This post is going to be a little bit different than my previous posts…
You may have noticed that I am one of the very fortunate people, who can co-parent easily and even hang out with my Ex comfortably, but not everyone is so lucky. I know that some of you out there may be in marriages that you are afraid to end due to the backlash you would experience, have children with a person that continues to make your life a living hell even years after your divorce, or are in the process of getting divorced and just learning that your Ex will stop at nothing to rob you of everything.
To those people suffering, I want to tell you, you are not alone. I am hoping this post will open your eyes and give you actionable insight on how to understand, recover, and grow. I want to start by discussing a single term: Narcissist. I’m sure you’ve heard it, and you may think of it as simply someone who is self-absorbed, vain, and pompous. You may not know that it is much more involved. And how could you? Most people don’t know they are being abused by a narcissist until they have been abused to the point of losing their home, their children, their money, and/or their sanity. If you have kids with one, whether you are still in the relationship or not, you may have already lost it all.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor of any kind. I’m just a lady who has done a LOT of research.
Instead of giving you a textbook definition of the word narcissist, I want to give you examples of actions and behaviors that you may see and experience when dealing with a narcissist. If you would like to read the American Psychiatric Associations Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you can find that here, but I think examples are a bit more relatable.
First, I want to ask you some questions:
- Do you always feel like you are walking on eggshells? i.e. You don’t know what is going to set him/her off so you are always treading lightly, even about mundane things.
- Do you always lose, no matter what you say, do, or choose?
- Do you feel like the goal post is always moving? i.e. Are you told that you aren’t doing enough, but if you do “this” it will be enough. You do “this,” and it’s still not enough?
- Do you find yourself feeling confused about what just happened, even after run-of-the-mill conversations?
- Do you feel like your feelings are not important?
If any of those things are true in a current or a past relationship (it does not have to be a significant other!), please keep reading. Feeling these things on a daily or even weekly basis is not normal. People who “love” you, should not make you feel like an unstable, unsure, unworthy loser.
Now that you know how a narcissist might make you feel, we can cover some things that a narcissist may do to make you feel this way. I am going to call them “narcs” from now on because “narcissist” is an easy word to misspell while typing quickly.
- Projecting – This is when a narc places their bad behavior or bad feelings about themselves, onto YOU. If they are yelling at you, and you match their intensity, you are losing your temper and should really learn to keep your cool.
- Inability to take responsibility, for anything – You are the reason for the negative in every situation. If you call them out or ask them what they think their part was in something, they will talk circles around you until your head explodes.
- Unwillingness to answer even the simplest question – If you’ve got a question, do not expect an answer. What you can expect is a passive-aggressive, backhanded comment that makes you feel worthless and them look like an angel.
- Gross exaggeration of events to fit their own “version of reality” – If you raise your voice in an argument one time, you have been verbally abusing them for 10 years and they sleep with one eye open because they are so afraid of you.
- Extreme fear of losing control – They have all of the control; they NEED it. If you want to be included, you are the controlling one. No one but them is allowed to make any decisions or hold them accountable. NO ONE.
- Their actions NEVER line up with their words – Their lack of responsibility and accountability allow them to tell people what they want to hear, without following through on what they have said.
- Inability to follow the rules – They see following rules as a loss of control, even if they make the rules. Rules are for other people, they are snowflakes; snowflakes don’t follow rules.
- Lack of empathy – They DO NOT CARE that they are hurting your feelings. In fact, they enjoy it. You are pathetic. They are better than you in every way and the only feelings that matter are their own.
- Secretly extremely insecure – This comes out when their victim starts gaining strength. They need you to feel worthless so that they feel important, because without your insecurity, they are stuck feeling insecure.
- Everything has to happen on their terms – If it wasn’t their idea, it is not happening. If it is happening, they will make it their idea.
- Taking credit or minimizing your achievements and happiness – Either they are the reason for your achievement, or your achievement is stupid.
- Spiteful to the max – If they can find a tiny way to hurt you, at any time, for any reason, they will do it. Especially when they are feeling insecure or you are feeling happy.
- Double-binds – They will create situations that set you up to be the loser, no matter which option you choose.
- Lack of conscious – They will not lose any sleep at night over hurting your feelings. They will sleep soundly thinking about how you got what you “deserved.”
- Blame-shifting – Don’t even think about blaming them for anything, because somehow, you will end up feeling guilty. Nothing is ever their fault. If it is their fault, you made them do it, and therefore, it is your fault.
- The eternal victim – They will hit you and emotionally abuse you for years, they will even do it in front of people, but they are still the victim. Poor them 😦
- General manipulation – They make everything complicated and confusing. This way they can change things up at any moment and you are kept in a hazy state where the easiest thing to do is to comply.
