Toxic Relationship Aftermath: Doubt, Mistrust, and Paranoia?

Being in and coming out of a relationship with a significantly disturbed or manipulative character can be quite traumatic.  And I’ve posted some articles on the major hurdles toxic relationship survivors face when trying to pick up the pieces and move on (see, for example:  Life After A Manipulator and related subsequent articles).  But some folks say that they’ve ended up feeling more than understandably shaken by their experience.   They start questioning everything, mistrusting a lot, and even feeling somewhat “paranoid.” And because I’ve been asked to comment on this phenomenon, especially with regard to feelings of paranoia, this week’s article will begin a discussion of the kinds of emotional dysfunction that can arise from years of emotional and relational abuse.

Shame, a sense of defeat, mounds of doubt, conflicting thoughts about where to assign blame, mistrust in self and others – all these emotions are par for the course for survivors of toxic relationships.  And for the most part, despite how intense the emotional upheaval might be, it’s a perfectly understandable and rational response to the trauma.  Even the mistrust (both of self and others) that sometimes creeps in is rational, given the sense of shock and betrayal that often accompanies facing the reality of what the person you once viewed as good potential relationship partner is really like.  Survivors of relationships with covert-aggressors, narcissists, or psychopaths sometimes say they feel “paranoid.”  But most of the time, what they really mean is that they’re experiencing a rational and understandable yet terrifying degree of unsureness and mistrust.  And this is particularly distressing when it’s not in their normal nature to be feel this way.

Real paranoia is a lot more than understandable mistrust following shock and betrayal.   The word literally means “aside from one’s [right] mind.”  It’s an aberrant state of mind characterized primarily by delusional thinking.  A delusion is a belief that has absolutely no rational foundation but is still held with conviction despite abundant evidence to the contrary.  It can be of many types, but the two most common (and probably most readily recognized) are delusions of grandeur (i.e. believing I’m someone I’m not – like the re-incarnation of Jesus Christ, or king or queen of the universe) and delusions of persecution (e.g., thinking everyone’s watching me or the KGB has bugged my phones).   In each case, the person assumes a sort of pathologically “special” status, albeit of very different types.  And, of course, as the old saying goes, “if they really are out to get you, you’re not paranoid.”    But on a more serious note, it’s important to distinguish between common tendency of trauma survivors to lose their basic sense of security and trust and genuine paranoia.  The former is a rational, albeit dysfunctional response to the trauma of betrayal, and the latter is a sign of a much more serious disease process.

It’s too bad that the “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) label is applied so frivolously (and, therefore, erroneously) so often these days.   Because real post-traumatic stress is a significant condition, with certain highly defining characteristics, and which requires specialized treatment.  The only good news about having PTSD it is that because of its nature, it’s also one of those conditions that with proper treatment enjoys a relatively decent rate of amelioration.   Many relational abuse survivors suffer from post-traumatic stress (although not all post-traumatic stress rises to the level of a diagnosed “disorder”).  And some of the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress can resemble paranoia, so it’s easy to understand how some folks get confused and “feel like” they’ve become paranoid after a toxic relationship, when in fact they’re merely experiencing one of the common features of post-traumatic stress. In behavioral science, there’s a concept known as “generalization,” and it works like this (I know that what I’m about to say is an oversimplification but I’m not wanting to be too technical here):  when we make an “association” to a really significant event that impacts us deeply, we tend to have a response not only to that event but also to other events or circumstances that bear some resemblance to that event.  For example, if a child is out playing in the yard one day and inadvertently disturbs a wasp nest and is repeatedly stung, they might develop a fear not only of wasps, but also of all flying insects, of playing in the yard, or even merely going outdoors.   They have to learn, slowly and steadily to “discriminate” such things as not all insects sting, the yard is a generally safe place to play, and even wasps don’t usually bother you unless you bother them, etc.  The child will regain a normal sense of safety and ability to handle him/herself, once they’ve successfully discriminated these things.  Nature also has us wired in such a way that when we experience traumatic events, we become hypersensitive and hypervigilant with regard to things closely associated with the trauma .  This is a natural protection mechanism.  Only when we’ve sorted out all the reasons for the trauma and adequately and fairly assessed our ability to cope can we recover a normal sense of ability to care for ourselves.  And, perhaps more importantly, trauma almost always leaves a deep impression or emotional scar upon us.  And the more insidious or intense the trauma, the deeper the wound and more difficult it is to heal.  And we also become “conditioned” to our instinctive emotional responses to the trauma.  It’s not uncommon for trauma survivors to “re-live” and to obsess and ruminate about the most emotionally painful events over and over again.

One  of the major things learning theory tells us is that we never really “unlearn” anything.  It takes a lot of “counter-conditioning” to weaken the painful bonds developed between the traumatic events we experienced and our emotional responses to them. After being in a relationship with a significantly disturbed character, it’s natural to have your sense of safety and trust shaken.   We might not even be fully aware of the questions we ask ourselves, but we inevitably think things like:  “Do I have it all wrong about what people are really like?;  Are all men (or women) like my ex?; Is there something seriously and inherently wrong with me?; Can I ever trust myself again?; Can I ever trust anyone else again?”  It’s also not uncommon to wonder whether we’ll ever be able to “let go” of the many pains that were inextricably connected to the traumatic events we experienced and so deeply etched in our minds.

During my years of active practice, I found it just as challenging to provide the right kind of supportive guidance to survivors of toxic relationships as it was to confront and help modify disturbances of character.  And when engaging in therapy with trauma survivors, merely wanting to help empower them is not enough.  Having and displaying empathy for their plight is also not enough.  What it takes, more than anything else, is recognizing exactly what a toxic relationship can do to a person’s normal ability to cope and knowing precisely when, and how to address each of the survivor’s coping deficiencies.  It takes respect and acceptance for the things that might have made them vulnerable as well as full recognition of the ability seriously disturbed characters have to take advantage of and traumatize even the most well-adjusted persons.  And it takes tons of encouragement and reinforcement for every small step a survivor takes toward increased empowerment.

In writing this piece, I’m painfully aware of how much probably still needs to be said, so I’m not going to begin the next series of articles I’d planned until this topic is explored more fully.  Hopefully, however, this article will begin a significant discussion.  It should also help give new and deeper meaning not only to the tools of personal empowerment I outline in In Sheep’s Clothing but also to some of the therapy caveats I discuss in Character Disturbance.  If the discussion yields the fruits I suspect it might, it may provide me with valuable data, which along with mounds of information I’ve already collected over the years, could help me compile a work of some sort on just this subject.  And because I’ve been asked to do something along those lines hundreds of times, perhaps I can even make that work available as an e-book or some similar brief handbook on recovery from manipulative and other abusive relationships.

Okay, all you survivors out there – here’s your cue!

155 thoughts on “Toxic Relationship Aftermath: Doubt, Mistrust, and Paranoia?

  1. Personally, my PTS (post-traumatic stress) is contingent on intrusive thoughts I have based on aversive stimuli I perceive that aggravates to the point of being pathological. E.g. being assailed with dreams/pensee’s of an authority figure belaboring me for not agreeing with him/her.

    It’s not monogenic. It’s polygenetic based on environmental factors of nurture. In my perspective, this can cause someone to be asocial based on antagonism directed at them. I look at a climate of terror and menace like with the boston bombings and the folks who were treated as scapegoats in the name of some self-serving terrorist-esque attack on the public and I say to myself “this causes inexorable trouble on human culture”.

    Distrust signifies a cue of bad faith.
    Paranoia signifies a belief in constantly being assailed.
    Doubt signifies qualms in the fitness of others.

  2. Eh. That takes me back. When I was recovering from my spath of many years, I ended up dating a man who was really nice to me for a whole year, then when he thought he got me, started the covert abuse, virtually overnight. Mindboggling. Well, fortunately, I was not in deep, and soon it was over. Left me scratching me noggin. Then a few years after that, I made a friend, who also became my caregiver while I was very ill. If it don’t take the cake! He was another one! Reliving all the crazymaking had me, for a moment there, thinking it was me after all. Gadz.

    Soon after, I ran into Dr Simon’s books, and boy, my world finally righted itself, and for good. 🙂

    1. Holy cow Vera…..how have you done it girl???? If I went through this again I’m afraid it would be the end of me. This might be the end of me. This guy has twisted my mind and heart beyond recognition and is still playing the game….I think…..idk
      We have had a series of email exchanges over the last several weeks that I WISH Dr. Simon could read. What a mess. soooooo complicated and hard to even tell to someone else, like where do you even start?? So much of it is only able to be understood in the context of the moment, and the moment is gone!
      With a therapist who is pushing me to be further along than I am, meaning she doesn’t even have the patience to understand the background of this mess let alone have the ability to understand these types period perhaps? It’s a frustrating quagmire in general!
      I just want Dr. Simon to adopt me for 6 months and help me sort this all out once and for all!!! LOL!

      1. Puddle! I’m with you on everything you’ve said!! I too need Dr Simon to adopt me – perhaps we could him to start group therapies for us! As you said and I say below it is so hard to explain to anyone because it is a ‘quagmire’

      2. Heh. And on top of it all, I am still dealing with a spath father. I have been reluctant to put that final distance between us… but he is working hard to make things miserable despite the limited contact we have.

        So hey, Puddle, why do you keep hanging on?

        1. Well Vera…….I guess I have still been in “hope mode”?? It’s complicated for me. Im not “seeing him” but have had email contact and one phone call. I was NC doing “ok”, barely, and then he came on my property without my permission, dropped off some items, one thing was not mine so I called the Sheriff and had them take the item beck to him and tell him never to come on my property again. Then i felt bad…………..It seemed like the thing to do at the time but then after the fact, I felt like it was over kill, Sooooooo, it got me emotionally more stirred up than I had been, I woke up really early one morning and started typing out an email to him……I THINK i hit SEND by accident when I went to scroll up to the top of the page and off it went. That does happen with my iPhone sometimes. So then an hour or so later I called and left him a message on his cl phone, in tears,,,,,emotional heap. THEN I felt bad for calling him so I texted him to say I was sorry,,,,sorry for everything. He responded “me too.Maybe we could talk sometime”. So we did, and it turned into another disaster. He is slandering my words, things he is telling other people……it just goes on and on.
          Idk Vera. Im just a slow learner I guess. Im in denial on a level that I can’t quite describe. I’m telling you the book…..Women Who Love Psychopaths explains exactly what I’m going through. EXACTLY!!
          Im wondering if Dr. Simon has any comments about that book? Is it a bad thing to mention other books on your site Doc?

          1. I’m familiar with the book(s) being discussed in the forum. And while my primary purpose for my work and for this site is to inform and help empower those dealing with disturbed characters, it’s more than a bit ironic that many of them have gotten quite a boost in recent years because of this site and because of re-seller “bundles” with my books. Still, this site and my work are all about empowerment, so the more information out there, the better.

            I do think the WWLP’aths book does a fairly good job of describing the typical scenarios of entanglements with psychopathic types, but I think some of the descriptions of the characteristics of the women who get involved with male psychopaths are a bit inaccurate and the book doesn’t go far enough in explaining all the intricacies of vulnerability. I might have more to say about this at another time, or in an upcoming revision of both ISC and CD.

            Also, I see a bit of inadvertent and unrecognized gender bias in much of the literature. Not only are not all psychopaths and other severely disturbed characters men, but the ranks of female types, though gratefully still remarkably small compared to males, are, however, growing larger – a sign of our times, and additional evidence that other factors other than pure biology affect at least the “expression” of psychopathy, if not the pure prevalence of it. I would highly recommend to those who haven’t done so to become as familiar with the Jodie Arias case as possible. It goes to the jury next week. And, IMHO, it’s a great example of when a man with character impairments of his own (probably not, however, a true psychopath but definitely a person with psychopathic traits) meets up with a woman with even stronger psychopathic characteristics as well as other serious disturbances of character. And it’s not only a great case study in the characteristics of psychopathy and the spectrum of character pathology, but also a great study in the things that make folks (both men and women) “vulnerable.” Moreover, the case really illustrates the gender and other biases we (professionals and general public) entertain that keep us from fairly sorting out the true core pathological and causal factors at work in psychopathy and other severe character disturbances.

            I’ve already written some on this topic and will again once the verdict is in.

        2. Vera, I have my own bundle of issues and its a tangled up ball of yarn. I don’t know where to start, how to unravel……Im sure that is part of what has kept me hopeful. I don’t want to hide from healing but it really is so hard on my own. I enjoyed his company so much…..how do I describe it? I feel like he is a part of me i guess. It was such an intense togetherness. so little separation. I feel like he possessed me. Its indescribable!!!
          I really want you and Alex to get the eBook Women Who Love Psychopaths. It’s $10 and here is the link.
          http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/wwlp2-e-book

          The dynamics are spelled out very clearly. I see Dr.Simons point about his comments about the book and think they need to be considered when reading it BUT, I think it is worth the $10 read.
          I don’t know if the guy I’ve been involved with is a psychopath or not. He is definitely dripping in issues and red flags. I have my own issues but I’ve never been in a relationship that was healthy so I don’t know what i would be like in that type of situation. I can relate to Alex’s story. Mine started with an alcohol tainted in utero development then a very dysfunctional adopted family, my own alcohol abuse for close to 40 years (OMG!!), and dysfunctional, toxic relationships with men all along my adulthood!! Im no catch either i suppose.
          My friend said something to me once about the Spath and I (movie title? LOL), she said,,,,at best the two of you are like trying to make an omelet with two scrambled eggs! I know I’m not a Spath but I also know I have some cluster B characteristics. What’s a girl to do??

          I personally think we need The Hotel Simon recovery center! Have you ever seen a veterinarians office where they have one side for the cats and one side for the dogs? Well it could be like that…..victims to the right, spaths to the left! Please take a seat!

          Dr. Simon, Ive been meaning to say……I’m sorry to hear of your health problems and I hope you are well on the mend. We need you! 🙂

          1. “Im no catch either i suppose.”… i cried when I read that and i wish i could hug you. Please don’t say that about you!

