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:
Power struggle
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 based upon projection, fantasy, and, in many cases, unresolved childhood issues. In the re-evaluation and identity formation stage, you consider whether you’re happy with the relationship, who you both are in reality (after the honeymoon stage rose-colored glasses are removed), your roles in the relationship and if you want to remain in the relationship. One or both of you re-evaluate your commitment based on reality as well as your fears and defenses.
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.
Endthegame Endthegame
41-45, M
17 Responses Apr 8, 2012

A timeless post! An amazing timeless post!

Thanks :)

"These men and women (the refused) 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."

Very good.

I hate this "FOG."
Thanks again for the sharing this :)

Wow!!!! Wow!!! Wow!!! And more WOW!!!!

You have described my relationship to a T!!! I'm amazed from reading this and to be honest I fell victim to the second stage which the funny thing is my WTF moment happened the first day I met my first girl to have a lesbian romance. And what's weird is that I had mentioned this in therapy when my my therapist asked me when the problems started and she gave me the "ah-ha!" Moment. Me and my girlfriend didn't have a honeymoon, I mean we kind of did over the phone when we talked for 2 months and I moved to her state (Michigan) but face to face honeymoon? Not at all, I didn't step into her home for the first time with the honeymoon stage, it was the power struggle and now two years in on and off, we're still power struggling and create a honeymoon we never had. But I had too many WTF moments and I do feel like I'm with an abuser. You described her so well I almost thought you were here witnessing it all. She is not willing to compromise or accept that we're different. I'm definitely aware of my WTF moments and red flags and I'm choosing that third step on getting the heck out of dodge as soon as I gather up a exit plan. She definitely as the abuser outdid herself on isolating me. When we first started talking she knew all of the people that were in my circle, including my ex-boyfriend who is my best friend and who she spoke to on the phone. I didn't hide anything, I was honest from gate. When I got to Michigan she didn't want me talking to him at all and fed me crazy things about him. To please her I stopped talking to him. But now I resumed talking to him cause I got to a place of "why the heck am I ignoring the people I love and care about and that has been there for me and that are still there for me?!"

After the isolation I felt like I was becoming who she wanted me to be and began losing myself, not recognizing who I saw in the mirror. And whenever I would reach out to my friends, she would see it as a bad thing and scold me on how wrong it is and I shouldn't talk to them about her.

Wow, I want to say more on how this post impacted me and touched me but it would be too long and I would be writing this post all day.

Thank you so very much for posting this. I'm definitely gonna share this with my friends. Thank you, thank you!

You had the Boiled Frog treatment - feeling bad for being an individual and having friends etc... but once one wakes up there is no turning back.
Good luck - I lifted most of this off the shrink4men site so its not my words BTW

Well I should go and thank shrink4men because this is an amazing post. To me, you both wrote this lol I enjoyed it.

I never heard that..the Boiled Frog Treatment...hmmm interesting.

Sh1t me that's close to the mark, made me queasy reading it. I wish someone had passed me that to read a good few years ago. Thanks smithy8015 for commenting and refreshing this in the stories list.

I want my lost years back - I could bellow this at the sky - much use will it do me.

Great read with a lot of truth! What happens if I am the psychopath??? Would I even know it?

ETG, this is an awesome article, thanks so much for posting it!!! Each bit of positive help from you and the other regulars here help us get one step further on our individual trips from WTF to GTFU. Thank you! :)

Wonderful - so true and insightful. What I want to add is that the abuser is often very careful not to appear so, especially to others and maybe even to the spouse (the abuser is passive-aggressive), so when it comes to the WTF moments, in my case anyway, it has been difficult to define. Such subtle manipulation, such subtle distortion of the truth by the abuser, most of the time. OK, there are also lots of of outright abusive statements actions etc. But it is the subtle ones that have been my WTF moments.<br />
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gypsy said...>. rikaha yes, iv have started noticing how my refuser/abuser distorts his words and how he will use certain words to make me look/ feel hysterical or that my thinking is Wako ... <br />
<br />
in the therapy /counseling circles its "called gas lightening' after a movie Alfred Hitchcock made.

Awesome movie

yea maybe ill go rent it... been years since iv seen the movie

i had a major wtf begining of the year and since then my refuser has became more and more abusive, its all most every other day we are yelling screaming at each other... he says he is stressed cause of being unemployed. <br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
but hell he is going on 4 years with out a job and now he is useing that for an excuse to abuse/refuse me daaaaaaaaaa...<br />
<br />
<br />
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he is pist off- cause he got caught with a g/f on line... ( that is my own thoughts)<br />
<br />
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he is pist off cause i defend my self... ( i talk back to his *** )he turns it around to say im a *****! <br />
<br />
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so now iv been pushed to the point where i live in the spare room, trying not to talk to him, avoiding him as much as i can. <br />
<br />
<br />
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he sits in his bleak lil dark corner ( no lights on ) watching tv, flipping channels all day on the tv ... just a mer shadow of a man ..

Walking in chirping a song- Free,
Opening up the curtains-Free,
Watching a Troll's reaction to cheer and light- Priceless!!!!

rain, love it!! thanks for making me smile!!!

these abusive refusers are a special bunch! <br />
<br />
they lack capabilities to see where they have wronged their loved ones, <br />
<br />
they will stand there and lie about the color of their own eyes as your standing right in front of them... <br />
<br />
they will let you talk till you are blue in the face, trying to explain to them what your needs are, what you expect from them as a partner ... they just don't get it! - i suspect they dont care to.<br />
<br />
they are passive aggressive, cold hearted, delusional, psychotics <br />
<br />
they should come with a warning label... devils advocate lives here...

