After reading several articles on narcissism, Kaitlyn realized that her husband was one. She knew that something was off for years but couldn’t put her finger on it. She fell in love immediately with him and within months, they were married. She thought she met the perfect person, he was charming, attentive, and sensitive. But shortly after the marriage, things changed.
It seemed like overnight he went from charming to demanding, attentive to dismissive, and sensitive to heartless. Everything was Kaitlyn’s fault and the harder she tried, the more he expected. Exhausted and overwhelmed, Kaitlyn slipped into a depression that lasted for years. She stopped caring and gave up on her relationship and herself.
During a random Google search, Kaitlyn stumbled on narcissism. The more she read, the more her eyes were opened to the reality of her life. It was as if a light began to shine in the darkness of her heart. Newly determined to make her life better, she wondered where to start and what to do. Does she leave? Stay? Separate? And how is this best done?
The series of questions below are ones that Kaitlyn and thousands of my clients have asked over the years. Remember, you have options. Despite what the narcissist in your life has said, there are things that can be done differently. Most importantly, you are in control of your own life. It is time to take it back and here is how to do it.
I just learned that my spouse is a narcissist, now what? The critical first step is to learn everything you can on the subject. Don’t make the mistake of confronting the narcissist about their narcissism. True narcissists wear the label with pride. While others will project the narcissism back onto you, causing you to question your perception. Keep this to yourself, learn, study, and absorb.
What can I do to make my life better? Narcissists need a daily feeding of attention, affirmation, adoration, and affection. By supplying their needs in small digestible doses, you can tame the toughest of narcissists. Don’t comprise yourself in the process, rather, see this as an opportunity to verify if they really are a narcissist. Non-narcissists will not respond well to a daily feeding whereas narcissists crave it.
How can I care for myself? Before making any decision about leaving, you must be in a place of strength. Separations or divorces from a narcissist can be a nasty battle so you will need to be strong. Having an occupation that supplies enough income for you is a great way to build self-esteem. Before you leave, get whatever education you need to improve your situation. This is also a good time to learn how to meditate/pray to release some of the stress of living with a narcissist.
What can I do about the abuse? If you are not in counseling, find a therapist who understands narcissistic abuse. There are seven ways a person can be abused: physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally, sexually, financially, and spiritually. Discover their abuse tactics and map them out. Most narcissists don’t deviate from them and repeat the same pattern over and over. Just knowing what to expect next opens you up to strategically planning a diversion.
Who can I talk to about the narcissism? There should be a very tight circle of people you consult. Professionals like a counselor or attorney should know what is happening so they can offer the best advice. Choose 2-3 friends, not family, that will support you no matter what. Make sure that they will respect your privacy and not leek any information out to their friends or family. This is also not the time to post an article on FB about narcissism. Keep quiet.
Should I talk to an attorney? Yes. Most family law attorneys will do a consultation. You will need one that you like, understands narcissism, helps you to prepare for a separation/divorce and is flexible. There are several ways to get divorced: litigation (very expensive), meditation (great if the narcissist is willing but most are not), and collaboration (extremely confidential). Decide ahead of time which avenue you want to go down, what attorney you like, and your timetable for deciding.
Should I plan for the worst? Yes. Narcissists tend to divorce frequently and since past behavior is often indicative of future actions, you might be next. Always be prepared for the worst with a narcissist. Have copies of all financial documents and important papers (titles, insurance, certificates, passports). Take pictures of possessions and save them to a private file. Also, make sure the narcissist doesn’t have access to your passwords on your accounts. Create a private email for communication with an attorney, friend, bank, or therapist that doesn’t link with any of your other email accounts.
I decided to stay, now what? Develop your superpower. Imagine you have an invisible bubble that surrounds you at an arms-length distance. This is your force field, you can see out, but nothing can get in unless you allow it. Use your superpower to activate your force field anytime you need it. This will help you when dealing with your narcissistic spouse. If their hurtful words or actions no longer cause you pain, they will stop because they are not getting the attention they want.
I decided to separate, now what? Separation usually involves an ultimatum. Unless this changes, I won’t come back. Whatever you decide that ultimatum to be, stick with it no matter what. It is also best to separate with an end date in mind of 30, 60, 90, or 120 days. A never-ending separation, unless there is a separation agreement, is not to your advantage. Don’t end the separation prematurely as the narcissist will only see this as you are caving so they can get away with even worse things later.
I decided to divorce, now what? It is always better if the narcissist decides to divorce first. When it is their idea, the divorce is quick and easy. When it is yours, they view this as a form of abandonment and will pull out all the stops to destroy you. Remember, nothing can be the fault of the narcissist, so they must blame you for everything. You will need an army of people supporting you to navigate the divorce, so don’t pull the trigger until everything is in place.
After our discussion, Kaitlyn realized that she had so many more options than what she originally thought. This allowed her to feel freer so she could focus on making the right decision for her life.