Emotional and psychological abusers: Coping with chaos and losing your balance

By AlohaTraveler

I work at a children’s shelter. One day last summer, we were playing dodge ball with the children and it made me think about the Bad Man. When we play dodge ball, we divide the teams children against counselors. To play the game, we divide the basketball court in half with the mid line being the divide between territories and we use six balls. When the referee blows the whistle to start the game, balls begin flying in every direction, someone is “OUT!” and the heated arguments ensue (from the children of course, we adults keep our heads) about the rules and who threw what? Was their foot over the line? Was it before or after “TIME OUT” was called? Which player was “out” first? In other words, it is complete and total chaos. I hate when they defer to me and ask what I saw. Ummm … I saw people running all over the place and balls bouncing and then someone shouted “TIME OUT!” Whom that was, I don’t know. Which team was it that was tagged first? What color was the ball that made the first impact? Sheesh! This is hard. I am a terrible referee! I can’t process all this information at once. EXACTLY.

Mental Gymnastics otherwise known as “Being Kept Off Balance” or “Crazy Making”

This is how it was with the Bad Man. Complete and total chaos. “Balls” coming at me from every direction and constantly being told I crossed the line somewhere. Just like with children, the rules and the lines were changing all the time. Breaking the “rules” was totally unavoidable. I couldn’t keep anything straight. He claimed I yelled at him. Did I? I don’t remember that. He claimed I was “out of line” and “out of control.” Was I? I wasn’t sure. I admit I was upset. I admit I was hurt. I became confused in the midst of the chaos. There was so much coming at me!

At first, I reacted to everything. However, it didn’t take long before I stopped reacting because I didn’t know what to react to. I often woke up to tirades over email and the sheer volume of accusations were just completely mind boggling. Sometimes, I tried to understand where he was coming from. Other times, I attempted to apologize but for what, I was not sure. Apologies never worked anyway. Bad Man would say, “You didn’t even apologize for the RIGHT thing.” Or “You missed something in your apology.” If I asked, “What did I miss?” he would tell me, “I am NOT going there with you.” Okay.

After one or two episodes in which I dared to be angered by his outrageous attacks and accusations, I changed my tactic because being angry and arguing my side made things worse. I began to be very careful. I had a sense that he was taking apart my reality but at the time, I didn’t really have words for that. Instinctively, I started stepping ever so carefully. It was not because I thought I could avoid the attacks coming out of him. I gave that idea up quickly. I became careful and measured with my words and my tone because I wanted to be sure of whom I was being in the moment. If I was mad or outraged, then I would be unsure of what I said and how I said it. So, I became a ZEN master of sorts. I stayed in the moment. I was careful not to lose my head in anger or frustration. That way, I could be sure, at least for myself, that I had not been out of control. Not that this made any difference.

A big part of emotional/psychological abuse is something called “keeping the victim off balance.” The abuser is always changing his demands, his rules, his desires. You will know you are being abused in this way when you are trying with all your might to make your partner happy, nothing you do is good enough and “everything is your fault.” You will know you are being abused when you are in constant defense of your character. You will know you are being abused when you ask yourself, “If he hates everything about me, then why does he stay?”

Reality Show

When I was with the Bad Man, I started to wish that everything that was happening between us was being recorded. That way, I could go back to the tapes when he started rewriting history to suit himself. I often asked myself, “How could he possibly say that is what happened?” If this sounds familiar, it’s a sure sign that you were deep in the throes of “Crazy Making.” As you start to doubt yourself, you begin to feel as if you are losing your mind. An Abuser’s version of what happened will be fixed like super glue with no room to budge an inch. Not one. This nearly drove me mad! The Bad Man was always imagining himself as the victim of me! And no amount of talking could convince him that he had any part in breakdown-of-the-day. ARGH!

I believe that anytime you notice these kinds of dynamics with anyone, a boss, your mother, a lover, it means something is wrong with them, not you. This is just my unscientific opinion. We all have room to grow but when suddenly, everything in the world is wrong with you, well, that doesn’t seem fair does it? Also, it’s fairly unlikely assuming you are a full grown adult with a life that was functioning before this person came into your life.

No Coping Strategies Will Work

Fairly early on in the relationship, I began to try to modify my behavior in order to please the Bad Man. I became very measured in my words and watched my tone of voice. I focused all my attention on being a pleasing machine. I tried to meet his outrageous demands and… (if you are easily offended, please don’t read the next phrase) had sex like a circus monkey. Even that didn’t work. Nothing worked! Nothing stopped him from getting mad at me. Nothing stopped him from living in his warped reality where I was evil and he was the victim of me and my “horrid” ways. It was so tiring.

I left the Bad Man and his chaos in search of my own peace and an answer. I found the answers I needed here at LoveFraud. Really. I am not trying to get points here. I needed this explanation and thank God I found it. I still don’t know all of the Bad Man’s secrets but I know the biggest one. Bad Man definitely has a personality disorder, or two. Since I am not a clinician, I am unsure if he qualifies as a sociopath. I am SURE he qualifies as a borderline and a narcissist. Not too long ago, I believed that but still felt a little uncomfortable stating it because I wondered if saying he was an abuser made me the “drama queen” that he said I was. Now I know that calling me “drama queen” was a way to discredit me to others and to make me doubt myself and my own perceptions. That’s just one of the things I know today. I also know something else. “Drama” and chaos seem to follow the Bad Man wherever he goes. To this day, anytime I hear a man say he is looking for a woman with “no drama” it makes me wonder… about the man.

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Yep.. sounds very familiar Aloha…. in fact, this tactic of placing me off balance was the first hurt, and then it snowballed from there. Claims that I said cerian things or acted in a certain manner, or even that I had certian “hidden” agendas in store for her that she “knew all along of”….

I would constantly re-evaluate what was said, or done to see her point, but after a while, it all became dizzying….then of course there would be the “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of love that would again, keep me off balance….

This whole scam is in fact, is a smoke screen, designed to make us question ourselves, our motives, while they sit back in amusement….projection that really borders on and is gaslighting….

Many times she claimed I said something when I didn’t and it would just drive me crazy, because even though I knew I didn’t say the things she claimed, I would start to believe that maybe I did…Then of course when she would say or accuse something outlandish, and later when I would re-count it to her, she had no idea what I was talking about and I would be dismissed.

There was no solid ground of reality, other then the reality that was being made up by her… and yes, the rules of the relationship changed everyday… I could never keep up with it, and at one point, I just gave up trying to… it was like I was just along for the ride on a a amusemnet park ride that had gone horribly wrong and Iwas at the mercy of the operator which was …her.

By the time the ride was over, I was a wreck emotionally and physically with my head spinning……..As I look back at all of that, I really can’t believe just how senseless it all was….. A lot of this crazy making and the projection, the gaslighting, and malnipulation is hard for other to “get” and understand… most understand rejection, but when you try to tell someone who has no clue about sociopathy about the insanity of it all, they look at you with a blank stare….

Good post Aloha…. miss you over at the “space”



Aloha-dodge ball…good analogy.
southernman429…looked at your space a few months ago from a link you provided…I don’t “have an account” to see all details, no profile for me, but enjoyed your “space.”

So, I sit here this morning, drinking my coffee…no chaos, no “incoming”…aah, peace at last.

Oh, Myspace…I’ve looked at it…funny stuff.

Extrapolating from what little I’ve seen….woman’s site: “I’m looking for that one man to prove to me that all men aren’t the same”…two boxes later ….”I’m a b*tch and proud of it!”.
There are millions of women looking for that “one guy”!

Well, if I was him, and I’m not, I’d sure be hiding!

Hey Jim..

Yep.. seen those too… my “space” is a ministry, so I’m not there to pick anyone up for a date, but those women you spaak of are snakes in tall grass, and perhaps in grass that isn’t so tall…ha.

southerman429….sorry, I just can’t help it…”Well I threw that cheater out and I’m a single mom and my kids are my life and I’m looking for a man/Harley and see my profile pic of me sprawled out on my bed showing a little too much and I just want to travel and go out and have fun….”

So, how do you get to Paris to take her and three kids to the zoo on a Harley? Two sidecars and a trailer?

Looks like chaos to me….

Boy does that sound familiar. When I finally left the ministry with the S, I was totally worn out from the exhausting chaos he generated. In every instance he was so sure it was me, the patrons, the neighborhood, the congregation, his family, his friends, the police, the gangs, the addicts and dealers, yadda, yadda, ya!

Constant tantrums, complaints, pettifoggery, nasty gossip, rule shifting, goal shifting, busywork generating, blame shifting, conflict generating, excitement seeking, CHAOS.

I was so exhausted. I felt shell shocked most of the time. I realized I’d say anything to shut him up and get him out of the room for a few minutes, or even a blessed hour.

He had a long history of violent conflict, occasional incarceration and domestic disturbances. I’m confident
that after I left the ministry he started his crazy-making with another woman in the ministry. The two of them had been having an affair in the last few months I was there. Since all his affairs ended with devalue discard, I knew she was in for a rough road. Since she’d totally bought into his version of reality while I was there, I knew there could be no warning her. Sweet girl, but arrogant. She’d have to take her licks.

Any way –

1. He generated constant chaos. I couldn’t live with it.
2. He always had. He always would. I could not alter that.


Life WAS like a recorded reality show with the S. Unfortunately, the PTSD we experience is like flashbacks and re-runs going through our heads even to this day. Your point is PERFECT and I never really thought about how much “off balance” things were. My question is: DO THEY DO THIS DELIBERATELY WITH PREMEDITATION OR IS IT JUST PART OF THE DISORDER THAT MAKES THE BEHAVIOR THIS WAY?

In fact, I recalled this morning how he would scold me about how inappropriate my behavior was because I met a friend, (who happened to be a man) for coffee one day. How inappropriate it was for me to speak to a family friend (who also happened to be a man, who lives 350 mls away who I had known for over 10 years) How inappropriate it is to dance with men when you are married or in a relationship, because men only dance with women for one reason. (And by the way he asked his daughters and they agreed with him so why would I not agree?) How he walked off of a dance floor as we were dancing, accusing me of watching all the other men in the club. How his phone would ring and it was a restricted call….. suddenly his life was in danger because the gov’t was after him. How it was inappropriate for me to have phone numbers of business contacts in my TREO, regardless of the fact that they were business contacts, clients, and vendors. BUT it WAS appropriate for him to crawl into bed with an x stripper biker chick, who was 18 yrs younger, 2 days after he d&d’s me again. I suspect he was doing this all along and had throughout his marriage.

ANd on and on and on…………

The first sign of his BAD behavior was five months into the relationship when he d&d’s me for the first time (for an entire weekend), came back, begged forgiveness, then came to pick me up and totally ignored me, wouldn’t come to the door, wwouldn’t open my door and wouldn’t look at me or speak to me. THAT was the first sign of so much more to come. WHY did I not let go then? I would never stand for that drama or bad treatmet or ABUSE today. Because it IS abuse.

Keeping Faith,


I think it’s a combination of the two. I think they are aware of much of their own bad behavior, but it is part of the disorder and they neither want nor know how to change.

Crazy as it sounds, I don’t think an S/N can see what the pattern of their behavior costs them. They seem to be very much “in the moment”, or close to it.

I’ve seen an odd look of triumph cross the S’s face when he thinks he’s successfully gaslighted me. (I rarely yelled “Liar, liar, pants on fire. I knew we were in conflict, so him not knowing I knew he was lying was in my best interests.) He didn’t know I knew the facial expression or his gaslighting tactics, which were actually somewhat thin. The dumber he believed I was, the more careless he became. It was somewhat helpful to me for him to be overconfident.

