Personality Disorders in Relationships
How Identifying Toxic Behaviors Can Help You Plan for Divorce.
While every marriage requires work, some relationships require more work than others. By identifying narcissistic, or other push-pull behaviors commonly exhibited by those suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, or other personality disorder, in your spouse or partner, you may be able to avoid the headache that comes with dissolving a toxic marriage. At Keithley Law, PLLC, our team has extensive experience in helping people escape and recover from pathological and toxic relationships where the other person took advantage of their partner’s weaknesses and empathic nature. If you are suffering in a toxic relationship like this, get help from a Fairfax family lawyer with decades of specialized experience navigating high-conflict divorces and understanding the abusive relationship cycles that are common in toxic relationships.
Currently, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM, now in its fifth edition, the American Psychiatric Association has identified and classified the existence of 10 personality disorders, across three main categories. Previously, personality disorders were classified into “axes,” but today, the DSM classifies them into “Clusters.”
The attorneys at Keithley Law, PLLC, are very knowledgeable and specialize in helping people through high-conflict litigation with the four “Cluster B” personality disorders, which are the “wild” disorders because many of those suffering from a Cluster B psychopathology have trouble regulating their emotions, often leading to erratic and impulsive behaviors and decision-making.
Many of those suffering from personality disorders also suffer from other personality disorders and mood disorders (co-morbidity), making life very difficult for intimate partners and family members. We work closely with mental health professionals, custody evaluators, and other professionals that help us identify strategies that work best in a given situation. Remember, not all people with Cluster B personality disorders are the same, but what we have learned from our personal and professional experience is that over time, many of the patterns of behavior exhibited by partners with personality disorders or traits, are similar.
Your attorney should be able to provide the best approach for your situation: for example, those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (“NPD”), may not react well to aggressive litigation, but those suffering from borderline personality disorder (“BPD”), may respond differently to an aggressive approach because of their core fears: abandonment versus entitlement and grandiosity.
You should never attempt to diagnose anyone else: no one wants to be diagnosed by an unqualified person. However, if you stumble upon research and you find information regarding NPD or BPD, you may finally have a cause that offers a plausible explanation for your partner’s bad or angry behaviors. For example, in our experience, we find that most of our clients get to our blogs after using search terms, such as, “silent treatments,” “stonewalling,” “my partner never says sorry,” “my partner always yells and becomes enraged when he/she doesn’t get her/his way,” and “my partner keeps threatening divorce or runs away, cheats, etc.”
Of all of the four Cluster B personality disorders (narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder), people with narcissistic traits, features, or maybe even a full diagnosis of NPD and those with borderline personality traits, features, or maybe even a full diagnosis of BPD, are often more high-conflict than those without any traits.
Signs of a Narcissist
While each of us will display unhealthy behaviors from time to time, a narcissist is only concerned with their well-being and will go to great lengths to ensure the blame never falls on them, often deflecting, gaslighting, or blame-shifting because at the core of these personalities, is a very fragile ego that makes rejection and shame extremely intolerable for them. These relationships often become abusive and even hazardous to the wellbeing of the other person involved because the other partner becomes a “dumping ground” for all of the narcissist’s problems and delusions of grandeur.
You may be in a relationship with a narcissist if they:
- Repeatedly threaten to abandon you or abandon you, often returning, to only repeat the abandonment or threat– As toxic relationships can create what are known as trauma bonds, abusers will scare their partners into thinking they will leave in order to cause a physiological change brought about by fear, forcing the other partner into compliance to win back the narcissist from a repeated abandonment, disappearing act, or silent treatment. These threats can even result in PTSD. The constant highs and lows can be addictive in their brief reconciliation periods, making it difficult to leave. If your partner uses forced isolation, control, and/or abandonment as a way to coerce you, it may be time to turn to someone for help.
