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Manage divorce pain

How to Manage Pain During Divorce

When we’re in the midst of the visceral and all-encompassing agony of divorce, it’s difficult to cope with each breath, let alone remember that the pain eventually ends. The last thing we think about, but should address, is how to manage pain during divorce. The emotions are so strong and wide-spread that they often manifest as a physical presence. But it is a presence of emptiness.

This void contains the grief of losing love and the optimism that comes with it—that sense of possibilities that were open to us and now are not. There is the bruising nature of rejection, the fear of time wasted or of loneliness (a feeling exacerbated for so many now during the Covid quarantine), a sense of self and our own wholeness that seems to have vanished. The shock and anger over betrayal or having the bottom suddenly drop out from under us, the doubt that we can ever trust our own judgment again. But rest assured: the pain of divorce will not last forever.

To Manage Pain During Divorce, Allow Yourself to Feel.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but managing pain during your divorce means you have to actually allow yourself to experience these feelings—give them room to run and swing wildly. Allowing yourself to feel grief, fear, loneliness, and anger is exhausting and frightening; it feels like you’re in the middle of a stampede with no horse.

Even feeling hope can be painful in the aftermath of divorce, because the loss of your old hopes is fresh, and trusting that new ones can exist takes a while.

But it seems to be the consensus that healing requires you to face the full range of your emotions during divorce. Trying to reign in your emotions or muffle them with a smiling facade only works temporarily. Tamping down these feelings might be best saved for the times when you don’t want them to become a burden on people who are depending on you, like your children.

Trying to keep a permanent lid on emotions, though, is like trying to muffle a trashcan fire with a lid that doesn’t quite fit. It might seem to work, but the damage still spreads if you don’t actually address it. Putting off the experience of an emotion just gives it breathing room with no supervision. When we finally turn around and face it, we realize it’s only gotten bigger.

What actually helps with this pain management technique is to not just let the feelings run over you, but to run with them. It may sound ridiculous, but don’t worry: if you have enough emotional capacity to have a feeling, you are most likely strong enough to move with it.

So, What Are Effective Strategies to Manage Pain During Divorce?

One of the best ways to cope with divorce pain is to write your feelings out in a free-flow journal. Especially if you write without pausing or self-editing, you can scream as loudly as you want to on paper. Pouring all that angst, pain, and emotional murk through the sieve of a journal on a daily basis clears your mind so that you begin to address your own healing with acceptance and develop some rational ideas of what you need to do to rebuild. When you engage with your feelings in this way you become an active participant in them.

Seek Support

Another way to manage divorce pain and confusion is to reach out to a divorce coach, who can be one of the best sources of complete support for what you are going through. A coach can help you with all the logistical, financial, emotional, and practical issues that may overwhelm you. A coach, experienced in what is normal and what is not, is trained to help you embrace your emotions and heal so you can move forward completely and healthily.

Talk to the Hand

Sometimes it’s helpful to identify a particular emotion, name it, and talk to it as if it were an actual person. Snark helps. Anything that helps you laugh at the situation and at yourself helps. Pretend the feeling is one of the neighborhood kids who’s trying to sell you really ugly Christmas ornaments. You’re going to be friendly but firm and you’re likely going to be able to say no without many qualms. (And of course, since it’s not a real person, you’re free to be a little… tart):

“Well, good morning, Anxiety. Love the outfit. You seem to be doing just peachy today. I’m not in the mood for peaches, though. I see you, and I understand why you’re selling this wagon-load of crap, but it’s not your turn today.” Or something to that effect.

This acknowledges the feeling but externalizes it in a healthy way. It allows you to get far enough away from it to see it more clearly, and it also acts to separate you as a person from your actual feelings, which may be strong and feel like they’re trampling you at times, but are not actually you.

Laugh at Them

Do anything you can to laugh at your situation. Find the irony in it; snark it up, burn your bra while you dance around and film it (though if you do this, recall that you are not PBS; laughter only works therapeutically when it’s for your own satisfaction, or shared only with your closest, most trusted friends). Blow up balloons and write the things that are pissing you off on them and then get out your safety pin; swing an imaginary lasso around your head and yodel like a cowgirl when the feelings go rogue on you.

Said with brevity and levity, divorce is not exactly a party on two legs, but if you can laugh at it while you’re in it, you will move from survival to thriving a lot faster.

Turn Off the Anger Drip

For a lot of us, anger is easier to bear than pain. It feels more powerful than sadness, and it acts on neurotransmitters like an anesthetic. Anger can also be justified (often), and for women who have been emotionally or physically bullied by their husbands and/or painted into well-behaved corners, it’s especially important to speak that feeling. For others who might be inclined to run rampant with it, though, the thing to remember is that it does act like a drug. Too much anger for too long is corrosive to you and anyone in your vicinity who it might spill on.

Know When to Put the Thoughts Down

When we’re in the midst of a complex situation like divorce, it’s natural and healthy to think about where you are in the process, to consider how you got there, your own role in it, and how you might have done things differently. This kind of reflection is healthy, but it stops being a pain management technique when we begin steeping in thought patterns for too long. Brooding over a situation is called perseverating or ruminating, and it can eventually stain our thought processes the way tea that brews too long can stain a cup.

You need to grieve the possibilities that were a part of your union with the person you were married to. Sadness and all the other emotions that come with divorce should be felt. But new possibilities grow in their place. Like us, they change, and there are always more of them. Life never just boils down to one event or another; we are meant to be dynamic and each of us is bigger than a particular occurrence—even one as daunting as divorce.

 

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

What to know when divorcing a narcissist

7 Must-Knows When Divorcing a Narcissist

If you’ve been with a narcissist, you know the pain and self-doubt you used to feel, which is one of their tools—to make you feel like you are imagining things. You watch them in action, the charisma or showmanship that still dazzles others, but you recognize it for the con game you’ve now learned it is. You’re looking forward to taking the long view to this experience, when one day you’ll look back and see its opportunities as ones that connected you deeply to your inner and outer growth.

For now, though you’ve got to survive the journey. Before we go into the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist, the particular things and behaviors you can expect, let’s look at the definition of one.

A quick definition of a narcissist

A narcissist is an ego-centric person. As Psychology Today describes the disorder,

“The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with NPD often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way, which can enhance their own self-esteem. They tend to seek excessive admiration and attention have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.”

You probably know it well, your partner’s narcissism; how he* overlooks other people’s feelings and may even get a ‘kick’ out of their suffering. Narcissists possess a twisted and unhealthy form of self-love. Self-love is a beautiful, positive thing. Yet, to a narcissist, self-love is expressed in a very destructive and self-deceptive way that impacts their personal, professional, romantic, sexual, and family relationships. And the impact can have horrendous effects on those around them, their victims.

Whether you’re living with or divorcing a narcissist, you’re certainly a victim of narcissistic abuse. There is nothing fair, balanced, or loving, being married to a narcissist. A narcissist is manipulative, only concerned with “Number 1,” and incapable of forming real and sincere emotional and spiritual bonds of connection.

7 must-knows when divorcing a narcissist

 

  1. Your narcissist is magnetic and extremely manipulative.

Firstly, remember that the narcissist chose you because they could sense your gullibility and kindness. To the sane and normal person, choosing a partner one can exploit and feed off of is ludicrous, but, to a narcissist, it’s the norm. Your positive traits of kindness, empathy, integrity and morality are seen as weaknesses, not strengths.

Yet, there was a magnetic quality that drew you two together. This was their charm.

Narcissists are incredibly charming at first. There is truth in the saying “opposites attract;” anyone capable of empathy and genuine compassion and care can arguably be seen as the opposite of someone with strong displays of narcissism. 

