Those Challenging Relationships

by Lance Ekum on · 27 comments

Today it is an honor to have Betsy Wuebker, from Passing Thru, here to touch upon some of the challenging relationships we might have had (or currently are having) in our lives. 

I've known Betsy for quite some time.  Being she's a neighbor to the west of me (she claims Minnesota as her home) – our conversations tend to be around Wisconsin life, Minnesota life, and football rivalries!  And during this time, I've also come to really appreciate her sense of adventure for life, and the wonderful way she weaves that, through photos and words, into special memories on her site.

Betsy has recently worked together with Lori Hoeck, from Think Like a Black Belt, to release a free e-book on narcissism.  Today, she is here introducing this, and discussing what that can mean in the relationships we are in.

Dusk in the jungle
Creative Commons License photo credit: nathansnider

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~ Annie Dillard

Thank you, Lance.  It’s an honor and a pleasure to be posting on The Jungle of Life today.  The post I enjoyed the most recently was the lovely anniversary tribute to your bride of sixteen years.  The photo of younger Lora and Lance, looking directly into their future, and your walk down memory lane was so very lovely.  Thank you for sharing with all of us!

When we are asked about what comprises a meaningful life, we’re likely to respond along similar lines of “loving commitments and positive relationships.”  Yet, at one point or another, most of us find ourselves in situations that are decidedly less than positive.  Whether they occur at work, school, church, or within the circle of family or friendship, the effects of dealing with difficult, overpowering people can be emotionally devastating.  When we find ourselves involved with especially toxic people and situations, escaping so that we can replace love and joy in our lives can quickly seem difficult and even impossible.

Lori Hoeck of Think Like a Black Belt and I found that we had remarkably similar experiences with toxic relationships in our individual pasts.  We were amazed that we had responded to these influences in much the same way.  We had observed, examined and analyzed in an effort to find out what was “wrong,” looking for answers within ourselves.  We had been attacked, wounded, and in emotional survival mode, dealing with a wickedly charismatic individual who consistently reminded us of just how unworthy we were.  We came to realize is that there is a predator out there.  It’s the narcissist.

Not all denizens in The Jungle of Life are nice.  Some are downright dangerous.  In The Narcissist: A User’s Guide, our new e-book, Lori and I have written a handbook that will help you tune your senses.  This guide may assist you in making sense of a bewildering, painful relationship you’ve had in the past, or even one that you’re currently dealing with.
The Guide provides an organized way of sizing up a situation.  In the section on identifying a narcissist, we’ve outlined tell-tale characteristics and behaviors so that you will come to know common indicators.  Then, rather than stop right there and abruptly abandon you to your own devices like so many self-help references do, we give you the tools to assert your rights, and begin anew on your own terms.

In the Guide, we tell you, “An accomplished narcissist isn’t just a control freak or an egomaniac.”  Instead, we inform you why a narcissist must constantly assert superiority at your expense, what creates a narcissistic personality, and why involvement with a narcissist can hurt you.  We look at the macabre dance of co-dependency that the narcissist seeks with a potential enabler: you.
Some of us rationalize the situations in which we find ourselves.  “It’s family, after all.”  “I need the salary.”  We may believe we just have to “suck it up.”  We show you how you can cut off the source of narcissistic supply that will cause this predator to hunt elsewhere, away from you and those who may entrust you with their care.  Some of us never saw the situation coming.  We teach you how to avoid future encounters with self-awareness and vigilance.

Here’s what others have to say about The Narcissist: A User’s Guide:

I can't say enough about this book! This was an eye-opening read! The Narcissist: A User’s Guide is powerfully candid, well written and beautifully designed. It is an empowering contribution to the field of personal development. – Davina Haisell, Crimson Compass Life Coaching

I've just had a chance to read the e-book and it is FABULOUS!  Thanks so much for writing this and sharing it freely! – Pace Smith, Freak Revolution

Having spent a large part of my life surrounded by narcissists, it is easy to see the remarkable value in Narcissist: A User's Guide. I wish I'd read this in my teens, then again in my 20's. Having the skills to easily spot and then avoid a narcissist and their evil magnetism is an essential life skill that applies to everyone. – Cindy Platt, Educator, Children Write the Future

Traveling your path with awareness and confidence is a practice you can develop.  Making accurate assessments is a skill you need to keep yourself and those you love safe from harm’s way.  But first you have to realize who you’re dealing with, what they’re capable of, and how you can circumvent the danger of an extended encounter.  The Narcissist: A User’s Guide could be as valuable as your compass in mapping out your journeys through The Jungle of Life.

