Weekend Wisdom – Reconciliation with an Abusive Spouse

Before our divorce was final, my spouse pushed for reconciliation. And he used the Scriptures as the bully stick to put intense pressure on me. I heard things like “You need to forgive me. You are sinning against me and God by not reconciling with me.” Note that I only heard him apologize in general terms. I was not seeing any fruit of repentance – not even a grape.  I didn’t hear a humble confession of how he had sinned against me. I wasn’t told how he would make amends. There was no evidence that he saw himself as the problem; in fact, he was still telling others the opposite.

Patrick Doyle in the video below explains reconciliation, and he outlines four things needed for it to work. This is the best information I have heard on the topic from a Christian perspective. If you are wondering if you should reconcile with an abusive person, this will CLEARLY explain when reconciliation is appropriate and when it is not. He also goes into boundaries, and why you need to be willing to put your relationship on the alter, or the person will continue to harm you. This may seem opposite of what we sometimes hear from the church, which seems to be ‘preserve the marriage at ALL COSTS’. However, that is not loving the abusive spouse or yourself well.

The video is long, but worth it!

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The Narcissist and Boundaries

Narcissists don’t like boundaries. If you set a boundary, they will usually cross the boundary on purpose, to prove that you cannot control them. It’s like a challenge to them. Then, they will tell you how selfish or unreasonable YOU are. It’s crazy making, I know.

The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.Drs. Cloud and Townsend Boundaries-2

To help me set boundaries, I got specific language and ideas from books or my counselor. I gained confidence by “sanity checking” it with another person and confirming that my boundary was wise and healthy.  When my boundary was crossed and tested, which it always was, I was prepared to stick to my consequence. Sometimes that meant walking away, or hanging up the phone, or not responding, or saying “never mind”.

One of the first boundaries I set was a physical one. I needed to feel safe in my own home. When my XNarc came to my door, I practiced that I could either answer or NOT ANSWER my door. I could choose to engage or not engage. If I answered the door, I decided I was not going to invite him inside. If we talked on the doorstep and the conversation didn’t go well, then I would ask him to leave. If he didn’t leave, I was prepared to tell him I was calling the police, and close the door. Then I was prepared to go and call the police. All of those steps may seem simple to some, but because my boundaries had been stepped on SO MANY TIMES prior, and I had been told how selfish and self-centered I was, it took me some time to work through those boundaries and have the confidence that they were healthy and normal and necessary.

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Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work with a Narcissist

Marriage counseling with an abusive or narcissistic spouse is not a good idea. I tried it. You may have, too. It simply gives the abuser another venue to blame, abuse, and project. 

Declining to participate in something that is more hurtful than helpful is a healthy boundary-3

I dreaded going to marriage counseling. But thought I needed to go. I went prior to filing for divorce. I went after filing for divorce. I hoped the therapist would be able to do or say something to change him. That never happened. I also went because I wanted to “prove” to my church and our friends that I was doing everything I could to try to make the marriage work. That wasn’t worth the pain I had to endure.

“When there is no safety and no sanity, joint counseling is ineffective and often dangerous. If he can’t see his part or take responsibility for his own wrong thinking, beliefs or attitudes, everything ends up being the wife’s fault and her responsibility.”

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How Do I ‘Manage’ A Narcissist Through A Divorce?

I love Leslie Vernick’s books and blog and have listed them on my HELPFUL RESOURCES page.  She is a counselor, author and a wise Christian.  She speaks with boldness and truth,  and I like how she supports her views with scripture. Here is a post from her blog with excellent advice on divorcing a narcissist.  She echoes a lot of what I’ve said here previously; I think you will find it helpful to hear it again in her words.

HOW DO I MANAGE A NARCISSIST THROUGH A DIVORCE 

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Today’s Question: My husband walked out of our marriage the day our last son graduated high school. In the course of this separation, God revealed to me that there was another woman. I found them together in their favorite restaurant and even recorded them and confronted them at their table.

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Parenting Coordinators in a High Conflict Divorce

We still meet with our Parenting Coordinator (PC).  I find ours is fairly helpful.  Here are a few ways I think this role can help in a high-conflict divorce:

  • She has us use a tool called “Our Family Wizard” (OFW) for all non-urgent communication.  I was getting 10+ emails and texts a day, even after the divorce.  (Before the divorce was final, I counted 33 one day.)  While rude, contentious and intimidating, the emails and texts were never enough to go to court over to get a restraining order or other protection.  But they were stealing my peace. So the PC ordered us to sign up and use OFW. Except for urgent matters, all communication goes through OFW. I check it once a day. We post all our emails, kids logistics, and requests for reimbursement on this online tool.  The PC monitors our emails and coaches us individually on better ways of communicating. When there is an issue I need help with, I forward the email to the PC and ask her for help responding. It has dramatically cut down on the disruptions to my day. I also think my XNarc watches his words more carefully knowing that someone else is reading the emails. It is bringing things out of the darkness and into the light. Very helpful.
  • She meets occasionally with both of us in the same room to work through issues.  Since I will not meet with my XNarc alone, and our emails tend to become circular and contentious, the PC is an excellent third party to meet with and try to work through problems. Because she is appointed by the court and can testify, if needed, her advice seems to be given more weight by the High Conflict Personality.
  • She helps me set better boundaries. She has given me the encouragement to say “no” and given me the words to say. Once of my issues I’m working on is trying to be too helpful and not wanting to offend. And thinking my words and explanations will make a difference. And…and….OK, I have a lot of issues…..  (That’s why I’m grateful for Jesus each day!) Some examples of things I might say now:

