Category Archives: RELATIONSHIP and DATING

Recovering from Dating/Domestic Violence

Being the victim of violence in an intimate relationship can be very traumatic. You have chosen to love and trust your partner and s/he has betrayed you with violence. At the same time, there are often positive aspects of the relationship that may lead you to still cling to that relationship, believing your abuser loves you and will eventually change. These two sides of a violent relationship may make it very difficult to know if you really love your partner or not, or if you want to stay in the relationship or not. In fact, most survivors of relationship violence report that they do not want the relationship to end, they just want the abuse to stop. You may experience mixed feelings and feel a sense of responsibility. You may have told yourself that if only you could make things better, the violence would stop. It is very hard to accept that you have no control over your partner’s behavior, but it is ultimately more healing to recognize that no matter how confused about the situation you are, the fact remains the violence is not your fault

Recovering from a violent relationship is a process that takes time. You may experience depression, fear, self-blame, feelings of responsibility, difficulty concentrating, and helplessness, as well as the physical injuries associated with violence. Since abusive relationships are about power and control, survivors often have difficulty taking control of their lives back, particularly if the abuser has managed to isolate them socially or economically. There are, however, a number of services and organizations designed to help victims survive the abuse and move on with their lives.

Abuse in Dating Relationships

What You Should Know:
Definition of abuse in relationships: the intentional and systematic use of tactics to establish and maintain power and controlover the thoughts, beliefs, and conduct of a woman.

Abuse in permanent relationships often starts in dating years. It can lead to serious injury, suicide and murder and is always emotionally destructive to both men and women.

Physical abuse and threats of violence are crimes. It is against the law to assault your girlfriend or partner, just as it is a crime to assault a stranger. Abusers can be jailed or fined if convicted. Police are required to lay charges when there is probable cause to believe an assault has occurred.

All forms of abuse are expressions of power. They are meant to control the woman both immediately and in the future through the use of fear and intimidation. Society tolerates woman abuse through its acceptance of sexism in relationships. Men are permitted and encouraged to use force as a way to solving problems. Women are encouraged to take responsibility for the emotional needs of men and to assume blame when relationships break down.

Early Warning Signs of An Abuser
 
Are you going out with someone who:
  • is jealous and possessive toward you, won’t let you have friends, checks up on you, won’t accept breaking up
  • tries to control you by being very bossy,
    giving orders, making all the decisions, doesn’t take your opinion seriously
  • is scary, you worry about how he will react to things you say or do, threatens you, uses or owns weapons
  • is violent: has a history of fighting, loses temper quickly, brags about mistreating others
  • pressures you for sex, is forceful or scary around sex, thinks women or girls are sex objects, attempts to manipulate or guilt trip you by saying “if you really loved me you would…;” “no one will love you like I do,” gets too serious about the relationship too fast
  • abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures you to take them
  • blames you when mistreating you, says you provoked him, pressing his buttons, made him do it, lead him on
  • has a history of bad relationships and blames the other person for all the problems, “girls just don’t understand me;”
  • believes that men should be in control and powerful and that women should be passive and submissive
  • your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you they were worried for your safety

If You Are Abused…

You are not alone and you are not to blame. You cannot control his violence, but there are ways you can make yourself safer:

  • You can call the police if you have been assaulted.
  • Tell someone. Talk to a doctor or counsellor after each violent/abusive incident and have them keep a record for future evidence.
  • Write down the details for yourself as soon as possible after the assault. Use the list of resources in this brochure. Keep it in a safe, handy place where your partner won’t find it.
  • Develop a safety plan. Know all exits in your house you could use in an emergency. Memorize emergency numbers. Keep spare house and car keys handy. Know where you can stay in an emergency.
  • Call a shelter for abused women. Shelters can provide a safe place to stay in a crisis as well as information and counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week in person or by phone.
  • Consider leaving the relationship as soon as possible.
  • Recognize that no one has the right to control you and that it is everyone’s human right to live without fear.

If You are Abusive…

You are not alone. Many men have a problem with violence learned from childhood or supported by society. You can learn less dangerous and damaging ways to feel that you are in control. Here are some things you should consider:

  • You need to take responsibility for your own behaviour. Your girlfriend or partner does not make you hurt her.
  • Your behaviour may destroy your relationship or seriously injure someone you care about.
  • Blaming your violence on drugs, alcohol or sickness and apologizing after the violence will not solve your problem.
  • Physical violence and threats of violence are crimes. You face fines or imprisonment, if convicted.
  • Denying your abuse and resisting intervention will prevent you from getting help. Police and other professionals intervene to keep everyone safe. You can begin to change the way you act with the support of resources listed in this pamphlet.

Why Do Men Abuse Women?

Because they:

  • may have learned this behaviour in their family of origin (many abusers have witnessed their father abusing their mother)
  • try to maintain a macho image reinforced by society and the media
  • believe it is an appropriate male expression of power and control
  • want their partner to remain dependent on them
  • know there are few, if any, consequences for violent acts

Why do Women Stay In Abusive Dating Relationships?

Because they:

  • want their relationships to work and hope their boyfriends will change
  • fear their boyfriend will hurt them or seek revenge if they leave
  • feel guilt and shame
  • see no alternative
  • are not aware that help is available
  • believe their boyfriend needs them
  • do not have social or personal supports
  • believe a boyfriend who is occasionally violent is better than no boyfriend at all
  • believe the violence and abuse is normal
  • think that the violence will go away after they get married

How Can Students Help When Abuse Has Happened?