Furthermore, you feed them. You feed their ego, their narcissism and their motivations for wanting to inflict pain, suffering or sadness on another. Of course, you aren’t responsible for their behaviors or feelings—it is your natural self that feeds their narcissistic personality. Any positive or lovely quality you possess is fuel to their out-of-control and destructive fire… 

Your narcissist also requires you to keep their illusions in play. Illusion is a word strongly associated with narcissism and something which you unconsciously play into. Delusion is also accurate. A delusion is essentially an idiosyncratic belief, recurring thought, or impression that contradicts reality and is rooted in some sort of mental imbalance or faulty perception. A narcissist needs this not only to thrive, but to survive. Their whole reality is dependent on it. And they achieve this through the fear, intimidation, and hurt they cause to you (and others).

Essentially, your purity of thought, hope, and trust that there is beauty and goodness inside of them perpetuates their ‘thriving,’ thus making your true nature the perfect match to their manipulations and hidden motivations.

So, when it comes to divorcing them you need to be prepared.

You must know when you’re divorcing a narcissist because their personality traits and behaviors will emerge and come out in full force! Your narcissist will either try to appear more charming, or he’ll use manipulation tactics to seduce you back into his web. Gaslighting will almost certainly be prevalent.

  1. Your narcissist will gaslight you.

Oh yes, you will be gaslighted. It is a sad truth, but coming to terms with this is the key to your well-being and sanity. Narcissists are so deceptive and manipulative that they can use your honesty and authenticity. They grow stronger and more powerful in their convictions and illusions because of them.

Your positive characteristics are like sparks to their manipulative qualities, making you an easy target. The more sincere and humble or kind you appear, the more they will try to exploit you. Even your friends and family might believe a narcissistic partner over you—your narcissist is that convincing!

Gaslighting, if you aren’t already aware, is making you appear crazy, wrong, or “evil.” Ultimately, they will twist and distort reality, including real events, to make things appear as if you are the narcissist or the one at fault. It can be a deeply painful experience.

The way to deal with this is to stay centered and aligned to your truth. Trying to expose them as a narcissist will only create more negative energy for yourself; narcissists thrive off emotional manipulation. So, keep things purely practical, i.e., stick to practical facts and events. 

  1. When divorcing a narcissist, don’t expect any empathy or compassion.

Connected to the emotional aspect of divorcing a narcissist is the tragic fact that they lack empathy and compassion. We know this can be very hard to accept. 

“Surely all humans are capable of compassion?” 

“I’ve been married to this person for years, how could s/he have so little respect for me?”

We are sorry to share that the narcissist doesn’t care. They are selfish and self-centered. The expressions “magnetism” and “fueling their fire” have been shared, but they need to be shared again. It can be hard to believe that raw, vulnerable, and sincere qualities like empathy and compassion could ever be catalysts for inflicting pain, or that your lover and partner of so many years can feel joy and happiness from your despair. Unfortunately, emotional manipulation, intimidation, and trauma are traits the narcissist excels in.

Thus, one of the must-knows about divorcing a narcissist is that you won’t be receiving their kindness, courtesy or care, of any kind.

  1. Your narcissist’s delusions and manipulations run deep.

More for your sanity, if anything, you need to be aware of just how deep your narcissistic partner’s delusions and manipulations run. Their entire reality is entwined with yours. Despite the callous, uncaring, and hurtful ways a narcissist conducts themselves, they still depend on you. You provide them with joy. A twisted and distorted joy, but self-satisfaction all the same! And they are also dependent on you socially. You give them a cover. This means you are their energy source.

Their career, livelihood, sense of self, beliefs and inherent narcissism are entwined with the love and care you have for them. When divorcing a narcissist, like any master manipulator, when you withdraw that love and put up healthy boundaries, they will become nastier.

There is great power in silence when divorcing a narcissist, so be mindful of this truth.

Silence provides space for truth and hidden things to come to light. Regardless of what is being said against you, the most effective thing you can do for yourself is to simply be silent. Do not engage. Do not react.

  1. Know your narcissist’s final attempts for power.

Narcissists are the ultimate energy vampires. They drain you of your love, time, resources and integrity. The more self-loving you become, and the more you engage in self-care, the more vindictive and venomous their actions and words will be. The truth is, they have found your wound. They know your weaknesses, emotional and spiritual needs, desires and intentions in love.

Yet, they seek to infect your wound with negativity. Fortunately, you can overcome this with staying centered and putting up strong boundaries. Focus on yourself! This is especially true when divorcing a narcissist. Being connected to your own truth and light enables you to avoid getting dragged into their stories.

Also, aim to deflect their false stories and manipulative ways. Your partner has some unbelievably sadistic and destructive intentions. They also know you well enough to know your emotional triggers. Try taking preventative measures for your protection, just like preventative health care. Be conscious of the fact their personality is defined by arrogance and misplaced confidence. Their motivations are not birthed from purity, truth, real talent or beautiful qualities.

  1. Never try to expose them as a narcissist.

This is the key to your long-term happiness and recovery. Narcissism is ultimately defined by emotional manipulation, and this implies that their self-constructed reality is formed from the mind-games and emotional tactics they use. In other words, if you “attack” or expose anything regarding their true character, from an emotional stance, you have already lost.

Remember: narcissists are master manipulators. They are also excellent storytellers!

It was mentioned briefly earlier, yet you should know just how important this “must-know” is. Going for the emotional route ultimately results in your failure: it feeds their gaslighting tactics.

The way you can stay centered and eventually attain peace of mind, clear karma, and cultivate the inner light you deserve is to focus purely on the practical.

When you’re divorcing a narcissist, respond to them with facts, figures, real events, and speech communicated without emotion. Emotionally detach, as—again—a narcissist’s reality is rooted in emotional manipulation.

Narcissists are not fair or just, and they don’t play fair. A narcissist will never play fair, so, as long as you know this, you can go about things in the best possible way. Assume the worst-case scenarios. Perhaps even put yourself in their shoes.

How would the worst person in the world spin things and try and play it to their advantage? What angles do they have on you? Take a step back and see the big picture, including all the negative, shadowy, and dark parts. You may be a kind, decent, and lovely human being, but the narcissist will pick the tiniest negative and amplify it for their own gain.

  1. Your narcissist will be cruel to you and charming and kind to everyone else!

Narcissus, the son of the river God Cephissus and the nymph Liriope, is a mythical figure you should look to in order to further understand the implications of divorcing a narcissist. Narcissus is significant in Greek mythology as the man who loved his own reflection, literally. Women would fall in love with him, yet he only showed them indifference, disdain, and neglect.

He loved being admired but couldn’t ever reciprocate others’ affections—he couldn’t express sincere and genuine feelings or emotions. This Greek myth ultimately sums up why narcissists are so cruel. They need to appear kind to others to keep their illusions in play, but they also need someone to project upon and target. The cruelty you suffer is, unfortunately, the result of the love and adoration you feel; all of this is brought on and developed from their initial charm. It’s a sad and harsh reality to accept, yet the more you accept it and integrate the lessons from the story of Narcissus, the better you are able to heal and move on from the pain.

Like Narcissus, narcissists only love themselves as reflected in the eyes of others; so, in other words, the love you have for them sustains them. But they need to be loved and admired. They need people to believe them and their stories (emotional manipulation). 

And this brings us to one of the absolute must knows about divorcing a narcissist. You are their target, their victim, and mirror for their games and deceptions. Your family and friends, the people you ultimately rely on for support, are their co-conspirators. Unconsciously!

You will need to develop relentless inner strength, emotional distance, and personal boundaries to heal from this. Self-care is essential.

To conclude…

We’ve shared the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist, but this is perhaps the most important thing to know.  Your narcissist’s karma is not your karma. You are not responsible for your partner’s deceptions, ill-intentions, and pain-causing ways. Self-care and paths to recovery and healing can help to remind you of this simple truth. Caring for yourself will speed up the healing process, allowing you to live an abundant and blissful life, attract positivity in future relationships, and find partners on your wavelength.

