Tagged: relationship with a narcissist

Mediation: Seven tips for getting what you need from an abuser

In this post we covered some basic defensive tactics when you have to go into mediation with a narcissist or other kind of emotional abuser. We recognized of a painful truth—any communication with an emotional abuser can be difficult, even damaging and having a third-party is the room won’t necessarily help. Their emotional abuse can easily shift to the new set of circumstances. Mediation is a convenient place for an emotional abuser to jump on his self-righteous soap box, put on the boxing gloves, box you in. Expect it and be ready.

But not only do we need to have tools to defend ourselves, we also should be in offensive mode as well.

Let’s not forget that the reason we are in mediation is to come to an agreement. Now is the time to try and get the physical things you need from your abuser.

It helps to keep a few things in mind:

#1 Realize you have every right to ask for what you want. He may have run the show for a long time, but this is divorce and that means that things are splitting into two people—and you are one of those people! This is not the time to just hear what your soon to be ex-spouse thinks, believes, and wants. More than likely you’ve gotten enough of that while you were married to write a volume of books on his beliefs and wants and how he wants others to behave (a big book for the basics and each separate text for all the adjustments and changes and inconsistencies through the years.) You have a right too. 50% of the right, in fact. Now is your chance to legally and officially have an opinion and your opinion will be heard.

#2 Don’t attach your wants and needs to his wants or needs. Your desires should stand alone. They are your thoughts, not extensions of his thoughts. For example: He says, “I should have the kids every Christmas.” Your answer should not come out as, “Well then I want to have them every Fourth of July.” Imagine if he had not started asking for every Christmas, would that still be what is right for your new family arrangement? Think on your own.

#3 Don’t think of it as a me vs. him competition. You are not there to challenge and disagree with everything he says. Perhaps the situation above happened, “I should have the kids every Christmas.” You had thought about it and realized that he did do special things every Christmas with the kids and you’re Jewish anyway so Christmas is not that big a deal to you. It’s okay to say, “Sure, sounds good.” Even if you think they are coming from a place of argumentativeness and anger, try to ignore the emotion and just focus on what is best. He’s used to controlling you by telling you what to do. He’s still controlling you if you just automatically go against what he’s telling you to do. The point is to make your own choices regardless of what he says.

#4 It’s okay to delay responses. Phrases like, “Let’s circle back to that.” or “I don’t know, let me think about it.” or “Can we discuss this later?” are all okay and good responses to some things. Keep a clinical eye on your brain. If it is becoming flooded, triggered, or overly emotional s-l-o-w-t-h-i-n-g-s-d-o-w-n. The point is to give your brain time to process things fully and this is the exact time where your brain will want to freak out and jump to conclusions and react instead of thoughtfully respond. Give yourself time.

My husband told me that I should wait near the kids’ school for the two hours between when they got out of school when he got off of work on his placement days. My brain screamed, “No! I don’t care if it’s a long drive for him, why should I be helping him at all? Not going to do it!” I asked to circle back. Later, coming back to it myself instead of being prompted, I told him it would be fine. I would wait for him. In the time I gave myself, I had realized that making my husband drive an extra half an hour meant making my kids ride an extra hour. They would hurt more if listened to my initial gut desire. We learned for the time to enjoy the local library for homework time.

Notice that just like the #3 tip, my husband asked for selfish reasons (he didn’t want the extra drive time) but I was able to look at it from the outside a bit and chose to do it his way for good reasons. I didn’t go opposite everything he said just to prove that he’s wrong. If you give yourself some time to think though things clearly, you can make choices that are best and not simply reactionary.

#5 Plan ahead. One of the most interesting phenomenons I didn’t expect in my mediation was what happened with the homework requirements. Our mediator would send us home after a session with homework of what to research and decide. Every single time my narcissistic husband did none of it. I’ve heard and know that a narcissist will want to win everything, but somehow my husband didn’t do the smallest of tasks to actually help himself. I think this is two-fold. First, someone told had him to do it and he’s a slave to no one. Second, he already knows everything there is to know so what’s the point in any extra work?

And it’s not just mine; I’ve heard it said about other narcissists. They phone in the actual real stuff and just fill in with emotion. Your strength will be that you are wise enough to know you don’t know enough and you take the time and effort to figure it out. Know everything about what you want and research it and document it and be ready.

