Are You Divorcing Your Own Donald Trump?
What a few weeks it’s been in global politics! As the USA waited, it became clear the current president was not going to take ‘You’re Fired’ without a fight. Does that remind you of your ex? Claiming they have been unfairly treated and the world is against them? They’re right and you’re wrong? Are you divorcing your own Donald Trump?
In this blog, we look at what to do if you’re divorcing a narcissist. How do you know if you’ve got a Trump on your hands? And what do you do about it?
Characteristics of a narcissist
Let’s start by exploring the traits of a narcissist. How do they show up in the world – and in particular – in your life? Here are some of the most common characteristics of a narcissist:
Feeling of superiority
They always make the right call, and if it goes wrong it’s someone else’s fault. The narcissist believes they can do everything better than everyone else (even have coronavirus). They know more about (China/oil/politics/business – insert topic here) than anyone else. Remind you of anyone? If you’re married to a narcissist chances are you’ve been ground down by their relentless insistence that they’re better. Better than you, than your family, than your friends, than their friends.
Need for admiration
There’s a difference between the quiet confidence that comes with the knowledge you know your stuff, and the hollow bravado of a narcissist. If you’re secure in your self-worth, you don’t show up with arrogance. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. A narcissist, on the other hand, needs constant approval. Being a ‘loser’ is the worst possible insult and outcome. So much so that they’re not able to accept it.
Sense of entitlement
Why shouldn’t they stay in the job/take the cat/dictate when they see the children? It’s what they want so they’re having it. No negotiating – that’s for losers, remember? The ‘it’s my way or the highway’ sort of attitude goes hand in hand with the next one – an inability to empathise.
Lack of empathy
A narcissist is the sun, moon and stars of their own world. To the extent they can’t see the world from anyone else’s perspective. We all need a healthy dose of self-esteem and to stand up for ourselves. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the inability to take into account experiences and viewpoints that aren’t aligned with our own.
If your ex can’t possibly see why you have a problem with them being late to collect the children every time (or insert any problem behaviour here), you may be dealing with a narcissist.
Ruthlessness in dealing with others
If you can’t empathise, it’s a lot more likely you’ll act without thought for others. Doing the ‘honourable’ thing doesn’t figure here – if there’s a way to cheat and win, a narcissist will. And they won’t recognise it as cheating. Remember that sense of entitlement? They’re in no doubt they deserve whatever their chosen prize is – whether it’s the presidency or the house. So they’ll do what it takes to get it.
The blame game
When the world doesn’t bend to their will, narcissists will get ugly. It is never their fault, so they need people to blame. If you’re married to a narcissist, one of those people may well be you. You’ll be on the receiving end of anger, resentment, and petty power plays. Your words will be twisted, and a narcissist will do whatever they can to turn people against you.
Does any of that sound familiar? You’re not alone. More and more divorces are being recognised as being high conflict – where one or more of the parties has narcissistic tendencies.
Remember that having narcissistic tendencies doesn’t mean they are a narcissist – only a professional can diagnose NPD. Labelling without a formal diagnosis isn’t helpful. But handling your ex as if they are a narcissist will help support you. Remember too that whilst not all high conflict is due to narcissism, not all narcissists are high conflict.
So what can you do if you’re divorcing your own Donald Trump? In short: stay safe and stay grounded, whatever dramas your narcissist ex is trying to create. Let’s get into how.
Won’t leave the (white) house?
As I write, we don’t know whether Donald Trump will willingly leave the White House in January 2021. Your ex may be digging their heels in too – whether it’s about the house, arrangements with the children, money, or any other big divorce issues.
Here’s the bad news. You, on your own, can’t make your ex do anything. Just like Joe Biden can’t physically push Donald Trump out of the Oval Office. The only things we can ever control are what we do.
So if your ex is refusing to leave home, and it’s their legal home, and they won’t negotiate, unfortunately that’s the situation you have to deal with.
Here’s the good news. There are legal processes there for a reason. No one is above the law. Not even Trump.
You have two jobs when it comes to divorcing your own Donald Trump:
1. Don’t take the bait and
2. Get the support you need.
Let’s take each of those in order.
Don’t take the bait
Narcissists thrive on disruption. The more destabilised you are, the more stable they feel. It’s a false stability of course. But it can leave you reeling and leave them stronger.
So your role here is to not play the game. Don’t buy into their stories. Let them rant if they need to. But try not to show your discomfort. This doesn’t mean you let lies slide. You can stand up for yourself. But do so with composure.
And yes, I know this is hard. I know you will be rightly triggered by the unfairness, the unfeelingness. The erasure of your needs. But the best way to serve those needs – your own needs that you so rightly deserve to prioritise – is with outward calm.
State the truth without heat. Narcissists feed on your drama – it’s like an addiction. So don’t give them the hit. Become boring to them by limiting your communication to simply what’s necessary. And being as emotionless as possible. Some call this ‘grey rock’ communication – read more about it here.
Set your boundaries – make it clear what is not acceptable. Narcissists will not be willing or able to understand your boundaries without your firm insistence. Be prepared that your ex will not care. Most narcissists only start to care when consequences affect them, not those around them. And this is where we turn to step two…
Get the support you need
You will need a solid support network if you are divorcing your own Donald Trump. I’m talking about both emotionally and practically.
If you’re doing your best ice queen impression when dealing with your ex, it’s likely you’ll need people to let off steam with. Identify your truest friends and let them be the people who see the ugly crying, the disbelief, the rage. Let your emotions be held safely by those you trust.
In practical terms, you need to keep things real. Your ex will be doing their best to create the reality they want, without regard for anything else. So facts are your friend here. Document everything. What you say and do – what they say and do.
Remember narcissists are experts at twisting words and situations. So keep communication between you brief and in writing. Channel your best grey rock.
The law has processes that need to be adhered to. By you and your ex both. Make sure you are doing everything you can to move your divorce forward. Show the courts that you are not being obstructive. Make sure your children’s needs rather than your own are at the forefront of everything you ask for from legal decisions. This will help the courts see that you are focussed on moving on rather than seeking revenge.
When your ex crosses a boundary, especially if they threaten your safety, take action. That might mean logging an incident with the police or letting your solicitor know. Make sure you enforce your boundaries so your ex knows they can’t continue to infringe them.
When enlisting a solicitor, remember you are instructing them. Yes, your solicitor has invaluable expertise when it comes to the legal system. But they need to understand you and your situation too. So don’t be afraid to quiz them on their professional experience of high conflict situations. Ask them what they know about narcissism and the approaches needed. Don’t be afraid to meet with a number of solicitors until you find one you trust.
Work with a high conflict specialist
I’m the UK’s only divorce coach with a specialism in high conflict. I know that the collaborative approach just will not work. I know that narcissists can wear you down and cause a lot of heartache. And I know what you need to do to get through it. We can unpick the lies, see through the gaslighting and set the agenda rather than respond to the drama.
So you don’t have to divorce your Donald Trump alone. Whether it’s a one-off consultation to get you on the right track, or regular support to see you through – I’m here for you.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com