Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, divorce, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder > Divorce and High-Conflict People: Borderlines, Narcissists, Histrionics, Sociopaths and Other Persuasive Blamers

Divorce and High-Conflict People: Borderlines, Narcissists, Histrionics, Sociopaths and Other Persuasive Blamers


Dr. Tara,

I’m a few days away from being divorced from my spouse.

I’ve been married for a most of eight years and up until about 9 months ago I have felt I am crazy… actually some days I still do. My spouse isn’t particularly violent but has consistently abused me mentally and emotionally for most of the marriage (constant criticism, control of all finances, isolation from friends and family, etc).

I met my best friend a year and a half ago and she has recently become my girlfriend. I got to really know her well as she was wrapping up the divorce from her Borderline Personality Disorder spouse. He tried to destroy her every way possible. We worked together at the time and she would remark how I looked like a POW or shell shocked most days. Along the way we began to compare notes and I started to recognize that maybe I wasn’t the one who was crazy. She found your site and sent links of specific articles. For once in my life it was like someone knew what it was like to be married to my spouse.

My spouse has, up until just recently, been pretty well-behaved, however now that there is a clock ticking we’ve had plenty of engagement time to discuss the details of our divorce agreement… go figure it’s never exactly right regardless how many times we modify the language and it’s always my fault. My tolerance for her has shrunk considerably and I regularly find myself feeling worthless, unloved and apologizing for anything and everything that goes awry much the way I did when I was living with her.

Why does she persist in dragging this out? Why is she being so aggressive, punitive and malicious? What recommendations do you have for how to extricate myself from these sorts of feelings… and how do I learn to not react to her verbal attacks in the first place?

Sincerely,

Max

Hi Max,

What you’re describing is typical divorce behavior for Cluster B Personality Disordered individuals (Borderlines, Narcissists, Histrionics and Antisocials) or, what attorneys refer to as High-Conflict People (HCP). Not all HCPs have full-blown personality disorders, but they share many of their traits such as emotional reasoning, all-or-nothing thinking, minimizing the positive while maximizing the negative, chronic blaming and an inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions. William Eddy, LCSW, Esq, has written two helpful books on the subject:

High-Conflict People: The Issue Is Rarely the Issue.

Eddy believes that most conflict is personality driven. This means that it’s not the amount of money at stake, who gets primary custody or who left the toilet seat up or down. Your ex is prolonging the divorce for a reason and it’s probably not about the amount of support or who gets the wedding china. In high-conflict cases, the stated issue typically isn’t the real issue. The real issue is the personality (or personality disorder) of one or both parties.

“Not everyone with a personality disorder becomes a high-conflict personality (HCP). Only those who are also Persuasive Blamers seem to become HCPs. Persuasive Blamers persuade others that their internal problems are external, caused by something else or someone else. Once others are persuaded to get the problem backward, the dispute escalates into a long-term, high-conflict situation. One that few people other than persuasive blamers can tolerate” (Eddy, 2006, p. 29).

Not all Cluster Bs are persuasive Blamers, which makes their craziness, distortions and bald faced lies easier to detect, contain and redirect in a dispute. “It’s only the Persuasive Blamers of Cluster B who keep high-conflict disputes going. They are persuasive, and to keep the focus off their own behavior (the major source of the problem), they get others to join in the blaming” (Eddy, 2006, p. 30). This is why many Narcissists, Borderlines, Histrionics and Antisocials effectively employ smear campaign and mobbing tactics when they target someone—be it a spouse, attorney, court evaluator or therapist. By blaming others for everything that’s wrong in their lives they keep the focus off the real problem; themselves. This is nothing more than a primitive ego defense mechanism at play.

Divorce Is the Ultimate F— You.

When a man divorces, he’s basically saying, “Living with you is so intolerable, I’m willing to risk giving up half or more of my assets and losing my home and children to be free of you.” (*Please note: 70% of US divorces are initiated by women and women are typically the “winners” in state-run Divorce Lotto Court. They typically walk away with half the assets even if they didn’t contribute a dime to the marriage and get primary custody even if they’re not the better parent). Most women who divorce don’t stand to lose as much as most men). Therefore, divorce is the ultimate narcissistic injury and ultimate abandonment. Even if the HCP/Cluster B/Persuasive Blamer initiates the divorce, they still view it as a zero sum/winner take all/destroy the other party battle to the death.

According to Eddy, High-Conflict People, Borderlines, Narcissists, Persuasive Blamers—whatever you want to call them—are driven by 4 primary fears:

  • the fear of being ignored
  • the fear of being belittled (includes the fear of public exposure)
  • the fear of being abandoned
  • the fear of being dominated (includes the fear of losing control—control over you, control over money/assets and control of herself)

The divorce process triggers these fears and pushes all of their hot buttons, which explains why many escalate their controlling and abusive behaviors during a divorce. Divorce represents a final loss of control and means that their flaws and faults might be exposed to friends, family, mental health professionals and the court system. Most Cluster Bs fight tooth and nail against having their abusive traits and other nasty qualities exposed. Now that you’re no longer together, you know too much about her and, therefore, must be discredited and destroyed so that no one will suspect that she’s actually the one with the problems. This is her logic.

Why Do They Drag Out the Divorce Process?

1. “Blamers are not usually good at negotiation and other forms of compromise. They have all-or-nothing thinking, they personalize even the most minor issues, and they may feel that giving in to the other party’s requests is a form of abandonment or threat to their superiority” (Eddy, 2004, p. 36). This type of individual sees compromise as losing and people who are willing to accept a fair compromise as losers. Eddy (2004, p. 36) makes this interesting diagnostic distinction: “Borderlines feel that they must refuse compromise to avoid feeling abandoned. Narcissists feel that they are superior and should receive more.” Although, I think in most cases both of these cognitive distortions are often at work.

