What is Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic Abuse is a covert and insidious form of domestic violence where victims may spend years not realizing what is happening to them, unaware that their abuser has maliciously and intentionally created a world to coerce, control, isolate, demoralize, and dehumanize their victims in order to feed and supply their disorder, known as narcissistic personality disorder. It is often linked to other personality disorders, for example, bi polar disorder, borderline personality disorder and psychopathy.
People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are very important and that the world revolves around them. They’re self-absorbed and have fantasies of limitless self-importance, success and power. They over-exaggerate their accomplishments, popularity and social importance. Narcissists exploit others for personal gain and don’t have time or interest in others unless it serves a purpose for them. They lie, dominate, manipulate and control other people and pit people against each other by influencing emotions like fear and anger, and they use threats to get what they want. Narcissists require constant feeding of their egos and crave admiration constantly. Narcissists don’t have empathy and they don’t have the ability or desire to understand what another person is feeling or experiencing and why.
Narcissists crave attention, praise and they can be demanding. They have grandiose views of themselves, their lives, and their futures, and they use manipulation as a way of achieving their goals.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:
- project an inflated sense of self-importance
- exaggerate their achievements
- respond to criticism with anger
- use others for personal gain
- expect special consideration or special treatment
- be highly critical of others
- become envious and jealous easily
The narcissist views people as objects which can feed their needs (known as ‘sources of narcissistic supply’). The narcissist will use any tactic, without guilt, empathy or conscience, to make sure they get their narcissistic supply and their needs are met. The Narcissist projects their disorder onto the people they spend time with, including their partner, friends and family.
The Narcissist creates carnage for those around them (spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc) using techniques such as “gas lighting” and projection.
These techniques result in immense confusion for their victim. It’s crazy-making. The narcissist knows that a divided and conquered mind is their most vulnerable and susceptible target.
Narcissistic Abuse Victims tend to ‘dissociate’ or detach from their emotions, body and surroundings. Living in a war zone where all forms of power and control are used against you (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control etc), the threat of abuse is always present.
For more information about narcissistic abuse and to give you tips on how to communicate with a Narcissist, check out our videos on narcissistic abuse:
Red flags for gas lighting and narcissistic abuse
You may not recognise narcissistic abuse, gas lighting and emotional manipulation immediately as it is often covert.
Some red flags to look for, which are signs you are the victim of narcissistic abuse are:
- You often feel tricked or pressured into doing things.
- It seems as if you can’t do anything right.
- They guilt trip you and make it seem impossible to say no.
- They often twist the truth.
- You often feel guilty or confused.
- Your efforts never seem good enough.
- They invalidate your feelings;
- They use emotional blackmail;
- They gaslight you (emotional manipulation);
- They withold affection/give you the silent treatment;
- They take on the role of victim and turn situations around to make it seem you are to blame.
- They attack your character, shame, mock, blame, insult and threaten you and rationalise the verbal abuse as being for your benefit.
- They shift the goal posts so you can’t meet the goals they set, no matter how hard you try.
Some specific examples of gas lighting include:
- Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.” or “your just being overly sensitive” or I don’t know why your making such a big deal out of this.”
- Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
- Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “Oh, come on, I never said that.” “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
- Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
- Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.
For more information on gas lighting, including how to recognise gas lighting and how to respond to it, click the links below:
What are the symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic Abuse syndrome is a condition that occurs when a victim spends a significant amount of time with a narcissist.
People who are struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome often doubt their own self-worth or their mental wellbeing. They are usually very concerned about their flaws, failures, and other shortcomings – regardless of whether or not these issues are real. In many cases, they are simply ideas that were planted in their mind by their abuser.
Those struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome often have a hard time identifying with reality. Since their minds will be so distorted and confused from the constant abuse and emotional manipulation, they may begin to question what they know to be real.
There are a number of symptoms that can affect someone who is struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome. Many of these symptoms mimic those that are seen in people struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affects people who have lived through serious traumas.
Symptoms that you are suffering from narcissistic abuse personality syndrome include:
- Intrusive, invasive, or otherwise unwanted thoughts
- Triggers,which are physical or emotional responses to situations that are similar or reminiscent to traumatic situations
- Flashbacks – recurring instances in which the individual feels like they’re reliving a traumatic experience
- Avoiding people, places or situations associated with the narcissistic individual
- Feeling isolated, alone, or detached from others
- Feeling extremely alert or vigilant all the time
- Extreme fear for their personal safety
- Highly strung or nervous
- Constantly scanning environment for potential threats
- Depression, irritability, and guilt
- Multiple physical complaints
- Might engage in self-harm
- Panic attacks
- Numbing and shock
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Feeling they are going mad
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors or eating disorders
- Suppressed anger
- Might be dissociative
- Might be suicidal
- Constantly second guessing
- Difficulty making simple decisions
The Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse
The three stages of Narcissist Abuse are Idealize, Devalue, and Discard. The three stages intersect with one another because sometimes you experience these some of these stages at the same time or otherwise they go back and forth and cycle around over and over until you have the light bulb moment, get out of under the narcissist’s control and take your power back. Only then can you stop the cycle.
Idealise (Love Bombing)
Narcissists choose a target for many reasons. To qualify as a perfect target to feed their narcissistic supply, the narcissist looks for your vulnerabilities so they know what you are willing to tolerate.
If you were the narcissist’s target, it is likely that you have been chosen based on your societal status, job, looks, popularity, success and wealth. The more boxes you tick for the narcissist, the more valuable you are to them and they will take more pleasure in creating a relationship of co-dependency, coercion and control.
