How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional


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.

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Posted in Marriage Advice

91 comments on “How Dysfunctional People Make You Feel Dysfunctional
  1. Jewel says:

    I’ve been with my spouse for 23 years and his emotionally abusive tendencies started after our son was born and he is going to be 22 soon. We’ve been going to church since our son was 2. I grew up in a Christian home, my husband parents rarely went to church but his grandma has been the main Christian influence all his life. His parents divorced when he was a teenager. His relationship with his mother has been estranged for 10 years now. I’ve only held on this far because of prayer and my parents spiritual support..we have 3 children now. I never realized that our home was dysfunctional until 8 years ago, and that I was in a emotionally abusive environment, I’ve never been called outright lazy but told things to make me feel like I was, he never wants to read or watch any videos about marriage or parenting, our oldest son has never bonded with him and they are not close. My oldest son is going on a path that is not right now because of this. I wanted to get counseling when we had problems with our son and him in high school, at the time he was willing, so was my son but that never happened. It seems as though my husband has an unteachable spirit on him, along with a lot of of this week my husband will not talk to me face to face n only talks to me through our kids and texts because I got upset with the way he was talking to me and I would not help him with something he wanted me to do, then after going to our bedroom and laying on our bed he tells me to get off my bed! I get mad and push him because i getting fed up of being talked to like that..this is the longest he’s ignored me, usually it’s 3 days..after a week if this he texts n says he’s been waiting for me to apologize..right now I know I should but I told him I’m not the only who should be apologizing and I’m tired of him ignoring me when he thinks I’m the only one in the wrong.
    So many times I’ve forgiven him without an apology or if there was it wasn’t sincere..I’ve put up with so much for so long, felt my heart harden many times but because of my faith in God, prayer, my mom and Christian friends I’ve kept on going…my mother dreamt my husband divorced me and had been praying for us even before this happened..there has been a spiritual battle in his fathers family for awhile now too..Satan has been working overtime..I made the Mistake of preaching at him in the past…but he has no one that holds Him accountable, no Christian brother he talks too either…his mother was very controlling and this was why they are now estranged..seems like everything is stacked against us but yet I am still trusting God for a breakthrough!!

    • Chuck Moll says:

      My wife and I have known each other for 28 years. After the passing of her late husband in 2012 in which was a good friend of mine,her and I began talking 3 months after his passing. I had just came out of a marriage of 13 years with my wife’s late husbands 1st cousin. Although his side of the family rejected us for wanting to be together, we fell in love and were engaged 6 months later. My wife and her late husband had 9 children, who I watched grow from infants to teenagers and I had 3 children from my previous wife. We have tried very hard to blend our family and it has been a very rough road. During our relationship I had a drug problem that at times my own mother would enable me. My wife tried to help me get clean and thought I was for five years but I relapsed and lied to my wife which created a huge trust issue. I have always been close with my mother all of my life. We decided to marry on 12/13/14 although we had issues. We have been married a little over three years and have filed for divorce. I love my wife dearly and can not let her go. I have often contemplated suicide from the thought of losing another wife. We fight a lot , over my parents, my children and my ex wife and so many hurtful things are said to each other. I will apologize for doing wrong and ask for forgiveness but she will not forgive me, but times she has been wrong or hurt me deeply she refuses to say I’m sorry and will not make any attempt to forgive me. She will hold onto everything and will always pick the negatives out of every situation and will never try to be positive. I know I have done my fair share of causing hurt and am from by far perfect but I will say sorry. I love my wife and want to be with nobody but her and it breaks my heart that after all we have been through, she just wants to give up and not fight anymore. I feel worthless like I’m not good enough to be fought for as a person. Can anyone give some light to this as to what we could possibly do?

      • Lisa says:

        I too have this. The emotional abuse is way worse than physical abuse

      • Anonymous says:

        What you’ve shared sounds like you were writing about my life. Wow! How do we know when to leave and when to stay? I just want to be free to live my life for the Lord and for my boys. Many prayers for you.

        • Anonymous says:

          At some point we all have to accept that covering up for an abusive spouse does not mean that it is ok – it is not! Our silence can also become a sin when we are leading our spouse into a perfect place for their repeated sin by – of all things, saying nothing to the world around you.

          If you are not speaking up because you are afraid of your spouse, listen to what you are saying by not saying anything! Go get help – find Godly counsel that will help you determine at what point safety and sin are more than enough and it’s time to speak up.

