I'd like your opinion of my ex-boyfriend's behavior. He's 54 and was verbally and emotionally abused by his mother. We knew each other in high school and reconnected after nearly 30 years. Red flags surfaced immediately. When he criticized me, I apologized for my behavior and never questioned if I was really at fault.
I've identified four categories of emotional abuse: criticized me on both sides of an issue, had NO empathy, withheld affection, and said many cruel things. Examples:
-Criticized me for questioning his over spending, effectively silencing me. Months later when he told me he had $60,000 in credit card debt, he accused me of not being supportive enough rather than take responsibility for his actions.
- I said that I was dreading the first Christmas after my divorce because I knew it would be difficult on my kids. He got angry because he wanted me to focus only on what he and I would do on Christmas.
- Wouldn’t tell me he loved me when I told him I loved him (if he was angry with me). Instead, he’d stare at me, completely void of emotion.
- Ended the relationship many times. Whenever he'd return, it was without explanation or apology. One time, he said, "I almost escaped you last time." Another time, "Every day without you I get better."
He requires constant adulation/affirmation. He'd say, "Enough about you; let's talk about me," "It's just not fair to other men that I'm so good looking/in great physical shape" -- always “joking.” He overspends; in his second marriage, he and his wife lived in 7 different houses and he had many different cars. On several occasions, he said to me, "I like being seen with you." Never let go of his resentment for my not marrying him 30 years ago, and was angry (no empathy) when I didn’t marry him 18 months ago because my sons hadn’t met him. Became alcoholic after second divorce; sober for one year. After ending it with me, he immediately began dating a woman in his AA group. It was serious within weeks, including discussion of moving in together and marriage. He says his new girlfriend figured out his inner workings pretty fast because she told him she'd marry him in a heartbeat. He said, "Even though I'm not going to ask her, it sure is nice to know she'd do that for me." I mentioned that he's in the honeymoon phase of the new relationship and he said, "I will NEVER stay in a relationship IF reality sets in." Are these traits of narcissism and/or BPD?
I will preface my reply by saying that a diagnosis cannot be made from a short description another person gives, and that diagnosis of any personality disorder usually occurs over time. That said, there is a decided predominance of narcissistic features in your narration, though I would not rule out a borderline or even an antisocial disorder. Keep in mind that BPD is less likely in a male. Also keep in mind that diagnoses have overlapping features. This guy believes he is so special, he lives to transcend the rules, and it's everybody's job to admire and serve him.
I wonder why you are writing. You clearly see all these awful things about him. Why do you still care enough to submit this question? My guess is that despite knowing all these things, you remain attracted to his intoxicating drama and intensity, and want a diagnosis to help you find information to "talk yourself out of him," so to speak.
Also keep in mind that the narcissist's "job" is to keep you wanting. His techniques apparently work!
Making sense of all of this is a good thing. Keep in mind that as enticing as this individual can be, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Kind of like having decadent desserts as your meals three times per day, every day. No matter how much of a sweets-lover you may be, in time you will get fat and sick...
Good luck to you. Dr. Irene
My H of 7 months is verbally abusive towards me and gets very angry. When things go wrong with the house or his car, it is always my fault. He will tell me how irresponsible I am and give me lectures sometimes for hours. Eg: I left my keys in the front door by accident and someone stole them. He kept me up until 2am, telling me how stupid I was. Ouchhh!
Someone else crashed into our van while I was stuck in traffic and this was also my fault. I feel like he does everything right and I do everything wrong. He often tells me he wants me to leave and then says he doesn’t mean it; he couldn’t live without me. H also tells me that I am no good at housework or cooking. When he tells me I’m not good, he will be so critical and say how stupid and lazy I am. He says that it takes him being this nasty to me just so I will listen! Ugh!
Over the last week the VA is worse, he has called me a stupid b%tch and lazy c%$£ on separate occasions, one because I wouldn’t ring our friends to tell them that my H didn’t want to go to dinner anymore. I said he should take responsibility and call them himself. You were correct in asking him to call since he's the one who changed the plans. Unfortunately you're not dealing with a "normal" person who is willing to take responsibility for his behavior.
Another problem is that he binge drinks at the weekends. One time he was really mad with me and got incredibly drunk. He pushed me. He was angry; he was someone I didn’t recognize. He is moody when he doesn’t drink though. I’ve told him I will not put up with this any longer and he says he knows he has a nasty streak in him and deliberately hurts me but doesn’t know why! He does it consciously! Not good... Very dangerous...
