When a borderline woman says, “I feel unsafe,” what does it mean? The same question goes for female narcissists, histrionics and psychopaths. For that matter, what does hearing any woman say, “I feel unsafe” reactively bring to mind?
She’s in danger of her bad boyfriend or husband physically harming her, right? Most people understand unsafe to mean high risk of physical assault or worse.
However, when a narcissist, histrionic or borderline woman says, “I feel unsafe,” it doesn’t necessarily mean what people outside the relationship assume it means. This is especially true if she’s the primary aggressor (i.e., abuser) in the relationship. To clarify, arguing with and yelling back at someone who’s shouting, name-calling and being provocative is immature. It’s not necessarily abuse, however. Again, this is often the case if the BPD, NPD or HPD woman is the main instigator of the conflict and drama.
If you’re a man, and your narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or unspecified toxic wife, girlfriend or ex tells you — or anyone else — that you’re making her feel unsafe, what does it mean?
In all likelihood it means YOU are unsafe. As in at risk for false abuse allegations, arrest, restraining orders, parental alienation and prohibited from seeing your kids. Don’t ignore, minimize or make excuses to avoid dealing with the peril you’re most assuredly in. This statement (or variations of it) pose a real world threat to you.
Cue the horror film music. No, seriously, cue the soundtrack from Psycho.
When a borderline woman says, “I feel unsafe” (or any of the other Cluster B types), you should be concerned. Very concerned. In addition to being in jeopardy for false abuse allegations, ex parte motions, etc., it’s probable that one or more of the following scenarios are at play:
Why keep the bull when you can bleed him dry at family court for free?
After the love bombing or idealization stage ends and the devaluation stage begins, mutual disillusionment and resentment metastasizes. First, you see the narcissist more clearly. In other words, you see behind the false self mask with whom you fell in love and the empty, angry adult toddler comes into focus. This can take a few months, a few years or a few decades. It depends on several factors. For example, how badly you’re stuck in the denial and bargaining stages of grief and family of origin issues.
Seeing a narcissist, borderline, psychopath or histrionic for who they truly are spells trouble. In fact, they’ll hate you for it. Well, more than they already hate you.
Holding a mirror up to their abuse, cruelty, selfishness, entitlement, inability for emotional and physical intimacy, cheating and/or just being an all around crap partner enrages them. Additionally, they’ve zero interest in hearing about your wants, needs, feelings and how their behavior impacts you and the kids. This also enrages them.
Once this kind of woman figures out she can take the kids and a sizable chunk of the marital assets and your income and no longer be annoyed by you holding her accountable, it’s discard time. Inevitably, as you futilely beseech her to consider your feelings, she says it. “You’re making me feel unsafe.” If this doesn’t shut you up permanently, it’s probably the prelude to a restraining order and divorce papers. It’s also likely performative (i.e., to manufacture evidence), so assume you’re being recorded.
Maintaining coercive control and dominance.
Generally, narcissists, borderlines and histrionics have lots of triggers. Actually, they can turn anything into a trigger if they’re jonesing for a drama fix. For example, it triggers them when you emotionally detach (i.e., don’t get sucked into the same old stupid, circular arguments). It also triggers them when you set and enforce boundaries, practice self-care and other healthy behaviors that non-disordered partners support.
As you become less tolerant and more resistant to the high conflict reindeer games, the NPD, BPD, HPD woman feels “unsafe.” Or rather, these women feel uncomfortable, angry, spiteful and vindictive when this happens. Uncomfortable, angry, spiteful and vindictive aren’t synonymous to unsafe. Just like pledge and donate aren’t used synonymously.
In these situations, “I feel unsafe” is a power move. It’s also a scare tactic and/or warning shot. She’s putting you on notice that her loss of dominance and coercive control won’t be tolerated. In fact, it will be severely punished. And, if necessary, she’ll literally call in the big guns — i.e., the police.
The couples therapy triangulation tag team.
As a last resort, the narcissist, borderline or histrionic woman may demand you go to couples therapy. Not all, but many Cluster B personality disordered people avoid counseling like vampires avoid sunlight. One of Crazy’s big five fears is exposure. They’ll also do just about anything — including filing false police reports and committing perjury — to evade accountability and consequences and to punish their target of blame (i.e., you).
However, when their dominance and control are in jeopardy, an enabling, gender biased and/or inexperienced couples therapist can be a borderline’s best friend. Again, the same goes for histrionics, narcissists and other toxic personality types.
Thus, “I feel unsafe” is performative theater for the couples counselor. This may go no further than triangulating the couples therapist to bolster their power and dominance. The goal is for the therapist to officially declare the NPD, BPD, HPD partner the “true victim.” In other words, they manipulate and use the therapist to enable and legitimize their ongoing abuse of you.