      • Dee says:

        Learn about Narcasstic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Sounds like a classic case

    • Claire says:

      Jewel, it sounds like your husband has a narcissistic personality. I highly recommend a book called The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick for strategies in dealing with him. Personally, I think.he is banking on you catering to him. He isn’t valuing you by how awful he treats you by withdrawing (a form of control) and his ego and pride are destroying your marriage. It isn’t “Christian” for you to be his emotional punching bag. Theirs is some misleadings in church circles about divorce and the situations that call for it. Your sound mind, sanity and gifts are to be used to glorify the Lord and build His kingdom and not take you to the pit of hell on earth with an unrepentant, divisive and prideful ego driven husband. Sorry if this is harsh, but tip toeing around him (unless he gets right with God and also you) will get you nowhere. You will know if his heart has been transformed by a radical change. Don’t continue going around the same mountain. ((Hugs))

      • Denise says:

        Thank you for this insight, Claire. I feel that our Father guided me to your words that help me see things in a new way. I’ve been giving chance after chance after chance to save what is more of a malignancy than a marriage. You wrote that our gifts are to glorify God and to build His kingdom, not to be used by an unsubmitted and unrepentant spirit to create for us a living hell on Earth. There is the hate which is so blind, so dark, that love only makes it the more violent. I left him but let myself be talked into coming back. It’s much worse now. It started up almost immediately after moving back. Finally, after 6 months of being told weekly, some weeks daily, what a disgusting person I am, being called horrible names, told the most horrible things about myself and my grown children and small grandchildren, him trying to make it so that I can’t eat (I’ve lost almost 20 lbs and I’m a thin woman), him telling me he’s going to change the locks, kick me out, take my 401K (smiled and said it was free money), etc., I decided to save $ to get my own place. I had been paying all the bills even though he makes nearly twice as much as I do but I couldn’t keep doing that AND save to move. He’s no longer profiting off of me financially and is furious even though he has been telling me to get the f out of his house, asking how soon I can be out. I suffer from migraines…stress is the main trigger and so they’ve become more frequent and unrelenting. I had to call in sick today…headache started Monday and today is Wednesday. Second day I’ve missed at the new job I got at his demand…he didn’t like my off shift so demanded that I get a first shift job. Day three and so intense I asked him to drive me to urgent care this morning. That was a mistake. He started yelling, threatening, insulting….agony I can’t describe. He had to go to work and couldn’t take me (salaried and his work would’ve been absolutely fine with a family emergency). I have to get away, this time no contact and for good. Your wisdom will help me. Thank you again.

    • Jenny says:

      Who taught you that loving somebody equates to tolerating abuse? You and your kids are way more important. Get out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a doctor or psych but dated a handful of narcissists and your husbands actions match up with the same mental and emotional abuse I’ve endured.

    • MHB says:

      What you’re describing sounds like boarderline personality disorder. Have you done some any reading on it before? Worth taking a look into. There’s a treatment called Dialectial Behavorial Therapy (DBT) that is highly effective. Prayers for you!

    • MHB says:

      What you’re describing sounds like Boarderline Personality Disorder. I know a lot of people suggested Narcisstisic Personality Disoder and although, both have some similar trates, you would know the difference based on your husbands actions once you read about the two. Have you done some any reading on these before? Worth taking a look into. There’s a treatment called Dialectial Behavorial Therapy (DBT) that is highly effective. Prayers for you!

      • Mason says:

        Was in an emotionally abusive marriage for over 15 years. Verbal abuse mostly. Toward end of marriage was getting more physically abusive. Constantly being berated in front of my children and openly accused of past mistakes that were not major sins (i.e. not adultery, not murder) and not practiced sins. PHd Christian marriage counselor with nearly 40 years experience told me to get out of the marriage as my wife appeared to have an axis 2 personality disorder. Counselor said most people with those disorders do not change. Those type disorders can include Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic PD or combination of 15 other types of PD’s. Counselor also stated that from his experience marriages that do not act or look like Christ and the church usually are not blessed. Was staying in it for the children but realized the marriage was not the best thing for the children.

