Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family

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  • Anglais
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Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family

⤩ Download ᔾ Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family pdf ⥹ Author Dr Karyl McBride Ph.D. 䍭 Will I Ever Be Free of You CHAPTER ONE AM I IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST HOW DO I KNOW When Ellen entered her first therapy session with me, she held a card in her hand that shed printed out from Someecards.com Without speaking, she handed it to me It read, We divorced for religious reasons My partner thought he was God and I didnt While I smiled at the humor, it gave me a good sense about what she would tell me in her story When Mark and Ellen first met, Ellen felt caught up in a whirlwind of excitement Mark was charming, witty, and seductive Ellen believed that what she and Mark felt for each other was true love She didnt realize until after theyd married and had children that Marks charm was that of an artful narcissist Despite his initial showy displays of love, Mark cared only about himself and consistently manipulated others to get his own needs met He emotionally abused Ellen and their children When Ellen decided that she had had enough and filed for divorce, Mark was appalled He could not believe that Ellen would abandon him and ruin his life Mark saw himself as the victim Unwilling to compromise, unable to see things from any perspective other than his own, consistently angry and vindictive, Mark created havoc for Ellen through the divorce, lashed out during each phase of the proceedings, and had excuses for even his most egregious behavior, blaming othersespecially Ellenfor his actions He never thought twice about using his children as pawns The judge got increasingly frustrated as Mark and Ellen showed up in court again and again When a divorcing couple is made up of one narcissist and one reasonably normal person, the narcissistic spouse can single handedly create all kinds of conflict The narcissists actions cause the normal spouse to go into defense modeespecially when children are involved To outsiders, it looks like a fight between equals, but what is really happening is that the normal spouse is trying to protect the children from a bully Many people do not recognize the qualities of narcissism, even when they are involved with a narcissist A common perception among divorce lawyers, therapists, parenting time evaluators, judges, and other professionals is that, whenever you have a high conflict divorce, both parties are responsible for the conflict Many professionals assume that difficult, drawn out custody battles are caused by two parents who are each stubborn, selfish, and perhaps a bit crazy As Michael Friedman wrote in an article for The American Journal of Family Therapy, The concept has even entered into what might be called family court folk wisdom we say that Mother Teresa does not marry Attila the Hun or that it takes two to tango.1 People use the label narcissist loosely, typically to indicate someone who is vain and selfish, but the personality disorder is precisely defined and has been studied by mental health professionals who have identified the traits of narcissists How do you recognize someone who is a narcissist, as opposed to someone who has a healthy self respect or even someone who is disagreeably arrogant, but not an actual narcissist Could This Be My Partner or My Ex The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome young man who believed himself to be better and beautiful than everyone else and who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water Whenever he reached out to capture this vision of beauty, however, he touched the water and shattered the reflection Even so, he could not tear himself away and lost all interest in food, rest, and normal life Gradually, he lost the strength and the beauty that had made him so appealing and died while gazing at his reflection His unhealthy self love was a curse Sigmund Freud used this myth to describe a psychological disordera disease of self lovethat he saw in some of his clients.2 The American Psychiatric Association APA classifies mental disorders according to their symptoms in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM The DSM includes narcissism with personality disorders that lead to dramatic, emotional, or erratic behavior, such as borderline personality disorder BPD and histrionic personality disorder HPD These personality disorders have a lot of comorbidity, meaning that someone can have than one of them at once The nine traits listed below from the DSM define the narcissistic personality 1 Has a grandiose sense of self importance, e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, and expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements 2 Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 3 Believes that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people or institutions 4 Requires excessive admiration 5 Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations 6 Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends 7 Lacks empathy is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others 8 Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her 9 Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors or attitudes.3 Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, which means it ranges from a few narcissistic traits to full blown narcissistic personality disorder NPD How common is narcissism The American Psychiatric Association estimates that 2 to 16 percent of the people who are being treated by a mental health professional suffer from it, and it manifests in less than 1 percent of the general population.4 In other words, the APA thinks its rare On the other hand, Jean Twenge and W Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic Living in the Age of Entitlement, state, Nearly 1 out of 10 Americans in their twenties, and 1 out of 16 of those of all ages, has experienced symptoms of NPD.5 Twenge and Campbell believe that we are living in a narcissistic culture and that the incidence of