I don’t trust him anymore. Trust your feelings. I don’t think he will stop being VA, even though he says he will. You are correct not to trust him. He will not stop, certainly without some intervention. Insist he get some help at the very least. I know I can’t continue this if he is VA. He is very supportive and kind at times, but I can’t bear this treatment. Of course not! His Dad was PA/VA towards his mum, which is where this must stem from.I appreciate any input you have. If this is where you are after only 7 months of marriage, this is a big problem. Typically things spiral downward over time, despite his promises that they will get better. Treatment may or may not help him.
That he binge drinks compounds the problem exponentially. Physical abuse is often associated with drinking. That he pushed you when he was drunk is even worse. He has already begun to broach the territory into physical abuse, and you can expect that it will get worse.
Unfortunately you married someone with multiple problems. Do yourself a favor: get out before you compound your problems by having a child and tying him to you for the next 20 years... This marriage will likely crush your self-esteem and endanger your physical being in time. Even if he accepts help to keep you on board, leave. You can always remarry should he somehow miraculously recover...
Meanwhile, get your own therapist. You will need support. I'm so sorry. Dr. Irene
This is a second marriage for both my
husband Peter (52) and I (47). We have been married 18 months; we have three
Judging by your letter, you have a good head on your shoulders and you are a good communicator.
I think you need to be straight with your husband. Ask him to hear you out entirely before he breaks into your monologue. Ask him to listen until you are finished. With kindness and clarity, find a way to tell him how unhappy you have been with his constant criticism. Be very specific about what bothers you. Offer to talk about the topic in marital therapy.
He is likely to disagree with you that he has been critical. He does not need to agree. The bottom line is that from YOUR point of view, he has been critical and difficult to live with. Don't let him take the discussion to what faults you have, or take it away from his fault-finding as soon as possible. This talk is about him.
Tell him you want to be with him through his surgery and his recovery, and that you hope this difficult time will be one of recovery for him and a saving of the marriage for the both of you. Tell him that you hope he will not dismiss your concerns but rather use this time to contemplate how his last marriage the present marriage may be failing for the same reasons. Tell him that your feelings for him have been fading, and that you are hoping some soul searching on his part will result in his re-thinking how he treats his wife, even if he thinks he treats you well. Make it clear that you are asking him to do this out of love and to save the marriage. Make it clear that you want to nurse him through the surgery no matter what happens to your marriage now or later.
He is likely to have a negative reaction and he may walk out. Let him. He may return and reconsider what you said. If he remains unwilling to look at the aspects of self that are hurtful to you and he insists on ending the marriage prior to his surgery, so be it. You have not abandoned him during a time of need; he has done this to himself. Do not let him use his cancer to manipulate your feelings...
This is likely to be a difficult period for each of you. It would be a very difficult period for you emotionally if you quietly plan on caring for him - only to leave later. In addition, your husband needs to hear these things. As much as he does not want to hear these things, you do him a disservice by not telling him. In speaking up he has the option to consider his behavior and making changes, or to use the time to get a head start in making emotional preparations for a break-up.
One of the most common responses individuals in your position make is to say little, get increasingly frustrated over time, and finally leave when they've had enough. Their abusive partner often has no clue. They are typically shocked and upset that there was no warning. Certainly they've never heard the specifics regarding their behavior.
Given the emotionality inherent in riding out your husband's illness, there is a chance that he may hear what you have to say - and decide to do something about it. Not a huge chance, but a chance nevertheless.
This is my opinion. You may not feel comfortable with my opinion, and I suggest you do absolutely nothing you have not thoroughly thought through and are entirely comfortable with. My hope is that I have given you something to think about as you consider how to proceed.
My thoughts are with both of you. Dr. Irene
I courted a demon. Thank God my Abuser was a Sex Addict who Left me for a married older women.Thank God!
For the past 4 years I have been accomplishing many things such as saving money, paying off dept, losing weight, quitting heavy addictions of smoking and drinking, self-discovery, and healing my body, and salary/job promotions. Wow! I'm going to write you for advice! I have figured out I had a compliant personality which did not serve me or the world. This is changing. ;P It is hard for the people at work to encounter the new me, but by the next day they are very respectful and willing to meet my needs. Yes. People need to become used to the new, assertive you!
I was married to a verbally abusive person for 7 years (of bad luck). He was an alcoholic and a marijuana user. He was a sex addict who brought women into our house. Amazing... He screamed at me when I told him I did not want him to vacation with one of his internet girlfriends. He threw my dog, ripped things up, and lectured me for hours on the weekend about how I did not meet his needs.
