Verbal Abuse 6

When verbal abuse is covert or may not sound like verbal abuse ...

Today I am going to tackle a very tough area and I may range around a bit at the start - but I hope by the end you will have a clear view of some ideas I have been wanting to share.

I want to start with another type of defense that you may come up against ... but first I should share that the aim of these articles is not to judge anyone but to help you start to become aware of defensive behaviour in yourself and others and continue practicing ways to bring each of you back to feeling safe enough to express your authentic self.

I will call the type of behaviour I will talk about in this article "hiding with the herd", but sometimes you may also hear it referred to as "rigid" defense. As with all the other defenses we have dealt with in this series (sulking, self righteous wrath, 'lights on but no one home' and 'the talker') the behaviour I am about to describe is simply a reaction to fear. There is no shame in this because we all use defenses now and again, because as humans we all sometimes feel scared.

Unfortunately however, acting defensively may become a habit and a person may in fact be acting scared all the time. The real cause of what made them scared in the first place may have in fact moved out of their life years ago and their own defensiveness may now be what is attracting the very behaviour they fear.

I have mentioned this problem before, but let's refresh ourselves on this subject and look briefly at a few more examples of this ...

- The fat person who fears humiliation who eats to feel better - bringing themselves further humiliation.

- The person who is scared of being bullied who "zones out" with their head back and eyes glazed looking arrogant and hence attracting bullies who want to hurt them for being so 'stuck up'.

- The person who is lonely and fears abandonment who acts clingy, needy and desperate and so scares people away.

- The person who fears betrayal and so acts controlling and dominating so that they end up inevitably being betrayed.

And with herd defense we see the person who fears not being believed or validated and so tries so hard to be 'normal' and perfect and 'just like everyone else' that they end up coming across as fake (and so are not validated or believed).

The problem with defensive behaviour is that it not only hurts the person who is acting this out but also the people who end up becoming involved in the dynamic.

So learning to disengage from (and if possible disrupt this pattern) without pulling away from the very  people we want to get closer to will accomplish quite a few things ...

a. People's authentic self is much more pleasant to be around than their defenses.
b. We may learn to help them stop attracting the very things they fear.
c. We may prevent ourselves from experiencing the pain, guilt anger and confusion of being unwittingly drawn into a "play' where we are 'tricked' into hurting someone we didn't want to hurt (by playing along with a learned pattern of behaviour that is outmoded and not serving anyone anymore).

'Hiding with the herd' is tricky however because this person really isn't doing anything overtly abusive or wrong (they are extremely careful about this in fact) but you can tell they are still not being real with you and this still can still hurt and cause a lot of friction, chaos and pain. 

So this is just one way that covert abuse can happen and I will try and give you a better look at some of the ways this may affect you and hopefully some ideas of what to do that might help ...

1. The herd follower is always looking for what is normal and 'standard' behaviour because this is where they have decided they are safe. When they told their parents as a child that they saw a UFO or dragon in the backyard they learned very quickly what happened if you told "tall stories" IE. you were disbelieved and treated like a silly child. Now to stay safe they may unwitting do the same to anyone who is sharing anything too subjective for them to feel safe about. Anyone who behaves outside the 'norm' may be treated in a slightly condescending manner in a number of ways ...

a. The follower of the herd will use manipulation to bring your 'out of the norm' behaviour back in line. This may include ignoring you, changing the subject or redirecting the conversation, or even scoffing or scolding you in a mild way. This may work in the short term but may leave you feeling devalued and put down, The message you get is that you are somehow a bit weird or "too much" and that you have been judged inferior to the herd follower who feels they need to manage you and not communicated with you truthfully 'on the level' about what you have to offer or your ideas. This may be subtle but can be very hurtful. Even though herd followers may not a have a huge number of friends it can feel that they are showing you that they feel they are superior to you and have a right to judge that you are really not a totally acceptable part of the herd.

b. They may give you a lot of compliments but leave you feeling a bit queasy about whether they are sincere. Again the compliments can be a way of avoiding honest communication.

d. Herd followers may or may not be serial daters or change business partners regularly but if this is the case, then jumping from one partner to the next with no real regard for their last partner's feelings can cause people who wanted to get close to them a lot of pain. This especially when they never had the courage to have an authentic exchange about their need to move on and the other parties feelings about this. The herd follower may seize on something the last partner did that they feel was clearly wrong as their excuse for terminating contact without any honest discussion or chance to 'reframe' the relationship.

e. In organizations herd followers may succumb to some of the worst kind of office bullying (because like smoke you can't grasp it but it can still kill you) where people who don't quite fit in with the herd when it comes to the 'culture' or normal standards of behaviour don't ever stand a chance to defend themselves as they find themselves judged and 'managed' with no room for honest discussion of whether there is even a problem or not. More than ever these days creativity is reflected not just in the health of a business but also in the bottom line and for creativity to flow some unusual behaviour and conflict must be tolerated. No new idea every came to be without some disagreement and honest debate (conducted on the basis that each party are equals). So as innocent as the perfect standards and behaviour of the herd may look, herd followers can really damage a business as well as the creatives within it whose not so 'out of the box' ideas may have in fact been just what was needed to improve not only the bottom line, but safety, efficiency and sustainability as well. In this way if we are not careful the cautious behaviour of the herd may in fact lead our species to extinction if R&D, creativity and innovation continue to lose out to the corporate status quo.

