LOVE IN THE TIME OF FEBRUARY
Warning: Contains sarcasm. The following post is unsuitable for V-day stuffed-toy-worshipers and/or women and men who turn love into abuse, pain, guilt, shame instead of knowing what authentic love truly is.
Ah! February! Ever since commercialism unearthed Valentine’s Day and made it into a Hallmark-etched, marketing-approved, commodity-crazy phenomenon, it’s practically impossible to see any mall, store or plaza without the ubiquitous pink and red hearts, chocolates, flowers and stuffed bunnies and bears (don’t get me started on the last, as I’m an outspoken critic of the way REAL animals are treated for the fur industry while fake animals – at times made using the fur of the real ones – are shown ‘affection’ in our culture.)
Consumerism comes colour-coded. Blacks and oranges for Halloween, red-white-green for Christmas and then a burst of pink & red for Valentine’s before pastels dominate the Easter shelves.
Anyhoo – I’m not a cynic about Love. Far from it. Yes – although I proudly love Spock, Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python, my ideas of love and its practice in my real life is very deep, very intrinsic and a few of my posts have been on it – without revealing private details. I believe in the poetry, the poignancy, the applied pragmatism of love, and its indescribable beauty so deeply that often words are not enough to describe its depth and those who have known me closely know that perhaps my ways of loving are from a lost century where reality resonated more than virtuality and the commercialism of ‘love’ was not yet so ubiquitous.
Perhaps that is why I’ll never quite understand the allure of stuffed toys and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes and the Valentine-day-special-dinner-coupons that dominate this day and almost make a joke out of relationships, a gimmick, some Hallmark-approved, stuffed-bear-endorsed, follow-the-crowd-and-corporation joke. It’s ‘cute’, I guess depending on how one defines ‘cute’. Having some cute-alert-chip missing, except when it comes to REAL animals and babies and sorry, that too minus the gushing – I don’t find commercialised Valentine-products cute. Cheesy is more the word. And I thank life and luck every day (or most days) that in spite of being a late bloomer in the ‘land of loving’ and having had relatively very few intimate ‘love’ relations (by choice, not due to a lack of chance), I am reminded everyday just how beautiful love and life truly is: Intensely, passionately but with a basic simplicity devoid of all the frills and goo and commodification that the whole concept of ‘love’ has been turned into.
Come February, and it is hard to notice any glossy or newspaper or online news channel without every medium screaming out helpful ‘tips’, tidbits, analysis, prognosis, assumptions, presumptions, ‘premonitions’ and all sorts of ‘helpful’ strategies, stratagems and statistics about dating, loving, relationships, sex, pursuing, gifting, wooing and…. the list goes on and on and on. Logically in the freezing month of February, the coldest in most of North America, chances are that one’s libido is anyway climatically low. Yet it seems the buzz of a looming ‘V-day’ is supposed to make groins magically tingle in some mass unison of dating delirium. A men’s ‘game’ (a.k.a pick-up artist) website helpfully says how chances of getting laid are tremendously increased due to most women’s ‘romance fantasy’ getting peaked at this time. And don’t get me started about all those ‘women’s websites’ which in fact ‘train’ the women into looking for this ‘fantasy.’ As I’ve once written earlier (Racqueting on a Grass Court) – all their articles can be neatly filed under two categories : (1) How to get a man, (2) How to get over a man. Or depending on whether it’s written by an angry feminist or a feathery floozy: “How to screw a man.” (both versions of ‘screw’ covered by each cranky camp.) Or the way I phrase sans frills and frosting their usual take: “Flirt, Fuck, Fight, Flight.” Naturally, V-day articles in those ‘modern-women websites’ concentrate on the first two Fs.
Okay, now to get back to more pragmatism: Since I’m no psychologist nor trained therapist to give out relationship advice, and neither some experienced sexoholic who has slept around with thousands to give ‘helpful tips’, the best I can do is this: Attach some links and articles from probably two of the most grounded, factual and no-nonsense sites that looked at, for a change, on how to comprehend wisely and not let crazy relations vacuum- suck or exhaust you. Having had one of those ‘crazy’ experiences in my first relation (lasted 18 months and being a late bloomer, I was in my 20s) geez, wish I’d come across these sites before. Also, working in a profession where there are nearly 90% men and often finding myself as an accidental confidante and ‘free-shrink’ to my male buddies and colleagues, now I can safely hand these sites to them instead of trying to figure out the crazy partners most geeky men in engineering and architecture often end up with initially.
