Steph recently contacted me with regards to her ex boyfriend. They broke up more than six months ago but she can’t get over it. Like the typical Mr Unavailable, there was an amazing first month and then he seemed to transform into a bit of a nightmare.

He could be verbally abusive, flying into rages, lying, suddenly only having time for partying with his friends, abusing alcohol and drugs, and even occasional physical attacks on his friends (yeah I know, this guy is a real catch!). He even claims that he owns the town and can make her life hell, which may go beyond the usual ‘narcissistic tendencies’ I associate with typical Mr Unavallable’s.

Steph blames herself for the end of their relationship and rationalises his behaviour with the belief that “nobody is perfect”.

She still loves him and believes that it ended because she was cold to him after his last rage. She describes him as “the loveliest person on this Earth most of the time” but can’t understand how he can switch from sobbing and remorseful, to cold and finishing the relationship the next.

Steph’s own father was a narcissist, prone to raging and even threatening her and she is a high achiever with a great job, lots of friends, “the perfect look” yet still insecure.

Despite a therapist describing her ex as a “psychopath with a truly shallow emotional span”, Steph got in touch with me to find out if what her therapist true and also wondered if she could have ‘saved’ the relationship by not being so harsh with him over the phone.

When readers tell me stories like this, it hurts to be reminded that as women, we are actually prepared to put up with so much and quickly blame ourselves when we are getting so little from these pathetic assclowns!

Steph is right – nobody is perfect – but does that mean that you should be with an abuser and wait for the occasional good times? Should we just say ” F*ck it, nobody is perfect so I’ll take the first guy that comes along?”

I think the very act of writing down the problems in itself should be a wake up call but if in doubt, break it down to facts:

He had displayed his true overriding character which is:

He is abusive to himself, her, and others

He is disrespectful

He abuses drugs and alcohol

He goes into rages even fighting with others

He isn’t just displaying narcissistic tendencies – talk about frickin delusions of grandeur with the whole owning the town mallarky and being threatening, plus the temporary remorse.

The whole thing is just one great big abusive cycle.

I fail to see what is so attractive about this guy – Serial killers are often quite charming and can even be kind to people when it suits, but that doesn’t mean that you can suddenly write off all of their awful qualities and focus on the few glimmers of good!

And this is where we keep falling into the trap – focusing on the initial behaviour that is displayed by these men, ignoring the real consistent behaviour, and betting on the potential of the original behaviour.

This guy is an abuser and even if he isn’t a narcissist, he is certainly displaying narcissistic tendencies which is unpleasant enough. Making excuses for this mans behaviour and trumpeting his amazing qualities is like when the woman who is being physically abused by her man says that he is so sorry about what he’s done and if only she hadn’t left a crease in his shirt/answered him back…or breathed…he wouldn’t have beat her or got mad at her!

That is BULLSH*T!

What Steph is doing is ignoring red flag behaviour and fatal flaws in the relationship because she doesn’t want to let go. She is focused on the good moments, and she essentially knows no better.

Steph has been raised by a man who is a narcissist that threatened and raged at her and even though she recognises her father’s poor behaviour, she, like many women who have issues from childhood, is more comfortable with the familiar behaviour than she would be with the unfamiliar.

In situations like this, you’re gravitating to the dysfunctionality that you know.

And why wouldn’t you? You get let down by the primary male figure in your life and if you don’t quickly resolve these issues as an adult, they become the primary basis for bad relationship patterns.

When we find ourselves with someone like our parents, it can often be about righting the wrongs of the past – I couldn’t help or fix my father but I’ll do it with this guy.

Trust me, that’s like letting yourself in for a lifetime of pain.

The problems that this guy has deal fatal blows to the relationship because they are the type of problems that irrespective of whether he has some good qualities, these issues are extremely destructive and damaging and are bigger than you or the relationship.

His love is his hugely inflated ego and the drink and drugs first. At the very least that puts her in fourth place but either way, those are the things that he is having a relationship with.

