Am I in a Destructive Relationship?


I will use masculine pronouns for the destructive partner the sake of simplicity, though destructive partners are often female.

There are a number of MO’s a narcissistic or socio/psychopathic partner employ in a destructive relationship, as a response to your needs, complaints, or issues in the relationship.  One is that you are kept off balance.  You may be feeling desperate and alone a lot in the relationship because your partner has become more distant, disengaged, angry, and rejecting (sexually and/or emotionally).  Perhaps he has even become abusive.  But, if you complain too much or bring up suspicious behavior, you may find he has turned back into the lovestruck partner who wooed you in the beginning, being attentive, engaged, “making love” to you, or giving you gifts.  This makes you wonder if you were wrong about him distancing, or your suspicions.  You begin to doubt your perception as any trusting partner would, and become confused.  He is counting on your trusting nature to do just that.

Another MO of the destructive partner is to never take responsibility for a relationship issue.  If there is a conflict, or you bring up a need or complaint, or question a suspicious behavior, he may use escalated anger to stop the conversation, or turn the problem around to something you have done wrong, or say you are being “needy, paranoid, crazy.”  He may dismiss what you have to say as ridiculous, stonewall with silence, or walk away.  He will never admit wrong or have remorse for a behavior that has caused you hurt.  His blaming behavior may cause you to examine yourself, wonder what is wrong with you.  This is because you are willing to take responsibility in the relationship, as a responsible partner would, and he is counting on this.

Another MO of the destructive partner is to act like a victim.  He may complain you are being too demanding or harsh, and you may feel guilty, because he appears to be so wounded by what you just brought up.  You might feel compassion for the “wounded boy” that you can sense in that moment, because you know he has come from an abusive or sad childhood.  You never wanted to be another person who abandoned or hurt him.  On the contrary, you wanted to be the one person who really loved him, hoping your love could help heal his wounds.  In a healthy relationship, safety and compassion does reciprocally help heal childhood wounds.  But, this can’t happen with a person who is not really present.  He is actually emotionally disconnected from his childhood wounds, and has created a false self, or facade.  He can’t reciprocate, and he is counting on your compassion to keep him as the victim and you as the guilty party.

Another MO of the destructive partner is to create (consciously or not) the illusion that he is experiencing the relationship in the same way that you are.  During the beginning romantic phase of the relationship, during sex or fun times, being parents together, you felt emotional connection with your partner that has deepened over time.  When there were no emotional demands, and nothing was threatening his false self and sense of control, he may have felt attachment or even brief spurts of empathy.  Remember, narcissists and socio/psychopaths by definition lack true empathy.  [They are, however, able to fake empathy and emotions!]  The work of a committed relationship – the demand for emotional intimacy – would always be threatening to their false self and sense of control (and deep down they know they are incapable of it).  Empathy and compassion is what causes you to act lovingly, to consider his needs and emotions before yours even when it’s hard, and to do everything in your power to make the connection right.  This he cannot do.  So, when you think he feels love like you do, what he actually feels is a sense of control or power, or attachment to domestic or financial security, looking good, or a cover.  Unfortunately, this is not love.  But, he is counting on you to think it is.

As the destructiveness of your relationship becomes apparent to you, it is hard to wrap your head around what has happened.  You can’t fathom that your partner was not who you thought he was all this time. This person who supposedly has loved you has hurt you more than anyone else ever has.  He has felt comfortable hurting or taking advantage of you, lying and deceiving you for perhaps many years – many years that now seem to have gone up in smoke.  Many years that you believed you were investing your love in a life together.  Perhaps his greatest deceit of all was to encourage you to believe that you were loved.

A person is not one’s potential, words, nor image.  A person is what they do.

Love is not its potential, words, nor feelings.  Love is action.

To get better clarity for yourself or your therapist about whether you’ve been in a destructive relationship, you may open and download the questionnaire from our Resources page.


