123 Responses to “Winning vs. Taking: What Does Winning Mean to Abusive, High-Conflict and/or Personality Disordered Women?”

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  1. Mellaril

    It gets better. It’s not just that you can’t win, they hate you for playing.

    My exgf sat across the table from me after we had broken up and told me, “You did everything I ever asked of you. The harder you tried the more I resented you for it. I made things so hard for you.”

    I asked her if that meant I had been playing a game I could never win.

    “Pretty much.”

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      I don’t know which ones are more disturbing. Those like your ex who have some self-awareness, but keep on keeping on or the oblivious ones who just blindly act out.

      • Mellaril

        My friend had an opinion on that,

        “It’s nice (i.e., easier to understand) when they confess.”

        • cuatezon

          I’d say one of two things to this –

          1) Pure sociopath. Psychopaths may not necessarily know how they are/what they are doing is wrong; sociopaths know the difference and still continue their ways.

          2) Its a trick. Its a facade that she’s acknowledging her wrong ways being the ‘first step’ towards change. You see a glimmer of hope; she sees another opening to attack and will expose that chink in your armor.

          • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

            I agree that the fleeting glimmer of self-awareness is often a trap and also often part of a Hoover. Much like Brigadoon, the self-awareness vanishes as quickly as it appeared.

          • Mellaril

            Yes and no. It can definitely be a trap that lowers your defenses. It did mine.

            With my exgf, it wasn’t that the self-awareness vanished, she had it right up to the day I cut her loose. It was like there was a giant chasm that seperated what she knew from understanding what it meant and trying to make things better. It was maddening to hear her appear to know what she was doing and what she was losing and be totally incapable or unwilling to do anything about it. On top of it, I could not detect the faintest hint of malice or spite in her. None. That made it worse.

            I couldn’t understand how she could be so aware and so clueless at the same time.

          • Cousin Dave

            I’ve noticed before that there is a certain subset of Cluster B’s who spend a lot of time diving into psych textbooks, and maybe even taking up psychology as a profession, who will mimic self-awareness because it’s a useful tactic for appearing “normal” and getting people off-guard. I’ve never totally figured out if it’s just another weapon to the Cluster B, or if they are grasping at some way of being normal and they figure that if they mimic “normal” behaviors, they can actually transform themselves into that. Maybe a bit of both.

            However, my experience has been that if you assume that every single thing a Cluster B says and does is tactical, you’ll very seldom go wrong.

          • Mellaril

            She had a BA in Psych and a Masters in Nursing.

            “However, my experience has been that if you assume that every single thing a Cluster B says and does is tactical, you’ll very seldom go wrong.”

            The problem being that at age 27, I had no idea what a Cluster B was let alone the baggage I was carrying that made me vulnerable to her.

          • Cousin Dave

            I hear you. I was in that same boat. Until a few years ago, I had never heard of the Cluster B personality disorders, and I didn’t really understand them until I started reading here and at Narcissists Suck.

          • Tom

            From my experience with nurses, professionally and personally, I wonder if nurses are more likely to have Cluster B personality disorders. Anyone have thoughts on the incidence of personality disorders among nurses?

          • Mellaril

            Shari Schreiber discusses “cargivers” and PDs in “Do You Love to Be Needed or Need to be Loved.” There’s a link to her site on the right. It seemed to described my exgf pretty accurately. The first woman I was seriously interested in after I broke up with my exgf was also a nurse who had a lot of similarities to my exgf.

            There were several threads on nurses in The Forum.

          • cuatezon

            Its not cluelessness; its feigned innocence with just a slight ‘wink’ of some kind to let you know they know what they’re doing. We call this type of person a sociopath. Serial killers like Bundy & Gacey smiled in court & charmed their victims. In fact, they were highly adept at lowering their victims defenses (Bundy feigned a broken arm to receive assistance in changing a ‘flat tire’, then lured them to remote areas). They know what they’re doing and cannot be trusted or feel sorry for them. My ex had a ‘broken arm’ so many times and found my emotional weakspots and vulnerabilities it was like taking candy from a baby.

        • Freedom

          Here’s the one I got during my past relationship: You’re so good at meeting my needs that I forget that you have any needs. File that one in the WTF folder! On one hand, I thought to myself “Gee… at least she’s come to some modicum of awareness that she gets caught up in her own world and can do better. Then again, who that is healthy forgets that the other person even has needs?”

          I have another: You have to fight for what you want in this relationship! My reply was “Why?” I have to fight and somehow conquer (to some degree) or show proof that what I need and want (common consideration, treating me with respect and value, making time for us, being treated as an equal) is justified from her? YIKES!

          And the third: You keep score! You know how wrong and unhealthy keeping score is! My response is “Yes I do keep score, because you don’t. You don’t have an off button. If I don’t keep score, then I will be expected to keep giving and giving with no reciprocity until I am exhausted. I keep score because you keep consuming and when I ask for a sandwich after you’ve had the buffet, you treat that simple request like it is an absurd demand. When I think I’ve given enough, and work my way to the front of the line for your attention, you kick me to the back of the line and say ‘why do you put so much pressure on me?’ when I wanted to do was take you to the mountains for a night. I shouldn’t have to fight with you time and again for your attention. If you want to call that keeping score, then I’ll remind you that it is easy for the person who basically gets whatever she wants whenever she wants to tell the other person not to keep score, because then you would be required to look at yourself and give back. I don’t understand why that is so hard for you.”

      • mick66

        My ex gf showed an awareness of her dark inner life and it could be downright creepy. Like after one of the many situations she engineered, where she would behave badly and then when I’d had enough of her hypocritical bull shit would turn on the water works until I was convinced I was a cruel heartless swine for ever doubting her. At this point her (bad) acting worked and we were hugging each other when she whispered in my ear – ‘if I were you I would just walk away’. After six months I did just that. She was a covert narcissist, she usually carried out her emotional abuse very subtly but always with plausible deniability. Then at other times she would appraise her selfish nature quite openly. She knows she has no empathy and serious mother issues (‘I wake up every day hating her and wishing she were dead’). She was a master of rationalisation and gas-lighting (‘You’re paranoid, I didn’t just shut the door in your face, I didn’t see you there’ or ‘I think you should talk to someone about being sexually abused by your baby sitter -you have issues’ -she brought this one up whenever I questioned her utter selfishness in bed, she couldn’t take ANY criticism, yet her weird mind games always seemed aimed at making me feel very bad about my self. Naturally she was a feminist, with a particular bee in her bonnet about ‘violence against women’, yet she’s the only woman I have been involved with who displayed aggression toward me and threatened me with physical violence. Her choice of career – social work, child protection – a feminist echo chamber and armed as she now is with state authority, God help us all.

  2. scott11

    My ex would throw tantrums when she didnt get her way. Her sister once bought her some expensive shoes just out of kindness and they were slightly the wrong colour (Sorry I’m a brit :-). She flew off in a rage and called her sister some awful names until she got the ones she wanted. The gift is not enough they need more than that. They need control.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      With these types, it’s definitely not the thought that counts.

    • TheGirlInside

      Ugh! That sounds like my sister…I tried to help around the with chores and whatnot, but they were never good enough. It was like she was pi**ed because I had done chores without her direction.

      I figure she can wash her own damn dishes these days…after all, she’s the only one who knows how to do it the right way!

      • Cousin Dave

        One of the biggest fights my BPD X and I ever had, and the one that started the for-good breakup process, was one time when I was trying to be helpful and I loaded the dishwasher for her. She had a hissy fit, followed by a two-day sulk, because I put the utensils in the basket handles up instead of down.

  3. scott11

    Wow Mellari. That sounds exactly like something my ex would have said. She told me in regards to our break up that I had done ‘nothing wrong’. We were playing a game that we never had a chance of winning. The harder we tried the quicker and heavier we lost.

  4. Verbal

    The corollary to this is the tit-for-tat, even-Steven, fairsy-squaresy posture my NPD wife takes to perceived offenses and oversights. If you do something to offend her, she will retaliate in kind just so you know how it feels. She actually won’t do housework unless I am also doing housework. Explains why she can’t unload the dishwasher while I’m at the office.

  5. Shadow

    Personal Excerpts

    1.

    I bought a electronic dart game for her 10 years old two days before I was forced to leave the country again. She had not followed through, and I wasted another three months waiting on her to divorce, while already living together with her and her child, the husband had moved out.

    I spent my last money on this gift, and I stood in the rook where I installed it for her kiddo, and tried it out, electronics and all to see if it was working properly. She came in, saw this, and said:

    “You did not buy this for G. you bought this for yourself really, didn’t you ?”

    48 hours later my fight left back to Europe

    2.
    On her first visit, where I met her child for the first time as well, he was described to me as devils offspring, requires daily medication of course! Nothing was wrong with that kiddo, nothing, he just lacked love and a real childhood, nothing else, but a BDP/NDP mother truly left her marks. I showed him how to sit on a horse close his eyes, spread his arms out and feel the animals power and well, it was an exercise in building trust.

    Later I bought a horse for them. Not that I could really afford to do that, but I did.

    Two weeks later she announced in a hatred temper that she gives this horse away to my ‘best friend” who would always have such good advise for me. She was jealous on a distant online friendship with someone I had never met in person, but who I knew long before her, and she knew that this would hurt me terrible.

    My distant friend could not believe what happened, and of course, she did not take the horse. She stayed on the farm instead.

    3.

    Three months ago, and 15 years later. We are back in contact, reading Dr T and others and educating myself has helped me gain some better understanding.

    I offered her a gift, and she reacted: “I will only accept that if you accept xyz in return.”

    Unconditional gifts are impossible, it has to be “Tit for Tat”, and guess what, unconditional love, giving sharing, caring…. they are incapable of.

    Conclusion:

    If you find yourself having a feeling in your lower stomach area as a result of someone treating you in certain ways, and that is a very specific feeling indeed, it can even creep up to your heart and eventually fill you entire body with a form of agony, anger and despair,….

    …My friend, you are being attacked by covert abuse and if you were love bombed by that person before, you are very much endangered to walk down a road of self destruction, yes, self destruction you heard that right, because it is in your power to stop that, no one else but you!

    Walk that road long enough, and you will witness the disintegration of your personality, your integrity and dignity will burn away in flames of agony while you are clutching at straws about the good times you had with her or him. Rest assured, they will never return.

    Best
    Shadow

    • Lateralus

      Wow I just joined this site, and Shadow your “conclusion” really hit home with me. I have been in an on again off again relationship who exhibits many traits of BPD. It has destroyed me, that feeling in the stomach you are talking about has consumed me and my self destruction has been going on for a long time now. I have lived on the edge, stressed out every single day because of her, I never know who I am going to get from one day to the next.

      It has been awful, I had to always be careful about what I say, and don’t say. I had to put up with her rages, her pushing, pulling me away, the silent treatment, abuse, threats, me being blamed for everything, never being trusted. But then I’ll get the “I love you”, “I miss you”. But they never last, and I am blamed once again.

      It has destroyed my self esteem, made me question my sanity, I have acted out in ways I never thought I would, embarrassed myself, lost my self respect, dignity, and integrity.

      2 days ago I did something that apparently pissed her off, something so minor that it would not bother a normal person or a normal person would talk about it. She raged on me told me I was playing games and that she doesn’t love me, or want me anymore. Well I snapped and told her exactly what i thought of her and what my family thinks of her. How she is not welcome because they have seen the damage she has done to me over the last 2 years. Her only response was “LOL”.

