Gaslighting, for a long period of my life, was part of my day to day living. This emotional abuse was something that had won me down to the point where is simply accepted it as part of my daily life. I didn’t see an escape and I felt utterly helpless. For such a […]
When couples come to therapy to work on their relationship and present their problems, the therapist usually asks when these issues began. More often than not, couples can trace the seeds of the problem(s) to their earliest dating days. They might not have had big fights about the issue at that time, but it was likely a tension point that one or both of them had already noted.
The question is, why is this so? After all, if there was something problematic going on earlier in the relationship, why wasn’t it addressed or worked out at that time?
There are a number of reasons couples fail to address important issues that arise in the early stages of their relationship.
First, when we’re first falling in love, we are less likely to be bothered by certain issues than we are once the spell of infatuation wears off.
Second, once we become emotionally invested in our partner and motivated to see the relationship succeed, we may be hesitant to raise issues that might cause conflict and/or highlight differences between us.
Lastly, we often let too many bothersome things go in the initial stages of a relationship because we are unaware of a fundamental truth about relationships. Relationship dynamics are like concrete—they can be shaped when the concrete is still fresh but they quickly become rigid and hard to mold. In other words, the expectations we set early on in a relationship, the give and take, the roles we step into, the habits we accept, the rhythm of our day to day quickly set. Once they do, they become far more difficult to change.
When problematic issues arise in the earliest stages of the relationship and are not addressed, there may be an unspoken assumption that whatever has happened is acceptable to both members of the couple.
Bill and Grace, a couple I recently worked with, are a great example of this principle. Bill was 12 minutes late for their first date. He did not text Grace to give her the heads up or apologize when he arrived. Since he arrived slightly out of breath and looked as though he had rushed, Grace did not comment on the lateness. By not doing so, what she communicated to Bill was that she would accept his lateness and that he would not even have to apologize for it. Bill was then only seven minutes late to their second date, which Grace overlooked as he was “clearly improving” (Grace’s words). But that dynamic helped to create an expectation that Bill does not have to be on time.
I have worked with many couples in which lateness is an issue and in almost all cases, it reared its head very early in the relationship. When it did, the partner left waiting did not make it an issue. When I ask why they did not speak up, the answer is usually some form of, “I didn’t want to ruin the date,” or “I didn’t want to start a fight,” or “It was only a few minutes.”
While those are valid concerns, what we neglect to anticipate is that by not bringing it up we are setting ourselves up for more of the behavior we find objectionable going forward, whatever it is.
How to Set Correct Limits Early in the Relationship
In order to prevent behaviors we don’t like from becoming a common feature in our relationships, we need to notice them and address them as early as possible in a manner that brings attention to the issue without causing a conflict that might derail the budding relationship. Here are some guidelines:
1. When the behavior we don’t like is mild, we need to find casual ways to comment on it such that it doesn’t ruin the date or alienate the other person. A casual reference subtly communicates that the behavior was not one we find acceptable (e.g., asking, “Was there a lot of traffic?” when our date was late and didn’t apologize for it).
2. If the behavior is more egregious, the intensity of our messaging needs to match the level of concern that the specific behavior evokes in us. For example, if during our first argument our partner resorts to name-calling or put-downs and we don’t make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate being spoken to in that manner, name-calling and put-downs are likely to persist and even increase. Therefore, we have to be more declarative in communicating our concern about such behaviors and insist our partner find other ways to express their frustrations without dismissive, rude, or insulting comments.
3. If a behavior is a deal breaker, we not only need to communicate to the other person that we will not tolerate it again, we have to mean it. If the behavior is repeated and we do not then follow through with our warning, we are clearly communicating that the behavior is troublesome but not a deal breaker. Our messaging has to leave no room for doubt that it will be grounds for an instant breakup. Sad as it might be to exit the relationship at that point, not doing so (assuming the limit and the severity of the issue has been clearly communicated) will invite more of the behavior going forward.
