spectrum of BPD

Women on the Spectrum of BPD:
Techniques That Stop Devaluation

In Part One of this blog series, Romantic Devaluation and Idealization In Women With Traits of BPD we explored the reasons why so many women on the spectrum of BPD devalue their romantic partners once the initial honeymoon phase comes to an end. We identified devaluation as the inevitable result of a woman who idealizes her romantic partner. We clarified that devaluation can happen to partners of women anywhere on the spectrum of BPD regardless of how mild her traits may be or whether she qualifies for the diagnosis.

What you will be learning in Part Two of this blog series is how to apply your understanding of the mechanics of devaluing to stop a partner from using this defensive tactic on you. Although the techniques you will be presented with may not be powerful enough to work with an individual who has extreme traits that would lead to a diagnosis of BPD, they have been developed to work for most women on the mild to moderate end of this spectrum.

People who devalue others are highly skilled at using language to manipulate you into a negative emotional state. The techniques you will be learning will provide you with language that allows you to counter their attempts at putting you down without putting yourself at risk for confrontation.

There is nothing mysterious about how these techniques work. They are based on the knowledge of two universal flaws in the tactics used by those who devalue. These flaws can be easily exploited to stop a partner from trying to make you feel like a less worthy person.

We are going to begin by taking a close look at what we will be calling our brain’s inner defense system, a component of our neurology that is capable of influencing our actions and in some circumstances overriding our conscious control in order to protect us from emotional pain. Once you have a clearer picture of how the inner defense system works we will address how this process functions for women who are on the spectrum of BPD.

The Mechanics of The Inner Defense System

We all know that our brain has a built-in defense system that protects us from physical injury. We reflexively shield our face when someone raises a fist to us, and we have an instinct to flee in the presence of imminent danger. Our involuntary inner defense system allows us to react quickly to protect ourselves from physical pain and injury without the delay caused by cognitive processing.

But as human beings we also have a built-in defense system that protects us from emotional pain and injury. This system is highly complex and can be much more difficult to track because instead of taking over the controls of our body, it takes over the controls of our mind.

But because all human beings are wired with the same basic inner defense system, it is possible to fairly accurately track this process using our experience from when we may have reacted defensively and the experience of having others act defensively with us.

The most commonly-known behavior pattern that is influenced by our inner defense system is a state that we refer to as denial. We know that when there is a set of events that could lead us to painful conclusions, our brains are capable of shielding us from that pain. The inner defense system seems to be able to control our thinking process in a way that keeps us from coming to conclusions that may cause excessive emotional discomfort.

Interestingly enough, our brains also seem to be able to tamper with our mental process by influencing our emotions. Our inner defense system is capable boosting our good feelings surrounding actions it wants us to take to protect us. It can also heighten bad feelings around actions it does not want us to take. When our inner defense system uses these tactics to keep us from engaging in activities that help us grow or realize our goals, we usually label it self-sabotage.

Our inner defense system tends to be very active when it comes to romantic relationships. Because romantic relationships can cause more pain than almost any other kind of human interaction, our inner alarm system can go off for even the most minor misstep of a loving partner.

It may try to protect us from the possibility of grief due to heartbreak, humiliation due to betrayal or being taken advantage of in our weakened state brought about by love. It is not unusual for people to find their inner defense systems to be in direct conflict with their relationship goals.

When this happens, most people apply rational thought to the situation in order to loosen the inner defense system’s grip. And usually they are fairly successful at overriding their fear in order to gain the benefits of an intimate and trusting relationship.

But those individuals who have greater emotional sensitivity than the average person, particularly women on the spectrum of BPD, may not be able to override their inner defense system’s influence. The pain they experience from heartbreak and rejection is so much greater than the average person that their inner defense system may temporarily take over the controls in a desperate attempt to shield them.

Now let’s take a look at the tactic that the inner defense system of a woman on the spectrum of BPD uses to protect her from the pain associated with intimacy.

The Inner Defense System of Women on the Spectrum of BPD

The first signs that devaluation might be taking place for a woman on the spectrum of BPD might come about as awareness of seeds of suspicion or doubt about her relationship partner’s good character. We can’t know exactly how the inner protection system plants these seeds of doubt in her mind, but we can be fairly certain that its goal is to scare her into leaving her relationship.