2. Herd followers tend to be good listeners and ask a lot of questions and it is tempting to try and 'expand their minds'. This can be a mistake however because all you will probably find yourself doing is putting yourself more firmly on the outside of what they feel comfortable dealing with - which isn't much. Like the other defenses, what is actually needed is really the opposite of what your instincts will probably tell you. Remember that anyone in defense is trying to get you to play their game - but the game is a hurtful one and it in fact needs to be disengaged. If you fall for trying to open the herd followers mind you may simply find yourself feeling stranger and more of a misfit than you ever suspected you were, while they shy away and feel less and less validated because you - like the many other people they tried to get close to - are always trying to give them a 'new reality' as if theirs did not really matter or exist. For this reason it is best if you can try and ask the herd follower questions and do your best to validate whatever they have to say. As you get them to open up slowly over time, hopefully you will get the chance to validate some stuff that is their own opinion and not just that of the herd. 

This doesn't mean you have to agree with them when they are wrong or going to do something disastrous (as following the herd will often lead people to do). It will help if you even just make an effort to listen and catch any little authentic feeling you pick up from them and try and forgive and ignore what sounds too cautious or false. 

3. Herd followers need hugs. Most of us like hugs but herd followers don't usually get their fair share. Ironically it is people who are a bit overweight (and usually very conscious about being touched) who get the most hugs while the ones who really want and need them miss out. Next time you see your friend who reminds you a bit of a teddy bear maybe think twice about the hug - unless they offer it - and instead give it to your friend who looks like their schedule revolves around tennis, business networking and the gym. On this point 'lights on but no one home' folk need a lot of hugs as well.

You may be surprised that they really like the hug and realise they don't think they are so superior to you after all. A good way to realise they really do want affection is by noticing how close they stand next to you when you talk. 

OK so that was a tough one but I hope I have given it justice. Next article I will be discussing another form of covert verbal abuse which will lead right to the heart of co dependence (emotional dependence) and what needs to be faced for it to heal. 

I know these ideas can take a while to get clear on so I might try and find some pictures next time of what different kinds of defensive behaviour looks like. For herd hiding - you only need to look at the behaviour of most show hosts on TV. 

Hang in there!

Kim Cooper



  1. Yes, this it great Kim. This describes so many experiences I have had. People surprisingly, seem to be alarmed at me being me, or conspicuously disinterested in what I said, or seem to want to control me, slam on the brakes etc, tho they would never admit this is what they are doing, because its non-conscious. THIS is what it is, its 'heard hiding'. I tend to be serious, passionate about things.

    Some more info on this: the 'disorders of the self' are based on a false self, the N. is about being the herd leader, others are followers, but niether is 'Real Self', ie directed from within, individuative etc. Any one read the book 'The Real Self' by J. Masterson? this is a deeper look also to this whole dynamic. Kim, I know you're buisy, but I'd love to know what you make of this man's work.
    The only part I disagree with is the hug part. There seems to be a fashion in hugs, but they seem to me to be sort of counterfiet currency for caring, not everyone wants a hug, there are other ways to make sincere contact. But this is really helpful Kim.

  2. Some examples of covert verbal abuse I have witnessed are the following:

    In a group, engaging in eye contact with only one other female as if they are the only 2 in existence.

    In front of people, ask a question that is actually a put down, but can feign innocence in the least and awkwardness at the most. For example, in Italy I was showing some photos to some friends for their brochure. All of the attention was on me. Out of the blue my husband says, "Are you saving your photo originals? You know, that's Photo 101." My husband IS NOT a photographer. I am the photographer.

    Hearing about some past offense while discussing my current hurt. Rather than address the hurt, I am spun out of control with surprise.

    Being the victim of circumstances and blaming everything on something else. For example, I used to be his social director making sure all his appointments and our social life was in order. Counselors suggested he take his own responsibility by getting a day-timer. Recently, we had some difficulties regarding our schedules. I asked him if he had his day-timer. He said he had been using one, but "the year ran out". This was in June!

    "I forgot" and "I don't remember" and "I'll get to it" are all passive-aggressive ways of punishing.

    When asked to evaluate something, he ALWAYS points out any flaw.

    When he doesn't touch a beverage I have prepared for him, I always know something is up because he is in a punishing mood.

    After opening gifts from just about anyone, he leaves them where they are and never touches them again or shoves them in the closet never to be used.

    Just this week, we allowed our daughter to text while her cousin was visiting, and he said she could but only if she spelled every word correctly.

