Torch Song Trilogy

A perennial favorite on the blog and requested repost:

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and I was pretty tortured and depressed at the time. I had just ended my marriage and was wrestling with my relationship with my adoptive family. I remember crying at the relationship between Arnold and his adopted son David…I wanted a mom like Arnold (Harvey Fierstein), bunny slippers and all.

But I didn’t UNDERSTAND the sentiment, “Love and respect me or get out.” It did not compute. I had not yet learned, as Arnold knew, that love is an action. And I had not yet insisted on it from absolutely everyone.

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A New Year…a New You

      1. The annual GPYB New Year’s Post

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential. – Ellen Goodman

The most important part of rebuilding after a major breakup is to plan out what comes next. For many it may be hard. We might be feeling lost, alone and not “up” to thinking about being the cheerleaders of our lives. We may be kicking and screaming our way through the idea of going it alone. In the past few weeks we’ve felt absolutely shipwrecked by the holidays. We just want them to be over (and they almost are!)

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6 Ways to Become the Best Version of Yourself

Befriend people who have what you want, and do what they do.

If we are incapable of finding peace in ourselves, it is pointless to search elsewhere. ~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

It is impossible to find real love and true friendship until we first love ourselves and are a friend to ourselves. People who have been in bad relationships are usually trying to find something outside themselves to fill up the emptiness, and it will never work. People who are empty attract others who are empty (or who are predators who prey on empty people).

People who are empty are prone to abusive, manipulative, chaotic types who keep them off their pins — or they are prone to withholding people who punish them when they don’t “act properly.” In any event, these types just add to the emptiness. While they might fill the void for a while, they usually make it quite worse in the long run.

The only solution to finding healthy relationships with others is to develop a healthy relationship with yourself first. This solves two problems at once: First, you get healthier, so you are attractive to, and attracted to, healthier people. Second, if you find yourself in a situation you don’t like, you know how to be alone and are less afraid of getting out. Healthy people are not attracted to anyone who is ready to make them their world. They steer clear of that level of neediness. If you want to find the right person, meaning a healthy and loving partner, you have to be the right person.

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Resolving Our Anger At Narcissists

Ten Steps to Feeling Okay Again

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D. , M.Ed.  Copyright 2014

I receive a lot of email and can’t answer them personally so I ask that those who write give me permission to publish the email (with identifying information removed) so that others with similar issues can benefit from the discussion. Lately I’ve received a lot of emails and comments on the this blog about breaking up with narcissists.  This letter represents a lot of themes I have heard throughout the emails and comments.

This response was to the person who wrote and much of the response is for her and for others who write similar things. It reflects me and how I respond to these situations. If you need kinder or gentler advice, please look somewhere else. There are many articles on the internet by an array of therapists. There is a style to suit you if mine doesn’t.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

If you want to write me with your situation please do so at

Hello Susan:

I lived across the street from my ex who seemed to be watching me, as well as his mother who visits him often. I moved out of there 3 months ago after taking a trip to the US to visit family.  My mother and I have never really gotten along and the trip was no different.  We had a huge falling out and have not spoken since.

Please keep in mind that during the past few months I have been struggling with the break-up with my ex, who is a full-blown narcissist. I am not exaggerating and he meets, I believe, 8 of the criteria for narcissism. I joined the support group on the net called The Web of Narcissism and this seems to be helpful. I even find myself giving support and helpful advice (I hope so) to others who are just coming out of their relationships.
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Questions from the Questions Post

I know we used to have Questions from the Questions Post and some of you may have found this on YouTube. I STILL will answer Questions on YouTube….just email me at  – and when I make videos, it will be in the queue.  Thanks!

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Social Media Detox

I “left” Facebook several months ago. I still have a page and the GPYB support group, but I rarely post.  When I access FB, I click on the FB Support group immediately when I go on and that’s about it. I don’t post much and I don’t read most other people’s posts.  I think it’s insane the amount of time people spend on there. I think it should be called NoLifeBook.

I know I’ve harped on this before but I have seen social media turn my clients into knots. They can’t seem to use it without witnessing something about the ex or a friend of the ex or a relative of the ex. I’ve seen the havoc it plays with those trying to get over a relationship.
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Replaced by the Ex in a Very Public Way?

Time to #GetOverIt!

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2017 All Right Reserved

This may not be copied or duplicated without the express permission of the author

One of the most common questions I receive every single month since I started writing my blog in 2008 is, “My ex has moved on so fast, what do I do?” Since the advent of social media, it has gotten so much worse.  It seems the “replacing” behavior is now very public. Now it has become, “My ex has replaced me in a very public (social media) way.  What do I do?” 

