One of the reasons people procrastinate about ending their marriage is to avoid the inevitable conflict. For the vast majority of people I’ve interviewed that conflict however is short-lived and often subsides even before the legal process is complete.
My current guest, Tina Swithin however is part of the small percentage of my interviewees for whom the conflict didn’t subside but instead increased. That called for learning new conflict management skills. Here’s Tina:
I am a person who hates conflict and if I even suspect that somebody’s upset with me, it’ll keep me up until 2 a.m. worrying about it. I don’t have conflict in my life and so this is something completely foreign, something that I was not prepared for.
Everything that I’ve studied and read about narcissism, it’s almost like these men and women use the same playbook. You can almost gauge what their steps are going to be along the way. I think that education is empowering and while I was not prepared for this, I’m much better equipped to deal with it now than I was in the beginning years.
What would I have done differently? I would have not engaged with him. A lot of the conflict—his email attacks and verbal attacks, I would’ve completely disengaged and not tried to explain or answer to all of his emails. It’s a very heated, toxic world that they live and they try to bring everyone into it. I would’ve distanced myself from that for sure.
Now when I get an email from him, they’re crazy making emails and I’m very good about just limiting my response to one or two sentences, completely void of emotion and keeping things very business-like.
I signed up for (an online tool) and my goal in the next round of court is to have him actually ordered to use it, because right now there is no court order and he is refusing to use it, so it that is one of my next steps for sure.
He feels like it’s a mechanism of control. Narcissists can’t handle control and so, because I have purchased the program and I suggested we use it, it’s never going to happen unless the judge tells him that he has to. Even then, he’s notorious for not following court orders.
The benefit of the program is that it’s very controlled. There’s even tone monitors that if your email sounds too emotional or harsh, it will flag it. It will tell you, “Oh, you better not send this one.” It limits communication in general, because you have a calendar. I plug in all of my daughters’ school events, dance events, and any extracurricular activities that they have, and that limits a huge part of our communication. It’s up to him if he wants to be involved in their lives to go into the calendar and see what’s going on.
My oldest daughter is in second grade and my youngest daughter is in kindergarten. He has never showed up to any school events in two years. I do it, because I want the court to see that I am making an effort, so they can see where the problem lies.
Get a support group, because that’s the reason I started my blog. I felt that while I had a great group of friends and supporters, no one really understood what was going on and so to have a network of people who get and who are going through the same things or have been in this place before, has been so healing and a lifeline and so I just really recommend finding support.
It’s just such a foreign concept to most people and the mentality of, “Why don’t you just move on for the sake of your children,” and they really don’t get it. I’m glad that they don’t get, because it means they’ve never had to deal with this type of high conflict personality before.
I’ve also come to realize that the people that I was so worried about what they thought of me in the beginning and if they were judging whether or not I was the conflict in this, they’ve all come to realize where the problem lies. I took the high road and I kept my mouth shut and I didn’t bad mouth him and over time people realized.
This is all good advice for any divorce. Reducing the phone calls and delaying responding to emails are highly recommended strategies for defusing the inevitable disagreements.
I also recommend creating your Personal Support Team. This is the three or four people who you trust the most who you know will support you with compassion and without judgment and who will keep your personal details in confidence. Vent your frustrations to your team members and use them to brainstorm the myriad of issues you face but beyond your team there’s little value in trying to explain, justify or rationalize the disagreements between you and your STBX to anyone else.
This is the last post in this series about Tina and I’d like to thank her for sharing her journey with us and for the great giveaway. Tina Swithin describes herself as a one-time victim now survivor. She’s spent the past four years in a horrific custody battle with her ex who she believes suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read about her journey at her blog, One Mom’s Battle and also in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist.