The articles “What I Wish I Knew Before Marrying a Man with a Crazy Ex-Wife,” “Fortifying Your Fortress: Healthy Boundaries Are Your Best Defense Against Abusive High-Conflict Personalities,” and “Dating After Divorcing a High-Conflict Woman: Are You Ready to Date Again?
” raise several issues men and women face after being married to Crazy.
There’s a scene in that illustrates this phenomenon very well.
Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, is released on parole after being incarcerated for most of his adult life. Only one thing stops me – a promise I made to Andy. Living with an abusive, high-conflict personality can cause you to develop habits, behaviors, beliefs, fears and emotional and psychological tics that make it difficult for you to function and adapt to life and new healthy relationships after breaking up.
While at work, he needs to use the bathroom and asks his supervisor if it’s okay. Even worse, being in an abusive relationship can prime you for another abusive relationship (i.e., a return trip to the institution.) After your ex became secure in your relationship and removed the mask hiding her abusive nature, you probably had to make adjustments within yourself or face very unpleasant consequences.
Crazy gives new meaning to the term “institution of marriage” as men and women ending a relationship with Crazy often refer to it as “breaking out of prison” or “escaping the looney bin.” People in lock-down facilities or abusive relationships rarely walk away unscathed.
Being institutionalized can lead to institutional syndrome: Institutional syndrome refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills, which develop after a person has spent a long period living in mental hospitals, prisons, or other remote institutions.
In other words, individuals in institutions may be deprived of independence and of responsibility, to the point that once they return to “outside life” they are often unable to manage many of its demands; it has also been argued that institutionalized individuals become psychologically more prone to mental health problems.
Institutionalization incorporates the norms of an abusive relationship, which are far from normal, into your day-to-day habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. “Controlling every element of your life takes away your ability to decide.
Not all individuals ending an abusive relationship have trouble adjusting. This involves taking away things, pastimes and people you once enjoyed and/or making you perform tasks, menial work, etc., to put you in an inferior position to her. When you speak, how you eat, how and when you use the toilet, may all be controlled.
However, an abusive relationship, much like a prison sentence, “is painful, and incarcerated persons often suffer long-term consequences from having been subjected to pain, deprivation, and extremely atypical patterns and norms of living and interacting with others” just like the partner of an abusive partner does (Haney, 2001). If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay — be it hot (e.g., explosive rage-outs) or cold (e.g., emotional withdrawal, the cold shoulder, guilt tripping or shaming). Many of my clients’ wives require them to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves. Again, this is a power play to show who’s in charge. What you do, including the repetition of futile and useless work is dictated to you.
Changing discusses the deliberate institutionalization process frequently used in prison systems. Your beliefs, opinions and feelings must be identical to hers. Isolating you from friends, family and loved ones is typical abuser modus operandi. It’s part power play and part narcissistic entitlement; i.e., “Filling out this online form is beneath me. Institutionalization also involves the introject of prison life (or life in an abusive relationship) as normal, while everything outside the institution (or the abusive relationship) is projected as abnormal or bad.
The parallels between the institutionalization process and abusive relationships are striking: 1. You cease to be yourself and become someone you don’t recognize. Institutionalization is complete when the inmate or abused spouse “fears and rejects the outside world, feeling at home only within the institution” (Changing Minds.org).