If the first tactic does not work, the second-best tactic that the inner defense system seems to be capable of using consists of convincing her to put up a wall of anger and contempt towards her partner. This emotional barrier of superiority can allow a woman on the spectrum of BPD to remain protected from emotional pain without having to leave her relationship.

Sometimes the seeds of doubt and suspicion are enough to make a woman on the spectrum of BPD leave a relationship. But if the second tactic needs to be put in place the inner defense system will have a considerable hurdle to overcome. In order to get a woman on the spectrum of BPD to enter into a state of sustained anger and contempt at her romantic partner it must take some very extreme and morally questionable steps.

The Launching of a Negative Devaluation Campaign

The way that the inner defense system usually operates in order to generate enough anger and contempt to shield her from intimacy is by launching what is sometimes referred to in politics as a negative campaign against the romantic partner. This campaign is an attempt to discredit the romantic partner in the eyes of a woman on the spectrum of BPD.

The woman being influenced by a negative campaign against her partner will often experience this campaign as the presence of what are referred to as intrusive thoughts. These are compelling thoughts that seem to appear out of nowhere. The thoughts may appear in the form of phrases that arouse suspicion such as, “He probably doesn’t really love you” or, “What if he’s just using you?”

The thoughts may also appear in the form of intrusive images of a relationship partner in the arms of another. Or they may appear as an intrusive memory of a time their partner did something careless or thoughtless. They may even appear as a belief such as, “All men cheat. He’s probably just like all the rest of them.”

When the inner defense system of a woman on the spectrum of BPD successfully launches its negative campaign, the woman may find herself chronically angry at her partner for reasons she does not understand. Fueled by these intrusive thoughts her anger may regularly erupt in the form false accusations, insults, insinuations or outright denigrating or derogatory statements.

Because women on the spectrum of BPD have a very difficult time questioning their emotions, it will probably seem to her that maybe she made a bad decision and her partner isn’t the man she thought he was. Or she might assume that he’s now changed from the great person she first met to someone who has virtually no value as a partner. Once the campaign is successfully launched, all the inner defense system must do to keep the devaluation going is to make sure she doesn’t question too closely the justification for her devaluing.

The techniques you are about to learn are going to get her to question her justification for devaluing you. They will let you take advantage of two weak links in the inner defense system’s tactics in order to foil its plan.

Let’s now take a look at the two techniques you will be using.

Technique Number One: Disarming Devaluation of Chronic Anger

The first technique you will learn can be used to disarm the tactic of devaluation through chronic anger. People who use chronic expressions of anger are using an indirect tactic to devalue their partners. Because it is indirect it can be very difficult to identify how exactly how it works to devalue a partner.

Most people who are subjected to chronic anger know they haven’t done anything wrong to deserve it. But awareness that you don’t deserve chronic anger does not protect you from this indirect form of devaluation. In fact, the message that a person who is chronically angry sends can affect even the healthiest partner in a negative way.

We cannot help but to want approval from those we love. When a romantic partner sends us disapproval in the form of anger over things we know we have not done wrong, the message we get is that in their eyes we are no good. Although consciously we may know we don’t deserve to be labeled as unworthy, because we love this person their message cannot help but hurt us.

The second technique you will be learning can be used whenever your partner directly devalues you. Direct devaluation consists of telling you outright that you are inadequate, worthless, or deficient.

You are going to be given a phrase that you will be using different versions of for disarming both indirect and direct devaluation. This sentence has been developed to sound very casual and not raise any red flags. However it has been constructed in a way that overcomes several obstacles to getting your romantic partner to question her justification that you are an unworthy partner.

The first obstacle that gets in the way of getting your partner to question her beliefs about you actually has to do with the vulnerability of any romantic partner being devalued. People who devalue are using a defense mechanism. Therefore in order to communicate with that person, you must come across as completely neutral, neither blaming nor defensive.

But being devalued by a romantic partner is very distressing and upsetting. To ask someone who has been wrongly accused to remain completely neutral when responding to a romantic partner is a very unhealthy request. Those people who make the choice for the sake of peace in the relationship to allow themselves to be unjustly accused pay a high psychological price over time.