 

Grace Gabriella Puskas is an author, wordsmith and Reiki Master teacher. She has trained & studied in a number of holistic, spiritual and complimentary therapies and health fields, and loves to inspire and educate through the written word. You can subscribe to Grace’s free poetry blog or discover her services by visiting her website.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse, your narcissist, as your “husband” or a “he.”

Should I leave my husband?

What Should I Do to Leave My Husband?

“If I know I can’t stay in this marriage, what should I do to leave my husband?”

Leaving a marriage is complicated, scary, painful. And that’s when both of you are in agreement. Leaving your husband when you’re the only one wanting to end the relationship is even more difficult.

Your reasons for wanting, even needing, to leave will determine your course of action. Obviously there’s a difference between leaving because of abuse and safety issues and leaving because of general dissatisfaction with your marriage.

Safety first for you, your children, and your pets. Always. If your question, What should I do to leave my husband?, regards an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And, if you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Your local women’s shelter is a rich resource of information and assistance for women and children living in abusive situations. They can guide you through a plan of action to get you safely out of the home and into protection. And they can walk you through important steps like:

  • Filing a restraining order
  • Safely filing for divorce, despite threats from your husband
  • Preparing and protecting your children
  • Filing for and securing custody of your children
  • Planning an exit strategy
  • Getting an escort to help you retrieve your belongings
  • Making sure you have money
  • Securing legal representation for divorce and/or abuse charges
  • Looking for work and a safe place to live
  • Getting counseling for you and your children

If there are guns in the house, try to remove them. If you cannot safely do so, at least remove the ammunition and anything you can that could be used to cause harm.

Whether you are leaving for safety, sanity, or both, it is imperative that you have a plan. Think through what you are doing and why. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s because “leaving” isn’t as simple as walking out the door and not looking back.

You have a footprint — legal, financial, and custodial. You are, in essence, “building your case” for leaving — and possibly for custody — so details matter. You can’t, for example, just pack up the kids and take them with you, let alone across state lines.

Courts are sworn to the law, no matter how much a story tugs at their heartstrings. So be smart, wise, and prepared. And build your village of knowledgeable, credentialed support early.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is the accompanying guidance of a therapist and a support group. This is especially true if you are overthinking when to leave your husband but know in your heart you need to leave.

For a lot of women, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is primarily a question of financial preparation and sustenance. They know they will need financial help in order to just survive, but they don’t know where to get it. And they will often stay in an unhappy and/or unhealthy situation just to have some semblance of financial security.

As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, you may have forfeited a career to raise children, so your skill sets are outdated and your earning potential is low.

Your husband — thanks in large part to you holding down the homefront — may have enjoyed a rising career. He may never want for income, thanks to his income. He may control the money, both the day-to-day flow and the retirement savings.

That puts you in a very vulnerable position when thinking about how to leave your husband. Suddenly you have to summon your own empowerment, but he seems to have all the power.

According to a study conducted by CDFA Laurie Itkin and Worthy, despite the fact that 55% of married women managed the bill-paying, over 20% left investment decisions to the husband. And almost half, while going through divorce, admitted to unexpected “surprises” that set them back.

So how can you leave and still know that you will be OK after the divorce is over? Here are 7 important steps to help you prepare to leave your husband:

 

1.     Financial preparation.

Become educated about bill paying, investing and stay involved in the family finances. Single and divorced women have to manage all aspects of their finances, so married women should be just as involved.

Knowing your net worth, both as a couple and as individuals, is essential when it comes time to divide assets. Make a list of all assets — “yours, mine, ours.” Too often women leave financial assets in their husbands’ court, only to suffer later when their settlement is depleted.

If things are already too late in the game for that, seek out legal and financial representation early. And don’t underestimate your worth, needs, or contributions made, without pay, so your husband could build his career.

2.     The date.

Have a date in mind and make sure you have affordable housing lined up. Can you stay with a friend or family member for a while? Do you have enough income or savings to rent for the first year while you adjust?

3.     Get Support and feedback for guidance and direction.

Connect with those who understand the journey — strategically and healthily. Find a therapist who has experience supporting women through this crisis, or join Annie’s Group — our virtual group coaching program for women, or on your own, take advantage of our Master Class: How to Know If Divorce is Right for You and What You Must Know to Do It and receive a private coaching session and a consult with a financial person, dedicated to your specific story and needs. If you are planning on moving out, and especially if you have children, check with a lawyer that your move won’t adversely impact your claim to things or how you are viewed by the law.

4.     PINS, passwords, and important documents.

Be sure to change all PINS and passwords to your accounts and have all your important documents (including copies of mutual documents) in one place.

5.     The kids.

Most importantly, have a plan for your children. Assuming you are not in a crisis situation, you and your husband should have conversations about disclosure and co-parenting.

This is a good time to seek the guidance of a family therapist to help both of you through this painful time.

A therapist who specializes in children of divorce can help prepare you to provide your children with an emotionally safe transition. And your child’s school counselor can be one of the best resources and advocates for your child during this time.

6.     The pets.

Make a plan for your pets, as well, especially if you are in a stressful situation and have reason to worry about their safety. They feel and respond to negative energy, and the upheaval of their routine can be very upsetting.

Perhaps a friend can keep your pet in a safe, calm environment until you are settled. But this arrangement should be well thought-out, too, as pets are often pawns for retribution. And you don’t want to put a friend in harm’s way if there is any concern about your husband’s actions.


If you are looking for more, read our popular 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking about Divorce

 


7.     Documentation.

Finally, document everything, even when it seems trivial or unnecessary. Document dates, times, locations, texts, calls, resources, conversations, arguments, financial actions, threats, everything.

You will always be grateful you have the information in writing and not loosely sworn to memory. And a court will take you far more seriously if you have your case well laid out and documented.

“Putting asunder” what was once a forecast of eternal bliss is traumatic, even when necessary. Even having to ask, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is a sad statement about the status of your life. No matter what decisions you make, change is coming with them. And fear, grief, loss, and worry will be in its wake.

You may not be able to walk out the front door with a confident smile and no worries. But having a plan and being prepared can at least help you leave with the assurance that you are going to be OK.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

Parenting Through Divorce is not a cake walk

Parenting Through Divorce: 8 Things NOT to Do

Being a parent always offers a healthy dose of challenges, but parenting through divorce means facing challenges on a whole other level. Throughout your divorce, you may feel a surge of emotions—from anger to bitterness—but it’s ever so important to cope with them. Despite the impulses you may feel, these are some things you should not do to lessen the impact of divorce on you and your children.

1. Don’t aim to seek justice through the court system

Do everything to avoid court by getting educated in advance. Learn what your legal choices are and how you want to go through the divorce process. Talk to a divorce coach to understand your choices based on your needs, your story, and to help you take the next steps. Going to Family Court is a last resort. You want to negotiate and reach an agreement before then. Negotiating will save you months in court and thousands of dollars—plus it can result in a more harmonious coparenting relationship.

2. Don’t make your children choose sides

It’s important to recognize that your children do not have the same relationship with your Ex that you do. With some exceptions, children naturally love both their parents. Respect your children’s bond with your Ex by never asking your children whom they want to live with or who’s the better parent. If your children share unprompted thoughts about parenting arrangements, listen and ask your divorce coach, attorney, or mediator how they can be taken into consideration as decisions are made.

3. Don’t complain about your Ex in front of your kids

Pay attention to how you speak about your Ex in front of your children. Do you demean him or her? Do you get angry? Even your body language or tone of voice can send confusing and painful messages to your children. Over time, the hatred or bitterness you feel toward your Ex can dissipate, but these emotions will leave a lasting impression on your kids. Even if children and teenagers don’t verbalize their thoughts, hearing you complain about their other parent does affect them.

