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What to Do When your Abusive Ex-Wife or Girlfriend Tries to Maintain Contact with your Family and Friends After the Break-Up or Divorce


So you finally had the courage to end your marriage or relationship, are moving on with your life and discover that your abusive ex is now trying to maintain or strengthen her relationship with your family of origin after years of trashing them and trying to cut them out of your life. Why?

When you’re in a significant relationship your social and family circles grow to include your partner’s friends and family. Some of her friends become your friends. Some of your friends become her friends and you both, hopefully, develop relationships with each others’ families. What happens when you break-up or divorce? Who gets custody of friends and family members?

The Best of Circumstances

When a relationship dissolves between two healthy adults, especially if they’ve been together for a considerable length of time and/or share children, the separation can be just as difficult for family and friends. Psychologically mature individuals don’t take sides or get in the middle and understand that the nature of their former relationships with the ex will change. The couple and the people who have been in relationships with the couple all experience a sense of loss and go through a kind of grieving process.

The Worst of Circumstances

When one member of the couple is dysfunctional, abusive and/or has a personality disorder, friends and family become just another mechanism by which to control and hurt the non-abusive/non-disordered partner. Abusive women often view friends and family (including their own children) as war trophies, human shields and weapons during and after a break-up or divorce.

The irony is that most abusive women try to isolate their partners from family and friends during the relationship. This kind of woman does this in order to consolidate her power and control over you and to suck up every ounce of your attention. She deeply resents her in-laws and your friends. If she’s not overtly rude and disrespectful to their faces, she’ll put on a sweet face in their presence and gun them down behind their backs.

After the relationship ends, many of these women try to cozy up to the same people they spent years vilifying. This is extremely confusing for most men since their wives or girlfriends incessantly complained about and trashed their friends and family while together and created crazy drama whenever a visit, trip or family/friend event loomed on the horizon.

Here are some possible scenarios after ending a relationship with an abusive woman:

1. The relationship ends and she leaves your family and friends in peace. Although, she may make it difficult for your family to see your child(ren). If this is the case, count your blessings and find a good attorney to help you work out a fair custody arrangement.

2. She demonizes both you and your family. This is fine when you don’t share children. Let her spew her venom and stay as far away from her as possible and ask your family to do the same. However, if you share kid(s), this is highly destructive and understandably painful for you, your family and the child(ren). This is a case of blatant Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAS) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), in which case you should find out your parental rights in your state and pursue swift and strong legal recourse.

3. The relationship ends and all of a sudden your ex spends more time with your family than she did when you were together. Why? It’s not as if some miracle occurred and she suddenly realized how wonderful your family is. She’s desperately trying to retain control over you by staying involved with your family. This kind of woman is especially likely to do this if you’ve begun a new relationship. She wants your family to like her more than you or your new love interest and/or she wants your family to take her side to show the world she’s “right” (whatever that means) and that you’re “wrong.”

She also does this to portray herself as the victim and you as the bad guy. She wants to try to turn your own family against you. She makes up egregious lies. Some of these women will even go so far as to claim you abused her and the children. For example, “He’s crazy. He’s changed. He’s having a mid-life crisis. You have no idea what I put up with all these years. How could he abandon the children and me?” The projections never stop.

I call it the Crocodile Tears and Sympathy Tour. It’s just more of her manipulative and controlling nonsense. She’s in a much better position to do this if there’s a child or children involved. She pretends she’s spending time with your family so they can see their niece/nephew/son/grandson all the while distorting the truth and playing upon your family’s sympathy. Bottom line: You should be the one who takes the kid(s) to visit your side of the family.

In a relatively healthy relationship/marriage, it’s natural to want to maintain relationships with people who became your family through your intimate relationship. A relationship with an abusive woman is not a normal relationship. It’s like a cancer you need to cut from your body, your psyche, your life and your family of origin. You shouldn’t try to maintain a “friendship” with her and neither should your family because it allows her to continue to hurt you. Keep contact to a minimum and make it brief, civil and business-like. Give your family links to this website if they have a difficult time understanding the situation.

