Abusive relationship cycle
What is a personality disorder and how does it affect our relationships? Women who have had a few relationships with men with a personality disorder talk about the warning signs, conflicts and understanding that they do not have the appropriate tools for coping. “I always had the hope that we could go back to what it was, but it only escalated. I suffered greatly from his verbal attacks, I felt he was doing me a character assassination,” shares a woman who was there.
“The relationship between me and Aaron started as something bigger than life. Our first date lasted nine hours and I did not want to go home, and when I got home I felt like I was hovering. I had never had a first date like that before. The next day we met again and the relationship became immediately intense,” says Lee (35), who for three years was in a relationship with a man with borderline personality disorder.
Between 1 and 4% of the population live with borderline personality disorder, characterized by a widespread pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-esteem and moods, along with significant impulsivity. This personality structure is characterized by extreme efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, and by an intense and unstable pattern in interpersonal relationships, moving between the edges of idealization to devalue.
Sufferers of this personality disorder typically have five or more symptoms from a long list that includes: unstable self-esteem, sexual impulsivity, drug addiction, suicidal behavior, or suicidal self-harm behavior. In addition, sufferers of borderline personality disorder tend to have emotional instability and sharp mood swings, a chronic feeling of emptiness, intense anger that does not match the circumstances or situation, and difficulty managing this anger.
Jealousy that does not match the circumstances and paranoid thinking characterize the disorder, and Lee admits that the element of extreme jealousy prevailed in the relationship from the very beginning. “I think he envied me pretty quickly, but only after three months did he show his true face, and we had an explosion.”
What happened there?
“I remember every guy we saw and I said hello to has become a threat to him. That particular evening he accused me of sleeping with a guy I said hello to, and when I denied he decided I was lying. He took my laptop and started going over my correspondence. My past correspondence was not to his liking, so he smashed the glass he had in his hand, cursed, screamed, spoke disgustingly to me. Then, he knocked on the door and apologized, saying he did not mean and that he loved me.
“Exactly that week we were supposed to move in together. I was supposed to leave my apartment, and I did not know what to do. On the one hand, in life no one wrapped me as he wrapped me and on the other hand, no one ever screamed at me like that.”
Have you decided to stay?
“Yes, after the explosion we went back to our ‘honeymoon.’ Spread words of love. We also had crazy sex and shared a mutual cultural world and trips to festivals abroad. Today I already know this cycle of violence – compression until an explosion comes, then respite and falling in love again until the next attack. Because he unloaded the anger that was stored in which we could return to our normal routine, but very quickly quarrels started and there were more and more extreme tantrums in the life together in the house. Later in the relationship he also threatened to use the information I shared with him to harm me if I broke up with him. He really threatened me to reveal my hidden secrets. “
What did you do when he got into these outbreaks?
“I had no tools and I did not know how to react. At first I would cry, after that I would avoid and leave the house, and later I also tried to educate him. I really did not know how to calm him down. I had never experienced such bizarre situations of cursing, throwing objects out the window or blocking I had the front door of the house. Every time I tried to reconcile and weaken the intensity of the flames, and there was a period during which I also blamed myself. After all, there was always a certain compensation that came at the end of every quarrel, and all these cases were wrapped in very great love. “Such feelings before. But at a certain moment it had already rejected me, I ran out of giving ability, and I could not deal with these dramas anymore.”
To my question, did she know that she had an affair with a guy with a personality disorder, Lee answers: “No, it’s not anything familiar that I ever knew. In no way did the word ‘mental disorder’ or ‘personality disorder’ come to mind. Only today, after researching the subject, I already know how to characterize what I experienced with him, and I also know how to identify disturbing clues to it, already on the first dates. In my opinion, almost any girl can become a victim of such a case.”
Is a relationship with a person with a personality disorder is possible at all possible?
“Look, there are all kinds of couplings that work together, it all depends on the level of emotional regulation of each one, the capacity for inclusion and the mental wounds from early childhood. The severity of the disorder varies, and so does the way different people suffer or contain the disorder.”
“Mental illness is episodic and not permanent, and in many cases people living with mental illness reach acute situations that require hospitalization. In contrast, people with personality disorders can live normal lives in society, and people around them will only find out when the disorder breaks out,” explains Ruth Elishar, a couple and family therapist. Certified. According to her, at the basis of every personality disorder lies a conflict that the person is unable to resolve. “There’s actually a personality here that defends itself from the outside world. Of course the defense is not real and the patterns of behavior only make it harder for it to deal with the world.”
Signs of emotionally abusive relationship
One of the terms that is being talked about more and more nowadays is “gazlating,” which is considered a type of mental abuse during which the victim is busy denying events and facts until the victim begins to doubt his ability to trust his memory as well as his general understanding of reality. The victim is actually in constant anxiety and confusion. People who use “gazlating” may engage in this type of conscious or unconscious abuse, combined with a variety of other manipulative or abusive tactics, to ward off criticism or remain in denial of their actions.
How did you survive there?
“I had great compassion for him. I told myself that just as my brother has a chronic medical problem, so J. has a mental problem and it is not appropriate to leave anyone because of it.”
Did he realize he needed treatment?
“He acknowledged his tantrums but did not acknowledge that it was due to something deeper. He treated it as a cosmetic defect. After rejecting and rejecting my requests he did go for treatment in the end, but that did not prevent the relationship from deteriorating.”
What insights did you derive from this relationship?