4. Don’t keep the kids from your Ex

Studies show that children can develop mental health issues when there is a disruption of a parent-child relationship. Do what you can to support your children’s relationship with their other parent. There are special circumstances, however, where you should keep your children away from your Ex, like when there has been a history of domestic or substance abuse. In these cases, supervised visitation is the best way for your Ex to have contact with your children.

5. Don’t coach your children

Coaching your children to say what you want is a big no-no. During the divorce process, you may deal with a judge and possibly a custody evaluator—both are trained specialists and will know if your kids are repeating lines they’ve heard from you. Not only will this make you look bad, but it will put your kids in a terrible position. Divorce is a difficult situation for them, too, and coaching your children could confuse them more.

6. Don’t go to court with your children

If you become involved in a custody battle, it might seem like a good idea to take your children to a court proceeding to sway a judge’s decision. But this could backfire. A courtroom is no place for children and dragging yours along could make you seem manipulative or irrational. If no one is available to care for your little ones while you attend Family Court, many courts offer children’s waiting rooms.

7. Don’t make false claims

If you do go to court, making false claims about your Ex is one of the worst things you can do. Lying under oath and fabricating statements are considered perjury, a crime punishable with fines or jail time.  Getting caught making false claims is also likely to affect your request for custody; you could even be brought back to court to have a final order changed. To avoid these and other sticky situations, always acknowledge the truth of events.

8. Don’t leave the state with your children (or break other standing orders)

Some counties have standing orders that go into effect when a divorce is filed. Other counties issue standing orders when requested. A standing order will come into place to ensure that you and your Ex refrain from any actions that could disrupt the lives of your children. Taking your kids out of state or enrolling them in a new school without permission from your Ex may violate your standing orders. Be sure to carefully review your court’s standing orders because failure to comply could make you guilty of contempt of court, an offense punishable with jail time or a fine. If you wonder if you can or cannot do something as your divorce coach or legal counsel. Getting divorced can be a scary and lonely path. Educating yourself on the do’s and don’ts of the process will make you feel more empowered and less intimidated. With the right mindset and knowledge, you will avoid making mistakes that will impact your family and begin to parent through divorce in the healthiest way.

This article was authored by Karen Lopez, writer and researcher at Custody X Change, a custody app solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans, and schedules.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the often times complicated and confusing experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat now to learn if this education is right for you, and where you want to go.

Woman struggling with leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There Are Steps You Need to Take First

Abuse doesn’t always look the way we imagine it. No bruises are required for the abuse to be real, and you don’t need “proof” for your pain to be valid. But when it comes to protecting yourself legally and leaving an abusive marriage, it’s an unfortunate fact that both those things hold weight.

We know what physical abuse looks like because it leaves a mark, but verbal and emotional abuse are harder to detect and often go unreported. Emotional abuse might mean insulting you, making threats against you or your loved ones, controlling you, repeatedly accusing you of being unfaithful, or belittling you. Your spouse might go out of the way to destroy your self-esteem or tell you things like, “No one else but me would put up with you.”

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender can be a victim—or perpetrator—of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. Many of these forms of domestic violence/abuse can occur at any time within the same intimate relationship.

Once you’ve finally accepted what abuse looks like in your own marriage and that you’ll no longer put up with it, leaving is easier said than done.

You spouse is, after all, abusive—his* sense of self is tied up with his control over you. Even if you aren’t being physically threatened, it’s not entirely clear what your spouse is capable of.

Hell, it’s not entirely clear what you’re capable of. Are you strong enough to leave him? Are you strong enough to stand on your own two feet? You no longer know anymore.

You do know, though, that he will do everything in his power to make sure you never find out your strength.

If you plan on leaving an abusive marriage, there are some steps you’ll need to take first.

The following is based on my personal experience leaving an abusive marriage. Because it was so difficult, I want other women to know certain things. Among them is the importance of finding out what your rights are and what your choices are, legally.

You must know what’s legally enforceable, so you can be prepared and protect yourself. Sometimes there is no time to consult with an attorney. Instead, you must act, so you call the police. Other times, you simply think about making that call. What will be the impact of calling the police . . . for you, for your spouse, and for the kids? Find out first so that if it comes to that—and it may come to that—you are prepared and can protect yourself and your children.

Believe in yourself

Abusers are master manipulators, so the first thing you must do to protect yourself from your spouse is believe in yourself.

This can be hard, but as a “Millie,” a SAS for Women colleague (now working as a divorce attorney), shared, beginning to believe in yourself might look like reaching out to those who genuinely love you. For Millie, she realizes now how important it was for her to ultimately tell her most trusted friends and family what was really going on in her marriage:

“My first husband was an addict and I kept ‘our’ dirty secret to myself because I was so embarrassed at my poor choice in a husband. I isolated myself by making my Ex’s bad behavior associated with me. Once I finally left and then told everyone, the support was tremendous. I wasn’t judged as I thought I would be.”

No matter how hard your spouse works at planting seeds of doubt in your mind, you must grow vigilant and stubborn in your belief in yourself.

  1. Connect with safe friends, if possible.
  2. Work with a good therapist and be truthful with them.
  3. Find a certified coach experienced in supporting people like you—people who are striving to change their circumstances.
  4. Consult with an attorney to learn what your rights are and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

But ultimately, you’ll need to find the courage to leave within yourself.

Protect your finances

Abusers often use money to control their partner. If you don’t control your own money—if you don’t even have access to it or if that access can easily be taken away—you don’t have the financial security you need to leave your spouse.

If you don’t already have a bank account of your own, get one. Set your PIN to something your spouse will never guess, and if all else fails, get a credit card.

Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs in 99% of all domestic abuse cases, and the effects can negatively impact survivors for years after they escape. Leaving an abusive relationship is only the first step, and many people can feel financially overwhelmed once they are out and on their own.

Ask a lawyer what you can do to put things in place to protect yourself. Talk to a certified divorce financial advisor to hear their suggestions. (Having that discussion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get divorced, and everything you talk about is confidential.) And consider this article for steps you can take to rebuild your financial identity and credit.

Gather proof

Perhaps you don’t want things to get nasty (or nastier) or you are not sure you want to divorce, but just in case you must leave, there are different types of evidence you can gather to make a case for spousal abuse, such as photographs of injuries or broken property, documentation of emails or text messages, and testimonies from witnesses. Videos are sometimes permissible depending on what state you live in. Research your state’s laws on videotaping without permission of the subject.

When gathering evidence, try to simplify it as much as possible, but make sure to note down the time and date the abuse occurred. One way to do this is to write emails to yourself because the emails have a valid date/time stamp. The documentation is also stored in a cloud and thus safe from an abuser finding notes, photos, etc. and destroying them. The emails can be as simple as “At 8:43 p.m. Tom called me a fat bitch and that I was lucky that he didn’t leave me,” or “Tom came home at 11:35 p.m. and smelled very strongly of alcohol and pot.”

Start documenting now. It is hard to go back and track and trace. Women have a high tolerance for pain and an uncanny ability to forget it afterward. Think about it, we’d never give birth a second time if we could really recall the extent of that first experience! So, while the memory of your pain is alive, you must keep an ongoing record of it—as brutal as that sounds.

Note from SAS for Women: If you are in the planning mode, we encourage you to consult with an attorney to hear what you should be documenting as relates specifically to your situation and what your choices are to change things. What happens if you call the police during an incident? What would be expected of you afterward (going to the courthouse and filing the complaint officially)? What would happen to your spouse? You need to understand the process and what the impact of each step you take will be.

Truth be told, it’s when filing at the courthouse that most women cave . . . somehow everything starts to feel real there. You don’t want to “hurt your spouse,” you start thinking to yourself. You withdraw your complaint. As a result, your problem almost never goes away.

