Divorcing a Narcissist
Practical tips on how to navigate the storm.
Divorce is never pleasant. Divorcing a narcissist is traumatic and causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD. While every person who enters into a relationship with a narcissist is a victim of abuse, I will use the word, "target."
The target of a narcissist's rage is subject to various types of abuse including physical, financial, emotional, sexual and often combinations of them. Divorcing a narcissist brings the abuse to a new level as the narc's rage and reaction to losing control of the target spirals out of control. The narcissist often uses judicial proceedings as a platform for false allegations typically claiming the target is "a drug addict" or "mentally unstable." The narcissist receives an abundance of supply in this process whilst prolonging it.
Judicial processes are not designed to extinguish these antics and instead facilitate prolonged proceedings in which numerous agencies and professionals benefit financially. For example, narcissists are infamous for claiming the target's behavior makes them a poor parent. Judges assign specialists to evaluate the target. In addition to being expensive, these evaluations take time and therefore extend the process. For victims of financial abuse, these allegations can result in the target being burnt out of the process. If the target cannot pay the specialists, they can lose rights to parenting or even being in their children's lives.
Narcissists often use the strategy of financially exhausting the target so they "win" by default. Children are then deprived of that parent being in their lives. Protective mothers lose custody of their children to abusive, narcissistic fathers frequently. Over fifty-eight thousand children globally are court ordered to live with the abusive parent (most often the father) annually. This tragic situation is now under investigation around the world.
There are some things that you cannot control. There are some things that you can. By managing what you can control, you will preserve your strength for this process and continue to thrive in the wake of chaos and destruction these folks cause. You can make it through the storm, and you will if you take these simple steps in managing your reactions to the predictable behaviors of narcissists.
Narcissists create and execute smear campaigns.
You cannot control what they say or who they influence. You can control your reaction to this predictable behavior.
Narcissists have often started smear campaigns long before the target is aware of them. Since they tend to isolate the target while they are together, the target is often limited in their social and familial supports. Many narcissists choose to live in physical proximities that isolate the target from their social and familial supports. They tend to move often and they are over represented in living and working overseas. Your physical distance from your loved ones does not change your connection and bond with them.
Narcissists form alliances with the target's friends and family.
They most often complain that the target is unstable, an alcoholic or drug addict. They gaslight the target. The target eventually doubts their own reality and develops PTSD. When the target attempts to defend themselves to those influenced by the smear campaign, they do not present well. Often deprived of sleep, either because the abuser disrupted their sleep or their PTSD and/or depression from the situation has caused that, they further appear unwell. The people who love you and have your best interest in mind do not doubt you even if you appear before them with PTSD or depression symptoms.
The best way to respond to a smear campaign is no response at all. It is never in your best interest to respond or justify yourself.
The people who truly love you and have your best interest in mind will not doubt you. It is not a good use of your time or energy to attempt to justify yourself or to engage in conversations related to the negative things the abuser is saying about you.
Block it out. Focus on yourself, your children and your goals. While it is painful to learn that people you are close to, often even your family, are influenced by the smear campaigns of a narcissist, it is not at all helpful for you to focus on or give any attention to this negativity. Any person who is influenced by these comments is not a person who has yours or your children's best interest in mind. If it were accurate that you were a problematic person, the people who truly loved you would attempt to help you to resolve the problem. Any person who perpetuates rumors or gossip designed to bring you down is a danger to you and a danger to your children.
Walk away and do not look back. There are people all over the world who have been subjected to these smear campaigns. Many have endured the pain at the realization that the people they believed to have loved them, did not. And they survived. And you will too. You are better off without these types of people in your life. You have a divorce to get through. You have a life to live. Focus on productive pursuits.
They "bombard and break" communication threads.
First they send you an email. Next they send you a message on WhatsApp. They respond via text. And so on... they send multiple communications on the same topic and continuously break the chain/thread... start a new one... break it... start another one. This serves two purposes. One, they create chaos and confusion. Two, they are going to use these communications in court. They can prove various and numerous points by exhibiting one of many emails/texts they sent you and can further use your texts to support whatever point they are trying to make. Your words will be displayed out of context. Your words will be used to support their claims. Use Our Family Wizard or ONE means of communication only. Keep your communications brief and do not respond to communications in which they address multiple points. If you have a lawyer, communicate only through the lawyer. They are intentionally seeking to get as many words out of you as possible and they will be used against you.