Any way, he really got off on each little triumph, but I have no reason to believe he planned out the entire drama from beginning to end.

I don’t think your garden variety S/N is capable of forming a long term strategy. I think that requires a relatively intelligent P.

Many Ns and Ss are simply really screwed up and totally caught up in the moment. They’re pathetic, and not as deliberate as an intelligent P or malignant narcissist.

It’s disgusting….. and then he would go and seek support from his totally dysfunctional adult daughter who simply kissed his ass because 1. she depends on him financially, 2. (I believe) this dysfunctional life and behavior has left her embarrassed and afraid of the truth. 3. she too is emotionally damaged and can’t see the forest for the trees 4. no boundaries had ever been set in terms of his kids and she thinks she has the right to advise him on all aspects of his personal life…….

He tried to call a friend of mine once, after he stood me up and left me at home and went on a trip we planned together (taking his daughter). he called her to tell her to get me help because I am insane and she told him not to ever call her again to talk badly about me. THANK GOD FOR SUPPORTIVE FRIENDS.

It was out of control…..the drama of it all. ANd it got bigger and bigger and worse each time.

Chaos…random….no logic


Answer: YES

One of my favorite funny recurring situations with my 13-year old…when she isn’t really listening to me:

Me: Should we do this or do that?
Her: yeah
Me: No, you don’t understand…that was an “either/or” question. You have to make a choice…you can’t answer “yes”

Only in the chaotic realm of “them” can you pose an either/or question and discover YES is the answer that’s logical…..

Elizabeth Conley…pettifoggery?…I had to look it up. Thanks…now I have a new name for my x-tox’s divorce shyster. LOL (I’ll tell the story sometime…local justice…)

The look of triumph when the S thought he’d gotten over was more like smug satisfaction. Amusingly enough, he always ended the conversation at that point. In a way, that was a dead giveaway too. He was so selfish that all conversations with others served his goals. He’d ask a few questions to gage whether I’d bought into his latest smokescreen. If I answered to his satisfaction, he had what he wanted. He’d flush with pleasure and smile. No need to continue the conversation, at least not from his point of view.

It was handy to know this pattern. I share it because someone else may see the pattern and be able to use it as a “lie detector”. It was pretty reliable in his case.


13 year old daughters: so much fun!

When mine is preoccupied and not really listening I give outrageous options in a bid to get her to agree to something ridiculous.

“Would you like a slug sundae on the side dear?” “How’s that 10W30 working on your split ends?”…

That sorta thing makes her pay attention to what I say next!

Jim, Elizabeth, I know there is no easy way to get past all of this. I am fairly rational and I am SO stable that I realize now how stable and independent i have always been because of this horrible experience. BUT, this is over a year later and today I feel like it was yesterday. WHY? I feel better sometimes then 100 times worse other days.

I had a dream that I went to his house (which we built together) by driving my Hummer into his living room feeling the anxiety of what if he is home and he sees I am here……. He walked calmly downstairs with that look of disgust and looking right through me like I wasn’t even there. I was pleading with him to show me how to get the HUMMER out, for soem reaosn I couldn’t go out the way I came in, there were steps and I couldn’t fit through the fornt or back door. In the meantime he was having a big ole redneck party in his backyard with all his new biker friends and x cons….. I felt so alone and left out. Still the HUMMER was in the house.

WHat does this mean?

Keeping Faith,

I think that what you went through was really, really bad.

I read somewhere that people who lose their spouse should expect to need 1 year of recovery for every 5 years they were together. This is regardless of the circumstances.

Your experience sounds 10 times more stressful than just losing a spouse. Are you getting any professional help? I think it would be completely justifiable and rational for you to do just that.

You might need the temporary help of an anti-depressant to help you stop thinking about this guy. Sometimes when we are suffering post traumatic stress disorder, emotions remind us of bad memories which intensify the emotions, and we’re caught in a “feedback loop” we can’t break on our own.

Is this what is happening? Does feeling sad make you think of the S, making you sadder still? Does feeling angry make you think of the S, making you angrier still? Does feeling helpless… You get the point! This can be a hard cycle to break on your own. Medication can help, and you don’t have to take the anti-depressants forever, just for 3-9 months.

Anyway, I’m not a mental health professional. It’s a good idea to consult with one when you’re suffering for as long as you have. You could be establishing thought/feeling/behavior patterns/habits that are not good for you. The longer they are with you, they harder they’ll be to break.

keeping_faith…well, three years later (I mentioned on another thread) I had a nightmare that my demon ex-tox was in my bed with a third arm and clawed hand reaching out for me…woke up in a cold sweat…

At 12-18 months after the seperation/discard…and I couldn’t do full NC because of my daughter…I was still running tapes in my head, and having dreams/nightmares.

The “light bulb” didn’t go on for me for about 18 months.

Now I can look back and laugh, most of the time. Or, I guess the way to look at it….what “rational” dreams could surface from a time that was so irrational.

At least you could wake up and realize you are no longer there…that’s a good thing.

Maybe somebody smarter than me could have a better explanation. I’m not really certified…but glad you’re here, lots of good people…and you’ll probably hear from Elizabeth first…I think she thinks and types faster than me.

Hi keeping_faith,

I have posted earlier asking others if they had dreams about the s because I have them frequently and they are pretty vivid and full of bad feelings. It was interesting to see that you have a dream where you go to his house and it’s all weird.

I have had dreams too where I go to his house and he is all sad because his current wife has left him. Then he starts professing his love and that I am the only one for him, blah, blah, like he used to drone when we were together in real life. Then I believe him (in the dream) and feel kinda happy, yet there is small suspicion that something is not right. Then he tells me to go down this plank type of thing and he pushes me off the plank and I realize that he pushed me to my death. I see his face as I am falling and he has this vacant look on his face.

