The cracks of a family’s hidden dysfunction

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (Retired)

I often go to auctions and flea markets looking for “hidden treasures” to add to my collection of pottery and handmade baskets of split oak. One of the things I have learned to do is to look for subtle or hidden flaws in the things that I like to collect.

It isn’t uncommon to find pottery items that have been chipped or broken and then carefully mended. Sometimes the cracks are very subtle and difficult to detect. It isn’t unusual for me to see an item and get all “excited” about it, then upon closer inspection, find that there are some hidden cracks.

I got to thinking about the “hidden cracks” that are found in dysfunctional families as well. In my own, for example, we as a group tried to keep our “cracks” hidden from the community. As a teenager I frequently had something I wanted to do nixed by the adults with the phrase, “what would the neighbors think if they knew you did X, Y or Z?” It didn’t seem so much to be the actual act of doing something, but more about what the neighbors might think. Usually the thing I wanted to do that was denied was going to a school dance.

As I was growing up, I never thought of my own family as “abusive” or “dysfunctional,” though I did see other families with problems, such as alcoholism, infidelity or wife beating. My family would gossip about these people derisively, and I thought that our family was “better than” these other families because we didn’t engage in such antisocial behavior. (Little did I know!)

My uncle, the alcoholic wife beater

However, my mother’s brother (who I believe was a psychopath) was an alcoholic and a wife beater, but these facts were kept hidden from me and from the community at large until I was an adult. At that time, my uncle and his wife had (gasp!) gotten a divorce and he moved from out of state, where he and his wife had lived for many years, to our small farming community and built a house on part of my grandparents’ lands. (The part intended for him to inherit after my grandparents died.)

Of course, with him living in the community and being a “public drunk,” it was now no longer possible for my grandparents to hide either his alcoholism or his beating of his frequently changing girlfriends, who would run to the neighbors with black eyes, seeking immediate shelter. The cat was out of the bag and the community knew about my uncle’s antics. Even with this exposure in the community, my grandparents and my mother tried to keep up the façade, and seldom talked about what was going on with my uncle.

On the infrequent occasions when he would show up at our little local church and sit through a sermon, the hope was that he was finally getting sober. When he would go to rehab at the VA and spend a few days or weeks, the hope was again rekindled that this time he would change. Of course he never did.

My son, the murderer

When my son Patrick was arrested in Texas for murdering Jessica Witt in 1992, I, too, tried to keep up the facade of “being a nice normal family,” and kept the facts secret from all but my closest friends. If one of my extended family of cousins, or someone from the community, asked about my kids and where they were and what they were doing, I said that Patrick “lived in Texas and worked for the State of Texas.” This actually was “true,” as he was required by the Texas prison system to have a “job” inside prison. It wasn’t a “lie” I told myself, just not “the whole truth.”

Of course it was deception; it was hiding the crack in my “pottery” and trying to pass it off as “whole.” I felt shame that my son was a criminal. Somehow him being a criminal, a psychopath, reflected on me, and on my family. We weren’t really a “nice normal family,” but as long as I could keep the truth, the whole truth, from the community, then I didn’t have to feel the public shame of my son, my beloved son, being a common criminal, a monster. We could pretend to be a “nice normal family.”

Afraid to admit

When I first started writing articles here on LoveFraud, I posted them under my screen name of “Ox Drover,” because I still wasn’t ready to come out of the “closet” and admit publicly that my family was not “whole” and “normal.” Not ready to admit that I, as a mental health care professional, had failed so miserably in my own life.

As I healed, though, I came to realize that the shame is not mine, and should not be mine. I have done nothing “wrong.” I am not the one who killed Jessica, and I am not the one who should feel shame for Patrick having done so. Patrick is the one who should feel shame, though I know that he is actually proud of how violent his crime was.

I still don’t walk down the street with a sign of my back proclaiming “my son is a criminal,” but I no longer pretend that he isn’t, and if it is appropriate, I tell someone the whole truth, rather than cover it up.

Speaking in open court

Like many communities, especially small ones, the gossip flows hot and heavy. I have no doubt that people “talk about” the things that happened to our family back when the Trojan Horse psychopath, that my son sent to kill me, was arrested and caught having an affair with my other son’s wife. Both he and she went to jail/prison for trying to kill her husband and stealing money from my mother.

The day that I stood in front of the judge at the bail hearing for my daughter-in-law and the Trojan horse psychopath, and told in open court, in front of people I knew, what had happened, that they had been caught trying to kill my son, stolen money from my mother, and had taken “dirty pictures” in my mother’s home, I was so nervous I literally couldn’t see further than the ends of my eye lashes. My heart must have been beating 500 beats per minute as I stood there, baring for the entire community, the shame of our family falling apart.

It shouldn’t have been my shame, though. The people who did the bad acts should have owned it, but they didn’t. In fact, when the judge spoke to my daughter-in-law about her ties to the community (before he set bail), he asked her who she had in the community and she actually said, “Well, my husband’s family.” I almost choked that she would say such a thing after trying to kill her husband. The judge set her bail at $150,000. The district attorney said that without my “speech” to the judge, the bail would probably have been $2,500 or less.

The dysfunctional cracks in our family became totally public in that courtroom, and then again, a year later, when I had to testify at my son’s divorce hearing. I never did figure out why my daughter-in-law even showed up for the divorce hearing, along with the “support person” from the domestic violence shelter, where the court had released her when they let her out of jail, because she was homeless and had no other place to go. I found out later she had told the people at the shelter how she had been “abused” by her husband and his terrible family, especially me, the “mother-in-law from hell.” I never did understand why the support person with her from the shelter couldn’t figure out that my daughter-in-law was the one on probation, not her family.

Focusing on myself

Time has passed now, and I have started to focus on myself, my own enabling, my own cracks, and how I have patched them. The whole thing started out by focusing on “them” and how to cope with “them,” but now I am focusing on myself, focusing on the things I need to do to heal myself.

While a pottery vessel that is cracked can never be made “whole” again, it can still be functional and beautiful. I even sometimes now buy a piece of pottery I like, or a basket that has been mended, or one that needs mending, because I realize that being marred by chip or two doesn’t distract from either the beauty or usefulness of an item. Just as the “mended cracks” in my spirit and in my life I think don’t detract from either my own beauty or usefulness.

