How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional

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Dysfunctional people have a way of turning the tables on others. That is, they find a way to make those around them feel like they are the problem, when, in reality, their turbulent heart is the source of turbulence in their lives. (James 4:-1-2)

 

 

Are You Dealing with a Dysfunctional Person?

 

You might be dealing with a dysfunctional person, especially in marriage, if one or more of the following often occurs:

 

1. You find yourself constantly second guessing your actions and motives

2. You are often over-evaluating what you did wrong to make that spouse, friend, or family member mad

3. You are constantly playing a tape in your mind of what you may or may not have done wrong

4. You find yourself taking the blame or apologizing so as to smooth over a situation

5. You are walking an ever so fine line so as not to offend that particular person

6. You are constantly having to explain away the other person’s actions to others so as to keep the peace

7. The relationship is more of a source of exhaustion than refreshment

 

How They Turn the Tables Around

 

Dysfunctional people are almost ingenious at making others feel like they are the problem. Though this is mostly done in the subconscious realm, they are, nonetheless, extremely good at putting people in a defensive mode, making the innocent feel guilty, or portraying the perpetrator as the victim.

Let me supply just a few reasons how dysfunctional people have a way of making others feel like they are the problem:

 

1. They project their shortcomings on others

 

Titus 1:15 tells us:

 

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and their conscience is defiled.”

 

Paul teaches us that a dysfunctional person views others through the lens of their own dysfunction. That is, if they have a problem with lust, then they project that on others. If they struggle with gossip, lying, and selfishness, then they typically assume others are guilty of the same.

For this reason, I have a rule that I follow: The accusations of others typically are revealing the sin of the accuser than the defendant. In fact, I have even heard some say that, in spiritually abusive and highly legalistic settings, if you want to find out with what sin the preacher struggles, listen carefully to what sin he denounces the most.

A dysfunctional person has a way of reading things into situations so as to cause those around them to either feel defensive, inadequate, or downright mad. Consequently, they have made those around them to feel just as bad as themselves, and, to be honest, this is typically one of their their goals as misery seems to love company.

 

2. They draw others offsides

 

The dysfunctional spouse, parent, or friend has a way of drawing others offsides. In other words, because they are hard to live with, they have a way of provoking others to lose their cool. Once this occurs, a vicious cycle starts in that the recipients feel guilt and remorse while the dysfunctional person feels a sense of empowerment or vindication because of the apologies they receive.

 

3. They lack self-awareness

 

Though we can psychologize and theorize all we want, at the end of the day, dysfunctional people are difficult to be around, and, they are usually far too self-absorbed to see that they are the issue.

Due to a lack of self-awareness, all they can see are people either getting frustrated or withdrawing from them. Unfortunately, instead of looking within, they blame without, and as long as this cycle occurs, they will fail to make progress in their lives.

The best day of my life was when I started to take personal responsibility for the environment that my sin and selfishness had created. Instead of blaming my wife and others for the difficulties in my life, I realized that even the tallest branch at the top of the tree of my difficulties was a result of my own root of bitterness.

In Matthew 7, Jesus said:

 

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

 

Jesus was fully aware that we see dysfunction in others easier than in ourselves. This is why so many are prone to heatedly accuse yet coldly repent.

 

Fight Against Dysfunction

 

For spouses dealing with a dysfunctional spouse, we would highly recommend fighting, but in ways that actually work. This is why one of our major steps for women as well as men is to lay down weaponry that is ubiblical in nature and start using weaponry that helps to forumulate what I call a win-win scenario for God’s glory and both spouses. We deal with this more specifically in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of our marriage book, How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting With One Another.

 

Ordering Our Marriage Book

 

For ordering information about our marriage book, How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting With One Another, be sure to visit our online store. Our marriage book is available in paperback or Kindle format.

