Keep Calm and Carry On: What I've Learned While Divorcing a Narcissist
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By Mary Russell, Guest Author - June 30, 2017

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“There’s a reason narcissists don’t learn from mistakes and that’s because they never get past the first step which is admitting that they made one.” —Jeffrey Kluger

I have discovered over the past hellish year and half that divorcing a narcissist is much like divorcing a toddler. And having survived the toddler years twice, I know I’ve got this!

As I rapidly head towards mediation and hopefully (fingers and toes crossed) finalizing our divorce, I have made a list of things that could drive me crazy throughout this miserable process. But I have realized that if I look at the problem from a parent/toddler viewpoint rather than husband/wife perspective, I know I can remain calm and keep carrying on.

Some of the things I have learned so far while divorcing a narcissist:

It takes two to compromise. And he can’t dance.

Early on in our split, I was trying my best to do things that would help him. Like offering to take the kids whenever he needed or give him a weekly schedule with what the kids would be doing on my time and what they would be eating so we wouldn’t duplicate, etc. I soon realized that the only person who was compromising was me, he gave me nothing (and I mean nothing) in return. Compromise means two parties meeting in the middle. He is in for a nasty surprise when he realizes I have no compromise left in me and the pendulum has swung my way

There is no reason why.

I often try to figure out what his end game is – why does he continue to withhold all our marital assets when he knows full well that I will get half at some point? Why he has to try to sabotage every decision I’m involved in – from what goes in our kids’ lunches to what to do for their birthday parties? I’ve come to know that there is no ‘good’ reason, he is just incapable of having any empathy for me. Period, end of story.

It’s just a phase – he’ll grow out of it/get over it.

Um no, he won’t. He is a grown-ass man who has spent the last five-plus years emotionally, verbally and financially abusing me. He’s not going to change. Every time he shows a glimmer of reasonableness or empathy, it always turns out to be a trick, an attempt to make me look bad. If I address one issue he has with me he’ll come up with something else I do wrong. Even if he does ‘get over it’, I won’t.

Presentation is everything.

His view seems to be that as long as everything looks good, it is good. He constantly tries to control the conversation – in all therapy sessions, school meetings, social occasions etc. As long as he looks and acts like his idea of the perfect parent, he feels he is the perfect parent. He doesn’t actually care about being the perfect parent, just that others think he is the perfect parent. I am, of course, the terrible parent and therefore gleefully provide a long list of embarrassments each and every week.

Create a star chart

Several times, he has tried to institute reward charts for our boys, but he set the goals too high, made them too vague and the kids lost interest. I often wonder if maybe I should have had a reward chart for him. Something along the lines of:

  • Do a chore (any chore) – one star
  • Fold and put away laundry – one star
  • Compliment wife – one star
  • Ask wife how her day was – one star
  • Apologize for doing something wrong – 10 bazillion, gazillion stars.

I know it wouldn’t have worked, just as the charts for our kids didn’t, but I would have enjoyed the emptiness of his star chart. Maybe it would have helped me escape sooner.

Ignore bad behavior.

Ah yes, this is my absolute favorite, as it drives him totally crazy. I now have the power to ignore him. This amazing man, the perfect parent and generous husband who has been so ruthlessly abandoned by me, can be ignored. I have become the master of ignoring. Toddler temper tantrums have nothing on a narcissist not getting his way.

So in a few weeks time, I will be ready for mediation. I am armed with the knowledge that I have powers he does not. I can stay calm, I can be reasonable, and I can survive this. I am oblivious to his charms, his tantrums, and his sense of entitlement. I am doing this for my happiness, my health and the welfare of my children. I have no alternative agenda. I know what I want, my reasons are clear, and I’m ready for my new life.

Carry on!

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