Friday, August 20, 2010

The impact of Cluster B: An ‘idiot’s’ guide…..

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.


  1. the problem with the release stage is that even when you think you are out of it the cluster B can suddenly turn up again .....declaring undying love, you were the most important thing, they are sorry (they dont mean this) they will do anything to put it right again (this is temporary see the stages above, if you agree you will got through the stages above again and again and again, this is a soul destroying experience....i went through it before i realised exactly what i was dealing with.
    also turning to friends and family for support can be problematic as the cluster Bs can convince others around you that you are mad/bad in an atttempt to gain sympathy for themselves
    i wish i had known about cluster Bs twenty years ago
    thanks for sharing

  2. <>

    This is so true, and exactly what happened to me. It destroyed my life, my family, my friendships, and left me utterly alone in the world. Not an easy thing to overcome, especially after realizing how much time was spent on a person who never did or would love you. They are so convincing with their lies about you that even those closest to you will believe them!
    To all those who think they may be in this situation, BEFORE you get out, make sure those close to you know the truth about what is happening, and then prepare yourself for the lies and slander that WILL come from your Cluster B.
    You CANNOT help them get better. You have to worry about your own sanity and safety and GET OUT.

  3. This is text book of what happened to me. Six months down the line I'm still struggling, I have not seen him once during this time. I consider it as a withdrawal, a likeness to coming off a very strong drug without any aid and it takes all of your strength and willpower. The thing is you dont see it coming but you certainly feel the end and its catastrophic. Anybody in stage 4 and wanting to break free, do it now, otherwise you will never be your own person, always in a void of hell. You do not realise how much you lose your own identity, becoming a slave to the vampire, and they will suck the life and soul from you. It will not be easy, there will be times when you will be distraught, but it does get better, it just takes time!

  4. Stage four can sadly last for years in some cases. This is the stage where you may find the resolve to leave, only to find yourself once again believing the empty promises. You believe them because you choose to, but eventually, you reach the stage where it becomes make or break. Once you've made the break, he will drop you and walk away. In many cases, he will lie and slander to save his own face. It's definitely true that you need a good support network at this point. Time is a great healer, and one day, we all arrive at the point where we are truly glad that this person is finally gone, and we can move on with our lives. Hang in there xx

  5. In my case I would get to stage 4 and the relationship would end but I would only go so far in self-recovery efforts before relapsing. At this point I would profess myself 'recovered' (cleverly avoiding my core emotional wounds) only to find myself in another unhealthy relationship.

    My last 'love' was with a cluster C (avoidant) but I have to say that my own stages during this relationship were the same as you mention above (though his abuse was extremely passive).

    Only with the support of good therapy and authentic support was I able to embark on the road to 'real' recovery. I'm currently single, though I co-parent with a cluster B!

    This is a wonderful blog you have created Swiss Mum - I came across this posting via

    My main community of support is

    I look forward to reading more here. Best wishes, Klarity Belle.

  6. BPD is very different than the other 3 personality disorders..

    You really have no understanding of what Borderline personality disorder is.

    Washington psychologist Marsha Linehan, one of the world's leading experts on BPD, describes it this way: "Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering."
    (See "The Year in Medicine: From A to Z.")

    Borderlines are the patients psychologists fear most. As many as 75% hurt themselves, and approximately 10% commit suicide — an extraordinarily high suicide rate (by comparison, the suicide rate for mood disorders is about 6%).

  7. Thanks for your valued input. You are quite right, I have no experience of BPD at all, other than knowing it is part of the Cluster B group.
    From the information you have given, it is most certainly quite different from the other three in the group. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Im dealing with realization and chest crushing pain that comes with stage four, empty promises and lies about what they have been saying to others for years about you. You rehash all the times your insticnt told you they were saying to their own families and others about you, often with lies of omission and just random actions to disguise the lies and intention to smear you.
    You really cant quite believe how soulless and underhand they can be, and how others cant is face of them even in the face of tons of evidence.
    Gas lighting is their trick of choice, if you stay you worry that you will go from being afraid youre imagining things and going crazy to actually going crazy!!! You become like them, its a virus, you cant react any other way there is no one behind the mask just a big black hole you are trying to reason with, it will suck you in, and spit you out destroyed and ransacked.
    You still want to believe the empty commitments and promises, youre tired your work is suffereing you have to keep coming up with more strength to go on. Youre alone no one will believe you, they still believe what you told them initially when he was trying to charm you. He is cleaver to cover his tracks, he leaves few marks, but he is sucking your lifeblood, even this minute.
    Youve been ostracized by his family who youve invested 8 years of love affection and loyalty to.
    He feels ever more smug as they launch attacks at you too, for suggesting he may be the problem.
    Where to now, youve given money so your now financially dependent, ( just what he planned) care, love, empathy, and always got back the same, sand that slips through your fingers.
    Im here and after a weekend where i gathered my resources and strength. im back not knowing how I can escape without great hardship.
    thanks for the resource, and I appreciate any advice or encouragement from anyone.