        • Ann Young says:

          I was in a what became a misarable marriage going in 13 years. My husband and I had been happy at first, however, he started drinking. We had a son and a daughter. I took care of them, did all house work, cut the grass no matter where we lived, cooked 3 times a day, did all the grocery and clothes shopping, My husband worked and slept and when he began drinking, he got worse as time went on. When we were married 12 yrs I prayed and a friend of mine and myself fasted and prayed what for me to do because my husband was so bad that he was drunk most of the time and had began missing work, something he had never done. When I received the Word from God,and yes He did give me an answer, and it was to get my children and get out now. I did not think God would tell me to leave my husband and I talked myself out of it. Wrong, I should have obeyed the Lord, about a weak later, he got on a Big Red, went down in a coal mining strip, drank a whole fifth of whiskey, was drunk, started back up the strip pit to our home, when he could not get over a washed out place, he gave the Big Red the gas and it reared back on him, beat him in the chest and caused a chest contusion. He was taken to the hospital ER but due to many long and several complications, after almost 4 mos. in the hospital, he left with brain damage and severe motor skill damage. After he regained enough skills and could care for himself, I could not handle any more. A week before the accident he told me that he liked to drink and that if he decided he didn’t he would let me know. So if you need to cut off a relationship for good reason, pray and if agouti get the answer yes, or if you know to do it because of the Word and the situation warrants, do it now!

    • Anonymous says:

      Do not apologize. Period
      He needs you.

    • Jennifer Miller says:

      Just wondering if small things are said sometimes like “why wouldn’t/would I?” In response to a question where one feels confused about an action.

    • Genesis says:

      Jewel, I just read your comment and I can relate on many levels. My husband likewise thinks that he is always right, does not acknowledge his sin, but puts it back on me, is unteachable and not accountable to anyone. I even went to the church leadership, and they saw the same sin in him that I did. They confronted him according to Matthew 18, but he totally rejected everything, said they violated proverbs 18:17 b/c they never heard “his” side. My husband no longer goes to church, but still wields the Bible as a weapon against me (“you used to be submissive, the Bible says you must forgive, preaches reconciliation yet won’t acknowledge his sin). I also prayed in faith for years, not knowing exactly what was wrong in our relationship (married 21 years) but it was clear something was wrong. The blinders came off of my eyes two years ago and I realized that he was emotionally, financially and spiritually abusive, mixed in with his entitlement attitude and pride. In the months following that revelation, I have now come to the conclusion that God can change anyone’s heart UNLESS that person REFUSES to change, refuses to self-reflect. The Lord is a gentleman and will not force anyone to do His will, we have the freedom to chose our own course, and my husband has continued to live for himself and refuse to see the truth…..So, now we live as roommates in our home with 3 kids 13 and under, one with special needs. I am praying about what my next move is, regarding separation. I’ve heard it said that a person will not change until it becomes too painful to stay the same.
      Can I recommend a few books for you to read, if you haven’t already, that will help you in your situation? One is “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” by Leslie Vernick. She is a Christian licensed counselor and also has a Facebook page with wonderful, helpful articles.
      Also, “Fool Proofing Your Life” by Joy Silvanus. (i may have spelled her last name wrong). She uses the book of Proverbs to clearly define a Biblical Fool and how to protect yourself from one.
      “Healing From Hidden Abuse” by Shannon Thomas is another great book.

      I pray that the Lord would empower you and give you the wisdom to take care of YOU and allow God to deal with your husband. Whatever that looks like.
      God Bless you

    • Miranda says:

      Jewel, how are things now? Any changes?

    • Anonymous says:

      Putting it all in God’s hands is always the best to do, but- God also gives us brains and heart to know that He wants better for us than what you’re living- and by not leaving, you’re hurting your children by allowing them to continue to see the type of relationship (abuse) that is toxic and unhealthy. They will turn out the same way. I left horrible abuse after 17 years, with my 8 year old son and never looked back. Grass is SO a greener on the other side. Your kids lives and futures are much more important than you staying!

  2. Dave says:

    My wife blames me for everything that’s gone wrong and makes false accusations all the time. She makes me leave but then keeps calling me when she needs something.I spent most of the winter on street or in house with no heat or electric and been a long winter. I need to get the courage to not answer to her yet I still feel the commitment she never did. I need God’s strength to walk away once and for all never to speak to her again and perhaps then she will learn what she is throwing away

    • Dave says:

      BTW we both knew God brought us together 6 yrs ago but when things got tough she decides we are not equally yoked

    • Anonymous says:

      You must break away and have absolutely no contact with her. She’s a narcissist and is discarding you then Hoovering you back. Like a yo yo. No doubt she’s gaslighting you as well. B strong. Endure the big hurt and get away from her.

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