This is also is why so many of them have a difficult time articulating what they want in terms of a settlement at the onset of the divorce process. She’s reluctant to agree to anything because she wants to extract the maximum amount from you. “If he’s willing to give me this, maybe I can gouge another pound of flesh.” The actual monetary amount/degree of custody is meaningless; if she gets more, in her mind it means she wins and is right and will be viewed by others as the winner who’s in the right.

“When you are negotiating with a Blamer, they will pressure you to give them much more than a court would give them because they were abandoned or are superior” (Eddy, 2004, p. 30). Mediation and other collaborative techniques are difficult for severe Blamers because “they cannot handle compromises, they cannot listen to ideas that conflict with their reality, the abandonment feels too intense, and they cannot handle the combination of physical closeness and emotional distance (ending their lives together while sitting together)” (Eddy, 2004, p.30).

2. The divorce process gives individuals like your wife a raison dêtre. Women with these issues often have no interests (other than controlling you), identity or personal/career goals. Divorce and annihilating you becomes their new full-time job. Even after you both agree to a settlement, individuals like your wife will have their attorney try to revise and rewrite the terms in an effort to prolong the process and the attention she receives from it, to get more than her fair share, and to maintain her control over you by not letting you get on with your life. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty pathetic. People who are in their right minds want to end this adversarial and emotionally and financially costly process as quickly as possible, not prolong it.

3. High-conflict people feed off of conflict and chaos. It gives them a buzz. For many, the only way they know how to relate to others is through aggression, blame and playing the victim. Once it ends, what does she have left? Nothing.

4. Oppositional withholding. This is more leftover baggage from your marriage. Many of these women are withholding partners. Meaning, if there’s something you really want, she doesn’t want you to have it. The more you want something, no matter how insignificant and small, the more she finds reasons that you shouldn’t have it or actively obstructs you from getting it. In this respect, these women are like oppositional, defiant toddlers. The more you want to wrap up the divorce; the more she digs in her heels and tries to delay it.

The Endless Bag of Cluster B Tricks: Derailing and Tangenting.

Like you, many of the men I work with often become stonewalled by their exes just as they near the finish line. These men are neither personality disordered nor high-conflict; they just want to be done. Every time they get close to a settlement, their ex derails, blows up or delays the process by not responding to letters, canceling appointments, making new allegations and demands and/or walking out on settlement talks with mediators, evaluators, etc. This is a Cluster B trait that is appropriately called derailing.

In your case, derailing is an attempt to intentionally try to destroy the progress you’ve made in your settlement talks. For example, during negotiations, you’re able to get through most of the issues calmly and reasonably. The process seems to be going well and you’re hopeful that you’ll be able to resolve the matter. Once you’re close to an agreement, your ex jumps to a hot button topic (e.g., having to support herself, your new girlfriend, your family whom she hates, accusations that you’re hiding money—it could be anything).

“The topic is usually one in which somehow something that you have done, are thinking of doing or [she] believes you have done or are thinking of doing. The rationality of the accusation, despite any information to the contrary, is irrelevant. Then [she] escalates that topic to its worst, going into a rage” (bpd411.com). This may end in her storming out of the session and reneging on items to which she previously agreed. This behavior destroys any progress that’s been made and puts you back at square one.

Tangenting is a less explosive form of derailing, but with the same end result. For example, when you’re just about to reach a solution, your ex will “change the subject, go sideways to a related, but different topic and refuse to return to the original issue. She may even project and blame you for obstructing the process, which is just another a side topic to keep you from returning to the original topic and its solution. These side topics are also never resolved.

“There is some logic to the connection between the topics that, on the surface, appears rational.” This second topic is usually a recurring one that makes you the target of more blame. These make convenient side issues when a solution is too closely approached. When you attempt to bring the discussion back to the original topic, [she] will usually accuse you of being too controlling or that you think the world revolves around you” (bpd411.com). Both tangenting and derailing are often used to prolong the divorce process during negotiations and anything else this type of person wants to avoid—like discussing your feelings, your needs or how she hurt you when you were still together.

So What Can You Do?

Attorneys and mediators approximate that they accomplish 5 minutes of work for every hour spent with a high-conflict person. This is all well and good, but legal services aren’t cheap and why should you get stuck footing the bill because your ex has issues?

1. Tell your attorneys what your bottom line is and stick to it. Let him or her communicate with your ex, since it doesn’t seem that you’re able to bring this to a conclusion with her. She is probably too stuck in the role of opposing and punishing you for you to make any headway with her.

2. Maximize any leverage you have. These women tend to be transactional in their relationships, so you might want to find something to withhold from her in order to get a more equitable outcome. Also, stop being so damned reasonable. Being fair and reasonable doesn’t compute for this type of individual. When you’re generous and give away more than you’re obligated, she sees it as a greenlight to push for even more. She doesn’t think, “Wow, he’s being so generous. I’ll take it.” She thinks, “Sucker. I’ll bet I can get even more if he’s willing to agree to this.”

You are probably a very nice guy and want to be seen as a nice, reasonable guy. She knows this and is working you. The reality is that no matter what you do, your ex thinks you’re a jerk. When you’re reasonable or make concessions to her demands, she thinks you’re a stupid jerk. No matter what you do, she’s going to see you as the bad guy, so do what you need to do protect your best interests. High-conflict people/bullies only respect people who push back hard. Don’t sink to her level, but it may be time to play hardball, which is also probably best handled by your attorney.

