Forget text books, forget the psychology self-help sites. Here’s an amateurs guide to spotting the signs that you’re with a Cluster B personality disordered person, and how it's going to make you feel. From somebody who has been there.
It doesn’t matter which disorder it is. Each disorder of the Cluster B variety displays similar or identical symptoms, and invariably, where one of the Cluster B’s exist, so does at least one other co-morbid (that’s overlapping, to you and me) disorder.
Just for reference, here’s the list of the Cluster B’s
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath/psychopath)
Borderline Personality Disorder
It should be noted at this point that sufferers of >BPD differ greatly from the others in the group, as they tend to turn the abuse on themselves, and not others (many thanks to the poster below for pointing this out to me!)
Don’t try to over analyse which one of the other three your partner has. The chances are, if he/she exhibits the traits of one, then he/she will have at least some elements of others. At the end of the day, the impact on you is going to be the same for each of these disorders, and it’s the impact on YOU, the partner, that I wish to focus on.
You’re going to go through five distinct phases. During the initial phases, you’re not going to realise what’s happening to you, as you’re going to believe wholeheartedly that this person is the answer to all your prayers, and he or she can absolutely do no wrong. What’s important here is to be able to recognise the initial stages (with the benefit of hindsight) because when you reach stage four, you must make a decision, and for that you need understand what you’re up against.
You can save yourself a lot of distress (and possibly even long lasting, or even permanent damage) if you are able to look back and acknowledge what has been happening to you, and YOUR PART IN IT ALL. We all have a role to play in a relationship. It’s never, ever a one way street. You don’t suddenly just lose all your personality traits when you meet a Cluster B, and it’s important to acknowledge this early on if you’re going to gather strength and move on. There are certain aspects of your character which your Cluster B will exploit. You have to recognise this before you can move away, and this can sometimes be the hardest test of all.
Cluster B’s all require their ‘supply’ or ‘source’. They use relationships in order to feed their own desires and needs. Without a supply, these people cannot function. Every person they meet must in some way feed their requirements, and satisfy their desires and aspirations (be they, emotional, sexual, financial or professional). You are no different. You are the 'supply'. You are there only to serve a purpose. You just won’t see this in the beginning.
Here’s a guide to the stages you can expect to travel through on your Cluster B roller coaster:
Stage one: Euphoria
In the beginning, you are in a prolonged state of emotional elevation. It is better than any class A drug, and I can only describe it as ‘euphoric’. This is clearly non-sustainable, but you won’t be in a position to recognise this yet.
You are head over heels in love. You have never been treated so well by another human being. It is as though you have blown this man (or woman) completely off their feet, and all they can see is you. You are adored, you are worshipped, you are understood, you are believed, you are trusted. For him/her, only you exist. It’s a giddying sensation and the chances are it will knock you right off balance. You feel completely overwhelmed by all the attention and you truly believe you have found your ‘soul mate’. When he/she tells you that they cannot live without you, it’s real. You feel exactly the same. The world will stop if you’re ever apart again.
This stage will last for one, possibly two years. Most likely the euphoria will begin to dissipate once the relationship has in some way been cemented (by marriage, kids, or some other long-term commitment).
Stage two: Disquiet
Your Cluster B partner has had a difficult life. He or she has had many a disservice done to him/her, and is probably carrying emotional scars from either failed relationships, business dealings which collapsed, or other disasters which have befallen him/her. You are the person who is there to help your Cluster B overcome these issues. You have accepted the ‘baggage’ your Cluster B brought into the relationship without question, and you feel it is your duty to help him/her overcome these problems and achieve their (amazing) potential.
Nothing bad which has ever happened to your Cluster B was his/her fault. They are always the innocent victims in any mishap. Other people resent your Cluster B because he/she is in such an enviable position. Nobody understands your Cluster B, except you. It is down to you to support your Cluster B and help keep both your lives on track.
By now, the initial euphoria is gone and you are starting to have some niggling doubts about things. It could be that certain ‘stories’ aren’t adding up, or the level of attention is starting to wane. If there are children on the scene, you may feel as though the balance of the relationship has been upset by their arrival. Whatever it is, there is something unsettling going on in the back of your mind. It stays in the back of your mind though; because that’s the only place your psyche will allow it to be, for the time being.
A gap is opening up between you, and you don’t understand why. You blame circumstances (because despite everything, your Cluster B is still having incredibly bad luck at every turn).
You lie awake at night, and confusion starts to cloud your mind.
Stage three: Denial
Your Cluster B is withdrawing, and it’s your fault. You’re putting too much pressure on him/her and you’re not ‘giving’ enough of yourself to the relationship. Your Cluster B is suffering as a result of your inability to support him/her. You are suffering, because your Cluster B is draining your energy and you feel completely impotent. You want to help but you don’t know how .
