5 More Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman
This is part two of last week’s post, Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman. Remember, these skills are meant to be short-term coping strategies while you figure out how to end your abusive relationship. Maintaining this level of hyper-vigilance and behavioral maintenance long-term would be emotionally, physically and psychologically grueling and I urge you not to do so:
6. Be suspicious if she pretends to act like a normal, reasonable human being or is “nice” to you. Quite simply, these women aren’t reasonable and they’re not nice. Being “nice” is a last resort tactic in order to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do when their usual behaviors of bullying, insults, threats, high drama, tears and guilt have failed. They use these strategies to disorient you into submission. Pretending to be nice is just another maneuver in their bag of tricks, so don’t fall for it. It may also be a Hoover, if she suspects you’re thinking about ending the relationship or have told her you want to separate.
When these women are uncharacteristically nice, you’re probably relieved and think, “Maybe there’s hope. Maybe things will be okay.” They lull you into a false sense of security, you let your guard down and then WHAM! the rug is pulled out from beneath you. It’s like the old Peanuts gag in which Lucy van Pelt yanks the football away from Charlie Brown as he’s about to kick it. He lands on his backside every time, tricked again and wondering why Lucy just can’t play nice.
Don’t be a blockhead. Don’t respond like an eager puppy dog who’s grateful that his usually abusive mistress gave him a treat only to kick him in the ribs a few minutes later. Figure out what it is she’s after and then plan accordingly.
One of my readers, JP, shares an example of this behavior in which his ex-wife tries to get him to pay more spousal support than he’s required that he calls the rapport breaker in a comment (left on June 9th; 1:39am). I refer to this behavior as well, but call it the one-two sucker punch or the smash and grab (same comment thread left on June 9th; 3:00am by shrink4men—scroll down to the very bottom of the page; for some reason it’s out of sequence).
7. Avoid anger. As crazy as it seems, this kind of woman is genuinely surprised and taken aback when you become angry in reaction to her verbal and emotional abuse, attacks, manipulations, general selfishness, lack of empathy and inability to see any viewpoint, but her own highly distorted one. When you respond with anger (and rightly so), to her distorted emotional reasoning, she perceives this as rejection, criticism and a put down, which she’ll then feel compelled to punish you for.
As far as she’s concerned you don’t have a right to your feelings and she’s the only victim, even when she’s actively abusing you. When you stand up for yourself or hold her accountable for her bad behavior, she perceives it as an attack and will either respond in kind or scurry away to lick her wounds while she plans her next attack.
8. As loathsome as it may be, praise her for whatever admirable qualities (or quality) she has. Try to appeal to her “better nature.” Believe it or not, these women fancy themselves to be high-minded and just. Did you just choke on your coffee? I did.
When she’s behaving badly and/or making outrageous and unreasonable demands, say something like, “I know how much you love our son and what a good mother you are. I know you don’t want to scare him by fighting in front of him. You love him too much. Let’s wait to discuss this when he’s at basketball practice.” Or, “I know what a good Christian you are. Everyone at Church thinks so. No one’s perfect. If Jesus can forgive, so can we.” Or, “You’re so smart and aware about these things. I know you’d eventually think of this yourself, but why don’t we…” You get the idea. By doing this, you flatter and acknowledge her unfounded superior sense of self, which may buy you a little peace.
9. Avoid responding to personal attacks or criticism with defensiveness or long-winded explanations. Being defensive only amps her up to attack even harder and she tunes out any explanations (i.e., what you and I call REALITY) because it contradicts her delusional world and self view.
When she accuses you of saying or doing something that you didn’t say or do, apologize for “mis-communicating” or “misunderstanding.” Say you’re sorry she feels ignored or belittled, because that wasn’t your intention when, for example, you were putting your son to bed after working a 12-hour day or don’t think it’s a good idea to put a $30,000 addition to the house because you’re struggling to make ends meet. This may help her shift back to a positive position.
When she engages in name calling or other demeaning behaviors, set a clear boundary and if she won’t observe it, walk away. For example, “I see you’re upset. I’m willing to discuss the problem with you, but calling me names makes it difficult for me to hear you. If you continue to make personal attacks, I’m going for a walk.” Depending upon the severity of her issues, this may or may not work. The point is to give her a clear consequence if she doesn’t stop her bad behavior. Don’t make concessions just to end the conflict du jour, because it only validates her distorted thinking, which empowers her to make more outrageous criticisms, attacks, demands, etc., which leads us to…
10. Set clear boundaries. This kind of woman will take a million miles if you give her half an inch. Figure out your bottom line when it comes to tolerating certain behaviors, draw a line for the ones that are absolutely unacceptable and state them gently, firmly, clearly and repeatedly. Like a 5-year old child, she doesn’t take “no” for an answer and will continue to push and push and push until she wears you out or she wears herself out, whichever comes first.
These women may respect the boundaries you put in place one day and the next, it’s like you never had the conversation. You will have to consistently and continuously reset the boundaries with her, so if you plan to stay in the relationship, get used to sounding like a broken record. Unlike an actual 5-year old, these women neither grow up nor grow out of these behaviors and their grandiose sense of entitlement. They will maintain their hostile dependency for as long as the relationship continues and afterward via alimony, which is a form of financial abuse, but at least she’s not in your face everyday.
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.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
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