      They have no idea what they do and are in such denial its scary. Anyway i just wanted to say thanks for posting that, it is exactly how i feel and have been the last 2 years. Today is a new day and I am hoping she will never come back this time, I won’t let her.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

        Hi Lateralus,

        Welcome to Shrink4Men. I’m sorry to read that you continue to allow yourself to be drawn back into such an unhealthy and abusive relationship.

        Don’t be so quick to believe your on-again-off-again girlfriend doesn’t know what she’s doing or can’t help her behavior. Can she be nice and non-abusive towards others? If so, then she does Know how to behave herself when it’s in her best interests. These individuals seem to take most of their poison out on those who love them, because they know that you’ll take it.

        A friend on a support forum I belong to found the quote below on a confessional site. Seems to me this woman knows exactly what she’s doing, knows it’s wrong and just keeps keeping on:

        I lie constantly, to everybody in my life. My ‘thing’ is that I compulsively make men fall in love with me… not because I’m such an incredible catch or particularly beautiful, but because I am a master manipulator, incredibly good at reading people and working out what they want and desire and a very skilled liar. I have been fucked up for a long time since I experienced some traumatic things aged 11-12. From that period onwards I have been desperate to make people love me, to validate me… but I’m so sure that they couldn’t possibly love the real me that I create a new version of me each time. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in my teens. I make at least a couple of men fall in love with me each year, even in the time since I have been with my boyfriend. I know I have been unfaithful emotionally, and that if he had done this to me then I would be devastated.

        When I met my boyfriend I was desperate for emotional intimacy and so sure that he’d be another person I would have an intense fling with and then tire of that I lied about just about everything to get him to like me. I lied about my age (only by a year – why?! I have no idea), I lied about my qualifications (so he’d think I was incredibly intelligent), where I went to university (so he’d think we had something in common), what car I drove (to ‘impress’ him – I then had to ‘sell’ the car a few weeks later to ‘fund my studies’), where I’d been on holiday (again to make it seem like we had common interests), my sexual experiences, my living arrangements (I was living with my parents since being discharged from the latest mental hospital yet pretended I was living in a great apartment with friends), I invented various illnesses and ailments (to make him feel sympathy), I invented various family dramas (so that he’d want to protect me). I pretended I had a rampant sexual appetite (for obvious reasons) when in actual fact I hate sex due to childhood abuse. I went along with and fulfilled his every sexual fantasy (and faked numerous orgasms so that he’d think I genuinely enjoyed it too). Sure enough, he fell in love with me, quickly and hard… except this time I fell in love with him too.

        For the first time in my life the lies are getting to me. I genuinely love my boyfriend and I can’t imagine my life without him. I want to marry him and have his babies… I want to give everything to him. He hasn’t even met my family or friends (not that I have many anymore) in the four years I’ve known him, because inevitably either he or my parents would at some point say something that contradicts one of the lies I’ve told either party. I want for everybody to know the truth but for there to be no consequences, and that is impossible. I know for a fact that the lies I have told are so numerous and pervasive that he would feel like he never even knew me. He wouldn’t love me anymore, because he didn’t fall in love with me, he fell in love with a manufactured version of me. I know the right thing to do is to come clean regardless of the consequences to myself, but I’m a coward and I don’t know how to get myself out of this any other way than committing suicide which is becoming more appealing by the day.

        Chilling and, in my opinion, a self-pitying sociopath.

        • Shadow

          Tara said: Chilling and, in my opinion, a self-pitying sociopath.

          Allow me another possible angle Tara.

          She said: I have been fucked up for a long time since I experienced some traumatic things aged 11-12. From that period onwards I have been desperate to make people love me, to validate me…

          Now, this could be two things, a lie as well, or not, lets assume for a moment it is true.

          It is entirely possible that traumatic events that are untreated can change a person, we know this. Choosing to be a liar is of course just that, a choice, but are our choices always free choices? No they are not, they are determined in many ways, externalities and internalization of childhood patterns can play a strong role.

          Some people can only act and react within their limitations, and some limitations might just be so severe that they are extremely restricted in their ways.

          Correct me if I am wrong but I intend to think that:

          1. Persons with such a condition do not experience lasting contentedness or happiness, neither do they experience true growth as a person – or a couple – as they are blocked from gaining meaningful insights about matters and miracles of life, these experiences of course remain individual, as we all are individual. Shallow emotions is their world.

          2. They constitute what I would describe a stagnated personality, tragic is that they find rewards for their behavior in our somewhat poor societal context that is focussed on consumerism, hence they experience a positive feedback for their ways of using people. I intent to think that a lot of politicians and highly “successful” people are exhibiting such character traits as well, and in a way, as I learned that professionals noted an increase of victims of such abusers, it reflects a level self destruction our western stress hyped, competition insane and productivity focussed societies at large exhibit increasingly. Lack of true empathy is rampant.

          From my perspective, therapists are challenged and required to better understand the underlying reasons for such a development form sociological and psychological perspective. Putting my science hat on, it would not be satisfying to leave it a they just are and chose to be this way level. There are reasons for that, and they are reasons not understood.

      • Shadow

        Lateralus,

        I am not sure if I understand, first you say… 2 days ago I did something that… and at the end you say…Today is a new day and I am hoping she will never come back this time, I won’t let her… It indicates to me that she left you. If this is the case, I hope you can use the space you have right now to make up your mind how you want to spend the next two years.

        Let me add this from very personal insights, to be alive, to feel the warmths of the sun on your skin, snowflakes melting on your face, to see that red stag with impressive antlers passing your way, then standing still and looking right at you, to dive with a whale shark, being speechless for hours after that, or to observe the tiniest naked sea snails in awe of they amazing colors, to see the Golden eagle in the morning soaring the skies, a pregerine falcon it insane speed sky diving for his prey, or watch these ants marching in the grass, all this is around you wherever you are.

        Last year I found a dead dolphin on my beach, his partner stayed in the bay for 17 days mourning her loss, eh swam in circles in the same are, and I stayed with her every day. After a while she got accustomed to me presence and closed the distance, think of me being an oddball if you like – grin- but I started talking to her, and she was listening and “responding”, not that I understood what she responded but this was indeed communication, and there was an understanding.

        On the day where I returned looking for her and when I realized she was gone, a deep sadness engulfed me, but not for long, and I sat there alone and smiled.

        Life has many miracles, pain is inevitable and part of life and growth, but there is also pain that is unnecessary.

        Had the dolphin stayed for two years in this bay? No her love was dead.

        Perhaps this is a way to think about what you experience when I ask you, is your both love well and alive?

        All my best
        Shadow

        • Lateralus

          Shadow

          First of all that was a great story about the dolphin, and very inspiring post.

          Yes she left again, I have lost count how many times that is, but this time is different I don’t have that urge to beg for her to come back and act like I have lost the love of my life. I am just tired and sick of feeling like shit all the time. I have lost so much of myself and have become something I don’t want to be.

          I have been in therapy for the last 5 months and things are going well, and I think this time it will be different, it feels different, I don’t want anything to do with her. I want to enjoy those simple pleasures in life you described, I haven’t been able to enjoy anything the last year specifically when things have been really bad. I am starting next week going away to the cottage for the week to get some much needed relaxation and perspective.

          Again really enjoyed your posts.

          • Shadow

            Sounds to me as if you are on your way. I am glad to hear that you have help as well, really!

            I know too well how it feels if no help is available at all, and you are left with nothing but ruins and yes, it can completely ruin every last inch of your physical and psychological wellbeing and more, this form of abuse can be truly life threatening in it’s ultimate expression!

            You have not lost the love of your life at all, try to remember this in weak moments. You more than likely had invested a lot of heart into it, but these people have not the same emotional investment into you at all, they can drop you in a heartbeat and find the next one in a matter of days.

            True commitment, devotion and love requires a mature person, and not “a child masquerading in an adult body” to rephrase Tara.

            Last but not least, you have not lost anything of yourself, I do not believe that, it just feels this way right now, but your true inner self, it is still there, just buried under unnecessary pain, and the more layers of this pain will disappear, the more your true inner self will remerge.

            Go and treat yourself to something you like doing, have a good time at your cottage and enjoy life to the maximum, it is too short to be wasted on people, sorry for being blunt, who are only up their own ass, and this they are indeed. :)

            Best
            Shadow

      • Cousin Dave

        Lateralus, that was a touching story. However, there is something you need to do. Just hoping that your ex won’t be back in contact with you is futile — she will, and she will attempt to hoover you back. It’s guaranteed. You need to take positive steps now to cut yourself off from contact with her. Start with getting your phone number and email changed. If it’s practical for you, move — you don’t have to move far away, but just some place other than the last place she saw you. There are psychological and practical reasons for this. The psychologica reason is that you need a fresh start, something to change to shake up your life and start to get you out of the bad patterns that your life has fallen into. The practical reason is that even if she finds out where you are now living, it’ll be a lot easier to get a restraining order if you are someplace where she has never been.

        Think about changing up some of your usual behavior patterns. One trap a lot of us have fallen into is that we get rid of one abusive Cluster B, only to wind up with another one because we are engaging in activities and hanging out in places where we meet a lot of Cluster B’s. Try to get involved in something that will start introducing you to a better class of people.

        • Lateralus

          Hey cousin Dave

          Thanks for the reply. I am hoping to actually move in the next few months, just waiting to hear about a job interviewed for. I definitely need to make some changes in my life, I do feel like I am in a rut or stuck and this “relationship” has just drained me of everything. I am ready to live my life.I was thinking about when I first met her how I was. I was confident, fit, full of life, if you saw me today you wouldn’t believe me, I want that back!!!!

          I also want to change up my patterns as well, I tend to push good people who want to be with me and are healthy and cling to these disordered types. It is something I am addressing in therapy, I do realized have a lot to work on myself and have been and will continue to commit to therapy and fixing some issues.

          Thanks for the reply

      • SineNomine

        Welcome to the party, pal! Based on your screenname, I take it you’re a Maynard James Keenan fan?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      If you find yourself having a feeling in your lower stomach area as a result of someone treating you in certain ways, and that is a very specific feeling indeed, it can even creep up to your heart and eventually fill you entire body with a form of agony, anger and despair,….

      …My friend, you are being attacked by covert abuse and if you were love bombed by that person before, you are very much endangered to walk down a road of self destruction, yes, self destruction you heard that right, because it is in your power to stop that, no one else but you!

      Walk that road long enough, and you will witness the disintegration of your personality, your integrity and dignity will burn away in flames of agony while you are clutching at straws about the good times you had with her or him. Rest assured, they will never return.

      So very, very true, Shadow. Thank you. Why are you back in contact and not running as fast as you can in the opposite direction?

      • Shadow

        To answer your question would not fit into a public forum.

        However, to the readers here, I would not ever recommend you to do what I am doing. I am a somewhat more than average strong person, and I have been through many hells in my life that most people would find incomprehensible, and I am still kicking. I have witnessed tragedies, abuse of many kinds and death on levels that are more than enough to ruin your wellbeing for many days and nights just by listening to these experiences.

        If you are confronted with her / him many years later, please, do take Tara’s advice, seriously, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction!

        Do not be fooled by thinking that:

        1. Finding closure of injuries sustained would be possible, they will never admit the slightest wrong doing, even 15 years later, despite overwhelming evidence

        2. Reuniting with a “fantasy” is possible, you are more than likely fed again this “fantasy” by her / him tantalizing you, grooming you again to just wage another round of psychological warfare on you.

