Divorcing someone with narcissistic tendencies may be the most difficult thing someone can ever take on. Reassuringly, there is light at the end of the tunnel – if you plan ahead and get the right help, you can overcome it. Sara’s six-step guide to leaving an abusive relationship includes: 

  1. Understand that abuse is NOT normal and it is NOT acceptable. Be clear that there is a big difference between your partner having a bad day and your partner being abusive. Everyone has moments when they snap or say something unkind to those closest to them. However, abuse is not like this – it is ongoing, debilitating and damaging to your self-esteem, confidence and sanity. Do not gloss over your situation, excuse it or stick your head in the sand. Know that this is not your fault and it will not get better without taking action.
  2. Safe-guard your financial standing. Given the tactics this personality type will use, it’s vital you get your ducks in a row. Get clarity on your financial position and get the paperwork ready before divorce proceedings get underway. This is also a good time to get your credit in good standing in case you need additional financial support. Taking ownership of your finances is a huge step towards feeling financially independent and in control. 
  3. Put a top-notch support team in place. Ensure your legal team has training in domestic abuse so they can best protect you. They should be able to advise on how domestic abuse factors into division of marital property.  You may also want to appoint a financial planner – someone with training and experience in assessing the financial implications of various settlement scenarios, with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome for your financial security. A compassionate and qualified Coach who specialises in this area so you can fully understand the behaviour to expect during the divorce and be prepared to handle it – is also a vital part of divorce arsenal.
  4. Keep contact to a minimum.  Don’t share any personal information with you ex or let them know how you are feeling as they will use this against you. I advise clients to set up a separate email address for use in divorce case correspondence and to keep all communication in the written form. 
  5. Educate yourself about what you are dealing with. Narcissist, bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, sociopath, psychopath are all types of personality disorders and mental illnesses that are common amongst abusers. There are many books and online posts that deal with these issues and if you read up about them you will realise that you are not going mad and also that you are not alone in your suffering.
  6. Take small steps every day. You can get through this and come out the other side to be happy and confident. I know, as I have done it, and many of my clients have done it too. The key is to focus on one day at a time and reduce the overwhelm by taking small steps. You will be surprised at how far you can come in a few weeks if you just take it one day at a time.

My client, Marcy, had been married for 20 years to her husband James and their son was 13 years old. She had given up her job when their son was born and they had moved many times due to James’s high-powered job. She loved James and he could be really good fun and caring in the good times. She didn’t have many friends as James didn’t like socialising with her girlfriends so many of her friendships had drifted over the years. Marcy had wanted to go back to work as she only had the housekeeping money that James put in her account every month to spend. She often felt guilty and wanted to be able to earn some money for herself. James had told her that was selfish of her and that she should stay home and look after their son full time. He had a temper and this topic made him really angry so she had decided it was easier to give up on her dream and do as he wanted.  

One evening Marcy had been watching a video on YouTube on James’s iPad and a message had come in from a woman saying “I miss you”. On deeper investigation she soon realised he was having an affair. When she confronted James, he became angry and defensive, accusing her of being a “bad wife” and telling her that “she had left him no choice but to find love elsewhere”. She was understandably devastated but sadly it was only the tip of the iceberg as he had a child with his mistress and had been living a double life for 3 years. 

She filed for divorce and James moved in with the other woman immediately. Marcy was devastated and felt humiliated and completely overwhelmed. It was like he had just turned off a switch and moved on and replaced her in a heartbeat. James then bombarded her with aggressive legal letters. He had always controlled the finances and they had enjoyed a 5-star lifestyle but he claimed there was not much money left and made an offer that would have had a huge negative impact on her lifestyle. He told her it was “a very good offer for a girl like you”. 

A good breakup or divorce is one that is fair and respectful and enables you to have the best chance of an amicable relationship with your ex in the future. But sadly, this is not always possible if your ex is hell bent on causing you misery and pain.

But most importantly a good breakup is one where you rediscover who YOU are and gets you excited and hopeful about your future. You only live once so it’s time to start redesigning your future just the way you want it and feeling good about yourself and what lies ahead!