Comments ( 152 )
  • Annie says:

    Hi guys,

    I am here as i think i need support but am far away. I am with a narcissist for 3 years now. He drives me crazy. No appreciation, all blaming, no empathy and i feel i am just bejng used. Not valued and ignores my feelings. All the frustrations and pain and yet i cant help but hope he will change. I need help to awaken me that it wont happen . And maybe with all the sharing here i would be able to figure that out in my mind. I am desperate to get out of this situation but i need the motivation and get rid of my fears which i really dont know what is it when i am already hurting everyday of my life. I wanna love myself more.



  • Monique says:

    I was in a relationship on and off for 5 years…things would be good for a couple of months then it was the jekel and hide personality…this went on and on…it was always about what I could do for him…I never slept at his home because he didn’t like being touched…so I went home…although he could touch me during sex….so confusing…I blamed it all on pot smoking which he did a lot of…I never touched the stuff…then I thought he was OCD….we would argue a lot and him convincing me that it was my fault.
    Well a year ago he decided he was going to get a motorcycle license and buy a motorcycle and I thought that was great, it would get him out of the house…he never wanted to do anything…so I thought this was great. Alas in July 2013 we went on a bike trip I live in Canada…so we crossed Ontario and just got into New Brunswick when all of a sudden the back tire blew and at an excessive speed he jumped to save himself with no injuries and I went into a brick wall…I do not remember anything but this is what I found out. I was taking by ambulance to hospital with serious injuries and he got a witness to drive him to a motel to hide his drugs….for some reason I was released that same night and he took me to a motel and 3 days later I awoke at his home feeling like I was gonna die and told him to take me to my doctor….apparently me doctor called an ambulance right away and I was put in ICU for 6 days….I had a collapsed lung, traumatic brain injury, 4 broken ribs, fractured shoulder and road rash all over my body. I was released and he took me back to his house without contacting my family…I was left alone all day while he went to work for 8 hours….he would come home and cook me a meal and then hide in the sitting room in the basement and smoke drugs all night….after about 2 weeks I was starting to come around and told him I wanted to go home and he seemed relieved to get rid of me. Not even a week passed and he purchased another motorcycle and kept coming over to get me to go for a ride with him….and he took holidays again to do this but not to take care of me. I started reading about sociopaths on the computer and realized what I was dealing with and I decided to sue him for my injuries…well that was it for him…he never spoke to me again. I never knew this much heartache in my life….to know that he had no feelings or empathy for me…I still cry everyday and still dealing with my injuries every day are reminders….I despise him so much yet still love him….how screwed up is that…sometimes I wish I would have died in the accident because living with this emotional pain is to hard to bear…I have been some help but after 2 sessions with a psychologist telling me to forgive him…just blew me away and I never went back and still looking for some emotional help.

  • Karen says:

    I wish there are groups such as this on the westcoast? I’ve been to several therapists and nothing is resonating – my last therapist took his side over mine saying that he knew that the sociopath was lying but said that there was “hope for him” – leaving me out there hung to dry. It has been such an awful struggle to move past this devastating relationship and am running out of resources.

    I feel as though I’m losing this battle of moving on. He keeps letting me know how he is so far above me and that I’m nothing. No conscience whatsoever – not even an “I’m sorry for lying to you, cheating on you, stealing from you”. He just keeps it up.

  • Boopsiekisses says:

    I have been living witt my xSpath for 25 yrs. 3 children all grown and on their own. I left him in Oct. 2013. No contact on my part, hes always trying to contact me, but no contact. i dont have to tell any of you how life has been you already know. I have gone through the five stages of grief, I am in the acceptsnce stage,, I get it. Never felt better. Good luck to all of you, a wonderful beautiful life awaits each and everyone of you, Mark you to you have been down this horrendous road and it DOES get better, just takes time is all.. Peace and love..

  • Mark says:


    I find myself in a situation very similar to a lot of you, and found this website as I searched for “destructive relationships” such as mine. I have to ask though, is this blog just for women? I’d really like to share my story and hear some advices, I’m feeling very lost and could use some support.

    Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Hi Mark. Though you see mostly women, which is the majority of cases, there are men in this situation as well. We have men in our group. I’m glad you found us. Please feel free to share your story. If you are nearby maybe you can come to our live group. If you are interested in an online live chat let me know. I believe we have enough people to schedule one. In the meantime I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Mary A

      • Mark says:

        Hello Mary, thank you for your answer.

        I’d love to go to a meeting, but I’m afraid I’m a bit far from America right now. Coincidence or not, I’m scheduled to go to NJ sometime next semester for work so I might just stop by. Hopefully I won’t be needing the group anymore? I say that in a good way.

        I have to confess that since yesterday when I first posted, I don’t feel the same need to tell this story again, as it feels like revisiting it unnecessarily when the part of me that urges to move on grows each second of the day. Although, my days feel more like the craziest rollercoaster in town, that part of me who understand that changes have to be made is growing strong.

        I’ve been living in a relationship where she convinced me that everything I do is the most unforgivable sin. Nothing ever is right or enough. No matter how much I try to please in different ways, I’m always punished. When you’re convinced you’re worthless, than you’re done.

        As a man, and I mean this biologically, I require an active sexual life. I have eyes only for her, compliment her in all sorts and manners. Flowers, jewelry, chocolate, romance, you name it. But nothing turns that woman on. Not only that, when I try to let her know we have to do something about our sex life, she gets that escalated anger posture I read somewhere on here, and bashes out on me screaming all sorts of things and fiercely blaming my existence for everything that is wrong in the universe and I don’t deserve any better and so on… After a while, rage stops flowing through her system, she tells me she loves me and get all nice and pretend nothing happened. Repeat this reaction of hers three times a week and this is my life.

        She’s a young entrepreneur and started her own company some 4 years ago. I’ve been helping her with it since the beginning, not measuring efforts. I’m her guarantor for all her loans and rents. My field of work and study is the same as her company (food industry) and I’ve helped her with all the knowledge I could spare. Two years ago I took her to London and proposed to her on top of the London Eye. We spent two weeks there. She also has a son, he’s 12 now. We are best buddies. And I’m not just saying that. On his last birthday, his mother gave him an iPhone 5C and he told us right there that the best gift his mom had given him was me. I know right? A 12 year old kid holding an iPhone in his hand and says this? Oh right, and we share the same birthday him and I.

        Well, for some reason all that isn’t good enough. When it comes to partnership and commitment to the relationship, I’m 24/7 frustrated. I’m tired of feeling that I’m only good for some things in her life, but not as her man. Living a constant effort to make things work and not being valued for it.

        I realise that to some I might sound overwhelming, but again, she tells me she loves all this. I’ve asked her many times, “Is this not what you want? Not from me exactly but in general, is this not what you want for a relationship?”.

        I’ve been to therapy for a year now and he tells me that this situation is’t personal. She’s on her 30’s and is a busniesswoman with a growing company. She’s got all her libido on her job and can’t see much beyond her professional life. I have no problem accepting that, I even respect it. But it has to come from her mouth. You can’t behave like your job is the only thing that matters, and say you care for us and expect me to figure out how to make it work. Is some coherense too much to ask for?

        I broke up with her one week ago and her last words to me where “I don’t want to break up” and then she called me the next day asking “what could she do to keep us together”. I told her that after 5 years if she still has to ask, then there’s nothing to be done. There was one “I love you” from her before hanging up and that was it. Since last wednesday, she seems to have forgotten all this “love” and “not wanting to break up”. Why would you confuse someone that much saying things and acting the opposite? Maybe she’s the most confused one?

        I was reluctant on saying this but since I came all this way already I’ll just throw it on the table: I’m freaked out by the possibility of finding her loving again someone else in the near future. The thought of it makes me sick.

        Anyway… I guess I’ll just hang on to what my therapist said and stop living her life. Focus on what I want and what makes me happy. Not easy but I guess the only way out is through it, right?

        Sorry for such a long post, it sure helped me to let all that out. Thank you for any comments you might have.

