While divorce is generally riddled with varying degrees of conflict, divorcing a narcissist will take the conflict to heights that few can comprehend. People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder are incapable of compromise and they are overcome with the need to win. This is obviously a bad combination in divorce court.
After spending almost four years in a high-conflict divorce, I've learned how to communicate in a way that allows me to maintain my sanity. Communication with a narcissist is best described as "crazy making" because narcissists are known to reinvent reality to suite their personal agenda. Leading psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D. weighed in on the topic to further explain the mindset of a narcissist: "Since narcissists believe that the world revolves around them, or that it should, they think they can reinvent reality and no one should question them. Even though they know that what they're writing or saying is stretching the truth, they think that they are so clever about it that they will fool the recipient into going along with them."
Narcissists thrive on evoking both reactions and emotions from their victims. In the beginning stages of my divorce, I would dread opening my email account and cringe at the mere sound of a text message. Both means of communication became avenues for attacks or narcissistic rages. As a narcissist who was set on winning and hurting me at all costs, my ex husband thrived on creating unrest. As I became educated on this personality disorder, I began to repair the cracks in my foundation and I became increasingly empowered as I healed through education. I began to take the power back and I chose to be a survivor versus a victim.
Over time, I began to see through the emails and instead of angst, I felt pity. I started to re-write the emails to reveal the true nature of my ex-husband's words. I took it a step further and added humor to the situation by creating something that I affectionately refer to as the "Narc Decoder". This device is patent pending and can analyze and decipher the most cryptic and bizarre narcissistic emails. In an effort to demonstrate how the Narc Decoder works, I will insert the following email that I received this year:
Tina- None of the men in my family have committed an act of harm towards a woman. It's just delusional that you have such fear of me. I have previously thought about having the exchange at the Police Department. The police department is scary setting for the children and there is no reason for it. When I was a kid Police made me nervous. You think after you've dragged me to court for three years over nonsense and exaggerations, I would risk yelling at you or harming you, it's just preposterous Tina. I am not going to do anything to hurt you. I will compromise and agree to meet you at the park. - Seth
In the past I would have sat down and tried to reason with my ex-husband by citing examples of his behavior that caused me concern. I would have explained why I felt more comfortable meeting at the police station and reminded him why we've had so many court dates. I would have spent entirely too much time and energy attempting to create sanity out of insanity. Sometimes I want to travel backwards in time and shake some sense into the old me.
"Snap, fizzle, pop" is the sound I hear as the email is processed through the Narc Decoder and within moments, I have the reading:
Tina- I have not yet created an act of harm towards a woman but I am starting to worry about the fact that three different women have now testified that they live in fear due to my instability, stalking and passive aggressive threats. Since I have had multiple run-ins with law enforcement over the past ten years, police make me nervous and cause increased anxiety. I would prefer that we do not meet near a police station. Thank you, Seth
The rule when dealing with a narcissist is simple but critical: no engagement. Similar to a drug addict, narcissists need to derive emotion from their victims. While co-parenting with a narcissist does not allow for the no-engagement rule, all communication needs to be limited and entirely free of emotions. Communicating with a narcissist is like running on a hamster wheel. You can wear yourself out to the point of exhaustion yet you never left point A.
The recommended response to the above email is short and sweet: "We will see you at the court ordered meeting location at 9am."