By Sandra L. Brown, M.A.
Never before in my 20 year career have I seen more 'relapsing back into pathological relationships' than I have lately.
Women: What's wrong with me? Why do I do this?
Sandra: I don't know....why DO you do it?
Women: I didn't know what I was doing...
Sandra: Yes you did. Contact is a choice.
Women: I just thought he changed this time.
Sandra: No you didn't---you know pathology is permanent.
Women: I was lonely.
Sandra: Loneliness is not fatal--but these relationships often are.
Remember: your loneliness and need does not change his permanent disorder.
Nothing has changed except your thoughts about him and the relationship. That's the only change. Since pathology is marked by an inability to change and sustain positive change, your change of thoughts is the only change in the relationship. And maybe your desire or need.
Relapsing begins FIRST in the mind long before it becomes a behavior-seeking missile fired off to destroy yourself and your recovery. This is why being in a Pathological Love Relationship Support Group is so important---whether that's in a chat forum, an in-person support group you attend, or an online tele-conferencing group. You need support that keeps your THINKING outside of the fantasy zone. Without support, you are likely to sink right back into the old fantasy hopefulness that keeps you glued to a go-nowhere and dangerous relationship.
Relapse Thinking sounds like this in your head:
- · You take all the material you've learned from books or online back to the pathological. You try to convince the pathological that they are disordered and need help.
- · You tell the pathological what your counselor said about them, you, or the relationship. You hope the weight of a professional's words will change the pathological's mind about their condition.
- · You say, "Now that I 'think' I know what 'might' be wrong with the pathological, I'll wait and watch for him to demonstrate these behaviors. Then I'll have evidence for why I'm leaving."
- · When the pathological, DOES demonstrate one of the behaviors, you either point it out to them as proof you were right, or, you find reasons why the behavior isn't 'exactly' what you read and therefore, they may not be pathological after all.
- · You read the materials and literature looking to find all the traits the pathological doesn't have. You re-read the literature on good days so you can cross off behaviors the pathological isn't demonstrating today.
- · You find reasons to disbelieve the literature about the disorder.
- · You avoid your counselor, our website, or others who know about the disorder.
- · You become 'spiritually hopeful' so you can stay in the relationship because God is going to heal them.
- · You begin reading Positive Psychology materials so you can hope the pathological can change even though pathology is about no-change.
- · You call the pathological's girlfriends or exes to get them to confirm or deny he's pathological.
- · You hire a private investigator to follow the pathological, break into their phone or computer, for 'just a little more info. on why you should leave them. When faced with the results, you still don't leave.
- · You feel more compassion toward the pathological than anger for your own pain.
- · You focus on the few good times and stuff your own feelings about his deceitful behavior.
- · You encourage the pathological to carrot-dangle some future hope or potential to you so you can say "We'll try it ONE MORE time."
- · You think you are confronting the pathological because you stand up to them. You are not being victimized by them if you are voicing your thoughts.
- · You minimize the pathological's previous deceitful, manipulative, dangerous, exploitative or lethal behavior by saying "I was probably over-exaggerating it."
- · You label yourself "just as sick as them" so you might as well stay with them. No one healthy would want you.
- · You envy the pathological's lack of conscience and remorse and see it as a 'good life' feature. You wish you were like that and cared less about what happened to you. Everything seems to go their way because they lack conscience.
- · You hyper-focus on the pathological's behavior and avoid taking care of yourself. They, and your relationship with them, become the reason for your unhappiness, health, financial, other problems.
- · You study to death all the traits of every kind of disorder you think the pathological might have. You don't leave because you 'want to totally understand it before you leave' and need just a little bit more understanding or validation from others--their family, their therapist, your therapist, your friends, etc.
- · You start softening, missing the pathological, minimizing their behavior, focusing on your own loneliness, and panic about whom or what they are doing, make excuses to have contact with them. And ~ OUILA~ you're back in.
The 'emergency session' calls that everyone wants to have is AFTER they have done one of these behaviors and feel awful about their relapse. The emergency session needs to be WHILE you are having these thoughts and BEFORE you act on them. Every time you go through one of these relapse cycles:
· It numbs you more and more to leaving.
· It makes it easier and easier to relapse.
· It's easier for the thinking to begin again in your head, totally unrecognized by you.
You damage YOURSELF each time you move in and out of the pathological love relationship. You damage your sense of reality even further--training YOURSELF how to hypnotize your belief system with one of the thinking phrases listed above. You also teach the pathological how to lure you back to the relationship. They aren't stupid! They are master behavior analysts, and they study which manipulative tactics work on you. Stop teaching them!
There is so much that the pathological relationship has legitimately done and damaged in you. But there is so much you DO TO YOURSELF in your relapsing. Relapse prevention requires work. It doesn't just 'happen' that you declare you are 'done' and you stay gone. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to help you get out and stay out until MUCH TIME down the road; you are strong enough on your own. I said, MUCH TIME.
Day one of healing does not happen until you get out, and stay out, and have been emotionally disconnected for several months. When people say they are recovering, but drift in and out of the relationship with constant relapse contact, I don't consider them in healing. They don't have even day-one under their belt yet. For those of you who are truly ready to start a new life, we are here to help you. We offer teleconferencing support groups. Here's one way to get the support and help you need to get out and stay out. And don't forget we offer help in almost every format imaginable: books, e-books, workbooks, hypnosis CDs, mindfulness skills training, retreats, 1:1s with Sandra, phone coaching. With all these resources available, there just isn't a reason to stay stuck on the un-merry-go-round of a pathological relationship.