3. Choose your battles. Determine what’s most important to you, but don’t let her know. Remember, most of these types withhold to punish. Pretend like you don’t care about the things you care about most and care about the things you don’t really care about. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot.

4. Get it in writing. If you finally do reach a settlement via mediation or another process, don’t let her leave without signing something! Don’t give her time to think it over. Whenever possible, get commitments from her in writing right then and there. Verbal agreements from this kind of person are meaningless. Often, their written agreements are also meaningless since many Narcissists, Borderlines, Histrionics and other high-conflict types believe they’re exempt from the rules by which the rest of us mere mortals abide. At least if you get something from her in writing you’ll have some legal recourse if she later tries to obstruct or make new demands.

5. Practice emotional detachment. As for dealing with your emotions and not reacting to her verbal jabs; don’t engage (easier said than done, of course). I suggest you read the following articles on no contact and emotional detachment and try to put the techniques into practice:

Hang in there. You’re in the home stretch.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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  1. Alreadylost
    June 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Dr. T,

    Mine is always commenting on how much more attractive she is than everyone else and how I will never find anyone else as pretty as she is etc. etc. etc. Sound familiar? I just keep silent since there is no point in trying to argue with her. She is always “right”. After all she is perfect in her eyes. She is also certain I have someone “waiting in the wings to take her place”. After dealing with her I don’t think I will be ready for another relationship of any kind anytime soon if ever. I don’t think I could trust anyone enough to be able to let them get close like a normal healthy relationship should be. To ask someone to give to me and not receive the trust and openess in return would be just wrong. Does the hurt ever end?

    • Irishgirl
      June 30, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      It ends, believe me it does. I didn’t go through a divorce, but it was a shock to the system just the same. The middle is better than the beginning, and the end is better than the middle. It’s taken me two years to get over what I went through. Two years as of last April. It usually takes me a couple months to get over a relationship, but that’s because for me they usually end amicably and in a healthy way. This was a first for me, and it was debilitating. When it first hit me I could physically feel it, like someone had kicked me in the gut. A piercing stabbing pain to my heart which is ironic because I had always thought that was only a figurative idea….turns out it’s for real. When your heart breaks violently you really can physically feel it in the center of your chest. It’s like your soul cracks or something. Every day for months I felt sick to my stomach, distracted, a deep sadness I couldn’t shake. I turned to alcohol and comfort food, I stopped working out, I gained 20 lbs, I hermatized in my apartment avoiding people and obsessed. I questioned my own judgement. I called in sick alot. I spent three days in bed one week. As a result I asked my doctor to start prescribing me anti-depressants. Unbelievable…if anything can drag you down it’s definitely crazy. I like to look at it that way. It took crazy (or evil, whichever one) to come close to breaking me…everything else that has come my way I was able to dodge or recover from fairly quickly. I figure that means I’m pretty strong.

      I wondered if it would ever end too, but now I finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I still think about it every day, like it’s burning a hole in my brain, but it’s easier to distract myself and less painful when I think about it. Find your vices, hopefully good ones, and good friends and family to take up your time. If you don’t have alot of friends use facebook or meetup.com to help you set up a good circle….it takes some work and patience to nurture friendships just like it does relationships. Please don’t believe you can’t or won’t trust anyone enough to beable to let them close like a normal healthy relationship should be. Don’t let this woman take that away from you. It takes time to heal, unfortunately sometimes it takes alot of time….but now you are well versed and equipped to spot those red flags and to listen to your gut about these women, (or people) so it’s highly unlikely you will tie yourself to another like her…as long as you act on those signs. I honestly think my future relationship will be a better one then I can imagine, because I’ve grown stronger and can read people much better now and people notice that. It has created more confidence in me to know I have overcome this experience, that I didn’t stoop to his level and I didn’t sell myself out. Maybe somehow in some way I needed to go through it…I don’t know. I do know what kind of person I am under duress…and it’s a good person. I truly believe you have great things to look forward to…it’s just going to take awhile to get there, but like all things worth having (that are real) it takes some struggle and fight.

  2. Ron
    June 30, 2011 at 7:55 am

    This is exceptionally relevant to me right now. My question – what is the prognosis for these people after the divorce, as they head to middle and later years? They have to confront things one day, I would imagine?

    • shrink4men
      June 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Ron,

      They typically worsen as they age and the aging process can be difficult for them—especially the physically attractive ones. If you’re asking, do they eventually see the light? That’s highly unlikely. They usually continue to blame others for everything that’s gone wrong in their lives.

  3. TheGirlInside
    April 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    (((((((((((Carol))))))))))) ~ I’m a latecomer here and maybe things have changed quite a bit for you in the meanwhile.

    My initial response is that I should say, “He doesn’t love you. Cut your losses. You deserve better.” However, I understand all too well your frustration, hope, and pain.

    I think the best you can do for him right now is be a friend, and frankly, move on with YOUR life. He has made his choice. Yes, codependency is an addiction, similar to booze, drug or food addictions. and yes, he has to hit rock bottom. But that doesn’t mean you have to go down there with him. I wonder if there is a group similar to Ala-non like Ala-buse or something, to help those of us who truly care about the abused (as opposed to their abuser) deal with our role in their lives.

    I spend a lot of time in prayer and conversations with (griping to/questioning)God regarding a good friend, who, if I could ever be so lucky as to gain the attention of a man like him…I’d appreciate the daylights out of him, and show him the difference between real and fake love.

    She doesn’t love him; she’s incapable of it. But she knows the right buttons to push. Abusers do that. They find out what is most near and dear to your heart, and they USE that (even if that is a human being) to hook you back into the relationsihp with them, and get you to feel guilty for daring to contemplate leaving.

