A special event such as a birthday, anniversary or valentine’s day spent with a narcissist can be the tipping point at which a person decides to separate or divorce. It can be the day the victim sees their partner for who they really are. The mask slips. Family Lawyer Zoe Bloom shares her expert advice with The Group Hug Community.
In healthy relationships, Birthday’s can disappoint if one partner forgets a gift whilst the other always goes to great efforts. But what happens when you have a narcissistic partner? Narcissists often go from charm to harm before you even know what has hit you. And what better day to use than your Birthday to belittle you?
There would be game-playing every year around my birthday; him pretending that he had forgotten or not putting any thought into a gift. He would always buy me a really ugly birthday card, usually one for a man.
Looking back, that was the “gas-lighting”, he wanted me to get upset and stupidly I did. If only I had ignored him, he would have hated that. This behaviour continued on through the divorce proceedings and I allowed him to get to me. My one regret is that I didn’t keep silent and would rant at him in emails, giving him what he needed to make ME look like the one with the personality disorder!GM – Oxfordshire
Separation is undoubtedly awful for everyone.
Separation from someone with a difficult personality issue (borderline or narcissistic personality disorder) is terrifying. The manipulation, fear and control experienced during the marriage is played out on a new stage, the English legal system. Lawyers, judges and mediators become the audience to whom the narcissist performs. It is easy to feel powerless particularly when the patterns experienced during the relationship continue during the separation.
Clients are scared to tell us that they think their partner is a narcissist. They cannot be sure that it is true and they are frightened to speak up for fear of being shut down and not listened to. They have usually been ‘gaslighted’ throughout the relationship and are no longer able to distinguish between fact and fiction and are anxious, confused and have lost their sense of identity. Many also suffer from co-dependency issues.
The English legal system is not designed to protect or to hear them.
Lawyers are not trained to recognise the symptoms. Right from the outset the client may be told ‘none of this matters’ and encouraged to set aside differences to draft a low key divorce petition. If there is aggression between parties or solicitors the client is told it is not personal and that it is normal. They are encouraged to focus on the process and utilise alternative dispute resolution to manage their way through the period of separation.
The normal approach exacerbates the feelings of self-doubt and anxiety within the client. They are not believed or told it does not matter – all of which their partner probably told them would happen before they separated. Meanwhile the narcissist is positioning themselves.
Many solicitors now understand that they need to behave differently when they are faced with these personalities. It is vital to find one of them to act for you.
Some other things to keep in mind, if you think you might want to separate:
1. Save everything
Make a separate email file and put every email you receive from your spouse or partner into it then forget about it. Save the letters, notes and any other message you receive. Regularly download your WhatsApp messages and save those as well. It may not seem important but the tone and frequency can speak for itself.
2. Get support
It is going to be a rough ride so get the support structure around you, either in the form of paid professionals or friends and family. It will help keep you focussed and your legal bills down. Bring friends to meetings and ask them to take notes. Tell people what you are going through. Visit the GP to see what support they can offer.
3. Keep a diary
You will be advised to keep a diary in relation to child contact. Also keep a diary of times you feel threatened, harassed or times when you are confused. Remind yourself where you were and who was with you.
4. Do not react
This is vital because if you react you will undermine your own position. The court is quick to determine that behaviour is a function of separation or normal relationship patterns. Make sure you have evidence that the behaviour is theirs and not yours. Communicate calmly or don’t communicate at all.
5. Have a backup plan
Make sure you know where your marriage certificate is, where family passports are and any other important documents. Take copies if you cannot easily retain the originals. Try and have an idea of where you can go if you need to leave the house at short notice. Have a small amount of money in your own name which you can easily access.
6. Find the right solicitor
It is going to be an incredibly important relationship for the next year and first and foremost you need someone you get on with. They should have experience of dealing with narcissists and have developed a strategy. Ask them what it is. The classic Rottweiler is not necessarily the right answer. It is far more important that they are unafraid, confident and straight talking. They need to act as a buffer between you. A tight ship is vital in properly handling narcissists as they will exploit any weakness, so be sure that your chosen solicitor has strategies to keep your costs contained, but maintain the façade that he or she is the only person involved.
I am delighted to be listed as one of the top family lawyers in the country by Spears Wealth Magazine and feature in Legal 500 where I am featured for my work against those with borderline or narcisissitc personalities.Zoe Bloom – Keystone Law