Sometimes I wonder – do only optimists get married? The American Psychological Association estimates that approximately 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. Yet, people dream of their wedding days from the time they are children. Civil rights activists have fought for this basic fundamental constitutional right to be granted equally to people of all races and sexual orientation. And, even people in war-torn countries make a point to share a moment of unfettered happiness on their wedding days. There is an unmistakable universal allure to marriage that seems to override our instincts. So deep is our desire to find true love and experience the mystery of marriage that otherwise deplorable personality traits can be disguised in the seduction.
And then, there is the narcissist. The narcissistic pulls you in with a captivating charm, keen intellect, and fabulous stories. Moreover, the narcissist regales you with stories of achievements, but maintains a child-like innocence all of which draws you in. Most likely, at the time, you were not actually looking for love and marriage. No, you were earnestly plugging away at your activities – planning your future, balancing your budget, setting goals and such. Along comes the narcissist and the narcissist sees you – really SEES you, like no one else has before and trust appears. You feel an intense connection, the kind of intensity that moves worlds. You deduce – it must be love. And, to your own surprise, marriage starts to kind of makes sense, or it sounds like the penultimate goal. You go for it.
Marriage hits you like a death by a thousand cuts. Somewhere along the way, you start to notice things. Lies. They seem little at first. Often, the narcissist lies about things of no importance – things no one would ever think to lie about. It’s confusing and you let it go. Then, bigger lies start rolling in. Some of those achievements turn out to have some twists in their telling. You attend dinner parties where the narcissist shares stores that you veritably know to be untrue. You silently reflect on your own complicity in this facade wondering where in this did you lose yourself. Who is this thief that you married?
The narcissist is a mastermind of the blame game. Equipped with an armoire of essentials – basic crew neck T-shirts of dismissal, multiple reading glasses to highlight superiority and intellect, and innumerable neckties of emotional manipulation. Everything comes back to you. Even if you have been the one to be “strong enough to bare the children and get back to business”, when it comes to relationship failings, all signs point to one thing: it is your fault.
The decision to divorce is rarely an easy one. It typically does not happen overnight – particularly if you have children – it is not a decision to be taken lightly. But, if you are married to a narcissist and you are ready to re-calibrate your life, a divorce may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your kids – if you do it right. Here are three key components to divorcing a narcissist.
1. Know your opponent is formidable and is not your friend. The less you say, the better. Remember, the narcissist knows every one of your buttons and is just waiting to stomp on them one by one. So, gather your team of warriors – a good therapist and an attorney who is a creative thinker.
2. Be willing to stop the blame game. Some of it is your fault. Chances are the narcissist has already pushed you to the brink; you have engaged in behavior that you wish you hadn’t. You have made mistakes in the past, but the past is where the narcissists stronghold over you lies. It is right now that matters.
3. “Completing” your past is the key to unlocking your new possibilities. Contrary to popular belief, the divorce process can be ennobling. You must find a way to believe you can land on your feet even in the midst of a marsh of manure. Believe that overcoming the fear of the unknown is worthwhile when in search of a higher quality of life. Then, take the leap.