Order our Christian Marriage Book
How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting with One Another

 

  • Learn our 2-step Process to Solving Marriage Issues
  • Use for your next Bible study
  • A Biblical Yet Refreshing Approach

 

 

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51 comments on “How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional
  1. Eagle says:

    Question. How do we know God put the marriage together? Did anyone ask him. I hate that scripture being thrown around. There is more iniquity being felt out than not. Most people assume it was God. But the enemy sends in those who lie cheat and take advantage of the real Christian in the relationship. And those were not sent by God nor did he put them together. This needs to be seen in the church and the church needs to discern between flesh presumption and spirit

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hello,

    I’m married 10 months and 3 weeks ago my husband asked for divorce. It is the 3rd time in few months that he claims it.

    I guess he suffers of bipolar disorder because some attitudes he has that are very similar to a patient with this disease.

    My husband says that I’m too good for him, that I deserve somebody better than him, that he doesn’t know if he loves me the same way he used to… but before this crisis we were having amazing days together… it doesn’t make any sense.

    I don’t know what to do and what to think. I don’t know how to act face this situation. He said he would apply for divorce papers but he didn’t yet.

    Friends and family say that maybe it is going to be better for me to be apart, because he is a person very unstable and I will suffer too much if we keep married. I love him and I’m disposed to walk with him another mile… but it doesn’t depends on me anymore…

    I don’t know how I can save my marriage…

    • Kathy Mcgowan says:

      If you really love him, go for counseling for both of you. Being bipolar must be really tough for him and confusing. Maybe he can get on the right meds and you can save your marriage. He is probably scared.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is what my husband says years ago and I am in the divorce process. Set your boundaries, maybe he is suffering from addictions.

  3. G Coleman says:

    Would these principles work for other unhealthy relationships, for example, between siblings you love but who are, perhaps dysfunctional themselves and often casting accusations in others? If not, is there a resource for dealing with that type sutuation?

  4. Mary says:

    I also recommend Leslie Vernick’s materials. She has some great videos online. I’m sorry for all- I was married to a dysfunctional cheating man for more than 30 years. I felt condemned for not having enough faith, not praying enough, not being a helpmeet. You can’t change them. Separate, and see if they’ll change.

    • Ava says:

      Amen!!! Leslie Vernick is a God send. Sometimes hard consequences are the only way a disfunctiinal spouse can be dealt with. Then the dysfunctional spouse can clearly see what the choices are and make one. Sometimes walking away and leaving it between your spouse and God is the most loving thing you can do.

  5. Tyna Begley says:

    Dr. Force,

    Do you have any advice for the marriage where only 1 person is trying? My hubby often apologizes for bad behavior, but the behavior doesn’t change. He’s not interested in counseling or even a book. He says he’s trying to change and that should be enough for me. He often tells me I’m hyper-sensitive, so I need to just get over it.

    • Hannah says:

      Sounds like classic narcissist behavior which this article largely describes. You need more than just you to help

    • Mary says:

      Oh yeah- like you’re the problem. He can’t resolve anything. I highly recommend Leslie Vernick. You can watch a lot of her stuff online. You’ll feel less crazy and spiritually edified.

    • Rebecca says:

      That sounds exactly like my husband wish I had more words of encouragement. Only keep your eyes on God

    • Denise says:

      I understand you pain and frustration. Iv been married 2 yrs when his cooler age daughter moved in wth us and things immediately changed. Suddenly I was blamed for all things that have gone wrong. I started counseling a year ago and neither m husband nor his daughter will go with me. My husband resents the fact that I’m gong now and he’s a wow daughters have him convinced that m the problem.
      I pray for Gods guidance and blessings upon my marriage all the time. However, I am dealing with non believers.

