Divorce with a Narcissist Can Makes Things Harder
There are always two ways to go about the divorce process. The “easy” way is to commit to an effective and healthy co-parenting relationship where both parties are respectful and supportive of the other’s relationships. The “hard” way is to fight over everything. Fighting over every battle during a divorce will not only take an extreme toll on you emotionally, but it will also run up your bill in attorney’s fees. However, you might feel like you do not have a choice and must go the “hard” way because your partner is a narcissist. Most people don’t want to fight because fighting leads to more heartbreak, not moving on, and being stuck in a toxic relationship- even if it is no longer romantic. Narcissists, on the other hand, live for the fight.
Choose Your Battles
If you want to have a healthy co-parenting relationship, you must understand you cannot win every fight. Give in to the things you do not value as much and let your co-parent win those. Narcissists always have a plan- sometimes it’s a smear campaign or other times they are simply trying to make things miserable for you. Regardless, if you let your co-parent win some battles, it will satisfy their internal need to beat you and might make them more open to negotiating other issues.
Talk to your attorney about how to best gain leverage while negotiating. Generally, leverage includes something that is going to motivate and incentivize the co-parent to negotiate. This could include evidence of their lies, secrets that others have, or evidence of a prior crime. When gathering leverage, you want to figure out what it is that drives them- money, their car, the house, ignoring court orders, not communicating with you, refusing discovery, hiding money- it can be anything that they value higher than the rest and gives them that internal satisfaction of winning. Then, figure out a way to put that in jeopardy or a way to interfere with their ability to get what they want. This is your leverage that is going to force the co-parent to come to the negotiation table.
Talk to Your Attorney
Lastly, talk to your attorney about hiring a parenting consultant or family therapist to help you navigate this moving forward. If you have kids, you will have to continue to co-parent with this narcissist for many years to come. The last thing you want to do is to try to resolve every little issue that arises, which will take a serious toll on your emotional well-being. Instead of running up your attorney’s fees by having your attorney communicate with opposing counsel back and forth on every issue, the parenting consultant or family therapist can give a recommendation or decision. You can use them as a shield, such as by saying “Sorry, my therapist says I need to establish strong boundaries, so I will not be responding unless it has to do with the kids.” Learning how to communicate with a narcissist will greatly assist you in minimizing conflict, and if you just can’t, that’s what a parenting consultant or family therapist is for.
In the end, you need to completely cut this person out of your personal life- the only contact you should have with them is if it is regarding the children if any. Consider a family communication tool like Our Family Wizard, where third parties like attorneys, parenting consultants, and the Court can see all messages, messages cannot be deleted, and each message has a ranking of how aggressive the message is. Keep all communication brief, informative, friendly, and focused. You need to understand you are not the problem, and never were. Do your best to co-parent with the narcissist but remember not to get caught up in everything. Ultimately, you will be happier and healthier if you do not give into their games and take the high road.