    I’ve tried, to get him to wake up and come out of the fog, and keep trying. I back off, I pray, I find articles, he accepts them graciously. Once, I even wrote a 10-page list of the things she did before v. after her “Sudden, Miraculous Transformation”* v….they were all abusive things. I used his own words and facts. He denied it all. He defends her victimhood (which drives me berserk! I cannot stand Professional Victimhood!!!) and is staying for the exact same reason his son is staying with his abusive gf – for the sake of son’s son (grandson).

    *Funny, she ONLY made that 180-degree ‘change’ After decades of making him feel like crap, unloved, unwanted, stupid, hated everything about him, was disgusted by his attempts at affection…but, amazingly, all he had to do was say he wanted a divorce (a mistake), and WOW!! Suddenly, she is everything he always wanted her to be. If she’d have given a damn about him AT ALL, she would have changed long before, when he still cared enough to be begging her to love him.

    Use things and love people, not the other way around. Abusers do the opposite.

    It’s really hard to just give up. Like you, I don’t really know what else to do either.

    There’s a book from Stephen King called “Rose Mader” – about a woman who has been horribly abused (and yes, it’s got metaphysical aspects like usual)–but the part that got me was the moment when she finally decided she’d had enough. She was making the bed and saw a spot of blood on it, like someone had a bloody nose. It was the smallest of things, but it was what finally put her over the edge and made her realize she was ready. It was like that for me; one day, I looked at my AXH and realized 1) he looked like a clown (big lips, pointy eyebrows, etc.) – I hate clowns (but no, not b/c of Stephen King ;)) and 2)his personality was just like my mother – the woman I had spent my entire adult life trying to get AWAY from. The thought that I was stuck with someone like her for the rest of my life was devastating to me.

    Praying for his and all of their (male and female) “blood spot” moments….

    ~Mr. Rochester’s Jane

  4. lori
    March 31, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Wow, This hits the nail on the head. so well put. I hope we can use some of this material to survive exactly the same scenario. Maybe someday there will be premarital screening for this dysorder. thanks for the information.

  5. Sarah
    October 28, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Carol my partner tried this for a while too, because of the kids, he tried to use the relationship with me to save enough of his sanity to stay with the kids….he thought among other things that he could better protect them by being in the house…
    It didnt last long and he eventually told her that he was seeing someone else and left for good this time, it was a very traumatic time for me as well and it does feel like you are being torn in two….
    What he is doing is laudible and his fears that she will be difficult over him seeing the kids are all absolutely justified but its all pointless she wont change she cant its the nature of the beast and I choose my words carefully! I hope that he will be able to see it as she will play serious mind games with him and crucially when she does it again, and she will, dont give her a 2nd chance…However this takes an iron will !! Remember the reason divorce is so expensive (financially and emotionally) is because its worth it…..

    • Carol
      October 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

      Thanks so much for your “hope” and advice. I’m just so frustrated… Sarah — she HAD known about me for 2 months… I think that is what eventually made her want to “work on their marriage”. She could see him becoming more and more happy and couldn’t stand it. I really screwed up by agreeing to talk to her — telling her that I love him and begging her to let him go. As for their “working things out”… she is already yelling at him again… but they are still stuck holding on to a house they can’t sell. I just don’t know what to do — simply because there is nothing I can do!

      Mellaril… you are right about being a resource for him. I read this site daily and print out articles I think will help him. I don’t know when he’ll be ready to read them because she has him so isolated that I can’t give them to him. I also asked if he can get e-mails… he can’t — she has the computer locked up too. So… I just give him bits and pieces and pray and wait for him to decide he’s hit rock bottom and get out. Yesterday he texted me and said, “… Yes that would be nice just can’t run rite now.” Sums it all up… he thinks leaving her, with the kids, is “running” away.

      Anyway… education is power — so I’ll continue reading this site and do the best I can to have the resources he needs available — when he’s ready. Until then… I’m trying to put my focus on my life… so I don’t become disfuncional in the waiting!! Thank you ALL for the advice you put on this site.
      Sincerely,
      Carol

  6. Carol
    October 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    This is all insanely close to what “we” are going through. My boyfriend has been tortured by his wife for nearly 22 years. She told him she wanted a divorce, that she should never have married him, all the same story as above… she then told him to go find someone else because she didn’t want him. She has derailed divorce procedings by saying she needs to wait for one thing or another, etc. He was so depressed everyone in his life was worried for him. Then we met… well “re-met”… we have known each other since grade school. We hadn’t seen each other for around 30 years and met when putting together a 30 year reunion. Anyway,… to make a LONG story short… we fell in love AND are still best friends. He became REALLY happy… and she couldn’t stand it. So… what did she do? She told him that she wants to try to work out their marriage again — that she loves him. He agreed… keep in mind… one of the reasons (out of a million) I love him so much is because of how much he loves his children. He has been their primary caregiver (in addition to working and taking care of the majority of the household chores) all of their lives.

    Anyway… I thought it was over… until he contacted me to ask me to just wait… saying he knew it was only a matter of time before she changes her mind. I’m nearly crazy.. I don’t know if I should leave him alone … until that happens… or if I should continue providing him love and support until she changes her mind again.

    Reading nearly every page of this site tells me that she will just continue to go around and around with him… that it won’t be the last time — and it certainly isn’t the first — so how do I help him know what to do? I’m going to print out this link & comments… so he can see how closely related he is to everyone here… and also the page that defines a person with NPD and the one telling you how you know you are being abused by an NPD… but I still need advice on how I can best help him.

    Please don’t suggest I leave him for good… I really love him and don’t want to do that — the only way I will give up on him is if that is what is best for him… but I don’t see that. He is a different person with me — he is happy, confident, funny, smart, brave… LOVED… and much more. With her he is humiliated, emberassed, belittled, depressed… HATED… and much more. Please just tell me how to help him.

