There are several key indicators that your client has been abused by a narcissist. The first one is that they are frightened of the person that they are trying to separate from. If they have recently separated from their partner, they will want to do it as quietly as possible to not incur the wrath of their ex. They have been badly bullied and their self-esteem will be low. Narcissists are parasitical predators and they will have exploited their partner for the duration of the relationship this will have been emotional/psychological abuse but it can be financial and expecting their partner to do everything for them too. They will actively target people who will give them a place to live, provide them with financial stability, have good social and business networks, cook and clean for them (or hire someone to do it) and other support activities such as doing all the accounts etc. They will be furious that these benefits are being withdrawn and will fight to punish your client for having the audacity for denying them what they want (whatever the cost to your client or their children)
The narcissist may sound reasonable, despite the fact that everything s/he says is a lie. This person will do what they can to discredit your client, spread vicious rumours about him/her, attack their reputation, and use whatever means possible to make your client look bad. It doesn’t matter that none of it is true, and since they will do it all behind your clients back you will not know what you are defending him/her against.
The narcissist’s narrative is often believed by otherwise capable and competent professionals such as lawyers, mediators, judges and therapists. Most of us are just not prepared for the magnitude of the lies and the fact that the narcissist is totally indifferent to the emotional, financial and psychological damage that their behaviour has on their children, ex-spouse, family and friends. The narcissist will usually pepper their lies with half-truths, which makes them all the more credible.
The narcissist is in court to win and the more damage they do the more powerful they feel. They are not looking for a compromise and have absolutely no negotiation skills or the desire to find a mutually beneficial solution.
They will use manipulation to get what they want when the relationship comes to an end they will do everything in their power to destroy their ex psychologically, socially and financially. If their destruction has an extreme negative impact on their children, they will consider it to be collateral damage.
They will do this by:
- Playing the victim
- Pretend to be devastated
- Hiding their own financial resources
- Try to drag out the separation process as long as possible to wear your client down both psychologically, emotionally and financially
- They are going to actively work against finding a solution or compromise
- They are in the “fight” to win and if it means financial ruin to both parties then that is what they will do, because the narcissist will be on the prowl for a new target the minute they know their current relationship is over, one who they can sponge off and suck dry like they did to your client
- They love drama and will probably try to get the divorce to go to court, where they can be centre stage and show off their acting skills to a captive audience
- They will lie under oath or get other people to lie for them (their witnesses may well believe the lies of the narcissist and think that they are telling the truth under oath)
- Narcissists see themselves as being above the law and have no moral compass
- Morality is for other people to use when dealing with them, not the other way around.
- They will happily use children as pawns in a divorce if it serves their purpose without any consideration for the negative impact it might have on their own off spring
- They will bully, brainwash and cajole their children in to supporting their stories
- Even though it might not show on the surface, children of narcissistic parents are terrified of them. They can control their children with a glance or a facial expression without saying a word. The child will have been trained from a very early age that this is a warning signal and the punishment will come later (when no one else is around)
It is important for your client to keep a diary of everything that has happened. This is for the purpose of keeping the facts right, but also as a reference. Someone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been very abused and may well freeze in a situation where they have to defend themselves or become completely confused, it is important not to project good intention onto the narcissist because there is none. They will insist that there is, but that is another lie.
The narcissist will have consistently and deliberately isolated your client from any support network, so that they can exercise maximum control. They will have made your client doubt themselves and their sanity to manipulate to their own advantage. It will probably take a while to get the true story from your client and they may be reluctant to share everything or even be apologetic for having needs. This is because they are confused as they will have been shut down on anything that does not suit the narcissists agenda, they may well be embarrassed for letting themselves be pushed around and they will probably be suffering from cognitive dissonance from what they know to be true and the narrative that they have been endlessly fed.
The narcissist will go on a smear campaign and may very well have turned family and friends against your client so that they cannot find reassurance or comfort in others. Living with a narcissist is so toxic that it has a huge effect on the mental and physical health of your client, to the point where they might well be feeling suicidal. They may want to give the narcissist what they want just to get away from them as they could be in a life or death situation. They really are that toxic. Charming and charismatic to others, but determined to destroy their ex. The narcissist, because they do not feel many emotions can come across as calm and collected while your client might appear unstable in the eyes of the professionals, this is because they will have endured so much abuse and may well be suffering from CPTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder), this is when a person experiences repeated traumatic events at the hands of an abuser. It can manifest itself in insomnia, memory loss, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating and very low self-esteem.
Your client has been betrayed by someone they thought they loved and who loved them. They will be grieving a relationship that they thought was real, but was not. There is a lot of intense emotional “stuff”’ for a person leaving a narcissist, so they may well appear to be unstable (as the narcissist will have done everything within their power to destabilise them) and will have been messing with their meta-data, which will make them unsure of themselves.
NOTES if your client does have to go to court in a divorce
It will be hard to prove what your client says in court as it is the word of your client against your ex’s. It is really important that your client does not lose his or her cool, as their narcissist ex will be acting like they are trying to win an Oscar. There are some useful things that can be done:
- Advise your client not make eye contact with their ex at any time. They have been training them through intimidation and bullying to expect a rage reaction if anything is said that they don’t like. It is important not to let them trigger fear, advise your client how to respond to the question that they have been asked, rather than react to the “you’ll pay for this” silent signals that they will give your client if they can make eye contact with them.
- Advise them not look at their ex’s lawyer when answering their questions, they are looking for a win too. Not because they have an interested in “what is best for everyone concerned”, but because they have a vested interest in winning, as that improves the lawyer’s reputation (more clients/more money) and they will intimidate to get this result. It is what is said that goes on court records, not where your client was were looking. It might seem odd that not engage to in the normal body language/facial expression intercourse with their lawyer, but that is fleeting – what is said will remain on record.
- If your client is feeling overwhelmed, dizzy, confused and does not feel that that they can answer questions in a way that is in their best interest (some lawyers are extremely aggressive), tell them to let you (the lawyer) know. You can agree on a sign to let them know that they are experiencing difficulties before your client takes the stand.
- When your client’s ex starts to lie under oath, remind them not interrupt, call them a liar or make any noise. Ask your client to write down the lies that have been told and them to give it to you, or one of your legal team. You (the lawyer) can intervene on their behalf, as there is no emotional investment and you will be capable of making a much more level headed rebuke.
- Your client’s ex narcissist will try to play games in the court room, so it is important that your client appears as cool and collected as they can in the court room
- Ask your client not to show blithe humour, it will not be appreciated by anyone and will mitigate against your client for being fickle and disrespectful of the legal process.
- Advise your client to dress and speak respectfully, refer to the judge with the reverence they expect. Asserting a stance against them will only garner hostility