When we refrain from defending ourselves against someone attacking us unjustly, even if we are doing it on purpose, we do damage to our sense of self-worth. Therefore unless we feel that we may be in danger, it is not a good idea to open ourselves to devaluation from a relationship partner.

And since it takes many repetitions in order to break a partner of the habit of devaluing you, whatever method you choose to disarm your partner must also serve to protect your self-esteem in the process. For this reason the techniques you learn will not demand that you modify or censor your feelings in response to your partner’s attacks.

Instead we will use a linguistic workaround in the form of a phrase constructed in a way that cannot be interpreted as either blaming or defensive no matter how upset the person saying it is. The first thing you will notice about this sentence is that although it will sound natural, it does have several awkward twists and turns.

The awkward twists and turns make the sentence sound wishy-washy so no matter how it is said it will not come across sounding defensive. Because it may be hard to imagine how its construction can change the emotional tonality of a sentence, let’s take a look at the phrase so you can examine for yourself its ability to come off sounding neutral no matter how it’s said.

Here is the sentence you are going to memorize and use in various forms to disarm your partner’s inner defense system:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

You will notice that the first part of this phrase winds around and is so wishy-washy that it doesn’t seem to be saying very much of anything. It is this awkward phrasing that will remove your partner’s awareness of any upset you may be carrying when you use it. To demonstrate how this works, let’s take a look at several other phrases that mean the same thing, but don’t have a conflict-lowering structure built into them:

“You think I did something wrong, don’t you?”
“Do you think I something wrong?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“You acted like I did something wrong.”

These phrases may come across neutrally if they are said without any emotion. But if you say them with an upset or angry tone, you will see that they come across as either defensive or aggressive. Because women on the spectrum of BPD often translate neutral tonality into tonality of anger or aggression, these phrases will never pass through her defenses.

Now you can try the same thing with the sentence that you will be using:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

You will find that even if you say it in a sarcastic or angry way, the wishy-washy nature of it doesn’t allow it to come off sounding defensive or blaming. We can make this even clearer with a sentence that is an extremely exaggerated version of the one you’ll be using.

“I could be wrong here, but when you said that in a way it sort of seemed like maybe you might have thought I did something wrong.”

You can easily see that this sentence couldn’t possibly be interpreted as blaming or attacking. This demonstration shows you that although there are many ways to phrase this sentence that will work to disarm your partner’s defenses, for simplicity’s sake, it will be probably be easiest to memorize the one you have been given. Here it is again so you can more clearly see its working components:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

(If you are translating this sentence into another language, because the word “wrong” has two meanings in English, translate this sentence instead: “When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something I shouldn’t have done.”)

But getting through your partner’s initial defenses by using a neutral approach is not our only obstacle. We also have to find a way to get your partner who is now angry at you to follow a suggestion that will make her question her justification to devalue you.

Because the last thing people who are angry want to do is take orders from those who have upset them, a direct order will never pass through a partner’s defense mechanism. Instead we will disguise the order in a casual observation that will only hint at the idea that she questions her feelings.

Then we will use another linguistic tool in the form of a psychological incentive to get your partner to want to do what you are indirectly suggesting. We will be incentivizing the end of the phrase with wording that will make following your suggestion hard to pass up.

The incentive we will put into this phrase is to indirectly suggest your partner tell you what you did wrong. Because your partner’s inner defense system will have convinced her that her feelings about you are accurate, she will think you are encouraging her to tell you even more about your unworthiness, which for an angry person is a very tempting incentive.

This setup is going to keep her from realizing until it is too late that you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s one thing to have it slowly dawn on you that you don’t have proof for something you would have sworn was true. When that happens most people can wiggle their way out of the situation and pretend it never happened.

But when you have already gotten up on your soapbox and are about to deliver a speech and you suddenly realize you have no evidence to back up what you are saying, there really is no way to exit gracefully. She will have to choice but to admit that you don’t deserve her anger.

