How Can I Get Away From a Cluster B Personality Disorder at Work?

Reader’s Question

The more I read about cluster “B” personality disorders, the more I realize I dated a cluster “B” personality disorder. She is in total denial and will try to justify and/or completely reason out the why of what act or lie she did or said with more lies, distortions and/or excuses. For me, far too much crap and turmoil has happened to put into words here.

The relationship I had with my cluster “B” lasted 2 1/2 years and ended in June 2007 (or did it?), but still to this day I can’t get rid of her. The worst of it is that we work in the same building. Sometimes (seldom), we hang out after work, as I am afraid I might anger her if I don’t, and she acts as if we never broke up. But then it stops, probably because I once again unknowingly angered her, or she found someone better to play with. This kind of behavior was as common when we were together as it is now. I might call her on the phone in relation to some plans we had or have but don’t call her just to say hi or see how she is doing — and that angers her, too.

Sex with her is a thing of the past except for once when we both got very drunk. I stay sober around her now, as the sex was a huge mistake. In confidence (yeah right, I forgot what I was dealing with), I have told her some things and my personal opinions of some of the happenings at our workplace — one of which involves our boss (female) sharing a ride with one of our male co-workers who drives her car and borrows her car at work. I said that it looks bad and is just wrong in every respect for a female (or any) supervisor to ride to work with one of the male workers she supervises. I also said that I can understand why some of the other employees have also made comments and aren’t too happy with this and that someone may see it as a possible affair. Well, my ex-girlfriend told our boss that I said my boss and her male co-worker were having an affair. My boss questioned me on this. I said nothing, as that wasn’t what I said in the first place. Character assassination is not unusual for my ex.

My ultimate question is how does a person wean or get their way out and away from someone who is believed to be cluster “B” when there is no choice but to have to work with them? Thanks in advance for your time.

Psychologist’s Reply

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Cluster “B” Personality Disorders (PD) are the topic of my Introduction to Personality Disorders article on this website. The Cluster “B” PDs create the most damage in relationships, romance, marriage and families. As you discovered, even a marginal relationship with a Cluster B individual can produce weekly drama, trauma, turmoil, and distress. How do we manage even a co-worker relationship with a Cluster B Personality Disorder? Some suggestions:

  • Recognize that a “normal” relationship is impossible…even what might be considered a normal co-worker relationship. Due to their behavior and high risk for drama and creating turmoil, even a routine co-worker relationship must be adjusted.
  • Begin by reducing information provided to the Cluster B. Reduce their informational level to that of meeting a neighbor at the grocery store — the hi, the weather is getting worse, hope you have a good new year type of interaction. Provide no personal information, no opinion about anything, no comments about anyone in the environment, and keep all discussions short. Every piece of personal information you provide to a Cluster B individual is a bullet for their Drama Gun.
  • Reduce social contacts, but remain polite. Gradually detach from lunch, coffee breaks, etc. Each social contact is an opportunity for them, as you describe.
  • Remember that, like being arrested, anything you say can and will be used against you. Cluster B individuals typically “set up” those around them. They start by asking your opinion about a person or a situation, often adding a negative opinion of their own. The target feels obligated to add some kind of opinion which is then retold, with dramatic/theatrical emphasis, to the subject of the discussion. Using this technique, Cluster B individuals typically have everyone in an office hating each other within six months of their arrival.
  • Cluster B individuals tend to keep all exes on Back Burner. They don’t completely end relationships, as they still may need to use, abuse, or manipulate their ex. She is keeping you on back burner, which is a bad spot for you. To maintain you on back burner, they offer informal “dates”, sex, share personal information, or involve you in their latest crisis. To keep off the back burner, I’d use my techniques I’ve listed in my Identifying Losers in Relationships article on this website. While “no contact” is best, if that’s impossible then keeping them at a safe emotional and social distance is necessary.
  • Recognize that a Cluster B Personality Disorder isn’t interested in your emotional side of the relationship. It doesn’t bother them that they are tormenting, manipulating, or upsetting you. Also recognize that they use being offended, upset with you, etc. as a manipulation. When they are upset with you, allow them to be upset. If you try to fix it, they’ll drag you into another two-week drama.
  • Read replies to similar questions by selecting the Personality Disorders topic from the list of tags in the sidebar. You might also read my article on Love and Stockholm Syndrome, as it provides information on the victim’s perception of the relationship.

You basically must transition from being ex-boyfriend to dull and uninformative co-worker. As Cluster B individuals are excitement and drama oriented, if you can’t be used, abused or manipulated they will move on. You’ll still get to hear about their adventures during coffee breaks, typically from their next victims.

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