- Present themselves as the perpetual victim – While occasionally presenting yourself as vulnerable is a normal behavior, people with unhealthy personality disorders will use this pity to continually soak up the well-meaning care of the people around them. They are not concerned with improvement (despite their insistence that they are), and they will only use this to focus all attention back on them as they refuse to take responsibility for why their relationships rarely last, and they can’t live with the idea that anyone would see them as less than perfect. Admitting failures, taking responsibility, and having insight are things that narcissistic people cannot do, as that would totally destroy their “ideal self” or image they portray. I’m sure you know people who post inappropriate stories of victimhood to elicit sympathy from people or post hateful messages blaming others for putting them in their current situation because being perfect, a narcissist cannot do any wrong.
- Over the top honeymoon period, Idealization, or Lovebombing – In unhealthy relationships, you may be disarmed by the overt love, quick profession of love, finally finding a soulmate, and over-the-top passion that marks the beginning of your time together. Unlike a normal honeymoon period, the “love-bombing” that occurs in a relationship with a narcissist or someone with borderline personality disorder feels too good to be true. However, this won’t last long. As quickly as the relationship started, the things that the narcissist seemed to love about you in the very beginning are things that become devalued. You are too “needy,” too “demanding,” too “selfish,” when just a few months ago, you were “perfectly driven, perfectly outspoken, and perfectly vulnerable. Narcissists will take the time to understand what you want and need to feel safe in a relationship before they use it to get closer to you.
- Lovebombing, Idealization, Devaluation, Discard, and Rinse and Repeat – In unhealthy and toxic relationships with narcissists and some of those suffering from other personality disorders, you will never stay the “perfect love” partner for the narcissist because as soon as the person’s internal shame, anxiety, and boredom set in, he/she looks for someone to blame for these uncomfortable feelings and lack of validation or “narcissistic supplies.” Always on a quest for someone to fill their emptiness and perfect love, most of our clients are completely shocked by how quickly the narcissist moves on. Some are often shocked and sometimes even craving their next communication with a toxic partner because they’ve become so addicted to the drama and toxic relationship cycle. These cycles may repeat, if you let them, when a narcissist may return or “hoover.”
- Punish you for not worshipping them – If you find yourself constantly mistreated for choosing your own intuition over your partner’s promises or threats, that person may lack healthy communication skills, empathy, and insight. As mentioned earlier, if they threaten to leave, do not try to stop them because it can quickly turn violent as narcissistic injury and rage are part of their personality. It helps both of you form better boundaries by respecting what they say and letting them walk out, but make sure you understand that timing is everything in these narcissistic relationships – this may be the best time to settle, if at all, because when something new and shiny catches a narcissist’s attention, he/she may be willing to act very impulsively, agree to settlement terms, and agree to divorce, to quickly move on to the new and shiny object of the narcissist’s impulsive and temporary attention at the moment. Often, what we find is that when you hold the proverbial door open for the narcissist’s eventual (most likely, multiple and repeated) discards or disappearing acts, they will return because you are not begging and pleading for them to stay, and by no longer giving them the ego fuel they crave, when/if they return, you can hopefully refuse their reconciliation attempts.
- Deny, minimize, or deflect your emotions – When your partner continually downplays your honest goodwill efforts to speak your mind and share your feelings, you are likely dealing with a narcissist. Telling you that your opinions are irrational or dramatic, or denying something occurred, is known as gaslighting, and is a common behavior among people with toxic behaviors. It can be easy to feel abused and confused with these kinds of people. Seek help. Get started on your way out before you are overcome with misery and further down the rabbit hole.
Call (703) 454-5147 for Legal Help
These situations can be difficult. If you are dealing with a toxic personality in your relationship, it may be necessary to obtain the help of a legal professional. At Keithley Law, PLLC, our Fairfax family lawyers stand ready to help you with whatever you need to move forward, be it filing for divorce, dividing assets, or filing a restraining or protective order. Get help in your high-conflict divorce.
Call (703) 454-5147 now to speak with Keithley Law, PLLC and learn more about the legal options you may have available.