  • Joyce says:

    I have lived this story for 28 years and didn’t know until 2 years ago. I thought I was the problem in our marriage. I read many books and listened to marriage professionals looking for answers to help us. THEN I heard the word ‘narcissist’. I wondered what it was and googled. I began my journey of discovery and found it was not me. I was not going crazy. Everything was not my fault. No matter what I did and he flew into a rage, it was not me!!! I have been in therapy now for a year. He came to a session and proceeded to define me right there in front of my counselor. We went to marriage counseling and on the 4th time, she told me I was spending too much time thinking about the past and I was having empty nest syndrome. He loved it. It validated that I was the one who had the problem. I will not return to that. I hear it is typical of marriage counselors to not see the NPD displayed. He can charm a snake and others too.
    So now, I am seeking a way out but need employment. I am 60 with little work experience. My children all live out of state. Retirement is very close. What do other women my age do?! All suggestions are accepted. Thank you so much for this website and I like the meetup idea.

    • admin says:

      Hi Joyce,
      I’m so glad you finally found out you were not the cause of all your marital problems! I’m very sorry you went to 4 marriage counselors, none of whom recognized the NPD. This is typical unfortunately. Not that it would do any good to point that out. The best thing a counselor can do is to tactfully show the partner that this person cannot empathize or take responsibility for anything, and validate the partner’s frustration with this. You probably need help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so find a therapist who specifically has techniques to deal with this – EMDR, hypnotherapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy, other somatic, even energy/shaman healing modalities.
      It’s all so hard to fathom. I’m glad you are finding the courage to be independent. The only thing I can suggest is to get a fair divorce settlement if you haven’t already, work, and find an affordable place to live. Join a support group perhaps for separated and divorced, or join meetup interest groups, get support from family and friends. If you haven’t looked at Lovefraud.com, there are continuous articles and you can blog with others (I have articles there). If you’d like to start a support group for Partners of Narcissists, Sociopaths, & Psychopaths in your area, I am putting together a guide booklet for a low cost. If you’re in Northern NJ, please join us at the live group. If you’d be interested in joining an online live chat, let me know. If I get a few interested people, I will arrange one.
      No contact with the narcissist, as you find your way back to yourself and find life again.
      Warmly, Mary A

      • Jennifer Vogel says:

        I would look to join an online group for support, but could not find the group ‘relationships with narcissists’ on meet me.com

        • admin says:

          Hi Jennifer. I’m sorry I missed this comment. I am going to schedule an online group very soon, which I will post on the site. If you are in NJ, go to Meetup.com and search for Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths. Then you get information on upcoming live groups. I look forward to having you as part of one or both of our groups! Take care. Mary A

  • Melissa says:

    Wow! I never thought I would be in this position or situation. Today I (again) have left my long time boyfriend of 5 1/2 years. I have left numerous times before, but always found myself missing him immensly and going back. I really don’t know if he is a sociopath or just plain mean. Any help or advice here would be greatly appreciated, as I am feeling very hurt and confused and lost. When we met, things were great for about 3 months, then I started noticing that 2 + 2 was not making 4. I was hesitant to get together with him in the first place because he is a truck driver that is only home on weekends. Alas, I was charmed by him and his masculinity. When 2 + 2 wasn’t making 4 anymore (“dissapearing” from cell phone land foor sometimes up to 16 hours) I started to get crafty and created an account “helping” him manage his cell phone. That gave me access to his detailed records. I found that he’d been talking to and texting the same number all hours of the day and night and I called her. Yes, he was cheating. I confronted him about it and he lied and told me I was crazy and didn’t know what I was talking about. (making me feel crazy to have contacted her) Long story short, over the past 5 1/2 years, this has happened numerous times with numerous different women, incuding one locally. Every time, I went back. It was my fault. I got screamed at on the phone for contacting these women. I had to know the truth. We started couples therapy last Saturday, and today, I faced ANOTHER woman he has been seeing for two years in Canada that he tells me every time I ask him, “I haven’t spoken to her in months”. Although, she repeated to me almost the same exact thing the first woman said to me about what he has told them about me. I cancelled our next appointment together after telling the therapist what happened this morning and told her I would be coming in by myself. She said this is typical of “behavioral conditioning” and to expect him to pull all the strings out that he always uses to get me back. (Ignoring me, telling me how much he misses me, etc.) I am lost, dazed and confused. What the heck is behavioral conditioning and how do I get out of this and heal from this? I am devestated because the future I was promised by him was all a LIE! PLEASE HELP!

