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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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I have a bullying partner. Things will be ok for a while and

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I have a bullying partner. Things will be ok for a while and then it catches me out when he suddenly starts a rant or tirade which is highlky critical and negative and goes on and on and won't stop. In fact if I ask him calmly to stop or take a breather he just gets nastier and angrier. It makes me feel ill afterwards and I lose focus for a day or two and make mistakes. I am 55 and thought I was a fairly intelligent person. And I would have called it a day a long time ago as I seem unable to change things. I can control how I behave or react to him when he gets nasty, but I can't control my feelings, and end up feeling numb and detached and confused, presumably because I am still here and coping with it. I am still here because I have a 5 year-old stepson who loves me. He is my partner's son, not mine. If I leave my Partner, I will not be there for my stepson. I have been round and round the logic of it all. It is easy to say, by staying it is not a good example for stepson, and so I should leave. But stepson has known me most of his life and I am a parent to him as well. I 'handle' my partner most of the time, and make sure any disagreements or difficult discussions take place when stepson isn't here, but recently my Partner has bullied me in front of stepson, reduced me to tears and caused anxiety for stepson. I am not trying to say I am better than everyone else, but I do feel I have been a good influence in stepson's life, and I know he has problems in his other family (with his Mother and Stepdad). My Partner loves his son, in some ways, but doesn't seem to understand other peoples' feelings (mine or stepson's).
I have decided I can't leave stepson, and the situation isn't serious enough for me to be able to try and get some kind of legal custody (which would be very difficult anyway as I am not a biological parent and not married to my Partner).
So I am asking - how can I manage this situation, so as to protect myself and stepson and regain some balance. I find that when I am aware I am 'managing' the situation, I do quite well. But then sometimes you slip into feeling this is a nice normal relationship when things go well for a week or two, and my guard is down and then suddenly (usually when I am happy or having fun) I get blasted by some verbal nastiness which goes on and on and is extremely undermining. I rationalize it, but it is hard to keep up self respect when you don't walk away to make your point.


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Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.

Dear friend,

I have read and re-read your question. It has remained unanswered for more than 14 hours, and that is because you seem to be looking for a solution that will allow you to remain a stepmother and to retain your peace of mind, all at the same time.

Your partner is a very difficult person, very controlling. From your description he seems to be a narcissist. He wants to dominate and control you.

Narcissists are always in charge, always right, and they get what is called "narcissistic supply" from dominating and controlling others, especially their partners.

He is always right but may act as if HE were the victim and you are doing him wrong. This is the way of narcissists.

The most significant characteristic of a narcissist is their inability to understand or feel the emotional pain of others. They have no empathy and they cannot learn it. They can learn to PRETEND they are empathetic, but the cannot feel it, just as a blind man cannot see the blue sky.

They are also great liars and are successful at conning and manipulating others.

Narcissists never change, and often keep their victims imprisoned by giving them just enough to keep them hanging on.

You can continue to stay with him, but you will always feel this way. You have no legal recourse viv-a-vis your "stepson", unless your partner and the boys mom give you adoptive rights, and that probably will never happen.

Let me give you two very important books that will help you try to figure out your situation.

Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with the one way Relationship in Work, Love and Family by Eleanor Payson


Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder by Randy Kreger

When you understand the nature of your situation and the difficulties that you will continue to face,l you may be able to make a more informed decision.

There is no miracle answer to this, but it depends entirely on you making the best choices.

I wish you great success and shall keep you in my prayers.

Warm regards,

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. That is very helpful. Yes I guess I am trying to find a solution for both myself and stepson, and probably why I posted on here as I feel stuck for any kind of solution. It has helped to have my Partner described in this way. I had already worked out that he lies, and sometimes so blatantly and obviously, like telling me something I have done or said that I know I haven't, which means it is not possible to have normal communication at such times. Thank you for answering my question and yes I guess no-one has answered it because it seems like I am one of those people who chooses to stay in a bad relationship. But only to be a parent. But as I feel I can't leave the child (I would probably not be able to enjoy life knowing I have left him in such a situation and would worry about him) I had hoped there may be some gem of wisdom I didn't know about that would help me to find some tactics to deal with my Partner's behaviour. Although, as I have found, it is hard to keep up tactics. From what you say, it sounds like the only solution is to leave my Partner to protect myself (and I have already had a lot of loss of finances, future security and limited relationships with family and friends). Logically I should do this. I had been thinking - when the little boy is a bit older and more able to handle things himself, but then he seems to need me so much and wouldn't understand if I left and would feel deserted. I know I can't change his parents or his situation, but I could be there for him still. He does need bringing up. I toilet-trained him, and have taught him a lot and we have a close bond.