    While watching movies with the family, he prepared himself an ice cream sundae. He offered the two of us bites, but when our daughter wanted her own, he said she had to share his.

    I had asked my daughter to complete a minor chore one evening, but unknown to me, he told her to do something else and he would take care of if it, but he didn't. I made her complete it the next day and she copped an attitude. He corrected her by saying he often picks up the slack for her chores and she could do the same for him. Then he accused her of keeping score. She is 9! I see her shutting down because he is berating her for HIS FAILURE. This is so subtle. Of course, I intervene because I've made it clear he will not treat her like he treats me. I tell him she will not accept this wound because it's not about chores. It's about keeping his word, especially as a father. He misses this entirely. This had been a recent topic because for two years in a row he has promised to take proper care of our taxes. It took a year to file 2008 and he missed filing an extension for this year.

    He often asked questions in such a way that it devalues the other person because it calls into question their judgment or skill.

    Shall I go on? "I got a million of 'em."

  3. Some other great books about self are by Robert A. Johnson. In particular, She and another book called He.

  4. Hi everyone and thanks for commenting,

    I guess covert abuse may have been to strong a desription for this subject even though the effects can be so painful.

    You see with herd hiders their words are not usually even intended as put downs and these people can be very nice. There is just this general assumption that the main stream view is superior and that manipulating conversation away from anything subjective or unpleasant (or emotional) and not offering your own honest point of view is the polite and normal thing to do.

    In my next article I will get more into true covert abuse which is more like some of the examples shared here in the comments.

    I think the thing to understand is that the type of people I am writing about here need their own creativity and experience validated rather than people trying to prove to them that alternative viewpoints deserve consideration. I have watched this for years with alternative medicine which I have an interest in (but I am not in any one camp of thought about). Many alternative practitioners are trying to get scientific proof of their claims while not seeing that this will not change anything. You win people's trust by listening to them and showing you understand and validating their experinece - not showing them research studies!

    It is like the thing you often hear on TV where someone's eye witness account is discredited because they must have been seeing things. That can never be the reason to discredit what someone has to say. If someone says they saw something they either saw it or they did't and they are lieing (in which case you will only discover that from listening). Sometimes maybe the person didn't understand what they saw but that is still not seeing things which don't exist. We hear it all the time that we shouldn't believe some people's testimony because of 'who' they are but I don't buy it - if someone has an opinion to express it is worth considering. If you find out later it was in their personal interest to perhaps lie well then you need to consider that possibility too. Not listening to someone because they hold different views to yourself mainstream or not is not acceptable if you really want to pretend that you are someone who believes in truth.

    So this is where the herd get's us into trouble. The don't listen to or look at the evidence that doesn't hold with the majority of other evidence. That will ALWAYS mean you come up with the wrong answers as it is the data that is unique which usually holds the most clues.

    Here is a silly but simple example - imagine if everyone who ever tried to get a tan didn't know they had to go outside and so everyone decided it was impossible. Then one person says "Hey but I got a tan." Should their testimony be discredited because it is different to everyone elses? Of course not. That is the very evidence worth looking closer at to find more answers.

    Kim Cooper

  5. Verbal abuse, both covert and direct was a major problem in our marriage. My husband did not see that calling me fat, stupid, mental(whilst I wasgrieving after losing my first baby) was abuse. He believed he was 'helping'. When I discovered his mother spoke to him in that way, I am not surprised that he is using learnt behaviour. Now, certain words and phrases are banned from our house. I can't use them either to be fair. It hasn't been easy. I didnot get married parent my husband. NPD canbe destructive. We have had to close a friendship of over 40 years up. My husband decided toturn his attentions andcharmon a lonely, single female mutual friend. She then bombarded him with texts, emails, drapped herself around him, pushed me out of the way to sit next to him.
    He learned the hard way that his bit of fun and getting his own needs met at the expense of others could wreck relationships.
    Thanks for another thought provoking post Kim

  6. Hi Kim, I thought I posted a comment a couple of days ago, it isn't here... did it not get through, maybe I messed up posting it..?

  7. I know the head games my husband plays to thwarft attention onto me when his verbal abuse is the issue. I want to know if it's possible to actually resolve conflict with a man so narcisistic. The issue of his behavior gets losts for he is constantly telling me he asked for forgiveness....yet he continues to behave so negatively towards me. I trigger this guy in so many ways but he will not go to the origin of his issues. He makes me the issue.

  8. This behavior started from the very begining in our marriage. The put downs, not to hurt me but for pure entertainment, everything you have said has happened to me. But, it is too late for me. I have just been through a grueling 3 year divorce. I have lost eveything. He spent $70,000 just on his attorney, took all of the $25,000 in equity from our home, spent $50,000 of a severance pay from his "lost job" and another $100K in retirement. I have not spousal support nor child support - 20 years of marriage and my children's lives - destroyed. It gets worse, he is moving out of state to live with his girlfriend who he was engaged to when he met me this week. It has been 2 years since I separated from him & my mind is just starting to understand this kind of verbal & mental abuse. I did everything wrong according to your advise & took the advise of my MANY doctors and left him. Which is when he really stepped up the abuse! I am sick to my stomach reading this, to know that ther could have been help. My daughter is exhibiting these same behaviors to me now, she is only 17! I don't know if I should feel more sadness or relief to know that it was not me? I need a lot more information to get answers. I feel that I have lost my family.

