Going through a divorce can be heartbreaking, frustrating, and flat-out devastating. Going through a divorce with a psychopath or narcissist is all of the above, plus a whole new level of hell.
Because you are dealing with a completely unpredictable human being who experiences zero remorse, zero empathy, and has zero conscience. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare situation. I learned very quickly while divorcing my own psychopath that certain techniques can make all the difference.
You see, while a “normal” person understands the life-altering ramifications of a divorce (on finances, lifestyle, his children’s lives, etc.), a psychopath only sees the divorce as one thing: a game. A game that he wants to win. It’s fun for him because he gets off on others’ emotional devastation. He doesn’t actually care about the money, the 401ks, the kids, the properties. He only wants to win this game and make you miserable in the process.
While the psychopath has an extremely limited emotional range, he is an expert at causing emotional and financial destruction. Once you can wrap your mind around the concept that the psychopath has no true emotional investment in the process (other than to win), you can start to carefully play him at his own game. Here is some tried and (firsthand) tested advice to keep your sanity while divorcing the psychopath.
1. Don’t engage — with a caveat.
When I started to take the steps toward divorcing my ex, I read every article I could find on psychopaths and narcissists. They all said to not engage, to not feed into drama, to let things roll off your back as much as possible, and while I whole heartedly agree with that advice, I will this little tidbit: Once in a while, throw him an ego bone to make him feel he’s in control. This is what he wants — to feel in control and to revel in your anguish — and so in the name of getting rid of the psychopath as quickly and painlessly as possible, give him what he wants.
You’re dealing with some messed up stuff when you’re dealing with a psychopath, and accordingly, my first tidbit of advice is a bit messed up. I am talking very small-scale gestures. For example, a text that demonstrates how badly you’re doing without him. Let him think he’s winning, and you’ll gain some ground.
This method worked for me personally as I was dealing with a person who reveled in emotional pain. However, there are certainly situations (if you feel you are in imminent danger, for example) where going full no-contact is absolutely necessary.
2. Document everything.
We live in a time where almost all communication is transmitted via text, email, Snapchat, Facebook, and other forms of social media. Take advantage of this and screenshot anything that could prove important in court. If you can show that his words do not match up with his actions or vice versa, screenshot it. If he blatantly lies, screenshot it. If he threatens you in any way, screenshot it. If he shows unsavory character/behavior, screenshot it. You get the point.
I was armed with 15 pages of printouts that clearly showed pathological lying, emotional/verbal abuse, and physical threats. Luckily, my lawyer never had to present them in court because my ex didn’t show for the final divorce hearing.
Because a psychopath is extremely charming and believable in person (not to mention they thrive on the drama of a courtroom), having these printouts could end up being crucial in showing the judge what your ex-partner really is. Notice I said “showing” instead of “telling.” The more you can show a lack of empathy/conscience/moral character and the less you use words like “psychopath,” “narcissist,” or “sociopath,” the better. I was frustrated when I received this advice, but I now understand that judges hear these words thrown out by divorcing partners a lot. Sometimes it’s merited, but sometimes it’s not so let the evidence speak for itself.
3. Be boring.
This is similar to “don’t engage,” but it deserves to be elaborated on because it is a crucial component to not only getting through this divorce but also to your future happiness. He will send you dramatic texts. He will provoke you out of nowhere. If he is running low on ego supply, he will push your emotional buttons in the hopes of stirring up some drama. He feeds on drama, rage, and causing you emotional pain. You need to starve him out so that he will move on to another supply.
This goes deeper than just not responding (except, once again, to let him think he’s winning once in a while). This means be boring in all facets of life for the time being. Do not post on social media. Do not fraternize or gossip with mutual friends. Tell your close friends and family also to be boring and not engage him in anyway.
Yes, I know this advice sucks, and it’s not right considering everything he’s already put you through, but you are dealing with a freaking psychopath. He is unpredictable, and he will never react in the way you expect (i.e., the way you expect a normal human being with emotions to react).
During this time period, find your support system of family and close friends and lean on them. Get a lawyer who understands and/or has dealt with these disordered individuals.
Most importantly, breathe in and out and know that you will get through this and you will find happiness, unlike the psychopath who never will.