Is a Borderline or Narcissist Woman’s Emotionally Abusive Behavior Premeditated?
I would like to compliment you on the quality of your blog! Your articles are very concise and well written. In fact, I have forwarded several of your articles regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder to family members (aka, my support group).
I have been married to my wife for about 5 years and have endured a great deal of emotional and verbal abuse, bullying and drama (all my fault of course!) I could certainly write a book. I stay in the relationship because of my 5-year old daughter who I feel needs balance in her life on a daily basis.
There is definitely an evolution of how one deals with the abuse. There are overlapping stages of confusion, excuses, anger, silence, appeasement, etc. As you know, none of that works. It is so tiring because it requires you to be on constant mental red alert. I find your articles very reassuring in the sense that they provide a positive reinforcement that her problems are not my fault!
Initially, I found the concept of projection and mind games difficult to relate to. If you don’t think that way yourself, it is hard to identify and believe the behaviors. I guess we see the world in the context of who we are.
Couple of questions:
1) How premeditated are these individuals? My wife could go on for hours and hours about how inadequate I am. Is that all she thinks about? I used to sit and listen to it all and then try to justify everything that was supposedly wrong with me. Now, I just walk away from her when she goes on an abusive rant. Now she says I have changed and threatens divorce quite regularly.
2) How should one respond to illogical questions and comments like “What have you done for this family other than go to work and take care of our daughter when you get home?” or “You’re so insecure you can’t talk about anything,” “I’m not yelling at you, I’m just talking loud!” etc. It seems like every conversation comes around to how inadequate I am in that topic. (not a good enough father, husband, Christian, etc.)
Your blog efforts are very appreciated,
1) A borderline or narcissistic woman’s behavior isn’t what I’d call “premeditated” in the traditional sense. These women basically run on a mixture of primitive, unconscious instincts, conflicts and operant conditioning.
What does this mean? Basically, she doesn’t have a James Bond evil villain-esque plan for world domination; everyday is a battle to protect herself from being assaulted by the truth of what a damaged, flawed being she is. These women create a distorted bubble of un-reality in which they are wonderful, misunderstood creatures who have to put up with lesser beings like you, me and everyone else on the planet.
Verbally abusing you and making you believe you’re a jerk is how she keeps her version of reality undisputed and household tyrrany alive. She may know that her behavior is hurtful, but doesn’t care. She feels justified because you “deserve” it for some imagined or minor affront to her ego. However, I wouldn’t say this is “premeditated” or even conscious. It’s instictual survival behavior.
She has learned how to manipulate you, others, and her environment through trial and error, like a child who has discovered cause and effect. “If I poke him here, he does what I want him to do” or “If I make fun of him for wanting sex, he leaves me alone” or “If I needle him long enough, he’ll yell at me, then he’ll feel bad and I’ll get to go on the vacation I want” versus “If I don’t give him sex for more than 6 months, he threatens to leave, so I better have sex every 5 months” or “If I don’t go with him to visit his family on holidays, he won’t buy me what I want, so I’d better go for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
These women see the world in terms of rewards and punishments—much like a 5-year old. Calling a NPD/BPD’s behavior “premeditated” gives her credit for a level of self-awareness I just don’t think she possesses. Also like a 5-year old, these women are totally egocentric. They believe the world revolves around them, that everyone else is like them, and motivated by the same desires and fears.
As for her threatening divorce; you should be so lucky! Here’s the most crazy thing about these women; they do everything in their power to drive even the most patient, tolerant, and forgiving soul away, yet their greatest fear is abandonment. Because of her egocentrism, if her greatest fear is abandonment, then you must also be deathly afraid of abandonment.
Ending the relationship is usually an empty threat because:
a) These women don’t have a core sense of self. They’re not “whole” people.” They’re fragmented. If they’re not in relationship with someone, they don’t know who they are. They have to have a source of attention and admiration; it doesn’t matter if it’s negative attention. To some degree, it’s a matter of ego preservation vs. annihilation. (If you want to know more about this, read Daniel N. Stern’s The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Melanie Klein‘s writings on the good breast/bad breast, Margaret Mahler and John Bowlby—this material is really dense, but you may find it interesting).
