When a Divorce is Unexpected

By Susan Murphy-Milano

 You are now in a position where all your decisions will most assuredly impact your future. You must think logically and strategically while going through this period. If you feel you don’t know which way to turn and need advice, you may want to consult a relationship strategist or divorce planning expert before you take the first steps and consult an attorney. Be sure that the professional is someone who has your best interests at the forefront and represents you well. They should be able to advise you on a number of things, especially how to choose the right attorney and how to prepare yourself for your first consultation.

Follow these steps to keep on track:

  • Consult a lawyer immediately (consultation for the first half hour or so is usually free).
  • Bring with you to the lawyer a list of prepared questions to ask.
  • Try not to spend that free time crying or talking about your marriage. A lawyer is not there to be your therapist. Stick to only the facts as it pertains to children, finances and property. You are there to interview and possibly hire them.
  • Copy or scan all documents including wills, car titles, etc., and anything you find on the computer.
  • If you have an iPod, video camera or camera, take two pictures of everything including appliances, cars, artwork, antiques, jewelry, furniture etc.
  • Whatever you do, do not pack up and move out until the divorce is final (consult a lawyer first).
  • If you have never had a credit card in your own name, start applying now to establish a credit history of your own.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible when you tell the children. Do not speak negatively of or badmouth the other parent.
  • Do not use your children as a confidant. Do not involve your children in divorce preparation.
  • Try to keep the kid’s regularly scheduled activities and routines as normal as possible.

Consulting with a legal professional before you are served with divorce papers will better prepare you in the days and months that follow. A good attorney will be able to provide you with a clear understanding of your legal rights.

For more information refer to “Moving Out, Moving On.” You can order the e­book from http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/movingoutmovingon.

Important Note: If you have been in an abusive marriage you should inquire as to the lawyer’s expertise as it relates to domestic violence, orders of protection, stalking, and whether or not s/he has represented women who have been abused.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Not long ago I had a conversation with another pathology blogger who was adamant that isolating herself is what she needed. I recognize it’s what she wants. I want it too. I struggle with wanting to isolate especially when I’m triggered.

But really recovering from ALL of the PTSD symptoms means we have to challenge ourselves and deal with the parts that we are avoiding. Avoidance and it’s aftermath of isolation, is after all, a big part of PTSD and other stress related behaviors.

If our recovery was based on only doing what feels ‘good’ then we will only get partially recovered. The need to reduce hyper vigilance through isolation is paramount but it often squelches real legitimate needs for dealing with our avoidance and reaching out to build support and community.

Hyper vigilance feels horrible and many survivors get stuck in just trying to deal with that one symptom by isolating to the exclusion of dealing with that very real thing of isolation and avoidance. Isolation is used to manage hyper vigilance but if isolation is then dealt with it might not be what’s used to deal with hyper vigilance and forces another solution to be sought other than isolation.

Hypervigilance is one of the categories of symptoms in PTSD. But so is isolation. So as an example, the blog owner is essentially using some of the other categories of symptoms, isolation and avoidance, to try to deal with the category of hyper vigilance. It is like trying to use anxiety to manage depression. You can’t use one of the symptoms of the disorder to manage the other symptoms of the disorder.

PTSD recovery is not just about reducing hyper vigilance as this one blog owner stated. It is often a reflection of where our recovery stops, where we are stuck in getting to one place that we feel we can semi-control, like hyper vigilance, and the absence of that symptom feels as if we are ‘there’ or conquered some mountain in our symptom-lives. Or we become satisfied that if ‘at least’ we are not hyper vigilance it feels ‘good enough.’ It is unfortunate that we stop at managing one symptom and think ‘it’s enough’ and our avoidance swells at the thought of taking the next step to deal with the next set of symptoms.

Recovery is about ways of managing symptoms such as hyper vigilance, but as we know, there is MUCH MUCH more to PTSD or other stress disorders than one symptom. We can’t use one of the symptoms of our aftermath to try to manage another symptom. The answer is a full recovery, facing those things that are uncomfortable for us knowing that in the end, we will build mastery.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Grief and Its Impact on Relationship Selection

If you are still actively grieving the loss of a previous relationship, that grief can have devastating effects on the type of person you choose for a new relationship. Many people do not realize they are grieving when a relationship ends, which actually places them at risk of choosing dangerously while being impaired by their grief.

Some people assume that grief occurs only if your partner has recently died and if you are currently still saddened by the loss. But actually, grieving occurs when any relationship ends—whether it is anticipated, desired, prepared for, or not. The longer the relationship existed, the longer the grief normally takes to run its course.

People are often distressed to learn that there should be a ‘time-out’ from dating or future relationships when a relationship has ended. The rule of thumb is 6 months’ time-out for every 5 years of relationship. So if you were with someone (married or not) for 10 years, that would mean you take 1 year off (at least) from being in a relationship or dating. I get horrified reactions to that because most people think, “just get back out there; the best way to get over someone is with someone else.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many of my clients ended up in counseling with me because they did exactly that. While still grieving from a previous relationship, they made some bad choices in the selection of their next relationship which caused them even more problems and pain. When you are coming out of a relationship, you are in pain even if you aren’t acknowledging it, even if you wanted out of the relationship, even if you had planned for the ending of it. When you are in pain, you are not in your best decision-making mind. When issues of the previous relationship are not resolved, many people go on to choose someone just like the person in the relationship that just ended. Subconsciously they are trying to work out those relationship issues—but with a new person instead of the one they just left.

Drastically, many people jump from one relationship to the next to avoid being alone. Alone does not necessarily have to mean loneliness. But in these cases, people don’t really care about the quality of the next relationship. They only desire to avoid themselves and the feelings of the lost relationship. These are issues for the person to work out with a professional because people who cannot be alone are at a significant risk of choosing anyone to avoid being alone.

