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Signs of an abusive personality
May 14, 2007
8:42 pm
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fantas
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Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality
It is sometimes possible to predict the likelihood of the person you are currently or are about to become involved with being abusive. Below are a list of behaviours and traits which are common in abusive personalities. These are commonly known as Warning Signs.

While not all abusive people show the same signs, or display the tendencies to the same extent, if several behavioural traits are present, there is a strong tendency toward abusiveness. Generally, the more signs are present, the greater the likelihood of violence. In some cases, an abuser may have only a couple of behavioural traits that can be recognized, but they are very exaggerated (e.g. extreme jealousy over ridiculous things).

Often the abuser will initially try to explain his/her behaviour as signs of his/her love and concern, and the victim may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviours become more severe and serve to dominate, control and manipulate the victim.
Related Pages:
Mr Wrong or Mr Right
The Dominator

Jealousy
At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say the jealousy is a sign of love. He/she may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, may accuse you of flirting, or be jealous of time you spend with family, friends, children or hobbies which do not include him/her. As the jealousy progresses, he/she may call you frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may be unhappy about or refuse to let you work for fear you'll meet someone else, check the car mileage or ask friends to keep an eye on you. Jealousy is not proof of love, it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.

Controlling Behaviour
Controlling behaviour is often disguised or excused as concern. Concern for your safety, your emotional or mental health, the need to use your time well, or to make sensible decisions. Your abuser may be angry or upset if you are 'late' coming back from work, shopping, visiting friends, etc., even if you told him/her you would be later back than usual. Your abuser may question you closely about where you were, whom you spoke to, the content of every conversation you held, or why you did something he/she was not involved in. As this behaviour gets worse, you may not be allowed to make personal decisions about the house, clothing, going to church or how you spend your time or money or even make you ask for permission to leave the house or room. Alternately, he/she may theoretically allow you your own decisions, but penalise you for making the wrong ones. Concern for our loved ones to a certain extent is normal - trying to control their every move is not.

Quick Involvement
Many victims of abuse dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser will often claim 'love at first sight', that you are 'made for each other', or that you are the only person whom he could ever talk to so openly, feel so at home with, could understand him so well. He/she may tell you that they have never loved anyone so much or felt so loved by anyone so much before, when you have really only known each other for a short amount of time. He/she needs someone desperately, and will pressure you to commit to him/her or make love before you feel the relationship has reached 'that stage'. He/she may also make you feel guilty for not committing yourself to him/her.

Unrealistic Expectations
The abuser may expects you to be the perfect husband, wife, mother, father, lover, and friend. He/she is very dependent on you for all his/her needs, and may tell you he/she can fulfil all your needs as lover, friend, and companion. Statements such as: 'lf you love me, I'm all you need.', 'You are all I need.' are common. Your abuser may expect you to provide everything for him/her emotionally, practically, financially or spiritually, and then blame you for not being perfect or living up to expectation.

Isolation
The abuser may try to curtail your social interaction. He/she may prevent you from spending time with your friends or family and demand that you only go places 'together'. He/she may accuse you of being 'tied to your mother's apron strings', not be committed to the relationship, or view people who are your personal friends as 'causing trouble' or 'trying to put a wedge' between you. He/she may want to live in the country without a phone, not let you use the car, stop you from working or gaining further education or qualifications.

Blame-shifting for Problems
Very rarely will an abusive personality accept responsibility for any negative situation or problem. If they are unemployed, can't hold down a job, were thrown out of college or University or fall out with their family, it is always someone else's fault, be it the boss, the government, or their mother. They may feel that someone is always doing them wrong, or out to get him. He/she may make a mistakes and then blame you for upsetting him/her or preventing him/her from doing as they wished to.

