How to set boundaries with a consistently passive aggressive narcissist?

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rubixcube

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As I learn more about my own codependent traits I understand much better now how I ended up with a narcissistic, potentially cluster B wife.  I have also learned that setting boundaries is really one of the only ways(aside from cathartic emoting, and grieving childhood loss) to protect myself and to essentially "cure" codependency. The idea of "I feel guilty when I say no" is fundamental to the struggle.

That said, I'm finding it really difficult to know how to set boundaries against subtle, covert passive aggressive behaviors that aim to manipulate me through shaming, guilt tripping, or just pure contempt based control.

Here's an example:
Before leaving for church, we had to change our daughter's diaper from the night before. My wife took off her diaper and was going to put another on. I said, "should we wipe her or is it dry?" Instantly I felt the mood go dark. She got cold. I felt guilt and as if I were a beat dog. She, with a cold tone said our daughter's diaper is dry. Then she looked at me with a half scolding, half victim look. I felt very bad right away, wondering what happened. Questioning myself if I did something wrong.

This is just one recent example, but this type of controlling or victim playing look is extremely common with her. She seems to feel criticized and her fight response kicks in. It makes day-to-day communication extremely difficult because in typical walking on eggshells fashion, I never know what she will perceive as criticism. Is there any way to set a boundary to protect myself from these behaviors? I wonder if it's just better if I learn to break the codependent "I need you to feel good so I can feel good" disposition so I can just ignore her reaction?

I'd love to hear how you have dealt with protecting yourself from passive aggressive manipulation.

I love you guys!
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 12:29:02 PM by rubixcube »

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pushit

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I honestly don't have a great answer for you, hopefully someone here can chime in with things that will help in your situation.  I just wanted to respond since you precisely described what it was like living with my stbxPDw (we're going through divorce right now).

I tried multiple ways of dealing with it over the years.  My wife had a counter for everything I tried.  A simple question (like your diaper example) would lead to her being angry with me.  I couldn't find a way to get around that without walking on eggshells and trying in every moment not to upset her.  I knew walking on eggshells wouldn't work for me though, I couldn't abandon who I was and live to serve her every need.

She controlled EVERYTHING.  When the kids got up, what they ate, how I spoke to them, what the family did with our time, who we saw, etc.  And none of it was consistent, it was whatever she felt like at the moment.  I got frustrated with that so I started standing up for myself, making it clear that I'm their parent too and she had no right to talk to me the way she did - all that did was make her shout louder and the fights in front of the kids got worse.  I had to back down in order to keep some calmness in the house.

I also tried just doing things the way I wanted to without discussing her - this resulted in more smear campaigns and her undermining anything I said to the kids behind my back.  "Mommy says you're bad because you...."  Stuff like that.  It eventually led to "Don't talk to Dad, he's evil and wants to hurt us" kind of stuff.

Mind you - All the while I was trying to have conversations with her about our family situation and how we could fix things.  She went back and forth between attacking me about how "we need to talk", avoiding me when we had time to talk, and being "too busy" when I tried to schedule a time to talk.

When I got to the point where her control, anger and outbursts towards me no longer impacted me (I stopped caring about her reactions to every little thing) we really became disengaged from each other.  I was no longer a drama supply for her, and spending any time with her was no longer of interest to me.  For the last 18 months I was only there for the kids.

So - Sorry, I don't have any great advice, but maybe the advice here is don't do what I did.  Specifically, if you want to keep the relationship don't allow yourself to disengage as I did.
 Hopefully in your situation she will respond positively to some of the techniques.  I just know in my situation that my wife had zero self awareness and everything had to be my fault.  Even when she stole money out of our joint bank accounts, it was because she was afraid I would do it first.   :stars: 


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Hazy111

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The thing is you have identified it, exactly for what it was . You triggered her by "criticising" her and got a pass agg response.

Cant give you advice, but "props" for understanding what you are dealing with.

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rubixcube

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I honestly don't have a great answer for you, hopefully someone here can chime in with things that will help in your situation.  I just wanted to respond since you precisely described what it was like living with my stbxPDw (we're going through divorce right now).

I tried multiple ways of dealing with it over the years.  My wife had a counter for everything I tried.  A simple question (like your diaper example) would lead to her being angry with me.  I couldn't find a way to get around that without walking on eggshells and trying in every moment not to upset her.  I knew walking on eggshells wouldn't work for me though, I couldn't abandon who I was and live to serve her every need.