File a report

The fact is, reporting and filing instances of abuse to the police gives you a report, and having this report available could do much to prove your case.

If you’re truly in fear for your safety, this should be your first course of action (besides gathering proof). You can also go to your town’s family court, or if you live in New York City, for example, the New York Family Court, and request an order of protection.

It’s best to note down at least three instances when your spouse endangered or caused you to fear for your life and safety, with one being very recent. This is where your ongoing record keeping plays an important role.

With filing, be as authentic as possible, and never lie—you don’t want to do anything that destroys your case. You’ll fill out a form, wait to see a judge, and based on the evidence and testimonies, the judge will either grant or reject the order of protection. You can also bring along your attorney to fight on your behalf. The order of protection will restrict your spouse from communicating with you directly.

Note from SAS for Women: Filing an order of protection will also mean your spouse will have to leave the family home and live somewhere else.

Know that. Make sure you understand how your spouse will learn about the order of protection. Where will you be when he does? What happens after? Do you need to go home and make sure some friends come over, or do you not go home at all? You need to learn about each step, so you can imagine what your spouse will do at each juncture and plan accordingly. Consulting with an attorney is very important.

Hire an attorney

You want an attorney with a track record in divorce or separation from abusive spouses. This attorney must be available at any time and want to protect you. She will become a line of defense against your spouse. An abusive spouse may become enraged that you have taken back control of your body and mind—that you have reclaimed your integrity—and continue to lash out. But you’re doing the right thing. Hold steady. Your lawyer is good if she makes you feel protected and strengthened.

Chances are a divorce agreement may be in your future, and if it is, in that document you will want to separate yourself from your spouse in every way possible—financially, personally, and physically. Review with your lawyer and try to limit as much as (legally) possible your spouse’s rights to your apartment, car, insurance, registration, and will. Anything and everything you can think of. Review all things thoroughly with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer about the legal consequences if your spouse does not comply.

Stow away what’s important to you

There are legal documents that are important for you to gather before you leave, things like social security cards, birth certificates, insurance policies, copies of deeds, proof of income, bank statements, and more. When abuse is physical, there’s not always a “perfect” time to leave. Your escape might feel more like fleeing. What, if anything, are you prepared to leave behind?

Just in case, have a getaway plan

Find a safe place to stay, and get familiar with your husband’s schedule. When will he be out of the house? You’ve thought of the children’s schedule, no doubt, but have you made plans for the family pet? Abusers often use a pet or children as leverage against a spouse to blackmail them.

If you have kids, talk to a lawyer or the police before taking them anywhere.

Don’t rely on your phone to memorize escape routes or the phone numbers of the people or organizations you’ll need to call for help.

You might even want to establish a “code word” to let your family, friends, and anyone else who you can call for help know that you need them without letting your abuser know.

Local shelters are sometimes able to escort victims of spousal abuse from the home when they move out. Or perhaps, if you must leave the family home, you might have a couple of strong friends who can support you that difficult day.

What to do after leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving is a hard step, but after you leave, it’s important to stay on the alert. Change up your routine. If you have a new address, request that the DMV withhold your ID from the public, though they may make it available to institutions like banks. Request that the Family Court withhold your address from divorce documents.

Try to fight the temptation to isolate yourself because that’s when you’re the most vulnerable. Remember, isolation was how your spouse controlled you. The humiliation and shame you might still feel after leaving—it’s what your spouse is banking on. He wants you to believe that no one else “understands” you quite the way he does. And no one ever will.

But you are not alone.

In the US, nearly half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression (emotional abuse) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But because the abuse happens behind closed doors, it’s so easy to think of yourself as the outlier. If you don’t have a friend, family member, therapist, coach, lawyer, or someone else in your life you can talk to, you can and must look for professional help. You can also try calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) to discuss your situation and be connected with resources that exist for a very good reason.

You do have strength. We believe in you.

Isabel Sadurni is a motion picture producer with over 15 years’ experience in filmmaking. She collaborates on feature films and series with independent and commercial filmmakers who share the belief that a story told well can change the world. Her work includes award-winning feature-length documentaries and short narratives that have played in top-tier festivals and on HBO, PBS, and The Discovery Channel. Her focus is in working on films that are vehicles for change for people, for communities, and for the planet. 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

 

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as a “he.”

You Are Not Alone: Women Reach to Kavanaugh

You are Not Alone: Women React to Kavanaugh Confirmation

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination proceedings, the #MeToo movement, and the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will and have had a lasting impact on our everyday lives. Whether you’re a political person or not, conservative or progressive, single, married, or divorced, women are feeling the Kavanaugh effects. But today, this post is here to remind you that if you are hurt, if you feel silenced, if you feel powerless, you are not alone—other women are not only feeling the same way as you but are here to support you.

Women across the political spectrum have reached out to SAS for Women to share their reactions to the Kavanaugh nomination hearing and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. You may see yourself in some of their experiences and emotions. Even when things look darkest, we have other women whom we can create a community of care and support with.

The women below wished to be kept anonymous, so all names used are fictitious.

Mariana P.

Twenty-three years ago, Mariana P. was in college when she was sexually assaulted. She didn’t report it. “Right now, my brain is consumed with the fact that I’m thinking about divorce, have a lot of work-related stress, and parenting a special needs child,” she said. For her, living now in Madison, Wisconsin, “the Kavanaugh nomination [now confirmation] and testimony has opened up old wounds.”

Thursday after work, I found myself buried under the covers of my bed and just cried for a couple of hours . . . I felt completely alone.

It’s amazing how quickly 23 years can disappear, leaving one feeling like a scared college girl again, trying to make sense of something terrible that’s happened to you. Mariana’s husband, soon to be Ex, knows of her past and her story but couldn’t be there for her.

Divorce is hard for so many reasons—not just because of the problems driving us to end our marriage but sometimes because we feel like we’re losing one of our closest friends and confidants. Even if those beliefs are fantasies (and he was never there) or actually based on another time when your marriage was stronger, the revelation hurts. Other times, political or social issues underscore the rifts and disappointments we are feeling in our intimate world. Survivors like Mariana are finding themselves triggered by Christine’s testimony and the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by those emotions, find community, a guided support group, a friend or family member, or a professional.

Lorraine T.

Lorraine T. has been married for 10 years, with the last five years of her marriage described as rough. She loves her three beautiful children and is in school working toward a degree, but she also feels trapped. Her husband gaslights her. She feels like she can do better on her own without his lies and manipulative behavior. She feels so consumed by her own life and sense of loss that she hasn’t even been able to turn on the TV and listen to the news about Kavanaugh.

And that’s totally fine. When our own lives get overwhelming, sometimes it’s too much to look beyond our immediate problems at the bigger social picture. What’s most important is getting yourself and your situation sorted so that you feel like you are in a safe space. Piling social problems on top of personal problems only adds to feelings of being overwhelmed and isn’t healthy for anyone.

If you are in an abusive marriage and want to figure a way out, you will want to read: “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps You Need to Take First”

Frieda N.

Representing another point of view is Frieda in Utica, New York.  A registered nurse, who is divorced after 28 years of marriage and the mother to two young adults. Frieda says, “Frankly I am starting to feel sorry for the men. No one can give a woman a compliment for fear of losing their job. Women can accuse men of things with NO PROOF whatsoever. No one deserves to be raped but when a woman uses her feminine wiles to appeal to a man’s baser instinct to get a job or promotion (and yes this DOES occur), they should own up to the fact that they ‘played the game’ and expected something in return. Pretty soon, we won’t be able to speak to the opposite sex. I am disgusted with Dr. Ford. This guy had some fairly big jobs before, and it took 40 years for the ‘trauma’ to emerge?”

Frieda, thank you for taking the time to share your view. Your perspective and conflation of Dr. Ford with other experiences you’ve observed points to the complexity and emotional volatility related to these issues.

