Personality Disorders: The Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators, and Users in Relationships, Page 3

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Chances are, you’re dealing with an individual with a personality disorder somewhere in your life — whether it’s your spouse, your parent, your co-worker…even your child. Dr Carver’s introduction to personality disorders in relationships puts the reality in plain English; more than just a list of diagnostic criteria, this explanation describes what it’s really like to be dealing with a personality disorder and offers tips for victims.

Unconscious or Calculated Behavior?

When we look at the emotions, attitudes and behaviors of an individual with a Personality Disorder we eventually begin to question: Are these characteristics calculated and purposeful or are they unconscious behaviors that are not under their control? In working with Personality Disorders, we see both. For example:

The majority of the attitudes we seen in Personality Disorders are very long-standing and have been present since their teen years. Blaming others is a classic personality disorder feature and after believing this for many years, people with a Personality Disorder may not truly feel they are responsible for their behavior — even their criminal behavior. They have rethought, reworked, and excused their behaviors to the point that they fail to see that they are the common denominator in all their difficulties. Convicted criminals, with crimes ranging from auto theft to homicide, all have a similar attitude — “Incarceration is unfair”. They don’t factor victims into their crimes in any way. For this reason, those with a Personality Disorder have very little understanding and insight into their attitudes that ruin relationships. Victims will assure you that trying to explain a normal, healthy position to an individual with a Personality Disorder is almost impossible.
Impaired Relationships
In a Personality Disorder, over many years the individual develops impaired ways of relating to others. These impaired ways of relating eventually become their only way of relating to others. Beginning in their childhood, as an adult they now only know how to relate to others with intimidation, threat, anger, manipulation, and dishonesty. This defective social style continues, even when those around them are socially skilled, concerned, accepting, and loving.
Situational Behavior
Justifying their behavior with these long-standing attitudes, individuals with a Personality Disorder can be very calculated, purposeful, and manipulative in their behavior toward others. Their decision making, coping strategies, and manipulations are often well-planned to meet their agenda. Financially, many will purposefully legally obligate you to pay for their debts. They may steal money from you, justifying that behavior with “I cut the grass for three years — I deserve it.” It is this combination of long-standing attitudes and calculated behavior that makes a Personality Disorder dangerous in any interpersonal relationship.

What Does This Mean for the Victims?

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In a relationship with a Personality Disorder, several basic truths are present. These include:

  1. The victim in a relationship with a Personality Disorder did not create the Personality Disorder. Many Personality Disorders blame the victim for their assaults, lies, bad behavior, deceptions, intimidations, etc. In truth, the Personality Disorder has those behaviors if the victim is present or absent. Victims don’t cause themselves to be assaulted — they are involved with an abusive and assaulting individual.
  2. Changing the behavior of the victim does not change the behavior of the Personality Disorder. Many victims become superstitious and feel that they can control the behavior of the Personality Disorder in their life by changing their behavior. This is often a temporary fix, meaning only that you are now meeting the demands of the Personality Disorder. When the Personality Disorder feels justified, they return to their behavior with no concern for changes in the behavior of the victim. Loving sharks doesn’t protect us if we find ourselves dripping blood in a shark tank.
  3. A Personality Disorder is a permanent, long-standing pattern. Time doesn’t change these personalities. If your mother or father had a personality disorder in your childhood, returning home after twenty years will find their old behavior alive and well.
  4. Marrying, having a baby with, moving in with, etc. actually makes their dysfunctional behavior worse. The presence of stress exaggerates and amplifies our normal personality characteristics. Mentally healthy yet shy individuals become even shyer under stress. The stress of additional responsibilities actually increases the bad behavior of a Personality Disorder.
  5. When involved in any manner with a Personality Disorder — as their partner, parent, child, sibling, friend, etc. — we must not only recognize their behaviors but also develop a strategy to protect ourselves. Many of our strategies must focus on protecting our emotional stability, our finances, and our other relationships. As a parent, if our adult son or daughter has a Personality Disorder, we must protect ourselves from their behaviors that might jeopardize our lifestyle and life. As the child of a parent with a Personality Disorder, we must often protect our immediate family and children from the bad behavior of our parent. It’s important to remember that with a Personality Disorder, their survival and well-being is their priority — not the health or well-being of those around them.


As we go through life, we encounter a variety of individuals. We also develop a variety of relationships with others including family members, neighbors, fellow workers, friends, and familiar faces. Healthy relationships seem to be healthy in the same way — having characteristics of respect, concern for others, affection, cooperation, honesty, mutual goals, etc. A relationship with a Personality Disorder is totally different. That 9 or 10 percent of adults with a “Cluster B” Personality Disorder can create significant difficulties in our life. In brief contacts they are often troublesome — the uncle who is a con artist or the sister-in-law whom nobody can tolerate at holiday dinners. When we bring them into our lives, however, a Personality Disorder rapidly takes over and our life becomes centered on their needs, demands, and goals. To achieve their self-centered objectives, the Personality Disorder becomes the controller, abuser, manipulator and user in relationships. The early identification of individuals who create unhealthy relationships can save us from years of heartache as well as damage to our personality, self-esteem, finances, and lifestyle.

Specific techniques used by individuals with a Cluster B Personality Disorder can be found in another article “Are You Dating a Loser? Identifying Losers, Controllers and Abusers”. I have also addressed the issues associated with remaining in an abusive or dysfunctional relationship in an article “Stockholm Syndrome: The Psychological Mystery of Loving an Abuser”.

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