Compulsive liar damages relationship, in childrens home, in foster care, in careQ My soon-to-be-ex partner keeps making false promises and telling me lies. Then he never explains himself to me when he’s been found out. He just laughs it off, blames someone else – including me – or he disappears for a few days.

He’d promise that we’d do something or go somewhere… and then make sure that we didn’t go – for one reason or another. It took me a few months to cotton on to what he kept doing because he’s so believable.

I don’t understand why he bothered to offer me things like holidays and shopping trips and then never follow through with anything.

He lies about what he’s said and done – even when I know the truth. He will argue that black is white that he’s in the right and other people are wrong. He even has me confused and believing him – although I know the truth!

He used to be in a children’s home as a child, and had several foster homes, so maybe this has something to do with it.

I’ve decided to break up with him and I’ve stopped believing any of his pie-in-the-sky offers, false promises, and frequent lies. But I’m still curious about why he keeps doing this and setting me up for disappointment – and making himself look bad too.

A I do sympathise and empathise with you. It is impossible to build a solid relationship on shifting sand. Without trust and safety there’s nothing for you (and your inner child) to attach to. That lack of attachment is also significant in another way … for him.

When he’s making his offers and promises he probably feels that he’s being seen by you as generous and kind – and he’s liked for that.

Then he can’t, or won’t, deliver on his promises and so he then gets the familiar pay off of being seen as a disappointment – and disliked (and ultimately rejected) because of that.

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Grown up son still at his mother's back and call, toxic mother, demanding and controlling motherA My boyfriend has his own business, employs staff and has lots of friends. What I don’t understand is how someone who seems to have their life sorted, can be under the thumb when it comes to his mother.

I’ve met her and she was offhand and rude to me. He says it’s just her way and not to let it bother me – but it does.

He’s at her beck and call. Even though she’s in good health she rings him a few times a day, and expects him to drop everything and do errands for her. He’s 43!

When he introduced me to her she said to him (in front of me) ‘you’ll always be mine’ – how weird is that, but he can’t see it.

He’s an only child so I can understand her dependence on him since her husband died 40 years ago (she never re-married) – but this feels more than that.

It’s as if she’s jealous of him having another woman in his life.

She treats him like her property and ‘as the man of the house’ (he still lives with her). She expects him to be more like a husband than a son.

He has told me that she was very controlling when he was a kid and would give him the ‘silent treatment’ if he didn’t jump when she said jump.

I don’t mind him helping her now and then, but she’s really got her claws into him and I worry that she will convince him to break up with me. Why can’t she let him go and have a life of his own?

A I’m pleased that you are aware of what it is about this set up that bothers you the most – being rejected by him on her say so.

He clearly has a strong loyalty to his mother and is willing to be at her back and call – perhaps putting her needs ahead of his own.

I wonder too if this whole scenario has any old links and associations with you and your past?

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Toxic family dynamicsQ My step-grandmother keeps setting up battles between members of the family – and then somehow turns it round as if she’s the victim! She’s just lately told lies to my aunt about what I’m supposed to have said about her relationship with my uncle. My aunt questioned me about it and when I asked my gran about what she’d said and why, she denied it to my face and said my aunt must be lying – and she added the usual ‘why does everybody in this family keep telling lies about me’? Yet SHE is the one setting it all up! She creates conflicts and fall outs, and pitches people against one another. There is so much bad feeling and lack of trust now. I don’t know who to believe any more. Why does she keep doing this, and why do the rest of us seem to keep falling for it?

A Let’s think about what the desired outcome might be for your grandmother – because we all do what we do for a reason (not to say that it’s a good or bad reason).

It may well be that she is somehow replaying her own early family drama – and recreating ‘triangular relationships’.

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Emotionally abusive husbandQ My husband of 16 years has always been a dominant man, and I’ve accepted that over the years. I’ve got used to his put-downs and criticism of me, my cooking, how I look, my family, and how I take care of the house and our son.

What worries me now, is that my teenage son is speaking to me just like my husband does and I’ve got two of them having a go at me all the time.

I’ve spoken to my husband about it and he just tells me not to be so sensitive, that it’s my problem and to just toughen up and get over it.

I can’t. I feel useless. I’m thinking of leaving them to it, but I only have a part-time wage and can’t afford to leave and live on my own. I fear for any partner my son will have in future if he turns out like his dad.

A I’m wondering when you first noticed this happening, and what prevented you from discussing it much sooner. Not that I’m suggesting that you’ve brought it on yourself, just that it might now be a case of too little too late.

As an underdog who’s been emotionally bullied for years I suspect that you haven’t felt strong enough to stand up to him or to change this pattern much sooner.

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P.T.S.D. childhood trauma and recovery from adverse childhood experiences A.C.E.Q I saw something on Facebook last week that has got me wondering if I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I haven’t had an accident or been attacked, but I do have the symptoms of always being on edge and expecting something bad to happen; having nightmares, and having flashbacks to the years of my mum and dad either beating or belittling me.