She controlled EVERYTHING.  When the kids got up, what they ate, how I spoke to them, what the family did with our time, who we saw, etc.  And none of it was consistent, it was whatever she felt like at the moment.  I got frustrated with that so I started standing up for myself, making it clear that I'm their parent too and she had no right to talk to me the way she did - all that did was make her shout louder and the fights in front of the kids got worse.  I had to back down in order to keep some calmness in the house.

I also tried just doing things the way I wanted to without discussing her - this resulted in more smear campaigns and her undermining anything I said to the kids behind my back.  "Mommy says you're bad because you...."  Stuff like that.  It eventually led to "Don't talk to Dad, he's evil and wants to hurt us" kind of stuff.

Mind you - All the while I was trying to have conversations with her about our family situation and how we could fix things.  She went back and forth between attacking me about how "we need to talk", avoiding me when we had time to talk, and being "too busy" when I tried to schedule a time to talk.

When I got to the point where her control, anger and outbursts towards me no longer impacted me (I stopped caring about her reactions to every little thing) we really became disengaged from each other.  I was no longer a drama supply for her, and spending any time with her was no longer of interest to me.  For the last 18 months I was only there for the kids.

So - Sorry, I don't have any great advice, but maybe the advice here is don't do what I did.  Specifically, if you want to keep the relationship don't allow yourself to disengage as I did.
 Hopefully in your situation she will respond positively to some of the techniques.  I just know in my situation that my wife had zero self awareness and everything had to be my fault.  Even when she stole money out of our joint bank accounts, it was because she was afraid I would do it first.   :stars:

 :yeahthat:
That's for writing all that! I'm very much in the same boat. I've found the best terms to explain that changing rules type of behavior is "double standard", and simply "the rules keep changing". When I see the behaviors now, I can recognize(sometimes) if they're double standard(expects of me something she doesn't do herself) or if it's just rules changing(her whim becomes law). It's terrible.

Like you I've detached quite a bit. It's a hard and lonely way to live. I have trouble discerning if my Grey Rocking is just detachment or a technique. I have no clue.

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pushit

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That's for writing all that! I'm very much in the same boat. I've found the best terms to explain that changing rules type of behavior is "double standard", and simply "the rules keep changing". When I see the behaviors now, I can recognize(sometimes) if they're double standard(expects of me something she doesn't do herself) or if it's just rules changing(her whim becomes law). It's terrible.

Like you I've detached quite a bit. It's a hard and lonely way to live. I have trouble discerning if my Grey Rocking is just detachment or a technique. I have no clue.

I'm glad you appreciated my thoughts, I debated whether or not to post on your thread because I didn't want to shed a negative light on your situation.  Sometimes it helps just to know you're not the only one dealing with it.  I can definitely relate to how lonely it feels.  I was trying so hard and doing so much, only to have her undermine my efforts and then tell everyone around us how awful I was to her.  If only people knew what was happening behind closed doors....

One thing I noticed is that you're clearly becoming self-aware, by understanding you have your own codependent tendencies and need to improve your boundaries with people.  That is a great thing, keep learning how to make changes and work on yourself as much as you can.  I think some people get stuck in trying to "fix" the PDs behavior when that will never happen.

Me, personally - I was raised to be a people pleaser and a fixer, and didn't even realize it.  I would suggest reading the book "No More Mr. Nice Guy".  It really helped me out by making me realize how important it is to put myself first and be more assertive about what I want.  The irony is the more you do that, the better your relationships with people will be.  I have a long way to go, but I've gotten better with less passive-aggressive behavior towards people (doing something nice and then expecting something nice back, only to get mad when it doesn't happen), being more up-front with what I want, and not caring what people may think of me or my actions.

Now comes the conundrum that lies in the relationship with a PD.  Once you work on yourself, you'll notice you're less willing to tolerate dysfunctional behavior and relationships.  It's a great thing overall, but in my case it doomed my marriage.  Some people can create boundaries and the PD will respond, and the relationship gets better.  My wife just increased the level of crazy to the point where I had to protect myself/kids physically, emotionally and financially.  I was stuck with selecting the best bad option and chose to file for divorce.  I sincerely hope you have a better outcome than mine.

