Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

man in cage-2Why does he stay with her? She’s abusive. Crazy. Cruel. Frigid. Why doesn’t he just leave? There are a number of answers to this question:

1. Men who’ve been ensnared by an emotionally abusive Narcissist and/or Borderline female are often brainwashed into believing there’s something wrong with them and that they should be grateful to be with the woman who tortures them.

2. Men are afraid of being taken to the cleaners by these women if they divorce them and rightly so. These women are extremely vindictive and take no responsibility for themselves or how their abusive behaviors contribute to the demise of their relationships.

3. Fathers worry that BPD/NPD women will turn their kids against them (parental alienation) and deny them visitation—again, with good reason.

4. While other men, the most unfortunate of the lot, believe they love these women and that if they just try a little harder, they can get them to change and have a happy relationship.

This is the first of four articles of coping skills if you’re in an ongoing relationship with an abusive woman or in the process of trying to end a relationship with one.These skills are meant to be short-term coping strategies while you figure out how to extricate yourself from your abusive relationship. Maintaining this level of hyper-vigilance and behavioral maintenance long-term would be emotionally, physically and psychologically grueling and I strongly urge you not to do so:

1. Listen to fear and anger without getting caught up in it. Don’t bite on the hook of her provocative and inflammatory attacks. Don’t engage with the content. Don’t agree or disagree with the content. When you engage in the content, you give her the fuel to escalate the conflict/drama and the ammunition to portray you as the angry jerk after the dust settles. Try the following techniques:

–    Pretend like you’re really listening. Make direct eye contact. Avoid interrupting her at the beginning of her verbal diarrhea. Listen and pretend to empathize for a minute or two by nodding your head and occasionally saying, “Ok” or “I see.” Do your best not to take anything she says to heart. The insults and accusations she hurls at you are projection; her unconscious self-condemnation that she maps onto you.

–    Practice sympathetic body language. When under attack, most of us adopt defensive body postures. For example, you may fold your arms across your chest, clench your jaw or hunch your shoulders. Maintain an open body posture and try to appear as if you’re being neutral and unaffected by what she’s saying. If she senses defensiveness or fear, she’ll become even more aggressive, like a shark in a feeding frenzy.

–    Recognize how she’s feeling, but DON’T agree with her. For example, “I hear what you’re saying,” “I understand how strongly you feel,” or “I understand you’re upset with me.” By doing this you acknowledge that’s she’s agitated, but you’re not accepting the blame or agreeing with her.

2. Be consistent in your responses while eliminating emotional reactions. You have to be consistent in your emotions and behavior because she isn’t. She’s ruled by her wild mood swings and fear of being exposed as a human train wreck. Avoid intense emotional reactions to her behavior, even though her words and actions are designed to provoke and inflame.

If you engage with her one day and ignore her the next, this will make her feel out of control and insecure. This will then cause her to escalate her clinging behaviors and/or angry outbursts, vindictiveness, abusive tirades, etc., for any perceived criticism, real or imagined. If you set specific boundaries regarding her behavior, you must reinforce them consistently as you would with a young child.

3. Anticipate crises and be prepared to respond to them gently, but firmly. While you can’t predict or anticipate every abusive outburst, after enough time, you can identify things that are likely to trigger an attack. Common triggers include upcoming family events, vacations, having to get a job or, like a predatory animal, she has a specific “feeding time” when she goes after her prey. For example, the midnight feeder: She has a pattern of starting fights/attacking you between 9pm and midnight when you’re trying to wind down the day and you’re already drained (i.e., in a weakened state). Therefore, it’s helpful to be prepared with specific boundaries regarding when you’ll discuss emotionally charged matters.

First, pretend to listen to her for two minutes and respond by recognizing how she’s feeling. Then, say something like, “I understand you’re upset, but I’m too tired at the end of the day to give this matter the attention it deserves. I’ll be better able to discuss this in the morning after I’ve had a good night’s sleep. If you continue to push this tonight, I’m going to stay at my friends/sleep in the other room/not go on the shopping trip you want me to take you on this weekend.”

Whatever it is she’s upset about doesn’t matter. What matters is that you provide her with the sense—even if you’re faking it—that you’re listening to her in those first few minutes, so that she doesn’t feel ignored, criticized, abandoned or dominated, and then give her a specific consequence if she persists.

