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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I have been in a turbulent and painful relationship with a

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I have been in a turbulent and painful relationship with a conductor (I am a writer myself, I say this because we creatives are of a different 'breed' somehow :)). I left my husband for this man and so the stakes were high, I have a 7yrold son. The first months were good but also - I kept sensing something's not right. I kept confronting him. He also had issues with anger and, I felt, put quite some pressure on me psychologically speaking. I felt strong and thought I could handle him and help him in terms of his life's path, the way work was going for him (not good, he is 55) etc. After a few months, I had a brief affaire. It meant nothing, just sex. I suppose I needed to release some of the pressure, also: the conductor wasn't committing emotionally. No talks of 'the next step' in life. By the way - he has no children and was never married.
Ever since the affaire, everything has been turmoil. At first, he managed to make me believe there was something wrong with my head to the extent that I almost had myself admitted to a clinic for sex-addiction. Gradually, I learned that 'hey I wasn't all too screwed up.' But he's been playing a power game ever since and it's frustrating. He'll not answer calls etc etc but when I finally get hold of him, he'll tell me he needs his space and needs to protect himself. At the same time he says he loves me and won't let me go. Yet he won't commit to working it through together, as a team. As this has been going on for 7 months, I went through serious depressions. I am now starting to pick up my life again, and I have started dating. This sparked another round of anger and manipulation. He speaks as if we are in a relationship. And I've noticed he doesn't remember his anger/rages even after I once called the police to get him out of my house.
I have no idea why I myself can't seem to let go of him. I love him deeply and I suppose increasingly I'm feeling the 'something isn't right' thing means: something truly isn't right and as opposed to me, HE needs serious help. Last week, he suddenly turned on the 'reasonable person' in him and said he wanted to start talks with a therapist, and with me.
By now, I am really hesitant. I want to give us a chance, and him (maybe he needed more time?) but I'm also afraid for manipulations and hurt. He's so good at presenting his own reality in a way that makes everyone believe him... also, I once spoke to a mindfulness person with him and it was disaster. It was almost as if she was sooo awed by him and his work that nothing else mattered and he got away with saying excruciatingly painful things.
Somehow, I've also been obsessed with honesty and the truth and it's almost like I want him to acknowledge my perspective. He tends to victimize himself.
My question: would starting talks with him and a professional be an absolutely useless endeavour? Does it have a chance of leading to meaningful change and communication? If not, how do I stop myself from continually seeking contact with him? How do I learn to let go?
Is it possible he might have split-personalities? Or narcisstic personality disorder? And if so, how do you get someone like that to realize he needs help? Online, you'll only find things about what it's like for family once they are in therapy. Would starting a session with the two of us and then steering it that way (ie presenting my question to the therapist - "could he have such and so") be a way of getting an understanding of that? Could HE be the one leading secret lives?
I'm afraid to let go, as for some strange reason I'm afraid I'm letting go of a very special person, of true love. That having been said, haven't I allowed him to do enough damage to my life already?
Thank you for your time.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.
From the behavior you describe, it sounds like he might have a personality disorder, possibly narcissism. Anyone who can manipulate a therapist, present his own reality to make others believe him and play games in a relationship is usually narcissistic.
Personality disorders are typically ingrained behaviors that someone develops, usually in response to being raised in a dysfunctional home. The person could not get their needs met (for unconditional love and attention) so they developed other ways to get what they needed which usually involved dysfunctional behaviors. When they become an adult, they continue these behaviors even when they were no longer needed.
Treating someone with a personality disorder can be difficult. For one, they have to recognize they have a problem and be willing to get help. Also, personality disorders are hard to treat because they are ingrained in the personality of the person. So treating them is altering the person's perceptions and some basic personality traits. That does not mean they cannot be treated, but the effort it takes on the part of the person is more intense.
Therapy can help your partner if he is willing but at this point, it sounds like he does not see he has a problem. And if he is willing to manipulate the therapist he did see and to try to convince you that you are the one with the problems, then it is very unlikely that he has insight into his own issues. And there is no way to make him realize that he needs help. You can tell him and encourage him, but he has to be willing to see his own issues.
How you approach this depends on whether or not you want to continue this relationship. If he does have a personality disorder, the likelihood that he would change is very small, even with help. So you may want to talk to a therapist on your own about your options.
In the meanwhile, you can learn more about personality disorders to see if they fit your partner's behavior and to learn more about how to help yourself:
Letting go and moving on from this type of relationship can be difficult. For one, you have invested time and energy into making it work. And two, even though they often hurt you, people with narcissism can also be charming, attractive and seem like the love of your life. So letting go and moving on is hard. However, if you can, try listing all the things that have gone wrong in the relationship, including any cruel things he has said or done. Also, talk to a therapist. The support can help you work through any grief you experience.
I hope this has helped you,
TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
This resource may also help you:
The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor Payson
May I please request that if you find the service I provided helpful at all that you rate me with three or above? Your rating is the only way I am reimbursed for my answer. Thank you so much!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dear Kate, Thank you for your advice and the provided links. They are helpful. The problem I'm facing is deep down I desperately want to be in a relationship with him, while my mind keeps telling me to stay away. I can manage staying away for a day or three and then start obsessing... I hate myself for not being able to resist seeking contact with him. How can I stop myself? My self-esteem has become extremely low because of it.