    • Mellaril
      October 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Aside from letting him know how you feel, there’s really not much you can do for him. It’s his decision to make and it may not be the one you’d prefer.

      My first question is, what are you prepared to do if his marriage works? Your post implies that neither of you hold out much hope for the marriage and you seem to be planning accordingly. I understand his skepticism in her ability to change and his reluctance to leave her but it appears he’s already writing it off. If he’s not committed to making it work, why not get out sooner than later? If you value marriage and family as institutions, the correct course seems to be you back off and let them try to save the marriage until it’s resolved either way. If not, feel free to intervene.

      The first time I broke up with my exgf, I started seeing someone else. When my exgf found out about it, she wanted to get back together. We had about three years of history, nowhere near the 22 years and kids your boyfriend has, so I went back to her. The woman I was seeing warned me my exgf was using me but I chose my exgf. I mishandled that situation badly and really hurt the woman I had started seeing. It took over 2 years for the end to play out, the last being the most painful of the 5 years our paths crossed. I’ve been married for 22 years to another woman. The point is that just because you’re warned, doesn’t mean you’ll listen.

      You’re in an unenviable position. Maybe the best thing you can do is to educate yourself about Cluster Bs and be the resource he turns to if, and when, he decided to seek you out. He asked you to wait. For how long? How long will he give him to save the marriage and how many times will he allow himself to be hoovered back in? If he chooses not to leave her and chooses not to leave you, are you willing to be “the other woman” indefinitely?

      There aren’t any easy answers.

      • Carol
        October 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm

        Oh yeah… Mellaril… I don’t know what I plan on doing.. I know exactly what you are saying about being the “other woman”… and really don’t know. I can’t get my brain around it right now. I know I believe in marriage… but he is also my best friend — and has been for many years. I am trying to back off… I don’t call or text — I wait for him to initiate contact… but often I’m not even sure that is helping him. But I also don’t want to play silly games of ignoring his calls and texts to teach him a lesson (as a lot of people have advised me to do, to get him to realize what he’s lost) it’s just not the kind of person I am and seems dishonest. But I’m also feeling guilty at being willing to be the “other woman”… it was different when she was telling him they were getting a divorce and they were basically “seperated” but living in the house… different when she was telling him it was ok to be with me… now I am just confused.

        Anyway… I’m glad you are finally with someone else… I hope she treats you kindly and that your past life is behind you.

        Thanks!!
        Carol

  7. Sarah
    October 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I do so wish I had found this site before my partner started to engage in pointless ‘negotiation’ with his ex it would have saved an enormous amount of time and money. Every step taken towards an agreement was frustrated every concession given to get a settlement simply led to more demands for more concessions…..First she wanted to negotiate the settlement between them then when she didnt get what she wanted (which was everything obviously) she shut down then forced back to the table she agreed to mediation…….biggest laugh ever 4mths to get an appointment then she decided she didnt want mediation after all…then she said she couldnt negotiate at present because she was having major abdominal surgery then she was recovering from that for 2mths (turned out to be a small op on a cesarian scar which was cosmetic) then she again shut down until under uk time limits he could file for divorce cue four rapid meetings with all both solicitors and spouses (very unusual) to try and sit her down and force her to compromise, then radio silence for 4mths until court is threatened then 5 further months of negotiation to finally get an agreement which yes you guessed it doesnt suit her now and she has either not abided by the child contact arrangements or she has tried to change them….

    she unfortunately took control of the divorce proceedings themselves by suddenly filing for divorce but surprise surprise she has stalled the process and has instead started to accuse him of bullying her into changing contact….words fail me with her……

    the only headway we have made is it has forced her to sell the house and she has recently allowed him to have his midweek contact after very careful manipulation and button pushing thanks to infomation I have found on this site and others, if you want something from these women you have to know the type well but just try not to lose your own sanity while you are in their world…

  8. September 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Cousin Dave :

    Debby, my BPD ex was a classic waif type as you describe. I don’t recall that she was ever physically violent towards anyone, but that was in part because she was physically pretty weak, but mostly because she had over time figured out more effective ways to hurt people. She never was violent with me, but several times she tried to put me into “let’s you and him fight” situations with other men. She got a kick out of convincing other people to trust her and then breaking their trust. She cheated in our relationship and she violated the trust of every friend she had. She was a vicious gossip and she enjoyed making up lies about people to see what kind of trouble she could get them in. She certainly wasn’t free of impulsive behaviors, but all of hers revolved around spending, booze, and sex.
    She was very good at maintaining a child-like demeanor so that people would not think that she was capable of hurting them. But when confronted with one of her misbehaviors, she could become the Ice Queen in an instant.

    HAH – THIS is my husband’s ex-wife!!! I actually call her ‘frosty the snowman’ lol. that is her to a T. I also call her the beautiful bully. Not bad on the eye, but SO bad on the emotions. She got so mad once, she said “I could hit you” to my hubby. He said “OK, go ahead then”. She flew at him and he was the one with the chunk out of his forearm from her nails (which are like World War One entrenching tools). She told her friend, her friend told the Police and my husband NEARLY lost his job (he’s a cop) through hearsay. B*tch. 10 years on she’s still bitter and now bullying her new husband into not being dominant enough to say, “pull your head in and let the kids talk / see / be with their dad regularly”. Sheesh, it’s NO WONDER he divorced her.

