Reader Question Regarding Manipulative 13-Year-Old Step-Daughter

My step-daughter (13) is the second youngest of a blended family of eight. She lacks empathy and has high anxiety. She lies, manipulates, distracts to get what she wants and avoids any real responsibility. How does a step-parent navigate this situation?

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I am not a licensed mental health professional; therefore, I do not feel comfortable giving personalized advice. However, I will share a few thoughts I had upon reading this question. First, have you expressed your concerns regarding your step-daughter to your spouse? If your answer is no, why not? If you feel that your spouse will refuse to hear you out, or will listen to you but then invalidate your concerns, there are larger issues to deal with, and I would urge you to explore why you don’t feel comfortable raising this issue with him/her.

If you answered yes to the question above, does your spouse acknowledge that your step-daughter’s negative traits A. exist and B. are problematic? If you said no to either one, you’ve got your work cut out for you. In that case, my suggestion is to seek individual counseling for advice regarding how to cope with your situation and how to help the other children involved.

However, a yes response to both A. and B. is encouraging. Your step-daughter may benefit from individual and family counseling sessions. At such a young age, it’s possible her behavior is a coping mechanism, and a licensed psychologist can help make that determination as well as help her work through it and implement some positive behavioral modifications. Family sessions are useful for showing your support and everyone can learn healthy ways to respond to her attitude without reinforcing it.

Of course, if it turns out your step-daughter’s behavioral issues are more serious, it’s imperative to introduce a qualified therapist who can develop a treatment plan and realistic goals for the child. It’s possible she may also need medication to help reduce her anxiety. Something else to consider – is the other parent involved, and will s/he agree to therapy? You may need to go to family court.

Your original question may seem relatively simple and straight-forward, but even a mental health counselor wouldn’t be able to answer it without knowing more about the child, her history, and family dynamics. Before figuring out how to navigate, you’ll need to determine whether or not you and your spouse are on the same page regarding your step-daughter. Her manipulative behavior affects the entire family, and it needs to be addressed.

Living with Toxic Relatives

Anyone who’s come out of a long-term toxic relationship knows that a manipulative, vindictive ex can all but ruin your life. They’ll at least do their best to try. My husband’s abuser managed to sabotage his career, basically setting him back to square one. She did this even though taking away his means to support himself also meant taking away his means to pay child support to her. An emotionally healthy woman with a handful of kids will look for a job to help support herself and her children. An unbalanced wreck in the same situation will spend all of her time plotting and scheming until she succeeds in cutting off the only source of income she does have.

To me, this is one of the most baffling aspects of psychopaths and the personality disordered. When they perceive that someone has wronged them, they will go out of their way to harm that person, even when it is inevitable that they themselves will be negatively affected by the outcome. I truly believe that many of them do have the foresight to understand that they will suffer consequences for their own actions, but they go ahead and implement whatever malicious plot they’ve devised, because they so badly want to cause someone else’s suffering.

My husband was in the military, and we were living all the way across the country from ex-BPD when she strategically tried to destroy his life. (In hindsight, the distance was the biggest blessing). We packed up and temporarily moved in with one of his relatives who lives in between our home state and the one we had just moved from. My hubby had a job prospect in the area; it didn’t pan out, we wound up staying with the relative and her family longer than we had planned, and she turned out to be highly manipulative which made an already stressful situation almost unbearable.

My husband eventually landed the job that he would have for the next several years, and we got our own place. He was quickly promoted to a management position, and eventually I was hired on with the company too. The owners turned out to be the most heinous, emotionally manipulative, abusive people either of us has ever worked for, and maybe I’ll get into that some other time. Eventually, this company wanted him to move back to our home state, and they promised him a promotion. He never got it, the work became intermittent, and we wound up staying with his parents for much longer than expected.

The idea was to move in with them for several months while my husband set up his surgery (to correct an injury and improve mobility), recover from the surgery, and give us time to search for a rental property. However, The Universe rarely takes our plans into account, and things got crazy almost as soon as we arrived back home.

Which brings me to the reason I started writing this post. I recently wrote a flash fiction piece that was inspired by our stay with the in-laws, and I figured why not supplement it with a blog post summarizing what really happened. I’ve started reading back through my journal entries and will post soon.

