Pathological Love Relationships

I specialize in helping survivors of pathological love relationships understand what happened to them and how to prevent both further engagement and future engtanglement with dangerous people.  I have been working with survivors since 2009 and have developed, with my colleague Sandra Brown MA, a model of care that addresses the intense psychological trauma that results from these relationships.  

Additionally, Sandra and I completed the only research (with Doug Samuel Ph.D. At Purdue University) on the personality traits of survivors to help understand the risk factors but most importantly help with creating treatment that leads to healing.  We identified the traits of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness that survivors possess in the high normal range - we call them SuperTraits.  They are amazing traits to possess, but in the hands of a dangerous person, they lead to severe harm.  Our work and help for survivors has now been published in our book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, 3rd Edition, available on Amazon.

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In 2018,  I participated as a contributor to World Narcissism Abuse Awareness Day.  You can listen to the audio of the talk I presented on helping survivors of narcissistic abuse understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the impact of psychological abuse.  You can learn more by clicking on the logo below.

Want to Buy Me Dinner?

by Jennifer Young, LMHC

If you owe me dinner—raise your hand.  For the last several years I’ve been making bets with women all over the country.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “So, we know that once you are in the speed dial, you’ll always be in the speed dial.  Cluster B’s don’t know how to do closure and he will contact you again.  Not because of who you are but because of who he is.”
Survivor: “But, you don’t understand.  He’s really pissed.  I humiliated him in court.  He hates me, calls me all kind of names to the kids.  Really.”
Me: “Ok … so, wanna buy me dinner in (enter your city here) when I come to town if he contacts you?”

Survivor: “Sure, because it will never happen.”
And, about two months later, or six weeks later, or eight months later, the text comes from him. 
Survivor: “OMG, he texted me and called me ‘baby’ and said he missed being at home.”
Me: “I know.”

What I know is that Cluster B’s don’t/can’t do closure.  They don’t/can’t end a “relationship” because they are not emotionally intelligent enough.  They lack the skills needed to end a “relationship”. 

Closure is what we typically hope for at the end of a healthy relationship.  The elements of closure for a healthy relationship require two people to agree the relationship as it is should end, there should be a mutual understanding of the reason (this could come in the form of a nice talk or argument ending in resolution), and there is an expressing of emotion that matches the behavior of ending a relationship.  You might see a range of emotions, an expression of hurt and empathy and an end to the behaviors related to being a couple.  Doesn’t this seem like the complete opposite of what you see when a pathological love relationship is over?

Closure is a foreign concept to a Cluster B.  It represents everything they are unable to do.  They cannot behave in a way that matches what they say.  So, when they say it’s over—they don’t leave.  They cannot understand your emotions or the impact of their behavior on you, so when they say, “I’m sorry,” they repeat the same bad behavior again because they haven’t done anything wrong in their mind.  They can use the words of emotion but don’t feel it like you and I do.  All of the elements of relationship closure require an understanding of the abstract nature of emotional words like “love”, “sorry”, “remorse”, “frustration”, “hope”, “trust”, “intimate”, “appreciated”, etc. … They do not have the ability to read past the word to its deeper interpersonal meaning.  They can’t see how the word moves us or how the word is not just one word, but often made up of many concepts that are represented by one word.  This lack of understanding of the abstract nature of our emotional language is part of the neurology of Cluster B disorders.

Without the ability to give closure, they don’t leave.  What remains is your need to get closure.  And it is that mismatched ending that tortures you—your expectation of closure and his inability to give it.  The circle is set in motion when he never goes away and you keep seeking closure.  Round and round it goes until you accept his inabilities.  Only then can you end some of the pain of the break-up.  When you begin to accept his inabilities, you can then begin to give yourself the gift of closure, because—as we have already established—he cannot give it to you.

He will continue to reach out for many reasons.  This is part of the disorder—an underlying neurological part of the disorder.  He can’t do endings.  But on the surface those reasons can be varied.  He might get bored down the road.  In between relationships he often seeks excitement (game playing) so he pulls out the Rolodex.  You are in it because he knows that he has controlled you before and that you have “played”.  Remember, he is not a good learner of “failure”, he just knows you played.  Another reason is primary needs.  He gets his needs met through control, so if he needs sex, shelter, or a cover, he will turn to those who have provided it in the past.  Finally, it may be “just for fun”… he wants what he wants when he wants it.  He is impulsive and cunning at the same time; he has poor behavioral controls and a need for stimulation.  This means that he is coming for anyone who can offer what he needs—without regard for their safety or wellbeing.

