No matter if we're Chosen's or Unchosen's - after we have exited the chaos of living with a person who has a personality disorder, we all face the same challenges -
- How will I survive on my own?
- How do I make sure my next relationship isn't just a repeat of the last one?
- How do I avoid bringing all my baggage into a new relationship?
Non-PD's - people who have experienced relationships with personality disordered individuals are often vulnerable to repeating the cycle of becoming abuse victims. There are numerous possible reasons for this. We may suffer from C-PTSD, we may never have had a healthy relationship modeled for us, we may have suchlow self esteem that we feel we do not deserve to be treated well.
In this page we explore what it's like to venture into the sometimes frightening world of relationships, and suggest a few ideas to consider to help evaluate if the new relationships we are getting into are healthy or dysfunctional.
Going it Alone/Taking Time Out
For a Non-Personality-Disordered individual who has spent years in a world where chaos is normal and there has been a dominant destructive or abusive personality in their life, the vacancy that is left once the relationship ends can be terrifying. Sometimes people feel a sense of panic and ask themselves questions like:
- What if nobody wants me?
- What if there's something wrong with me?
- What if I'm getting too old and it's getting too late?
- Why can't I find a normal relationship?
- What if getting hurt and being abused are really just normal?
Being unsure about ourselves sometimes causes people to make mistakes when we hook up with someone else. We either do it too fast or we hook up with someone who isn't good for us.
Time to grieve
Grief is a normal, response to loss that normal, healthy people go through Grief usually does not all come out at once or in just one way.
The 5 Stages of Grief - The 5 Stages of Grief - Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance - were first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe a process which many people go through when dealing with a significant tragedy or loss.
When we first detach ourselves from a controlling or abusive personality, we begin to go through everything "for the first time" again. First birthday, first Christmas, first summer vacation, first Valentine's Day, first Thanksgiving. First Anniversary, etc. Each of these anniversaries has a way of digging up old memories and grief.
Subsequent anniversaries and triggering memories can bring back memories just as strong. It can be surprising sometimes to people who are grieving that many years later, they can be suddenly whisked back to the way they felt years ago and feel just as much pain and grief even though they have put distance between themselves and the loss. In general these grief triggers get father apart over time - but they can be just as strong when they come. This is because our memories contain information about feelings as well as facts. When we remember an emotional event, we remember how it felt as much as we remember what happened and when we recall that memory we actually feel those feelings again.
With each of these anniversaries, we get a chance to explore ourselves - what I am like, how I want to celebrate the holiday, where I want to spend my money etc.
Time to discover yourself
It takes time to stop relating to ourselves in terms of the other person with the personality disorder. It's common to hear people talk about a new love interest in terms of what they are not rather than what they are...
- He's nothing like my ex husband
- She's different from my mother
- He would never act like that
- She's much more loving than ...
Sometimes, when we come out from under the shadow of a dominant personality, we begin to grow. You never quite know how something that is growing is going to end up - it's a mystery. So it is an important gift to give to yourself to give yourself the space to grow and discover who you really are. You can do that a lot better on your own than you can in a relationship with someone else.
Time to be comfortable in your own skin
You have to be complete by yourself before you can be complete with someone else. If you find yourself wanting to be in a relationship that will "complete" you - that should be a red flag. When you go into a relationship it needs to be a mutual sharing of two people who give and receive. IF you go into a relationship expecting another person to rescue you or fix things for you then you are going in with a false expectation that will likely result in disillusionment.
Instead you want to go into a relationship where you are comfortable in your own skin - where you are not afraid to back away if things aren't great, where you are able to give as much as you receive and you expect to receive as much as you give.
There's an old saying that "misery loves company" If you are not content with who you are by yourself then you probably aren't ready for anyone else.
How Long is Long Enough?
The answer is different for everybody and there are no guarantees. However if you have been in a serious relationship or in a traumatic environment then at least one year gives you the chance to see an entire cycle of anniversaries, seasons and holidays. One year also gives you enough time to know what your "normal" is like - rather than what one of your "highs" or "lows" is like.
For others - living alone for good is the right choice. Many people find that the longer they get used to being alone the less of a need they feel for companionship.
Everyone is different. It is our hope that whatever you do, all your future relationships and friendships will be happy and satisfying and that your time alone will be just as happy and satisfying.
