Dear Chump Lady,
This letter was spurred by your post about Love, The All Purpose Spackle. My problem is kind of the opposite.
I’ve been thinking about the very singular prism through which I now see my ex. I think about the time I spend on your site and reading about other people’s experiences and stories, which helps remind me that he was/is a really bad guy. I have not had feelings of love for him for a really long time. All I see is his sickness when I think about him. I don’t even think I feel sorry for him anymore. I sort of just feel nothing.
I’ve been wondering if there is a place to move on to from here? Yes, Meh. I understand that concept, and while I don’t think I’ve got both feet over the border into Meh, I am doing the hokey-pokey with it.
At the recommendation of a couple of people in a previous post I am reading the book “Splitting.” “Splitting” meaning, seeing a person as either “all good” or “all bad” – I was unaware of this concept (except for the fact that I have been living it). This is completely true of my ex and how he sees me. I went from a very tall pedestal — (See, he went to massage parlors so he wouldn’t cheat. He didn’t want to have a relationship with anyone else, just me) to being treated with incredibly viscous and vindictive rage.
My question is — am I guilty of “splitting”?
Through this whole process, the demise of my marriage, I have continually asked myself, my therapists — what is my role? What do I need to look at myself for, what can I do to be a better me, a better partner, have a healthier relationship? (But never once did I think that there was anything that I did to “cause” him to seek sexual services in massage parlors, that’s all on him.)
Am I guilty of “splitting” my ex? And just seeing him as “all bad”? I’ve been referring to my ex as an NPD on this site (there is no official diagnosis) but while reading this book I think BPD is more accurate, although he definitely has MANY of the NPD traits as well. For example, when I heard about him winning “Man of the Year” from a prestigious organization for raising the most money for their cause, this past year, all I could think was that he just did it for the ego kibbles. It’s not an organization or a cause that he had ever expressed an interest in, but a friend of ours came to him and told him about the process and “Man of the Year” award that would go to the person who raised the most money, and BOOM – Done! So, any good thing that he does, I just see behind the mask to the puppet master looking for more kibbles.
Is there some place that I should be looking to get to? Is it NOT splitting when you are dealing with a mentally ill person and it is “normal” to continue to view them through the prism of their mental disorder?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’m not a negative person. I don’t like to harbor negativity. I don’t want to end up bitter. But I truly think he is dangerous. Not in a physical violence kind of way, but he has a mean and vindictive streak a mile long and I definitely need to protect myself from giving him any opportunities to lash out at me.
Is this still just Meh that I’m looking for, or is this something else? I appreciate your wisdom and insights and all of your efforts here.
I think you’re untangling the skein of fuckupedness here. Let’s put aside the question of whether you’re “splitting” your ex for a moment, and ask yourself — is it okay with YOU to be married to a guy who frequents massage parlors?
Is that the kind of marriage YOU want?
Apparently it isn’t, because you divorced him. Now, some people might be able to roll with it. If they cared, they wouldn’t care deeply enough to do anything about it. Or maybe they enjoy an open marriage. Or maybe they stick their head in the sand. Or maybe they really believe him that massage parlor happy endings don’t constitute a relationship, and so this isn’t a threat to their marriage.
You aren’t those people.
Let’s ask the question another way — is it okay with you to be raged at when you’re not okay with massage parlors? Do you want to be married to someone with “a vindictive streak a mile long”?
Then you’re not “splitting” — you’re exercising judgment. You’ve made a decision about your ex based on your values and what you want from a marriage. There’s nothing mentally ill about that. Recognizing that this person is not good for you does not make you bitter. It makes you clear about who you are and where you stand. FLBright is a woman who is not okay with being cheated on and raged at.
Now, your ex may have many other fine qualities that I’m unaware of. Perhaps he’s really good at his job, has a lovely singing voice, is kind to small children. He may be all those things and he’s still someone you cannot be married to. His bad qualities (cheating and raging) eclipse his better attributes, and on balance make him someone it’s not safe for you to be around. Again, this is exercising judgment.
Exercising judgment, yes, means JUDGING people. That’s not a bad thing. We chumps are so scared of being labeled “judgmental” when we enforce our boundaries. Oh no, someone will play the “bitter” card! Say we’re angry and unforgiving! That’s not it at all — what you’re doing is detaching from someone who is harming you. To do that, you had to judge what he was doing as destructive. Not spackle. Not say “but it’s okay to mistreat me, because I love you.” You had to judge him and remove yourself from his presence, because it wasn’t good for you. You could not feel safe in that relationship.
That’s not splitting. Splitting, as I understand it, is cycling through idolizing and devaluing. It’s black and white thinking. Someone is all good or all bad — and it changes quite often depending on what the Borderline or NPD is feeling at that moment. It really seems to have nothing to do with judgment based in reality at ALL. There’s a good article about splitting here, from the author of the Splitting book, Randi Kreger (for sale in the Amazon box now).
Splitting is a cognitive distortion and defense mechanism–a totally unconscious way BPs and NPs make sense of the world. It causes mood swings and contributes to arguments, criticism, and blame. For example:
Family members are seen as all good or evil; idealized and devalued. BPs and NPs put them on a pedestal (often at the beginning of the relationship) and knock them right off of it when the new partner invariably disapoints.
People with BPD (and sometimes the “vulnerable” type of NPD) see themselves as good or evil, idealized or devalued depending upon how they feel that day. When they see themselves as all bad, BPs are at risk for self harm or impulsive, reckless behaviors.
Situations are seen as great or terrible, e.g. losing a job means one will be unemployed for life.
Note — “idealized or devalued depending upon how they feel that day.” One thing I learned over at outofthefog.net — a wonderful resource on personality disorders — is that disordered people FEEL first and construct reality second. A normal person feels angry after they’re given bad service, or a friend snubs them. Action, then feelings about that action. A disordered person feels angry FIRST and then constructs a reason as to why they feel bad, so they trump up a reason to fit their feelings, i.e., “You snubbed me!”
Um… but you didn’t snub them. Why are they accusing you of this horrible thing you didn’t do? Because they’re a wing nut, that’s why.
FLBright, you have REASONABLE feelings based on how this person ACTED. Your ex saw prostitutes. You rightly feel upset by that. You didn’t one day decide that you couldn’t trust your ex and he’s a terrible person because you said so. No, you’re reacting to circumstance.
And you’re a nice person. You’re a chump. You’re self reflective. (Something disordered people are not). You’re asking yourself, gee, what was my part in this? How did I offend this person? What can I do to fix this? So, again, I see you as a normal person reacting to an abnormal set of circumstances — a guy who fucks around on you and then is mad at YOU about it.
As for labeling your ex an NPD — my feeling on that is, hey, if it helps you stay away from it? Label it. You can’t just higgledy piggledy identify ordinary people as NPD (try it with other people you know). If he’s ticking off the boxes? He’s ticking off the boxes! Trust your judgment on this. Normal people don’t score highly on the Hare psychopath test either, know what I’m saying? These people don’t normally waltz into doctor’s offices looking for help and diagnoses. If they go to therapy, IMO, it’s to snow you or because they think they’re smarter than the therapist.
FLBright — trust that he sucks. And trust that you do not suck. I think you’re fine.