Yes, this is personal. Unlike most people I’ve read about in blog-land, I was the guy who got sucked into a relationship with a true sociopath, but I didn’t know it until much later. I was the guy who had an affair with a bitter, controlling, Glenn Close-like ‘Venus Flytrap”. I have experienced the “Bunny Boiler.”
What is a Bunny Boiler? In my case, it was a “she”, but it could also be a “he” – but I can only write from my perspective as a stalked and harassed man. I realize men stalk women too, and often with violent outcomes. But this blog is not about that. The Bunny Boiler, for my purposes, is a woman who refuses to acknowledge that a relationship is over, even when told.
This is not simply a “woman scorned”. This is far more threatening, pathological and insidious. Often illegal.
The expression ‘bunny boiler’ derives from the 1987 film Fatal Attraction, written by James Dearden and Nicholas Meyer. The plot centers around Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) obsessively pursuing her ex-lover Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas). The phrase comes as the culmination of stalking and harassment that comes out of Alex’s frenzied jealousy and her inability to accept that Dan ended the affair quickly and abruptly. She throws acid onto his car, calls him on the phone obsessively and hangs up, stalks him at his office. Eventually when nothing else is working, she boils her erstwhile lover’s daughter’s beloved pet rabbit – she boiled the bunny. And finally, Alex goes to Dan’s house, apparently to kill his wife, as if this is what is standing in between them. At the time that the phrase first came into general use it referred to someone unable to remain rational at the end of a romantic relationship.
Another movie that comes to mind is “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989). In this movie, Martin Landau‘s character, a middle aged and successful optometrist, Judah Rosenthal, is faced with a dilemma that I can relate to. At the beginning of the film, he is attempting to break off his affair with his 2-year mistress, Dolores Paley. Ms. Paley seems quite high-strung, and sure enough, his worst fears are realized. She writes a letter to his wife, which he intercepts and burns. She calls their house and hangs up. She threatens to speak to his wife and to blab about his financial indiscretions to his partners, colleagues and friends. She calls him at home and demands he come and meet her at a gas station up the road or else she’ll come to his door. Anything to try and keep him in the game. He tries to reason with her. He even tries to pay her off, but to no avail. She is resolute in her determination to blab the affair to his wife and his financial indiscretions to others. Judah is in a total panic. In the end, with the help of his mob-connected brother, he has his mistress killed before she can really hurt him, and then struggles with the morality of his decision throughout the rest of the movie.
But they aren’t just in the movies. They are quite real. I’m not the only one living this nightmare. If anyone follows the news, Jody Arias comes to mind — this woman stalked, threatened, and eventually killed her ex-boyfriend. She looks pretty alluring, doesn’t she? Pretty. Harmless. Really? She shot Travis Alexander in the face, stabbed him 29 times and slit his throat from ear to ear. And says that it was in self-defense!! This came only after years of stalking him, harassing him, slashing his tires, etc. Women can be every bit as violent as men.
Or how about Lisa Nowak, former astronaut? Remember her? She stalked, harassed and pursued her ex-married lover and then finally drove halfway across the country to assault his wife in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport! She is one of the poster children of the Bunny Boiler club!
A Bunny Boiler is an obsessive and dangerous female, in pursuit of a lover who has spurned her. She stalks. She harasses. She is cruel. Twisted. Irretrievably self-centered. Dangerously vengeful. She threatens you or maybe herself. She destroys property. Anything to get your attention. She attempts to use carrot and stick to get the lost lover back, no matter the cost. She will either get you back into her web of love and lies, or she will destroy you and your life. There is no middle ground. She shows no grace or dignity when you leave her. She is childish and self-centered. You will be hers, or nobody will have you. In some cases, the result is actually physical violence. In most cases, you have to become like a distance runner, and endure her attempts to undo your life and your happiness over a long period of time. Maybe you have get a Restraining Order (like I did). Maybe you have arm yourself to protect your home (as I did). And then you spend week after week, month after month, hoping the “psycho” finally gets a clue and leaves you alone. And moves on. As you have. You can’t respond to her in any way, because even if you do after 100 attempts, you’ve now taught this psycho that all she needs to do to get your attention is try and contact you 100 times. And even negative attention will encourage her. So you must endure it with silence, and perhaps legal protection.