Another variation on the dream: he is telling me all these flatteries and words of love. Then this warning goes off in my head and a very loud inner voice tells me “look at his eyes carefully when he says I love you”. So I zoom into his eyes as he says I love you and want to be with you forever and this sheer terror comes over me; his eyes are dead, there is a Hannibal Lecter expression in them. It’s like suspended animation. Then I wake up crying.

I have real hard time keeping things resl and grounded in my head. Sometimes I feel like living with the s for 7 years was a major hallucination or delusion. Sometimes I question if he really was a s, or am I making him out to be a monster. Then my logical self tells me it was all real and he is who he is; something not quite human. There are very few people who really know what he really is. On the outside he is successful tenured professor, he is married and he is buying a house. I have no hard proof that he is a monster. He has never lost control, beat me or anything like that while we were together. He always remained calm and composed. Unlike many sociopaths he never borrowed money or lived off of me or stole from me (except tried to steal my sanity). He was always super decent and helpful, loyal and loving from the outside. There was just this incredible reptilian sinisterness and self serving drive within him that could never be seen to anyone that did not live with him.

Elizabeth, Jim,

I have been seeing a therapist for over a year. he has confirmed PTSD. Each time I see him I ask him if I’m crazy and he just laughs. He said “it’s what the sociopath wants you to believe. he’s a pathalogical liar who did a mojor mind fuc* on you. This is not abnormal and your healing and time to heal will be consistent with the depth with which you allowed him in your head and heart.” So That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. LOL

I was using Lexapro, upped the dosage and still it didn’t help. So I stopped. It’s the whole facade that angers me. The apearance of someone normal and healthy. The appearance of a normal relationship but that can’t be possible right? How did his x wife put up with it for 26 years? I HAD to speak to the woman he had the affair with because I NEEDED to confirm that it wasn’t just me….. and I did confirm that. SO WHY DO I STILL FEEL some responsibility or blame or like I did something wrong????

I re-read about my own dream and started laughing. it’s almost rediculously clear….. Here I am stuck in this house (this relationship) with no where to go, begging him to set me free and he is totally disregarding me as all his trashy friends enjoy the house I put together. And I stood there worrying about him calliing the police after all the things he did, and lies he told…… could be investigated by the FBI for impersonating an agent and SEAL.

I was only with him for about two years. Previously I was married for 22 years. It is almost taking me as long to heal as i was with this idiot. He has wasted enough of my time…..maybe that’s where I should post my anger and let all his other crap go. How do i do that?

Dreams and their meanings –

Dreams can be the way aspects of our personality we’re not entirely aware of work things out.

When I have a dream that repeats itself, I think about it until I understand what it means.

Sometimes it’s obvious what it means, but the dream is about a fear I haven’t totally overcome yet. The dream doesn’t stop just because I understand it. I have to find a way to make the frightened aspects of myself feel more secure.

You probably know of Moms who spray “monster spray” under the bed before lights out to make their kid feel safe. I’m sure you know folks who still cling to their teddy bear. There are things I have to tell my inner child or do for her in order to make her feel safe. Since she usually gets over it in a while, it’s not like these things equate to lifelong compulsions. If I need a night-light, sleep with my husband’s sweaty shirt under the pillow during a deployment, give the dog foot of the bed privileges or read fluffy novels before bed for a few months – so what! It works for me. Maybe something like this will work for you.

greenfern, We have many similarities. he too puts up this facade of super helper and resuing people etc….. no one sees it is to his gain or advantage because he OWNS people.

THe dreams too are similar. Most of the time they start out very loving and I am so happy and we are either setting up house or making love and it’s all wonderful. Then he will accuse me of something I didn’t do and will rage or disregard me and I am starting to feel anxious and trying to make him understand…… then it all goes down hill from there.

He is not human. I think he has been abusive his whole life. I want to believe he is doing the same to his current trahsy girlfriend and his wife also tolerated his bad cheating abusive beahvior because she too needed him financially. he owns people….. BUT he had a steroid induced heart attack this past year. He lost his job in the fall. All that he owns was given to him or he won in a lawsuit……. if Liane Leedom is right, he can’t possibly be successful or hold onto this house for much longer. He will continue to behave badly and will inevitably fail. All I have to count on is fate.

Hey Elizabeth, Can you send a can of anti-antisocial spray over to VA for me? Thanks, I needed that laugh. Maybe I need to visualize spraying him with something similar to a can of lyson everytime I think of him or have a flashback…..SERIOUSLY. Can of lysol, can of anti-antisocial spray, can of woop ass !!!!!!


OK girlfriend, don’t throttle me! I’m about to say something totally annoying but hopefully helpful.

Are you a bit hard on yourself? Do you expect a lot of yourself, maybe more than you expect from others?

This is just a guess, and it could be off base.

It sounds like the Therapist is a good egg, so keep him.

There’s an aspect of yourself that is really giving you fits over this. My guess is that it’s a virtue of yours, not a vice. Something like a conscience, high personal standards, or something of the like.

You’ve got really hard work to do. I hate to take anything away from your therapist, but it may be that you’re going to have to come to terms with yourself – by yourself.

OK, I said it. I bet that sounded like an unsympathetic “Sux 2 B U!” Actually, I really do sympathize. I just think you’re going to work this out by yourself soon.

Keeping Faith,

If your solution is as simple/silly as spraying lysol under the bed and in the closet while telling your inner child “S’s hate this stuff Kiddo. Now, sleep tight!” then do it.

Don’t be ashamed. Don’t deride yourself for needing this crutch. Just give yourself what you need.

OH, and Keeping Faith –

I live in VA!

LOL Elizabeth read the other thread….we are on the same page just typing over each other. THANK YOU THANK YOU for at least helping me put htis in perspective in a positive way to get me through the day UGH !!!

