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Divorcing a Narcissist: Taking your power back

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Back in 2009, I remember hearing the quote, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” and that quote made me question my already flimsy faith. At the beginning stages of my divorce, God obviously had more faith in me than I had in him. I was completely overwhelmed and felt like my forehead had red lights flashing and my internal PA system screaming, “System failure! Overload! Overload!”

While most divorces are filled with chaos and turmoil, divorcing a narcissist is like a divorce on steroids complete with rage and flexed muscles. One year into my battle, I saw an updated version of the original quote that said, “God won’t give you more than you can handle. Apparently, God thinks I’m a bad-ass!” and it all made sense. He really did have faith in me and as my journey unfolded over a period of four years, I began to see that there was purpose to my battle and to my pain.

Yesterday I had coffee with a woman “in the trenches” of a high-conflict divorce and as I looked into her eyes, I recognized the woman that I was five years ago. She looked like a deer in headlights and it reminded me how far I’ve come. I’ve taken life’s lemons and made a huge batch of lemonade. The pain and turmoil that I endured led me to my life mission: to assist others who are on the battlefield and questioning whether or not they can survive another day.
The good news that I shared with her and others who are in the same dark, scary place is this: you will survive and better than that, you will thrive. No matter how overwhelming the battle may seem, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is shining brightly. There is happiness and peace to be found once you are able to reclaim the voice and power that was taken and crushed by the Narcissist.

For those who are in a high-conflict divorce, one of the first steps in healing is to set boundaries and take control of the communication. Falling to your knees with each text message that comes through is a sign that it’s time to find your voice and your boundaries. The Narcissist thrives on keeping you in a weak state and they love knowing that they can turn your world upside down with a simple text message. Do not give them that power.

Find a communication tool that works for you such as Our Family Wizard or an email account that is designed specifically for divorce related communication. All communication from attorneys should also go through this email account. With everything in one location, you have the power to decide whether (or not) you are in the right mindset to open the window of communication rather than being blindsided by random text messages and phone calls at any time of the day or night. You are in control.

Setting firm boundaries is a very important step to reclaiming your power and your sanity. On an even larger level, you have a choice in how you react to each email. If you react to an email with emotions then you are only feeding and fueling the narcissist. It is imperative that you stop feeding the sickness or you will never be able to heal. All communication should be brief and business-like with zero emotions. Halfway through my divorce, I developed a device called, “The Narc Decoder” and it was designed to take high-conflict emails from individuals with personality disorders and decode them for the rest of the world to understand. Teaching people how to read these emails on their own has been a gratifying experience. The following is an email submitted by a parent in the trenches of a high conflict divorce:

“I wish I had a mirror to have you see how you come across in your presentation. Maybe there would be a slim possibility you could see how angry, inflexible, demanding a person that you are. Why would anybody want to work anything out with you! You do not know the first thing about being accommodating, understanding, or professional for any matters. So you run to your attorney to find solutions. Besides, the selfishness that is your true self. All you know to do is fight, fight, fight. How very sad because one day it will have an effect on your existence if you keep it up. Find a better way to channel your anger that life is not fair for you or you may face the consequences.

Soon there will be no need to consider “the Family Wizard” for communication because I will rarely have any contact with you except to discuss logistics. So that request is totally off the table. Period.

I, too, have plans for myself and our daughter, so you are not privileged in setting what weekend day we do the exchange. In fact, as I said before, I gave you 18 months of many episodes of flexibility and that will not be easy to get anymore. You cannot make Sundays a unilateral condition for hours that were decided by my employer, speaking of being unilateral. Life does not care what you think!

I will not waste anymore of my valuable time today with your expressions of whining and discontent.” –John

"Snap, fizzle, pop" and out comes the de-coded email:

“I wish I had a mirror right now so that I could see myself. I could spend hours staring into my own eyes. Have I told you lately how angry I am at the loss of power since our marriage ended? Yes, I’m angry, inflexible and demanding, and all of those feelings have escalated tremendously since I can no longer control you. Damn you. I refuse to compromise or work anything out with you – it’s my way or the highway. Didn’t you read the fine print on the pre-nup? I do not know the first thing about being accommodating, understanding or professional but instead of taking ownership for my own shortcomings; I am going to project my faults on to you. Heck, it’s always worked in the past.

I hate that you have an attorney to turn to for advice – why can’t you just let me continue to control and manipulate you?! It’s quite infuriating. I love to fight, fight, fight. This constant drama feeds me because I know that it affects you. I LOVE to affect you. Speaking of love, did you know that I am actually incapable of that? Thank God I am so manipulative because that’s how I am able to fool women just like I fooled you. Have you seen my mirror lately? Aren’t you supposed to keep track of my things?

Our Family Wizard? Are you joking? Do you really think that I want my words and actions to be monitored? Ha! I want access to you by all means possible – text, phone, email, in person and while shouting from the rooftops. You want ME to agree to something that YOU think is a good idea? Ha! Did I mention that I am a control freak and a program like that would not work well for me? The only way that I will agree to use that program is if it somehow becomes my idea. I will be sure to request that YOU be required to use it while we are in front of the Judge because doing so will play into my claim that you are harassing me and suggest the program will put an end to your persistent abuse. By the way, have you ever heard of a program called, “Our Family Wizard?” I happened to find it online yesterday and I think we should begin to use it. I am tired of the constant harassment from you.

You want me to be flexible on times for visitation? I’m sorry but that is a one-way street. You must adhere to the court order word for word, however, I will let you know when I need you to bend. Oh, by the way, next weekend doesn’t work well for me as I have a lunch date. I’ll need you to take our daughter for a few extra hours.

Have I mentioned how valuable my time is? I should get paid to just be awake and breathing. Now that I’ve thoroughly fed my sick, deranged ego, I am going to sit here and gloat knowing that you are on the receiving end of my latest attack. I’m going to envision you breaking down crying because that is like a high to me.”

Keep all responses polite, unemotional and non-confrontational. From this point on, adhere to the custody schedule as it is written. A simple request to change times or meeting locations opens you up for an attack such as the one above. Sticking to the court-ordered schedule goes both ways and with a narcissist, it is imperative that you do not deviate from the court order. Start taking your power back one step at a time and the first step is to gain control of high-conflict communication.

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