Blame-shifting for Feelings
The abuser will deny feelings stem from within him/her but see them as reactions to your behaviour or attitude toward him/her. He/she may tell you that 'you make me mad', 'you're hurting me by not doing what I ask', or that he/she cannot help feeling mad, upset, etc. Feelings may be used to manipulate you, i.e. 'I would not be angry if you didn't ...' Positive emotions will often also be seen as originating outside the abuser, but are more difficult to detect. Statements such as 'You make me happy' or 'You make me feel good about myself' are also signs that the abuser feels you are responsible for his sense of well-being. Either way, you become in his/her mind the cause of good and bad feelings and are therefore responsible for his/her emotional well-being and happiness. Consequently, you are also to blame for any negative feelings such as anger, upset or depression.

Hypersensitivity
Most abusers have very low self-esteem and are therefore easily insulted or upset. They may claim their feelings are 'hurt' when they are really angry, or take unrelated comments as personal attacks. They may perceive normal set-backs (having to work additional hours, being asked to help out, receiving a parking fine, etc.) as grave personal injustices. They may view your preference for something which differs from their own as a criticism of their taste and therefore themselves (e.g. blue wallpaper rather than pink, etc.).

Cruelty to Animals
The abuser may punishes animals brutally, be insensitive to their pain or suffering, or neglect to care for the animals to the point of cruelty, e.g. not feeding them all day, leaving them in areas he/she knows will cause them suffering or distress. There is a strong correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence which is still being researched.

Cruelty to Children
The abusers unrealistic expectations of their partner are often mirrored in their attitude toward children. He/she will think of children as 'small adults' and blame the children for not being responsible, having common sense or understanding. He/she may expect children to be capable far beyond their ability (e.g. is angry with a two-year old for wetting their pants or being sick on the carpet, waking at night or being upset by nightmares) and will often meet out punishments for 'naughtiness' the child could not be aware of. Abusers may tease children until they cry, or punish children way beyond what could be deemed appropriate. He/she may not want children to eat at the table, expect them to stay quiet, or keep to their room all evening while he/she is at home. Since abusers want all your attention themselves, they resent your spending time with the children or any normal demands and needs the children may have. As above (cruelty to animals), there is a very strong link between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.

'Playful' use of Force in Sex
He/she may pressurise you to agree to forceful or violent acts during sex, or want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. A male abuser may let you know that the idea of "rape" excites him. He/she may show little concern about whether you want to have intercourse and uses sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. Starting sex while you are sleeping, demanding sex when you are ill or tired, or refusing any form of intimacy unless you are willing to go 'all the way' can all be signs that he/she could be sexually abusive or sexually violent.

Rigid Gender Roles
Abusers usually believe in stereotypical gender roles. A man may expect a woman to serve him; stay at home, obey him in all things - even things that are criminal in nature. A male abuser will often see women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. Female abusers may expect the man to provide for them entirely, shift the responsibility for her well-being onto him or heckle him as being 'not a real man' if he shows any weakness or emotion.

Verbal Abuse
In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, either in public or in private, this can include degrading remarks or running down any accomplishments. Often the abuser will tell you that you are 'stupid', could not manage without him/her. He/she may keep you up all night to 'sort this out once and for all' or even wake you at night to continue to verbally abuse you. The abuser may even say kindly things to your face, but speak badly about you to friends and family.

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
Very rarely do abusers conform to the stereotypical image of a constantly harsh, nasty or violent person, either in public or in private. More frequently the abuser portrays a perfectly normal and pleasant picture to the outside world (often they have responsible jobs or are respected and important members of the local community or Church) and reserves the abuse for you in the privacy of your own home. Nor are abusers always overtly abusive or cruel, but can display apparent kindness and consideration. This Jeckyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser serves to further confuse the victim, while protecting themselves from any form of suspicion from outsiders. Many victims describe "sudden" changes in mood - one minute nice and the next explosive or hysterical, or one minute happy and the next minute sad. This does not indicate some special "mental problem" but are typical of abusive personalities, and related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.