    2. My husband of 31 years had two very serious surgeries, one a brain surgery that was to get a tumor off his brain stem in 2001. It was one we were informed he was probably not going to survive, he did but after that surgery any and all cooperation stopped with him. . The first 16 years he was back I maintained his coopration through the use of promises of one day allowing him the marriage bed as a husband and telling him that there was not a rush to have a family. There were just so many other families that benifited off my husbands not having time off and working in their place on holidays, vacations and weekends, his father always told me make him be a man and work, after that surgery even armed intimidation by his father and his friend seemed to be needed to keep people happy. However there was one person that became more unhappy and bitter every time I would promise to somehow get him a vacation with out someone screaming. to get him not to use his seniority to take a new job one time I even offered to normalize our sex life and allow the son of his fathers best friend with 15 years less have the job, that night turned into on of broken bleeding people, my husband kicking the front door in on top of me and then standing on top of it while I was under it with his saying the next time I tried to get him hurt like that I better hire some good hit men because the next time I to would be going to trauma care. Nothing we have tried through today seems to get him to understand that he needs to at least noticing why he needed to consider everyone else before himself. Then things took another nose dive after a second surgery in October 2009 when he allowed himself to get so Depressed he contracted mrsa in his spin. He came home a cripple two years ago after three strokes another surgery on his hear for more mrsa. But he came home unreasonable Within a month he found out about an affair and completly destroyed the man then two weeks later he came home from a stress center and I was just going out with his fathers best friend to a p0olitcal fund raiser for two to three hours, I begged my husband to please pick a place to meet I would call everyone that needed some input into his disability. He ripped everything off me in a rage and if I had resisted more I think he was considering killing me.
      And since he has not acceopted any thing in the way of wait and see resulting in major injury to those that were just trying to slow him from forcing his way into traditions of more than thirty years, it all came to a head in mid march when his father felt he was taking to much of his authority, and porogative by inviting himself of the vacation trip most the family and friends were taking, His father showed up drunk intending to teach his son my husband his place with a ball bat and ended up himser4lf with a broken neck. What I am trying to ask is how t6o keep my husband from hurting any one else now that sex denial will no longer work, my husband would do as he did one other time embarrassing me by taking off his shirt grabbing a felt tip pen and marking the best place to put a knife in his back and kill him.

  3. Thank you for clarification, Dr Simon.

    From what I understand reading this article, justifiable, if terrifyingly intense mistrust can be reduced and healed with lots of discriminating evidence to the contrary. Genuine paranoia, however, insists on raging without discrimination in spite of all reason. Thank you, again, because this is something people, especially unfortunate ones after run-ins with all manner of nasty folks, need to know.

  4. Here’s a thought I believe people can benefit from.

    Whenever you meet new people, you needn’t share anything personal with them no matter how much you like them or how much instant rapport you feel you’ve stricken.

    I once made a mistake of sharing something about a girl I liked to someone I had just met. Of course he kept convincing me he wouldn’t tell a thing to this girl, whose name I luckily hadn’t mentioned. Suddenly I realized I’d done a foolish thing in sharing something like that, especially when someone new casually tries to elicit it from me. Without skipping a beat I found myself conjuring up a lie that what I had just told was “nothing new to this girl”. So disastrous consequences averted, but don’t count on it, folks.

    Another point as an extension: If someone attempts to elicit something from you that ought to be just your thing, something that belongs to no one else, then you have a right to be a bit suspicious.

    Trying to elicit personal sore points may speak of lacking interpersonal skills. That, in turn, may or may not indicate some deeper issue. That may or may not accompany something more sinister or toxic in nature.

    You have a right to reveal only what you want to reveal. This is something I ought to remind myself as well.

    You don’t even need to voice your suspicions if you don’t see it necessary.

    In any way, keep in mind how well you really know someone. How good an understanding do you really have about where they are coming from?

    1. Completely agree, J.
      Have been designing my own ‘Target Hardening’ (to use the police or counter-terrorist term). It occurs to me that:

      First Step of Target Hardening (protecting or freeing yourself form manipulation) is: stop self-disclosing.

      This thought was sparked by an abreaction to some (e.g. Harriet Braiker) using the stereotypical ‘three-part assertiveness formula’ or variants on it with manipulators.
      ‘When you … I feel…’ and the third (or fourth) parts vary from one person to the next.
      Braiker gives this example (as a good one!)in her four-part formula:
      “When you raise your voice and yell at me
      I feel afraid and anxious
      If you would just stop yelling at me and ask me what you want in a calm voice
      I would feel a lot more respected and valued.”

      That has always struck me as TOO DANGEROUS but also pretty pointless. (1) why do you think it is an effective tactic to motivate a manipulator by saying ‘it will make me feel respected and valued’? They have no/or impaired empathy in the first place; and secondly they don’t WANT you to feel respected and valued.
      (2) They’re not that stupid; how stupid does a human being have to be not to realize how it feels to be shouted at? They don’t care
      BUT above all –
      I feel this formula is giving CDs:
      (1) ammunition – self-disclosure makes you vulnerable; showing
      (2) a nice clear view of their target – your sore points
      (3) feedback – their tactics are working on you to make you feel bad!
      …in short, you’re coaching them in how to improve their performance in abusing you.

      My thought about ‘Step 1 = STOP self-disclosure’ is only one day old but here goes – how does it sound?
      1 – it’s much easier to stop yourself from saying something you habitually say; than to work yourself up to saying thigns you find very difficult to say. Easier to withhold than confront, as a first stage in empowering yourself
      2 – it’s putting in place some badly-needed self-protection before you do anything too risky or scary. Repair your walls before you start launching cannons.
      3 – actually – I speculate – despite not confronting or threatening, it sends a very clear message that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED – that something is YOU. The change is that you no longer need to seek their attention, advice, approval on your feelings and thoughts. You keep your own counsel (where it belongs). It shows your psychological center of gravity has shifted back onto you, not them. It quietly demonstrates (without threatening) that you have gained some psychological independence from them.
      Just a thought, so far.

      1. PS – here’s a contrast to that so-called assertiveness formula, a response that to my mind really IS assertive. (True story). Friend of mine who is a tough cookie and the survivor of many a manipulation ATTEMPT … no one succeeds anymore!

        She was the Chief Finance Officer at work. A charming insidious CA was a head of department. She discovered he was passing off fraudulent expenses claim by his staff. He approved them, but it was her job to sign them off.

        When she confronted him, he smirked and said ‘Well, YOU’RE signing them.’

        That enraged her (and revealed to her what character she was dealing with, and that he was setting her up to be the fall guy.) She simply retorted ‘Not anymore!!’ and changed the procedure immediately so he had to sign them off.

        It didn’t stop him passing off exaggerated claims, of course. But it protected her from taking the rap if/when it was investigated (she also reported her concerns of course but her boss was an ostrich so this was the best she could do to make him accountable.)

        The thing I like about that example is that she had no compulsion to explain herself, justify what she was going to do, say why, rake over the past as to what he/she should/shouldn’t do or have done and whose fault it was etc etc etc. Just a two-word retort that showed him she knew what he was up to but made no accusations to argue over.

        AND, more importantly, an instant change to behavior and policy to protect herself and prevent him from harming her.

        But NOTHING about ‘how it made her feel’ or ‘how she would like him to be’.

        (Doesn’t that three-part ‘assertiveness formula’ actually feel a bit manipulative itself?!)

        1. Been there often, The normal thing goes…..”when you do A. I feel B. what I would like is C. With a CA, the thing goes……..If you do (or don’t do) X. I will (or wont) do Y. I thought i read this on here a while back, someone posted it.
          ” If you do X, I’m going to do Y,,,,,rinse and repeat”.
          So my problem is that I don’t do this in the moment. I dont have the confidence or the comfort level and am not fast on my feet. My brain just shuts down when I feel violated in ANY way. I have no experience….no mouth/mind muscle memory.

          1. I am modifying the formula.

            If he does x, I will do y.

            Prepare your y ahead of time, even write it on a card if you won’t remember. Then when he does x, do y. Don’t tell him ahead of time, just do it.

            Example: when he yells at me again, I will say “cut that out!” and leave immediately.

          2. Right on Vera. Towards the end of the actual relationsh-t, I was just starting to put some tools in my toolbox. Up till then all I had was a pocket screwdriver and dealing with this guy was like trying to build the Empire State Building. The one thing I can not believe I allowed him to do was to speak to me disrespectfully in my own home. That is a no brainier of a boundary!!!! I could have said, plain and simple……..if you are going to speak to me in that way, in that tone of voice, in my home, I want you to leave. But no…… I did start to walk out of the room or into the house or whatever but it was far too little far too late.

        2. Perhaps it’s always, in any case, useful to take precautions or take mental note of ways that can turn out to sting you hard.

          Another example from my army stint. I’m another one of assistant duty officers and another one is Cole, who I have seen is pretty dishonest. Because I’d be the second assistant duty officer, I’m apprehensive Cole might neglect to wake me up and later claim to have done so, only for me not to do my duties. I’ve seen Cole take a petulant, antagonistic attitude towards other starter-ups whose skills he perceives to expose his own poorer performance and while I don’t regard myself among the most enthusiastic of the trainees, I don’t want to leave things to chance and luck if I can help it. Because Cole’s dubious conduct is well-known, I openly share with the main duty officer, who’s also a familiar trainer corporal, that I haven’t gotten much of a reason to trust Cole. I also share my doubts with him, staying as neutral as possible. The duty officer understands where I’m coming, saying: “I don’t claim your concern would be founded, but I don’t claim it would be unfounded either.” I guess he didn’t know what else to say, so he resorted to diplimatic stance. I do, just in case, ask a roommate to wake me up at 4 am in case Cole doesn’t do so. Anyways, Cole does come into our room and wake me up. Whether there was any risk there or not, trouble averted.

          Now, in a slightly different situation the better way to go would’ve been to talk more generally, appealing to how I don’t know others well enough, care for duty and preference to avoid getting mud from others’ dodging of responsibility.

          Perhaps it could be a useful bit of life coaching advise. If real estate chants: “Location, location, location” and responsibility-impaired dishonest people can be characterized to live by the mantra: “Position, position, position”, perhaps we more proper people could coach each other to “Prepare, prepare, prepare”, troubles or not.

      2. Ha ha ha Braiker is clueless!!!! Ya can’t use NVC with CAs. I recommend Verbally abusive relationship, Evans. She shows how anyone who takes an attack on them as valid and begins to share feelings, or explaining, or any other such… is wide open to be attacked harder. If a tiger attacked you, would you be sharing your feelings, or would you try like hell to protect yourself and get the heck out of there?

        A CA is happy that you are feeling upset and anxious, etc. That’s the whole point of his attack, duh!

        So, totally agree with your three points. 🙂

    2. My dear sister had the best response for these situations – when people asked questions she didn’t feel comfortable answering. She would just say, “Why do you need to know?” It’s such an effective way of saying, “How is that your business?”

      1. Moda! I’m a year plus, overdue on reading this thread. I stumbled upon these entries, in a fervid quest to understand a pattern of uncomfortable give and takes occurring with my partner. That spanned the entirety of our almost five year long relationship. Also to be able to, if and when it was needed- protect myself. I knew what was occurring, wasn’t “OK” and that it was a form of manipulation….
        But in the moment… when aaggressed by her tactics, was always rendered unable to communicate my understanding and generalised knowledge of her behavior. Always denouncing her attempts, in the monent. However, not being equally capable of explaining why, in full, I denounced her attempts to elicit and chronicle my *sore points*. I knew it was a leverage think, manipulation thing, and a control thing. I just really hadn’t, until this evening, felt compelled to research “the bottom line”. Inspired by a familiar, relentless, and dogged attempt, to put the screws on me.
        In the course of these attempts, my natural instinct was and still is, to protect myself. One of the ways I did this/do this… was/is to ask her why she was asking what she was. Or what value to her, my answers held, in the scheme of our relationship. In so many words… And probably literally as well… Asking the same question your sister does. My question to you is, were you ever around to hear the response, people would give your sister? If so, what were some of those responses? And how did your sister rally her response to their responses? I’m very curious…
        I appreciate your volunteerism, in this conversation. After reading your entry, amongst many many others, I felt compelled to reach out. Thank you.

  5. Dr. Simon, I think another thing that is hard to let go of is the self questioning and doubt these people create in YOU. I have a friend who is fighting through the aftermath of being involved with a Spath. We share about the same timeline, as in, we were both in the relationship about the same amount of time and we have both been out of the relationship about the same amount of time, she a little bit longer.
    It seems that both of us have had a tremendously difficult time letting go of it and we both share this part of the process…….did I do something wrong? Was i to blame? Could i have done something different that would have resulted in a different outcome? Could he have been saved if I would have done something differently? Was I asking for too much from him and that is what caused the relationship to fail, etc.
    Of course, we had both been fed massive guilt trips by the men, over functioned ourselves to the point of self destruction TRYING to love them while they put little to no positive energy or effort into the relationship been fed a love bomb in the beginning only to be treated like whores and disposable garbage later on in the relationship, etc, etc, etc………..
    In spite of the blatant sick, cruel, and neglectful treatment we were both subjected to, hers more overt and mine more covert, we have both been struggling with self doubt and blame.
    Personally, I have not been able to LET GO and MOVE ON. I still want to believe that there must be some misunderstanding, that he just CAN’T be the monster that so much evidence points towards. I can’t believe I just can’t walk away saying screw YOU buddy, how dare you treat me in such a disrespectful way and be done with him.
    It’s maddening! As I’ve said before on this site, IF the worst of what I suspect about him is true, then I have given myself emotionally and physically and sexually to someone who was not feeling or thinking anything remotely along the same lines that I was. This person was in my home with me and now I might come to realize that I never even knew who this person was???
    It’s the questioning for me…..the endless wondering if he may have had good intentions yet just been a f’up OR is the person a parasitic predator???
    When I was speaking of the CBT therapist yesterday and my incompatibility with her and her style…..this is what was so wrong for me, she seemed to have no respect or understanding about the phase of the aftermath I’m in right now and wanted me to jump right into ok, lets get you up and running mode.
    As I said, I declined a dinner invitation from him. That is HUGE for me because a month or so ago, if circumstances would have allowed it and he would have asked, I would have jumped on it.
    idk……kind of rambling here…..

    Hey, J…….do you remember which article we were posting under yesterday when I was talking about finding a therapist? I can’t find my way back there to read further posts.

    1. I just wanted to reply on the part you say about giving everything to a man who perhaps you now think felt nothing – I have that doubt too. I really struggle to understand how a man can be so consciously manipulative especially in my case for 5 years and then once I realised what potentially was happening yes there are lots of questions in my head particularly trying to understand how anyone could do those things consciously and in the cold light of day so that leads me to think I never actually knew him and yes did he not really love me then and so it goes on as I try to assimilate all these thoughts because I too thought I was mis-understanding things that actually he did truly love me but that I was at fault – anyways I hope you do move on

    2. Here you are: http://www.goodtherapy.org/types-of-therapy.html

      I couldn’t find a page exclusively about therapies for trauma. For starters I refer to Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy, Trauma Relief Unlimited and Somatic Experiencing, based on what I read on these pages.

      I hope you find therapy as well as a therapist that is right for you. Hold on, Puddle!

      1. Thanks J………..no, I was looking, couldn’t remember what article we were discussing therapy and therapist on a couple days ago. It was not on this article. I was wanting to re read comments but can’t find where we were that day.

    3. Hey Puddle, one way of coping I’ve found really useful is to test them. You set a boundary. He will cross it, you apply a consequence. How much effort on your part will it take for him to stop? You will soon know, as you apply firmer and firmer consequences. If he is relentless, he’ll just keep crossing your boundaries.

      Picture is as a bull’s eye kinda diagram. If he is still on the outside circle, he has say five more chances. But every time he messes with you, you move him one step closer to the bull’s eye. Then, one more time, and he’s out. Because by then, you will know for sure.