Do:

  • believe your friend
  • listen calmly and take the concern seriously
  • reassure your friend that nobody deserves to be abused
  • support your friend in looking at the risks of more abuse
  • create an atmosphere of safety and trust
  • suggest talking to a trusted adult such as a teacher, guidance counsellor or school psychologist, or call one of the agencies listed on this pamphlet
  • consult with local agencies listed on the back of this pamphlet
  • call the 24-hour Abused Women’s Helpline

Don’t:

  • be misled that the crisis has passed
  • sound shocked or embarrassed
  • make light of the situation
  • guarantee secrecy
  • take responsibility for support alone
  • emphasize how bad others will feel
  • make unrealistic promises

In The Area of Prevention…Everyone Can:

  • become more aware of verbal and physical abuse in their own relationships
  • help students “break the silence”
  • be aware of jokes, movies, TV programs, advertising, & videos that are demeaning to women and may promote woman abuse

How to Recognize a Manipulative or Controlling Relationship

As your relationship with a new person in your life has developed, you find your old friends falling away, while family members remark on how you don’t seem like yourself. Are you losing yourself to an odd, and ultimately destructive, relationship? Before you can regain your individuality and strength, you’ll need to determine whether the relationship is taking something away, and, if so, you must put an end to the destructive cycle. While the steps are directed towards romantic relationships, they do apply to any kind of relationship.

STEPS
  1.  

    Evaluate honestly: Is this relationship healthy, or is it unhealthy? Be objective as you analyze how things have changed since this relationship began.

  2.  

    Are your family relationships suddenly filled with tension, every time your partner’s name comes up? Red flags should go up if everyonewho cares about you is getting worried or is being pushed away.

    • Does this person bring out your best, or worst traits? Do you feed each others’ best self, or have you seen your attitudes change to more closely mirror your partner’s, which puts off your family and friends? 
  3.  

    Recognize your blindness to your partner’s faults. Infatuation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be necessary and good; however, it does make one “temporarily insane” for the first part of a relationship. Sometimes our starry-eyed affection can make us willfully close our eyes to warning signals, even though we really kind of know that our friends and family have a point when they say they don’t like this or that about the significant other. Ask yourself: Do you find yourself apologizing or defending your significant other’s behavior? If you find yourself getting defensive when someone questions your relationship, you’re probably already aware that there is a problem and haven’t yet come to terms with it. Remember that people in healthy relationships have nothing to hide or defend. In fact, when a relationship is healthy, your friends and family are normallygoing to recognize that this person makes you very happy, brings out the best in you, and they will rejoice with the two of you. 

  4.  

    Notice if your plans are continually overturned in favor of hers. Instead, you’re always changing plans to do what she wants, always meeting up with herfriends.

    • Be aware of the way he/she behaves with your family and friends, especially if she/he interrupts them, contradicts them, or behaves dismissively. If you feel you need to apologize or explain her behavior to your family or friends, there’s a problem there.
       
    • Are you realizing it’s just become easier notto spend time with people you’ve loved for years, rather than to make apologies or excuses?
       
    • Have all of your past attachments to people and places been replaced by either old friends of your new love, or new friends you’ve made since you’ve been together? Severing your ties to the familiar stability of people you have always known means she has just made herself/himself the center of your universe, and now has no competition for your attention. 
  5.  

    Watch out for subtle discrepancies. When talking with mutual friends, have they ever said something about your new boyfriend/girlfriend that made you stop and say, “Huh? But he said something different to me… You can’t have understood that right.” Did you then dismiss the idea that what your friends heard could have actually been true? That’s a big red flag. When you’re being controlled or manipulated, it’s usually through half-truths or omissions, not outright lies. There’s just enough weirdness to make you stop and think, but not quite enough to get you to re-evaluate the entire relationship. If this happens more than once, STOP and remind yourself that this isn’t the first time you’ve had this reaction. Start analyzing discrepancies between what your boyfriend said and what your friends say. If there are a lot of them, call her out on them. If his reaction or answers don’t satisfy, it is time to re-evaluate in a major way. And don’t delay doing the analysis – it may save you from disaster later. 

  6.  

    Keep your support system. Cutting you off from your support systems helps her/him gain dominance over you – and you think it’s your decision. A controlling partner will treat your friends with disrespect – your friends will report rude remarks made behind your back, or you will actually see her treat them in a dismissive (“You don’t have the same experience I have.”) or outright rude way (“That’s just stupid. You’re wrong.”). However, when you’re alone with her, she never says a bad word about those friends, but rather is kind, loving, and even complimentary about them. It makes you believe your family or friends are simply jealous, don’t understand her, etc. You forget her nastiness to their faces because she’s nice behind their backs. When you find yourself telling your mom or sister, “But, you have to understand her like I do,” that’s a bad sign. Why should everyone else understand her and adjust their behavior – wouldn’t it be easier if she would adjust hers?It’s much easier for her to control you when you’ve decided your loved ones just don’t understand your mate, and soon, you have no one but her to turn to. 

  7.  

    Recognize excessive jealousy or possessiveness as a danger signal. If your partner is protective of you, that’s sweet. If he’s bizarrely, overly protective, it’s scary. Consider whether he constantly nags about how long it takes you to make a trip to the market or to the post office. Does he interrogate you if you aren’t home exactly on time, or if you go out for any reason? Does he question you too intensely about why you were talking to another person? 

  8.  

    Watch for repeat offenses, shallow apologies and “courting” afterwards. She does something that is totally unacceptable then asks your forgiveness, tells you she realizes she was wrong, and promises to change. She seems utterly sincere and convincing – but it is part of the control. It is a way to use your compassion to keep you interested – at this point she may even tearfully say she wants your help to change, particularly if you have let her know that you will not tolerate such things again. She may bring you lavish gifts and attempt to sweep you off your feet, again, re-establishing her sincerity and your belief that she truly loves you (and she may, but in a really toxic, controlling way). Watch for the bad behavior to resume as soon as she believes she has you hooked and complacent again. 

  9.  

