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Avoiding Drama

Dramas happen in every relationship. When you’re involved with a borderline or narcissist, dramas happen a lot. Often the issue being fought over is less important than the underlying reason the drama is happening.

Typically, dramas that happen over and over are really about control, dominance, or anxiety. Underlying issues often include:

Who gets to make the decisions?
Who is right?
Who has the most power?
Who is needing reassurance?
Who is feeling unimportant, abandoned, or disregarded?

It’s easier to see the borderline or narcissist’s distress, than your own. You may not even notice your own anxieties and need for control or your fears about not being loved, but they also contribute to the dilemma. So, you fight it out over things like who left the toilet seat up, or who didn’t clean up or put things away.

If you want to stay out of these dramas, here are some steps to take:

Speak up right away.
When something isn’t working for you, mention it in the moment. Don’t discount your feelings, think about it for days, and then blow up. State your preferences clearly and quickly.

Talk about yourself. 
Say: “I would like, I want, I would prefer,” rather than “YOU did, you think, you want.”

Listen carefully.
What feelings do you recognize in yourself and the other person? What do you think the real issue is? Can you put the issue into a clear sentence in your mind?

Observe and share. 
For example: “I hear that disagree with me, and I notice that you look angry. Is there something more we should talk about?”

Yes, and… 
Don’t dismiss or discount your partner’s feelings or your own. Instead, state his/her feelings and add your own feelings and views. “You’d like to watch the game all day Saturday, AND I’d like to spend some time just the two of us together.” Using AND instead of BUT indicates that you are valuing his/her preferences as well as your own. It encourages both of you to problem solve, instead of arguing.

Walk away.
Whenever you notice negative changes in facial expressions or body language, voices being raised, or hurtful and angry comments, it’s a sign that you’ve moved into DRAMA. Instead of a discussion between partners, you’re now adversaries. It’s a sign to STOP the interaction. You both may find that you want to keep pushing to get your point across, but everyone is too activated to solve anything at this point. If the issue is important, you can come back together when you’re both calm, and finish discussing things again.

Stay respectful.
Don’t engage the borderline or narcissist about their behavior in the moment. Asking “What’s wrong?” or saying, “That was rude,” will likely start a fight. Hostile words thrown out during dramas can haunt the relationship for years. If the borderline/narcissist continues to be hostile, rude, or disrespectful, that’s a sign to walk away, not escalate by saying something nasty to them.

Dramas that can’t be solved by talking. 
Dramas that happen when either of you has been drinking, using drugs, or is emotionally or physically exhausted, can’t be talked out. Mental illness is also a drama that you can’t solve. If you’re with a borderline, narcissistic, severely depressed, bi-polar, or psychotic partner, those issues are NOT something that you can cure or fix. The person needs to get professional help before your relationship can move forward.

Certain feelings may develop over the life of a relationship that cannot be healed. These include scorn, passive aggression, bitterness, resentment and lack of trust. When the scars are too deep, the relationship may need to be let go. Continually fighting and creating drama about these issues doesn’t solve the problems and only adds more anger and hurt. Let go instead of continuing to pour hostility onto each other–for your sake and the sake of your children.