Divorcing someone with a pathological personality disorder is mind boggling. For instance, a Narcissist needs to “win” at all costs. You must guard your emotions and you may need to take some counter-intuitive steps to come out the other side with your dignity intact. With some careful planning and a little bit of strategy, you can come out the other side a stronger person with your sanity intact.
Below are the 8 essential steps for anyone divorcing someone with a personality disorder:
1. Limit contact:
This first point is the most important one. Giving someone with a personality disorder access to his prey is giving him power. Cut off the supply, and you put yourself in the power position.
If you are in a childless relationship, there should be no need for continued contact outside of the legal system. Cut off all contact – no texts, no e-mails, no phone calls, and especially no in-person meetings. If necessary, get a restraining order. Consider moving to a different town or state.
If (like me) you have children, there may, unfortunately, be a need for contact. The court systems today oftentimes favor “shared parenting” and it’s hard to prove a personality disorder without a prior diagnosis. If you have to have continued contact with your ex, avoid in person or verbal contact wherever possible.
Given today’s electronic environment, it’s easy to do everything by text or e-mail. Ensure that your e-mails are factual and devoid of emotion. Avoid “reacting” to him, and try to proactively manage the relationship. Provide only the basic information you need to impart. Get a parenting coordinator involved and create a strong parenting plan. Co-parenting with him will be incredibly difficult, but with some strict rules, it can be a bit easier. Craft your custody/access schedule with these things in mind.
2. Ensure you have a proper support system:
When in this type of situation, it is important to have as much support as possible. Make your own support network. If your soon to be ex-spouse is dangerous, consider having a “buddy” who will check in on you at regular intervals to make sure you’re ok.
If your ex has led to you cutting off contact with or alienating former friends/family, consider reaching out anyway. Chances are they already realize the situation you were in and won’t hold it against you. If I had a nickel for every person who told me “I don’t know why you stayed with him for so long”, I probably could have paid for my divorce.
3. Get a good lawyer:
Hiring a lawyer is incredibly important. You’ll want someone who has dealt with personality disorders before. The lawyer should be open to changing tactics if necessary – sometimes you’ll need swift and harsh, but sometimes a more conciliatory tone will get you farther. You need someone who’s able to take care of you and isn’t in it just for the fees. Your ex’s need to “win” will cause you to rack up a lot of unnecessary fees. Your lawyer will need to understand that for a someone like your ex, each victory for you needs to look like a victory for him.
4. Consider giving him everything he wants:
If you are in the position to do so, you may consider getting out of the marriage with only the shirt on your back. Sometimes just getting out of a terrible marriage is its own reward. (Yes, this is easier when no children are involved.)
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff:
Remember – you’re out of the marriage. That was your goal. Spending $400 in legal fees to fight over a $200 carpet doesn’t make any sense. Given what you’ve been through, this may seem counterintuitive. After the hell you’ve been through, you’ll want to fight. You need to control this urge. Starting a battle gives the narcissist what he needs – an opportunity to dictate and dominate. Remember that the stuff you left is just that – stuff. Pick your battles carefully and leave with some sense of dignity and self-respect.
6. Get off social media:
This step will be very difficult – especially in today’s society where everyone is online. It is an essential step, though. Especially when divorcing a narcissist. Tell all your friends to keep you off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. – no photos, no mentions – no nothing. Do not give provide the narcissist with fodder to stalk you or taunt you.
7. Carve out some “Me” time:
You need to take some time to figure out who you are and take back your power. It will take time to get over years of capitulation and sacrificing your own well-being because it was easier to give in than it was to fight.
Don’t run headlong into another terrible relationship. Take some time to figure out who you are now – after your marriage. Acknowledge that in leaving, you’ve become a stronger person. Take a course. Do yoga. Join a social group. Create a bucket list and start knocking stuff off it. Get out of your comfort zone. Become comfortable with yourself again.
You need some. If only to figure out where you’re at. Living with a narcissist is damaging to your general mental health – and especially your self-esteem. Many people are scared to start a new relationship after divorce. Some of us continue to relive the pattern. You need to figure out how the relationship happened in the first place, why you stayed as long as you did, how you can break the pattern. I don’t mean by going as far in the opposite direction as you can next time. I mean you need to use what you’ve learned to figure out what you need in a relationship to get to a happy medium.
Divorcing someone with a pathological personality disorder is one of the worst experiences anyone can go through. But remember a journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step – and you’ve already started down the road. Keep going. I’m on the other side – and I can tell you that it’s true: the grass is much greener over here.
Sue Phillips says
I heard from my husband in prison yesterday. My last email to him let him know that some of the things I had already acused him of, have been brought to my attention as fact. He still only admits to those things that I already know about because of the trial. That to me, is a sign that he either does not remember those incidents because of some kind of “haze”, or has not changed. I believe it is the latter.
Liv BySurprise says
Sue: My ex husband has similar issues with “truth”. I think that sometimes people with personality disorders make up things that are favourable to them in their minds – and that those things become “truth” to them – no logical argument can change their minds.
On a more serious note, your comment suggests that your husband (not your ex-husband or soon to be ex-husband) is in jail for something that he may have done to you. Given you are still communicating with him, I am very concerned for your safety. Please read this article by Cathy Meyer http://bit.ly/1mUeRc8 on DivorcedMoms.com and consider accessing domestic violence resources in your area.