4. Adopt an “arm’s length bond,” if you can. Avoid being too responsive to her negative or positive emotions. You can’t attend to her every whim, insecurity and “need” every minute of the day or you won’t have time for anything else. Also, don’t allow your self to have a false sense of hope during those fleeting moments when she’s nice. Think of her like a weather system and develop a sense of detachment and plan accordingly. “Oh, it’s nice outside today. I’ll leave my jacket at home” or “Looks like it might storm today, I’d better bring my umbrella.”

5. Validate her, not her complaint and then take action. For example, “I see how upset you are. What can we do to fix the situation?” If she wants you to do something that you’re not willing to do, remain calm and don’t become defensive. Respond to her as you would a 5-year old child who’s demanding that you do something that’s impractical or harmful. “I’m sorry, but it’s not possible for me to do what you want. Is there something else we can do?” Or, if you have an idea that will appease her that doesn’t hurt you, suggest it.

Again, these are meant to be short-term coping skills not long-term solutions. Next week, I’ll post the next 5 techniques, so please check back.

Source credit: The 5 skills discussed above are modified from Bill Eddy‘s Four Steps in Resolving High Conflict Disputes. He directs his material to legal professionals and therapists, but I believe the husbands and boyfriends who are the intimate targets of NPD/BPD women can benefit by developing these skills, too.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

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Man in cage on PBase.

  1. jp
    October 19, 2012 at 2:29 am

    spades :
    It breaks my heart all around and I don’t think that pretending that she is normal is healthy for anyone.

    It isn’t. And adolescence is old enough for you talk straight with him. Pretending big awful things aren’t there or aren’t happening is crazy-making. Dealing with the truth and reality are essential to mental health.


    • Jack
      April 10, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Wow that sounds like my life, except she caused us to be poor. I am waiting until the children turn 18, then I am out. I never want any communications with her ever again. Murderers get less time. Good luck to all, we are not alone.

  2. spades
    October 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I am in the position of wife to the victim of the NPD-BPD. My husband has full custody of the child they share. Now, in addition to targeting him, she has me as a bonus. I am the woman who “took her spot”, even though she’d abandoned it years ago. We have gone to straight email contact so the lies and outbursts are recorded for the most part.

    My biggest concern is my stepson. He is still an adolecent and has also always displayed many narcissistic and bipolar traits. He’s been diagnosed with BPD and is in therapy. Even though he is only exposed to her every other weekend, we all struggle with it’s effects and the alienation she is constantly trying to cause. With his disorder, you could see where he would want to believe her lies and he uses them to try to hurt us.

    How/When do you start explaining to a mere child that these lies are coming and the hurts she causes him are because of a disorder? Or even some coping skills for a child who HAS to deal with her? It breaks my heart all around and I don’t think that pretending that she is normal is healthy for anyone.

    • Mellaril
      October 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Check out the Forum. There’s an active Parents forum there that may be able to help.

  3. bernbeau
    June 17, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Dear Brothers-in-Arms,
    Logic, rational thought, good will and compassion are all lost on these woman!! In fact, the more you attempt to reason with them, the worse it gets!! Hence, all that we are, all that we strive to be, is of no use when dealing with them (BPDs).
    My advice (my mother and ex are BPDs): walk away……keep walking……and once you feel that you’re safe….keep walking. Then and only then, when you turn around, there is the chance that you won’t see them!!!
    After four years, I can honestly say that things are now better in my life. There is hope!!! I have surrounded myself with emotionally-healthy individuals……what a difference that makes.
    My children (five) are coming around. My youngest who was in joint custody decided, four months ago, after a tirade with his mother, that he no longer wanted to live with her. He’s been with me since and is a new person…..happy, smilinig, doing well in school!!!
    She has divided the older children…..but I sense that they are now seeing their mother for who she is.
    Time heals all!!!

  4. Steven
    June 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Women with NPD/BPD are very charming and get along great with people on a superficial level, but will drain you emotionally, deplete you, if you are in any type of reciprocal relationship with them. No wonder why husbands get it the worst! because marriage is supposed to be reciprocal, in other words, give-and-take. From my experience they’ll give you 20% after you have given 120% effort. Basically after you endure the wrath of there abuse a bend to there command, then they will give you superficial love and respect that is ridiculously conditional.

    I do not know if my wife has a personality disorder for sure, but her tirades are more consistent then anything else is our relationship on her part. I do not take joy in condemning her but I say these things because it just a sad part of my reality.

    I was drown to her because she has a very charming personality. I was attract to her deceitful charm and I say it was deceitful because it was only her persona. Behind her persona is an internal world of turmoil, anxiety,and panic that dominates her life.