    • admin says:

      Hi Melissa,
      The behavior of your partner is classic of narcissistic, sociopathic behavior, bottom line, someone with little emotions or conscience. He will pull out all the stops on all those manipulations you mentioned will be used at this time to get you back. Going to therapy is one of them. I agree with your therapist about that. In therapy they are capable of temporary honesty, temporary working at change in the relationship, can even generate or mimic some “empathy” sometimes. But, in 100% of cases I have ever seen or worked with, they cannot sustain it past therapy, or once the therapy gets to their real issues, they will drop out – even if they genuinely seem to want it at first. They are incapable of change because they don’t have true remorse, which involves real empathy, and aren’t able to take responsibility for their actions. I don’t know what “behavioral conditioning” is. What I do know is that people like this don’t change. A one-time affair would be bad enough and very hard to get past, but they happen sometimes in a relationship when things are bad. If the cheating partner is truly remorseful, figures out what went wrong with him, is transparent in all his doings going forward, the couple can past it. A serial cheater on the other hand, can only do so because s/he doesn’t have any feeling/empathy about how they’re hurting you. And if you try to get them to validate the hurt, humiliation, etc., you will not be heard. With an honest person, you never see 2 + 2 = anything but 4 – no strange situations and explanations that sort of make sense, or you have to try to wrap your mind around their explanations, or you sense in your gut something is not right. There are no gaps in time you can reach the person and excuses about the phone or whatever. But, if you try to end the relationship, they will not let go. They can make you believe you’re crazy, giving up a good thing, promise you the world, sometimes in the most romantic, sweep you off your feet type gestures. Brace yourself! I hope you can join our online chat and get further support.

  • angie says:

    im very glad to have found you, this is my first time here and im looking for support and validation, and hope that i can give back to others too when im emotionally stronger.

    In the beginning of my marriage i was convinced that this was love, he put me on a pedestal and made me feel special, yes he made mistakes, but showed empathy to some extent, although he made many many mistakes and i took him back each and every time. These mistakes even back then werent the normal type of silly mistakes that most men can make sometimes, but i was blinkered to it all and didnt realise how much worse it was to become over the years that followed.

    I knew some years ago that something was very wrong in my marriage, HE was very wrong, he became someone i didnt recognise or know anymore, and it started out with utter betrayal, there was a situation where he should have stood my ground and supported me – he didnt!! he stood the side of a total stranger, who i proved to be in the wrong… then there was a job loss, then an investigation with something else that he didnt handle – i did it all, and saw it all through with no thanks/ gratitude or respect… his doctor thought he was depressed and prescribed antidepressants which he didnt take, as he had seen me come off long term antidepressants and saw me suffer, he was totally non emotionally supportive through out that ordeal. Do i believe that he was depressed ??? not at all, when things dont go well for him or situations arise that do not go his way, he cannot deal or cope, thats what im here for – to make everything right in HIS world, Give everything i have and get NOTHING back in return.

    So due to his depression i gather funds together to run my home in his absence and used the remainder for a holiday…. he said this holiday is about you !! haha, we get off plane, he gets sun burned the first day and the whole 14 days its all about HIM yet again, his peeling, burned skin and me running round buying lotions and salve to heal the damage.
    We return and its my birthday… just a card.. so by this time im thinking hang on something is very wrong here, lets talk.. he is not interested sits looking at floor, ceiling, through window, anywhere but take responsibility and accountability, which of course is frustrating and upsetting, he sees the upset caused, does not acknowledge the damage he is doing, just blindly gets on with his life at my expense.