Why Some Families Go Along with It

1. Fear. If kids are involved, your family is probably afraid they won’t get to see them if they explain to your ex that it’s not really appropriate to cry on their shoulders or accompany the children to family get-togethers. She needs to use her own family (if she’s on speaking terms with them) and friends (if she has any) for support or hire a professional with whom to spin her tale of woe and victimhood.

2. To be nice and get along with everyone. This is commendable, but it doesn’t allow all parties involved to grieve the end of the relationship/marriage and move on. It also allows her to continue her manipulations and abuse, which need to end.

3. Cluelessness. Your family has no idea what your ex was like behind closed doors. They think they’re being supportive of you by allowing your ex to cling onto them. They think they’re being “big-hearted” when, in reality, they’re allowing your ex to manipulate them and hurt you, their own family member.

4. Dysfunctionality. Well, you were probably attracted to your ex for a reason and it would seem that your family is it. In which case, you need to mourn your relationship with your family in addition to your significant relationship/marriage, so that you don’t make the same poor relationship choices in the future.  This may require that you put some emotional and/or physical distance between you and your family while you work through it and get some therapy.

What You Can Do About It

1. Tell your family exactly what’s going on. Educate your family. If you kept your mouth shut about the abuse you suffered out of misplaced loyalty, shame and embarrassment or because you wanted to “protect” the mother of your children you need to speak up now. If your family doesn’t know what happened behind closed doors, it will make your ex’s smear campaign more effective because the break-up will seem out of the blue when the reality is it was a long time coming.

Tell your family all the nasty things your ex said about them over the years. Explain how much she hurt you. Tell them about the abuse. Ask them to support you in this. You don’t want to badmouth her? Telling the truth isn’t badmouthing if it’s the truth. The best way to stop abuse is to bring it to light. Rest assured, your ex is badmouthing you to anyone who will listen. If you didn’t stand up to her during the course of your marriage you need to do so now. This type of individual’s behavior is wrong and destructive, so don’t sugarcoat it and don’t let her get away with it anymore. Those days are over.

2. Ask them to invite you and your child to family events; not your ex and the child(ren). Abusive borderlines, narcissists, histrionics, etc., don’t respect boundaries nor will they accept that the rules of common decency, consideration and civility apply to them. Therefore, you need to create the boundaries within your immediate and extended family. This kind of woman will continue to push everything to the max for as long you let her.

3. If your family won’t respect your boundaries and actually believes her nonsense, you need to disengage. It’s yet another painful letting go process to contend with, but it may be a necessary one. Furthermore, these women are like small children; the more they know a specific behavior is getting to you the more they do it. Therefore, try to let it roll off your back and focus on the things that make you happy and bring you fulfillment. Your abusive ex will probably escalate her desperate and pathetic attempts for attention and to screw you over, but if you resolve not to give her that satisfaction she’ll ultimately frustrate herself; not you.

Endings are painful, but the longer you allow her to play her  shenanigans with you and your family and friends, the longer it will take for you to heal from this relationship and move on. Additionally, if you starve her of these sources of attention, she’ll be forced to look elsewhere for it, i.e., her next victim.

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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The No Contact Rule: Committing to It and Making It Work


The Power of No

Whether you’re a man or a woman who’s been on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, here’s why the No Contact Rule is the best policy after breaking up.

The sooner begun, the sooner it’s done. The sooner you make a clean break and stick with it, the sooner the healing process can begin. It’s natural to sentimentalize an ex after a break up, however, you’re playing with fire when you wax nostalgic for an abusive ex.

She may have been nice from time to time and occasionally very sweet, sexy, etc., but these fleeting moments don’t make up for the pain and damage she caused you. Each time you initiate contact or respond to her overtures, you have to start the healing process all over again.

Re-initiating contact only prolongs your pain. It’s the difference between ripping a band-aid off quickly and all at once or peeling off the adhesive very slowly, one arm hair at a time. Ouch.