I think you may be right. My therapist has done all he can. I think I need to come to terms with myself. I don’t want to deny or lose the good qualities. i just want to get my HUMMER out of his house making sure i left some really good tire tracks there that he may never be able to get rid of. Somehow I do think that is the case but he is just a pig and doesnt’ care too much about it. Neither does the trailer trash he is with. He will do to her what he did to his wife, his affair, to me, and probably many, many others.

PS 2 Jim,

My brain isn’t all that quick. My mouth and my fingers often run ahead to our communal ruin!

OMG….. Richmond area!! BTW I met an guy the other night who was trying to convince me that he too, was a Navy SEAL. I got his name and called on the contact who helped me investigate the XS and YES he was lying too. BEWARE they are bussing them in here !

OK Campers!

Time for me to torment, oops I meant teach my homeschooled darlings. They’re way too content at the moment!


One more thing…

Elizabeth Conley used the term: “odd look of triumph”.

Such an accurate description of the look the s had after cutting people down. He would take people’s most weak points or personal info he had on them and then he would throw it their face just to humiliate them.
It’s that look that komodo dragons have after swallowing the prey in whole.
Maybe this satiated look can be seen on non-s’s faces after good sex, but not quite. The s never had any emotions on his face after sex.

Something totally off topic…has anyone seen this show on the biogrphy chanel called “I survived”? There was an interesting case of a woman who became involved in a realtionship with a s. When she found out that he has stolen money from her, he shot her in the head 4 times. But she survived and pretended to be dead for 7 hours, laying on the floor. He kept checking on her and played videogames for hours right over her laying nearby for hours. He left the room for a bit after a while and she crawled to the phone to call 911. After 3 hours of hostage negotiations she got out and he gave himself up. I thought her description of events was very powerful and resonated with me for some reason. I have the feeling that this could have happened to me if I stayed with the s. I think for me the worse part was that he played video games for hours right next to her.

Aloha Traveler:

Excellent post. The dodge ball metaphor is dead on — and an accurate one in my case — physically and emotionally.

I couldn’t play dodge ball to save my life. My vision was extremely bad — undiagnosed until well into grade school. So, life on the dodgeball court on the playground was vicious. I couldn’t see the ball coming and so I got bombarded physically.

Problem was, I got bombarded emotionally, too. I grew up with a malignant N mother and what I now believe to be a S father.

Life was a daily bombardment of contradictory statements between them and from them. They would say anything in the moment to get me to comply. Rules were made on the fly. The goalposts were mobile. Promises were freely made and broken. When I would bring up those promises, the reality warp would begin.

Boundaries were fluid. There were no emotional boundaries and no physical boundaries. A closed door was verboten. A locked door would ensure a beating or worse.

By the age of 7 or 8 I pretty much gave up fighting back. I knew I was in a fight for my life, but survival basically meant I wasn’t killed by these two lunatics. Most kids have forts, or clubhouses.

I had foxholes — places I could run for cover when it got really bad, and hopefully they couldn’t find me. That didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a beating, but hopefully they would have had a chance to work over somebody else by the time they got their hands on me.

By the time S came into my life, I was on the cusp of 50. I had gotten that far, I now see, with some pretty poor self-defense skills.

The night I met S he hit me with the love bomb version of dodge ball. Because I had had so little love and affection in my life, every love ball he threw at me found its ready and willing target.

And then he changed the game.

Emotional abuse dodgeball was the new game. And he ran the drill exactly as you described. Of course, that AHA moment finally came when I thought “If you are always the victim and I am always the perpetrator, then why do you stick around?” And I looked around me and the carnage he had caused in my life and realized I had to get him out.

I now see so clearly how the trauma/betrayal bonds were set in place by my parents. And I now see so clearly how every area of my life has been affected by them — working for sociopathic bosses, getting involved with sociopaths.

I mourn the fact that I’ve wasted 50 years of my life turning myself inside out, trying to please the unpleasable, sacrificing myself endlessly.

On the other hand, I’m grateful that I finally woke up and can try to turn the ship of my life onto a new, healthier, more satisfying course.

Elizabeth Conley and keeping-faith:


“I think it’s a combination of the two. I think they are aware of much of their own bad behavior, but it is part of the disorder and they neither want nor know how to change.

Crazy as it sounds, I don’t think an S/N can see what the pattern of their behavior costs them. They seem to be very much “in the moment”, or close to it.’

I agree.

On some level S knew what has behavior had cost him. But, that didn’t stop him from doing the same things over and over and over again. I tried to get him into counselling. But, he had no interest in changing a single thing about himself or working on our so-called relationship.

If S had the ability to think 3 steps ahead, he would have seen that counselling would have made me a bit happier and would keep me in the fold. He would have realized I meant it when I told him that Greece was our last chance for us to get back on track. And he definitely would have known that if he treated me a bit better I would have married him and prenup notwithstanding, he would have had a very sweet life. All he had to do was try to play ball with me and he could have had whatever he wanted (hmmm, good analogy now that I think of the dodge ball theme).

No, S had all the foresight of a crack addict. It was always about the here and now.

He always said he wanted the life I could offer him — doorman building in a pre-war co-op apartment with a woodburning fireplace, travel, vacation home etc.

In the end he was solely focused on his habit and his need to bleed me for a lousy 10 grand to get him back into his apartment.

Needless to say, he didn’t get it. In any sense of the word.

Keeping faith – When I was going through EXACTLY what youre going through one of the things that helped me stopped obsessing over him was getting up one day and imagining I had him back in my life. Yep, that day (in my imagination) we were going to meet for breakfast… make all nice…catch up together…hit the park for a long walk…take a drive… go back home maybe have sex…relax… listen to music….maybe grab dinner…

I imagined him coming over to pick me up and ringing my doorbell — in reality, if it were reality, AT THAT MOMENT I knew I wouldnt want to open the door. I didnt want to be the one on his arm. I didnt want to sit at breakfast and pay for his meal cuz he lost yet another job…or walk in the park with someone whose phone was blowing up with other women calling/texting. Or take a drive with him and listen to his pathological stories of his inflated self-ego. I didnt want to have sex with someone who has NO CLUE about intimacy or monogamy (and lies about it). By the end of the day, I realized I was obsessing over a LUSER. And if I didnt stop and start to change my thoughts, I could possibly find myself missing out on so many wonderful opportunities with family, friends and new opportunities.

