The relationship was no longer serving the needs of your partner and they have ended their commitment to you. It may have been your decision, or it may have been your decision disguised as their decision. Perhaps you were constantly checking his phone and one day, he flew into a rage about it and broke up with you. Everybody wants to know what happened.
The short version, just at the end. You tell people you checked his phone once or twice because you had a sneaking suspicion he was texting a woman from work. And he was, except that it was about work and he broke up with you. Out of nowhere.
The story gains momentum, gets repeated, it was never your fault. Before you know it, you are discussing what kind of person would break up so suddenly? You reach for the DSM-V manual and begin searching for an explanation about his behavior. Could it have been a personality disorder?
There are so many lovely disorders to choose from. Life-long disorders your ex will never recover from. Disorders which doomed your relationship from the start and will prevent them ever meeting anyone else. Look at Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One of the requirements is an inability to maintain long-term relationships, which your ex just demonstrated. If only your ex would get help with a therapist or psychoactive drug, maybe it would work. Someone needs to tell them there is help out there!
You write an email offering your ex some advice. “I have come to realise it wasn’t you that ended the relationship, but the patterns of grandiose thinking, sense of entitlement and lack of empathy characteristic of your narcissistic personality disorder. I’m here to help. Call me.”
They don’t call you. Who wouldn’t want to overcome a life-long disease? A narcissist, that’s who! You tell everyone, especially your mutual friends, your ex is a ticking bomb just walking around un-diagnosed. What about an intervention with all our mutual friends? Let’s start a campaign. Would crowd-funding be out of the question? We could raise money for ten sessions and a firm diagnosis.
You read the list of criteria again for narcissism. “Believes that he or she is special and unique” is one of them. Then you realise you feel like that, as well. You look for a less relatable offense. “Exaggerates achievements and talents.” He certainly did that. You are also guilty of this. “Excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self.” This is getting tricky, because you worry what people think of you all the time.
You successfully diagnose yourself with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Wait, it says that narcissists never see themselves this way and are resistant to treatment. You search around for another personality disorder to diagnose yourself with. Now you are kind of depressed but extremely well researched about this. Meanwhile, he has a new girlfriend. You stop researching what your issues might be and go back on the offensive.
His new girlfriend has no idea what’s in her future. Maybe you should warn her via a Facebook message. You will generously explain her current boyfriend is a pathological narcissist, which is hard to spot. It’s all about early detection and she is going to be so grateful. You just want her to be safe. To have a happy life. You notice there are baby photos on her Facebook page. In the time you have polished your diagnostic skills, they have had a child together. The child is so unaware.
When people ask you if you have a boyfriend, you say you are not ready. You are recovering from an abusive ex. That gets their attention. He was comorbid with borderline/narcissistic personality disorder on the autism spectrum. It’s rare, but luckily you caught it in time.
You don’t get out much. People speak to you and you hear clusters. These are subset patterns of behavior which lurk under criteria. You wonder if you should see a therapist. You do. You ask the therapist if they think you have a personality disorder and they tell you no. It’s a relief. You get an ice-cream on the way home and eat it in the car. It’s been years since you ate ice-cream in the car, watching people stroll by. It’s nice. It’s a nice feeling. Your therapist said underneath the disorder, under the criteria, under the clusters there is something else. She said that’s where you are. That’s where you can live.
Image via Shutterstock
True confessions: I adore vampire-themed fantasy romances/horrors such as The Twilight Saga and True Blood; but I’ve got no time, energy or love for emotional vampires in real life.
Have you experienced the hell on earth that is spending time with an emotional-vampire “friend” and/or lover? These people are aptly named because they’re negative, exhausting and emotion-sucking drama queens who will sap your time, energy and spirit if you let them – abort, abort, abort!
Personally, I think life is way too short to spend time with people who constantly deplete your serenity and use your strength to bolster their fragile egos. Emotional vampires need constant attention and flit from one high drama or conflict to the next; indeed they seem to thrive on it, while you will be left feeling like they sucked out your soul.
In a healthy, long-standing friendship and/or relationship, you each take turns acting as caregivers, when needed. But with emotional vampires it is a very one-sided affair; they’re only interested in what they can take from you, never what they can give; indeed your thoughts, wants and feelings will be so irrelevant to them, it’s as though they don’t exist.
And when you inevitably find yourself emotionally exhausted and drained by your soul-sucking “friend”, having grown well tired of being their 24/7 mentoring/advice/counselling service and their extreme lack of empathy, they will most likely viciously turn on you if you dare to be emotionally honest about how you feel. And that’s OK; you’ve got to get off that emotional rollercoaster, girlfriend! And you’ve got to choose your friends very wisely, for what you accept you become.