  9. Hi to everyone and to Raelee - All posts that have come through have been approved so if it is not here you may need to post it again sorry. To anon July 4th asking whethet the conflicy can be resolved - my answer is yes it can but it is going to take you making some bold moves that will probably be very scary and new to you. It will not happen from talking about it - it will take decisive action. Our ebooks "Back from the Looking Glass" and "the Love Safety Net Workbook" will help with that. To anon July 4th who thinks it is too late - I would suggest that our material will still benefit you greatly. For one you will need to know how to deal with your daughter - because if this isn't stopped it will also escalate out of control. You learning to set better boundaries for yourself and the dynamics of what has happened will help your healing. The sad thing is when we attract narcissists into our life we often think that things can't get worse than they are - but then they do. Please don't wait any longer to start learning how to stand up for yourself.

    Kim Cooper

  10. After Reading one of the comments posted here, I wondered how many NPD partners got themselves into serious debt. My husband took out a loan for £25k against the house and had 3 credit cards on the go, all maxed out and yet would berate me for spending anything even when it was for food or bills. He even bit my head off for paying his credit card debt!

  11. I think that irresponsibilty with resources - especially other people's money is at the heart of NPD. Most of the rest of the symptoms are smoke and mirrors trying to hide that they are taking way more than their fair share.

    Kim Cooper

  12. Kim, Back up here, something very important is missing! You said, you got over emotional once you discovered his bad behavior, and it was you with the emotional reaction that was hurting the relationship, and how to be mature and make changes of control & strength... like a man without feelings...become hard and cold like them.... is better for your feelings. My question is, "WHAT ABOUT HIS BAD BEHAVIOR?" You wouldn't have had reason be emotional: cry, be sad, get depressed, and blame yourself. WHAT ABOUT: his lies, being disconnected, and flirting with other woman and making you feel like shit that doesn't matter.

  13. Thank you for the reply to my post about NPD and money/debts. He never used the tens of thousands he racked up in debt for anything in particuar. I did wonder if he did it for the buzz to fill the void.
    I read the last post about behaviour. It has taken me ablong time to work it out. The person with NPD may never take responsibility for their behaviour and wishing or hoping they will come to understand may be destructive for the partner or codependent. The first thing they can do for themselves is work on their own behaviour. If that has an impact on the NPD partner for the good, great! If it doesn't, let go. Bitterness and regret can be very destructive. First ly, forgive yourself, secondly, if you can, forgive them. it doesn't mean they get off scot free, it means you do not have to drag their burdens around too. Once you have set new boundaries, having forgiven them, it does not mean they get a clean slate to carry on as before, rather a chance to do things differently. It puts the onus on them to make any changes.

  14. Hi everyone and sorry it has taken me awhile to get back here, to anon august 2nd thanks for your question but what I am saying is the two behaviours play into each other. Yes his behaviour was wrong and I learned eventually how to tackle this. Before I wasn't even getting close however because instaed of me tackling the behaviour I was asking for him to 'make me feel better'.

    And to anon August 4th yes I agree entirely - it is all about taking the power back into your own hands. A lot of people leave but do so wanting to teach their partner a lesson - but they hurt themselves trying to hurt their partner! It is much better to do the best you can about your own behaviour first and then see what happens - if thisngs change great and if not you will be in a stronger place to leave for the right reasons.

    Kim Cooper

  15. You've covered this to some extent but I'm still a bit unclear about what to do when it happens. My husband with N tendencies tried to verbally abuse me a week ago and I did the limiting words and behaviour. He hasn't spoken to me since and today I had to say no to him about something else (he wanted me to drop everything and come and pick him up). I'm afraid that tonight or very soon he's going to start a 'conversation' where he will unload on me everything he has a problem with.

    I know you say to tell him you have to do work, go to bed etc., but if I'm sitting around watching tv it's not going to be very realistic to say I have to do X and I also don't want him to feel like I'm ignoring him or ignoring his feelings as that will make it all worse - plus I really wouldn't feel very nice communicating that he can't talk to me about anything.

    Any suggestions?

    As always, your help and support is really appreciated.

  16. Hi anon,

    It really is important that you work through the 4 steps in our workbook and look at the whole picture of what is happening, we have just updated the workbook today and so if you have bought it already you should get an email soon with the update.

    Saying you have to go to work etc. is not so much of an excuse but really a statement that you are not going to get involved in a non productive conversation where he just blames you but it goes nowhere.

