Boundaries Blog — Boundaries Q&A

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. Townsend: 4 Tips for Dealing with a Narcissist

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. Townsend: 4 Tips for Dealing with a Narcissist

Question: Dr. Townsend, can you give advice for someone who thinks they are married to a narcissist? Everything seems to revolve around my spouse's wishes and demands.

Dr. Townsend: I'm sorry to hear about your situation. First off, the label of "narcissism" is not very helpful unless you are talking with a licensed therapist who has actually done an interview and diagnosed the person. People throw around the term, "narcissism," a lot and it gets confusing. It's much more helpful to talk about specific attitudes and behaviors that are problematic. For example, your second sentence, about everything seeming to revolve around your spouse's wishes and demands, is clear and specific. So let's deal with that aspect and get you some relief. Here are four tips ...

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Boundaries Q&A with Dr. Townsend: How to Love Without Enabling an Adult Child

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. Townsend: How to Love Without Enabling an Adult Child

Question: Dr. Townsend, I have a 35-year-old son in jail for possession of a controlled substance and thievery. How do I love him without enabling him, yet letting him know that I care?

First, let me say that I am sorry for you and your son's situation. I'm also very glad you want to help him. Jail is a lonely and difficult place to be, even if the individual has committed acts that justify him being there.

To answer to your question, in a way, you really don't have to worry a great deal about enabling him. To "enable" is to remove someone from the consequences of his behavior ...

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Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Handling Guilt Comments from a Parent

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Handling Guilt Comments from a Parent

Question: Dr. Townsend, my mother makes snide comments that she will threaten to harm herself if I don't come home for every major holiday and her birthday throughout the year. How am I supposed to respond to her comments?

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It's not funny, and is actually troubling, for a mom to make these sort of comments, even if she says she is joking. A part of us will always wonder how serious this is. The great majority of the time, these "guiltifying" statements are actually indirect expressions of disappointment, sadness or frustration that the person does not feel safe admitting....

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Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Setting Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Setting Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Question: Dr. Townsend: I am divorced and having difficulty setting boundaries with my ex-husband. Our conversations are awkward around our children. He lavishes them with toys while I feel like the disciplinarian. What do good boundaries look like in this situation?

First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I'm sure it can feel uncomfortable to be at odds with your ex-spouse in front of your children. This issue is always a tough one.

First, appeal to your ex-spouse about the need for your kids to have an integrated set of parents, even though you aren't married to each other. Tell him ...

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Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Question: Dr. Townsend: What kinds of consequences are appropriate for a 39-year-old daughter who refuses to take responsibility for paying a college loan that her father and I co-signed in good faith?

First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I know that it can feel uncomfortable to be at odds with your adult child.

In this situation, your first decision is to approach your daughter in a vulnerable way and describe how her behavior is impacting you. You could say something like ...

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