    So, i then ask him to leave and he does… he left for about 5 days, but visits every single day, wanting to come back – and of course i am funding him while he is away from home — the end of that week is our wedding anniversary, i stupidly think by booking a long weekend away it can all be resolved….. not a chance, he turns up without an anniversary card , let alone a gift, and no thanks either.

    Then a situation arises where im being harrasssed for money i didnt have…. yes it was money i had used to help him through his bad times, which results in my car being vandalised and me being assaulted…. did he support me ….. lol you have it in one.. NO HE DID NOT.. he sat there like he was totally uninvolved after sharing and benefitting from that money.

    From the start of this message .. that was 3 years ago, this has been my life, and a very upsetting one for sure…. this man displays no empathy, no respect, no gratitude, he cannnot stand on his own two feet, his problems are mine, if i speak to him he twists the truth and turns it back on me, if you hadnt said this, or if you hadnt done that.. a conversation or talk to sort problems is a character assassination – none of which is HIS fault of course, he has served me with the highest betrayal and disrespect, and after 3 yrs of trying, once again i ask him to leave, no matter what time of day i ask him to go the behaviour is the same….he withdraws, sits in silence and once it gets dark will say, where can i go now??? i have no where to go!! so i find rental places online and ask him to go view, he says i will find my own – but never does —- he is a total manipulator.

    My emotional needs do not count- i do not matter… yet – he accuses me of not wanting to respond to him in the bedroom or affectionately. He will never discuss his emotional unavailability, he lacks in every emotion, and so long as i fulfil my ROLE here and He GETS what he needs, nothing else matters… How can someone that claims to love you treat that person so terrible, how can they just sit back so disconnected and uninvolved, watch the destruction they have wreaked and leave someone else to carry there weight….. it really beggars belief.
    I need some help to deal and cope — his behaviour has totally destroyed what was a very long marriage (35 yrs) , i realise i cant change anyone else other than myself, but right now feel emotionally drained and unmotivated in many respects to do so.

    It would help me to understand what is wrong here – am i describing emotional abuse ?? or narcissistic personality disorder ?
    He tells me he wants to be with me and fix… yet is unwilling to make changes, yet will promise to do so. I dont regret doing everything i have… i simply regret doing all of that for someone who really didnt deserve any of it.

    Can you help me ???

    • admin says:

      Hi Angie,
      It sounds as if you were with someone who demonstrates the classic behavior of someone without conscience, who has no trouble using your resources, and has little regard for you. Keep reading and get any support you can to continue to get clarity and strength to go forward the way that is best for your emotional and physical well-being. Being in a relationship like this for years takes an incredible toll. Things that are soothing and healing at this time are very important: exercise, yoga, massage, journaling, therapy, groups, support from friends and family. Being caught up in the stress and, often, shame of a relationship like this can often isolate us. Please attend our online chat this evening if you can. There’s nothing better than hearing others’ stories and having them identify with yours.

  • Maureen says:

    I thought l was ALONE…..!!! I left my husband THINKING l found. My TRUE LOVE, was l SO SO WRONG….l didn’t realize untl was l was in the hospital. And even at that he got to me . He had TOTALLY takeover me from drugs, to money that im BROKE.. lost my confidence, was out if work.. l lived in fear. . List goes on. I’m embarrassed humanity, l have to start to think, live, work believe in myself. But to know I’m not ALONE that we have each OTHER.. THANK YOU ALL!!!!!

  • admin says:

    Hi Robin,
    You are not alone! Your story is almost standard. Even after they leave, they have a way of being in your life, trying to take control back either by getting you back or by getting revenge. This also has the effect of keeping you in a state of fear – maybe more so because they cross boundaries they may not have before. You wonder, What will he do next? What else is he capable of? The key is to get support, reconnect to your strength, and overcome that fear. Part of that is to see him as he really is. Crucial to that is to speak to others, read books about narcissists and sociopaths. Their behavior is pretty predictable, and this is in your favor. I hope you can join one of our groups.

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