The baggage we carry from the last relationship has the ability to impact current and future relationships. Ideally, none of us want to hurt new relationships with our old relationship issues that are unresolved. That’s why time off between relationships helps us get some distance where we can assess the good and bad things of the relationship—our part in it, the types of people who we tend to select and whether we need to make some changes. These insights do not happen overnight or even within a few weeks. That is why following the formula listed above protects you from your own impaired relationship choices. Sometimes it allows enough time for you to see that you might need a few counseling sessions to work out your anger or fear, or look deeper at your relationship selection patterns.

The longer we wait and the more we work on ourselves between relationships, the better chances we have of bringing a more healthy self to the next relationship and being able to spot potential bad dating choices.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Emotional (Phantom Limb) Pain

In a session someone says, “I really miss what we had.  I could get over this if it hadn’t been the most wonderful relationship of my life.  I just feel like something has been cut out of me—like I’m missing a big part of myself now.”

Illusion is the mark of pathology.  It’s why our logo is a mask, because it best represents the mirage of normalcy that pathological individuals can often project … at least for a while.

Dr. Hervey M. Checkley, a psychiatrist and writer of pathology from the 1940s, entitled his famous book, The Mask of Sanity, and tells of pathology giving all the surface signals such as having a deep connection, having the most fun ever experienced with a person, of someone who is really into you—while behind the scenes you are being used as a distraction, a paycheck, grotesquely—as a “vaginal doormat,” or some other form of “feeding” of the pathological piranha.  What you are experiencing, you are internally labeling as “normal,” “wonderful,” or “love,” and yet it really isn’t any of those things.  It’s just a label of experience you have tagged with him.

If someone was watching your relationship as a movie, and watched scenes in which the pathological individual is exposed for his true self, your scene would be tagged and labeled very differently by the viewer than what is labeled in your own experience.  That’s because the viewer would see the pathological individual’s behaviors and words as manipulative and would have a distinctly different view of the storyline.  Your labeling of your experience isn’t always accurate.  As I often say, “Your thinking is what got you into this pathological relationship.  Don’t always believe what you think.”

Being invested in being correct is part of the human condition and is, in part, the way our brains work.  The more important the questions are—“Does he love me?”  “Is this the one?”—the greater the pleasure will seem from labeling the experience as positive.   The more positive the relationship is perceived, the more invested you will be to label the experiences and his behavior as positive, and to get the reward of your label, whether it is of him, the marriage, or the relationship.  Of course, none of this is problematic, except if you have misread the illusion, believed the presented mask, and labeled an experience with a narcissist, anti-social, or socio/psychopath as “positive.”

The illusion:

  • He was normal.
  • He was in love with you.
  • He was what he said he was.
  • He did what he said he did.

In pathology, that’s never the case, because:

  • They are mentally disordered (which isn’t normal).
  • Their attachments are shallow (which isn’t love).
  • They never present themselves as disordered, sexually promiscuous, and incapable of love (so he isn’t what he said he is).
  • They harbor hidden lives filled with other sex partners, hook-ups, criminality, or illegal and immoral behavior (so he doesn’t disclose what he’s really up to).

What you had (that you can’t possibly miss) is a pathological relationship.  What you want and miss is the ability to wrap yourself up in the illusion like a blanket—to go back to the time before you knew this was all illusion.

Women often say, when they try to break off the relationship, they have the feeling that something is being cut out of them.  They feel like they are missing a part of themselves.  This sensation is similar to what is called phantom limb pain, which is a medical mystery of sorts.  When a person has an arm that has been amputated, the portion of the brain that used to receive sensory messages about the existing arm goes through a series of changes.  This causes it to misread the brain message and creates the “ghostly” illusion that the arm is still there and in pain.  Even though the patient can see that the arm is gone, and what they are experiencing is an illusion; they can’t stop the distressing phantom limb sensations of wanting to believe the arm is still there.  The arm is in pain, but the arm is gone.  Amputees must learn to cope differently and begin to re-label the experience they are having that the presence of the arm is a perceptual illusion.

So it is with those leaving the illusion of the pathological relationship.  The emotional pain you experience is based on the illusion the pathological presented, a perceptual illusion that was mislabeled, experienced as positive, and invested in.  Keeping that positive illusion is initially important to you.  Learning to adjust the cognitive dissonance (which is the ping-ponging between thinking “he was good/he was bad”) is the challenge in overcoming the ghostly emotional baggage of phantom relationship pain.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Don’t Fake the Funk

“Don’t fake the funk.” ~Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

“Put a smile on your face no matter what.” “Turn your frown upside down.” “If you keep your face like that, it’ll freeze. Whoever came up with these statements was never in a relationship with a dangerous man.

The predominant thing women want to know in their phone counseling sessions is: “Is what I lived through in my dangerous-man experience normal?” “The effects I suffer today from that experience—do others have those experiences too?” “Why am I so depressed/anxious/obsessed/paranoid?” “What is it called that I have, and will I always be like this?”

Women greatly underestimate the damage done in dangerous and pathological relationships. Why? Often because they have been in so many of them that it’s now normal… being with someone so dangerous is normal to them AND feeling this bad is normal. It’s been so long since they didn’t have depression, anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, obsessions or paranoia—they have no idea what it feels like to not have these symptoms.

Some women also underestimate the damage because they were raised in families where dangerous behavior was also the norm. The chaos, drama, trauma, stress, and instability were the foundations of their home lives. Their childhood simply melded into their adulthood of the same kinds of relationships—except now, by their own choosing.

Women who have gone from pathological families into Pathological Love Relationships have been chronically depressed for so long that the biochemistry in their brain is currently altered. They have been anxious for so long that their biochemistry is altered by all the adrenaline they have lived on for so long. Long-term exposure to chronic stress, so often seen in dangerous relationships, eventually can create medical disorders. Some of the disorders suspected of being linked to unrelenting traumatic exposure include: autoimmune disorders like lupus, chronic fatigue and the Epstein-Barr virus.

