Here is Part Two of Covert Abuse: Watch Out for the Quiet Ones, Part One written by CrazyBuster, SSG. SSG offers some great suggestions for handling the “quiet ones.” The following tips are also good advice for handling the “loud ones.”
How to Handle a “Quiet One” or a Covert Abuser
Based on what I learned in counseling, from my conversations with other CrazyBusters, and by observing a man victimized by a “quiet one,” here are some suggestions for identifying and handling this kind of under the radar, high-conflict ex.
Most of these suggestions are preventative measures, but they can be employed at any time:
1. Admit that your abusive ex is not a nice person. If your ex is a serial cheater, abusive controller, etc., and/or demands that her happiness come at the expense of your happiness (e.g., insists that you give up your livelihood, your family of origin, your beliefs, your children from another marriage, your friends, your hobbies, etc.), she is not nice person. That doesn’t mean she can’t have a nice moment from time to time if it suits her agenda, but fundamentally, she is not a nice person. Nice people don’t abuse you nor do they make their happiness contingent upon your misery.
Does that mean that you should start a war with her or him? No. Just admit to yourself that she or he is not nice. And remember that when she tries to violate your boundaries or asks for special favors that will almost always come back to bite you on the backside.
2. No action is still a kind of action. If your ex disregards court orders and does things like move your children out of state without your consent or the court’s permission, fails to follow the visitation schedule or takes your minor children out of the country without your permission, your inaction sets a precedent. She knows you will not challenge her. If you want this kind of nonsense to stop, you must take strong and perhaps legal action and nip it in the bud asap.
3. Beware of abusive jerks bearing gifts, be they female or male. Just because the ex’s new love dumped her or she’s found religion or therapy does not mean she’s miraculously cured of her nasty ways. Any sudden attempts to befriend you or your new partner (that is, if she will even acknowledge that you’ve moved on and have a new partner) may be an indication that she’s manipulating you and intent on re-engaging with you.
Keep all communication with a high-conflict ex civil, brief, infrequent and business-like (BIFF = Brief, Informative, Firm and Friendly). Focus on the kids and be realistic. Leopards, especially Crazy leopards, rarely, if ever, change their spots.
4. Pay attention to your gut. If you fear that challenging your ex and her demands will result in her withholding the children, listen to that feeling. However, don’t let your fears control you or guide your decisions.
It’s important to acknowledge your fears because they will tell you the kind of person with which you’re dealing. Even if your fears are legitimate, cowing to them and your ex is probably not in your best interests. Never challenging your high-conflict ex — e.g., not setting boundaries — will only reinforce her demanding and controlling behavior. For example, if she keeps threatening to “take you to court” over non-issues or outrageous demands, you may want to consider calling her bluff.
5. Pay attention to early warning signs. Note your ex’s behavior when she learns you are dating. Be aware of any cries for attention and control. This may be difficult if she uses the children to make you feel guilty or if she exaggerates or fabricates crises regarding the kids because your natural instinct will be to rush to your children’s rescue.
More often than not, this is a calculated manipulation to get you to engage with her and has nothing to do with the children. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist if your high-conflict ex begins these manipulations once you begin dating. Get an outside opinion on what might really be happening, so you can better handle situations in which you’re being manipulated. Even learning to take some deep breaths and knowing what questions to ask when she calls with yet another false crisis can help you to discern truth from fiction and a real crisis from an attempted manipulation.
6. Remember that you have the right to move on with your life. Divorce is not the end of the world. Children survive it. If you date and/or remarry, that does not equate to abandoning your children. Although, your high-conflict ex may accuse you of this and tell the children and anyone else who will listen that you have “abandoned” her the children (even if she’s the one who left you!)
In our case, the children had the opportunity to see their father more, as I helped contribute to their travel expenses. Just because your high-conflict ex wants to stuff you in a cupboard like a toy and selfishly hide you away from others to keep you from moving on with your life doesn’t mean you have to let her. In fact, it’s very important for your recovery and well-being and the well-being of the children that you do not allow her to guilt or intimidate you into doing this.
7. Keep educating yourself about high-conflict personalities and how to manage them. Keep doing what you’re doing right now by reading and learning and working on yourself. It’s also important to talk to friends or family members about what you’re going through with your high-conflict ex for support and so they don’t unwittingly get sucked into her lies, distortions and manipulations.
Some of my husband’s biggest realizations came from trusted co-workers. One female co-worker bluntly stated, “It sounds like your ex-wife is a control freak. Don’t let her do that!”An older male co-worker simply said, “She wants your loyalty to be to her first and to your wife second – that’s her issue.” My husband needed to hear these blunt truths from those not emotionally involved in the situation.
8. Work with a good therapist who understands these kinds of issues and who isn’t an apologist or enabler of personality disordered individuals (APDIs). Working with a skilled therapist can help you build the necessary tools to set boundaries and help you to gain or maintain your rights as a father.
Being with your abusive high-conflict ex, whether she’s a quiet one or a loud one, probably caused you to catch some of her “fleas” or unhealthy traits or behaviors. Working with a therapist can also help you learn how to handle conflict productively and help you to heal from any trauma you incurred while with your ex.
The quiet ones are clever, sly and incredibly manipulative. They are not dummies. They aren’t the types who will put themselves in situations where they could get arrested or exposed for their malicious behaviors. They are well-versed in making you and/or your partner, her victim(s), look like the bad guy(s).
The stealthy actions and quiet demeanor help the more subtle emotional terrorists inflict their harm. Just like so many professional con artists/sociopaths appear vulnerable, calm and trustworthy as they bilk their victims out of thousands of dollars or lure them into dangerous situations.
Fortunately, you don’t have to remain a victim of your covert abuser’s manipulations and abusive behaviors. You can learn to protect yourself and your loved ones and quit allowing your abusive waif ex to keep you engaged. You can escape her control and find the peaceful fulfilling life you deserve.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.