narcissism is increasing I believe the truth lies somewhere between these two points of view We all have some narcissistic traits and can occasionally behave in a narcissistic way That does not mean we are narcissists Given that narcissists generally do not seek treatment, I believe that narcissism is much common than statistics would indicate My research and clinical practice also support this view Lets spend some time getting to know the nine traits of narcissism by looking at examples of how they present themselves in love relationships Remember, this is a spectrum disorder The of these traits a narcissist has, the heartbreak he or she creates for the people in relationships with them The narcissistic personality 1 Grandiose sense of self importance without commensurate achievements Example The partner whose attitude is When I say Jump you say How high Jackie was the breadwinner for her family, which included her husband, a stay at home dad, and two children Jackie expected the family to organize all their activities around her She was a finance executive for a car dealership, but to hear her talk, she owned and ran the company They would be bankrupt without her Jackie reminded her family constantly how smart she was She clearly felt that others were beneath her 2 Fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love Example The partner who constantly obsesses about status symbols When Paul and Vicky went on vacation, Paul would always call local real estate agents, pretending to be in the market for a new or vacation home He would present himself as a wealthy investor and insist that he needed a real estate agent sophisticated and connected enough to screen properties for him, so that he would see only the best of the best While his income was middle class, he would say things like We really need a property that has a private landing strip, or at least room to add one I travel a ridiculous amount, and I prefer to fly my own plane when I can Its just convenient Vicky felt embarrassed to be pulled into this kind of lie and ashamed to be deceiving the real estate agents 3 Belief that he or she is special Example The partner who regardless of income has to have the best divorce attorney in town When seeking professionals to help with a divorce, such as evaluators and therapists for the children, the partner can only hire experts with PhDs who have studied at prestigious universities If the judge does not rule in the narcissist partners favor, that partner decides the judge is stupid and probably wont follow the courts orders I recently observed a woman yelling at a judge, You are just ridiculous I am going to get a new judge She seemed to think this was as easy as exchanging a pair of shoes and was surprised when security removed her from the courtroom 4 Requires excessive admiration Example The partner who is so needy that he or she solicits admiration all the time My client Tasha said, Whenever we were going anywhere special, my partner Julia would always be the last one dressed The whole family would be gathered in the hall, impatient and ready to go Then Julia would make her entrance, coming down the stairs, preening and turning She was waiting for everyone to go Oooooooooh and Aaaaaaaaah and Mama, youre so gorgeous The kids and I would go over the top admiring her We knew we werent leaving the house until she got the admiration she wanted 5 Has a sense of entitlement and expects automatic compliance of others Example Marcy felt she was entitled to pay less and demand from the law firm she had retained She refused to talk with the paralegals, always demanding to speak with the attorney I am paying so much money to If her hysterical demands were not met instantly, Marcy would threaten to change attorneys Her favorite saying to her friends and family was I will demand attention and be heard immediately, and if you dont believe me, just watch Marcys lawyer dumped her right before the proceedings began 6 Is interpersonally exploitative and takes advantage of others Example The father who uses his children for his own ends After Jeff and Heather got divorced, Jeff treated his daughter like an accessory He realized that there is nothing that makes a single man attractive to women than walking around looking like a devoted father to his three year old daughter He insisted that she dress in clothes that made her look upper class and took her out to late night dinners at restaurants Once, when she became ill while visiting with him, he checked into a hotel so that the hotel staff would have to clean up after her vomiting Jeff felt that he should not have to do this 7 Lacks empathy Example The person who views any situation through the lens of what it means to him or her Peter came home and said to his wife, You know how my secretary has that bad breast cancer gene The one that means she has to take time off from work every four months to have screenings Well, right now, when we are under so much stress in the office, shes finally been diagnosed with breast cancer I cant believe this is happening to me She was also rattling on today about how worried she is about her kids and how they will handle this hinting she might need time off work My business cannot handle this right now 8 Is often envious or believes others are envious of him or her Example The partner who cannot enjoy her husbands success Brian was a new partner at a law firm and had just won a complicated and hard fought trial The law firm arranged a party to celebrate this victory and to thank Brian for his successful work Brian wanted his wife, Beth, to attend the party and celebrate with him Beth pretended that she would go and acted excited, but right before they left for the party, she decided to stay home because I have better things to do She told Brian as he was walking out the door, I think you won that case because I was listening to your whining every night You couldnt have done it without me I really dont have the time in my schedule to do that for you Brians excitement and pride in his work was blown to bits as he slowly drove to the party alone 9 Shows arrogance Example The partner who is not particularly engaged with his childs accomplishments but wants to