      Oh, and I gotta share this African word for which English has no equivalent: Ilunga. A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time around, tolerate it the second time, but never a third time. I am aspiring to it! 🙂

      1. Thanks Vera, but it all just goes into the tubes for me. I try and try and I just keep dropping the ball. I will say this…….it does seem to be that I drop the ball from less and less of an altitude. I think I see my improvement in very small ways? God I hope. New therapist scheduled for tuesday. She sounded wonderful on the phone.

  6. Ok Dr Simon! You did ask 🙂
    To set the scene briefly first – 2 year marriage to a man with anger management problems who would out of the blue become immensely abusive and sometimes physically. Straight from this into a 20 year marriage with a man who was a complete control freak, again with what I perceive to be anger management problems and who emotionally abused me the whole 20 years – undermining my confidence by telling me how ugly and useless I was and who regularly told me he wanted to leave me until I was a quivering wreck begging him to say then hey presto everything was good again, that is as long as I never asked to go out etc! (3 children in this episode). Self harm hit in badly until I realised I had a choice – basically live or die and to live I needed to get out and so I did but a massive power struggle as you can imagine. Then into a 5 year relationship with a man who I now, having read In Sheep’s Clothing, was a complete and very experienced manipulator. Telling me he was my saviour, encouraged me to tell him my inner most secrets and fears and then very covertly used them throughout our relationship to keep me as I tried to leave him several times. (I have since found out he actually still lives with his wife – a whole other story)
    I ended this relationship in Feb of this year and he continued to communicate and I allowed that until he became very threatening as I did not give in and go back into the relationship.
    So…………. how do I feel? Well 34 years in total actually of being involved with men who abused me in some shape or form whether it be covertly or overtly destructive it all boils down to the same thing I believe. I sent this message to a couple of friends who asked me this week why I am so low when it has been now a month of no communication from the last man after I threatened the police:

    “It is a very long story to explain how I feel but basically I have allowed myself to be in an abusive relationship since I was 20 years old so have 34 years history of this and even Andrew abuses me in his own way.

    So now I have like a long term hostage escaped Beirut but now who am I? I have been a victim for 34 years and that was my identity and now I have no idea who I am. When a hostage is released it is bitter sweet because as a victim or hostage you become very attached to your captor. They may be cruel and unkind and controlling but also they are the ones who have shown you love and cared for you and protected you, clothed you, fed you, charmed you and shielded you. Now the walls are down and you step out from the darkness, the institution of being captive and realise the light is very bright outside and you are not sure where you are.

    Its an odd feeling and my propensity to be consumed by darkness is a concern but I know I must learn to relax into the storm until it passes and then I can start to work out my identity, who I truly am and which direction I want to go in.

    Sorry sounds a bit dramatic but it’s where I am at the moment, it is not an easy journey for me through life and never has been but I truly believe the road will get less difficult.

    That is how I still feel, though a little less dark as the days are going by. But the essence remains – who am I? I have spent a long time in the ‘burning house’ and managed to get out relatively unharmed but now I’m standing in the road looking at the house thinking – what happened there? My energy has been sapped completely just to survive, friends are all around me supporting me and yet I’m not sure what to do now

    It’s very difficult to explain to my friends how this has been going on – they say that outwardly i am attractive, strong, kind, loving compassionate, happy with my own company etc etc so what possessed me to not set my boundaries with these men and walk away the moment there was a danger sign. I’m sure a lot of women in my circumstance would have the same trouble explaining why we allowed what we did but at the end of the day we are who we are because of what we have gone through. At last I have opened my eyes, I am conscious of what has happened and I now know definitively what I DONT want which means I can focus on what I do want.
    I am stepping off the relationship wheel for however long it takes not because I believe I am paranoid of men but because I just need to build up my strength again without outside influences. I do understand what you say above Dr. Simon that there is also an element of self mis-trust but I refuse to beat myself up for allowing this to happen to me – I can only believe and trust that I needed these experiences to grow and I’ve certainly done that
    And as a dear friend said last night – Alex you are strong, after everything you have gone through you are still beautiful, compassionate, hold down a great job and have 3 wonderfully balanced grown up children. And to those women out there who have suffered I believe we have inner strength beyond our comprehension.
    Big hug to you all

    1. You describe it sparsely yet vividly. I get a great feel of a situation like that, even though I’ve never been there myself(and hope never to be).

      Alex, you say that “at the end of the day we are who we are because of what we have gone through” and I want to add something to that. I derive this from my experiences. You say you are “conscious of what has happened” and “need to build up – strength again without outside influences”.

      I’d say: We end up being who we are as a result of what we experience, what we get conscious of and what we overcome.

      Perhaps someone else wants to express their view on this and I’d be glad if they did.

    2. Hugs to you too, Alex!
      Some mistrust in place is not such a bad idea… of others, and for the moment of your skills to recognize them and neutralize them readily. But those skills are like any other… practice makes perfect. I’ve been practicing for nearly a year now, and it’s been an amazing and eye opening year. I am close to living in a CA-free, bully-free zone. Yey!

      1. I want that too Vera and this time I know it will happen but appreciate as you say it takes practice and I think I will also be discerning about how much I open up to a man in the early stages – I tend to be very open with everyone but now I know some people can use that knowledge – glad you are going into a bully free zone!

    3. Awww…..Alex, that story was very well put. You are very insightful i think. Nice job on getting that out and thanks for sharing. I am in the same boat, no kids though. Jeeesh………I know….other people look at you like you have gone off the deep end when you try to describe this to them…..

      1. Perhaps it has something to do with wishing for the world to be idyllic and nothing but idyllic. In creeps a stream of magical thinking. “If you don’t believe in evil, it goes away.”

        While I’m not aiming for philosophical debate here, I hold the fact that evil does exist in spite of denial as proof for the objective nature of reality. Or perhaps the right way to substitute for “evil” would be “treating other people as objects to treat as you please”.

        Some people haven’t experienced that some people can be devoid of what usually makes humans human. Thus it’s easier to think that these less human people are a myth with nothing to do with reality. Too bad they aren’t a myth.

        1. What about how to deal with people’s disbelief? Since getting confused answers from others, who refuse to believe what you’ve gone through could have happened, must be another sting in the flesh, couldn’t that be its own chapter?

          1. No doubt J, it’s exhausting to even discribe it. So much is lost from not being in the moment. All the nuonces (sp)

        2. I don’t know about “evil”. I see them more like spoiled toddlers who have grown adult bodies but nothing else adult to match. And they are stuck. But it’s more than stuck because the word “stuck” implies that they could become unstuck. …..I think most of the really bad ones are so malformed, biologically and emotionally, they will never get unstuck.

        3. Indeed, toddlers with intellect more developed and emotional retardation as severe. It’s a shame a human being can even develop into that direction at all.

          Since people here have talked about additional reading, I recommend to take a look at King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. The subject is masculine development and all the ways it can get stuck at wrong levels, but it does handle human development from archetypal angle.

          1. Toddlers? No. They have highly fined and subtle undermining-relationship skills that have most people fooled so bad they have no idea what’s going on. No way. These people are very grown up, and very dangerous.

      2. Hi, I am looking for answers and came across this and I think God led me to this page, it is ) was my life of lies and manipulation for 22 years. , I want a strong relationship and this madness that I have lived with has me feeling vet , parinoid of men, and I don’t want to be parinoid and mustrusting and feeling like I’m going to be deceived by every man that I have started a normal relationship with, who had given e no reason not to trust, besides me constantly feeling like everything is being done to hurt me, control me , or decieve me behind my back . I have been very abused over the years and need to heal from this, I don’t know anymore if things are normal in a normal relationship or if my mind and emotions have been to damaged to be in a normal relationship without investigating behaviors because it looks or feels like I shouldn’t give anyone my trust, I have a big heart and a lot of love to the right person but I’m so scared and look at things inn an over parinoid way and idk who I could tallk to, I want my fiancee to understand that I love him and don’t wanbt to be like this, I am so sad, stressed out , most too the point of panic attacks trying to not be hurt anymore I want to heal for my own sake and the sake of a by chance healthy relationship , not sure what that is anymore things are always turning to to much thinking in my mind and trying to protect myself and my heart and emotions and mind from being damaged by lies and deception. It’s so scarry when I don’t have anyone to talk to that understands the severity of damage people can do, and you never realize how deeply needed up it makes your life. I want to raise awareness that this is serious to a new relationship and I don’t want to lose a good man over my own damage and how do you live and trust again and find the prices of what used to exist in you before manipulation and abuse. It goes beyond normal problems and it’s very hard to explain to someone who has not delt with this way of life.

        1. Hi Diane,,,,,, first, sloooow down and breathe. Be calm:). I understand so well that others don’t understand these types and please know that the people here do understand. Stick around and please read Dr. Simons articles and the comments. He is a good man and makes this a safe place for all of us.
          Welcome.

        2. I feel like there is so much information out there about narcissists and covert-agressive people; and so little information about how do I rebuild my lost self. Twenty years with an expert blamer and diverter. It is terrible to be unheard for twenty years. I am finding myself to be really apathetic right now. Nobody is demanding food, so I’m not cooking. I think I used to like to cook before the relationship – until it was assigned as a permanent job that was never good enough. I used to be creative and spunky and spontaneous, and now I just want to breathe for a little while. I am trying to find the good in having gone through this, but mostly I am just learning that I was victimized by an irrational person, who lacks the capability to see things(or hear things, or even read things), from someone else’s point of view. This understanding, does give me back my lost self. So, my question for you, Dr. Simon, is how do you regain your identity when your spouse has been redefining a fake you and not acknowledging or validating the real you for two decades. Because of our children, he will always be there to be dealt with and he refuses to detach.

          1. DJ, it definitely is devastating to realize you have to “rebuild” who you really are. The real “you” is still there, hiding like a wounded child, which is what has happened to so many of us. John Bradshaw did some of the better known work on reclaiming our inner child – that is the real person buried underneath the layers of walls we build up to protect ourselves.

            His work focuses mainly on the damage done through alcoholism (not only the addict, but the children and other family members). However, it also helps other types of abuse victims – and the tactics employed by narcissists and covert-aggressives IS abuse.

            I’ve been helped by Patricia Evans’ book: Victory over verbal abuse, and you can get on the email list of Melanie Tonia Evans and receive a lot of her free material on reclaiming your inner person and how to act (or not act) with respect to these narcissists. (I ignore the pitches she makes about her revolutionary tool that no one else has come up with about inner healing).

            She and Evans both speak of the importance of No Contact or Modified No Contact in the cases where there is joint custody of children. I also attend meditation sessions.

            Make sure your email is only accessible to you, or get a new one if you think your spouse knew it and the password associated with it.

            I also attended a 2-day workshop on self-defense for women (it included verbal and physical self-defense). Our personal circumstances being different from one another (some were single, some divorced, some had suffered physical abuse, some had family members who were the problem – fathers, uncles, brothers, others the spouses, but all of us had been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and those who had put up with physical, sexual and verbal abuse – said that the verbal abuse was the worst. So there is a lot of healing that needs to be done, and it is at exhausting. But please know that you will get better, bit by bit.

            Not only was the workshop empowering on a physical level, but the fact of being with others who “get it”, was extremely helpful in feeling “normal” and on the right track for emotional recovery.

            I plan on attending again and doing follow-up sessions this fall. Maybe there is something similar in your area? There are now fortunately more resources available for women who have been through this particular type of hell.

          2. I just wanted to add that the last names of the two people I mentioned is the same, but I have no idea if they are related or not.

            I also ignore the explanations these or other writers/bloggers give as to WHY the character disordered act the way they act. There is still a tendency to blame their rotten childhood/environment or whatever.

            But as Dr. Simon shows in his books, these people are not wounded creatures over-compensating for their childhoods (at least, the vast majority of them aren’t). They are the way they are because they enjoy it. They like hunting prey.

            And we’re the prey.

          3. My quick thoughts

            Though I’m male and don’t deal with a similar situation myself, I have met way too many slick manipulators and control freaks as well as people, who just act like a******s, and I wanna simply second GG here in that meditation can help a lot. I’ve seen some meditation comments around here by folks with differing opinions, some that seem strongly favorable and some skeptical(not sure why). Really, meditation is quite simple in its basic forms and helps in stilling mind. A******s are one bother, restless mind another, I can tell from own experience.

            At least I think there are many forms of meditation(though I haven’t checked and have little time right now, so I can’t be sure). Agreeing with those posters here, though, who say Youtube’s a good Place to look if you’re not sure how to meditate. Since we are in on inner healing, inner child meditations can also do a lot of good.

            I hope this contributed.

            Timothy

          4. Thank you for your comments. I have actually read 3 of Patricia Evans book and have holds on the other two. I have also read 3 of Dr. Simons books. They have both helped me immensely in learning how to respond to covert aggression. It is true that on days that I do not have to interact with my ex, the more easily I can breathe and relax. I didn’t realize how stressed out I was on a day to day basis until I was able to get him to move out via the court system. My latest problem is trying to work with him to come up with a better parenting plan for my son who is going back and forth between our houses like a ping pong ball during the school nights. Unfortunately, the court system assumes that parents who seem cooperative actually are cooperative. I am trying to move towards MyFamilyWizard.com so that our contact can be documented and electronic. The serenity prayer helps a lot. I have cats and I really liked Dr Simons defensive vs aggressive cats analogy. They sure get excited when they see prey.

        3. Diane,

          Like Puddle says, slow down and breathe. The cluster-f*** of what has happened is confusing and devastating. Trust yourself that you’ll see the red flags of a CD this time. Keep reading. There are good men/women out there who are capable of loving and treating you nice. I met a man who is a Good man, kind, gentle and supportive. I met him, though, through a friend, so I didn’t start out to wary of befriending another CD. With time you’ll be fine. Keep reading and keep posting. Lots has happened to you/us. It takes time to sort out.

          1. BTw, Lucy, this isn’t what your post is about, but…

            I recall I saw this Puddle posting when I was coming here. Haven’t seen her(?) here for a while. Perhaps someone knows what’s going on with her?

  7. Vera, I mean toddlers in their character and emotional development. They are smart but not as smart as one would think. Most of their ability to do what they do depende on others not being able to know these types exist. Enter the SSASC, the Simon Says Anti Spath Crusade! We must spread the word!! Sharing their food supply into oblivion!!

    1. Hm. I think using the term toddler would lead people to underestimate them. I tend to think of them as a human hybrid, one that preys on the rest of us. And you are absolutely right, people not knowing they exist, and disbelieving their own experience, plays into the predation.

      Unlike toddlers, these people ruin lives. They use us up and spit us out. Pitchforks and torches!!!!! 😉

      1. Amen sistah. We will need costumes as well. Silly hats. All crusaders wear silly hats!
        And hats rhymes with cats….oh boy……
        Now he is slandering me saying I said I would have him killed. I said something to that affect over two years ago in a very non threatening way. A joke. He says his mother is afraid to open her curtains for fear of me. Omg!!! This is something he has thrown on the table in the past during an argument to divert the subject at hand. That is the only time he has ever even referred to it and always out of context and not the way it was meant. Unreal. His mothers best friend is a total blabber mouth and I live in a very small area. This is slander, plain and simple and I don’t know what to do. It’s absurd.