In the Getting Past Your Breakup book I ask, “Does it hurt when you do?” and if the answer is “Yes.” Then the response is “Don’t do that.”

The other thing I hear, a lot, is “It’s not about (Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, whatever the hell, the ex, the ex’s new partner)…” and when I hear that, I usually say, “Chances are, yes it is.  That is exactly what it is about.”  If you’re being slammed by your ex’s social media posts, it’s time to detox from social media until such a time when you can handle it. It’s time to block the ex and (temporarily) any mutual friends.  If you can’t do that, it’s time to get off social media altogether. Continue reading

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Switching gears….or not

The Space You Need Is The Space To Learn What You Need

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2017 – All Rights Reserved.

When I was convinced that my cheating husband had used a snowstorm to stay 45 miles away at his girlfriend’s house, I was on the phone with him.  I had made dinner, a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, even though it was only Wednesday.  I was wearing a skirt and a silk blouse – yes I managed to make that dinner and get all the boys 8, 5 and 4 into their baths and into dress pants and shirts all by 6:00 when their father was supposed to be home. The house was sparkling clean.

Not just neat and put away but I had cleaned glass and brass and waxed furniture of the formal living room where we wouldn’t even be in that night…but we would be in the formal dining room, also primped and cleaned and our best china shining brightly on the table, which looked INTO the formal living room…so on the off chance he glanced into the other room which was ALWAYS clean, I cleaned it AGAIN anyway….polishing the brass…washing the enormous mirror over the fireplace.  We had 10 foot high beamed ceilings and the mirror went from the mantle on the fireplace to the ceiling…and all 5 feet 1 of me climbed up on the HIGHEST ladder to clean the tippity top of the mirror on the off chance he sat somewhere in the dining room where he could see the top of the mirror which might have an errant piece of dust even though I washed the damned mirror every damn Saturday even though he accused me of not doing much of anything. Yes, the brass polished itself…the kids took themselves to the park…the house was immaculately clean because elves came over whilst I ate bon bons on the couch and watched soap operas….

But anyway…here I was on the millionth time of spritzing Windex all over the mirror that was SQUEAKY CLEAN to begin with …just in case….just in case…just in case…if I fell backwards from the top step of the ladder trying to get the top of a mirror that ended at a 10 foot ceiling…clean…I would surely die on the parquet floors that were sparkly clean – and that would be my fault…for getting my blood all over those nice, clean floors…just like the night I was in labor and he came in from his girlfriend’s … that was girlfriend number 1 – four years prior – and my blood splotches were all over the kitchen tiles only because after 7 hours of bleeding and in labor trying to calm a 16 month old and a 5 year old who were sure to watch their mother die in childbirth…I was TIRED of cleaning up the blood that went everywhere I walked…and he said, and I quote WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???

Oh yes…silly me…I had bled all over the kitchen floors while in labor when my husband was coo-cooing with his girlfriend after a long Thanksgiving weekend away from her…poor him…he had to be accosted by my blood all over the damn floor…poor poor him..

….but anyway…here we were 4 years and 2 girlfriends later…and I was convinced that should I topple and splat all over the floor…it would – again – be – poor poor him.

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Breakups and Our Unresolved Losses

It’s important to recognize and honor all our losses and heal through grief.

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. Copyright @2008-2017

When I was younger, I would break up with someone and be okay for the first day. Then suddenly, I would completely fall apart. I would mistake this falling apart for wanting to still be with this person. I would mistake this feeling for having made a mistake in the breakup.

I would feel overwhelmed and crushed by the onslaught of feelings; I would try to put the relationship back together to avoid the avalanche of turmoil. There were so many times in my life when I would plead with my ex to put the relationship back together. The exact same relationship that I knew didn’t work and didn’t want any part of a few days earlier. 

It didn’t matter if this person was a complete jerk and I needed to get rid of him, I would feel myself falling apart and wanting to go back. Even when I knew it wasn’t good for me, I needed everything to go back to the way it was before I felt this crushing sense of loss and emotional pain. Continue reading

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Getting Honest with Yourself 101

The Way to a Healthy Life is Suppressing the Almighty Self

Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

I once wrote a post here called Being Your Own Therapist and it puts forth the proposition that you need others to check you at the door before you do stupid things like contact your ex looking for answers/closure, but you also need to know how to stop yourself.

As I said in that post, I am a fervent believer in support systems made up of friends, support groups, 12 step programs, individual therapy, group therapy, conferences, retreats, seminars and on and on and on.
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Was Your Relationship Good for You?