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Weekend Wisdom – Acceptance

One learns a lot about acceptance and detachment from Al-Anon. I stink at it, though. I think something in me doesn’t want to accept or detach – it’s almost like I need to keep fighting, keep striving to make things work better with my XNarc. Because it’s soooo BAD I don’t know what else to do. But that makes me crazy, because nothing really works when it comes to trying to work better with a Narc, so I come back full circle to acceptance and detachment.  Here is a quote that I’ve cut out and pasted into the front of my Bible.

“Practice acceptance: You need to accept the fact that you will never win in the mind of a narcissist. You will not be able to change their distorted thought process regardless of how many times you remind them of the real version of the story at hand. You need to accept that you are not dealing with a rational, healthy person because acceptance is the key to moving forward.” Tina Swithin

source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tina-swithin/8-tips-for-dealing-with-a_b_2799069.html

I hope this truth helps you gain serenity this weekend. It’s helping me.

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Weekend Wisdom – High Conflict Personalities

Seething from yet another contentious email from my XNarc, I stopped and read this quote to get some perspective and serenity:

patton quote

OK.  So I’m trying to remind myself that NO MATTER WHAT I DO, HE WILL CREATE MORE CONFLICT. I know this doesn’t make sense. I’m a logical person and I honestly cannot grasp this. I keep thinking that my explanations will make a difference. That he will “get it” if I am logical and explain the facts. Nope. He doesn’t. Or maybe if I do what he asks, he will be nicer. Nope. He’s not. He wants to fight. He gets some twisted unconscious energy from the conflict with me. Bummer. For. Me.

Let’s remember in the middle of a ridiculous or difficult conflict that the Narc is thriving on the conflict and find a way to stop playing the game, if at all possible. Possibly not respond to the email. Possibly set a boundary and say “I decline to discuss this topic further.” Possibly refer the issue to your lawyer and let them handle it. Just remember, it’s not you. You are not the crazy one. We know. We believe you.

Love and blessings,

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Mediation with a Narcissist – Part II

“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.

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Weekend Wisdom – Repentance

 

 

ACTIONS speak louder than words.

When I filed for divorce from my XNarc, there were apologies, but those lasted sometimes a few days, sometimes only a few hours, before the blasts and zingers would come.  It was confusing at first to receive what seemed to be a heartfelt apology, only to be berated a short time later.  This quote seems to help restore sanity:

“ACTIONS speak louder than words. We can apologize over and over, but if our actions don’t change the words become MEANINGLESS.”

So remember, repentance needs to be time AND stress tested. The fruit of repentance needs to be visible to all, especially you.  The abuse, the control, the manipulation, the blaming, the raging –  it all needs to stop.  An apology, followed by unrepentant actions, is meaningless.

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An Upside-Down Blessing

I go to counseling once a week. If you have been married to an abusive man or someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you know why. The fear, intimidation, manipulation, and crazy games they play are destructive to the feminine heart. I believe it SOOO goes against God’s desire for women. As Stacy Edridge writes, “…every woman is haunted by the question,“Do you delight in me? Will I be chosen, wanted, seen, fought for?”   In the case of abusive marriages, the answer is devastatingly clear – your spouse is NOT fighting FOR you, he is fighting AGAINST you, and his intent is to harm you. It is shattering when you get out of denial and face the truth.

So at counseling last week, I was working through my anger with how my XNarc treated me.

“Come to see it as an upside-down blessing,” urged my counselor. “And accept that it may not change.”

OK, that’s really not AT ALL what I’m hoping to hear from this guy.  I know from Al-Anon how important acceptance is, but to accept ongoing abuse, even after divorce, seems almost too much to bear. How long, O Lord, how long?

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The Narcissist and Parenting Coordinators

WOW.  I wish you could be a fly on the wall during our last session with our Parenting Coordinator. It was amazing.

The Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a person assigned by the courts to help couples going through a high-conflict divorce do a better job at co-parenting. The PF can help negotiate changes in custody time, interpret custody orders, settle disputes regarding parenting issues, suggest better means of communication between the parents, and do a variety of other things that the court has defined as their duties. This helps keep issues out of the courtroom and legal system.

I am soooo grateful we have a strong, bold, experienced PC.  I was nervous going to our first few meetings.  I did everything I knew to do to prepare for a tough meeting. I exercised, prayed, reviewed my favorite scriptures, texted my friends to cover the meeting in prayer, and wrote down a few key points that I wanted to discuss.  I printed out some email and text exchanges between us that were particularly difficult, hostile or harrassing. I walked into the meetings not knowing what my narc X2B would say or what route the conversation would take.  But I also walked in with a peace that passes understanding because I trusted God was good and sovereign and that he loved me and my kids.