Heeyeon S.

You are not alone women respond to Kavanaugh

Credit: Weheartit

Living in New York City, Heeyeon S. is angry. “[I’m] very angry with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, appointment, and the way Christine Blasey Ford has been treated by the Republicans and other Americans throughout this process.” She sees this as “a manifestation of how men in power can force their will on all of us. What’s happening is a metaphor for sexual assault itself. The more we say ‘No, stop, this isn’t right,’ the more they insist, force, and bully us.”

Anger is a valid reaction to what is happening and to what is going on in American politics right now. Heeyeon elaborates, saying “I don’t know what to do with this anger. Suppressing it is not an option. I have enough suppressed anger to last me various lifetimes! I would like to use this anger in a constructive way to make a change, but that’s easier said than done.”

Heeyeon is also adjusting to life as a recently single woman after 35 years of marriage and is trying to “reevaluate and reconcile my past” with “how to go on in a productive way, with me at the center, for the first time ever.” Trying to find the center and balance in a newly single life is already rough, but add to that the anger and resentment many women across the nation are feeling about Kavanaugh and life gets a little bit harder. In times like this, it’s good to remember not just your own past but also the fact that other women out there feel the same way you do.

If you feel like Heeyeon too—angry with the strong need to do something—keep reading below.

Matilda F.

Married for 28 years, divorced now for three, Matilda is an art teacher doing her own work and “loving life and my freedom.”  However, when it comes to the Kavanaugh confirmation, she’s so angry she wants to put her emotion to work. “I WANT TO GET INVOLVED in something related to our politics because I am outraged and tearful. Would love to hear what others are doing!”

As we say, keep reading.

Women react to Kavanaugh Confirmation

Credit: Unsplash

Katrina V.S.

As if in answer to Matilda’s and Heeyeon’s rage, Katrina, widowed and living in Brooklyn shared this link with the SAS community on how Democrats can regain the House in November by getting out the vote in key swingable districts.  “If you or anyone you know wants to channel their outrage into useful action, this organization—Swing Left—is a good place to start,” says Katrina.

Volunteer in the midterms

Celine D.

“Neither the Kavanaugh/Ford situation or the #MeToo movement play any role in the downfall of my marriage,” says Celine D. Celine has been married for ten years and is a teacher and a mother to two in Austin, Texas. “My husband decided he no longer wanted to be a husband. He was unhappy and wasn’t going to change, he told me. He refused marriage counseling, individual counseling, and anything else that represented him not quitting the marriage. He said he didn’t want to answer to anyone and wanted to do as he pleased (staying out all night drinking). Picking up the pieces of a broken family and learning a new normal as a single mom is what I am facing.  My marriage had its issues well before these things made the news.”

We get it, Celine. It’s hard to imagine how headlines can impact our own fight for survival. And yet we know, when the dust settles after “resolving” your relationship, you will want the best options available to you as a newly independent woman. And we hope your health insurance and your ability to exercise choice when it comes to freedoms for your body and your daughter’s is not mitigated as a result of these political times.

Eliza C.

“It’s as if we continue to hit these watershed moments, points of no return, when the rifts in our country our ripped open so seismically that the gap seems impossible to mend,” says Eliza C., an educator who is divorced and living in Minnesota. “Each time, we think it’s a new reckoning, a new all-time low—or for some, a long-awaited vindication, a new dawn. What’s clear is this gaping wound is not being tended to but fed. The leaders who might be trying to help us learn what healing looks like (the Martin Luther Kings, the activist peacemakers) are not given airtime. Their message doesn’t sell. Mutual hate is amped.

It reminds me of a marriage spiraling out of control, where both spouses believe they are the one who is right. They are unable to communicate or hear each other. Vilification of the other is easy. Hitting pause to listen and really hear what is going on is the work we must do.

Believe me, I have to check myself for I too am growing intolerant of this dated white male privilege we see personified by Kavanaugh’s confirmation. But is my participation in ‘the hating’ moving us along the evolutionary path? I don’t think so. Trying to forge through conflict with an eye toward healing is the hardest thing of all. My divorce taught me that.”

Susan M.

Separated and the mother to one young adult son in Manhattan, Susan, like other women who wrote us, feels the urgency to channel her rage into action. “There’s Postcards to Voters which anyone can do from home, as many or as few as you have time or energy for. I’ve been writing these with friends. We get together for tea … and other drinks, and instead of just kvetching, we are doing something! Well, we kvetch, too. But it sure feels good to vent and take action.”

Volunteer with Postcards to Voters

Helena W.

You are Not Alone. Women react to Kavanaugh

Credit: Unsplash

Helena W., still married, shares that “watching the Kavanaugh hearings and knowing of his appointment has been an overwhelming experience for me as a woman. I remembered so many times during my life when I felt cornered or uncomfortable around men and frighteningly aware of my own physical vulnerability.” But there is hope out there, and Helena has tapped into it. “Since the Kavanaugh hearings,” she writes, “I have been in touch with a wide range of friends from ages 27 to 85—all of whom have stories about work-related sexual harassment.”

The Senate confirming this man feels like a blow. The message is clear—the men with the greatest power in the country do not care about women. They do not believe our stories and they do not feel women should have control of their own bodies.

But Helena, living in Upstate New York, does find a silver lining despite Kavanaugh’s confirmation. While the stories are sad and the situations are dire, she is working on building herself a network of support and care through reaching out to her friends and sharing stories. “I heard the wonderful, clear and expressive voices of the ‘elevator women’ who confronted Senator Jeff Flake. I heard their pain, and I saw his expression when he was forced to face a concept that had dissolved and took human form.”

‘Don’t look away from me,’ one of the women cried. That battle cry alone gives me hope for the future.

Brenda S.

Brenda, divorced and living in Columbus, Ohio, is rebuilding her life after 42 years of marriage. The pain, the loss, and the learning that presents itself after such a momentous break up has Brenda considering things in a different way. We like so much what Brenda says (born from her firsthand experience) that it inspires us to end this post with her words:

“It’s fall: election season. I’m watching what everyone else sees: polarization and a reduction in civil discourse. But I thought of something today. Just as in a “carbon footprint,” what if we had a “civility footprint”? Except this one you want to grow larger, not smaller.

I know from experience that all meaningful change happens at the personal level.  Therefore, what if you leaned into discomfort and listened, actually listened to those around you who have ideas widely divergent from yours? What if you gave them respect, instead of dismissing, or worse yet, yelling at them or shutting them off? What if, when they are sharing the ideas most different from yours, you allowed yourself to be even more uncomfortable and said “TELL ME MORE….”

Here’s the thing: ‘PEOPLE ARE HARD TO HATE CLOSE UP:  MOVE IN!!!’

Those are not my words about moving in, but Brene Brown’s. ‘The point.’ says Brown, “is that we are all vulnerable to the slow and insidious practice of dehumanizing, therefore we are all responsible for recognizing and stopping it.’

We cannot ask politicians to reach across the aisle unless we ourselves are doing it. TAKE THE CHALLENGE!”

——————-

While these women have had a vast range of reactions and experiences throughout Dr. Ford’s testimony and the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, all have felt the need to share their stories to help other women experiencing similar emotions feel less alone. Among these sisters, too, are those who build upon the momentum of sharing and offer us resources or a challenge to inspire us to be more and do more. If any of these stories connect with you or if you simply feel like sharing your thoughts or a resource you know, we would love to hear from you. We invite you to comment below.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

Image about breaking up with a narcissist

Divorcing a Narcissist? Here’s What You Need to Know

Calling someone a narcissist is so commonplace these days that, in many ways, the term has become nothing more than a buzzword. People use it loosely to refer to someone who’s behaving “selfishly”.

