent article!!
So glad that finally someone wrote an article about how my mother acts. I knew there was something deeply wrong with her. Her public personae, was the exact opposite of her private one, and how she undermined, and sabotaged people through her FOG ways, and ALWAYS playing the victim especially when she acted particularly vicious. Of course perceived abandonment is on their minds, because these people know what they are doing. Any normal person would EXPECT abandonment, that’s a natural reaction for behaving so cruel, so they try to beat people to the punch by electing new ways to “secure their attachment”, and deflecting the REAL issue. They know they are horrible people and are the poison to anyone they are involved with.
Its been my experience, that these types always misjudge “when their attachment is secure”. Since they lack a true understanding of the human spirit, and do not have an emotional connection to anyone, (not even themselves, as they have not nurtured this), they rely on outside validation, like marriage, and kids.
They think having kids with someone, will, “secure their attachment”. After having our son, my now ex spouse turned into a monster. Of course, the abuse was there all along, but it did not measure on my radar until after the baby was born.
For safety, I divorced, but I lived in a “no fault” state at the time, and judges didnt care about abuse they were still granted all the treasures of seeing the kids.
After the divorce, my ex proceeded with all the guiles that resembles what my mother would do. Never taking responsiblity for such horrible behavior, and claiming abandonment, etc etc etc, my ex continued FOG on me after the divorce, but with distance came clarity, and I didn’t buy it.
The kids were just a ploy for them, and they could not keep up the facade for too long. Eventually, I was able to terminate my ex’s rights to my son, because of all the antics, (and I moved to a better state that took physical violence, and trying to commit suicide in front of the kids more to heart). My ex use to check themselves in hospitals all the time, every time they were about to be outed, they faked heart attacks, and suicide attempts. They would call me from the mental hospital.
I just ignored it all. When my ex realized that I wasnt playing the game and not giving them any attention, this toned down their behavior. They weren’t getting the drama they wanted.
Its uncanny how much in common my ex and my mother have. In fact, my mother really identified with my ex, and they were a united front against me when I was divorcing them.
And thats all that this. Those that are going to side with wife, its because they can identify with her, and they are probably crazy too.
I, along with many others, lost all respect for her when they read how she committed suicide. To normal people, they would see what she did as an atrocity, and someone who is obviously personality disordered. She did herself a favor, ridding herself off the planet. What did she contribute other than pain and misery? Really.
She is not getting the sympathy you think she is getting. People that are going to hate the husband, they are going to hate the husband, and those that side with the wife, are going to side with the wife, period.
Relationships end sometimes. The adult thing to do is do what is best for the kids, and not undermine and cripple them. If this is the type of person she is, and I know she is, then, her abandonment senses are right on.
I feel so happy that abandoned my ex spouse, and my mother. Days aren’t filled with unnecessary crippling grief.
Unfortunately, I can see that my father is going through so much pain with my mother. She is literally killing him. If he is having medical issues, (its because of her) she complains about what he is doing to her. Its so sad. She calls up all the family members, accusing my father of being selfish for his medical condition, and how she doesnt want to make it look like she caused it. Strange thing to say isnt it?
Its because she DID cause it! And guess what! She gets off on it! She has the pleasure of hurting my dad, as well as gaining sympathy for being victim! She is estranged from all her children, as all she did was embark on a universal campaign to abuse us for the rest of our lives, (character assassinations, triangulation, all the guiles they use) and that “right” also entitled her to abuse her grand children, (which is also now estranged from).
But if you hear her side of the story, all she talks about is how she is victim, and how horrible her children are. How she is a victim because she doesnt see her grandchildren. She thought by having grandchildren, and playing her delusional role of grandmother, would “secure her attachment” and she want on an abusive rampage when they were born.
Again, being borderline person she is, she misjudged her importance, or how secured her attachment was, and with her horrible behavior, it was just best for everyone to leave her abandoned.