I would say you're on the right track with looking inward.  How it will impact your marriage is up to you and your wife, it depends on your tolerance level and how she responds to the changed you.  No matter what happens in your marriage, it will set you up for greater happiness down the road by eliminating/reducing the dysfunction in your life.  As bummed as I am that I'm dealing with this fallout and a divorce, I think I really needed to go through this to grow and have a better life moving forward.  It's allowed me to examine a lot of my past friendships and family relationships, and there are some things that will be changing for the better with those relationships in the future, or the relationship will go away.

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rubixcube

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pushit,

"No More Mr. Nice Guy". Is this the one by Robert Glover? I'm looking for it now. Thanks for the suggestion, and I AM really glad you wrote.

I just started attending "People Pleaser Anonymous" meetings. ie. CoDA. I love it so far. It's a room full of people who married or got involved with a narcissist(covert & overt), then broke down and realized they were codependent. Amazing!

As for working on myself: When I was 100% people pleaser, "we" had no real issues. Just her terribly regular mood swings. But I bent, walked on eggshells, and just took all the abuse. As soon as I decided to get off the Karpmann triangle, radically(I'm a rescuer), I began to defend myself and stopped enabling her. This became an all out attack. Where before I was just the thing near her that she vented her moods on(passively and aggressively), I am now the target. It's very sad, but it's forcing me out of my codependency... If I want to survive this.

I fully expect 1 of two things to happen(thanks to reading OOTF & The Human Magnet Syndrome). When I change, and put up boundaries against abuse, she will either accept it, or become more enraged and leave. Either way is a workable situation. The key is I just need to see myself as distinct and separate from her. I can't let her moods control me and dictate what I'm supposed to feel and do(My narc dad did that when I was a kid). Hence my question in this topic.

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SonofThunder

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Hi Rubix,

I want to suggest a boundary you place on yourself, to help minimize the situations like you described.  The boundary I have on myself is to pause and ask myself this question first, before i comment on something my uPDw is doing or has said.  The question is:  “does what she just said or is/about to do, something that REALLY matters”.  If the answer is NO, i dont say anything.  If the answer is YES, i then i MUST say something. 

As a rule for determining is something REALLY matters, i have created what i call ‘the box’.  I taught this ‘box’ idea to my kids when they were growing up, so they could pre-determine if a decision was wise or not, and whether they would get approval or disapproval from me. 

I would tell my kids to “operate in the box and we can be both friends and parent/child, but operate outside the box and you will find corrective parental discipline thats not so friendly”.  Obviously, this statement applies to children and not to a spouse, but the box concept applies also to myself and how I judge the actions, reactions or comments of others, including my spouse. 

What constitutes staying in the box?   Three questions to ask ourselves. 
1. Is it illegal (laws of land we live in)
2. Is it immoral (principles/laws we believe based on some foundational source-for me its the Christian Bible)
3. Is it hurtful (either to ourselves or others and either physically or emotionally)

So,  my boundaries on myself is that I must quickly ask myself those same questions to determine whether I should respond to someone else’s action, reaction, or comment. 

You wrote:

 “Here's an example: Before leaving for church, we had to change our daughter's diaper from the night before. My wife took off her diaper and was going to put another on. I said, "should we wipe her or is it dry?" Instantly I felt the mood go dark. She got cold. I felt guilt and as if I were a beat dog. She, with a cold tone said our daughter's diaper is dry. Then she looked at me with a half scolding, half victim look. I felt very bad right away, wondering what happened. Questioning myself if I did something wrong.” 

Rubix: (asks quick box question to himself)  “is what my wife is about to do (put a new diaper on my daughter), illegal, immoral or hurtful to my daughter?  Answer is no, therefore it doesnt REALLY matter, so Rubix does not act, comment or ask a question and therefore Rubix doesnt see PD behavior. 

After a bit of practicing this, I realized how many things that I would comment on really didn’t matter, and I found the drama was reduced quite considerably with my uPDw.  But, if we must intercede (outside the box), then we MUST, no matter who it is. 

SoT


« Last Edit: July 18, 2019, 01:01:31 PM by SonofThunder »
Proverbs 17:1
A meal of bread and water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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rubixcube

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Thank you SoT. As always, I'm really grateful for your responses.

The hard part is pausing the mouth, to give myself time to think. As I learn not to JADE though, it gets a baby step easier each time. 2 steps forward, one step back? ;)
The box method sound really great, and I'll definitely be adopting it!

My only question is how does it work when it's a fine line?
In the case of the diaper, let's imagine: it was a full pee diaper. My wife slaps on another diaper, and doesn't wipe my daughter first. My daughter gets a rash from this and experiences, not danger, but discomfort.