    She cannot control her internal world so she tries to control the people around her to make.

    She is brilliant with ” take care of business” but when it comes to relationships that requires of her to be invested where compromise and accommodation it essential, the basically is nothing short of chaotic.

  5. February 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I want to add a comment, I have been married and still am to a BPD for 24 years. She has cost me at least 250,000.00 in bad credit cards, she made me quit my job because of jealousy, she then forced us into bankruptcy, then she caused me to loose my license to practice, and finally she left me and alienated my children from me. She says I am crazy and I have run around on her, she constantly lies about me and to me, she has manipulated my blood family into shunning me, she lives with my niece, and recently stole my dog. She continues to say she wants a divorce, she is working now, not me, but refuses to pay for it. She sends me vicious emails about things I supposedly have done, i went to the people themselves and got it cleared up. She had me put in jail when she tried to kill me with a gun. I have questioned my own sanity every day for the past 12 years, I used to go to the lake to get relief but she was jealous, so now i have nothing, not a career, nothing. She threatens to have me put in jail if I try to talk to her face to face, she wants everything in email and writing. I am a therapist, and now I see a therapist, I know I am going to loose no matter what, what should I do?? She has mentally and financially aboused me for our whole marriage, always threatening to leave if I did not comply, tells me I am a horrible father, a bad husband, was no good at my job, and should never be allowed to practice again. What do I do??

  6. Closure, at last
    April 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    “I do judge these women. They’re not technically insane, meaning that they can’t control their behavior. They’re actually very capable of controlling their hurtful and outrageous behaviors in many situations. Having a personality disorder does not give a person a “pass” to treat the people who love them and are, therefore, vulnerable to their attacks however they want because they’re feeling “criticized,” “belittled” or whatever goes on in their minds. I judge them for treating the people they love like their personal dumping ground and I make no bones about it.”

    Wow! Dr. Tara – well said!! Bravo! For years I would wonder why my abusive sister (who had resorted to verbal, psychological and on three occasions physical abuse) would keep taking my submissiveness for granted and why my attempts at keeping peace and kindness at all costs were met with more abuse. But in the company of people who were her bosses or who she needed for other favours, or seductions her behaviour was sweet and gentle! It took me years, years to realize I didn’t have to respond to her demands to call her or help her only to hear her tirade to use me as a ‘personal dumping ground.’ The whole world was ‘wrong’ in her eyes and she the permanent ‘victim’ – though her husband was an abused man who pampered her endlessly to ‘buy’ peace. I had to often listen to classical music or read French philosophy to ‘recover’ after those conversations. Now I know better. She reminded me so much of some of the wives/girlfriends when I’d hear the tales of my engineer buddies who’d married BPs and NPs.

    Thank you for framing clearly something I groped for myself foggily when I cut contact with her. I had never read on psychology etc. seriously till last year – but now reading your insightful articles makes so much, so much sense. And relieves me of the ‘guilt’ to have looked at my own interests for once for my own sanity. I loved her a lot, and realize now that my love and devotion had been used to make me her ‘garbage dumping receptacle.’

  7. John
    February 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Dr Tara,

    I have dealt with one of these woman for over twenty years through a marriage and now through a divorce. I agree with all you say to get out as fast as you can but if you have had a long term marriage and there are any children involved you really need to prepare yourself for the worst experience ever in your life. I thought being married to a woman with this disorder was bad wait until you go through a divorce with kids. I thought I died and went to Hell!!! There is no winning with these kind of woman they will destroy everything in your life and still look like the victim. When people hear of half the things my ex has done throughout our marriage and divorce they cannot believe their ears.everyone says I should write a book of a life with a NPD-BPD..
    So if you ever need a subject to study who is the real victim feel free to contact me. The stories would top anything you have ever heard on this topic in your life..

  8. jham123
    October 12, 2009 at 4:46 am

    “These skills are meant to be short-term coping strategies while you figure out how to extricate yourself from your abusive relationship. Maintaining this level of hyper-vigilance and behavioral maintenance long-term would be emotionally, physically and psychologically grueling and I strongly urge you not to do so:”

    Sorry Tara, I’m biding my time and holding out for when she finds the new “shiny” object to move on to.

    I know this is opposite of what you recommend, I don’t want to deal with the “venom” if I were to pull the plug. I’ve been here for 18 years….another couple won’t be anything. She has hinted that she is ready to move on this past year, I need to just allow it to happen. Then, thank my lucky Stars when it does.

