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Am I Divorcing a Narcissist?

Am I Divorcing a Narcissist?

The end of a marriage can be harrowing for both partners. Sometimes, this pain makes people more reactive. These reactions include aggression, isolation, smear campaigns, and avoidance. Verbal aggression and smear campaigns might make you think that you are divorcing a narcissist. However, these reactions could also be trauma, grief, anxiety, or stress responses. It is usual for people to act abnormally during stressful situations such as a divorce.

So, how do you know if you are divorcing a narcissist? First, understanding narcissism can be helpful. Narcissism is a clinical disorder that is a part of cluster B personality disorders. Cluster B personality disorders are often dramatic, impulsive, erratic, and lack empathy. Lack of empathy is usually the first clue that someone could potentially cause harm.

When angry or hurt, people often lack empathy for themselves or others. This lack of empathy is temporary and is not a symptom of narcissism. In addition, when you are going through a conflictual divorce, do not expect your ex to have empathy for you or what you are going through. If your ex feels hurt by you, it might take time to build trust and compassion.

Therefore, demonising your ex, or anyone else, is not helpful. Even if your ex is a narcissist, demonising them will only give them more power. When we demonise someone, we develop resentment, fear, anger, or seek revenge. Instead of seeing someone as good or bad, seeing them as safe or unsafe can be helpful. Unsafe people have a pattern of manipulation, self-centeredness, lack of empathy, lying, cheating, and aggression.

Someone with a clinical diagnosis of narcissism is going to be unsafe in specific ways. Narcissists often play victim to get empathy from others. A narcissist might also play rescuer to portray a certain image to the public or to get others to owe them something. Narcissists often give backhanded compliments, devalue others, and sometimes can be physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive.

Narcissists often believe that they are the authority in the room. Therefore, they might fire their attorneys and therapists who do not align with them. They can be charming, so they often have friends and family members gathering information for them. Narcissism is on a spectrum. All humans have narcissistic traits as part of their survival. However, those on the extreme end of narcissism can be pretty dangerous. They can become violent, commit crimes, stalk, and seek such horrible revenge as to ruin their victim’s lives. Often, this abuse plays out in the courtroom.

Whether or not you are leaving a narcissist, there are certain things you can do to keep yourself and your children safe.

  1. Let others know that you are going through a divorce. Tell your human resources department and those you work with that you are going through a divorce. Sometimes, people might call your work and try to say untrue things to get you fired. Let your friends and family members know that your ex might contact them. It is possible that your ex might try to get them to convince you to stay or make you look like the bad guy by playing the victim.
  2. Be safe on social media.   Take down your social media, or don’t post on it. Social media is an excellent way for your ex to learn about you. They can then use this information to harm you. If you are being stalked, this can also be dangerous. If you do not have children, consider going with no contact. No contact means don’t talk to them or have them on your social media and block them from your number. If you have children, you need to be able to have contact with your ex for the children. Bill Eddy offers his BIFF model of communication to communicate with high conflict people such as narcissists.
  3. Understanding narcissistic tactics is incredibly useful. When you can identify patterns and tactics, you can keep yourself safe. For example, does your ex always need to be the centre of attention? Do they get upset when the attention has nothing to do with them? Are they always late? When you recognise these patterns, you can avoid the traps they might set for you.
  4. Beware of narcissistic rage. A narcissist can be particularly dangerous when they are angry. Narcissistic rage can look like physical and verbal aggression. You can avoid narcissistic rage by understanding what motivates them and what angers them. Often, narcissistic rage is the result of feeling rejected, humiliated, ignored, or abandoned.
  5. Report any stalking behaviour. Stalking is a huge red flag and can turn into physical aggression. It can take the form of unwanted texts, emails, calls, gifts, and appearances. File a restraining order if you are being stalked or are worried about your safety.
  6. Watch your reactions. Narcissists like to push boundaries and seek emotional reactivity. They have observed you for long enough to understand how you tick. They know what upsets you. They will do things to push your buttons so that you react big. They will film or record you when you react in a big way. They will use your reactions as evidence in court or with other people.
  7. Be careful who you talk to. A narcissist will make use of “flying monkeys” or spies. These spies will pretend to be your friend or on your side to get information.
  8. Seek as Much Help As Possible: A mental health professional can help you cope with the intense emotions after narcissistic abuse. A family law professional can also help you to understand your rights. Law enforcement and domestic violence shelters can also help you to stay safe.

If you need some support leaving a narcissistic partner, don’t hesitate to reach out and book an appointment.

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