Our last communication (after he asked to see a therapist together with me) ended up in his getting angry again (the slightest thing can spark him off) calling me a slut and saying i was never going to change, that i was sick in the head etc etc. So I hung up saying that breaking off all contact is best. But I find myself on the couch with heart palpitations when I think about him. It's almost as if indeed - I am the 'sick' one and have control issues? I know it's never going to work out, it will always be about his distrust and power play/manipulations. It means I would always have to maintain a submissive role. I think there's something about his not being 'truthful' (at least that's what I'm strongly sensing, that he is actually seeing other women) that I can't handle, the injustice... if only he would be honest!!!

At the same time I'm telling myself: but what does it matter? You've broken up! He still has a hold on me. It's really ruining my life and especially focus and happiness.

Another thing that I find unsettling is when I read things about narcissism (such as the links you sent me), I find myself thinking that I might actually have it! Am I not trying to manipulate him into a reaction?

He's not budging. He hasn't in the pas 8 months. It's all felt like one big punishment. Why do I keep hanging on?

Thank you,

ps - I am seeing a therapist myself. I have been in and out of therapy for a long time. Perhaps his actions simply speak to my deepest fears? Abandonment? Rejection?

I would be more than happy to continue working with you on any new questions you have. All I ask is that you rate my answers for each new/different question you ask. Is this ok before we continue?
I am sorry, I see that you did not rate your first answer. Please do so before we can continue.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello Kate,

I did indeed only just now rate (I'm sorry, I'm new to this site and live in Amsterdam!) and tried to leave a tip, I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong because the payment doesn't seem to be coming through. I tried various credit cards and paypal. I will keep trying. Kind regards,

Thank you for the rating and bonus. I appreciate it.
Whenever you are caught in an abusive relationship, it can become hard to leave. You want to change the person because you are in love and feel there is potential to make things right. Also many abusers are very good at manipulation, convincing you that you are at fault and creating guilt, which can make you feel bad for leaving.
It sounds like there is part of you that believes you deserve being treated poorly. That could be due to past issues of abuse or some type of issue with your own self esteem. Many abuse victims have a familiarity with abuse since they were abused before either in a relationship or as a child. As a result, they feel they "belong" in abusive relationships because it is what they know. That makes it hard to gain the confidence to leave.
You do not have narcissism, but he may. You might try to get a reaction out of him or even change him, but that is not narcissism. That is an attempt to get him to care about you because you may feel you desperately need it. Getting an abuser to love you would help you heal from the past. But it rarely works out and you almost always get hurt.
Try focusing on the bad aspects of your relationship. List all the bad things you can recall he has done to you. Keep a list nearby to remind yourself. And take one step at a time. If you feel the need to talk to him, then shorten the conversation by 10 minutes. Then try cutting back on how many times you talk to him. Slowly disengage from his life. Distract yourself by planning things with friends and family. Be out with others as much as possible. And focus on healing from your past so you can increase your self confidence and help yourself see you deserve more.
Here are resources that can help:
The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel
How to Leave a Narcissist and Keep Your Dignity by Laura McWilliams
The Verbally Abusive Man, Can He Change?: A Woman's Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by ***** *****
Please don't forget to rate my service as OK or higher so I am credited for my answer. Thanks so much!
TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you very much Kate, this is very helpful. I hate the panic attacks but they fade out and will lessen in time, I'm sure!

Kindest regards,

Thank you for the positive rating! It is not easy to break the cycle of an abusive relationship. Often it is a slow process. You can try cutting it off (cold turkey) but that does not help you address the issues involved so you can stay away. By doing this slowly and working on your self esteem, building support and facing the abuse he exposes you to, you can move on and stay away permanently.
Take care,