• Hi Devin,

    I am posting parts of my original text and your comments on it, and then I will write my new thoughts.

    “Dear Devin,

    I came across your YouTube talk on Oedipus complex and it gave me the last push to turn to a knowledgeable person with the following situation I am getting more and more trapped into as the years go by without really being able to solve it or at least to help the person involved.

    I have for five years by now been knowing a colleague friend. We often converse at work, rarely after work in our private time, we do exchange some emails occasionally. My friend is in his forties, married for ten years. I did not know him before his marriage. The first just simple and collegial talks turned into more and more private and practically on every topic discussions. I got to know in him as a shy, introvert but ultimately funny and playful person, the kind of simple guy with his man jokes, little almost invisible flirts but nothing serious, football stories, etc., so simply all fun to be with at work and yet with some really original and creative thoughts. Few times he became kind of melancholic and kind of bitterly cynical complaining that his wife is overly dominant but I thought that this is just a tiredness talk, all marriages have their ups and downs.

    This generally balanced image got shuttered when to one work party he came with his wife. The fun guy became half of his size, was bitterly cynical, even rude, verbally, with his wife.

    As the years went by this double, new image of him became the standard. At first, being myself a woman, I protected the wife, after all she was just caring. But the more I encountered them or her alone at work events the more irritated I got myself from her care which felt more like a control and became very suffocating. I even discovered with time that she has a wired joy in playing mind games with others and watching them getting confused, being lost and emotionally lowered. So slowly, my full support went to my friend. After one deeper discussion when he openly complained again about the dominance of his wife and that he thinks there is more for him in life, I dared to make a loud conclusion that his wife is indeed a bully, his marriage is toxic, and he gets every day more like a shadow of himself. I tried to encourage him saying that indeed he has the right and capacity for more. I simply reiterated him, in an encouraging way.

    And since then we have a fiery friendship. He denies my conclusion with full aggression, yet wants to know my opinion wants to stay my friend by all means. He denies his own very words and observations when I second them. He spits out with full aggression that he does not need care, big feelings, his marriage is good and he loves his wife, he is only responsible and caring for himself and to no one else, so I shall keep myself to this if I want to stay his friend, yet his behaviour craves for attention and support and physical touch like the most primitive human warmth, hug, nothing sexual, but pure human attention, closeness. Less and less is he coherent, his words do not match his body language signs and the feelings, emotions he radiates. He is more and more gaslighting me, blame shifting, testing me and lives out the control on me what I felt first from his wife. Only that he does not seem to enjoy this, the smirk smile is not there, he is also exhausted, very tired and sad after a new series of testing-rage-denial and then silence in hurt cycle.

    I am of course heavily impacted. I try not to react out of self-protection and impulse, but I freeze and the tears and emotions are in my throat and chest. I really cannot put into words what I feel in these moments. Like when in Monster’s Inc. Boo sees the scary Sullivan. When finally I can react, sometimes days later, I try to explain to him that there is no way I tolerate such an aggression, why it is not true what he says and try to have a constructive discussion about it or an agreement and let’s move on. And then at one point, days or weeks later he gets hurt again, something a word, a situation triggers his rage, he denies everything again, and cancels all our coffee break or lunch discussions for weeks, after which he comes back and tries to win my mood with something nice, a book, etc. I always accepted these things as an apology and always give him the chance to start over, and even few minor conflicting points we can clear up. But the general cycle stays. I feel as if he lives out on me his less and less bearable aggression and control from home, I get utterly in shock, then he needs alone time, which I respectfully agree on, I need it too, and then we are back to almost square zero.

    Reading a lot around I concluded that according to me, whoever started it between him and his wife, I do not know, but he has some grade of covert narcissistic and probably Oedipus complex features, on top of the emotional abuses from his wife, childhood etc. I am his only friend left, besides his drinking bodies. I know his warm, good man, pure hearted himself deep inside. He trusted it on me, I cannot let him down. I even came into terms with his wife, probably a victim herself too frozen in a role partially due to herself and partially due to him, his psychological issues. But I am his friend. How can I be there for him so that he comes out from this alone and strong like the man he wants to be, and how can I protect myself so that I do not get consumed by this process, not to speak of the green hate from his wife towards me. What is the right behaviour, verbal terminology from me? Being honest, the healthy reactions and words? Showing my hurt when it hurts, my happiness when am happy? I know knights fight they fights and the ladies are not involved but there is always a little help, invisible, but still present. What is this help I can do in this case? Now we are in the alone phase, he hurt me again verbally, totally insulting. Of course my hurt is long gone. I told him of course nothing else but the truth, but I am not sure by now how he took it, then I did not care my hurt was so big. I do not know what is the right thing to do, protection or shaking him up?