        1. Gadz, sick! Barf on his shoes, grrl! Yup, got that kind of slam too. They sock those little instances carefully away and then use them against you.

          I just spent a lot of time writing several letters to someone I thought was my friend, showing her that what my F. said was a total lie. Several big lies. Even sent a copy of my medical record! They know how to stab ya in the back. I think at a certain point you just go, that’s it. I am damn close. Stabs like that… how can you fight them? How would I even know all the lies he is spreading about me this very moment to others?

          I feel unwell even thinking of seeing him again.

          1. Yes, they may spread lies however making me look like I’m someone who would have him killed?? That is not good!! Way over the line. I don’t know what o do about it. I’ve got enough legitimate issues. That last thing I need is to be falsely labeled as someone who would have someone murdered! As IF!!

          2. Yeah, it’s serious lie. Maybe you could write a letter to his mom, to set the record straight, and keep a copy. You could also consult a lawyer (maybe online free or cheap?) and ask them about something like that. I have a feeling the lawyers have ideas on such things, you are not the first one targeted. First step would probably be some sort of a cease and desist letter from the law office. If he continues, they would get more serious. Malicious attacks against a person’s reputation are against the law.

          3. Thank you for reminding me, Puddle and Vera. You see, I had to remind Dr Simon about something.

            I asked this a while back Dr Simon, and you had hurries doing other things. Would you make an article about character defamation?

          4. Legal fees will cost you more money and aggravation and believe me not worth it. Ignore the losers. You don’t have to prove your innocence and defend yourself against them. I spent too much of my life “defending” myself in my awful marriage. It’s ridiculous now that I look back.

  8. Vera, now that I know so much about Spaths, disturbed characters, CAs, etc…….I see what he is doing so clearly. I understand his schinanagans ( how in the world do you spell that word? Lol). He is very subtle, been doing this crap for a long time.

  9. I truly appreciate the comments above regarding M-F marriages or dating relationships but I think it’s important to note that the same issues or problems apply to M-M or F-F long-term close friendships. Everything can appear normal until one day something changes in the relationship causing the CA to show their true colors. It is eye-opening and scary when you realize how intertwined or ensnared you are in their cover up tactics. You find out how disposable you are to the CA in order for them to protect their carefully crafted public image and ego. They will covertly savage your reputation to gain for themselves. You find yourself on the outside looking in at your own social circles or at least that’s how it feels.

  10. One issue that has been given spotlight before and I feel should be given a spotlight in a new book is the culture valuing of appearances over substance.

  11. Dr Simon, would it be helpful to include a section on how abusers become like they are? Would that help readers understand better what they are dealing with(and healing from) as well as help identify people that are likely to grow up to become abusive as early in childhood or youth as possible?

    1. I must admit that I would be interested to have insight into how abusers evolve but I guess there are many different scenarios but yes I would like to see more about how it starts, what the triggers are etc.
      I am though truly hoping that one day I may tire of reading and analysing abusive and manipulative behaviour because I will be in a relationship with a man who does not fall into that category 🙂

      1. J, Vera, I don’t know what Dr Simons opinion of this is and it’s been a while since I’ve read his books BUT, in Women Who Love Psychopaths 2nd edition, the first part of the book is about this. There are many many opinions out there as to why a Spath is a Spath and why a CA or narcissist became how they are. Since no two people are alike, no two spaths are alike in the origin of their disorder.
        Personally…. I think Spathx’s father may have been one, I think Spath has serious mother issues and from all the reading I’ve done this seems to be a common similarity with male spaths( mother issues). Father issues with female spaths. My Spathx has never fully, or even partially, separated from his mother and is 48. She coddles him in her emotional neediness. It’s emotionally insestuous. T hat should have been red flag number one and the only one needed but he painted it in a favorable light and I ignored. One of many red flags I ignored. So complicated……..
        I think Lundy Bancroft spends some time examining the “what happened” question in his book, Why Does He Do That.
        Anyhow, that is why I refer to them as toddlers. It’s arrested development and failure to disengage and individuate from the narcissistic bond in infancy. That combined with a possible genetic or biological inability to empathize and feel compassion AND no ability to truly bond, only to attach.
        They only WANT and do not NEED. that makes they very motivated in aquiring what they want but not motivated to keeping want they want-ED. Superficial, disposable, replaceable supply is what others are to them. Think of a child that sees a puppy that it wants SO badly yet does not have the developmental ability to truly care for it in all aspects. It just can’t! It hasn’t learned or developed the skills, on many levels, to care for something, to give love, care and nurturing beyond himself.
        Rambling here!! Lol

        1. I think of it in evolutionary terms. As long as covert manipulation gets the job done with us sheeple, the covert manipulators will rise and thrive. Sad but true, IMO.
          -=-
          But when we get savvy and they stop getting their payoffs, then there will be fewer and fewer of them. From my mouth to God ear.

        2. My “husband”, cause we are separated but living in the same house, so don’t know what to call him, anywhooo, the first year or so of our marriage we HAD to go to his mom’s on Sunday’s between church service. This is how it goes: His family isn’t very social. You get there and no one offers a you anything, not even conversation. His step dad literally sounds like a duck, quacking. He complains incessantly with this quack, quack, quack. His mom takes off to the greenhouse. His sister, who was staying there at the time, I dunno where she went. Her kids would play video games non-stop, which was where my husband was. All the while, I’m stuck for FIVE HOURS sitting next to mr quack-quack as he surfs through channels, never landing on any one of them for any amount of time to get into the program! The first time I came over to his mother’s home I saw how she treated her husband. Telling him he’s lucky to be married to her and she’s put up with his crap for 19 yrs and then she just sounds like she’s quacking, too, LOL! I couldn’t believe someone would do this in front of company. His mother always looks like she’s scowling and pouting at the same time. HA! I’ve never said or realized that before! She is very manipulative and she deserted him at a very young age and lied to him, didn’t protect him from physical abuse from his father or sexual abuse from his oldest brother. I used to feel sorry for him because he has no recollection of his childhood for the first 7 years. That’s why I see him as a 7 year old. It took me 20 years to “stumble” upon info on passive aggressive’s then Dr Simon’s In Sheep’s Clothing. I had given up a few months ago. Then I read Scott Wetzler’s Living with the Passive Aggressive Man. Crap, now I have a name for this sick behavior and my daughter thought I should give it to him. I was upset at how I was the responsible one yet refuse to be his mother or manager and the book was saying (Scott Wetzler’s bk) that I’d have to call him on his sh*t! I was thinking, excuse me? He KNOWS what he’s doing. Why should I have to be responsible for telling him what he already knows? He even asked me to read it TO HIM. Yeah, now I gotta continue to do his work FOR HIM? I was pissed and started to read it to him, seething and emphasizing certain parts. Then he got it! Or so I thought. Well, he got that there was a name for his game, but he’s always known he’s been playing games in fact he’s addicted to online games which is all he wants to do and he’s a hermit. He did spend a day or two reading the book himself, take a break for a day or two, read a bit. You know, the typical con job of making you THINK he’s seeing the light but really, I think he was just fascinated at just how screwed up he is and has no intention of changing. He even bought and hid ANOTHER keyboard and mouse for the table top computer, to play games and look at porn while I was gone house sitting with my daughter. I recently looked at our online bank acct and saw checks written to Bill Me Later, I looked it up online, it’s paypal. He didn’t want me to know he was spending money we didn’t have. I even did a little investigative work and saw that the dates he wrote these checks were the same dates I had just left for a job. This is him working on our marriage and working on getting a job and working on himself. This is him lying…period.

    2. That’s definitely a good thing to hope and keep sight of.

      We could see it that we analyze how abusers come to be to help others avoid getting entangled with them. I also think spotting harmful people as early on as possible is also important. They’d either be given intensive and thorough rehabilitation or isolated from other people, who deserve to live their life in peace. We have lots of these people acting like monsters already. We don’t need more.

      I half-expect some slick-tongued charmer to swoop in, spin this as frothing mania and articulate how things are blown out of proportion. Glib, although thanks to Dr Simon these types aren’t operating as much in the darkness anymore.

      1. J, that’s what I mean by shrinking their food supply. Knowledge is power and thankfully, because of people like Dr. Simon, Robert Hare, Lundy Bancroft, Martha Stout, Sandra Brown,,,,,,,Dr. Phil is even exposing them!! The warning bell is getting louder and louder.
        I would caution however…..never underestimate the contributing issues the victim MAY bring into an entanglement with a disturber character or Spath. I know that my own issues have played a huge part in my not being able to fully and peacefully disengage. There is something blocking me. I should e able to let go at this point and say, screw you, to this guy but I just can’t!! It’s horribly frustrating and I honestly don’t know what to do.

    3. Found an old article on the late Tim Field’s site about what can make an individual grow up to be an abuser or a bully.

      http://www.bullyonline.org/related/abuse.htm

      The site in general is full of valuable information about abuse of power, in this case reverting to the definition of bullying. So, Dr Simon, if you haven’t checked out the site yet, I hope you can find something useful in it.

      1. J, the site says: “Abusers are usually brought up in a dysfunctional family.” This is not true, and quite other than what Dr Simon teaches.

        1. Vera……I often wonder about the assessment used to determine if a family is disfunctional or functional! Another continuum! I know that the family I was raised in, outwardly appeared, ok. Troubled in some ways but not glaringly as disfunctional as it was behind closed doors. Train wreck. I mean…. How do they really KNOW what happened? Do you think the father is going to say….why yes, when little Billy was five I used to fondle him in a sexually inappropriate way OR maybe an uncle did, or an older sibling and no one fesses up. Maybe the Spath has no memory of the abuse.
          A friend of mine was sexually abused as a child by her grandfather and had zero recollection of it till she was well into her thirties!! If it wasn’t for her getting reaped, she may never have recalled it. Idk…..
          Food for thought.

        2. To be fair, this is SOMETIMES true, but not just for abusers but for a lot of impaired characters and normal, healthy individuals as well. Still, there are plenty of cases where it’s not true at all. The important thing to remember is that there’s really no established causal link. We used to believe there was necessarily a link, even without evidence. But for years the evidence is pouring in and forcing us to question the validity of our old assumptions.

      2. Vera: There are many types of ways an individual can grow up wrong, dysfunctional family or not. Of course poor ways of raising up a child are to be addressed, so parenting can be more effective and thus increase more people growing up with healthy consciences, healthy attitudes, healthy ways of relating to other people, healthy ways of handling emotional turmoils, healthy ways of thinking and healthy mental structures.

        The site is old, probably before Dr Simon’s teachings ever started to take hold. The site probably hasn’t been updated foever, so it inevitably has some outdated information.

      3. Puddle: Perhaps disturbed characters, who have been abused, grow up to be more unhinged and with difficulties controlling themselves and those, who haven’t, grow up more likely to be premeditated in their grasp for domination. Perhaps.

        I take it that people, who use their horrid past as an excuse for inhuman treatment of others, are saying: “Screw personal responsibility, I have a great excuse right here and you don’t go challenging it, moron!” This is a generalization. Of course, some, who do, know what they really are like and use another way of shoving their “superiority” in others’ faces.

        1. Yes J…..it’s all over the place. Some do this….some do that,,,,,,,so many variables, ya know? I really am now beginning to see that WE are what we need yo focus on at a certain point blistering to our inner yes’s and no’s and not feeling like we need to justify either. If our heart is pure and we are not wanting to harm someone, there is nothing wrong with taking care of ourself NO MATTER WHAT!

          JUST SAY NO !

        2. Yes, so many variables in personalities, behaviors, clustering of traits, psychological dynamics and situations.

          Dr Simon probably has a lot to work on already. However, let’s put this behind our ears, so we can remind Dr Simon later, shall we?

          A great idea for an article or a chapter in a book could be on various ways to regain the sense of control.

      4. Dr Simon: My idea was that there could be a section on many ways of how an abusive personality can develop and how to avoid raising a horrid human being like that. Of course, it would also be useful to add, for those recovering from and those wishing to avoid abusive, exploitive relationships, that focusing on someone’s past can distract from their behavior in the present or lead to excuse it and minimize it.

        1. There have been so many questions and comments lately with respect to personality development that I’m going to plan a series of posts updating material I compiled years ago and including the very latest research. The series will speak not only to personality development in general but also to what we do and don’t know about how various factors affect the type and severity of character disturbance.

        2. We have a tendency to live in the mind of the abuser, trying to puzzle him out. Perhaps we ought to focus on how kindness and decent behavior develops, or how people who grew up in dysfuctional or abusive situations still become really fine people, leaving the learned patterns of abuse behind.

  12. I think folks here could list additional reading. All the good points and reasons why one thinks a listed book is useful to read could be included. If there are any caveats to pay attention, those should be mentioned as well.

  13. Thanks Dr simon for the very informative articles you write. My story starts from a young age. I was 3 years old when my dad abandoned my family and by all accounts that was a good thing as he was a nasty piece of work. Then my mum died when I was 6 of a brain tumor. After that i was put into foster care with my sister but she didn’t want to stay there so we were then put into a children’s home. After about 4 months I was put into another children’s home which was more permanent. I was fostered at around age 8 but unfortunately they weren’t very nice ppl as their youngest son was jealous of me so they made up a story that when we were on holiday in devon that I’d hit him over the with a swingball bat which I never did. They drove me home that very day blaming everything on me. I was then fostered at the age of 10 by what seemed like a really lovely couple but when I was about 14 my foster dad started sexually molesting me by at first tickling me so I was laughing and then he touched my breasts and he would say that they belonged to him. He would also make me sit straddled him on an armless computer chair and pull me into him so it would be rubbing against his crotch area. I didn’t tell anyone cos I thought I wouldn’t be believed cos of the previous foster carers I’d had which I’ve explained about before and also I thought I would be sent back to the children’s home which I didn’t want to happen. About a year later he died anyway so I will never know if it would of gone any further. Then when my foster mum met a new partner she wanted to move house to move in with him and told me I had to move out which felt like rejection to me again by someone I should be able to trust. After all that I was then desperate for security and love and so that made me vulnerable to narcissistic sociopaths and guess what, one found me and used the usual love bombing technique and asked me to marry him after only one day of dating him. Then he wanted me to get pregnant on our wedding night. I know now looking back on things that I was an idiot but I would of done anything for him back then. After 16 years of emotional abuse to me and our children I finally had enough after I found out about another affair he was trying to start so he could move out anyway cos as we all know that narcissists never leave a relationship unless they have another narcissistic supply lined up. I cannot tell you how hard it was to decide to become single again as I have attachment issues so badly even though I now hate him it was difficult to adjust for me. I have found that only ppl that have been through these abusive relationships can understand how they make you feel and how they change you as a person. All I wanted to do was talk about it but I found I couldn’t do that for that very reason. I have no friends or relatives I can turn to either. My 3 children are now showing some of the same traits of narcissistic abuse towards me so that it feels like I can’t escape from it as I would never get any off my children out of my house as I love them too much.