take all the credit for them Jake attended a parent teacher conference with his ex wife and eight year old son, Mick Mick was doing well in math, and his teacher was showing his papers and test scores to his parents, clearly wanting little Mick to have the lovely experience of being praised by a teacher in front of his parents Jake interrupted the teacher abruptly and announced, I can see where he gets his brilliance I was always a star in mathematics as well and in fact won a trip to an academic festival when I was much younger than Mick It is also why I am doing so well in my engineering career Yup, this kid gets his smarts from his dad Nice going, son These nine traits describe why narcissists cannot love They place primary importance on what you can do for me and expend a lot of energy on appearances In a relationship with a narcissist, you will eventually realize that this person does not see the real you You are the persons object to be manipulated for his or her own goals and needs My client Todd struggled to keep his voice steady as he said, It is just so hard for me to realize that my wife is not capable of love Our whole relationship was a farce How could I have not seen it It hurts me so much for our children as well She can really never be the mother they need None of our emotional needs were met, and I am just now understanding this Suzie was exasperated as she revealed, I found out rather quickly that my husband would exaggerate his stories to make them sound better He was often obnoxious to others, particularly those in the service industry There seemed to be something missing in him There wasnt a soul of deepness to him He would fake this charming cuteness I guess I should have figured this out sooner, like on the day of our wedding, when he was showing his actor side In the wedding ceremony, I was looking at him and his body was turned to face all the people out in the audience I whispered to him that he was supposed to be looking at me He thought he was on a damn stage Is It Narcissism or Something Else If you have looked at the traits and examples above and said, Thats my partner and thats my life, then your partner likely has narcissistic traits or maybe even full blown narcissistic personality disorder You will probably never get an official diagnosis because your partner likely wont seek treatment Even if you are in therapy, your therapist will only be able to make a secondhand diagnosis based on your reports about how your partner behaves People who are sociopathic, psychopathic, or abusive are extreme examples of narcissists Other people who are emotionally limited may not be narcissistic Aspergers syndrome, for instance, may be confused with narcissism because people with Aspergers are not as sensitive as normal people to emotional cues, but they do not mean to hurt or manipulate others Narcissists generally know when they are hurting someone else and dont care In a blog post titled Just ListenDont Confuse a Narcissist with Aspergers Syndrome, Dr Mark Gouldston told a story about a father, a successful entrepreneur, who came with his fourteen year old daughter to Marks office When the daughter became distressed, her father looked bewildered, then started to cry My little girl is in awful pain and I think I somehow caused it But I love her and thats the last thing I would ever want to do.6 The father had Asperger like features but was sincerely upset at his daughters sadness He empathized, something narcissists are not capable of doing Also, he perceived that he was responsible for her distress, which upset him He felt accountable, which narcissists do not feel We will hear stories as we go, but lets take some time to look at your story Im going to ask some questions about you, your partner, your relationship, and your children As you go through this list, put a check mark next to any question you answer yes The questions you check, the likely it is that your partner falls somewhere on the narcissism spectrummaybe even has a full blown narcissistic personality disorder Is Your Partner a Narcissist 1 When something goes wrong, does your partner blame everyone but himself or herself 2 Does your partner refuse to be accountable for his or her bad behavior For example, You made me so mad that I couldnt help 3 Does your partner believe he or she is always right 4 Is your partner unable to tune in to your feelings or your childrens feelings 5 Does your partner seem concerned about how your behavior or your childrens behavior reflects on him or her than on understanding and accepting who you and the kids are as people 6 Does your partner seem to be out of touch with his or her own feelings or seem to deny them 7 Does your partner carry grudges against you and others 8 Is it all about your partner and his her money, time, parenting time, property, and wishes demands 9 Does your partner seem unwilling to listen to you and to hear your concerns 10 Is your partner constantly telling you what to do 11 Does your partner make you feel not good enough Have your partners constant put downs caused you to internalize this message 12 Does your partner never ask about you, your day, or your feelings, even in passing 13 Does your partner need to go on and on about how great he or she is and how pathetic you are 14 Does your partner lie 15 Does your partner manipulate 16 Does your partner tell different people different stories about the same event, spinning the story so that he or she looks good 17 When your partner talks about his or her kids, is it about what the kids do rather than who they are 18 Are the children uncomfortable with your partner, love your partner, but at the same time are reluctant to spend time with him or her 19 Have you come to realize that the kids protect themselves by not sharing their feelings with your partner 20 Does your partner mistrust everyone 21 Are the kids always trying to gain your partners love and approval 22 Has your partner spent minimal time with the children 23 Does your partner typically skip the childrens events if he or she does not have an interest in that particular activity or does not value it 24 Does your partner push the children to be involved in activities that your partner