I want whoever is with him to have him, keep him, deal with him, put up with him. I started doing things to “distract my train of thought” – it was up to me to get myself away from obsessing over someone I DIDNT EVEN WANT TO BE WITH. I started small…moving from laying in my bed …to sitting up…to reorganizing my closet (while sitting on my bed lol – going through clothes, sorting, organizing,.. then eventually, I got out of my room all day! Organized the kitchen…joined meetup.com for my favorite hobby…started pilates twice a week…ordered a cheesesteak and cheesefries one day – JUST BECAUSE i WANTED TO! – started doing things I WANTED TO DO AGAIN….and the obssessive thoughts were happening less and less. I HAD TO MAKE THE COMMITMENT TO MYSELF TO WORK ON IT, HELP MYSELF, AND FIND WHAT WORKED FOR ME. Keeping faith, did I have setbacks? YEP! YOU BET!!! Had to duct tape the car radio…. Had to go to ladies room in a restaurant because I couldnt hold it in anymore that particular day/that moment. But then I remembered the door bell ringing moment and how much I didnt want to be his partner, or in his arms, or by his side. He would lie, cheat and steal all over again. I stopped letting him robbing me blind any more (hadnt seen him in months but I was still letting him steal my moments, my time, my energy, my dream space)…. And every now and then he still does… but its just different….when you are ready… only when you are ready… you will get there on your own. Everyone has their own timeframe and its different. What you are going through is normal how long you go through it or want to go through it is up to you. We all are here for you…and cant wait to hear what you finally chose to do or realized you had to do in order to move on to the next phase of healing… hang in there!


Trying to get htem help through counseling I suspect would no thelp them. if truly and S/P, they can’t/won’t/ don’t desire to admit any dysfunction. The S went to a counseling session with me twice. First time he said he would only go again if I switched counselors becaue she told him he was placating his daughter. Which pissed him off and was conisstent with what his x wife and sister said.

Second time he admitted lying to me from day one. Spent most of the time telling all the horrible things about me in a passive way, like he was concerned for me…..then left the session talking about how awful the counselor was….. more of the same. Arrogant.

yet there were times when I would get glimpses of him trying to figure out…..”why do I feel like i just want to punch some strager in the head? Why does my daughter say that she just can’t include people in her life? Why do I want to just run away or get so angry when people don’t agree with everything I say?”

OMG, the s I lived with adores dodgeball! Ha!

“He would have realized I meant it when I told him…”

That was one of the most fascinating things about the S. He just couldn’t process straight talk. He never really understood that I meant what I said. He could never really grasp that everything I told him was the unqualified truth.

“You don’t really mean that.” and “I don’t believe you.” were the two major constants in his communications to me. What he accused me of was actually true of him, not me. Nonetheless, because he projected his own failings onto me, he couldn’t see the obvious. If he’d realized I was telling him the truth and meant what I said, his life would be easier and pleasanter right now.

The idea of someone meaning what they say and consistently telling the truth was inconceivable to him. No amount of demonstration could alter his belief that other people were just like him.

LTL, I am crying reading you post. Trying what you proposed and the can of anti-antisocial that Elizabeth gave me may help !!!!

I do admit that there was a time that I prayed for him to come banging on my door to be all he said he was. To not leave me again. To show me that he made a mistake and I hate even admitting that.

I will tell you that maybe imagining it all now will help but I do fee the way you do. if he came to my door today, regardless of the reason, I would look at him through the little side window so he knew I saw him and I would turn and walk away. WHen I saw him with her on friday. My heart was racing. Not because I wanted him but because his ignorance and hurt are still haunting me (I think). Because i feel like he was there on purpose. He wants me to be hurt. And I want him prosecuted.

I used to get the “what do you want from me?” or “you don’t know what the f__k you want” every time I tried explaining what I felt frustrated about.

That really sent my head for a spin. It turned the table on me. He made me out to be the confused and lost one. I tried talking to him but he deflected and projected onto me. It is not possible to have a human interaction this way.
Maybe I was not as ulterior motive oriented as him. I did not have a soul sucking agenda like him.

I agree with keeping_faith about therapy being not very helpful with a s. I have long discussions with my therapists about sociopaths. She has told me that she refers clients with sociopathic tendencies to other therapists because she refuses to work with them.

She said that s will always try to outsmart and get into the head of the therapist; that is if they even stick with therapy long enough. There is no rehabilitation with them. They do not feel like there is anything to be changed about them, so they do not see the point of therapy at all.

PS. 2

Keeping the Faith,

You can try going a bit crazy yourself. If you think a bit of revenge would help, try it.

1. Write something rude in fertilizer on his front lawn. Then wait for the spring rain. By May he’ll be going ape trying to erase the message and figure out WTF happened. With any luck he’ll get nailed with some sort of profanity charge.

2. Put his phone number and some lewd remarks on the bathroom stalls of the men’s room at the bus station.

3. Crawl under his car and place an opened sardine can on a secure, warm spot on the engine block.

4. Put cat food out in his backyard. Just sling it. A dish only tips him off.

5. Put a small amount of honey in the very back of his mail box in early spring.

6. Sign him up for EVERYTHING. Suggest his name and number to every sales caller and charity you can think of.

7. I know someone who fed an enemy’s dog ex lax. I can’t recommend this in all cases, but if the dog is a dachshund, go ahead. Everybody knows dachshunds are evil incarnate.

Revenge makes many people feel better. If you think it’ll help, go for it!

