What Is The Wtf Moment? From Shrink4men - Of Course, This Does Not Apply To Me... Does It?Male or female - same thing...
What is the WTF moment?
Oprah and her minions talk about having an “a-ha” moment or a defining moment of wisdom that you use to change your life.
It is my belief that men and women in abusive relationships often have the WTF moment when they see behind an abusive partner’s mask for the first time. The WTF moment can be just as defining as an a-ha moment, in that it can be a critical point in an abusive relationship.
The WTF moment is when the non-abusive partner, typically after weeks, months and sometimes years of love bombing, hoop jumping, guilt, manipulation, obligation, fear, self-doubt and blaming and shaming tactics, has a moment of clarity. It’s when you finally realize, “Wait a minute. Something’s wrong here, but it isn’t me.”
Having the WTF moment should be enough to help most people realize they’re in a relationship with an abusive, unstable and possibly sociopathic individual and that you need to end it. However, if you have codependency issues, rescuer tendencies, and other attachment issues, the WTF moment is only the first step of your journey to freedom and emotional health.
Most intimate relationships go through approximately 5 stages, which include:
Re-evaluation and identity formation
The WTF moment typically occurs during the second stage, the power struggle. Most relationships with abusive personalities don’t seem to progress past the third relationship stage of re-evaluation and identity formation, no matter how long the relationship remains intact.
During the first relationship stage, the honeymoon, you tend to view a new love interest through rose-colored glasses. It’s a time of infatuation and mutual idealized projection. Their idiosyncrasies are cute and attraction and passions run high. You focus on all the ways you’re alike and ignore pesky differences.
You may have unrealistic expectations that your new love will be able to meet all your needs and desires and vice versa. Biochemically, your brain is awash with dopamine, testosterone and endorphins, which elevate mood, increase sexual desire and create an overall sense of well-being. In other words, you may not thinking straight nor seeing things and each other as you are in reality.
You may focus exclusively on each other to the detriment of other relationships. This is when a sense of “we” develops and boundaries may become diffuse. There’s often lots of laughter, flirtation, playfulness, sexual desire and a compulsion to reveal everything about yourself to your love interest and learn everything about her.
The honeymoon phase is temporary and lasts anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. If a strong enough bond develops during this period, a couple is more likely to be able to ride out the power struggle stage.
Many relationships don’t last beyond the honeymoon phase, however. Some people are more in love with falling in love than they are with the actual person. They seem to be addicted to the feel-good sensations, novelty and other blissful illusions. They lose interest and move onto the next person who makes their hearts go pitter-pat after the idealization and positive projections stop and the rose-colored glasses are removed.
If you have a history of becoming involved with abusive, sociopathic, high-conflict and/or personality disordered individuals, the honeymoon stage is the most dangerous time for you. This is when you have the “good times” that you cling to later. Emotional predators add to the to the idealization and mutual projections by intuiting what your needs, desires and fantasies are and giving it to you. It’s when you’re the most vulnerable to love bombing and other high-pressure tactics to make a binding commitment.
Warning signs and other red flags are often minimized, rationalized away or ignored during this stage. The good feelings, intense sex, pleasing behaviors and adoration can be so powerful and addictive that it may make it very difficult for you to end the relationship once you have the WTF moment and see behind your abuser’s mask.
Once you enter the FOG of fear, obligation and guilt, you long to go back to the pink cloud of the honeymoon phase, but that never happens. You may see glimpses of the honeymoon behaviors if your abusive partner senses you’re about to make a break for it. This is often when the abuser tries to hoover you back in by engaging in many of the same behaviors she used to reel you in during the honeymoon stage.
The hoover is temporary. It is nothing more than a tactic to avoid abandonment and/or to get you back under the abuser’s control.
The second relationship stage is the power struggle phase, which can last indefinitely. Your brain chemistry returns to normal and disillusionment, disappointment and conflict may arise. It’s when reality hits the fan and is when the WTF moment is likely to occur.