Do not apply salt to an open wound. Engaging in contact with your ex, even a little bit, is like rubbing salt into an open wound. Some men maintain no contact for a year or more, run into their ex and Bam! They’re caught up in all the old painful feelings again. This is why it’s just as important to really explore why you were in that relationship while maintaining No Contact so that you’re not susceptible to your ex or others like her in the future.

If you give her an inch, she’ll make a grab for your kidneys. You may think you’re being nice by accepting her calls and responding to texts and emails, but you’re not. You’re giving her permission to keep yanking your chain. If you give an abusive ex an inch, she’ll take a mile.

This woman interprets your willingness to maintain contact as interest in rekindling the relationship or that she still has you on a string — and if you respond to her, she does indeed still have you on a tether. She’ll continue to be possessive and intrusive. All she needs is the smallest bit of attention — negative or positive — to keep her going.  If you want her to move on and find another target, you must starve the beast. That means no contact and no attention.

How to do it:

1. No calls, no texts, no emails, no smoke signals, no carrier pigeons. Make a list of every nasty hurtful thing she said and did to you and keep a copy near every communication device you own.

2. No “accidental” meetings (if you can help it). Change your routine. Go to the gym at a different time or on different days. Find an alternate sports pub. Go to a different grocery store. Yes, it’s unfair that you have to change your lifestyle for the moment, but time and distance is how you’ll heal. Alternatively, even if you have to have your best friend lock you in your apartment/house, do not go to places you know she’s likely to be. Even if you think you’re doing this to show you how happy you are without her, this will backfire on you. Don’t do it.

3. Avoid places that remind you of her. If it makes you turn into a sentimental mess to go to the restaurant the two of you went to every Friday night; don’t go.

4. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Ask your friends, family and associates not to tell you news of your ex or act as her intermediary. For example, when a woman like your ex can’t reach you because you’ve gone No Contact, she’ll often enlist others to contact you for her.

Alternatively, some people think they’re being helpful by telling you about your ex’s latest crazy antics or newest boyfriend. Nip this is the bud and explain that you prefer not to hear about your ex. Tell them that you know they mean well, but for the time being, you don’t want to know what she’s doing, who she’s dating or what her Facebook status is, etc.

5. Don’t keep a foot in the door. This applies to your foot as well as hers. Whether it’s leaving a few things behind at your place or negotiating visitation with a pet, you must cut your losses. When you break up, get all of her stuff out of your home asap. Pack it up yourself and drop it off at her new place when you know she won’t be home or have it delivered.

If you’re the one who moved out, do your best to get all of your belongings at once. Don’t leave anything behind that you can’t live without. Do not allow her or yourself an excuse to resume contact. If you adopted a pet while you were together, I know it’s painful, but just let her have the dog, cat, ferret, etc., and be grateful you only shared a quadruped and not a child.

6. Don’t take the bait. Many of these women send cruel, demeaning and often obscene emails, texts and voicemails. Your initial impulse may be to defend yourself or be “right.” Don’t fall for this. If you do, you’re taking her bait to keep you engaged. The only way you can “win” with a woman like this is not to play her sick games and get on with your life without her.

7. The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. Pack away photos, gifts, notes, etc. that remind you of her and “the good times” — all 2 or 3 of them.

8. Delete her from your life. Delete her name and number from your phones. Delete her email addresses. Delete her from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and every other website on which you’re currently connected. Block her incoming numbers, texts and emails.

Do not answer calls from unknown or private callers. An abusive, crazy ex is the reason Caller ID was invented. Exception: If she is physically threatening you, blackmailing you or threatening to lie about you, save these communications and contact an attorney. You may need them for a restraining order and/or to press cyberstalking charges.

9. Avoid alcohol and other inhibition reducing substances. Drinking and dialing is generally always a big mistake. You don’t want to let this woman back into your life because you had one too many gin and tonics. Plus, if you’re feeling down or depressed about the break-up/divorce, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and will only make you feel worse.