Stress manifests in TMJ pain from teeth grinding, digestive disorders, migraines, hives and female disorders like endometriosis, phantom pelvic pain and other similar disorders. Stress has to go somewhere and often it is crammed into the body to wreak havoc on the body’s systems. Even when trauma has been so severe that much of it is not remembered, the body still remembers what the mind has chosen to forget. Your body always tells the truth.

Mood disorders are among the most common disorders associated with life in disordered relationships. Women are often in denial of the extent of their depression and/or anxiety—either it now feels normal or they don’t want to face what the relationship has cost them in medical and emotional disorders. ‘Faking the funk’ is just one way of coming to the truth of how ‘bodily expensive’ that relationship was. You can’t heal what you don’t see. So, taking your own inventory about how you really are is the first step in recovery. Mood disorders are often manageable through various means but you won’t be managing anything until you stop faking how affected you are by your own relational history.

Many women emerge from these relationships either diagnosed, or not yet diagnosed, with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—an anxiety disorder so extreme that the core concept of self is often fragmented. The cracked vessel must try to now function as an undamaged vase—but push on the crack and the vessel will break again.

The Institute’s books and programs are all geared to helping you face the aftermath damage of what you have experienced and helping you to recover from it.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Mutual Pathology: Gasoline and Fire

Pathology is a mental health issue, not a gender issue. Women have just as much pathology in some areas of personality disorders as men do in other areas of personality disorders. Some of the 10 personality disorders present more frequently in men, while some of the disorders present more in women.

As you have heard me say over the years, pathology is pathology—meaning that each personality disorder has its own problems and challenges in relationships, but mainly holds to the central three aspects that I talk about related to pathology:

  1. The inability to grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth.
  2. The inability to consistently sustain positive change.
  3. The inability to have insight about how one’s behavior negatively affects others.

Given these three aspects of personality disorders, we can easily see how each of the different types of personality disorders can be linked together by them.

While men may be more bent towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder or psychopathy, women may show more of a bent towards Histrionic, Dependent, or Borderline Personality Disorder. When you have a man with a personality disorder coupled with a personality disordered woman—it equals Jerry Springer dynamics!

There is no guarantee that there is only one pathological in the relationship. Women have just as many mental illnesses, addictions, and personality disorders as men. It’s quite common for people with a personality disorder to hook up with another disordered individual. When this happens you have two people who can’t grow to any true depth emotionally or spiritually, two people who can’t sustain positive change, and two people who don’t have insight about how their behavior affects others. These relationships are dramatic fire-beds of emotionality, addiction, and violence.

Women’s pathology is just as damaging to men as men’s pathology is to women. Women’s pathology may present differently than men’s overt aggression related to their pathology, but it is not any less problematic. Women’s pathology can sometimes (and I use the word “sometimes” lightly) be subtle when it is masked behind emotional dependency, sexual addiction, sexual manipulation, financial dependency, or high emotionality. Those types of symptoms can be associated with more than just a personality disorder. But women’s pathology is just as damaging to a partner, a boss, their family, friends and, God forbid, the effects it has on their children.

While women are more likely to be diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder, borderlines are often misdiagnosed and are really underdiagnosed psychopaths and anti-socials. There seems to be somewhat of a gender bias when it comes to diagnosing women with psychopathy. Unless they have participated in a Bonnie and Clyde-type episode, or made the America’s Most Wanted television program, they are likely to be downgraded in their pathology. Dramatic, highly emotional, or self-injuring women may be downgraded to Histrionic, Narcissistic, or Borderline Personality Disorder. Those with a little more flare for hiding their real lives may warrant the same diagnosis as male psychopaths. Their ability to hide it better, or having less violence associated with their behavior, goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

But not all female psychopaths are nonviolent. Many are horribly violent—to their children and their partners—yet always present themselves as the victim. These are the women most likely to press unwarranted domestic violence assaults, cry rape that didn’t happen, and abandon their children. The point is, both genders can have personality disorders, and each personality disorder may or may not present in a slightly different way in the other gender.

Beyond mutual pathology, a woman’s own mental health can influence the dynamics within a relationship with a pathological man. A woman who has bipolar disorder that is untreated, and who is in a relationship with a borderline male, can bring unusually dramatic dynamics to the relationship. Their fluctuations in mood can ignite a feeding frenzy of boiling anger in both which is likely to lead to violence. Both partners having a substance abuse or alcohol problem can certainly fuel the relationship dynamics in further, severely negative ways.

Let’s not overlook the “model” of pathological behavior that a woman often gets from being raised in a home with a pathological parent. She brings to the relationship the pathological-like behaviors that are learned within pathological families. I have seen this in sessions with women (and read it a lot in the emails I receive) where the pathological affects of her childhood, adult life, or past or current relationship is negatively affecting her worldview, current level of functioning, as well as the entitlement attitudes she brings to the table. Couple any of HER mental health issues and situations along with HIS pathology, and you have some of the most volatile and difficult relationships and breakups in history.

There have been many times in working with a woman that I recognize the man is not the only problem in the scenario. Not all women in pathological relationships are mentally ill. However, some women in pathological relationships ARE mentally ill. Some of their own mental illness can be the gasoline on the fire of the pathological love relationship that fans the flames of danger for them. Red flags, for me, that show there are possible mental health issues with women include the following:

  • Entitlement
  • Chronic victim mentality
  • Unregulated mood issues not amenable to treatment/medication
  • Chronically returning to the pathological relationship
  • Replacing relationships with more pathological relationships
  • History of unsuccessful counseling/treatment
  • Lack of responsibility for her own behaviors/choices

These represent only a few of the many symptoms that could indicate a possible mental health issue in the woman as well.

