Published on May 20, 2024

Breaking up is always hard to do but if you’re leaving a narcissist it can be off the scale. Here’s how your break up will be different and what you can do about it.

You Need A Plan For Your Separation

The narcissist will always be two steps ahead of you so you want to plan your separation like a military operation.  If you’ve not yet left, go to a domestic abuse agency such as Women’s Aid or ManKind and ask them to do a risk assessment for you and support you in leaving.  Get vital documents (birth certificates, passports etc) out of the house before or when you leave.

Work out what you want with regard to arrangements for your children, and financial arrangements.  Don’t let the narcissist tell you what you’re going to get, or bully you into things you know aren’t right.  Make your own plan, with help from a friend, DA agency or lawyer if necessary.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Build Your Evidence Before You Leave The Narcissist, And Continue After

You don’t know how your separation is going to play out so take photos or recordings of any abuse, report it to the police, social services, GP, DA agency – everyone you can, you’ll be glad you did later.
Keep a daily diary or log of what the narcissist does and how it affects the children.

Be A Realist, Not An Optimist – Narcissists Don’t/Can’t Change

The victims of narcissists tend to be gentle, peace-loving souls who want an amicable separation.  Unfortunately that’s not going to happen if you’re leaving a narcissist so when I say make a plan, do make a realistic one. 

You’ve probably been used to tiptoeing around the narcissist, doing all you can not to make waves and to keep them ‘happy’. That’s no longer going to work as the narcissist will be furious that you’ve left them (even if they did the leaving, it was still your fault!) and probably out to destroy you.  Now’s the time to protect yourself, make and keep firm boundaries, and fight back.  I know, I know, fighting is not in your nature – but although narcissists can’t and won’t change, you can.  Get some therapy or coaching and borrow some courage and strength.

Mediation/Negotiation Doesn’t Work With Narcissists

They have to win, and it’s their way or the high way.  Unless you can show you’ve been abused (see 2 above) you will have to attempt mediation before you go to court – and most narcissists love going to court.  Be sure to insist on shuttle mediation so you don’t have to be in the same room as the narcissist, and give away as little information as possible to reduce the risk of them using it against you later.

Don’t Let The Narcissist’s Lies Distract You

Narcissists lie, it’s who they are, you can’t stop them any more than you can stop a dog from barking.  And when the lies are about you they can be hurtful and, worse, distracting.  You can waste a lot of time defending yourself.  The narcissist doesn’t care what you reply about their lies, that’s not the point of them.  So don’t respond unless to deny something which could come back to bite you later.  A simple denial eg ‘that’s not true’, ‘your allegations are denied’ is all you need.   Then get back to following your plan and not the narcissist’s plan: they know their lies derail you.

This is my all time favourite book for understanding and dealing with the narcissist’s communications: Understanding The Language Of A Narcissist, It’s very short, easy to read, and will make you laugh.

If you don’t know about grey rock, google it (with the word narcissist) and then practice until you become an expert.

Solicitors Don’t Have A Plan – They Have A Process And It Doesn’t Work With Narcissists

You can tell your solicitor that your ex is a narcissist but they probably won’t believe you.  Even if they do, they won’t understand that they need to conduct your case differently.  You can spend thousands of pounds with a solicitor, and waste months or even years, and be no further forward at the end of it. 

So don’t fall into the trap of handing over all your paperwork with a sigh of relief and expecting the solicitor to sort it all out for you.  Ask them what the process is, and what their plan is for your particular case and how it differs from their usual cases.  If they tell you they’re skilled in ‘difficult cases’ ask if you can speak to one of their previous clients who had one.  Or find a cheaper option such as a McKenzie Friend who can help you with the process.

You Can’t Co-Parent With A Narcissist

A narcissist doesn’t really care, or have the capacity to care, about their children.  As far as they’re concerned their children are there to enhance their status, and to give them narcissistic supply with their adoration and hero worship.  And children make excellent weapons to use in their aim of destroying you.  So working with you to be the best parents you can be is not in their plan.  It may be in yours, but be realistic, not optimistic. 

Parallel parenting is the best you can do.   You each make your own decisions for your time with your children.  This is not ideal as, for instance, your child may not be allowed to join a football team if they can only play every other week because your ex refuses to take them in ‘their’ time.  But it’s better than the constant battles with them messing you and your children around – you know where you are and feel in control. 

This is an excellent book for showing you how to communicate with a narcissistic parent: BIFF for CoParent Communication: Your Guide to Difficult Texts, Emails, and Social Media Posts.

My book, How to Divorce a Narcissist: and succeed in the family court, gives you more information about all of the above and invaluable help if you’re going through the family court.

You can find more information and how to contact the author HERE.

You might also find this article useful How To Spot A Narcassist

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The Early Days Of Separation

Humans are designed to cope with many onslaughts, but change continues to prove extremely challenging. How you manage the early days of separation or divorce has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the process.

When couples separate, they are often thrown into a period of uncertainty. Identities are changing from couple to single, from mum and dad together as a family unit to mum with children and dad with children. Depending on the circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during the early days of separation. “Will we have to sell our home?” “I haven’t worked since we had children – how will we manage financially?” “What will our friends and family think?” “How much will divorce cost?”
“Will I cope on my own?” There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be ‘all over the place’ emotionally due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision-making seem impossible. Who wants to agree the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organise the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss? It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking mums and dads into what appears to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.

Take Your Time!

In those early days of separation or divorce, take your time if you can. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. Try not to make any big decisions too quickly.
Bear in mind that communication problems with your ex and all the pressures on family life you are now experiencing, like for many separating couples, will get better with time. It’s important to recognise that you and your ex will more than likely be in very different emotional places at the moment; different stress levels and anxieties will be making communication difficult. Taking the time to sometimes do nothing, to not react, give things a day or two, can prove very useful techniques.
What you have to remember is that if you have children, your ex is always going to be part of your life. That can be hard to take on board when you are feeling hurt and angry. If you can find a way to communicate with each other that focuses on the children, you will all benefit in the years to come.

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