        Don’t get me wrong, while you might have felt sincere and pure love for this person, you need to ask a serious question at some stage, and you owe this honesty to yourself!

        Now that you are aware that all these things that happened to you were for reasons of covert abuse and a person with, shall we say, character deficiencies, do you still feel love for this person or is it something else?

        Of course it is something else, this is no love, this is clutching with your fingernails to something you wanted to be true, but that never manifested. You can not truly love a person that mistreats you, this is nothing but a Stockholm syndrome, but true love it is not.

        Love is a two way street, and if you are the only one on the giving end, it is not love.

  6. knotheadusc

    My husband’s former stepson– who was regarded as my husband’s son until he showed his true colors– once described to us an argument he’d had with his mother, my husband’s ex-wife. The ex and her family are LDS, and young men are expected to go on two year missions. My husband had converted to Mormonism with his ex, mainly to keep the peace. He later abandoned the church.

    As former stepson grew older, he decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the church. He especially didn’t want to go on a mission. He told his mother and she said, “But if you leave the church and don’t go on a mission, [my husband] wins!”

    I have also noticed the ex does everything in her power to creatively retaliate whenever she feels like she’s been slighted. It’s always in a way that is supposedly either to prove the other party wrong or teach them a lesson. She also really enjoys driving wedges in relationships.

    This article was particularly insightful. Well done, Dr. T!

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Hi knotheadusc and thank you.

      Your husband’s ex’s reaction also proves that PAS is real and that these types use their kids as weapons in their sick war.

      • knotheadusc

        The odd thing is that when this happened, none of the kids were even talking to my husband. It was around that time that ex stepson, who had recently turned 18, decided he wanted to move out of his mother’s house and move to another state. My husband was paying him child support, even though legally he wasn’t the boy’s father.

        Ex called my husband and pretty much ordered him to talk her son out of moving away. She even told him she wanted him to cut off the child support. My husband refused and the young man moved out for about a year. This is when the shit really hit the fan…

        Not long after the boy moved out, Ex had my husband’s daughters write letters disowning him and demanding that he give them up for adoption to their current stepdad (ex’s third husband). She sent a bunch of packages of personal items she had kept since their divorce six years prior, along with a neatly typed inventory of everything and made sure they were delivered restricted delivery. She sent her own hate filled letter and adoption forms for my husband to sign if he was so inclined. She added that if he did intend to sign, she hoped he would let her know so she and her husband could save up the money for the adoption fees.

        My husband had a few years of contact with ex-stepson, but it turned out ex-stepson was just using him for money. When he was confronted about his intentions, he got all indignant and quit talking to us. We haven’t heard from him in three years. I’ve enjoyed the silence.

        My husband didn’t sign the adoption papers, though now that his daughters are young adults, it appears that maybe she went ahead and got them adopted anyway. My husband’s stepmom said she’d seen something online from the stepdad indicating that he intended to adopt my husband’s girls. If that’s what will bring them peace, I guess it’s okay… but I get the sense it’s just one last “f-you” to my husband. And one day, they will sincerely regret it.

        I guess the one positive in all of this is that the ex pretty much leaves us alone… at least for now. I’ve come to believe that she puts provocative stuff on the Internet, hoping we’ll read it and engage her.

  7. Lebrocq

    “No, you didn’t paint it for me. You painted it and then you gave it to me.”

    This line summarizes it all for me. Wow!

    What saved me to a large degree from going crazy was understanding this behaviour – and adapting to it. Perhaps I can equate it to a crappy job that you can decide to grumble and complain the whole time your doing it or you can figure out a way to enjoy yourself a little and get the work done.

    With my ex it hasn’t been a case of just not playing the game, it has been a case of keeping her off guard by mixing things up.

    When we were together if she did something like withhold sex I would keep track of for how long and then double it the other direction with me withholding.

    If she was freaking out because she wanted me to do something I would agree – let her win – but then later would do what I wanted to do and when she came screaming would say to her – hang on that’s what you said you wanted me to do.

    When it came to court time every time she threatened me with court issues, I would make a point of actually getting my lawyer to send paperwork to her side with new issues.

    As far as time with our daughter goes I regularly make soft comments about schedule and leave it and later have her tell me the same thing as though its what she expects.

    When she starting freaking about money in the courts – I went back to College for three years. When my 6 year old starting asking questions about when I was done school (questions fed by mom) I decided to go another year to get my university degree. I knew this caused so much craziness for her and those around her about a month later her boyfriend started asking me about my plans – I confirmed with him about going to university and then added that maybe another year after that for teacher’s college – give them some more to chew on.

    The judge loved it when I volunteered from day 1 to pay for dental, dance, prescriptions for my daughter (things I’d pay for anyway). I made it a point of having my lawyer note that in court and that she had refused to give me receipts so I could reimburse her – That stopped her from ranting in court about money because she looked like an idiot trying to convince even her own lawyer that she wasn’t getting enough financially.

    Now these days I also at times intentionally get in a two minute heated exchange with her about an issue that doesn’t matter with me, so she can spend a week ranting and freaking out on her own time with her crazy family so that when an issue important to me and my daughter does come up she’s still so focused and wound up about winning the first issue I can relent on it to get what I really want by doing a “compromise”! She thinks she’s winning.

    I can also say removing all my anger from any interaction and talking in a matter of fact tone at all times is a necessity her – like going to a crappy job I’ve chosen to do what I have to do – get through the next shift – so I can enjoy the rest of my life.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Looks like your approach is working for you and the kids, Lebrocq, which is all that matters. It sucks that you have to go through such machinations just to have some peace, though. Unfortunately, that is often what is required.

    • cuatezon

      GTFO. That’s all I can say. Seriously. Otherwise it will peck away at you and your health WILL deteriorate.

  8. TheGirlInside

    Dr. Daniel Amen calls it “scarcity thinking.” There is only so much in this world, and i have to get ‘mine.’ If someone else has something I want, that means there is less in the world for me to get.

    I experienced this with both the ex-h and Mother figure – gifts ALWAYS had strings attached (“you must forgive me / put up with my abuse b/c I spent money on you”). I have for as long as I can remember, had a hard time accepting gifts.

    When with the ex, I likened it to being on a see-saw…in order to bring himself ‘up’ he had to bring me ‘down’ (put me in my place). I hated the feeling of him seeming to see me as an adversary rather than as a partner.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Scarcity thinking is a very good term, TGI.

    • tenquilts

      I’m the same way. I had trouble accepting gifts because they could always be taken away if I displeased, and since it didn’t seem to reconcile with the put-downs, I felt that there needed to be an “exchange” in order for me to feel deserving.

      It feels sometimes like my husband’s ex has that scarcity thinking about her children’s love. Somehow, I am a threat to her if they feel positively about me, as if there’s only so much love in their hearts.

    • Cousin Dave

      Yeah, a great point about scarcity thinking is that they’ll think that way even about things that are complely intangible, like compliments. If you give someone else a compliment, that’s a compliment that the NPD/BPD didn’t get!

  9. amoeba

    Good article. They’re obsessed with letting you know how right they are. They smother you with it! I swear, it’s like they think they’re going to drop dead if they actually have to say “I was wrong.” And they must rub it in when they “win”. I always felt like they were constantly competing against me instead of connecting. They tried to trick me into thinking that I was the one initiating the game, and they really wanted me to envy how “right” they were. If I didn’t care that they were “right” and they could see that, then they would tell me that I was “obviously mad” at them anyway. Again, they had to be envied at all times. They were quick to point out what I was doing “wrong,” and always tried to trick me into thinking I was worthless. These people are egotistical bulldozers.

    • cuatezon

      Yes amoeba, they gloat and rub your face in their ‘win’. Even when we concede & let them win. Then comes the invalidation – sometimes subtle, sometimes overt – but it comes – and invalidating you is a way of emotionally killing you. Do a web search on ‘invalidation’ it will be very helpful for you.

      Dr. T is onto something here – true neutrality is the only way to win. Its like being in an emotional Switzerland…and there you find some peace & serenity.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

        Also, like Switzerland during WWII, I recommend you lock down your borders and be prepared to blow them up when these types try to breach them.

        • cuatezon

          Touche! Fortunately, we are not fixed countries and we can physically remove ourselves from the war, but mining the boundaries with ‘explosives’ sure is a good way to help reinforce the boundaries.

    • duhwinning

      OMG….if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said this exact, same thing. How about a sincere apology that showed regret or remorse? They will INSIST that you apologize and if you don’t, the war is on. But, asking them to do so or to admit they are wrong is so utterly foreign to them it boggles the imagination.

      The whole mindset is astonishing in its immaturity. I’ve apologized so many times for the sake of marital harmony I lost myself…as cliche as that sounds.

      As an aside, for years my wife insisted on marriage counseling. But, I continued to have this little blinking red light in the back of my head that said, “don’t fall for it”. I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that what she really wanted was to be professionally validated so as to achieve the coupe de grace with me. Not just to win…but to TAKE. To crush. To win at any cost.

      Finally, I relented…but steeled myself for the assault. I cannot remember a time when I was more resolute. At our first counseling session, I listened as best as I could for maybe half an hour. Invariably, the tears and the crying came. I explained that this was one of the lynch pin issues for me. I viewed her use of crying as emotional rape and couldn’t take it any more. Of course, any time I did that, I was insensitive and “unfeeling”.

      Then came the magic word. Change. I was going to be asked to “change”….again. And, that’s when I lost it. Just went completely bat shit insane. I had had it with changing….with always being the one to “change”. It was like trying to do a moon shot with a pop bottle rocket. I said, point blank, “I am not changing…not one thing….not one iota….this isn’t “my” issue…it’s hers…and I’m sick of owning it. If we divorce TODAY….I’m not moving a millimeter”. And, with that, I got up and walked out. But, not without a parting shot from the counselor who said as my hand touched the door knob, “You’re driving her away…”, to which I responded, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard….you’ll see”. Then I left. Terrified. Drained. Afraid of divorce. Afraid of failure. Enraged. Alone.

      My wife remains in counseling a year later and, after almost 19 years of marriage, I have to admit she’s gotten….better. Occassionally, I feel the old monster raising its head. The co-opting of observations to fit their agenda, the crying, the insistence on being right, the overwhelming need to win at any cost (I’ve said that to her so many times), the sickening cycle of accusing me of accusing her of accusing me, the utter refusal to apologize. It’s all there. I just hope and assume she is learning coping skills and getting counseled on exactly how crazy she has been for her entire life.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

        Hello and welcome to S4M, duhwinning. Good for you for taking a stand in couples counseling. In my opinion, couples counseling with someone like your wife just doesn’t work. They typically snow an already female biased, emotional reasoning therapist into using therapy to enable their continued abuse.

        • duhwinning

          Thank you, Dr. Palmatier. I’ve lurked in the shadows for a year. The counselor was/is female. I had this sinking feeling that the score was settled before I ever got there. Whether that was the case or not, it was in the back of my mind. Maybe this caused me to be overly defensive. Either way, something changed in that moment. I think my wife saw that, for me, this was it. This was THE white-hot moment of truth for me and I wasn’t going to back down. I hate to admit this, but I saw it as an opportunity to turn her presumed win into my turning of the tide. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way I felt. It was as if everything…family, career, self…was on the line and I was looking for a hard eight.

          A few weeks ago, something happened and she brought up marriage counseling again. And, I knew, “it” was about to happen. It’s as if you are powerless to stop it. It’s like a tidal wave. No matter how much intellect, wit, wisdom or just plain old smarts you have, they are so adept at it that you can’t consider all the variables in a few moments of time.

