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Stay focused on your goals during your divorce from a narcissist

Do you ever get distracted at work? I think we've all been in a position where we had one, big goal that we wanted to accomplish on a certain date that had to get done. We planned our schedule to accomplish that goal and take the steps necessary to accomplish that goal. Other things, important in their own right, would get pushed to the side temporarily to accomplish that goal. You had a singular focus as you headed into the office, set down your belongings and opened up your email account.

Then, as it happens so often, life has other plans for you. A couple of emergency emails, a meeting with your boss, a report from your son's daycare that he fell and hit his head playing outside and a headache you've suddenly developed all get in your way of accomplishing the goal you had planned out for yourself. What had been a schedule that had been cleared out for you is now full of issues that will need to be tackled before you can even start to think about your number one goal.

Not only does this type of thing happen in our work lives, but it can happen in our personal lives as well. Your divorce case will have a rhythm that you will need to adjust to. Sometimes the rhythm of that case is smooth and calm. Other times the rhythm is all over the place in terms of pace. You may feel comfortable one day, only to be told your spouse filed a motion for an emergency hearing three days from now that you need to prepare for you. A lot of the time you cannot control how the rhythm goes. 

Unfortunately for you, the rhythm of the case is often defined by the party that is the most aggressive. If you are working through a divorce with a narcissistic spouse then you are likely to be the less aggressive party. The reason why I can tell you that with some degree of confidence is that it is like a narcissist to be aggressive in molding the circumstances surrounding him or her into a situation that is to their benefit.  

Narcissists feed on disruption and anxiety- to their benefit

When you met with your attorney for the first time you probably held something like a goal-setting session with him or her. I will ask clients to write down their thoughts about their divorce and what they want to accomplish within their case. Whether it an issue related to their children or their property, clients will know what they need to get done, even if they don’t have much in the way of knowledge about the divorce process. 

Your narcissistic spouse has goals of their own in the context of your divorce- it's just that none of those goals are likely to overlap with yours. Instead of having a plan to achieve those goals that are based on using evidence and negotiation, your spouse will use any means necessary to accomplish their end goals. Deception, aggression, verbal abuse and manipulation are the methods that your spouse will employ. 

What can you do to combat these tricks without stooping to their level? The most immediate thing that you can do to improve your position within your divorce is to anticipate the actions of your narcissist spouse so that you can make counter moves that will advance your interests, protect your children and prevent your spouse from gaining the upper hand in your divorce.

Delay your divorce as much as possible- the main goal of your narcissist spouse

If all the facts and circumstances of your life and your marriage were spread out on a table in front of you, your spouse, your attorneys, and the judge, it is probable that you would like what you see a whole lot more than your spouse does. The reason for this is that narcissists are inherently selfish, self-centered and will do anything to put themselves in the middle of everyone's thoughts. Your spouse is the hero not only of their movie but in their mind he or she is the hero of yours too.

A person with this kind of delusions of grandeur can't help but attempt to make everything about him or her. What happens, though, when your spouse and you are held accountable for your actions? A divorce forces all the skeletons out of everyone's closets and makes them a matter of public record. Your narcissist spouse may be able to keep the illusion of being a hero in their mind, but if your spouse's actions are held to account it is unlikely that that myth will be able to be maintained.

When all the chips are down, what will a narcissist spouse do when he doesn’t like what he sees? He will attempt to change the conversation. Not only will your spouse likely have a different spin on every story, every piece of evidence and every assertion that you make, but he or she will deflect attention off the legitimate evidence that you present. Expect that your spouse and their attorney will file requests for hearings that attempt to eliminate potential pieces of evidence. Expect that your spouse will attempt to reset hearing and trial dates to push your case further and further out. Since divorce is so unpleasant, why would anyone want to make one last longer?

The reason for all the delays is that the longer your case goes, the less likely that you will ever get to present your case in the way that you want to. Like we talked about at the outset of today's blog about accomplishing your work goals, a divorce where you cannot concentrate on your case is one where you will never be able to act as decisively or aggressively as you may want to.