By simply memorizing and then reciting this one sentence, you will be able to get past her defenses for long enough to entice your partner into questioning her belief that you are unworthy. Once she asks herself what you did wrong and comes up blank, she will find herself without an answer as to why you deserve it. Chances are her attention will now switch to finding a way to exit the conversation with her dignity intact.

You will not be getting an apology for accusing you falsely. Very few women on the spectrum of BPD can face the humiliation of admitting they are wrong. This phrase will only stop her from being able to devalue you in the moment. But if you use this phrase consistently when your partner gets angry at you, her inner defense system will soon give up using on this tactic altogether.

From your partner’s perspective, the only thing she will notice is that her chronic anger at you has left as mysteriously as it came on. She will probably never find out that you were the one that broke her of this habit.

Because this phrase is a tool, not a magic sentence, we are going to need to take it for a test run so you can see the kinds of responses you may expect in a real-life scenario and so you can get an idea of how to deal with them.

Using the Phrase In Real-Life Scenarios

Let’s say you’re parking your car at the grocery store. You pull into a space a little ways away from the store entrance to avoid dings from the more popular spots. Your partner angrily says, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you even know how to park a car? Can’t you do anything right?!”

Your response will be, “When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

Let’s put this scenario on pause for a moment so you can test the premise of this technique. Try to rack your brain for what could be wrong with parking a few spaces away from the front of the store. You will find that you can’t do it. There is nothing ethically or morally wrong with not parking right in front of the door.

No one is getting hurt by your action. No one is going to suffer unless your partner has a broken foot that she didn’t tell you about. You can rest assured that although your partner may be able to tell you what you did wrong, she will not be able to tell you why it’s wrong.

If you can get her to question why she is angry at you, her inability to come up with why what you did was wrong will deflate the devaluation bubble that her inner defense system artificially inflated. This will leave her without any emotional fuel to continue devaluing you.

The phrase might not work the first time you say it. When you start using this phrase your partner’s natural reaction might be to deflect anything you say without her actually listening to it. She might initially respond with something flippant like, “When are you not doing something wrong,” or “You’re always doing something wrong.”

But you can persevere by telling her now in your own words that it seems like she thinks that parking a few spaces away from the door is wrong, and you don’t want to do anything wrong, so you want to know why she feels it’s wrong. If she responds to this phrase with something like, “What’s wrong is you parked a million miles away from the store,” you can ask her why it was wrong.

Let’s look at the possible answers to that. Is she going to get blisters on her feet walking for 30 seconds? Is she happy to walk around a store but doesn’t feel she should have to walk when she’s not shopping? Might the wind mess up her hair? Admitting to the fact that she wants this kind of princess treatment will be embarrassing for her and chances are she won’t do it.

She will probably make a snide remark to save face and then drop the subject by saying something like, “Relax. I just said I didn’t like you parking so far away. You always make such a big deal of everything.”

This kind of response may not feel very satisfying. But you will have accomplished your goal. She will have recanted her accusation and will no longer be devaluing you. But if we take a closer look we will see that she has done something else. Although she disguised it as a rude comment, changing a blame statement about your driving ability into an “I” statement, as in, “I didn’t like what you did” may be her first foray into healthy couples communication.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you get the flu. You notice that your partner seems to be much angrier than usual. When she has to get your medicine she slams it down. And she’s been making angry complaints over the fact that you aren’t going to be available to do anything with her over the weekend. You can respond to her complaint by saying, “When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

Let’s stop and test the premise of the technique. If you to take the time to think about it, you will find yourself unable to come up with any reason why being sick is wrong. There is absolutely no way to justify being sick as a form of bad behavior.

Her answer to your suggestion that you tell her what you did wrong may be something like, “I know you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that I really wanted to go see the new movie.” It’s not an apology, but if you look carefully you will see that she took back her previous devaluing stance of blaming you and reframed her complaint using an “I feel” statement, which is an appropriate way to communicate with a partner. At this point you can drop the subject.

Here are a few more examples of what may happen when you use this technique.

Let’s say she angrily says, “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!”
“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“I’d say everything out of your mouth is wrong.”
“But what was wrong with what I just said a moment ago.”
“I don’t know. I just didn’t like it.”