I know this stuff happened over 20 years ago but I’ve been living in a daze for as long as I can remember. It’s as if I’m in some sort of emotional limbo – until I get angry at the slightest thing and lash out.

I feel cut off and detached from people and have few real friends and no partner or kids. I always feel like I want to run away – but I don’t know what from, or where I want to run to! Might all this be due to PTSD and if so what can I do about it?

A There are different types of trauma – both physical and emotional – and our brains are affected and shaped by them, which in turn affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

There is a form of trauma that comes from having experienced an abusive childhood, and having had toxic parents (who poisoned your childhood due to their lack of proper care for you and your emerging needs). This is a type of ‘prolonged duration’ stress disorder.

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Jehovah's Witness parentsQ I have 2 kids from a previous relationship and I’m now in a new relationship with man who’s been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness – although he’s ‘lapsed’ and doesn’t go along with it any more. He says his mother and father were both very strict and physically abusive to him as a child.

I haven’t met his family yet but I know they don’t acknowledge or celebrate Christmas. I don’t want to spoil it for my kids when they come over to visit us soon in the new year. I don’t want to have to tell my kids not to mention Xmas or the presents they got. I don’t want to cause an atmosphere and I don’t know what to do for the best or who to please.

A There are two issues here. Abusive parents, and their religious beliefs. Assuming that you don’t suspect that they will be physically or emotionally abusive to you or your children (or to your partner in your presence) this leaves you with how to ‘accommodate’ their views when then visit you; and your own feelings towards them based upon what your partner had told you far.

I suggest that you do whatever best suits you and your children. Your partner’s parent’s beliefs are not shared by you and there’s no reason that they should be.

You may also find that they ‘disapprove’ of other aspects of your life too. Such as the type of mother/parent you are, or your marital status etc – and you have a choice about how you handle any such negativity if it comes your way.

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Repeating relationship problems by sabotageQ I’m getting freaked out that my life seems like one of those programmes that gets repeated time and again on TV! I’m seeing the same pattern being played out – even though it doesn’t start out like that, or at least I don’t intend it to. I can’t see it happening until I get the old feelings kicking in. Feelings of boredom and feeling trapped and needing to escape so that I can breath again. I’ve had some counselling and now realise that my dad was like this and he kept leaving my mum and then she’d keep taking him back. I don’t want any of my own kids that I might have in the future to feel like I did growing up. So why do I keep repeating things?

A It sounds like you have already become aware of your ingrained pattern in relationships – and fortunately you can see that this won’t and can’t bring you what you want in the future.

The next big step – is what to do about it!

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core childhood feelings of lonelinessQ I don’t mean that I have no friends, I have several. I also have a loving partner and kids. The problem is, no matter who I’m with or what I’m doing I still have this underlying feeling of flatness, and dullness. It’s like a feeling of sadness, of waiting, and of being shut down and alone. I know I felt like this as a kid but I’d have thought it would have gone now that I’ve disowned my abusive parents and started my own family. I wish I could be free of this feeling, but how?

A I suspected that you’d had either a neglectful or abusive childhood as I started to read your e-mail – and so I wasn’t surprised to read that comment.

I don’t know what type of abuse you suffered but it will inevitably have left an imprint upon your developing psyche, your soul and your sense of yourself and what you should expect in life.

I know myself that those old ‘core feelings’ which sum up our childhood do still linger around in adulthood. They lurk in the background whilst we are busy being in ‘role’ and carrying out the activities of our everyday lives.

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Lack of self love and putting others firstQ It seems that all my life I’ve been there for everybody else, family and friends, yet whenever I need some help and support no-one’s there for me. They all know me as being strong and standing up for others when they need it, but what they don’t see is that I could do with some back up myself sometimes.

I feel drained by everyone else’s problems and needs and I feel like walking away.

My parents are dead now but they were both strong dominant people and I just kept the peace at home and tried to make them and my little sister happy. I’ve had enough, and I’m getting sick of not getting what I want in my life. I know that sounds selfish but it’s how I feel.

A It sounds as though your ‘inner child’ has been focusing upon being a good and helpful girl – and yet not been appreciated or rewarded for it.

As children, particularly in troubled homes, we soon learn that in order to be seen as OK we have to behave in a certain way. A way that might be at odds with how we’re really feeling.

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Your Mother Is Your First Mirror – and she creates the reflection that you will see of yourself.

Maxine Harley
Maxine Harley
MSc Psychotherapy

We need to clean up that mirror and see ourselves for who we really are.

If she has allowed the mirror to become cracked or dirty this distorts the image you’ll see and the reflection of yourself that you’ll believe to be real

We know from neuro-scientific research(particularly from Allan Schore) that the ‘gleam in the mother’s eye’ is vital for a baby’s sense of well-being and connection.

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