When dealing with a High-Conflict Personality (HCP), it is important to avoid getting caught up in their constant complaining, negativity, and attacks.
There is a clear pattern of behavior that presents itself. Knowing this and understanding this pattern will keep you from getting sucked into the vortex of negativity.
The pattern can start with some form of communication. This communication can be misinterpreted or assumptions can be made. HCP may feel attacked, which then releases a temper tantrum. The temper tantrum can cause the HCP to text or call incessantly where insults are spewed, accusations made, and inappropriate comments discharged.
These interactions can give HCP an energy boost, where they project, attack, blame, and act in an aggressive/obsessive way. Bill Eddy, author of, It’s all your fault: 12 tips for managing people who blame others for everything, explains that “instead of sharing responsibility for solving problems, they repeatedly lose it and increase conflict by making it intensely personal and taking no responsibility.”
Ignoring these invitations for conflict are the best decision. If you respond, focus only on replying in a factual manner. Keep the conversation strictly on the kids rather than HCP’s complaints. Although the conflict can continue for long periods of time, you can disengage from it.
HCP may realize the high-conflict behavior was completely inappropriate. At times you may receive an apology. These apologies typically include excuses for the irrational behavior. Certified Stepfamily Coach, Jenna Korf, explains, “In my experience, they’ll (HCP’s) 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.”
Just because someone calls or texts doesn’t mean you have to pick up or respond. Sometimes the best response is no response. If you are already involved in the communication, you can simply set a boundary and state, “I will only speak with you when you are calm. I am hanging up now.” You can also say, “I do not appreciate your disrespectful way of communicating and I am hanging up now.” No one deserves to be verbally assaulted.
If you are conditioned to answer the phone or respond to a text, where you get caught up in conflict, remind yourself that you do not have engage in this type of communication. Your goal can be to recondition yourself to only respond when it directly relates to your children and/or when someone is speaking to you in a calm, respectful manner.
It’s challenging not to get emotionally wound up when people are engaging you in conflict, but if you can disengage and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, you’ll live a much happier life. Having inside jokes in your marriage is healthy. As they say, humor is the best medicine.
You can’t change someone else. The only person you can change is yourself. When dealing with a HCP, you have to accept this person for who they are. Don’t waste time and energy trying to change anyone but yourself. Focus on the things within your control.
4. Focus on You and Your Marriage:
Focus on being your authentic self. Work on protecting your spirit and the spirit of your marriage. Identify the signs of a HCP attack and start developing a tool-box of coping strategies that will decrease the negativity from the HCP in your life. You can insulate your marriage from the dysfunction. Your tool-box of strategies may include, firm boundaries, blocking all communication by hitting the “do not disturb” button on your phone, going for a walk, punching a punching bag, meditation, focusing on breathing, yoga, singing, and taking baths. Find something that works for you.
High-Conflict Personalities thrive off of battle, and that will not change. By educating yourself on their pattern of dysfunction, you can protect yourself and focus on protecting your marriage, which will lead to a happier you.
-The Protective Stepmom
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