All of this has the hallmarks of an abusive relationship and the best thing that Steph could do is keep seeing the therapist and deal with the demons of the past so that she can heal, build her self-esteem, and lose her interest in parasites like this man.

There is no fairy tale ending with men like this and you can’t love a man into being Mr Wonderful.

Love is not enough.

We can’t just decide “I love him” and then place our love on them as if bestowing some magical healing power. The world doesn’t roll like that and there are millions of women out there that are living testament to this.

Deciding that you love someone is not a justification for continuing the relationship, especially when the feelings about yourself, love, and relationships originate from negative places.

Men like this behave in this manner regardless. He would be emotionally available and possibly a narcissist if she licked his feet and behaved like the perfect woman. And he’d still be this way if she behaved badly.

Ultimately, without respect, well, everything else falls down around it. If a person behaves without respect to himself or others, he cannot love or do anything that benefits himself or others in a positive way.

It’s not a phonecall or her being cold towards him why the relationship ended – it’s because he’s an emotionally unavailable, abusive, nasty, controlling, potentially narcissistic assclown with a drink and drugs problem.

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7 Responses to Relationship Advice: He’s abusive and possibly a narcissist but I love him. Will he change?

  1. Loving Annie says:

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant article. I love how you dissected everything, and spoke about each aspect specifically.

    This story is almost an identical mirror for what I did with my cop. I fell in love with an image and didn’t want to let go because of my own issues of self-esteem and my habit patterns.

    I hope this helps her hugely. It DID ME, just affirming everything you have been teaching me and I have been learning through your site here.

    Maybe the most important is that even if she behaved perfectly, HIS behavior wouldn’t change.

    I think this is where I messed up. I kept thinking he was going to be the way he was when we met/keep his promises/not be a liar/not be a manipulator/respect my time — IF I was PERFECT. And as you said, can’t happen, won’t happen – that is OUR way of not thinking they need to be taking responsibility for their own behavior.

    And you were right. Love is NOT enough. It can’t change someone else, and the bottom line is that if we loved/respected ourselves, we wouldn’t be so accepting of not being loved/treated with respect by someone else…

    One thing I’m finding out is that just because someone doesn’t face the facts (meaning the guy) doesn’t mean they aren’t facts. He is abusive. It doesn’t matter if he denies it or makes excuses for it.

    Your sentience about the serial killers acting charming sometimes but we can’t ignore thier bad characteristics is VERY to the point.

  2. cheekie says:

    Excellent NML, really.
    Love, kindness, patience, all these things do work. With someone who deserves and reciprocates.
    It is important that we remember that.
    Don’t lose those amazing qualities, just save them for someone who is worthy of them.
    You cannot heal someone else, you can help them find their way, help them be a better person, but you cannot do it for them. No matter how much you want it.

    Also, I think that yes, maybe the harsh response ended it, but not in the way you think.
    My feeling is that he finally realized that he couldn’t push you around anymore, you stood up for yourself. And he behaved like a schoolyard bully. A sad, defensive little boy. One that you cannot help. Not even if you were a nun with a heart of gold.

    Don’t blame yourself for loving someone, don’t find fault in the fact that you put yourself on the line like that. Those are very very admirable qualities.
    But, you deserve so much better.
    Keep seeing the therapist, and heal yourself.
    It’s the only way…


  3. Brad K. says:

    Steph, In a world of well-adjusted people (as a therapist might describe normal and healthy people), where we understand the difference between authority and abuse, between discipline and punishment, and between devotion and a loving relationship, your letter would likely have read differently.

    I am dead certain sure, that you devoted yourself to your ex, with your whole heart, and that you still feel the emotional attachment. But I suspect you depended on him to define who you are. Now, even though it has been months since you parted ways, your devotion feels as strong as it did back then.

