Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
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Family and Friends

Do you have suggestions for a person who has a narcissistic parent and a borderline spouse?

Some people we deal with are more difficult than others. First, let's look at the narcissistic parent. In this case, I think you have to pick your battles. If the parent needs to talk about him/herself, you might want to learn to “let it go in one ear and out the other” rather than constantly challenge the person.

With reference to the borderline spouse, he/she can be very much in love with you and you can be in a very good relationship, but there is an intense fear of rejection. The person also has strong emotions, much stronger than those of the average person. Volatile emotions and the intense fear of rejection or loss are co-features of a borderline personality. You all know the expression “Count to 10 before you get angry.” Well, for this personality trait, I generally recommend that the affected person “count to a thousand” before feeling rejected. In other words, let the panic come and go! Treat it like any other anxiety. By not responding to it, over time the person will calm down, think more rationally and come to a solution.

Here's an example. A recent case involved a person who, upon entering into a relationship, would do things like write e-mails to her new love interest at midnight. If, by 4:00 a.m., she had not received a response, she would get flustered and wonder frantically why he hadn't answered. She would then write a series of increasingly angry e-mails. The gentleman in question would wake at 7:00 a.m. to see all the e-mails she had sent during the night. He would react by wanting to flee the relationship, which is exactly the thing she was trying to prevent. To avoid such problems, the affected person is encouraged to recognize that she is feeling insecure and worried, and make a decision not to respond to this anxiety. If she does respond, she will scare people away and damage her relationships.

-Camillo Zacchia, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2006

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