But a true pathological narcissist is a person who’s much more than selfish. According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder “is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Most women who fall in love with a narcissist do so because narcissists are so charming. They’re incredibly loving and affectionate. They treat you like no one has ever treated you before and sweep you off your feet. They seem too good to be true.

And that’s the truth of it—they are too good to be true, and their personality and behavior will change dramatically over time.

If you recognize the following as being “normal” in your marriage, you know you’re divorcing a narcissist:

  • Your husband* is controlling.
  • He doesn’t listen to or care about your opinions.
  • He makes everything about him.
  • He lies often.
  • He is emotionally abusive.
  • He has no emotional connection to your children.
  • He blames others for his actions.
  • He is manipulative.
  • He is exceptionally aggressive—perhaps dangerously so.
  • He is unaware of his bad behavior.
  • He feels entitled to what he wants.
  • He sees himself as perfect and worthy of unconditional admiration.
  • He rejects change initiated by anyone but himself.

Because of this last point, divorcing a narcissist is extremely challenging. He will fight you every single step of the way. He believes he is a victim and is willing to do just about anything to prove it.

Some of the biggest and most predictable challenges of divorcing a narcissist include dealing with the following behaviors and beliefs:

  • A narcissist MUST “win.” Because of this mindset, negotiating in good faith with a narcissist is impossible. He must prove he is right and a victim—regardless of what the truth is. He doesn’t care what it takes to “win” the divorce, even if that means depleting the marital finances (except for money he’s hidden), destroying relationships, and destroying you.
  • A narcissist will play games with you as long as he can. He needs to feel in control. He does this by being manipulative. He will keep you off balance by making false accusations, criticizing you one minute and telling you how much he loves you the next—anything to wear you down, so he can win.
  • A narcissist doesn’t care how anyone else feels about his actions, including his children. Narcissists only care about their own needs and desires. If someone can help them get what they want, then they will use that person without regard for the consequences.
  • A narcissist will use you to feel good about himself. By engaging you in a court battle (which he will absolutely do), he is using his control of you to make himself feel powerful. He wants the divorce process to take as long as possible. Yes, that does mean he will lie to prolong the process. It’s unlikely he will stop trying to use you after the divorce settlement—even if he is in another relationship. The more people a narcissist can control the better.
  • A narcissist wants you to admit defeat. He wants you to give in to his demands and bow to his power. But not just once—he won’t ever get tired of you surrendering to his superiority.
  • A narcissist wants everyone else to see him as a victim. No matter how horrid he is behaving toward you (and maybe even his children), he craves the pity and support of others, so he can use that pity against you.He will lie repeatedly and quite convincingly (especially if he is charming and wealthy) to perpetuate his role as victim and paint you as a heartless villain. He will even lie to your children and family about you. He wants to turn those closest to you against you because he wants you to have nothing left.
  • A narcissist will attack your weaknesses. That usually means he will go after your children and money. He will remove you from joint accounts or withdraw all the money from them. He will hide money. He will run up your bills any way he can think of. He will also do his best to turn your children against you.
  • A narcissist will take you back to court again and again. As far as he is concerned, the battle is never over so long as he has some leverage. And the leverage is usually your children. He will register the children for activities during your time with them without consulting you. He will “forget” to pick up the kids when he knows you have other plans. He will return the children later than agreed to. He will not respect the custody agreement.

But since you now have an idea of what divorcing a narcissist is like, you can prepare for the battle ahead instead of being ambushed.

Here are some steps you’ll want to take to minimize the damage you suffer during and after your divorce:

  • Make sure your attorney is aware of the problem and is proactive. You want your attorney to have experience dealing with high-conflict divorces and know what to expect from a narcissist. When they’re properly experienced and prepared, they can shut down at least some of the standard tactics a narcissist will use in court (if you must go there).
  • Get a therapist who specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you were married to a narcissist, your marriage was full of emotional abuse. Any kind of abuse can lead to PTSD. You will probably want to consider working with a therapist to help you regain your emotional footing.
  • Hire a divorce coach. Learning how a divorce coach can help you stay anchored (and using one!) could be one of your most important moves for securing perspective, strength, and support. Your divorce coach will also help you process the grief, loneliness, anger, and other tumultuous emotions you’ll have before, during, and beyond. If necessary, your divorce coach can even join you throughout the court proceedings. But your “beyond” is critical. Your divorce coach is going to make sure you stay mindful to creating the life you DO deserve.
  • Keep copies of EVERYTHING. Especially when it comes to expenses, you’ll want to keep detailed records of everything. It’s VERY likely that you’ll be going to court repeatedly. The only way you’ll be able to quickly put an end to each new drama when it arises is to have indisputable facts. And that’s what the detailed records are—indisputable facts.
  • Assume all communication with a narcissist is risky. Whenever you communicate with a narcissist, keep things direct, to the point, and non-confrontational. This is the only way to prevent him from using your written or spoken words against you.

When divorcing a narcissist, you must prepare for war. You will face many battles because a narcissist wants to destroy you at virtually any cost.

But when you understand more about a narcissist’s profile (what you can and cannot expect from him) and begin to value your own self-worth—getting the full support you need and deserve—you will eventually have the peaceful life you’re looking for, the life you were meant to live.

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce—on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15–minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

* SAS for Women fully recognizes same-sex and common-law marriages. But for the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse or mate as “he,” “him,” or your “husband.”

#Metoo in calligraphy

#MeToo. In My Own Marriage

I’m loath to write this piece but I feel like I have to… I don’t want to, because it’s embarrassing, and because I’m afraid he’ll read it. But I have to — I know there are women out there who are being sexually harassed by their husbands this very minute and they don’t even know it. Or they know it deep down but don’t call it that because, well, they are married to him. We can’t call it sexual harassment if we are married, right? Oh HELL YES we can. Especially now.

On October 15th, I saw a Facebook post that read, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#Metoo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I quickly posted “Me too” on my page thinking of the professor who failed me when I wouldn’t respond to his “flirting” … and the time another guy ground his groin into my backside on a crowded subway … or all the countless times any guy stared at my boobs while “talking” to me. But in that moment of my #MeToo post, my ex husband didn’t enter my consciousness. And I certainly didn’t think my “Me too” would become part of something bigger. (Thank you, brave and bold women.)

Fast forward to now and I don’t know about you, but every morning when I wake up and see yet another celebrity or politician or executive on the news with a sexual harassment charge, I get a tiny little thrill. FINALLY the dirty little undercurrent that literally every woman everywhere has had to live with is coming to the surface and being called out. It seems the floodgates are open and we’re hearing about more and more men (and it is mostly men, let’s face it) who have behaved anywhere from inappropriately to downright horrifically. And we know, because we know what we’ve experienced throughout our lifetimes, that this flood is not receding anytime soon.

Let it continue.  Let it expand as it eventually includes all kinds perpetrators, not just those who are high profile. And let it encompass all kinds of behavior, not just the obviously egregious. Because the fact is, sexual harassment comes in many packages, including within the context of a marriage.

For those who worry, is the #MeToo movement going too far? SAS’ response is this form of disrespect and violence has been going on too long and has been, far too insidious. Sexual harassment, as shaming and uncomfortable as it is for the victims, needs to be aired before our society can metabolize the lines of what is “too much.” It’s been too much.

Thanks to gender and power dynamics, victims throughout history have had to keep silent; or if they have spoken out, are labeled and called names for saying the truth. Up until yesterday! Consider how the women who’ve accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment were not taken seriously. Until now. Think of Anita Hill and what she went through.  Think of the women who work in hotels as chambermaids, housekeepers and laborers, what they face everyday and must keep shut up about, because they cannot afford to lose the jobs that support them and their children. It is too much. And not enough. Those who have a voice, a power, must speak out now — not for themselves, but for their daughters, their sons, and all the victims who cannot.