In short, the early stages of dating are those in which an unspoken contract is formed about the rules and conduct of the relationship going forward. The realities we establish in the early days, weeks, and months of a romance are likely to determine the nature of the relationship going forward. Therefore, we have to be able to look beyond our excitement and enthusiasm, assess the behaviors and dynamics we are setting up, and address potential problems in their infancy. Changing behaviors and dynamics once a relationship is established is far more difficult and the degree of change we can enact at that point is usually much smaller.
The biggest mistake we can make in the early part of a relationship is to overlook problems and hope to address them later on.
Copyright 2019 Guy Winch
Originally posted on Lucky Otters Haven: I haven’t written an original narcissism article in awhile, and I was thinking about gaslighting today, so I thought I’d write a post about it. Gaslighting is a defense mechanism commonly used by narcissists in order to diminish their victims and make them doubt and question their own reality.…
Something is wrong. The fact that something is wrong has many manifestations in the narcissistic dynamic. You may experience a sudden eruption of temper, the instigation of a silent treatment as you follow us around the house trying to draw from us what on earth is the matter. It might be that you plead with…
PROJECTION – they accuse us of EVERYTHING they really are AND what THEY are doing to us! We are their dumping ground for everything from their lies, their disdain of life, their betrayal, and just for the sport of managing us down so they feel powerful and in control of their own emptiness! There is […]
Over the past year, I’ve read plenty of speculation about the possibility that President Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Comparing the diagnostic criteria to the public face, tweets, and televised interviews with President Trump could easily lead one to this conclusion. While it is certainly possible that he is quite different in private and may not warrant the diagnosis.
Here are the diagnostic criteria for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.
To diagnose a narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:
Impairments in self-functioning (A or B)
A. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
B. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
Impairments in interpersonal functioning (A or B):
A. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over or underestimate of own effect on others.
B. Intimacy: Relationships are largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and the predominance of a need for personal gain or pathological personality traits in the following domain:
· Antagonism, characterized by: Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
· Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
· The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
· The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
· The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).
It does rather sound like the public impression of him.
One of my ongoing frustrations with the diagnosis of personality disorders is that they tend to be described as permanent and unchangeable. As someone who has worked with thousands of patients over the years, I think about personality disorders differently. It is useful to think of each personality disorder or personality style as existing on a continuum from relatively functional and healthy to dysfunctional and problematic. Often high levels of stress and difficult environmental circumstances can push someone from a functional personality style to a personality disorder. For example, someone with a narcissistic personality disorder could adapt and modify to being a very self-confident, risk taker. Here are the 10 personality disorders with labels when the personality style is more moderated and functional:
Whether someone displays a personality disorder or a functional personality style depends on a number of factors. Flexibility and adaptability along with coping capacity are large determinants. The important idea is that while someone is unlikely to make wholesale changes in their personality, they can move from a personality disorder to a more functional personality style. Someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder is likely not suddenly going to become the picture of empathy and compassion, however, they can improve their functioning and become more aware of their need to seek more input from others and work at accommodating other’s needs. A person with an Avoidant Personality Disorder can recognize the positive aspect of being sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and pair this with some improved resilience to make this style work for them in relationships. Someone with an Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder can modify when, where, and how their style is expressed while using the conscientious aspects to maximize their own performance.
My conclusion is that a personality disorder is not a life sentence to one form of misery or another. All personality disorders have parallel personality styles that can be more functional. People with a personality disorder can learn to adapt and grow to make their personal style work better for them and improve happiness and functioning.
Narcissists can be found in every walk of life. Every family, every workplace, and every community has their share of selfish individuals who use others for their own gain.
They can be charming, yet behind the façade lies a damaged, dangerous personality.
A narcissist’s behavior leaves others baffled; how could another human being act so badly? How could someone treat those around them with such contempt?
Understanding how a narcissist’s mind works can help you understand their actions. At first, they seem inscrutable. However, beneath the surface, they are quite predictable.
In fact, a typical narcissist is rather boring. They resort to the same behaviors again and again. Their lives and relationships follow a pattern.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. They are cunning, manipulative, and well-practiced in the art of earning people’s trust
A narcissist knows exactly how to appear extroverted, attractive, and caring. They are masterful actors who make you feel important and desirable.