Drink or Substance Abuse
While neither drinking or the use of drugs are signs of an abusive personality, heavy drinking or drug abuse may be a warning sign and do increase the risks of abuse, especially violence, taking place. Often an abusive person will blame the drink for his/her abuse. However, a person who, knowing there is a risk he/she could be violent when drinking or on drugs, chooses to get drunk or high, is in effect choosing to abuse. The link between substance abuse and domestic abuse is still being researched, and it is apparent that while neither alcohol nor drugs necessarily cause violence, they do increase the risk of violence.

History of Battering or Sexual Violence
Very rarely is abuse or violence a one-off event: a batterer will beat any woman he is with; a sexually abusive person will be abusive toward all his intimate partners. Situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality. Sometimes friends or family may try to warn you about the abuser. Sometimes the abuser may tell you himself/herself that he/she has hit or sexually assaulted someone in the past. However, they may further go on to explain that "she made me do it by ..." or in some other way not take responsibility and shift the blame on to the victim. They may tell you that it won't happen with you because "you love them enough to prevent it" or "you won't be stupid enough to wind me up that much". Once again, this is denying their own responsibility for the abuse, and shifting the responsibility for the relationship to remain abuse-free on to you. Past violence is one of the strongest pointers that abuse will occur.

Threatening Violence
This would obviously include any threat of physical force such as "If you speak to him/her again, I'll kill you", or "If any wife of mine acted like John's did, I'd give her a right seeing to". But can also include less obvious threats, such as "If you leave me, I will kill myself". Threats are designed to manipulate and control you, to keep you in your place and prevent you making your own decisions. Most people do not threaten their mates, but an abuser will excuse this behaviour by saying "everybody talks like that.", maintaining he/she is only saying this because the relationship or you are so important to him/her, tell you you're "over-sensitive" for being upset by such threats, or obviously want to hurt him/her.

Breaking or Striking Objects
The abusive person may break your treasured object, beat his/her fists on the table or chair or throw something at or past you. Breaking your things is often used as a punishment for some imagined misdeed on your part. Sometimes it will be justified by saying that now that you are with him/her, you don't need these items any more. Breaking your possessions also has the effect of de-personalising you, denying you your individuality or literally trying to break links to your past. Beating items of furniture or throwing objects will often be justified by saying you wound him/her up so much they lost control, once again shifting the blame for this behaviour on to you, but is actually used to terrorise you into submission. Only very immature or abusive people beat on objects in the presence of other people in order to threaten or intimidate them.

Any Force during an Argument
An abuser may physically restrain you from leaving the room, lash out at you with his/her hand or another object, pin you against a wall or shout 'right in your face'. Basically any form of force used during an argument can be a sign that actual violence is a strong possibility.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The above list was prepared with reference to

May 14, 2007
9:54 pm
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SadSadSad
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I read this post word to word and my wife matches this kind of personality so much....the worst part about such abuse is that it creeps into your lives so innocously and destroys all that which makes you an individual...i want to know which is the best way to deal with such personalities..i would like to help her...but really i m very scared to have kids with her and i m losing my freedom with each passing day 🙁

May 14, 2007
10:37 pm
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Worried_Dad
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Adding to that list, an abuser is:

1) Entitled:they feel entitled to special treatment, have unrealistc expectations,and think they have the right to get angry when their unreasonable demands are not met.

2) Manipulative: Coercion is just one way to get unreasonable demands met.

3)Disrespectful: To an abuser, your feelings, and your happiness, and your health really don't matter.

Living with abuse will injure your mental and also physical health. People who abuse their intimate partners most often also abuse their children.

May 15, 2007
11:28 am
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StronginHim77
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Sad,

You should exit the marriage. Even if your wife agrees to psychiatric treatment, her chances of changing are slim and usually only temporary. Under pressure (such as motherhood, financial stresses, day-to-day living), she will revert to abusive interactions with those closest to her.

Definitely, do not have children with this woman. She would abuse them.

