Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, bullying, divorce, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychology, relationships > Coping Strategies 16-20 for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

Coping Strategies 16-20 for Dealing with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

neo_bullets_matrix-1This 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.

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 shrink4men@gmail.com.

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Photo credit:

Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix.

  1. nick
    October 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    I’m in tears. I’ve read each entry of this series, and it elates me knowing that there’s a reason, and there are others like it. Just a little backstory, I’m a 23 male, not living in the best situations, and have been dealing with my BPD stricken grandmother since my infancy, and it’s driven me to less than reputable of circumstances. After almost 2 decades of this nonsense, I’ve come to the holy grail of reasoning. Thank you for enlightening me on this. I can have a life now with this newfound knowledge!

  2. GaryBaumdraher
    May 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you so much. #16 hit me like a thrown rock. So much of the 20 was so accurate. Its as if you were writing my story. I’ve doubted my own sanity at times and this helps my self esteem so much. I’m not the bad guy here. Never was. GRB . .

  3. hopeless
    March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Unbelievable to read the stories on here. I married a woman with NPD/BPD in 1994. We were married for 14 years and she divorced me in 2007. My divorce was filled with everything that has been written about. I was abused beyond belief. I was accused of everything you can think of including being dangerous to my kids. She wrote letters to local news papers and gossip columns, she attempted to blackmail me, and ran around telling the world lie after lie, I was assualted, abused, and bascially thought I was losing my mind. Due t all the stress I had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a 13 day out patient program which only added fuel to the fire. After a $77,000 legal battle I did end up with joint custody of my children and a good amount of visitation. I lost my home, every asset I owned, and had to pay $70,000 to buy her out of my pension. As time went on people started to see the real nut was her and not me. She had a man move in with her within days of the divorce and he lived with her for the past five years. Those five years she focused on her new victim and he left her this past September. Here we are five years later and she has picked up where she left off. She started all the attacks against me again once her boyfriend dumped her. The legal circus started in Sept and is still going on. She found an attorney who is as nuts and unethical as she is. I will never stop standing up for my rights. Its all that is left. This woman is like a cancer. The disease is always there. Sometimes it goes into remission and when it surfaces it is hell. She gets off on conflict and is the supreme victim. She uses the system beyond belief. I pay here $40,000 tax free a year in child support and she has every social service you can think of. She has a masters degree and teaching certificate but refuses to get a full time jog. Now she is in school again at 47 to be a nurse and the court has forced me to pay half of daycare needs even though we are five years out of the divorce and she has never attempted to get a full time job. I feel worn down, tired and depressed. It is like living in a concentration camp. It helps to read the strategies to deal with her. They really are the only answer. The biggest lesson I have learned is no matter how angry, frustrated, hurt, sad I am I must not react to her EVER!! These women live for reaction and at the same time it also stimulates them. Through all this my children have remained sane because I have never allowed them to know the hell I endure all the time. I have never spoke a bad word about her to them. I have twin 12 year olds and an 8 year old and am 52. I will have to endure this for another 10 years. Some days I don’t know that I can do it. I can’t even contemplate suicide because if I die she will receive half a million dollars in life insurance that the court mandated I maintain until my kids are 18. Somedays I think how did I ever get here? And then, I remember. I WAS THE FOOL WHO MARRIED A SICK WOMAN WHO HAS NPD/BPD. Unfortunatley, her illness affects me every day of my life because I had children with her. I feel hopeless today. Hopeless or not I have no choice. If you can avoid these women do it at no cost!

    Thanks for listening,

  4. JT Sales
    June 2, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Sorry, insted of BP (bipolar personality) I mean BPD (borderline personality disorder), although the former condition would be less complicated in view of what I’ve been experiencing in my life now.