          I want and strive to be a good husband. A good father. Honest and respectable. Sincere and caring. I’ve come to the point in my life that I don’t feel weird about admitting my flaws, shortcomings or weaknesses. Yet, nor do I feel weird about admitting the things I get right or do well.

          I say all that to say this; “this” isn’t….me. It’s just simply not me. For years, I labored under the delusion that I must be able to do something more to “fix” it. Think more. Act differently. Compromise more. Stop being such a….man? I finally arrived at the conclusion that no matter what I did, it was never going to get better and I had to be willing to bet the farm on one roll of the dice, win or lose.

          Maybe…just maybe…we will be a success story. I hope that is the case. But, for those others that are lurking out there as I did for a year, I would say this; don’t look for the differences in the stories of others, look for the similarities. Don’t continue to fool yourself into thinking that “those guys” on there have worse situations that yours. Message boards like this, by their very nature, preclude the long, drawn-out entire story from being told. My personal story is 16 full pages in a Word document. I could never hope to post it all here.

          • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

            Why do you stay, duhwinning? How old are your children?

          • duhwinning

            My children are 8 and 10. My childhood sucked, having been replete with all the typical dysfunction and substance abuse and hatred. Ask any child…I can’t think of a single one, including myself, who would pull out the old saw that so many adults use today; they should have split up years ago….the kids would be better off. That is a line of BS that has been perpetuated in order to justify selfish attitudes and an unwillingness to compromise over the past 50 years. I like to call it the baby boomer syndrome.

            Call me old fashioned or deluded. I stay because, in spite of her craziness, I genuinely love her. I value her. I value family. For all of her foibles, she is a fabulous mother. We, together, get alot of things right.

            That is one of the confounding side-bar issues to many of these stories, in my opinion. Many of these women are likely great moms, excellent daughters (?), beloved aunts and sisters. Some are consistent in their craziness, I’m sure. But, perhaps like my wife, some of them seem to focus their craziness on their husband/significant other and leave most others alone.

            I stay because I’m stubborn and it would be a real success story to see her get the therapy she needs to make the changes she’s capable of. Because my sons need her…and frankly, so do I. I just don’t need “this”…any more.

            Maybe some day my sons will expose me for the liar I have been about this. Maybe they will say, “dad…she was an unrepentant bitch….you should have left long ago”. Maybe they will prove wrong all of my beliefs about divorce. But, the hope of future success, and their well being, is more powerful than the need to be…right.

          • TheGirlInside

            DW: In other words, (IMO), you are deluding yourself, swiftly swimming down D’Nile (Denial).

            Re your comment, “I can’t think of a single one, including myself, who would pull out the old saw that so many adults use today; they should have split up years ago….the kids would be better off. That is a line of BS that has been perpetuated in order to justify selfish attitudes and an unwillingness to compromise over the past 50 years. I like to call it the baby boomer syndrome.”

            THAT comment from you, my friend, IS BS. My parents are the two most dysfunctional people who have an unholy union never sanctified by things of God. She is an NPD (per my exhaustive internet and book research), he is an immature philanderer (a point she notes to her children–among his other deficiences–every chance she gets). 40+ years (with emotionally crippled adult children, no money in the bank, reverse mortgage, and one spouse working at age 74 with zero retirement plans in place) = ‘Success’ – Malarky!!

            When you are a child with one crazy abusive parent who praises you in public but then becomes “Mommy Dearest” behind closed doors, and another who is emotionally and physically unavailable (OTR truck driver),who is there to turn to? From whom do you learn what a healthy relationship look like? How the hell can you possiby get into an adult relationship where you play neither the target nor the perpetrator of abuse? EVERYTHING I have EVER learned about so-called healthy relationships, I have learned from a book or from therapy…and from doing the near-opposite of what my parents did in any given situation.

            By staying in a dysfunctional relationship, you are teaching your children that love and commitment mean staying with an unrepentent bitch / *sshole, no matter what damage has been done to their own physical, emotional, spiritual and financial health. I challenge you to be brutally honest with your answer to this question: Is the relationship you had/have with your wife the kind you wish for your children? Why and Why Not? Would your spiritual guide (God, etc.) want that for his/her precious children?

            In addition, I offer the following:
            1. http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/letter-from-an-adult-child-of-cluster-b-personality-disorder-parents-the-damage-done/

            2. Other Link: 10 Lies Men Tell Themselves In Order to Stay in Emotionally Abusive Relationships with their Wives or Girlfriend

            3. Can an Abusive Borderline Personality Disorder Woman Really Change?
            May 31, 2010 shrink4men Leave a comment Go to comments

            4. http://www.divorcehope.com/

            5. How To Tell They are Not Changing Their Abusive Behavior

            http://www.rhiannon3.net/cs/howtotell.html

            6. Love and Stockholm Syndrome:
            The Mystery of Loving an Abuser
            http://counsellingresource.com/quizzes/stockholm/index.html

            7. Kirschbaum, Mira, Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay pp 199, paragraphs 3,4 (1996), Plum Publishing

            8. Lastly, an official Canadian document on the abuse of men by their female partners:
            “An abusive environment harms children
            now and in their future.
            Sometimes people abused by their partners think their children do not know about the abuse or that the abuse does not harm the children. But children are harmed, even if they are not directly abused.

            Being exposed to anger and violence affects children’s brain development.
            · Brain scans show that children in abusive environments use much of their brain to watch out for danger. Less of their brain is available for healthy growth and development
            · This affects their physical, emotional and mental development
            · It affects their ability to form healthy relationships
            · It affects them even when the children are not consciously aware of the abuse
            in their home

            When a child is in a threatening environment over time, such as in a home where the adults are abusive, systems in the child’s brain undergo changes. These changes result in emotional, behavioural, intellectual and physical symptoms.

            Children can show all the same signs of trauma as if they were abused themselves.”

            Read that last sentence again.

            Resource: Men Abused by Women in Intimate Relationships,
            Alberta Children and Youth Services
            Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying
            3rd Floor, Sterling Place
            9940 – 106 Street
            Edmonton, AB T5K 2N2
            Family Violence Info Line: 310-1818
            http://www.familyviolence.alberta.ca

          • cuatezon

            Touche GirlInside. Thanks I needed this reminder of why I left my ex.

          • lassie

            You are so right, GirlInside! My friend stayed with a PD “for the sake of the children” only to see his now-grown children suffer from various psychological problems as a direct result of daily exposure to their high conflict relationship. His youngest told him he knew from the age of 10 that the relationship was toxic and he wished his parents had divorced long before they did. Painful for a man to hear after sacrificing decades of his own life trying to “do the right thing.”

          • Michaelstidham2013

            Your last paragraph? It does happen. My daughter’s biggest fear after our divorce was that we actually WOULD get back together. She’s told me, “Why would you EVER want to go back to Mom? You’re much happier now, she’s, well…”
            My marriage to her mother has probably done more damage to her attitudes about others than the divorce did.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Yes, it does seem like it’s physically impossible for them to speak the words, “I was wrong.” Kind of like the Fonz:

  10. george

    Dr. T.,

    I always find it amazing just how well you describe my ex. For my ex, there was no such thing as compromise. She had to win. If we ever had a disagreement, the only acceptable solution was that I was wrong and she was right. There was no give and take. I was always told that I needed to compromise, but after a while I realized that I was the only one who EVER made a concession. The only acceptable solution was when she won and I lost. It also couldn’t be a little win, it had to complete and total annihilation. If I had a difference of opinion on something, the only acceptable resolution would have to end with me saying that I was completely and totally wrong and lastly apologizing repeatedly for ever having had that thought in the first place!
    I was often belittled or made fun of by my ex. If anyone spoke highly of me or offered me praise, they were belittled or discredited. She also made it a point to isolate me from those people. She especially hated anyone who would stick up for me.

    My ex also viewed a kind or charitable act as somehow diminishing the person doing the kind act. The only way it could be ok would be if by doing this kind act, she could receive praise or recognition for it.

    Sadly, I suffered through several years of marriage, trying to make my marriage work with this dysfunctional person. The fact that she knew that I really wanted to make the marriage work was used as a weapon to abuse and take advantage of me. There were early red flags and signs that I either ignored or did not take seriously enough. I didn’t experience the full wrath of this campaign until our son was born. At that point, she had her insurance policy. She achieved her financial security. She knew that I loved our son and this could be played as the ultimate weapon to her advantage.

    I have a question for you. Some BPD/NPD individuals are also highly functioning. My ex knew how to behave in public. She knew right from wrong, socially acceptable from socially unacceptable. She knew that the things that she did were wrong. She knew better to hide them well. My question to you, is this almost the definition of evil? To know was is right and what is wrong and to choose to harm and hurt other people very purposely and knowingly isn’t this just evil? Please don’t confuse this with someone who might be very low functioning that has no ability to control them self or discern right and wrong. I realize that this is a pretty strong statement. I’ve given this a fair amount of thought. I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference from this behavior and that of a Sociopath?

    Thank you for helping me understand the crazy world that I was in. You helped me escape that nightmare.

    Thanks again,

    George

    • Mellaril

      “I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference from this behavior and that of a Sociopath?”

      There are reasons for that:

      •Rethinking Female Sociopathy, Part One (January 4, 2012)

      •Rethinking Female Sociopathy, Part Two (January 13, 2012)

      • george

        Thanks for the references to those earlier articles. They were both spot on. If I may summarize, the reason that I don’t see a lot of difference between BPD/NPD behavior and Sociopathic behavior, is because there really isn’t much difference! Thanks for the info.

        • Mellaril

          Somewhere, Dr. T refererred to Borderlines as “bumbling sociopaths.” I don’t remember if it was in one of the blogs itself or in one of her comments.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Hi george,

      I am glad you escaped the nightmare, too. How are things with you and your son. If memory serves, your ex was waging quite the parental alienation campaign. Is she still at it?

      • george

        Things with me personally are going well, but they aren’t so good with my son. I’d like to tell you that things are going well with my son, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. My ex is still waging quite the parental alienation campaign. She has also been very successful with her campaign. At this point, I’m actually very discouraged. I have tried my best with the family court system, but I found that they actually are great enablers of this bad behavior. I am trying to work with my son’s court ordered psychologist, but he really doesn’t want to really deal with the problem. He will agree that “many of the behaviors that my ex and my son exhibit are consistent with that of a BPD waging a parental alienation campaign.” He’ll go on to say that because my son is 16 and closely aligned with his mother, he doesn’t think that the court system will do anything. “No judge will take away her child from her, no matter how bad she is.” He advises me is to just try to stay a part of my son’s life and hopefully when he goes off to college, he’ll be able to think for himself, mature, and we will be able to patch things up. What frustrates me is that the behavior is going on under the nose of this court ordered psychologist, yet he refuses to do anything about it. I’m not saying that he doesn’t know what’s going on. Quite to the contrary, he does know what’s going on, but he doesn’t want to call my ex on her bad behavior or present the issue in court. Sadly, when a parental alienation campaign is allowed to fester and take root for so long, at this point in time my son is also a willing participant. As terrible as it sounds, I am truly considering that it might be better for me to not have a relationship with my son if it is only going to be an abusive relationship with inappropriate behavioral boundaries. I wouldn’t tolerate this type of relationship with any other person in my life. I don’t know if I can express just how gut wrenching a decision like this is. It tears me apart on the inside. It’s really sad to see my son who I have loved his whole life turn into a weapon against me. I find it terrible that my ex could find it acceptable to use my son as a weapon and take advantage of the fact that she knows that I love him.

