Negotiating with a Narcissist (AKA Terrorist)

Negotiating with an abusive spouse or a Narcissistic is like negotiating with a terrorist. The consensus advice is: “DON’T DO IT!” There are good reasons not to negotiate with a terrorist – they are unreasonable, they are manipulative, they lie, they are crazy, and they usually don’t give you what you want, even when you agree to meet their demands! I read somewhere “A narcissist doesn’t negotiate. They win.”

My narcissistic X2B has proven to be true this over and over and over.

Negotiate with a narcissist

We recently got into a negotiation over trading custody time. Once again, I ended up losing. I am well educated, had a successful career, and can usually handle my own, thanks. But things don’t go well for me when we negotiate over the kids. He uses my concern for their well-being to get more time, better days, special events, etc. in exchange for the time we trade. It’s hard when the kids are pawns. But I’m learning. Learning not to let him bully, manipulate, control, or intimate me, all of which an abuser is well-skilled at doing. I’m also leaning to stick as closely to the custody orders as possible. I’m learning to say things like:

  • “My expectation is that we will comply with the Decree and it says XYZ.”
  • “No. The Decree says XYZ.”
  • “I agree to follow the Decree. The Decree says on p. 15 that….”
  • “I do not see that condition in the Decree, so I do not agree to that.”
  • “I decline to have you amend our Agreed Final Decree of Divorce with the interpretation in the email below.”

Sometimes he will ask for something in a negotiation and I have agreed to what he asks, with the hope that he will appreciate the flexibility I showed and he will reciprocate, but that is NEVER, EVER the case. As my counselor said: I need to kill the fantasy in my mind that a narcissist will be reasonable or will reciprocate when I do something nice. It is truly a fantasy; nothing more. A narcissist seriously thinks they deserve it and there is no need to reciprocate. They feel they are entitled to favorable treatment and unquestioning compliance with their wishes and expectations. Other people are supposed to acquiesce to their requests. Or they feel like the victim and use that to justify their bad behavior in negotiations. They just don’t negotiate to get to a good, fair solution for everyone; they negotiate to win. At your expense.

Remember that narcissists find it hard to accept losing their influence over your life and will attempt to find ways to control you. Even after the divorce is final. This is much easier for them to do if there are children in the mix, so the narcissist will work overtime attempting to negotiate over and control you through child support, custody time, expenses, and co-parenting decisions. It is exhausting. I’m so sorry.


Bill Eddy, President of the High Conflict Institute, has a good book called “So, What’s your Proposal?”  that might help in some cases that are not as extreme as mine. They suggest when dealing with “high-conflict personalities” (like narcissists or borderlines) that you use a method of calmly saying: “So, what’s your proposal?” to try to shift the high-conflict person back into logical thinking. I’ve tried it and it worked a few times, but I think Mr. Terrorist is onto the method and just wants to blow up the negotiating process, so it’s not working for me anymore.

So I’m Just Sayin’: If you are thinking about asking your X or X2B if they will change custody dates, change custody times, pay for something out of the ordinary, etc., it is a whole lot easier to simply stick with the temporary or divorce orders (unless there is something big like a funeral in the family), because the abusive person will try to make your life hell and suck a LOT of time and energy going back and forth and back and forth again over any changes you request. (I’ve had over 20 pages of going back and forth on an issue over email.)  Narcissists are controlling, lack empathy, and are in it to win, all of which makes it extremely difficult to get to a fair and reasonable agreement.  It’s been my experience from a lot of trying that it’s just not worth negotiating with a terrorist.

Love and blessings,


4 thoughts on “Negotiating with a Narcissist (AKA Terrorist)

  1. Hi, thank you for your insights into dealing with a narcissist. I am going into mediation over property after our divorce. I have put it off 6! years but now it’s coming to a head. How do you get a fair unbiased mediator? I feel like ( in my case) that I need a man mediator to keep things civil. My ex has a way of swaying women. For example , last week he conned the Title Company employee. We had a meeting and this woman wanted me to sign away my equity in the home for $0! Nothing. She wanted me to be paid nothing for my equity in the home. I feel like woman do not see his manipulation. I’m a woman and I didn’t see it :(. Thank you again for making it perfectly clear that a narcissist just wants to win.

    • Hi Tina, First, I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I know it’s incredibly difficult and stressful.

      I agree that a male mediator is helpful when dealing with a male narcissist. If you have a lawyer, they should be able to recommend an excellent mediator who knows how to handle narcissists. If you don’t have a lawyer, I would get recommendations from friends or family. If they don’t know anyone, maybe get the name of some lawyers who go to your church and call them and explain you go to church together and ask for their recommendation.

      Be sure to read my posts on Mediation with a Narcissist. I tried to put all my lesson’s learned in there. If you go to mediation with a lawyer, which is what I did, then that’s great. The lawyer will be helping you get the best deal. If you are going to mediation without a lawyer, I HIGHLY encourage you to bring along a trusted friend or family member who is wise and tough. I think it’s really important to have someone to sanity check your decisions. Remember that the mediator is trying to get you both to agree. They are not necessarily looking out for what is fair to you or in your best interest. (At least that’s my experience.) Having someone there who can help you weigh the offers and make counter offers would be very helpful.

      I hope it goes well and pray that you have peace and wisdom and strength during the process.

      Love and blessings, Melissa

      • Hi Melissa ,
        Thank you so much for your response. I cannot afford an attorney so I had to go to the mediation meeting alone. I spoke to the mediator for a few minutes before he got there. I explained that he is the ultimate narcissist and I said he’s extremely violent. She dismissed my comments and said that she could handle any situation. There was no security with us in the room.
        The meeting started and he was initially cordial. We started talking facts. We had been married 22 years. California is a 50/50 property split state. She explained that we would be splitting everything in this manner. He lost it. He said he would kill me before he gave me anything. He cornered me in the room and choked me until the sheriff was called and he pulled him off of me. I don’t think the mediator believed me when I tried to warn her about him.
        I now have a restraining order and I have received my financial judgement. It seems that the system does not work to help woman. The system is set up to support men and attorneys . Thank you so much for the information you provide online, for free 🙂 Tina

        • Oh Tina, I am so, so sorry. That is just horrible. I’m so glad you have a restraining order, but I’m also wondering if you could press it further and file assault charges. Just a thought. You have been through a very scary and traumatic event and I pray you can get some healing for that as you go down this journey. Blessings to you, Melissa

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