    These are the question which I would like to discuss with you.

    Thank you so very much,

    “Hi Hannah,

    First a disclaimer I am not a psychologist or therapist so I am only sharing my opinion as a friend would to another.

    We can analyze narcissists and their behavior all day but in the end it is pointless until we realize what our attraction is to them and their behavior in the first place.

    In my PERSONAL opinion you are in a completely inappropriate relationship, you are obviously being used as a kind of ’emotional mistress,’ meaning you are being used by a man in an unhappy marriage to escape from his troubles with his wife. Your email is full of this kind of language and it is apparent that you are emotionally invested in him far beyond what you call a ‘friend.’

    I think it is important not to deceive ourselves. You mentioned ‘nothing serious’ or ‘nothing sexual’ but it is far beyond the boundaries one would expect in a friendship – overly sharing personal details, emotional enmeshment, touching, all of this stuff, SO – he is emotionally cheating on his wife with you and you are hoping to be with him one day, right?

    Why is he not reading my blog and contacting me rather than you trying to rescue him? What is your motivation for doing this for a grown man who should be taking care of himself? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

    Hannah, you don’t have a friendship, you are the emotional mistress in a love-triangle. Adults don’t behave this way, they are protective of their emotions and are careful of who they expose themselves emotionally to. In no way is anything you described appropriate or on the level of a ‘colleague’ or ‘friend.’ Everything you wrote about was about caretaking another man’s issues because you are overly attached to a man who is married to someone else!

    The whole thing is enmeshed and toxic! What would be so wrong with cutting him off completely and focusing on your own life? My ‘friends,’ don’t gaslight me, lash out at me, or use me as an emotional escape. You can’t date a man who is more available for you???

    Best wishes,


    • Hi Devin,

      Thank you very much for your honest and to the point opinion. I agree with all and I would like to react to your questions.

      The alone time now is exactly because of me confronting him, stating, with different words then what you used, but thus I sad that I feel used. I did not have in my mind the expression of being an emotional mistress, but – agreeing with you – I confronted him with the following points: 1. Friends do not meet only at work and colleagues do not get into deeply private almost intimate talks, those are close friends. But close friends then do meet outside of work, do things together, openly and not in hiding, meet common friends, have fun and share more private thoughts, emotions here and there, but also those talks are more done if they are both single or almost like brotherly, sisterly friends, nevertheless not in hiding. 2. So if we are not friends, neither lovers since there is no physical intimacy between us, and I refuse (I am not sure he wants, but I stated my point independently from what he wants), any further physical involvement more than a hug (and after reading your email even not that anymore), because I am not plan B or even less the plan B for anyone. I told him that lovers at least have the guts to make a plan, lie at home or something, acknowledge the feeling and the cheating and comes what comes, time will tell. They take the risk. But here even the cheat is cheated, covered with the trick that all this is happening at work, so he has full coverage, zero confrontation at home on my cost. And I closed my speech with that if he wants a whore he has to pay, if he wants a lover he has to decide and take actions and live up to the risk and not lowering it by creating negative balance on my account!!! Finally, if after all this, he wants a friend, and I am there to be, he needs to be honest, talk his mind and calm his woman at home as I mean no harm for his marriage. Until he decides, I see no point to meet.

      Here we stand now and this is what I communicated to him, very clearly, calmly, without drama, point by point. He of course got utterly hurt, sad, asking why I push him down this much and in this way. I only said that he pushes, maybe unwillingly, both of us down and I hit my bottom, not any longer I tolerate this, life is more for me out there.

      But deep inside I have two main sources of deep running uncertainty and pain.

      – I really deeply care about him. I know he has real problems, even if he denies them. I feel responsible for him. It is the same pain when you put your child on her/his place, you know you did it right, but it hurts like hell seeing her/him down. So, I fight with the guilt feeling that I hurt him and that I, knowing his troubles, left him alone. However, reading your email lifted up this guilt and I will stick to your words, painful as it is, I hit the gym or what I do not care. He is not a child, and if he wishes to be a man, this is the only way, and if not, it is a lost case anyway, so nothing to worry about, mama wife will “cure” him at home.