If you look up the definition of sexual harassment, there are variations on a theme but one phrase comes up over and over again, regardless of whether we are talking about sexual harassment in the workplace or not: “Unwelcome advances.”

That was the crux of the matter for me. This is when I was certain that yes, the way my ex behaved did count as sexual harassment. I cannot count the times that I felt uncomfortable in my own marriage bed, times when he would want me to do something or wear something or say something that I was uncomfortable with. All so very unwelcome but my options were to shut up and do it, or ignite a fight that would escalate to epic proportions. So time after time, I put my own wants and needs to the side in an effort to appease and placate him. During those times, I just thought I was compromising, as we all have to do in relationships. But also, deep down those experiences made me feel gross, ashamed, lonely and sad. If he loved me, why would he want me to do things he knew very well made me feel dirty and pained?

I wish I had listened to that little voice that told me it wasn’t okay, that I had every right to stand up for myself. In my particular story, I feel that because I did not find the courage to stand up for myself along the way … because I did not say no nearly often enough … because I implicitly gave him permission to harass me, to do these things to me  … that the onus was on me: I allowed it to escalate. And escalate it did. By the end of our marriage, he was trying to invite strangers home from the bar for a threesome. The day I came home to find the computer open to a notice on a porn site where he was advertising us as a couple interested in orgies, THEN I found the courage to put a stop to it.

If any part of my story resonates with you, please don’t wait around for it to get worse. He will keep pushing the boundaries until he finds that threshold, the place where you are so horrified that you cannot take one more minute. Please don’t wait for that, it could be a long way off and in the meantime you’ll endure, you’ll tolerate, you will suffer. It’s not necessary. It’s not fair and I would argue, it’s not healthy.

This is the beautiful power of the #Metoo movement. As women, as young people, as men, we no longer have to bear this burden alone, with only our inner voice trying to reason with us. We now stand together, with safety in numbers, and if you tell your story to the right people, they will listen.

We recommend you identify someone you feel safe talking to and start there. Can you share with your sister, your best friend, your mom? It feels really good to tell someone, I can attest to that. Then move on to finding a professional who can help you figure out what to do about it. Therapists and divorce coaches are trained to lead you through a process – not to divorce necessarily if this is happening in your marriage; but to decide what to do to address the situation. It may or may not mean splitting up, that remains to be seen. What you do know is that something fundamental has to change. Figure out how you can do that.

Every woman deserves to feel safe, heard and respected in her marriage. It’s the baseline, not a luxury. If you can’t say that’s how you feel in your marriage, we gently urge you to think about that.

If you haven’t already taken us up on our free confidential consultation, we are a safe place to begin — to start hearing feedback on your situation. Married or not, we’ll listen to your story, perhaps share a glimmer of our own stories, and most importantly, offer you perspective and next steps for lightening your heart and head. By the way, your heart and head are often not in synch; and understanding that is part of your process for healing. If you aren’t sure about talking to anyone just yet, start with our website where you can read, watch videos, and take classes, all of which you can do in complete privacy.

We can feel it, your #Metoo moment is coming.

Should you divorce, a question this woman struggles with

Should You Divorce? 3 Ways to Know When Divorce is the ONLY Option

Trying to figure out if you should divorce is an agonizing process. I mean, sheer torture. It’s overwhelming and confusing and can make you go back and forth in your head, sometimes for years. Unless you’ve lived through it, I’ll never be able to adequately paint a picture for you. All I can tell you is that the question in your head “Should I or Shouldn’t I?” haunts your thoughts, your steps, your decisions, until finally, FINALLY you put it to rest with a yes or a no. I’m guessing that the title of this piece drew you in because you are struggling with this question.

Let me pause here to acknowledge that some women won’t answer the question at all. It will continue to follow them around for the rest of their days and eventually they’ll take it to their graves. My heart hurts for women who choose to live that tormented life. But for many of us, we reach a point where we must figure out the answer to that question because we simply can’t go on this way.

But does it ever become clear? Will you have a moment where you’ll know with certainty, one way or another? In my experience as a divorce coach, no. Not usually. There are so many shades of gray… and good days mixed with bad days… and that pesky “hope” that keeps thinking things will change and that quiet inner voice that keeps arguing that it won’t… that combination keeps you in a muddled state of thinking, of spinning.

You might find that it’s starkly clear to others what you should do with your life. Some won’t hesitate to tell you what they think either. Perhaps a friend, when you go to her to vent after a fight yet again, says in exasperation, “You have to divorce him!” Yet your mother may stand firm in her advice that marriage is forever and you simply have to find a way to fix it. But I’m here to tell you: I know absolutely nothing about what is clear to you. If I am talking to you, and you are stuck in that sickening cycle of thinking and wondering if you should divorce, I’ll give you three reasons when the answer is probably YES.

Should you divorce? Yes, if:

Abuse is in the picture

This was my story and it took me a long, long time to even understand that I was being abused, let alone leave. But deep down I wondered for years. I wish I had listened to my gut and looked it up, read something, talked to someone, examined our behavior to decide for myself if the way he treated me was “abusive.” I believe if I had, I would have been forced to acknowledge that it was not okay and that may have led to me getting help. I am telling you from 17 years of my own personal experience and through the stories of hundreds of women whom we’ve helped at SAS, that it never gets better. Without professional intervention, it will only get worse, I promise you. So if you wonder if (or know) that you are in an abusive situation, you have to follow your heart and figure it out.

Abuse comes in many forms, too… It does not mean you are walking around with black eyes or landing in the ER regularly. It means that he repeatedly and fundamentally disrespects you, that he hurts you emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or physically, or that you feel less than an equal human to him. If that feels awfully familiar, divorce is likely a necessary step to regaining your life, humanity and self respect.

He refuses to do anything different

You’ve recognized that something isn’t working and you know you guys need to work on it for you to survive the long haul. You may be online at night, looking at relationship websites and blogs and chatrooms … all geared toward saving a marriage. And you bring certain ideas or options you’ve learned to your partner, with excitement because there is hope! We can fix this, we just need to do X! And here’s a class/therapist/book/boot camp that will help us! Only to have him shut you down with his refusal. Maybe he’s in denial and doesn’t think anything needs changing… or he won’t see a therapist because that’s for sick people… or he says that he’ll try but constantly makes up excuses to skip out on any help you’ve organized.

There comes a point where you have to admit that he’s not going to participate with you. It’s a painful recognition. But this is a partnership and it takes both of you. You cannot keep beating a dead horse. You cannot revive this relationship alone, it’s impossible. If he refuses to do anything different, you’ll need to do something different for yourself. You must find another way of living. You should get space. This may mean divorce.

You’ve gotten professional help and exhausted all avenues

It’s heartbreaking but sometimes you have to come to a mutual agreement that you have tried everything and it’s still not going to work. Hopefully you worked together and tried talking, tried therapy, tried anything you could find that you thought would weave you back together and after all that effort, it’s still not good. In that situation, there comes a moment when it’s appropriate to stop. You must make the decision to end it with dignity and with respect for one another. At SAS, we recommend this path for those who feel they have exhausted all avenues to happiness as a couple. We encourage you to take that discovery journey together, because if you do (ultimately) decide to split, it sets you and your family up for a healthy resolution to a difficult situation. Consider Discernment Counseling, which is designed to help couples arrive at the right decision together.

We know how hard this is — this question of should you or shouldn’t you divorce? We also recognize that it’s helpful to hear from other women who have been there — and we’re telling you, as confusing as it is — there are times when the answer is more “yes” than “no.”

If you’d like more information on knowing if you should divorce, you’ll want to view our FREE video in which SAS for Women Cofounders Liza Caldwell and Kim Mishkin explain the steps you can take to see more clearly and the 4 Big Mistakes you must avoid. (This video is not live but recently filmed with an anonymous group of women viewers who participated in asking questions and commenting.)