Understanding Relational Aggression

Relational Aggression

Relational aggression (or relational violence) generally refers to all the forceful ways a person might try to assert power or dominance in a relationship. But these days, many use the term to describe attempts to damage someone’s social standing or wreck a good relationship they enjoy. In any case, this kind of behavior destroys. It serves only to bring its perpetrator a sense of power or importance. And it stems from the aggressor’s lack of empathy.

Two Main Types of Aggression

Aggression can be of two main types: overt or covert. Someone is overtly aggressive when they make no bones about what they’re doing. Maybe they simply want to hurt you. But they might also want to get something from you. Perhaps they want to take advantage, or have power over you. Whatever the case, they mean to aggress and don’t try to hide it.

Covert-aggressors operate differently. They don’t what to be seen for who they are or what they’re doing. The relational aggression they engage in is subtle, underhanded, or even concealed. So, you barely realize what they’ve been up to until the damage is already done. This is the kind of aggression that underlies most interpersonal manipulation. Moreover, it occurs quite frequently. So, many years ago I felt compelled to write a book about it.

Covert Aggression in the Social Arena

In our times, relational aggression has taken on some interesting new dimensions. Covert aggressors can damage your social standing or your relationships in some very sneaky ways. They can put out false information about you on the internet. They can spread nasty rumors and lies. Or they might defame you on social media. A skilled covert operator can even use surrogates to do their dirty work. That way, they leave no “fingerprints” and can convincingly deny their evildoing. Young persons are particularly vulnerable to this kind of behavior. But no one is immune.

Why do these relational aggressors do what they do? We used to think that they came from a fearful, insecure place. But we’ve learned better. Some folks simply lack empathy. They care only about themselves. Sometimes, all they want is a sense of power. Other times, they might merely be seeking amusement – at your expense. And in the coming weeks I’ll be saying more about why these behaviors are so prevalent nowadays.

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Character Disturbance has entered its third major printing. As always, thanks for your support and recommendation of my books.


52 thoughts on “Understanding Relational Aggression

  1. “Covert-aggressors operate differently. They don’t what to be seen for who they are or what they’re doing. The relational aggression they engage in is subtle, underhanded, or even concealed. So, you barely realize what they’ve been up to until the damage is already done. This is the kind of aggression that underlies most interpersonal manipulation. Moreover, it occurs quite frequently.”

    Besides going NC or going limited contact my question is;

    These covert types seem to have scads of enablers, even if the enablers past experiences with the victims were positive it seems like those early positive experiences are all forgotten. In our situation it was when the covert aggressor came into everyone’s lives the family dynamic turned toxic. I see our covert aggressor swiveling between overt attentiveness and covert manipulative aggression but of course it depends on who is present. The kindness and attentive her proves to others she is a wonderful person and the covert aggressive part of her reveals to us who she really is. We never fall for the kindness. Are we, the victims left with no recourse and forever are seen as the problem?

    I’ve witnessed extreme personality differences among the covert aggressor’s enablers when she isn’t at a gathering as opposed to when she is there. The atmosphere is lighter and the enablers are more their old selves. It is truly amazing to witness.

    1. The enablers are what I find so difficult to understand. What do they get out of it? I am wondering if the CD provides them something they are needing or wanting to keep them in their pocket. Or are they just totally blindsided? I guess the CD’s have their ways geared to the individual. It seems the CD is pretty intelligent, but maybe it just appears to be so because they spend their time thinking of these schemes and have no hindrances like a conscience.

    2. The enablers are what I find so difficult to understand. What do they get out of it? I am wondering if the CD provides them something they are needing or wanting to keep them in their pocket. Or are they just totally blindsided? I guess the CD’s have their ways geared to the individual. It seems the CD is pretty intelligent, but maybe it just appears to be so because they spend their time thinking of these schemes and have no hindrances like a conscience.

  2. The very worst kind, in terms of your own credibility, are those who are so practised at coming across as ‘the good guy,’ that NOBODY ever sees even a hint of negative. They will make sure they never say a word against you to anybody! And yet, when out of earshot of the rest of the world ypu will be xperiemce an entirely different person!

    A smear campaign is one thing. That can backfire on the one who is smearing. A practised covert knows this and understands that if YOU complain about then to anybody, even if it one trusted confidante, the criticism will blow back on you, and your credibility will be completely undermined.