    As always, thank you Tara for your service. I have Peace do to your kind Prose.

  9. Jim
    September 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    This is all so helpful. Dr. Tara, your insights have helped me cope and I really feel better. Thanks.

    It is amazing how a person like this can foist all of there negative feelings on you (and get courts, counselors and others to project for them). These women are emotional vampires working consciously and subconsciously to hurt you so they feel better – all without a second thought. All of it is lies, tricks and immoral behavior. (Don’t even try to understand this mindset – it is futile).

    Though for a while I let this and the system get me down, I am not some repository for this person’s twisted problems. No matter what evil thing she does to me or my kids, she cannot hurt me. I don’t take ownership of her actions. I am not responsible for them at all. I have zero control over her (and want none) and she has zero control over me though she craves it every waking minute.

    The irony is that she has erased even any memory of a good time with her. I was married for 20 years and it has all vanished. Wow.

    I used to pity her but I am beyond that too. She is what she is – a train wreck. Personally, I am not interested in seeing a train wreck, thinking about a train wreck, or understanding what caused a train wreck. It has nothing to do with me.

    The next train I get on will have a better conductor.

    Nice guys don’t finish last, they don’t finish at all – they go on forever.

  10. Jim
    September 21, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Dr. Tara,

    This is a great blog/site. What creates these broken people incapable of love? Is it lack of love as a child? Is it genetic? Is it spiritual? I guess a Jungian would say “animus possession.” A behaviorist would say “learned coping mechanisms” or whatever. All I know is it is thank God it is not me!!

    I agree with you that these people only get worse. I always though my ex wife would be less controlling and weird as she got older. But no. She went through the roof! Jekyll and Hyde absolutely.

    I am probably the only guy that ever loved her and she has to believe that I am a monster and all bad. Go figure.

    I am the nicest guy around. Thankfully she left me!!! There is a God. I only wish my kids could be free of her and all of her nonsense. I hope at least I can set an example of normality for them.

  11. Deborah
    August 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I just came upon this site when I was surfing trying to ease the grief I am feeling regarding my father’s fate. He recently died after making it to his 95th year. He was married for well over 40 years to his last wife – his 4th. There was a significant age difference between himself and her. She was so hard to deal with and one of the meanest women I have ever met. I can’t say that staying with her paid off because I don’t understand why he did so. She is miserable and at the end of his life kept everyone away from him. She did not even put an obit in the paper because of money. She talks about money all of the time and she acts as if she has none. She must have hundreds of thousands by all family account. They were frugal to a fault.

    Father just let her have her way – or so it seems. Now that he is gone I can see that he did keep her in check slightly. It is hard to deal with her because. Father was a very rational man in so many ways and so are his children. The only way we could have a relationship with him was to put up with her. Oy! The estate was purchased during his first marriage and he managed to keep it through the next marriages/divorces. He only had children with his first wife. All of his wives left him with the vineyard/estate except for her. I think she was the crazy woman who also liked to work her fingers to the bone.

    But she had a plan from the get go. I can remember her talking about Father and how he would die because he overworked himself. Well she underestimated his health because he lived a very long time!

    She has alienated everyone but her daughter who is very two faced. She kind of has to be because it is apparent to all that her mother is crazy but on the other hand her mother does hold the purse strings to the estate. They sold the vineyard a few years ago and moved into a trailer! So she has all sorts of money – pretends she doesn’t. And she was so nasty that she didn’t have a public funeral. People loved my father and since she did not have a public obituary/funeral, many people do not even know that he has passed away.

    The lesson here MEN is that the sooner you can extricate yourself from this person with a personality disorder, the better. You will never be enough to fix the person. They don’t get nicer, typically, as they get older. Because it is all about them, you don’t even get credit after you die.

    My father’s estate which is from his family will now go to her and her daughter.

    Also this woman was extremely religious for awhile until the congregation/church became useless to her. She wore the clothing of being religious but for some reason in the last few years has become so angry with the women in the church she stopped attending.

    This woman is kind of evil. I know that personality disorders are not treatable with a pill, etc. BUT I think the secret is to stay away from all people with such a disorder. Let them be birds of a feather that flock together. And hopefully they will not regenerate!

    Thank you for letting me share during this cycle of my grief. I like to think that if my father had it to do over, he would not have married this …this…banshee!

    • shrink4men
      August 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Deborah,

      I’m very sorry to read about your father’s passing and your step-monster. Abusive NPD/BPD women frequently divide family member and/or cut off their children and spouses from the people who love them. It’s heartbreaking.