Once the narcissist has targeted you as someone who can supply their needs, they will shower you with love and affection, compliments and they will tell you that you are different from any other person they have ever been with.
The language of the Idealize/Love Bombing cycle
- You are perfect.
- You are the best thing that ever happened to me.
- I knew right away that we were meant to be.
- I will never leave you.
- No one has ever made me feel as special as you make me feel.
- I am so lucky to have you.
Narcissistic abuse victims are often unaware this stage when this stage begins.
Whilst your gut sometimes tells you something is wrong, your boundaries and sense of self worth has been so worn down that you often do not even realise that you are being abused and the cycle of abuse becomes their new ‘normal’.
Narcissists are covert which, acting one way in public and a completely different way in private, which makes the abuse harder for you to understand and hard to explain to outside parties.
When you try and express to the narcissist your concerns about the way they are treating you, for example, if they are texting/hanging out with other women/men, you become the jealous one and they make you feel silly for raising concerns in the first place.
Or when you tell them you do not like being called names or receiving put downs about your appearance, you are told you are ‘too sensitive’ and that you need to harden up.
Or when you tell them that you do not want to do something, they tell you that their previous partner used to do it, making you feel guilty for not satisfying the Narcissist’s needs.
The narcissist can change faces and become cold and uncaring overnight. During the love bombing stage, the narcissist wears a mask. During the devaluing stage, the narcissist takes off their mask and you finally get to know the real person you have fallen in love with.
The narcissist is good at making excuses for and minimising their behaviour and if you do not accept their excuses they call you crazy.
This is part of the pattern of behaviour whereby the narcissist wares down your expectations so that you don’t even realise that you are being verbally and emotionally abused.
The language of the Devalue cycle
- Stop texting me so often, I need my personal space.
- You are just jealous, chill out, we are just friends.
- You are too sensitive, lighten up.
- You are crazy.
- You never do _____ for me anymore. My ex used to do it all the time.
- The more I get to know you the more I don’t like you.
- My exes were prettier/smarter/nicer/more successful than you.
- You were never good enough for me.
- I can see why everyone leaves you.
- You never listen to anyone and you always need to be right.
- You are a mess.
- You tricked me into falling for you by making me think you were someone else.
- You were different in the beginning. You have changed.
The discard stage is usually a surprise. The only warning sign is that contact may be decreasing during this time or their need to spend time with you is becoming less and less important to them and they are very hot and cold. It is usually a text or call out of the blue wherein they discard you.
In this phase, you become the crazy ex or the psycho and the narcissist begins to spin a web of lies to make other people around you think that you were in the wrong, so everyone takes their side. They will often use projection to do this, by accusing you of doing what they did, for example, if they cheated they will often accuse you of cheating, or if they abused you, they will accuse you of abusing them.
Sometimes the narcissist will even go so far as to file a protection order against you to publicly humiliate you, to cast themselves as the victim and to deflect from their own wrongdoing. It is our experience that many narcissistic abuse victims who file protection orders will later receive a cross application form their ex-partner with false allegations of abuse against them.
Because the narcissist is known for targeting you for your strengths, the narcissist will attempt to persuade others around you to hate you and to criticise you and in doing so, they will turn your strengths into weaknesses. For example, if your strength was that you were a good mum/dad, the narcissist will tell others that you were hitting your children, to affect the perception that others have of your parenting.
This is known as the smear campaign. The goal of the smear campaign is to denigrate you to everyone around you, to ruin your reputation, to punish you for daring to leave (if you left them) and to take away your support networks so you are left alone, with no one to rely on.
The smear campaign is not limited to adults. The narcissist often uses the children as a pawn to make others think badly about you. For example, we have seen cases where the narcissist has told the children lies about the victim to persuade the child that they should live with them. We have even seen cases where the narcissist has filmed the children and tried to encourage the children to say negative things about the victim parent.
The language of the Discard cycle
- I have never cheated on you; you are the cheater;
- He/she used to abuse me all the time.
- He/she was a bad mother/father.
- He/she used to hit the children.
- filming children to try and get them to say
- I am honest and everyone knows it. No one will ever believe your lies because you are a pathological liar.
- I was never like this before you came into my life. I hate drama and you thrive on it.
- You are crazy and you need help.
The next stage in your journey of understanding narcissism is getting uptodate on the narcissist vocabulary.
Triangulation is a tactic used by narcissistic parents to change the balance of power in a family. For example, rather than allowing two siblings to work together, the narcissistic parent insists that he or she be the go-between. This controls the way the information flows, the way it is interpreted, and adds nuances to the conversation. It’s also a way to feed narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply refers to the need of a narcissist for constant attention. It is their fuel that they feed off. The best sorts of attention are approval, adoration, and admiration. Attention may also be sought through fear and domination.
Gaslighting – A major manipulation technique often used by narcissists is Gas Lighting. Gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse where the manipulator fabricates fiction and presents it as fact and undermines your entire perception of reality by causing you to second guess your own thoughts, memories and reality and the events occurring around you.
Gas lighting can occur in many types of relationships, including bosses, friends and parents but the most devastating form of gas lighting is when it occurs between two people in a relationship.
People who gaslight will intentionally push your buttons, they know your sensitivities and vulnerabilities and they use that knowledge against you, to manipulate you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity.