At first, they are playful, exciting, and encouraging. It’s easy to fall in love with a narcissist. They are extremely seductive, and they will shower you with gifts and romantic gestures.
Unfortunately, once they have you under their spell, they will turn on you. The abuse and objectification starts, and never stops until you leave or they abandon you.
They know that you’d run far and fast if they revealed their true colors up front, which is why they put so much effort into impressing you.
However, because they have convinced you to trust them, you’re reluctant to leave. Instead, you stay, assuming that you must be the crazy one.
You come to believe that you, not them, are in the wrong.
2. They are happy to deceive and insult you
Narcissists have a strange relationship with the truth. They frequently lie, distorting their version of events to suit their emotional needs. At the same time, it’s important to note that, to them, their lies are true.
For instance, if they claim you have mistreated them, they sincerely believe you are the guilty party. They will tell everyone that you are the “bad” or “mad” one in the relationship.
They have no qualms with putting you down. Their insults are designed to erode your self-esteem. In time, you start to believe that the unkind things they say about you are true.
You become dependent on their approval, and leaving is an unthinkable prospect. They hide their true selves from others, and it’s hard to convince anyone that, in private, they are a monster.
3. If you question them, they get mad or just ignore the truth
When it becomes apparent you’re dealing with someone who isn’t in contact with reality, your first response might be to challenge them.
This won’t get you anywhere, because a narcissist will tell you that you can’t trust your own perceptions. In their minds, they always know best.
Don’t waste your time trying to reason with them, particularly if they become abusive when under stress.
4. Behind the confident veneer lies a sense of insecurity
Narcissists gain a fleeting sense of satisfaction from manipulating people, but they are not truly happy. Think about it; happy people don’t need to tear others down to bolster their egos.
They are jealous, weak individuals who know all too well that their capacity for healthy human interaction is limited.
They aren’t able to put it into words, but they know, deep down, that something is seriously wrong with their behavior.
Secretly, a narcissist knows that they are cut off from the everyday joys of relationships. This is a lonely place to be. When they see happy couples and families, they feel empty.
The tragedy is that they lack the self-awareness necessary for personal growth.
They fall into terrible habits – feeding off the energy of others instead of looking inward – and this becomes a lifelong pattern.
You have more freedom than you think
The good news is that you have the power to leave a narcissist. Once you understand their tactics, you can step back and make the right choice.
You can see how they’ve worked their black magic, leaving you vulnerable to their abuse. You realize that it doesn’t matter how or why they became so toxic.
It’s not your problem to fix. Your priority is your health.
There’s no sugarcoating it – recovering from narcissistic abuse takes time. But you can learn to trust yourself again.
Even better, once you’ve dealt with a narcissist, you’ll be adept at dodging them in the future. The moment you suspect someone is trying to manipulate you, you’ll run away – and never look back.
Psych Central Article
By Jessica Cline
You never really know someone until you’ve tried to leave them.
Many women who witnessed various forms of physical abuse and domestic violence in their parents’ marriages swear they will never settle for the same kind of treatment in their own relationships.
However, many are so focused on physical forms of abuse that they too often miss the warning signs of emotional abuse, at least, until they find themselves caught in the trap of an emotionally abusive relationship or marriage themselves.
Having set the bar at physical abuse, which is where our society still keeps that bar to a large extent as well, women in these situations often feel that if they aren’t being hit, they aren’t being abused, and they therefore have no right to complain, let along initiate a divorce or breakup.
If you were raised in an environment of abuse, you may feel more comfortable living within a cycle of violence, which includes emotional forms of violence such as threats to your privacy and control of resources, than you realize.
And even if you do realize this and feel certain that you want to get divorced or leave the toxic relationship, abusers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for making you believe that doing so impossible.
You can leave, and you should and you will, but before you do, you should know what to look out for so you can be as prepared to deal with it all as well as possible.
Here are 11 signs of emotional abuse in relationships and marriages, and how each may affect you in a divorce or breakup.