      Denise

  6. Susan Smith says:

    This article makes me wonder who the dysfunctional one is-me or my husband. Of course it’s easy to point fingers, but I really am trying to work on me. He really has made me question what is wrong with me? How can I say that I am not responsible for his feelings, i.e. his happiness. He thinks we are responsible for each other. He is convinced he doesn’t matter to me, that I don’t need him. Well, let’s be real here-I don’t “need” him to survive. I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. But that has no bearing on the fact that I want him in my life and I want to be a part of his. We have been married 20 years. Our baby just graduated high school this weekend. We have been separated since the end of March. We went a month without seeing each other. There were emails and texts, not all of them nice. When we finally met face to face, that really broke the ice. We were having real, honest conversations about where we were and what we wanted in life. Just when I have started to maybe let my guard down and think I see a light at the end of the tunnel, he gets mad at my saying he’s not responsible for my feelings and, among other things, tells me to go live my life with my precious baby boy.
    I am trying to be still and listen to what the God is trying to tell me. At this point, I don’t know if this is the enemy coming in to steal, kill and destroy, or if God is trying to tell me to walk away.

    • Beth says:

      I encourage you to fight for your marriage. It sounds like your husband has some ideas about marriage that aren’t healthy, but your marriage isn’t something you just walk away from. The end of a marriage is a death. Seek God for the tools you need and find out how to fight for your marriage. Fight for life.

      • Phyllis says:

        I been married 29 years raised his 3 children and my son all as one family in the church. Later raised 3 granddaughters. Years and years of me writing in my journals of things he said my tears and sadness. Very lonely marriage. I been on anti depressants with anxiety 3 yrs after marriage when he was always bursting my bubble and not backing me with kids with regard to God i.e. discipline. All kids older now and I think I taught them to suffer, never give up,and they all learned to treat me as he has. I separated and came back when he claimed to truly repent to God. I can see some changes but believe it to be because he knows I’m tired and done with the marriage. I’m hurt. I feel my relationship with God has suffered that I can not serve God as I did prior to him because he had always disapproved. I want to run to find me again, to heal and draw closer to my savior

        • Noreen says:

          Wow! I know your not alone because you just described myself. The running away and finding oneself eats at me all the time. When doing that I can applaud myself for time away and with the Lord, but it still feels lonely. I’m not totally convinced that we can resolve disfunction on this side of eternity. It’s just another fall of mankind or consiquences of it, but I do believe once we embrace the fact that no one is perfect and stop striving for perfection in human kind, (change our exspectations) we are able to give mercy and grace to all. I like the fact that God knows the desire of our hearts even when we are trying to comfort others imperfectly. I hope this was some help to you. My I recommend “when the hurt runs deap” by Kay Author?!

    • Linda Jacobs says:

      Too much for quick reply from anyone! I noticed one thing that concerned me: You call your high school graduate who is a young adult, a “baby”…and your husband made reference to that as well.

      • Lauree says:

        Sounds like ‘baby’ is the object of your affection instead of your husband. Your desires are to be to your husband not your children. When there is ‘spiritual incest’ between a spouse and a child the other spouse will act out like a jilted lover( because they are a jilted lover) and they will usually end up hating the ‘idol’, even abusing the idol and sometimes Incest will occur or they will go out and have an affair. It will manifest in the natural what is going on in the spiritual. It will look like the jilted spouse who hated the kid or abused the kid or was caught having an affair was the sinner, but in reality it is the other spouses sin of idolatry and putting the child/work/friends/church before their spouse that started the destruction.
        #eyestosee

        • Sheila says:

          Spiritual incest? I sometimes call my 28 year old son my “baby” because he was my youngest child. It is a term of endearment. I will always see that sweet little boy in him. He is obviously a grown man now and I love him dearly. He is literally a part of me and we are spiritually connected. Only a selfish narcissist would “act out and feel like a jilted lover”, because in their minds they are the only ones deserving of attention, no one else….ever….only them. Only a narcissist would put such a spin on something so pure as the love between a mother and her children. Instead of joining in and being a part of a loving family and being thankful for a solid family unit, they end up on the outside looking in and resenting the fact it is not all about them. They are miserable so it is easy for them to throw out weird accusations and cast blame to try to make everyone else feel guilty and bad about themselves. A spouse who thinks this way does not deserve to be put on a pedestal and worshiped! Take care of yourself and love your children! Don’t feed the monkey, they will just hurl crap at you!