Download your copy here – it’s free!

You can keep up with Betsy by subscribing to her blog – Passing Thru,  and following her on Twitter.

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Betsy Wuebker February 16, 2010 at 6:15 am

Hi Lance – It’s a great honor to guest post here at The Jungle of Life, and we so appreciate your support of our project. Thank you for the opportunity to introduce the guide to your readers. I had said when we began this project if it helped just one person, I’d be gratified. Happily, that goal has been met over and over again.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


Lori Hoeck February 16, 2010 at 7:12 am

Hi Lance,
Thank you for the opportunity to tell you readers about our project. Awareness of and emotional self defense against subtle control personalities or outright users is a skill everyone can use.
.-= Lori Hoeck´s Last Fabulous Post ..Is your inner worth at the heart of your power? =-.


Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 16, 2010 at 8:28 am

Challenging relationships can be, well… a challenge. I think one thing which always helps is to think abundance. It allows people to detach, see things more objectively and deal with people in a more constructive way.
.-= Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick´s Last Fabulous Post ..Get your stuff together instead of using distractions =-.


Yum Yucky February 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’ll be downloading this e-book tonight. I know a narcissist well – overpowering, vain, cockey, etc. I’ve learned that dealing with a narcissist indeed does require a defense, and I’m developing smarter, peaceful methods to accomplish this defense. But nothing is perfect. Ironically, I’ve never read up on the subject. But I will now! Thanks so much.
.-= Yum Yucky´s Last Fabulous Post ..Yum Yucky Birthday Bash! =-.


Karl Staib - Work Happy Now February 16, 2010 at 9:43 am

I just downloaded it and look forward to reading it. I expect it will help expand my awareness. I know that I could use help in asserting myself in various situations. Thanks for sharing this for free.
.-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s Last Fabulous Post ..How to Use Your Skills and Passion to Create Success =-.


suzen February 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hi Lance! As usual my dear, you find the most amazing people and topics to feature! Thank you for being always so on-the-lookout for “gems”!

Hi Betsy – and Lori! Your book sounds simply sensational! I am quite certain EVERYone has run into a sticky wicket and could use your help in how to cope with grace and dignity instead of cowering or battling it out. Egos that are out of control cause so much pain! I’ve known so many in my 62 years and admittedly I would have benefited greatly from the help in your book. I look forward to reading it! Thank you both so much for making this available now.

Hugs to all,
.-= suzen´s Last Fabulous Post ..Discoveries in Being Hip – It’s CODE =-.


Davina February 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

Hi Lance, Betsy and Lori. Best three words of this post “tune your senses”. That’s what this book did for me. I read it twice. It’s printed out and stored in a binder. First ebook I’ve ever printed out 🙂
.-= Davina´s Last Fabulous Post ..Life Coach for the Knobs =-.


Evita February 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thank you Lance, as Suzen said for always bringing a new wealth of information, people or materials indeed!

The book sounds very interesting and the topic of challenging relationships is one that is actually very close to my heart. When we grow spiritually and in compassion, it becomes more difficult sometimes to know how to handle a difficult person in the most loving way. We need to take care of ourselves, but at the same time, we want to be loving and compassionate to the other…and how to handle and balance both can perhaps be an life long art form.
.-= Evita´s Last Fabulous Post ..On the Pilgrimage of Life: Talking With Bernie Krausse About A Special Journey =-.


Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord February 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

This e-book sounds fantastic, and your summary of it read like a really good book review! (Wow, I’m just so impressed right now… Wondering if, in the future, I could have you write the saleable review for a book of mine!)