    1. Hi Rachel, What a sad story and how strong you must be to have made it through. It’s mind boggling what humans do to humans….how they do not see or care about the impact they have and how twisted their thoughts and beliefs can be.
      One way to look at it is that although you have been victimized because of your vulnerabilities, you are a survivor. I try to get my mind and thoughts to go down that road all the time, replacing the word victim with survivor.
      Im not minimizing the pain you or I or anyone else has been through or subjected to but trying to acknowledge the strength within that has kept us in the game of life.
      Don’t give up on yourself. Im trying not to.

      Do you have a therapist? or close friends you can lean on for support?
      I don’t know how old your children are but you do not have to put up with abuse from ANYONE, not even your children and to do so with a child,,,,,in my opinion, is not healthy for you or the child.
      Have you read both of Dr. Simons books? There are examples in them of parents who have allowed their children to run them over. Again, I don’t know the details of your situation with your children .
      I offer sympathy and compassion to you for all you have been through and encourage you to find some healthy support in what ever way you can.
      You sound insightful and like you see what has happened and why it’s happened so use that knowledge as a weapon to protect your self in the future. Knowledge is power when we follow it. I hope this helps.

    2. Although we lament the ordeal you’ve gone through, I’m sure the readers appreciate your sharing here. Hopefully, the resources available on this site as well as the information and perspectives offered in my books will aid you on your quest for greater personal empowerment. And with regard to the emotional “cost” attached to your decision to change your life, remember that absolutely nothing of any real value in this life doesn’t come with price tag. And generally, the greater the value, the rarer and more costly. Securing a vital, fulfilled, rich life definitely costs, but the value is untold, as you will likely soon see. And you’ll get lots of support from the readers here, I’m confident in that!

  14. Hi
    I found this article very interesting, I found out 18 months ago that my husband of 25 years and who works away a lot, he’s away at least half the time, was having an emotional affair with a work colleague, I don’t really know if it got physical but from the emails I found it appears it wasn’t but it was heading that way when I found out. Initially he tried to say they were just friends etc etc until I showed him the emails I found and he then admitted that yes it was going a lot deeper than what he said. My world shattered in that moment. The picture of my life and of my husband just broke into a million pieces and I realised I was living in a reality that was false. I have had to look honestly at this man who I thought was the most honest, reliable, loving person on earth was in fact a flirt, a liar and a cheat and was capable of chasing another woman when he was away from me, talking to her on the phone, hanging up, then ringing me and carrying on a normal conversation, coming home and looking me in the eyes and lying. I sunk into the deepest darkest hole of depression, a place and state I didn’t know existed. At first he appeared perplexed at my reaction, then he seemed supportive, kind and genuine in his concern for me, (I weighed 72 kg and lost 10 kilos in a matter of weeks) he became concerned about my state and thought I was suicidal. I sought help from a psychologist and was determined to dig myself out of that hole, which I have done. We had 2 sessions of marriage guidance councilling and for 6 months things were getting better, I felt loved and he seemed to be genuine in wanting to save our relationship and that he loves me. 6 months into our recovery I found him out on another blatant lie and it all fell to pieces again, he had been in a hotel in another city drinking with some women from work when I rang, I asked who was there and he said a couple of men and lied about the women being there, I only found out when I overheard him telling his mother what he’d been doing and laughing about the fact he was expected to buy these women drinks. I once again became distrustful, hypervigilant, paranoid and started checking his emails and phone etc looking for evidence of more lies. I feel he is able to compartmentilise his life and behaviour when he’s away from me. I’ve been reading a lot of self help books and feel I’m getting stronger and am able to recognise when he is manipulating me. My problem is I don’t know what to do. I love this man who can be very kind and loving, he has never been physically violent to me but he has at times been verbally abusive and manipulative, I am now able to recognise when he’s doing this and stop him by calling attention to what he’s doing and asking him to stop. I can see that my doing this is surprising him and I don’t think he quite knows how to handle the ‘new’ me.
    My question is ‘is it possible for these type of personalities to change?”. He has agreed to go back into marriage guidance councilling and he has also decided to go see a psychologist himself. I suspect a lot of what he’s done is learned behaviour from his mother who is a flirt and had many affairs while still married, his father turned a blind eye to them and they slept in seperate bedrooms but remained married. I want to stay with my husband but I want an honest husband, is that possible?

    1. I have an article on this very topic, as well as 3 other closely related articles. I hope you get the chance to read them. And in my book “Character Disturbance” I dedicate a good part of 2 chapters to the issue. If you still have questions after reading the material, bring them into the discussion forum and the readers and I will be happy to address them.

          1. Start with “Therapy and the Face of Real Change” Parts 1 and 2, then “Character Disturbance, Neurosis, and Therapy” and follow the links to the related articles as well. You can also use the search feature on the blog to search for answers to your questions. There are at least 9 articles on this blog that touch on your question, but the ones above most directly address it. So does the series on disturbed characters as well as the series on aggressive personalities and the article on contrition.

  15. After having read much of your articles on covert aggression and related topics here, I was convinced that the guy I am seeing is one. the indications or signs you have outlined here even the tactics were spot on and they helped me be firm on what I have been thinking about, which is to end the dysfunctional relationship. and for that, I very thankful.

    our relationship is very brief and I am just glad I was able to detect his disordered character because its only been 3 months for us but I have significantly showed signs of unhealthiness trying to sustain the relationship, I significantly lost weight and displayed worn-outness physically which many people who knew me noticed at once. for 3 months, almost every week we have a disagreement and it always end up with me conceding to him and agreeing to him just to appease him because he would constantly minimize his wrong behavior and try to shame or guilt me knowing that I am a very conscientious person. I give in to his arguments but deep inside I know there is something wrong and I literally just cannot accept his point. An example is when I tried to confront him of always sidelining me whenever he wants to hang out with his friends even when we’ve got a prearranged meeting or date already. he would invent all reasons to justify his actions of simply not wanting to spend time with me even when he promised. he would even call me a control freak trying to control him on this note casting me as the victimizer and him being the victim. he makes it a point that the argument ends up with me as the one to blame and him as the victim or just responded on my actions or statements that have hurt his ego especially when I try to confront him of his undue actions.

  16. “Nature also has us wired in such a way that when we experience traumatic events, we become hypersensitive and hypervigilant with regard to things closely associated with the trauma . This is a natural protection mechanism.”

    I used to feel the urge to attack people who said “you worry too much.” It was in the aftermath of the crescendo of a low-grade trauma.

  17. I ended my 20 year relationship with my husband a week ago. Living separate, but still in the same house is hard. The second night I was smoking out my bedroom window and I got really paranoid. I could see his shadow as he paced back and forth for what seemed like forever. I was holding my breath and jumpy. I was afraid to move. I kept telling myself lock the door, go away, go away. Over and over. I finally got up and locked the door. I was still jumpy. He’s never been physically abusive to me so I couldn’t understand it and I’ve never felt this scared before. Maybe it was because I didn’t know what to expect, since I really ended it this time. He just kept pacing and I was afraid he was going to come in and use the victim/guilt trip card. I talked to my guardian angels, as I have been developing my clair sentient gifts the past few years when I really needed a higher power for peace of mind. They are always present and as usual they give me very strong sensations to comfort me. My daughter is also an angel. She has the gift of insight and has a very sensitive b.s. meter, which I don’t. My daughter said if I ever start dating again then they’ll have to get her approval! LOL! I feel good today. Yesterday I had to go to the house briefly. He was very nice and carefree on the phone then after I was home for a few minutes trying to keep my brain straight as to what I needed to pick up, he used his, no doubt planned, tactics. Victim/guilt. Which it took me 2 hours to get over the anger I felt. I had asked him to do me a favor which he agreed to before our break up. But I didn’t want anything from him now but I already had an appointment to go to and needed his help. He was all nice while my gf was there, then she left and he changed, morphed. I talked to him today and he’s just not phased in the least at our separation. It just seems like he’s planning something as well as probably relieved that he has no responsibilities which is what he wanted all along. Maybe he’s found some prostitute or some gamer girl online. Good grief. I’m not the jealous type, never have been. I’m just thinking too much. I had a dream this morning that I met someone funny and we had fun laughing all the way to the roller coaster rides. I woke up crying tears of relief that that possibility even entered my psyche. My husband is anti-social half the time and the other half, at least while he was going to school until the internet gaming sucked the life out of him just 2 classes from him graduating with his B.A., the other half of the time he’s an upstanding citizen and president of one of the honor societies for higher education for our state. He’s very charismatic. He’s the boy next door. I went through the wringer just to be accepted by the women in his family. They love me, or rather they “loved” me. Not that it matters, I love myself! I will say I found myself one day sitting in a coffee shop and trying to pick out the covert aggressive men and you know what? They ALL were! Muahahahaaa! LOL! I said to myself, “What the heck are you doing?” “This isn’t YOU.” So I changed focus and raised my vibrations, again. There’s a couple things I used to repeat over and over to comfort myself, one was, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.” While I cried and felt my angel’s presence all around me. I know I’m not alone and all will be well in my world. The second is ” It’s NOT mine, return to sender!” I would say this over and over again to get his heaviness off my chest each night so I wouldn’t go crazy second guessing and blaming myself. I’ve read soooo many relationship, self-help books in the past 20 years but this is the first time I came across Dr Simon’s works! So, thank you Dr Simon. I am an apt student in everything I take interest in and I will win at this!

  18. A little over a year ago my relationship with my “best friend” finally came to a halt after 24 years. We were teenagers when we first became friends at which time I was a little shy, kind of gawky, felt ugly, and got picked on, whereas she was full of confidence and a strong young woman. She was always bossy, but seeing as I was a shrinking violet I didn’t see it as a particular problem. Over the years as my confidence slowly grew and I felt more attractive (I think it took me a while to grow into my face) our friendship hit regular snags when her attitude annoyed me but I still didn’t think too much of it.

    I began to suffer from depression in my mid 20s and was on and off anti-depressants until I was in my early 30s and have been on them ever since… at the highest dose too (I’m 40 now). I spent years trying to work out what was wrong with me and spoke to counsellors and Cognitive Behavioural Therapists but was never able to shake off the depression… until I recently had my epiphany.

    My ex-“best friend” has spent all those years being condescending, controlling, trying to get me to follow courses of action that would be detrimental to my well being, manipulating me and, I now realise, being the enemy on my shoulder and she has worsened over the years. I’ve convinced myself time and time again with excuses I’ve come up with for her bad behaviour like “she’s frustrated because her life hasn’t gone according to plan” and “she’s got low self-esteem because she’s put on 60lbs”.

    I actually had my epiphany after reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson which led me on to researching the subject more, and the more I read the more I realised that she’s a psychopath or malignant narcissist. I don’t know what the correct term would be – I have no training in this, but I do have a right to protect myself and am confident that a trained professional (if given the opportunity to check her out) would conclude that she’s on the psychopathic end of the scale.

    Since my realisation, I’ve had all manner of memories flooding back to me of her behaviour over the years from early on to recent years, all of which have backed up my conclusions, I just didn’t see them for what they were at the time. The final nail in the coffin was her spending not far off the last 3 years of our friendship literally harassing me trying to get me to bankrupt myself!

    Since seeing her for what she is ie a self-serving, manipulative, parasitic psychopath, I’ve been angry at her for the things she’s done, been angry at myself for letting it happen and feeling stupid for not seeing it earlier. However, I also realise that the reason why people like her get away with their behaviour for so long is because they wear a “mask” and don’t advertise their true aims and intentions. People like her need people like me ie a nice person with feelings and a conscience, otherwise who would they manipulate and use..?

    For a while I mourned the loss of our friendship, but now I know what she is I will NEVER let her back into my life and will be better equipped to spot a similar person. I’m pleased to say that I have not become paranoid and hyper-sensitive because I’m in the fortunate position of having made other friends over the last few years whose decency helped me to see the difference between them and the psychopath on my shoulder.

    Frankly, I wish there was a way for the authorities to identify these people early in life because the human race would be better off if they were all placed on an island together which could be surrounded by armed guards 24 hours a day to ensure they don’t interact with the rest of the human race.

    I’m currently working with my doctor to come off the anti-depressants (I’m now on half the dose I was previously on) as I feel my recent realisations have unearthed a major factor in my long-term depression. Now that she’s out of my life I think the depression soon will be too.

    Psychopaths and malignant narcissists expect everything and everyone to bend to their will and serve their needs. They need to have power over those around them. Well I now know that knowledge is power and I honestly don’t think another one will get through to me without me spotting what they are!

    Sorry for droning on… I guess I’m still working through this. Good luck to everyone who’s working through their own aftermath and remember – the reason why you’re hurt and angry is because you have feelings and a conscience. You’re nice… they’re not!

    1. Beautifully expressed post Nelly! Beautiful.

      It pretty well 100% reflects the way I feel…..sadly for me, about my wife. Like you, it has taken a good number of years for me to reach the point I am and I would so love to have at my disposal a suitably qualified expert who I am confident would confirm my conclusions. By the way, I am not afraid of being wrong because, at the end of the day, whatever diagnosis made would ultimately help my wife to overcome and deal with her issues. However I will stress that I am 100% certain and, as such, there will be no going back to the old dark days of unchallenged manipulation on her part.

      I wish you well Nelly 🙂

    2. oh my gosh this is me, plus she is my sis n law. I have cut off all contact and now she is trying to manipulate me thru my husband. I lost the will to live the depression all of it, since she has been out of my life daily, no anti depressants. She may be your depression as she is a psychic vampire. I still am having ups and downs but am better. You are not droning on at all, thank you for your post. I love my label codependant. lol It should read loving caring warm person willing to share their energy because they care and are willing to stand in the gap……. Hang in there I am, I picture the kitty hanging onto the tree branch and morph into a lioness !!!!!!

