The Two Pandemics
While the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, there is another more covert, but equally as toxic, and even much more pervasive global pandemic that is slowly and secretly crushing minds, spirits and souls. This other pandemic is narcissism and narcissistic abuse. Victims don’t require ventilators, but neither will N95 masks or gloves protect them from the harmful effects. Targets of narcissists have no obvious physical manifestation of abuse, and lacking a conscience isn’t illegal, so how does one prepare to divorce a narcissist?
Being armed with the right tools when negotiating with a narcissist in divorce begins with understanding narcissism. This is a pathological condition in which one has no sense of empathy for others. This is a person who has virtually no internal feeling of value, and therefore derives all of his or her feeling of value from the external. Their egos require an endless amount of “narcissistic supply” which is basically their form of sustenance. Supply can be anything from money, power, prestige, and compliments, as well as exerting coercive control, devaluing and degradation. It is not surprising that spouses of narcissists often find themselves running from these marriages as if they are personally on fire.
The statistics are staggering. According to an article published by Bree Bonchay, LCSW in Pscyh Central Magazine, approximately one in ten lacks a conscience or empathy for others. She continues by explaining that “(a)ccording to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the prevalence in the general population for antisocial personality disorder is estimated at 3.3% percent and the prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder is as high as 6% percent.” The world population is estimated to be 7.5 billion. 3.3% of 7.5 billion = 247,500,000 people with antisocial personality disorder, and 6% of 7.5 billion= 450,000,000 people with narcissistic personality disorder. Together that bring the total to
697,500,000 people who lack empathy, or are without a conscience. A pandemic indeed.
Divorce Rates Poised to Skyrocket
What’s even worse is that the world of the two pandemics, COVID-19 and narcissism, are careening toward each other, portending a nuclear Big Bang, which is about to explode in the form of divorces. Divorce statistics have always been consistently high, but those figures are from before people were forced to “shelter in place” with someone with whom the relationship was already tenuous, or even worse, physically or psychologically abusive. They say “familiarity breeds contempt” and it appears that as soon as the stay-at-home orders are lifted, people will be storming the proverbial gates of divorce lawyers’ offices and the divorce rates are poised to skyrocket. A lawyer from San Diego, who practices with a national law firm recently reported to CBS8 that his firm had 1500 divorce consultations in just the past 3 weeks. ABC News reported that according to Susan Myres, the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, divorce lawyers around the country are “fielding calls right now from people who are tired of being in the same house with each other.”
According to a recent Bloomberg article, “China’s Divorce Spike is a Warning to the Rest of Locked-Down World.” In fact, one Shanghai divorce lawyer saw a 25% uptick in his caseload since the city’s lockdown restrictions were relaxed in mid-March. He went on to state that infidelity used to be the #1 reason clients cited as the reason for divorce, but new clients are reporting that being trapped under one roof was just too much.
With both narcissistic abuse on the rise, and new divorce filings about to escalate, it is critical that those affected be prepared. Anytime narcissists experience the end of a relationship, their narcissistic injury is triggered, which will unleash their narcissistic rage. According to narcissism expert and psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, during a divorce, all the worst qualities of a narcissist are magnified as if on steroids.
From the perspective as a divorce lawyer, narcissists can be expected to engage in behaviors that cause cases to last longer and cost a lot more in attorneys’ fees. A short list of the narcissist’s antics in divorce ranges from ignoring court orders, manipulating evidence, using everything one does or says against them, obstructing and blocking the other party from getting information,, intimidation tactics, turning others against their ex, using children as pawns (or worse engaging in alienating tactics) to using the court system overall as a sword. They are street fighters, meaning they fight dirty and will do anything and everything they think they can get away with, and even more than what they can get away with if they think it’s worth hurting the other person.
The only path to the place of a peaceful resolution that has a “fair” result (meaning what the law provides) when a narcissist is on the other side is to motivate them. Nearly every single new client who arrives on the doorsteps of a divorce attorney’s office expresses their desire not to fight and to avoid hefty attorneys’ fees. But what’s counterintuitive to a reasonable person is coming to the realization that in order to avoid the fight, it is essential to prepare for war.
This means creating a very strong strategy, which includes understanding the type of narcissist involved, and creating a vision and an action plan. An absolutely critical part of the action plan and strategy will be determining what the invincible leverage is. Without a strong strategy and invincible leverage, and anticipating what the narcissist will do and being two steps ahead of them, the reasonable person will be eaten alive.
When considering divorce, here are a few tips to preparing now:
Stash of Cash: Have enough to live on for a few months at least and also enough to retain an attorney.
Parenting Plan: Before either of party leaves the house, a super specific parenting plan should be in place. That means in writing and signed by both parents.
Living Arrangements: Which party will be staying in the house? What will the living arrangements be? Decide this ahead of time.
Change All Passwords: Change all passwords and logins on everything including email, cloud devices and social media accounts. Anywhere there is a password being used, it should be changed – and maybe even once a month for the first several months.
Hire a Lawyer: Start interviewing lawyers and hire one ahead of time. Choose one that understands narcissism, who is attentive, and will be able to go on the offensive and stand up to the narcissist.
Start Gathering Financials: Take pictures, make copies, and start stockpiling bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, and other financial information.
Start Documenting Everything: Take note of everything the narcissist says or does. The best leverage often comes out this sort of mundane detail.
Without a plan going into a divorce, the choice is being made to swim in shark infested waters with no protection. The narcissist definitely does have a plan – and that’s to use everything in his or her power to make the other party look as bad as possible and spend as much money as possible. It is best to prepare and feel ahead of this game and not behind. Start on the offensive, not the defensive. Being ahead is more fun than trying to catch up.
If you are dealing with a narcissist and you want to know more about how to communicate with them, come join me at my FREE Webinar, the 3 MUST HAVE Secrets for Communicating with a Narcissist. You can sign up for that RIGHT HERE.