In my book, that's physical "harm" from neglect and laziness(read selfishness), but that could just be how I view it. She's 2 and it's our job to protect her?

It seems blurry to me in this case. What do you think you would do? Just let it be maybe, and look for another opportunity to change her sooner rather than later?

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rubixcube

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Sorry, SoT. I should clarify.
I'm not saying any of the following to be contradictory in the slightest. I'm just looking for clarity.
You already know that I highly respect you, and I look up to you as a role model for how to live life with boundaries, true to self and Christ.

Perhaps where I might see immoral infraction of the box is the habitual putting of self(ish) interest(read laziness) before others.
Maybe that's codependent thinking?

If your wife was self absorbed, said countless times how she doesn't love her daughter or "feel" anything for her, and she's showed over and over passive aggressively(sighing, anger at me spending time doing things for myself, etc, etc) how she feels the child is a burden (always doing the absolute bare minimum in caring for her), would that change the context of the scenario for you?

Hence my confusion and how I see it as a fine line.

I've found this is one of the hard parts of dealing with covert passive aggressive narcissists. Explaining context is incredibly difficult sometimes. It looks like a tiny thing on the surface, but it's the tip of a giant-selfish-iceberg.
If the covert says to me with a smile, "Oh I love it when you wear that pink shirt", what it often means is "I hate your other shirts. You don't dress the way I want you to". There's a turd in the punch bowl.

If you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Or anyone else too for that matter.

Again, I love you guys!

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pushit

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Rubix - Yes, the one by Robert Glover.  I'm going to look into The Human Magnet Syndrome too, sounds interesting.

Recognizing your role in the drama triangle is important as well.  Something interesting about my situation (and I hope it doesn't apply to yours).  Once I learned about the drama triangle, I recognized how my wife would maneuver between persecutor (towards me behind closed doors) and then quickly switch to victim if she didn't get what she wanted.  Interestingly, my MIL always remains in the role of rescuer.  She is terrified of upsetting my stbxW, and 100% enables her behavior.  I was constantly caught between my wife and her family.  Over time, as she isolated me, we were only able to hang out with her family and I was always in the role of persecutor, simply by having my own opinion.  Wife wants something, I want to discuss it because I see it differently, wife finds a way to get what she wants by going through her mom, or at the very least gets an audience to hear why I'm so terrible towards her.  The whole dynamic made it impossible for me to function as a dad and husband, and retain any shred of individuality. 

I attended a family function a few weeks ago with stbxW and her parents.  I thought to myself going in that "I bet MIL will be there with a smile, hovering just behind stbxW and making sure stbxW isn't stressed about anything".  It was exactly that.  To the outside world it appears so sweet, mom and daughter like twins helping each other out.  The reality is much different, MIL is so afraid of her getting upset that she abandons her own thoughts and acts as a servant.

My only question is how does it work when it's a fine line?

This is a very interesting question to me.  I don't know the answer, and don't have much of a pulpit to preach from since I'm currently getting divorced,  :blush: but here are my thoughts. 

I can see the merit in SoT's "box" theory.  No need to make issues out of something when you can look past it.  It takes two to tango, and the non-disordered person also has their baggage in these relationships.

However, it is a fine line between choosing your battles and walking on eggshells.  In my experience, the PD will attempt to make issues out of nothing in order to create drama.  Your question about the diaper is an innocent one, and didn't deserve her angered response.  The underlying issue is she sees that as an attack on her parenting skills, when you didn't mean it that way.  I think that comes back to the low self esteem of PDs, they feel terrible about themselves so the smallest slight is seen as an attack on their core being.  I do think you had a valid reason to ask if she should be wiped.  This same type of situation played out a million times in my relationship.

The danger in the "box" theory is that the more you choose to not say anything, the more their control grows in the relationship.  This was one of the tactics I tried, but it turned me into the silent husband/dad that has no backbone.  If I kept my mouth shut, my stbxW used that to her advantage and walked over me more and more.

One thing I read about PDs that really sticks with me is how their relationships act out a self fulfilling prophecy.  They're afraid people will leave, therefore they act in controlling ways which ultimately lead to people leaving them.  Then the next relationship starts and they do the whole thing over again.  In my situation that's exactly how it played out.  I see now that she has very few friends, and they're mostly "surface" relationships.  Lots of friends from the past that she doesn't talk to anymore.  I knew she had multiple long term relationships before me, but didn't give that enough thought at the time, now I know why.