This may not look like a take-back. But by making her face the fact that you did nothing wrong she will be forced to reframe her communication using words like, “I didn’t like it,” instead of inappropriate devaluing words that blame you in a derogatory way. You can now drop the subject.

Devaluing may happen by her talking to you in an angry voice even though the words themselves are not aggressive. But the key to getting a partner’s inner defense system to give up its devaluation campaign against you is to identify and disarm your partner every time, no matter how subtle her devaluation may be.

Maybe at the table she says, “Pass me the salt” in a rude or dismissive voice. You can say, “When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.” This calls her on her rudeness, and forces her to take back the devaluing nature of the comment.

To cover up for being called on her rude behavior she may answer with, “You’re so touchy. Stop making a big deal out of things.” To save face she is pretending she hadn’t been devaluing you. This might not be the answer you want to hear, but if you look closely you will see that in an indirect way she has recanted her accusation and you can now drop the subject.

You can also use this phrase when your partner does something that comes across as devaluing as opposed to saying something devaluing. Here is a slight modification of this sentence referring to an action or body language that expresses devaluation through anger:

“When you slammed the door earlier it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“When you rolled your eyes it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“When you left in the middle of our conversation it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“When you looked at me like that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”

Let’s create a real-life scenario out of each of these phrases so you can get a better feel for what your partner’s reaction might be when you use this technique:

“When you slammed the door earlier it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“That’s for sure.”
“I don’t like doing things wrong. What did I do?”
“Why did you have to do something? If I want to be mad I’m going to be mad. Not everything has to do with you.”

This may look like further blaming, but when you examine her words closely you will see that the message is that you didn’t do anything wrong, that she reacted from her bad mood. Again, she was forced to reframe a blame statement to more appropriate “I feel” statement. Once she retracts she can’t continue devaluing so you can drop the subject.

Every time you force her into questioning her justification and she comes up empty-handed the bubble of devaluation that her inner defense system artificially inflated will deflate and she will lack the emotional fuel to devalue.

“When you rolled your eyes it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“No, I said that when you did that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong, not you.”
“Oh. Well, you did do something wrong.”
“What did I do wrong?”
“I guess you irritated me. I don’t know. Why can’t you understand that I’m just having a bad day?”

This may appear to be further blame, but it’s actually a poorly-disguised admitting of the fact that you didn’t do anything wrong. The blame statement has been reframed as a more appropriate “I feel” statement.

“When you left in the middle of our conversation it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“You just really made me mad.”
“I definitely don’t want to be making you mad. What did I do wrong there?”
“I guess I’m still mad at you for the other day.”

Many times the excuse a devaluing partner uses to devalue you today will be something you did that displeased her from another day. If this comes up, simply use your sentence to take away her ability to devalue you over the past situation. Let’s pick up this scenario from where we left off:

“I guess I’m still mad at you for the other day.”
“What did I do wrong the other day?”
“You think I didn’t see that text you sent to your secretary?”
“It sounds like you think it was wrong of me to text my secretary.”
“Okay. Maybe it wasn’t wrong, but that still doesn’t make it okay with me.”

Although it may be tempting to challenge her further on this subject, as soon as she admits that you weren’t wrong, you can drop the subject. If you look closely at her answer she has appropriately re-framed her communication from acting like you were a bad person to communicating her emotions as the real problem.

“When you looked at me like that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“I can look at you any way I want!”
“I know, but when you did it it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“You did. You didn’t pick up the dry cleaning on the way home.”
“Oh, you’re right. I completely forgot. Sorry about that. I’ll get it today.”

Because this sentence is completely non-confrontational, on those occasions where you may have actually done something wrong that you aren’t aware of, it forces her to tell you what you did wrong in appropriate words instead of spending the day devaluing you over it. Finding out what you did wrong allows you to immediately apologize or fix the situation.

Although in the beginning it may take a few tries before your partner will question what you did wrong, you will find that after a while she will welcome the sentence as a way for her to figure out her feelings. And she will begin to associate it with relief. Paradoxically, even though in a high-emotion state people always want others to inflate their emotion bubble further, once the bubble deflates they do experience relief.