  19. Nelly, what a wonderful post. Please don’t spend one minute feeling bad because you didn’t see it or know what she was. It’s their ace in the hole. Most people can’t imagine that these people exist in real life and don’t have a clue how much damage they can cause……most therapists don’t even “get it”.
    Congratulations for doing the work it has taken to be able to see what she was doing and to break free and save yourself from further harm. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you Puddle. I kind of feel proud of myself for getting to the point I’m at, but I’m also acutely aware that I haven’t put it behind me yet. I’ve found I spend far too much of my time thinking about it all, thinking about her and continuing to look things up on the internet. I guess it’s all part of working through it. I appreciate your response though, so thank you again 🙂

      1. Nelly, from what I understand, you never “get over” one of these people, not in the normal sense of the term. I think…..from what I understand…..it does change a person and I know it has changed me. I’m looking forward to the day when that change becomes a positive change but right now I am still licking my wounds which are the deepest wounds i’ve ever been dealt. The way I look at it and hope is true is the old saying…….if you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.
        An old friend of mine used to quote a verse from the lyrics of a Jackson Brown song to me because I always “ran away” from real romantic involvement. Love’em and leave ’em .
        I guess I was scared of being hurt/ abandoned, etc so I got out while the getting was good. The line goes, “I think the damage will do you good”. So, now I really know what I was running from and worse. BUT, I do see a couple silver linings to the cloud, a couple lessons that were better for me to learn now, in this way, then they would have been later. And really,,,,,,,looking at the dude that broke my heart and raped me on every level……when i look at who he really is behind the mask I fell in love with…..what a looser! Talk about being better off without someone? OMG! Understatement! A lying, manipulative, mama’s boy, parasitic alcoholic, in bankruptcy…..married and divorced 4 times, living in his mother’s basement(in his late 40’s) and driving his dead father’s car on his mother’s auto insurance policy.
        Sounds like a catch, No?? LOL
        So as far as putting it behind you, I sure haven’t and maybe it’s a good thing. I don’t ever want to go through this again so I’d better learn this lesson in a BIG way!

        1. I can’t help feeling that I’ve been luckier than you – my problem “dickhead” was a friend who I loved as opposed to a partner to fall in love with, which it sounds like what happened to you. Falling in love with a person is different to loving a friend and therefore the damage is more soul rending. I’m so sorry you were so hurt but am very relieved that you ultimately saw your “dickhead” for what he is.

          I don’t like the lyric “the damage will do you good” because it’s total bollocks (in case you didn’t realise… I’m British).

          I understand why you ‘love em and leave em’ but please stop questioning yourself about why you do this. I suspect you do it because (although you might not be fully aware at the time you end it) you have actually become more efficient at identifying partners who aren’t suited to you being paired up with for the rest of your life (which is surely what most people are looking for).

          I hope that what has happened, perhaps you without realising it, is that you have innately honed your skills in terms of identifying unsuitable partners. A bloke may be very nice and perhaps even be very good in the bedroom, but if the “it” factor isn’t there then I think it’s fair enough that you move on.

          It sounds as if you’ve learned from your awful relationship and that education will never leave you… well I say good for you! You have an insight into a side of human nature that the majority of people are naive of. You’re armed with knowledge and experience and that’s a good thing. If you end ‘nice’ relationships it’s because somewhere deep down you know they’re not fulfilling you.

          Please don’t think that you’re doing the wrong thing by ending relationships when you do. What you are doing, whether you realise it or not, is being more efficient and realistic about your time and feelings.

          I have every confidence that you will meet a guy who’s great, who you fancy without being a slave to fancying him, and who will be your best friend… but it might not be the next guy. Keep going and don’t waste your time on guys who don’t tick the boxes. Basically – keep doing what you’re doing because you’ll know when you’ve met your best friend, so please don’t question why you end relationships. When the right one comes along you won’t end it and he’ll understand your past when you tell him about it.

          You seem like a really nice and generous soul and if you were this side of the pond I’d suggest meeting up for a coffee because I think we’d get on well, have a lot to talk about and be able to help each other. However, things being as they are I can only suggest to you that it seems you’re very much heading in right direction, so keep doing that.

          I think any person who’s had a psychopath or malignant narcissist heavily impact on their life will be a different person afterwards. But we each have a finite amount of time of this planet so I feel it’s best to find the positive in as many things as we can.

          Although our experiences are different, we have both been inadvertently educated about the darker side of human nature.

          You’re going to be ok. You’ll work through this at the pace that’s right for you, so keep smiling, stay positive, and see good people for the good that they are (they don’t have to be perfect!)

          Mucho respect 🙂 x

  20. Nelly, Thank you for your kind words and if I was on your side of the pond I’d have coffee with you for sure!!
    I think what my friend meant by the lyrics…..at the time, which was….gosh,,,,25 years ago? Was that in order to learn about love, you have to get in there and love in spite of the potential pit falls that I was avoiding. BUT,,,,I’m sure you are right about the people I “loved” and left back then. That was back in my drinking/ party girl days and I didn’t attract and wasn’t attracted to people who were good for me in the long term. I can say that I was not really all together there back then and have seen once and for all that I never will be all together there as long as I drink. That has been the other silver lining to this nightmare…….I quit drinking after the first year of knowing this bloke and did so because I saw how vulnerable i am to unscrupulous men when I’m drinking. And, at the time I initially quit, I did so because we were broken up (again) and I knew if i drank I would get back together with him/ call him/ etc…. I was so hooked and emotionally invested…..I really didn’t ever want to be broken up with him. That changed within the last 4-5 months when the pieces of the puzzle started coming together but that was 5 months after we broke up.
    I really can’t take credit for ending it with him, it just kind of ended. Some brief games on and off after that but it was in May that it became painfully obvious that he was WAY worse than I could have imagined.
    Mucho respecto to you as well Nelly!

  21. Hi:

    I’m glad I found this site at last!

    Obsessively researching the topics of toxic relationships, psychopaths, manipulative behavior and related issues, I also have the horror stories of the outrageous abuse and quizzical interactions which were designed to confound and confuse me into submission to a kook!

    Because disordered people’s behavior is so textbook, the accounts of some of the contributions here are nearly verbatim to my experience with the malcontent who targeted me “for destruction”, in his words.

    I’m recovering from his abuse but meanwhile, have found that another in a neighboring circle is also pulling manipulation and covert aggression on me–scapegoating–to make herself look great as she weasels her way into positions that she has no business being in.

    The people she is working over have no clue what she’s doing to them; they think they are dealing with an honest person! I’ve been watching her move throughout our workgroups for awhile though, and it’s clear she’s another sociopath!

    My research has validated my experiences and my observations and given me the necessary sense of empowerment to know that I am on the right track.

    I abhor the oppression that the socially predatory foist upon the unsuspecting as they move relatively undetected in our communities.

    The alarms must continue to be sounded out about these predators. People who prey upon the gentle and vulnerable are the hidden enemy in our midst–these wolves in sheep’s clothing–and they must be exposed for what they are.

    Again, I’m so thankful for finding this site and for all of your stories about these types of predators. Our knowledge is our advancing power over the lies they promulgate to hurt us. Our experiences and awareness are a valuable learning tool to protect ourselves and others who will be targeted by predators.

    Their abuse is so unwelcome and so unnecessary in our lives! As we stand up together in the light of knowledge, we shall overcome the abusive oppression of these liars!

    1. Hinahina,
      They truly are no different,,,,,,even though they are different, than people who mug the elderly, molest children and the handicapped, or use drugs to over come an unsuspecting woman and then rape her. They KNOW that you don’t know, they count on it while they sit back and get as much as they can from you.
      Mine KNEW I was deeply in love with him. I had swallowed the bait of his false self and companionship, hook line and sinker. I knew something was wrong but had no clue HOW wrong and I certainly didn’t know how much damage it would do to me, on every conceivable level, once I finally put 2+2+2+2+2+2 together.
      At least you are now amongst a group that KNOWs these “people” are real and that they are dangerous. You are armed with the knowledge that can protect you in the future. Now it’s up to us to keep our eyes open and take appropriate action as soon as possible.
      Good luck to you, stay strong!

    2. Hinahina, I agree. After being the target of a relative for many years, I am now watching her target one of her own children. Her husband has been alerted but he is ever loyal and enabling. It’s heartbreaking to watch, though I am praying for God’s intervention.

  22. It is reassuring to read so many of my thought processes described as normal for someone in this position, as opposed to questioning my own sanity as I did during my relationship. I have replayed my experience over in my mind to the point of emotional exhaustion, and I guess coming to sites like this merely reflects my ‘searching for answers’ to help rationalise everything.

    A question I would pose to others would be, when recovering from your relationships, did anyone have further communication with their ex’s? I have had several occasions when our paths have crossed (as we share certain friendship groups) and whilst I have coped at the time, subsequently all the emotion and pain comes pouring back and I have to start recovering all over again. I have even found myself literally craving to be taken back, and have to stop myself from pursuing those feelings. Is this common?

    1. Jonas, again…..Im glad to be sharing these things. First of all, how long has it been since you actually broke up or the relationship ended? And how long has it been since you have been absolutely NO contact except for a chance encounter?

    2. From everything I read from so many sources Jonas…..it is normal. I STILL am in shock and I have had absolutely NO contact with him since someone informed me that he was “playing me” at the end of May. I did run into him once and it was horrible. He greeted me as if I should just speak to him like some long lost friend and it was insulting and extremely hurtful and unfortunately I was very coarse in my response. I said “f’you you piece of _____”, and kept right on walking. I cried the whole way home. OK,,,,,,I have been diagnosed with PTSD from this and consider what he did to me rape on every level including physical because I had NO idea he was actually playing a game at my expense.
      So fortunately I do NOT share friends with him and thank god I don’t because there isn’t a minute in my day that I don’t miss the impostor that I loved beyond description.
      From what I understand, it’s different for everyone, some longer some shorter.
      I crave him like a limb that has been removed from my body in an accident but now I realize that the limb had cancer anyhow so it can not be reattached. Horrible

  23. About two years ago, I realized that the person I was in a relationship with at the time, was manipulative, dishonest, and not to be trusted. Putting all the pieces together and seeing the truth was a shock. The first two days afterwards I lay in bed, just thinking over and over about this.
    Soon after the “epiphany”, the three year long relationship ended, and I havent seen him since.
    I`ve never felt so much anger and hate toward anyone before, and also sadness that the most important romantic relationship I`ve been in, was with someone that played and deceived me the whole time, and maybe never loved me. Never again.
    Since then I haven`t dated or met anyone of romantic interest, until these last couple of months, where I`ve gotten to know a guy through our mutual friends.
    I`m very attracted to this person, but at the same time I`m guarded and distrustful when around him, looking for red flags or signs indicating he`s not to be trusted, and several times the alarm bells has gone off. There has been some moments where I`ve thought about the possibiliby that he might be a decent guy, and that I might be unjustly reading bad intentions into his actions. And then felt quite embarassed of my suspicious, pissed off attitude towards him. And wondered if I`m paranoid and mentally ill.
    That doesnt last for long, until distrust rise again.
    When reading this post, I started to cry. I understand that it might be another explanation to this, other than me being a paranoid nutcase, or him being a covert bully.

    Is it possible to be so negatively affected, such as described in the post, when there is no violence or threats, and (although I think of him as abusive) not much obvious abuse either?
    I was not like this before this relationship, that I know. I`m 31 years old.
    I would appreciate it so much if you took the time to respond to this question.

    1. Hi Laura, Please go to the website that Sandra Brown has and also Aftermath. But my unprofessional response is YES it is possible to be absolutely destroyed after one of these relationships without ANY physical violence. He never raised a hand to me (although he had been arrested for domestic violence in his past, and was not completely honest with me about the details of that but I found out more of the true story). What damaged me the most was what is called Cognitive Dissonance and there are articles you can read all over the web about what it does to someones mind and heart and even physical well being as a result. Dr’s Simon writes about and uses the term COVERT aggressive. (CA)
      the point being,,,,,,it is COVERT. I was being manipulated in a covert way and he was very good at it. I knew SOMETHING was wrong because so many of the actions didn’t match the words that were used to string me along but there were promises and words used like “forever” and COUNTLESS “I love you’s” among SO many other things that undermined my ability to walk away, in fact the last thing I wanted to do was walk away. The only times i did was when I was so emotionally and mentally worn down that I had to. I always went back for more though because I absolutely could not grasp and quite honestly still can not, that someone would say all of these things and then drop me on my head…………..OMG…………so much to it that is so hard to put into words but please read more articles on GOOD websites such as this and Look up “Cognitive Dissonance”. People have been driven to suicide by the mental games these losers play and sometimes they play them for no other reason than their own amusement and for the illusion of power over another person……….or vengeance.

      Here is one article to get you started:
      http://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/a-painful-incredulity-psychopathy-and-cognitive-dissonance/

      Good luck Laura………I’m sorry that you are having a hard time with this but rest assured you are not alone. Educate yourself because that is the biggest weapon these manipulators have,,,,,,,other people are unaware that they exist. Dr. Simon is a good man and you are safe on this website with the information and help he provides.
      Puddle

    2. Also Laura………Believe it or not………after everything that I have read, all the council I have received, professionally and personally, I still can’t put this together in my own mind and heart. I am still in shock, disbelief…..etc, etc, etc,,,,,,,still filled with self doubt about being right about him. It’s been almost a year since we “broke up”, 7months NO CONTACT except for one public run in. I am still now coping well with this at all. THAT is what it has done to me and he never touched me in anger. Not once. I did feel afraid of him at times ( I didn’t really get that at the time, another thing I struggle to explain) but it wasn’t physically afraid. It was something much deeper because he had hooked me at a very deep primal level, a pre verbal subconscious attachment was formed by him that kept me invested in a way that most people can’t understand. They KNOW exactly where to hook their target……..it’s a sixth sense they have and rest assured, once they know the fish is on the hook, they start their devaluation process. I really hope you find some reading about how they operate. It’s unreal!

      Here’s a book that was recommended to me but I have not read it yet……..

      http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Pulling-Your-Strings-Manipulation/dp/0071446729 Who’s Pulling Your Strings?: How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life

    3. Dr. Simon, I, and Im sure Laura and many others, would appreciate a response to her question above from you as to the potential damage that CAN be inflicted on a victim of covert aggression and manipulation even in the and especially in the absence of physical violence towards the victim.
      What I’m hearing from Laura is that she is caught in the same trap that kept me hooked………..gut instincts being negated by self doubt and in my case dismissiveness and counter “attacks” by the manipulator to reinforce my self doubts/ confusion and spin any responsibility off of him and back on to the unsuspecting victim(me).

  24. Puddle, thank you so much for your thoughtful response.
    I`ve read about cognitive dissonance, in this sense of the word: the lack of sonance or “harmony” between who/what you think of yourself and what you actually do. This creates a tension, that is stressful. So people either change how they think or act to reduce it.
    But I suspect the word is used in a different sense here?

    I think something that had a destructive effect also after the relationship, was the way he always tried to play on probably a tendency of mine, to doubt my own views, perceptions and reasoning. That i reckoned it always was a possibility that I was overreacting or misunderstanding. This he actively used, and in that way he could get away with a lot of antisocial, douchebag behaviour. Example, His female friend was visiting without me knowing, just the two of them hanging out at his or her place, she forgot makeup, clothes and jewelry in his appartment. We argued and he took off and went to eat dinner at her place. etc, etc. -WTF. I never would`ve expected me taking such crap before this happened, but I accepted this situation for months. and I can see no other reason than that I was manipulated and verbally tackled. And not being able to see that I was manipulated, while my self esteem was going downhill.

