Narcissists have a grandiose image of themselves and expect others to share this viewpoint. When they do not then retaliation often occurs. Marriage to a narcissist is challenging, but divorce can be even more so. Narcissists perceive others as support staff and fans, so they have difficulty with the give and take of divorce situations.
A strategy to avoid divorce complications with a narcissist is to fly under his radar. Keep your head down and get through the divorce proceedings as quickly as possible. My collaborative divorce attorney had her methods of letting my spouse have the spotlight and feel important so he would not hijack the proceedings. She made a big point of asking him questions about his latest trip, etc. and finally his own attorney would ask to get the session going. Massaging his ego worked well in divorce negotiations.
1. Narcissists are masters of manipulation. They will try to destroy your self-esteem and want you to feel incompetent. You may be emerging from an abusive marriage and are still vulnerable post-divorce. Getting professional help to deal with these feelings of inadequacy will go a long way in building up your confidence. When one feels empowered then they are not easily sucked into another’s toxic games. Accomplishing new goals and achievements is another way to gain strength so that the Narcissist’s tactics are less effective. Some have taken classes, such as pastry or computers, and embarked on new careers post-divorce.
2. Narcissists play the blame game. They are the victims and everyone else is to blame. It was a co-worker’s fault that he lost the promotion. It is your fault that that there are some financial woes. Some turn on those crocodile tears as quickly as a faucet. You may want to warn the Custody Evaluator and Interim Child Psychologist of this particular skill. He gives a performance worthy of an Oscar, tearing up that the kids are not close to him because of their mother. He may hint at Parental Alienation.
3. Narcissists trample on any boundaries. Stand your ground without turning it into a battle field. If he is violating visitation or returning children quite late, then speak up to your attorney. Do not have a confrontation yourself, but work through a third party. Avoiding any direct communication, especially verbal can diffuse many situations.
We had a mediator appointed to handle all communication between my ex-husband and me post-divorce. Our sons expressed concerns and problems to this mediator as well to avoid any confrontations with their father. Christie Brinkley and her ex, Peter Cook also hanr communication with each other go through a third party. Narcissists sometime forget vital information, and a third party intermediary has a record of communication and can send a reminder. This way you are not accused of taking the children out of state or other scenarios without the other parent being notified. Another filter or buffer between you and your Narcissistic ex is added protection.
4. Children are used as pawns. One way to get back at you is through the most important thing on the planet, your kids. If he is taking them to violent movies or stuffing them with junk food it is in retaliation to you. It is impossible to co-parent with a narcissist! One doctor paraded his kids around the hospital during visitation to play the good daddy role. After he got his praise, then the youngsters were dumped in the doctors’ lounge for hours. He may put down the mother or say nasty things about others who are important in his children’s lives. One prominent psychologist recommends supervised visitation for children with a Narcissistic parent to avoid being pawns in a power game. When the children feel safe and protected, that can actually enable them to have a stronger relationship with this parent.
5. Dealing with a Narcissistic ex is emotionally draining. One may not realize the amount of energy that it takes just being connected to him. It can be like walking on egg shells. One can be taken to court post-divorce for slander, supposedly disobeying visitation, and a myriad of other issues. It drains your bank account to pay extra legal expenses. During divorce, my attorney asked why my husband hated me so much. I replied “because I am getting away.”
Narcissists have trouble letting go of you and losing control. Seeing you happier and stronger is a blow to them. Build a support system and nurture yourself. Make sure that your well-being is a priority and then you have the strength to be there for your children.