I was ready for a huge fight over the high school choice for our eldest. I knew my husband didn’t like the area of town where my choice of high school was. When the time came he had not put any thought into it and, even after being assigned the research as homework, he came back in two weeks with no information. The choice defaulted to me because I knew. I didn’t even have to refer to my notes I brought but since I had them, I got what was best for our son. You don’t need to wait for the homework to be assigned. Plan. Be ready.

#6 Use facts. Those who emotionally abuse do it because they know emotion, because in fact that is all they are. Their emotion is translated into their own version of truth. Their strength comes from being so staunch and factual in their delivery of their emotional version of truth. “It’s all her fault” is not a fact, it’s an emotion presented as a fact.

Victims have the huge benefit of having the actual truth on our side. If we can present the actual facts, the reality of the situation quickly becomes clear. Don’t engage in his smear campaign presented against you based on emotion. Just give the facts. Just be ready and don’t be surprised because at this point he WILL lie. When I got to this point over and over it threw me for a loop every time– “he just said what?” He’s lied in the past to himself and to me but these were brand new ones, blam, thrown down as truths. Don’t bother with discussing lies but use the tips presented in the defense post. If you engage every lie he gets what he wants, round and round accusations and blame and emotion. Don’t engage with his emotional truths. Only discuss actual truths.

It may be hard to understand what actually constitutes a fact you can use when you have been gaslit to believe his type of facts. Think about numbers and be cautious of any superlatives. Stay away from words like: never, always, greatest, worst, kindest, meanest, etc. If you want to include a clause about bedtimes and he insists there is no need because he always has them to bed on time a bad response example is, “you always let the kids stay up too late!” instead try, “the kids’ bedtimes are 8:00 and 8:30 and last week I got texts from them after 9 on two different days.” There will be excuses and most likely lies at this point but you’ve presented facts that he can’t argue.

Use tip #6 to plan out your facts. Write down and research your own emails, photos, text messages, etc. to back up as many facts as you can. Just have them ready. Don’t lambaste him with them as soon as he walks in the room. Just have them ready in case you need them. What you don’t need could be helpful later.

#7 Fight clean. I get it. I do. After years of always being the loser, always succumbing to his desires, a chance to be heard can be intoxicating. Picture a kid, always picked on, finally getting in a good solid punch. In his excitement at finally standing up for himself he impulsively throws a punch to the groin. It will not end well. The truth is you’ve been trained what strength looks like and if you conform to that idea of strength you are like him. You have a different strength. Your strength comes from truth, not from ugly emotions like contempt or pride. So watch yourself. You will start to be heard and finally get a say but don’t gloat. Don’t use the opportunity for a smear campaign. Don’t try demanding more just because you feel you’ve finally got the upper hand. Wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove my friend. Be wise as a serpent but still innocent as a dove. We aren’t like them. We are kind. Don’t lose that.

Mediation is crazy tough but it can be a very good thing. This process starts when we are not ready but we can find that we were ready all along. Being abused has left us broken but it is amazing to find it has also made us strong. Draw on your strength. Mediation may be the road to get us to a much healthier place.

If your situation requires you to be in mediation, walk into it with your head held high. When you move forward the cloud of fear lingers behind. Keep moving forward, slow and steady, and you will get where to need to be. We are cheering you on.

Narcissist: definition and example

I’ve finally gotten to the point of being comfortable calling my husband a narcissist. It’s hard because calling people names is mean. But it’s not mean to call him a man, a father, an employee. He’s a narcissist just as much as he is any of those things. Because it’s perceived as negative I still hesitate to say the word in public but once I fully understood what it was, I was comfortable calling him one privately, because it fit. No more, no less. It’s who he is.

The internet is full of definitions but here is my super simple version:

A narcissist is someone who, in his or her heart, thinks he or she is God (and they are not.)

It’s that simple. There are variations and different levels of narcissism, sure. In fact, I believe we ALL have a certain level of narcissism even, and especially, those abused by a narcissist. (Don’t run away, it’s okay and I will explain later.)

So what does “god” look like?

