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How to Handle a Dramatic Girlfriend

by Erica Loop

She flies off the handle, demands your total attention and bursts into tears for what seems like no reason. She's your girlfriend, and she's a drama queen. Unless you're ready to walk away, understanding how to handle her over-the-top antics can improve your relationship and help her to overcome her attitude issues. Even though drama queens often have an appealing sense of charisma, they're also narcissistic and emotionally over-reactive. While giving in and just accepting her outlandish actions may seem the easiest route to take, this will only enable her behavior.

Assess the relationship to determine if you really want to stay in it. If you've just gotten together or are casually dating, you may not be close or committed enough to make handling her drama worth your while. If the two of you are already in love -- or the possibility is real and on the horizon -- working on her behavior can turn your relationship from drama-filled to a more calm type of constant.

Keep your calm. Drama queens feed on the energy or emotionally-charged situation that they create. Maintaining your composure doesn't give your dramatic girlfriend the effect that she's looking for. If you're in a group situation, keep the peace and maintain your composure. Screaming at her to "Quit it" may make matters worse. For example, she's hysterically huffing that she thinks you're looking at the other women in a flirty way when you're out at a club. Breathe in and calmly redirect her attention elsewhere. Reassure her that she's your queen -- not mentioning the word drama in that sentence -- and move her on to the dance floor.

Define specific boundaries. Dramatic people often need firm limits, according to clinical professor of psychology Judith Orloff on the Psychology Today website. Doing so can help you to handle the mayhem that may result from your girlfriend's dramatic behavior. For example, your girl constantly calls you from work, crying and asking you to pick her up because her boss is so mean that she has to leave early. First, make sure that she is just being dramatic and that her boss isn't actually out-of-line. If this is the case, firmly -- but nicely -- explain that her boss is supposed to tell her what to do and that you will not rush to pick her up when she engages in this type of drama.

Assertively address the situation. Shrinking into the background and letting your dramatic girlfriend domineer the conversation won't help you to get your point across. Sit her down and rationally plead your case. If she starts to cry, scream or otherwise show her dramatic side, keep your cool and continue on with the conversation. Explain how her actions impact your feelings, and consequently your relationship. Use "I" statements such as, "I feel hurt by your constant accusations every time I go out with my friends." This shifts the discussion from pointing a finger at her to helping her see how you feel. Doing so can also help you to explore her need for attention. It's possible that she has low self-esteem and needs a boost.

Enlist outside help such as family fiends or a professional. Some -- but not all -- dramatic people have a real condition called histrionic personality disorder. Characterized by a heavy concentration on their own personal appearance, being emotional and dramatic, having a high level of sensitivity when it comes to criticism and a need to be the focus of attention, this disorder can only be diagnosed by a trained psychological professional. Also sometimes known as borderline personality disorder, therapists use talk therapy or dialectical behavior therapy -- a combination of individual and group psychosocial therapies -- to help the diagnosed dramatic individual.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Hill Street Studios/Gary Kious/Blend Images/Getty Images