    The first year I thought about him and the relationship alot, and I think that for me it was mostly a good thing.
    These days I seldom think of the f**ker, except for like now, when a new guy came along and I`m getting interested.
    Recently I saw a photo of the ex on facebook, where he had put on a lot of weight, his hair was awful.. I wouldn`t look twice on him, if passing him on the streets. That made my day, I gloated with schadenfreue the whole evening. With me it`s gone in the opposite direction, I look much better and healthier now than I did then. Almost felt bad for taking such a great pleasure in another mans overweight and unattractiveness, but I can live with that.
    He didn`t have much empathy for me when I was sad or struggling or depressed.
    In fact it seemed to make his mood or self esteem better. One particular time, one of the top horror episodes in this relationship, was during a holiday. I`d been crying for hours, felt really depressed, hopeless and exhausted. During this he kept this grave, neutral pokerface on, didn`t seem to care one bit, which in itself was bad enough. But one time when he passed me, to go get something, I saw a smile on his face.
    I also noticed during those days that while I looked a little bit worse every day, he looked a little bit better and more confident. Seemed like my misery gave him some sort of ego or mood boost.

    Towards the end of the relationship I was disgusted by the feeling of having let someone that nasty get so close to me, both emotionally and physically. I really get the term emotional parasite, as that`s what it felt like.

    Puddle, I have also many times suddenly started to doubt my perspective on the situation. Maybe he wasn`t that bad, maybe I was difficult too, maybe I misunderstood and assumed the worse. I`ve sometimes gone over things, writing about everything that comes to mind, and then started to remember things that was really bad, and not normal.
    I was not perfect, but I wasn`t dragging him down, lying to his face, manipulating him.
    I`ve also been very lucky to have some close persons whom I`ve talked with about this. Which is validating and reduces the doubt that can be quite destructive. Do you have anyone you can talk to, whom you can trust will take you serious, and who gets it?
    I really hope so, you deserve that.

    1. Hi Laura…..not much time right at the moment but sufice it to say….you and I are on the same page here. Quickly, i do have people to talk to THANK GOD ABOVE!! I just now have hooked up with someone who REALLY gets it and is personally involved with the website “AFTERMATH” which Dr. Robert Hare, Ph.D is also involved with. He is very well respected and considered a leading expert on Psychopathy……
      I’ll try to write more later Laura. YES……”calculating” is THE pivotal word IMO
      COVERT INTENTION to do harm, justified by THEIR own twisted logic and self serving beliefs.

      1. I made a list from Dr. Simon’s character disturbance book and checked off the behaviors as they occurred. Giving them a name helped end the covertness of the behaviors.

      2. I made a list from Dr. Simon’s character disturbance book and checked off the behaviors as they occurred. Giving them a name helped end the covertness of the behaviors.

    2. Laura……..you wrote………”I think something that had a destructive effect also after the relationship, was the way he always tried to play on probably a tendency of mine, to doubt my own views, perceptions and reasoning. That i reckoned it always was a possibility that I was overreacting or misunderstanding. This he actively used, and in that way he could get away with a lot of antisocial, douchebag behaviour. Example, His female friend was visiting without me knowing, just the two of them hanging out at his or her place, she forgot makeup, clothes and jewelry in his appartment. We argued and he took off and went to eat dinner at her place. etc, etc. -WTF. I never would`ve expected me taking such crap before this happened, but I accepted this situation for months. and I can see no other reason than that I was manipulated and verbally tackled. And not being able to see that I was manipulated, while my self esteem was going downhill.”

      I’ll tell you something that just occurred to me!!!!!!!! HUGE AH HA! When you said “verbally tackled”? YES!! I wish I could remember where i read it but one of the things these manipulators do is to make healthy adult communication i m p o s s i b l e! And i think they start that very early on, through: outright lies, or omitting the truth,dodging the issue, explosive or even over the top replies or reactions to something you say, responding in a devaluing way…..eye rolls, scoffs, maybe just walking out or leaving…….. I’m sure there are countless methods, i’m just naming some that I encountered myself early on. Then there was the time he had a complete verbal meltdown in public over some misinterpretation on his part,,,,,,sped away, came back and became verbally abusive in front of several people, telling me to get my f’ing arse in the f’ing car NOW!!………….so I think what they are doing is painting the backdrop and basically creating an unsafe and unleveled playing field from very early on. It creates an unsafe environment for the victim and puts the victim in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position. You can’t ask for what you want because that will cause problems inevitably and you can’t keep quiet…………..but that is what ends up happening…..you ket more and more things slide……i just grew weaker and weaker by the day it seemed sometimes.
      If trying to ask for what you want or stand up for your rights, needs, values, etc,,,,,is met with resistance by the same person who SAYS they LOVE you ALL THE TIME………the mental result is cognitive dissonance and it is a form of torture and emotional and mental rape IN MY OPINION, which happens to be shared with an awful lot of people it would seem!

  25. Puddle, thanx for the tip about the book. Will check it out. Have also read a lot of the articles on this site, but it`s a while ago, so forgotten alot about it, how calculating and unempathic these people can be, and probably are most of the time.
    Will reread some of it. Wish you the best, the same to Simon and fellow posters.

  26. ” I wish I could remember where i read it but one of the things these manipulators do is to make healthy adult communication i m p o s s i b l e! And i think they start that very early on, through: outright lies, or omitting the truth,dodging the issue, explosive or even over the top replies or reactions to something you say, responding in a devaluing way…..eye rolls, scoffs, maybe just walking out or leaving……..”

    O yea, Ive also experienced all of those, and typically also rigidly turning the deaf ear, always unaffected and resisting agreeing on Anything, pretending not to understand or remember, blaiming you or something you said / did for their rotten behaviour, or when commitments get broken, it was you misunderstanding what the deal was.. haha yea, probably countless of methods. Years of practice probably make them very skilled at this. And not so skilled in other ways of interacting with people.

    I think in one way my ex was quite obvious, at least in hindsight he was. He wasnt portraying himself as some prince on a white knight, but more of a bad boy, although claiming faithfulness and decency. He was at certain times honest I believe, at least in a general way, and I`ve understood it is best to take what people say seriously, especially when it is something that I dont like to hear. On the other hand, he deceived me and dragged me down, at the end of the 3year mess I realized I was with someone whom I really didn`t know –

    “I think what they are doing is painting the backdrop and basically creating an unsafe and unleveled playing field from very early on. It creates an unsafe environment for the victim and puts the victim in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position. You can’t ask for what you want because that will cause problems inevitably and you can’t keep quiet…………..but that is what ends up happening…..you ket more and more things slide……i just grew weaker and weaker by the day it seemed sometimes.”
    Yea, I think so too. It`s game on right from the start.
    I too seemed to grow weaker by the day, and was often sick, usually only flu or similar, and one time seriously ill. I started to wonder if it may be something seriously wrong with my health, since I so often was sick. It may be coincidental, but the fact that Ive not been so much ill before nor after the relatinship, makes me think it is a connection there. Probably high stress levels affecting the immune system.
    But luckily that is all in the past.

    What I try to get these days is, if you`re dating someone that makes you confused, on guard and frustrated, or that does things that may imply trouble, when to break it off. What actions are okay / not okay, how to set the standards for what you`re willing to accept. I suspect I have some standards that are healthy, but not enough to protect me sufficiently, and that some of mye standards are close to non existing or veery low.
    Any thoughts how to figure this one out?

    1. Laura………..GREAT observations and also very validating for me, thank you.

      Quite honestly,,,,,I think the ONLY way to stay safe in the future is time and maintaining a sane distance with someone right from the start until THEY prove themselves for further consideration as a mate. I think something was implanted in my brain from the first night I was with him and it took root deeply. Like a shot of Novocain to my brain and rational mind and it let my heart and emotions run rampant and un checked. From what I have read………they can’t go more than a year max without their mask slipping. and in the meantime…….if anyone or anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Educate yourself on what to look for……the components of the mask they wear……charm, wanting to be with you all the time, in touch all the time… KEEP READING!
      With enough healthy emotional distance between you and another person you will be able to hear your inner voice and gut telling you that something feels wrong TO YOU. That is basically all we need to know…….THIS DOESN”T FEEL GOOD TO ME. It doesn’t have to apply to anyone but you. We are all so unique.
      This guy called me no less then 6-8 times from work the day after we were together the first night but, like I said,,,,,,,,,,he had already set the hook in my heart the very first night.

  27. I just want to say it was a blessing to find this article. It was exactly what I needed to read. I have been really struggling with trust to the point I was thinking I might be getting a little paranoid. I worry about almost every person in my circle of friends using me, manipulating me, manipulating people close to me to act against me, etc. All of this after coming to the realization that I have been living in an emotionally abusive relationship. This awakening came after a painful and cruel betrayal at the hands of my husband.

    It is simply a comfort to know that this reaction is normal after what I have experienced. My question and concern is that I don’t want to continue to feel this way and I am fighting the urge to isolate myself from people. I understand that isolating is not a healthy response but I have to consciously chose not to do this and it is stressful. After interacting with people I worry about what I said and if they will use it against me or speak to others about it. So the anxiety and stress is there in anticipation of interacting, during interaction, and after. It does go away eventually but it is exhausting. Please tell me there is a way to make this better. The major event with my husband was about 6 months ago. My personality was already pretty introspective.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. I really understand how you feel. The situation I was in has twisted my mind and heart beyond description. it’s a horrible way to live and I feel so vulnerable now. Like how could i have been so wrong about someone? There were red flags, sure. The relationshi* was far from perfect, ok? but I really did feel a connection to this “man”. I valued our relationship and us together as a couple, hoping things would work out…..and in someways KNOWING they were going to work out. Now, now that I’m away from him and am able to review so many things objectively and with the knowledge I have now (that I didn’t have then)……AND some information I have come by that was withheld from me by him………I still struggle with how I could have felt the way I felt for someone who is a liar, user and manipulator. Someone who raped me in the most covertly heinous way I could ever imagine.
      This is a person I shared my home, bed, body and heart with! Even though I had concerns about how he really felt about me, what he MAY have been after other than a loving relationship…..I NEVER would have guessed he would turn out to be as much of a fraud as he has. It’s only NOW that I see how much he deceived me. I just couldn’t imagine anyone doing what he did to anyone……
      BUT, I will say this……I was at a friend’s shop today and this person may be going to come help me with my home over the next few months. I was thinking on the way home…….”Is there ANYTHING at all about her that gives me pause”? I think that’s the right term. There is not ONE thing about her that creates one ounce of concern in me.
      THAT is how we should feel about the people we let into out hearts and homes and lives. ANY small voice within should be listened to and that is what I intend to do from now on. LISTEN for doubts, concerns, etc…..and base the level of the relationship with that person accordingly. That and time………..give someone time, at a safe distance, to either prove themselves worthy or unworthy. Keep your eyes wide open and listen to your guy. I don’t even think we need to understand why someone gives us a bad feeling……we just need to be able to recognize that they do.

    2. Elizabeth, I think in some instances a little isolation is quite healthy, as long as we know we have to eventually come back out of it.

  28. Dr Scott, I read your book In Sheep’s Clothing a number of years ago at the recommendation of my therapist, and then I bought more and gave them to my friends. I think now I need to go back and read it again, but your articles are equally helpful. At the moment they’re keeping my head above water and away from descending fully into ‘craziness’ i.e. believing I’m crazy, because this same therapist relationship has just ended after finally realising it was a toxic relationship, that he was toxic and a disturbed manipulator who played a terribly confusing push/pull game with me regarding my emotions, his boundaries, his availability. I began cancelling my therapy often, for the first time in four years, and he started texting me with messages that appeared to be blaming me for his overheads, so I decided to email him with brief details of how he was impacting me emotionally. He sent me an email that on the surface of it doesn’t say antyhing horrible, but the tone was punishing and blaming, as he told me he was sad that I was “yet again” in this place with him after all he’d done to stand by me over the years. He accused me of questioning his integrity, motives and character which I had not, not openly I suppose, but yes, in my heart I was wondering if I should finally admit he was not all he claimed to be. He said he wasn’t pulling away from me or giving up on me but I had to decide where I wanted to go from there, using itallics and bold script for emphasis on my responsibility. I was extremely distressed, felt terribly guilty, ashamed, I felt like I’d wronged him and gotten it all wrong. But I believe he knew I’d feel that way. I decided to forward the email to someone sensible who I knew would be honest with me one way or another, and who also knew him previously through his wife, and who also knew the circumstances of his life. I’m ashamed to say that after I’d found out that a client he’d befriended and moved into his marital home for him had become the lover he left his wife for, I continued to work with him, even though I’d known this young lady and knew that she had always been obsessed with him. I realise typing this out onto a public page makes me look crazy, but I really believed all his b/s excuses. Or I thought it did. I believed he was a victim of persecution from his employer. But he set me up for that by telling me months in advance of his suspension that he’d want to keep on working with me if he ever left the organisation, citing their imposing sanctions on his working that were contrary to his code of ethics. It was about six months after he was suspended and eventually sacked that I found out about his secret affair with his former client. I feel a complete fool now but I also feel sorry for him too and am battling with a ridiculous hope that he’s not really who I know him to be. He was the only person in my life that has ever earned my trust to that depth and I felt safe with him. And now I can’t believe anyone is safe! But I can say that I’ve finally disentangled myself and ended the therapy relationship. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me because things in my life have come their own head on top of losing what I’d thought was a trusting relationship, one that took years to build because of my difficulty trusting people, particularly men, after a lifetime of severe abuse. I grew up in a religious cult and have spent the rest of my life trying to escape them, and now this: out of the frying pan, as they say. So I’m grieving and feel like I’m in chaos. But I keep reminding myself I’m free and your articles are helping. I requested a copy of my notes after his regulatory body advised me to do so but he’s refused and said I have to arrange to read them with him there. I can’t decide if I should just drop the issue, but then I wonder what must be in them for him to need to be there when I read them. The worst part of this is that he’s always touted your book and others like it, like one by M. Scott Peck to warn me about how evil people operate, and told me to trust my gut. Except when it came to him of course. Then I was hurting his feelings.I just want to thank you for your commitment to your work in this area, I’m finding it comforting at this time, and helpful to keep me away from wanting to apologise to him.

  29. Dr. Simon,

    Very well written and appreciated because your article is clear in that this is a subject that hasn’t been fully explored by many in the field.

    Speaking for myself, I have had ongoing problems with guilt, but mainly because guilt is my default emotion. But the guilt, though an annoyance, I can work with and use cognitive processes to talk myself out of a shame spiral.

    I have a feeling that what most people have the most problem with is their rage. Rage is part and parcel and, in my mind, a completely normal reaction to a tactical search and destroy mission that may not even originate in the mundane realm.

    I feel what happened to me is so bizarre, so fraught with spiritual freight, so completely sadistic that my ‘warrior’ took over, afterward. I felt this happening and knew I had to be very very careful. I had to deal with it, respect it and honor that element of myself. It forms part of my back bone and very likely protected me from taking my own life.

    I feel that anger, rage and emotions that are considered negative have to be considered from a slightly different vantage point, where sadistic targeting has occurred.