    Beware those who make it look like YOU are vendetta driven.

    My trusted confidante, after hearing what I had to say about mutual friend, said, “but she ONLY says nice things about you!” Whose credibility gets trashed then?

    These people have to be experienced fully before they can be understood. They are ALWAYS acting. And my personal take on this is, socially, women have it all over men in this game.

  3. One more thing beware of people who are extreme, in a social context…as in people who project an extremely warm, caring, sympathetic personality and I mean extreme. You know, gushy effusive so VERY VERY concerned about you…they are often cold fish.

    Avoid extremes — too nice, too creepy. People who have to be laughing and smiling all. the. time. And those who constantly bitch and moan and present as lifelong victims…avoid avoid avoid. The perpetual victim is often the exact opposite.

    Not to say you shouldn’t have heart for those in trouble! Hardly. I am talking about people who have NEVER had a relationship ever, where someone wasn’t ‘being cruel’ to them.

    When dealing with those who are overtly aggressive. Believe what you see. With covert aggressors, believe what you don’t and learn to tell the difference! Should be the serenity prayer for survivors of N abuse.

  4. The so, so concerned about us is the manipulative power play at kick off. They do it to put you in one down position and in order to data mine you for more information they can put in their bag of nasty tricks for later use after they’ve twisted and distorted the information given them into something completely different. Their demeanor and mannerisms are just so false they might as well have a big neon sign on their foreheads reading “Manipulative Liar”

    The perennial victims are always the poor me’s who will never EVER be accountable for their own behavior. I have zero time for either and won’t even bother. Once I’ve identified them as trouble I keep well clear. If I happen to be wrong about something then so be it. I’d rather be wrong and keep my distance anyway than give them any benefit of any doubt and be right.

    The trick is you can easily distinguish an emotionally mature person compared to one who does not have emotional maturity. It is simply how they conduct themselves and how they interact with others. If somebody for instance is offended by something another says about it and makes a song and dance over it. Red Flag – we are responsible for our own offense and if we are offended by something or someone then it is often a trigger within us that is alerting us to something we are holding onto that needs resolution. We have no control over how another person feels either. We have as much control over how another person feels than we do over the color of the sky.

    If someone starts to carry on about you offending them, put the ball straight back into their court and make them accountable for holding themselves to account. Then walk away. You maintain your integrity that way by not allowing the emotional gunslinger to slime you with their unhealed parts. F**& that shit!

    1. You nailed it, here. The “emotional extremists” are to be avoided – period. When I come across blogs which are endless litanies of “woe is me,” I pass them by.

      I do the same with blogs full of flashing lights and neon signs claiming “I found the answer to lifelong happiness; if you pay me untold sums of money, you can have the answer too!” I mean, if you’re selling something and running a business, just say so. Insulting people who don’t want to buy your product isn’t what a good business owner does, but certainly seems to be the hallmark of the manipulative aggressor.

      1. Cinnamon,

        Oh yes, the little not so subtle tells that someone is trying to separate you from your money online. And then there’s the black background with bright red or green text, all sizes and weird fonts; the literary equivalent of a panic attack, proclaiming the end is near for any number of reasons!

        If you disagree with their version of reality you are supporting the ‘cabal, ‘ and not to be trusted. Even though I am what some people would describe as a conspiracy theorist, I have no time for paranoid sociopaths

  5. Our covert aggressor is never without a support of enablers. If we ever called her out on her behavior it would go nowhere, it would fly back in our face. Our only hope is that someone sees her for what she is and unless she leaves the family then I think this divide will be here forever. I’m convinced she feeds into the enablers needs but she will emotionally yank their chain if she sees anyone get out of line.

    If anyone saw us on a ship one side would have 20 people and then our little side with three, it wasn’t always like this. Until she came along. I have lost all feeling for the enablers, I mean there is nothing and I’d walk away merrily singing a happy tune if it weren’t for my H. It’s his blind as a bat son who is married to our covert aggressor.