A "Back to the FOG" relationship...
Life has no guarantees and there are countless ways you can get yourself into a messy situation. There's really no guaranteed formula for success or failure - but there are some situations with the highest probability of getting you back into the FOG...
Whirlwind relationships - if you're thinking about moving in, getting married or engaged within weeks or even a few months of getting involved that's a red flag. Take time to learn about a person before making commitments that you can't easily get out of. And give them a chance to get to know you. If a person is putting you under pressure to make a commitment before you get a chance to know them that probably means there's something very wrong with them that they don't want you to discover.
One way relationships - the ones where you are doing all the giving and they are doing all the taking. If your potential partner can't support themselves financially, emotionally or otherwise you've got no business getting involved with them.
Secretive relationships - the ones where you're forbidden by the other person from telling others about them - or about the relationship. If you can't tell all your friends and family all about this person and the things you have done and the plans you have you should be careful about getting involved with them. Think "Romeo & Juliet" all the way.
Performance Relationships - if another person doesn't love you just the way you are they don't love YOU - they love some fantasy. If they are always asking you to prove your love by changing your values, your habits, your interests, your dreams, your friendships, your goals in life they are trying to make you into something you are not and you need to move on. They don't have to love everything about you like your snoring or your taste in music - but they have to love and accept you - the whole package, whether you change or not. That goes the other way too - if there's something you want to change about the other person try to convince yourself that they are not going to change.
Stormy relationships - this may seem obvious - but if they hit you, hurt you or berate you before you make a commitment they are likely to do it much more often afterwards.
Runaway relationships - relationships that require you to leave everything about your former life behind may seem attractive if you're feeling depressed about your own life - but they rarely work out in the end. Take time to build bonds from within your life to their life and if you can't do that you probably aren't very compatible. Also - beware of long distance relationships as they can put you under immense pressure to make big commitments with a person whom you hardly know.
Charity cases - don't get involved with anyone you feel sorry for, anyone whom you feel you can "help" or anyone you feel would be better off if they had you. Likewise don't get involved with anyone who "just needs a little love" or "just hasn't had a fair chance in life" If you find yourself doing this you have a messiah complex and you are not in a good place to be getting involved with anyone. You are more likely to hurt them more than help them. This is not the foundation of a healthy relationship so much as a dysfunctional one.
Dependency Relationships - avoid any relationship where the person you are getting involved with is dependent on you for money, support, a place to live, a job, a car, whatever. And don't get into a relationship where you are dependent on the other person for those things.
Blamers - look out for people who don't take responsibility for their own mistakes - or who are quick to blame or accuse others for everything that is wrong in their lives. The way they talk about or treat others is a good indicator of the he way they will talk about or treat you.
Relationships that put you back in the Non-PD Recycle Bin
An "Out of the FOG" Relationship...
Here are some things to consider if you want your next relationship to be one which helps keep you "Out of the FOG"...
Someone who is "good for you" - It's not wrong to think a little selfishly when entering back into the world of relationships. If you are still thinking 100% in terms of what you can give to the other person you have not reached a level of emotional maturity necessary to be getting involved with other people.
A Friend and a Lover - There's no denying that sexual attraction plays a very big part in selecting a partner and it is important - but t is equally important to choose a partner with whom you will be friends with when the thrill is over. What would you think of this person if they were badly injured in a car crash, had a long term illness, gained weight etc?
Kindness - does this person have a kind heart? Can they share, care and be good to you. Can you trust them to help you in a crisis. Will they forgive you when you screw up? Will they care as much about your heart as they do about heir own?
Emotional Stability - does this person have a stable track record? Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.
Financial Stability - is this person able to take care of themselves?
A person who you would recommend to your best friend - if this person is someone whom you would gladly set up with your best friend with no hesitation then they are more likely to be the kind pf person who you consider to be safe and good for you.
A person who will let you be you - Someone who doesn't demand that you change, lose weight, make more money, change your dress code, diet, job, religion, politics, habits, friendships, interests - who loves you for who you are -warts and all. Someone who understands that you aren't perfect and doesn't need you to be. Someone who encourages you to be the best "You" that you can be. Who cheers your accomplishments and sympathizes with your failures. Now THAT's what we're talking about!
A relationship that is consistent with the Non-PD Toolbox