  30. Dr simons sir, i was just looking for a man like you. Presently i am busy with my MD and cant write a long comment but i am a survivor of two toxic relationship. Survivor with an aurora of paranoia,grandiose,self referral,hyper irritability,numerous obsessive compulsive disorders with insight preserved,and ILLUSION of persecution,self imposed social isolation,several ego defences like intellectualization and even displacement. I have been around many relations in my personal~life and as an amateur love relation counsellor in my friends’ lives….and now,again at face of a toxic relation ending,i have begun writing a book on relationships.i know its part ly a grandiose out of post traumatic stress. Havw you ever thought what happens to the person who does not have a MSc or an MD in psychiatry,but attempts to be a part time or by~hobby psycho analyst?the amateur psycho analyst probably gets crushed in glorious ruin,like me. My age is 28male
    Thanks, Dr soumya roy, india,asia

  31. Hi, I’ve been in a toxic relationship for nearly 4 years, we have broken up several times and now I want out for good but I’m scared .I’m not sure what’s exactly wrong with Mark, I’ve known him since I was 4 years old, we grew up together, he is 6 years older than me, year,on after having separate families,we got together in my late 30,from day one he has non stopped lied,constantly thinking I’m going to cheat, I can’t even go to work without him thinking I’m up to something, he has very low selfesteem so brags a lot, he has 5 kids with another women who can’t accept us together and constantly causes trouble. because he gets so paranoid and constantly thinks I’m cheating he plays me with his ex partner, any lies he can’t get out if he turns angry and blames me, I deeply love this man but know that he will never change or get help, when I try and get out he makes my life hell, he has never hit me the verbal paranoid accusations are killing me. I’m not an idiot or stupid I know I should have got out years ago but I tried to help him, at first I put it down to his mum walked out when he was 12 and both our mums were abused by our dad’s most of our childhood , I seen a psychologist when I was younger, he is a very messed man I don’t know how to get out, he has no coping skills , I can’t afford to take time off for courts, he gambles and I’m trying to fix all that . lost

  32. I have not read your books, but others like them. I read your article here because I was searching for answers about my own paranoia. My first thought when something goes wrong is, someone intentionally did this. And I usually automatically know who it is, always someone that I have some day to day contact with who “could have been the culprit”, and then, sometimes I realize that the dryer didn’t start because I didn’t have the door closed. But there are many other times, I know who did it. I know they are just sick and just do it to try to make me feel crazy, or cause me trouble.
    I have such mistrust of many many people that I come in contact with. They are always around. It is not everyone in my day to day contact, I just seem to know which ones are more likely to sabotage me. And there are always plenty around.
    I will be 55 years old next month, have been sober for 20 years, have had childhood sexual abuse not remembered until 30, have had much lose starting with mothers death, husband’s death 2 years after, got sober, sister’s death 4 years later, father died 5 years later and brother death 2 years after. Had a child with my first sober relationship which was extremely toxic and 18 years of having to have contact with that person. Then, other relationships never working out. The last one was making me sick because I knew absolutely that he had a tendency to look at little girls, and do strange things.
    Needless to say, I am single, and feel that I will never, ever be in another relationship. I have no desire absolutely. And, I have a very low opinion of the male species.
    Thanks for listening.
    I hope I helped your study in some way.
    Jenny

  33. Gosh talk about the difference a couple of days can make. I am over the worst of all this rubbish. Getting over what should be the last hurdle and felt great. So great that I thought I could go and see a friend from my old home town. She invited me to go out with her and I said Yeah great it’s just what I need right now. I pictured myself with my friends having a wonderful time… Only, I couldn’t drive down that road. I just physically couldn’t do it, the thought of seeing all those familiar places or faces (although not my friends) just the whole idea of the place made me feel ill and upset. I feel this must be pretty normal but I feel so anxious and upset now. I can’t even call my friend to say I can’t go as I am worried I’ll hurt her feelings or something. I just turned around and came home. Maybe it’s just not time or perhaps I just can’t ever go back there. The past might just have to be the past…sorry rambling a bit trying to make sense of it all. It came as a bit of a shock really.

    1. Oh Tori, I’m sorry you had a set back but that is all it is. You had those feelings because you are NOT ready. You can be close but not entirely ready and thank God your inside wisdom told you that. You never know what you may have avoided. Please don’t feel badly about it, recovery is like climbing a mountain, there are always hills AND valleys on the way up to the top. (((((Big Hug)))). You will know when you are ready and I hope you know that temporary “set backs” are only temporary.
      Love, Puddle

      1. Oh Puddle thank you. I was quite upset last night about it but I felt what you said about not being ready was what was at the heart of it. It is temporary, I just thought I’d post about it so others who have the same experience won’t feel like they’re silly, weak or irrational. It really came out of no where like at the last minute I just couldn’t do it. I think you’re right that I avoided some major triggers. It was like in my minds eye last night I could feel, see the whole picture unfolding before me again. If I had gone, I might have had a complete meltdown. Thanks so much Puddle for your love and support. Huge hug Love Tori xx

        1. Your so welcome Tori. There is no predicting how the “wrap up” to one of these situations will unfold. You think one thing and it goes a different way. You are right to post your difficulties as well as your successes because it will help someone else who is wading through it to know that it’s normal to have set backs. Maybe they are just booster shots!
          (((((HUGS))))) !!

  34. Thank you so so much for writing this article. I am a survivor of an abusive relationship with a manipulator who did such a number on me. I felt so lost. I had to literally look up what he was doing ( including but not limited to gas-lighting, patronizing and just plain old lying & cheating) . Once I realized this is something that happens to people it took me months [ even a suicide attempt:( ] to finally pull myself out. but even once youre out there was still so so much damage thats done. Im socially shell shocked. I had to move from where I lived because I didnt trust ANYONE who I knew besides my family anymore. and once I was away from the people who I thought were the problem, I came to realize I do not trust anyone or their intentions as a whole. Its so so like to PTSD . youll be fine one second and then suddenly youre having all kinds of emotional responses (especially fight or flight ones) that are completely and totally unnecessary. I am just writing this so if anyone else is in square one like I was, they know that theyre not alone and other people do got through this too. this kind of thing is very good at leaving you feeling like a mistfit, or like youre the only one or maybe youre crazy and not good enough for the world . its only temporary. it really really is. figure out exactly how and what the person is doing thats hurting you. your knowledge will empower your strength to leave and then after that seek out people in your life who are there to help you. all the best for everyone <3

  35. I haven’t seen my betrayer for quite a few months. Last time I saw him, was outside of the pub, where I live just opposite. He happened to be walking into there as I was putting my rubbish into the bin. Talking of trash, looks like I was experiencing seeing both kinds at once. The disposable waste, and the waste of space. He had a very mean look on his face. One that thought he was better than everyone else. He used to demand that I look at him, whenever we talked. Who does he think he is? I was stupid enough to think he cared. More fool me. I know better than to just buy into sob stories. I think I’ve dodged a bullet. If he really cared, he’d have come to see how I was doing. What is he exactly? I will never understand such a dodgy person. I won’t even try to. No-one should con others into thinking that they’ll be there for them, if they won’t be. Enough is enough. Emotional damage is wrong. Always say what you mean. If you can’t stick by someone, at least let them know. Don’t just suddenly treat them like they don’t exist. This type of person is poison.

  36. Hello everyone, “[ dr.mac@yahoo .com ]” helped me out when i thought my life is lost don’t know where its going, It all started when the father of my two kids left me and sworn never to have anything to do with me and all effort to get him back prove to be abortive and i decided to let things be the way they are cause i felt my life is lost don’t know where its going. But Dr Mack came into the picture and things turned out to be how i have ever wanted it to be. I will forever be grateful to him for the rest of my life, Am so happy!!!!!!!!!!………………….

  37. I would love to read something about dealing with the smear campaign after leaving a narcissist. That seems to be one of the hardest parts of overcoming the abusive relationship, especially when your ex is well known and holds a position of power in a smaller town. The thing is, it’s not really paranoia when the person really is out to destroy your life/ take revenge. I think one of the reasons survivors are so afraid to speak out is because of the fear of being labeled paranoid. I’ve actually taken to documenting concrete incidents (not merely feelings) as a way to remind myself that these things are not simply all in my head.

    There’s not simple way to explain the smear campaign so I’ll give you examples:
    (I’m using “ex” in place of his name for simplification)

    – During a wine dinner, a friend I hadn’t spoken with in a while approach me and say, “I want to talk to you about what I might have done to make you mad” I looked at her perplexed and said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Your ex told my ex that you were mad at me, and he’d hate to see you verbally attack me, and I should tread lightly around you.” Of course none of that was true, which I explained.

    – I received a call from my former sister in law and in the course of our conversation she said, “Your ex told me that if it weren’t for him, you would have aborted your oldest child” The reason this is significant is because 3 years previously she had to make the decision to abort a severely deformed child that would not have lived because it did not have a brain. It is a very sensitive subject for her, and he used that emotionally sensitive topic to try and change her view of me. If that isn’t sick enough, my oldest child came to me about four months later and said, “yeah, dad said if it were not for him, I wouldn’t be alive because you wanted to abort me.” That is wrong on so many levels it’s sick!

    – My former sister in law texted me on Thanksgiving and said, “I just got in a fight with our mother in law, because she was talking about how you are whoring yourself out” The irony here is my ex was a serial cheater using prostitutes.

    -he told our children that he wanted a divorce for a long time because I was such a horrible mother to them and it broke his heart. Funny, for being concerned about my parenting, he was rarely around.

    – He justifies his cheating to others by saying, I was abused as a child and I withheld sex. This also is not true.

    – I sent a text to his mother and father and let them know exactly why we were divorcing. He likes to control the flow of information and was painting a picture that this was the most amicable divorce ever. I was tired of being quiet so I told them the truth. His response, slap me with a gag order preventing me from talking to his family and friends. Then he used that to warn everyone to not talk to me because he had no other choice than to get a gag order to stop me from telling lies. Guess who looks like the unstable one based on that one little piece of paper? (I actually have paper evidence proving I’m not making these things up).

    How does one deal with this? There are very few people in our community that will even acknowledge my existence. I feel like the local leper And it is so isolating. My family lives across the country and some days are really hard to bare. I know I can only control me, but it seems like he can control everything.

    1. Exhausted,

      The principle that you need to adopt and also tell anyone else is that “whatever he says, assume it to be lie, unless proven otherwise”. A good laugh along with it will also help.

      Your justifications or your true story will probably not help. The problem you have is that the targeted 3rd person got two different stories, one from you, one from ex-. So, he doesn’t know who is truthful. The key difference, and that works against you, is that your ex- hit the target first! And boy, what people are ready to believe. More outrageous the lie is, more easily it will be accepted.

      You just need to weather the storm with a smile on the face. Longer this storm lasts, more cracks will appear, and eventually he will end up shooting himself in foot.

  38. After having been married for 15 years to a serial cheater, and being told my intuition was paranoia, I have a very hard time trusting my instincts. I constantly second guess myself. I have little to no trust in anyone. It’s also really hard to confide in other people about my intuitions/fears because I’m afraid it sounds paranoid – the whole situation is like a catch 22. I’ve actually questioned my own sanity, though I’ve been assured by therapists I am not crazy. Most of my hyper-vigilance revolves around being deceived… i.e. is this person a friend or foe. Because the betrayal involved my spouse, who holds a position of power in our small community, I often find myself wondering if new aquaitences are merely information collectors for him. It’s horrible to keep people at a distance or hesitate to befriend for fear that they are playing for the other team. I have a good friend who works for my STBX and I often find myself wondering “would she betray me? Would she feed him information I am sharing with her?” This is such a horrible feeling and when I feel these things, I tell myself to stop being paranoid, yet the fear of betrayal is real.

    My spouse and I are in the middle of a 3 year divorce and I see no end in sight. I’m hoping once the divorce is over it will bring some relief of these fears. My spouse’s narrative is that I’m an incompetent parent,and of course my fear is that he’ll use this to win in court. He has no moral guilt and lying is something he has no problem with whatsoever. He swings between punishment (cutting me off financially) and generosity (paying for a hotel room so I can go see our daughter at college, which I did not ask him to do.) He then copies her on the email telling us about his generous gift. This happened a day after my attorney sent him a letter regarding the disconnection notice for the Home utilities and the mortgage payment that was 2 months past due (and he is legally responsible for during the divorce process). I happen to believe the generous gift is manipulation, but when I say that, I’m the one who comes across paranoid.

    Here’s to hoping that the finality of the divorce will bring me some relief .

    1. Mary,

      First off, you are not paranoid. You are right to be wary and careful and if I were you I would not trust the person who works with your soon to be X.

      I will try to write again soon, but my head is spinning due to some things my X is now filing in court. The manipulation and tactics to destroy seem to never end.

      We all here understand. We’ve been through and/or are going through circumstances with some sick minds, the minds of the twisted manipulators, liars.

      No. You Are Not Crazy. You Are Not Paranoid. You’ve been and still are being victimized.

      1. Mary,

        First of all, I would like to welcome you and encourage you to keep posting.

        NO, you are not paranoid, it is a reality. Go with your gut always……

        If you keep posting I am sure Lucy can give you some deep insight into how devious these CDN are, they will stop at nothing. Lucy was married and is still dealing with her X who is a disbarred attorney and she works for the court system and is still battling with her X whom she refers to as SB (Shit Bag) a term coined by a former poster named Theresa who was married to a doctor with the same MO.

        You will glean an immense amount of knowledge and information from this sight and posters. I would encourage you to read Dr. Simons books and read the archives. Dr. Simon also has several You Tubes you can watch.

        Mary , there is a wealth of information on this blog and a great group of posters who will are more than willing to share their knowledge, experience and resources with you. Most of all you will find support and validation. Just know you are not alone.

        Be well and many blessings.

    2. Mary,

      You wrote, “I have a good friend who works for my STBX… would she betray me? Would she feed him information I am sharing with her?”
      I bet she would. In fact, she may already be doing so to further her career or to get some perks. And, she won’t feel guilty about doing so. Do not underestimate the power of incentive. People cook up all sorts of reasoning to come up with justifications for their action.

      Things really are lot more logical than how they may appear to you as a person in middle of lots of things. Stick to your therapist. You are not crazy. But, you can benefit from more straight-forward thinking. Thinking straight may be difficult in your emotional state, so keep your therapist at your side to help you through this difficult time.

      Regarding “generous gift”… your husband is trying to score brownie point on all front. Insist on timely mortgage and utilities payment. Accept the gift, if you feel like it, thank him for the gift, there is no need to call it manipulation, and lastly again insist on timely mortgage and utilities payment.
      I think your husband should be quite logical. If you insist on timely mortgage and utilities payment along with delayed payment charges and additional legal costs, your husband will stop all his other “generous gifts”.

  39. I’m still suffering from my traumatic childhood and struggle to trust my husband of thirty years. All because he has turned on me with an angry voice from time to time, which made me feel unsafe in our relationship. I internalize anger and resentment towards him and then I feel guilty for telling others what I think and feel. I want to be an honourable wife.

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