  11. cuatezon

    Another article hitting the nail on the head. I’ve always said these types enjoy and take pleasure in other’s pain & suffering. I posted somewhere else previously the only difference between infamous serial killers like Ted Bundy, Gacey, et al is they took pleasure in physically & emotionally harming/killing people; these Borderline/Narcissistic women take pleasure and thrill in inflicting emotional pain and suffering on their victims. It feeds their power ego. Make no mistake, these are dangerous people who emotionally/psychologically murder you…and in some cases, take it the next step to actual homicide.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Thanks, cuatezon. I agree. These types are serial soul killers.

    • 1cluelessguy

      Cuatezon, you are SO right. These people ‘get off’ on the pain, anguish, confusion, and damage they inflict on others; it’s not only deliberate, but often premeditated. Not that they won’t take the occasional spontaneous opportunity to hurt someone either; that’s icing on the cake to them. What you said about all this stroking their power ego is also right on the money. It’s all about their “power over” their victims; that’s the difference between the enjoyment someone might experience via a simple victory or accomplishment, versus someone feeling the need or drive to go beyond victory or accomplishment to destroying, damaging, or forcibly taking something from an ‘opponent’. THey have to have that feeling of power over the other person, and the larger that power is, the more enjoyment they get. That’s why they can’t accept the idea of a big-picture, ‘win-win’ solution to a problem; in their mind, for resolution to an issue to be most enjoyable, there MUST be an enemy or opponent, AND that person or people MUST lose (and the bigger and more painfully they lose, the greater their enjoyment/pleasure). Greater control = greater power = greater potential pleasure. That’s the payoff they get. The “Smirk” is simply one of the visible cues to their having received the pleasure/payoff to their latest conquest.

      • Jason

        I disagree quite strongly. I think you are projecting your perception of power onto cluster B’s. I don’t believe BPDs experience a payoff–that’s what makes them so scary. They are utterly indifferent. My gut feeling is that this isn’t about winning as most people see it, but because they are simply right. Period.

        (There is experimental evidence that BPDs don’t process dopamine the same way as everyone else.)

        • cuatezon

          Its all good Jason. I think it may be a matter of semantics, and/or none of us truly knowing what motivates and makes these people tick.

          I again, though, turn to the Hitler analogy. Hitler went after the Jews, Gypsies, and entire countries clearly as a power play. Not a power trip in the traditional sense, i.e., to acquire more land, water, natural resources, financial gain. His was a darker power play that goes way, way beyond the traditional sense of power. Hitler, Himmler, and the other bullies clearly enjoyed annihilating entire groups and races of people; they laughed & joked about it. They took pleasure in it. They loved crushing people’s souls and torturing them emotionally, psychologically, physically.

          I’m not even qualified enough to fully explain it, but I think we all instinctually get what Hitler was about. So too with these BPD and other sinister figures. They may not be the blatantly obvious serial sociopaths that Hitler, Bundy and the others were…but remember Hitler was named TIME Magazine Man of the Year in 1936. These folks can appear innocous, but they are quite sinister and deviant and dangerous IMO.

  12. tenquilts

    I think there are only two situations in which a personality disordered person says the words, “I’m sorry.” One is sarcastically: “well, I’m SORRY that my children love me so much that they want to be with ME instead of YOU.” The second is as it relates to others (a quote from my husband’s ex’s latest hoover email): “I’m sorry you didn’t truly forgive me when you said you had.” If there are any apologies beyond those it’s for manipulative purposes only – such as, he’s out the door and might not come back for Round 836 if she doesn’t say the magic words to give him hope that things will be different. But if he does – if she debases herself that far – she will exact her revenge for having had to do so so.

    There is no true apology for her actions. Everything is justifiable. I cannot tell you how it takes my husband or his daughters off guard when I apologize for something I have said or done. He is grateful but my stepdaughters don’t know what to say or do. A grown woman apologizing to them? Unheard of.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Keep modeling healthy adult behavior for them, tenquilts. Have you and your partner tried having a conversation about the importance of accountability, remorse and making amends? That it’s important in healthy relationships to apologize and mean it when you hurt someone and that there’s no shame in admitting when you’re wrong?

      • Shadow

        That indeed are very important things to note and they have a counterpart as well Tara:

        – Accountability
        – Remorse
        – Making amends

        If you are faced with an apology that comes across to you as a hollow phrase, listen again. Did you ever hear the phrase – of course you did, politicos use it all the time when they are caught red handed – I do take the full responsibility!, it is such meaningless phrases that are designed to cause a smokescreen and are not real apologies at all.

        So what does that mean?

        Say you are hurt, and you are willing to forgive that because you love the other and she/he means the world to you, is there a situation where you can not forgive? Yes of course, and this is not because of you, but the other side, if they can not admit any wrong doing, they can not accept forgiveness to begin with. Forgiveness also is a two way street, there is one who accepts wrong doing and sincerely apologizes and follows through, and there is the other one who then can forgive and both can move on.

        If the other can not admit wrong doing, you can not forgive them, and there is no need to do that.

        • tenquilts

          This is a very sensitive subject now because his ex is still saying to anyone who will listen that she was willing to DO ANYTHING to fix the marriage. The children believe it, having not seen anything that happened during the marriage and us, of course, not willing to tell them. They had gone through counseling again and again like duhwinning wrote about above, which was all her need for him to change … even her affair was about how HE had failed her and needed to change. Of course the kids don’t know about the affair and won’t from us. Heck, I know about other affairs she had from her former friends that even my husband doesn’t. So for the children, they have trouble assimilating ideas like boundaries on behavior, forgiveness, commitment, self-love versus other-love. And it becomes difficult to discuss the ideas when they bring up the marriage which my husband does not want to discuss with them.

          One of the strange things I remember hearing about my husband and his ex was that when he was putting the responsibility of her feelings back on you he would say things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s not my meaning.” She railed that when you said “I’m sorry” you’d better be prepared to change it, or it didn’t mean anything. So in her mind, he wasn’t sorry that his leaving hurt her or else he wouldn’t have left. He wasn’t sorry that he had to punish his child for bad behavior or he wouldn’t have done it. The words, “I’m sorry” can indeed mean so many other things even when honestly spoken: “I regret,” “it causes me sorrow,” “I was wrong.” So we try to say specifically what we are sorry for, why we made the mistake, and what specifically we plan to do in order to not make the mistake again. It’s been challenging for me since my mother also was disordered, and the admission of a mistake was like a death sentence that kept coming back to haunt me since she never let anything go, turning me into something of a perfectionist. Letting go of that as well as trusting that my mistakes and apologies will not be perpetually held against me was a lesson I had to learn in love, and hopefully, over time, the kids will pick up on it too.

          • Cousin Dave

            A Cluster B will use “I’m sorry” to get back on top in a relationship, and to establish an equivalence between their behavior and yours: “I’m sorry I stabbed you in the chest with the steak knife, but you brought me the wrong kind of coffee. So now you’ve learned your lesson. And since I said I’m sorry, you have to forgive me now and act like it never happened! It’s the rule!”

          • SineNomine

            That hits very close to home – not the stabbed in the chest part, but the equivalence part. It wouldn’t matter how scary-crazy her behavior was, it was justified, or at least no different from mine, because I had engaged in less than perfect behavior either contemporaneously or at some point in the past. Talk about your crazymaking experiences.

          • cuatezon

            Good one Cousin Dave and very true. Thank you for verbalizing this; there are so many darn details and patterns I often cannot verbalize them well enough anymore.

  13. 1cluelessguy

    One of the ‘clues’ my awesome counselor has tried to help me realize (hmmm, perhaps he CAN be taught!) ;) has been to recognize the difference between apologies for real transgressions, and apologizing for nothing or to ‘lose face’ to your borderline. I too used to be the only one in the relationship to apologize; no matter who did what to whom, or why. I had to be the one to acknowledge my ex’s victory and power over me, whether I’d done anything or not. No wonder I was walking on eggshells all the time; when you live life daily strolling through mental minefields, you do get awfully ‘flinchy’ about that next explosion, and will do nearly anything to avoid the next mine.

    “Normal” people realize when they’re wrong, and then they take action to both apologize and make amends if possible. HCP’s can’t/won’t even contemplate a heartfelt apology, as being wrong interferes with their ‘perfect’ outward mask, and in their mind, costs them some degree of power over their vistim.

    Thankfully enough my borderline decided that her prescription drug use, binge alcoholism, serial adultery, and other hobbies would continue more effectively if we divorced, so she filed (and I have to admit, unwittingly freed me in the process). Here’s the truly wacky part; the ex got everything she wanted in the divorce, got to completely dictate terms (the spouse who files in my state has ALL the power in the divorce; the judge just mediates if needed), and has gone whole hog into her ‘new’ single-woman lifestyle (it’s the same old lifestyle, but now she can do it all openly, and not have to deceive the husband). I went no-contact, and since that time, the ex will NOT leave me alone. The ex now wants us to “be really good friends”, hang out together, etc., but now that I’m free and have gained some hard-learned perspective, I’m not having any. I think she wants to continue ‘winning’ by continuing to yank my chain at will and keep me mired in my old dancing bear act. Thanks to the many insightful folks on here, and my wise counselor, I’ve avoided the hoovering completely, and have blocked all her access to me.

    Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention to all the other posters on here, and to Dr. T; as the advice tends to be very sound, the benefits are considerable, and they give YOU the chance to ‘win’ your freedom and long-term happiness.

    • Zibot

      1cluelessguy

      “…keep me mired in my old dancing bear act.”

      Thank you for that, that cracked me up! It’s the perfect image to capture the futility of what we try, the levels to which we sink, and the misguided hope that drives our efforts – Brilliant!

      (you’re going to have to update your handle to 1CluedInGuy)

  14. Jason

    I don’t agree that Winning always equals Taking. My ex-wife, I don’t think it applies at all. Yes, she used me (and my money) but it was rarely in the same context.

    Winning, however, means a lot to my ex, especially winning arguments. This gets even more complicated due to her tendency to disassociate past events. My feeling is that winning is important to my ex because it makes her real. Losing only reinforces her no sense of self. One odd thing is that my ex is still far worse in this regard with our oldest daughter than she ever was with me.

    Right after we got married, and I already knew I’d made a big mistake, but wasn’t able to articulate it, we had a disagreement and my new father-in-law quipped, that his daughter “just has to be right.” He was very prophetic. Scary thing, though, is that she wasn’t that way at all during our courtship.

    In conjunction with this, my ex is the most selfish person I’ve ever met (again, all hidden during the courtship and she even hid that well for years.) More than once, I got the feeling that she was scared shitless that I was going to leave her and would temper her behavior. I’ve identified a moment in time ten years before our marriage ended when that changed. I believe it’s when she gave trying and stayed only for the money. It was then that she got increasingly worse with the obsession with winning not just arguments, but innocuous discussions.

    • FancyNancy

      But even as I read your comment it seems that it’s all about power. So, winning may not be taking in the literal sense, but winning is about power. And that’s sick.

      • Jason

        I say it’s more about control in the context of the BPD, but even that doesn’t quite explain FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE what they are doing.

        My point is that it’s useless looking at this as a power struggle. BPDs are sociopaths; they don’t reason how even very messed up normal people reason. As the Bobby Kennedy story so vividly illustrates, it can be fatal to believe this.