    Beware of the “backhanded compliment”. Saying, “Nobody will ever love you the way I do,” seems sweet, but he wants you to believe that nobody but he will ever love you again.It fosters utter dependence on him and his love. Over time, these ideas erode your sense of confidence. You will begin to believe you’re unworthy of better treatment, and he’s the best you can hope for. Do not believe this, you deserve so much more – and that is what you should have. 

  10.  

    Stop berating yourself for being into this person. Realize that she’s amazing – on the surface – and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for being attracted to that. These people are often an odd mix of very high intellect or talent, coupled with low self-esteem (although they often seem confident to the point of arrogance – a mask for their internal lack of true confidence). Controlling, manipulative people are not able to just let things happen naturally – she mustcontrol things or, in her mind, things will “get away” from her – so she’s compelled by her inner horrors to make sure she’s the one pulling all the strings. But what makes it most awful is that she’s probably gorgeous (you thought so, right?) and smart, funny and charming. It’s no wonder you fell for her.

     

Ask yourself whether the relationship is worth saving. All of the above are warning signs that you are involved with a controlling person who’s likely to be manipulating you. Try to be objective, though. If talking, working it through, or going to counseling fails to get your partner to stop these behaviors for longer than it takes to convince you of his sincerity (in other words, behaviors resume again after a short time), there may be no choice but to part ways, even if you still love him. 

Tips

  • Do recognize that almost everyone is capable of some manipulative or controlling behaviors from time to time – we all want to get our way or to win the argument. But when you begin to recognize more than a few of the above warning signs, it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship and decide whether it’s truly an equal partnership.
  • Don’t blow off the opinions of your friends and family; they do have your best interests in mind. One person can be ignored – many cannot. Do they tell you you’re acting strange lately? Do they comment on how different you seem – and not in a good way? Has anyone you love and respect expressed actual dislike for your partner? Ask yourself, “Is my mom (for example) right about every other thing, but wrong about this ONE thing – the new girlfriend?” And if more than oneclose family member or friend is expressing dislike of the new gal, give more weight to the negative opinions.
  • Key to this entire discussion is the recognition that the establishment of control is subtle,and often occurs over time. The entire purpose of the article is to help you examine your relationship for the warning signs. Because these signs can be subtle, it can be helpful to see a collection of warning signs; one sign may not be a problem. Four or five – talk to friends and relatives. If they affirm the signs are there, it may be time to re-evaluate this relationship – and try to do it outside of the control of this person.
  • Make sure your relationship is a two-way street, and that your partner is giving as well as receiving. If you have something big coming up — an exam, for instance — so that if you get together, you will still need to study. She agrees initially to just come over and hang out while you study, but when she gets there, says something dismissive, like, “You shouldn’t be studying when we’re together, you should spend time with me. That exam isn’t such a big deal and it’s rude of you not to spend time with me.” That should be a flag. A healthy relationship means there is give and take. A controlling or manipulative relationship forces you to constantly choose between other important events and people in your life and your partner. Giving back in a relationship does not only mean showering you with affection and gifts. It means working together in co-operation on non-romantic subjects.
  • Controlling persons often check out of the relationship before you do; he may become detached and apathetic toward you. But unless he is the one to end this relationship, even though it is obvious he is interested in someone else, or at least looking with interest at others, he will freak out if you are the one to leave, and spend hours berating you for your thoughtless abandonment. Just so you know.
  • Don’t be mean about it. You don’t have to be like her to get away. Just say it’s not a match and you don’t intend to continue the relationship. Period. Don’t try pointing out all of the above warning signs. This type of person won’t recognize herself. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing– it wastes your time and makes the pig bitter.
  • Confess to your friends and family – apologize to themfor marginalizing them and disregarding their bad opinion of this person. Tell them you wish you had listened to them. Get all the anger and hurt out of your system – they will be only too happy to share. They will rejoice when you tell them it’s over.
  • Resist the temptation to be bitter about the experience. You’ve just survived a very tough situation and lived to tell the tale.

Warnings

  • Severely controlling and manipulative people are often produced by external factors such as abusive parents or clinical mental disorders. You cannot hope to change or rescue such a person, as much as you may care for her; the best help you can give her is to (A) refuse to be her victim, and (B) direct her to professional help.
  • The likelihood of stalking and violent behaviors developing in this type of person is higher than in others, both for you and any supporters you might have. If you feel you’re being stalked, notify the authorities and take steps to make yourself safe (travel with others, stay with friends or family, avoid places you frequented together, get a restraining order).
  • If he shows up at your door after you’ve broken it off, don’t open it if you’re home alone. Make sure someone else is with you if you do decide to talk to him (not recommended), but even though you want to be compassionate, the best and easiest approach is to simply cut off contact.
  • Compassion is not easily understood or accepted by these folks, and it just hurts you both more in the end, as it is likely to be used as a weapon against you. Cutting them off may seem cruel, but it ends the confrontations and forces them to move on or get help.
  • Watch for stalking or menacing behaviors or threats, including threats to harm you or your supporters, or to commit suicide. Don’t rely on your own judgment to determine whether threats are serious. Report them to the police immediately. This person is probably just difficult and not dangerous, but don’t take any chances. If necessary, get a restraining order and call the cops each and every timeit is violated.
  • While it is preferable that marriages involving kids be worked out, in many cases, a controlling manipulator is not amenable to marriage or family counseling. If your partner is not willing to commit to counseling, then separation may be the only answer. Without family counseling, the manipulative, controlling partner will damage the children, and you will spawn more of the same type of person.
  • Couples counseling or marriage counseling may not be a safe place for you to talk about any abuse you are enduring, with the abuser sitting right next to you during a session. You need individual supportive counseling that is often available for free at your local domestic violence agency. They can connect you to an agency close by.
  • Don’t be cowed by people or ideas that you should “stay for the sake of the children.” Some people are so controlling, manipulative and narcissistic that the best interest of the children is served by leaving the relationship, and taking the children with you. Unfortunately, controlling, manipulative persons can become very destructive, and even dangerous, and you should never stay in a relationship that is either, especially if you have kids. It’s your first duty to protect them, not continually allow them to be abused by a person like this.