I really feel for everyone that has dealt with this type of person. I raised by one, and my first marriage, married to one, and it’s the most horrible experience in the world. Everything the person does, has some type of hidden agenda. Nothing is what it seems. They say one thing and do another. They accuse others of what they are doing ! They are jealous, selfish, greedy and petty, and are out to steal the souls of everyone, especially ones that cant protect themselves, like children.
And you just don’t know you are involved with such a person, until you marry them. Then, the experience helps you identify these types later on, and if your born into it, like you had a mother that acted like this, it may take a life time to figure it out!
The court systems are useless when it comes to this stuff too.
Thank you for posting this article and shedding light on the dark side of a mom, that doesnt want what is best for her kids, and used every guile necessary to hurt and cripple them.
LT Greenwald says
Thanks for telling your story. It’s an inspiration. I too have a BPD mother and I married a BPD woman (child, more like). My divorce is about to be finalized. No kids, thank God. For the past year I’ve been doing everything I can do to learn what attracts me to BPD women and avoid them in the future. Your post is really helpful in my journey.
Hi Survivor, thanks for sharing this. Reading the article and the comments, specially yours – left me reading with my mouth open!! I couldnt believe the similarity in the patterns of behaviour of such women. On reading this I can see my Mother also having BPD related symptoms. Scary!
hmmm. Finding it difficult to feel sorry for Bobby for many, many reasons…
Hi, I was looking on the net for a “Women who abuse but blame the men” or something on those lines and came across this article/website. Barring the fact that I’m not high profile at all/havent had any affairs and that perhaps my partner is not as extreme (yet??) – I couldve been reading my own story. Today is Monday, only on Saturday I was batterred (she was extremely drunk) and very badly physically and verbally abused, she hurt herself falling several times and did look like she was beateb, and then a complaint was made to the Police that I was the aggresor, I subsequently got arrested and spent the night in Jail. Luckily HER mum got involved and prevented the kids from going into care and when she sobered up (and couldnt remember anything apparently) she withdrew her complaint and I was released without charge. This was the culmination since we got together in 2000 and so many things in this article are similar to mine including how we got together and how soon she pretty much forced the marriage on me. I’m at the end of my wits but keep hanging on due to our 2 beautiful kids. The neighbours etc who saw me in the Cops car all think Im the wife-beater/horrible man and Im so full of shame I can bearly think staight. I cant blame them for thinking like that and arguing with people will only make it worse for me. I have a “Rude” front which I have on. Sorry for rambling on but Im clueless. My partner is a highly successful and highly educated person in a high profile well earning role. I work full time in a decent sales job but not as high profile/and more importantly high earning as hers – this is where her primary ammunition comes from. This sort of behaviour started pretty much straight after our marriage and whilst I said earlier that Ive never had any affairs, I did seek comfort online and used to chat to people which she discovered and ever since, even though I havent dont that – she brings it out time and time again. Even looking at SPAM emails I got 10+ years back and showing them as though it was me “getting up to stuff” – Ive been accused of every bad act you can think of, isolated from friends/family – all because she knows Im soft and emotional and will do anything for our kids – and I dont want to loose them as they are all I have……I dont know what to do.
Hi everyone, I was recommended this article after stumbling across another…I am currently being sued by an ex-client who had bpd but, I didn’t notice till the splitting occured and it was too late as she was already on a path of destruction. She is basically claiming and saying I did everything you could think of to victimize her. And maybe I am just not being strong enough I don’t know, but, it is effecting my entire life! And I am no one to claim victimization, but, seriously if anyone is in this case it’s me. I mean I tried tirelessly to help this person and charged her a very minimal fee and it just like disgusts me, to think someone can do this to someone who tried to help them for so long; btw, this all began because I was going on vacation for a month. I just can’t seem to stop being scared of her, like I was actually scared to let my dogs out before I read this and now I am terrified of it. Everything I tried to do as a good deed, has been contorted and twisted into something ugly. Now, I can barely, see other clients my practice is struggling, my friends and family don’t understand, because there like “she’s just crazy any judge will see that!” but, like what if they don’t? I feel this is so unfair, I am a woman, I am trying to start a family; I don’t feel that is a good idea to do until this is over, I just think I am also very angry at myself for not recognizing this sooner, I mean I am suppose to be a professional in the industry and I didn’t see it…I just thought I was doing good. OMG, sorry I know I am just going on a rant here. Anyway, any words of encouragement or advice is greatly appreciated I am really struggling with this.