Introverted, sensitive, ‘problem-solving’ men are often prime targets for female bullies as are those men who willingly exhaust their youth, love and passion to ‘rescue’ professional victims or conversely lose their own masculinity under dominating narcissistic women. The same applies to introverted women too. Kind-and-good-hearted girls often fall prey to the ‘lost-puppy’ type dangerous man or become victims to dominating narcissists who are pathologically cruel but ooze initial outward charm. The two conditions that do the most damage are when you get hooked by women and men suffering from ‘personality disorders’ known as ‘borderline’ and ‘narcissistic’ disorders. Of course, like financial acumen is not taught in high schools, these facts are not taught either. Can you believe how much time, love, energy, money and broken dreams and hearts would have been saved if the psyche of emotional ‘predators’ was taught back in school?! Oh well….
An important note: Most crazy, tumultuous ‘love’ stories we read about in fiction or see on film often involve these drama-crazy characters since after the hell one suffers in these turbulent, crazy-making relations – perhaps to find closure or solace, most men (and women) HAVE to write stories, songs, screenplays (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 days of Summer etc. amongst more well-made films of covert abuse, while of course you have the more blatant crazy-lover types) to make sense of it all or as self-therapy. (Some even develop magical thinking to make sense of it – either joining religious cults or embracing new age trends where they encounter even more narcissists and borderlines. Those who have been bitten too badly and cannot overcome the trauma even turn into misandrists and misogynists – generalizing entire genders based on the bad apples – and not self-reflecting on what qualities or predispositions within themselves caused them to attract the ‘crazies.’) Trust me, Logic solves ‘crazy’ puzzles way better than emotional reasoning. There is a reason behind Spock’s equanimity ;-)
Do NOT get fooled by the way unfortunately ‘great romances’ have been captured in film and tales as though turbulence, pain and insanity are requisites for them to be great. Real Love (and by ‘real’ I mean authentic and honest love) is calm, healing, all-accepting, forgiving, reciprocal and inspires you to be more balanced, more free, not less. Intensity in a healthy relation is deep yet peaceful; the initial ‘intensity’ in a crazy relation is an illusion based on swings and drama – not rationality. ‘Crazy’ love by these disordered folks distorts ‘love’ into feeling like fear, pain, guilt, shame, turbulence, craving and longing, a push-pull rollercoaster, walking on eggshells or avoiding landmines and convert relations into sick, co-dependent prisons. Quite simply stated it is ‘emotional abuse disguised as love.’ And yes, men are abused equally too except society does not want to acknowledge it. Kind-hearted, stable and ‘giving’ men and women need to know about these ‘emotional vampires’ and also try to understand where their own self-sacrificial, ‘fixing’, and ‘rescuing’ compulsions are coming from. It can be from your own childhood where a parent or sibling gave you less or your first adult romantic relation where you may have paired up with a manipulative cruel person. Such cruel, unempathetic persons – whether they initially portray themselves as perpetual ‘martyrs’ and ‘victims’ or as the ‘misunderstood, dark, unknowable lover’, or just outright blatant bullies – are sadly those you can’t ‘fix’, no matter how endless your love is. They either have voracious needs that will never be met or they literally have the ‘empathy connection’ missing in their brains (like the sociopath) or are pathological bullies.
So, in the ‘spirit’ of the month, instead of offering ‘how-to’ tips and bunnies and bears and flowers and chocolates, I’ve decided to include articles and links by two smart experienced therapists. Dr. Tara Palmatier of Shrink for Men and Shari Schreiber of Getting Better have broken away from the mould and have no qualms of calling a spade a spade without the ‘romantic’ frills; and redefining what healthy love feels like, in lieu of the way abusive, commercialized and fake ‘love’ is marketed as acceptable in our society. Though Dr. Palmatier’s site is geared more towards men, for this post I’ve placed two of her more gender-neutral articles. I like her no-nonsense, non-sappy, rational style of writing. I like the way she stays clear of new age or mushy lingo, and is a refreshing breath of logic and rationality. Perhaps because my brain seems to be wired more like an analytical, visual-thinking geek-man I can relate to her style of writing more.