Lectures were elusive and deluding. I was sent out most nights to buy him beer. I had to accompany him on his every errand. I had to move every six months on his whim and pack the house and find a job within 2 weeks. I walked on egg shells because I did everything wrong. I was quite and nervous and spent years in a state of traumatic shock. I was not attractive or sexy to him, he called me negative names. One Christmas he took me and his sister to a strip joint. He was a spendthrift. I was responsible for most everything, while I was harassed for doing nothing or everything wrong. He secluded me from friends and family. He had a high IQ in areas and that intelligence paired with the evil power that created this self proclaimed Monster created a demon that ripped out my self confidence. Whew. Whew is right!
Oft I am angry that I planned the wedding & divorce while he yelled at me. I am angry that I helped pay for his houses and got nothing ng in return but debt from his overspending. I am justified that he never could worked again and now is a desolate hermit. I pity him. I am in the mode of self discovery and I am engaged to a loving, supportive and self-aware man.
Months after the abuser left me, I used the Albert Ellis Institute in New York. I listened to tapes, read books and had a session with Dr. Ellis, as well as saw him speak. Good work! I am seeking the answer as to why this happened. I was codependent. I had intellectual shame.
I wasn’t abused as a child? Sometimes people who were abused do not recognize their abuse as abuse, especially if it was not physical or sexual. Neglect, which is abuse, is often overlooked. For example if your Dad worked 24/7 trying to make enough money to support his family and your Mom had to care for 6 kids or had bad migraines, you can bet your booties that you were neglected. On the other hand, codependent victim types also come from families where there was no abuse. Mom and Dad were relatively around; they were a good team; they were giving people. They taught their children to be giving and loving. Unfortunately, when you pair a naive (in this society) giving, loving person with a selfish person, watch out!
Can a Monster like this quickly erode someone’s self-esteem and trap them? Absolutely. It happened to you, didn't it? It's happened to many before you, and unfortunately, it will happen to others after you. The relationship starts off on a good foot - often too good to be true! But life together slowly begins to erode from there. Had he lectured you critically and taken you to a strip club on your first date, there would never have been a second date. Abuse builds over time, and only after the abuser senses an emotional connection.
A codependent is very loyal, even when they shouldn't be. Once you have connected emotionally and experienced the warm fuzzies, when your partner's demands increase and the temperature of the relationship chills, you tend to recollect what was and hope to regain it again. A codependent takes responsibility for other. Once your loved one shows signs of unhappiness, the codependent, who assumes they are responsible for their partner's emotional well-being, works harder and harder to achieve their partner's happiness. Couple the over-responsible codependent with the self-serving personality who holds others responsible for his or her emotional well-being, and BAM! The codependent has begun falling into the abuse trap.
Can this be a lesson a special lesson for me? I certainly hope so. The lesson is to never entirely drop your guard regarding your well-being. The more you move in the direction you're moving in, unafraid to assert your needs, less concerned with upsetting others, less concerned with what others think, and more concerned with how you feel and what you think, the easier it becomes to care for your self without even thinking about it. You won't be loyal to a fault anymore because you better understand that some people who can take advantage, will take advantage. You won't spend so much energy taking care of others because you know it's their job to care for themselves, as you now care for yourself. You will no longer be crushed by guilt when you don't allow yourself to be manipulated; you will instead get annoyed that a manipulation was attempted. You will become increasingly expert at staying out of the trap of feeling good about yourself based on feedback you get from other. You don't need other people's feedback to feel good about yourself. You already feel very good about yourSelf! You trust yourSelf.
How do women like me close the chapter? By continuing to do all the positive things you have done for yourSelf. By accepting that you are the person you are today because you were the person you were yesterday. You accept that once upon a time your sense of self had an external locus of control and you needed other people's approval much more than you do today. The more you continue negotiating life as successfully as you are now, the less you will remember the time when you didn't. The best news is that the empathy and goodness you've always had will remain. It will simply be tempered by common sense.
God bless you! Dr. Irene
I know I am extremely cautious. I got out of a marriage with a emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive man four years ago. I have gotten back on my feet and am now taking care of myself and my child. I stayed out of relationships for a while, about two years. I went to counseling and was determined to find my independence to keep myself from staying in the type of relationship I was in before. Good for you! More on this below.
Two years ago, I met a man and VERY SLOWLY started a relationship with him. A few months ago, I finally let him into the life of me and my child. He is absolutely fantastic with her...and has always been extremely thoughtful and caring. I took a long time because I wanted to watch him. When he gets angry, he walks away to calm down. Something I was never used to...it took some getting used to - ironically.
However, yesterday we were driving home from a trip. We were fighting about something (actually quite stupid) and we didn't talk for four hours. I was becoming quite agitated with the silence. I did not want to get angry and say something I would regret, so I told him to pull over. He did and I got out of the car. He knew I was angry, and he wanted to continue driving. I told him "No," and walked over to a spot to calm down. He started the car and told me to get in; he was leaving. I was shocked, and never in my wildest dreams thought he would leave. I raised my hands in a 'what????' manner. He drove off.
