Patrick fell for Zoë the instant he saw her. But he wasn’t prepared for the intensity beneath her pretty, seductive surface. Sexually demanding, volatile, and even suicidal, she turned their brief relationship into a vortex of instability and negativity that left Patrick wary of risking intimacy again.
Are you dating or living with someone whose everyday behavior causes you distress? Looking back, do you see alarming similarities in the kinds of lovers you’re drawn to, and wonder what it is about you (and them) that keeps you coming back for more? You are not alone.
A landmark survey by the National Institutes of Health (2004) revealed that about 15 percent of the adult population — over 16 million potential relationship partners — suffers from one or more personality disorders. Even if you’re looking for love in a relatively healthy environment — church, college, work — chances are that nearly one of five potential partners has some serious personality problem. At singles bars or online dating services — settings that draw those who’ve had trouble finding love elsewhere — the probability of encountering weird, or even dangerous, personalities escalates even more.
Personality-disordered partners (“PDPs”), say Drs. W. Brad Johnson and Kelly Murray, have personality traits that are almost always odd, high-maintenance, difficult, and toxic to genuine, lasting love. “Personality disorders are enduring patterns of seeing, relating to, and thinking about both the world and oneself that are rigid, and ultimately sabotage relationships,” they explain. “Sometimes more subtle forms of these disorders are hard to detect early on. You may be charmed and taken in, only to wonder later how you could have missed the warning signs.”
Johnson and Murray wrote Crazy Love: Dealing with Your Partner’s Problem Personality as a practical guide to identifying PDPs early and avoiding them as prospective mates, or finding help if you are in a committed relationship with someone whose disturbing, manipulative behavior leaves you feeling exhausted and diminished. Whether you are involved with an impaired partner or recognize yourself in the patterns described, you’ll find encouragement and expertise for taking action in an informed, responsible, safe and healthy way.
- Key concepts in learning to spot the symptoms of twelve specific personality disorders.
- Descriptions of each problem personality (such as obsessive-compulsive, schizoid, paranoid, and more), with case examples of how each can result in a dysfunctional relationship.
- Help in determining whether behaviors are merely odd or symptomatic of specific disorders. (Is he “mysterious and solemn,” or paranoid?)
- Summaries of genetic and environmental factors that create personality disorders.
- Revealing reasons why you may be attracted to PDPs, and tips for making better choices about potential partners.
- Tools for living more positively in a committed relationship with a PDP.
- Survival strategies for regaining control of your own life despite your mate’s disordered behavior.
“Finding the right partner and maintaining a healthy love relationship is hard work in the best of circumstances,” Johnson and Murray acknowledge. “It is much harder when your partner has a personality disorder. By learning to detect impairment up front, you will be in a position of considerable power to avoid the heartache that can accompany relationships with them. Life is just too short to spend most of it walking on eggshells.”
W. Brad Johnson is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the United States Naval Academy and a Faculty Associate in the Graduate School of Business and Education at Johns Hopkins University. A clinical psychologist, he is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the author of many publications including seven previous books in the area of mental health and counseling.
Kelly Murray(1969-2009) was an Assistant Professor and Director of Ph.D. Clinical Education at Loyola College in Baltimore. She was also a clinical psychologist in Private Practice in Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked and wrote in the areas of personality disorders, relationships and trauma.
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