- Ma Strong

May 15, 2007
11:36 am
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sleepless in uk
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Ma

Do you think it is stress that brings on episodes of abuse?

May 15, 2007
12:08 pm
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lovemedo
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Sleepless.....in my experience it is stress which swings the scales. Having unrealistic expectations of ones partner and turning into Dr Jeckyll when things go wrong are clear indicators. My problem is that my ex was bi-polar so I was constantly making excuses for his attitude, but as a good friend recently said, he can't always be depressed or high. Where do you separate the man from the illness? I put up with far too much for far too long but am aware that when he got stressed, things between us got worse. He either got even more clingy or withdrew from my life altogether. BTW where are you in the UK?

May 15, 2007
1:14 pm
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red blonde
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I have a question.

Is withholdng intimacy or sex, not wanting to be touched by your partner, a sign of abusive person?

I mean, is it abuse or is it "punishment" or just a control issue?

May 15, 2007
1:47 pm
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red blonde
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bumping this up...I have gone through this with my last relationship and it really bugged me.

It made me feel like I was undesirable, unwanted, unlovable and, well, somewhat destroyed my self asteem and trust and self-confidence in myself. I went through this 5 years of an 8 year relationship. I pushed away so many times for so long...that I felt so bad that and humiliated when I started to "make appointments" for sex.

May 15, 2007
2:33 pm
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StronginHim77
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red blonde -

I have read in several of the support books I've acquired about abusive men that "withholding" affection, sex, intimate touch, even refusing to hold hands, etc. are all forms of covert abuse.

If you have a partner who withholds from you, this partner has CONTROL issues and is clearly abusive. Leave him. They do NOT change.

My abusive husband (the one I am in the process of divorcing) did the "withholding" thing on me. He had to be the one to initiate all physical contact. After our first couple weeks of marriage, he ordered me to sleep in a back bedroom on a little daybed because my presence in the master bed "disturbed his sleep." He was the only one who could initiate sex. If I sought him out and tried to initiate any, he would pull away, remove my hands, etc. Walk away. Tell me he had things he had to do, etc. Total withholding. That is rejection. It is hurtful and abusive. He refused to kiss me deeply and would never speak to me during or after the sexual act. Totally clinical and cold toward me. I felt like an "object," not a person. Not during the first two weeks of marriage, but after his "mask" came off. Then, it went straight downhill.

This is all ABUSE.

- Ma Strong

May 15, 2007
3:03 pm
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StronginHim77
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sleepless -

What is "stressful" to a mentally healthy, nonabusive person is not necessarily the same as what is stressful to those with a personality disorder or to an abuser. These people can get "triggered" by totally innocent actions by their partner. And classic abusers love to blame their partner for EVERYTHING. "Blaming" is one of the behaviors of abusers, especially the personality disorders (narcissism, borderline, antisocial, etc.). They never take responsibility for their own hot tempers, poor behaviors or hurtful actions. It must always be blamed on someone else.

So, does stress contribute to abuse? Sure. Normal stress sources AND a host of things that would NOT affect a mentally healthy person

May 15, 2007
3:17 pm
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red blonde
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Ma Stong:

This is how I began to feel as well. The first three years were good, though he refused to kiss me deeply at that time as well, he used to hold my hand, kiss me here and there, tell me he loved me, but he was the one who would initiate intimacy, never any foreplay, never say anything during but there was some holding and hugging afterward but no talking. I guess we never 'made love', and it felt more or less 'clinical'. Then all of a sudden - like night and day - he would push me away, pull away, didn't want me to touch him or try to initiate anything intimate. I really began to feel unwanted and gained alot of weight - which I have lost over half of the weight gained but still have a ways to go - this would go on for two months or more. I started to go to bed with him and after he would fall asleep, I would get up because I felt so lonely laying in bed with him. It even got to the point were I started to make appointments for sex - and that humiliated me. Felt like I was 'begging' for affection and sex.
Then he would start putting me down, calling me names, and said that I confused sex with love. Well, come to think about that now while writing this - perhaps I did because I certainly didn't feel LOVED. Just alone and lonely. I think that is the worst feeling...to feel alone and lonely when someone is sleeping next to you that you love and thought loved you. I think it all worked on my psyche - lowered my self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence in being a woman.

