Handbook for Dealing with a BP/NP

Say to yourself:

I did not cause it.

I cannot control it.

I cannot cure it.

Work on yourself:

Quit taking abuse—Walk away. Don’t engage. Hang up the phone. Leave the house. Got into another room and close the door. Visit a friend.

Reality checks—Ask a friend, relative, therapist if what the BP/NP is saying about you is true.

Minimize your reactions—Keep calm. Don’t fight back. Don’t show anger. Don’t respond emotionally.

Give yourself time—Tell the BP/NP that you need to think about what you want. Say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” “I know you want an answer now, but I need time to think.” Never make promises or agreements or imply that you have made a decision. Take your time to think things out.

Realize you can’t control the BP/NP—You can’t control what s/he thinks about you, how s/he acts or says or wants. Stop trying to change the N/B. You can ONLY control YOURSELF. Also, stop trying to make the N/B feel better. You cannot do anything to make them feel better. It can’t be done.

Decide what YOU will do—and quit worrying about what the BP/NP will do. Your life is created by the decisions YOU make. Do not make decisions based on what the BP/NP might do. You cannot predict what they will do. It you leave—leave because YOU want to, and if you stay, stay because YOU want to.

Keep watch of your own moods. If you find yourself getting depressed, very angry, or anxious, take time to get yourself back into a good emotional balance. This is a TOP priority. Your own mental health is your Number One priority.

Create a life of your own:

The BP/NP wants your every thought, feeling and action to be about them. You must stop thinking and worrying and wondering about the B/N. You are in this life to live your OWN experiences, not theirs. Go out. Meet friends. Meditate. Exercise. Enjoy hobbies, and activities you like without the BP/NP.

Do not give up anything you want to do in order to “please” the BP/NP.


Identify the feeling being displayed by the BP/NP, e.g., “I can see you are: very hurt/angry/have a strong opinion/disagree with me.”

State what you are going to donot what you think and feel—to the BP/NP. He or she can see and understand differences in behaviors, but often cannot fathom a possible difference in feelings and thoughts between themselves and you. So only discuss behaviors.

Ask for different behaviors from the BP/NP in the moment. The BP/NP is only in THIS moment and cannot recall how they felt or acted at other times. Say, “Please stop shouting.” “I would like you to lower your voice, and that could help me hear you better.” “Your anger and name-calling is making it hard for me to hear you.” Be very specific about the BEHAVIOR you want changed. Do not ask for changes in feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

Never start a sentence with the word YOU. The BP/NP invariably hears the word “you are” as a threat or an attack.

Stay focused. Refuse to be drawn off track. “What you just said has nothing to do with what we are talking about. I would like to go back to discussing __________.” Write down the topic. Refuse to discuss any other topic or be upset by attacks and name-calling from the BP/NP.

I see things differently. Talk about your views and identify them as different from the BP/NP. Don’t discuss who is right or wrong. You are just DIFFERENT.

Don’t make threats, moralize, preach or try to change the BP/NP’s mind. State facts, identify clearly your own choices and actions; state how you see things. Never speak for the BP/NP

Use this communication model:

When I see/hear/experience __X__happening,

I ______(your response in behavioral terms)_______.

I would like/appreciate/hope __Y__would happen.


I will need to take care of myself by doing __Z__.

Assessing Risk:

It is often hard to imagine that a “loved one” could or would do you harm. See above for identifying and taking care of yourself from emotional harm. However, you may need to continually assess the harm the BP/NP might do to themselves or to you. Do not hesitate to exit the premises if you feel in danger. Call the BP/NP’s medical doctor, therapist, or the police if you feel they are a danger to themselves or to you. Try this question: If your minister, good friend, son or daughter were witnessing what is going on, how would they interpret the situation?


Don’t fall into—

Denial—This will get better—No it will not.

Wishful thinking—Waiting for something miraculous to happen.

Emotionality—Responding emotionally. Think things through and make

thoughtful choices.

Martyrdom—Being the BP/NP’s nurse, therapist, caretaker. Trying not to

hurt the BP/NP at the expense of your own self-esteem or self-care.

Isolation—Trying to handle things by yourself instead of asking for help.

Delaying—Losing legal rights, losing your health, not being prepared to

take care of yourself before the situation becomes critical.