Chronic Broken Promises


Chronic Broken Promises - Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.


People with Personality Disorders often make promises or accept commitments and responsibilities, then fail to follow through on them.

While this trait might seem manipulative, it is often the result of a dysfunctional situational ethic. The promises may be sincere when they are made, however during the follow through strong mood swings or feelings of fear may create a sense of mental crisis, which can result in the Personality Disordered person believing their own self-soothing has higher priority than the promise.

Examples of Chronic Broken Promises:

  • A husband repeatedly has affairs, but apologizes profusely when caught.
  • A teenager repeatedly promises to help out around the house but doesn't follow through.
  • A parent commits to a weekly activity with their child but regularly has another 'more important' priority when the time comes.
  • A father promises to bring home his paycheck but repeatedly spends a large portion at the bar on payday.
  • A housewife promises to curb her spending habit but repeatedly runs up credit card bills.
  • A boss repeatedly promises a raise or perk which doesn't materialize.

What it feels like:

Chronic lying often produces an attitude of skepticism in others. However, over time a Non may begin to engage in a form of enabling which contributes to patterns of deception and denial. This may be to avoid conflict and keep the peace. It may just seem easier not to confront the contradictions and play along.

This can further develop into a system of learned helplessness in which the Non convinces themselves  they are powerless to do anything about the situation, even if that is not the case.

The loss of self-esteem experienced over the long term as a result of not being able to rely on someone’s promises can have a significant effect on a Non (especially if they are dependent due to age or other reasons).

Nons may try to compensate by engaging in dysfunctional behaviors of their own - this is sometimes known as ‘getting fleas’.

How to Cope:

When living with a chronic promise-breaker, it is better to rely on yourself to meet your own needs.  This may mean establishing your own source of income, bank account, health providers, social networks, transportation and entertainment separately from those of the other person. Then your own wellbeing and happiness are not tied to their choices or behaviors - if they take care of you, great. If they don’t, then everything is still OK. (Sadly, this option is not one most children of unreliable parents have.)

This type of detachment will sometimes be met by resistance. The Personality Disordered person may attempt to use FOG (Fear Obligation and Guilt) to try and reinstate interdependency.  It is important to remember that taking care of yourself, or detaching from a loved one, is not the same thing as removing love for them. Rather, it is often the best thing you can do, just as you lock poisons away from children.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t depend on a person with a Personality Disorder to meet your needs.
  • Don’t forget during the bad days that they have a good side and vice-versa. Both sides are real, both are them, even though you usually only see one side at a time.
  • Don’t react emotionally when a person with a Personality Disorder breaks their promises. Think of it as an inevitable consequence of the disorder, which will come and go at random, like a rain shower or a storm.
  • Don’t entrust important bank accounts, loans, drugs, responsibilities etc. to someone who has a Personality Disorder.
  • Don’t let your boundaries crumble under pressure. Boundaries are about protecting yourself - and you can’t have a healthy life or relationship without them.

What TO Do:

  • Put the really important stuff in safe places.
  • Establish ways to meet your own needs - this may involve major life changes.
  • Allow the person with the Personality Disorder to make contributions if you are comfortable with that, and they want to do it, without becoming dependent on them.
  • Build a supportive social network of reliable friends and family members.
  • Work on boundaries which will protect you, your loved ones and your property from those who can’t control their own behavior.