    You might say - "I am sorry you are feeling upset with me but if you just want to dump on me I am not up to that and I think you should sort out your feelings better so you know what you want from me and we can take this someplace positive." If it continues and he just wants to blame you to make himself feel better you really do need to find another option of someplace else to go or something else to do. You really do need to make it clear that you love him (if you do) but that you are not going to sit and let him verbally abuse you just to make himself feel better.

    The sooner you do this the better as once the conversation progresses it will become harder to de escalate the potential of a fight.

    You can say that you care and are open to talk but only once he has calmed himself down and isn't still angry and sulking.

    You can say that you doubt very much him talking about it will make him feel better as this has never worked in the past and that maybe he needs to take some time and go for a walk or do something that will help cheer him up.

    I repeat however that I really don't know your situation and you really should work through the steps and exercises in the Workbook as this will give you much better advice.

    Kim Cooper

  17. Thanks again Kim. As usual, your advice is sound and fair and taking the time to reply is generous. Thank you.

    I have bought the workbook and am working through it. I know it's about the whole picture but I struggle to deal with these things as they arise.

    I suppose I also put myself in his shoes and think that I would feel very rejected if someone tried to avoid listening to me - but then I'm torn as you are right that those conversations go nowhere and don't help - they certainly don't help me anyway as I end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful and I suspect they only help him in the short-term.

    He definitely is not full blown N and these things arise in the context of work stress, family stress (he gets like this when he speaks to his mother because of neglect/abuse issues in childhood) and separation from his children. He is actually very hard working (I used to work with him so I know it's not an act or he's lying about his status), financially responsible, does a lot of housework, is loving towards his children (from a previous marriage) and has some insight into his behaviour being inappropriate. So not all of the things in the workbook really apply (i.e. his gaps are not big and I really don't think he'd appreciate, or need me to 'go into bat' for him at work etc. and because of the nature of his job it would be very inappropriate for me to call his boss or other things like that and would likely contribute to his stress).

    So sometimes I struggle to know what's best and what will work for someone who only becomes an N when they are dealing with rejection, stress etc. and who actually has the fundamentals in place but turns into a Dr Jekyll (or is it Mr Hyde?) from time to time.

    Thanks again.
    MD (finally realised it's easier for you to reply to me if I don't stay completely anon!)

  18. Hi MD,

    If he is that reasonable perhaps when things are calm between you it would be possible to explain to him that it would be good if he could find some better ways of helping himself feel better when he is upset (like listening to a Wellness Audio recording) rather than dumping it all on you. You could say that you really do care but it is very tough in that situation to reassure him that you are listening as you do feel that you are under attack.

    Kim Cooper

  19. Thanks again Kim. Funnily enough I have in the past done that when things are very calm, and he has understood, but then something will happen to trigger some issue and it all goes out the window! That's what makes it so frustrating!!

    Also, I wasn't in a great position before because I used to respond abusively myself, so it may take a few incidents of me being really calm and not responding with anger for him to understand that this is about him and not just 'a fight' (I really think he's done the verbal abuse thing with other partners and his family so often he thinks this is normal).

    And lastly, when things are good I'm so afraid to bring up anything negative as then because he does have insight he feels very ashamed and either acts defensively, attacks me or sulks to cover it. Also, I'm quite a anxious person so always try to avoid confrontation/conflict - which doesn't help! Sometimes it feels like I am damned if I do and damned if I don't!

    Thanks again.
    Frustrated MD

  20. Huge blow up last night. It ended up me being the verbally abusive one which is a real shame because now he's saying that I did everything I accuse him of. Although, I didn't swear or name call.

    The horrible thing is today I feel wracked with guilt. Just incredibly bad. I try to remember everything he's done to me so I can justify taking a stand and even blowing up at him but I still feel awful. It's so hard to continue to be strong when I feel bad for him and keep wondering if I'm doing the right thing. I talked about domestic abuse (probably a bad idea but I did that because he started saying what about the things you do to me - i.e. little misunderstandings/careless deeds and I was trying to make the point that those are one thing but he steps over the line) and it was like I took away his last shred of dignity. He eventually told me that I was making him feel suicidal....does anyone else feel guilty when they take a stand? And how do you get through it?


  21. MD,

    These are all things I have also gone through. I have been using Kim and Steve's materials for nearly a year, and while things are much better, it still takes work. However, in the beginning, making these changes is the hardest. You will make a lot of mistakes trying to find things that work best.

    When I lose my temper, I remind myself that I am human and not perfect. Keep in mind, your partner knows how to make you feel guilty. Think about what you said that was valid and what wasn't. If you said hurtful things that weren't true or were unnecessarily hurtful, then briefly apologize for them and move on. When my husband then wants to dwell on what I said, I say, "I've apologized. You can accept my apology or not, but I'm done discussing it." It usually works.