Clearly, pathology is not gender specific. Pathology and other mental health issues in both parties can accelerate the dangerousness and problems seen in pathological love relationships.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Will I Ever Find MINE?

February brings Valentine’s Day—a trigger month for many women who want to just ‘slip back into the fantasy’ of everything we associate as a culture with Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those trigger months, like November and December (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve), where women want to ‘look the other way’ in order to have a nice day or time with him. Just for 24 hours she wants to pretend he really isn’t pathological. She wants the chocolates, the flowers, a dinner out, dancing, a little romance—and 24 hours of normalcy. But at midnight, the Cinderella dress turns back to what it was and the carriage that carried the handsome prince is once again a pumpkin with field mice.

Pink and red hearts do not make his pathology ‘turn off’ for the convenience of a lovers’ holiday. Women get frustrated and want to know, “Will I ever find MY love? When will it be MY turn to find someone worth loving?”

I don’t know… can you:

  • Stop focusing on him?
  • Be willing to manage your intrusive thoughts of him?
  • Redirect your obsessions from him to your own self-care?
  • Create a full life so you aren’t lonely?
  • Build a foundation of support that doesn’t include ‘having to be’ in a relationship?
  • Learn to find fulfillment in activities that don’t only include intimate relationships?
  • Treat your symptoms of anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  • Heal your sexuality?
  • Embrace spirituality?
  • Learn to be attracted to guys who aren’t proverbial bad boys?
  • Dig deep to see what all your relationships have in common so you don’t repeat the pattern?
  • Memorize what pathology is, and stop looking for loopholes?
  • Take a year, or maybe even two years, OFF from dating to nurture all those places in you that are wounded and broken?
  • Take time to learn what your trait proclivities are (read Women Who Love Psychopaths) so you know how to safeguard yourself in the next relationship?
  • Seriously UNDERSTAND how your traits and his traits are a magnet to each other?
  • Most of all… can you LOVE yourself?

Realize YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR YOU! If another relationship DOESN’T come along… you WILL survive. If you’re really determined, you’ll even THRIVE. Get grounded—sink your feet into the earth of your soul and declare you’ll never be uprooted again… no matter what. You’re grounded in you and reality—not fantasy. Be willing to challenge old belief systems, old assumptions, old patterns, and old preferences.

This month is Valentines Day… you’ve fallen in love with all sorts of things and people… you’ve fallen in love with illusions, dreams, hopes, and pathology. It’s time to fall in love with you! I know who you are… you know how? After all that research we have done, we know EXACTLY who you are—you deeply attach and love, you are loving to the Nth degree, loyal, trusting, sensitive, and very invested in relationship happiness. You’re a TERRIFIC woman that any NORMAL man would be blessed to have.

No one is alone during the ‘month of love.’ We stand hand in hand, bridging the gap for each other—connected and bonded by a sorority of shared experiences, pain, and yet, hope. If you need a hug for Valentines Day, there are plenty of cyber hugs floating through here.

Learn to love YOU. Nothing happens and no one else does until you do. Give to the world that part of yourself that is so rich and deep. There are lots of ways to be loved—be loved by giving back, by reaching out to others. Valentine’s Day is for lovers. Be the lover of your own soul. We celebrate that with you…

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Bearing Witness to Suffering and Recovery

I have spent over 25 years huddled up bearing witness to other’s incredible pain caused by pathology. Honestly, I don’t know (and don’t need to know) how many thousands of hours and hundreds of stories I have heard of mind-destroying evil.

I have been called ‘a counselor, a writer, a researcher, a pioneer in pathology’ but really all I am is someone who has bore witness and sat with those who are tormented by someone else’s directed evil. That’s all. I opened my soul and my ears and I listened. I opened my mind to comprehend. I opened my eyes and watched tears fall and hearts break and I just sat there and felt it with others.

There are those who have worked the trenches of Bangladesh with starving children and leprosy-ed adults. I have worked the pathology trenches of those discarded by remorselessness. I have faced my own powerlessness to stop evil or repair intrusive thoughts. I have embraced the not knowing of what to say why evil exists. I have struggled against knowing if a person will succumb to the desire to die and be out of pain.

There are those who sit with the dying in hospice. I sit with those who have died and are still alive. I don’t administer morphine, I administer the balm of being heard. All I bring to anyone is the ability to bear witness and see them, see what happened to them, see their suffering. To say yes, I see you are nearly dead. To say yes, your soul is gashed—I feel it. To say yes, evil blew its devil breath on you, it scorched your edges, but you are still here.

I work the ER of the psyche, the critical care unit of the soul, the rehab unit of the walking wounded who were scourged by what all that is holy calls a seared conscience. I don’t even know why except it’s where God put me and never moved me (and I think I will retire or die, whichever comes first) doing what I do. I am quite sure (and my body confirms it) that I have heard way too much pain for one powerless person to witness.

But that’s what we are all here for—to simply bear witness to the suffering of life. Jesus said “you WILL have tribulation.” He was quite sure of that. And that ‘the poor will always be among us’—which did not mean merely financial, but the poor in spirit – all those who were disheveled from brushes with darkness. That’s what darkness does—it tries to break the spirit because spirit is strongest.

And He also reminds us ‘Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for they shall see God.’ Because where else would God be but bearing witness to real life? Not bearing witness to life’s mountainous experiences but to real life lived in the trenches of pain—the places where everyone else wants to bail—when you can’t rise from your bed, or stop crying, or wanting to kill yourself for loving a psychopath. Yeah, that trench of a life. That’s where you need a witness—someone to say you are bleeding but breathing, out of your mind with pain but conscious, gas lighted but not insane. This bearing witness is simply validating reality. Sharing in someone else’s suffering and being present to it is being present to what really IS….and reality can be quite holy. It is watching each other’s lives and walking each other home—all the way to bearing witness to recovery.

And that’s home—the recovery part. Home is not suffering. Home is recovery.