  9. Cousin Dave
    September 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Debby, my BPD ex was a classic waif type as you describe. I don’t recall that she was ever physically violent towards anyone, but that was in part because she was physically pretty weak, but mostly because she had over time figured out more effective ways to hurt people. She never was violent with me, but several times she tried to put me into “let’s you and him fight” situations with other men. She got a kick out of convincing other people to trust her and then breaking their trust. She cheated in our relationship and she violated the trust of every friend she had. She was a vicious gossip and she enjoyed making up lies about people to see what kind of trouble she could get them in. She certainly wasn’t free of impulsive behaviors, but all of hers revolved around spending, booze, and sex.

    She was very good at maintaining a child-like demeanor so that people would not think that she was capable of hurting them. But when confronted with one of her misbehaviors, she could become the Ice Queen in an instant.

  10. akn
    September 7, 2010 at 3:03 am

    OldGuy (above) I agree that there can be matters of luck involved as well. However, if you know your adversary then you can count on them to not change as the best predicter of future behaviour is past behaviour. So, knowing for example that they have lied to you in the past, you can be aware of the upcoming opportunity of the day that they lie to your children. Lie to the kids? You bet. Then the kids get to see and feel what intimate betrayal is about. Pull no punches as the sooner they come to grips with the reality of the other parent then the better off they will be. So, let’s not misunderstand the life of integrity as honour bound to present a delusionally false picture of the other parent to the children.

    BTW: “finally”…yr welcome and good luck there man.

  11. Coppatone
    September 7, 2010 at 2:47 am

    Dear Dr. T,

    Firstly – Happy Red Head Day fellow red head! I live in a country that has turned the jibing of red heads into a national pastime :)……mostly good-natured.

    Thanks for this great article, as usual right on the mark – and timely for me. With all the info I’ve got from your site I’ve been able to predict my ex-wife’s reaction to certain things and also to cut through the dodgy logic that she uses….if you know what to look/listen for life becomes a lot less confusing.

    I check your site less now, but that’s a good thing – I’m more educated about the cluster B issue, what constitutes abuse, and how to recognize and deal with them….thanks to yourself and the multitude of posters.

    Cheers, Rob

  12. finallywokeup
    September 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    “This is also is why so many of them have a difficult time articulating what they want in terms of a settlement at the onset of the divorce process.”

    Exactly! My ex-NPD’s own lawyer admitted to mine (in a rare moment of candor) that he couldn’t figure her out, that she didn’t seem to know what she wanted in terms of settlement, and that he was having a hard time with her.

    Of course, she wanted everything, but was having a hard time saying it – because deep down they must realize how absurd their own thoughts sound to real people.

    • Steve
      September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm

      Similar to my situation, except her lawyer was a jackass too who didn’t mind asking for and demanding “everything.” I think he was as screwed up as she is. My lawyer almost gave up because he was so unreasonable. Just glad it’s over.

  13. Aapeli
    September 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Guys, I love this website. I have still not broken up with my NPD “girlfriend”. Today I just got another verbal beating from her. Basically it was first a simple question about do I want ice cream after dinner which turned into her blackmailing me by using the ice cream as a sort of a weapon.

    I initially said “yes” to the ice cream offer, and she started preparing it for us. Well, she then decided to add a condition to me getting ice cream. I would have to go and mow the lawn. Nowadays I simply refuse to jump through hoops like this one because I understand better what she is doing with me.

    I agree that the lawn needs to be mowed (is this correct English? sorry if it’s wrong). But I decide by myself when I will do it. I will definitely not do it as a condition to getting ice cream. I had already decided that the lawn needs to be mown, but at a time of my choice. Then my “girlfriend” makes an issue out of it by demanding that it needs to be done “now” so that I can get ice cream. There is no such problem – the lawn will be mown, just not exactly when she wants to have it done.

    I refused to jump through the hoop and walked away. She kept yelling at me but I focused on other things and didn’t yell back at her.

    She came up with a reason why I can’t go and mow the lawn. It is because I think there are other people out there, our neighbours, and that’s why I can’t go out. So she told me our neighbours are not at home so I can go out and mow the lawn. This was a “WTF?” for me. I told her that that’s her own imagination at work and that it is not based on reality. The neighbours are not a problem to me at all. She actually said that I “never” go out to do work when there are other people out there too. So she forgot all of the many many times that I have been out working, other people close-by? No she didn’t forget, she is just twisting reality into what suits her at the moment to use as a bashing weapon against me. It doesn’t matter in this what the reality is! I am always wrong no matter what.

    She refused to believe me when I said to her that that’s not true at all. So I stopped trying to reason with her and walked out of the situation.

    She told me that the neighbours think that I am a disabled person because I never go out to work. So she is using our neighbours to justify her cruel behaviour against me. “See, the neighbours agree with me!” must be her thinking. Now what will happen if I will go and ask our neighbours about that. I bet they will be confused, not knowing what I am talking about.

    She has done this thing many times regarding other people too. She have dragged many of her friends, family, my family, and our neighbours (not the first time) into her bullying against me. She uses them to try and convince me that I am wrong and I am bad et cetera. Now what happens when I go talk to all of those people about it? Will they agree with her? I have considered actually doing this – I may go and ask them have they said such things about me. I would like to see their reaction when they hear what my “girlfriend” has been saying.

    • Gooberzzz
      September 8, 2010 at 12:10 am

      Are you trying to convince us, or yourself, that you should part ways? If you are trying to convince us, then yes, you’ve succeeded. Based on your account, it may be time to plan an exit strategy.

      This is not about mowing the lawn, it is about her need to control you, which correct me if I’m wrong Dr. T., is a symptom of the PD alphabet soup. Her accusatory tone sounds like she enjoys playing the “gotcha game” as well, but her evidence is not based on any sense of logical reality, as you have stated in your post.