Dear KF and others with PTSD,

I got some therapy for my PTSD (which I got from my husband’s accidental death in a plane crash–I was there on the ground when it happened) called RAPID EYE MOVEMENT THERPAY—and guys, it HELPED A LOT.

I have had NOTHING ever help me as rapidly and as MUCH as this therapy did. It allowed me to still have the memory of what happened, but to NOT ASSOCIATE the horrible emotions and feelings with that memory.

I also noticed that even though my therapy focused on the airplane crash and the fire, it ALSO helped me with the PTSD associated with the P-attacks of my son, mother, etc. etc.

I’m not sure exactly HOW this works, but some how it DOES. I would highly recommend that if you have (or even think you have PTSD) that you check this out. It isn’t a magic cure, I still had to do the WORK of healing, but it let me get enough peace to START the other healing!

Rapid eye movement therapy, sounds interesting. I think I will check it out.

Also, question about revenge. I keep having sweet fantasies of revenge too. I kept supressing them endlessly. Actually my old therapist has discouraged any pre-occupation with revenge fantasies. My new therapist (the old one passed away recently) actually said that I might want to consider some of the revenge tactics mentioned above such as #2 and #6 or even sending a letter to the college, in the name of a made up person, that he preys on his students, which would actually not be a lie. I was one of his students and his current wife was a student. And all the others in between that I will not have proof for.

For a long time I have shied away from revenge, mostly because it made me face my own obsessions of thinking about him. Also, I always thought that he would trace the revenge right back to me. After all he used to go through people’s garbage to find out things about them, so he can put 2+2 together. Perhaps enough time has gone by that he would not suspect….he has other people that hate him.

Perhaps doing something along those aboved metioned items might make me feel better.

It might. Small, basically harmless, symbolic acts of revenge may alleviate feelings of helplessness.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about taking care of myself emotionally, it that emotions aren’t reasonable.

Sometimes irrational solutions work, which I guess makes them rational.

Ooh, my aching head!

Elizaveth…Living vicariously through some of these posts is the best medicine too! Thanks for the laughs

JUSTICE IS NOT REVENGE. Exposing a predator is not revenge.

The psychopaths will SEE IT AS REVENGE though. Chances are, they will want to “get revenge back” as well.

When my P-son was 17, I caught him with stolen goods and I CALLED THE COPS (I knew as a juvy he wouldn’t get into much trouble, and I hoped that a night in jail would wake him up) HE STILL HATES ME FOR THAT.

If I had caught YOUR son with the stolen goods, I would have turned him in, and I think just because it was MY SON that I still did not lose responsibility for turning in a THIEF and I also hoped that it would “wake him up.”

Instead of waking him up, he now blames me for every crime he has been incarcerated for since that one, including the murder he is currently incarcerated (that he committed 3 yrs later after I had turned him in) FOLKS, YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, IT IS ALL MY FAULT! If you don’t believe me, then ask my P-son!

Last year I had VALID reason to believe that he had ACCESS TO ANOTHER CELL PHONE (a felony no-no inside prison) and I called the prison to inform them. He got searched and they did not find one. BOY WAS HE MAD AT ME for “informing” on him.

Lately (last few months) I had access to a WRITTEN STATEMENT that showed he had at least LIMITED ACCESS to a cell phone (in his hand wriging) and I FORWARDED A COPY to the prison warden along with a letter explaining why.

With access to a phone, he has much better chance of arranging for my murder than he does without that access.

He was caught about 3-4 years ago with a cell phone. So this is not just some idle supposition on my part that there are cell phones in prison and he had one. When they let me take his craft shop materials out, as I was putting them away I found TWO MORE CELL PHONES hidden in a boot stand (he was a boot maker in prison).

My P son prides himself on “putting one over on the hacks (guards)” He lives for the thrill of getting away with stuff.

He once got busted with porno DVDs when he worked in the prison school teaching computer skills to other inmates. Now he has no computer access ever again, and so on. He has been “busted” for serious violations of rules at least 19 times in 20 years (that I know about). Of course he never told us the TRUTH of why he was “busted” except for the cell phone thing, which the prison told us about.

When he had his medical records copies sent to me, I also got copies of the physical examination they do everytime before an inmate is placed in “solitary” confinement (administrative segregation is the “technical term”) so I found that he had been sent to solitary 19 times and the “crimes” were written on each slip as well. For the cell phone he was also busted from “minimum” security to medium security. High security is in a solitary cell 23 hours a day. Medium security is with a “roomie” 20-23 hours a day. Minimum security means he can go to the craft shop and/or have a job and “earn good time.”

On a “life sentence” like he has, “good time” doesn’t mean much, however the large number of “serious” rules infractions will make it more difficult for him to get a parole. I will be at his parole hearing with my attorney in January 2011 REQUESTING THAT HE NEVER BE LET OUT—-I hope the parole board will listen to me, otherwise, I am “outta here” for “parts unknown.”

I hear you oxdrover too. I sway between the sweet fantasy of the harmless revenge and the fear inside me that says don’t do it because he will know who did it.

Like I said, he thinks and pre-plans everything meticulously. He himself have devised many revenge schemes on co-workers and people that he could not dominate and control. So he is pretty excellent at the revenge game. He would probably know.

Although I was relieved to see that I am not the only one that thinks that the s needs to be fed his own poison. It’s maybe somewhere along the lines to what Learnthelesson said about living through these fantasies vicariously. Thanks for all of you being open about this discussion.

Thank you Aloha for the post as I too can relate so well.

I am one of the lurkers who has been reading LoveFraud since before the Donna started the blog. I can relate to many of the stories. It has helped reading about others who “get it”. Certain nuggets of advice have also been helpful.

I am still struggling for closure and thought I’d try participating more actively to see if that might be helpful.