likes or values and discourage or forbid them from pursuing activities that your partner does not value 25 Have others in your life said that something is different or strange about your partner 26 Does your partner take advantage of other people 27 Is your partner all about power and control, pursuing power at all costs 28 Is your partner all about image and how things look to others 29 Does your partner seem to have no value system, no fixed idea of right and wrong for his or her behavior 30 After the divorce, does your partner still want to exploit you Or has your partner never calmed down 31 When you try to discuss your life issues with your partner, does he or she change the subject so that you end up talking about your partners issues 32 When you describe your feelings, does your partner try to top your feelings with his or her own stories 33 Does your partner act jealous of you 34 Does your partner lack empathy 35 Does your partner only support things that reflect well on him or her 36 Have you consistently felt a lack of emotional closeness with your partner 37 Have you consistently questioned if your partner loves you 38 Does your partner do considerate things for you only when others are around to witness that good behavior 39 When something difficult happens in your life for instance, an accident, illness, a divorce in your family or circle of friends , does your partner react with immediate concern about how it will affect him or her rather than with concern for you 40 Is your partner overly conscious of what others think 41 Do you feel used by your partner 42 Do you feel responsible for your partners ailments or sicknesses 43 Do you feel that your partner does not accept you 44 Is your partner critical and judgmental of you and others 45 Do you feel that your partner does not know and value the real you and does not want to know the real you 46 Does your partner act as if the world should revolve around him or her 47 Does your partner appear phony to you 48 Does your partner swing from grandiosity to a depressed mood 49 Does your partner try to compete with you 50 Does your partner always have to have things his or her way As these questions show, narcissists are good at training you to doubt yourself You may have come to feel that you are not good enough, and all bad outcomes are your fault, and even been conned into believing that you deserve nothing better Jeff, a client who had been partnered with Larry for eighteen years, described walking down the street and noticing a stylish young man coming in his direction, a man with a good haircut in some well tailored pants Jeff admired the mans subtle and thoughtful style Then he realized that he was looking at his own reflection in a downtown store window Larry had made him feel so uglyhis sense of self was so distortedthat he did not recognize himself Going through this checklist may be a shocking reality check for you as you realize that you have been duped, manipulated, or taken advantage of by a narcissist Maybe you read the lists of narcissistic qualities in this chapter with a sinking feeling The lists make a narcissists traits suddenly seem so obvious that it is easy to get upset and think that you brought this on yourself, that you should have known You may be furious as you remember the red flags that you chose to ignore But give yourself a break Youre a good person You just got deceived by someone who is practiced at deception You are better, you deserve better, and you will get better There Is a Better Way Recently, I logged on to .com to buy some hanging file folders for my office I was trying to decide between three different options and decided to look at the customer reviews Youll understand why this review caught my eye If youre getting divorced you need these file folders These will help you organize your soul crushing divorce into easy to find packets of misery when you have to go to court to battle your insane drug addicted ex again over custody of your two traumatized children Dont put your pain in a pile Let these hanging file folders neatly catalog the narrative of how you undid the worst mistake youve ever made Your lawyer will thank you.7 If your partner is a narcissist, your life may feel like a train wreck right now, but you can get through this stage of your life You can emerge stronger on the other side, even though you may need those file folders But, first, we have to stay in this difficult place a little bit longer to understand how you got to where you are Why did the narcissist target you Why did you fall for the con jobAn important, groundbreaking book Dr McBride opens our eyes to these toxic individuals who damage their spouses, children, and inevitably the legal system This innovative program will help families chart a course and create health and healing through the divorce process Renee Richker, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dr McBride has put together a terrific, step by step guide for dealing with divorce from a narcissistic spouse There is a huge need out there for this information, and Dr McBride s long term experience in therapeutic and legal settings makes her the perfect person to put it out there I know I will be personally recommending this book for years to come W Keith Campbell, Ph.D., co author of THE NARCISSISM EPIDEMIC As a family law attorney, I would give this book to certain clients with a highlighter and sticky notes Enough said S Scott Lasher, Esq Karyl McBride s Will I Ever Be Free of You is a smart, practical guide to a perplexing problem severing your tie to a highly narcissistic partner Full of good advice and moving examples, it is as readable as it is s sensible and helpful Terry Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage Compact but thorough guide to successfully handling and surviving a divorceif youre married to a narcissist Packed with useful advice Proactive, goal oriented, sound advice on how to heal, and how to move forward The author isnt satisfied with helping the thousands of men and women whose lives have been damaged by narcissists and are involved in high conflict divorces She wants to help the children, too 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