I did do my research and found these two ladies to be the healthiest ‘therapy’ resources online and they are two rare emotionally healthy women. I call this ‘rare’ because a well-kept secret in the psych world (which most laymen should know by now) is that high functioning disordered folks enter the profession of clinical psychology and psychiatry in large numbers – a way of ‘figuring’ themselves by ‘figuring’ others. It is better to find therapists who are more the ‘caregiver’ or ‘rational problem-solver’ type than those who are disordered themselves but hide it very well.
I have never been in clinical therapy myself as I like solving problems through logic instead. (As well, having traveled to and spending long stretches of time at a young age and in adult life in some countries where I saw unimaginable poverty and suffering, and yet saw people with remarkable optimism and resilience despite all the odds, has always made me very grateful for the gifts and resources we have in more developed countries – which is why I often retort that “we all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful.“ Because things could have been much, much worse through a stroke of even worse luck and I count all the blessings I have. ) But I have to confess that four of the craziest people I came across (personally, not professionally) in Canada & the U.S. – the two women were ‘therapists’ and the two men were psychiatrists. The women seemed to suffer from some permanent ‘women- are-victims’ syndrome – part mixed with some rabid man-bashing misconstrued version of feminism, part a self-righteous wallowing of self-pity. I abhor the ‘perpetual victim’ attitude and shoot more for determination and self-reliance so their notions seemed to be very self-defeating and blame-shifting rather than solving real problems in a productive manner. The two male psychiatrists were well-read and very intelligent, but boy – were their perception of reality incredibly warped! It was nutty to say the least, and I later understood that their behaviours included ‘projection‘, ‘gaslighting‘ and a problem separating fantasy from reality. Regardless, I will always owe an immense gratitude to one of those men because it was his puzzling mysterious behaviour and ultra-baffling swings of cruelty and kind intellect I was subjected to that finally got this geek who never cared about psyches but more about buildings and geography and music to start searching deeply in the labyrinths of the human mind.
I am sure there are far saner examples in the therapy field and those four, I hope, were anomalies – though writers on many forums, including wikihow and yahoo answers have stated how their therapist seemed to need more therapy! But I have to honestly confess that in my life, a person I knew who showed the least integrity and exhibited mind-blowing pathological narcissism and Machiavellianism – literally seeing and blatantly pronouncing himself as “Jesus” (!!) yet never practicing what he preached – was a church pastor. I have met some very kind and ethical pastors too but, due to that particularly bad apple, am very skeptical of those who do excessive ‘God-talk’ yet have a different character behind the mask.
Both Schreiber and Dr. Palmatier have faced flak for whistle-blowing the fact that there is a great deal of hypocrisy in the ‘therapy’ business and there are many many psychologically disordered folks in the clinical psychology business which she has aptly named ‘estrogen-ghetto’. In fact there’s a blog or two that exposes out the misdeeds of those in the helping profession: http://psychrapereporter.wordpress.com/ and http://psychsex.wordpress.com/
In the world we live in, often the people we are told to blindly trust the most – caregivers, religious or political leaders (be they from churches, temples or cults), therapists, close partners – can misuse their positions of power. I quote here from systems engineer Barbara Oakley’s book ‘Evil Genes: Why Rome fell, Hitler rose, Enron failed and my sister stole my mother’s boyfriend’ which I have mentioned in my post ‘Truth or Dare‘ as a reminder on how being too innocent and trusting can make one ripe for victimization.
