when leaving a narcissist

5 Mistakes I Made When Leaving a Narcissist & How You Can Avoid Them

when leaving a narcissist

 

Whatever mistakes, miscalculations, or bad decisions there are to be made in leaving a narcissist, I made them.

After sixteen years with a man whom I’d built a life with, had children with, and thought I knew, I made the naïve assumption that I could predict what ending our life together and getting divorced would look like. I counted on his promises of the past to stay true in the future.

Even during the last few years of the marriage when I had to deal more with the evil Mr. Hyde than the good Dr. Jekyll, even after uncovering his double life that revealed his predatory nature for girls less than half his age, I still relied on our shared history as a couple to see me through.

My greatest error arose from my inability to wrap my head around the fact that there are people in this world who lack any sense of empathy, decency, or integrity, and who will stand back with a smirk on their face, holding a bucket of water that they have no intention of using while watching those who love them the most burn in pain.

Believing this to be an exaggeration and that no one could possibly be guilty of purposely inflicting pain on their own loved ones is the first mistake I made. Then it was a downward spiral of my shattered expectations as I learned the hard way that, yes, there are people in this world who will not only smile as they watch you fall and suffer, but will spin the story to such a point that they’ll say you deserved it.

Those people are called narcissists.

And if you’re involved with one, wanting to leave or in the process of leaving one, here are the top five mistakes to avoid. Doing so certainly won’t erase the pain of separation or divorce but will definitely lessen it if your eyes are wide open since then you won’t risk the heartbreak from bombshells that every narcissist is capable of dropping.

5 Mistakes I Made When Leaving a Narcissist

Mistake #1: Believing a narcissist will be a good person and play fair

Every phone call, every email I got from my attorney left me in a state of shock and awe upon hearing what my ex was attempting to get away with or accusing me of. Since I believed what my ex told me prior to filing for divorce, such as that he would make sure our kids and I would be taken care of financially and I wouldn’t have to worry, each realization of what he was actually up to left me reeling as if I’d been sucker-punched that landed me on the floor, of which I couldn’t get up from during the entire divorce process.

How to avoid my mistake?

See them for who they really are and not who you always wanted them to be. Drop the illusions you still carry, such as that they’ll change or they’d never hurt you. No need to be cynical, but crucial to be prepared. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Mistake #2: Choosing any lawyer to represent you

Because of the fragile emotional state I was in at the time and my desperation to get the divorce over with, I did not vet my lawyer. I did not ask any questions and trusted that he would do a good job of representing me. I assumed (because he was a lawyer) that he would know the difference between fair and unfair, that he would hold my ex accountable in disclosing assets, and would advocate for me and my children to his best ability.

My lawyer always talked a big game when we were planning how to respond to my ex’s obvious skirting of the law and the abuse he still inflicted (such as cyberstalking me, stealing my identity, and hacking into my emails), then at the last minute would pull away from any previous plan and encourage me to settle.

His strategy-switching gave me whiplash. And it always coincided with running through another big retainer I’d paid, which disappeared quickly when I was being charged even if I only spoke to his legal secretary for two minutes on the phone (she called once to ask my address, which I gave and then we hung up, for which I was charged a quarter-hour of my attorney’s rate: $75).

How to avoid my mistake?

Interview attorneys. Ask them if they have experience in high-conflict divorces with abusive personalities. Ask them if they know how a narcissist operates. Go with your gut and don’t be pressured into hiring a lawyer you don’t feel completely safe with or whose methods you question. Remember, a lawyer has the ability to make or break you in a divorce. Make sure you choose wisely.

Mistake #3: Letting your emotions make decisions for you

It is a fact that women tend to look at divorce from an emotional perspective. And why wouldn’t we? When we’re heartbroken or disillusioned or escaping abuse, we can’t help but be emotional about our lives as we knew them ending, sometimes going down in a huge ball of flames. However, in general, men look at divorce from a business standpoint and remove emotion from the process (not all men, of course).

And men who are true narcissists take it even further – to them, it’s war. You’re the enemy. And therefore, you must be defeated. Because I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by my pain, and unable to truly begin any healing process while still in the midst of the divorce, I couldn’t make those important decisions for my future since I was unable to see even the day after the next through my tears. Meanwhile, a narcissist lacking any empathy or compassion, to begin with, will exploit the weakness of another and chalk it up to the necessities of war.

How to avoid my mistake?

Given the fact that most men, especially fathers, come out far better off financially after divorce than women, who tend to see their incomes drop by over a third, it’s imperative that those emotions are put aside for the time it takes to legally separate. Cry, cuss, and rage all you want (if only I had a dollar for every f-bomb I dropped during my divorce) but leave your heart out of it and use only your mind when figuring out those details that will determine how you’ll fare long after those divorce papers are signed.

Mistake #4: Giving in and saying Uncle when you’re too tired to go on

Narcissists are like wolves (no offense to actual wolves who act only out of instinct and not out of any innate desire to persecute those who do them wrong). Their success depends on their ability to exhaust you and wear you down to the point where you stop running, lose your strength, and eventually surrender.

Because I didn’t have a good lawyer to encourage me not to waive my rights or what I was entitled to, I quickly became so drained that I lost all my nerve and gusto to stand up for myself. I gave up and gave in, and because of that I’m still experiencing the effects financially all these years later.

How to avoid my mistake?

Understand that a narcissist is trying to wear you down on purpose so that you’ll give up and give in. Trust me when I say that once you’ve recovered and regained your strength later down the line, you’ll regret it if you do throw your hands up during the divorce and give up in any way whatsoever.

Mistake #5: Underestimating how low a narcissist will go.

Check. Double check. I underestimated my ex to such an extent that I paid for it severely not only with my financial well-being but my emotional health as well since every time I was knocked to the ground by the things he would say or do, eventually I just stayed there huddled up in a ball waiting for the next blow.

How to avoid my mistake?

Think of the lowest possible thing that someone could do to another. Got it in your head? Good, because a narcissist will go lower. So brace yourself and gird those loins for this moment to come.

I wish I could tell you that today I have zero regrets for the mistakes I made when I left (escaped is more like it) and filed for divorce from a narcissist. However, since I’m still paying for those mistakes today it’s hard to not beat myself up every so often.

But then I remind myself lovingly and patiently that I didn’t know. I barely knew anything about narcissists at the time let alone what divorcing one would be like. And I didn’t know how to choose a lawyer. Nor did I feel empowered to stand up for me after so many years of being emotionally beaten down. So when I start kicking my own ass about “what I should have done instead,” I remind myself how far I’ve come despite all the difficulty and trauma of my past.

As Michelangelo said at the ripe old age of 87, “I am still learning.”

And I hope by sharing my own lessons, you are still learning too.

The post 5 Mistakes I Made When Leaving a Narcissist & How You Can Avoid Them appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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