      The lesson here MEN is that the sooner you can extricate yourself from this person with a personality disorder, the better. You will never be enough to fix the person. They don’t get nicer, typically, as they get older. Because it is all about them, you don’t even get credit after you die. This is so very true. The mentality many abused men about the NPD/BPD women they’re married/committed to is so counter-intuitive to me. They sacrifice themselves, their friends and family, and their children for the “benefit” of one person. When they don’t leave, they destroy themselves and harm everyone else in their lives who carry about them upon the altar of giving the abusive partner everything she wants. “But she needs me. She’d be devastated if I left.” Bullshit. She doesn’t need you and she’ll be enraged, not devastated if you leave.

      Men, you need to start putting yourself and the people who really care about you first, not the outrageous needs and demands of these vampiric predators.

      Again, Deborah, you have my sympathy.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

  12. Mike
    June 22, 2009 at 5:30 am

    I think my girlfriend has BDP and its really killing me. Like emotionally i’m a train wreck and I can’t leave her because I love her so much. She makes everything out to be my fault and blames everything on me. When I asked her why she wont leave me she wont answer the question. I’ve never in my life let a person belittle me but the things she says to me really fucks me up mentally, like i let it get to me. I thank you for these tips and Ima try my hardest to make them work. I have to stop falling for the bait. Sad thing is that i know tomorrow she’s going to call me saying how much she loves me and ima fall for it like a dumbass.

    • David
      March 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      I feel ya! However, when you say you love her, you need to think long term. In my situation, I got married, bought her the house and car of her dreams, two high maintenance dogs, let her quit her job, I spend a thousand a month on her horse riding, I see a therapist bi-weekly (me, not her), make her breakfast in morning, rub her feet with lotion at night, do most of the cleaning, etc.

      She still needs at least one dose of extreme conflict each day. Just a week ago she was completely sober and chipped my tooth when repeatedly punching me in the face. I’m an MMA fighter, and the bitch (pardon my language) is still too much to handle. Now I’m struggling with the decision to sacrifice my dream of having kids because of her spiteful spending and uncontrollable temper.

      I know you want to be optimistic, but think about what you’d do and how you’d feel if it got worse. It could get better, but it will probably get worse as your tolerance lessens. Date her, but please do not move beyond that regardless of her bullying you.

  13. thom
    June 18, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Some more advice I thought about giving you this morning…

    1. During your initial custody evaluation interviews ask the evaluator questions.

    -Where did you get your degree/s
    -How often do you rule in favor of fathers?
    -Do you believe that the Tender Years Doctrine still influences family law?

    2. Ask if you can videotape/record all interviews and /or home visits. You would not believe how twisted words/situations get.

    While discussing the fact that my ex ran off with my child while I was at work, moved all her stuff in with her sisters, and left me a note pretty much saying everything was my fault. Never mind that since the legal system is so gummed up I had been relegated to weekend parenting time only and this had been going on the greater portion of a year…after sharing my frustrations the evaluator said I was angry and upset over the situation and her wording and recommendations stopped just short of requesting that I attend anger management classes…

    3. Go and watch a family law case or two at your local courthouse. If you know who your judge will be sit in on a few of his/her cases. You will see how he/she deals with mothers/fathers and will gain a better insight into how he/she makes rulings/judgments.

    Know the rules of the game.
    In my state the law reads that the parent that the child has been staying with primarily will get primary custody. Even though I could provide better medical care (she won’t go to a doctor), I am not on welfare, would provide a better education (I am a teacher), am not abusive, and wasn’t diagnosed with a mental illness…she won – because Oregon deemed her “fit enough” since she didn’t do drugs, didn’t beat our child, and isn’t a prostitute…

    5. In high conflict cases *usually with an ex that is BPD/NPD/HPD the evaluator will usually give both physical and legal custody to one parent. Prepare yourself for that.

    6. I witnessed this first hand – the BPD/NPD/HPD will blatantly lie to evaluators, to the judge, to the lawyers, and while on the witness stand under oath…I couldn’t believe what was being said and there is nothing really you can do about that. I chose to tell the truth so I could tell my daughter someday that I fought for her and that I acted in an upstanding manner in her best interest from day 1. Remember the saying that if you wrestle with pigs, the pigs get happy and you get muddy…

  14. Laura
    June 18, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Re: Chlid visitations

    I’m in Canada here, but was wondering if you guys have “safe transition zones/supervised visitation areas” for when the children need to go from one parent to the next?