  5. JT Sales
    June 2, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Dear Dr. Tara Palmatier,

    I´ve been reading a lot about BP, for my wife seems to have this disorder (in fact, I’m sure she’s bipolar). For instance, the strategies you described for dealing with BP women are in total accordance with my experiences. I confess that sometimes I think of leaving her, but I do love her. The question is: BP women can love? Is there any hope for them (and me)?

    Thank you.


    JT Sales

  6. March 19, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Tara I always had Neo in mind when I read the title of this article. I laughed hard when I saw this pic, you had read my mind!! lol.

    BPDs, HPDs and NPDs are like those criminals shooting bullets at Neo. Neo looks at all of them and says “Bring it on baby”. “I can handle all of you alone and with one hand only”. I don´t dodge bullets anymore, I STOP them. Wow.

    I used to dodge these people. Nowadays I stand there and stop them with one hand! Thanks to this site. I´ve been reading about these nuts for 7 years, so I know what to expect from them.

  7. Mr. E.
    July 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    “They’re predatory bullies”

    This should be in bold. NPD/BPD/whatever, it’s good to learn about the disorders so you know what to expect and that the problem is the abuser, not you. The part that really matters for their target is realizing they’re bullies, they want to hurt you, and should be avoided.

    As you’ve said, the disorders are on a spectrum. It’s tempting to try and diagnose. Is she BPD? NPD? I’ve constantly got to remind myself that it doesn’t matter to me if she’s NPD or BPD or just mean-spirited, the end result is that I get beat up on until she feels better.

    Love these posts.

    • shrink4men
      July 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

      As always, thanks, Mr E!

    • Mr. J.
      October 14, 2009 at 7:36 am

      I met my soon to be X-Wife (BPD) when I was only 22. I was awarded my dream job making a ton of money in the most fun and exciting atmosphere. She was 150% holding me up as her trophy to all including myself. We got married and had two children. Once things went into routine I quickly become -150% pushing me down to all including herself. She became physically and emotionally abusive. Eventually she had me losing my job with taking care of my family over my job. Constant ER visits and she convinced me to turn on my boss for defending my family leave time by state laws. I lost my job and quickly became stay at home dad, fell in love with my kids, and the world was her party. She never came home and became secretive. Working late always and I found out she was cheating on me. I became in her eyes and the world a deadbeat Dad. She took the children and keeps them from me as much as possible while neglecting and emotionally abusing them. I now face child support based on my previous high salary that climbs into the thousands. I struggle to get a job because of the gap in employment and overqualified. My depression is clearly seen to all and I am judged. I went from a great person to all and bright future, to a depressed deadbeat with no life in the eyes of all involved. Including my own family. She has manipulated everyone around me and completely destroyed all she can of me. Even still, anorexic and mentally broken she blames me for her health and tells me she is dying. She cries for me to take her back while planning my constant demise. I ignore her and just want peace. I have accepted my children may never get to be with me and it is not my fault my family will suffer greatly. This is the worst emotional pain a great husband and loving father can take. I sincerely need help and have stayed quiet for too long. I have no money, my children are damaged, and everyone has turned on me including the courts. I have read much on BPD throughout this process and somehow she always succeeds in my destruction. Please somebody help me. Completely drained – Mr. J.

      • Blueshound
        December 9, 2009 at 3:42 am

        Hey Mr. J.! God I feel your pain. I thought I was the only one brother! I am now in the same place as you are/were when you wrote this post.

        Just in the last few hours this site has helped tremendously. I wish you strength and courage – you will get through it, somehow, someday.

        be well,

        • daniel
          August 17, 2010 at 8:50 am

          lose her and find Jesus If you ignore her she will self destruct keep a log of everything she does wrong You need to take care of you now not her you are free of her burden let her go If you get right with God you can do anything If you pretend you dont want those kids anymore because you are having too much fun she will force you to take them. get it she only wants the kids because its somthing you want and love do this and i promise you will get custody and she will self destruct she knows you still want her find someone new anyone and you will get control back

  1. December 2, 2010 at 10:53 am
  2. November 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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