It really freaked me out because we were in the middle of nowhere, and I had never felt so scared. I started to run after him and stopped. He turned around and told me to get into the car. We had a huge fight and he told me he was just trying to get me to go - that he was never going to leave me. But, now I am confused. This man, who has always treated me so well. I am scared this is a huge red flag. Maybe. Maybe not. I am scared of losing him, but I don't want to feel that way. You must stay very clear on this one. I was very angry for him doing that and he told me he was sorry it scared me - he didn't realize it would affect me like that. How could he NOT?? He could. Am I in danger of being in a relationship with another abuser, or am I overreacting? Probably a little of each, perhaps more of the latter at this point. It's a good thing that it took you a long time to let him in. But it's only been a few months since you've let him in, and the fireworks doesn't really start until after the controlling person knows they have your heart. So you really don't know, but be careful about jumping the gun.
I was so careful, and he has never acted controlling or mean before. He is thoughtful and caring....and we do fight, but nothing like this. I don't know if this is a one-time thing or if staying in this relationship is a bad idea. I love him tremendously. I just never thought he would ever do something that I would feel scared from.
I know he is under a lot of stress. His father is dying and he wanted to get back to check on him. Maybe it was unfair of me to make him stop and just stay there, but I also don't want to easily dismiss what he did. I don't want to be caught in another cycle of abuse. I can't help but wonder what in the world you were doing by "telling" him to stop because he wasn't talking to you, knowing that he wanted to check on his dad. Is it possible you were somehow "testing" him given your underlying fear that he might be abusive? He acted poorly by leaving you, but, he came back almost immediately. No single act marks anybody as an abuser, but it's good to keep your eyes open.
You need to become very mindful of your underlying fear that your beloved might be abusive (pretty common fear for someone who has been abused, by the way) - and deal with that fear internally, without acting it out.
You said, "I am scared of losing him, but I don't want to feel that way...I love him tremendously." Allow yourself to feel your fear, like it or not. Running away from fear empowers it. Facing it dis-empowers it. The possibility of losing him plays havoc with your dependency needs. So, allow your dependent part be heard internally. Remind yourself that you can deal with any loss.
Nebulous fears we try not to feel are far more destructive than those fears we acknowledge and face.
As you become less fearful and more comfortable within yourself, your fears around him will ease. You will be more certain of your perceptions. In the event his behavior does in fact take a decidedly abusive turn, you will be in a better position to trust your ability to leave the relationship without emotionally crumbling into little pieces. Go back for another round of therapy if you need a little support here.
Allowing yourself to love another person is taking an inherent risk. There are no guarantees in life, and you can't safeguard against heartbreak. But neither should you rationalize another individual's poor behavior. There is a healthy balance, and you are learning to walk love's tightrope. One day, you'll be so good at it, you'll be able to prance across with little effort. So, keep up the good work and deal with your fears as they come up - and with his behavior - as, if, and when it comes up. Good luck to both of you. Dr. Irene
Good morning Doc; Good morning! The last time I wrote was Easter Sunday. I keep thinking about your reply and, specifically, "There is something she isn't telling you". So, I keep reading and listening with the hopes of still being with this woman who I have known for 14 years and loved for over 4 years and who stays married to a very abusive man. She continues to see a therapist and always says she had a very good session full of emotion and tears. I am being honest when I say I would have given up if it wasn't for her telling me to "hang on" and we will be together, someday. Today, I am thinking about your reply to my post from Easter and your replies to others always have the same clear message to various complicated circumstances. Life is about choices and with knowledge and preparation we can make the best choice to control our own life. Back to the statement "There is something she isn't telling you". A verbal abuser has the ability to brainwash the victim into believing she cannot control her life without him. Correct. I believe she does not love him. I believe she hates him. I think she cannot tell me how co-dependent she is for his control over her life. Perhaps. Perhaps she is not even aware of her fear. She may not be telling you something she is not fully aware of. She accepts his definition and importance of failing or succeeding and has lived over 24 years without any emotional support from him for her or her children. Her fear of failing based on his definition keeps her helpless. Do you agree? Yes. I keep falling back trying to understand "why" when I know it's not about why. Wondering "why" puts me in the same state of denial she experiences everyday. I am still co-dependent for her love. It helps a little bit to know that. Miracles can and do happen. I can't predict who, when, or why, but I do know that miracles happen. I don't know you or your lady. When I advise you or anybody else, I use my knowledge and experience to suggest what I think may be your best shot. An educated guess, so to speak. You know yourSelf and this woman better than I do. While you need to take outside information into consideration, you ultimately will (or hopefully will) trust yourSelf above all. The "educated odds" so to speak are against you. But - sometimes the long shot pays off... My warmest wishes to both of you - and healing thoughts especially to her. Dr. Irene
My 22-year-old daughter has been involved with a verbally/emotionally abusive man for the last six months, and I'm desperately worried for her safety. They moved in together shortly after they first met, and she brought him home to meet us over the Thanksgiving holiday. He was handsome, charming and fun to be with, and we believed he really was her Mr. Right. A few weeks ago she called to inform us they had both lost their jobs, been evicted from their apartment, and needed to come stay with us for awhile. They put their furniture in storage, loaded the cat and a few clothes into her car and drove the 600 miles to our house. The plan was to get back on their feet here, and then move back to his home state across the country, which I wasn't too thrilled about.