    1. I used to be so frustrated with the enablers. The Narc is what they are, the enablers don’t care about looking at two sides of a story so I learned not to care what they think, and that worked out much better. If a person can’t consider both sides or cares to put the effort into it then so be it. I can have peace of mind then. I’ve seen many enablers figure it out and realize they’ve been duped too, guess I was one at one time – but I was one of the blind ones. No more, after you discover what a CD is you never want to be a victim again.

  6. We aren’t bingo players but from what I’ve heard having “a sweat” is when a player is down to a couple of numbers to yell Bingo! and claim a prize.

    Recently my H’s son said he and his beloved (covert aggressive manipulative) princess were having marital problems. Shazam!! we had ourselves “a sweat”. But we realized very shortly that it was a manipulative tactic so she could blame him and say “if you change and do this that and the other we’d be ok again”. The blind as a bat SS capitulated and she got what she wanted. It’s very difficult to witness him rationalizing her behavior.

    I predict in the future there will be another occasion where their marital strife will be upon them, and we will have “a sweat” once again. Hopefully we will be able to yell BINGO!

  7. Discrepancy between word and deed. Watch for it and the hallmark ‘tells,’ with the covert extreme manipulative person. Sometimes language is a give away. People who aren’t authentic see to really love buzz words and phrases.

    They never just ‘contact’ a friend with a simple question. They are always “reaching out.” They never simply phone someone in crisis for a quick chat. They were “supporting” the friend. And their “support” is usually limited to events where they can be seen.

    When my CD friend’s babysitter was ill and she was unable to take time off work, many years ago, I got on a plane, flew to her city and looked after her kids for a few days. I did this at great cost as I’m not healthy, myself.

    When I was done with my stint, friend told me how much I was appreciated and to show her appreciation she was going to forgo a lunch date with her other friends and drive me PART WAY to the airport!!!

    She was going to drop me off at a bus stop closer to the airport! She was glowing with goodwill when she made this fantastic offer. She didn’t offer to reimburse me for my flight, nor come close to acknowledging what had been an incredibly difficult task, for me.

    This is just one astonishingly bizarre example of how lacking these types are, in terms of perspective. She described dropping me off at a bus stop as “supporting me!”

    LOL. I don’t want this person in my life and fortunately she is staying away. I get a phone call where she is looking for emotional “support” once every couple of months.

    She doesn’t have the power to hurt me anymore, as I don’t take anything she says or does seriously. It slides off. All of it, including any compliments she might give me. I am civil and respectful and that is all and that is how it shall remain.

    1. LisaO,

      “She doesn’t have the power to hurt me anymore, as I don’t take anything she says or does seriously. It slides off. All of it, including any compliments she might give me. I am civil and respectful and that is all and that is how it shall remain.”

      Yep, this is how I react to that CD thing in our life.

  8. Sydney,

    When going no contact isn’t an option because of deep social networks or family networks, civility is key. I have tried confronting this individual twice in my life — and it ended up blowing back on me. They do the ‘wounded little bird,’ routine to perfection.

    1. LisaO,

      I have gained so much advice through you and the others that I feel confident going into any social situation with “that thing” now. I practice avoidance at this one and only gathering per year, I offer no to little eye contact but with civility of course 🙂

      This said, she has to know we have her number and dislike her. She probably uses that in her conversations to others ” I just don’t understand why they don’t ever have us over to their house for dinner, blah, blah, blah. I’ve tried everything to get them to like me blah, blah, blah.” I can see the script in my head as I type this. I have such loathing for her, and I have no respect for her enablers. I would bet she has done damage too them as well but they rationalize it so they don’t have to think about it or put an effort into trying to figure it out. I would also bet she plays them against each other but they don’t realize this either.

  9. Sydney,

    It sounds like your step-son might be getting closer to illumination about his wife. She probably plays the wounded little bird to him to, where she just can’t understand why oh why you don’t like her.

    It will likely hit him like a ton of bricks when he finally wakes up. So sad how one manipulator can mess up entire families. One of my siblings finally up and left his former wife and moved to Alaska…finally.

    She wasn’t a deviant manipulative person, but callous by default because her larger than life persona left no room for consideration of others. And though she didn’t have malicious intent she did love drama and would create it by stirring the pot…all. the. time.

    I don’t harbor much ill will towards her — probably because it was all on the surface and she was remarkably, for all the trouble she caused, not what you would call, ‘mean.’ Sensation seeking, unaware of others, but not mean, if that makes sense.