Your Cluster B is always on the verge of ‘making things better.’ He/she has so many plans, and they are always about to come to fruition. Your Cluster B just needs you to stay strong and give as much support as he/she needs. By now you are forced to admit to yourself that all may not be as it once seemed, but you remain convinced that you can get things back on track with patience and understanding for your Cluster B. Whatever is going wrong now, it’s all your fault. You may have moments where you secretly admit to yourself, that perhaps you have made a huge error of judgement about this person. You quickly put these doubts aside, however, when your Cluster B tells you that everything he/she is doing is to please and to benefit you.
Your Cluster B always convinces you of his/her selflessness, and by this stage you would rather admit that it’s you letting your Cluster B down, than acknowledge the fact that you don’t actually mean that much to him/her.
Stage four: Despair
I called this an ‘Idiot’s’ guide. You are NOT an idiot, but when you reach stage four with your Cluster B, you will most certainly feel like one.
By now, you no longer recognise your Cluster B. He/she is so far removed from the person you first met, you can barely remember how it felt back then when life was a beach.
Your Cluster B can no longer bear to be in the same room with you, and when he/she is, they hardly acknowledge your existence. You feel you are being ‘tolerated’ and you feel complete and utter isolation. You’ll feel your sanity starting to slip now, and this is why it is important that you LOOK BACK during this stage and try to analyse what has actually happened to you.
You are now at a critical crossroads, and what you decide to do during the despair stage will have far reaching implications for your future life.
Your Cluster B will NEVER end the relationship. He/she does not acknowledge that he/she wants the relationship to end. It will always be down to YOU to end it. Your Cluster B does not believe you will ever have the strength to go. He/she believes you are bound to him/her. You may now find yourself in a situation where you are being physically abused, or the abuse may be emotional (but no less damaging). At this stage you MUST acknowledge your mistake and get out.
It’s the hardest thing to admit we’ve chosen the wrong person. It’s even harder to face up to the fact that you never really knew this person, but face up to it you must. It can only go one of two ways now. You either ‘pull the escape cord’ or you condemn yourself to a life of misery.
Even during the despair stage, you may still have moments when you want to cling to your Cluster B. This is normal. You’ve been made to feel you could not possibly cope in the outside world without your Cluster B, but you can. At this stage of the journey, you MUST get outside help. Friends, family, neighbours, it doesn’t matter. Reach out.
Your Cluster B is probably already cultivating another relationship by now, but still he/she will not release you from their clutches. There will be the odd moment of attempted emotional blackmail, but you have to remain strong.
In order to escape a Cluster B, you MUST get into the driving seat. Your Cluster B will do all he/she can to put obstacles in your way, but you have to just put your head down and roll with the punches.
Even if your Cluster B is not an axe wielding maniac by now (not many turn into Jack Nicholson), don’t underestimate how dangerous he/she can be to your long term well being.
Get the hell out, as fast as you can. Go as far away as possible, and DO NOT look back.
Stage Five: Release
Assuming you’ve made the break (if you haven’t, you’ll be stuck in stage four indefinitely…or worse), you will quickly be catapulted into stage five. Once your Cluster B realises you’ve gained the strength to walk away, he/she will cut you loose…completely. You will find this both shocking and possibly even hurtful at first, but believe me, it’s by far the best thing.
Once you have rejected a Cluster B (you always reject them, they never do anything to drive you away…remember, they are always the wronged party), there is no going back. You will be dropped, and left high and dry. This is the stage when it becomes clear that you were never loved. You realise during the release stage that your Cluster B is not capable of feeling love. He/she lacks empathy and emotion. If there are children involved, it becomes painfully apparent during this stage that they too are just objects to a Cluster B. It’s a devastating realisation, and it will send you into free-fall for a while, but you MUST accept it as the truth.
The person you fell in love with never existed, it was all an illusion.
There’s no easy way to deal with the release stage. You may feel elated one minute, then terrified the next. Again, get support from wherever you can. Look back over your time together and try to pin-point and acknowledge the different phases. This will help you to come to terms with what has happened, and accept the role you played in your Cluster B’s life. Don’t turn the anger in on yourself. It was NOT your fault. Your Cluster B had this problem before you met, and he/she will continue to have this problem long after you’re gone.
Cluster B’s rarely go to get help for themselves. They cannot acknowledge that they have a problem. Psychologists treat the Cluster B’s victims, rarely the Cluster B’s themselves.
I strongly recommend that you get professional psychological support during the release stage. The only way you can let it go, is to understand it. And to do this you need expert guidance.
Draw comfort from the fact that you are not in this alone……and be proud that you managed to escape. Many don’t.
If you need help, contact me via my >website.