Steps to Recognizing an Abusive Man

  • Watch out for very possessive and controlling guys. They are more likely to become abusive.
  • Monitor his jealousy and insecurity levels. Does he overreact when you spend time with others? Does he dislike your friends for no apparent reason? Does he accuse you of cheating?
  • Be aware of violence or threats of violence. This is never acceptable behavior. Has he ever shoved or hit you? These are the most obvious signs of an abuser. Has he ever thrown things at you? Has he threatened to do any of these things? Is he physically threatening with other people? Does he punch walls, doors, or other inanimate objects? Try to find out about his fighting history. If he has been in lots of fights with other guys, you know that he’s violent. These are the most obvious signs of an abuser.
  • Don’t get taken in by the way he cries and rationalizes his behavior. He will use your sympathy to get to you. He may even try to manipulate you by making it seem like it’s your fault.
  • Notice if he tries to remove you from public places in order to abuse you.
  • See if he belittles you all the time. Does he ever call you names? Hurtful names that you have repeatedly begged him not to call you? If there are children in the relationship, does he belittle you to them?
  • Watch how he talks to or about your parents or your friends. Is he rude or unkind? Or is he a completely different person when others are around, so much that it seems that he’s two different people?
  • Be aware of him trying to make you feel guilty. Such as “It was your fault that happened, and I did nothing, I just tried to keep you from hurting me.”
  • Look for patterns. People who are abusive in relationships are often abusive in other situations. Abusing other family members, such as parents, hurting pets, road-rage, or even personal abuse in the form of drugs or alcohol are all things to be aware of.

How to Spot an Abuser on Your First Date

How to Spot an Abuser on Your First Date

by Sam Vaknin

 
Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with? Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be abuser. Here’s how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses  his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured, and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled?

Does he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal autonomy)?

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks? Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.

Does he find sadistic sex exciting? Does he have fantasies of rape or pedophilia? Is he too forceful with you in and out of the sexual intercourse? Does he like hurting you physically or finds it amusing? Does he abuse you verbally – does he curse you, demeans you, calls you ugly or inappropriately diminutive names, or persistently criticizes you? Does he then switch to being saccharine and “loving”, apologizes profusely and buys you gifts?

If you have answered “yes” to any of the above – stay away! He is an abuser.

Then there is the abuser’s body language. It comprises an unequivocal series of subtle – but discernible – warning signs. Pay attention to the way your date comports himself – and save yourself a lot of trouble!

Many of my correspondents complain of the incredible deceptive powers of the narcissist. They find themselves involved with narcissists (emotionally, in business, or otherwise) before they have a chance to discover their true character. Shocked by the later revelation, they mourn their inability to separate from the narcissist and their gullibility.

Narcissists are an elusive breed, hard to spot, harder to pinpoint, impossible to capture. Even an experienced mental health diagnostician with unmitigated access to the record and to the person examined would find it fiendishly difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether someone suffers from an impairment, i.e., a mental health disorder  or merely possesses narcissistic traits, a narcissistic personality structure (“character”), or a narcissistic “overlay” superimposed on another mental health problem.

Moreover, it is important to distinguish between the traits and behaviour patterns that are independent of the patient’s cultural-social context (i.e., which are inherent, or idiosyncratic) – and reactive patterns, or conformity to cultural and social morals and norms. Reactions to severe Life crises are often characterised by transient pathological narcissism, for instance (Ronningstam and Gunderson, 1996). But such reactions do not a narcissist make.

When a person lives in a society and culture that has often been described as narcissistic by scholars (e.g., Theodore Millon) and social thinkers (e.g., Christopher Lasch) – how much of his behaviour can be attributed to his milieu – and which of his traits are really his?

Additionally, there is a qualitative difference between having a narcissistic style, or a narcissistic personality – and being diagnosed with the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The latter is rigorously defined in the DSM IV-TR and adheres to strict criteria and differential diagnoses (for more, see here: http://samvak.tripod.com/npdglance.html).

Narcissism is regarded by many scholars to be an adaptative strategy (“healthy narcissism”). It is considered pathological in the clinical sense only when it becomes a rigid personality structure replete with a series of primitive defence mechanisms (such as splitting, projection, projective identification, or intellectualization) – and when it leads to dysfunctions in one or more areas of life.

Pathological narcissism is the art of deception. The narcissist projects a False Self and manages all his social interactions through this concocted fictional construct. People often find themselves involved with a narcissist (emotionally, in business, or otherwise) before they have a chance to discover his true nature.

When the narcissist reveals his true colours, it is usually far too late. His victims are unable to separate from him. They are frustrated by this acquired helplessness and angry that they failed to see through the narcissist earlier on.

But the narcissist does emit subtle, almost subliminal, signals (“presenting symptoms”) even in a first or casual encounter. These are:

Haughty” body language – The narcissist adopts a physical posture, which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers, mysteriousness, amused indifference, etc. Though the narcissist usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often refrains from physical proximity (he is “territorial”).

The narcissist takes part in social interactions – even mere banter – condescendingly, from a position of supremacy and faux “magnanimity and largesse”. But he rarely mingles socially and prefers to remain the “observer”, or the “lone wolf”.

Entitlement markers – The narcissist immediately asks for “special treatment” of some kind. Not to wait his turn, to have a longer or a shorter therapeutic session, to talk directly to authority figures (and not to their assistants or secretaries), to be granted special payment terms, to enjoy custom tailored arrangements.