    There’s a center near where I used to live and it seems to work quite well. The pick up/drop off is very closely monitored and timed. Often times they even suggest that the parents authorize someone else to do the exchange at the facility to keep the parents away from one another.

    Communications regarding the children are transmitted through the supervisor which leads to people remaining respectful.

    Sometimes this is court ordered and at other times it’s sought out at least for the first while after the split.

    I’d say if that option isn’t available, always pick up the children with someone else present and keep communication regarding the children in writing.

    Good luck with your challenge, but if you persist and build a good support system, it’ll work out.

  15. thom
    June 18, 2009 at 5:41 am

    I like the forums and legal advice…

    I don’t usually read the back and forth between the 2.

    • jp
      June 18, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      Yeah, I can’t read that back-and-forth either. It’s ridiculous.

      On the other hand it’s a useful example of exactly how NOT to interact with a BPD woman.

      Guys: don’t get down into the mud. There is no “winning”.

      You have to accept that..

      – even if you’re right
      – even if she secretly knows it
      – even if she ends up doing the right thing anyway…

      she’ll NEVER, EVER say, “hey, honey, you know what…I never thought of it that way…you ARE right, and I AM sorry.”


      • Treyce
        June 18, 2009 at 7:04 pm


        You have got it dead on!

        “hey, honey, you know what…I never thought of it that way…you ARE right, and I AM sorry.”

        You will never ever hear those words come out of her mouth, in a text message, an e-mail. Nothing!. I got 1 apology in 16 months…When those words came out of her mouth you would have thought someone was cutting out her tongue……….. I apologized for everything (I even started to preface any statement I made to her with an apology, now that’s jacked!)….

        It’s like Dr. T said, these women think in black and white, all or nothing terms, there is no gray area for them………….it’s either agree with them or endure their wrath.

  16. thom
    June 18, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Also check out the following website:

    Its a blog from a guy that divorced a wife with BPD. Lots of very helpful info here…

    Sorry if I am not allowed to post links DR T. If that’s the case please remove.


    • shrink4men
      June 18, 2009 at 5:02 am

      It’s fine. I’ve been on the site before, but didn’t get beyond the first page or two.

  17. thom
    June 18, 2009 at 3:24 am

    1. Know your custody evaluator. My evaluator was fresh off a divorce of her own. Men are already at a disadvantage due to the “Tender Years Doctrine” but having someone judging you while dealing with their residual anger towards a man/fatheris a recipe for disaster. In retrospect I should have paid for an independent custody evaluation (they run about $5000).

    2. Dont just agree and pay for the Psych evaluations – get an all inclusive evaluation. My ex and I took both the MCMI and the MMPI. My ex was found to be clinically HIstrionic (98th percentile) and the psychologist wrote in her report that my ex was “incapable of sustaining interpersonal relationships”. She didn’t, however, review the myriad of emails, voicemails, and threatening letters…I gave them to the evaluator who decided that she made these decisions/statements/choices since she was a new mom and under stress – even though I had emails prior to her getting pregnant and 6 months after containing the same foul/abusive language.

    3. Have your character references fill out affidavits regarding your character and parenting abilities. I had no less that 20 people – doctors, counselors, parents of my students (I am a teacher), and even our marriage counselor speak to the evaluator for over an hour each…the evaluator gave all those witnesses one paragraph in the overall evaluation…and here’s the dirty little secret. Judges usually side with the evaluation “since the evaluator has spent more time with the parents”…The judge usually follows all recommendations of the evaluator unless the parents can agree to something else. AND – the evaluation is usually sealed. I could only look at the evaluation with my lawyer present and I couldn’t make a copy. You will need to have the evaluator testify in court if you want to argue any points…and they will usually fall on deaf ears. Front load your divorce papers with affidavits that must be entered into court record before a final ruling.


    I spent over $30,000 just trying to get half time and half of the marital debt. My lawyer watched as I put my car on a loan, borrowed money from parents and friends, and knows exactly how much money I have/had…and he went that far. My ex went back on an agreement and my lawyer wouldn’t file a contempt motion until I paid off my final 4500$. He knows I have no other income, he knows what transpired, and it went down just like I said it would (her not following through with our arrangement) but he doesn’t care…it’s all business.

    I would suggest going to your states department of justice website and see what documents you can prepare and file on your own behalf. In the past few months representing myself I found that its not that difficult to file a contempt motion/file for divorce/file for change of custody. You just need to know where to look.