    Having had to endure an emotionally sadistic psychopath whose INTENT was to harm, has been good for me. It makes everybody else I know seem pretty harmless by comparison, even if they are CD. Different story if I had to live with them!

    I have endless gratitude that all cd’s are either out of my life or in a social Siberia, where I am concerned. Life is too short to do anything more than learn as much as we can from these experiences and then detach emotionally.

    I look at it this way. Most of us have character flaws. We can apologize genuinely, with little effort and work to make amends. But CD’s are so deeply disturbed it cuts into their humanity. They won’t apologize or accept responsibility for the hurt they cause. When it is born out of fear and insecurity, it’s pretty sad and a little compassion is in order, I guess…but all from a distance.

    1. LisaO,

      “It sounds like your step-son might be getting closer to illumination about his wife. She probably plays the wounded little bird to him to, where she just can’t understand why oh why you don’t like her.”

      My SS is an enormous procrastinator, he was unhappy in his last marriage also to a covert manipulator but not a very good one and he simply sabotaged it with bad behavior, until he met wife #2 who incidentally pursued him. He was raised by a covert manipulator and this is what he seems most comfortable or attracted to. I don’t care if he’s happy, I’m done with him emotionally but his father isn’t.

      “I have endless gratitude that all cd’s are either out of my life or in a social Siberia, where I am concerned. Life is too short to do anything more than learn as much as we can from these experiences and then detach emotionally.” Perfect Lisa!!

      1. Sydney,

        Uh huh..if his mother was manipulative, manipulation would become the norm for SS. His wife probably made him feel all protective and strong, as so many manipulative women do, initially. That’s the hook.

        They can really lay it on thick. Does she have a little girl voice too? I find this is a huge red flag. Sadly some women are just born with those kind of vocal chords but with others it is either consciously faked or an unconscious behavior that indicates they never grew up.

        1. I’ve never seen CA SDIL do the little girl voice but HIS daughter does. If there is anything that makes me gag quickly it’s the little girl voice. When her father and his CA wife got married his daughter my SGD said in a speech in a little girl voice “now I have a new mommy”, she’s in her 20s and some guests erupted into laughter.

          The CA is very dominant as was his mother and his ex-wife.

          1. Sydney,

            It seems your SS is stuck in his childhood and is replacing the mother figure with CD choices in wives. In their subconscience the empath continues the dysfunctional relationship/connection they had with the CD parent which feels familiar to them.

            What is of importance, is for one to take the initiative to acknowledge the past and change that which is within them. I believe your husband is waiting for the day your sons eyes are open and or history repeats itself and your SS finds himself being discarded by the CD.

            It is a positive you are aware of the psychodynamics at play here. In the event your SS does divorce again, you and your husband can be a big help, in hopefully, guiding your SS to see the truth.

        2. Oh my goodness!! My husband’s ex has that little girl voice down cold!!!

          And she ALWAYS refers to herself in the third person, as “Mom”, when talking to her daughter…not “I”.. Example: “Mom went to the store today” NOT “I went to the store today.”

    2. LisaO
      I’m not so sure they don’t apologize because they are fearful and insecure, because so are we at times, but we’ve got something they lack, which is integrity and decency. They want to keep up the façade for selfish reasons, and would rather hurt someone else than to take off the mask.

  10. I have endless gratitude that all cd’s are either out of my life or in a social Siberia, where I am concerned. Life is too short to do anything more than learn as much as we can from these experiences and then detach emotionally.

    Well said Lisa. Me too. I was at the local tavern yesterday they had a really good band on for market day. My absolute closest circle of friends were there all of them and we were having a real hoot! Low and behold what shows up my ex psycho boy and his side kick. I totally ignored him. The beauty of it all was I got no charge from seeing him whatsoever. None, zip, zilch. Nothing he could have done would have affected me I had simply emotionally detached from him completely. He slinked out the side door and sat far away from everybody totally isolated. Then the other creature he used to triangulate me with came down later. No surprises there she never shows her face down there very often these day – not without enablers any way. Once you are onto their game they have absolutely no power over you anymore. My friends and I were having a real ball by that time and we were in full swing.