Many of the positive attributes you both projected onto each other are withdrawn and you see each other more clearly. This is when the negative projections begin if you’re involved with an abusive personality. In other words, you stop being the most wonderful man ever, and become the recipient of her twister-roo “You” statements.
You’re selfish. You’re insensitive. You’re angry. You’re mean. You’re a cheater. You don’t care about anyone else’s feelings except your own.
She projects her negative qualities and misbehaviors onto you and expects you to carry them for her. This is when you may both look at each other and exclaim, “You’ve changed!”
The reality is most people don’t change. You’re the same. Maybe you’ve started leaving your dirty underwear on the floor or started to drink directly from the milk carton again, but you’re still pretty much the same guy you ever were. An abusive personality, however, does change.
The fantasy Dr. Jekyll personality diminishes and Ms. Hyde surfaces and takes up residence. For example, the intense sex and pretending to be interested in football stops, and Nasty McCrazy comes out to play.
As your real identities emerge and your differences become apparent, problems arise. An abusive personality often sees these differences as a betrayal and/or a personal attack. Instead of adapting and realizing that everyone has little quirks and irritating habits, she will punish you for not living up to her fantasies and not meeting all of her physical and emotional needs.
Many couples break up at this point if their differences can’t be resolved. Other couples ignore their differences and engage in distancing behaviors, which may foster resentment. Alternately, an abusive partner may begin the process of bullying you into submission.
This is when the struggle for control over you begins in earnest. For example, an abusive partner sets forth an unending series of hoops for you to jump through with the empty promise that she’ll go back to the person she was during the honeymoon phase if only you can successfully jump through all of her hoops and navigate her shifting landmines. Sadly, many men and women fall for this lie.
If you’ve coupled with a healthy individual, this is when you start to merge your friends and families. If you’re with an abuser, this is often when she will try to isolate you from your support system.
For a healthy couple, this stage is also when the real relationship work begins. The partners learn how to adapt, to build trust, to listen, to solve problems, to resolve conflict, to make compromises and appreciate one another’s differences — or at least accept them. In this respect, the conflict during this stage is healthy as both partners figure out their roles in the relationship and helps them separate from the enmeshment of the honeymoon phase.
High-conflict, abusive and/or sociopathic personalities aren’t capable of compromise, give and take, and conflict resolution. It’s her way or there’s hell to pay. This is the stage when the abusive personality’s control issues become evident. Minor differences and disagreements elicit disproportionate rage or emotional withdrawal. Blaming and shaming tactics start and then it hits you.
The WTF moment.
Many of the men with whom I work have not progressed past the power struggle phase in their relationships. In several cases, my clients have been married for 20-plus years. That’s two decades or more of being locked in a power struggle. No wonder they’re exhausted.
If you remain in the relationship after the first WTF moment in the power struggle phase, or second or third or fourth WTF moments, you then progress to the third stage, re-evaluation and identity formation. It’s possible for your abusive partner to remain locked in the power struggle phase while you move on to re-evaluate and, perhaps, resign yourself to the realities of your abusive partner.
During the honeymoon stage, attraction and commitments may be ba
You may ask yourself questions such as:
Do I really love this person?
Do I want to spend the rest of my life with her?
Do I want another 10 years like the last 10 years?
Can I handle being alone?
What will happen if I end the relationship?
Will she let me go amicably or will she try to destroy me?
Will I meet another woman? A better woman?
Will anyone else love me?
What about my kids? My assets?
Is it cheaper to keep her?
Will my family and friends abandon me if I end the relationship?
This is the stage in which one or both of you may engage in affairs because you miss and crave the powerful emotions of the honeymoon stage. It’s not uncommon to pull away from each other and distance yourselves by making the children, hobbies, work and other relationships your primary focus instead of your relationship with each other.
In a non-abusive relationship, if you can both maintain love, communication and trust during the third stage you’re likely to progress the fourth and fifth relationship stages. The latter relationship stages include a rebirth and re-commitment to the relationship built on mutual acceptance, trust, realistic expectations, realistic perspectives of mutual strengths and weaknesses, shared history and maturity.
