Divorcing A Narcissist
I have just come to a divorce settlement with my covert narc (CN). It took almost 3 years, and it was hell. As I get over the constant fear I realize how bad it really was. The most important thing I’ve learned is this: This was not my fault.
I was with my CN for 25 years, married for 23. It wasn’t until year 19 that I started to realize how bad things were. Before this time I lived in perpetual confusion & shame. I thought that everything that was wrong in our relationship was my fault. Actually, I didn’t just think it – I KNEW IT.
I fell in love with my CN because of his dedication to parenting. He had an infant when I met him. His son was around 1 when my CN started love bombing me. Within weeks I was convinced that my CN was Father of the Year, a victim of his 1st wife and a standup, religious, steadfast man. And, he adored me! How lucky was I! Imagine my confusion when everything went to shit. We were in constant conflict. I had become Debbie Downer, I was a terrible wife, I was an over-reactive mother and I was demeaning to him as a man.
FYI, if your mate is telling you that you are demeaning to his manhood – RUN. Red Flag.
Around our 18th anniversary we were having problems with our then 17 year old. I was fed up with what I thought was inconsistency in our parenting. I had the 3 of us (me, my CN and my son) sit down at the kitchen table and I asked questions, recording the answers. What did the CN and I expect in terms of grades? Curfew? Consequences for failure to do schoolwork? Chores? Behavior in the family. I asked all of it. And the 3 of us discussed it. And I wrote down everything we agreed upon. Then, because I was a demeaning witch, I made my son and CN sign it. I did this out of desperation. I was exhausted from the constant conflict between the 3 of us. More importantly, I was convinced that the conflict was my fault. I wrote down all of our agreements for myself, because I needed to understand what I was doing to create the issues we were having.
It didn’t take long to find out. In fact, it took only 1 week. At the end of the week my son came home and asked to go to a Friday night party. As the 3 of us had agreed I checked his school work. Unfortunately, there were several missing assignments and, in accordance with what we had agreed, I said “no, you aren’t going out this weekend”. My son then did what a normal 17 year old in his position would do: he called dad. I knew he was calling dad. I could see him in the driveway calling him. I stupidly thought that since we had all agreed to this course of action his dad would support me. Silly me!! Within 10 minutes his dad was home. He walked into the kitchen, put down his bag and said “I’ve decided he can go out this weekend” and walked out. Hmmmm…….
For the 1st time in 19 years I understood that I was not the problem. I was not the inconsistent, hysterical person I’d been told I was. I was not the one who gave in to the kids to our families financial detriment. It wasn’t I being the non-supportive spouse. It was him. I pulled him aside and asked him what he was thinking. I was still calm. I reminded him of the conversation we had had only 6 days before, and the agreement we had all signed. He said the same thing; repeatedly. “I’m the man of the house and I’ve made my decision”. For the 1st time I understood what was happening and I told him, with much dread because I knew this would elicit a rage, “I feel sorry for your children because they have a terrible father”. In retrospect I don’t know what possessed me to say that. If I knew nothing else I knew this: be careful what you say, as the consequences will be huge. I could see the rage mounting in his face, his fists tightening, his entire body tensing. He asked me to repeat myself and, in a total change of character for me, I stood my ground, looked him right in the eye and repeated what I said. I then turned around and walked away. I wish I had a hidden camera to watch him as I confidently walked away, no longer feeling fear and dread, and no longer believing I was the problem. I don’t remember what happened the rest of that weekend, but my actions created a major shift in our relationship. In fact, it was the beginning of the end.
Here is the 1 thing the CN can not stand: you feeling confident. If you feel confident they are losing. The CN is successful because he keeps you in your place. He keeps you guessing, questioning your every action, thought and feeling, believing you are crazy, disturbed and lacking. And, when one tactic stops working, he’ll pick up a new one. No longer buying that your unwillingness to have sex is the root of all your marital problems? Time to tell you you’re crazy. No longer accepting that you’re crazy? Time to tell you you’ve misunderstood, misinterpreted, remembered incorrectly.