People ask me how I’ve done this work for so long…how I have managed to bear this much pain with patients over the years, how my own psyche doesn’t collapse from facing evil day in and day out—bearing witness to the monumental amount of darkness in the world. This much I know is true—bearing witness is not just about the suffering because suffering rarely has the last word.

If I have learned anything from thousands of hours of this work and a God that is my wing-Man, it is that I am not only bearing witness to suffering but to the dawn that breaks afterwards. Suffering is not the end of the story. It’s the introduction, it’s the fore word, it’s the prelude, it’s the chapter titles, but it is not the conclusion. Holiness trumps pathology. Light makes darkness recede.

I have lived by Psalm 27:13 which promises that I will not be swallowed up in staring at evil my whole career. It says, “I remain confident of this: I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And this too is the bearing witness of your recovery—that the goodness of the Holy is that recovery happens and that we all are here to validate that you are less numb, less distracted, less in flash backs.

Our community of helpers and survivors is here to do just that—simply to bear witness. The path back needs a witness—because we all are just walking each other home—to recovery. Don’t mistake the journey for your destination.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Pacing and Planning Your Own Recovery

We have been focused on discussing your recovery in great detail. Because the power of pathology saws people off at the knees, you need to have a plan for your own recovery in order to heal. We consider this so important that a portion of all of our coaching whether it be in-person, or during retreats, is focused on how to pace and plan your own recovery.

Women fantasize that somehow getting over this pathological relationship will ‘just happen’ and don’t realize they should be planning their recovery, or even how to go about planning it. In fact, most women have done zero to plan or facilitate their own healing process. Those of you who have found the website are at least that much further ahead than the women who haven’t even begun reading about the topic of their relationships yet! So finding the information is a great first step. But, it’s only a first step, and too many women stop there only to relapse and get into yet another pathological relationship.

Previous newsletters have spent a lot of time examining the depth of damage done at the hands of your pathological. In them, we have discussed PTSD, The Cracked Vessel and the need for Living the Gentle Life, intrusive thoughts and obsessions, healing spiritually, healing sexually, and about fantasy and hatred. We have looked very deeply at the issues of how this relationship has hurt you emotionally, physically, medically, spiritually, sexually, and financially.

There will always be those women who won’t do anything about their lives except continue to be victims of them. How do I know this? I get the same e-mails from the same people, week after week, asking me the same ‘loophole-based’ questions like, “do you think I should leave him because, after all, he SAID he would change?” Week after week, the same people with the same questions who haven’t read the book, who haven’t spent time working on the Dangerous Man workbook, who haven’t listened to one of our mp3s or CDs, who haven’t spent one hour in counseling… keep asking the same questions, expecting things to get better, but getting the same results.

Any 12-stepper knows that the only way they can stay away from something so life-gripping like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex is with a concerted daily focused recovery on themselves, and the behaviors, habits, and beliefs that led to the life-damaging events that have altered them. Women who will recover from pathological relationships are those who take the same serious and focused approach to the life-gripping and life-damaging relationship that has altered their lives.

We spend 40-plus hours a week at The Institute developing ways to strengthen YOUR recovery—after all, this isn’t about US! We do this by writing books, e-books, making mp3s and CDs and other products, and by giving workshops and conferences, training therapists so they can counsel you, operating a retreat center so you can get specific and unique treatment for your issues, and intense research so we understand WHAT you need in order to heal from this.

It is our hope that you will knuckle-down and focus on your recovery—taking the steps you need to heal from the life-damaging experience at the hands of the pathological. Why? First, we don’t want pathology to win by destroying the lives of strong and wonderful women. We exist to kick butt on this issue! Secondly, WE NEED YOU!

  • If you don’t teach the woman you sit next to, how will she learn to spot and avoid pathology?
  • If you don’t heal and recover, who will be a teacher to others?
  • Who will run support groups?
  • Who will give community lectures?
  • Who will operate an outreach?

It’s not us. Our focus is to educate YOU. Your job is to recover and heal! Now is the time for you to heal so you can eventually reach others.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Illusion of Managing (Or Controlling) a Pathological Person

Part of how people convince themselves to stay in a pathological love relationship is that they think they are making “progress” by managing the pathological’s behavior. Once there is a glimmer of doubt about the pathological’s behavior, the partner begins to do one of two things: they either change their belief system or they change their own behavior. Most of them will change their belief system. That means they will tell themselves there are “ways” to manage the pathological’s lying, infidelity, addictions, sexual acting out, or whatever negative behavior they bring to the relationship. If they can manage the behavior, they can change the person. If they change what they don’t like in them, they have a shot at being happy.

That means they will change how they see the pathological. If they are noticing too much negative behavior, they might look the other way, rename it, minimize it, deny it, justify it, or use any other defense mechanism that allows the partner to change how they see the pathological.

When there is the thought that, by enforcing strong “rules” for the relationship, or by “demanding” their own rights, the pathological will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that by enforcing the “three-strike rule” for the relationship, or by “demanding” the pathological attend church, counseling, or treatment which will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that, by “putting the pathological on a short leash,” and checking on them frequently, calling their cell, sending people out to find them, breaking into the pathological’s phone or computer, that the fear of being caught will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that the pathological is “now working” or staying at home, or being kind, or saying the kinds of things you always wanted to hear, and that the previous behavior is now gone, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

Pathologicals and/or addicts are not managed. Shortening the leash, making demands, watching closer, hiring a P.I. is not managing a person’s acting out.

Pathology is noted for three things:

  • the inability to grow to any emotional or spiritual depth
  • the inability to sustain the changes that you have demanded
  • the inability to develop insight about how their behavior harms or affects others.

People with pathological disorders are not managed—not by you, not by jail or prison, and not by church. The inability to sustain change may show that the pathological APPEARS to do whatever it takes to stay in the relationship, but the disorder itself means they cannot sustain the change that will please you.

