Divorcing and healing from divorcing a Narcissist and emotional abuser is a confusing and difficult process. I spent a lot of time reading, researching and asking trusted friends what to do. One of your most powerful weapons on this journey is to educate yourself and be prepared. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions that I’ve received from readers of this blog:
Q: As a Christian, how do you justify a divorce?
A: I believe that people much smarter than myself have published plenty of thoughts on God’s view on divorce. So I read and read. I came to the conclusion that God doesn’t “require” me to live with an abusive man who is not loving his wife as Christ loved the church and is unrepentant even after being confronted in a Matthew 18 manner by myself, friends, and the church. I believe that my XNarc abandoned the marriage due to his hostile, unloving, unrepentant sin against me. I simply filled out the legal paperwork.
I worked closely with my church and constantly submitted to their authority. They eventually advised me that divorce seemed to be my only option left as the abuse was unbearable and getting worse; he would not agree to a separation; he would not move out of the house; and he was not listening to any of the advice from the church. The church believed that even if there are many sides of divorce argument, that at minimum, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 applied: “…the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband)…” So my elder told me that he believed this scripture gives a person in my situation the ability to get a divorce, but that I should not remarry. Things were sooo bad, and I was so desperate that I agreed with that!
Here are the most informative books and articles I’ve found on the issue:
- Divorce and Remarriage by Tony Evans
- What God Has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce? This article by David Instone-Brewer was very enlightening and freeing for me.
- Barbara Roberts addresses the biblical grounds for divorcing an abuser in this excellent and thought provoking article.
- Leslie Vernick lists great scriptures supporting separation from an abusive spouse which may help you in your decision to separate and eventually decide if divorce is appropriate.
Q: How did you know it was time to file for divorce?
A:I asked myself that question many, many times as my heart was twisting and turning with indecision and fear. A friend told me, “Keep praying for God to show you His will and then give you the strength to do it. He will make it clear when it’s time to leave.” Hummmm…. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant. I honestly prefer clear-cut answers.
But, as she urged, I kept asking God for clarity and wisdom. Finally, I have to say, God make it perfectly, crystal clear. What I mean by that, is that I felt an inner prompting that it was time. And I had a total peace about it. (Before, I had felt only fear and confusion when I considered leaving my marriage.) I thanked Him for giving me clarity. I sanity-checked it with a couple of trusted friends, and there was total agreement that it was indeed time to leave the toxic, abusive situation I was in.
That was my path to knowing it was time. For a non-faith perspective on when it’s time to leave a destructive marriage, I really like Lundy Bancroft’s thoughts on it from his book Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?:
The Turning Point
“Sometimes we hit a point in life where we just can’t take it anymore. Regardless of what the unhealthy situation is – a toxic work environment, a living situation with aggravating housemates, a marriage to a destructive partner – we may have gone along tolerating our distress for years, but one morning we wake up and we simply cannot live with it anymore.
The source of this internal shift is a mystery. Why after three years, or ten years, or twenty years of tolerating pain and stress does there come a time when we simply have to take steps, even if they feel scary, toward a better life? And what happens that makes all of our previous fears of change no longer holds back?
Changing any of the fundamental pillars of our lives – our job, our home, our primary relationship- comes with risks. The next situation might be even worse. We might end up feeling alone and lonely. Some people we care about might turn against us because of the upheaval we’re causing. We might not have the money we need to live at the standard we’re accustomed to.
But a day comes when none of that matters. The dangers are still there, but they seem more tolerable than staying in the life we’re currently enduring. We suddenly have courage that we lacked before. From somewhere has surged faith in ourselves that had vanished before, and energy that had been zapped out of us. We rise.
If your day hasn’t come yet, it will come soon. One morning you will awake and burst forth, like a caterpillar out of a chrysalis becoming a butterfly. And if your relationship continues to stand in your way, you will end it, because you won’t be able to stand being held back another minute. “I will know when the day comes when it’s time to go.”
Q: How bad was the journey?
A: Horrible. Divorcing a narcissist is by far the hardest trial I have ever been through and it was worse that I dreamed. I don’t say that to try to scare you; if it is the right thing to do, it needs to be done. Just go into it prepared: with accurate expectations, financial homework done, a support team, and draw yourself close to God. I am grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned and the new person I’ve become. I’m also grateful that my home is now peaceful and safe.
Q: Did things get better after the divorce was final?