I also realize that the patina of wear and use in an antique item doesn’t make it less valuable than an identical item that is “new,” instead, they add to the value. We may not be a “nice, normal family” like my grandparents and my mother pretended we were, but there are some fantastic individuals in it, and those that are not “fantastic individuals” aren’t going to slime the rest of us with their shame. I’ll hold my head up both in my home and in my community, and if others gossip about us, that’s okay. If they are talking about me, they are leaving some other poor soul alone!

If you look closely you may see my Mended Cracks, but I’m no longer ashamed of them.

God bless.

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106 Comments on "The cracks of a family’s hidden dysfunction"

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Joyce, you know I type this all of the time, but I will continue typing it because it’s true: I read what I need to when I am meant to read it.

Cracked pottery….mended baskets….darned socks….any reference will do. But, you are absolutely spot-on that being human, coming from dysfunction, and speaking truthfully about our dysfunctional humanity is nothing to be afraid of. Yeah, I might experience some shame or guilt, but if I put it into perspective, speaking truthfully about my life and family actually helps me to make sense of my Self – who I am and how I got here.

Thank you, thank you for such a powerful article.

Brightest blessings

Beautiful article Joyce. As long as we keep secrets, the spaths win because it proves we are ashamed and that was always their intent: to shame us.

It’s amazing that the dv support person didn’t “get it”. But I guess it’s the same thing as when Paterno, and the three stooges (Curley, Spanier and Schultz), thought it would be compassionate to let Sandusky off the hook for child rape.

The spaths know how to make themselves seem like the victims, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. It’s truly a WTF? moment.

Joyce; thank you for this great article! “What would the neighbors think?”
How many times did I hear that one?! I carried that with me for so long. Most of the things I did or didn’t do had to be given that thought first “What would people think?”
It’s a great feeling to be free of that! Thank you so much for sharing!

I have read your comments for quite some time while remaining in the backgroud. I have always felt great admiration for you and a relief I guess. As a mother it seems much more difficult to accept the truth about our children. I also feel you are a leader showing others they can “tell the truth” and not die or hide in a hole and hold their head up high.

I have so much respect for your knowledge and truth. I wouldn’t have that respect if I knew you were attempting to keep facts under the rug and minimize or excuse all that you know to be true. If you weren’t willing to be open about it, you wouldn’t have been able to help so many people and it would’ve been our loss.

Spaths play on our “public image” knowing we don’t want our reputation tarnished and they use it to do their deeds.
I was threatened to be publicly humiliated along with my family if I continued with a complaint I filed against a psychologist phony pastor by my spath. I said “you’ve made me immune to your threat from all the public humiliation I have suffered”. It was a fact and he fell silent which was odd to me.
Someone has to take the lead of truth and I thank you. The Waltons were TV. I know I thought it was real. I wondered why my family was messed up. lol

I believe my spaths mother is hurting so much by burying what she knows her son to be. Doing this, she has really harmed her granddaughter who needed protection and me. Not to mention all the other unsuspecting victims in his path. I have no respect for her although I try to understand.

I hope you never come to that cross roads I have heard you speak of where it would be you vs. your son and life or death but if you do, I am rooting for you and be done with it.

Thank you for being honest and human.


Thanks Joyce,
” The pot was cracked when I got it” and so was I, I think that is why I have always been so forgiving and overlooked other peoples flaws. I know I have alot of baggage, but under all the weight I think I am a good person.
This is why I had so much difficulty letting go, getting over the spath BF. I felt I was to blame as much as he was. Who was I to call him a this or that when I also was so damaged. I had to search hard for answers. Regardless of my crack’s it was not I that decieved and manipulated. I had the best intentions for us.
As I have said many times, he was the catalyst that made me look deep into the cracks and flaws of my life, and that brought about alot of peace of mind for me..I was finally able to lay down alot of guilt and shame that was never really mine to bare…

Beautiful article, Joyce! And TOWANDA to you!


From another staunch admirer: Thank-you. Just for being you.


Thank you guys, LF has helped me “come out of the closet” and to hold up my head and to NOT be ashamed for what others have done. Keeping the “family secrets”is the worst thing we can do, and the Ps do use that to keep us silent…just like Paterno “protected” the football program in covering up for Sandusky, and just as my egg donor and the rest of the family tried to protect our “public image” of our family being so HOLY and GOOD when in fact, the family was dysfunctional.

This “perfect” family image was a HOAX for sure, was FAKE, and anything but the truth.

When our minister of the little church was caught and arrested for trying to solicit sex from what he thought was a 14 year old girl over the internet, these “good people” tried to hush it up because it would “hurt the church” just like the catholic church did, and just like Penn State did…but you know, covering up cat sheet doesn’t keep- it from stinking, and trying to pretend you don’t even have a cat, much less that it sheets in the living room floor is even more into denial

Then punishing the Messenger who points out the cat sheet in the middle of the floor doesn’t work to stop the stink, then “killing” the messenger doesn’t help much either, but that is the tactic that is taken. The blackmail threat to expose the messenger who points out the problem is like the “whistleblowers” in industry and government.

I am no longer afraid of this “exposure” and the threats that go along with it. You can’t be “black mailed” if you are not afraid to have things said about you. I was so attached to my home that the thought of leaving it terrified me, but when I realized that my SAFETY was more important than a house, or a piece of property, and that I would be better off living in a cardboard box than in a house that wasn’t safe, I was no longer “afraid” of being driven out of my home. I realized that while it is nice, my home is simply a collection of sticks and stones and my yard is just a piece of dirt. I won’t let it bury me (literally) if I have to go into hiding again, so be it. My world will not end if I have to leave here in order to be safe. My world will not end if the neighbors gossip about me, or laugh at my problems. I may be a CRACKED POT (LOL) but the shame for those cracks is not mine, it those who have murdered and then those who have covered up for them.