I’ve had two traumatic experiences with individuals who fit multiple elements of the cluster B personality disorders. The first was my ex-“husband.” I am not comfortable going into too much detail for legal and safety reasons. However, suffice it to say that I began reading LoveFraud with regularity because there was so much similarity between Donna’s description of her ex and mine.

My second is the “wife”of a close friend and colleague who, with the help of her psychopathic mother, very intentionally and systematically destroyed him until he committed suicide just over a year ago.

I took the advice offered by one of the blog partcipants and attended a grief support group earlier this week, which did not work out well. I think it is better to avoid any mention of cluster b behavior with those who have not experienced it unless there is adequate time and motivation on the part of the listeners to understand the phenomenon. Otherwise, to attempt to find some relief by doing so with the (lucky-for-them) uninitiated is at best an exercise in extreme frustration.

That said, I am very interested in educating the public and the first responders (mental health, medical and law enforcement professionals) about cluster B personality disorders and hope to bounce some ideas off the group in addition to working through some of the trauma of the last few years.

Thank you again, Donna, for creating LF, and thank you blog participants for sharing your experiences and insights.

Elizabeth Conley:

No need to go the the trouble of crawling under an S’s car to deposit a sardine.

Just drop a shrimp in their hubcap. The smell is wretched, they can’t figure out where it’s coming from, and you don’t need to get your clothes dirty crawlng under a car.

No fuss, no muss.

Another helpful hint from Matt’s House of Revenge.

And now a word from our sponsors…

Charming, Matt. Simply Charming!

OXY, I thought of you this past weekend in the movie theater. I went to see Madea goes to jail. I love that character. She went on for a while in one scene, while in jail, about forgiveness being about us not them. It reminded me of the exchange weeks ago about anger and forgiveness. Just thought I would share that. Somehow I don’t picture you looking like Madea or going to jail yourself but I do like her demeanor and attitude about kicking ass and taking names. ANd in one of her movies I liked the part where she wielded that BIG SKILLET!!

Dear everyone–
do you mind reaching out, if only a sentence or two.
I cannot tell you how exacto– right on the above article is!
I am traveling and have been in a state of high anxiety over the trauma of ex S– that happened four months ago!
I am in a southern state– which reminds me of where I was with him-it is like being at the scene of the crime. And I keep hearing him saying in my head how it wsa “my fault” I “crossed the line”– all of the above.
My friends and fam and tired of hearing about it. Move on! Be glad you are out of it Meg!
How you guys– HOW DO WE RELEASE THE ABOve? Everything in this article is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TO ME! How do we let go of so much gunk and evil and things that you wished were video recoreded so others could see that you are not the crazy one–.
Myt God he rewrote history– even his damned psychologist believed him!
Will I never get over this? Ever?
I wish I could call and tell the man I loved how much I loved and miss him– oh yeah–he was not real. How sick is this?

akitameg, I am not in a good state today….bad dreams, flashbacks…..but I almost feel like we need to lose our sense of empathy for them and for us and for the situation and get REALLY righteous and arrogant about what they have done. Simply in order to turn the attention to ourselves NOT as victims but as healing people who aren’t goona take shit. I am serious. I am not arrogant. Nothing is ever beneath me but now HE IS BENEATH ME and I’m so tired of feeling this way. it is exhausting me. I want my life back. I want my energy back. I am taking it back. I am a little angry with myself for feeling like this today. ENOUGH already. THey aren’t real. THis is what a nightmare and a haunting is TRULY.

Lol, Matt, that’s a good one, you can do that quick and be on your way with none the wiser.

Elizabeth & keeping_faith – I live in VA too! About 50 or 60 miles north of Richmond.

Aloha – I really like your dodgeball analogy, it’s very fitting. I think it’s the easiest way to explain how we didn’t see things coming. When I’ve told people about the things I went through with the S, some of them have just looked at me funny or said, how could you have stayed that long? On the outside, the red flags are glaringly obvious, but when I was in the middle of everything being bombarded with balls I was so turned around, reacting so defensively, I couldn’t do anything else. Eventually I just curled up in the fetal position and took the hits.

Elizabeth – You mentioned the S projecting his own failings, that’s what my ex-S did to me all the time, especially when he was drunk. He actually admitted to doing it after I left him, but it was as he was crying, professing undying love, and trying to show he understood what he did wrong so I’d come back. The fact that he understood so well all of the terrible things he did didn’t make me have sympathy for him like he plotted, it frightened me.

Therapy was useless for my ex-S too, he was forced into it for a weekend while he was under observation after his suicide threat. The only reason he confessed to being an alcoholic was because he was trying to draw their attention away from his bigger problems. By the time he left, he had the counselors convinced he was ok, they just suggested he attend some AA meetings, which he agreed to do and never did.

Greenfern – I can understand why you’d be afraid to take even harmless revenge. However, have you ever thought about maybe writing some fictional tales of revenge. Not quite the same as obsessing over fantasies of yourself taking revenge on him, but a healthy outlet. I write crappy little melodramatic fiction stories in my head, and sometimes on paper, even though I don’t let anyone read them. The main character is a female who had almost been killed by a criminal and became a vigilante. It lets me vent my darker thoughts and feelings in a way that doesn’t disturb me too much.


You’re right — the only friends and family plan is the one offered by the phone company. Otherwise, there is no plan that friends and family want to hear about the sociopath. They just don’t get it. This is the place to vent. We all get it.

I broke up with S 4 months ago on Saturday.

I think the venting goes hand-in-hand with the anger. As the anger begins to lessen, I find the need to vent decreases. In my case at least,

I think now that I’ve wrapped up business with S, I’m finding I don’t want to put the energy into staying mad at him. It just wastes energy that I could put into moving my life forward.

Not to say I don’t have my bad days. But, it’s all part of the process. You’ve got to let yourself go through the process.

Will you get over this? Yeah, you will. But, for God’s sake, don’t call the bastard. Otherwise you’ll only feel worse.

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