      – I internalise his hollowness, sadness, melancholy etc. As if I am him. This is even worse than the guilt. I feel like being infected with his life and thoughts and feelings. I clearly know that those are not mine and I try hard to calm myself, and mentally I more or less succeed but knowing is somehow different than feeling. This hollow shadow man feeling stays for weeks. I have no idea what to do with this feeling.

      Then, why I cannot cut him off? Well I did it now, but he is abroad and I am trying to pump myself up while he is gone and be prepared when he is back. I have no idea how I will avoid him. We work on the same corridor.

      To your point on whether I hope to be with him one day. When it was the fun period and all was round, it crossed my mind, yes, but I said to myself, if it is a real thing it has to go the real way. No compromises built in along the way because then the castle will collapse at the end. Now after all the earlier unimaginable insults and verbal aggression, no way I think that far and after your email I even question friendship. And this is what hurts and answers your question why I “need” him. I am not living in my own country while he is from here. I felt after many years to finally being belonging to somewhere, to a community. It was natural to me, being new at my work that I socialize with people also at work. I really enjoyed even in the dual and more and more confusing period of our “friendship” our talks, cultural discussion etc. He is a very smart, clever, knowledgeable, interesting person. I really like to converse with him. He makes me think, awakens my creativity. Only lately, he is more and more jealous of that awakened creativity, which of course I tried to share back to him and do, think, discuss nice things together, in a creative and mutually respectful way. And so, despite of all the noise, this part of our relation I miss bitterly. That is why I tried so hard to sympathise with his wife as well. I genuinely tried, but I got tired of her control sooner than I could have any benefit cultural, intellectual or what so ever with her. I tried at work to enlarge our friendship cycle, but of course, now I see, probably he has had another plan. Therefore, what I miss, and this missing feeling prevented me till now from saying what I said to him the just lately the last time, the being part of a real working, mutually exchanging and stimulating local community. I read and listened to your post on facebook etc. and I could not agree more, I am not able to get fulfilment from those and so I actually never really invested into them, like I was never on Instagram and I closed my Twitter also long ago, my facebook is still alive but only for expat reasons. In addition I am also coming from a family with absent (mostly), troubled (much), narcissist (surely), father and all the other troubles mother. I am at the beginning of my journey, like 6 months ago I did not even know what narcissism was in the pathological terms, what were the behavioural signs, patterns etc. So all this made me sensitive I guess to him.

      Thanks very much again for your time and insight.
      Have a nice day,

      • 1. In my private circle of friends as well as at my work, gender balance, feminism are almost everyday on the board of discussions. I observe the following main features being present in each of these discussions. There is a generational wound that woman carry, and I think rightfully so considering our history. There are also many references to misused or abused man qualities, those qualities you also mention, leading to the state of mind in these women that these qualities are ab ovo wrong and not only were used, applied improperly (with or without intention, that is another topic). For example, elderly woman scientists carry the wound of their generation. For them to achieve a scientific career was very difficult in a much men dominated scientific world. Or, for example, my own father abused the care giving and controlling, cool demeanour of a positively manly man: he asked for our blind trust in his care, but when the family boat started sunk, primarily due to his actions (about which we were not allowed to know because we blindly trusted him), he was the first to leave, never has returned, leaving all the ruins behind. He controlled everything and everyone except himself and the situations, and keeping cool served also only his own purpose, hysteric emotion displays were on the agenda every time somethings went wrong (again due to primarily thanks to him). Due to these, I understand the frustration in women, however, I think, due to this frustration, killing everything that is manly is the mistake. On top of that, what I miss from these conversations is when women misuse or abuse their women qualities. I think that equally happens too. According to me, there is only one way out if this down spiralling and generationally transmitted mutual mud throwing: doing the homework on both sites and trying to fill the gap. What do you think?

