Coping Strategies 16-20 for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman
This is part four of Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman, 5 More Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman, and Another 5 Coping Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman.
These strategies aren’t guaranteed to help you avoid an attack or “fix” your relationship. They are designed to help you become aware of what’s going on in the moment and not get sucked into another endless conflict. Maintaining this level of hyper-vigilance and behavioral maintenance would be emotionally, physically and psychologically exhausting and I urge you not to do so:
16. Realize her limitations as a human being and take care of yourself. Commit the following statements to memory:
– I didn’t cause it.
– I can’t control it.
– I can’t cure it.
– Get off her back.
– Get out of her way.
– Get on with your own life. (Mason & Kreger, Walking on Eggshells)
If you must stay with your BPD/NPD woman for the time being, find ways to take care of yourself and do things you enjoy without her (this shouldn’t be too difficult because these women will rarely do anything if they know it’s something you enjoy)—like running, bowling, painting, playing the piano, going to the gym in the morning before work, collecting stamps, going out for a beer with your friends (if you have any left). Even if it’s working in your woodshed on Sunday afternoons—it doesn’t matter what it is. Find pockets in your life that you truly enjoy and don’t allow this woman to infect them or take them away from you.
17. Identify her triggers and hot buttons and avoid them if at all possible. Of course, like everything else with these women, they change the rules as they go along. The playing ground is always shifting, therefore, something you do or say on Wednesday might be ok and on Friday it’s a heinous crime against humanity that makes her go ballistic. These women make the rules, break the rules and the rules never apply to them.
Furthermore, this is a particularly a short-term strategy because, by walking on eggshells, trying to find ways to avoid triggering her, YOU are taking responsibility for her bad behavior when it should be the other way around. I strongly advise against spending the rest of your life trying to avoid the emotional landmines these women set for their nearest and dearest. This, more than anything else, will create a trauma response within you over time and takes a while from which to recover.
18. Keep track. Keep a journal, a disk, or digital voice recordings (you can hide a device in your pocket, but first make sure you’re living in a two party state otherwise it won’t be admissible in court) or send emails to yourself in which you record the abuse, her nasty tricks, hurtful statements, lies and outrageous behaviors. This serves two purposes. First, it is a tangible record that things really are that bad. With her propensity for gaslighting and distorting reality, she may eventually have you questioning your own sanity. Don’t let that happen.
Second, by keeping a detailed account of her abuse you have an excellent resource for court if and when you divorce her and need to fight for custody. These women fear exposure of their bad behavior more than anything. If you have evidence you can show attorneys, judges, court evaluators, friends and family, it may dissuade her from the usual NPD/BPD modus operandi of false allegations and smear campaigns.
19. Develop a poker face. When in doubt, no reaction is the best reaction. You give away your power when you react with anger, sadness, dismay or confusion to these women’s barbs. Every nasty thing they do is designed for maximum effect. They feed off of negativity and conflict. It energizes them and makes them feel alive. Since these women are incapable of empathy or experiencing true happiness, the “rage buzz” is as close as they can get.
Her usual fun and games cease being fun when she presses the lever and doesn’t get her “reward;” i.e., an angry or hurt reaction from you. This is all about learning and unlearning behaviors. For example, let’s consider lab rats. If they learn that every time they press a lever in their cage they’ll be rewarded with a food pellet, they press that lever until they stuff themselves silly. They don’t even have to be rewarded with a pellet every time. It could be most of the time or 3 times out of ten—it doesn’t matter. They’ll continue to push the lever in the hopes of receiving a food pellet.
Same thing with your wife or girlfriend. She has learned how to press your button(s) and you reward her when you give her the desired response. It encourages her to keep going and going and going. You need to stop giving her the reaction she wants. She’ll continue to press your buttons and, in fact, will probably escalate how frequently she does so, but eventually she will become frustrated and find another source of food/reaction/attention—just like a lab rat.
20. Stay on point. Stay focused on your message. Don’t let her divert or distract you. That’s how she pulls you into crazy town right along with her. Speak calmly, clearly and confidently. These women are like animals; they can smell fear and when they do, they amp it up. Remember, at heart, they’re predatory bullies and if they perceive any weakness they’ll go after it.
Keep what you’re going to say short, simple, clear and direct. Think about her typical attacks. They’re probably very simplistic. Elaborate explanations, defenses, and pleas are lost on women like this. These women are black and white thinkers in the extreme. They don’t get nuance, so don’t waste your breath. In her mind, it’s right or wrong (she’s right; you’re wrong) and good or bad (she’s good; you’re bad).
Again, these strategies 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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