10 Questions to Answer Before You Begin Again

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2006-2017 All Rights Reserved

Before you even think about dating or moving onto another relationship, you have to take inventory about your last relationship and figure out what worked, what didn’t and what you need to change in the future.  Ten questions to ask to figure out if your relationship was good for you and what you need to do to change it:

  1. Safety: Were you physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally harmed? Were there times you were afraid of what your partner would do or say? Were there times you just dreaded seeing this person?
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The Pathological Narcissist

A person void of empathy, love or enjoyment is not someone to love

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2008-2018

Kernberg and Kohut are known as the “fathers” of narcissism.  As I am hard at work on my new book based on this post, I have been re-reading Dr. Kernberg and Dr. Kohut. Many of my clients have been involved with pathological narcissists and it is difficult to treat them until they understand, truly understand, what pathological narcissism is. The bottom line is that a narcissist is completely incapable of love and void of empathy. This person will never ever ever love you. Any overtures they have made that appear to be love have simply been to get you to admire them.  Yet, because they suffer from feelings of inadequacy, they actually disdain those who admire them. There is NO winning with the narcissist. 

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Divorcing and Co-parenting with the Sociopath

5 ways to protect yourself when divorcing a sociopath

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. Copyright 2008-2017

As I write about in my 3-part series on Co-Parenting with the Personality Disordered, going through a divorce and/or child custody/support/visitation with a personality disordered person is a nightmare. As an attorney who spent years as a psychiatric clinician, I have watched – in horror sometimes—how the legal system can thrust someone trying to escape a sociopath right back into the sociopath’s lap.

Divorce is hard enough without feeling re-victimized by the system you’re depending on to protect you from someone who has harmed you.  Living with a sociopath is traumatic and, too often, the parties present in court as equally sane, or the non-personality disordered spouse actually looks like the crazy person.

In graduate school I worked at a long-term alcohol and drug treatment facility. Many times the families would come for a visit and the partner of the alcoholic/drug addict would look aged and haggard compared to the addict. They also seemed much more unhinged than the addict/alcoholic. As often is the case, living with someone who is mentally ill or has an addiction takes a toll –many times much worse than being an active addict or having an untreated mental illness.

But what is a sociopath?  Too often pop culture latches onto a label and indiscriminately tosses it around. Currently, this is the case where sociopaths and narcissists are concerned. My article on the Pathological Narcissist is HERE and attempts to explain the difference between normal narcissism (that everyone has) and narcissism that is pathological.  So, too, is the case with a sociopath. Sometimes we all fail at empathy or personal insight, but it’s not chronic as it is with sociopaths. So be careful in using this label.

It’s a very damming and somewhat unusual for someone to have a DSM Axis 2 Cluster B diagnosis (Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster.) Personality disorders are not very treatable and people who are antisocial personality disordered or narcissistic personality disordered typically don’t show up in the mental health milieu.
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Leaving the Abusive Relationship

Part 2 of 4: I had no self-esteem

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2017

When enormous grief hit me a week or so after I threw out my abusive husband, the only thing I wanted was to put the relationship back together and stop the onslaught of deep grief. I had no idea that the level of anguish had to do with all the unresolved losses of my life.

I crumpled in the chair of my new therapist’s office. I was sobbing and recounting how wrong I was to throw out a man who had assaulted me and terrorized my children and my dog. I was shaking and crying. She let me go on and on and on.  When I finished my hysterical spiel, she looked at me and said, calmly, “What’s wrong with your face?”


I had horrific cystic acne. I had not had a professional haircut in years and my hair fell, stringy and unkempt, into my face. My eyes were sunken from nights of crying and not sleeping. I had lost weight rapidly since he left and my second-hand coat was a few sizes too big for me.

I wanted to put my marriage back together and she was worried about my face.  WHO CARED ABOUT MY FACE? Not. Me.

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Splitting: The Mental Habit That Keeps You from Getting over a Breakup

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Copyright 2008-2017

Five things to know about splitting and how to stop it.

Splitting makes it much harder to get over a breakup, so it’s important to understand what it is. Here are 5 things you need to know to get on with the healing: 

1. What Is Splitting?

Splitting is mentally and emotionally separating the good traits and behaviors of your ex from the bad. It’s compartmentalizing your ex and concentrating on only one compartment. Splitting is very harmful to your recovery from this breakup. 

In one of my YouTube videos, I answer a post from someone waiting to reconcile with an ex who once came back after a breakup. She was so focused on the fact that he broke up with her once before and came back, she forgot that he also left again after announcing that coming back had been a mistake.

Another woman said her ex had mentioned reconciliation a few conversations ago. She was focused like a laser on that, while forgetting he was still gone, and that she had no idea what he had been thinking in the weeks since he said it. 

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