10. Reconnect with yourself, your family, your friends and your life. Get in touch with the people you weren’t allowed to see because your ex threw a fit if you did. Start doing the things you used to enjoy. Pursue your interests again. Make a commitment to exercise/working out if that’s one of the things that fell by the wayside while you were with your abusive ex. The goal is to make yourself healthy and strong in body, spirit and mind.

One of my readers refers to No Contact as “living in the bunker.” Here’s a list he shared with me on how to be a successful “bunker dweller.” Everything on this list may not be feasible for everyone, but I think it’s a good example of the level of personal commitment No Contact requires:

  • Ability to give up personal comforts and not care at all.
  • Refusal to be influenced in any way by threats, further intimidation, or bad consequences.
  • Ability to change residences quickly and frequently. I have moved three times, soon to be four.
  • Decisive severance of any residual communication links–mutual friends, Facebook, etc.
  • Absolute refusal to feel shame or be put on the defensive–especially in your own mind.
  • Insistence that any discussion of the facts begin with the words “abuse,” “destruction,” and “control”
  • Refusal to negotiate until there is absolute capitulation (*he’s in the process of divorcing).
  • Satisfaction that she picked the wrong guy to F*** with
  • Accept collateral damage philosophically as the cost of freedom and further evidence of the rightness of your cause
  • Extreme patience–don’t be worn down by any reversal, surprise, or consequence. Stay in the bunker as long as it takes

Next week, I’ll post the third piece in the No Contact series about developing emotional distance for those of you who can’t go No Contact because you share a child(ren), work in the same office or some other reason.

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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If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Is a Borderline or Narcissist Woman’s Emotionally Abusive Behavior Premeditated?


homemaker2Dr. T,

I would like to compliment you on the quality of your blog! Your articles are very concise and well written. In fact, I have forwarded several of your articles regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder to family members (aka, my support group).

I have been married to my wife for about 5 years and have endured a great deal of emotional and verbal abuse, bullying and drama (all my fault of course!) I could certainly write a book. I stay in the relationship because of my 5-year old daughter who I feel needs balance in her life on a daily basis.

There is definitely an evolution of how one deals with the abuse. There are overlapping stages of confusion, excuses, anger, silence, appeasement, etc. As you know, none of that works. It is so tiring because it requires you to be on constant mental red alert. I find your articles very reassuring in the sense that they provide a positive reinforcement that her problems are not my fault!

Initially, I found the concept of projection and mind games difficult to relate to. If you don’t think that way yourself, it is hard to identify and believe the behaviors. I guess we see the world in the context of who we are.

Couple of questions:

1) How premeditated are these individuals? My wife could go on for hours and hours about how inadequate I am. Is that all she thinks about? I used to sit and listen to it all and then try to justify everything that was supposedly wrong with me. Now, I just walk away from her when she goes on an abusive rant. Now she says I have changed and threatens divorce quite regularly.

2) How should one respond to illogical questions and comments like “What have you done for this family other than go to work and take care of our daughter when you get home?” or “You’re so insecure you can’t talk about anything,” “I’m not yelling at you, I’m just talking loud!” etc. It seems like every conversation comes around to how inadequate I am in that topic. (not a good enough father, husband, Christian, etc.)

Your blog efforts are very appreciated,
Rick

Hi Rick,

1) A borderline or narcissistic woman’s behavior isn’t what I’d call “premeditated” in the traditional sense. These women basically run on a mixture of primitive, unconscious instincts, conflicts and operant conditioning.

evil_homemakerWhat does this mean? Basically, she doesn’t have a James Bond evil villain-esque plan for world domination; everyday is a battle to protect herself from being assaulted by the truth of what a damaged, flawed being she is. These women create a distorted bubble of un-reality in which they are wonderful, misunderstood creatures who have to put up with lesser beings like you, me and everyone else on the planet.

Verbally abusing you and making you believe you’re a jerk is how she keeps her version of reality undisputed and household tyrrany alive. She may know that her behavior is hurtful, but doesn’t care. She feels justified because you “deserve” it for some imagined or minor affront to her ego. However, I wouldn’t say this is “premeditated” or even conscious. It’s instictual survival behavior.

