Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.
Testing the love, commitment and emotional state of mind of those closest to them is a common characteristic of people who suffer from personality disorders - especially those who suffer from Low Self Esteem and/or Fear of Abandonment. When people are unsure of something - the most common instinct is to try to figure out what is real versus what is not. The issue with people who suffer from personality disorders is that their feelings may swing up and down dramatically, and when they feel particularly low, they may begin testing those around them as a response to try to soothe their pain and fear.
Examples of Testing:
A man tells his wife "if you really loved me you would quit your job and stay home and take care of me."
A mother tells her children "If you loved me you would want to spend more time with me than with your friends."
A woman destroys a wedding keepsake and watches to see her husband's reaction.
A man refuses to come out of his bedroom and waits for his wife to coax him back to a more normal state.
A teenager overdoses on sleeping pills then tells her parents what she did.
When tested, non-personality-disordered individuals are often required to demonstrate their love through inappropriate demonstrations - such as giving up valued relationships, family and friends, sacrificing careers, wealth or treasured possessions, giving up hobbies, healthy habits or recreational activities, in order to demonstrate that they are putting the personality disordered individual first in their lives.
What it feels like:
Testing can be frightening and confusing for a non-personality-disordered individual while at the same time being irritating and threatening. On the one hand, if they ignore the problem, they may fear being judged for being insensitive, uncaring, negligent or selfish. On the other, if they respond to the test, they may fear that they are encouraging or enabling the behavior and possibly perpetuating the cycle of their own abuse.
Testing is a classic No-Win Situation where you may feel "damned if you do and damned if you don't." See our page on No-Win Scenarios for More ideas on dealing with them.
Coping With Testing:
When faced with Testing there are two common responses:
The first is to refuse to take the test and to justify your position - to argue that you shouldn't have to take the test, to remind the person with the personality disorder of their own responsibilities, their own shortcomings and of your own worth, the unfairness of their position and the merit of your own. That will typically result in a long, circular conversation.
The second is to try to pass the test. This may be easy or difficult, depending on the nature of the test. It may be merely to say "I love you" or "I care about you" it may be to validate the other person's feelings. It may be much more difficult - like give up your career - or a favorite relationship or spend money or time on something that doesn't have value to you. The problem with that is you will have to do something you don't want to and your level of resentment will rise. You may have to repeat the sacrifice or the level of difficulty may escalate. You are unlikely to receive a reward commensurate with the level of your sacrifice.
What NOT to do:
Don't take the test or give in to unreasonable demands - that is just enabling that can hurt both you and the person testing you.
Don't try to justify your position or argue why the test is unfair.
Don't talk about it for more than a few minutes.
Don't isolate yourself - you need support at a time like this.
Don't feel guilty for not appeasing the person who is testing you. You are doing the only loving thing available.
What TO do:
Say once - and once only - calmly and respectfully that you will not take the test.
Say that you will talk again when you are no longer required to take it.
Respectfully end the conversation and leave unemotionally.
Stay away until the test - or any consequences for refusing to take it - are over.
Get support - tell others who understand what you are going through what happened and let them validate you.
For More Information & Support...
If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.