I get that….I really put myself out, too, helping a woman whose mother has BPD, and who shows the signs herself. She was homeless; we took her in along with her husband and three kids. We could barely afford the food and utility bills, and they broke our couch (and the replacement futon). I witnessed her verbally abuse and occasionally hitting her husband in anger. Even after they moved out, we helped them however we could because they were often unemployed. Gave them money, food, spare household items. Listened to her husband complain about her punching him, spanking the kids too hard, going off on him, etc. But she was often mean to me, snarking and trying to force me to get her approval by behaving the way she wanted me to (ie, become outgoing and talkative even though by nature I am very quiet and shy). One day she tore me apart over a misunderstanding, and she and her husband both went on the warpath against me for something I did not actually do. I was so emotionally devastated that I blogged about it, as many people do these days. She found it, taunted me, threatened me, and still reads it to this day….We put ourselves out for these people, and this is what we get in return.
I know this is an older post, but OMG!!! My fiancée, our kids (his son with “her” plus my own two) and myself are going through the same bloody thing! She is a drunk, just about died 1 1/2 years ago, BPD diagnosis 6 years ago with 2 years of a BPD treatment clinic….. so did not work!!
I use to think my man may have been stretching the truth about her outbursts, abandonment for weeks at a time, threats of killing herself and destroying him if he ever tried to take Oscar away, throwing stuff, hitting him, HOLY CRAP! Then our first EPO – because the drinking got worse and she was in a coma w/ liver failure in hospital for a month and her mother ( who she lives between her and her fathers place, never works, on welfare since 2009) tried to make abuse allegations about her daughter’s and Rob relationship, that Rob beat her, raped her, and confined her. Then Lisa backed it all up and came up with more, including because of his abuse she is a drunk! Problem was we had all the police reports showing him trying to get her out of his house and the fact he hadn’t been with her since 2009 she claimed they were working things out up until the summer of 2012. We were already together and he was moving in by then. Anyway, lets see, those allegations didn’t work, we have day to day custody of our boy and she is not suppose to drink when he is in her care…… fast forward, she has breached the court orders 3 times now and the most recent one (last week) she lied in court, breached the order and guess what nothing happened except now supervised visits that Rob is suppose to supervise! Oscar her son wants nothing to do with her (13) he was diagnosed with generalized anxiety because of her drinking and early childhood abandonment by her, anyway, so her emails and texts go from how great we are, to needs our support, into you beat me ,your the abuser, your a drug addict, you made me this way, right back to I’m sober, love you guys and then back again.
But tonight, new threats of child services (don’t really care, but she is pretty damn convincing, the first time she played this card she had them eating out of her and her mother’s hand, but then she breached the order and was caught drinking and nothing happened again, just give another chance!) plus she is stating she will make him suffer and he won’t see his son again! To be frank, I’m not sure if we should take these threats seriously or not, as we have my two boys as well (10 & 18) living with us. I thought she was just a head case but after reading some of your articles and stories like this one that is spot on, I’m a lot more concerned now, she’s a loose cannon!!
Thank you so much for this site by the way,
Cheers to you all,
Having grown up with this, I wish my mother had made a similar choice, instead, she turned her son into an alcoholic, her husband to suicide, two daughters to abusive marriages, and one to depression. None as crazy, hateful, selfish, and destructive as her, however. I know it’s a mental illness, but they are horrible people who suck the life out of anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path.