The narcissist is the one who – vocally and demonstratively  demands the undivided attention of the head waiter in a restaurant, or monopolizes the hostess, or latches on to celebrities in a party. The narcissist reacts with rage and indignantly when denied his wishes and if treated equally with others whom he deems inferior.

Idealisation or devaluation – The narcissist instantly idealises or devalues his interlocutor. This depends on how the narcissist appraises the potential one has as a Narcissistic Supply Source. The narcissist flatters, adores, admires and applauds the “target” in an embarrassingly exaggerated and profuse manner – or sulks, abuses, and humiliates her.

Narcissists are polite only in the presence of a potential Supply Source. But they are unable to sustain even perfunctory civility and fast deteriorate to barbs and thinly-veiled hostility, to verbal or other violent displays of abuse, rage attacks, or cold detachment.

The “membership” posture – The narcissist always tries to “belong”. Yet, at the very same time, he maintains his stance as an outsider. The narcissist seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself without investing the efforts commensurate with such an undertaking.

For instance: if the narcissist talks to a psychologist, the narcissist first states emphatically that he never studied psychology. He then proceeds to make seemingly effortless use of obscure professional terms, thus demonstrating that he mastered the discipline all the same – which Proves that he is exceptionally intelligent or introspective.

In general, the narcissist always prefers show-off to substance. One of the most effective methods of exposing a narcissist is by trying to delve deeper. The narcissist is shallow, a pond pretending to be an ocean. He likes to think of himself as a Renaissance man, a Jack of all trades. A narcissist never admits to ignorance in any field – yet, typically, he is ignorant of them all. It is surprisingly easy to penetrate the gloss and the veneer of the narcissist’s self-proclaimed omniscience.

Bragging and false autobiography – The narcissist brags incessantly. His speech is peppered with “I”, “my”, “myself”, and “mine”. He describes himself as intelligent, or rich, or modest, or intuitive, or creative  but always excessively, implausibly, and extraordinarily so.

The narcissist’s biography sounds unusually rich and complex. His achievements – incommensurate with his age, education, or renown. Yet, his actual condition is evidently and demonstrably incompatible with his claims. Very often, the narcissist lies or fantasies are easily discernible. He always name-drops and appropriates other people’s experiences and accomplishments.

Emotion-free language – The narcissist likes to talk about himself and only about himself. He is not interested in others or what they have to say, unless it is a potential Source of Supply and in order to obtain said supply. He acts bored, disdainful, even angry, if he feels an intrusion on and abuse of his precious time.

In general, the narcissist is very impatient, easily bored, with strong attention deficits – unless and until he is the topic of discussion. One can dissect all aspects of the intimate life of a narcissist, providing the discourse is not “emotionally tinted”. If asked to relate directly to his emotions, the narcissist intellectualises, rationalises, speaks about himself in the third person and in a detached “scientific” tone or composes a narrative with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical.

Seriousness and sense of intrusion and coercion – The narcissist is dead serious about himself. He may possess a fabulous sense of humour, scathing and cynical, but rarely is he self-deprecating. The narcissist regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global. If a scientist – he is always in the throes of revolutionising science. If a journalist – he is in the middle of the greatest story ever.

This self-misperception is not amenable to light-headedness or self-effacement. The narcissist is easily hurt and insulted (narcissistic injury). Even the most innocuous remarks or acts are interpreted by him as belittling, intruding, or coercive. His time is more valuable than others’ –  therefore, it cannot be wasted on unimportant matters such as social intercourse.

Any suggested help, advice, or concerned inquiry are immediately cast by the narcissist as intentional humiliation, implying that the narcissist is in need of help and counsel and, thus, imperfect. Any attempt to set an agenda is, to the narcissist, an intimidating act of enslavement. In this sense, the narcissist is both schizoid and paranoid and often entertains ideas of reference.

These – the lack of empathy, the aloofness, the disdain, the sense of entitlement, the restricted application of humour, the unequal treatment and the paranoia – render the narcissist a social misfit. The narcissist is able to provoke in his milieu, in his casual acquaintances, even in his psychotherapist, the strongest, most avid and furious hatred and revulsion. To his shock, indignation and consternation, he invariably induces in others’ unbridled aggression.

He is perceived to be asocial at best and, often, antisocial. This, perhaps, is the strongest presenting symptom. One feels ill at ease in the presence of a narcissist for no apparent reason. No matter how charming, intelligent, thought provoking, outgoing, easy going and social the narcissist is  he fails to secure the sympathy of his fellow humans, a sympathy he is never ready, willing, or able to grant them in the first place.

How do you Define an Affair?

On a recent British chat show that was dealing with the topic of infidelity, one of the participants was denying the fact that she’d had an affair.

I didn’t have an affair.  It was a relationship that involved sex”, she said.  To me, that just sounded like a poor justification for cheating on her partner.  However, I then realised that it is how the individual or, more importantly, a couple defines an affair.  If a couple agree that an affair is something that involves more than sex e.g. companionship, understanding, empathy etc., then pure sex alone cannot be defined as an affair in the eyes of such a couple.

Personally, I would define an affair as an ongoing, dishonest relationship with someone other than your partner, which involves intense feelings such as deep affection, love or lust.  By dishonest, I mean a relationship that is deliberately kept secret from the regular partner or one that involves deceit, such as lying to your partner about where you’re going, where you’ve been, why you’re late home or why you didn’t come home at all.

Iwould regard any intimate physical contact with someone other than your partner as being unfaithful and that includes kissing, but a one-night stand is not an affair, it’s a one-off act of infidelity.

When I asked my partner what his definition of an affair was, he said, “Spending quality time with anyone other than your partner”, to which he immediately received certain favours for giving a more than adequate reply!  When I then accused him of having an affair with his mates, with whom he enjoys the occasional game of football, he re-phrased that to, “Spending quality time with someone of the opposite sex then.” Unless you happen to be gay or bisexual, in which case spending time with someone of either sex who is not your partner would meet the criteria of an affair.

