Dr. Kristen Davin
Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.
Going through the emotional roller coaster of divorce is challenging enough. Yet, divorcing a narcissist adds a whole other level of challenges magnified by greater frustration, agitation, and pain. And, it’s common to feel overwhelmed because he makes every decision, however small, complicated.
Every conversation or request is muddled with his own insecurities, as he continues to exert his perceived power and control over you and making your life miserable. As he did the in the marriage, his needs are the most important, because of course, that’s who he is and that’s how he believes things should be despite the divorce. And all of his behaviors continue to be veiled in passive-aggressive behaviors like a sheep in wolves clothing.
This you know. This has been your life. Until now.
Some of the traits common among narcissist men:
He has an overly inflated view of his own importance.
He is envious of others.
He has a condescending manner towards others.
He has a sense of entitlement that he brings to his relationships.
He lacks empathy.
He exaggerates his accomplishments.
And, no doubt, most if not all of those traits resonate with you. You have lived it.
Now, when you initially remove yourself from your toxic marriage, whether it’s your choice or not, it’s very common to respond to him in the same way you did in the marriage, because why wouldn’t you? It’s all you know. But, the longer you are away from it and have time to process and remove yourself from the negative mindset that he has created, the more you will see things for what they truly are and have been. You will discover that many of the things you experience while going through a divorce have been there all along – hiding in plain sight. You will see patterns unfold. Because once you step away and have space, you will have greater insight. Nothing will be the same anymore.
So, how you choose to respond to him moving forward will be key. And although initially, it may feel overwhelming and daunting to change your ways, it is possible. With intention, a willingness and a vision of living your life differently evolves. You will learn to take the necessary steps to hit the pause button and think before you respond.
Trust your instincts. Stay the course.
The first step beyond leaving is to give yourself the space and bandwidth to exhale and begin the process of healing. This also means recognizing and accepting that the process will take time. You cannot unravel a toxic relationship in a matter of days, so don’t expect this of yourself. So, limiting your expectations that things ‘should’ be a certain way by a certain time, will only keep you stuck in a negative mindset.
Thinking logically and strategically so you can map out your decisions in a deliberate way rather than allowing emotions to guide you, is key in your process of divorcing a narcissist.
If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.
Choose to grow.
1. Set boundaries
This begins with minimizing contact with your ex. This will be challenging because he will try to suck you into having a conversation, much like the ones you had when you were married, and often ladled with heightened emotions. But, learn to take a different path. If this means you have to write a script and read from it in order to stay rational and void of emotion (to the best of your abilities), do it. Remember, he will often say certain words and do things that will trigger you to engage with him in old negative, patterned ways of communicating whether it’s trying to persuade you to reunite or using threatening words around custody. But stay your course. Set and honor your boundaries. It does get easier with time.
2. Be the driver of your life
The only person we have control over is ourselves. That’s the truth regardless of our situation. We create our happiness. Believing we can control the other person is false hope. Don’t go down that dead-end path. Your best stance is ‘just the facts’ and to not fall prey to their manipulation.
3. Don’t share
Often times when they are being nice (read: manipulating) you might be tempted to share your emotions or apologize. If you apologize he will use this against you – maybe not in the moment, but he eventually will. He will make you believe he has changed, but you know he has not. Whatever feelings you share with him, though genuine, will eventually come back and bite you in the a*s, making you feel worse than before. Delay your desire to share. Sit with your emotions and learn to let the moment pass. It will serve you well. Call a friend, journal, go for a walk. Put your desire to share on the back burner and leave it there.
4. Gather your team
Surround yourself with family, friends, a good attorney, and a therapist or coach. You should work with someone who has experience not only with divorce but dealing with survivors of narcissist abuse and trauma. This will help you move through the process in healthy ways, feeling empowered. Your team will help you manage your emotions and give you a place to share how you feel, in a safe place. They are there to help you. They will be your voice of reason when you need it the most. Rely on them.
5. Keep a journal
During the throes of a divorce, it’s common to forget many of the things he does because often times there are so many incidents. However, save all of the abusive texts and emails. Write things down. Share your feelings in a journal and make this journal your place of transformation. A place where one day you can look back and see all the growth, despite the challenges. This will help you continue to grow.
Life’s ups and downs challenge us in ways that we never thought of. However, it is through these times, that we learn to grow, embrace the hardships, persevere, and experience a silver lining.
Choose the silver lining…
About the Author
Proactive and approachable, ‘Dr D’ has been described as a ‘straight shooter.’ She helps people embrace change, cultivate healthier relationships, and become more effective communicators, both personally and professionally. Her areas of focus are: divorce, marriage, dating, life transitions, and relationships. By tapping into a person’s strengths, she helps people maximize their life and live authentically. For advice and suggestions on how to navigate your life, follow Dr D on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.