“First of all, do not suppress red lights. If the spouse suffers from tantrums, breaks things at home, curses, one day the love of his life and one day it is hell – do not stay there, it will not pass. There are also red lights that are lit at the beginning. I remember that even in our first meetings he told me that all his relationships ended badly and that all his exes were crazy. Feels the warning lights are always there, if you just really listen to the things the person is saying about themselves. If something sounds weird to you – ask for an answer and try to get back to the topic. He did not just throw it away. In retrospect, I think it could have help me talk to his ex to find out what really happened. “
The Sacrifice for Home of peace
“There are personality disorders that can be treated and there are some that are almost untreatable, it depends on how deep and severe this personality disorder is,” says Elishar. “Sometimes through dependence on the therapist there is a possibility to do good with the sufferer of the disorder, but in most cases I will encounter a wall. Some people are willing to go to therapy just to please their partner and not out of a real understanding that they need to take care of themselves. “Even your spouse’s inclusion is never enough. You may do something he does not like or decide to leave, and in return he will make your life miserable.”
Where does the border cross?
“Everyone places the boundary in a different place, depending on the ability to diagnose and contain. One can put the boundary in the one who cursed him and another can stretch a boundary much farther. We have all been recently exposed to the murder case where the woman contained and contained her husband.” Her partner kept her away from all her friends and family and he was obsessed, but she thought he would be angry and that she would be able to calm him down. “
Why do people stay in such relationships?
“Understanding why a person stays in a relationship with a person with a personality disorder is like following a thin and tangled web of cobwebs,” says Elishar. “It depends on the degree of resilience, self-confidence, how the person considers himself in a relationship, whether he tends to bend his head or look for conflicts, and what his degree of shame is. Abandonment anxiety is also relevant here. The same person may feel a certain security in relationship, even if it is false, “The question arises as to what the person is willing to sacrifice for the sake of peace at home.”
Personality disorders are a broad spectrum, and each has different characteristics. They tend to be divided into three clusters: strange or eccentric disorders – characterized by distortions of thought and bizarre behavior; Emotional, dramatic and unstable disorders; and personality disorders characterized by anxiety, insecurity and avoidance. The manifestations of personality disorders may appear in varying degrees of severity and vary from person to person. The main measure is the degree of mental distress and functional impairment experienced by the person and / or his environment.
“I was hoping we could go back to what it was, but it just got worse”
Lynda (30) also shares the abuse due to a personality disorder, which she experienced in a relationship. “Our first date was at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Tel Aviv,” she recalls. “He acted like a gentleman from the movies with all the manners, and even ordered the whole menu. The combination of his looks, intellect and personal charm knocked me down. I felt that finally, after years in the bachelorette swamp, my wait paid off.
“The feeling was of absolute ‘high’, as if I had found my soul mate. In the many conversations we had all the time I discovered more and more things that we have in common. Only then, when I learned about the disorder, did I read that it is one of the narcissistic people’s ways to create that special connection.”
When did things start to change? What difficulties did you encounter in front of him?
“It’s hard for me to put my finger on the exact point in time, because it was a gradual process. If I were to express my opinion and say something to him, he would say he feels I am very critical of him. And when someone tells you you’re critical and judgmental, you start to be careful and think twice. Expresses something he may disagree with.
“And it happened all the time – just every time, when my opinion was different from his own on any subject, he called me judgmental, harsh or critical, and it just completely silenced me. I was afraid to express my opinion and lose touch with him, especially because at first everything was so amazing. I always had the hope that we could go back to what it was, but it only got worse. I would get all kinds of accusations and character analyzes and explanations why I was a problematic and predatory woman, until all I wanted was to be careful not to hurt him.
“At one point he started ‘educating’ me at the same time with disappearances and not answering the phone. In retrospect, I realized it was really a treatment of silence and violence for everything. “Terrible quarrels. Even in sex he accused me of not seeing his needs and forcing things on him.”
When did you realize he had a personality disorder?
“I started going to therapy, and my psychologist helped me figure out what was there. In her recommendation I read a book called ‘Mental Harassment’, written by French psychiatrist Mary Frances Higuain, and I just started to identify myself and what happened to me in the cases described in the book. I think it was so successful. “It undermined my confidence in my feelings, and I felt so terrible in this context, that only thanks to the treatment and learning on the subject did I drop the token. It was a narcissistic abuse according to the book.”
“A person suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder is a selfish, arrogant person with excessive self-importance and a great need for control and admiration,” says Elishar. “Everything must be done as he thinks, otherwise he dismantles everything. Those who suffer from the disorder are constantly thinking how to gain more and more power. It’s like a bottomless barrel. They are characterized by a mental disability. “Something that characterizes most personality disorders – stiffness and inability to be flexible, while the person in front of them must constantly be flexible for them.”
Is there a way to find out if your spouse has a personality disorder?
“A relationship is a tango for two. No one goes with a device that measures the severity of the disorder. If there is a personality that can contain, it is constantly hoping that the situation will improve and you will not want to listen to any tips, while other people may immediately leave such a relationship. “If you suspect that it is a personality disorder, you should go to someone qualified who knows how to shed light on the condition and confirm or refute if it is a pathological condition.”
What made you decide you are leaving an emotionally abusive relationship?
“Once I knew how the disorder worked and knew the patterns, I did not fall for it again. You have to understand that all the time in the background remember the wonderful beginning and cling to that memory, and it is very difficult to give up something so good. I had to go through a process to give up. “It was my first encounter with this personality disorder, and I also experienced narcissistic abuse at work. A big part of it was to understand that I have a certain personality structure that makes me more vulnerable to harm from this personality disorder.”
What characters in your personality allowed this relationship to end?
“By nature I am very empathetic, sensitive and therapeutic, and not the most knowledgeable to keep my boundaries. Combined with a tendency to please, I am really an ‘easy prey’ to the narcissistic personality. The relationship with a narcissist is just one big fake. “