Coming to know what he can’t do, what he is incapable of and truly believing it, is the way out.  It means that each time your mind brings a thought like, “he said he loves me,” or “he keeps coming back, so he must be sorry,” or “if I just love him more, he will do better”—you must challenge with knowing he is a Cluster B.  You really have no impact on WHO he is.  And the key to challenging these thoughts is not having a conversation with yourself about the “why”.  You’ve read over and over again the answer to the why.  The researchers, neuroscientists and The Institute has answered that “why” question so you don’t have to anymore.  It is what it is.  When the thought comes via question—answer it.  When the thought comes as a statement— respond to it—“Because he’s a Cluster B.”

You don’t have to make that dinner bet with me or anyone else.  You can accept that he will come to hook you again.  Knowing that he will re-contact allows you to remain clear-minded.  It allows you to “predict” his behavior.  His disorder is marked by certain patterns that are predictable and this is one of them. 

However, if you live in a really cool town, somewhere that has a great restaurant, let me know— I’m thinking about trekking cross country to collect my bets.


by Jennifer Young, LMHC

I’m not wise, but the beginning of wisdom is there; it’s like relaxing into —and an acceptance of—things."  ~Tina Turner  


Think about standing under a waterfall.  Feel the power of the water hitting your body.  Now picture yourself attempting to hold that water back.  Stop the water from flowing over the rocks.  You fiercely and intensely use all of your power and strength to prevent the water from touching the rock or yourself.   You engage yourself in a task that has no payoff.  You work to achieve a goal that is unachievable.  In that attempt, you create in yourself physical (pain of the attempt), psychological (belief about the attempt) and emotional (feelings of the attempt) exhaustion. 

Now picture yourself standing under the same waterfall and allowing the water to do what it does.  There is awareness that you are interrupting the flow of the water but not stopping it. You can sense the water, feel the water and know what the water’s intention is.  And because you accept it, you do not resist.  Ahhh … relief.

At any given moment you can accept what is.  It is a choice.  It becomes a choice the minute there is conflict and pain.  It is then that you have awareness—your mind, your body and/or your spirit is speaking to you.  It’s a choice to listen. 

So what is it that you need to accept?  It could be his pathology, or the pain that it has/is causing.  It could be accepting that because he is your child(ren)’s father, the contact will never end (so you’d better learn how to disengage), or accepting that each time you have to see him, or hear about him, it will be a challenge.  Maybe you need to accept that you have been negatively impacted by the relationship; that what is happening to you, your changes in behavior, or mood, or thinking, are PTSD and not you being crazy.  And it might just be that you accept who he is and accept the consequences of who he is but the gift of acceptance needs to be given to you.  Is it in accepting that you are a good, whole person filled with love, compassion and honesty who needs to accept that something bad happened to you and not because of you?

Whatever IT is or wherever the acceptance is needed, I beg you to release yourself from it.  In accepting there is freedom.  I offer this blessing for acceptance to you:
Turn your face to the sun and accept the warmth. 
Release your own resistance to what is.
You are worth the peace that comes.
There is value in you and all that you know.
Blessings to you for freedom through your acceptance.

Jennifer Young, LMHC speaks with Dr. Laurie Roth on The Roth Show 

How Do Psychopaths Get Into Positions of Power?

Power positions are all around us, from police officers like Drew Peterson, in the military, to elected government officials and white collar executives and those sitting in the board rooms of powerful corporations. Often these people are not quite what they seem, wearing a mask for the public to see, yet something totally different on the inside. They portray themselves to the public as having empathy, charm, and charisma, but their controlling ways and harmful thoughts are just below the surface.

Down through history we’ve seen many examples of the manifestation of their evils, some very blatant, but many continue to wield their power quietly under the radar. So, what makes them tick and how do they get into these positions of power? Why are we not seeing the red flags and warning signs before putting our trust in those who will ultimately destroy?

Back to Drew Peterson, recently convicted for the murder of third wife Kathleen Savio, and whose fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, has been missing for five years, they have no problem moving from one relationship to another, escalating their destructive ways and leaving chaos, and sometimes murder, in their paths. As a result of this case, Susan Murphy Milano developed the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, allowing victims of abuse to circumvent most hearsay laws and record a testimonial affidavit in the event something bad happens to them. While we will not see this happen on a widespread level, we can help those caught under the thumb of a power hungry and controlling partner to safely escape their pathological love relationships.

Jennifer Young, LMHC and Director of Survivor services for  The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction will discuss the enigma of white collar psychopathy and how so many reach powerful positions undetected.



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