Jesus ended up being crucified because He dared to confront the hypocrites in the Temple and to expose them for what they were. I’m not “without sin” as He was, but I am not the one(s) who need to be exposed either. My son is the “Sandusky” and my egg donor is the “Paterno” and I am just the “messenger,” but no longer ashamed for what THEY have done.

I don’t think I am alone in having felt the shame for other’s behavior either. Glad you guys can relate. By sharing our “ah ha” moments we can help lift each other up and out of the abyss in to which we have fallen.

Joyce –

So funny your topic. I love it – I imagine you growing strong in that courtroom.

I collect little pitchers – the kind you put juice or milk in at the breakfast table – for one or two. I only have a few that I have collected over the years because they are special to me.

My very first one is my favorite. I spied it one day when I was home visiting from college. It sat high on a forgotten shelf in an old collectibles antique store – and I commented on how much I liked it. I think it was about $5. My trip ended and I flew 3000 miles home. Days later my Mom went back to the antique store and bought it for me. It came in the mail all by itself, no note.

It is very, very old and the most beautiful warm strong yellow color with such a gorgeous shape. The paint is cracked all over and even chipped in a few places and yet I know it is far more beautiful today than when whoever first had it new put it on a table. I don’t know why this particular little thing means so much to me but it does.

I have a meditation I used to do very regularly and try to do now. This vision came to me without conscious effort. I see myself as a clean white graceful pitcher – a bit bigger than the yellow one but not huge – something you’d put out for guests. I visualize that I am this pitcher and I am being filled from above at the same time as I am tilted to pour – and I am pouring clean, clear water into cups that are spread below and around me and as I fill them they move on.

My meditation is that God is filling me with light and life and the joy of living and I am a conduit filling ALL the people around me – both those I know and love who are close to me and those that I come into contact with – even if it is just for a moment in a random day.

When I was struggling with detaching from the Malignant N I had not been using my meditation for some time. One night I had a terrifying dream. It was so vivid and real. I was again the pitcher and God was filling me and I was pouring this stream of clear beautiful water into a cup below me – just one cup. All the other cups around were going dry but the one cup was not being filled. And then I saw it – the cup was cracked and leaking and there was mud all around it.

I woke chilled to the bone because I knew I was pouring all of my life force and energy into a broken cup – into the NutJob. No one, not my children, my friends, not myself was able to receive the gifts from God I have been blessed with because of my inability to fill that empty vessel.

That dream was one of the many BIG moments that helped me break free.

Anyway – I love the image of you – being purified in the crucible of your own truth.

You have been a touchstone here for so many. Thank you for clearing the path.

~ Beck


Your article is very inspirational. I thought of it when I saw this photo posted on Facebook. Here is the link


Thanks for everything you do on LF, Oxy.

Oxy, just click in the photo to see the whole quote!

Snow – it takes me to the google search page…

Click on the very first photo. I’m on an iPhone and it works differently

Breckgirl, thank you for sharing your meditation and dream imagery. I thought of the lyrics from the 70’s song by Bread, ….and when my love for life is running dry,
You come and pour your self for me……

Water is a symbol of the unconscious and I used to visualize a well…I was the well….
And then there is the song by, Emmylou Harris, “Searching for the Water From a Deeper Well.’

wow, what powerful imagery. It’s so vivid and true. When we pour ourselves out for spaths, there is nothing left for any of the people who are able to use and appreciate us.

I’m still studying them, and I learn every day, mostly about myself. I find it amazing the power they have over our emotions.

I KNOW a spath when I see one, yet they overpower my emotions all the time, EVEN when they are as blatant as the nose on their faces. I FEEL compelled to try to fix them. It’s so strange. I don’t know how they do it.

The best example I can give is the story about my little spath sister. She had her own coffee catering business, that I helped her set up and did her bookkeeping for her. All she had to do was provide the coffee service and be nice to her customers. She was hired by a realestate agent to serve coffee at an open house, (years ago when the market was hot). She accidentally calculated the tax wrong by 25 cents. The bill was over $600. Guess what she did.

wait for it.

yep, she billed the client for the 25 cents. The client was incensed.

I know you all may not believe me, but this is typical spath behavior – particularly if the spath isn’t very smart. It is an example of LACK OF GRATITUDE. All that spaths can do is count points, like in a game. They don’t get the value of good will. Some of them do, to a point, but then they screw it up because they never really understood it.

OK so you all might think I’ve gone off the subject, because I was talking about what I learn every day about spaths, then I went off about the 25 cents.

But the point is, I TRIED SO HARD TO EXPLAIN TO HER WHY SHE SHOULD JUST ABSORB THE 25 CENT LOSS. The agent could have recommended her to so many more clients, etc…
I don’t have to tell all of you this stuff… you know. My point is, why did I try to fix someone’s thinking, who is not fixable? I thought LOGIC would prevail. But it never did. Like Breck Girl explained, I was pouring my energy into a cracked pot. It was just going to waste.

My sister might seem like she’s really dumb to you. But she isn’t dumb, she’s just SOOOOOOOOO SELFISH that she can’t overlook 25 cents. She’s the one who once told me, “Skylar, it’s ok to be evil, everyone is evil, you’re evil, I’m evil, my husband and your husband are evil. Everyone – except mom- is evil.”

I know some spaths that are geniuses. They would never fuss over a quarter. But they still screw up in the same manner. Their lack of gratitude makes them lose out in the long run.

They are all the same, just different in degrees. We can learn alot from spaths — about how not to be.


Both a very powerful meditative vision to use as well as the dream.


Right on the money with lack of gratitude. When I bought spath a gift (for Sinterklaas, Christmass and his brithday) three times his utter selfishness showed. The Sinterklaas gift was a cellphone. He was always using my cellphone and took it along that I couldn’t use my own anymore, plus my cellphone had not a limitation financially. So, I decided to buy him a cellphone and a refill paycard (and could buy his own paycards afterwards). He happened to come along with me, so I told him. For me cellphones are something to phone someone. Don’t need something fancy. But he started to sulk when he couldn’t get an IPhone (I had no money for that). I eventually ended up negotiating with him. A phone that looked flashy enough, but was affordable enough… It still was more expensive than my own cellphone. But I was flabbergasted at the fact that he was so greedy, irrational and ungrateful over the cellphone gift.

