During the first two years of my high-conflict divorce, I cringed at the sight of my soon-to-be ex-husband’s name in my email inbox. An email from him usually contained one piece of relevant information related to our children and quickly shifted into a rambling manifesto of personal attacks which were designed to hit me straight in the heart. When a person is attacked, it is our natural instinct to want to defend ourselves, especially if the attacks are based upon lies.
One of the most important survival tips that I’ve learned during my four years in divorce court with a narcissist is to know my truths. Anyone who has dealt with a narcissist or other high-conflict personality knows that they are the masters of projection and dishonesty. They love to project their own negative truths onto their victims. I have been called manipulative, dishonest and uneducated. While I know that these are not my truths, I have worried that the court will be manipulated into believing these horrible accusations from my ex-husband.
Narcissistic personality disorder
While Narcissistic personality disorder can manifest differently with each individual, the Mayo Clinic defines Narcissistic personality disorder as the following: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, world renowned psychiatrist, explained why individuals with a diagnosis of Narcissistic personality disorder are able to lie in such a convincing fashion. Dr. Lieberman explained, “Since narcissists believe that the world revolves around them, or that it should, they think they can reinvent reality and no one should question them. Even though they know that what they're writing or saying is really stretching the truth, they think that they are so clever about it that they will fool the recipient into going along with them.”
Dealing with a narcissist isn’t for the weak. While charming and charismatic in the beginning, crossing a narcissist brings forth a furry that few people are equipped to deal with. This interaction will leave the sanest person questioning their own reality. When dealing with a narcissist, it is very important to build your foundation from rock — the rock that comes from knowing what is the truth and what are lies about you. Prepare a truth and lies list and absorb both lists to your core — mind, body, and spirit. If through this process, you find some truths that hurt, then put them on your list of things to work on and re-write the truth into a positive.
My ex constantly reminds me that I do not have a college degree. He has reminded me of this by text message, email and in person. This was his way to put me down throughout our marriage in passive aggressive ways and then during our divorce through verbal or written attacks. The truth is: I do not have a college degree.
Rewrite negative truths into positive ones
My life experiences as a business owner began at the age of 18 have taught me more than I could have learned with a four-year education. I have learned to value the education and knowledge that I have received from outside the confines of a classroom. I have gained so much through life experiences, reading, seminars, mistakes, observations and the wisdom shared by others, which is priceless. I wouldn’t trade all of that for a piece of paper on the wall. The world is full of educated idiots and I am not one of them.
Find positive quotes or mantras to remind yourself of your truths
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”- Carl R. Rogers
“We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the beginning of this process I felt the need to defend myself against each accusation that entered my inbox. Now, because I have educated myself on this disorder, I have a different approach. I skim the email for the relevant information and bypass the attacks. How am I able to do this? My foundation is built on my truths.
Knowing yourself and your truths are imperative during the divorce process with someone who suffers from Narcissistic personality disorder.
Tina Swithin is the author of "Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom's Battle," and popular blog, "One Mom's Battle." She is a contributor for the Huffington Post, HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Tina has two daughters, and lives in sunny California.