She has learned how to manipulate you, others, and her environment through trial and error, like a child who has discovered cause and effect. “If I poke him here, he does what I want him to do” or “If I make fun of him for wanting sex, he leaves me alone” or “If I needle him long enough, he’ll yell at me, then he’ll feel bad and I’ll get to go on the vacation I want” versus “If I don’t give him sex for more than 6 months, he threatens to leave, so I better have sex every 5 months” or “If I don’t go with him to visit his family on holidays, he won’t buy me what I want, so I’d better go for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

These women see the world in terms of rewards and punishments—much like a 5-year old. Calling a NPD/BPD’s behavior “premeditated” gives her credit for a level of self-awareness I just don’t think she possesses. Also like a 5-year old, these women are totally egocentric. They believe the world revolves around them, that everyone else is like them, and motivated by the same desires and fears.

As for her threatening divorce; you should be so lucky! Here’s the most crazy thing about these women; they do everything in their power to drive even the most patient, tolerant, and forgiving soul away, yet their greatest fear is abandonment. Because of her egocentrism, if her greatest fear is abandonment, then you must also be deathly afraid of abandonment.

Ending the relationship is usually an empty threat because:

a) These women don’t have a core sense of self. They’re not “whole” people.” They’re fragmented. If they’re not in relationship with someone, they don’t know who they are. They have to have a source of attention and admiration; it doesn’t matter if it’s negative attention. To some degree, it’s a matter of ego preservation vs. annihilation. (If you want to know more about this, read Daniel N. Stern’s The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Melanie Klein‘s writings on the good breast/bad breast, Margaret Mahler and John Bowlby—this material is really dense, but you may find it interesting).

Just for a change of pace, why don’t you tell her you’re considering divorce. See how she reacts. My hunch is there will be a lot of tears, drama, “How could you be so cruel?!” and/or insults and threats such as, “You don’t have the guts. I want a lien on all your future earnings. You’ll never see your daughter again. I’ll tell everyone what a bastard you are.” These women are such charming creatures.

b) On some level, these women know that most people aren’t willing to put up with their crap. That’s why many of these women either don’t work or flit from job to job. Everyone she works with is an idiot, an incompetent jerk, and/or her talents aren’t appreciated and she should be in charge. These women can’t handle the least bit of criticism or being challenged on their distorted view of themselves and reality.

Dealing with new people or “outsiders” (i.e., people who are outside of her sphere of control) is way too much work and way too threatening to her shaky ego. Therefore, even if she wants to leave, she’s unlikely to do so—unless, she’s already found a replacement. These women rarely go anywhere until they have a “better deal” waiting in the wings. And hey, if she’s managed to sucker some other poor bastard, “Good luck and good riddance!

2) How should you respond to illogical questions and comments like “What have you done for this family other than go to work and take care of our daughter when you get home?” Personally, my gut reaction would be to blink in amazement and then laugh in her face. However, responses like this will probably antagonize her. Presenting the facts or pointing out just how absurd her statements are  will also set her off.

Remember, she controls the facts and, as Fox News pointed out during our last election, “The facts are not irrefutable.” Walking away is a good technique if you just want to get away from her, but she’ll probably become more incensed and pick up where she left off when you return.

You can also try holding her accountable and setting a boundary by stating simply and calmly, “I don’t see things that way. You’re being hurtful and abusive. I won’t talk to you when you act this way. She won’t take kindly to this tactic either, but it sets up some ground rules—namely, “If you want me to engage with you, you need to treat me with the same respect you demand. Until then, this conversation is over.” Here’s a link to Do’s and Don’ts for getting along with a NPD/BPD if you want to stay in the relationship. I don’t think these tips are very healthy for you in the long run, however.

Her constant criticism is how she wears you down, keeps you passive, submissive, dependent, makes you feel worthless, helpless and grateful for those rare times when she’s actually kind. Abuse is about control. She controls you by making you feel bad. When you reject her criticism or walk away from it, she experiences it as a loss of control, which freaks her out. Hence, her accusation, “You’ve changed!” Damned straight.