Here is what you can expect from your partner after you have consistently been using this phrase to disarm chronic anger:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“I guess I’m just in a bad mood because the party didn’t turn out like I planned.”

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“I think I’m just really mad at you for not paying attention to me when I really needed you last night.”

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“It’s not that you did something wrong, it just really hurt my feelings.”

“When you said that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.”
“Well what do expect from me? I’m not exactly having a good day.”

Chances are you will never get an apology for attempts at devaluation or for past false accusations. Unfortunately women on the spectrum of BPD are rarely able to face up to the pain they cause others. But the time between devaluing episodes will begin to decrease and with consistent use the devaluation will stop with only occasional relapses.

Before we leave our first technique, here is a reference list of some of the different kinds of behaviors that can be disarmed by use of our first technique. Any time you experience one of these behaviors, simply recite the phrase, “When you said (or did) that it seemed like you thought I did something wrong.” Then try to get her to tell you why it was wrong.

Contempt in the voice.
Anger in the voice.
Angry choice of words.
Contemptuous choice of words.
Head shakes.
Pointing fingers.
Mimicking or mocking tone of voice.
Sarcastic tone of voice.
Slamming of objects on surfaces.
Clenched fists.
Walking out on you.
Slamming a door.
Cold staring.
Giving you a cold shoulder.
Ridiculing tone of voice.
Ridiculing gestures.
Ridiculing choice of words.
Speaking with clenched teeth.
Speaking with hands on hips.
Foot stomping.

spectrum of BPD

Technique No. 2: Direct Verbal Devaluation

Let’s now move on to our second technique. The second level of devaluation is a little more extreme than the expression of anger which only suggests you are an unworthy partner. Direct verbal devaluation tells you in no uncertain words that you are a loser, a bum, an idiot, or worse.

But before we move on to the technique you will use to disarm direct verbal devaluation we are going to take some time to learn about a few concepts that can be very useful to know about when disarming this behavior pattern. One of the most important understandings that applies to both those who bully and those who devalue is the fact that nothing a bully tells their victim they deserve to be punished for could ever be considered a punishable offense.

The tactic that all bullies use on their victims is to pretend the victim is a morally bad person that everyone should punish because they are not competent at something. In reality, competence never has anything to do with morality or ethics. We have no laws that allow people to be punished for not being good at something. We don’t even have social rules that allow people to be punished for not being good at something.

The reason that we punish people is when they do things that put other people’s welfare at risk, when they harm someone through their behavior. Being bad at something is never in itself a moral or ethical slip. There is absolutely no connection at all between being a bad person and our levels of competency.

A bully is a contradiction in action. While they are trying to convince their victims that their deficiencies make them immoral people that should be punished, it is actually they themselves that are behaving in an immoral and punishable way by trying to hurt an innocent person.

Trying to hurt innocent people is considered immoral and unethical in almost all cultures and thereby very punishable. It is really the bully who is behaving in a punishable way. But amazingly enough, bullies somehow manage to convince their victims and often those people around them that not being good at something is a punishable offense.

You are now going to learn how to use your awareness of this flaw of the tactic used by every bully or person who devalues to disarm direct verbal devaluation.

Let’s say your partner accuses you of being incompetent in some area. Maybe she tells you that you added some numbers wrong when working on the family budget which clearly proves that you are a failure at finances. The technique you will be using to disarm her is very simple. To do it we are going to use a version of the sentence you used to disarm the first level of devaluation.

Regardless of whether she is telling the truth about your deficiency or if she is completely fabricating her story, you can simply use this phrase:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at ______________ makes me a bad person.”

You will be filling in the blank with whatever she is accusing you of not being good at like this:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at finances makes me a bad person.”

Using your knowledge of bullying you will be aware that she is trying to make you feel like a bad person for not being good at something. Try as she might she will not be able to tell you why not being good at something makes you a bad person. She will find herself at a loss for words and will have to back out of the situation. She may say something like, “Maybe you’re not a bad person, but you really should try to get better!”

Although this may look like another slight, it is actually an appropriate reframing of what she said earlier. She should not devalue over making a mistake. But she is well within her rights to tell you that you should try to get better. Both of these techniques force the person devaluing to rephrase their concern in the way that they should have in the first place. For this reason as soon as she reframes her original complaint your goal will have been accomplished and you can drop the subject.