May 15, 2007
6:26 pm
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Witholding sex is a sign of abuse. It's a control issue. So is silent treatment. People think that abuse means getting the crap beat out of you or yelled at constantly but they couldn't be further from the truth. This is a good thread. Check out my thread on the Power and Control Wheel for additional info, it's the thread titled "Sorry-Power and Control Wheel--Click on this one." I accidently hit sent without typing a single word so I had do it over again that's why the word sorry is in the title. It's really good that we're talking about the tactic's abusers use to control us, knowledge is power.

AQueen

May 15, 2007
6:37 pm
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Worried_Dad
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Stress and Abuse:

When an abuser feels lousy...well, misery loves company.

Mind you bipolar stuff clouds things a bit.

But in general, it is unwise and also incorrect to attribute abusive behavior to stress, alcohol, etc.

The source of abusive behavior is the pathological perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of the abuser.

Abusers feel entitled to get their own way no matter what. They tend to have a diminished capacity for empathy and don't see their victims as fully human. They are disrespectful.

It is also a mistake to believe that the abuse is only happening "sometimes."

In an abusive relationship, you are being played at all times, 24-7.

May 16, 2007
7:28 am
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Thanks for this thread. Lovemedo I am just south of London.

I think I always associate his abusive behaviour as being prompted by a stressful situation but in truth the stress can be caused by so many factors it becomes almost impossible to fathom. I think that is why it plays with my head so badly. And the unrealistic expectations, because they are so apparant and have been there for so long it makes them almost become 'reasonable'...even to me.

So we go about our life walking on eggshells to ensure his mood is easy, but it doesnt work. All that happens is we get ill. And then our depression becomes another source of irritation

sigh

thanks for this, sometimes I need a reminder of why it is so important to get out

May 16, 2007
8:07 am
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Maybe I should start my own thread, please advise as I do not want to take this one over.

But when I read the top of this, it reminded me so much of my ex husband. But, here is the warped part. The way he was over jealous and controlling etc gave me some warped sense of true love. He always told me no one would ever love me like he did. He had all the traits described above. However he had this way of making me feel like I was the only woman in the world to him, the most beautiful, the most loved etc.

I come from a childhood of abuse and this probably has something to do with it, always wanted to feel loved etc.

It was an act of god for me to get away from this guy, it about killed me. He had a drug problem and was controlling, abusive, stalking me, scaring me. Yet in my mind, he was my true love of my life.

I forced myself away from him and never felt like I got over it, and seven years later still feel he is the love of my life. Scared to be around him, because he knows exactly what to do to pull me in, say just the right things etc. -

I got remarried and went through the same stuff like ma strong, a sexless unloving marriage...probably another form of abuse to an alcholic. I just had major back surgery and he kicked me out, while I can't work.

Anyway, I still think about my ex, the love of my life guy...what the hell is wrong with me.

I guess After seven years, I still wish I had the good parts back, feeling so loved and someone touching me the way he did, the good parts.

I am on a waiting list for counseling, but I am noticing this is myself the wanting to reach out to him, and that would open a big can of worms. that is probably a fantasy.

I know this is not logical.

May 16, 2007
10:23 am
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SadSadSad
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I would like to know if its ok to confront such personalities with these issues...because i know if i do, my wife will tell me i m crazy...i m looking to divorce her, although we have been married less than 6 months i have known for long...she has the tendency to blame it all on me 🙁

May 16, 2007
10:31 am
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bevdee
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Sad,

In my experience, it's not possible to reason with this type of person. Of course she is going to tell you that you are crazy- how else is she going to keep you there? She probably will blame it on you until she realises you are serious about leaving. Then she might turn and assume all responsibility and promise to do better.