I don't necessarily disagree with SoT's box theory, but that's my $.02 on why it's a slippery slope.

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Codeep

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This post really hit me as I'm in the middle of walking on eggshells/avoiding my husband this morning after he freaked out over the course of a birthday party evening.  Thankfully, my 10 y.o. just told me yesterday was the best day ever.  He is completely oblivious to my husband's mood.  Basically my husband just couldn't take the energy associated with 6 kids in a climbing wall gym with my parents and a few other parents in tow.  I'm not exactly sure what he wants to blame me for but he acted out and there was one moment where he raged with my parents in the room which I absolutely hate.  I don't need my parents worrying about me.  It was a contained rage.  He had rage all over his face and gave me the angry whisper verbal thrashing about the fact that one of the kids was still at our house and it was 9:08 p.m. and we hadn't served the cake yet.

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SonofThunder

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Rubix/Pushit,

Very good points regarding the fine line,  especially when it relates to other people who are  in our circle of responsibilities such as children, elderly or pets (or even assets that need protection).

Pushit wrote.  “The danger in the "box" theory is that the more you choose to not say anything, the more their control grows in the relationship.  This was one of the tactics I tried, but it turned me into the silent husband/dad that has no backbone.  If I kept my mouth shut, my stbxW used that to her advantage and walked over me more and more.”

I have not experienced the “more control” issue since implementing the ootf toolbox and sticking with my ‘box’ boundaries on my own mouth and other boundaries on myself.   With regard to the fine line;  if i notice a repeating of an incident that is repeatedly harmful (in Rubix’ case a repeated rash to his child) to a person or thing in my circle of responsibility, then that is out of the ‘box’, because it is #3: repeatedly ‘hurtful’ to my child. 

I want to emphasize “repeatedly”, because if it’s a only a one time incident of forgetting to dry off the child then i would choose to not comment.  I also want to say, in my opinion, there’s a difference between remaining silent and making no comment when not needed.   Pushit said...”silent husband/dad that has no backbone”.  That insinuates that Pushit was expected by the PD to take action/comment in a situation but choose not to, and PD labeled Pushit as “silent husband/dad with no backbone”.  But, making no comment on the changing of a diaper is a normal behavior so i would not expect that Mrs Rubix was expecting action or comment from him and her covert reaction proved that to be the case. 

Each situation Is clearly different and requires thought regarding action or comment, but observation to look for repeated incidences of being outside the ‘box’ does warrant action in order to protect those in the circle of our responsibility.  For example, if Rubix observes that his daughter is constantly re-diapered without being dried off and experiences a repeated rash, then for the protection of his daughter, he ought to be observant and change the diaper before his wife does and act like that task is in his normal line of duties/no comments.  If he finds that the PD uses neglect in order to further manipulate Rubix to do even more tasks, then Rubix must have boundaries on himself that will determine his responses and choose what tasks are needed (to protect himself/others/assets) and which are not. 

I am also of the opinion that kids, elderly, pets and some assets that are in our circle of responsibility, are our 50% rule with regard to a chosen spouse (look up rule on ootf if needed) and since we have options to stay/leave, then staying requires that we must care for/defend kids, elderly, pets and assets because they cannot protect themselves and we have chosen to remain with the PD.  That may look like ‘caretaking’ on our part, or control on the part of the PD by our having to do extra care for these people/pets/assets, but we must accept it because we have A: chosen a PD as a spouse and B: chosen to stay with that PD. 

Lastly,  I want to say also that it is my opinion that children growing up around PD types of arguing and JADEing, is in itself #3: ‘harmful’ to the child to experience and incorrectly learn from those examples.  So with regard to the fine line, i think we also need to keep that in mind when making decisions to act/react or not. 

SoT.
Proverbs 17:1
A meal of bread and water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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rubixcube

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Well said, SoT. Thanks for the clarification. It DOES clear up the fine line confusion I was having. I had a hunch repeated actions would change the context a bit.

And I still agree that it is often not necessary to speak.

I really like what you said about the 50% scope. Extremely relevant.
I've thought about this in the context of making dinner for all of us so we can eat healthy foods or even just foods my daughter isn't allergic to. My daughter is allergic to many things and my wife still gives her these allergens to eat if she doesn't see an immediate reaction. It really baffles me and I've spoken up about it many times. I may just need to start cooking myself. Unfortunate though.. Like I don't already have enough to do. Isn't there a side effect here where the PD is enable by this? She'll be free to just sit around all day and I'll be doing all the work. uPDw is a stay at home mom.