    He never succeeded in his game playing with me, I gave him no supply whatsoever even when I was in the thick of it. I put that down to having done lots of self work previously so I had enough control over myself to not lose my shit at any time with him. If he’s looking to hoover with a benign or malignant hoover he’ll choke on his own words. As far as I am concerned the creature doesn’t exist.

    I didn’t even look at him so I didn’t see what he looked like but I was told he looks really gaunt and sickly. Too much poison pulsing through his veins no doubt. Goodo. Have no idea what he’s up to and can’t say I give a dam. I just sincerely hope he’s here to pick up some of stuff and is leaving as fast as he blew in.

    The town is just recovering from a string of trouble makers including him and Harley Quinn who I’m sure was her role model replete with the pink and blue hair. She did a number on quite a few people and has the reputation as the town psycho. Like attracts like and the only person who did actually bother to speak to him was another lesser narc drug addict victim who people keep clear of anyway because he’s the perennial whining victim and people are over his poor me bullshit.

    I had a friend down and after the tavern we went home and had a Corroboree – even the dogs jumped in and danced – seriously must have been that goanna energy that was pumping out of the speakers. We had a ball!

    1. Eudoxia,

      Good for you! So happy for you that you are not only having a good time but can incorporate ignoring an N or P, or whatever he was, at the same time! And not feeling any charge at all, is great.

      When I think back to the P now, I feel mild curiosity, as if I am Margaret Meade reviewing the habits and customs of a strange people…person, in his case.

      I must admit I AM curious as to whether he is in the process of trying to destroy anyone else though. But it is more out of concern for other women.

      1. Lisa,

        Of course he will be, that’s what they do. It’s all they do. They never actually fall in love with anybody. They are in love with their false construct which amounts to nothing other than identity theft of another anyway.

        You need not concern yourself with other women, they’ll find out just like you did. Just deal with yourself and your own healing journey. He can clean up his own mess not that they ever do of course but it ain’t your problem!

        All we can do is pick up the pieces of our own life and move forward :-

      2. LisaO,

        I was married to a CDN when I was very, very young (18), I was a prize to him and then he moved on. I, like you was curious about whether he went on to destroy anyone else. He has left a path of destruction and has from what I’ve gathered maintained a charming facade. At the end of our marriage his excuse to others was “she can’t handle the way I am.” and someone replied back to him “it’s not that she can’t handle the way you are, it’s that she won’t put up with the way you are.”I’ve remained steadfast friends with the person who said that to him.

        I think it’s normal to be curious, and knowing what he has been up to certainly validated why I was better off without him. Honestly, I got off lucky compared to others.

  11. I think covert aggression is the worst or in terms of the effect on me, but the social one, they both speak to power and control. One is by humiliation, the other is by questioning your own sanity.

    The dominance in relationships, is often, in my own case, counterbalanced by stating how I think it’s all about me. This keeps you off your own ability to (until you become aware of the problem and educate yourself, and cut it off) see the reality of both the relationship toxicity, and your “sanity.”

    Anytime you have both-do one thing: run for cover. (Relational & covert-overt aggression). This kind of domination, it doesn’t get better-until you leave.

    Even now, I continually self-validate. Doesn’t help to have had providers she shared information that wasn’t accurate with, then when dealing with me, they speak to me in the same fashion (you’re crazy fashion).

    I commented to a friend how I think she shouldn’t have had kids-he looked surprised, then I shared something that I hadn’t in many years. My older sister was adopted-when she was fifteen, custody of her-returned to the state. I know no parent whether their kid is adopted or biological (makes no difference), who has ever given the kid back-problematic behavior, is a sign-was my sister’s there? Sure, it was. The state could have tried to offer help-they do that, but this illustrates this one to me. Sad.

    1. My husband’s ex was a HUGE manipulator (BPD) and we paid for it in precedent -setting custody hearings for their (born out of wedlock daughter, EJ)…we had 12 psychologists on our case (she went after 3 of them with lawsuits and one of them with threats) and false accusations against my husband and I. We received custody which was just another way for the ex to get “up close and personal in our lives”…and though she lived three hours away in another state, I never knew where she was going to show up and create a scene either screaming at me or crying hysterically (a mother’s tea at my step-daughter’s school…on a field trip, peaking in our windows etc.) . I basically raised a child that was being emotionally abused by her attachment figure. My son was born 2 weeks after we received custody of my 5 -year old stepdaughter and then I gave birth to a daughter the next year.

