Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chronic Personality Problems in Problem Relationships

By Sandra L. Brown

In our first segment, I discussed that all abusers are not created equal. That means not all abusers treatment is going to be effective. Ultimately, not all problem relationships have a solution. That's not popular to hear--but it is realistic. If people who are in problem relationships want to avoid future problem relationships, they have to understand what contributes to permanent disorders and the signs within the behavior.

There is no doubt that chronic personality problems wreak havoc in relationships. If we looked a little closer at what we call 'domestic violence, abusive, chronic, or dyfunctional' relationships, we would notice that the worst of these have commonalities. (No abuse is mild. I'm not suggesting that. What I am trying to hone on is the chronicity and lethality of some of the relationships that are not treatable).

When looking at the behaviors associated with problem partners with permanent problems, we have to do two things. Look broadly at the symptoms, but not so broadly that we find loopholes. Normally, one symptom off a behavioral list does not constitute one of the now referred to as 'severe personality disorders' or the no conscienced disorders of sociopathy or psychopathy. However, they don't need to have all of these traits in order to be destructive or even diagnosed with the disorder. Those in relationships with problem partners often fail on the side of 'too much empathy' and give them more credit for not having these symptoms than what is warranted. Somewhere in the middle of one trait-too-many is a snap shot of problem partners. Here are some of the behaviors associated with severe personality disorders and socio/psychopathy. 

To make this the emotional reality check it should be, check off any traits you are WILLING to have in an intimtate relationship or father-material for your child:

___Disregard for, and the violation of, the rights of others
___Failure to conform to lawful social norms
___Deceitfulness Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
___Irritability and aggressiveness as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
___Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
___Consistent irresponsibility as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial
(Above are related to Antisocial Personality Disorder)

___ Lack of remorse as indicated by being indifferent about having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another
___ Glib and superficial charm
___ Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
___ Need for stimulation
___ Pathological lying
___ Cunning and manipulativeness
___ Lack of remorse or guilt
___ Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
___ Callousness and lack of empathy
___ Parasitic lifestyle
___ Poor behavioral controls
___ Sexual promiscuity
___ Early behavior problems
___ Lack of realistic long-term goals
___ Impulsivity irresponsibility
___ Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
___ Many short-term relationships
___ Juvenile delinquency
___ Revocation of conditional release
___ Criminal versatility
(Above are related to Sociopaths/Psychopaths)

___ Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
___ Intense and unstable personal relationships that over idealize and devalue
___ Identity disturbance with unstable self image or sense of self impulsivity in at least two areas
        (spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
___ Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-mutilation
___ Emotional instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (intense episodic irritability or anxiety)
___ Chronic feelings of emptiness
___ Inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
(Above are related to Borderline Personality Disorder)

___ A grandiose sense of self importance
___ Exaggerates their achievements and talents
___ Expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements
___ Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
___ Believes that he is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should only associate with,
        other special or other high-status people or institutions.
___ Requires excessive admiration
___ Has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or
        automatic compliance with his expectations
___ Is interpersonally exploitative within relationships and takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
___ Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
___ Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
___ Shows an arrogant, haughty behavior or attitude
(Above are related to Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

Did you see any 'must haves' for your 'how-to-have-a-happy-life' relationship checklist? I didn't think so.

Thats because this list is not mild relational infractions or merely Dr.Phil 'deal breakers'. These are permanent pathology that can emotional mangle or even kill you or your children. These lists are profiles are those who go on to do the most damage, the chronic repeated abuse, the child abductions, stalking, rape, and killing. These are the abusers who are not created equal, who have permanent brain and personality disorders that bypass what psychology can do for them. Anger management--nope. Batterer intervention--nope. Intensive psychotherapy--nope. Pathology is noted for it's Three Inabilities (Brown, 2005):

* Inability to grow to any authentic emotional or spiritual depth
* Inability to sustain positive change
* Inability to develop insight how their behavior negatively effects others

These inabilities are the hallmark of permanent and chronic disorders that create chronic problem relationships. 

Bring your check list above next time when I talk about how these charactersitics effect the relationship dynamics! 

(For more information on Problem Partners contact us at

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