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Is blogging about your divorce a smart idea?

Tina Swithin
Tina SwithinElena Ramos Peffly

I would love to be a fly on the wall in a divorce attorney's office. This profession is privy to the innermost details of a person's life and it probably takes a lot to make a divorce attorney cringe. In 2011, I did something that would make most divorce attorneys cringe: I began to openly and publicly blog about my divorce from someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I broke rule #108 of the divorce handbook: step away from the computer until the ink is dry on your divorce decree!

When I began my blog, One Mom's Battle, I had no intention of anyone really reading my story. I wrote to purge myself from the chaos of my high-conflict divorce and to update my family and friends on the nightmare that I was living. As a person who cringes at the mere thought of conflict, I didn't understand what was happening to my life. I felt as though someone had strapped me to the front of a high speed train that had run off the tracks. If that wasn't scary enough, the train conductor was a mad man who took pleasure in watching the sheer terror in my eyes.

One morning in March 2012, I sat typing on my computer while the Today Show played in the background. Matt Lauer was interviewing Christie Brinkley about her role on Broadway when the interview took a turn for the worse. Without warning, Matt Lauer launched into her divorce from Peter Cook (who was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder during their court trial). Obviously being uneducated on this personality disorder, Matt then asked, "How can you two make this better, for the sake of your children?" The reality is that you can't make things better when you are dealing with these high-conflict individuals. Christie, full of class and grace, stated that she just "wanted peace." Christie then mentioned four little words that forever changed my life, "Google, divorcing a narcissist."

I sat in my living room in sheer disbelief as people everywhere began Googling this short little phrase that had become my reality. I watched my blog stats soar and my inbox began to fill up as people around the world expressed relief that they had found someone who understood the hell that they were living. One year later, this little blog has turned into an online support group for others around the world. While I never imagined that my blog would reach past my aunt in Chicago, I am grateful for the community of men and women who surround and inspire me daily.

I am often asked for my advice when it comes to publicly speaking about divorce battles. I am the first to admit that I walked into this world blindly and if I were able to rewind, I would do some things differently, such as using a pseudonym. Thankfully, my blog has not affected my case and my right to free speech has been upheld by the Commissioner presiding over our case. I have been very careful to protect the identity of my ex-husband. Truth be told, my blog is not about him. My story is about divorcing a narcissist and the reader can insert the picture of the narcissist in their life because sadly, my story is the same as Jane's in Oregon and Samantha's in Ireland.

While deciding whether to blog about your divorce, I recommend that you proceed with great caution when it comes to your children. I have taken extreme measures such as installing parental controls on our home computers to block adult-related sites and my blog. If my daughters choose to read my blog as adults, there will be no surprises as sadly, they have lived this custody battle. My goal in writing is to educate those who have a hand in the Family Court System and to ensure that others feel less alone while divorcing a narcissist.

I recently reached out to an expert, Candace Smyth, Family Mediator, Attorney and Coach for her thoughts on taking divorce or child custody battles to the internet. Candace had some great advice to share and some items to ponder before you grab your keyboard and start typing:

I would say that ideally everyone should talk to an attorney for advice about their particular scenario. Having said that, I would think about where energetically the inspiration for the blog is coming from. Is it coming from a place of wanting to make your ex pay for the pain he or she has caused you, or is it coming from a place of wanting to help others?
Also, if considering writing about your divorce and you have children; really think about your children and how the writing could affect them. Are you bad-mouthing their other parent or speaking truth in a loving way knowing that you would share this with them anyway. If your kids are even older, just write it with the thought that they will read it. If younger, write it with the thought that they might one day read it.

Now, from a more legal perspective, you just have to know that everything you put out there (just like with text messages and Facebook) is discoverable and can be used against you in the divorce proceedings. Knowing that, make the choice that is right for you and your family. There are some attorneys that would say "absolutely not, do not blog" when you are in any process of divorce or custody. If this is going to trigger even more anger in your spouse such that he or she will fight even harder in court for custody or financial division, then ask yourself if greater conflict is worth writing what you need to say. In the end, it is really up to you and depends on your situation.

Some questions to ask yourself:
• Will this increase conflict in the proceedings?
• Will my spouse or ex try to use what I write against me? Do I know he or she most likely will?
• Is my state a no-fault state or at-fault state and is anything I am saying going to affect fault?
• Am I doing this from a solid, loving, honest place?
• Will the Judge assigned to my case consider this careless or disrespect of the other parent such that it might affect custody?
• If so, and for all of these questions, is my mission here worth that risk?

I think there is true value in honest and transparency, but we have to be responsible in how we reveal personal stories especially when children are involved and a court is involved that has power to change things very quickly. As always, the more information you have, the more responsible decision you can make.

I never anticipated that my little online journal would reach the far corners of the world. I am relieved that I didn't buy that crystal ball because I may have been guided by fear. Sometimes, I believe that there are plans in place that we don't understand and for that, I am also grateful.