I've found too that I need to be the one to care for our cats. We made a commitment to get them, and several times my wife has tried to convince me to just get rid of them. She is happy to offload responsibility to other people just because she doesn't feel like having them anymore for some (ever changing) reason.

Pushit, I was going to reply to points in your last comment, but honestly I can relate to almost all of it. Especially the mother in law stuff.

I've realized that my wife was severely spoiled by her enabling mom. When a spoiled child grows up, you often get a narcissists, especially when combined with early trauma or neglect.

I'm starting to learn that people can only have power over us if we let them. It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with us.
Learning how I'm 100% a codependent and am being retraumatized in my current situation has really been an eye opener.

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pushit

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SoT - Many good points in your response below.  In general, we are very close to complete agreement.  It's the gray areas that make this stuff difficult.  I think the box rule is a good one not only for dealing with PDs, but for life in general.  No reason to pick at something if it doesn't need to be picked at.

I'm glad that you haven't seen the "more control" side effects of biting your tongue, in my case there was no such luck.  She was just enabled to go around/through me even more than before, a complete lack of respect for her partner on many levels.  In a nutshell - over time, I was not allowed to speak about anything.  This goes beyond simple everyday things where I could have kept quiet in order to keep some peace. 

For instance - One ongoing issue was the kids' wake up time for school.  uPDw insisted on waking them up 5 minutes before she drove them to school, then screaming at everyone to hurry up.  This was based on the premise that they needed more sleep.  It made zero sense, and every morning resulted in screaming/crying kids being thrown into the car half naked, while uPDw shouted at me about how I wasn't helping, then she would speed out of the driveway almost hitting our neighbors kids who were walking to the bus stop. :stars:  I tried discussing it with her, the conversation went in circles.  I tried standing up to her, she just screamed louder and it freaked the kids out.  I tried just waking the kids up myself 30 minutes before departure, she screamed at me and physically blocked access to their rooms.  This scenario meets the "box" rules of engagement (repeated event that is emotionally harmful to the kids).  This is what I mean by the silent dad with no backbone.  I was in a situation where I should stand up for the kids' well being but any manner of doing so just made our home life worse.  My only remaining option was to keep quiet and never say anything about it, which I don't feel is a reasonable option.

I also agree that every situation is different.  Me/you/Rubix are all different, as are our wives.  A good course of action is unique and can be different for each of our situations.

Rubix - Regarding your question about the PD being enabled by you taking on more duties.  100% yes, in my experience.  I can think of many examples, but you mentioned dinner so I'll share my experience with that.

My uPDw is always "so busy" so I took on more things over the years.  Making dinner was one of them.  We would never eat until the kids were supposed to already be in bed whenever she was responsible for it.  Once I started doing it, it was always my responsibility moving forward.  It also led to intentional misdirection by lack of communication.  Example - She would take the kids to an activity after school, and I would be responsible for having dinner when they get home.  No problem, I'm happy to take care of my end of things.  However, sometimes she would get them fast food and not need dinner.  Sometimes they'd come home and already have eaten, sometimes not.  I would text her to ask if they needed dinner, and get no response so I'd make dinner.  I had it happen enough times where I'd make dinner only to find out they already ate, then decided that unless she responds I'm not going to play the game anymore.  That led to more anger towards me about her having to do everything, since dinner wasn't made.

I've read many times about how you need to hand a PD's problems back to them in order to save yourself.  When you have little kids this can be extremely challenging to do.  As we neared the end of living together, I chose my battles by helping uPDw out if it impacted the kids in any way.  If the impact of her problem was only to her, then I'd let her solve it.  (Within reason, if it was something she truly needed my help with like changing a tire I would do it)  Again, unfortunately in my case, this just led to us becoming more disengaged with each other.  I tried letting her pick up her own messes, which angered her more, which led to me detaching more.

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SonofThunder

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Well said, SoT. Thanks for the clarification. It DOES clear up the fine line confusion I was having. I had a hunch repeated actions would change the context a bit.

And I still agree that it is often not necessary to speak.

I really like what you said about the 50% scope. Extremely relevant.
I've thought about this in the context of making dinner for all of us so we can eat healthy foods or even just foods my daughter isn't allergic to. My daughter is allergic to many things and my wife still gives her these allergens to eat if she doesn't see an immediate reaction. It really baffles me and I've spoken up about it many times. I may just need to start cooking myself. Unfortunate though.. Like I don't already have enough to do. Isn't there a side effect here where the PD is enable by this? She'll be free to just sit around all day and I'll be doing all the work. uPDw is a stay at home mom.