I usually walk out of our PC meetings tired but grateful.  Grateful that the PF has spoken bold truth, grateful that someone else is seeing what’s really going on here. The narcissist may not change much, but at least I have a credible professional who has seen the patterns and can try to help.

In the last few meetings, the PC told my narc X2B a lot of tough things.  He said he was controlling, negative, manipulating the kids, and needed a therapist. To be totally fair, our PC had feedback for me, too.  He told me to try to use the words “parenting time” instead of “custody time”. Check. I’ll work on that. Continue reading

Mediation with a Narcissist

mediation narcissist divorce

I was pessimistic. I told my lawyer that scheduling just one day of mediation would be a waste of time, knowing the excruciating level of detail that my narcissistic X2B likes to go into on any given topic, especially these topics. So we scheduled two days of meetings with the mediator, a few days apart.

We wanted to attempt to settle the financial and custody parts of my divorce so that we could avoid going to court. My lawyer told me at a high-level how the day would go. But my X2B is difficult to negotiate with, has unmanaged emotions, and he often sabotages discussions at the very end, after hours and hours of work. It’s typically “his way or the highway.”  So I could not imagine what mediation would actually look like for me.

As a Christian woman, I wanted to apply my beliefs.  My beliefs that I should fair, respectful, honest, and try to honor God through a difficult day. I wanted to trust God, and believe that He would give me a peace that passes understanding.  (Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”)

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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 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: Continue reading

10 Things To Do Before You Separate or File for Divorce from a Narcissist

Writing-Pen-PaperDivorcing a narcissist is the fight of your life. While going through a divorce is not easy for anyone, when the person you are divorcing is a narcissist, it can be an absolute nightmare. The day you file the paperwork, it’s “game on”.

A Forbes article by Jeff Landers on divorcing a narcissist accurately describes what to expect.  “Do not expect a narcissist spouse to be cooperative or go away quietly. During a divorce, narcissists can be manipulative and exploitive, feeling neurotically entitled to get whatever they want. Narcissists blame everyone else for their problems, and because they are so self-centered, even while bullying their spouses they often perceive themselves to be the victims. True narcissists believe they are above the law and feel that the rules do not apply to them, making them notoriously difficult to deal with. It is common during a divorce for narcissists to:

  • refuse to provide financial information and documents
  • refuse to negotiate
  • refuse to listen to their own lawyer
  • defy court orders
  • use the children as pawns

Because they are so competitive, narcissists love the adversarial nature of the legal system and excel at manipulating it to their advantage.”

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Summer Custody and the Narcissist

Summer

Divorcing a narcissist is hard work.  Many of the things they do are simply to punish you, without regard to the children’s well being.  It doesn’t make sense to a mom; we cannot understand why they would keep the kids the entire month of July as their extended summer visitation.  It’s not good for the kids to go that long without seeing either parent.  But please know, if you don’t already, that a narcissist does many things simply to manipulate and punish.

So here it is, July 2, and my children have been gone from my home for less than 24 hours, and I acutely feel the pain.  They will be gone for 33 days, except for the 1 weekend that the courts say that I can have them during this stretch.  For a mom who birthed these children (natural childbirth at that), wiped their bottoms, nursed them WAAAAY too long, and made their organic babyhood before that was cool, I feel like something just got wrenched from my gut. And my heart. It makes you wonder if you’ve made the right decision to divorce.

One thing I’m finally learning in life and through my work in Al-Anon is acceptance. I cannot control this. It was his choice to pick a 30 day stretch. He could have broken it up into separate chunks of time, but he didn’t. I cannot get more time with my kids this month (without letting my to-be-ex totally manipulate me, which I’m learning not to give in to just to see my kids). I’m at rock bottom. End of my rope. Nothing I can do here. Broken. Then: Acceptance.

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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

What is going on?  What in the world am I dealing with?

That was the question I asked myself two years ago.  My pastor had used the word “narcissist” to describe my husband.  I was taking the kids to camp, I was exhausted from the never-ending conflicts we were having, I knew something was terribly wrong and nothing I was doing was working.   So I decided to stay out of town and away from my husband for that entire week.  (I can assure you that really enraged him!)  I spent the whole week researching “narcissist” and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” or NPD.   What I found shocked me, made me sick to my stomach, and also helped everything make perfect sense.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),  a narcissist has at least 5 of these characteristics:

  • Has an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” or superior and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special people (or institutions).
  • Requires constant or excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e.,  automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  • Takes advantage of others to get what they want
  • Lacks empathy- has an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

That’s the official definition.  However, the more I dug into the nuances of these definitions, and read the stories and experiences of others, the more I understood the “real-life definition”.  It made the past few years make sense, and I gained some sanity.  I was married to a narcissist, and his anger, rage, manipulation, lying, twisting of facts, implying that I was crazy, saying I didn’t care enough, and fear of being abandoned behaviors were all symptoms of that personality disorder.   I talked to a trusted friend and expressed my findings and concerns.  Her sweet husband, who is a Staff Psychiatrist at a major university, sat down with me and shared with me more information about NPD and what I was dealing with.  I took copious notes: Continue reading