        2. On man initiations and that, women are born as women. I would like to nuance this. I agree with you about the role of a father, father figure in the initiation of a boy, a son, and that self-initiation is the way if sadly the above two are missing. I also very much agree that this process is a kind of “series of rituals” that cuts the umbilical cord and the manly features will be developed in this way, replacing the comfort and safety the motherly nest could provide. But, I think, even if not so obviously and critically, this cut is necessary to be done also by girls, daughters. It is not very clear in my head whether we should take the exact opposite, and mothers would need to initiate their daughters to cut the fatherly protection and support given to their daughters, but, I cannot see any more miserable creature than an adult woman who is still papa’s daughter and runs to her parents for motherly care and opinion as well as for fatherly protection and support. In my inner movie, these women are not cut off and if they enter into a relation with an otherwise positively manly man, it can easily slip into the man cares for a woman child situation, instead of the manly – womanly, mutually supporting and being able to exist on their own as well partnership. And this is somehow more tolerated by society than the oedipal man – mother wife type of relations, again because of the classical, historical woman-man dynamics, I think. However, if in addition to this immaturity, if on the top of this, this immature woman learned to sing the song of feminism, it will be all about her equal rights and nothing about the equal responsibilities and deliverables (since she is not able, she was not initiated). So the fatherly man and daughter like woman, questionable and up to one’s own personal taste, but still a kind of balance, is broken. I see many concrete examples around me how this immaturity manifests itself in these more “gender balanced” cases. I mention one: she does not want to have children, unless the house is there, a certain financial security is reached, and stability in her career is secured. What is wrong with this? Nothing of course, very responsible. Every woman who gives birth takes a huge risk, in multiple ways and despite of all the improvements on this, the primary risk taker will always stay the woman, certainly from the biological point of view, but also existentially. On top of that comes social anxiety, bad examples of being left behind, series of insecurities, single mom stories etc. In the examples I know, the men say then, you are right honey, let us work hard, let us focus on our careers and when our goals are reached we launch the baby project. Then in these immature situations, the women will say and do the following: you are the man, you are supposed to provide. I do my career at my speed, I still need also to study this and that, my role is not to earn the house but to care for it, and you are such a strong and caring, supporting man, by this playing also the card of pride boosting out. And so, I see the rat race starting, at first the man is full of energy, divine pride and masculinity, how smart his wife will be after her studies and how great is that she also works hard, what a perfect mother she will be! However, there are growing and never ending demands towards the man in the relation as time goes by, and minimally delivered woman qualities on the other end. At the end, she fully depends existentially on him, through gender balance in mind this dependency insecures and frustrates her, the relation is becoming more and more a care giver and care taker relation, she pulls him down so that they are hopefully becoming equal again at one point, she is less and less secure to give birth etc, etc. A complete negative spiral, in which after some years the men feel completely exhausted, fooled, used and betrayed, led by the nose, at which state, so far in none of the cases I know, the situation ended good. So for me, next to the cases when it is either a well-balanced situation, whatever is that balance for the partners, or the complete opposite, where a woman cares for a man-child, these cases are according to me, also the wrong by-products of women immaturity and not well applied equality between men and women in a partnership, and/or bad parenting, lack of a kind of woman-type initiation.

        3. Finally I would like to ask what are your coping mechanisms if someone close to you, friend, family member, someone with whom you are emotionally linked crosses you boundaries, like an authoritative parent for example who does not respect your grown-up character and boundaries? When my parents cross my boundaries, I often try to communicate about it but the very fact that I try, is an immediate violation of the other person’s boundary. So basically, my freedom to be who I am and to express it, not accepting the trespassing done by the other person and giving voice to my dislike as a reaction to that action, is a straight violation of the boundary on the other side. The other person always throws the followings into my face in these moments: I told you I do not like to speak about these things, why do you do things I do not like? Then, when I try to defend myself stating that it is them who did the first harm, I am just reacting on it and trying to explain why I did not like it, the harm caused by them is never getting acknowledged. Getting hurt by what they did and considering it as a boundary violation on my side, this sheer consideration on its own is already also considered by them again as a boundary violation. They usually ask: how can you think of me like this? Don’t you know me better? How can you accuse me for doing such a thing? You have fantasies and you adjust reality to your own needs. While I think their reaction is pure gas lighting, acting out of a wound, toxicity, not owning their own words and acts, I have no means left in my hands. I am frozen, deep in the sea of my thoughts and emotions, totally confused and asking myself what if they are right. The only reason I know at the end of my thoughts and emotions chain that they are not right, is because I had no problem with life before that moment happened and they initiated it. But I fight with guilt thinking about what if I really misunderstood the situation, after all the case probably indeed is not so severe, why I had to mention it, that is how the fight started, etc. etc., while knowing that I have the right to protect my boundaries. I still do not know what to do in these situations, what are the good reactions here?

        Many thanks again :)!

        • Hi Hannah,

          I have dedicated a nearly 2-hour episode to your comments. Thank you for contributing and sharing. I apologize if I seem harsh at times but I think that is needed given the extent of this. I think that you should seek active care from a therapist or mental health care professional. It looks to me like you are inappropriately attached to a bad situation. Please do this and then let me know how it goes for you.

          Here’s the episode:


          Thanks again!