I've found too that I need to be the one to care for our cats. We made a commitment to get them, and several times my wife has tried to convince me to just get rid of them. She is happy to offload responsibility to other people just because she doesn't feel like having them anymore for some (ever changing) reason.

Pushit, I was going to reply to points in your last comment, but honestly I can relate to almost all of it. Especially the mother in law stuff.

I've realized that my wife was severely spoiled by her enabling mom. When a spoiled child grows up, you often get a narcissists, especially when combined with early trauma or neglect.

I'm starting to learn that people can only have power over us if we let them. It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with us.
Learning how I'm 100% a codependent and am being retraumatized in my current situation has really been an eye opener.

Rubix you said “Isn't there a side effect here where the PD is enable by this? She'll be free to just sit around all day and I'll be doing all the work. uPDw is a stay at home mom. ”. 

That is another ‘fine line’. I mentioned in my previous reply that the required actions I must take to better-care for those in my responsibility circle (like the diaper changing or cooking non-allergy meals), may look like ‘caretaking’ my uPDw (term from the book by Fjelstad) or as you wrote ‘enabling’ (which imho is a byproduct of Caretaking but different). 

Sadly yes, as Pushits last 2 paragraphs in the post above states, the PD will often take advantage of situations as a form of #control.   But, we can only control ourselves and owe our responsibilities to those in our ‘unchosen’ circle (kids, elderly, animals, needed assets).  Sometimes, what looks like manipulation through neglect is actually the byproduct of the general traits of the self-focused PD and not a direct purposefully designed neglect by the PD (although it looks/feels like one)

For example, my uPDw is SO focused on her appearance that she would repeatedly be late in getting our young kids to events on time, because her focus is on her looks vs the clock/on-time and looks are more important in feeding her PD needs.  But my uPDw doesn't typically ‘design’ lateness as a form of control but rather lateness is a byproduct of her cluster B traits.  In  some cases (confirmed once to me by my uPDw in an angry remark to my leaving without her) she claimed it was “better to arrive late looking stunning than on time and not stunning.”  She was not deliberately and repeatedly trying to make the kids/me late (both unethical in my mind and hurtful=2 items out of the box), but again late is a byproduct, and walking in late also means everyone will notice her.  Either way the resulting effect is the same on us nons and the 50% rule, my own boundaries on myself + box boundary would have me taking the kids to get them there myself, because i have responsibilities to those in my circle.   

Like Pushit’s last paragraph reads: at some point, the task overload to properly care for those in our circle, plus the growing emotional distance between us nons and the PD, causes a 50% rule decision to be made by us because life gets too hard.  The 51% rule also applies here (find rule here on OOTF) because if the task overload + circle responsibilities of being joined to a PD begin to ruin us, then our responsibility circle members will also start to suffer more.  Like I've said in other posts, if we spend all our efforts (airplane low oxygen analogy of 51% rule) circulating the O2 mask around our responsibility circle group and never put the mask on ourselves, then we pass out and EVERYBODY dies.  Therefore some of us have to make a 50% rule decision for ourselves and our circle and separate ourselves from the PD permanently, like Pushit needed to do.

SoT

« Last Edit: July 19, 2019, 08:13:27 PM by SonofThunder »
Proverbs 17:1
A meal of bread and water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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rubixcube

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SoT, I've been thinking about your box model for appropriate responses for the past few days. It seems(based on how I've explained the idea to others) that I've assimilated it as well. It seems to be a very natural idea for healthy interaction put into a very useful analogy.

To sort of answer my own post's question, last night I met with a new T. She obviously has some experience with codependency and narcissistic abuse. Thank God. I posed this same question to her, and I was happy about the response I got. In fact, the response is right in line with SoT's box model.

When asked how I set boundaries against subtle, passive aggressive narcissistic abuse We had a good discussion.

My big takeaway was that in order to set boundaries against subtle, passive aggressive narcissistic abuse(scoffing looks, victim playing, sighing, sarcasm, guilt and shame inducing remarks or looks, etc.) I don't need to "say" anything. Just ignore the attempt, if I feel controlled and guilty in the moment HIDE IT. Don't slump or show fear. Then, when there is behavior that is adult like, reinforce THAT. Positive reinforcement in this context is boundary protection. I will be teaching her(much like teaching a toddler) what is an acceptable way to get me to respond; an acceptable way to treat me. If she is trying unhealthy ways of seeking attention it won't work.