Smearing, alienating and mobbing.
In all likelihood, Crazy’s been cultivating her victim narrative long before you get to the “I feel unsafe” stage. Clients are often shocked by how far back the smearing and alienating goes once they finally connect the dots. Don’t be surprised if you discover she’s told her friends, mutual friends and your friends some combination of a victim/long suffering martyr story to grease the eventual false abuse allegation skids.
If your family of origin includes narcissists, borderlines and other toxic people, she’ll smear you to them, too. Sadly, her lies, projections, distortions, exaggerations and role reversals often find a receptive and participatory audience with these family members. I’ve clients whose parents, siblings, cousins, etc., have joined in the mobbing and alienation. It’s horrible.
If this happens to you, don’t make excuses, rationalize or minimize your family members’ treachery. This is an egregious betrayal. It’s beyond appalling and you mustn’t trust them.
In other words, don’t share anything with them you don’t want getting back to Crazy. For that matter, don’t share anything with “nice” family members who could tell toxic family members who’ll report back to Crazy. Don’t argue with them or call them out. They’ll deny it and blame shift. Additionally, they’ll spin it into more bogus evidence for Crazy that you’re angry, scary and mentally ill.
Why do abusers lie to your friends and family? To isolate you, deprive you of support and undermine your credibility should you choose to tell the truth about them. By the way, seeking support from your own family and friends is natural and healthy. When Crazy seeks support from your family and friends it’s another abuse tactic.
Groomers gonna groom.
“I feel unsafe” can also be an abuse conditioning tactic. Typically, abusers consolidate control and dominance gradually over time. It’s the frog in boiling water metaphor. Abusers do this by systematically chipping away at your self-regard and self-esteem with an arsenal of abuse tactics. For example, projection, gaslighting, splitting, projective identification and DARVO.
DARVO is an acronym for deny, attack and reverse victim and offender. In my opinion, it’s one of the biggest mind bleeps of them all. Not only is it a kind of projection, it’s also victim blaming.
No, no, no, I mean actual victim blaming. Not how some feminists go into Cirque de Soleil-like mental contortions as they still try to portray Amber Heard as a victim. Amber Heard and her defenders are a great example of DARVO, by the way.
A man’s life can be destroyed on social media via abuse insinuations and accusations absent of actual evidence, criminal complaints and due process. Most men know this. Therefore, my male clients recognize how vulnerable they are when their partners accuse them of abuse. Or, allude to abuse by making statements like, “I feel unsafe,” which is vague and ripe for assumption and misinterpretation.
Abusive women and men experience accountability as you trying to control them. They experience the natural consequences of their aberrant behavior as abuse. This is nuts, of course.
Narcissists, borderlines, histrionics and other toxic people believe the following:
- Having boundaries is abusive to them.
- Not letting them bait you into pointless circular arguments is abusive to them.
- Not allowing them to scapegoat you (i.e., blaming you for their bad behavior or blame shifting) is abusive to them.
- Not going along with their dishonest victim narratives is abusive to them.
- Practicing self-care is abusive to them.
- Refusing to enable their pathological immaturity, double standards and entitlement is abusive to them.
In other words, if you don’t let them abuse, exploit and control you, you’re being abusive to them. Furthermore, if you treat them like an adult who’s accountable for their words and deeds, it’s also abusive to them. Like I said, it’s nuts.
What to do if a borderline, narcissist or histrionic woman says, “I feel unsafe.”
I’ll publish a follow-up an article with practical advice on what to do when you find yourself in this frightening predicament. Meanwhile, if your partner or ex says “I feel unsafe,” you should probably be recording all interactions with her and prepare for the worst. That is, if you’re not already recording all interactions and preparing for the worst.
Furthermore, stop arguing with her. Get support from a mental health professional with expertise in this area. Avoid any mental health provider who minimizes and legitimizes this kind of threat with a, “Well, she means she FEELS unsafe.” Feelings aren’t facts. You need a counselor who understands the threat and menace of this statement and takes it seriously.
For the record, ALL WOMEN know what this statement means. If a female therapist plays dumb about it, she’s either anti-male gender biased and/or being disingenuous (i.e., full of shit). If a male therapist plays dumb he’s either just as anti-male gender biased, disingenuous and/or playing Mr. White Knight.
Best case scenario, this kind of counselor won’t be able to help you. Worst case scenario, they could do a lot of damage in terms of divorce and custody. Thus, it’s probably best to terminate with a carefully worded email explaining why you’re terminating.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. For over a decade, she has specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from the trauma. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to work with Dr. Palmatier, please visit the Schedule a Session page or you can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.