The pathology of abusers, sociopaths, high-conflict people and many personality-disordered individuals makes it impossible for them to progress past the second and third relationship stages. They simply lack the emotional maturity, communication skills and conflict resolution skills necessary to reach these stages. Many also seem to lack the ability to engage in any meaningful change oriented self-introspection and personal growth.
Many sociopathic abusers lack empathy, refuse to be held accountable for their hurtful behaviors and are unable to trust. How do you trust someone who won’t trust you? How do you trust someone who abuses you, puts you down and tries to control you? I don’t think it’s possible.
Some of the men and women I work with become stuck after having the WTF moment. Oftentimes, they’re stuck because they’re clinging to the memories of the honeymoon stage and engaging in wishful thinking. They have a difficult time letting go of the idealized fantasy person their abusers initially pretended to be.
These men and women seem paralyzed by a combination of misguided hope, uncertainty, fear and longing. They have had the WTF moment, or several WTF moments, and seem to become bogged down in a paralysis of analysis of their abusive partner’s behavior, looking for answers and any sign that the abuser might change. These individuals become self-taught experts on personality disorders and other relationship issues, yet remain stuck.
They have seen behind their abusive partner’s mask, yet refuse to see. They’ve read every relationship book, been through numerous rounds of individual and couples counseling, and have turned themselves inside out to win their abusive partner’s love and approval.
They believe if they try harder, love more, earn more, spend more, do more, are more sensitive, more nurturing, etc., etc., that it will bring back the person with whom they fell in love. What many fail to realize is that the person they fell in love with was artifice; an illusion. In the end, all of the effort and machinations they employ to return to the honeymoon stage are about as effective as pouring water into a bucket with a hole in its bottom.
If we look at this vis-a-vis the stages of loss and mourning, this is a form of denial and bargaining. This is often when the non-abusive partner has another WTF moment. Except this one is directed at the self. Oh my god, WTF am I doing? Why am I trying so hard? Why can’t I walk away? Why can’t I let go? Why do I want to be with someone who treats me so bad?
If this rings true for you, perhaps you had similar experiences in childhood with your parents.
As a child, it’s terrifying to realize the adults you depend upon are mean, crazy and abusive. For children, it feels safer to believe the reason mom and dad are cold, neglectful or mean is because they’re bad. Why? If mom and dad are mean because you’re bad, then maybe mom and dad will be nice if you work extra hard to be good. This damaging belief provides children with some measure of false hope and control in an abusive, dysfunctional and chaotic family environment.
Many of these children carry these faulty beliefs into their adult relationships. They recreate the familiar dynamic with abusive partners and believe they can gain their love if only they work harder at being the perfect partner and meeting all of the abusive partner’s unreasonable and ever-shifting needs, demands and expectations.
If this applies to you, you need to realize that you’re no more likely to get your abusive partner to treat you with love, approval and respect than you were your parents.
Your partner’s abusive behavior is not about you or any defects you may or may not possess; it’s about them and their emotional and psychological defects. Until you fully understand and accept this, you’ll spend your life pouring water into a bottomless bucket or pushing a boulder uphill only to have it roll back down onto you.
After you have the WTF moment and recognize it as such, you have a few choices:
1. You can put the blinders back on and pretend that you don’t know your partner is abusive. You can keep making excuses and blame her behavior on stress, hormones, the kids, anxiety, an abusive childhood, etc., etc., and keep on jumping through hoops, pouring water into a bottomless bucket and/or pushing that boulder uphill.
2. You can stay in the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) and tell yourself you made a commitment and that you’re obligated to stick it out no matter how bad it gets while a little part of your soul is crushed everyday.
3. You can do for yourself what your parents did not. You can love and respect yourself enough to end an abusive relationship with a person who is more interested in controlling you and using you as a whipping post and target of blame for her self-created unhappiness than she is in loving and accepting you, and having a mature relationship.
This is how you go from having a WTF moment to a GTFO moment.