    I suspect that your feelings are more properly described as devotion, rather than what we romantics like to call ‘love’. I think love is a wonderful bond to another, that includes devotion, respect, honesty, discipline, and a helping of joy. I might have missed something, but it seems you didn’t have much of that list.

    I am thankful, for your sake, that in a surprising moment of good judgment, you confronted his criminal (‘I own this town’) behavior. I am sure that you were horrified at the time that he broke off with you, and you probably don’t understand today that your life took a detour away from impending disaster that day. Notice how bumpy the road has felt since then? Feels like a detour, huh? Unlike NML, I would take his claim to “own the town” as the threat of violence it sounds like. I would take that threat very seriously.

    People change. People that work in prisons (working with people similar to your ex) probably see that kind of change regularly. But I doubt that it happens to more than 1 in 10, and I expect it usually takes years – or beatings or other trauma. Your therapist is really the one to ask this – therapists never claim to be able to cure anything – they only promise to help. You could change your ex – if you took responsibility and control for his life. The way a Drill Instructor does in Boot Camp. Unfortunately, you don’t have the barb wire and legal protections to make a prison or boot camp, and you don’t have the years of training to make the change happen.

    And if he ever does change and learns discipline, respect, honesty, and appropriate behavior, all of his other values will change, too. He will leave his current life behind, including any personal attachments.

    So, no, I do not believe you could make him better to be a better mate. It would be monumentally disrespectful of you to try, and if you succeed it will free him to build a new life and leave you behind.

    But you need to find a new way to define who you are. You need to find inside you a core of beliefs and truths, an understanding of who you are in your family, in your community, and in your nation. You need to understand what responsibilities and attachments you own, which ones you consciously chose and which you just accepted from others. And you need to choose which obligations and which responsibilities you choose to continue to honor, and which are to be returned as unworthy or inappropriate for you.

    I have a neighbor with a dog. That dog is the sweetest natured medium sized dog, obedient, attentive. He beat that dog when it was a pup, so she grew up attentive and devoted. Reading your letter reminded me of Don’s dog. Without Don, that dog would be lost. It sounds like your ex is a lot stupider, or maybe just less experienced, than Don – your ex isn’t doing anything deliberately (remember what I said, about changing someone being horribly disrespectful of them?), just random abuse. BTW – Don doesn’t ‘train’ his family this way. Really.

    People that haven’t been under abuse can’t imagine the ties that are forged. You are part way to a better life now. Your ‘master’ is out of the picture. Now you have to discover that you can be your own master, and that you don’t need punishment to feel your master values you.

    Blessed be.

  4. Sindh says:

    Oh this sounds familiar. I used to be there but I guess I bailed out before it got physical. I am not sure how a person can switch and swing from being loving and devoted and Wham ! next he’s sitting there verbally absuing me and telling me to go find another man and if there is one thing I learnt the hard way, its what NML says. The moment you let a man treat you like this and still stick around, respect goes out the window and along with it, everything else. My ex still sends me mean, nasty messages till this date but I have maintained No Contact. It is so pointless talking, explaining and loving them to death, they have a distorted view of the world and ir originates from a heart that is dark. We need to understand that sometimes there are no answers, there are no explanations, things just are, its really hard for us women coz we need reasons, explanations and closure and sometimes there are none.

  5. Lance says:

    The guy sounds like a 100% douchbag. Cut and run. She has nothing to feel bad about.

