Although he fits the readings, although the therapists tell you he is a narcissist, you don’t quite believe it. It isn’t quite human. How can someone be this weird?
I decided when I worked out that our “reconciliation” was actually emotional abuse, when I discovered I had descended into a bitter, hopeless, angry person I didn’t like much, when I found him back in touch with OW, that I wasn’t going to participate in my own mistreatment any more.
And I filed.
This? Is MY doing, and MY fault. Everything that has gone before, has magically vanished. Communication has shut down.
It is now scarily inhuman and strange, and total out and out war.
He is going to fight to the bitter end to keep the main assets.
HELP, soldiers already in the trenches! What do I do? How do I stay calm? How do I stop the funds being cut off? Are there any good books you recommend, about divorcing a narcissist?
What strategies, what tactics?
Well, you’ve come to the right place. Many of us here have had the unfortunate experience (and legal bills to show for it) of divorcing a diagnosed narcissist. It’s ugly. They’re bullies.
First, go read an interview I did with Dr. George Simon, “Divorcing the Character Disordered.” You’ll probably recognize your situation. Unfortunately, the article is long on description and short on prescription — but IMO, knowing what you’re dealing with is half the battle.
Meaning — expect that they are NOT going to be reasonable. They aren’t going to fight fair. And they will be totally manipulative. If charm doesn’t work, they’ll try self pity (chump bait). If self pity doesn’t work, they’ll try rage and bullying. It pretty much cycles through those three tactics, in my experience. Sometimes in the same encounter. It’s just what they do.
Here’s what they DON’T do — accept responsibility. Mediate as an honest broker. Volunteer information. Abide by orders. Act reasonably. Do What Is Best for the Children.
It’s pretty much all about them and their hurt egos — You Will Pay.
Now, you could ask yourself — hey! Didn’t I already pay? Didn’t I already get cheated on and played for a chump?
No, you’re looking at that all wrong. You must pay because you have stopped supplying ego kibbles. Kibbles are the narcissist life force. He sees it as you starving him. Doesn’t matter that he has 1,500 other sources of narcissistic supply — he feels entitled to yours. It’s his. How DARE YOU? You Were Of Use — and now you are not. Do you know how hard it is to find a good chump?
Moreover, you have committed the grave sin of seeing behind the mask. You know the real him. You aren’t loyal to the wonderfulness that is him. You might talk. That might jeopardize the greater ego kibble supply chain. You’re a threat. You must be stopped.
Sarah, when you see things not in human terms, but in terms of ego kibbles, it all makes a perverse sort of sense.
You can understand him. He CANNOT understand you. And that’s your first tactical advantage in divorcing a narcissist — he will underestimate you. By virtue of the fact he is a narcissist, he underestimates everyone. He is the smartest person in the room.
So do those things he is not expecting — go on the offensive. Hit first, and don’t pull your punches. You get the best legal help you can get. He wants all the assets? YOU ask for those and more. You let the lawyers play that game. Deposing his affair partner(s)? Forensic accountant? Whatever he is afraid of — exposure? — let your lawyer use that your legal advantage.
(I am NOT a legal professional. I’m a chump who has freak divorce experience. Talk to a lawyer. Also read this post about the perils of mediation. If you can mediate a settlement? Awesome. Sometimes they’re dumb and they just want out. If you’re dealing with an abusive fuckwit? Time for heavy artillery. JMHO.)
This is what you do NOT do — appeal to his better nature. Beg for mercy. Explain how unjust this is. He doesn’t care. You needing him — for ANYTHING, including an explanation — is kibbles to him. It’s control. He feeds on this.
So — you go totally no contact. You only communicate by email or text, about children and finances. Preferably, you only communicate via lawyer. If he sends you incendiary emails — you send them to a friend, send them here — you laugh at them. If it’s really threatening? You call the police. You get a protection order. Your lawyer will really make hay with that, but you do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. A protection order will mean there are dire legal consequences if he gets in touch with you — like jail time.
As Dr. Simon says at the end of the article I linked to — they only change their behavior when the cost of fucking with you is too high. It has to hurt THEM. They have zero empathy. It does not hurt him to hurt you (or your children, if you have any). Make the cost of fucking with you exorbitant.
Now, you might get a wingnut that is impervious to punishment. Who will sue you and go on a scorched earth campaign regardless of the personal cost. These people are, fortunately, rare and they’re usually truly mentally ill. (I would put my first ex in this camp.) If your ex is like this, all I can say is it’s a marathon. Don’t let his crazy ruin your life. You’re free of him. This kind of spiteful insanity is very transparent and judges HATE it. My ex (who, those new to the story, sued me mostly pro se for over a decade) lost every court battle. And he lost them grievously — had to pay more money, got less time, had his parental decision-making stripped away.
If you have no children with your narcissist? Then Sarah, he’s got no leverage in your life. You’re truly free. He’ll probably squawk and rattle his saber and eventually go find a new victim to make miserable. The agony is finite. Breeding with a wingnut, alas, pays drama dividends.
Don’t let him intimidate you, Sarah. You’ve got this.
Evergreen post, updated.