Divorcing a narcissist is not for the faint of heart. No matter how educated one may be on Cluster B personality disorders, even the most experienced mental health professionals can not truly be prepared for the destruction a narcissist will cause. The path of divorcing a narcissist is incredibly lonely and isolating because very few can understand the rock-bottom depths that a high-conflict divorce of this magnitude will bring. Many of us take the high-road which is even more isolating, grasping onto our truth to guide us when we are knocked down with cringe-worthy questions like, “why can’t you two get along for the sake of the children?”
One of the most difficult parts of a divorce of this kind is the utter lack of education in the family court system. As healthy parents, we were designed to protect our young at all costs. Sadly, our hands are tied by a court system that is more focused on parental rights than it is on the rights of our children to be safe, happy and healthy. We are the underdogs – but we all know that underdogs can come out on top from the story of David versus Goliath. I was once the underdog – in pro se and up against my ex-husband, his slew of unethical attorneys, a narcissistic minor’s counsel, an inept custody evaluator and an overburdened Family Court Commissioner. While there were many dark days and lots of sleepless nights, I eventually prevailed in protecting my daughters. I don’t call it a “win” because there are no winners in family court.
Many people ask me if the battle ever ends? I am not quite sure that it does. In my case, we just hit the three-year mark of no contact with my ex-husband however, I am still legally tied to him through our custody case. Last year’s turn of events hit me from out of the blue and knocked me down hard. Prior to that, I would have told you that my battle was over. I breathe a sigh of relief that seems to get a bit deeper with each year that passes but I can’t confidently say that I am out of the woods completely. The Cluster B disordered individual and their families are so unpredictable that we must always remain vigilant and prepared for battle. That space of being, “always on guard” is a difficult realm to operate from given that most survivors suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), myself included.
With this said, how to you avoid letting a custody battle with a narcissist (or other Cluster B personality disordered individual) consume you? I know from personal experience that it is easy to feel consumed by this battle. There were times when I was convinced that it would eat me alive and in some ways, it has. My health has been affected (physical and emotional) more times than I’d care to recount. Over time, I’ve learned the importance of self-care and I’ve learned how to compartmentalize the battle. I consciously surround myself with positivity and I have learned to find joy in the little things – a smile from a stranger or a positive, inspirational quote goes towards keeping my tank full. When I find myself running on empty, I find ways to refuel myself, just as I would do for my automobile.
I think that it is equally important to find a different vantage point to simply breathe and reflect on how far you’ve come in this journey. When we are “in the thick of it,” it’s difficult to reflect. This past week, I took a road trip with my family (California to Colorado) and completely disconnected from life as I know it. Stepping away from everything allowed me to catch my breath and look in the rearview mirror. Standing silently at the Grand Canyon allowed me to see the beauty and the magnificence of the world that surrounds me. Hiking in Sedona took my breath away and allowed me time to reflect on all that I have accomplished. Time with my family, away from the hustle and bustle of life, allowed us to connect and to bond. Survival looks good on me…and it looks good on you.
No matter where you are in this battle, please remember that darkness cannot live when light is present. Surround yourself with light and positivity so that the negatives are outweighed at every turn. Do not let this battle consume you. Sometimes, you have to tune it out or completely shut it off. Find things to be grateful for no matter how small they seem. The practice of gratitude has changed my life but as with most things, it needs to be a daily habit. I am not perfect at it and sometimes, I struggle. I have a no judgment policy because I know I am my own worst critic– if I fall off the gratitude wagon, I climb back up and dust myself off and try again.
With love, Tina
One Mom’s Battle: Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), Custody Evaluators, therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children.
History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2009, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother, (Tina Swithin), navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth. Tina’s battle spanned from 2009 – 2014 during which time she acted as her own attorney. Ultimately, Tina was successful in protecting her daughters and her family has enjoyed complete peace since October 2014 when a Family Court commissioner called her ex-husband a “sociopath” and revoked his parenting time in a final custody order.
Tina Swithin: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon (print, Kindle or audio format). Each year, Tina offers life-changing weekends of camaraderie and healing at the Lemonade Power Retreat. Tina also offers one-on-one coaching services and a private, secure forum called, The Lemonade Club, for those enduring high-conflict custody battles.