Allow me to turn the tables for just one moment... thus far all the discussion seems to be realizing you are staying with an abusive person, and how to get away from them... <br />
Now here's my question... let's say you ARE the one abusing your partner, and you've just had an "Oh my God, what am I doing?" moment, is there anything you can do to get help so that you will not abuse your partner anymore; or, if they have already abandoned you, can you learn how to establish a new relationship with someone and not allow yourself to fall into the same routines and behaviors that destroyed all your previous relationships?<br />
<br />
I suppose what I am asking, is if there is any way for an abusive person to redeem themselves and stop being an abuser?

In my experience an abuser usually lacks any kind of insight into their own behaviour, that's the problem.

Im no shrink, but in my attempts to 'fix' my wife I have gone through the mill, read the books, seen the shrinks, couples therapy etc etc etc. In my personal situation the answer is a resounding NO. But that's just for my wifes kind of crazy.
The shrink told me to stop trying to fix her, she said it is rare that they heal themselves as the fear of facing their truth is too high a price. I disagreed of course because a long time ago I loved her. Now I feel sorry for her, and the children, which is why I stay for now.
In my decade or more of studying the crazy my personal opinion is 90% of the time they can't fix themselves, and maybe worse, even if they did after all their bait and switch tactics would you believe them?

f@@@@ nnooooo

Yes there is. In realization is a TON of guilt blame.... reasons to feel bad. DON"T get stuck there. You have to go through a "step" program, recognizing your behavior, get counseling if you can, CHANGE your behavior, find healthy outlets for your feelings-usually something physical, appologize, AND FORGIVE yourself. The last one is so VERY critical.
Regardless of how much pain you may have caused, there is no reason you can't be loving and kind from here. If you don't forgive yourself, it's impossible. And forgiving yourself is harder than you might think.
When I was 13, my step dad had beaten me with canes, sticks, steel toed boots... since I was 8. I had a little brother I shared a room with at 13 and when he got into my things or transgressed, I would spank him. My step dad told me I shouldn't use violence to solve my problems. HE told me not to be him. Through the hypocrisy, I saw the truth. I don't want to be what was done to me, I want to be who I was born to be. I've more exp. having to make amends to my daughter, which was brutal.

Another thought, I'm not "into" tarot, but one card comes to mind, The Tower. A symbol of EVERYTHING you have, and everything you are being completely decimated. This level of destruction is neccessary to rebuild something of substance, something pure, something good. I mention this because that is what the process felt like to me.

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Love, love, love this. If you ever write a book, I am buying the first copy.

The WTF moment. <br />
<br />
For me it was when my wife would not sleep in the same bed with me. <br />
And said she was turning into a badger.

badger?! omg now thats funni

Badgers only meet once a year to mate...

So, since she is a badger, no need for me to be within a thousand miles.

Yes, believe it. Some people just withdraw completely into themselves, and there is nothing you can do about it.

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Being open to learning is essential. Many people prefer to cling to old beliefs and old patterns, for fear new ones will be harder than the old. . Fear is such a powerful force that many people would actually PREFER to keep suffering than to chance things getting better.<br />
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This is where ILIASM plays a hugely helpful role IMO. We have yet to see anyone here say they regret leaving their SM. Which is not to say it has been easy, smooth, or without pain. Simply that, overall, it has been a choice for the better.<br />
<br />
This affirmation that the fears are simply NOT as significant as they might seem has helped many people to leave. Articles like this one (thanks ETG!) are terrific signposts for those genuinely struggling to find their way and wondering what to believe and what not to believe. <br />
<br />
Much "conventional" wisdom about marriages and relationships (such as "just try harder" and "don't give up") are pure hogwash when a relationship is dysfunctional at core. Yet some people conyinue to "hit themselves over the hgead" with these platitudes, rather than to accept the deeper wisdom and more valuable insights provided by articles like this one.<br />
<br />
One sentence in particular stands out for me. It is in the list of questions.<br />
"Will anyone else love me?"<br />
Ask yourself this question too.<br />
"If THIS is love, why would I miss it if it was gone?"

The problem with all of this stuff..is it is very clear to read..and understand..but life is not that way..your reacting quickly...your just responding to a situation..and so it isn't until you read an article..and say..oh gee..12 years ago i guess ishould have done A or B instead of C..there has to be a simpler way to adapt and recognize situations for what they are....the truth instead of the cloudy mirror.

I just pasted it in, took 10 seconds...<br />
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talking to myself? Im not am I? Yes you are. No Im not. Who said that? He did. What, me? No me, the other one, which other ones that? The one on the left, no the one next to him.....<br />
<br />
Oh ****, ther are loads of them!<br />
<br />
Keep taking the pills!

I don't think he meant you ETG.

Probably not... (We are OK guys, he's not on to us!)

ur too funni ,,,,,,,,,,,

Hello ETG<br />
<br />
Well, I know how you have been spending your Easter Sunday with everywhere shut and nothing to do except gaze absent-mindedly at the four walls wondering whether you can actually detect them moving or not.<br />
<br />
Quite a purge. I am sure you have mentioned it more than once before but when is your 'good to go' mission date?<br />
<br />
I forgot to get out to B&Q yesterday to get some paint just so I could have the pleasure of watching it dry and I sure ain't joining the crazies who'll be there tomorrow. I'd sooner join some of those Christian zealots who like to go in for some of that 'refreshing' <i>real</i> self-flagellation stuff. That's not a recommendation, by the way.

Oh, I sat on a cold hard bench with nails on it in a cold chapel next to a slag heap in Wales.

I brought my own paint btw.