He was also using my IPod all the time (this was a new one I had bought after he ‘lost’ or rather ‘pawned off’ my previous one), and taking it everywhere. Even asked me whether he could take it back to Nicaragua with him for the supposed 3 months he’d had to stay there before being allowed back in the EU. Told him no, though. But instead I was gonna buy him a MP3 player for christmass. Again he tried to haggle. But this time I held my foot down, telling him that we only had so much in the bank and I was only willing to pay so much out of it for the MP3 player. I let him pick the model that fell within the range himself. He ended up calling me a cheapskate who only bought stuff that broke fast (I guess he took the MP3 player to the beach in Nicaragua against my advice and sand is never good for apparatus). And that says the man who used his cellphone to call people and say “Call me back” so they’d call on their money instead of his.

Since the whole divorce thing from his ex-wife was a real hassle it was I who ended up gonig to Nicaragua for a visit instead, and during he’d have his birthday. I bought no electronics (since he told me I only bought cheap stuff that broke too soon) but I bought a very nice shirt in Egyptian cotton. He loved to dress smart and his best shirt had been ripped during a New Year’s fight. So he knew he was getting a gift, but I had kept it a secret. When he got it, the first thing he said was, ‘Oh, I thought you bought me an IPod’. And then he complained it was too warm a shirt: about a SUMMER shirt in EGYPTIAN cotton.

That was the last time I ever bought him a gift. He knew very well there was a very limited budget, and he knew himself how to buy the cheapest groceries and turn it into a great meal and wanted me to be grateful of him for being so economical with food. But the moment he would get something of his own (which he either ended up breaking or losing) then he forgot about all of that and resented me for not buying the most expensive out there.

My mom later told me that when I slipped the info about his reaction to the shirt (she went along to help me find a shirt for him) she suddenly realized, “That man is no good.”

Joyce, I think that it’s a fear of shame – fear-based-shame – that causes people to keep their mouths shut.

Perfection…we have that idealization drilled into our heads from the times that we’re born, I think. We must be perfect, in every way. Some of my best students were former-perfectionists. There is no such thing as “perfection” either in the arts, or in Life.

Your article has inspired an idea for me, once I’m settled. A body of work of imperfections that are both alarming and acceptable.

I am a sum total of my good decisions, bad decisions, and seemingly benign decisions. Factored into that sum total is the flawed system of core beliefs that I was taught, as a child. That system of beliefs was faulty, and my inner child is screaming to color outside of the lines.

Thanks, again, for such a powerful message.

Brightest blessings

Dear Breckgirl, I couldn’t help but have tears fill my eyes when I read your post…and visualize the little pitcher. I also have a couple (not a collection, just a couple) of pottery pitchers that I love and use…broke one the other day and it was like losing an old friend as I tossed the fractured pieces out.

Yea, truthy, that fear of shame, that fear that the world will know we are not perfect…I’ve lived that way my whole life. Only “perfect” is “good enough” and if I am not perfect then I am not okay, and so I have to hide my “not perfect” things so no one knows I am not perfect because if they found out I was not perfect the world would end. And “round and round she goes, where she stops no one knows”—-but I have finally realized that no one is perfect and I don’t have to hide the fact I am not perfect either. Or pretend my family is perfect.

Yea, standing up in that court room was definitely hard…my son D asked me later if I had seen the judge’s face as I was talking> I said “No, I couldn’t see past my own eye lashes” and that was true, I couldn’t see anything in the court room though my eyes were open. He said the judge looked at me, and his mouth dropped open, then he would look at my DIL and the Trojan Horse and then back at me, and by then I would have said something else that they had done and his mouth would drop open more and he would look back at them, his head swiveling like someone watching a tennis match. LOL” I don’t doubt it either.

It was a vindicating moment for me though, as my egg donor’s attorney that had FOUGHT so hard to keep the Trojan horse psychopath and my DIL in control of my egg donor’s home (and money) and sneered at me and called me names was back from vacation that morning and just HAPPENED (thank you Jesus!) to come into the court room and see me before court started and asked me what I was doing there and I pointed over to my DIL and the TH-P sitting in orange jump suits changed to other inmates and told him what they had done.

We don’t always get the vindication that we would like, but that was a vindicating moment for me. Erin Brock’s vindication was when her X was arrested for drug dealing and it was in the local news paper…after he had told everyone else what a skank she was. Sometimes we get the vindication and sometimes not, but it really doesn’t matter if the world sees the truth or not, we just have to hold on to our own truth even if no one else believes it or not.

Columbus may have been the only one that believed the world was round, but it didn’t change the shape of the world because he was the onnly one who believed the truth. We just have to hold on to what is RIGHT and TRUE whether others believe it or not.

Is this where the term “crack pot” came from?

I just thought of that. Maybe….?

Does anyone know?

Eralyn, good question. 😉

Eralyn, I thought the same thing. I like it, a lot. I think I will start using that term to mean any damaged soul that is beyond mending who would waste my energy if I were to have any dealings with them….a crack pot.

Hello all. Have been reading this blog for some years now, but rarely post. Joyce, I really appreciate your posts….they are so relevant to how I feel!

I have another thought about the term “cracked pot”. It was in a Joyce Meyer’s book (can’t think of the name at the moment). But it was about how we are ALL “cracked pots” in the sense that NO ONE human is perfect….we all have imperfections. What I liked about the idea J. Meyer suggested is that when you have God’s light in you (your spirit, soul, or what ever you wish to call the GOODNESS we have), this light of goodness is able to shine and be seen BECAUSE of the “cracks in our pots”. If we were perfect, the light inside wouldn’t shine through any cracks, and so would be invisible to all.

Having said that, the spaths/narcissists, etc. don’t have any true goodness to shine through their cracks! (Maybe that’s the reason they are attracted by our light!) Their “light” is false, a sham, that we realize after they have us where they want us!

AlmostLost, the “vessel” of the spath is a vacuum, and Nature abhors a vacuum.

Brightest blessings

I regard them as ‘black holes’… from which no light can escape. They’re not empty, they have matter, but suck everything up.