    I read "Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers" which Kim and Steve strongly recommend, as do I. I keep in mind that I am parenting my husband and when I am tempted to say something mean, I try to stop and ask myself if I would say that to a teenage child (which in many ways is still his maturity level). Lately, I have been practicing a great deal of self-control. If he does something that makes me angry, rather than calling or texting right away, I wait a couple of hours. It's amazing how the anger dissipates if you don't address it the second you have that feeling that you need to.

    Always remember, you're the strong one. If he's like my husband, if you fall apart, he feels very insecure and that makes matters worse.

    I hope this helps you.


  22. Thanks CP. That's very helpful - even knowing other people are going through something similar is helpful. Can I ask if he's ever said that he feels suicidal, or similiar? I'm not sure what to do - I'm actually a psychologist (doesn't help in your personal life though!!) so I've very aware that it's important to take that seriously, but he's also said things like "Guys who make budgets are the ones you find hanging in a closet", so he is obviously very dramatic so maybe this is just a case of drama or way of making it all about him again. But i don't want to ignore a suicidal cry for help. Equally I don't want to derail my efforts to be strong and to focus the whole discussion back on him and his needs which is exhausting and counterproductive.

    This is so hard!

    Also, for me the anger doesn't actually dissipate, it tends to get worse as it reminds me of all the other horrible things he's done. Or it gets better and then I walk in the door and he ignores me or something passive aggressive and it all comes floding back to me. I'm also struggling with being the only one to apologise.

    Can I ask which parts of the program you've found to be most helpful?

    I wish I was as strong as you seem to be, CP.

    Thanks again.

  23. MD,

    I'm glad you found it helpful. Have you read "Back From the Looking Glass" yet? If not, that is the best place to start. Kim explains how to stop ruminating about your partner's behavior. It takes practice, but I am an expert at it now. It has brought me a lot of peace.

    The most important thing I have learned is not to let other people's behavior control me. I am going to be the person I want to be regardless of how others act. This is a very good role model for my husband and I can see that it has had an impact.

    As far as suicidal cries for help. . . I don't know the answer in your situation. If you think he may really try, then you should call an ambulance. In my husband's case those kinds of antics were for attention, and now that our environment is more stable, he doesn't say those things anymore. The best advice I can give is to try to create a calm environment where he doesn't say things like that.


  24. Hi CP,
    I have read back from the looking glass and have used some of the techniques. But I get scared and question what I should do and how he will act and if it's the right thing for us etc. - for e.g. (and I know I didn't handle this the right way but it gives you an idea) we had an incident where he verbally abused me and hit furniture. And I knew for sure in this instance that I did nothing wrong. I just said don't speak to me like that, I don't know how to handle you so I'm going to the other room, things to that effect. He stormed off and then for TWO weeks barely spoke to me. Sometimes in these incidents I apologise for my part in the argument to get a conversation started but I couldn't this time as I did nothing wrong. But because of his cold shoulder I felt so horrible and he was wearing me down so much I went and spoke to the police about what my options were in these situations and whether they would come and give a warning if it happened again, or we would have to get an AVO. Then I rang a support line.

    That gave me some courage and after that I went home and referred to what he was doing to me as being domestic violence and that he had to stop and because he wasn't listening to me someone other than me had to let him know it wasn't right. He stopped in his tracks and asked me how I knew it was DV. I froze and told him I looked it up online. I couldn't tell him I went to the police, I felt guilty. And I was worried that he would feel bad.

    After that we went and spoke to a counsellor (who did our pre-marriage counselling) and he was honest and open about things and nicer to me for a while and even did a budget - things I'd been wanting.

    But it's been strained and I know what little self esteem he had left has been taken away after that DV incident, which is part of why he said he feels suicidal. He said during that interchange "I know I'm a good person" (not in a haughty N way but in a scared little boy please don't make me feel worse about myself than I already do way) and since then he's said other things indicating how hurt he was by the whole DV thing. And it breaks my heart. Yes, he was verbally abusive and he has to take responsibility for that but he is so fragile I'm scared what will happen if I continue to stand up for myself and to set boundaries. I feel like I want to protect him and hold him and tell him it's all going to be okay...Codependent - yep!

    And I really struggle to do my own thing no matter what because I end up feeling guilty. And I HATE it when he subtly (or not so sublty) shows disapproval - Kim gives the example of Steve saying "aren't you going to feed your kids" - I don't know how she stayed strong and just got on with things when he said that. I'd either be ropable - I'm the one making the money here and trying to keep us together and you give me this shit, or would feel guilty and go and feed the kids (not that I have kids).

    I've read all the books (including the codependent one) and sometimes I feel strong but it can all come crumbling down so easily. Like if he doesn't talk to me or he's sulking, or I want 0 tolerance for abuse policy but then I get abusive myself and lose all credibility...

    Sorry to ramble. But I have honestly read all the stuff and it sounds very good in theory but so hard to implement when the other person's behaviour makes you alternatively angry, guilty, sorry for them..

    You sound so strong. Do you struggle with this?

    CP, I really appreciate your help.