When kindhearted people are unaware that a few leading individuals in “their group” are likely to be sinister, they are ripe for victimization. Their own kindness can be turned against them and others. Hitler’s greatest strength, for example, was his ability to appeal not only to the worst characteristic – hatred – but also to people’s best qualities – faith, hope, love and sacrifice. As with most Machiavellians, he was a master at turning people’s best traits against them. “He confided the secret of his approach to an intimate : ‘When I appeal……for sacrifice, the first spark is struck. The humbler the people are, the greater the craving to identify themselves with a cause bigger than themselves.’”[ix]
At the root of all such misconducts, a lust for ‘control’ is what pushes disordered people to inflict incalculable psychological injury to those who trust and love them. It is easier to get out of social institutes. It takes a far greater amount of discernment and self-analysis to get out of unhealthy relations with covert bullies. And while developing discernment and healing yourself, perhaps the most important aspect is to never, yes never, let innocent close ones in the future suffer the consequences of a past partner. If you have been in an unhealthy relation, not only should you get away and heal and strengthen yourself, but STOP that cycle of abuse and be open and receptive to healthy, loving and giving partners. And be ready to receive. Living well without holding anger, revenge or regret but rather equanimity and perspective is the best antidote to those who have hurt you in the past. Never let others’ poison infect you or worse, turn you into a conduit of cruelty yourself. That is giving too much power to your past. And as I’ve often written here, determination can get you out of every mess.
Here’s wishing to happy, safe and truly authentic love lives – where differences are sorted through mutual respect and understanding, and love is a place of solace and peace – not a four letter simile for pain. Where passion means intimacy with healthy vulnerability, not anger diffused with controlling demands. Where love sets you free to be the best you are with all your strengths and weaknesses, instead of being held hostage in some guilting-and-shaming prison with no escape.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF FEBRUARY
The following article is more suitable for those partners in relations who tend to be more of ‘givers’ or ‘fixers.’ It is very important to fix one’s own ‘fix-it’ tendencies. It is even more important to feel comfortable in a mutually reciprocal relation and not relate ‘pining away’ to love. And more importantly, to be more open to ‘receiving.’
I used to be one of those unconditional ‘givers’. I have understood the root of my habit and ‘training’ (a bullying abusive, demanding and controlling older sister who I loved dearly and perennially ‘gave and gave and gave’ to,) a habit which was replicated in a future relation. Though after that I did have a wonderful 7 year long relation, when that ended on sane, mutually-respectful and very friendly terms, I found myself again relating love to ‘giving’ and ‘puzzle-solving’ and developing a high tolerance to the other’s cruelty much like in my first relation. I tended to offer ‘unconditional acceptance’ far too easily loving both the other’s strengths and weaknesses and was often baffled why someone who had prior relations with abusive partners was so bewildered at the lack of my idealization-devaluation swings. It was sad to realize that steady kindness was a concept not fully understood by the other person who had only known the ‘thrill’ of dramatic push-pull relations. It was then that I started reading the root of such patterns, both to understand others’ psyche and to stop my own ‘overt optimism’ and ‘gushing giving’ and ‘working immensely hard’ to work at and ‘help’ situations. I have since learned to receive and am very content now in my relation which has healthy mutual affection and respect with a deep loving connection on many different levels.
Please note that sometimes ‘givers’ are not necessarily feeling ‘worthless’ or ‘inadequate’ as stated below. (I have never felt ‘worthless’ though of course I’ve certainly had my moments of self-criticism and been hard on myself.) There can be other reasons sometimes for excess giving, such as an overabundance of energy, or a subconscious habit to be overtly kind or “hoping my unconditional love will cure all your problems” sort of mindset without the discernment to see who your recipient is, or letting our taught lessons of the ‘virtues’ of ‘patience’, ‘sympathising’ and ‘sacrifice’ dictate our behaviour, or believing you have to ‘work hard’ to receive or earn something – a habit that needs to be cured in order to be comfortable with receiving love just for who you are.
While it is hard to admit, there is a subconscious pride attached in the notion that we can ‘give and love someone into health.’ Let go of that hidden ‘helping’ pride and ‘rescue’ compulsion. Unfortunately, for pathologically emotionally disordered people, all your ‘loving and giving’ will go down their bottomless pit – and you too, if you’re not careful. They will themselves have to do their own healing work – you cannot ‘love’ someone into emotional health (unless that person is an innocent child in need, not a grown adult. Trust me, there are plenty of poor children in the world and abused animals you can show that compassion to.) You’ll only get exhausted and frustrated giving endlessly to manipulative emotional vampires. Instead find what predisposes you to get attracted to those adults who only suck.