The result of this approach is that you will have to fight a watered-down case with less and less money to do so. The entire time that your case gets prolonged, you will be paying attorney fees. Many people end up throwing their hands in the air in frustration at a certain point because the case becomes too expensive to continue. These folks are backed into a corner and forced to negotiate a settlement that they do not necessarily like, only because their need to complete the case from a financial perspective is greater than their need to continue fighting.  

My advice is to stick to your game plan as much as possible. If you have dates set up for hearings, mediations or trials you should voice opposition to them getting moved for anything but necessary reasons. There are legitimate reasons to postpone a hearing or trial, and your attorney will help guide you in this regard. Otherwise, keep your case on track by sticking with the dates originally set. If your spouse will not set a date for mediation, you can file a motion to have the judge set one for you. Keeping on track means keeping your case's budget on track. The rest of your case will fall into place as a result.

Ignore emotional arguments from your spouse 

The narcissist believes that he or she is the center of the universe. It would only make sense that he or she is the center of your universe, as well. With that being said, expect your spouse to attempt to use your emotions like a yo-yo during your divorce. You will be drawn in closer and closer, only to be expelled just as quickly. All of this is meant to keep you off balance (notice a trend) and keep you from focusing on your goals and objectives. 

I have seen it happen many times that narcissistic people will tell clients of ours that they have made a mistake filing for divorce, almost begging a reconciliation between the spouses. You should be careful about seriously considering a reconciliation with your narcissist spouse. For one, the divorce was probably filed for a good reason. For another, you can never be sure that a narcissist is being sincere in their pleas to reconcile. 

Instead of spending precious time building your case and preparing for life after divorce, you may spend days at a time considering whether or not to proceed with the divorce. All the while, your ex-spouse was never seriously considering getting back together with you. My point is that you should take every emotional plea from your spouse with a grain of salt. You should keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak. If your divorce has already begun, odds are good that your case will end up with you and your spouse get divorced. Focus on what you need to accomplish for yourself and your children.

The impact on divorcing a narcissist on your children

In all of this discussion we have had on divorcing a narcissist this past week, we have not discussed the most important issue of any divorce- your children. If you have kids then you are likely the most concerned with how your case will help or hurt them in the long run. I think for most people, they will accept that divorce is negative concerning your children in the short term. However, the long term effects of divorce on some children in some situations can be positive.

The worst part of co-parenting with a narcissist is that he has likely displayed many negative characteristics for your children. They may have grown up thinking (at least subconsciously) that acting in self-centered ways is acceptable. You will have an uphill battle to fight in raising your children after your divorce by showing them that this is not a good way to go about living their lives. 

Life can become confusing for a child after a divorce. It can be unclear what is expected of your child as far as how much affection to show a parent, or how to behave in a setting where both of their parents are present. Since you and your spouse likely have different parenting styles then this contrast may be something that is an issue as well.

Do not be surprised if your spouse comes out of your divorce with a plan to win your children's affection with gifts and fun. If you are the day to day parent, meaning your child lives with you on a day to day basis, you likely live a much more routine life. That is what children need on a day in and day out basis.

On the other hand, your spouse may lead a lifestyle that allows him to take your children on trips, to restaurants or to do other “fun” activities every time he sees your kids. Sometimes parents will do this as an honest manifestation of their emotions. Because the parent with visitation rights is not able to see the child as much, he will want to take advantage of every opportunity they have to do something fun. 

The narcissist likely does not fall into this camp. A narcissistic parent will want to encourage your child to place him at the center of their life not with genuine love, but with affection that is born out of fun trips and pizza for dinner every night. This is not a healthy way to raise a child and severely harms their ability to grow up with normal expectations for day to day life. Be on guard for this after your divorce, and do your best to prepare for your child for these type of situations.

Questions about divorce and post-divorce life in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

I hope that you have been able to learn some things from today's blog post. We at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that every divorce presents unique circumstances and challenges and we are here to support our clients through all of them.

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week and would be honored to sit down with you to answer your questions and address your concerns. 

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