    1. I could have written this. The gaslighting, being ostracized by his family whom you have treated well for years, and finding it hard to believe how souless he is.

  9. Although i agree that BPD suffers do turn the abuse inward, they cause mass chaos and utter distruction in the lives of those who love them. They do the same damage as a NPD just differently.

  10. gosh this is so accurate,it sums up my life for the last 7 years though I chose to maintain a sort of FWB relationship with my cluster B long after I'd realised what was going on. It was just that when he was charming and fun (when he wanted something, usually me) I thought 'Well why not? I know what's going on and it's not like there's a queue of interested men' So I continued to sleep with him long after we both knew that a relationship was never going to happen again, and long after he'd met my replacement whom he kept at arm's length for several years so as to enable his 'free' lifestyle.

    Only now can I see just how he has maintained his position exactly as he wanted it, whilst me and his other woman have accomodated it despite saying that we wouldn't. Except that I have now finished it with him and am ignoring him. I suspect that this has annoyed him and I am now the evil and/or crazy ex which drives me mad.

    I really want to shout to the world that I have foolishly given this man far too much for far too long, that he happily took what he could from me and from his other girlfriend, that he really doesn't care about anyone except for what he can get from them, but I know that this will have no effect, people need to work it out for themselves and slowly most people do.

    So why on earth do I want him to contact me? I KNOW what he is, I have almost no respect for him, but still there's a yearning for what he can appear to be!

  11. Wow!! This is like you were watching through the window of my life! I was with a psychopath for 10+ years and can easily identify the stages you discuss. I'm almost a year "out" and still struggle on a daily basis with the aftermath.

  12. Very well put! Describes my situation as well and although I'm not sure what issues my former FWB has, I'm learning that I may be a cluster B. 12 years with the FWB while also conducting 10 years with my current husband, so I definitely have something wrong.

  13. Most failed relationships end disillusionment with unmet expectations, falling out of love, hiding and finally a Termination (release). Distancing, silent treatment, making a big thing of small things, fighting, poor communications are all parts of it that failed relationship

    So, what is unique for cluster B.?

    Our sense is that the Romance stage of highly charged, and that there is a higher percentage of failure and difficulty in the Power Struggle and Commitment stages than in relationships in general.

    For example, a lot of BPD relationships linger in the Power Struggle stage as the pwBPD struggles to return to the Romance Stage and finds the Commitment stage empty and unrewarding.

    Just some thoughts...

  14. I am new here...but have been devouring all the information and support about this little known mental disorder as I can. I have been involved with a NPD man for over 5 years. I can't believe how almost perfectly each stage of development listed here has occurred in my instance. I have only recently (about a week ago) had my "lightbulb" moment or "A-Ha!" moment. I guess I am Stage 4...which is both liberating and frightening at the same time.

    I pretty much left my entire existence...job, home, family, friends, to move 400 miles away from my hometown to live with him a little over 5 years ago.

    He has made me so dependent on him financially that now I do feel trapped. I came into this relationship with some past debt (which he promised to help me with...but never did) and now I owe almost twice the amount.

    In the beginning (cloud 9) I was sure we would get married...but something held me back after the first year together...I knew there was a problem, but I thought it was just his anger or aloofness that was hard to take.

    He is what they call an Intellectual Narcissist. He has a very high IQ so he is in love with it. Conversely his hygiene and weight etc. over these last years has gone down hill.

    Now that I have read all this information about this disorder, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. Finally. But it has now brought with it a whole new set of problems. Knowledge is power but also can be painful.

    I appreciate all the women here who are willing to share their own stories and pain. Let's hope we can help on another and share some of the victories as well.

    I would like to respond and support some of the prior comments but if they are all by "Anonymous" it is difficult to distinguish one from another.

    I am using my new NPD name "Capable Woman" because that is something I have not been acting like for the last 5 years, and that is something that I definitely am! I need to start acting like it and not be afraid to start over. I will be 64 in December. Although I am a young 63 is a lot more difficult to start over as we get older.

    I am starting by contacting my family and friends to re-build a support group around myself. Although I am finding that most don't really understand this as a "disorder" it is still important to keep one's self-esteem by talking to those who know you and love you, especially when he puts me down or tries to "gaslight".

    I keep reminding myself I got along without him before I met him...I will be alright. In fact I will be better than alright! I will be free again.

    I look forward to posting here and on OOTF (Out of the Fog) as much as I can and reading more info on ways to handle the situations that come up.