These women view any positive, self-care actions you take to protect yourself as a grave act of disloyalty. When you refuse let her get away with her bad and hurtful behaviors, you become the mean, unforgiving, crazy, unempathic bad guy. So when she accuses you of changing, take it as a sign of your improved mental health. It’s like defecting from the old Soviet Union; you become a traitor in her eyes. In order to be a good “comrade,” you have to buy into her BS. In my opinion, the price you pay for that is too high.

Many of these women use religion or a warped, superficial version of Psychology to control their victims. Saying, “You’re not a good Christian” or “You have no empathy” is really the same thing. They’re both forms of name-calling and pathologizing. These statements are just more projections and propaganda.

You can take every negative hurtful thing an NPD/BPD woman says about you and apply it to her. She’s a bad christian. She doesn’t do anything. She’s insecure. She’s not a good enough parent. Really, she’s not. What kind of role model is she for your daughter? She’s teaching her it’s ok to abuse others to get what you want.

If you’re going to stay with her, my advice is find a way to tune her out or ignore her when she goes on one of her rants. This will be difficult because NPD/BPD women are masters at pushing people’s buttons. Or set clear boundaries for acceptable behavior—like you would with your 5-year old daughter. Like a 5-year old, she’ll persist in pushing the boundaries until she wears you or herself out—whichever comes first. Unlike your 5-year old, she won’t outgrow this phase. Do you want to spend the rest of your life as a referee/border patrol?

Personally, I think life is too short to spend one more miserable day with an emotionally abusive NPD/BPD woman. Think about why you’re staying. You said you haven’t divorced her because of your daughter. However, there is no way that living with an emotionally abusive mother is balanced—no matter how present and loving you are with your daughter, she’s still being exposed to abuse.

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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The Emotionally Abusive Personality: Is She a Borderline or a Narcissist?


Two Face WomanIf you’re involved with an emotionally abusive woman, at first you probably wondered, “What’s wrong with her?” If you’ve been with her for a significant length of time, you probably now wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why does she treat me so bad?”

Emotional abuse grinds you down over time and leaves you feeling depressed, anxious, helpless, and worthless. You don’t deserve to be treated badly. You’re not the one with the problem. People who are emotionally abusive typically fall into specific personality types and in extreme cases, personality disorders.

The Cluster B disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) are often abusers in their relationships. These disorders lie on a continuum. Depending on the day, hour, minute, or second, your wife or girlfriend may exhibit different characteristics of these disorders. They’re all similar flavors of crazy.

So how can you tell if your emotionally abusive girlfriend or wife has Borderline or Narcissistic traits? The following are general rules of thumb I use when trying to tease out the difference.

How do they approach relationships?

The Narcissistic Woman: “Love me–or else.” If you don’t unconditionally accept the NPD and all of her horrible behaviors, you are, as one of my readers describes it, “unforgiving and mean.” At first, many of them charm you and then they often try to bully you into loving them. If you reject her or she thinks that you’re criticizing her, you’re treated to a narcissistic rage episode or cold sullen withdrawal and the death stare.

Every now and again a narcissist will be nice to you, even affectionate. This is because she is

  1. about to manipulate you into doing something for her;
  2. making a public display in order to be seen by others as magnanimous or loving;
  3. celebrating because she’s duped or tricked you about something; and/or
  4. lulling you into a false sense of security because she’s about to clobber you again

In other words, if she’s being nice to you, be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Borderline Woman: “Please love me. I didn’t mean it. Don’t leave me.” Initially, the BPD will mutate into the woman she thinks you want her to be. This ideal fantasy woman has nothing to do with who she is in reality. She’ll do everything in her power to please you in order to make you love her and then the mask starts to crumble.

Can you feel sympathy for her?

The Narcissistic Woman: The NPD woman is a very unsympathetic creature. It’s damned near impossible to feel sorry for her. If she manipulates you into feeling sympathy for her, it’s to get you to let down your guard so she can steamroll you again. They invented the term crocodile tears for NPDs. She cries when she’s terrified of losing control over her half dead mouse–that would be you–or of having her true self exposed.