Almost immediately his disdain for us and his circumstances surfaced. He sulked constantly about being stuck in the country and the horrible hand fate had dealt him. He accused his own parents of stealing money from him and causing him to be in the situation he was in at the moment. At the time I couldn't understand why they refused his phone calls or hung up on him when he did get through. The feedback I started getting from people who had known him back home was not very positive. Then he and my daughter started having horrible arguments that disrupted our whole household. He called her vile names and told her she had ruined his life and should never have been born. He cut up all her clothing and shoes (which I was later told was "okay" because he had bought them for her in the first place), broke the tail light on her car, and busted one of our fence posts. He stomped off down the road in the rain and she followed him to make sure he was all right. Next morning he was full of apologies, but the day after that it started again. I certainly see why you are concerned!
More anger and insults, more busted belongings. One night he was apparently jealous that we were having a mother-daughter conversation upstairs, so he deposited the cat litter box with her freshly-laundered clothes drug through it in the doorway. Amazing... After days of this lunacy and another particularly violent argument, I coerced him onto a bus for New York, but my daughter and he made up right before it pulled out. Now she plans to fly out there to join him, and I am truly frightened for her life. He has promised they can go to counseling together as a couple and she believes him. This otherwise bright, beautiful young woman cannot see past her commitment to make this relationship work out at any cost. There is much more to this situation than what I'm writing here. He is possessive and jealous, and is demanding that she fly out there immediately. He smokes incessantly and uses marijuana daily. I've talked my daughter into speaking with a therapist here before she goes, but her mind is made up about leaving.
I don't understand how she can be with a man who not only treats her badly but degrades and disrespects her family too. I feel that once she's there, on his turf, he will have total and absolute control over her life. She will have no job, no home of her own, and no support system. Not true! She has you and you are only a phone call away. What is my role in this situation? Is she right in believing he can change? His change is highly unlikely. I know she's an adult and I have to let her live her life, but this is SO HARD. Yes... I was the victim of domestic abuse at her age under very similar circumstances, and thought I had raised her with a stronger sense of self-esteem and much higher regard for herself than this. Thank you, Robin
Dear Robin, I'm very sorry to hear this. Your daughter is clearly involved with a very angry young man, and she doesn't see it. Good for you for being astute in recognizing the destructiveness of your daughter's relationship and for doing all in your power to help her understand who she's involved with. She mistakenly believes his remorseful side that regrets his actions and wants to change. She does not understand that wanting to change and developing the ability to follow through are very different things, and that his changing involves a very difficult and far-reaching personality shift. She is taken by his apparent "love" for her. Like most women in abusive relationships, she is confusing love with his strong need for her to take emotional care of him. She mistakenly believes that what he needs to heal is her love and understanding. She does not fully see the one-sidedness of their relationship, nor does she realize that in time one-sidedness becomes lonely and painful.
The best you can do is to educate your daughter, and let her know you'll always be there if she needs you.
While your daughter is in a potentially physically dangerous relationship, it hasn't gone there yet - though property damage is often a stage occurring before "accidental" abuse or overt physical abuse begins. Counsel her to call the police should she should feel frightened of him, if he makes any threat or gesture against her, if her property is destroyed again, or even if his voice becomes too loud. Tell her that doing this, contrary to "going against him" is part of the external control he needs in order to begin to heal.
As you well realize, your daughter is an adult and will do as she pleases. Take some comfort in the fact that you have already helped her tremendously by pointing out what is going on. Too many victims of verbal and emotional abuse spend years thinking the problem is with their own shortcomings, not realizing their story is all too common. When your daughter is ready to deal with her situation, she will have a huge head start. My very best wishes to both of you. Dr. Irene