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Feeling Trapped


Feeling Trapped - Most people who have a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder would like to bring an end to the relationship but are unable to or afraid to end it because they feel trapped in some way.


It's common for people who have never experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse to wonder why the victims of abuse don't do more to protect themselves.

People who live in abusive relationships often stay in them because they feel trapped. They may feel like to stay in the relationship is bad but to leave would only make things worse - and that staying is like choosing the lesser of two evils.

Examples of Feeling Trapped

  • A teenage girl lives with her verbally and physically abusive mother but feels trapped because she depends on her for food and shelter.
  • A religious man wishes he could separate from his verbally abusive wife but feels obligated to stay because of his wedding vows.
  • A woman in an abusive marriage is afraid to leave in case he finds her again and is even more violent.
  • A father would like to divorce his verbally abusive wife but fears that the courts will grant custody of the children to her and he will be unable to protect them.
  • A woman would like to take the children and leave her narcissistic husband but fears that she will be unable to provide adequately for the children if she leaves.
  • A parent of a violent teenage daughter feels obligated to do everything for her and cannot just walk away from her.
  • A sexually harassed employee is afraid to complain about the way she is being treated in case she loses her job or loses her chance at promotion.
  • A man wants to cut off all contact from his abusive parents but feels obligated to look after them in their old age.
  • A woman would like to leave her boyfriend who abuses drugs but feels like she is the only one who can help him.

Many people who are trapped in abusive relationship do so because of unrealistic expectations placed on them by themselves or others such as:

  • stigma of divorce
  • scandal of abandoning a sick or elderly relative
  • absolute religious condemnation for breaking the marriage vows.
  • social stigma of admitting a child to a mental health care facility.

What NOT to do

If you are feeling trapped in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder:

  • Don't isolate yourself or cut off contacts with supportive and trustworthy friends or family.
  • Don't narrow yourself down to 2 choices. Life usually offers an abundance of possible futures.
  • Don't focus on trying to change the person who suffers from the personality disorder. You can't change another person. They can only change themselves.
  • Don't become dysfunctional yourself - this is known as "Getting fleas"
  • Don't rely purely on your gut instincts or your feelings to guide you, because your feelings are mostly negative.
  • Don't allow yourself to be isolated and for the person with the personality disorder to be the only person you talk to on a regular basis on the subject.
  • Don't stop doing things that are good for you, healthy behaviors, friends, work, recreation etc.
  • Don't sustain any situation or relationship where you do not have the option to say "no" where it is reasonable to do so. Nobody who is a true friend will demand "yes" 100% of the time. Healthy relationships are two-way streets - not one-way streets and anyone who is a true friend or who truly loves you will give as much as they receive.
  • Don't sacrifice taking care of yourself in order to help another person. That just makes both people poor.

What TO do

  • Learn all you can about personality disorders.
  • Get yourself a support network where you can discuss things that concern you without feeling judged.
  • Work on setting Boundaries that will help you escape the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness.
  • Try to add logical rational thought to every emotional thought of Fear, Obligation & Guilt.
  • Try to substitute "what really works" for "what feels right" when you are making decisions.
  • Promptly remove yourself and any innocent children from any abusive actions, conversations or events.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

Submit feedback on this page here.

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