Personality Disorders and effect on partners

Sufferers of personality disorders may not be aware of the effect they have on their colleagues, or close ones.  If they are highly functional and socialized, they’ll be able to  hold off release until in the privacy of the home.  Then, they may be very  abusive and attack  the normal behavior in their ‘victims’.

If this behavior continues unchecked, if may affect  the close ones.

Effect of such abuse on the receiver – as develops overtime: depression, lowered self esteem, insecurity,  anxiety, suicidal tendencies, acquired codependence, rage and anger, substance abuse.

How it is done by the abuser: gaslight, emotional blackmail, verbal abuse , neglect, and possibly physical abuse later in the relationship.

This also involves:

Intimidation, control of victim’s time , blaming victim for their own issues, anger and rage explosions,  control of finances, physical hits and shoves, withholding of affection and/or sex, insults and name calling, destroying or confiscating the victim’s personal property,  reading personal communications, behaving in overprotective manner, criticisms disguised as jokes, intense jealousy projected onto the victim as if their own behavior, and refusal to acknowledge engaging in any of the above.

Are PD sufferers  acting this way  on purpose?

Not necessarily.  They may not realize fully the extent of what they are doing, they have too many layers of  self-justification and rationalization mechanisms to grasp the effect of their behavior unto others.

Characteristics of a PD sufferer when interacting with sufferer/victim:

Making demands seem reasonable
Making  you  feel selfish and stating that you are
Labeling with negative qualities and connotations
Pathologizing or crazy making
Making a demand that needs an immediate response
Allying themselves with someone of authority or influence i.e. parents, children,   leaders etc. to present evidence that the victim is the faulty one
Comparing the victim to a person that the victim does not like or is in competition with and then as reactions occur, accusing them of jealousy, etc.
Learning the victim’s “triggers” and systematically triggering them
Assessing how much pressure to apply before the victim will give in—- this means that if the victim becomes resilient and finds coping mechanisms,the pressure will increment, or new triggers will be used.

The pattern of abuse:

Demand–someone wants something
Resistance–the other does not feel comfortable with the demand
Pressure –used to make the resistant one give in
Threat –to turn up the pressure
Compliance–on the part of the resistant one
Repetition–this pattern reoccurs in at least other situations (just with a different name)

What you need to know if in a relationship with a PD partner:

Personality Disorders are hard to temper, manager or cure. Partners will not change the behavior of the PD mate, and cannot expect that s/he will stop. They’ve learned those patterns early on in their lives and will repeat and repeat them over and over again.

A great resource, for partners of PD mates:  “Stop Walking on Eggshells” by Randi Kruger.

Author: Pascale Aline

Psychotherapist & Performance Coach, I specialize working with tools for self enhancement, growth, productivity and healing (Biofeedback, EMDR, Mindfulness training)

2 thoughts on “Personality Disorders and effect on partners”

  1. Here are some thoughts, as an interested reader:-
    1. how do I recognise FROM THE INSIDE that I might be in a toxic relationship? You do begin to cover it – and what you wrote is MUCH more than I read on the other material I found on the internet, so you’re onto a good thing – I think you should cover self-diagnosis in much more detail, more thoroughly, with more examples of what to look out for. Would be very useful to someone who’s got to the stage of looking around for a resource but is not yet sure if it’s entirely necessary to take proactive steps or ask for help. What does it feel like? What sort of self-talk is symptomatic? What sort of actions (automatic / autonomous coping behaviours) give a clue as to the environment I’m being in being hostile? After all, I can only understand my own situation about as badly as fish can comprehend water. I need a picture of what a nurturing relationship is like – and I need a picture to help me recognise my “emotional antibodies” at work and being overwhelmed.
    2. First Aid. What can I do, now, for myself, and by myself, to begin protecting myself from the toxic relationship, BEFORE I MAKE ANY DECISION ABOUT STAYING IN IT OR LEAVING IT? This is vital both in the knowledge that I must continue in it for a considerable time – how can I prolong my “sanity-expectancy”, or increase my own emotional resilience, to handle the time before the relationship changes or before I can extract from it? This is vital, and I don’t see it addressed anywhere, whatsoever. It’s where Cathy dropped me, deliberately and necessarily but alas brutally. After all, it’s probably fair to say that all relationships have some toxic elements in them (am I right?), so simply diagnosing a relationship as having gaslighting / crazymaking / etc. in it does not automatically lead to an exit strategy – there must be a ton of things that can be done in marginal cases, which if done early enough and with conviction, might actually turn things around. So, what are those healthy habits that help to maintain my equilibrium and strengthen my environment REGARDLESS of whether my primary relationship is currently nurturing me or destroying me?
    3. What are the options (and cost / benefit) for a) staying in the relationship, and b) exiting?
    4. THEN you can start to handle those cases which are extreme, where the person is feeling getting increasingly abused and threatened, which require all of the coping strategies to be applied leading up to distancing and exit.


  2. Dear J.
    To answer point 1: Feelings in normal relationships are of keen expectation to go back to your partner,and share feelings and thoughts, and time, such as for example ” gee, I’m experiencing this right now, can’t wait to tell him/her what it was like”.

    Tell tales of dysfuntion/toxicity are : feeling anxious when going back home to the partner, having thoughts such as: “i’m enjoying that experience so much right now, I”D WISH I could tell him/her how it was and how fun it was, (implied: sigh, I can’t”).

    If the plexus goes tight, if the heart pains, if the usual colour you view the partner is pale, if the sounds or voices your hear in your head are of longing, sorrow, and of unrealised or unrealisable wishes, or pain, fear, anxiety or frustration, then the relationship is toxic. Trust your guts/intuition. Any form of tension in your body or mind at the thought or presence of the partner is sure sign that something is absolutely not right.


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