While I was 100% sure that I was not the parent creating problems with our children, this was as far as I got. It wasn’t until we split up that I started to dissect and understand the depths that he gone to keep me confused, in a fog, paralyzed with indecision and incompetence. It wasn’t until we separated and I started therapy that I started to understand what he had been doing to me. And trust me – accepting the damage he had done, understanding that I had been victimized came hard for me. It took over a year for me to entertain the thought that he was a Covert Narcissist. It was several more months before my head started to clear, the fog began to dissipate and I started to get it.
- He had picked me for what I could do for him. I was financially secure and willing to raise his son. I was perfect.
- He groomed me to doubt my every thought, belief and feeling. Certainly the problems we had in our marriage were my fault. He was a Great Guy, a Great Dad, a Great Handyman and a Great Provider. What the hell was wrong with me that I didn’t see that, and defer to him as he deserved.
- He separated me from my family & friends. Whenever we spent time with my family he forced me to choose between what he wanted to do and what they wanted to do. Talk about paralyzing! Some of my friends were acceptable, because they worshipped him. Friends who questioned him, or were unhappy with their own spouse, were essentially forbidden. Did he come right out and forbid me from seeing them? No. The CN would never be so overt in his demands, yet I knew what was expected.
- He destroyed me financially. He refused to live within our means, and then blamed me for his excessive spending. When I was no longer working he stopped giving me money for groceries. He told me to charge food, gas, clothing, household supplies, knowing this was the opposite of everything I stood for and was further exacerbating our financial insecurity.
- He made sexist, condescending remarks about me, or about women, in front of our children. He convinced them, and I, that I was a second class citizen, worth much less than he because he “worked” and I didn’t.
- He lied, cheated & stole from me. (we own a business together) When I questioned his actions, where he had been and what he had been doing, he said “follow me around if you don’t trust me”, knowing I was stuck home with 3 young children and was physically ill, making it impossible for me to do so. Even when he knew he’d been caught he maintained his stance that he was telling the truth and I was crazy, overly demanding, critical and bitter. The adjectives could go on and on.
- Finally, he abandoned me with my children, to be with his GF. Initially claiming he would “take care of us”, he walked away from all obligations one by one. First he stopped doing any household maintenance. Then he stopped providing household staples, like paper towel &toilet paper. Next he stopped paying our heating oil and maintenance on my car. One by one by one he absolved himself of all responsibility to me and his children. In the end our mortgage was going unpaid and I was so strapped for cash cable was a luxury we couldn’t afford.
Here was the worse part of this whole ordeal: he presented himself as the victim! According to him I had victimized him during our marriage, and now I was doing so in our divorce. I can’t count the number of times he insinuated I deserved nothing. I could do nothing as I watched him treat his GF like a Queen, with multiple vacations, dinners out, nights at the country club, all on our businesses dime. And, not only were they living high off the hog on money that was partially mine, he was expecting me to pay off the bills he was running up. He expected me to pay his taxes, the monthly bill for his new Cadillac, the business line of credit he’d run up.
Last Wednesday I was finally strong enough to say ENOUGH. As we sat with our lawyers and a court appointed Master I was able to stand my ground. I knew what I wanted to get and I insisted on getting it. He stormed out numerous times, but I sat quietly and calmly because I knew one thing for sure: He Is A Covert Narcissist and I Am Not. It Is Not My Fault.
So, if you are divorcing a narcissist, covert or overt, I implore you to remember 1 thing: you are not at fault. Do not let him steam roll over you. Do not let him make you question yourself, doubt the validity of your demands, question your value as a person and your contribution to your relationship. You are not the problem, and you never have been. In fact, there was something about you that made him choose you; something he needed. Try to remember what that was, because that is the real you. You are not the paralyzed, confused, despondent, fearful person you feel like. You are a warrior. You are Wonder Woman.
How do I know this? Because I was you, and I am Wonder Woman. I survived 25 years of constant abuse and I’m still standing. And, I’m standing victorious. As will you.