In the last few decades, media has been full of stories about Narcissists, Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Borderline Disorder individuals. I am talking here about extreme personality disorders that describe 2-5% of the population.
Most of the time, in our daily lives, we come across people who have some behaviors that overlap with these personality disorders but not expressed in the extreme form. Nevertheless, being around individuals with these behaviors, even in mild form, can be very taxing and at times detrimental to our well-being.
Myself, at a young age, I had difficulty spotting these behaviors. I could feel that something was off with a relationship, but had trouble trusting my gut feeling. I was stuck with a question “Is there something wrong with me? Or is it her?”. What contributed to my puzzlement is that majority of these individuals when I first met them were charismatic and charming people. Their darker side revealed itself only over time. With life experience and with gaining my psychology training, I learned what to watch out for and to trust my gut.
Here are a few scenarios that describe an unhealthy dynamic in a relationship that can be taxing overtime:
1. Your new friend is constantly talking about herself. No matter where the conversation leads, it is always about her. There is no room for you and your challenges in it. When you try to mention anything about you, she switches the subject herself or just shrugs. If you are having a difficult time, she screens your calls, until you are back to ‘normal.’ and can give her your full attention.
2. Your brother is always complaining to you about others. He sees enemies in everyone and is always having a conflict with someone. He frequently quits jobs or is laid off, but blames it on bad co-worker or boss all the time. If you try to point out that he might try to approach things differently and that no everyone is out to get him, he reacts with anger, and you become an enemy yourself.
3. Your boyfriend is charming at first. He introduces you to his friends and shows admiration for your beauty and wit. He wants to bring you everywhere and beams with pride. Over time, you get a feeling he is almost parading you in front of others like a trophy. When you get sick and look less than perfect, he shows no concern or empathy, rather seems annoyed and frustrated that you are not fit to come out. He offers no assistance and leaves to hang out with his friends, leaving you to fend for yourself.
4. Your mom is constantly asking you to spend time with her. Although you see her quite frequently, it is never enough. She asks for more completely nullifying your other commitments like your children, work projects, and volunteering. If you tell her, you are not able to see her, no matter how legitimate the reason is, she says that you don’t love her and that you are a bad son/daughter. Not getting what she wants, she might freeze you out and ignore your calls. Interacting with her, always leads you to feel guilty.
These are some examples of these behaviors. A common factor to all four is a feeling of guilt that is usually evoked in us when we are on the receiving end of these actions. Over time, as we go along with another person’s agenda, we can become exhausted and resentful. Being in these relationships over the long-term can be very costly to our self-esteem, productivity, and emotional and physical well-being.
Many of my clients who have been entangled in relationships like described above, shared that they had to give up on their personal goals, ignore their daily needs and desires, sacrificed their time and effort and even loose other relationships, all for the sake of maintaining the unhealthy one.
If you recognize that you are being stuck in an unhealthy relationship yourself, it is time to listen to your gut feeling and to either say goodbye to that person or to start changing this dynamic by setting healthy boundaries. And you don’t have to do it alone, turn for support to people who empower and encourage you, and if needed, find a professional counsellor or therapist to guide along the way of getting your life back.
Your Global Therapist,