- Healthy Self-Love. The foundation of good relationships – by Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men)
“You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” Everyone knows this platitude. Self-help “gurus” and therapists regurgitate it as a mindless mantra ad nauseum.
I don’t know its exact origin, but whoever first uttered the phrase confused things terribly. Accepting and loving yourself is a precondition to being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. However, the oft-recited advice has it backwards: Before you can LET YOURSELF BE LOVED by another, you must first accept and love yourself. If you’re not capable of receiving love, you will attract and be attracted to others who will give you anything but love.
There are men and women who have no trouble chasing after romantic quarry; “loving” them without rhyme or reason, only to have their feelings rejected and their needs unmet. They languish in their unrequited anguish. These are usually the same people who run in the opposite direction when they’re offered real affection by another person. When they have a chance at a real relationship and love, they’re uninterested for a variety of reasons.
If you believe the cliché, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,”then there should be no pursuit of a love interest until you learn to love yourself. If you’re attracted to others who can’t love you in return, you’ll begin a futile cycle of pursuit and distancing behaviors. Think of it as “mutually assured unhappiness.”
This pattern of behavior typically reinforces your inner and oftentimes unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. In other words, you seek intimacy and love from others who either can’t tolerate or aren’t capable of intimacy and love, which confirms your faulty beliefs about being undeserving or having to work for love.
The end result: When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who sees your positive qualities (that you can’t or won’t see in yourself) and who offers you affection and acceptance; you push her or him away. You devise many reasons and excuses why the other person isn’t“the one.”Typical excuses include:
- The other person is nice, funny and smart, but there’s some missing ephemeral quality you can’t quite articulate. (Like a proclivity to be rejecting and/or abusive, perhaps?)
- You’re just not feeling “it.”
- You only date a specific “type.” (e.g., abusive).
- He or she is “too nice.” (Isn’t that what we all claim to be looking for?)
- He or she is “boring.” (This is usually because the thrill of having a corrective emotional experience with an abusive personality who reminds you of mom, dad or some other early formative relationship is missing and you don’t have to work for or prove yourself worthy of love).
- There’s no “chemistry.” (Mind you, the only “chemistry” you’re likely to feel is with someone who isn’t interested in you, has their own intimacy issues and keeps you at arm’s length and/or an abusive personality).
Buying into the above excuses are how many men and women end up in relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other abusive personality types. These excuses enable you to reject people who are capable of love and who would accept you as you are.
“Loving” someone else is easy enough, especially since people who languish in this position tend to idealize those whom they “love”—at first. If you’re caught in this pattern, you may tend to have an unrealistic, highly selective vision of the other person—until one of their flaws are exposed and then your “love” disappears as soon as you realize the other person isn’t “perfect.” Alternatively, if you’re attracted to abusive personalities, you probably minimize, rationalize or ignore their hurtful and abusive behaviors and tell yourself you need to “work harder” to win their love.
How do you begin to love and accept yourself?
First, you must acknowledge and wrestle with your inner daemons. Explore your faulty relationship beliefs, for example, the belief that you’re unworthy or undeserving of love. Figure out where these beliefs come from, challenge them, lay them to rest and adopt healthier beliefs.
Second, you must accept that you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, but that doesn’t make you unlovable and unworthy. “Perfection,” if there is such a thing, has nothing to do with peace and wholeness. If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, you won’t be able to tolerate them in another person. Others will always fall short and you will reject them. Alternatively, you will accept hurtful behavior from others because you’re not “perfect” and on some level believe you deserve to be treated badly
Third, you must develop the ability to hold and sit with the discomfort and strangeness of the new and unfamiliar, such as being with a kind, loving person who accepts you warts and all. Being with a woman or man who is capable of returning love and values you—including your imperfect parts—will initially feel really strange and uncomfortable. At first, you might feel the urge to flee or push away. You need to ride out any feelings of discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal and feeling bad feels strange and uncomfortable. It will be a big change from your previous relationships. Remember, if change felt the same as what you’re accustomed to, it wouldn’t be change. (Repeat the last sentence to yourself a few times.)