A: Depends….some things were better, but many things did not settle down like I assumed. Which is why we still have a Parenting Coordinator. There is so much conflict over any part of the Decree that is not 100% clear. And my XNarc creates conflict even over things that are 100% clear, like paying 50/50 for unreimbursed medical expenses. High-conflict personalties unconsciously thrive on conflict. So they don’t play by the same rules. They don’t negotiate. No matter what you say or do, they will argue and intentionally create turmoil. I’m told things get better when he gets a new girlfriend. I’m waiting….
Q: How do you help your kids through a divorce?
A: That is honestly the hardest part of the whole journey. My kids were why I stayed in my marriage about 7 years too long. My kids are what prompt me to still groan and weep to God in my bed late at night. I pour out my heart like water in the presence of the Lord for the sake of my kids. They were my “idols”, and I’ve also had to admit that, repent, and turn my kids over to God. I am trying/learning to trust that God loves them even more than I do. Some days it’s hard for me to trust my kids to God. I still believe that I need to pick up the sword and defend them from the pain and consequences of the divorce. But I am practicing trusting God.
Telling my children we were divorcing was a big hurdle, and this is how I told them. Since that time, I’ve taken them to counseling. I think that helps some. I’ve also asked my church to come alongside us and provide staff from the youth program who spend time with my kids and love on them. That has been terrific. Many people advised me not to speak poorly of their father. I follow that carefully, no matter how hard it is. I’ve probably followed that to a fault. I’m now being advised to be carefully honest when their father doesn’t allow them to do things, like go to gymnastics camp, and let that fact reflect back on their father. Not speak poorly; just not hide the truth.
Those are my serious FAQs. Here are some more humorous question/answers that I’m reposting from the website An Upturned Soul:
Q: Do Narcissistic people know they are difficult?
A: No. You’re the one who is difficult because you’re not giving them what they want and you’re expecting them to behave respectfully towards you. Although occasionally they will admit to being difficult, they have a different interpretation of the word. They’re unique, special, and you could never understand them… they are so misunderstood, that’s the price of being superhuman.
Q: How do you annoy a Narcissist?
A: Easy peasy. Everything and everyone annoys them. Just say ‘No’ when they want something. Or rub their noses in a mistake they made, they make a lot of them. They hate making mistakes and having those mistakes pointed out to them. Seriously though, why do you want to annoy a Narcissist? The backlash is going to be dramatic and you’ll never hear the end of it. Is it really worth the momentary satisfaction?
Q: Giving a Narcissist boundaries?
A: They don’t know what boundaries are. If they find one it has challenge written all over it. You give yourself boundaries for your own sake, your boundaries won’t be acknowledged by the Narcissist, but have them for yourself they are a sanity saver. That’s why No Contact only works if you enforce it, they don’t understand what it means. Them ignoring you does not mean No Contact, it means they don’t need your services at this time. You ignoring them… this is intolerable to them!
Q: Do Narcissists feel regret?
A: Not like you do. Their version of regret is different. They don’t like to be unmasked, when that happens they do a disappearing act. That’s regret to them. They were umasked and it was a horrible experience, they wish the illusion, the fake self, the mask, was still real. They wish all their illusions were real and they hate it when an illusion gets popped. They miss their illusions, and have nostalgic illusions about their illusions, dreaming of a time that never happened, but it is so real. The past to them is as imaginary as everything else, and they really miss the you they pretended you were, and the them that they were pretending to be. However they are very adept at faking regret to make others sympathise with their plight.
Q: How to get a Narcissist to respect you?
A: Tough one, but possible. Say ‘NO’ and mean it and stand your ground no matter how bad it gets. If they can’t manipulate you, they’ll fear you. Fear is the Narcissist’s version of respect.
Q: Are they really a sensitive person or a Narcissist?
A: Narcissists are hyper-sensitive. About themselves. But completely insensitive to other people. They do however never, ever shut up about how sensitive and empathic they are. They’re not. Not in the traditional understanding of sensitivity and empathy. They use their version of empathy to find your weakness, get under your skin, then they use it to hurt you and manipulate you. They’re very bad empaths.
Q: Why do Narcissists always blame someone else?
A: Why blame yourself when you can give someone else the blame? There’s that. There is also the fact that accepting responsibility for blame means they might have to face their own ugliness… they can’t do that! Besides it’s easy to find others to blame, especially as you don’t have to ask for permission to do so, so they hand it out very generously and get to pretend that they are wonderful and beautiful, and the only reason their world is ugly is someone else’s fault. And they’re very good at getting people to forgive them and make excuses for them.
OK, that last part was our humor for the day! I thought it was hilarious, and true.
More Q&As to come as readers email their questions to me.
Love and blessings,