Getting Back Into Blogging

When I first created this blog, I intended to chronologically recount my story of abuse. There are a few reasons the blog has remained stagnant for so long. One, my brain works in a more random way, not so much chronological. At this point, I’m thinking of writing a book (or two or three), that way I can keep adding events to the correct chapters as I remember them.

Two, and this is more of an excuse than anything else, is life happened. I got busy with work and other things. Because I already felt overwhelmed at trying to recount my tale, it was easy to use “I’m just too busy” as an excuse to avoid writing about what I’d been through.

Three, and probably most importantly, is that I realized shortly after I created my blog that my significant other (now my husband) had been through the same thing I had but to a far worse degree. At the time, he was still in touch with his abuser who was actively trying to destroy his life. This was causing all kinds of problems, and it was what I really wanted to document because it caused me so much more pain than actually living with a psychopath ever did.

Getting back to feeling overwhelmed, my situation was confusing, I didn’t have the terminology to adequately express everything that was happening, and trying to figure out what exactly was going on was exhausting. Eventually, my husband and I figured everything (mostly) out, but it was still difficult to comprehend. I feel even more compelled to try to get this out, if for no other reason than there doesn’t seem to be much information out there on how to cope with this type of situation, and how to help a loved one who is dealing with CPTSD and dissociation while they are actively being abused. It was a frustrating, frightening experience, and I can’t be the only person to have gone through this with someone dear, not knowing how to help. In fact, some of my reactions probably made it worse.

My goal is to write a book in two parts (possibly three). The first book will relay the story of the part of my life I lived with my narcissistic abuser; the second book will recount the journey my husband and I have taken through the aftermath of abuse. A possible third book would be my husband’s life with his borderline personality disordered abuser, but that’s completely up to him. I know a good deal of that story, but it’s his to tell.

In the meantime, where am I going with the blog? Unfortunately, my husband and I have both lived with, and worked with, some extremely volatile and manipulative people, even after we thought we’d be free of those types for good. Writing about these experiences seems like an easier jumping off point while I’m working on my first book.

5 Signs You Might Be Dating a Personality Disordered Individual

You’ve recently started dating someone new, and you’re caught up in the excitement of getting to know each other. But something’s not quite right. You can’t quite pinpoint what it is, you just know you feel a little smothered by this new person in your life, or perhaps they seem too good to be true. The following are five behavior traits to watch out for in the early stages (4 months or less) of a relationship. If you notice one or more of these, you may be dating a highly manipulative person, such as a psychopath or personality disordered individual (most commonly borderlines or narcissists). And, if your new lover displays all of these behaviors, especially after only a couple of dates, RUN!

  1. Self-Victimization – Nothing is ever the disordered individual’s fault, at least not as far as they are concerned. They’ve likely had a string of bad relationships, and it’s always their ex’s fault. When held accountable for their lies, emotional manipulations, and other abuse, they turn it around and play the victim. They accuse the person confronting them of being abusive, often while displaying the exact offenses they are accusing you of. For example, they will make overt threats and then tell you that you are threatening them.
  2. Lacks a Sense of Identity  – They may have a handful of likes and interests that remain the same through every friendship and romance. They’ve chosen these favorite movies, hobbies, songs, etc. to define their character and project it to those they interact with. For instance, a favorite book makes them seem more intellectual or a certain hobby makes them appear to be more talented. (Frequently, they only dabble in these things, and they can talk about them on a superficial level at best). However, if you notice that they seem to be into everything you are interested in and agree with every opinion you have, that’s a red flag. The personality disordered adapt their preferences, opinions, and beliefs based on who they are trying to impress at any given moment.
  3. Pushing for a Commitment – In reading stories from people who’ve gotten trapped in abusive relationships with these creatures, time and time again these phrases keep coming up, “whirlwind romance”, “we were married six months after we met”, “she moved in with me three months after our first date”, etc. That’s not healthy. Relationships develop naturally over a period of time; you cannot know someone for who they truly are after only a few days or weeks. It takes time to establish emotional intimacy, and it benefits you to find out whether or not a potential partner is someone you think you will still enjoy spending time with after the initial thrill has worn off.
  4. Clinging – They will try to take up every spare minute of your free time, and when that’s not possible, they will call, text, and message you to the point where you wonder how they could possibly be getting anything else done. They want to know what you are doing and who you are with at all times, and this doesn’t stop once the relationship is fully established. That’s because they very likely have a strong fear of abandonment, but even the ones who don’t will want to isolate you and control you. In the beginning of a relationship, they do this to keep you immersed in them; they don’t want you to be able to come up for air and have a chance to be introspective and realize that you’d be happier without them hounding you all the time.
  5. Insecurity/Jealousy – If you are spending time with anyone else but them, they perceive it as a stab in the back. Why would you want to spend time with anyone else, when they are so superior and wonderful? They also don’t want anyone pointing out their abhorrent behaviors, offering emotional support to you, or possibly suggesting that maybe your relationship is unhealthy. Worse, many of them are so delusional, they can’t handle it when they see you talking to someone who is attractive – a server, ticket attendant, valet, it doesn’t matter – and they will accuse you of flirting every time you interact with another man or woman in a perfunctory manner. You’ll probably find that they are even jealous of you. Your achievements and talents don’t support their delusion that they are better than you (and everyone else); they are incapable of feeling genuine happiness at your accomplishments. (The more pathological they are, the more likely they are to fake it though, at least in the very beginning).