Flying Monkeys – Flying monkeys are the people that the narcissist uses to do their bidding. They tell them lies and persuade those people to hold the view of you that they have, and then the flying monkeys will help the narcissist to achieve their goal, without the flying monkeys even realising that they are being used as a tool by the narcissist to get what they want.
Narcissistic rage – narcissists despise being insulted, questioned or challenged. When this happens, a narcissist will fly into a rage – spewing insults and sometimes it results in the narcissist becoming aggressive verbally and physically with you and sometimes even the children.
projection – is a manipulation tactic where the narcissist accuses you of doing the very things that they themselves are doing. If they are cheating, they accuse you of cheating. If they were a bad parent, they will accuse you of being a bad parent. When you question the narcissist, to divert attention away from their wrongdoing they will put you down by calling you insecure, needy, jealous or selfish. They may even call you the narcissist.
lovebombing – is a manipulation whereby the narcissist “bombs” the victim with compliments, texts, phone calls, flowers, gifts, selfies and “I miss you” texts. They take up all your time, slowly isolating you from your friends and family and they make you feel guilty if you want to spend time with them. The narcissist tell you how different you are their previous partners and that you are perfect and ‘different’ from everyone else. During the love bombing stage, the narcissist will usually rush physical and emotional intimacy, they will talk to you about moving in together, buying a house together, getting married and having a child very quickly, in order to ‘lock you down’.
smear campaigns – are a method of damage control that narcissists implement when separation is looming, once the mask comes off and their true self is revealed. A common smear campaign might involve portraying you as being all the things they are guilty of, for example, they may call you crazy, a cheater, a gold digger or a bad parent. By creating a web of lies, exaggerations, half-truths and false allegations about you to family and friends, the narcissist further undermines your reputation, your sanity and your already eroded sense of self worth. By taking away your friends, family and support network, you lose your support system, causing you to feel isolated and with no one to turn to.
Grey rock refers to the victim “going dark” and give the narcissist the silent treatment. It is essential that you disconnect all social media and block the narcissist on your phone and your email. If you have children, buy a different phone that you only check once a week or create an email address specifically for discussing child related issues with the narcissist. There is no need for the narcissist to have the ability to have an immediate point of communication with you except in the case of emergencies. We recommend giving the narcissist a third party’s phone number (e.g. a friend/family member) that can be called should an emergency arise and the third party can then make contact with you. Tell your friends and family to ignore the narcissist if they reach out. This is the only way you will be able to escape the narcissist’s claws and begin to heal.
So you have separated from a Narcissist…
The two most important things you need to know before anything else are:
Firstly, take care of yourself.
Return to doing things you enjoy and that relax and de-stress you, like going to the gym, meditating, participating in social sports or take that cooking class or art class you have always wanted to do.
Standing up to your narcissistic ex partner is a daily battle, and it can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Doing activities that make you happy and less stressed will help you to stay calm and stable for the sake of yourself and your children.
Meditating is a great way to relax the mind and stop those intrusive thoughts.
Listening to self-help an motivational podcasts is another great way to reframe your mindset, to help you to focus on what you can control and less on what you cannot control.
Lastly, be very careful about the data you allow to enter your mind by being picky about who you spend time with, as you you spend time with is who you become.
No one is suggesting you are all of a sudden after separating from your Narc ex, you are going to have the mind set of the dalai llama but you need to feed your mind positive things if you want to live a positive life. You wouldn’t feed your body kababs every day and expect to have a toned and fit body right? Of course not! Your mind is no different in that you can’t feed your mind negative data all the time and expect to live a positive life. Choose carefully the data that you feed into your mind through the people you spend time with, what you read and what you listen to and then you will be able to exert much more control over your emotional state. You will still have negative thoughts, that is normal, so be prepared to do maintenance on your garden, trimming it when need be (of people and things) and pull out the weeds when they pop up.
If you are continuing to struggle emotionally, please seek support from a counselor/psychologist. Your mental health is priority. You can’t look after your children and others until you put your mental health and mindset first.
Secondly, understand that you are not the problem and never were.
While you were a victim of abuse, it is important that you understand that you did not deserve to be abused and that it was not your fault.
It is natural to fall for the narcissist when they wear a mask to hide who they really are, and put on a show by love-bombing you with gifts, compliments and affection during the dating phase, before locking you down under their thumb, and then removing their mask and revealing their true nature to you.
Of course looking back there were red flags but they are never obvious at the time and the worst narcissists are covert and fly under the radar in that they present as charming to the outsider and to you, until its too late because you are married to them, have kids and gave up your career.
Now that you have escaped from the narcissist it is time to work on yourself and your self-esteem so that you never fall prey to the narcissist ever again.
The Ultimate Guide to Divorcing a Narcissist
The only thing harder than being married to a narcissist is divorcing a narcissist. Many give up because the narcissist will not back down, they thrive on running you into the ground, on seeing you punished for crossing them and they expect you will eventually give up from fear, intimidation and exhaustion.
What to do before you separate
Take everything you want/need with you when you leave the home
Do not leave behind anything that you wish to keep. Arrange for the removal of all furniture and personal belongings that you want to take with you at the time you leave the home. Talk to your lawyer about a strategy to do this without the narcissist finding out and trying to stop you. Your safety and the safety of your children is priority.
Don’t forget things the children’s birth certificates and passports as well as sentimental items such as photo albums, family photos (including digital copies) and the children’s toys.
If you do not take these things with you at the time you leave, you may find yourself in a position where the narcissist changes the locks and or refuses to return these items to you at a later time or there may be a dispute about which of those items you are ‘allowed’ to take.