They make the rules, they are right all of the time, if you disagree you are sinful. They are to be honored and respected by all those lower even if they don’t make sense. They can be a benevolent god bestowing kindness on those underneath them, or they can be a vengeful and angry god demanding performance. Often they are the former earlier in the relationship but will switch back and forth and slowly become more vengeful and angry more and more often further into the relationship. But it’s true, they were narcissists the entire time.

So what does this “god” do?

  • Bestow/withhold It is in their power to either bestow or withold attention, affection, sex, finances, presence… anything really. Whatever they have to contribute, you are either honored to have access to or denied based on their judgment call.
  • Assign He decides for you is right for you. You can be assigned a job in the relationship based on your skills, his lack of skill, or even just how good it makes him look. Early on he usually depends on flattery to get you to take your assigned jobs.
  • Tax If you do well, he gets a cut. Maybe it’s a literal cut of the money but it can also be a cut of the recognition. This is what a trophy wife is. She is great, he gets the praise.
  • Demand Not only are duties assigned there is a RIGHT way to do it. These gods bestow grace for only so long and then punishment would be given for not meeting the demand. Often the demand and/or punishment would shift and be inconsistent. This is gaslighting.
  • Receive praise Narcissists love being told they are right, superior, or attractive. If you go too long between praises watch out for some type of punishment. Each narcissistic god has a different area they feel they need praise for. Not all narcissists are hyper-focused on looks like the original Narcissus. In fact, a covert narcissist can need recognition for being so humble or put upon. They will moan or sigh until you notice how difficult it must be for them. Some narcissists need to be recognized for their generosity. They will be so giving. This was my narcissist. He was exceedingly generous with time, talents, or money—when it suited him. When he doesn’t think he will get the recognition he deserves or if it serves his purposes more to be in control, he is not generous at all.
  • Judge If something is right or wrong depends solely on his perception and this is true about everything. Everything. If he lets something act in a different way it is because he is benevolent and kind. It is also common for something that has been clearly defined as wrong to be switched to clearly right or vice versa, whenever it suits the narcissist. (Again, gaslighting.)

So why do those abused display a level of narcissism?

Narcissists know how to take what they feel is owed to them. (i.e. everything)  When you regularly have things taken from you by a narcissist you learn their skills and you can start using those skills against them to take back. Sometimes we even take those skills into the outside world and start taking all we can get because we are left so broken by a narcissist. This is not okay, we should not manipulate or put down people for building our own self-esteem but everyone struggles with at least some of this from time to time.

For example, when I am the most late in the mornings, trying to get out the door, I am the most snappy and rude to my children. When I feel the most drained and powerless, I am most likely to grab power from those nearest and weakest.

And this is the entire existence of the narcissist.  

Do you remember the parenthesis in my definition? They are NOT God. When you think you are God but you are not God you always feel horribly powerless. You feel you have the right to say you want something NOW and yet it doesn’t arrive unless you go and actually pour the water through the coffeemaker. This earthly existence with no powers for a god is a horrible feeling. When a narcissist feels powerless (i.e. all the time) he is most likely to grab power from those nearest and weakest.

In the end narcissism is a sad and lonely personality disorder. If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist it’s most likely because you have a huge propensity for empathy—the one thing the narcissist doesn’t have. You meet her needs because her needs are so great. And even though she is not God (and never will be) her need to feel she is God keeps her so broken. Gods cannot be broken so a very tough outside shell of confidence overlays an interior of… emptiness.

If you are pouring your empathy into a narcissist you will be pouring forever.

The GREAT news

There is a God and He does NOT look like your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend. This God really does deserve all honor and praise. He has assigned who you are and has every right to punish you for everything he has judged as an offense… but He doesn’t. This God, as big as he is in the demanding territory, is just as big in the caring territory. He has more love and tender care than you could ever begin to imagine. He knew we couldn’t satisfy our duties. He knew we could never be good enough for Him so He provided the way Himself so we could be good enough.

Don’t let a narcissist in your life be your god. Like I did. It will only lead to emptiness. The true God will fill you up and He is the only one capable of filling up that narcissist in your life as well. Please, be safe and leave that job to the real God.

photo credit: One Way Stock <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60141638@N06/8557792607″>Hello My Name Is Narcissit</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>