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 Relationships with 
  Chronically Hurtful People 

 Why is this relationship so darn hard?...   


The Nourishing Company 

Volume VI # 103    Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved                                   

(Note:  Once again,  BetterHealthBytes is delighted to welcome guest author Roxanne Livingston, M.A., author of     Chronically Hurtful People: How to Identify and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive, and Disconnected.   


Our readers have demonstrated that her work is of highest interest, which is why we're excited to let you know that the following is the first of a three part series she has written for you as a BetterHealthBytes reader.)   

Pamela Levin, R.N., T.S.T.A   


Your Personal Relationship with a Chronically Hurtful Person (CHP)   

By Roxanne K. Livingston   


Why is this relationship so darn hard?   

S ome people learn, over time, that the person they are committed to is much more difficult to deal with than they had assumed would be the case upon falling in love. If the loved one is a CHP, this is understandable. CHPs are not interested in the negative consequences their behavior has for others, but are very interested in how others do or don't do what the CHP wants or expects.   

I have worked with any number of people who, feeling stressed and confused in their relationship with their partner, come to see me questioning "What am I doing wrong?" When I can reasonably determine after considerable exploration that this client's partner is a CHP, I might suggest, "You are not doing anything wrong. Your partner may not be invested in having the kind of reciprocal relationship of mutuality, respect, affection and problem solving that you are seeking, no matter what he or she declares to be so."   

Another common question from those who find themselves involved with a CHP is, "How did I attract this in my life?" This is actually another version of "What am I doing wrong?" It is interesting that people who are in relationship with CHP's often seem unusually responsible, that is, are willing to go the extra mile for someone over and over again. But I have come to question whether that trait is there to begin with or develops within the course of the relationship.   

Yes, it is true that people who have more than their share of self-doubt or have difficulty identifying and standing up for their legitimate needs may be unconsciously drawn to those who put their own needs ahead of other's needs.

The pattern of repeatedly abdicating to a significant other in service of what is perceived as something "more important" demanded of by the other, could be the unconscious reenactment of a relationship with a self-absorbed parent, for example. The current relationship with a CHP may trigger the limiting beliefs and reactions learned in childhood.   

It has occurred to me, however, that people can become more dependent the more undependable their partner proves to be. The Stockholm Effect (1) is real. I have seen enough people who are loving, kind, trusting, responsible and considerate, without too many apparent self-abandonment issues, who nevertheless find themselves bamboozled by the CHP they live with.

The more the partner tries to understand, forgive, and resolve conflicts with the CHP the more confusing things become, and the more attached the partner becomes to the CHP.   

This process is similar to classic intermittent reinforcement (2), where sometimes a person is treated with smiles and affection, and other times treated with angry withdrawal, distance or some sort of other emotional punishment. What makes this confusing to the partner is there may be no rhyme or reason for any particular behavior on the part of his or her CHP.

When one cannot reasonably predict when or how the various reactions by the CHP might be forthcoming, it becomes increasingly impossible to plan events, or truly relax in the relationship.   

I am not describing here a CHP who is a substance abuser, or has a mood disorder, or other medical condition. He or she may or may not have those or other conditions, but the random up and down behavior CHPs employ will likely be there regardless of these or other factors. Keeping others off balance and unsettled is part and parcel of a CHP's repertoire to maintain a one-up position.   


As I have stated in previous articles, CHP's are expert at fooling people, and expert at eliciting support. A particularly skillful CHP, let's say one who enjoys much public approval and regard, may, just for "fun", at home use considerable manipulative skills to turn otherwise reasonable discussions into painful encounters where the partner is left with his or her head spinning.   


Thanks again to Roxanne for sharing her expertise, and for pointing out some of the factors which can make these relationships ‘so darn hard!'   

(1)Stockholm Syndrome  is a  psychological phenomena in which hostages have positive feelings for their captor. They may feel empathy for their captors and identify with them as well. See  "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome" FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  (Law Enforcement Communication Unit) 76 (7): 10–15 

(2)Sparkman, R. B. (1979). The Art of Manipulation :Doubleday Publishing. Sparkman  claims that behavior increases more with intermittent reinforcement ( as compared to positive reinforcement such as flattery and negative reinforcement such as anger), and may in part explain some human tendencies such as some addictions. 


For more information see  
Roxanne K. Livingston, the author ofChronically Hurtful People:How to Identify and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive, and Disconnected.    

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Tags: chronically hurtful people CHP's Abusive relationships difficult people narcissistic people self-absorbed people dealing with difficult people hurtful relationships relationships that hurt difficult bosses

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Tags: chronically hurtful people CHP's Abusive relationships difficult people narcissistic people self-absorbed people dealing with difficult people hurtful relationships relationships that hurt difficult bosses


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