Fourth, you need to be able to tell the difference between forgivable imperfections and abuse in all its forms: covert, overt, emotional, physical, psychological and financial. For example, leaving the toilet seat up, talking too much or difficulty expressing emotions are forgivable “imperfections.” Abuse is unforgivable—at least while it’s active and ongoing. Loving yourself also means creating boundaries and not accepting bad, hurtful, crazy and abusive treatment from others.
The fear of being loved is related to the fear of being “discovered;” of having your vulnerabilities and those aspects you don’t like about yourself exposed to another. This is fundamentally silly because we all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. It’s the fear that he or she won’t love you if they find out how “horrible” you think you are. At heart, this is what causes narcissists, borderlines, bullies and other abusive personalities to lash out and try to control others and it’s what causes you to be the target of these emotional predators.
Having a healthy and happy relationship begins with you loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Once you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself and let go of old, counterproductive relationship beliefs, you’ll be surprised how good being in a relationship can be.
– by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
- Ever wondered why some folks find it difficult to break the habit?
In “Why We Stay in Bad Relationships” – Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men) asks why many people stay in dead end, unfulfilling relationships despite immense personal dissatisfaction. Yet they stay on against their better judgment. Why?
To read the full article, go here : http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/why-we-stay-in-bad-relationships/ (copy paste the link)
It outlines the reasons of the main causes of why we repeat old patters of inaction and inertia – for instance:
The Familiarity–the comfort of dysfunction vs. the discomfort of the unknown. “Oftentimes, relationships are a matter of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” We all make choices about how much we can deal with and what we can tolerate. Some people worry that they’ll end up in an even more dissatisfying relationship. They tell themselves that their current situation is a better option to meeting a new, possibly even more damaged mate or being alone.” – Dr. T
Other reasons include :
The investment of time and energy.
The trap of working harder. “Yes, relationships take work, but they shouldn’t be a continuous struggle. Healthy relationships are a source of mutual comfort, support, and growth, which often involve challenging each other to be your best selves. Every relationship hits some bumpy spots in the road, but it shouldn’t be the Bataan death march.If you keep having the same problems without resolution, the same arguments, the same hurt feelings and resentments, and have been to couples counseling for a significant period of time and can’t reach a place of understanding, just end it.” – Dr. T
Shame and failure. “It’s difficult to admit a relationship needs to end. Many experience ending a relationship with a sense of shame and failure.” – Dr. T
And if it is an emotionally abusive relationship, Dr. Palmatier states that:
“counseling rarely helps because the abusive partner uses treatment to blame and control and/or quits when confronted with his or her bad behavior and goes “therapist shopping.” Don’t confuse “working harder at the relationship” with entrenching yourself in the problem. It’s better to get out than dig your heels in deeper.”
Wise words at the end of her article:
“The real shame and failure is to waste your life in conflict and dissatisfaction or, in extreme cases, an emotionally abusive relationship. Growth and change occur across a lifetime. Partners we choose for ourselves early in life when we’re still sorting through childhood baggage make sense at the time. However, as we resolve those issues, if our relationships don’t evolve with us, they will no longer fit. It’s never too late to let go of misery or resignation and embrace change.”
Think about that for a few minutes. The full article is available on that link. A must-read.
Related: Are you stuck in an unhealthy relation pattern? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/are-you-stuck-in-an-unhealthy-relationship-pattern-part-three/
Do you need to be loved and love to be needed? (An absolutely spot-on piece by Shari Schreiber directed towards eternal ‘fixers’ and ‘givers’): http://gettinbetter.com/needlove.html
Did you have to find closure all by yourself when a man or woman you deeply loved and cared for and were endlessly kind to, suddenly or cruelly disappeared? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/divorce-and-break-ups-there-is-no-closure-with-a-narcissistic-or-borderline-woman/
Have you wondered what the hooks of control are that keep you on your toes and in an unhealthy relation? Do you have a fear of loss and a need for approval? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/how-emotionally-abusive-women-control-you-the-fear-of-loss-and-the-need-for-approval/
- Abuse is often seen as a male-on-female problem. Wrong! Women especially in countries where they have far greater rights are equally abusive, except it is not spoken of. In fact men in western countries are quite frequently abused by their female partners (and the legal system is skewed to protect women even when they are at fault) while the reverse is often true in more patriarchal Islamic countries. How do you tell if a woman is an abuser?
