Dealing with a Narcissist During Divorce
A divorce can be made even more difficult when dealing with an ex who has a personality disorder like narcissism. A narcissist is someone who is preoccupied with personal adequacy and is mentally incapable of seeing the harm they do themselves and others in their daily lives. Narcissists generally display a lack of empathy and a have grandiose sense of self-importance.
One type of narcissist sees other people in their lives as “unjust abusers.” These kinds of narcissists see everything from an us vs. them perspective. If they see someone isn’t on their side anymore, they fight. The determination of who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them is completely based in the narcissist’s mind.
It is difficult to have a healthy relationship with a narcissist. A lot of the relationship advice you’ll find about narcissists involves getting away from them with minimal pain. In a divorce with children involved, this is almost never possible. Once they see that you’re not on their side, the narcissist can act out to try to punish you and your children.
A narcissist may be incapable of even the simplest negotiations during and after divorce. Simple scheduling hiccups and even changes in schedule can send a narcissist down a path of continuing toxicity. When dealing with a narcissist, it is important to recognize that each situation is unique and requires an individualized response. But the non-narcissist parent can try to control any tension by doing the following things:
- Create Clear Boundaries
Narcissists are likely to respond to things impulsively. A narcissist will take advantage of any perceived weakness and will always try to convince you why they should have their way. For this reason, in-person and text communications should be avoided when possible. Communicating by email is preferred, as this leaves a clearly written documentation record.
- Shield Your Children From Conflict
Do not bad mouth or disparage your ex in front of the children. Children are hurt by this action. If the children are experiencing difficulty with the narcissist, help them to manage these difficulties without criticizing the narcissist as a person. Regardless of your personal feelings about your spouse, they are still a parent to your children.
- Seek Help For Yourself and the Children as Needed
You may at some point find that you need help in dealing with a narcissist. Some studies show that dealing with co-parenting with a narcissist can cause many of the same symptoms as seen in those with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Engage with a therapist who can help both you and your children.
- Document Everything
Using email helps with documentation, but you should also keep written records. Keeping a written record of the situation will help you to see things objectively and rationally. It’s also another form of documentation in case the narcissist acts out.
- Seek Legal Assistance as Needed
Do not allow yourself to be talked out of obtaining legal assistance. If necessary, seek a restraining order. Also, ask for a timeline for your divorce case and hold your lawyer to it. The longer the narcissist has to act, the more damage they can do to your life.
There is no one-size-fits-all resolution for co-parenting with a narcissist. Unfortunately, you will be the bulls-eye in their sights until (and if) another adversary comes into the picture. But there is help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for it.