Useful Reading Material for Those Recovering from Dysfunctional Relationships
Here are some books that have been helpful to me. Some of them I read while in the process of leaving an abusive partner, others I read in order to help my husband recover from a toxic relationship and to try to understand what he was going through. Each one was helpful in some way, and I hope they will be of help to you, as well.
It’s a short reading list, so as not to be overwhelming, although I cannot promise I won’t be adding more. I do not read such publications with the voracity that I once did – fortunately, the subject no longer takes center stage in my life. However, I have not managed to attain 100% closure and, even if I do, the topic still fascinates me.
1. Captive Hearts, Captive Minds – Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships
By Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich, both former cult members
When I read this, I was already removed from my abusive situation but still trying to come to terms with what had happened. I found out about this writing while trying to figure out what was wrong with my husband early on in our relationship. Even though he was geographically far away from his abuser, she refused to let go and, after a while, she managed to get back into his head. I stumbled across this title while doing some research on how to deprogram brainwashing, as my then-fiance was behaving as if he had joined a cult. In a way, he had.
This was very helpful to me in figuring out what was troubling him and helping him to see what was happening (and had been happening for so long) to him. He eventually read it himself, and it was helpful to him as well. However, it might put you off if you are unable to come to terms with the fact that a cultic relationship is very similar to being in a larger cult. And there are parts that you might want to skip past, as they pertain specifically to religious cults.
2. The Gift of Fear – Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
Author: Gavin de Becker
We often ignore warning signs for fear that we might come across as rude or insensitive. Learn how to pick up on cues from those around you, tune in to yourself and trust your instincts, be aware of your surroundings, and develop other necessary skills to ensure your safety. The author offers valuable insight into how we react in certain situations and how we can keep ourselves safe, if we only make the effort to be more conscious of ourselves, our surroundings, and the people we come in contact with.
3. The Sociopath Next Door – Martha Stout
This is one of the first books I checked out from my local library when it became clear that I would need to exit my abusive relationship. I chose the audio version, so that I could listen to it on my commute back and forth from work. I found it to be very helpful.
Probably the most useful information I took away from this was in defining what a sociopath is. Most of us tend to think that sociopaths are like the axe murderers in bad slasher films. And they can be. But they can also go through life without ever killing anyone. However, they always cause major damage to those closest to them. The damage is almost always psychological, but it can also be financial, spiritual, emotional, etc.
At any rate, Martha Stout shows us exactly what sociopaths are capable of and how they treat others, by using actual case studies as examples. If you check out the audio book, it’s like hearing a narration of several different true stories.
4. Stop Walking on Eggshells – Paul T.Mason and Randi Kreger
Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder
Randi Kreger was in a romantic relationship with a disordered individual, and Paul T. Mason is a psychotherapist. I wouldn’t recommend this publication to anyone who is freshly out of a relationship with a personality disordered individual, nor would I recommend it to anyone who is only thinking about leaving. This one is for seasoned veterans who are well on their way to recovery from such relationships.
I say that because the tone seems to be about eliciting compassion for abusers. While I have no problem at all with the author trying to empathize with these miserable creatures, I believe it is extremely important for victims to recognize the abuse for what it is and to establish boundaries and start standing up for themselves. In this publication, too much emphasis seems to be placed on gaining sympathy for the abusers. People coming out of these types of relationships tend to be overly forgiving of their abusive mates (or friends or relatives, whatever the case may be), and reading this might further enable them to remain susceptible to their partners’ manipulation tactics.
However, some very useful and insightful information is provided in this text. If you are out of the dysfunctional relationship and well past the phase of still succumbing to the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) techniques your ex lover employs, then this is worth reading.