In our experience, the narcissist will never let you back into the home once you have left and they will never return your prized possessions to you unless obliged to by a court order. They will keep everything that is important to you just to upset you. You have committed the ultimate sin by leaving the narcissist (whether you left or they discarded you). The narcissist who has lost control will use everything in their power to exert what little control they have left over you.
The other reason it is important to take as much with you as you can when you leave is because in a property settlement, furniture and household contents are attributed a nominal value by the court that reflects how much it would all sell for if you put all your household contents out on your front lawn tomorrow and had a garage sale. Garage sale value is generally significantly less than the insured or replacement value of the contents of your house. For the average household, the contents are valued at between $5,000 and $10,000, unless either party has antiques or collectables.
It is therefore financially beneficial for you to take as much as you can when you leave the home rather than having to buy a whole house full of new furniture and because the second hand furniture in your house is usually given a nominal value by the Court.
Take copies of all financial documents
If you are divorcing a narcissist it is highly likely that you have handed over most or all of the financial control during the relationship to them and this has been used as a method of controlling you during the relationship.
It is not uncommon for a narcissistic spouse to keep all of the finances hidden from you, especially bank account and credit card statements. You may find out after separation that the narcissist was spending money like crazy and transferring it elsewhere to avoid it being included in the settlement.
Now that you have separated from the narcissist, the coercive control is no doubt going to get worse. The narcissist will hate that they no longer have control over you so they will use whatever mechanisms they have left to continue to exert control, including through the finances, and they will not hesitate to cut you off financially if it helps them to get what they want.
You need to start thinking strategically and that means pre-planning your departure from the relationship.
Take photographs of all important assets and financial documents before leaving which relate to each parties income and all of the assets, liabilities, financial resources and superannuation in each party’s name. That way, you will have proof if/when assets go missing.
Click the link for a list of financial documents you should make copies of prior to leaving.
The first step when you engage us is for us to write to the narcissist and ask them for a copy of their financial documents. When your lawyer asks the narcissist for these documents, the narcissist will often refuse to provide them to us or delay doing so until they absolutely have to, and usually only after you have commenced court proceedings and/or spent thousands. They want to make you spend more money.
By providing us with a copy of all relevant financial documents at your initial consultation, or at least a reasonable understanding of the assets, liabilities and financial resources of the parties, it will give us a clear understanding of the property pool that exists which will enable us to give you more refined preliminary advice to you about your entitlements. This also means we won’t have to rely upon your narcissistic ex partner to do the right thing. We can then progress your matter to a conclusion more quickly and cost effectively.
Open a bank account and stash some cash
You need to prepare for separation well before you actually leave and this involves preparing financially.
To do this, you need to open a bank account in your sole name, and stash as much cash as is physically possible without raising warning signals with the narcissist.
You are going to need this fund when the narcissistic ex finds out you have left them and goes crazy and tries to coerce you back by cutting off the money.
Don’t stress, you can’t be accused of stealing, you are allowed funds for your reasonable living expenses, and in any event, it will all be sorted out in the property settlement.
If possible, remain in the home
You do not lose your right to a property settlement if you leave the home. It may be necessary for you to leave the home with your children if your safety is at risk and your abuser refuses to leave. However, if possible, we suggest that you remain living in the home, particularly in circumstances where you are not working and/or the children are living with you as it will be less disruptive for them and for you and it will reduce the financial pressure associated with sourcing alternate accommodation pending your property settlement taking place.
If the narcissist is refusing to leave the home and you are worried about your safety, do not hesitate to leave. You safety is priority. However, if you are in a position to carefully plan your exit from the relationship and your goal is to remain in the home with your children and for the narcissist to leave, there are a couple of ways you can achieve this. Talk to your lawyer about a strategy unique to your specific circumstances in order to achieve this goal without putting your safety and the safety of your children at risk.
What to do after you have separated
Keep a note of the date of separation and communicate it
The date of separation is important. The date when you separate impacts upon when you can file an application for divorce, or for de facto couples, it impacts on the ate by which you must file an application in court for property settlement and spousal maintenance.
Build your winning team!
You will also need funds to pay your lawyer, a counselor and other professionals to assist you through your separation journey.
Think of it as an investment for your future as the outcome of your divorce, custody and financial settlement determines your future and the futures of your children.
Team Member 1 – A powerhouse lawyer
Hire a powerhouse lawyer who will fight for you, who understands narcissistic abuse and who knows how to communicate with a narcissist, how to negotiate with them and how to beat them.
Whilst your solicitor is not going to label them as a narcissist to the Judge (that would be inappropriate), it is important that your solicitor understands the disorder so that they can help you behind the scenes when it comes to communication, your need for boundaries, and your need for a very detailed parenting plan / consent order, to reduce the prospects of conflict in the future with the narcissist.
A solicitor who understands narcissistic personality disorder will understand that negotiations and mediation are usually a waste of time and money.
Ultimately, the goal is to take your power back, to achieve financial independence and an outcome that is in the best interests of you and your family. To do that, you need a powerhouse lawyer who is empathetic but who is willing to fight for you and your future.
Team Member No. 2 – A Counsellor / Psychologist
Everyone leaving a relationship should reach out and seek mental health support from a counselor or psychologist. Separation is never easy, especially when children are involved. But if you are divorcing a narcissist, you will have your work cut out for you. Divorcing a narcissist can be harder than being married to one.
