Every relationship between a Personality-Disordered Individual and a Non Personality-Disordered Individual is as unique as the DNA of the people involved. Nevertheless, there are some common behavior patterns associated with Non-PD's, some of which you may recognize in yourself. Some of them are described here.
We have broken this page into the following sections:
Introduction to Non-PD's? - a breakdown of the different categories of people who have a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
What It Feels Like - a collection of articles discussing what it feels like to be in a relationship with someone wh suffers from a personality disorder.
The Non-PD Toolbox - What TO do- a collection of responses to personality disordered behavior that have worked well for some of us and we generally do recommend.
Please note that these articles are not intended to be used in a prescriptive way or to replace treatment. Please consult with a qualified mental health professional for specific advice on what to do in your own situation.
These articles are offered in the hope that Non-PD's who read them might recognize their own situation, discover that they are not alone and begin to learn more effective ways to cope with having a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder.
Introduction to Non-PD's
A Non (or Non-PD) is any person who has a family member, or is in a relationship with, a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
There are two broad categories of Non-PD:
Chosen - Chosen's are people who are in a marriage, partnership, romantic relationship or friendship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder. They are called "chosen" because they made a choice to enter into that relationship. Chosen's include husbands, wives, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends of a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
Unchosen - Unchosen's are people who are in a family relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder. They are called "unchosen" because they had no choice in entering into that relationship. Unchosen's include children, parents, siblings or relatives of a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
Unchosen's and Chosen's sometimes have a hard time understanding each other. They sometimes face very different types of problems. Sometimes Unchosen's have a hard time understanding why Chosen's remain in the relationships they are in for so long. Sometimes Chosen's struggle to understand the anger that Unchosen's articulate towards their families. But there is much for Unchosen's and Chosen's to learn from each other and there are many things that we share in common.
What it Feels Like to be in a Personality-Disordered Relationship
This is a collection of articles describing what it can feel like to be in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder.
Feeling Isolated - It's common for people who have a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder to systematically isolate themselves from other external relationships.
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.
FOG - Fear, Obligation & Guilt - The acronym FOG, for Fear, Obligation and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail and describes feelings that a person often has when in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder. Our website, Out of the FOG, is named after this acronym.
The 5 Stages of Grief - The 5 Stages of Grief - Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance - were first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe a process which many people go through when dealing with a significant tragedy or loss.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) - Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, disempowerment, captivity or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim.
Adult Children - An adult child is a term commonly used to describe any grown adult who was exposed to emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.
Lightbulb Moment - A Lightbulb Moment is the description many non-personality-disordered individuals use when they first discover the existence of personality disorders. For the first time, they have discovered a plausible explanation for the strange and frightening behaviors of a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder and learn that their situation is not uncommon. It is as if a light were just turned on.
The Non-PD "Recycle Bin"
The Non-PD "Recycle Bin" - The Non-PD "Recycle Bin" is a collection of some of the most common reactions and responses to personality disordered behaviors that many of us have instinctively tried, sometimes over and over, but that have not been effective in most cases in helping improve our quality of life or the quality of life of those who have the personality disorder.
Click on the links for more information on each topic:
Abuse Amnesia - Abuse Amnesia is a form of denial in which a victim habitually "forgives and forgets" episodes of abuse when it would be more appropriate, and ultimately better for both parties, to hold them accountable for their own actions.
Amateur Diagnosis - An Amateur Diagnosis is when a non-qualified individual confronts someone whom they suspect suffers from a personality-disorder and shares this belief with them, usually in the hope that this revelation will help to improve the relationship or the situation.
Avoidance - The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.
Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.
Codependency - A Codependency is a relationship in which an otherwise mentally-healthy person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected by an addiction or mental illness.
"Control-Me" Syndrome - This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.
Denial - Denial is the practice of believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Enabling - Enabling is a pattern of behavior, often adopted by abuse victims, which seeks to avoid confrontation and conflict by absorbing the abuse without challenging it or setting boundaries. The perpetrator of the abuse is thus "enabled" to continue their pattern of behavior.
Fix-It Syndrome - Fix-It Syndrome is when a non-personality-disordered individual frequently puts themselves in the position of a caretaker who is responsible for compensating for their personality-disordered loved-one's behaviors, cleaning up any messes created by their actions and fixing any problems arising from their mental health issues.