Please be safe.
Sue Phillips says
p.s. Why can I no longer see other comments. I could see them the last time I was logged on.
Rick Augustine says
Unfortunately this is not limited to man. My wife almost 11 months ago and to this day I still have yet to receive the initial discovery information. I always said that she had some need to control things and that she would change the facts of a situation so then what her emotional response was to that situation. It didn’t matter if you can walking in a room and counting after about how things were going with work. If she felt attacked when she told you about it later it would sound more like you came blasting through the doors yelling and accusing me of not working enough. This is difficult enough to deal with when you’re married but going through divorce it is nearly impossible.
The way I’ve described her is that she is an Angels and Demons person. People seem to be either all good or all bad. And when she finds a new “Angel” someone else in her life Becomes a bad person who is not supporting her.
I completely understand why the author said it may be time to just get out take whatever locks as you can and get the relationship over. Since I have to kids and I need to protect them from her and financial situation because she tends to back the same way with them that she did with me makes it very difficult for me to just give up. How does one in the relationship with someone who has borderline personality disorder Under’s and still find someway to maintain a life that will help and only myself and my children to be happy and successful in the future.
last 11 months have been horrible. She has been hourly hostile nearly every time I’ve discussed anything with her. She’s trying to manipulate and hurt and a lot of times using the kids.my son mentioned that she had spoken to her mom on the phone and he overheard her saying that she just need to “win” the divorce. She has tried to manipulate everyone around her. She’s made up lies about me and tried to spread them to her family and friends neighbors and you and our children. Trying to argue with her or present to fax to her does no good whatsoever. One of our mutual friends like to say to me “you can’t argue with crazy”.
I found out through friends house she was actively going out onto Facebook and proclaiming how wonderful new life was and how happy she was. Always something she did over the years whenever she was mad at somebody one of her girlfriends did something wrong and also him there’s a post for cleaning how wonderful it was to hang out with her true friends that evening.my response was talking to one of our mutual friends with people who are really happy to not have to go in for claimant on Facebook they just spend their time being happy.
I think the hardest part is that these people also have that part of their personality and who they are that is really a truly good person. At times she can be a wonderful person. But then there’s that other side that is very dangerous.I definitely do not envy anybody who’s going through this situation. Wish me luck in getting this over as soon as possible.
Joe Freeman says
Rick is correct; the manipulator can be (and probably often is) a woman. In fact, I would argue that, in that case, it is more difficult for the man when dealing with the legal system since that system is undeniably gender biased… especially if the mother is the residential custodian of the children. My ex lies and the courts more often than not give her the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to the State and child support, there is no doubt, the state will ALWAYS take her word as the truth.
Rick, having been divorced 9 years ago, my advice to you and anyone who is an NCP (non-custodial parent) is heed this article with the exception of #4. During my divorce I wanted nothing more than to be done with her, consequently I gave in to almost everything and I am here today to tell you that I have regretted that decision every day since.
In addition to the article, save everything associated with the divorce: cancelled checks, receipts, court docs… EVERYTHING. If you don’t and you are divorcing someone with a personality disorder, that will come back to haunt you. Learn about borderline disorders. In my case I never had an issue with visitation, she wanted nothing more than to get rid of the kids every chance she got… to my ex it is all about the money. In fact she ultimately gave up custody (to me) of my youngest child and has not had any visitation with him in over 7 months. I have read that a characteristic of some with BPDs is they are incapable of love. Good Luck.
Cathy Meyer says
No, Joe, the “manipulator is not probably a woman. According to recent research the possible occurrence of borderline personality disorder is equal in men and women. And, when it comes to narcissistic personality disorder, rates are higher for men (7.7%) than for women (4.8%). So, whatever your argument is, doesn’t hold water based on the statistics which I find more relevant to the discussion than your opinion or assumption.
Robert McGovern says
I understand that my reply is over 2 years late BUT F U Cathy and your statistic’s. You are most likely another screwed up BPD person that ruined her husband AND her children.
According to recent research, you are screwed up and don’t even realize it because you are certifiably nuts!
honestly this article is highly insulting. If this article was written the other way around and man was switched with woman I’m confident people would demonize it and strike it down as sexist and selfish, that men have no regard for someone with a personality disorder and are not taking the woman’s needs into consideration. I am divorcing my wife because of a personality disorder and even though she is distructive both physicaly and emotionaly I still don’t intend on leaving her in the dust and not caring about her getting better. Yes we have 2 kids and yes they are the focus of keeping a relationship even through divorce but by no means are they the only reason. She has been my wife for the past 6.5 years and I will always care about her I’m not going to selfishly run off or kick her out.
Eli, there is NOTHING insulting about advising women to protect themselves against someone with a personality disorder. You are protecting yourself by divorcing your wife. I think you will find that if she truly has been destructive both physically and emotionally during the marriage that her irrational behavior will become worse during the divorce and after. If it doesn’t then she doesn’t have a personality disorder. And your argument that this article is sexist doesn’t hold water. It was written for a women’s website. Why would you expect anything other than an article written TO and FOR women?
Robert McGovern says
The system is tilted toward women. My advise is, if you aren’t married yet and you sense BPD ……RUN as fast as you can and don’t look back. IF you are married, do as this article says and disconnect from her/him, hire a GREAT lawyer and give her anything material thing that she wants. nothing materialistic is worth being connected to a crazy person!!!!