Anyhow, I was JUST thinking about a narcissist I was involved with in my mid-20’s before reading your post. What great timing! It took me awhile to figure out why and how I attracted him, and also what I’m doing differently in my life now that ensures I don’t attract those people anymore.

I love that you had a good partner in Lori for writing this book. Last year was the year of partnerships, so it doesn’t surprise me.

Betsy, your words are both wise and wonderful, and I’m grateful that Lance featured you as his guest today. I can’t wait to read the ebook!
.-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s Last Fabulous Post ..Underwear in the Jungle! =-.


Tess The Bold Life February 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Some believe there is a narcissist epidemic. What is your take on that?

One of the most difficult traits of a narcissist is their inability to be empathic which means the other person in the relationship will never…never be understood. I think this is one of the reasons your book is important. No matter how much the other person does or tries they’ll never be given any credit, they’ll be made to feel they’re crazy, their needs will never be met by their partner, nor will they ever be no.1 in the relationship. No matter what they do it won’t change…can’t change. The only thing left to do is take care of yourself if you are going to stay in the relationship.

I believe a large part of the economic crisis was and is still due to narcissistic personalities of those in power. Another major part was and is due to the narcissistic tendencies of over confident people thinking they need or deserve it all (material stuff and money). They caused their own financial trouble and expect to be bailed out or given a break. And remember they can’t admit to this because they don’t have the ability to see it.

What’s a society or person to do? Read your book!
Thanks for writing the book. This is an issue that needs to be brought to the fore front.
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s Last Fabulous Post ..Amount Of Time Lived In Happiness & Joy =-.


Betsy Wuebker February 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Hi Eduard – You are so correct in saying that when we come from a place of abundance it is easier to detach. It’s because we’re not looking for the other to fill a need in ourselves. Instead, we have plenty. Thank you for pointing that out so succinctly!

Hi Yum Yucky (great name!) – I’m hopeful some of the pointers in the e-book will assist you in developing a way to keep the relationship you have as balanced and realistic as possible. And we’d love to hear if it does! Thank you.

Hi Karl – Good point about developing assertive components in our interactions. For some of us, that’s difficult because we’re concerned about being perceived in a negative way. Unfortunately, that’s how things with a narcissist can get started sometimes. Thanks.

Hi suzen – Thank you for your comment. You’re right, dealing with difficult individuals is something that most of us have to learn the hard way. It’s something that I as a parent wasn’t particularly equipped to help my children with, either. Greater awareness can only assist.

Hi Davina – Thanks to you for your continued support of our project. It means so much to us both, and we really appreciate it! 🙂

Hi Evita – You bring up an interesting point about honoring ourselves and dealing with others in a compassionate fashion. It helps to understand the ‘why’ behind destructive behaviors and relationships so that we don’t engage repetitively, too. Thank you.

Hi Megan – You’re right, Lori is an incredible person and it has been a privilege to collaborate with her on this project. I hope the information we’ve put together illuminates more understanding of the troublesome relationship you mentioned. And yes, I’d love to review your work anytime! Thanks.

Hi Tess – Well, interestingly I read an article this morning from the Chicago Tribune that mentioned an epidemic of narcissism. I wouldn’t begin to know how to establish quantitative parameters on that. Wikipedia cites a figure of 1% of the population as having been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which some have used to downplay the effects of narcissism overall. The problem with numbers is most researchers readily admit there are those who remain mis-diagnosed or undiagnosed. As well, any quantifier assumes these individuals would actually seek treatment, which is more unlikely than not. Why would you actively pursue a diagnosis and treatment when you believe there isn’t anything wrong with you? Another source we recently identified cites a figure of 16% – so roughly 1 in 6 people. That number seems high. If we use Dunbar’s number of 250, it means at any given time there might be 2 or 3 people that we know who fit the bill if we’re going with the 1%. I think it’s probably closer to someplace in the middle of the two. Quantifying really isn’t the issue. It doesn’t matter how many trucks are on the road if one hits you, right?

I think you’re correct that there is a prevalence of narcissistic behavior where power and prestige are valued: politics, finance, media (celebrity), etc. It is natural for most people to make comparisons to determine where they fit. The narcissist views those comparisons with a very distorted lens, however.