  25. MD,

    I used to struggle with some of these things, especially since I am prone to anxiety. What I have learned is, you have to let go of the things you can't control. All you can control is you. If he doesn't talk to you for two weeks, so be it. Get on with what you have to do. You can't make him talk to you, apologize or see things your way, no matter how you might want to. The silent treatment is childish. For whatever reason, he does not know how to act like an adult. For him to mature, he needs a stable environment. Depending on him for your emotional well-being is a mistake. You need to learn to depend on yourself.

    I also spoke with the police, but I told my husband that I did so. I think he was rather shocked, but I also think he gained respect for me and realized I wasn't going to take any crap. Part of the reason for going to the police is to find out what the consequences are so you can tell him what they are. Let him know you won't protect him from natural consequences.

    I want to point out something. . . in your last paragraph you say: ". . . so hard to implement when the other's behavior makes you alternatively angry, guilty sorry for them. . . " Another person's behavior can't make you anything. Learning that you have control over your own emotions and not the other way around is crucial. You can only change yourself; you can't change him. If he changes because of your positive changes, that's a bonus. That has happened somewhat for me, but the best thing I've gotten out of all of this, is that I am much stronger and I like myself more.


  26. MD,

    If you have trouble controlling your negative thoughts, you likely suffer from anxiety. I suggest you look into The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. Here is their website:

    One of the reasons I think I responded so well to Kim's materials is that I already had a head start controlling my thoughts because of this program. Like Kim, Lucinda Bassett is a compassionate person who has dealt with this issue herself. It really helped me.

    You have tools, but you have to use them. There is no magic wand. If you wish you were stronger, no one can do it for you. You have to do the work and become strong. I just used the materials that God provided for me. I prayed on it a lot, and God answered my prayers by helping me to find Kim and Steve, but I had to do the work.


  27. Thanks CP. I do suffer from anxiety and have tried a lot of treatments which have been somewhat beneficial. So I'm facing that and working on myself and putting in the work. I appreciate the website, thank you and I'll have a look but I live in Australia.

    I really appreciate you getting back to me and I know you are going through the same thing, or something similar to me, so I know you understand and obviously it works for you. But, I'm afraid I can't completely agree with you here - to use an extreme example if someone is holding a gun to your head you can't say you are responsible for making yourself feel scared. Sometimes other people's behaviour, when it is extreme and hurtful does make you feel things. I think that's valid. It obviously doesn't help to give your power away to them but I'm not sure it's realistic, for me anyway, to think that I'm going to feel okay when my husband is not talking to me, telling me he's suicidial, obviously feeling really bad about himself and us etc. Going for a walk or something like that is not going to help me with that (I've tried many many times). Not trying to debate with you, and happy to have someone else's opinion on this too, but for those of us who do feel like we're going to continue to be affected by these behaviours what have other people found useful?

    I've tried a lot of things I really have, I'm just finding that it seems like you'd have to cut yourself off from your feelings entirely to make some of this work. I think it's better for me to accept that I'm not the kind of person who can just be okay no matter what but maybe look for other ways of creating a safer, loving environment.

    He really happy to hear from others on this too.

    Take care

  28. Hi MD,

    Just a quick note. Self soothing is just one part of emotional intelligence. Before you calm down however you should write down what upset you and take action later when you feel better. Our emotions are very important signals that shouldn't be ignored. I go into this in 10 Steps to Overcome Codependence which I think might help.

    Kim Cooper

  29. I found this website after reading an article about Sarah Palin's narcissism. I had a light bulb moment when I read the traits of someone with NPD. I had been observing 4 distinct traits in him (more traits in him after 33 years of marriage) and his mother and siblings. After the glow of knowledge wore off, I became depressed. ALL seems hopeless. I mean, I came from a neglectful, abusive home and I do not react as he does; I treat him with love and kindness and understanding and patience. Why do I ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE PARENT? I have needs too. Why are his needs ALWAYS getting in the way? I have my 2 toddler grandchildren 55 hours a week, I have responsibility for my mentally challenged aunt and uncle (their sister, my mother, neglects them as she has me; we are not on her radar), and I have the narcissist and his mother (although, I have removed her from my life; she keeps trying to come back in) to deal with. I just want to put on my coat, drive away and never come back.

    I am an artist and writer, but NEVER have the time to enjoy these pursuits, which make me happy. Life continues to be depressing for me and hopeless. I don't have the energy or time to parent him and everyone else, since he sees all of his activities as worthwhile and mine not at all and I MUST ALWAYS help him, when he NEVER wants to help me with anything.

    I'm just sick of it all. This strong person will eventually break and all I see is ALONE in my future.

  30. Hi to anon who is feeling alone.

    I really want to recommend 10 steps to overcome codependence. Re parenting your partner is not counseling them or allowing them to dump their responsibilities on you. It is vital that you have your own goals and life and that you do not allow their tantrums and bad behavior to interfere wit this. I am not sure if you have read my ebooks, but I do believe they would help you.