It’s a sentiment echoed by a clinical psychologist I spoke to, who wishes to remain anonymous, who has more than 30 years experience in couples and relationships counselling. So, what are the warning signs that you’ve encountered an emotional vampire? “If, after meeting up with or chatting on the phone with a friend, you are left feeling hurt, angry, resentful or emotionally battered, there may be a problem with this friendship,” the psychologist says. “If the negative feelings occur every or most times you catch up with this particular person, ask yourself why you feel this way.”
And this is key: if you are unlucky enough to come across a narcissist; victim and/or venomous, controlling emotional vampire – for they can take many forms – who’s started to take over your life, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, negative and burdened, it’s definitely time to cut all ties with this person, if you can. Why? Demanding, constantly negative and self-absorbed people will only ultimately cause you much more pain than pleasure and it’s in your best interests, indeed an act of good self-care, to let them go.
I stupidly let an emotional vampire into my life recently – an old work acquaintance with whom I’d never really clicked, who’d moved to my area. This woman would constantly burden me with daily problems and dramas. And when I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach every time she sent me epic, daily texts asking for my advice, I knew it was time to end the “friendship” and I use the term very loosely.
Sure, I wanted to help her, but when her constant, toxic tales of woe and endless conflicts started to overwhelm me, to the point I was anxious every time I got a text in case it was from her, and counselling her was starting to eat away at both my time and my sanity, I finally gave her some gentle emotional honesty which was enough to end our relationship.
And you know what? I feel nothing but sweet, sweet relief and was even more grateful for the amazing, positive people in my life, including many long-term friends with whom I share the caregiver role. So, what is the best course of action when encountering an emotional vampire, according to my clinical psychologist contact?
“We all need to take responsibility for our own emotional well-being,” she advises, “So, if you feel that you’ve helped your friend as much as you can, and interactions with her leave you feeling drained and negative, you need to take steps to care for yourself.
“Your friend probably isn’t aware of the impact they are having on you. Try explaining that while you want to help them if possible, constantly dealing with their crises and problems and providing advice is a downer for you. Explain that for the friendship to continue, you want to keep things positive and light-hearted for at least a major part of the time you spend together. Be prepared though; your friend might decide it’s easier to move on than to change.”
For me, the final nail in the coffin in the “friendship” with my emotional vampire, was that I found I couldn’t do something as fundamental and basic as express emotional honesty in the relationship. For emotional vampires hate being challenged or questioned; so fragile are their egos and self-esteem, your feelings will only be seen as a threat. Hilariously and paradoxically, they may accuse you of being a bad person, when not five seconds before they were asking, yet again, for your life advice. Female friendships can be maddening complex; but unless there’s emotional honesty and a reciprocal caregiver role; aint nobody got time for that, girlfriend!
Brisbane communication and social media consultant Mel Kettle, 45, (pictured) has also encountered her fair share of emotional vampires – indeed she thinks it’s a common affliction among her closest female friends.
“If there are people out there who have made it to their mid-40s without an emotion-sucking friend, they are doing well!” she says. “And I use the word ‘friend’ loosely. I have had a few over the years and each time it has taken me a while to realise what they are. These women have all seemed lovely when I met them: intelligent, interesting, friendly and they each made an effort to spend time with me and to get to know me in the early stages of the friendship.
“There have probably been three over the years who I would say are real emotion-sucking ‘friends’. All have shared the same behaviours and characteristics: seeking my advice over and over (often on the same issues); needing validation for many of the decisions in their lives (some minor, however many that needed professional psychological or psychiatric guidance that I was not at all equipped to give); constantly negative about much of what is going on in their lives (and making no effort to change it, just constant whinging and complaining); expecting me to be available to meet or talk and to solve all their problems and rarely asking about my life, or if they do, showing little or no interest.
“After thinking about this a lot, I realised that none of these women had any empathy. After catching up with them, I always felt emotionally and usually physically exhausted.”
To counter this, as an act of self-care and self-preservation, Mel says she simply stopped making herself available to the emotional vampires – one of whom quickly latched on to someone else. “It was a hard decision to make, but once I did I felt a huge sense of relief,” she says. “Friendship needs to be two-way. Sure, there are times when you need more of your friends then they need from you, but it’s a cycle. Yes, I’m there for friends in need, however I expect them to be there for me too.
“A huge turning point for a couple of friendships was when my parents died. This experience really showed the true colours of a lot of people. One emotion-sucking friendship ended when this ‘friend’ barely offered me condolences and then spent 30 minutes on the phone telling me about all the problems she was having with a couple of her family members, including her mother; mine hadn’t even been dead for a week! That was the straw that broke that camel’s back for me!”