It’s also interesting to consider the effect of parenting and teaching philosophies. The sense of entitlement can be accelerated if there is an imbalance of realistic opportunity to self-assess. If everyone’s a winner all the time, for example, where’s reality? If you’ve never failed, what happens when you inevitably do? Thanks.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


Lori Hoeck February 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hi and thank you all for your genuine and insightful comments.

The track I took to dealing with a narcissist had to come first through an expanded awareness as Karl notes and then “tuning in” as Davina writes. Before those moments of awakening, I had tried so hard to fit a mold of someone else’s making — a mold that kept me in constant self-doubt. Evita is right, we need to take care of ourselves, but not in a way that turns us vain, cocky, or simply angry.

Objectivity and detaching as Eduard notes — once we are aware of the unhealthy dynamic — is crucial. I had to be the one to change, because a narcissist won’t, at least not for long. Like Yum Yucky says, a defense is needed. I like suzen’s take on them as “sticky wickets.” (I’m not sure what a sticky wicket is, but it sounds right!)

Megan, I’m blessed to have Betsy as a co-author. If you think her book overviews are good, you can imagine how much fun it is to co-author with her! She is can make things so succinct, as she did today with this: “Quantifying really isn’t the issue. It doesn’t matter how many trucks are on the road if one hits you, right?”

As for an epidemic of narcissistic thinking, Tess, I have seen the “I know better than you” attitude on the rise. Anytime someone decides they should always think for you, edit your options, or tell you how to better live your life, watch out! A consistent pattern of this kind of parental relationship when you are an adult can eat at your self worth.
.-= Lori Hoeck´s Last Fabulous Post ..Is your inner worth at the heart of your power? =-.


Jannie Funster February 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Betsy and Lori’s e-book was a very very eye-opening and useful aid for me to free myself of a toxic relationship I didn’t even realize I’d been enabling. I highly recommend it.

Thank you both again. And thanks to you, Lance for spreading the word.


Barbara Swafford February 17, 2010 at 2:46 am

Hi Lance, Betsy and Lori, too.

What can I say. The book you’re sharing is awesome and something I think everyone should read as I don’t think anyone is immune from dealing with a narcissist. When I think back to the ones I’ve had in my life I remember how “smooth” they were. So cunning and always saying the “right” thing. It wasn’t until later I realized it was a ploy to get me and/or others to play into their hand.

Fortunately that was in the past, but I must say, I wish I had “The Narcissist” at my disposal then. It makes for a terrific hand book and is one well worth passing on.

Betsy and Lori, you ROCK!
.-= Barbara Swafford´s Last Fabulous Post ..Sharing For The Benefit of Others =-.


Betsy Wuebker February 17, 2010 at 5:38 am

Hi Jannie – Understanding the role we play in our relationships and honestly assessing whether our contributions to it work in positive ways are critical evaluation skills everyone needs. I’m really glad the book helped you make sense of something that didn’t seem quite right. Thank you.

Hi Barbara – It’s interesting how you describe the narcissists you’ve known as “smooth,” and always knowing how to say the right thing to manipulate. Many also use drama and intensity in a similar way. I can remember saying about one narcissist, “It’s been too calm. Expect an invented crisis of some sort!” Once you’re beginning to catch on, it’s amazing how your awareness can build quickly, and their tactics can seem so transparent.

Like you mention, we’re getting additional feedback concerning referrals to others and that our readers are sending it on. That’s a great feeling. Thanks go to you for your support of this project!
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


Nadia - Happy Lotus February 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

Hi Lori and Betsy,

Congratulations on the creation of your e-book!

I have had my share of toxic relationships and it took me years to figure out what was happening because I thought such behavior was normal. Many of my past experiences were with people who were more toxic than a toxic dump and it took a lot of work to distance myself from them. However, I was able to do it. Woo hoo! 🙂

It is wonderful that you two are taking the wisdom that you gathered from such experiences and sharing it with others.

I have downloaded the book and look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.
.-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s Last Fabulous Post ..“Here Comes the Sun” – The Re-Invention Begins =-.


