If you think that once the papers are signed and the ink is dry you are finished with the agonizing pain, frustration and anger that goes along with being in a relationship with a narcissist think again. In many ways you have only just begun.
Keep in mind that one of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a total lack of empathy. He has the unique ability of making himself look crushed and broken while everyone feels sorry for him. You have the pleasant role of crazy ex-wife who is trying to ruin him.
It doesn’t matter what he’s done – a friend of mine described it as Teflon. Somehow none of his pitifully bad choices, none of his abuse, nor anything else ever sticks to him. There rarely seems to be consequences for him and yet you continue to sweep up the fallout. My mother used to say that it was like being the guy with the shovel that followed the cavalry.
Once he has sucked everyone dry of every bit of emotion, created as much drama as possible until no one in the immediate vicinity responds anymore, and has feasted on the ensuing chaos until his character looks like Jabba the Hut he moves on.
Don’t look for relief when that happens – it comes with its own set of problems.
Moving On Up
Narcissists have the uncanny, and deeply disturbing, ability to walk away from friends, family, and even their own children without looking back once their NPD has been revealed. Divorce is messy and children have a way of making it even more difficult emotionally. They act out, they lash out, and even if they’ve had close relationships with you there will always be some rocky moments when they hate your guts.
For the normal parent it is a time to dig in your heels and love them through it. After all, you’re an adult and you can take it. For the narcissist it is personal. The child is stripping him of the admiration and adoration that he requires to live. Not only that but that unruly child is stealing his thunder – all attention is on the child.
Often this will be the point that he heads for greener pastures. He’ll start over somewhere with people who will admire him and feed his lust for attention. A narcissist is the only human being alive who can literally walk away from his own kids and not look back. They are a reminder of his failures.
That’s not to say that he won’t use his distance from his children to his own advantage. Remember, reality is what he says it is. He’ll make noises about how much he misses them, how grieved he is that he can’t be with them, and how his crazy ex-wife (that would be you) is poisoning their minds against him.
Because, you know, you don’t have anything better to do with your time, right?
Once again, think of it like Teflon. He has the ability to slough off the reality that it’s his own irresponsibility and abandonment that are creating the problem. As always, it’s you.
Get used to it because that isn’t going to change.
Maintaining Sanity When Divorcing a Narcissist
When everything comes to a head and he has no reason to maintain his image anymore things get a little crazy. You may even wonder if you are the one with the personality disorder – am I the narcissist without realizing it? Am I the problem?
Put your mind at ease. A narcissist is incapable of wondering if he is truly a narcissist – unless he is asking someone new in his life to set the stage for her concern. Then it looks something like this –
My ex-wife thinks I have NPD (deep sigh), she accuses me of being selfish and irresponsible (head in hands). Maybe she’s right (another sigh, and then looks into the other person’s eyes). Do you think I am a narcissist? You know I can be selfish at times…
That right there? Worthy of an Oscar, or an Emmy, or something. The new victim will hug him and assure him that the crazy ex-wife is just channeling her inner Beelzebub. Certainly this poor, broken man is not the monster she makes him out to be!
It’s fabulous. If you ever get a chance to watch him in action I strongly suggest that you grab some popcorn and just admire his chutzpah.
Don’t take responsibility for things that aren’t yours to take responsibility for – not now, not ever. When narcissists project blame for their issues on other people, and those people accept the blame, it’s called introjection. That’s a word you’ll want to memorize because you will find yourself doing it often. It’s the thing that makes you feel defeated before you even start, causes you to constantly second guess what other people want from you, and jump to the wrong conclusions about yourself.
Negotiation with a narcissist is difficult unless you can put the focus on why it’s best for him.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, by BTSHaifeez
What’s Good for Me Is the Important Thing
Keep in mind that no matter what is happening the focus will be on his own best interests. You can use that to your advantage by focusing all negotiations on how he will benefit. If it’s back child support make sure that he has a reason to want to pay it. Don’t use the kids’ needs as the argument, he could really care less. Remind him that hunting season is coming up and he won’t be able to get a hunting license if he is still in arrears, or that his passport can be frozen. It’s nasty but effective.
He will never apologize, never admire you, and never admit that he is sorry he lost you. Accept it. You can’t base your self-worth on what he thinks anymore. You’ve been there, done that long enough. Not only that but you can be sure that his new woman, his family, and his new friends all know what a horrible person you are, too. He will twist your words, make up scenarios, and create new realities that make the ex-in-laws gasp with horror.
He isn’t lying, exactly. He is controlling reality. Hopefully they’ll get used to it.
Once you accept the reality of who he is and how he operates things will get a lot more peaceful in your life. Remind yourself every day that you’re not the crazy one. Remind yourself, too, that you are not the only one to go through the craziness of divorcing a narcissist.
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Images Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons: Lead Image by Stewart Black