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Kat1984

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Rubixcube, what your T said is exactly what my T said.   In reference to my uBPD sister.   IGNORE it all except for the parts that are positive.   Only reinforce the positive.   Ignore all other behavior unless it is abusive.   If it is abusive, leave the scene.

I find it a little tricky to distinguish between abusive and passive-aggressive sometimes.   But I'm learning.    My sister does lots of eye rolls.  Wow.  Talk about immature coping skills.

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rubixcube

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Kat,

In my understanding any attempt by another person to manipulate us through guilt or shame is emotional abuse.

In the case of your sister, the eye roll is intended to passively show you that 1. she doesn't approve of what you did/said, 2. You are stupid/crazy/foolishfor doing said thing, and 3.  she is better than you, wouldn't do it(ha!) and you are less than her.

THAT is emotional abuse in my book. Because it's passive aggressive though it gets tricky with how we protect ourselves. I think if we're not strong enough to let it bounce off us yet, and we are likely to absorb the guilt, then we are being abused/retraumatized and giving them narcissistic supply or attention. They win, we get our energy vampired away and it might be best to put distance between them and us.

If we can't put distance for whatever reason then, in my estimation, the only thing left to do is what our Ts say: fake it till you make it, essentially; and really get to work on processing our own childhood trauma and curing our codependency. THis way we can reprogam ourselves to not have a guilt response when our abusers want us to(so they can continue to control us).

Just thinking out loud!

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Kat1984

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rubixcube,
I love what you wrote, and I think you are right on.    :yeahthat:

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SonofThunder

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SoT, I've been thinking about your box model for appropriate responses for the past few days. It seems(based on how I've explained the idea to others) that I've assimilated it as well. It seems to be a very natural idea for healthy interaction put into a very useful analogy.

To sort of answer my own post's question, last night I met with a new T. She obviously has some experience with codependency and narcissistic abuse. Thank God. I posed this same question to her, and I was happy about the response I got. In fact, the response is right in line with SoT's box model.

When asked how I set boundaries against subtle, passive aggressive narcissistic abuse We had a good discussion.

My big takeaway was that in order to set boundaries against subtle, passive aggressive narcissistic abuse(scoffing looks, victim playing, sighing, sarcasm, guilt and shame inducing remarks or looks, etc.) I don't need to "say" anything. Just ignore the attempt, if I feel controlled and guilty in the moment HIDE IT. Don't slump or show fear. Then, when there is behavior that is adult like, reinforce THAT. Positive reinforcement in this context is boundary protection. I will be teaching her(much like teaching a toddler) what is an acceptable way to get me to respond; an acceptable way to treat me. If she is trying unhealthy ways of seeking attention it won't work.

This  :yeahthat: is excellent news for you Rubix and glad you are feeling energized about your strategy moving forward!  I want to add, that the ‘box’/your T’s suggested approach has been very effective for me, but only if i keep those plans/procedures to myself; my ‘battle-plans’ per-se.  Any divulged battle plans (to my PDw or even my other family/friends) reveals my plans, path and procedures and they can end up being revealed, manipulate or thwarted. 

If you feel the emotional distance growing larger in your relationship with your PDw, as you continue to implement these boundary-procedures for protection of yourself, its normal and can make you feel very emotionally alone when around her.  Again thats a normal result and i encourage you to find avenues for you to continue (in balance and humbleness) to love yourself and even grow friendships.  For example joining groups of men who also enjoy your hobbies (in a small group or 1-in-1 setting), Also developing a hobby(s) you can immerse yourself into when alone.  In addition, pour yourself more into time/hobbies with your kids, as they also experience the effects of having a PDm and so more time with a non-PD is great for them.  *my advice: dont reveal your plans to your kids, but they will surely pick up on your methods simply by watching you.  **teaching the ‘box’ to my kids, with regard to their making good choices was very helpful in establishing a clear set of rules for my parent/child relationship and helps them become independent. 

As always, you can always find fellowship, support and understanding here at ootf among those of us on the same journey.  Enjoy your growing relationship skilks!  There are lots of PD’s in the world and these skills help us deal with all people.  :)

SoT
« Last Edit: July 26, 2019, 12:50:28 PM by SonofThunder »
Proverbs 17:1
A meal of bread and water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.