  6. Kim says:

    NML – great piece once again! I took so much from it. You have helped me tremendously. I did have such blinders on. I over romaticized & overlooked a lot because of my EUM’s “alter” ego & the loneliness I have had for so long. He was “safe” (so I thought) because it was someone from my past. It was so odd & confusing to get these amazing, loving words over here but sucky, poor behavior over here but since I am healing & out of the relationship I am able to see that it really never was a relationship at all. It was a lot of emails, a dozen meetings over the year that consisted of fun & sex but not all of the things that really encompass a true relationship. I hung on to the good moments because I haven’t had many other “good” moments in my life period. I’ve had a dysfunctional childhood where I was very aware that my father had affairs & treated my mom poorly & never seeing what a real loving realtionship is supposed to be like. It is even hard to admit that as my parents are very good & loving people but it is true. It has affected me more than I ever knew & has trickled down to my children by the poor choices I have made because of the “childhood” stuff. I overlooked alcoholism with my ex-husband hoping I could change him, I overlooked disrespectful behavior with this last guy because the “other” side of him was so great. I have to stop the madness, get to the core of the pain, heal & move on like you said. You are right – without respect everything else falters. Yesterday a friend of mine passed away at 41 from cancer. She never had any children, never married or had the love of a man & died unhappy & bitter. I don’t want my life to end that way. We had similar childhoods but it showed me that I have had experiences she never had & I am so thankful for them now. I may be older but there is still life to live. We all learn in our own time. Thx for all you do! :) I will be a devoted reader for a long time to come!

    Loving Annie – you wrote my words. You were totally on with everything you said especially the part about we could be perfect & it wouldnt have made a blind bit of difference! They are who they are & we are who we are. Diff is we recognze it & can change it & EUMS dont seem to want to do either!

    Cheekie – I love what you said about not blaming yourself for putting yourself out there & loving with your whole heart. I felt so stupid for that when I realized it was over & he cheated thinking the love was “truly” being reciprocated & not just words. Loving honestly is an admirable quality. You know the old saying “Better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all”. As much as it hurt it also felt wonderful. I so hope I can feel that way again! I hope we all can! :)

  7. De says:

    Hi, I found this site which has opened my eyes even more and is helping me reclaim my heart.

    It is a study on explosive narcisssists

    Almost two years ago I was a mess, my Dad was dying and I jumped into a man’s soul far too quickly for fear of loss… (at the time I thought it was a beautiful beginning to a love affair) He rejected me immediately. But, my heart had been open and I imploded.
    I clung on in terror…. he offered a friendship, saying he would always be with other women.
    The friendship would come at a price, I would help work at making one of his dreams come true. I thought if I worked hard, laughed, made him laugh and happy he would realize I was relationship material.

    Last week I found an email through a thread he had let slip and I found out he has had a girlfriend for nearly a year.

    This the thing… I realized my dream was over. I had had some hope and had left a door open for him if he chose to come back. So now it was time for me to close the door and move on. I called him and (for myself and him) congratulated him and said I was happy for him. I wanted to be honorable, he had been a good friend this past year and half. Then a cried for a week and mourned the passing of a romance whether in my head or not.

    I spoke to him last night, he is leaving today and I needed to get some info before he left cause we would be out of contact. I wanted to talk about how we would carry on with the work, him being out of email reach.

    This is the thing…. he raged!!! he said I was trying to manipulate him, he was cold, he was going to cut all contact with me. I tried to explain to him that over the past nearly two years surely we had developed some respect and friendship and that I was letting my romantic feeling go. He raged on until I had to sooth him telling him how he had been my right hand guy, my rock when I was going through a tough time. It was then that he calmed down, he added other moments when he had come to my rescue!

    This is when I realized, he needed me more than I needed him (for now) I was an important supplier of affection and nurturing and now because I had found information that would set me free he was fighting to keep me enslaved.

    Oh boy, this is too much for me to figure out, but I think I’m on the right track aren’t I?

    I left the phone call feeling like I was a criminal, that I was trying to manipulate him this whole time. All I did I think was leave a door open, I didn’t put any pressure on this guy honest. if anything I felt I should get an apology from him for not telling me about his relationship. He has taunted me, he had played with me sadistically and stupidly i took it, now he can’t do that he is furious. i had to pretend I was still hooked to get him to calm down!

    There is no relief in this for me, cause i am left empty feeling like the criminal. And I’m not allowed to ask for understanding, compassion or empathy.

    The whole thing has left me confused and I don’t know where my thinking is.

    This sucks!!!


30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.