Understanding and Preparation Are Key
As you consider your options and determine that you are ready to leave your marriage, you may have concerns that the judge or mediator— like so many others — may be swayed by your spouse’s ability to fool people with their charm and powers of persuasion. After all, your spouse duped you!
With preparation, self-education and some subtle moves of your own, you can reveal your spouse’s controlling and combative tendencies— without damaging your own credibility. In essence, you can help them reveal themselves for who they truly are.
Who is the Narcissist?
Narcissists design an exterior of perfection to cover their deep-seated sense of inadequacies and insecurities. As long as you play along and pour into their false self, the narcissist will idealize you for your part of the Faustian bargain. Sadly, your worth to them is contingent on you giving the narcissist the positive affirmation they crave; it has nothing to do with them truly caring about you. Your value is to define them and feed their “narcissistic supply”.
“Narcissists cannot acknowledge nor admit they have hurt you because they lack empathy and have no ability to examine themselves; their fragile ego would crumble.”Leah Hill, Founder at Divorce Strategies Northwest
Your spouse may appear and claim to “love” you, and may throw lavish perks and excessive compliments your way. They do this to manipulate you into giving them what they need from you, and to continue the unhealthy pattern of control and emotional abuse. If you dare to confront a narcissist about their exploitive, abusive behavior, they will erupt: yelling, accusing, raging, withdrawing, gas-lighting, etc.
Narcissists cannot acknowledge nor admit they have hurt you because they lack empathy, and have no ability to examine themselves; their fragile ego would crumble. Instead, they interpret your legitimate confrontation and hurt feelings as unfounded insults: you have wounded their psyche by daring to challenge their fears and personal inadequacies. Their personal shame is the rage that you see.
As they realize they are losing control of you, the insecure narcissist will become panicky, desperate, frightened, enraged and unpredictable— their mask will come off, behind closed doors. Be careful— research shows the most dangerous time for victims of abuse is when they are confronting and leaving their abuser. This is when separation assault often occurs. Have a safety plan ready, day or night. Do not be afraid to call 911.
For many reasons, leaving your spouse may feel impossible— the toxic cycle feels unending. A skilled therapist trained in Domestic Abuse can help you understand the mind of an abuser and can help you see things objectively. Akin to a lobster boiling in a pot, it can be hard to comprehend the abuse in which you are living. If you have minor children, they too, are living in abuse.
You need professional help to get the mental tools, support, and personal fortitude to leave your abuser. Often, their poisonous lies have become hard for you to distinguish from fact. Educating yourself, when it is safe to do so, can help you understand the complexities of this manipulative disorder and insidious form of Domestic Abuse.
How a Narcissist Distorts Reality
Narcissists are experts at manipulating people by distorting reality in subtle ways: taking facts way out of context, telling partial stories from only one perspective, appearing to be victimized when they are the actual victimizers, and presenting themselves as perfect parents, even if they do very little to care for or truly know their children. They do all this to get a reaction from you, so they can point out your “flaws”.
Narcissists love an audience…. anyone really! They will accuse you of being some combination of anxious, emotionally reactive, overly-sensitive, paranoid, mentally ill and impossible to please.
Narcissists are so crazy-making that they can cause you to doubt your own truth, sanity and reality. This behavior is called gas-lighting, a common form of emotional abuse. If you’ve been repeatedly traumatized, you may have become hypervigilant and over-reactive. This unhealthy cycle is part of the normal trauma effects of gas-lighting.
Work with your mental health professional to manage your reactions during the divorce process, so you don’t appear to be the troubled person your spouse claims you to be. Your charming, narcissistic spouse will use their silver tongue and Machiavellian ways, insincerely pontificating to any and all who will listen.
Keeping your emotions in check is vital; having a close friend with you can be very helpful. Preparing in advance will help you to be less reactive, keeping your case focused and on task.
Self-Control Under Fire
It is in your best interest to remain as calm as possible, no matter what is said about you. Keep your circle of friends and trusted confidants small, during this stressful process. Your narcissistic spouse will be slinging all they can, to throw you off balance. If you show evidence of emotional instability to the judge, mediator or parenting evaluator, they are more likely to believe the lies your snarky spouse is claiming about you.
In order to see through the narcissist’s glossy façade, your spouse’s true behavior and character must be exposed. The judge or mediator needs to observe your spouse behaving badly—this provides evidence that no amount of testimony ever can.
A true narcissist will not openly malign you. Instead, they will find subtle ways to attempt to make you look bad, such as: “she tries to be a good mother, but I worry that her anxiety upsets our children.” This manipulation is intended to trigger a blowup from you. If you react to their cunning behavior by becoming emotional or defensive, you play into their narrative and appear to be the high-strung, checked-out parent they claim you to be.
Do not be baited by these playground antics—see them for what they are: childish games intended to derail you. Refuse to participate by remaining calm. Legal professionals and court officials can see this sly tactic for the transparent sham that it is, and will recognize you as the safe parent. The key is that you must remain calm.
Stay Calm and Be Prepared
Doing well in court or in mediation requires providing concrete evidence as a foundation of your case. Opinions are hearsay, but documented facts are proof. Gather evidence that provides a narrative of your spouse’s character, history as a parent and their behavior as a spouse. Letters from physicians, police reports, physicians’ chart notes, letters from teachers, school counselors, pediatric therapists, team coaches— showing a pattern of behavior from an objective, professional perspective can be very helpful in your case.
Check your emotions at the door! Individual therapy is for processing the trauma you’ve endured, and professional coaching can help you move towards the future. During the dissolution process, the more calm, reasonable and non-reactive you are, the more your narcissistic spouse will become frustrated that they can’t make you “look bad”.
Your self-control and calm demeanor will naturally expose the inconsistencies between your spouse’s words and their actions, causing your spouse to reveal their true character. Save all emails, texts, voicemails…. they can be useful in your case. Your responses should be short, factual and non-emotional.
Creating a Plan
As you develop the courage and self-confidence to divorce a narcissist and pursue a life of freedom, plan ahead with a team of experts, and loyal personal support. Our experience with co-parenting, financial planning and preparation for the divorce process will position you well, before your self-centered spouse attempts to convolute, confuse, manipulate and maneuver. Learn how to protect yourself— formulate a clear strategy in advance. Our team can help!
“Freedom from abuse will take tenacity and commitment to achieve, but peace and happiness are invaluable for you and your family. Your future starts now!”Leah Hill, Founder at Divorce Strategies Northwest
Getting organized, educated and mentally prepared in advance of divorce makes a difference, rather than trial by fire. Having a strategic plan will give you the self-confidence to follow through and never look back! Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of the future.
All the flowery promises in the world are meaningless with repeated offense, and an apology is worthless if the behavior happens again. Freedom from abuse will take tenacity and commitment to achieve, but peace and happiness are invaluable for you and your family.
Your future is now!
- Should I Stay Or Should I Go? by Lundy Bancroft
- Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft
- Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships by Jackson MacKenzie
- The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope by Leslie Vernick
Your Trusted Partner
Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time and emotional energy on your divorce?
Our team is available for Support On-Demand to discuss the many scenarios, options, and implications of separation or divorce, via telephone or videoconference during this time. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are here for you!