In “10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully” Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, Psy.D. (A Shrink for men) outlines the tell-tale signs of both overt and covert crazy-making and psychological abuse that women may be doing to men in relations, and how to spot them instead of living in perpetual denial. An excerpt:
Does your girlfriend or wife yell, scream, and swear at you? Do you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your relationship because they just wouldn’t understand? Is your relationship making you feel like you’re slowly going crazy?
If so, you’re probably involved with a woman who is an emotionally abusive bully. Most men don’t want to admit that they’re in an abusive relationship. They describe the relationship and their girlfriend/wife using other terms like crazy, emotional, controlling, bossy, domineering, constant conflict, or volatile. If you use words like this to describe your relationship, odds are you’re being emotionally abused.
Do you recognize any of the following behaviors?
1) Bullying. If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay. She wants to control you and resorts to emotional intimidation to do it. She uses verbal assaults and threats in order to get you to do what she wants. It makes her feel powerful to make you feel bad. People with a Narcissistic personality are often bullies.
Result: You lose your self-respect and feel outnumbered, sad, and alone. You develop a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which you identify with the aggressor and actually defend her behavior to others.
2) Unreasonable expectations. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, it’s never enough. She expects you to drop whatever you’re doing and attend to her needs. No matter the inconvenience, she comes first. She has an endless list of demands that no one mere mortal could ever fulfill.
Common complaints include: You’re not romantic enough, you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re not sensitive enough, you’re not smart enough to figure out my needs, you’re not making enough money, you’re not FILL IN THE BLANK enough. Basically, you’re not enough, because there’s no pleasing this woman. No one will ever be enough for her, so don’t take it to heart.
Result: You’re constantly criticized because you’re not able to meet her needs and experience a sense of learned helplessness. You feel powerless and defeated because she puts you in no-win situations.
3) Verbal attacks.This is self-explanatory. She employs schoolyard name calling, psychopathologizing (e.g., armed with a superficial knowledge of psychology she uses diagnostic terms like labile, paranoid, narcissistic, etc. for a 50-cent version of name calling), criticizing, threatening, screaming, yelling, swearing, sarcasm, humiliation, exaggerating your flaws, and making fun of you in front of others, including your children and other people she’s not intimidated by. Verbal assault is another form of bullying, and bullies only act like this in front of those whom they don’t fear or people who let them get away with their bad behavior.
Result: Your self-confidence and sense of self-worth all but disappear. You may even begin to believe the horrible things she says to you.
4) Gaslighting. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It wasn’t that bad. You’re imagining things. Stop making things up.” If the woman you’re involved with is prone to Borderline or Narcissistic rage episodes, in which she spirals into outer orbit, she may very well not remember things she’s said and done. However, don’t doubt your perception and memory of events. They happened and they are that bad.
Result: Her gaslighting behavior may cause you to doubt your own sanity. It’s crazymaking behavior that leaves you feeling confused, bewildered, and helpless.
For the signs, explanations and results of the other 6 tactics used such as unpredictable responses, projection, emotional blackmail and withholding affection & sex as well as isolating you from friends and family, read the full article here: http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/10-signs-your-girlfriend-or-wife-is-an-emotional-bully/ (copy paste the link)
As Dr. Palmatier concludes at its end: “Life is too short to spend one more second in this kind of relationship. If your partner won’t admit she has a problem and agree to get help, real help, then it’s in your best interest to get support, get out, and stay out.”
