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Update & helpful info on not responding to accusatory emails

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Helen of Troy posted 5/31/2013 08:16 AM

I did the crickets thing regarding my last post in DS forum. True to form, he got pissy that he didn't get a reaction (meaning me engaging or defending). He ramped it up with another email.
This one required an answer from me about kids logistics so I stayed brief and unemotional as usual. This really chaps his ego.
I found the information on the next lines very helpful on why he might be exhibiting accusatory behaviors, and reminder on why and how it is best to deal with those actions. Controlling people don't like losing control so they crank up the efforts. He never grew out of childish temper tantrums, and the behavior was reinforced with attention even if negative attention. Ha, anyone in this situation has the power to pull the plug, stop the insanity. No offense to the men out there (there ARE some good ones I'm lucky to be with one now :), so if you're a guy you know just substitute she for he. I know some women act in mean immature ways too.

"While it is admirable that you want to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex, you cannot do so alone; it takes two.

The power of irrational attacks

Insults and lies directed at you are intended to draw you in and get a reaction. This is probably the only form of power he feels he has over you now ó trying to hurt you. And he has known you long enough to know just how to do it.

When you hear untrue accusations, it is very tempting to defend yourself, to lay out the truth, and to prove that the opposite is true. Yet people who are verbally abusive are in a state of fear and rage; they are not inclined to be reasonable and logical. You cannot change the way he claims to view things by responding in any way to his hostile accusations.

Donít feed abuse with your hope

Moreover, if he senses that you can be hooked into argument because you feel you have to persuade him of the truth, he will continue to throw insults and untruths your way. If he senses your desire to be reasonable and on friendly terms, you are continuing to give him the power to hurt you.

You have to give up the hope that he will come to appreciate what you brought to the relationship and what you have enjoyed together. You can still appreciate those things on your own. He may even come to do so down the line, but it will take time. You will not be able to reason with him in the short term.

Being reactive to his anger in the form of arguing on the phone or writing long defending emails spurs him on, like a kid who gets a big reaction when having a temper tantrum. Any hopes that he will become reasonable should be put aside; otherwise, he will continue to lambaste you with abuse.

What you can and must do is to disengage. Donít feed his abusive behavior with your emotional reactions. Ignore the attacks. Donít engage in any more letters or conversations with him other than for pure practical or legal purposes specific to your separation.

If he calls and starts attacking, you just have to hang up ó without yelling or defending yourself. Just say ďI have to go.Ē Or ďLetís talk when you are less emotional and hostile.Ē CLICK. Or do not take his calls. Do not subject yourself to insults, twisting of the truth, or negativity.

By ignoring accusatory correspondence, you prevent your ex from dis-empowering you with his abuse. No matter how he tries to incite you with falsehoods and attacks, donít engage, because it triggers his desire to hurt you and engage you, which makes him feel empowered in a very unhealthy way. More importantly, the less time you spend arguing and defending yourself, the less dis-empowered, hurt and angry you will feel.

Stay empowered

This is not to say that you should not pursue what you are legally entitled to. Defending yourself in court is a different matter. Defend yourself in the most effective way. In court, you can count on the presence of a rational third party without a stake in the outcome.

If you have to correspond about practicalities, make your correspondence very brief, neutral and businesslike, without any negative comments. Donít act scared of him. Any hints of your own defensiveness, fear, or anger reward him.

On again off again charm
Beware. He may suddenly be friendly and you might hope that heíll give you a ray of sunshine Ė but the storm still rages. You cannot count on someone who hurls insults and untruths one moment and is friendly the next.

Of course, you can be polite and respectful, but unless there has been a lasting transformation in him, donít engage in discussions with him, other than brief business-like communication to deal with the logistics of your separation. (add kid logistic issues, finances, etc.)

Change focus

What you focus on greatly affects how you feel. Thus, itís important to shift your focus to more positive aspects of your life. Communicate with life-enhancing friends and family. Focus on taking care of yourself, pursuing your interests, helping others in need, and, above all, keeping your perspective and sense of humor.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch ďDealing with Angry People.Ē

caregiver9000 posted 5/31/2013 10:05 AM

I learned this here on SI. Nice to see it backed by a PhD.

It was a hard thing to learn to do, but it was THE thing that I believe helped me to heal. Not having to hear, refute and justify why I am the awesomely wonderful person I am and not what he would accuse was freeing.

Good on you, wgb.

If you can picture him as an angry two year old with a dirty face and a dirty diaper when he screams these things in email or otherwise, perhaps it will take some of the sting out.

as always, FTG

eta: oops!

[This message edited by caregiver9000 at 10:06 AM, May 31st (Friday)]

gonnabe2016 posted 5/31/2013 14:53 PM

You cannot count on someone who hurls insults and untruths one moment and is friendly the next.

Well. ^^^Hello Sultan!^^^

Reminders like the one you posted are always so useful. Thanks, WGB.

Brokenpetal posted 5/31/2013 15:24 PM

Excellent advice! A therapist once told me "people can only push your buttons if you give them the buttons to push," (similar, anyway). I have to remind myself of that every day....

Ashland13 posted 5/31/2013 17:10 PM

This is really well written! This is every contact with Perv. It's amazing in a way and in stronger times I think of it as an artform.

You know, lately each and every thing that man says does not match when I ask someone else the same thing?

And I like the part about how we let them affect us, but I don't think that happens quite at first? For me it took being duped a few times and acres of reading to discover.

Yes, I notice if I am very neutral it sparks "feedback" and if I reply when I am emotional it gets silence. It's the strangest phenomenon (sp?). It's my thought and experience, too, that the more we ignore the more it sometimes gets contact, a feeling of a last grasp at control.

What I'm learning also, is how many there are!

I'm sorry for everyone who has to deal with a narcissistic person.

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