Betsy Wuebker February 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

Hi Nadia – It’s hard to accurately gauge normality when you’re deeply into a toxic relationship, and the remnants can linger. I can remember thinking my husband was “too normal” when we were dating and that made me anxious. LOL You’re right, it is a lot of work to disengage, and even more to move completely on, especially when you realize your susceptibility. Thanks for your comment.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


Lori Hoeck February 17, 2010 at 11:49 am

Thank you again for the comments!

Enabling is a tricky thing, isn’t it Jannie? And realizing how much it works against everyone involved can be like a V-8 commercial where the guy whacks his head in a sudden realization. I’m so glad our book could help!

I have hope, Barbara, that I can eventually build a total immunity. But you are right about their smooth operator ways. Thank you for your encouraging support!

Nadia, as Betsy writes, gauging normal in such toxic extremes is tough. I thought my relationship was normal, too. Our goal is to help others cut short the “years to figure it out” that we went through, too, and we are happy to share it!
.-= Lori Hoeck´s Last Fabulous Post ..Is your inner worth at the heart of your power? =-.


Tim February 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Hi Betsy:

Thanks for sharing this information. Though I don’t want to admit it…I have found myself in my share of toxic relationships in my life. But now that I can see a lot of my choices in retrospect, I will not settle for this anymore. I still remember a boss that I worked for on a freelance basis…she once told me that she thought she paid me too much…how’s that for motivation? I will withhold the amount that I was getting paid because its really low. Betsy thanks for sharing your important info for us and Lance, thanks for giving Betsy a great forum.


Betsy Wuebker February 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Hi Tim – Awareness can be very liberating. Sometimes all it takes is a preposterous comment like the one you describe to tip the scales toward awareness, too. I’m glad you found the information affirming. Thanks.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


J.D. Meier February 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm

> organized way of sizing up a situation
That alone sounds like a powerful piece of insight.

I think of a lot of scenarios in life come down to how you see the chessboard.
.-= J.D. Meier´s Last Fabulous Post ..Sites I Follow for Insight and Inspiration =-.


Kara Jackson February 18, 2010 at 10:06 am

This e-book looks really amazing. This was my first time on this blog and I love it! Personally I think best on the treadmill :))
.-= Kara Jackson´s Last Fabulous Post ..Causes of Sleeplessness: Get Sleep to Lose Weight =-.


Betsy Wuebker February 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Hi J.D. – Yes, as in chess, if we can make relatively accurate predictions of cause and effect based upon observations and a little positioning, if you will, we can optimize our experience and our relationships. Great observation, thanks!

Hi Kara – Hopefully the book will be helpful to you or perhaps someone you know. Thank you.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


scheng1 February 19, 2010 at 8:46 am

I love the picture of nature! Just too bad that life is not always like a long hike. At least we go prepared for a hike. None of us comes into this world prepared for life.
.-= scheng1´s Last Fabulous Post ..7 tips to self improvement =-.


Teresa February 24, 2010 at 11:12 am

I believe any type of relationship should have a bit of a challenge in it to keep it fresh and exciting. Trials bring people together and make their bonds stronger. However, I agree that there’s a huge difference between challenging relationships and toxic ones. There’s no use keeping and repairing toxic relationships, especially when you know it’s useless and that these people would just bring you down. Controlling these types of situations is within our realm. It’s hard to separate ourselves from some people, but sometimes, needs must. In the long run, we’ll realize that we made the correct decision unload them while we still can.

P.S. Check these out to learn how building successful relationships ( and bringing out the best in people ( could make our lives richer.


Betsy Wuebker February 25, 2010 at 8:52 am

Hi Teresa – Yes, sometimes we can blur the line when we assess a relationship between one that is challenging and one that is toxic. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize what being “set in my ways” means for me: that it’s okay to minimize and even eliminate relationships on the bases I choose, and that setting healthy boundaries and expectations is part of being responsible for myself. It sounds as though you reached that realization far earlier in life than I did. 🙂 Thanks for your comment.
.-= Betsy Wuebker´s Last Fabulous Post ..Roaming Through Michigan =-.


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