    Kim Cooper

  31. MD,

    I understand you want to hear from others, and that's fine. I would just like to clarify my points.

    I am not saying you should disconnect emotionally. I am saying don't let his bad behavior consume you. Maybe if I talk a little about my experiences it will help. I could give lots of examples of out-of-control behavior. A mild example that's in line with what you're going through was when my husband didn't talk to me for two days because I left a coffee cup out. I, too, became verbally abusive because I was confused and angry about why he would say things that were so unfair and untrue (in addition to that example). When I screamed at him in front of my child loud enough for the neighbors to hear, I knew I had to make a change, whether that meant he and I stayed together or not. I didn't like who I was becoming. The thought of him having weekend custody when I wasn't around terrified me. The best scenario for our son and me was to improve his behavior, if I could find a way.

    I first ordered Steve and Kim's materials in August of 2010. I saw immediate results in some areas. However, he had his last out-of-control episode in February 2011. You are trying to build trust with someone who probably doesn't trust anyone. Every time you lose control because of his behavior, you damage that trust further. It's fine to be angry, and to address what made you angry. But, it's much more effective to let your feelings cool before discussing it. If you keep at it, eventually he will see that you are maturing and he will, hopefully begin to trust you and want to emulate your behavior.

    Yes, the behaviors are upsetting, absolutely. What I have concluded is that my opinion of myself needs to matter more than anyone else's. This means holding myself to a standard that I admire. If I slip up, I apologize, but realize I'm not perfect, and I can forgive myself.

    If your anxiety is like mine, you may subconsciously engage in "magical thinking". By worrying, we think we are somehow doing something to change the situation. Worrying and feeling guilty doesn't do anything but make you feel sick. It's unfortunate that you are unable to get the anxiety program I mentioned. One of the exercises is to write down every negative thought you have during the day. Most people are surprised by how many they have. By being aware of them, you may start to be able to begin changing your bad habit of dwelling on negative things.

    When he gets angry at you when you haven't done anything wrong, it's important to realize that this is his problem. I'm not saying disconnect. Instead you might ask yourself, is there something going on that he's upset about (other than you). Is he hiding something? Try to find a way to support him instead of dwelling on the fact that what he is saying is unfair.

    I got this program out of desparation and trying many things that did not work. If there is another way, I sure haven't found it. I hope you get the answers you are seeking.


  32. I came across NarcissismCure when I was visiting my daughter. She had just left her 2nd partner when she realized he was narcissistic. I purchased the program for her initially but as I began to read it I realized it was for me!It was very painful to realize that my husband of many years was and is narcissistic and as his partner I have been the codependent side of the drama. As a result my daughter has also suffered the consequences of having a narcissistic father and has chosen two narcissistic men to love. This realization has drawn us closer as mother and daughter and is beginning to change my marriage. Finding you Kim has been a gift from God. It is so freeing to finally know what is wrong in my life and fixing it! Thanks to you my life is changing and growing. Thank you so very much.

    I am Hopeful

  33. To Anon who left the last comment:

    I would just like to offer you support and hope that you have a positive outcome. I have found Steve and Kim's materials to be life-changing. They have made me a much stronger person. Best of luck to you.

  34. Hi CP,

    Thanks for clarifying, I do understand what you are saying. I think I just felt like you were trying to psychoanalyse me for a while there and making some assumptions about me, which I didn't really like, but I'm sure your intentions are only to be helpful.

    What you're saying makes sense. It's almost like getting angry, hurt and upset by a 5 year old having a tantrum. You wouldn't do that, so why do it when an adult-child is having a tantrum.

    I think it's useful to try to find out the reasons behind his actions but that's not always easy... I think work is a big one.

    It's also hard to know what to let go of and what to pursue. My ultimate goal would be to get him to apologise for things - not to make me feel better but I think that is a really important part of being an adult, taking responsibility for when you do the wrong thing and being able to admit it. That's a tough one though.

    Good luck to everyone else dealing with this - it's a really tough thing to take on!


  35. MD,

    My ultimate goal is for my husband to have fewer things to apologize for, rather than to have him apologize more. I have achieved that goal, and look forward to him continuing to be a kinder, more mature person.

    Best wishes to you.


  36. Does anyone else's spouse become very shameful and guilty and depressed when you call him on his behaviour. Mine does and it's really getting to me. It's hard to stay strong and to put barriers in place when I can see that they are making him feel so terrible about himself. I feel so much compassion for him at the moment despite the fact that he has treated me badly. I know that is co-dependent and I'm in the process of dealing with that. I'd just like to know because I've seen other people on here write that the partner is angry or similar but they don't seem to be depressed and upset.

    Maybe he's doing this as a way of guilt-tripping me, but while that may be the motivation I can certainly see that he is feeling the shame and distress. I'm not sure how to help him with that and also put things in place that remind him that he is in his eyes "a bad person". I hope that makes sense.



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