"Recreating the Chronology"
Narcissists will bombard you with emails and texts that are filled with false information, or "recreating the chronology." Do NOT argue back. They will send you their account of meetings you attended, events that happened, their version of a situation. It will be completely false. These communications will paint you in a negative light. They will accuse you of things that they did, not you. Do NOT respond to these communications. Depending on your jurisdiction, your lawyer will direct you. If you are using Our Family Wizard, they will not be able to do this and if they do, it is easily tracked and viewed by all involved parties. OFW is designed to put a stop to this, amongst other things. In one of the jurisdictions that I lived in, I had to respond to these bizarre and numerous communications to "take them off the record." My response was as follows. I suggest you use this or something similar in the event you are required to respond.
"I do not agree with your assertions. They are false, baseless and incorrect. I do not wish to engage in a dispute with you via email/text/electronically, but will state my position at the appropriate forum."
That ends the communication. Not immediately. They will often continue to pester you. Sometimes they stop and start up again. Keep cutting and pasting the same response. You have asserted that their claim is false. Cut and paste it. Keep sending it. It is clear, concise, boring and gets the point across. They will know that the wording is not yours and that you have shown their ranting texts to someone, you have sought counsel. You kill two birds with one stone. You inadvertently tell them that you are no longer isolated. You are free of their evil dominion. You have cut off supply. For tactics that used to get your attention and get a reaction from you, they now get a canned response devoid of emotion.
Do not engage is dysfunctional, chaotic, communications. They bring you into a fantasy world of negativity. They distract from your life. They perpetuate the abuser's control over you. Free yourself and live your life. You may be worn down by endless proceedings. You can still enjoy a good laugh, an ice cream, the sound of silence. Once they are out of your physical space your senses rejuvenate.
Do not discuss these bizarre allegations with your friends or supports aside from stating that you received delusional texts from your X. You would not describe every detail of a three-year-old's temper tantrum. This is similar. To thrive whilst having someone who seeks to destroy you in your periphery, even if it's only electronic, you need to cut out and block out the nonsense. Nothing can be gained by engaging in an argument over incidents and details that the abuser made up with the purpose being to upset you, bait you, provoke you into reacting in order to use it against you later in court. Cut off their supply by refusing to give a reaction.
The things they accuse you of are the things that they are doing or plan on doing to you.
If you pay attention to what they are saying, they will give you insight into what they have done or what they are going to do. If they accuse you of fraud, you can be sure that they have committed fraud themselves or are planning to.
Their minds are not functioning as normal adults. Their development emotionally is approximately age three to five. They are stunted further by being unable to process new information as they are stuck on concocting stories, evidence, bizarre details and allegations from the past. Their minds are overcome with desires to destroy, destruct and control. For these reasons, they are not intellectually or emotionally on par with you.
All of the time spent on destructive pursuits has narrowed their abilities to function as an adult. Every second spent fixated on evil is a second they did not expand their knowledge the way a typical person does as they mature and learn about the world. When you cut contact with them, they lost their ability to mirror you. Over time they become who they were without you in their lives. It gets creepier and creepier as time marches on. You continue to grow and prosper. They become unhinged. In time, they reveal themselves. The calmer and quieter you are, the faster it happens. Do not interfere in the process by getting distracted by their chaos. Cut it off whenever possible.
Eventually, something beautiful happens. When you do not have them in your ear repeating the same distorted information repeatedly, your head space becomes clear. You process information in a concise and normal way again. When they are not waking you up in the night, when you are not thinking and rethinking, consumed with self-doubt caused by gaslighting, when you are no longer exposed to their antics, when you are truly safe in your physical space and not walking on eggshells but truly living again, you feel the beautiful serenity of silence. In that silence, you emerge, not as you were before but as a stronger, more resilient, more resourceful version of yourself.