    I also suggest you read Alec Baldwin’s book – “A Promise to Ourselves”…It will arm you with the info to see the court system for what it actually is – a money making machine in which all lawyers and judges are willing participants.

    5. Get involved in local parents rights groups. If your state doesn’t award 50/50 custody start calling/emailing/visiting your state senators/representatives and advocating for equal rights for all parents.

    6. I have considered calling local media outlets and civil rights groups as I feel as if I have been discriminated against unfairly – for simply being a man.

    7. Focus on your children. Think about them and only them. Let go of any anger towards your wife. Share your battle and struggle in forums and with your friends and family. We need to bring this issue to the forefront so it stops happening and we can be awarded the simple right of being involved parents.

    8. Don’t write anymore emails/leave any voicemails that can be used and twisted by her lawyers…only exchange information about your children.

    9. Be careful with recorders. Some states are 2 party states and you must inform your ex that you are recording the conversation/exchange.

    10. Don’t ever give up – these women (my ex) can’t/won’t stop being themselves. They can put on a good show for the courts but eventually they will resort to their true colors…If you always pay your support on time, show up for scheduled visitations and are an involved parent the courts will be very sympathetic if the stuff you claimed and provided evidence for happens again and again.

    My ex has ignored the judges order for the 4th time now. I filed a contempt of court motion and the judge (in his own handwriting) changed the hearing to a contempt/change of custody hearing…

    Best of luck to you my man.

    It is hands down the hardest thing I have ever gone through ut when I am playing with my daughter it is all worth it:)


    • shrink4men
      June 18, 2009 at 3:51 am

      Thanks, Thom!

  18. darryl
    June 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I am an Army Officer married to what I beleive is a woman with a BPD.

    I need a mechanism to escape.
    I need to know how to fight my fight in court.

    Has anyone gone to divorce court with a womand with a BPD. What whould I do to keep from being taken through the ringer.

    Thank You

    • shrink4men
      June 17, 2009 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Daryl,

      First, get really knowledgeable about the disorder. Then, remember everything nasty, cruel, abusive, underhanded thing your ex did to you while you were married and multiply it by 1000 to prepare yourself for the divorce process.

      These women cannot handle criticism or rejection and divorce is the ultimate rejection and criticism to these women. They will do everything in their power, use any dirty trick and tell any lie, no matter how outrageous, to “win” the divorce process to prove that they’re “right” and that you are a wrong, stupid bastard.

      They typically try to do this by:
      1) Leaving you penniless either by taking your assets and money as a form of spousal support or depleting your assets through high legal fees and court costs.
      2) Alienating your children from you (that is if you have children) and denying you access to them.
      3) Destroying your reputation by telling lies about you to anyone who’ll listen—including your friends, family and co-workers.

      You need to find a good, tough attorney who has experience dealing with “high conflict personality” divorce cases. It would be even better if you can find an attorney who understands BPD and NPD. The best defense is a good offense, so I’d consider telling your friends, family and anyone else who matters to you what’s going on and not to believe your ex’s lies should she contact them. Tell them what you’ve suffered at her hands over the years. Once you expose her for the abusive person she is, her lies will be less likely to harm you.

      If you have children, find a good child psychologist to consult with who also has experience working with BPD/NPD parents and their children. Keep records of EVERYTHING—nasty emails, threats, voicemails, keep a log in which you record abusive incidents. When she begins to make false and difficult to prove allegations in court it’s imperative that you have factual evidence to back you up.

      Invest in a small digital tape recorder and keep it with you when you have to have face-to-face meetings with her. I can’t tell you how many of these women use children visitation pick-ups and drop-offs to call the cops on their ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends and accuse them of violence. Most of the time, the police will haul you away, no questions asked and you don’t want this. When you have to see her face to face and she begins to get nasty, start recording.

      That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Anyone out their with firsthand experience have more advice for Darryl?

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • bob
        July 25, 2009 at 11:38 am

        I wish I had known my ex wife had BPD and I had found this blog before I divorced her. I did all the wrong things during the divorce. I walked out of our house leaving her with my two boys. She proceeded to kill my character and present me as a monster and I reacted through emails and texts which she was careful to keep ‘civil’ on her part. She had committed adultery which for me was the last straw, yet she was never grateful to me for not telling everyone what she had done. I am bad and she is good. When I was especially hurt about what she had said I went to my old house to have it out with her, and she called the cops to arrest me for harassment. They physically assaulted me. Given that I had never harmed her physically or emotionally for 12 years while I lived with her and it was her who abused me, while I just accepted it, thinking she will change for the better, it is amazing what she has done to me.