        Thinking and maintaining that this is about power does absolutely no good to either side, but especially the non-BPD. Again, it suggests that the BPDs can be reasoned with and can be fixed. Worse of all, it implies that the BPD has a conscience. They don’t. This may be the scariest aspect of BPDs–whatever passes for a conscience is mimicry; it isn’t something they feel viscerally.

        (To put it another way, when a BPD or NPD says they’re sorry, they don’t feel sorrow for the hurt their actions caused, but because that’s what normal people say. [I almost wrote that they say it out of fear that the other won’t play their sick games anymore, but I really don’t think they reason that way or that sophisticated. At best, it is an ex post facto justification, or one imposed and they are simply parroting it.)

        • cuatezon

          Hi Jason, good points you make. However, lack of conscience with sociopaths doesn’t equate to lack of feeling pleasure. Sociopaths feel pleasure in taking – whether its something tangible like your money, or intangible, like your dignity, your sanity and your soul. These sociopaths are not common thieves; they want to steal your happiness, your serenity. It is about control, and control is acquired through power. Mental, emotional, psychological, physical, whatever kind of power and control they can get, they will get it.

          Ted Bundy and Wayne Gacey ENJOYED toying with their victims. They didn’t just rape and kill; they tortured and mutilated and humiliated them. Granted, many of our ex’s aren’t the physically violent sociopaths like Bundy/Gacey. However, they are sociopaths nonetheless who take pleasure in hurting others and taking anything they can from the victims.

  15. Rich

    My favorite comment “it’s definitely not the thought that counts.”

    I’ve said that a million times. There’s never a thank you for how much you do, or how much you go out of your way to do extra. There’s only criticism of the 1 thing you didn’t manage to find time to do or the criticism of how you didn’t do things “the right way, MY way!”

  16. Mr. Earls

    Every rage, every manipulation, every guilt trip to get what she wanted resulted in a loss….loss of my self, loss of my self esteem and loss of the marriage…I think we were in the conflict stage for 15 years…me silently, her overtly…I was never content, because I knew that she was not, never satisfied and nor will she likely ever be as she chases the dragon…looking for acceptance from her father. Screw it…I love my life! Better off without her…I laugh out loud about some dumb ass things she’s pulled at least once a day when I see something that reminds me of an incident. I sold the wedding band 2 days ago, paid for groceries and gas…you know…necessities.

    • cuatezon

      YES. I understand Mr. Earls. I really do. After 15 years if it didn’t affect your health (mental and physical) that’s another necessity you get to have too.

  17. Jason

    BTW, a heads up to the recent reports about Bobby Kennedy’s wife. From a New York Post article:

    “Soon after Mary became pregnant with our first son, Mary — in a sudden rage about my continued friendship with my ex-wife — hit me in the face with her fist,” Bobby said in an affidavit filed as part of his then-custody battle with his estranged wife.”

    “Bobby said that at one point after they separated, Mary “said she intended to kill herself unless I called off the divorce and unless I promised to recommit to the marriage.””

    Then this chilling section:

    “According to the affidavit, during their marriage, Bobby would awaken in the middle of the night to find Mary beating him, and he said that he once had to escape through a second-floor window.

    One time, she threw a plate of spaghetti at him in front of the kids and another, attacked him with scissors while he was in the bathtub, according to the report….

    According to Newsweek, Bobby “pleaded” with Mary’s brothers and sisters to do an intervention, and e-mailed them in June 2011 that she was “sinking into terrible darkness.”

    Mary’s siblings — who, along with many of her friends have contended that the Kennedy clan is trying to save face over Bobby’s mistreatment of Mary by making her look mentally ill — allegedly told him to take a hike.”

    “In 2006 Bobby talked to Mary’s psychotherapist, then Sheenah Hankin, an author with a clientele heavy with celebrities and semi-celebrities. “You are married to a woman who has borderline personality disorder,” Hankin told him, according to Bobby’s account in the affidavit. “It’s important that you read these books.”

    Bobby had never even heard of borderline personality disorder (BPD), but when he opened I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, he felt he had an understanding of what was happening with his wife. Bobby read that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association lists nine criteria for BPD, five of which must be present for a diagnosis. Mary seemed to have every one of the nine, including a perceived sense of abandonment, a lack of identity, recklessness, suicidal threats, intense feelings of emptiness, and inappropriate displays of anger.”

  18. FancyNancy

    This article is like a blueprint for my aunt! She’s divorcing my uncle and instead of a proper divorced settlement she’s assassinating his character. And then she’s assassinating MY character. I handed over to my uncle some evidence of her lies (she tried to have him arrested and get me to lie about it, she also lied about hiding money and affairs) and she started stalking me. She’s alienated most of my family against me, filed false police reports against me, sued me and hacked into my email and phone voicemail. What was so unreal was to hear from other people that she was upset because *I* was suing *her*! They look at me crazy when I explain to them, noooo…she’s suing *Me*!

    She doesn’t see that this is all a result of HER ACTIONS. She blames me? For what? Not letting her sabotage a person’s life? It’s as if she’s NOT HUMAN. I read a book called, “People of the Lie”, and it was really enlightening. But the problem is, these crazy people won’t GO AWAY. How they hold on to this hate, this baseless anger and empty vendetta, is beyond me. Nothing she says is based in reality. She’s angry about things that DIDN’T HAPPEN. She thinks she can create her own reality and play it all out in the court system. What I hate most of all is that it’s made me wary of women who say they have been victims of abuse. She calls herself a victim. It’s chilling to hear her say it, weep it even. Because she is the victimizer. Is this a sociopath?

    End of rant. Thanks for the article. At least I’m not alone! These people are real!

    • Cousin Dave

      Wow, your aunt’s quite a piece of work. Is going no-contact an option for you? As for your question, I guess it depends on how you define “sociopath”… Dr. T can jump in here, but your aunt certainly sounds to me like the typical sort of character… the perpetual anger, the mass distorting of reality, the DARVO behavior (Deny, Accuse, Reverse Victim and Offender). That’s a good description of someone who is a really, really evil person, no matter what word you use to label them. Don’t forget, Cluster B’s are capable of minding their behavior… they just choose not to.

  19. RTMan

    I haven’t posted in awhile, but wanted to thank you, Dr. T, for two brilliant articles recently–I admire the energy and wisdom and humor required to write them.

    Two related observations of mine (6 mos into divorcing PD’s wife):
    1. If your PD’d soon-to-be-ex spouse appears to be offering you some concession it is because that is what SHE wants for her own sneaky reasons (i.e. it’s probably a trap).
    2. Because of their need to win, consider very carefully venues (such as mediation or couples counseling) that offer your high-functioning, charming, PD’d partner an arena to bash and manipulate you in the presence of, and with the assistance of, a naive third party. It really helps to humbly admit that you just can’t win in these situations.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Excellent points, RTMan. Sorry you had to live it, though :(

      • beaten_down

        as part of my developing exit strategy, I am considering marriage counseling. Will it help or hurt? I have no illusions that it will save a marriage that I have finally realized cannot be saved because my wife is BPD. When I confront her about any of her behaviors, she always twists it into somehow being my fault..

        I just thought (HOPED) that a third party would be able to see through these when I started offering up examples of her behaviors and then her excuses for them…??

        I have a son that I was hoping I could build a case for gaining custody..

        Should I skip the counseling then?

        • Jason

          While it didn’t save my marriage–it couldn’t have–counseling was extremely helpful for me. It made me reexamine my motivations. I learned more about myself than ever before. It helped me understand why I had married my ex and stayed married to her. Namely, I learned that I have attachment issues [due largely to being the scapegoat child of a narcissistic mother] that makes me very vulnerable to those with BPD or BPD-like personalities.

          Most of all, it helped me understand just how futile it was to rationally explain my ex’s behavior and that it didn’t really matter. I very much enjoy psychology, but explaining my ex’s behavior did little to repair the damage she had done to me. Again, understanding why I had acted as I did throughout the marriage has been very therapeutic.

          (In my case, counseling had another bonus–my ex eventually lost it during a session. Until that point, the counselor knew my ex had issues, but my ex had charmed her, as BPDs can be very adept at doing, into a bit of confusion about what was going on. All that vanished when the mask came off. The counselor then held my ex accountable, my ex went even more ballistic and weeks later asked for a divorce. I was fortunate in this latter thing and it made every penny I spent on counseling worth it.)

          • Jason

            I should clarify; understanding that my ex is a sociopath–my counselor never said that, but what she did say was the same thing–and despite all my faults, I wasn’t the crazy, abusive one was extremely helpful. It’s one thing to know what my wife is intellectually (largely due to this site, Dr. T and a close friend, who is well versed in psychology) but another to have someone else witness it and acknowledge the behavior for what it is in specific terms.

            But, that’s about as far as it goes. As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, almost by definition, a sociopath can’t be truly understood by anyone (the notion that a sociopath can explain a sociopath is complete bullshit.) The solution isn’t to understand, but to get away and to have the proper defense mechanisms in place for dealing with the sociopath.

        • cuatezon

          Beaten down: Call counselors/therapists first, ask if they deal with borderline people, ask if they believe that men can be victims of women, and, if ‘yes’ to these two questions then first meet w/ the counselor one-on-one. Otherwise, counseling will even more likely be an exercise in futility.

  20. NPD/BPD Free

    Wow did I get a dose of ‘winning’ last night! Long story short, I told my NPD/BPD girlfriend to move her and her kids out of my house three weeks ago. We had no contact for a week and a half until she asked me a question. A few days later she booty called me and I caved. We spent the night together again a couple days later but then she soon left for the vacation that we were supposed to go on together. Via text and phone calls she was being nicer/kinder/more thoughtful than she had ever been in literally the entire three years of our relationship. I could feel it coming, however, that she was expecting a full blown relationship when she got back. I wasn’t responding timely enough and even had to say no when she wanted to come over to visit me and my kids. Her response after several inquiries was, ‘Oh okay im going out anyway see ya later’. Then the day after that, yesterday, I received texts over about an hour of time during which I was swimming in our lake with my daughter while my son remained in the house. They are chronologically and verbatim, ‘U home? Can i bring by the kids presents?’ followed by ‘Hello’ and last but not least, ‘Thanks for fucking not answering the door for xxxxx. Keeps me in check fucking ass. Makes me remember why i left.’ I saw this after I had showered and got ready for our movie night at church. I was so startled by it I didn’t reply right away. As upset as I was and wanting to give her a hard time for saying SHE left me, I didn’t. I had a feeling based on others’ reaction that this is what she had been telling people. After the movie I went ahead and decided to civilly respond with, ‘Sorry but xxxx and I were in the lake so I didn’t get your texts & xxxx was alone & freaked out to answer the door.’ I figured there would be some sort of calming down afterwards but boy was I wrong! About an hour later I received, ‘No im sorry. Sorry i wasted my time thinking about you only to keep wasting it. Now im going to take 5 sleeping pills and hope in the morning i forget everything ive ever felt for you’. It hurts to reread and even write this. I think I learned a good hard lesson that no contact is the only way to go!

    • cuatezon

      Kudos to you! Mrs. Hitler didn’t get her way so she got pissed about it. Now erect an iron Berlin Wall and don’t ever, ever let her back in again.