      I would encourage you to do some soul searching. The fact that you are here, tells me there may be some major red flags with this person. She’s your ‘girlfriend’ now, but do you really want to form a legally binding contract with this person? Or aside from that, a life long commitment? Legally binding, or not.

      If you do, you may be here in the future, posting comments asking how to divorce high-conflict people: borderlines, narcissists, histrionics, sociopaths and other persuasive blamers, as this article is titled.

      I have not been married, but have dealt with several PDs in my life, and after reading the comments here from people who are, or have been, legally bound to these people, I would choose to run for the hills.

      If you do decide to part ways, reward yourself with your favorite flavor of ice cream. Any kind YOU want. When YOU want it.

      Peace

      • Aapeli
        September 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

        Thank you for the reply.

        I am not planning to marry her. I was planning to propose to her during the 2 years before we started to live together. I quickly cancelled that plan after we had started to live together because her behaviour was so aggressive and confusing.

        We had been dating for 4 years and during the latter half of that period I considered proposing to her. I guess it was partly due to me not knowing how to do it that I didn’t propose to her. The getting the ring part was confusing me because I thought I can’t go out and get a ring without her because it’s not going to fit into her finger. So I was actually planning to find out the thickness of her finger somehow secretly and then go and buy a ring that fits it well. But we started to live together before that happened. Then I dropped the plan quickly…

        Now we have been living together for 9 years! It took 2 years of living together for me to start considering breaking up! And I am still here. I got very depressed and couldn’t get things done any more. So here I am with the same woman still treating me like crap, but now she has actual reason because I have not graduated from a school (due to the depression) and don’t have a job (due to the depression) so I have been stuck in this without energy to get out of it or to make it better.

        But last year something woke me up seriously to how mean my “girlfriend” actually is. My mother had planned a trip abroad to visit her sister. My mother had never been there and already as a child a long time ago I had promised my mother that I will go there with her (my father wasn’t interested in arranging it so my mother needed someone else to go with her).

        So that plan since 15+ years was becoming reality and there was no way I would say no to my mother for that. We agreed to go there together with my “girlfriend”. I figured she would behave fine when out of the home and with other people around us.

        My mother said she will pay for our flight tickets. We were at our home to order the tickets on-line and she paid as she had promised. My “girlfriend” had a wide smile on her face when this happened and she thanked my mother for buying her a flight ticket.

        What happened next day woke me up seriously. Right after she got out of bed she started to blackmail me by demanding that nobody will go on the trip unless I have graduated from the school before it. This had not been an issue the night before when she thanked my mother for paying for the flight tickets. She was being extremely aggressive about it.

        I told her that that’s absolutely not OK. Seriously, it is none of her business do I go to meet my aunt together with my mother or not. We talked about it in the early 90’s and now when we are finally getting around to do it then my “girlfriend” is trying to stop it by blackmailing even though she was very happy to have a flight ticket paid for her. It was a question of do I let her come with us or not. There was no way I could let it slide. So I told my mother what was going on and of course she was totally shocked and enraged, knowing as well how wide a smile the girlfriend had had on her face the previous night about it.

        Our relationship seriously deteriorated during the few weeks after that fight (before the trip) and it was during that time that I started to go on-line to read about personality disorders as I had already considered it before as an explanation to her behaviour and now I wanted to further clarify whether I had been right about that or not. And all the evidence I was seeing pointed to her having the NPD. Reading about the NPD was like reading a description of how she had behaved when she was with me at home just the two of us there. And I fit into the “victim” type. I am shy, insecure, easily intimidated by people who want to be mean to me. When I have tried to be mean I have usually failed – it is very unnatural to me and I know if I try to play that game I will lose. I do not have the meanness inside of me that these NPD personalities have. There is no way I could insult my girlfriend as meanly as she insults me. So this is a very uneven fight when it comes to being mean. I am sure she knows this and she exploits this very much. So this is indeed an abusive relationship to me and for my own good I should probably get out.

        All right, so what happened with the trip. I was seriously planning to break up with her during the time between the fight and the trip. I was not talking to her much and I was planning how to practically get out. Time passed and I noticed we only had a week to the trip. I still considered I could end the relationship before the trip. But then I became worried about my property, about my stuff, that she would do damage to my property if I went on the trip and left her home with all my stuff, knowing that we had just broken up. I planned that I would just quickly carry all of my stuff to my parents’ place and worry about getting an apartment later. Any ways, time ran out before the trip, and I decided that it would be safer to take her with me to the trip than to leave her at home.

        The trip went fine but of course it’s not the reality because when we come back home it is back to the usual abuse.

        We co-own an apartment so I would have to sell my share of it if I want to get out of this place. She would probably buy it if I would offer it so I don’t think that’s a big problem between us.

        I tried to tell her many times years ago already that her behaviour actually pushes me down into more depression rather than help me out of it. I actually told her at some point that I don’t need her to help me out of the depression, I just want her to stop pushing me down into it! I said I am like a drowning person and she is pushing me down making sure that I will drown. Her reaction to that was silence. I said it a couple of times again but I don’t think it had any effect on her behaviour – she just doesn’t get it that she is not helping me with the blackmailing and other such mean stuff but making things worse for me. We actually had a discussion where her parents were present and I told this to them too. I asked my gf an explanation for her aggressive behaviour and she literally said that she has tried to motivate me. So her idea of motivation me is blackmailing me, being very aggressive towards me in general. So she still believes that that is the right thing to do even though I hae told her several times that it absolutely does not work and she should stop it.

        Fortunately I have other people in my life who do not behave aggressively towards me when they try to help me. Their support is extrememly important to me – I need to know that there are at least some people who are going to listen to me calmly and talk to me calmly and not make me feel like I am the worst person ever.