1. Withholding Affection.
Withholding affection from a partner is a way to punish the partner and to exercise power and control. This is done intentionally and is sometimes stated to the partner by saying something like, “No kisses until you can be nice again.”
Some partners withhold affection after a disagreement because they don’t feel connected or they don’t feel like offering loving gestures in the moment, but in such cases, the behavior happens only occasionally, rather than on a frequent basis.
An abuser might threaten to expose you in a way you find embarrassing, or they may threaten to take something important away from you, such as money, your home, or even your own kids.
Some might threaten to leave you if they don’t get their way, or they may say they will tell your friends and/or family something personal about you, which is doubly damaging, as not only are they threatening you, but they are implicitly stating that there is something so wrong with you that you should feel ashamed.
Ultimatums are really a covert threat, with the abuser placing the blame for “having” to make you decide about something back on you.
The way they see it, the fact that they are giving you a choice through which you can rectify the situation (by doing what they want you to do) is a way in which they are actually being “generous” to you, and that, therefore, all blame for the situation and any possible consequences are entirely your fault.
4. Lack of Respect for Your Privacy.
This is often a subtle sign of emotional abuse. Your partner may check your private messages or voicemails, either by hacking into them or directly insisting you give them the passwords for all of email and social media accounts.
They might even go so far as to insist your share email and social media accounts, so they can analyze everything you do and say.
5. Property Damage.
This skirts the line between physical and emotional abuse. An abusive partner may break or “lose” something they know is meaningful to you as a way to punish you and remind me you of the power they hold over you.
6. “Magic Tricks.”
Many emotionally abusive behaviors are “magic tricks”, meant to distract you from the reality of the ways in which you are being mistreated, i.e., “Look at this here (so you don’t notice what my other hand is doing there)!”
This might take the form of redirecting blame for their bad acts back to you, starting fights, and firing accusations at you immediately before or after being especially nice and loving, but the sole purpose of all these things is to distract from the abuse that they are subjecting you to repeatedly.
7. Playing the Blame Game.
Partners using power and control in a relationship often aren’t insightful enough to notice the profound effects of their own behavior, nor are likely to ever be willing to taking responsibility for any of it.
Instead, they prefer to blame you, saying things like, “If you just hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had to act that way in response.”
Abusive partners often want to control who you are allowed to have meaningful connections with, and how deep those connections should be allow to run. This means that, over time, you may feel as though you have lost some of your most supportive relationships with friends and family, because your partner didn’t approve.
9. Excessive Gift-Giving.
Some abusers give gifts following a fight as an indication of how much they care about you — or, as a threat reminding you of all their generosity you might lose as a consequence should you choose to leave.
In such cases, you may hear them say things like:
- “Of course I love you. I bought you this ______.”
- “I buy you so many nice things, even though you don’t appreciate anything I do.”
- “Everyone else sees what you have and wishes their spouse was as giving as I am.”
- “If you leave me, you will never have this ______.”
10. Controls of Resources.
Partners may control financial or other resources as a form of punishment or as a way of maintaining control in the relationship, causing you to believe you won’t be able to care for yourself (and your children, if you have them) if you try to leave.
The resources in question aren’t necessarily limited to money. An abuser might limit your access to your car, your cell phone, health insurance, and more.
Micro-cheating is considered by some to be ways in which your partner connects with others and hides it from you.
This can take the form of secret messages, code names in their phone’s contact list, going out and refusing to tell you where he’s headed, or giving attention to someone else while withholding attention from you.
You never really know someone until you have divorced them.
Often, we see an even worse side of our partner when we try to leave the relationship. Sometimes divorces and breakups are amicable, however, if you’ve experienced emotional abuse during your marriage or relationship, you can expect these tactics to continue long after you leave.
Leaving partners who are emotionally abusive requires more planning and more support than typical, and it often requires the advice of professionals as well.
If you detect these signs in your relationship, reach out for help from friends, family, a therapist, or a counseling network.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 11 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In Relationships — And How Abusers Try Using Them Against You If You Leave.