Any divorce can be difficult...endings of this magnitude cause chaos and upheaval at many levels. Everything is changing and your world is completely turned upside down. Your home life, support system, financial well-being and social activities are all affected...the solid ground beneath you is no longer there.
However, when you are divorcing a partner with narcissistic tendencies, divorce can be even more grueling. You may feel like you are working with someone who shows an inhumane lack of compassion and kindness toward you and your feelings in the process. It feels like an uphill battle in so many ways.
I’ve been there, and I know that divorcing a narcissist can bring up some of the most challenging self-doubts and painful thoughts and emotions. "How can someone who loved and cherished me for so long, all of a sudden want to destroy me? Am I as unlovable and unstable as he says I am? Maybe I’m making the wrong decision and should stay with him."
His accusations and threats can take a toll and deplete your energy. I remember the day I was curled up in a ball on the floor just wishing it could all be over because the pain in the present and the fear for the future were so overwhelming.
I immersed myself in a daily practice of yoga, meditation, and self-love. I slowly got stronger as I learned how to deal with the daily stressors, and heal from my own issues that got me into this situation in the first place.
The most important principle I practiced and still have to practice because we have three children together is this: accept what is, realize you cannot change the other person, and use your time and energy to heal and care for yourself instead of fighting. You have been giving away your power to this person throughout your marriage, and now it’s time to reclaim your power and move on with your life.
Here are five things that you can do to SURVIVE your divorce from a narcissist, and begin to THRIVE in your new life.
1. Learn the characteristics of narcissistic personality types. And realize that their behavior truly has nothing to do with you, it has everything to do with them and their unhealed wounds.
- They lack empathy: they are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They do not consider or care about, the pain they inflict on others. Do not expect them to listen, validate, understand or support you.
- They have a grandiose sense of self. They believe they can choose to act outside of legal boundaries and commitments.
- They are masters of projection and dishonesty. They project their own subconscious negative self-judgements onto their targets.
2. Never believe their criticism of you. Most importantly take the time to heal, on your own, the parts of you that accept that criticism. While you are in the healing process, create boundaries to maintain a space for you to get stronger. Keep communication limited and business-like about the children. Do NOT add fuel to the fire.
3. Realize that you are never going to be able to change his view of you. Or get his approval...once you are out of his life you have no value. Start working on loving yourself again, or maybe for the first time in your life. Start taking action on affirming your new beliefs and working towards a better future rather than worrying about his skewed opinions of you
4. In co-parenting situations, work on strengthening YOUR relationship with the kids. And don’t worry about his relationship with them. Children are smart and they know the difference between truth and manipulation at a deep level. Work on creating safe and trusting bonds with them so they have at least one reliable parent who is putting their needs first.
5. Set firm boundaries and keep your emotions in check so you don’t end up wasting thousands of dollars in court. They may threaten to “destroy” you when you start to stand up for what you and your children need to move forward. They may threaten to take your kids away or never give you a penny in child support or alimony. This is why it can sometimes be necessary to utilize the law...it is made to protect you and the children so you can move on. But don't spend unnecessary time or money acting from your own hurt, trying to get back at them for their treatment of you. This serves no one.
Please remember that there are only two ways to view this and any challenging transition in your life...it is either your peril or your greatest gift to grow. Because it can seem that you are the victim in these situations, it’s important to reframe the situation. Acknowledge that the truth is you are being presented with an opportunity to grow and heal at a very deep level. You are becoming stronger and more resilient as you disengage from believing anything your ex says or believes about you.
Once you get the deeper learnings from this situation, you will attract much healthier relationships in the future. But you MUST be willing to get the lesson and do the inner work and practices to change your own sense of self-worth so that you don’t continue to recreate these types of relationships in your new life.
The grieving and rebuilding process can be challenging and have its ups and downs, so make sure you have the tools that support you through all of the difficult emotions that come with endings of this nature.
It can be helpful to write a letter of forgiveness to your younger self so that you begin to release the emotional ties to your ex and your old life together. And, as you move through the process of disengaging, keep loving the parts of you that still believe the negative things he/she says about you. Over time, you WILL heal. Get support in this process from an understanding coach who has been through it and/or a therapist.
You had a relationship with someone who didn’t affirm your value in the past, but as you heal from this process, you will be giving yourself the biggest gift of self-love and self-respect, which is vital to attracting new situations and relationships that support you as you move forward on your journey into your post-divorce life.