        Or even report me to the police making some bogus claim about me. My gf did this after she hit me with a pipe of a vacuum cleaner in the head and upper torso several times, I took the pipe away from her and threw it into a corner and she went into the toilet and yelled that she will call the cops! Why did she start hiting me? Because I came downstairs and sat on the sofa in our living room. My intention was to go and watch a tv show with her because I was trying to be nice to her. She had just arrived home from work at about 10 PM and I thought I would go downstairs to welcome her home and to spend some time listening to her. And she was immediately very aggressive and tried to drive me way from the sofa. I remained calm and just sat there and listened to the verbal abuse hoping she would stop it soon. But no, she took the pipe and started hitting me with it. I actually didn’t react much to that at first as I had come there to be nice to her and wanted to be calm. But eventually I had to take the pipe away from her as she used it to hit me in the head more aggressively. I didn’t throw it in her direction but away from her. She started yelling at me and tore my T-shirt apart and pushed me, then she ran into the toilet, locked the door and screamed that she will call the cops because I hit her (which was not true). Immediately after the fight I took many photos of the bruises that she caused to me. My arms, upper torso, neck and head had bruises or scratches from the hits with the metallic pipe. And then she threatens me with the police? That’s absolutely non-sense. But I am not sure what the cops would have done. I think a video of the fight would be very useful to prove what happened – I am not sure if photos are enough. Well, the cops could have a look at her body – no marks of a fight – and then have a look at my body and see all the bruises on it. If they can’t decide that it was her at fault then that would be a major failure of our justice system.

        But yeah, all sorts of crazy things have happened. I am trying to graduate finally and I have had other people help me with that. Once I get that done then things will be much better. I can move on from that and go and look for a job in that field again (I was employed already in that field of study but I quit because I was very depressed). Gradution, and getting a job. Of course my financial situation has also deteriorated during this time. But it is not an impossible situation and as I am not someone who spends money carelessly I can get it fixed quickly once I get a job. I am rambling. I didn’t intend to write this much!

        I guess I am just trying to convince myself, trying to get this cleared up for myself. To do some reality checks here about what is normal and what is not normal. This website helps me a lot. I can see many other men have similar problems and for all of them the common factor seems to be an irrationally behaving female.

        • September 14, 2010 at 1:28 am

          Aapeli, my advice, for what it’s worth, would be to rent your own apartment, tell her she can have your current place and be on your way and get your life back together.

          Ten years from now, you’ll be grateful you did … assuming you don’t fall in with another PD … and will see any money you might lose now on the co-owned apartment as money well spent.

          • Aapeli
            September 14, 2010 at 5:28 am

            I am not married and I am not afraid that I would lose money over the apartment we own together. The ownership is very well documented and many other people know about it so there should be no trouble at all getting my share of the money out of it.

            I do owe her some money but that will easily get solved by selling my share of the apartment because that will be worth much much more than what I owe to her in cash so this is not a problem either.

            It is very likely that this relationship will end. I would sell my share of the apartment to her, carry my stuff out, and that would be it. I don’t want this apartment so she can buy the rest of it from me if she would like to keep it.

            It’s simple to say it than to actually do it. But I am getting strength back since I “woke up” last year to the magnitude of the problem. And reading about what other people have gone through definitely helps. So hopefully this will be solved not in the too distant future.

            Actually these days when I look at her and listen to her explaining how I am crazy and how the neighbours think I am a disabled person and so on, I feel sorry for her a bit as I can see what she does and I don’t think she understands what is happening. I will eventually have to stop feeling sorry so that I can let go completely.

            It’s quite inconvenient to live with her because she has those moments when she will start “that talk” and (nowadays) I can see it coming and I can quite accurately predict what she is going to say. Being in such situations is difficult… I have been using the local library as a place to go to to get away from her. She actually followed me there once when I had told her where I was going. That was months ago. Now just a week ago she ridiculed me for the choice of the book that I read at the library months ago. It’s not at all her business but that’s what her kind of people will do.

          • September 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

            “so there should be no trouble at all getting my share of the money out of it.”

            I really hope for your sake that you’re right, Aapeli.

            Don’t be surprised though if she acts like she’s entitled to the whole thing as compensation for allowing you the pleasure of her company during your time together.

            I could be wrong but, my own experience has been that if you expect the worst, a PD will rarely disappoint.

  14. Lowlivin'nomore
    September 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Quote-“It may not be a happy time but meeting the inevitable conflict with your wife head on, rather than doing the “walking on eggshells” thing and trying to mollify or change her … or deal with her as you would an emotionally mature adult, will at least leave you with more of a grounded, in control of your own life feeling than your current circumstances seem to be doing.”

    I have to fully support this particular advice. I have been doing this for 4 years now, as well as “NEVER” let them see you wince in pain regardless how cutting and hurtful.
    Our “relationship” has twisted and turned as she desperately sot out a new devices to use in the manipulation/control game…. all to no avail.
    She is slowly grasping the idea that her story is in the end game with me. My youngest daughter is 11 and the writing is on the wall. I take nothing from her, I ask nothing of her….
    In the old days I would have responded to her assertion “you don’t really need or love me” with a flood of reassurance and love; oh the hours of my youth spent in this way….. Now I simply respond that she is loved and I am done talking about it.
    The advice to stop expecting a mature response is very liberating. Just treat them like a tantrum throwing toddler is the only way to deal with them.
    Take back your ground…. I did it in the presence of my wife despite her best efforts to derail it…. I understand fully that some will not be able to with the offending person sleeping next to them.
    I pray you find strength to find yourselves again. We all deserve it.

Comment pages
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