      • jfs

        I think this counts – my BPD ex started a sexual relationship with my “friend”, whom she had no attraction to whatsoever, it seems to fit all the criteria 1) she took something away; a trusted friend 2) she destroyed something; a friendship 3) I had no choice but to accept this situation 4) she turned a positive (friendship) into a negative (we can no longer be near each other, she turned us against one another)

  21. tallwheel

    OT: Found a film project about female-on-male abusive relationships on indiegogo, and they could really use some lovin’. At this rate they’re not going to come close to reaching their meager goal. It would be such a shame if this didn’t get made. I made a donation just now. Spread the word.
    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/113759

  22. gary72

    I am very exhausted and want to start my life over in a place where she can’t effect my life any more. I just want this to end. I keep getting dragged into court over a diversion with a no contact order attached. I’m being harassed, county attorney being harassed, family members and the list goes on. i have never been violent in my life, and i pushed her to get away from her and the last 14 months have been hell! i’m broke, legal assistance won’t help. i have no money to feed my child or to help out with my oldest childs insulin. I am ready to give up and just walk away from this life. i think i can make it in the woods(eagle scout and retired us army infantry). she destroyed my credit report, only loan i can get is a payday loan which i cant pay back….if i do bankruptcy they will take my truck. i cant get hired because of that push being on my record. she has won!! thanks for listening to me vent. godbless and good luck to you all. great site!!!!

    gary

    • cuatezon

      Find support groups wherever you can Gary72…church, social groups, http://www.meetup.com, b/c if you’re a lone wolf (like I have been) then you’re in for more pain and no gain. You’ve got to find support groups and people you can share with, and, help them too with your story & experiences.

      It sucks having to go through this I understand…

  23. gary72

    wow, this sound so like my wife, we are separated. she sold my classic car for 1/3 of its price and believes she has gotten away with it. she has stolen school money i recieved that i put into a savings account for encase of emergency. i put the savings account card in my night stand which i told her where it was incase she needed money. she took the entire amount out and had the nerve to lie about taking it out and she said everything is 50/50. i said if its a 50/50 why did you lie about it and why didn’t you leave half of the money in there. she said she spent my half on the kids. its just amazing reading this article on how much it reminds me of all the winning/taking attitude that i never picked up on. great read!!

  24. phammyeph

    Hello Good people. First I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in this topic. I am going through so much sadness right now, my head could explode. I met my ex two years and a half ago just after separating from my ex-wife. She was all I was waiting for. The beauty, the elegance, the confidence, the charm and definitely the best cook I know alive. She can knock out a meal in 15 minutes. It all started well and we couldn’t get enough of each other just after I moved out from my marital home we decided to get a place together. She searched for a perfect nest for us with all the mod-cons and we were lucky to get one in a new build so we were actually the first ever tenants in this two bedroom flat.I earn good money so I was willing to take care of the bills (council tax and utility bills including rent). Her only contribution was food and household cleaning stuff. Basically, this lady was living the life.

    She got what she wanted. The presents, the holidays, the dining out and the cocktail bars we visited and of course the most UN-pronouncable cocktail name with the highest price tag. Months into the relationship and now living together, i noticed a change in her tone and displaced mood swings here and there. I will quickly re-assure her and she will gradually come back to happy mode…let me just say, i could write a book about this because the sliding into unhappiness now and out became a perpetual swing. i began to feel like i walked on egg shells in my own house. Suddenly everything in the house was “hers” and her rules were the order of function. even folding my t-shirt the best way I know how was suddenly wrong. My friends were quickly eliminated, I was almost an alien to them. I was completely detached from my friends who she found here in my life.

    like I said I could write a book and I have already thought of a name. I have a strong feeling it will help someone out there. Anyway, two years into a relationship that was fueled with abusive language(towards myself, family or friends), rage, physical abuse and threats, I decided to pack and move out after the police were called in on numerous occasions over claims I aggressed her when i would just hold/ restrain her and she would use tight grip marks as evidence. She even once banged her head on the table so she could prove I hit her.

    You probably thinking, the sensible thing for was to walk out when i initially saw these signs. As they say, love is a hell of a drug. I was hooked. I now know from reading these experiences people have had, that this woman has BPD otherwise known as Personality Disorder. I believed that I would use my calmness and help her see that the world was not against her. That she had everything going on for her. I suggested going to a shrink separately or together. I was willing to use this opportunity to help understand how she saw things. What lead to her in-contentment, her conceitedness, her narcissistic nature. The want it all, want it now nature. She could turn into a monster within two shakes of a lambs tail. A sunny day will feel like I am walking through a thunderstorm and some more.

    She has never apologized. She is always right and her opinions are definitely better than yours however un-informed she is on the matter in hand. She’s the master of all experiences. I once overheard her telling my work colleagues that she enjoys horse riding, swimming and skiing. She has never in her life done any of these…perhaps I can say she has had the swimming sensation in a bath-tub. She cannot swim. When I ask her later on why she says stuff like that, she says…well i’m just having a conversation. Don’t you want me to engage with your work colleagues? What a way to engage, I think.

    Many days of tantrums. I am no saint in all this, I must say. However my un-saintly contribution to her flame of words and aggression stems from my challenging her deeds sometimes. I refer to treat me like you want to be treated sort of way. Or putting my foot down, come what may to go and follow through whatever plans I may have had without giving into her derailment. I am sure you can get the picture.

    The most recent scenario: I was at home and she had gone to work. I was not working that day. She texted and said she wished to meet in town as she had a half day. She wanted to meet at very nice Thai food place and that i could come in with my 50% privilege card and we’ll devour the little parcels of deliciousness that this pricy place offers, off course at half price. We arranged to meet at 2pm and of course I was reminded that I shouldn’t be late as she was starving. As normal I was there at 10 mins to 2pm. Punctuality is a value I could not compromise when I was growing up in my parents home. I got a text saying she is on her way at 1.55pm, 10 mins later I got another one saying she will be there around 2.30pm. I stood outside the tube at a distance from the busy entrance and strolled along the shop windows to kill time. At 2.46 i saw her exiting the station and already rolling tobacco to smoke. I am there thinking, i have bee waiting here for about and hour, she comes and she completely oblivious of the fact i have been waiting for her. She looks around and finds me and walks to me. She pecks me and puffs away her cigarette. There was no sorry I am late or anything along acknowledging the delay. So i candidly asked her, knowing the back of my mind, anything can happen. Are you not gonna say anything about keeping me waiting for about and hour? ‘Oh, there’s nothing for me to say, do you want me to say sorry?”, she asked. “Why do you have to create an issue all the time?”, she continued. I told her i thought it’s only nice for one to acknowledge their lateness for whatever meeting they have planned for and i don’t see it an issue. I am just highlighting it. So she decides to start shouting and saying that she will walk a few yard away and pretend she is starting the meet with me afresh. She walked back, pecked me and said “okay, i’m sorry I am late”. That’s when I said, Thats nice, I can be easily pleased with good manners. “Are you trying to say that I haven’t got good manners?, she exclaimed. Listen I am gonna walk back again and do it again. Wow! I say to myself. She walks back and says, “okay, im sorry I am late”, again. Its fine I said. We walked into the restaurant sat adjacent to each other as thats how the tables this place are set up. The waitress came and we ordered our drinks. We went through the menu and quickly decided what we wanted to have and ordered it. So after a brief silence whilst she’s on her blackberry, I ask her what her plan for the rest of the day is. Told me she had to pick up some items she had reserved at a department store and waiting for a pal of hers that was in town from overseas to call her so she can find out whether she is flying back home on that evening. So she’s not sure. this pal of hers has been postponing her trip for a week because London was too fun to leave. So just incase she was going to be staying she needed to see what she was doing.

    That’s fine, I will be going to my place later, I said. Then when you have sorted your errands and your pal, you can let me know. It was as simple as you have just read. She replied that I sounded brash and rude and my tone was rather dismissive of her plans. And that she has been hosting a friend who they have been parting with for a whole week every night, even calling in sick at her work because of hangovers so i should be thoughtful in how i say things. I am being dismissive because perhaps they might have plans if her pal would not have flown out that night. I told her she was wrong in thinking that. She started saying my mood was foul and it was going to affect the meal and that i should not speak to her until we had the food. I sat there, looked at this woman and thought to myself. You have been late, unapologetic and rude. You come in here and continue to talk down at me. And I’ll be the one forking out for the bill after this? After, a quiet moment with my conscience, whilst she”s on her BB told her right off. I am not going to have someone treat me like you are. I will have to cancel the order or pay for it and get some of it packed as I cannot see myself sitting here with this bile. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and Boom, the f** you came straight after as she stormed of the restaurant. This is not normal behavior I think. I want to get rid of this. I love this girl but recently I have been thinking that she has actually really tampered with my outlook in life. The optimistic, cheerful guy has been rendered hopeless. I want change this. I have anxiety kicks and feel depressed. There’s a negative change in my body for sure and I can feel it. I have lost my thirst for being on the ball and generally being eventful.

  25. racerjack

    I was in a relationship/marriage for over a dozen years and it wasn’t until it was over and the dust settled could I see how crazy and how bad it was. At the time I had no idea what I was dealing with. This article really hits home for me to see how blind I was to the rage of the battle that was being fought against me all the while I was just trying to get along and do the right thing. In another book on female psychopaths the author discusses this need to win and to make her perceived opponent lose. It seems like an immediate reaction of fundamental character and personality i.e. more instantaneous and broad sweeping than even a sub-conscious reaction. The author’s main suggestion in the book on how to get along with this type of woman is try to convince her that a win/win is just as good as a she wins / you lose. The author admits that takes a lot of work and to decide if it’s worth it to stay in the relationship.

    Having said that, I still have a lingering question which is why? What drives this need to win? I understand that fear drives many Cluster B behaviors e.g. fear of abandonment, lack of attention, insignificance, etc. But what drives this need to make everything a fight rather than actually trying to get along and to enjoy the rewards of working together? I cognitively understand all the professional advice that this cannot be overcome. My question though is what it the cause?

    Thanks Dr. Palmatier. Your insight is very helpful to me, even today many years later. I know that your readers and patients who are still engaged in an abusive relationship will benefit greatly from your help rather than trying to go this alone or through the traditional recovery therapy.

  26. MsMaggieMaye

    This article…site…is AMAZING. This site is…AMAZING. I wish I found it like ten years ago!

    I am a non custodial parent dealing with my ex husband and primarily his wife for the past fourteen years and their abuse towards me and the children. The words in the article about soaking for as much financial awards for “the sake of the kids” are EXACTLY the nasty harassing messages the wife (she won’t let her husband communicate with me – only HER) after my child support was modified in the form of an increase as he’s temporarily out of work due to a knee surgery… and yes… she came across as a sore loser, not a winner. Mind you the amount was enough to dent my budget but not put me under – but her insults considering she’s a financial parasite and the ex doesn’t see that, made it even more bizarre.

    The fact she won’t work to assist ‘the kids’ as she has one with him is even more outrageous because the amount is what one person could make in one weekend. The catch 22 if I was to take on a part time job on weekends to compensate is that my income would go up, and hence added into the income calculations… and go to him.

    This article reminded me back early in the divorce, about a year or so in, that the ex’s wife at an exchange at the police department she had to point out in her very bold manner “I got your husband, I got your kids, I got your house, I got your car and I even got your mother!” As if everything was a game. This woman more or less stole my life from me and was glad to rub it in my face! It was at that point that whoa… I was not dealing with someone who was just emotional, but had severe issues.

    To George above, I’ve had plenty of experience with Parental Alienation which was much easier for my ex and his wife as I moved out of state for a better job and in retrospect to protect myself and children from the overt harassment I was receiving on a constant basis. There were months I had no contact with my children and months I went without seeing them. One time I didn’t see my eldest for a year due to my ex and his wife withholding her from a summer visit as a punishment – that my visitation was a ‘vacation’. I would call every day for months and either voice mails deleted, phone never answered, or my favorite.. answering the phone and putting it in a drawer for nearly an hour as I was on ‘hold’ while she went to retrieve one of my kids. Apparently by the time she put the phone down and get the kids, she had to make dinner.