Let’s say your partner calls you a loser because you won’t ask your boss for a raise. Regardless of whether her claims are fabrications your sentence would be, “When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at confrontation makes me a bad person.” Many people associate having fear with being a bad person. But in reality, being afraid has absolutely nothing to do with morals or ethics. There is no possible way your partner will be able to tell you what was bad about your behavior.

Let’s say your partner calls you a slob and says she’s embarrassed to be out in public with you. Whether or not her observation is accurate or a figment of her imagination, you can respond to her like this:

“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at choosing clothes makes me a bad person.” Once again, all you need to do is get her to face the flaw in her thinking. Not being a good dresser cannot make one a bad person no matter how you stretch the facts.

She will ending up having to rephrase her concern in a more appropriate way which might be, “Well, you may not be bad, but you make me feel bad by not caring about how you look.” This is the appropriate way to express a complaint to a partner. Because she is no longer devaluing you, you can drop the subject.

Although you may never get an apology for her immoral and unethical attempts to make you feel like a bad person, if you consistently and in a non-confrontational way point her to this flaw, her inner protection system will give up on trying to influence her to devalue you.

Although the sentence for the first level of devaluation can simply be memorized and recited word for word, the second phase is more complex and you will need some time to think about how you want to word it. Luckily, because partners who devalue bring your attention to the same deficiencies over and over again, you will be able to make up your sentences in advance based on what your partner has devalued you about in the past.

For your reference here is a list of common deficiencies that women with traits of BPD often use to try to devalue their romantic partners along with the phrase that will disarm the devaluation. You will see that in some cases we will be using minor variations of the phrase to make the sentence sound more natural. Remember, you won’t be arguing about whether what she says about you is true. You will only be pointing out the flaw in her reasoning.

When she says you are intellectually deficient:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought that not being intelligent makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are emotionally deficient:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought that not being in touch with my emotions makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are a deficient father/brother/son:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being skilled at parenting makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient as a worker:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at a job makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient with money:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought being bad with money makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient as a spouse:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at understanding your needs makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are socially deficient:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at socializing makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient at domestic duties:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at housework makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient as a leader:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at leading others makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient in bed:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at pleasing you in bed makes me a bad person.”

When she says you are deficient as a man:
“When you said that it seemed like you thought not being good at showing my masculine side makes me a bad person.”

Having these phrases at your disposal the next time your partner brings up one of these deficiencies allows you to foil her inner defense system’s attempts to devalue you. All you need to do to put this technique in place is to think back to what area above your partner most commonly devalues you about and learn the sentence. Then you can simply recite it when she devalues you about that issue. You may have to learn two or three of these phrases depending on what areas your partner likes to make you feel worthless about.

If you choose to make up your own phases instead of choosing the ones above, be sure to not use derogatory words which she then can use against you. Use a more formal word. Substitute “intelligent” for “stupid.” Use “masculine enough” instead of “a real man.” Use “not good at confronting” instead of “coward.” Use “unskilled at” instead of “bad at.”

Both of the techniques you have learned when used consistently will break your partner of her devaluation habit without the need for confrontation of any kind.

Related Posts:

Women on the Spectrum of BPD: Did She Really Love Me?

Defense Mechanisms: When We Hurt Those We Care About

How To Stop Defensive Behaviors

Disarming Defense Mechanisms Triggered By Shame

Defense Mechanisms Triggered By Humiliation

Romantic Idealization And Devaluation In Women With Traits of BPD

Marriage Entitlement: When Your Love Is Not Enough

Note To Readers: I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have taken the time to post in my comments section. Your questions, opinions and personal stories form an invaluable contribution to this important discussion.

If you would like to learn the Nicola Method so you can put an end to the high conflict situations you may be experiencing, click on this link to the welcome page of this website where you will find the resources you need.

If you want to try out some of the basic techniques of this method for free to see if this method is right for your situation, you can learn them from an intro guide flip-book here or a PDF version of the intro guide here.

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