People embrace the truth of pathology when they realize that the idea they are ‘managing’ the pathological’s negative behavior or addictions is simply an illusion. Jails and prisons are packed full of personality disordered and pathological individuals because probation ‘management’ or ‘psychological management’ did not work. As they say in 12 steps, ‘When nothing changes–nothing changes.’ Pathology has an inability to change which means nothing consistently changes in the pathological individual except maybe new ‘ideas’ about how to con others.

Managing manipulative behavior, drugs or alcohol, porn or sex addictions, infidelity, lying, and conning are an illusion used by the partner in order to ‘buy a little more time’ to try to figure out how to make the pathological be ‘more normal.’ In the end, it’s your defense mechanisms telling you that by changing your belief system (he can be different, he can do better) you can ‘help them find the resources they need in order to grow into their full potential.’ If you’re over 30, falling in love with ‘potential’ is a crap game risk. People not living up to their potential in adulthood are called–pathologically disordered. By adulthood, either you ‘have the ability for life skills and success’ or you are ‘life challenged’ by addictions or pathology. In either case, partners need to understand there is no ‘managing’ someone else’s negative and pathological behavior. That is an illusion!

Additionally, playing with the illusion of management increases cognitive dissonance in you. It causes a miserable symptom of your thinking “ping-ponging” back and forth between “he’s good/he’s bad.” This is simply responding to both sides of his Jekyll/Hyde nature. The longer you play with the illusion, the more cognitive dissonance (CD) you overload your mind with.

If you have CD, make sure you get treated for it. It increases over time and makes the symptoms worse. Getting a handle on the “illusion” is a first step toward managing your CD.

The Institute always treats the cognitive dissonance—in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone coaching —the issue of cognitive dissonance is always addressed. We are the leading provider of CD treatment for aftermath symptoms from pathological love relationships.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Happiness vs. Joy, Part 2

In my last article, I talked about the issue of happiness, and how happiness is hinged on external conditions such as relationships, things, careers – stuff. … Our happiness is largely conditional based on “if things go the way we think they should go” or “if people act the way we think they should act.” This leaves a lot of our own happiness tied to someone else’s shirt tails and when he leaves, your happiness goes right out the door with him.


I also related some fun stories about my mom and her concepts of happiness. What I talked about regarding my mom was her JOY which was far different than her happiness. She wasn’t always happy. My father was murdered. That certainly did not bring happiness. Her second husband stole her life savings and was a sociopath. No happiness there. Her last “main squeeze” in her life died of prostrate cancer—a lot of sadness there. Yet, my mother was unusually “joyful.”


Joy has to do with the quality of US, not them. It’s a ME factor, not a him or them factor. Happiness may be external but joy is internal, and, in many ways, eternal. It emanates from within us and can exist even when the external circumstances of our lives “suck.”


Joy can be infectious and can touch others when HOW we are has nothing to do with WHO we are with. It’s a barometer reading of how we are doing with ourselves and in our own spiritual development. It reminds us of how we are doing with managing our own outlook, optimism, and future. We may not have control over what he’s doing, who he’s doing, or how he’s doing, but we do have control over how we choose to see our circumstances. This is the essence of internal joy—managing your worldview from the inside instead of taking your emotional temperature based on how well he’s behaving. How we are, or how our joy is, can’t be taken by a thermometer from his mouth. It has to be taken from our internal and eternal well-being.


When you are finally able to shift your focus of where and how joy is created, it is a mind-blowing change because you no longer hold tight to the reins of external control—“I’ll be happy when someone else does _________.” You are able to refocus on finding joy in your life, just the way it is, with yourself and all your warts.  In fact, a few years ago, I wrote about this regarding Viktor Frankel, a Jewish psychiatrist who went through the Holocaust and developed what is now called Existential Psychology which is finding meaning in pain AND taking control of how you see what you have lived through.


If all pain is bad, then there is no gift in it. If there is no gift, there is no learning. If there is no learning, there is no opportunity to transform it. If you can’t transform it, you are its victim.


Joy comes from the right perspective when we tweak how we see ourselves, our lives, and the lessons of our lives. When life is a spiritual walk, not just a relationship destination, we are able to see the lessons as part of the journey and the OPTION of having joy even in the midst of an unplanned disaster like a pathological relationship. Joy is like a new eyeglass prescription—it clears up and crisps up how we see who we are on this journey and path of life even while in pain.


Your pain does not have to define you. That’s your choice. You are more than your pain. And so is your life!


(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).


© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com


Joy vs. Happiness, Part 1

You were out looking for a little happiness when you stumbled upon Dr. Jekyll, as he was appearing wonderful and considerate. Strangely, before you knew it, evil Mr. Hyde was instead dismantling anything that resembled happiness, and leaving destruction and despair in its wake.

Despair is a long way from the happiness you were initially seeking. How did you get from mere happiness-seeking to a totally despairing life? How can you embrace the happiness that you set out to find?

It might not even be “happiness”, per se, that you were initially seeking. You might have been looking for someone who was introspective, spiritual and existential.  But you tell me…

Happiness is external. It’s based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to “some day when I meet the right guy” or “when he starts changing and acting right,” or “when he goes to counseling”.

Happiness is future-oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else’s basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the result is your happiness. These expectations can be seen especially during the holidays when, whether or not you have a Merry Christmas or a happy holiday, it depends on whether or not he is with you, shows up, isn’t drunk, isn’t cheating, or a list of other behaviors you expect for a happy holiday experience. Unfortunately, pathology rarely obliges in that way. So when the relationship falls through, or he isn’t wonderful at Christmas, or you kick him out, or he cheats again, or he runs off with your money, or he was a con artist … then your holidays were not happy and your happiness was crushed.