Darwinsmom, that, too! In theory, a black hole sucks in matter and expels it to create new systems, stars, and planets. Perhaps, “black hole” is the most apt description since survivors are “reformed.”

Hopefully, the more the word is spread and the more that people learn about recovering from socipathic entanglements, the brighter the stars will shine upon their recoveries.

Brightest blessings

I never thought about the analogy of ceramic pots and pitchers as symbols for the self. Several months ago I acquired a very dusty glass pitcher that was left over after a garage sale. It is very simple and old fashioned. Someone had taken the time to paint some flowers and butterflies on it, giving it a very unique, homemade appearance. I washed it and set it on my counter, and now guests comment on how beautiful and unique the pitcher is. The dusty old pitcher lying at the bottom of a box, that nobody wanted, is beautiful and unique and even useful (I put flowers in it or sometimes make iced tea in it). What a great symbol of how I feel about myself – I never thought of it that way. I remember once I rescued a plant from a dumpster. It was growing sideways but it was alive, so I repotted it and gave it a home for many years. I loved the little plant, though it grew crooked and really didn’t work well with my other plants. I became very emotionally attached to it. Then one day, I gave it away. I guess I didn’t need the symbol anymore of the poor damaged plant that needed to be rescued.

Stargazer, that’s so cool about the unwanted plant. Don’t we all experience that feeling of abandonment after spath entanglements? Very, very interesting how simple things come into our lives to teach us something valuable.

I like the analogy of being a vessel – after all, if we adhere to any spiritual belief that we are more than simply a complex organism of cellular structures, we are biological vessels.

Brightest blessings

Truthspeak, long before the spath, even long before my abusive stepfather came into my life at age 7, I always felt unworthy and unwanted. I felt as though I didn’t have a voice and as though I didn’t even exist. This is the fallout from growing up with self-absorbed, narcissistic parents. Just working on self-worth and self-expression are my big challenges right now. I cannot have the man I want (whom I’ve recently met) if I don’t feel worthy. He has triggered all of these things in me that are not pretty. But I will clear these things this time instead of running away. I want to be like the pitcher – beautiful, useful, valued, and wanted.

Stargazer, yes – the damaged “inner child,” and I had heard that term so many times previous to the end of my marriage. I had the mistaken belief that the “inner child” was that part of my that was still childlike and joyous – a complete misunderstanding until my counselor explained what my “inner child” really was. She is that part of me that was caused to feel useless, ineffective, and responsible for everyone else’s well-being.

Yes….be the pitcher – you ARE the pitcher. Beautiful, vibrant, and one-of-a-kind.

Brightest blessings

Truthspeak, I believe the inner child also holds those joyful childlike qualities too. Often when people repress their inner child, they are not only repressing the pain but the joy and childlike wonder as well. In many ways, being around all these guys (boys as I call them) in salsa class makes me feel like I’m 7 years old again. In those days I was boy-crazy. I would slow dance with the 8-y.o. boys in their back yards and make out with the 10 y.o. boy I really liked in the homemade dugout a group of us had made behind the apartment complex. I’m also having a lot of other memories of pre-stepfather days – a time when I was more innocent and didn’t have all the darkness inside that I absorbed from him, along with memories of what my mother was like before she married him. I also see that I can be childish and immature at times, too, as an adult. I think my development was arrested when I was 7 and forced to become a slave and confidante to my sick stepfather. Though he never managed to completely kill my spirit, I did develop a rather hard shell and defensiveness that I built my personality around – it was *my* mask that I showed to the world. It’s really scary being vulnerable now without the defenses. I’m learning to take them down. But they’re still there, and admittedly, I still don’t really know who I am without them. I’ve had them ever since I can remember.

I can totally understand how someone like me, with lifelong trust and self-esteem issues, can fall for a spath. With a normal, loving, caring guy, I would never feel worthy. I’d feel anxious and as though I wasn’t good enough. Along comes a handsome and nice guy (the spath) telling me that not only am I worthy of him, but that NO MATTER WHAT MY FLAWS ARE, he is going to marry me and love me for the rest of my life. I feel that FINALLY I can let my guard down and experience love. I don’t have to worry that I’m not good enough. I know I won’t scare this guy away. Then, when it all turns out to be a lie, I can say, “See? I really WASN’T good enough after all!”

Now that I like a guy who is not a spath, those self-esteem issues have resurfaced that I never healed before. And I know that since he’s a normal guy, I certainly CAN push him away with them. It’s scary, and in a way, it’s like my catch 22 in relationships. Part of me just wants to run before I can scare him off. I have even considered just dropping out of the salsa class and stopping going to the clubs. But I really want to do it differently this time! I am very conscious of the process, so I’m confronting the self-esteem issues. I am not going to push anything with this guy until I feel I’m ready for it. I don’t want to sabotage it because I think he can be really wonderful for me. Of course, there is always the chance that he has already recognized me too as the woman he really wants, and that he is a big enough and loving enough man to accept me with all my flaws and insecurities. He looks into my eyes with such love when we’re dancing – surely he must see my fear and hurt?

We’ll see – I will just take it very slow. I will see him tonight at the salsa club and dance with him again. I’m very excited but also very scared.

Starz. I relate. I was always interested in the bad guys, the mysterious one’s. If a nice decent guy showed interest I ran like hell, because I didnt feel worthy, I was always afraid if he really knew how much baggage I had he would bolt. So I guess that is why I attract how I feel about myself. I am glad I am finally at the point I dont want anybody, good or bad. I just dont have the energy for it, beside’s nobody want’s an old geezer like me, unless it’s another old geezer..or a sociopath.

Hens, you are closed off to real love because you are completely identified with how you feel about yourself. Can you see that as a place where you are stuck, where you can get unstuck? You are one of the people here who has told me over and over again how superficial it is to chase after good looking people. And you are right. I do believe that if I feel beautiful, even at my age, a beautiful man will also find me beautiful. Why is this not true for you too? A gay man is still a man and he is still human, capable of seeing into someone’s heart. Don’t you think? Are gay relationships ALL that superficial? I know gay couples who are very devoted to each other and are in their 50’s and 60’s. And none of them are that much to look at, if we’re just going by looks.