If something feels off about the person you are dating, don’t ignore your instincts; take time to explore why your hackles are up and if there is any merit to it. The sooner you remove yourself from a potentially abusive situation, the easier it will be. Don’t wait until you share a lease or mortgage, furniture, bank accounts, or kids.

5 Reasons Narcissists Use Sex

Smoke and Mirrors

It’s quite common for men and women who’ve been romantically involved with narcissists, psychopaths, and other personality disordered individuals to recall the sex as being phenomenal or even the best they’ve ever had. Once that’s set in your mind, it can be difficult to heal from the emotional abuse inflicted by these incessant manipulators. Worse, if you miss going to bed with your ex, you’ll be especially vulnerable to any potential Hoover attempts from him or her. You also run the risk of ruining future relationships with healthy, sane partners if you compare all future partners to your malicious ex-narcissist.

Often, once a narcissist is sure that you are fully invested in them and the relationship, sexual intercourse tapers off. In some cases, they even take it off the table completely. They will use sex as a tool to obtain something from you, to get you to do something they want. Prior to giving it up, they will usually act as if being intimate with you is a chore. The mask has slipped, and you’ve glimpsed the darkness it hides. The kind, adoring, wonderful, too-good-to-be-true persona you fell for was never real, and neither was the sexual creature you thought them to be. To the disordered, sex is transactional in nature. The enthusiastic, acrobatic, anything-goes romps were as much a tool to get you hooked and reel you in as their loving words and adulation were.

What Does Sex Mean to a Manipulator?

1. Control

It makes them feel powerful to have control over you. They manipulate your emotions, making you believe that they love and adore you. In reality, they are incapable of such human emotions. They mirror you in so many ways, creating the illusion that you have the same hobbies, taste in music and films, political views, etc., and sex is no different. They adeptly pick up on what makes you feel good, and they capitalize on that to spellbind you. You feel like you’re with the perfect partner, but you are merely there for their amusement.
They sometimes withhold sex intentionally, as a punishment, maybe simultaneously giving you the silent treatment, until you can’t stand it anymore and apologize for whatever they’ve accused you of, give in to a demand they’ve made, or whatever the case may be. Manipulating your emotions makes them feel powerful, and it’s a turn-on for them. However, it’s not always capitulation they’re trying to elicit from you; sometimes they’ll intentionally make you angry because pushing your buttons also makes them feel like they have control over you.

2. Material Gain

Generally, we think of female personality disorders playing this card, but disordered men do it too. Maybe they’re seeking out a place to stay, food, money, a car to drive, or something else that you are able to provide them with, so they flirt and stroke your ego, and the next thing you know they are sharing your bed. Then they start in with the down-on-my-luck story, and you, of course, want to help, so you move them into your apartment, cook for them, loan them your car, or whatever else it is they seem to be in need of. Those generous souls who consider themselves “rescuers” are especially susceptible to this particular manipulation tactic.