        I have lost my children, my home and my salary funds her life. And now I have the police threatening me for arrest and procecution unless I pay like a good boy and keep quiet. I feel angry and hatred for what she has done.

        • shrink4men
          July 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

          Hi Bob,

          I’m very sorry to read about what you’re going through. You have my sympathy. To any other men who are reading this, do not give these women the ammunition they need to portray you as a jerk in the courts or to the cops. Protect yourselves. I know it’s frustrating that these women seem to be able to behave as badly as they want and get away with it, but this is how our legal system works at the moment. You have to be above reproach and not fall into the traps that they will set for you, meanwhile, find ways to push these women’s buttons and get them to explode in front of witnesses and emails and then document it. The only way to dispel her false accusations (which are generally based on nothing except the fits of hysteria she puts on for the police, attorneys and judge) is with factual evidence to the contrary.

          Second, get involved with father’s rights groups and write to your legislators about the discriminatory practices in family/custody law. I try to think about what I would do if I were in this situation. I would be going out of my mind at the injustice. I’m not advocating this, but I’m surprised more men don’t fake their own deaths, assume a new identity and start over somewhere else. In certain cases, spousal support/child support really is a form of indentured servitude/ransom money. It’s like being pimped out by your ex-wife while she holds your children hostage. It’s not fair and my heart goes out to all of you.

          Kind Regards,
          Dr Tara

  19. bondobbs
    June 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I don’t know whether to be bemused or disappointed by your blog. I personally have a wife with BPD and one of my three daughters shows signs of the disorder. I have been blogging about the skills required to build an effective relationship with someone with BPD for over 4 years. I also have written 2 books about living with and loving someone with the disorder.

    I find your language to be judgmental towards the wife with BPD, which is a no-no when it comes to dealing with someone with this disorder. I agree with 2 of your five coping strategies – validation (which should be #1) and not getting “caught up” in the content. Dealing effectively with a person with BPD requires a set of skills and your “pretend your listening” is, in my mind, patronizing and snide. The reality is that one must listen for the emotional content, rather than the content itself. With someone with BPD, the emotional content is by far the most important. If you look at the (emotional) context, you can solve the real problem, which is emotional dysregulation. Once that is solved, all other problems pass away.

    I find it disturbing that you advise men in this way, when there are real tools and skills that can build a loving, close relationship with someone, regardless of if they have BPD.

    • shrink4men
      June 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm

      Hi bondobbs,

      Thank you for reading and posting. I encourage men to pretend to listen to the abusive, verbal diarrhea BPD/NPD women spew at them during one of their typical tirades because it is just that; abusive garbage. Trying to really listen to it and take it seriously is folly and personally damaging. I don’t think it’s helpful or comforting for a man to hear, “When she’s attacking and verbally abusing you, it’s not really about you. She’s just expressing her inner pain, so try to be tolerant of it and set boundaries and take care of yourself while validating her feelings and not the content.

      These women’s feelings aren’t facts and “validating” and “supporting” them only enables their distorted reality except that it becomes a folie a deux rather than une. I don’t think anyone should tolerate being the target of ongoing abuse whether they’re a man or a woman.

      I do judge these women. They’re not technically insane, meaning that they can’t control their behavior. They’re actually very capable of controlling their hurtful and outrageous behaviors in many situations. Having a personality disorder does not give a person a “pass” to treat the people who love them and are, therefore, vulnerable to their attacks however they want because they’re feeling “criticized,” “belittled” or whatever goes on in their minds. I judge them for treating the people they love like their personal dumping ground and I make no bones about it.

      Furthermore, I don’t think it’s the man’s responsibility to help a BPD/NPD woman regulate her moods and emotions. That means he’s still taking responsibility for her behavior instead of holding her accountable for the hurtful things she says and does. You chose to stay in your relationship and maybe that works for you. However, there are many men who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives having to take responsibility for their partner’s moods, behaviors, all the while having to monitor everything they say or do lest it set them off.

      My goal is to help men see there are other alternatives to staying in an abusive relationship. Too many of these men have been beaten down, are depressed and anxious with their self-esteem in the toilet. I’m offering them validation and telling them that they have a right to be angry about how they’ve been abused, that, ultimately, they are NOT responsible for their wife’s or girlfriend’s abusive behavior and that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives walking a tightrope for these women.

      Thanks again for sharing your views and good luck with your books.

      Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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  1. December 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

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