The self-esteem issues are very hard for me to clear, because I’ve had them ever since I can remember. I am now experiencing it as an energy – a tension – that sits in my solar plexus and heart. If I can feel it, I know I can release it. So far, it’s only been in bits and pieces. I want to release this so I don’t have to run away from love.

I kind of want to recluse until the process is over. But I don’t want to run away from the man I like. he will be at the club tonight, and he emailed me saying he hopes to see me there. We meet there every Sunday and dance until we both are teary-eyed with happiness. He is a truly good and decent man – not flashy, not classically gorgeous, just a real man who seems not to be afraid of a real woman. The connection is more spiritual and emotional, though it is also sensual because of the dancing. I usually am not attracted to men like him because I have gone for the alpha males and pretty boys. I am drawn to this one because of his qualities and not his looks. But to me, he is beautiful. And I am all anxious now that he will reject me because of how screwed up I am. I feel unattractive and unworthy. I REALLY want to change this before I scare him away. This is the catch 22 for me. I don’t want to run away. But I’m afraid if I just be around him the way I am I will scare him off. How can I maintain the connection in spite of all my fear and anxiety? I will just continue to work with these issues and try to release them. I am receiving bodywork, which helps, and meditating a lot, which helps in bits and pieces.

I guess the bottom line is that lately, once I decide I “like” a man is when I scare him away. I’m afraid to like this guy so much. I feel like I should pull back and continue to think about other men, but that goes against my hopeless romanticism that kicks in when I like someone. I don’t know how to slow it down. And that’s dangerous for me.

I find the discussion about the pitcher imagery very interesting. I have been playing with and using a particular deck of tarot cards for many, many years. It is called Motherpeace and one of the interesting and beautiful things about these cards is that they are round rather than rectangular. Anyway, the imagery in BreckGirl’s dream reminded me of the image of the 7 of cups which can be seen in this link:


You have to scroll down to the image and I didn’t read the text very closely so I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the author’s interpretations. These cards are designed to speak to our intuitive parts of our minds anyway.

Skylar’s story about her sister reminded me of some of the stupid things my ex-spath did. He was interviewing for jobs, frequently out of state and the prospective employers would reimburse him for expenses. He is an alcoholic spath so he drinks heavily every day. He would buy drinks, at the airport or with his dinner and he invariably submitted bills for these expenses. Then he would be pissed when the company would cut these kinds of items from the reimbursement. I think several times he actually went as far as calling/emailing to complain to the administrative person in HR handling this. He seemed completely unable to understand that this would lead to a bad impression of him in so many ways and it was better to drop it (or never ask to be paid back for the numerous drinks at the airport bar!!). On one interview, he was asked to stick around while his references were called. The prospective employer came back and told him that one reference had said (basically) that he was a mess at the end of the job due to his divorce. I was not surprised but he was when he didn’t get an offer, he was convinced he would be taking a job with that employer. When I asked if he was planning to talk with his reference to try to correct the problem and think about changing to someone who wouldn’t ding him, he shrugged me off.

Anyway, thinking about this lead me to a different story too. This morning, my mother mentioned that she had attended a historical society meeting in her small town where I grew up. She said our former neighbor was there, trying to get into some position within the society. She was friendly to my mother but my mother (a fairly benign N) is a grudge holder and doesn’t forget when she first met this woman. When our family moved to the town, this neighbor told my mother she would always be considered an outsider and would never be accepted. Now she is seeking to be accepted in a group where my mother is already established so she gets some enjoyment from the tables being turned.

Then we talked a little about the children who were the same ages roughly as my older brothers and me. It was clear even when we were children that theirs was an unhappy home for many reasons. The father was a state police officer and also high-ranked in the National Guard. He took advantage of this position and used Guard equipment to do a major landscape job in their yard. The family did something that angered another neighbor and she called and reported him to the authorities for his illegal use of this government equipment. When my family returned from a vacation, we were met by some investigators looking into this matter. As my mother recalled today, before either she or my father could think of what to answer, my brothers jumped in and offered to explain everything. My brothers were about 14 and 12 and I remember my oldest brother especially walked over to the neighbor’s yard with the investigators and showed them everything. The whole family was always mean to all of us so they were glad, I guess, to get some vindication. The father was pretty sternly sanctioned as I recall, I think he lost his National Guard position at least.

Now both those parents seem so toxic and although the kids were already ruined by the time I knew them, I feel sad for what they must have gone through. The youngest girl had a weight problem. I remember hearing her being scolded loudly in their yard for taking a half gallon of ice cream into the woods and eating it all. I think she was around 10. Even as a slightly older girl, I knew there was something more deeply wrong there.

Edited to add that I just looked the text accompanying the image of the 7 of cups and I disagree with the interpretation that the woman in the image is doing a magic trick. I have interpretative books written by the authors of the cards (who painted them while in meditative trances after years of studying tarot). The main text says she is carrying a net, maybe for winnowing out what she will keep from what she will discard. The card is about making choices.

Well, all I can do is share my experience. Many times, when I’ve shared my experience, in the past, I’ve been met with resistance. I understand the resistance because that is in my experience, too. But, even as we are talking about the lovely pitcher, the one with the crack in it, it is also my experience that at some point I have to stop pouring myself into something that can’t absorb, or hold what I offer.
It isn’t so much how we behave, or what we do, it’s who we are, inside.
How much energy are we putting into something…is there balance? How big are our expectations and desires? How big are our fears? What are we telling ourselves about our fears?
Intensity or intimacy? Not the same thing at all. Itensity is addictive, and scarey. It breeds arousal, and thrives on danger.
Intimacy comes slowly and without all the drama and passion…it doesn’t leave you giddy with happiness…it isn’t an intravanious tube dripping a fix that gets you high.
Intimacy is scary, though, in a different way that intensity…and a lot of us choose intensity over intimacy, because intimacy is even scarier for us.
Intimace involves trust…people like us don’t trust easily, or we trust too much, too easily. Intimacy is a problem…we want it, we fear it…but instant attraction, now that we can handle.
Star, I don’t think there is a better place for a narcissistic Don Juan to seduce a woman, than in a classical ball-room.
The sexiness of salsa…all that testosterone, and the oxytocin flying around on gossimer wings. Please be careful.
I think you are very vulnerable to this sort of thing.
And lastly, I think that you are giving it way to much energy….if you were already healed and healthy and whole, you wouldn’t give it so much power.
I know you won’t like this. I’ve been holding my toungue from the beggining. Couldn’t do it anymore.
Please accept it as coming from the spirit of recovery.