Fleas - When a non-personality-disordered individual (Non-PD) begins imitating or emulating some of the disordered behavior of a loved one or family member with a personality disorder this is sometimes referred to as "getting fleas".
Intermittent Reinforcement - Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.
Imposed Isolation - Actions taken by an abuser to discourage a victim from developing supportive, external relationships.
Lack of Boundaries - A lack of boundaries is often at the root of long-term abusive relationships. Lack of boundaries means the absence of rules, limits and guidelines for acceptable behavior. Inconsistent or intermittent reinforcement of consequences for inappropriate behavior is common among both abusers and abuse victims.
Learned Helplessness- Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe that they have no control over a situation, even when they do.
Obedience - In 1961 and 1962, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a famous series of experiments which demonstrated that about 2 out of 3 people will perform a cruel action towards another person if instructed to do so by someone whom they regard as an authority figure. This demonstrated that most people are prone to doing something they do not want to do, even something they would normally regard as "wrong", just because they are told to do it by an assertive or authoritative person.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior - The expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (for example, through procrastination and stubbornness).
Rescuer Syndrome - Rescuer Syndrome is when a non-personality-disordered individual assumes that their own strength, skill and knowledge are adequate to compensate for a personality-disordered individual's behavioral issues.
Stockholm Syndrome - Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage, kidnap victim or abuse victim develops a sense of loyalty or co-operation towards their captor or abuser, disregarding the abuse or the danger and protecting or sustaining the perpetrator.
Thought Policing - A process of interrogation or attempt to control another individual's thoughts or feelings.
The Non-PD "Toolbox"
The Non-PD "Toolbox" - The Non-PD "Toolbox" is a collection of ideas and responses to personality disordered behaviors that haveworked well in most cases.
Click on the links for more info on each topic:
Personal Safety - Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen. It contains ideas on when to stop the conversation, when to leave the room and when to call the police.
Boundaries - Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.
The 51% Rule - The 51% Rule says that we need to consider our own needs just a little more than those of others in order to be able to help them effectively.
No Contact (NC) - Going "No Contact" means cutting off all forms of correspondence, communication and personal contact with a person who suffers from a personality disorder in order to protect yourself from recurring abuse.
Put Children First - Put Children First means making decisions based on "what is in the best interests of the children", regardless of the consequences for the parents and any other parties involved.
Situational Ethics - A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.
The 3 "C's" Rule
- The 3 "C's" rule is a mantra for abuse victims that says: "I didn't cause it, I can't cure it and I can't control it."
The 50% Rule- The 50% Rule says that we are responsible for 50% of the things that happen in any relationship we share with a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
Clean Up Rule - The Clean Up Rule says that everybody gets to clean up their own messes. It is a principal that encourages us to take responsibility for dealing with our own messes and leave other people to clean up theirs.
Leaving Checklist - The Leaving Checklist is a list of things to prepare and things to consider before, during and after separating from a person who suffers from a personality disorder.
My Stuff/Your Stuff- My Stuff/Your Stuff is a thought technique of reminding yourself to separate what is really your responsibility, your concern and under your control and what is a personality-disordered individual's responsibility, concern and under their control.
Time Out - A Time-Out is a decision to temporarily disengage from an argument, conversation, interpersonal situation or conflict.
Therapy- Once they have learned to protect themselves and emotionally detach from the personality -disordered individuals in their lives, many Non-Personality Disordered Individuals (Non-PD's) find that they benefit from spending time with a good therapist where they can be encouraged, learn more about themselves and learn ways to work on themselves.
Get Support- It’s important to find supportive people who understand personality disorders and who can give you the support you need.
Journaling - Journaling is a technique of writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind on a topic without taking a break, stopping to think or slowing down to correct spelling & punctuation.
Make Good Choices - Choices are the opportunities we have to change things for the better - or worse.
Work on Yourself - Work on Yourself means taking your energy, time and focus off of the personality-disordered individual in your life and restoring a more healthy balance where you spend an appropriate amount of time on improving your own situation, regardless of what the person who suffers from the personality disorder does.
Rules of Relationships - Rules of Relationships are a series of ideas for non-personality-disordered individuals to consider when thinking about getting involved in romantic relationships.
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.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.