The Borderline Woman: Even when she’s off the charts crazy, there’s still something sort of pitiful about her. It’s easier to feel sympathy for a BPD, but pity and guilt shouldn’t be the glue that holds a relationship together. It doesn’t negate the consequences of her emotionally abusive behavior, whether the hurt she inflicts is intentional or unintentional.

Is she capable of accepting personal responsibility?

The Narcissistic Woman: She rarely, if ever, admits she was wrong unless it’s to zing you with a thinly veiled insult. For example, “I thought you were a kind and generous man. I see now that I was wrong.” She rarely if ever takes responsibility for her hurtful actions. If you call her on her bad behaviors, she claims it was your fault for pushing her into it (in other words, you deserved it) and you’re a bad man to make a good woman like her act that way. You should be ashamed of yourself!

Alternatively, she’ll use dime store psychology, dogmatic religion or false consensus building to justify her inexcusable behaviors. For example, “A true christian practices forgiveness” or “You have unresolved issues with your mother” or “My therapist said I should do what my gut tells me to do” or “I told my family and friends about this and they think I’m right and you’re wrong.” These are nothing more than tactics for deflecting responsibility.

The Borderline Woman: The BPD will admit what she did was wrong, BUT she’ll follow it up by blaming you for triggering her. That’s not real personal responsibility. It’s what a 5-year old says when they get caught doing something wrong. “Yes, what I did was wrong, but it wasn’t my fault” or “I was really hurt and angry, but I didn’t mean to say all of the horrible things I did, so you have to forgive me.” The NPD usually won’t acknowledge any wrong-doing unless you really have her on the ropes or you’re about to end the relationship–that’s the difference. Most NPDs believes she was right to hurt you; some BPDs might feel bad about hurting you, but she was hurting, so she had to hurt you and ‘couldn’t help [herself].’

Is she capable of empathy?

The Narcissistic Woman: The NPD is virtually incapable of feeling empathy for others. She is 100% ENTITLED, which means other people’s feelings don’t really matter.  There is one exception. If someone else is giving you a hard time, the NPD will say, “Well I never had a problem with ‘Joe.’ He’s always been nice to me. He must be really stressed. You’re probably bringing this on yourself.” The NPD woman shows empathy for others at your expense.

The Borderline Woman: BPDs can be guided to feel empathy by reminding them of specific instances when they felt bad, but it’s usually pretty fleeting. Bottom line: A BPD’s emotional distress takes precedence over everything and everyone else, no matter how empathic she may seem to be from time to time. Furthermore, empathy from a BPD often comes with strings attached.

Is she capable of giving?

The Narcissistic Woman: That would be no, no and no. NPDs are primarily takers. It’s definitely a one-way street when you’re involved with a narcissistic woman. She may make a show of being kind and generous in front of others, but that’s only because she wants to protect her highly controlled public image. Alternatively, if she does something “generous” it’s because she believes “those are the rules” of etiquette, society or her religion. NPDs are big rules and regs types. She will then expect to be lavishly acknowledged and praised for her act of generosity (or something as minor as cleaning up after herself in the kitchen) and never lets you forget it.

The Borderline Woman: BPDs are givers, but it comes with a price. It’s part of what I mentioned earlier about doing anything to please you to get you to love them.

Most of the behaviors I’m describing are entirely unconscious. These behaviors are learned at an early age and some of them may be hardwired. Whether she’s more NPD or BPD, both traits are extremely painful and damaging to the people who love them.

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.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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Two Face Woman by matthew manuel puentes on flickr.

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6 More Office Politics Personality Types: Bullies in the Workplace


evil-teganDo you have co-workers who constantly tell you how to do your job? Do they criticize your work while bragging about their performance, which is actually mediocre at best? Do they take credit for your ideas and usurp your authority? If so, you’re probably dealing with a workplace bully.