    Naturally this is devastating, hurtful and why they do it. I thought of giving up too, but I knew if I did that, I would someday have to answer my children as to why I gave up on them. Now that they are now all in high school, my oldest recently emancipated and out of the house, the fact they knew I tried, the more mature they got and saw the ‘truths’ of the dynamics at play, the fact I always did my best to protect them the best I could considering the situation, tried my best to never bad mouth my ex and his wife, that the love we have and the bond we share is there. I find it amazing at times that I know more about my kids and can provide them more security and comfort 300 miles away than the people they share the same roof with. The kids eventually know what love is ‘real’, especially since it seems these people are so immature that it’s not surprising the children eventually outgrow them and can see the petty immaturity themselves.

    I knew at the divorce, which was done in duress as I didn’t know what I was dealing with in the beginning, things happened quite quickly, that we had sold the marital house and in order to get approved for their mortgage, the bank needed a decree saying I waived alimony… and if I didn’t do it right then and there and agree, then the kids would be homeless and ALL my fault. Naturally, I didn’t want my kids to be homeless. Yet it’s apparent it was a strategic ‘win’…and that mentality will clearly always be there.

  27. MsMaggieMaye

    PS This article has helped me to understand why it is the ex’s wife used to often steal or break items. One time even boldly while my ex in-laws were there when she was starting to act up, destroying my oldest’s art work with purple paint. When the wife was confronted, and obvious that she did it, she bold faced lied about it. (Surprise? No.)

    I always knew it was perhaps a jealousy or passive aggressive control or dominance thing, but now I know for certain, and that this is typical behavior for such people.

  28. lik2writ

    My ex-girlfriend hated the fact that I would do nice things for her. After a while the tension in the room and in her expression led me to say” no need to thank me” before she could utter a word.

  29. tpod

    It’s like we have all been in a relationship with the same woman, I wished I’d followed my instincts when stressed how ‘un-competitive’ she was and ran a mile however my own arrogance allowed me to believe that I could make a positive impact on this woman and now I am repenting at my leisure and aching for my son. But how do deal with these damaged individuals? I’m in mediation trying to get access to my son and naturally she can’t even agree on dates or times…any coping strategies to engage these monsters and come away with an honourable draw? C

  30. CHRIS

    Winning – as in someone must win and another one must lose. This is exactly how my life has gone since the day I left my now ex wife. Her win at all costs (scorched earth) approach has taken a huge toll on my and our adult children’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. We have endured almost 2 years of verbal, emotional, and social abuse from my now ex wife and even though the divorce is final. She continues the emotional assaults anyone who doesn’t agree with her.

    Since I left I’ve been accused of everything but killing JFK. I must confess that in our 22 years of marriage I was no angel. I had two extra-marital affairs and both times everything seemed to get better initially upon my return to the marriage but inevitably things returned to the status quo of two strangers living under the same roof. No progress, not counseling, no hope. After multiple attempts at counseling with no cooperation on her part I finally got up the courage to leave on my own without any extra marital affair or relationship.

    In the early stages of the separation, in my naiveté, I thought I could use a mediator to help resolve the separation of assets and finances. Since neither of us are financially well off I hoped that things could be resolved without a costly legal battle. I offered her the house, a car, support payments, it wasn’t enough. Over a year later and after the divorce trial, with my legal bill over $10K (hers was over $30K), nothing had changed. I provided her monthly temporary support and instead of paying her living expenses, she used it to pay her attorney and told everyone that she couldn’t afford to pay for her utilities because I didn’t pay her (which I did) and that I didn’t support our college aged children (which I still do). The children are grown so thank God there were no custody issues however she did force our youngest child to testify against me at the trial regarding my finances.

    In the divorce settlement she was awarded transitional support but that wasn’t enough. She still demands that our children choose sides and attacks them verbally and emotionally when they have contact with me or don’t see things her way. She alienated me from my friends and family using email, phone calls, or slanderous postings on social media. Winning and control are the key points…and she is relentless, never tiring and never ceasing to keep up the emotional assault on those who doesn’t see things her way or who have anything to do with me.

    Most reprehensible is how things have gone with my Dad. His 2nd wife (my mom died in 1987) and my ex are as thick as thieves. They are very similar people and have almost identical personalities. As such both her and my Dad have chosen to support my ex-wife instead of me and have refused to speak with me. I have no siblings and they have isolated me as punishment for seeking a better life away from my ex. In similar fashion, both of them also isolated her son over 5 years ago.

    Since I left I have good relationships with both of my college-aged children. Our other adult daughter lived with me for 5 months during her pregnancy (yes I’m a grandpa now!). Ironically the adult children choose to avoid dealing with her because of her black and white logic and drama involved in all contact with her. Through all of this I’ve been portrayed as the evil, home wrecking husband who left his wife and victimized her by stealing her money and turning her children against her (all lies).

    Right now I’m alone, lonely, and desperately need the support of my only living parent and I don’t think that will ever happen. He is 81, in poor health and I fear that I won’t ever see him again…which is all the more appealing to the ex-wife because when I left, I chose a location that would allow me to be closer to him.

    I don’t know what to do, whom to turn to, or how to repair the damage that she has done. I’m a problem solver type of person…I want to resolve this conflict and move forward.

    I’ve been to counseling but due to a recent move I’m still not settled enough to establish that type of treatment. I hope to renew that process once things settle down but for now I’m distraught, emotionally frazzled, and I have to fight every day just to get out of bed.

    There is so much more “in between the lines” that I haven’t included here…the past 2 years feels like I’ve been living in a sub-plot to an episode of SPRINGER.

    Help!

  31. Igiak

    I’m at the two day NC mark with a BPD I was with for 3 years. I came across this site today and it has saved my life. I thought I was insane. In regards to winning, is it advantageous to give the BPD a percieved psychological win as they try to bully, humiliate, rage, against you?

    I am very concerned she will use the courts against me to destroy me further and file a restraining order and other charges in an attempt to gain control and continue the conflict. Especially since I am now leaving the relationship and she feels a loss of control. So if I fabricate how bad something is for me like Im living on the streets or suffering some unimaginable plight due to her throwing me out of the house or something does it have a tendency to satisfy their lust for destruction and maybe she wont think of the courts to get to me.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Yes, I think letting them have a perceived “win” is a very wise thing to do. Meanwhile, you safeguard and keep secret what is most important to you and then get the hell away from her as fast and as far as you can. You may also want to consider distancing yourself from any mutual friends or family who might knowingly or unwittingly supply her with intell.

  32. def9616

    What a great site. I’ve found so much of this information useful over the months since my divorce (Jul 2011) and although I’m no clinician, I can say my ex demonstrates MANY of the characteristics of BDP/NPD.

    We were married for 16 years when I was deployed to Afghanistan and left her home for 15 months with our two sons, then 13 and 6. I came home and she was in bed with a family friend. Needless to say, THAT went over well. She tried her damndest to victimize her with physical abuse. She pushed every trigger she could muster. It was hard, but I didn’t give in. I didn’t understand BDP at the time but I knew instinctively something wasn’t quite right. Her entire demeanor changed over the course of a few days, turning from wife of 16 years into some rabid dog, worthy of exorcism. That’s when we parted for the last time…or so I’ve come to yearn for.

    In the heat of the divorce, she wanted everything she could get her hands around. The only thing that stopped her was the common sense that the courts would call BS on ‘some’ of it. My dad had died just months before everything went sideways with us and she actually went after the inheritance my dad left me. She didn’t get it, since the money was still in my father’s insurance account but she was pissed when she didn’t get it. There’s plenty of other details I could vent about for literally HOURS (frivolous reimbursements/child and family alienation…etc…etc), but I’ll spare you too much more and get to my question.

    Almost two years after the divorce, she still acts totally victimized and expects me to jump when she asks, as if my life is still all about her. When I don’t, she attempts to victimize herself and paint me as some selfish ogre unworthy of fatherhood. Is there NO end to this madness? I mean, really…am I committed with eating this crap for another 7 years, when my (now) 11 year old turns 18? Are these ex’s this way for life? Sheesh, I would think her life would be a bowl of cherries since she’s moved on.

    Is there ANY good way to handle these viruses once they’re outside you life?

    • Mellaril

      Read the other articles and head over to the Forum.

    • cuatezon

      Def, it will be this way forever. The sooner you accept your ex is evil and malevolent, and will never change, the better for you. Acceptance took me several years and I wasted a lot of time/energy hoping/praying/pleading/compromising with the ex…all an exercise in futility. In fact, she enjoyed getting me flustered & worked up, depressed & anxious. I don’t allow it anymore though.

      Accept, then reduce contact/communication to extreme minimum. It sucks b/c your kids will be adversely affected (as mine are), but your well-being and survival are important. The better off you are, the healthier you are, the better parent you will be and your kids will see it.

  33. dino

    Hi to all,

    I to was in this winner take all. I lost a classic car, savings, dignity, and of course at alot more. I was separated for a year and been divorced for 6 months. I finally got my life back to normal this last month; new job, girlfriend, started paying off all debts. I was just called last night by my ex-wife second husband. we had a 15 min conversation and I was told by him that he wanted to warn me but knew it would effect his relationship with his son/my step-son. As the conversation went on he told me that he was happy that I became her new target as her husband, which he apologized to me but not needed as I knew that those were my chooses not his. he also told me since my divorce; she has made him the target of all her attacks. She has used his ssn to get loans etc…and he also contacted her first husband and told me that she did all the same stuff and took her daughters ssn and ruined it. I have credit score company watching my credit and I’m looking into other means to protect myself. I feel helpless and don’t want to regress back to all of that. I told him that as long as she has his son, he will be a target of her unstable life. I feel like I’m being dragged backed into this dark madness again and I found myself glad just as her second husband did that I’m not her target. But at the same time I want to help!! but logic dictates not to get involved. I choose not to get involved and keep my insanity and my new found happiness. I read a news letter about a women doing this same stuff to 14 ex partners for 20 years and she only got three years in prison. Not worth my/kids/family happiness. I keeping her as far away from us as possible.

  34. MovingOn

    After overpaying child for 30 months, I finally got a court order to get the money back. The overage is enough that I no longer have to pay any more child support and spousal support will will be reduced for about 2 years. Every and all stalling tactics were used. Now, three of our adult children(with grandchildren) are cutting me out because “you’re trying to financially ruin mom”. The power struggles will never end. The referee remembered the stalling from our divorce and cut her no slack.

  35. ehansk

    How about this one.

    Sitting on the couch with my exgf, after she told me she only has felt passion, sexual passion, and romantic feeling for two OTHER men, both married men. She then professes her love for me and how she values our friendship.

    me: ” after 8 months of hell, and now one month of being away from each other, have you tried to talk to anyone about us, about me, about you, your feelings, the pain, how you are coping ? ”

    her: “no, I don’t have anyone in my life I feel I can talk to about this”

    me: ” so anyone includes me, right because you won’t talk to me about it”

    her: ” I don’t have the energy for this, I have shared all I know about myself”

    Dr. Tara stated in another article that BPDs don’t do closure. Is it because they can’t ? I think they can’t because they DONT WANT TO, refuse to. It requires them to look inside, accept responsibility for behavior. Not going to happen.

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