- Sometimes, they are sweet, loving, caring, and even take responsibility for mistakes – This is fake. Everything is calculated. They do what they have to do to stay in control of you and to look good to the people who they want to impress. Protecting their self-image may be the only thing helping them to make good decisions. Just keep their motives in mind.
Ok… I apologize if that reads a little “rant-y” but I am very passionate about this topic.
If a lot of these things sound familiar to you, here is what you can do to start moving forward:
If you are not divorced/separated yet:
- Don’t panic.
- If you are not already on your best behavior, start now. You want the narc to have NOTHING on you as you follow through with the divorce. They can and will use everything against you and they do not play by the rules.
- Gather everything that you can to help you build a case against the narc (you may be thinking, there will be no court case, etc… but if you are married to a narcissist and already seeing the behaviors above, get ready for them to get a lot worse).
- Make copies of all important records that you have – financial, medical, professional, etc.
- Write down and date any memorable abusive situations (emotional, mental, financial, spiritual, physical).
- Start a journal to write down anything notable about his/her behaviors (keep it hidden and keep a copy in a protected account online). Narcs are known to snoop and destroy.
- Start seeing a counselor who understands personality disorders. Bring your journals and specific examples with you to review and game-plan.
- Start interviewing attorneys. You will need one, and the more time you have to find a good one, the better.
- DO NOT tell the narc you are planning an exit!
- DO NOT tell the narc you are journaling!
- DO NOT tell the narc that you think they are a narc!
If you are in the process of divorce/separating:
- Don’t panic.
- If you have a mediocre lawyer, DROP HIM/HER. Get a lawyer who has experience with high-conflict cases, personality disorders, trials, and who is a shark in the courtroom. This may cost you more money up front, but it could save you in the long run.
- If there is no temporary order in place outlining child custody, a division of property, etc. Get one.
- If you moved out of the “family home” and left the kids there with your ex, move back in if you can.
- If you have unlimited access to your children, be with them as much as humanly possible. Document it.
- Document everything. EVERYTHING.
- DO NOT engage in back and forth arguments with your ex. Simply “opt out”
- DO NOT say anything to them that you don’t want to be brought up in the courtroom.
- DO NOT agree to anything in writing unless you are willing to live with it for years.
- DO NOT tell the narc you are documenting and gathering evidence!
- DO NOT tell the narc that you think they are a narc!
Divorced/separated and co-parenting
- Be boring; seriously. Have as little emotion as possible and give them no attention. They hate that.
- Follow your court order like your life depends on it.
- ALWAYS act in the best interest of your children (within the bounds of the court order).
- Document everything. You never know when you will need to prove your ability to parent, the bond you have with your children, or your mental stability.
- Meet with a counselor.
- DO NOT speak poorly about your ex in front of your children.
- DO NOT tell your ex you are documenting.
- DO NOT tell your ex that you think they are a narc!
If you have a relationship with someone in any other capacity who you suspect is a narcissist, keep researching! Although you may not be able to completely cut the narc out of your life, you can learn how to deal with them in healthy ways that keep you sane.
That is all I have (for now) on this topic. Please keep in mind that there are other disorders that can be the culprit of a lot of the things I mentioned above, so just because you are in a toxic relationship does not necessarily mean that your partner/ex partner has narcissistic personality disorder. It may be something else, or a combination of things. Borderline personality disorder is another one to look into if you suspect that something is seriously wrong in your relationship.
I am hoping to have given even one person, a “lightbulb” moment that accelerates them forward on their healing journey. Please keep learning and keep going. You can break free from narcissistic abuse.
If there is physical violence in your relationship, please seek help ASAP!
Here are some of my favorite resources for learning about narcissists and how to deal with them!
Meredith has great videos with techniques to help protect yourself against the narcissist. I had the privilege of meeting with Meredith and it was so empowering. She is an angel. Check out her videos on responding vs. reacting and about “grey rock.”
Michele has been through a divorce with a Narcissist and has a LOT of insight. She talks about common things you may experience and even has tips on navigating the courtroom when you are up against a narc. Her video called, “You CAN outsmart the narcissist,” is full of useful information.
Tina has started a community of parents who are up to bat against narcissists in court. She even puts together and sends anonymous packets to Judges and other family court professionals to help educate them on personality disorders and the effect that a parent with a personality disorder can have on their children. She has a great video about how to “grey rock” narcs in a way that will keep you looking like a cooperative co-parent.
The book, “Say Goodbye to Crazy” was a great read and extremely insightful.
I mentioned this book in a previous post, but I think everyone could benefit from reading, “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People.“
Please DM me on Instagram @livinglifeblended if you want more information or are unsure of where to start.