My very possessive friend Julia, 33, told me that her definition of being unfaithful was, “Having lustful thoughts about someone other than your partner.”  If we all agreed with that definition, then I imagine everybody has been disloyal at some time in his or her life, even if it was only through a dream whilst asleep!

Awork colleague of my partner had this to say.  “There’s nothing wrong with sleeping with someone purely for sexual gratification, even if you are in a long-term relationship.  If there is no other feeling involved, then there is no threat to the relationship and it can therefore not be regarded as an affair.  Just because you sleep with someone, does not mean that you have all the other feelings of love, respect and complete adoration that you have for your partner, so how can it be classed as betrayal?” 

Respect?  How could he have the audacity to use the word respect?  This particular chap is still single at 32 years of age and seems to have difficulty in holding down a relationship for any length of time.  How odd.

If you have any respect for your partner and, certainly, if you really love your other half, there is no way that you would even consider seeking gratification elsewhere.  What about the guilt, the consequences from being caught out and the possibility that you may end up re-enacting a horrible scene from Fatal Attraction?  Besides, as Paul Newman said of his lifelong marriage to Joanne Woodward, “Why go out for a hamburger when you can have steak at home?”

As far as I am concerned, if you are happy, then you don’t have an affair, a one-night stand or even a passionate clinch in a drunken moment.  Blaming the alcohol is another over-used, pathetic and completely non-feasible excuse for having a fling.  Alcohol just gives you the courage to follow up your intentions, to act out some intimate scenario about which you have already fantasised.

One guy who found out the hard way is Simon, 34.  “My ex-fiancé, Amanda, was the most wonderful and trusting woman that I have ever had the privilege to know.  But I threw away everything that I had by abusing her trust and having, what can only be classified as, a knee trembler in the toilets at an office Christmas party.  My guilt led me to confide in a friend, but he betrayed me by telling his wife, who in turn told my fiancé.  As you can imagine, she was absolutely and totally crushed and it still tears me apart now, five years on, to think about the pain that I caused her.  Naturally, she ended the relationship immediately, because as far as she was concerned, I was not the person she thought I was and she said that her faith in me had been completely destroyed.

I have never since met another woman quite like her and I will have to live with the guilt of what I did for the rest of my life.  Every woman I meet I compare to Amanda and no one has even come close.  I recently heard that she had got married and I can’t tell you how shattered I felt.  I suppose I thought that maybe she would forgive me and that we could start over again, but in reality I didn’t deserve her.

I didn’t have what I would term as an affair, but what I did was equally as devastating to my partner and it is something that I would never do again.  If I were unhappy in a relationship, I would end it first before embarking on another romantic or physical liaison.”

Some couples agree on having an open relationship, allowing each other the freedom to have other sexual partners, yet even in these relationships there are rules.

Christine, 48 and Brian, 52 are one such couple, who have both had numerous sexual partners whilst they have been married to each other, but who clearly love each other deeply.

Brian said, “Christine and I had been married for about three years, when we watched a programme on couples who have open relationships.  We had openly joked about it previously, but it was only after watching this programme that we started to consider it as a real option for ourselves.  There wasn’t anything wrong with our relationship and our sex life was relatively good, but there were certain techniques and fantasies that I would liked to have carried out, but that Christine wasn’t keen on and vice versa.  Eventually, we decided to sleep with other people in order to fulfil the areas that were missing sexually, but that is all.   And I have to say that since starting this eight years ago, our own relationship has gone from strength to strength” 

Christine continues, “We sat down and discussed the subject at great length and agreed on what we would and wouldn’t tolerate.  I must admit that I wasn’t as keen on the idea as Brian initially, because the thought that he may actually fall in love with one of his partners was a major concern.  However, I also knew that a sound relationship isn’t built on sex alone and that, ultimately, if our relationship continued to be as strong as it had been, then it would continue, irrespective of who Brian met.”

Both Christine and Brian agree that even when they sleep with a partner more than once, it does not constitute an affair, because by their definition, an affair is only classed as such if it means being unfaithful to your partner.  If both partners have agreed on an open relationship, then they are not being disloyal to each other.

Although there appears to be no clear definition of an affair, one thing is evident.  A couple has to establish firm ground rules about what is and isn’t acceptable conduct, before entering into a long-term commitment.

Living Together Before Marriage: Compatability Test or Curse?

 

by Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D.

Living together before getting married is a common practice in today’s world. People cite any number of seemingly practical reasons for doing so. But almost everyone who has studied these couples has come to the same conclusion: Marriages following cohabitation are almost inevitably doomed.

I’ve seen it happen myself while counseling such couples. And I know why their marriages fail. In almost all cases, the problem in their marriage is that they refuse to make decisions that would benefit both of them simultaneously. In other words, they won’t follow the Policy of Joint Agreement (never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner).

As cohabitors, a couple usually makes their decisions with just enough care for each other to keep their relationship alive. They live like renters, without a commitment to become partners for life. As a result, instead of trying to blend their lives together by making win-win decisions that are mutually beneficial, they tend to make win-lose decisions that violate the Policy of Joint Agreement.

When they marry, each spouse tries to be on the winning end of each decision as often as possible. They fight for control which creates a very abusive relationship. Eventually they stop showing any consideration at all for each other, making completely independent decisions. A couple that may have appeared to be compatible when they first lived together, eventually become incompatible as their independent decisions and lifestyles destroy their love for each other.

Read the letter below and you’ll see what I mean.

Dear Dr. Harley,

I was married only four months ago after having lived with my husband, Ed, for five years. Since the wedding he has been acting completely different.