Romanticize humanity as much as you like, but we share certain characteristics with our furry quadruped counterparts. I have a friend who watches The Dog Whisperer for tips on managing his kids’ behavior instead of reading childcare books and you know what? It works.

We’re pack animals, just like dogs. Office bullies are basically dogs with behavioral problems that have been allowed to run amok. Understanding what’s at play can help you feel better and survive, if not thrive, in the doggy daycare of office politics.

The Basic Office Bully Personality Types

1) The Alpha Dog. One growl and other dogs respectfully back away. If they don’t, they get a set of jaws clamped onto to their necks and assume the submissive position.

Figure out who the alpha dog is in your office. It may not be “the boss.” It could be the assistant or the VP. Determine their ego needs–flattery, reliability, staying late–and give it to them. Although I hate to say it, if you can learn how to fake sincerity with these people, it’ll make your life easier.

2) The Lateral Land Grabber. Ever wonder why organizations have departments? Because different employees have different skills and dog peeingserve different functions? Yes, but there’s more to it.

Dogs are territorial creatures. They pee along the perimeters of their yard, neighborhood fire hydrants, and telephone poles. When other dogs encroach upon their territory, they get pissed.

We’re territorial, too. Do you have co-workers who tell you how to do your job? Do they offer unsolicited advice, even when they’re ignorant on the subject? It’s a lateral land grab. They’re marking your territory.

According to Franke James, inventor of the Office Politics Game, this is normal dog behavior. However, when taken to extremes, it’s an indication of territorial dominance, anxiety, and insecurity. There’s a difference between this highly aggressive bullying behavior and collaborative interdepartmental feedback, although the bully will tell you he’s “just trying to help.”

3) Mr. or Ms. Smoke and Mirrors. This person’s game is distraction through detraction. They trash you and tell you how you should be doing your job in order to draw attention away from their ineptitude and incompetence. This is a common tactic of the workplace bully. You know this is occurring when the facts don’t back up their allegations. Furthermore, when you challenge them with the facts, they make up the craziest BS to refute them.

I once worked with a guy who was a master of this technique. Unfortunately, it was the only thing he’d mastered. He made noisy, unfounded public disparaging pronouncements about my department, meanwhile, every business deal he made cost the company money instead of making it  money. Distraction through detraction.

4) The Control Freak. If you spend all your time worrying about and trying to control others, when do you get your work done? Do you really have that much time on your hands? The answer is, yes, they do have that much time on their hands because they’re not doing their work; they’re too busy telling you how to do your work. By spending every waking moment trying to control people and situations, they give the appearance of being busy without accomplishing anything of their own.

This type believes his or her way is the only way. They try to leave their thumbprint on everything so that they can take credit for everything. It’s another form of bullying that involves domination and micro-management. Eventually, this behavior undermines your confidence and causes physical and psychological symptoms from the stress of being under constant attacks and monitoring.

5) Doggie Wants your Bone. They’re after your job. This happens all the time, hence the expression, “Dog eat dog world.” Enough said.

chien-lunatique6) Mad Dog. They don’t want your job; they want you gone. This person is an uber-territorial, foaming at the mouth, pit bull. Watch your back. They prey on the vulnerable and anyone who isn’t a malleable sycophant. They also go after people who see through the facade that masks their mediocrity and vicious attack behaviors.

Deep down, they’re just the sickly, mewling runt of the litter. This is another bully behavior. Although their attacks and machinations feel personal, you’re just their target du jour. They seek and destroy others, particularly those who are smarter, more talented, more creative and more successful, in order to feel powerful and better about themselves. After, they force you out, they’ll move onto their next target within 2 hours to two weeks. This type always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs.

When an office has infighting, territory disputes, and withholds supplies and information, it’s a clear sign that it’s a workplace in which bullying is rampant and/or is tolerated by management. If you recognize any of the above personalities at your office, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with how bullies operate and how you can protect yourself. In fact, I’ll be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

Also see: How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics.

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.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credits:

Evil Tegan by Brendan Crawford, a friend.

Dog peeing unknown source.

Chien lunatique by liz du canada on flickr.