So - do people manage to stay in a bad relationship and keep sane, for a child?

Dear friend,

You have not been able to stay in this relationship without great personal cost to you. You cannot shield the boy from his father even if you are there.

With Zen-like mastery you might be able to stay in the relationship but you would have to become so aloof that it might affect your parenting. Most likely the bullying will continue and you will continue to be reduced in self-esteem and your ability to be the best "mother" to this child. I hate to put the word in quotes because you are no-doubt his best parent.

This man will probably not allow you visitation or privileges to have him visit with you occasionally, but you might strike some sort of bargain in which you might volunteer coming over once a week preferably when he is not there) and baby-sitting and doing some basic housework, or something of that nature (if he does not let you have outright visitation).

I do not think there is a legal precedent for you to stand on.

You are better off out of the picture. Perhaps you can talk to the boy or even volunteer to take him on outings or tutor him.

This man is most likely a narcissist and will want to control the situation and control you, but he might find something that would suit his needs while allowing you and his son to spend some time together.

Let me recommend one other book that may give you some more broad insight:

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft

I wish you great success and shall continue to keep you in my prayers.

Warm regards,

Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience: 35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
Elliott, LPCC, NCC and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. I have had a look at the descriptions of the books you have recommended and they seem very helpful. Thank you for that, and as you say, they may help me make an informed decision. Accepting your description of my partner has been an eye-opener in itself, and sort of puts a piece of the puzzle in place, as I am aware now that I had somehow recognised I was dealing with something that isn't usual in a relationship, and that I have perhaps bitten off more than I can chew in trying out Zen type mastery! The child's Mother is almost certainly narcissistic (i was how I first heard of the term) and I had been aware of that for a long time, and always thought that his Father and I needed to be there for him. My Partner is known by everyone as 'a very nice kind man' and 'lovely'. I had a lot of respect for him in the first two years of our relationship, and it was after the first two years that he had his first major nasty turn which was a shock. It was also at a point where I had been involved with and bonded with, his son, and had said that I had now made a major commitment, as we had to make sure we didn't split up now we had a child to think about, who loved us being a family. It did seem that I was suddenly in a trap and it is since then he has been a different person. He also has a brother who he works with, and who I know is slightly mentally ill, and won't have anything to do with me, and they seem to set each other off somehow. But my partner is like two people. One who is intelligent, intuitive, thinks things through, likes to help people. The other is a bit of a monster. My Father grew up in a children's home from the age of 4 and has had 4 nervous breakdowns throughout my life - I nursed him through one of them. I suppose this has made me tolerate other peoples' problems a bit too much, and also made me more determined to protect my little 5 year old. I also don't think I would be allowed to see him if we broke up. I will take a look at the books and accept that I will maybe have to set a time limit and choose the moment. As yes, I will always be wrong and vilified whatever I do or say. The little boy is a good little boy, quite strong-willed and intelligent. I think he has sussed his situation, but despite this he is still quite sweet and vulnerable sometimes, is not happy in his other step family and loves coming here but gets hurt by Daddy's attitude towards both of us. He does have a sense of humour and is very adult sometimes, saying things like "Are you allowed to drive the car yet" or laughing and saying "Daddy is like a cartoon" (which doesn't go down too well). I think I will also take some legal advice, as there is a current situation which concerns me about the little boy. I have been potty training him at night for almost a year. He is dry here, but not at his other home, where he gets shouted at for being wet, despite being in a top bunk and still in nappies. His Mother has told the school and Doctors that there is something wrong with him, and I think wants someone else to sort it out. It upsets me that the little one is being made to think there is something wrong with him and it is his fault, when actually it is just neglect and a lack of wanting to do the difficult bits of parenting. Sorry to go on. I guess, if I keep aware and informed I will be able to deal with the right things at the right time. I have had a mental shift already. Thank you.