Your lawyer is there to support you and to fight for you to help you to achieve the best practical outcome for you and your family. But first and foremost, you need to get mentally ready for the battle that is about to begin.
Hire a counselor or psychologist who understands narcissistic personality disorder. They are hard to find. In our experience, most counselors/psychologists who understand narcissistic personality disorder and how to negotiate with a narcissist are those who have experienced a narcissistic person in their own lives.
Apply for spousal support, child support and centrelink
If you are divorcing a narcissist, it is unlikely that they will continue to provide financial support for you and your children following separation and if they do, it is usually only to create the perception to the lawyers and to the Court that they are doing the right thing.
If the narcissist has cut you off financially, dependent on your financial circumstances and on theirs, you may be entitled to spousal maintenance from them to assist you to meet your ongoing living expenses, and in some circumstances, the expenses of your children.
Click the link to read more about spousal maintenance and find out whether you qualify to receive it.
Contact us to obtain legal advice about whether in your specific circumstances you are entitled to spousal maintenance and the steps you can take to obtain it.
If you are the primary carer of the children, you should also apply for child support payments from the Child Support Agency.
You may also be entitled to centrelink payments which will give you an immediate source of financial support.
There is a lag time of at least a couple of weeks from the date of your application to when you receive your first payment. Therefore if you are not working, and you do not have any financial resources at your disposal, it is especially important that you take these steps as soon as you separate.
Jump onto the Child Support Agency website and utilise the child support calculator. This will give you a rough estimation as to what payments you are likely to receive from your former partner. How much child support you receive depends on a number of factors, including the ages of the children, how much time the children are spending with each party and each party’s taxable income per annum.
Protect your finances
Following separation, it is important that you protect your finances by closing down all bank accounts in your name which your former partner has access to or alternatively, in the case of joint accounts, redirecting your salary to an account which only you can access.
The same goes for credit cards. You should consider closing down any credit cards in joint names or in your name which the narcissist has access to or otherwise remove them as a secondary card holder.
In relation to any and all joint loan accounts or lines of credit, if there is a redraw facility, you should consider notifying the bank that you require that any further withdrawals only be made with the prior written consent of both parties.
Change your passwords
This is something that is often forgotten. Separation can turn ugly quickly if the narcissist accesses your bank account without your consent. You should change your bank card passwords, internet/telephone banking passwords for any accounts held in your name or jointly with your former partner.
Do not be complacent. Just because you have joint signatures on the mortgage account does not mean you are protected. We have had situations where joint authority was required to withdraw funds from the mortgage but the narcissist arranged for another person to impersonate our client on the telephone in order to authorise the withdrawal of a significant sum of money, without our client knowing about it.
Change ownership of real estate
If you have any real property that is held with the narcissist as joint tenants, you should consider severing the joint tenancy so that you both hold the property as tenants in common. When the property is owned by two parties as tenants in common, those two parties own the property i equal shares (or whatever other division is specified on the title) such that when you die, your share of the property will be distributed in accordance with the terms of your will. If you own property as joint tenants, as most people do when they are married or in a de facto relationship, if you die, your interest in the property will go directly to the other joint tenant, your narcissistic spouse.
Protect your equitable interests
Where real property is held solely in the name of your former partner (e.g. the matrimonial home or an investment property) it is important to protect your property settlement entitlements by preventing the property from being sold or further encumbered without your consent.
There are certain actions that can be taken to protect your interests, for example by lodging a caveat, or applying to the Court for an injunction to restrain the narcissist from disposing of property.
Contact us for legal advice regarding the appropriate steps to take in your individual circumstances.
Change your will
You should change your will as soon as possible after separation, to ensure you do not pass on any assets to the narcissist upon your death.
Change your nominated beneficiaries of your life insurance and superannuation
You may have nominated your former partner as the beneficiary of your life insurance and superannuation policies, in the event of your death. You should notify these entities as soon as you separate and change your preferred beneficiary.
Make arrangements with the narcissist as to who will continue to pay the bills
If possible, have discussions with the narcissist through your lawyer and try and reach an agreement as to who will pay what bills in the interim period, pending a property settlement taking place (e.g. the mortgage, rates, utilities, phone bills, credit card bills and other joint debt).
If your bank will allow you both to put your mortgage on hold and make interest only repayments for a period of time, do it.
If bills are not paid, both parties credit ratings will be affected, so the narcissist will be open to negotiating this point, as an act of self preservation.
If you have bills in your name for things that are for the benefit of the narcissist, give them notice of your intention to close down the account (e.g. utilities) so they can transfer the account into their sole name.
Learn how to negotiate with a narcissist
Divorcing a narcissist is the equivalent of negotiating with a terrorist. It is hell on earth. A narcissist is focused on winning at all costs as that is what fuels their ego. For them to win, you have to lose.
Educate yourself on narcissistic abuse and narcissistic personality disorder
The first step to learning how to negotiate with a narcissist is to understand what makes them tick and what you are up against.
Ten years ago, you would be lucky to find the criteria online for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder. Today, there are many articles, information and support groups including TANSR for those going through divorce with a narcissist. There are now also counsellors who specialise in supporting victims of narcissistic abuse such as Nova Gibson of Brighter Outlook Counselling Service.
This article provides a great start for those who want to understand more about narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse.
Once you understand what drives the narcissist and what winning means to them you are in a better position to negotiate with them where you can find leverage.
Putting a label to your abuser and the abuse you went through is also therapeutic part of the process.