        • Jm says:

          Your crazy, how do you read all that into it. It’s just a mother’s live for her child.

    • Been there! says:

      He sounds like he’s trying to manipulate you into feeling guilty in expecting him to take responsibility for himself. Don’t give in, in essence stick to your guns in telling him he is responsible for his own feelings, man up admit when you’re wrong and change your behavior.

    • DC says:

      I thought it was just me experiencing this, thank you for your honesty. Don’t give up!

    • Anonymous says:

      Matthew 19:6 “…therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. God will take what is meant to tear your marriage apart to make it stronger. Pray for God to reveal your faults and weaknesses, as well as praying for your husband’s heart. Ask for His guidance in your communication, that He would ordain every word that you speak, you will see and feel the changes. I do not believe God would ask you to walk away. And I always say Thank you Lord for your mercy and grace. Prayers for your marriage, for God to put HIS understanding in your husbands heart , and for peace in your heart

    • Michelle says:

      I think we all have to deal with our individual personality issues that may need improving.
      Sounds like your husband is jealous of your relationship with your son. Not uncommon.
      Make sure to express in ways your husband understands that he’s your priority.
      If he’s not, then you can work on that.
      Your husband will have to work on his own issues. Nobody can change somebody else.
      Support each other and try to grow together.
      What God has joined together let no man or woman separate. God bless.

    • Anonymous says:

      Continue to work on yourself. When you are healed from the damage he has done, you won’t worry about what to do about him anymore. You will be strong and ready to move on with your healthy self and in the future, healthy relationships.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the spiritually healthy and whole plan. If every time I worried about any other persons behavior I would stop and work on my spiritual health – I am certain God would show me answers direct my path and even heal my heart from whatever I may face! He has done this before with what at the time appeared dire circumstances. Now looking back I see yes the were hard but I was only adding fuel to the fire to try to fix them and Satans biggest trick on my mind is to convince me I need to “figure it out” – maybe I’ll never know some answers, don’t even remember most of the questions – when God is completely in control in my heart and life it’s s different world – even when my circumstances do not change!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I couldn’t agree more, I have found the most peace and seen more change in my relationship with my husband when I pray for God to reveal my own imperfections, and to help me to “lean not on my own understanding” and trust him to work out the details

  8. Michelle says:

    I am so thankful for this article. As I was reading, I couldn’t believe, 1-7. I have the book aleeady.I guess I need to read it again. This describes my relationship perfectly. I really was starting to question my own sanity.
    Wondering, am I going koo koo…
    Thank you so so much for this article. Truly,the Lord led me to read this.

  9. Tiffany says:

    I am dealing with this right now. A couple of weeks after us getting married last year, this is when all of the controlling, dysfunctional arguments, nick picking, criticizing, accusing, blaming, yelling and name calling started. I couldn’t believe my husband was/would talk to me in such a way. So in defense, I became defensive and would say things back. We sought out a marriage counselor in December 2016 and ended Feb 2016 for financial reasons. The counseling was helping me a lot, my husband did not like the counselor so I suggested we find another, but he refused. We’ve had a few good weeks/days, but as soon as I say or do something that he doesn’t like, he blows up on me. He would disrespect my boundaries, lack of respect, belittle and demean me and hitting below the belt. So in defense, I would hit below the belt. I clearly understand wrong is wrong, right is right, but it was so hard living with my husband. Our marriage began to become unsettled at the beginning of this month. To the point that he ended up changing the house locks and I had to move. Now he sought out to a marriage counselor and coincidentally, its the same one that he doesn’t like to work to save our marriage. I feel that this separation would be good for the both of us and especially him. So he could reflect on how he mistreated me during 1 yr and 3 months of our marriage. I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I don’t want to divorce him, I just wish he’ll get the mental help that he needs and come out of his denial. I don’t know how long of a separation this would be but I am going to counseling for myself also. To help in rebuilding back my self-esteem, self-confidence and learning how to set my personal boundaries. Yet, I’m so sad and disappointed that my marriage is short lived. I don’t know what else to do after praying, improving myself, counseling and healing from the situations that had occurred in my marriage.