If you are a woman who has faced the turmoil of being with a man with BPD (which for men is often misdiagnosed as bipolar), Shari Schreiber has written an excellent article with wisdom and humour, though her site graphics are a tad too colourful: http://www.sharischreiber.com/casanova.html
Also from Schreiber, for men who suffer from the ‘hero-syndrome’ and like to ‘rescue’ waifs and ‘professional victims’: http://gettinbetter.com/waif.html
Is your girlfriend/wife a “professional victim”? http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/is-your-girlfriend-or-wife-a-professional-victim/ (copy-paste the link)
Saving your life after being excavated to exhaustion after loving a borderline: http://www.sharischreiber.com/anycost.html
Dr. Palmatier’s site has many great articles in the index section of both her old and new site. Here are a few links:
If you are a woman in love with a man who has come out of a relation with an abusive woman or with a man who has a history of being with manipulative women and you are not one (a very important and poignant read because often the kind girl who comes in a man’s life later has to bear the brunt of the misconceptions about love and trust created by the disordered women in his past): Excerpt:
“Men who’ve been involved with emotionally abusive women need to go through a period of “deprogramming” and relationship “re-education.” Being with crazy, abusive narcissistic or borderline women warps these men’s perspective on love and relationships. They view crisis, criticism, conflict, drama, insults, neglect, etc., as normal because, with these women, it is the norm. Sometimes, it’s difficult to break this pattern because of the rush from being on constant high alert and the exquisite thrill of the rare occasion when these women are nice to them.”
Deciphering the code of female mindgames in ‘crazy’ relations: (if you are a rational woman in love with a BPD man, just change gender for the perpetrator.) This article is for those men who have spent months in a war zone at home with advanced bullies and are looking for a logical explanation of the ‘pattern’ of their tactics: http://www.shrink4men.com/2010/11/15/high-conflict-phases-of-abuse-blame-shifting-distortion-rage-and-manipulation-diagram/
How ‘brainwashing’ occurs in abusive relations: http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/how-abusive-women-brainwash-you/
Yes, Love truly is a wonderful phenomenon. To love and to be loved – one of life’s greatest joys. But before you run around outpouring romantic love, make sure that the other person is worthy of unconditional love. Nobody is perfect, but imperfection does not include abusive behavior. Love wasted on emotional predators, bottomless vampires and bullies – be they in the form of Waifs who need constant rescuing or Monsters who need to constantly control – is a loss of youth, a loss of kindness and a betrayal of trust. It takes a long time to heal and longer to overcome that exhaustion. It is unfair to those who come later in your life, especially if they are innocent, and bear the burden of the wounds of your past patterns.
An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure or self-immolation. Because knowledge IS power. Love well, for sure, but even more so, love wisely. And when you find the one with whom you can share healthy, reciprocal, connected Love, love with abandon and without fear. And above all, believe in the power of Resilience. The power of Love. And the clarity of the power of Logic.
And that doesn’t need to be confined to only the 14th of February.
As for me, I am very happy to live this dream in reality:
Below, a poem, written from years back – before I’d even fallen in love. It was about the way I thought love could be, would feel like. (It’s a side I rarely show on this blog, it’s very hard for me to show my deepest feelings or dreams, or the mushy side, but what the heck – ‘Love’ goes beyond an xkcd cartoon depiction.) And when I fell in love, was it like this? Oh yes, yes it was. Authentic Love always is.
You bring me love,
More than I could ever dream of.
And emotions that were alien once seem all too omnipresent now;
The shell I thought my heart was in seemed all too fragile, all too thin
When it came to you to penetrate, it broke to pieces and set me free.
Perhaps we had been strangers before, perhaps wayfarers traveling along the same road,
But in subtle, soft, mischievous ways, our love happened because it was meant to be,
Like unpredictable destiny, or for that’s what Nature intended to see:
A Man, a Woman with a child in each who hold hands like lost twins reunited
A love which has no legal name, no rhyme nor reason nor sanity.
And yet it spells out innocence, untainted, untarnished purity.
It’s your love which gives me happiness and warmth from the cruel winter
Of complicated mechanical beings who do not rejoice at others’ well-being.
I don’t want to think of the morrow, or of yesterday for it is now that matters,
I don’t want to think of the sorrow which I have felt before or shall later,
Let me live in this moment where time stands still,
Let me bathe in this ocean of love –
I never knew how beautiful love could be
Until I rose in love with you.
Hmmm, so much for the cynic in me ;-) Must be the smell of all those flowers in every shop on the streets….
- A Cornell Medical School fellow in Neuroscience takes a look at how our brain chemistry affects feelings of love and trust: Love in the Time of Oxytocin Research.