Ed has turned our garage into his domain, complete with carpet, couches, appliances, and everything you would need in the perfect bachelor pad. He constantly has friends over and I am excluded. When he is not spending time in the garage he is on-line or playing interactive computer games with his friends. He rarely comes to bed at the same time as me, and just generally does not seem to be interested in sharing anything with me lately.

I understand that marriage is a huge change, but Ed never acted this way before, why now? He is the one that really pushed getting married. I was very hesitant because of my parents’ bad relationship. I even left him at one point three years ago because he was pressuring me so much. We discussed marriage at great length and both finally felt that it was the right time, so I do not understand his recent behavior.

Is this normal?

Becky

This letter is one of thousands I’ve received from people whose marriages crumbled after having lived together prior to marriage. It illustrates in a most vivid way what happens to most of these marriages. Instead of being more thoughtful and accommodating after making the commitment of marriage, these people tend to become more thoughtless and self-centered.

Becky’s husband, Ed, would not have dared transform the garage (and himself) before they got married because she would have left him if he had. Before marriage he took her feelings into account because if he had not, their relationship would have ended.

Throughout their relationship, Ed put pressure on Becky to marry him so he could finally do what he pleased without fear of her leaving. He didn’t explain that objective to her, of course, but the way he pressured her made her so uncomfortable that she actually left him on one occasion.

Now that Ed is married to Becky, he thinks that she will stay with him in spite of what he does. But Becky won’t put up with his independent behavior. Becky will probably divorce him and their’s will join the vast majority of broken marriages that follow cohabitation.

My own experience counseling cohabiting couples and research conducted by social scientists both point to the same frightening conclusion — living together before marriage tends to doom a romantic relationship. Instead of making the relationship more solid, marriage tends to speed up its demise.

The risk of divorce for couples that lived together before marriage is 80 percent higher than the risk of divorce for non-cohabiting couples. In other words, those who live together before marriage are about twice as likely to divorce than those who did not live together. And the risk of divorce is higher than 80 percent if a couple live together fewer than three years prior to marriage (1).

One of the most common reasons couples live together before marrying is to test their compatibility. That sounds like a reasonable strategy to many people. But as it turns out, such a test appears to almost guarantee a divorce if they do marry.

A study that controlled for factors that might have made divorce more likely among those who tend to cohabit (parental divorce, age at marriage, stepchildren, religion, and other factors) showed that even when these effects are accounted for, cohabitation itself still accounts for a higher divorce rate. In other words, regardless of who you are, you are much more likely to divorce if you live together first (2).

Another study echoed that same sentiment. It found that the unconventionality of those who live together does not explain their subsequent struggle when married. There is something about living together first that creates marital problems later. They write: “Despite a widespread public faith in premarital cohabitation as a testing ground for marital incompatibility, research to date indicates that cohabitors’ marriages are less satisfactory and more unstable than those of noncohabitors” (3).

The gist of research right up to the present day is that if you live together before marriage, you will be fighting an uphill battle to create a happy and sustainable relationship.

Why Risk It?

The number of unmarried couples living together has increased dramatically over the past few decades, and I expect that it will continue to increase in the decades to come. Usually their rationale is simple: By living together before marriage, we’ll know how compatible we are. Presumably, if a couple can get along living in the same apartment before marriage, they will be able to get along with each other after marriage.

That’s a tempting argument. After all, a date tends to be artificial. Each person is up for the occasion, and they make a special effort to have a good time together. But marriage is quite different from dating. In marriage, couples are together when they’re down, too. Doesn’t it make sense for them to live together for a while — just to see how they react to each other’s down times? If they discover that they can’t adjust when they live together, they don’t have to go through the hassle of a divorce.

In my experience and in the reports I’ve just cited, the chances of a divorce after living together are huge, much higher than for couples that have not lived together prior to marriage. If living together were a good test of marital compatibility, the research should show opposite results. Couples living together should have stronger marriages. But they don’t. They have weaker marriages. So what’s going wrong here?

Why Doesn’t It Work?

If you are unmarried and living with someone in a romantic relationship, or are contemplating doing so, ask yourself this question: Why did (or would) you choose to live with your partner instead of marrying him or her? Your answer is likely to have something to do with the fact that you (or your partner) were not yet ready to make an exclusive and permanent commitment. You wanted to see if you still felt the same about him or her after you cooked meals together, cleaned the apartment together and slept together. And you probably wanted to see what married life would be like without the commitment of marriage.

Right now, you are testing each other to see if you are compatible. If either of you slips up, the relationship may end. That’s because your commitment of living together is a tentative agreement: “As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I’ll stick around.” It’s what I call a Renter’s agreement.

You assume that your Renters agreement will provide a valid test of how you will feel about each other, and how you will treat each other, when you are married. But that’s only a valid assumption if you are willing to continue using your Renter’s agreement after marriage. Under that agreement, if the conditions are not right, either of you can leave, marriage or no marriage. And if that’s the way you want it, marriage really doesn’t change anything. And it certainly doesn’t commit you to much.

I assume, though, that marriage would mean something more to you than that. It would be a commitment not to leave each other when things get tough. But it’s much more than a commitment not to leave. It’s an agreement that you will take care of each other for life, regardless of life’s ups and downs. You will stick with each other through thick and thin. In other words, the test is over. You have now made a final decision as to whom your life mate will be, and you commit yourself exclusively and permanently to that person’s care, especially when it comes to meeting the intimate needs met in a romantic relationship. Sounds like a Buyer’s agreement, doesn’t it?

But why should that marriage agreement ruin the relationships of those who have lived together first? What’s wrong with a commitment to care for someone? It should make a relationship stronger, not weaker.