    I wish you all the best and let's pray that we all will have the strength to follow our hearts and free our minds.

    Capable Woman

  15. Hello Capable Woman and everybody else who has posted on this thread. I'm really pleased this post has helped so many people, and I agree that this subject needs a lot more discussion, which is why I wrote the book and started the blog.
    Since starting my research I have come across many really helpful websites. Now that the book is about to come out, I have set up my own forum for people to come and discuss the issues which are identified in the book.
    Please feel free to join the forum

    It also has links to other fora and articles on NPD/APD and other PD's

    Best wishes to all


  16. Even though when reading through this blog, I most certainly recognize myself as the "victim" of the BPD and/or NPD, I still question whether I'm the one with the BPD as well. I've experienced the behavior but as the years of the relationship have progressed, I have also exhibited these same behaviors as well - sort of a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy.

    I keep telling myself that I wouldn't be so obsessively trying to understand and learn about this if I was truly the disordered one but not sure if that's true either.

    I'm definitely in stage 5 at this point but realize that I've not completely severed ties enough to heal and move on. That's what I'm seeking answers for now. It just seems impossible to put this relationship completely behind me.

  17. Dazed and confused

    It's totally normal to feel as though you are the one with the Personality Disorder. This is more often than not due to the years of 'projection' where you end up becoming almost a clone of your NPD partner.

    As a poster above on this thread said:

    "You become like them, its a virus, you cant react any other way there is no one behind the mask just a big black hole you are trying to reason with, it will suck you in, and spit you out destroyed and ransacked."

    And you are absolutely, you wouldn't be educating yourself if you were the one with the problem.

    I've been where you are, many people on here have. You know that you need to cut ties if you are ever to be truly free. You WILL put it behind you, because you MUST.

    Best wishes


  18. This is so what I have gone through. I've been lucky though because it has only been 2 years and it was him that decided he wanted out. It took me a month for fighting the divorce to realize I was dealing with a personality disorder. He was mean and cruel over the past month and everything was my fault and he did it with good reason. I'm just glad I'm getting out now and I'm ready to move on.

  19. Sometimes those with BPD DO leave- they fear abandonment, so they initiate leaving to avoid being abandoned. This is what happened to me.

  20. I just now discovered I have a Cluster B, but am realizing it too late. I am not well educated on the phsychology of it. When we first met I fell in love with her very quickly. She was so appealing for some unknown reason. That coupled with the fact that I saw that I filled a need with repairing things and helping out around her place and helping with her kids seemed to draw me in. I have two kids and only see them every other weekend, so this instant family was appealing. Little did I know that I was in for a roller coaster. The funny part is she claimed to be a quote unquote psychiatrist. These are her words. She has a highschool education. I have a degree in Civil Engineering. Now don't get me wrong, she is intelligent. According to her my life experiences and education make me a social outcast and she is an expert in her field of everything. One of the latest discussions was the term FHA loan. Even though I have gone through this process and had a conventional loan, she was an expert on the subject. I asked her to define it for me, and she became enraged when she could not. There is no doubt, I am firmly in Stage four. She has informed me that she hates me and can't stand to be in the same room as me. Everything thing I have ever told her or she has heard about me is a weapon during this discussion. She knows things about me that I have not ever told a soul, so it cuts deep and I already find myself doing the same thing back. The physical abuse has occurred about 4 times. The mental abuse is almost constant with every sarcastic remark with scarring under tones. I told her I don't feel like myself and I don't want this kind of relationship. The problem is I have a lease with her for a year. I am in a lot of trouble. During the last argument over me getting up for work and not being quiet enough for her, turned into me not putting the toilet seat down ever. I told her I am making an effort. Told her she is in a relationship and has to bend a little. She does not. It is all or nothing with her list of demands. Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned I am not looking for a roommate, so she decided that is what we are now. She won't move out. She can't afford the rent, but claims she can. I can't leave because I do rent and don't need a black mark. It is all my fault and I made it this way according to her. I am going to have a year of hell.

  21. I dated the man you described for 16 years while he was still legally married. (His line was nobody really sees him married except me) The good days started slipping away... Every phase you listed...I lived. Today was a low day emotionally and I really needed to read this and affirm to myself it was bad, it would not get better, and it is not all in my head.
    Thank you.

  22. Welli got out after 28 years, however mine did not drop me like a hot potato, just the opposite actually, I cannot get him to leave me alone, I now have a stalker. Great.
    Sometimes I wonder which was worse, being in the hellish relationship or trying to be free of it. I am grateful I am out, but almost three years later, he still contacts me every day, if I block his calls from my home he calls me at work, so I'd rather deal with it at home. Cripes how does this happen, and why does it take so long to get free. I to am part of and find great help there.
    Thanks for listening, Almostfree...