And like me, Mel says the older she gets, the less likely she will put up with other people’s emotional fuckwittage. “I have far less tolerance for selfishness and the rubbish that so many people think is important. I also have no time for constant negativity, people who are ungrateful for what they have, and glass-half-empty people,” she says. “They are too exhausting to have in your life when you are not that way!”
“A good friend of mine had a few friendships that were very one-sided – she made all the effort. She basically called them out and said that she would give them one more chance and if they weren’t prepared to make an effort to maintain the friendship then as far as she was concerned it was over. All were shocked, only one was apologetic and made an effort, the other friendships ended.”
So, there you have it ladies: real-life examples and advice on how to combat emotional vampires – you’ve been forewarned. May none of your friendships suck!
Images via liveinthenow.com, Fast Company, Daily Mail
Australia’s Millionaire Matchmaker – aka Trudy Gilbert – has just released her new book 49 Secrets of an Elite Matchmaker. SHESAID was lucky enough to peer through the pages and snag an interview. So we took the opportunity to ask her about the book, her dating knowledge and what’s next for this highly ambitious lady. We even unveil a few extra secrets, which The Bachelor fans will find exciting, so read on.
49 Secrets of an Elite Matchmaker contains the type of advice Trudy offers her clients:
“Having helped so many people, it got me thinking: “What if I was able to help more people besides my clients?” Thus the idea for the book was born. 49 Secrets of an Elite Matchmaker is a culmination of everything I’ve heard and learned over the last nine years from single men and women. I’ve learnt so much, from what I’ve seen work to what I’ve seen fail, and why some people find a match and others don’t.”
The clients Trudy is talking about are some of Australia’s top-earning professionals. They aren’t mainstream singles you’ll find on standard dating websites. All are looking for long-term relationships. Membership costs $4995, so Trudy’s clients are pretty serious about the business of finding a partner.
We asked Trudy if some of the book’s content would be more relevant to her clients, rather than mainstream singles:
“It wasn’t difficult to give a broad view of dating as these are common issues we all face… some issues are common and others are more specific.”
That explains why Trudy included a chapter on narcissism, which other dating advice books neglect:
“I included narcissism in the book as I wanted to save them from being attached to these personalities. It can be hard to detect these personality types until sometimes you are too far into the relationship.”
Trudy explains around 1 in 100 people has narcissistic traits and therefore the chances of bumping into a narcissist are reasonably high, particularly for high paid execs. Although she has no intention of entering into the mainstream dating market, the information she’s presented does translate well for the masses. Things like happiness, attractiveness, why people are still single, game playing, myths, settling, chemistry and so much more.
It’s not just a book for women either. Men get an idea of what women want as well. It seems Trudy has the dirt on both sexes! We wanted to use some of her knowledge to our advantage, so we asked what she believes are the main differences between single men and women:
“Men focus on what a woman looks like vs women who focus on personality. Men don’t need to know so much about a woman before they meet (whereas women do). Men focus on a fun bubbly personality and women look for a man who is reliable and trustworthy. Men tend to live in the moment, whereas women tend to jump ahead and analyse. Eg. Will he be my husband while on date number 2?”
Sounds pretty spot on. The book goes into these sorts of things in much more detail. There’s gender-specific chapters, singles specific chapters and general knowledge which anyone could benefit from. Many of Trudy’s clients are now off the market, but what they’ve shared is highly relevant for people looking to revitalize their relationships or understand their partner a little better.
Trudy clearly has something to offer couples as well as singles, so we asked if she’s thought about widening her focus:
“No, not yet. I am so busy with my current business. When daters become couples, my job is finished and I get an incredible amount of joy hearing they are happy.”
It seems Trudy is one of those inspirational ladies where anything is a possibility so, we had to ask what’s next:
“Currently working on another book, in talks with a production company for a new dating show, licensing opportunities for the business around Australia.”
Hmm, now here’s a lady who thinks BIG! Looks like The Bachelor fans may be in store for some home-grown competition! After reading the book and interviewing Trudy, one would assume her contestants would have a much better chance finding real love, than the recent Bachelor fiasco! That’s for sure.
For now though, 49 Secrets of an Elite Matchmaker and Elite Introductions is Trudy’s primary focus. When we asked her if there was anything else she’d like to share about the book, upcoming events, promotions; anything which she would like to let readers know about, she finished off with:
“If you want to have a great date before Christmas, give us a call. My clients appreciate the high standards I hold when encouraging people to join the agency. Ladies, believe me, there are still some lovely, chivalrous eligible single bachelors in this town who want the same as you – a beautiful relationship”.
If you don’t meet the demographic and are looking for love, buy yourself a copy of 49 Secrets of an Elite Matchmaker instead. It’s well worth every cent!