For a little while. Until she thinks you will stay and tolerate the abuse. But it will probably start up again. That's been my experience.
I heard alot of promises, but I never saw any of them fulfilled.

May 16, 2007
12:42 pm
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fantas
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Hopeful for change, It sounds like a new thread to me:)...I can relate to your problem though: absolutely loving an abuser. I think you are right to think that this does mirror you childhood. I think that your ex could very well be a love of your life in that he is the person who offered your the greatest opportunity to heal the wounds of your past. I believe that our heart are attracted to people for all kinds of reasons but out minds help us be safe. I think that your ex would hurt all over unless he had done some soul searching and healing...I'd have to ask for an assessment from his therapist. I wish you all the best with all this...

May 16, 2007
1:00 pm
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red blonde
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Okay, I have been the 'victim' of abusers almost all of my life since childhood in almost all of the ways one can possibly be abused - physically, emotionally, verbally, psychologically, and sexually - you name it, I have probably been through it. I don't understand and cannot accept the fact that three of my abusers tried to kill me. Why did they feel the need to do this? Was it something I did or didn't do? Is there something about me that provoked this trait in three of them?
Or have I just had three of the more violent types?

I believe myself to be a kind, very caring and loving person, generous, helpful, gentle. I didn't argue with them, never fought back, didn't nag or bitch....until the very end, just wanted to be loved in return.

May 16, 2007
1:38 pm
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Hopeful for Change --

it's crazy that we can know the person is totally bad for us but still long for the "good" which was probably never good, just felt good.. you know? and then why do we believe them when they tell us they know they're wrong and have changed?

I love reading about abusive traits because i can recognize them and it helps me remain strong!

but it's hard because I can't tell anyone of course, but I do still love the man I had to take out a restraining order because he hurts my children, one of which is his...

but when he makes me really really angry I get over the love. and when he calls me names to my son (that's not his) it makes me strong... but alas,,, it is hard. why does it feel so good when he tells me he loves me 🙁 but scary because i'm smart enough to know that his love is harmful. ugh.

May 20, 2007
9:39 pm
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fantas
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Just bumping this up for further comments.

May 22, 2007
10:25 am
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Sad -

We cannot "reason with the unreasonable." People with personality disorders simply do not think like normal people do. For some excellent examples of this, check out the book STOP WALKING ON EGGSHELLS by Mason & Kreger. It is directed towards partners of people with borderline personality disorder, but gives some great examples of how a disordered mind thinks.

In my own relationships with personality disordered people, I have found it best to communicate my important thoughts or decisions IN WRITING. Black & white. And always keep a copy. This keeps my statements clear and inarguable. And it helps if their responses are in writing (email, etc.) also. Sometimes, it is tough to get them to put their thoughts into writing because they KNOW deep inside that they are inconsistent, contradictory, manipulative and irrational.

red blonde -

What I have come to understand through therapy is that I am drawn to abusive men. And they all put out "red flags" from the get-go which I totally ignore and/or rationalize away. We KNOW inside that someone has a dark side. Yet, we choose to ignore that fact, even as the abuse escalates. (And it always escalates. The more they see that we are willing to tolerate, the more they dish out, until the abuse becomes "overt" and even physical.)

But we choose these men. We are not "victims." We actively seek them out and choose to stay with them. An emotionally healthy woman would be out the door at the first red flag. We stuff all signs of those red flags because (1) they are "familiar" from our past and (2) we so badly want a man at the center of our life...and we are willing to pay ANY price for that.

The cure? Stepping back from anyone at the first sign of abuse (the first red flag). Severing all contact with such abusive men. Seeking recovery of our own emotional well-being and self-esteem, via counseling, therapy, reading and support groups, such as these threads. We can learn how to spot, leave and stay clear of all abusers (even relatives, adult kids, so-called friends, etc.) with support and willingness to do the work.

- Ma Strong

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