Nice Tarot deck, Sparklehorse.
I read the Tarot, too. I have used The Rider-Waite deck for years and am kind of stuck there, because I am familiar with the imagry and interpretations….learning a new deck would be like starting at square one.
I was visiting, “Tarotsmith” yesterday, and tried a new spread and a new deck…I was really impressed…I can’t remember the name of either, but, I’ll look it up for you.
Nice reading you. It’s been a while.

It was the Bifrost Tarot and the Golden Dawn method.


I mostly use the Crowley-Toth deck. Don’t like Crowley as a man, but the woman who painted it had more say and freedom over the paintings than people sometimes think, and so it is also her deck.

The 7 of cups is called ‘debauch’ in the deck, and totally shows how the water is poured endlessly in the illusions of a spath. A sad waste!


The ace though is pure unconditional love and light (click on the meny at the bottom to see them), 2 and 3 and 4 all show this sharing of light at a different level.

Whereas the 8 of cups is extremely dark and the card of denial. If seven is wasting the lovelight on an illusion, in the eight you already know it’s not a cup 2 situation, you already know it was an illusion like 7, and logic demands you quit pouring, and yet you are bonded and cannot give up yet.


I’m doing it again – obsessing over a guy but not just speaking my heart to him. The guy I like was at the salsa club tonight. I showed up late in the middle of the lesson where the women were rotating around to dance with the different guys. I watched J light up dancing with all these beautiful women. When the lesson was over I danced with a few guys. I was very popular tonight and guys were constantly asking me to dance. But as soon as I had a break, J came over and asked me. We had that beautiful eye contact. He then asked me to dance a slow song, and it was so romantic. Later we danced a cha cha and it was even more romantic. He is incredible. At one point I was sweating and started taking off my little short sweater I was wearing over my tank top. He immediately got behind me and helped me take it off – he is a TRUE GENTLEMAN. I didn’t have the guts to tell him I had feelings for him. So I just continued to dance with other guys while he drifted away and danced with other women. At the end of the night, I went to find him and he had already left. This is ridiculous. I can’t just keep liking these guys and sitting on my feelings like this. I don’t know what to do. I went through this for 2 years with the neighbor. Where it can be argued that the pot-headed rock star neighbor was inappropriate for me, J is the total opposite. He has everything I ever wanted in a man. He is a real man.

I feel very frustrated because I’ve been reading in a salsa dance newsletter that it’s not good to date men in the salsa circuit because they are usually players. So I’m thinking I should just let this one go. I feel like an idiot. I see this guy in class every Thursday, and it’s likely to go on for another year. I don’t know if I should tell him my feelings or not. And if I do, I don’t know the way to word it so it doesn’t scare him off. I really can’t tell if he likes me but thinks I’M a player, or if he is just about having fun and not getting serious with any one person. That seems to be the M.O. at the salsa clubs. I know he sees me laughing and smiling with these other guys and being all sexy (salsa is sexy). So maybe he feels a little insecure too. I guess I will never know because I’m way too chickenshit to ask him.

Just my luck. I finally find a hobby with tons of hot guys. And they are undateable. Ugh.


I see the ‘I’m doing it all wrong’, and ‘why am I so scared to ask him out’ type of thing as a sign that something inside of you knows it’s not the right time or right man.

First of all the feelings you have at the moment are attraction and the desire for the opportunity to bond. Since you haven’t dated each other yet at all, actually telling him how you feel is not an appropriate thing. Meanwhile the desire wishes to hurry things up and this makes you want to put stuff into action, and when you don’t you end up blaming yourself and starting to fear you’ve been giving wrong signals of not being available and such…

Stop interpreting his behaviour in reference to you. Stop wondering whether that look, thta touch, that avoidance, that early going home is in direct response to you.

A man doesn’t need you to tell him that you are available for him, nor any coaxing. If he wants to ask you out, he’ll ask you out. If he doesn’t ask you out, then that does not necessarily reflect badly on you. He might ask you out, he might not. But if he can help a woman out of her sweater, and can ask her to dance, he’s well capable of asking her out too. So, please stop beating yourself up over it. For years I beat myself up over it, if the guy I wanted to ask me out didn’t, and time showed that these men weren’t even really relevant to my life and never would have been. What is holding you back imo is valid reasoning (wrong timing, too much wishing before actually knowing, …), more than fear.

Thanks for responding, darwinsom! I feel a little more relaxed and released today. He truly is a special man, but you’re right, if he doesn’t feel that way about me, then I can’t make him. Several of my friends and a recent massage therapist I saw have all told me that I just need to ask him out or at least tell him how I feel. But I agree with you – it’s not appropriate. However, I don’t think I can continue to dance with him week after week without some sort of communication, because I do have my feelings stirred up. I feel that I have stumbled across someone very special. But the salsa scene is filled with players. If he is not one now, he will likely turn into one after dancing with so many different women and having them all swoon like I do. I probably should now find a 3rd hobby where there are a lot of men who aren’t players. Sigh. I will see him in class again on Thursday. This is so difficult for me. I’m accustomed to men just asking me out.

Star, I think this Salsa interest can be a really good thing, if you can love it for what it is…..an opportunity to feel sexy, and feminine…to enjoy the dance and the attraction, the dynamics between men and women….to feel a mans arms around you….all good stuff….and maybe he will ask you out….but maybe not….so? Maybe he’s there because he wants to experience all the good stuff without any complications, maybe not…..so? Is your interest in dancing Salsa just an attempt to find a man, or do you genuinely like Salsa for the sake of salsa?
Your desires are already too big….your expectations, your fears, your plans, your doubts, your disappointments…are spoiling something that should just be fun. Why? What is so damned important about nailing down a relationship? Just lighten up and have fun.