    Would you have any suggestions? I’m willing to fight for my marriage, but I need help…

    • Anonymous says:

      Obviously not a proponent of divorce but similar situation. I was separated from my husband for 2 years and as of last week our divorce was final. I think if you’ve prayed and have peace with the Holy Spirit about your decision that’s between you and the Lord and no one else. I was also with someone who didn’t respect boundaries, same instance with counseling- it was my fault. I’ve never been happier and closer to the Lord. Good luck in your journey.

    • Diana says:

      I have been though the exact same situation the first five yrs of my marriage!!! Not understanding why and where is this coming from? Trying to figure out what did I do so wrong!!! but for me not having no one to talk to or lean on soI looked to God. I prayed and ask God for a lot of piece and to give me the strength daily. Several times divorce came to thought but because of the very wise six weeks of counseling before marriage that we had I knew that I couldn’t give up.. I mean I could tell you some horror stories it was rough.. Though it all God allowed me to see that the satan was trying to destroy what he had joined together. I tried to explain to him several times it was a spiritual fight that was going on in the marriage but he couldn’t see it so I refuse to give up inspite of. I keep looking to the heels from which my help came from.. As time went on my situation slowly ceased. I asked God why is it hard for him to let someone close in his heart ?And the lord told me it’s because he never was showed love a a child and that he is harvesting a lot of bitterness and resentment in his heart. So now I have an understanding of why after so many years together. We have been married for eighteen years now and I am proud to say that we are happy with one another. So keep the faith my sister and keep praying and most of all don’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Mark Becker says:

      RUN! They don’t change! I spent 18 years trying to change my ex wife! Don’t waste your time!

      • Anonymous says:

        Mistake #1: (for future reference) You cannot change anyone else. With God’s help you can only hope to change yourself. To attempt to change someone else usurps God’s authority, it’s contoling behavior, and it never works. But to pray for positive change in yourself is selfless. To pray for your spouse is what we are also called to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your problem was trying to change her. That isn’t your job. God calls you to love her to the point of giving g your life. When we are obedient, God is the one who does the changing.

    • M&M says:

      1 Corinthians 7:16 basically says you don’t know if you can save your husband so I wouldn’t assume that you’ll have a happy ending like Diana. Only God can show you when to stay and when to leave.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your husband sounds like a narcissist. There’s no help for them. They kill you slowly! Get out! Research narcissist/sociopaths/psychopaths

    • Sandee Kingston says:

      I went through that too. We are approaching an 18 year anniversary. First year of marriage was like yours and actually went into 13 more like it. I am a believer. I had a ton of spiritual support through those years. The problem in ours is that my husband has never been willing to let God be first. I have been the spiritual leader. Years of prayer drew me closer to the Lord but life in my home was hell being alone serving him. We have raised our adopted child together and she has been the glue to keep us together. My husband has not changed through the years. He has mellowed but he’s still the same guy. I have stayed longer than I should have though. What I want to say to you is… don’t be guilted into staying married because it’s what everyone says to do. I did. I did not want to fail in my faith and disappoint the other people in my life. With God all things are possible! That is so true! We must listen to our hearts. The Lord hears them and he does not want any child of his to be verbally abused either. Don’t make excuses for your spouse. He entered into marriage with you and has to be responsible for his actions. I hate to say this and be synical but the truth is people don’t really change. I spent a lot of years hoping for that but then I became tired and lost track of me by keeping the peace too long. Be wise. Take care of you. Your spouse will need to grow up without your help. Hopefully he will. For me, I am getting a divorce. I have decided that God can’t use me while I am not being true to myself and my daughter. He will help me get through it and I will breathe easy one day again. I’m on a new journey and that helps me know my life will be restored. I pray you have great discernment during this time. God Bless you.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have been married over 40 years. We have 3 kids all grown & gone. Still same problems. It took me many years to change. We both came from dysfunctional families. Went through counseling, filed divorced once & didn’t follow through. Left so many times & came back because he promised he would change. Always went back to previous behavior. I became a Christian, raised our kids in church. He believed but didn’t grow, rarely went to church. I’m in my 60’s now. Wish I had’nt given in. I should have left & not looked back.