Just for a change of pace, why don’t you tell her you’re considering divorce. See how she reacts. My hunch is there will be a lot of tears, drama, “How could you be so cruel?!” and/or insults and threats such as, “You don’t have the guts. I want a lien on all your future earnings. You’ll never see your daughter again. I’ll tell everyone what a bastard you are.” These women are such charming creatures.
b) On some level, these women know that most people aren’t willing to put up with their crap. That’s why many of these women either don’t work or flit from job to job. Everyone she works with is an idiot, an incompetent jerk, and/or her talents aren’t appreciated and she should be in charge. These women can’t handle the least bit of criticism or being challenged on their distorted view of themselves and reality.
Dealing with new people or “outsiders” (i.e., people who are outside of her sphere of control) is way too much work and way too threatening to her shaky ego. Therefore, even if she wants to leave, she’s unlikely to do so—unless, she’s already found a replacement. These women rarely go anywhere until they have a “better deal” waiting in the wings. And hey, if she’s managed to sucker some other poor bastard, “Good luck and good riddance!”
2) How should you respond to illogical questions and comments like “What have you done for this family other than go to work and take care of our daughter when you get home?” Personally, my gut reaction would be to blink in amazement and then laugh in her face. However, responses like this will probably antagonize her. Presenting the facts or pointing out just how absurd her statements are will also set her off.
Remember, she controls the facts and, as Fox News pointed out during our last election, “The facts are not irrefutable.” Walking away is a good technique if you just want to get away from her, but she’ll probably become more incensed and pick up where she left off when you return.
You can also try holding her accountable and setting a boundary by stating simply and calmly, “I don’t see things that way. You’re being hurtful and abusive. I won’t talk to you when you act this way.“ She won’t take kindly to this tactic either, but it sets up some ground rules—namely, “If you want me to engage with you, you need to treat me with the same respect you demand. Until then, this conversation is over.” Here’s a link to Do’s and Don’ts for getting along with a NPD/BPD if you want to stay in the relationship. I don’t think these tips are very healthy for you in the long run, however.
Her constant criticism is how she wears you down, keeps you passive, submissive, dependent, makes you feel worthless, helpless and grateful for those rare times when she’s actually kind. Abuse is about control. She controls you by making you feel bad. When you reject her criticism or walk away from it, she experiences it as a loss of control, which freaks her out. Hence, her accusation, “You’ve changed!” Damned straight.
These women view any positive, self-care actions you take to protect yourself as a grave act of disloyalty. When you refuse let her get away with her bad and hurtful behaviors, you become the mean, unforgiving, crazy, unempathic bad guy. So when she accuses you of changing, take it as a sign of your improved mental health. It’s like defecting from the old Soviet Union; you become a traitor in her eyes. In order to be a good “comrade,” you have to buy into her BS. In my opinion, the price you pay for that is too high.
Many of these women use religion or a warped, superficial version of Psychology to control their victims. Saying, “You’re not a good Christian” or “You have no empathy” is really the same thing. They’re both forms of name-calling and pathologizing. These statements are just more projections and propaganda.
You can take every negative hurtful thing an NPD/BPD woman says about you and apply it to her. She’s a bad christian. She doesn’t do anything. She’s insecure. She’s not a good enough parent. Really, she’s not. What kind of role model is she for your daughter? She’s teaching her it’s ok to abuse others to get what you want.
If you’re going to stay with her, my advice is find a way to tune her out or ignore her when she goes on one of her rants. This will be difficult because NPD/BPD women are masters at pushing people’s buttons. Or set clear boundaries for acceptable behavior—like you would with your 5-year old daughter. Like a 5-year old, she’ll persist in pushing the boundaries until she wears you or herself out—whichever comes first. Unlike your 5-year old, she won’t outgrow this phase. Do you want to spend the rest of your life as a referee/border patrol?
Personally, I think life is too short to spend one more miserable day with an emotionally abusive NPD/BPD woman. Think about why you’re staying. You said you haven’t divorced her because of your daughter. However, there is no way that living with an emotionally abusive mother is balanced—no matter how present and loving you are with your daughter, she’s still being exposed to abuse.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
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