Our clients often talk about the ‘light bulb moment’ after they do research and all of a sudden it hits them like a ton of bricks that ‘this sounds like me’. It is quite confronting when this moment happens, but it is an important part of the healing process that you understand you were abused and what narcissistic abuse / coercive control is. It is the first step to taking your power back.
What the narcissist will do
The shortlist of things you should expect from the narcissist when negotiating child custody or a financial settlement, is:
- twisting the truth (gas lighting)
- hiding assets/money;
- ignoring court orders
- moving the goal post when negotiating an agreement
- Not providing documents even if its court ordered
- Lining up their flying monkeys
- Smear campaign.
- intimidation tactics.
Navigating separation with a narcissist is hard and communicating with them can seem near impossible.
Contact us for a reduced rate consultation with our experienced family lawyers who have each received special training in relation to narcissistic abuse and who understand how to negotiate with a narcissist. Our experienced and empathetic family lawyers will help you to:
- Get over your fear of communicating with the narcissist;
- Give you strategies to make that communication more manageable and less stressful for you;
- Set up clear boundaries in relation to your communication with the narcissist to take all the difficulty out of the interaction, so you can take back control of the communication and feel empowered.
Secret Strategies for communicating with a narcissist
Here’s the most important secret you need to know about the narcissist. They have no sense of internal value for themselves, hence why they push so heavily to exude their external value to others and they always blame others for their feelings and they put others down. Marissa Peer gives us some good tips for how to handle toxic, narcissistic people in your life.
Here’s the secret strategies to communicating with a narcissist:
Be brutally honest with them (without tone or sarcasm). Narcissists are used to people lying as they think everyone is like them. Being honest with them won’t be expected and they won’t know what to do with it.
This is something that they will not expect if they are used to you giving in and acquiesing to whatever they want. They will panic when you push back against them as they will start to realise that this person that they used to have complete control of is no longer listening to everything they do or doing everything they say.
If you are worried about the narcissist pushing back against you, beware, that the narcissist’s behaviour will escalate no matter what you do. You could look at them the wrong way or send an email that they do not like the tone of and you will make the narcissist angry.
You can’t walk on egg shells for the rest of your life, fearful of making the narcissist upset.
Pushing back and communicating your autonomy is the first step to taking back control of your life and taking your power back.
If you want to make the narcissist panic, make them fearful that they are going to be exposed or actually expose them. If their flying monkeys find out who they really are or a person they respect sees a side of them they don’t want seen, they will panic.
An example might be if during a mediation setting you mention the fact that you know something they don’t want others to know about, for example, that they have been dealing drugs or hanging out with people who are criminals. If they are worried about going to jail and/or that the world will see things about them that they have been trying hard to hide, this will be a motivator for them avoiding court.
The narcissist is the most scared person in the world. Think of them as the bully in the playground that makes fun of other people because they think very poorly of themselves.
When you push back against them they will ramp up their narcissistic tactics such as lying, gas lighting, control tactics, manipulation, intimidation and love bombing in order to get you back under their control. They are panicking because losing control is the worst fear the narcissist has. The reason the narcissist does what they do is because they are trying to assert control over you because they are extremely insecure underneath. You make the narcissist panic is by causing the narcissist to lose control.
Think of the narcissist as a toddler having a tantrum. The toddler is conditioning the parent that if I scream and cry loud enough, then my mum and dad will give me what I want. If you the parent give in to what the toddler wants, the toddler learns I just need to scream louder and longer and eventually my parents will give in to what I want. Similarly, the narcissist is simply trying to figure out what level they need to act act to get you the victim back under their control and if you give in, next time they know they just need to be more awful to get you to come back under their lair of control.
Key Phrases to disarm a narcissist
If you are dealing with a narcissist and each time you speak to them you feel paralysed, here are some things you can say to talk down and disarm the narcissist:
“I Agree with you”
Whether it is about your driving, or whether you are good at the finances even if you do not agree with them, you can tell them you do to get them to calm down. The exception being where they are suggesting you are a bad mother/father, don’t put that into a text or email.
They are only saying these things to rile you up and to make you upset.
You will never get the narcissist to agree with you, so as long as what they are suggesting is something harmless, telling them you agree with them is a way of disarming them.
“You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine”
By telling them they are entitled to their opinion and you are entitled to you are letting the narcissist feel heard and seen but you are not agreeing with them. This disarms the narcissist by saying that we can agree to disagree as you are not pushing back and you are not defending yourself which removes the potential for conflict.
Use ‘We’ phrases
Even if you don’t think that you need to work on anything, by saying things like ‘we need to work on this’ or ‘we need to take responsibility for this’ you are not targeting the narcissist. If the narcissist feels that you are taking some responsibility they will feel less like they need to keep furthering an argument and disarm them.
Dissuade the narcissist’s ego
Ask the narcissist’s ego. Use phrases like “can I ask your advice on this?”, “tell he how you would handle this?”, or “whats your opinion if we do this?” or “what do you think about this plan?” Getting the narcissist to weigh in on something that you think they are being crazy about helps them feel to feel that they are contributing to a solution whilst also highlighting the ridiculous nature of their behaviour.
Validate the narcissist
Help the narcissist feel that you are listening to them by mirroring what they are saying or summarising it. You can do this by using phrases like “I am hearing you say that…” “It sounds like you are saying that…” Everyone needs validation, but the narcissists especially need constant and endless validation to feed their narcissistic supply and their external value. they feel heard and that their opinion is important.