        • Anonymous says:

          Prayers being sent from this believer, we serve a merciful God. I pray for your peace and happiness, fulfillment and contentment of your heart. I pray for your husbands heart, mind and soul, that God would reach him and heal him and that your relationship would be a testimony of Gods reward for His faithful servants. That you would both have fulfillment through God’s healing of your marriage and find peace and happiness that you’ve never known. All for the glory of our Heavenly Father, In Jesus’ name. I pray that joy would abound and people would notice! Amen

      • Anonymous says:

        I really needed to hear this!

    • Vane says:

      My sister sounds like your husband is Bipolar. Need to check with a doctor. My husband is bipolar and medicated, but still it’s a struggle been married for 10 months only and I on the verge of filling for divorce … I found a Facebook closed group for spouses with Bipolar sposes, and it’s helpful information, I learned a lot.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are in a good place seeking counseling and out of the “fire”. Continue building and setting boundaries for yourself, remind yourself that you are valuable to God. Don’t hurry getting back together, loneliness can be sad and disappointing but think of the emotional freedom and peace that can be had when you don’t have someone devaluing and disrespecting you. Don’t think that you being out of his life will cause him to gain self-awareness, if anything it just adds time for them to plot how they will use feelings of loneliness to their advantage. Rest and wait for true change.

    • Kari says:

      Be grateful you saw this now. There are some good books about the verbally abusive relationship. Likely he can not self reflect. Very likely he is incapable of change. I was married to one for 17 years. Kept thinking that if a counselor could just explain to him that he doesn’t get to call me names etc., things would get better. Look for the book “Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft. I left nearly two years ago. Cried everyday for months. I feared for my safety so I left while he was at work and made sure someone was with me anytime we exchanged the children. I thought maybe he would realize how I did contribute to the family and household once I wasn’t there. Never has. He is just still pissed at me and still calls me names and twists things around so everything is still my fault. We now only text when necessary and I avoid him whenever possible. We have two school aged children so we must have contact sometimes. The books will help you see. Over the last couple of years I have felt like layers have been lifted from my “eyes” little by little. It’s been amazing what I’ve realized about him. You will heal and get stronger. Check out the book “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst. Title doesn’t tell it all. Good for healing. You only get one life and it’s yours to live and not for someone else.

  10. Marla says:

    So I’m struggling with this circumstance. I’ve read your book as well as my spouse. If one loses their cool, and pushed the other…who is actually the dysfunctional one? I’m seeking all sorts of help to fix me thinking I’m the problem. I’m so sad by this. How do I pray?

    • May I ask a question? Do you both have chapter one down? That is, do you both wake up feeling spiritually healthy and whole? If not, then you will both keeping “digging into” one another to fill that void. This is not an insignificant point. Do not simply add this to your list of marriage counseling tips. It is not just a good point, but rather the point for many couples as healthy individuals make up a healthy marriage.

      Dr. Force

    • Kingston says:

      You are not the problem. Do NOT make excuses for him! Get counseling for you only. Marriage counseling won’t work till you feel like a strong, whole person. He should do the same.

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