3. Relief from Boredom

Narcissists and psychopaths easily become bored. They like to play with people the way children play with dolls or action figures. They’ll most likely butter you up first (see #1, above), especially if you’re in the beginning (idealization) stage of the relationship.

Relieving boredom may include sexual intercourse itself; maybe they were feeling the urge, and you just happened to be around. Afterward, you’ll either be cruelly discarded or used to meet other needs. In addition to becoming bored on a regular basis, the personality disordered have trouble regulating their emotions and frequently behave impulsively, lash out, or self-medicate, in order to suppress their discomfort; sex can serve as a distraction from feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, or general emotional upset.

4. Narcissistic Supply

If they are doting on you and flattering you to no end, you can bet you’re giving it right back to them. They need to feel special; they want you to put them on a pedestal. In the beginning of the relationship, you do this without even thinking about it, and later on you are hyper-vigilant to their moods and know exactly what they want to hear you say.

They are typically promiscuous in nature, and have many sexual partners; having many suitors makes them feel wanted. It makes them feel special. They also quickly become disenchanted with a victim and move on to a new target for fresh supply. So, if you were having intense, frequent romps with your narc in the beginning, but things rapidly cooled off, this may be what happened.

Social status also motivates certain types of narcissists. Maybe you’re someone who happens to be incredibly physically attractive, extremely wealthy, or hold a position of power at your place of employment. Or any combination thereof. You are a conquest. They want to be seen with you. They want to exploit you. To do so, they craftily elicit an emotional attachment from you in order to keep you under their thumb.

5. Triangulation

It’s quite common for narcissists and other personality disordered individuals to use one mate to make another target jealous. As stated above, having many partners to choose from also makes them feel that they are in high demand. To paint this vision for others, they will shamelessly flirt, sometimes dangling the promise of sex as a lure, in order to keep many admiring would-be suitors interested; this makes the narc appear to be ultra desirable to whoever he or she is targeting.

Don’t Get Caught in the Trap

The intensity of sexual interludes with psychopaths is often mistaken for intimacy. Don’t get confused by whatever emotional connections you are feeling during these capers, the narcopath is incapable of having the same feelings for you. Love, deep connection with another human being, a sense of caring for someone else; they can only fake these emotions. They can make you feel like you are the center of their universe, but the other shoe will eventually drop. You can have better relations with a genuinely loving partner; you can develop an emotional connection with a non-disordered person that will only enhance your love-making. But first, you have to get out of the abusive relationship and begin the healing process.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and personalized advice from a licensed therapist.

 

All Predators Operate in the Same Manner

I was reading an article about sex trafficking, and I couldn’t help noticing how the abusers got into the victim’s head in Brianna’s story.

Psychopaths, sociopaths, predators, whatever you want to call them, they all follow basic patterns for victimizing others. It starts by asking seemingly innocuous, friendly questions. What they are really doing is gleaning personal information from you with the intent of using it against you later. In Brianna’s case, the predator used personal knowledge of her likes and dislikes so that he could cast a younger predator in the role of her Prince Charming. The one portraying her “dream guy”, then made her feel special and forged a superficial bond with her, thus making it easier to manipulate her into doing what he wanted.

It’s important to notice these patterns, because anyone is a potential victim for a sociopath. If you have something they want – sex, money, power, access to information, anything really – they will try to charm you into giving it to them. And it’s not only naive teenagers who are fooled by these toxic manipulators. Even seasoned mental health professionals have been known to fall for the lies of psychopaths.

People should be aware that not all inquisitive strangers are simply friendly and curious. Some of them are predators, and the questions they ask are to help them assess how potentially useful you could be to them, how gullible you are, how compliant you will be and, ultimately, how to get into your head. There’s no need to be suspicious of everyone you meet, but, if you are an especially open, talkative person, it’s prudent to guard the personal details of your life a little more closely. In other words, make strangers gradually earn your trust as you get to know them, as opposed to just giving it to them freely and without question.

Educate yourselves about psychopaths and other abusive personalities, so that you’ll know what red flags to watch for. Make sure your teenagers are aware that such malicious characters exist. There’s no reason to teach them to distrust others, but rather how to protect themselves and their peers from predators.