How to Co-Parent with a Narcissist
The only thing worse than divorcing the narcissist is co-parenting with one. Where there are no children, at least once the divorce goes through you can draw a line in the sand and cut all ties with them. When you have children together, unfortunately you need to co-parent with the narcissist for years to come.
The first thing you need to realise is that the narcissist is not going to change. So trying to reason with them and show them that what they are doing is not in the children’s best interests is not going to convince the narcissist that you are right and they are wrong.
While you can’t control the way your narcissistic ex partner interacts with the children and you can’t co-parent (as it is impossible to co-parent with a narcissist), you can control how you interact with the narcissistic parent.
Slay negotiation with your narcissist ex by employing the following 9 strategies:
1. Keep your distance, minimise contact & avoid conflict
Minimising communication with, and keeping your distance from, the narcissist is vital for your mental health. You can’t start healing from the abuse if you are still available to the narcissist, day in and day out.
Avoid your narcissist ex whenever possible and ignore their negative comments and attempts to get a rise out of you. Narcissists like making noise to get your attention and to make you upset, but you do not have to listen to it.
Do not let the narcissist reel you in to having a negotiation with them directly in relation to care of the children or a financial settlement. This never works as the narcissist has to be right. Always refer them back to your lawyer.
Keeping your distance from your narcissistic ex means engaging a lawyer to take the emotion out of it and to do the hard bargaining for you.
Engage a good lawyer who understands narcissists to communicate and do the hard bargaining for you. Do not let the narcissist make you feel bad for choosing to hire a lawyer. They do this a lot. This is a method of control.
One of the most common things we hear from our clients when they come to see us is that they are fearful of engaging a lawyer because of how the narcissist will react. They say their narcissist said things like ‘he/she said we did not need to involve lawyers, that it was a waste of money’, ‘he/she thought it was better for the children that we sorted it out ourselves’. Then, after our client has engaged our services our clients tell us that their narcissistic ex made them feel guilty that they engaged a lawyer, saying things like ‘you’ve dragged this out by getting a lawyer’, ‘they just want your money’ or ‘you’ll regret getting a lawyer. I’m going to drag this through court until your broke’.
Lastly, do not engage with the narcissist when they are having one of their narcissistic rages. You can’t reason with them so do not try to.
If you find your ex trying to bate you to react in order to create unnecessary drama and conflict, don’t take the bait. Stop all communication immediately. by walking away, hanging up or stop texting them.
2. Keep communication Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm (B.I.F.F)
Using the BIFF method is vital when communicating with a narcissist.
Keep your communication with the narcissist short, basic, business like, and to the point, with interactions primarily in writing, by text or email.
You need to be Brief when communicating with a narcissist because they try and manipulate what you say to achieve the outcome they want. Ensure the sole focus is in relation to issues concerning the care and welfare of the children.
If the narcissist tries to raise issues which do not relate to the care of the children in a message, do not reply to that portion of the message.
You should keep a record of all your communication with the narcissist, just in case things go to court. You can do this by communicating through an app or by printing copies of your texts.
Be informative, and focus on the facts. Here is the information. In and out.
Be Friendly and keep your cool. Keep your emotions in check, no matter what they say to engage you in conflict. Why? Because the narcissist wants you to lose your cool, they want to get under your skin. As soon as you allow them to do that, they have won and the narcissist knows their manipulation is working and that they still have control over you. That is the last thing you want. No matter what buttons they press to try and get an emotional reaction out of you. Don’t take the bait. Use your poker face.
When your ex is being abusive or tries to incite a reaction out of you, just think of them as a 2 year old that you are watching have a tantrum on the floor. Say to yourself, I am not engaging with that.
Lastly, you have to remain Firm. Narcissists push your boundaries to remind you that they are still in control. Keep those boundaries strong.
Be brief, informative, friendly and firm, in and out of there, don’t engage. That is how you are going to beat the narcissist at their own game.
3. Assert and maintain your boundaries
Maintaining your boundaries with the narcissist is a must for your mental health. This means setting up boundaries in relation to, for example, how your communication with the narcissist takes place.
Part of maintaining strict boundaries means going gray rock. Avoid direct contact, have changeover in a public place or through a third party, no phone calls as they will just try and twist your words and all communication must be in writing via emails or an app.
If you have children together that does not mean the narcissist must have you on tap to communicate with at all times. You are in control of when and how they contact you.
If you want to go gray rock, then block the narcissist from texting and calling you and set up an email specifically for communicating with the narcissist in relation to the children and only check it once or twice a week. Choose a third party whose number the narcissist has that the narcissist can contact in the case of an emergency.
During your relationship with the narcissist, your boundaries were broken down. Having strict boundaries about how you communicate with the narcissist and being consistent with those boundaries will reduce your mental stress, it keeps you in control of how and when the narcissist can speak to you, and it is the first step to taking your power back.
4. Work out a detailed, finely-tuned, legally binding parenting agreement that covers everything
Consent orders are always better than a parenting plan because you have recourse if consent orders are breached. You can apply to the Court if a consent order is breached to enforce compliance. A Parenting Plan is not legally enforceable.
Spell out the specific days and times when the children are with each parent, including on school holidays and special days and where changeover will occur.
Have clauses for every possible issue that may come up, when and how telephone communication with the children occurs and how the parties will communicate with one another, extra-curricular activities, overseas travel etc.
Your lawyer will give you the heads up about the big ticket items that should be included in any parenting agreement, and any good lawyer will prepare a draft for you prior to any mediation, based on your instructions.