      I enabled EJ. I had NO idea what I was dealing with -NO IDEA! When I would think I saw her punch my toddler or touch the baby in her privates, EJ would adamantly deny it and I would get angry at myself for accusing this poor little abused girl. I was going to rescue HER. When she was sweet and good I believed that all was going to be okay–but then “crazy” would ensue. Her mother brainwashed her into having to wear the same pjs her mom wore…eat the same food her mom was eating every night…wear the same color clothes every day (the judge gave her liberal phone contact). If I wasn’t serving her what her mom was eating for dinner I would get a melt down…

      My stepdaughter was difficult to raise and when my (very independent) daughter was 8 years old and I asked her why she wouldn’t ever let me playwith her she said “I can’t hug you, love you or play with you when EJ is around because she gets REALLY angry with me and locks me in rooms. I then noticed that she was physically abusive with my son. She was triangulating everyone against me (her mother was really out to get me). At around the same time EF (age 14 at this point) told her teacher that she was not safe in our home and that I was allowing her to be touched inappropriately by boys. She told all of the Jr. High girls (small, private school) that her dad was a rapist and she was conceived in rape (her mother’s accusations against her dad). She maligned us to anyone who would listen (not directly, but manipulatively. Example: She told the Jr. High girls that the she confided to her teacher Mr. S that her dad was a rapist and HE spread it around the whole school.). She never admitted to anything.

      I was done. She went to boarding school in another state for high school and I tried to send her things and love on her from a distance, but at that point the court gave her mom full contact and EJ was done with me…she would call to bate me into an argument so she could go crying to everyone about how awful I was…she turned my in-laws (except one couple who is standing with us) against me and they have become huge enablers. My husband let all the blame fall on me (he just wants to get along with everyone) and the marriage almost ended. He is now in therapy recognizing his lack of protecting HIS family and standing up to his family of origin.

      We have lots of guilt. Is it okay for a father to completely let go of his daughter (now 20 years old) and not have any more contact with her (unless and until she is convicted of her evil ways and repents)? She has not admitted to EVER maligning us, lying to and about us, trying to destroy our family…every conversation turns into just another lying, manipulative game and anything he says or does….she turns it against him. After a (VERY immature) public shaming at a family Christmas party 4 years ago (to pay me back for what “I’ve done to EJ), is it okay if I have nothing to do with his family anymore?

      My husband tried talking to his family only they don’t want to talk to us about their behavior and they don’t want to listen to the TRUTH from us! They want to vilify me until I apologize to EJ for what “I’ve done.” I have always treated both EJ and his family with kindness and respect. This is so unimaginably horrible.

      Is it the right thing to just walk away from them all?

      Feeling Paranoid


      1. Totally the right thing. And I would ask husband if he wants to have any kind of relationship with the monster he should do it away from you and your children.

        Never ever ever let her under your roof or expose her to your natural kids again
        Really sad about her but it’s not your fault or your kids and you need to protect yourselves.

        1. Thank you LisaO. Why do we (my husband and I) feel we need permission to let go of a destructive person (and the enablers)? I think that society has its “rules” that we adopt (ie. it is NEVER okay to walk away from your children” etc.). We have been SO judged by people who have NO idea what we have lived through! People do not want to believe that evil people actually exist.

          My husband has let EJ go…but now his family is turning on US and it is harder for him to let them go (they refuse to talk about our situation–we are judged without a trial). We are open to having mature, respectful conversations, but that is NOT going to happen. They believe the poor victim of “a child” and we (I) need to say I am sorry and bring my kids back around or I am not welcome —no conversation necessary. My husband was showing up to a few family events without me and the kids and they treated him like nothing happened—he has since realized that he has let me be the scapegoat for all of the issues created by his poor handling of his daughter’s craziness and his family’s issues. His dad has stage 4 cancer…his two brothers (with the disordered wives) have cancer now too…so it is “never a good time” for my husband to confront…

      2. Cece,

        Is it the right thing to just walk away from them all?

        Absolutely. You can walk away from EJ and her mother. So, can your husband. There is nothing wrong in holding people responsible for their behaviour. There is nothing wrong in staying away from people, who have done nothing but harm. There is nothing wrong in staying away from harmful people, whether they are spouse, sons, daughters, father or mother.
        It may help if you put toxic people in same category as gangrene maggot infested hand or leg. People will know what to do with such body part. Chop chop.

        1. Thank you Andy D!!!

          So hard when you just want to live in peace and do the “right” thing. We feel that no matter what we do “we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

          These manipulators trap you so that ANY decision you end up making in relation to them is a lose/lose…

          I can sleep at night only because God and I both know we spent 100’s of thousands in court and with psychologists trying to protect this child…that I loved her (and still do) completely and gave her more time and attention than my own two children…that I forgave her again and again and still do…that if she TRULY repented and came back humbled and truly sorry we would pay all of her debts and welcome her back with open arms…but there is no remorse, regret or humbleness…only more lies and manipulation!

          Thank you!!

          1. Hi CC,

            You will NEVER know if she is truly repentant, if she is very manipulative. As long as you make her return to your fold conditional on her repentance, she has one foot in the door. There should be no conditions at all.

            Say your piece to your in-laws as respectfully as you can and let them deal with EJ alone. Don’t waste time and effort on over-explaining. And don’t operate from a position of guilt. That is handing over your power to others who don’t know what is going on.

            Make sure you aren’t in a position of any kind of need when dealing with your in-laws. If they are pre-judging you without knowing the nature of the situation, they are immature themselves and contact should be limited. You don’t want people who aren’t whole and complete defining you.

            If their absence leaves any kind of familial or social hole, fill it with people who are grown up.

          2. Lisa O.,

            Once again, thank you. I have not talked to my in-laws in three years with the exception of my MIL, who was playing both sides. I have not spoken to her since June and I made it clear to my husband that I am completely done with his family (with the exception of the brother and his wife who are standing with us – and taking heat for it!).

            That is the conundrum, if we tell EJ that we will forgive her if she is repentant…would we ever see REAL repentance? As we are still hearing that she is lying and manipulating, we have not been in communication with her and are not responding to her texts and requests!

            Thank you for validating our position and encouraging us NOT to put out a white flag—it just feels unloving…but truly there is NOTHING else we can do! I am slowly working through the (false) guilt. Our social life is full and we have no need for this (except my husband golfing and being in a fantasy football league with this brothers-but he just began therapy and the therapist is working on his being “real” to all people). His family is good at “faking fine” even with chaos spinning around them.

            I will stay on solid ground and not go NEAR any of them until I am fully strong and have released all guilt (mostly there…but not all the way)!



          3. Cese,

            “if we tell EJ that we will forgive her if she is repentant…would we ever see REAL repentance?”
            It is unlikely that you’ll ever see an apology. REAL repentance is probably too much to hope for. EJ will avoid submitting to anyone till her last breath. There is small probability that she runs out of all other options, so she fakes an apology to get something out of you. But, it is unlikely given that she her mother and a gang of enabler behind her.
            Don’t tell anything. Do instead.

            “As we are still hearing that she is lying and manipulating, we have not been in communication with her and are not responding to her texts and requests!”
            Sounds reasonable on your part. You should stick to it.

            You should read more blogs on this website. I am sure they will be helpful. Buy the book In Sheep’s Clothing if you prefer concise information in single place.

          4. Thank you Andy D for your latest post. It’s just so sad. I’ve been reading the book, which has helped affirm my high boundaries. What also helps is that, in the book, Dr. Simon states that their behavior is CONSCIOUS behavior…habitual, instinctive, but CONSCIOUS! That takes the pressure off of excusing inexcusable behavior and blaming EJ’s mom for her mental health issues! If you keep the focus ON THE BEHAVIORS then there is no excuse!


  12. Today, while going through old emails to prep for another court hearing, I was sickened by what I read. I know the SB was verbally abusive, but when I read the large amount of them today I was quite taken aback by the number of assaults upon me through emails. The names I was constantly called and the insults! To name a few I’ve been called, several times, nuts, crazy, delusional, selfish, greedy, idiot, dumbass, Einstein (sarcasm) liar. He constantly called me names. He used tactics of threats. He defamed me with his so-called new “friends”. Has defamed me to our banker who held our house mortgage, the past realtors and the present realtor, the title company. The people who we dealt with at these different companies all said the same thing, that he was the most difficult person they’d ever encountered in their business, never seen anything like it. He is an OVERT manipulator.
    What’s different with me this time is as I’m reading insult upon insult I am not getting upset about the names I’m called, but what is disturbing is how out of control ugly, hateful, demeaning and evil this man is, without a conscience.
    I don’t know. Maybe I’ve healed.

    1. Lucy,

      I know that I’ve healed. God or a spiritual experience can do that. And it makes all the difference in the world-this is one piece the narc will always not have-and is why I think I’ve had some healing myself.

      This, my spirit guides, these are all things the narcs in our lives may grasp the concept-actually obtaining it, unlikely.

    2. Oh Lucy,

      I am so happy you, as Eudoxia has described, aren’t feeling a charge from your x anymore. Moving towards indifference is a beautiful thing. Reading through those emails aren’t you astonished at how strong you are to have been able to endure it all?

      The positive thing is that he IS overt. You don’t have to stand on your head to get anybody to believe you!

      1. That’s the beauty of overts, they have no self control and verbal the closest person or thing that’s in striking distance. Because they are so puffed up full of their own self importance and haughty arrogance they stand out like sore thumbs. Everybody can recognise an asshole when one is standing right in front of you abusing you over absolutely nothing. That’s a good time to just burst out laughing right in their face! They hate that nearly as much as being ignored.

        All narcs but particularly overts are the first to demonstrate their “terrible twos” toddler tantrums just think of the screaming toddlers in supermarkets and voila there you have it! They are truly pathetic and what is even more truly pathetic is people who accept that behavior by enabling it. Enablers are self abusers first and foremost.

    3. Amazing that the ex is describing himself. What a projection. I don’t think it would ever not bother anyone to have this going on in the present, but he is really being obvious and its not working anymore, maybe that’s where his frustration lies. When my ex was in hospice I really came to realize the full realization of how much they do not care about others, even their own children. Glad you are getting this destroyer out of your life. The time spent with them can feel wasted, but I cannot believe it is. I think its the difficult times that provide the most growth. Would we choose this? No!!!

  13. Off topic. I am just putting some references together before I return a book I borrowed a couple of months ago. I found a classic reference to self esteem. We addressed this in another post some months back so I thought I’d just include it here [] parenthesis mine.

    “A powerful person’s self esteem my appear to be high, but it’s a hollow shell if it’s based on externals, on the ability to impress or intimidate others. It’s what psychologist Gordon Neufeld calls conditional or contingent self esteem: it depends on the circumstances. The greater the void within, the more urgent the drive to be noticed and to be “important” and the more compulsive the need for status. [Hence GI Gurdjieff’s saying “puffed up full of his own self importance”]

    By contrast genuine self esteem needs nothing from the outside. It doesn’t say “I’m worthwhile because I’ve done this, that or the other”. It says I’m worthwhile whether or not I have not done this that or the other. I don’t need to be right or to wield power, or amass wealth or achievements”

    Self esteem is not what the individual consciously thinks about himself; it’s the quality of self-respect manifested in his emotional life and behaviors. By no means are superficially positive self image and true self esteem necessarily identical. In many cases they are not even compatible. People with a grandiose and inflated view of themselves are missing true self esteem at the core. To compensate for a deep sense of worhtlessness, they develop a craving for power and exaggerated self evaluation and they may become a focus of addiction, as it appears to have done for the person who needed to become Lord Conrad Black whose bluster and pomposity, derided by some and resented by many, are compensations for what he lacks in self acceptance and, deeper, in spiritual fulfillment”.

    ……………………………………….Dr Gabor Mate In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts

    1. Why do psychologist need to change the meaning of words and then come up with something that sounds correct but it is actually nothing more than mumbo jumbo in general terms or psychobabble. 🙁

      1. Andy D – nice to hear from you.

        If you want psychobabble just pick up a Law dictionary, that’s even better for access to the rabbit hole. As for the rest you will need to take it up with Dr Mate.

        I just happen to agree [if I could do a happy smiley face I would but my old comp isn’t that highfalutin] :-

        LOL Cheers Eudo

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