The Bluebeard Syndrome: Why You Ignore Your Partners Most Dangerous Tendencies

Ever heard of this manipulative technique?

Imagine this scenario: you’ve been with a partner for some time, then out of nowhere they start behaving strange. You ask them what’s wrong but they just shut you out. One day you get tired of this constant confusion and decide to do something about it. You start digging or asking and find out some dirty little secret they’ve been keeping from you. Like they’ve told you that every Thursday they have dinner with their family, but it turns out that’s not true. Perhaps you run into a friend of theirs who is under the impression that you’ve never wanted to hang out with them. Whatever you uncover, it all boils down to one discovery: they’ve been lying to or about you.

We’re all a little blind when it comes to relationships. It’s only until we’ve gotten past the honeymoon stage or severed ties that we start to realize the person who was by our side for so long was far from perfect. Once we take off the rose-colored glasses we start noticing the flaws we worked so hard to overlook. It’s not unlike the tale of Bluebeard. Remember that creepy tale?

Basically, it goes like this: There’s this weird guy called Bluebeard and all his ex-wives have gone missing. He marries another woman and promises her of wealth in his castle. He gives her the keys to the palace but warns her to never open a particular room. But the moment he leaves on a trip, she goes in there and finds the bloody corpses of all of Bluebeard’s wives. He then threatens to kill her too, but she’s already let her family know, and they rescue her and kill her husband.

See where I’m going with this?

The Bluebeard syndrome is the real life version of the story I just told you. It’s a partner that has a slightly obscure past that they constantly avoid telling you about. Instead, they’re generous, they like to give gifts and make promises for the future. But there’s always something they keep secret. If their partner starts to get on to them, they’ll attempt at doing a bit of gaslighting: calling them paranoid or accuse them of not trusting them. They switch the blame, making their partner feel guilty of ever asking.

According to Miranda Houston in The Psychology of Abusive/Predatory Relationships,

“This is the point when you begin to believe that you are to blame for what is going wrong, and you struggle in pain to fix whatever you believe is the problem. As you struggle, the predator is able to take more from you, because you now feel responsible for the relationship. He will guilt you into doing things, such as giving up your finances, valuable possessions, or anything else that is necessary for his survival. He will share with you plans for your future, convincing you to invest, and you give in out of fear and unwarranted guilt.”

In the middle of this guilt trip something happens. You accidentally discover something or get information from a trusted source about whatever they’ve been keeping from you. It turns out that you were never paranoid to begin with. They were hiding their intentions, another relationship, their actions, real character, or any other skeleton they had in the cellar.

It’s at this point where you need to make a choice about whether you can live with this information or just walk away. Can you work through it? And, more importantly, will you forgive them? If you don’t want the relationship to end, both of you will have to really talk and be honest about your past, your hopes for the future, as well as how you will get through this.

So will you choose to throw the ogre out the window or actually stay and hope that they do turn into a loving honest partner?