Unhappiness is the result. It’s a typical and inevitable result in pathological love relationships. After all, it’s the only way it CAN turn out. There are no happy endings to pathological relationships. After Christmas and New Years, he will still be pathological and you will still have the same problems you had in November. You notice that The Institute has not written a book called, “How to Have a Happy Relationship with a Pathological”.

Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Remember the emotional rollercoaster you rode with him? You were happy when he was good – and miserable when he was bad. You were hypnotically lulled into happy-land when you were with him and in intrusive-thought-hell when you weren’t. Your happiness was hitched to his rear end. When he was around (and behaving) you were happy. When he wasn’t, your happiness followed his rear end right out the door and you were left obsessing, wondering, and pacing.

Happiness is what you feel when he says the “right romantic stuff”, buys you a ring, or moves in. But happiness is not joy because joy is not external. Joy can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior.  In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don’t have to have him for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don’t have to get revenge, snoop out his shortcomings, tell the new girlfriend the truth or anything else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him, already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.

You’re probably thinking, “Sure, you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!” Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it? It’s a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother, Joyce, had a lot of joy, and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings, forcing her to work well past retirement. It forced her to live simply so she moved to a one-room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery-store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do so. But what she recycled most and best was pain … into joy.

Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one, or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone, she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privilege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.

I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life. She turned this rotten deal into an exquisite piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the “IT” factor long before it was even called “IT.” Women flocked to her to ask, “How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright, shining, joyful person? What is your secret?”

Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it’s tied to a man’s shirt-tails. She watched too many shirt-tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what was happiness and what was joy.

The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when, according to our culture, she got “too old” to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.

So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away “stuff” left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away, there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.

Joyce’s joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, what you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.

It wasn’t rocked for Joyce as she lay dying some years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace—a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things … the death of a dream, the death of a relationship, or the death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.

Follow Joyce’s lead – untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt-tail …

Merry Christmas and peace to you in this season of peaceful opportunities!


(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).


© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

How to Not Go Back During the Holidays

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays for faking it! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, V-Day… then PHOOEY! You’re out! Why not be out now and stay out and save face? You’re not fooling anyone … not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

Here’s a secret: Even if you go back, you’re still alone. You’ve been alone the entire time because, by nature of their disorder, they can’t be there for you. So you’re alone—now, during the holidays, or with them. WITH them, you have more drama, damage and danger—your choice.

The holiday season is an extremely stressful time. It’s a time when it is more likely for:

  • Domestic violence to occur or recur
  • Dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional
  • Pathologicals to be overt and blatant, and to target your joy and ruin your holidays
  • Former pathological partners to magically reappear and try to hook you back in
  • People to eat, drink, and spend too much
  • People to not get enough rest
  • People to feel pressured to “be in a relationship” and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons “just until the holidays are over”

It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than at any other time of the year because they think their lives should be like the picture postcards and old movies we see this time of year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, and to cope, they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not. But you can’t make a “picture postcard memory” with a psychopath or a narcissist!

Those with the super trait of “sentimentality” will focus on the past — when they had that one perfect Christmas with the pathological.  The other drunken, absent, or abusive 14 Christmases are forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. But what IS focused on is that one year when it was nice and the pitbull stronghold on the hope it will be this way again.

But you and I both know that pathology is permanent. The bad 14 years are a much better and more realistic presentation of what pathology is like during the holidays than the one fluke of a year he held it together. Pathology is very stressful to experience under any circumstances. Add to it the expectations for a pathological to be different (i.e., act appropriately) this time of year, and the pathological’s and everyone else’s stress is then through the roof. Sometimes even our hope can be “pathological” when it is focused on something that cannot and will not change.

The glittering fantasy that resembles your Christmas tree lights places not only you in the path of misery, but all those you plan to spend Christmas with—your family, friends, kids and pets.  It is much kinder to unplug your glittering fantasy and tell yourself the truth of what will happen if you expect a serene and joyful time with a pathological than it is to drag others through your fantasy.

Here’s a mantra to say out loud to yourself: “I’m pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better.”  Pretty ridiculous thought, isn’t it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing out loud. It takes all the romanticizing and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.”  Say that three times to yourself out loud …  NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you got LAST YEAR. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. And, as you VERY well know, they’re not it.

“I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath.”  ???  Nope. That’s not it either. But that’s what’s going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It’s OKAY to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Peace, gratitude, and all the spiritual reflections that are supposed to happen during this time of year cannot be found in pathology. They were not created there, but they do end there. If your goal for the holidays is to find some peace, joy, hope, and love, don’t spend it where and with whom it cannot be found. After the holidays, you will be a lot happier for not having attempted, for the millionth time, to find happiness where it does not exist.

Here’s a real gift for you—some tips!


— Stop idealizing—you are who you are, it is what it is, pathology is pathology. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. Accept yourself and others for who they are. This includes accepting that pathology cannot, and will not, be different during the holidays simply because you want the Christmas fantasy.  “Emotional suffering is created in the moment when we don’t accept what ‘is’.” (~Eckart Tolle)

— Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself that you have choices and the word “No” is a complete sentence. Don’t be held hostage to exhausting holiday schedules.

— Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now—some bubble bath—and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find five things to be grateful for, repeat often.

— Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worst binds going to parties with others, and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in, because they feel obligated. Find a few other friends who are willing to be “party partners” during the holidays.

— Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids and those who are in need.

— Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a church service, pray, meditate, reflect.

— Plant joy—in yourself, in your life and in others. What you invest in your own recovery is also reaped in the lives of those closest to you.

— Pick ONE growth-oriented issue you’d like to focus on next year for your own growth beginning on January 1. It creates hope when you know you have a plan to move forward and out of your current emotional condition. Invest in your opportunity to grow past the aftermath of this pathological love relationship.

Happy Holidays from The Institute!


(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Awareness is Not Enough

The new mantra—awareness is not enough.

