“Mediation with a Narcissist” is the post that gets the most views on my website, hands-down. I find that interesting. Mediation with a Narc is sooo very, very difficult. Note the multiple times I use “very”. I could keep going.
Since this is clearly a topic that readers are searching for information on, here is a “Part II” with additional musings and thoughts:
HAVE LOW EXPECTATIONS:
- Sorry to say that as the very first bullet point…but remember, narcissists do not negotiate well, if at all. They win. They have an all-or-nothing outlook and are too competitive and controlling to tolerate a fair outcome. They think they are smarter and more important than anyone else in the room, and they sure don’t want to be controlled by you, or your lawyer, or the mediator.
- My lawyer said that the judges in our town want couples to try mediation first, so most people schedule one day. So, depending on your judge, you might need to try mediation even if you know its not going to go well.
- A friend of mine who went through mediation had FIVE different days of mediation before they reached an agreement, and then they only came to agreement because the narc spouse had an compelling business reason for finalizing the divorce.
- In my mediation, we got almost nothing done the first day. My lawyer said the main benefit of that day was that we got my XNarc’s financial information and understood the negotiating positions.
- We got a little closer our second day of mediation, but mostly due to my agreeing on some custody provisions that have turned into a huge source of conflict. We did not reach a signed agreement that second day, even though I made an offer at the end of the day. Of course my XNarc said he needed more time to consider it. Due to Narcs excessively high need for control, I really think there was no way he was going to agree to something I had proposed in a mediation environment.
- Because of this high need for control, their need to win, and psychopathically low empathy, I just haven’t heard of mediation going well with this personality disorder. They simply do not compromise well. They think they’ve done nothing wrong and it’s really all YOUR fault, so they are entitled to a better outcome than the other party.
- In summary, be prepared with realistic expectations for your situation.
- Before mediation, my lawyer had me prepare an inventory of all my assets and debts and personal property. Spend serious time on this. Don’t rush. (I forgot a piece of personal property and it became a source of conflict later.) To document personal property, I went through my house and documented everything I thought was mine before marriage or had been given as a gift, including: birthday presents, jewelry, furniture, art, and any items bought prior to marriage (other than clothes, shoes, etc.) I took pictures, in addition to listing them in the document, so there was no confusion over what was what.
- For my assets and debts, I collected all the data and documents my lawyer requested and had it on a spread sheet, as well as organized in file folders. (I’ve used both the accordion type folders and large binders with tabs.) They should give you a list, but for assets it included things like bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, cars, boats, homes, retirement funds, business interests, time shares, annuities, and valuable household items. For debts, it included credit card balances, business loans, student loans, car loans, mortgage monthly payment and balances, and private loans from family.
- If you and your spouse exchange an inventory of all this prior to mediation like we did, go through it carefully. Do NOT assume it is accurate! There were things on my XNarc’s list that were not accurate. For example, if they list their IRA account prior to marriage as separate property, ask for documents proving the dollar amount.
- When you ask for these documents, be prepared for them to stonewall or ignore the request. Make a list of things you or your lawyer has requested and be ready to ask for it in follow up meetings. (Do not only depend on your lawyer to keep up with this list of requests. They unfortunately drop the ball, too.) I was surprised how many things we asked for that we either we had to follow up to get or did not get at all.
- Meet with your lawyer prior to mediation and be prepared. We had a draft of a first offer prepared so that we didn’t waste time in the mediation room crafting one. We knew where our starting position was.
- Make a list of what is important to you. Keep that with you that day and review it. I made too many concessions on custody issues and in retrospect wish I had not. It was on my “What Is Important to Me” list but I forgot about that list in the heat of the day.
MANAGE DAY OF:
- Bring all your documents, computer and phone with you.
- Bring whatever you need to be comfortable yet professional.
- If you might need to access additional financial or legal information during the mediation day, depending on what issues arise, contact those resources prior and ask them to be available if you call. Get cell and work numbers.You don’t want to delay mediation trying to contact your accountant while they are at lunch.
- Have friends you can text or call for support. It is isolating and lonely to go through this. You will probably feel like no one knows what you are going through or how difficult and painful it it. We know, dear one. Your feelings are valid. Have friends around you to support you.
- Try to stay calm. When ridiculous proposals came from the other side, I wanted to feel outraged and complain to the mediator how unfair and ridiculous he was being. I wanted to “vent”. Instead, I suggest you practice “responding” instead of reacting. Respond with a “yes” “no” or “maybe”. The more you stay calm and logical, the less time you will waste being outraged. (Check. I’ve got to keep working on that one. It’s easy to be offended when someone is so offensive, and Narcs are VERY offensive.)
- Make good lists of any additional documentation you need or you need the other side to provide. Don’t just depend on your lawyer to follow up. It’s your case, your life, so you be sure to manage it well.
- It really helped me to go to a friends home that night after mediation and have a glass of wine and debrief. My friend is a lawyer and has done a lot of mediation, so we talked through the day. She was able to point out some things that were “strategies” on my XNarc’s part. It helped to get my thoughts and concerns on the table and hear my friend’s wise advice.
- Collect any follow-up information that you need to provide or research.
- Remember to breathe. Take some deep breaths to settle down and keep thinking clearly.
- Mediation is mentally and physically exhausting so give yourself a break before and after. Don’t plan anything big for the next day if possible.
- Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that you are proud of yourself for getting through a tough day, and you did a good job. You don’t need perfection, just progress.
Know that you are not alone. Many of us have tried mediation with a narcissist. Just know that due to the nature of this personality disorder, it usually does not end in an Agreement, at least not the first day. Set your expectations realistically. Be strong. Be kind to yourself. You can do this.
If you have thoughts about mediation with a narcissist that might help other readers, please share in the comments below.
Love and blessings,