Why do some women become Bunny Boilers? Well, it depends on to what degree I suppose you believe they are mentally ill. Bunny-Boiling has been linked to people who have “Borderline Personality Disorder.” BPD is a mental health condition in which a person has long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions. These inner experiences often result in impulsive actions and chaotic relationships with other people. People with BPD often engage in idealization and devaluation of themselves and of others, alternating between high positive regard and heavy disappointment or dislike. They are mentally abusive and controlling in relationships.
It’s also been linked to “Sociopathic” Behavior — which I blogged on – in which the lover is so narcissistic and self-centered, it is not only beyond their comprehension that someone would not want them or would leave them, but their egos are unable to absorb the rejection the way normal, well-adjusted people can. They are the consummate self-interested and controlling partner. When the sociopath negatively affects another person, she feels no guilt or remorse for what she has done. Sociopaths express no care or concern for others. This is due in part to a tremendous sense of entitlement. A sense of narcissistic grandiosity exists within the sociopath, however she gains no insight when this is pointed out.
I would also examine the possibility that idolizing the lost lover may be a twisted form of self-protection. So long as the Bunny Boiler stays in love with the ex, she doesn’t need to put herself at risk by falling for another man. After all, the love of her life shafted her (in her mind, anyway. But anyone ending things with a Bunny Boiler is a “shaft” to them — they are perpetually the victim not only in relationships, but in life) which means that she becomes inappropriately scared stiff to trust another person. This idolization may provide another form of unconscious protection. As long as she loves him and live in the fantasy that he may return to her, she doesn’t have to face all the feelings that are really going on inside. There’s tremendous hurt, pain, anger and fear. All these feelings will need to be felt as part of the process of letting go and moving on.
In reality, the Bunny Boiler may be all these wrapped up into one.
As with Dan Gallagher, the true Bunny-Boiling Sociopath is difficult to recognize when you meet them. They are often blessed with incredible charm and allure. They have “game.” They are often very attractive, and know it, and are used to getting what they want. They mix lies and truth constantly, and convincingly.
You have to be very astute to pick up on the little clues they drop along the way that they may be not who they say they are:
- Do they have frequent problems with people in their lives? Family? Work? Friends? Do they really have any true friends, or just acquaintances that seem to come and go?
- Did you become their #1 hobby and sole focus very early in the relationship? Do they resent any time you have to yourself or away from them? Do they try and talk you out of friendships, hobbies and anything that doesn’t include them?
- Do you see signs of small lies? Inappropriate jealousy/control?
- Outbursts of anger when you disagree with them in any way?
- Are they abnormally obsessed with their looks and need constant compliments and reassurance?
- Is everything your fault or someone elses’? Do you notice how the Bunny Boiler is never, EVER at fault for anything? They are always the victim. Taking responsibility for their choices, actions, and words is not their strong suit.
- Is she Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde? One moment she’s kind and loving; the next she’s flipping out on you. She becomes so vicious, you wonder if she’s the same person
- Are you constantly accused of things by her that have no basis in truth?? Her accusations may run the gamut — from infidelity to cruelty to being unsupportive (even when you’re the one paying all the bills), to repressing her and holding her back. It’s usually baseless, which leaves you feeling defensive and misunderstood. But it’s all about CONTROL — her controlling you!
I could go on and on. All of these are red flags. If you see them, RUN RUN RUN. You can’t get away fast enough.
I endured the Bunny Boiler. I got calls to our house. She tried to call my wife many times even after my wife told her to never contact us again. She sent emails by her to my friends and extended family full of lies, all designed to hurt me and undo my marital reconciliation. There were veiled threats of physical violence. Threats against my job. An absurd obsession with my wife, played out on her Facebook page, as if my wife was the only thing standing in between me and her. More phone call attempts at work. Text messages alternating between expressions of continued, undying love for me, and ridicule and invectives. Gifts sent to my office. Threatening, bizarre phone messages. Stalking me at shows (I’m a musician).
It was bad enough that I had to endure what I endured with my wife due to my own poor decisions, but I have to deal with this maniac too. And it’s almost 2 years later and she has yet to abate. It’s creepy. It’s threatening.
What I have to remind myself, and a basic truth she’ll never understand, is that her actions indicate anything but “love.”
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