Becky’s letter gives us the answer to that question. When she and Ed made their wedding vows, he heard her make a commitment to his care for life, regardless of what he did. While they were living together, he knew she had one foot out the door, and he did not want her to leave him. So he treated her with enough kindness to keep her around. But when she made the vow of marriage, he thought he was now free to be thoughtless. He didn’t seem to pay much attention to the vow he made to care for her. On the day of their wedding, Ed traded his Renter’s agreement in for a Freeloader’s agreement. “I’ll do whatever I please, regardless of how you feel about it.”

Committed for Life

Most people want commitment after marriage. But there is considerable confusion as to what that commitment really means.

Ed’s idea of commitment was that Becky wouldn’t leave him if he were thoughtless. Her commitment gave him the impression that he could do after marriage what he could not have done before marriage. And he may have gone so far as to assume that he was also committed not to leave her if she were thoughtless. In other words, his marriage vows didn’t seem to have anything to do with a commitment to provide Becky care and thoughtfulness in marriage. It was simply a commitment not to leave her.

If care and thoughtfulness are not a commitment in marriage, the commitment not to leave doesn’t make much sense. Why commit yourself to stay in an uncaring and thoughtless relationship? This crucial misunderstanding of commitment may fully explain why those who cohabitate before marriage divorce so soon after marriage. They are making a commitment that no one in their right mind would keep.

The real commitment of marriage is not the one Ed thought he and Becky were making to each other. It’s not a commitment to stay regardless of how you are treated. It’s a commitment to care for each other and be thoughtful regardless of the circumstances you find yourselves in. It means to “love and cherish each other in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live.” It’s not about just sticking around. It’s about loving and cherishing, especially under adverse conditions.

Marriage means that each spouse is committed to make a greater effort to care for each other than they were making before marriage — a greater effort to meet each other’s intimate needs and make decisions that benefit each other. But unfortunately, couples who live together don’t seem to care for each other after marriage as much as they did before marriage. They assume that they can get away with more. Instead of being motivated to do a better job, they tend to relax with the assumption that their spouse will put up with them, regardless of what they do. They believe that they don’t need to do much to keep their spouse around after he or she makes that commitment.

So the commitment of marriage usually has an effect opposite of that which couples who live together hope it will have. Instead of encouraging each spouse to make a greater effort to care, it actually takes away the incentive to care. After all, when you live together, your success in caring for each other is the only thing keeping you together. If that care is taken away, you’re history. But as Becky discovered, when care disappears after marriage, her commitment was expected to keep them together.

Is Renting Good Enough?

Not all couples who live together before marriage go through what Becky and Ed experienced. Ed went from being a Renter before marriage to a Freeloader after marriage. But many couples who cohabitate stay Renters after marriage. What happens to them?

Habits are hard to break, and couples who live together before marriage can get into the habit of following their month-to-month rental agreement. When a problem arises, they don’t usually consider win-win solutions that work for both of them. Instead, they regularly rely on win-lose solutions that involve sacrifice on the part of at least one partner. “I’ll give in this time if it will make you happy.”

This strategy can work if problems are few and relatively simple to solve. But as soon as life becomes complicated, the way it eventually gets when children arrive, win-lose strategies create frustration and resentment when sacrifice is required of a spouse. It invariably leads to fights — who will be the one to sacrifice next? So, with the introduction of complex problems such as raising children, marriages based on a Renter’s agreement become very abusive.

When those who live together before marriage finally decide to marry, it’s not usually because they are willing to improve the way they have been solving problems. They marry because the arrangement has worked out well enough that they are willing to sign a long-term lease, so to speak. When I have an opportunity to explain to these couples the difference between win-lose solutions that require one of them to sacrifice and win-win solutions that work well for both of them, they are usually unwilling to give up their win-lose solutions. They may say they want win-win solutions at the time they make their wedding vows, but a choice is to be made, they expect to give sacrificially, and receive sacrifice in return. And as I have mentioned before, that usually leads to fights — who’s willing to sacrifice this time?

A host of studies have found that couples who live together before marriage suffer three times the incidence of domestic violence that married couples suffer (4). And my experience working with cases of domestic violence in marriage almost exclusively involves couples who lived together before they were married. So cohabiting not only tends to lead to failed marriages, but it also tends to lead to violence whether or not the couple ever marry.

When the Renter’s agreement is in force, demands, disrespect, and anger are the norm. Cohabiting couples don’t look for solutions that make both of them happy. They look for solutions that make one person sacrifice for the happiness of the other. And if sacrifice is not forthcoming, punishment is inflicted.

But those who wait until after marriage to live together tend to experience a very low rate of violence and not much arguing. That’s because they tend to be Buyers. They negotiate in a safe and enjoyable way, trying to find win-win solutions to their problems. They have not lived together under the terms of the month-to-month rental agreement. So they usually begin their life together with the assumption that they are there to make each other happy permanently, and their willingness and ability to change their habits to accommodate each other usually reflect that commitment. They want to build compatibility, not test it.

Marriage has a very positive effect on couples who date but do not live together, because after they take their vows they tend to upgrade their care for each other. They make an effort to create a compatible lifestyle from day one. But marriage has a very negative effect on those who live together first because they tend to expect their partner to put up with anything they choose to do.

Avoiding marriage altogether does not save cohabiting couples. Instead, it leaves them with an increasingly abusive relationship. They may stay together a little longer when they don’t marry, but their relationship usually becomes increasingly violent. Make no mistake — cohabitation is a curse for marriage, and an extremely dangerous way to be in a romantic relationship.

But the negative effect of having lived together before marriage can be overcome. Couples that cohabitate don’t have to be destined to commit violent acts or end their relationship soon after marriage. All they must do to avoid the curse is to avoid the Renter’s or Freeloader’s agreement, and become Buyers when they marry. And all it takes to be a Buyer is to make every decision with each other’s interests in mind. As the Policy of Joint Agreement reads, never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner.