I talk a lot about dealing with difficult ex-wives, mainly because that’s often the #1 complaint of my clients and well, no one else is really addressing the issue. So, what exactly do I mean by difficult?
This is what I mean:
They only have one story; a story where they’re the victim and you’re the attacker. And their story only has one ending: them winning and you losing. They’re not interested in a win-win.
Bill Eddy, author of It’s All Your Fault!: 12 Tips For Managing People Who Blame Others For Everything, describes these people as HCPs (High-conflict personalities). He says they lack the skills for dealing with conflict and have no awareness how their behavior increases the conflict. He says “instead of sharing responsibility for solving problems, they repeatedly lose it and increase conflict by making it intensely personal and taking no responsibility.”
He goes on to explain “the hardest thing to get about HCPs is that they lack an awareness of how they contribute to their own problems. They honestly view others as causing the way they feel and the way they act… They feel they have to lie and manipulate because of unmanaged fears within themselves that they are not aware of.”
In my experience, they’ll always have an excuse or justification for their behavior, while attacking you for yours. They’re also skilled at projecting their own behaviors and beliefs onto you.
They don’t take personal responsibility for anything in their life. Yet they believe that they do – usually while blaming you for something. They will make you responsible for every single bad thing that has ever happened to them. They will blame you for every bad choice they’ve ever made and every bad consequence they’ve ever experienced. They will tell you their story of how it’s all your fault.
You can’t rationalize or reason with a high-conflict person. They’re not able to see their actual behavior. They’re not being mean or moody, but at this given time in their life, in these current circumstances, they’re not able to behave any differently. From what I’ve read, these people usually, but not always, have a mental disorder or at the very least, a personality disorder.
The good news is that it is possible to be the target of blame of a high-conflict person, and still remain happy and peaceful. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, because their words and actions don’t reflect the truth of you or the situation. It is simply the result of a belief they hold that’s meant to protect themselves from the painful truth about themselves. Keep reminding yourself of that. Also, it’s much easier to hold onto your sanity if you don’t allow them access to you, so protect yourself with firm boundaries and don’t let their attacks penetrate your spirit.
For excellent information and tips on how to deal with these difficult people, Jenna recommends the books, It’s All Your Fault!: 12 Tips For Managing People Who Blame Others For Everything and Say Good Bye to Crazy, which can be found under our book recommendations section here.
Jenna Korf is a Certified Stepfamily Foundation coach, an RCI Certified Relationship coach and co-author of the book, “Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict.” She is also a blogger for The Huffington Post and has been featured as a stepfamily expert on CNN.com, parenting.com and care.com. Jenna is also a Registered Nurse, a stepmom and a stepchild. To read more from Jenna or for one-on-one coaching visit her at StepmomHelp.com.