So common is it that a potential new client tells me that they are married to a narcissist, that I actually have a specific knowing smile in response and I swear to myself I should create a YouTube channel about divorce and narcissists. I’d make a fortune even if I only charged $5 a viewing.
Note: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist and I have zero training to be preaching about personality disorders. Everything I know, I’ve learned on the job. Take it with a grain of salt.
Did Tom Cruise really love Katy Holmes? Or, did he love how she looked when he was looking down on her from his stool in their wedding photos? He certainly made a fool of himself in the name of love but wasn’t it really more about the attention he got? Despite reports that Katy “won” their divorce (or at least did better than Nicole Kidman), I’d put money on Tom bragging that he was the one who outsmarted her and that the reason he has Suri most of the time is because “he let her.”
Divorcing one of these gems? Here are some common mistakes people-pleasers make divorcing narcissists. Drum roll please. . .
- Not filing first. Assuming you have made the moral decision to get divorced, be the first one to file for divorce. The person who files first gets to go first. That means that party gets their story out first at the hearing on temporary orders and at trial. It means that person’s lawyer will give the first impression of the case. The person who goes second or last has the hard job of disproving what has already been said or suggested and retelling the story in his or her own light. It’s a compromising position. Most likely the narcissist will have a “poor baby” approach, as in, “I really had no choice but to file, since he doesn’t bring me coffee anymore” and with this story line going first, it forces the people-pleaser to get defensive which drowns out the real story, that being that there was no room for another person (you) in the marriage to a narcissist.
- Be ready to fight the obvious. A people-pleaser would never sell a car to a friend for a premium price, but a narcissist would. A narcissist would never concede you broke up with her, but a people-pleaser would let you have the final word. Do not assume that just because you have always taken care of the kids or operated the business that your spouse will concede that you are primarily responsible for those items. This is especially important because you need establish the status quo to your judge. Be ready to defend the last two years of painful homework projects or to demonstrate you have prepared all the company’s tax returns and landed the biggest client.
- Trying to prove a point. Don’t. Even. Try. What does it matter if you have won every battle or even the war? It will make no difference to the narcissist, who is still clothed as an emperor. Narcissists will walk out of a courtroom having been ridiculed by a judge and want to celebrate with the local sommelier’s choice in wine with red meat. Therefore, don’t think if you could just “show her” or you could just get the “judge to tell him”, that it will be downhill from there. Nope. You married a narcissist, so don’t for a second think that all the granted motions in the world will humble him.
- Not carbo-loading. Here it is, here is your permission to go to a buffet in jeggings. A narcissist plans on his spouse complying with his plan for division of assets and custody arrangement. In the narcissist’s mind, the narcissist will simply prepare the decree and the spouse will sign it. Divorcing a narcissist will not be over and done in a couple of months unless you give him everything he wants including the things he demands at the last minute. Oh yes, to a narcissist, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine”. Awarding all of the assets to the narcissist is just papering what is already true to a narcissist. Since you can’t make the narcissist understand that your inherited money is actually yours, you will have to set the case for trial and plan on going. It’s like a marathon: it takes a year to prepare for and complete and you are delirious at the finish line (if you make it). The only difference is you have a lot less money now, hate your lawyer (at least a little) and you may have kid issues to deal with. Like the jungle, the tired animals get eaten. So, carbo-load because this is going to take a while, you might as well enjoy it.
- Expecting mediation to work. Where a people-pleaser might get worn down by the long hours stuck in a room with a lawyer (gag), a narcissist is just getting started and is appreciating how all the professionals have their day tied up in what she will not agree to. Picture the scone-eating narcissist being asked if she would like creamer or milk in her tea while she contemplates whether or not she can live without his grandmother’s diamond watch. Go to mediation but have a plan and listen to your lawyer.
- Self-infliction. A narcissist is the blade a people-pleasure cuts himself with. The people-pleaser mistakes the narcissist’s joy as love. The joy was getting attention, not being with their “person.” The people-pleaser really loves the blade, and misses the blade even when the claws come out in court. Loving your spouse is not a bad thing. Love is an exhibit of our humanness, as beautiful as the body’s ability to heal itself or birth a baby. Deal with the love, loss, rejection and sadness without cutting yourself on the blade. Cut the nerve instead and cooperate with your spouse but don’t inflict new wounds on yourself. You will end up with the wounds and the narcissist will only feel better about herself because you “did it to yourself”.
- Be ready for Karpman’s triangle. According to Karpman, the cycle of dysfunctional relationships involves three roles: victim, persecutor and rescuer. Pay very close attention to the role you are playing in the drama cycle so you can learn what it is when the narcissist plays victim or rescuer. If your spouse said you would never see your kids again, get ready for him to play victim of the year when you are awarded primary of the kids. Offer him a compromise and get ready to be the victim when he takes advantage of your kindness.