I think this guy knows how you feel already. You mentioned before you didnt want to be the one to ask him out first. Just enjoy the classes and let him ask you out or not.
Stars you have worked on your self esteem so hard..it’s really all about how we feel about us. We cant find someone to complete us and make us whole..our live’s are our’s and their live’s are theirs. Happy ever after only happens in fairy tales and movies, just chill and have a good time with everybody at the dance place.

read somewhere that a person should feel complete all by themselves. I know personally i dont need a woman to feel that i complete her. i think confidence is really sexy. i love it when my wife stands up for herself. when she does, it usually means i am about to eat crow as it were, but the attraction i feel for her when she does far outweighs having to admit i was wrong.


i had another pretty good weekend. noticed that occasionally my wife reads things into my comments or actions. if i try to help when i see her struggling, she may interpret it as criticism. i conveyed to her about three times this weekend that a statement or action wasnt meant as a critique. do these spaths make you feel like everything they say or do reflects upon you? so you stay in a state of “what can i do better”??
she diddnt seem nearly so sensitive to these things before.

Hens, I’m very confused because some of my friends here (male and female) are both telling me that this guy won’t necessarily know I think he’s special if he sees me flirting and dancing with all these other guys. They tell me guys are not good at reading signs and that I need to be upfront and blunt with them. That’s what’s confusing. I also know several guys who are happily married who said their wives made the first move because they were too shy. I just feel that life is so short to let opportunities pass me by. Also, I don’t need this guy to complete me. I just have a special feeling for him. I don’t think there is a problem with letting myself have feelings for someone. I cannot help or stop the feelings anyway. I just don’t know what to do about them. I went through this for 2 years with the neighbor and I don’t want to go through it again. I might just have a talk with him after class on Thursday and be done with it. That way if we’re not on the same page, at least I can let it go and move on.

Thank you darwinsmom and kim frederick for the replies about the tarot cards. I’ve had a few readings with other decks and layouts through the years but have only ever used the Motherpeace deck. So it’s very interesting to learn about other decks, particularly since you are both using decks that are cornerstones in tarot.

Thanks too for saying it’s good to see me here, kim! I am here mostly lurking.

Stargazer, I’m glad to read that you are taking heed of the salsa dancing situation. Over the weekend, I heard a very interesting piece on NPR about music and why we evolved to have music.


What connects to your situation is the idea mentioned that the same oxytocin that gets released during sex/orgasm gets released when people make music together. I can easily imagine that salsa dancing has the same effect.

My heart goes out to you because I am in essentially the same place as you. I want you to find love and give me hope of finding it too! 🙂 I think you’ve gotten good advice here although changing your hopes and expectations is easier said than done.

rgc, I am largely a lurker here and haven’t read all of your postings. I have seen some others here give you some advice to focus more energy on yourself and less on your wife. With all due respect, I feel a smothered feeling when I read your postings about your wife’s healing process. As a result, I easily imagine that your wife must also feel smothered by your concern. For example, in your post above, maybe she’s not more sensitive, maybe she’s learning to tell you how she really feels. All of your study of spaths, while helpful, also seems to give you a third point of the triangle and a convenient place to focus away from the real issue, which is your marriage. I wish you the best working through all this and I hope these comments are helpful for you.

Kim, I took up salsa just because I really wanted to learn it – I love to dance, and also I thought it would be a good way to meet guys. It was all fun until I started having feelings for J. I didn’t expect to meet someone like him. I didn’t even know men like him existed. He has made quite an impression on me. I wasn’t particularly looking for someone – he just came along. If I were the guy and he was the girl, I would just ask him out. But because I’m a girl, I feel like I have to wait. It doesn’t seem fair. I honestly cannot help how I feel and to whom I’m attracted. I am just human after all. I’ve had a lot of contact with many of these guys, long enough to really get a feel for them and bond with them in some ways. I have all kinds of little harmless crushes. But J is special. I honestly don’t know if he knows. Though I tell him how nice it is to dance with him, etc., he also sees me flirting with other guys, hugging them, and being a social butterfly. Guys can be insecure, too. This is what my friends think is happening.

Sparklehorse, oh great, I’m having oxytocin released dancing with all these guys and they are not having the same effect. LOL Figures. Story of my life. I guess I’ll be looking for a different hobby now.

your bottled up feelings are gathering a momentum of their own. Since you have had a limited social contact with this guy, you can’t really “know” him well enough to feel so strongly. If you do, something is getting skewed.

That said, it’s time to take the reigns and do something about it. Just ask him out for an after salsa dinner or drink. Make it casual. Tell him it would be nice to get to know each other better. DON’T tell him you have “feelings” for him. That will scare the crap out of him. And if he was a spath, it would make him salivate. Maintain proper emotional boundaries, just get to know him better outside the salsa setting.

The salsa social setting is different because it allows people to break through boundaries, be sexy, flirtatious, touch etc… and all of this is sanctioned in the name of dance. Theater is another setting that allows boundaries to be broken. I guess that is why human culture created these little “release mechanisms”. However, once outside of those venues, boundaries should again be strictly enforced.

If he agrees to meet with you outside the salsa setting, remember to maintain emotional boundaries. It isn’t just for your protection, boundaries are also to help HIM feel comfortable. Eventually, you will probably become closer, but take it slow.

I’m no expert, obviously. This is just what I think based on my learning for the past 3 years of trying to figure this out. And of course, nothing ever happens all neat and orderly when it comes to human relations, so play it by ear, but remember the bottom line is boundaries on your emotions.

Also, think about the consequences. If you and he become an item, then you break up badly, you will hate to see each other at the salsa group. One of you will have to quit. Maybe that’s what he is thinking about and that’s why he hasn’t asked you out. That’s why being VERY casual and VERY slow will allow either one or both of you to “bow out” of the relationship gracefully if it doesn’t seem to work out. Then you can maintain your salsa friendship.

I think it’s a risk worth taking though, as long as you go really really slow.

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