Our goal has been Public Pathology Education but it does not END there. It’s like Step 1 of the 12 Steps which is a statement of awareness “I am powerless (thus aware) over the effects of someone else’s pathology. I have been powerless (thus aware) over my patterns of selection due to my Super Traits.”

These are the FIRST steps of recovery. They are NOT recovery. Awareness is not action.

LOTS of people come to retreats to become aware of his pathology or her super traits and never put ACTION behind it–they don’t stop contact or work with our counselors to better understand how their super traits impact all aspects of their lives.

Action is recovery. You have to DO something in order to change.


Cognitive dissonance is created by holding two differing belief systems. “He’s good/He’s bad. I’m smart/I’m stupid.” It’s called COGNITIVE because it messes with your thinking abilities and impairs neuro pathways which create recurring thinking patterns. You aren’t going to use that same messed up thinking pattern to THINK your way out of the relationship. “More understanding” of pathology, or just being aware of ONE MORE act of betrayal isn’t the magic line in the sand that becomes the ‘aha’ moment when you start No Contact.

You can’t think your way out of cog diss. You have to WORK your way out. It is counter intuitive or everyone would have already done it to get well. You have to STOP the behavior so you STOP the thinking. Thinking aligns with behavior, which is why the No Contact mantra. NOTHING happens until it is reduced to its least possible amount (i.e., parenting). Cog diss is thereby cured NOT by awareness, NOT by rethinking a million times of the things he’s done, NOT by journaling, NOT by retelling the story in therapy, but ONLY by taking an action and changing what you would normally DO (read another book, tell another person, check his email another time, answer his text again).

Most people have not considered that recovery for cog diss is the opposite of what they have been doing which is why nothing has happened in their recovery. New neuro pathways are created when you change your behavior. New neuro pathways are created in your thinking AFTER they are created in your behavior.

Recovery is both action oriented and awareness based. But if awareness is not leading you to action, you are stuck in your recovery process and need help to change gears.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Learn How to Starve the Vampire

Pathological people are energy and emotional vampires. They live off of your emotional content. Part of their personality deficit is the lack of a stable and consistent inner core of a self-concept, so they need constant attention, distraction, and identity management from which they draw their identity.

Most of their identity is acquired from their relationships since internally there is so little core self to draw from. This is part of the reason they are so exhausting. In order to get their emotional ‘blood supply’ from you, they hook you into conversations or arguments or any kind of response they can get from you. They live vicariously through your own emotional expressions of love, frustration, confusion, etc. It doesn’t always matter what emotion is fed to the vampire (although narcissists like adoration) but just that there is SOME content is enough for them—even your tears, or your screams, or your insults. It doesn’t matter… they just need something—anything—from you in the way of content. If they don’t get the blood supply/emotional content from you, they will seek it elsewhere. (Remember Dracula? He just moved from town to town taking it where he could get it.)

When you begin to break up (read my e-book, How to Break Up From a Pathological Relationship), he will fear the loss of emotional supply. He won’t fear losing you so much as losing getting his identity and his sense of self from you and/or the relationship. He fears the loss of self or, ‘who am I without her?’ This is a very fragmented ego state—one which only exists through relationships with others.

So when you try to break up, he will continue to contact you, which is why pathologicals are hard to break up with (read my book). They are predictable in their approaches to get you to respond to them (you are feeding the vampire his emotional blood supply every time you talk to him). These are some of his approaches, and if you can get a bag of popcorn and just watch it like it is a Lifetime movie, and detach from it, you will see a whole movie pan out like this:

First contact, he’s angry, blaming, shaming.


When you don’t respond to that, verbally or emotionally (imagine you are lobotomized with no facial expression—that’s what I want women to do with these men…)

…he’ll contact you again and he’ll be sweet, loving; he’ll buy you things.


When you don’t respond…

…he will promise to do what you’ve asked for years… go to counseling, go to church, go to anger management, take meds, be nice.


When you don’t respond…

…he will get angry again—say you aren’t working on the relationship, which is why it’s going to fail.


When you don’t respond…

…he will quit calling for a while to make it look like he’s moved on. (They are boomerangs, they ALWAYS come back a few times.)

When you don’t respond…

…he will indicate he’s found someone else or had sex with someone else.
When you don’t respond…
(Are you enjoying the popcorn and movie about now??)

…he becomes ‘sick’—he doesn’t know what this ‘mysterious illness’ is, or he has prostate cancer, MS, or some other lethal disease.

When you don’t respond…
…he will just go back to drinking/drugging/dealing/driving too fast, etc.

When you don’t respond…
…he will threaten to kill himself or to leave the area and never see you again.

When you don’t respond…

…he will take the kids, drag you through court, threaten to physically harm you.

When you don’t respond…

…he will tell you he’s dating someone you hate or his previous girlfriend/wife.

When you don’t respond…

…it will come full circle and will begin again, at the top of this list.

When I talk with survivors, it’s the same story, over and over. I know that women think their experiences are unique. But pathology is all the same—these people aren’t very creative and don’t deviate much from the strict internal structure that is associated with pathology. They ONLY react in certain ways, so for me, it’s pretty easy to predict. Once you are able to understand this, you can predict his sad/silly/stupid reactions to a breakup.

Since they live off of your emotion and NEED it, you need to starve him by having no contact. If you have to be in contact because of your kids, make sure no words are exchanged and no emotions show on your face, and then the vampire will flee to the next available source to be fed.

When you don’t disconnect once you understand the feeding and maintenance of pathologicals, you are doing it because YOU want to remain connected. The ball is then in your court to figure out where you are still hung up so you can disconnect. This is not a judgment about women not being able to leave. It is a POINTER to a place where the dis-engagement has hit a snag. Simply notice where the snag is so that something can be done.

As soon as you are ready to really make the break, buy the Break Up e-book and then STARVE THE VAMPIRE. Make a fridge magnet with that on it so you remember daily to not feed the vampire who is lurking nearby.


(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)


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