Having a detailed, finely tuned, legally binding agreement that covers everything is worth its weight in gold as it will save you from future conflicts with the narcissist in future.
5. Choose Your Battles
The narcissist will use every opportunity they have to criticise your parenting. If you fail to comply with a term of the agreement, they will denigrate you, threaten you and they will never let you forget it.
But when it comes to criticising the narcissist, choose your battles with them.
Unless the issue is a critical one and the gravity of it is such that you feel you have no choice but to hold the narcissist accountable for their conduct, having an argument with the narcissist about an issue that is innocuous, is not worth it as it is a battle that cannot be won, without it having a negative impact on your wellbeing and the children’s wellbeing.
Each time the narcissist does something that makes you feel angry, ask yourself whether the battle is worth it. Usually the answer is no.
6. Learn to parallel parent and be the best parent you can be
The qualities of a narcissist such as denigrating you, always having to be right, blaming you, making negative comments about you to others and to the children are in contrast to the skills that are needed in order to have an effective post separation co-parenting relationship. The negative consequence of this is usually an inability to agree with the narcissist on a consistent set of rules in each household, which in turn affects children’s stability as they move from one parent’s house to the other parent’s house. The narcissist in affect counter-parents while you have to navigate the chaos created by their decisions and the impact on your children.
When parenting with a narcissist who counter-parents in that they do what they want and will not compromise on anything when it comes to rules and routine for the children, co-parenting is impossible and the only option is parallel parenting.
Parallel parenting in a sense means you disengage with the other parent and accept that you can’t control what happens in the other parent’s house and you parent the way you want to parent in your house. The main benefit of parallel parenting is that you avoid having to communicate with the narcissist whilst allowing both parents to be involved in the children’s lives. The main disadvantage is the affect that differing routines in each household has on the children.
Equal time is not conducive to parallel parenting for that reason.
Once you adopt the parallel parenting approach, you can start focusing on being the best parent and role model you can be, whilst not having any expectation of the narcissist.
Be a role model to your children for handling challenges in a constructive manner without emotions getting out of control. Teach them that you can communicate that you are upset about something without yelling and screaming at someone.
Teach them that there are better ways than this to express their opinion and to solve a problem. Teach then that it is okay for two people to have different opinions, and teach them to listen, understand and validate someone else’s view, even when they don’t agree with it.
7. Live by example
Show your children what healthy relationships look like, especially when things are rocky. The test of a strong relationship is never how a ship sales in calm seas, but in stormy waters.
Model the qualities you want your children to exude in their interactions with others, including empathy, kindness, respect, compassion, honesty and forgiveness.
Teach your children about morals and the importance of doing the right thing, that mistakes are okay and that mistakes help us learn and grow.
Don’t do/say anything that you wouldn’t want the narcissist to do when parenting in their house. This means no negative comments about them to the children and no involving them in any adult issues/conflict. Statistics show that children who are involved in parental conflict are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and it impacts their self-esteem and future relationships.
The key take away is that when you criticise the other parent your child feels like you are criticising them as your child perceives him/herself as a part of each of you.
8. Be the bigger person
Do not stoop to the level of the narcissist. It’s hard to do but it is a must. If you don’t your children are the only ones who suffer.
9. You can only control you
You cannot control the narcissist , you can’t change their parenting skills, or communication skills, but you can control you.
Focus on putting your children’s best interests first.
Don’t let the narcissist make you feel like you are not a good parent. Their opinion of you as a parent is irrelevant. You and only you define your opinion of yourself as a parent and as a human being.
How do we deal with a Narcissist?
One of the most common questions we are asked by our clients is whether we have experience dealing with narcissists.
Each of our solicitors at Barton Family Lawyers have specific training in narcissistic abuse and how to deal with narcissists.
We are familiar with the techniques narcissists use, such as:
- Twisting the truth
- Hiding money
- Ignoring court orders
- Moving the goal post
- Flying monkeys
- Smear campaigns
The narcissist will use these tricks to try and break you down until you agree to what they want because the narcissist always needs to win and to remain in control.
We won’t put up with that.
We always have a strategic plan as to how to deal with the narcissist’s intimidation tactics. We are always in your corner, fighting for you, and we will help you to take your power back.
Are you a narcissistic abuse victim? Seek Help!
Many victims of these toxic relationships attend counselling with their narcissistic partner. The narcissist puts on their mask, manipulates the session, and the victim becomes re-victimised all over again.
Courtney’s legal team of narcissistic abuse specialists, advocate on behalf of victims of narcissistic abuse who have separated from the narcissist to free themselves from the narcissist’s grip. At Barton Family Lawyers, we make sure our clients can negotiate with the narcissist on an equal playing field, free from coercion and control and without being re-victimised by the process. Our priority is to ensure that our clients achieve a resolution of all issues quickly and at the least possible financial and emotional cost.
If you are separating or thinking of separating, contact Barton Family Lawyers on 3465 9332 to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our experienced Brisbane Family Lawyers who have special expertise and experience dealing with narcissistic abuse.
If you are struggling following separation to free yourself from the grips of your abuser and to take your power back, please reach out to someone you love and trust and ask for help. Your mental health is priority. You can’t be a good parent to your children until you look after yourself first.
If you want more information in relation to Narcissistic Abuse & Communicating with a Narcissist, click the link to our videos below:
If you are a narcissistic abuse victim and you are getting ready to negotiate your financial settlement with a narcissist, check out our Master Your Negotiation Preparation Handbook.
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