Dating While Divorcing

July 20th, 2016

Many divorcing people – particular those who are also parents — wonder whether they can or should date new people while the divorce is pending.

Legally, “dating,” means one-on-one social contact with another person. There is no distinction between platonic contacts and ones that are romantic or sexual, although from a practical standpoint, the romantic/sexual relationships are the ones that draw scrutiny and cause complications. Dating has the potential to increase both the cost and the stress of the divorce trial. Put simply, even if separated, married people are not supposed to date. Judges rarely punish someone who begins dating – sexually or otherwise – once they have physically separated from their spouse.

The smart money – the lawyers who handle divorce actions – say dating during a divorce should be avoided because the benefits rarely justify the liabilities on someone personally or on his or her legal position.

When someone ends a marriage, for many months thereafter, he or she goes through tremendous emotional, mental and psychological upheaval. Divorce is one of life’s most stressful and painful experiences. Regardless of whether someone is the petitioner or the respondent – the person who wants to end the action or the person who replies — the shocks and aftershocks can devastate a person’s sense of well-being. This is true even the person initiates a necessary divorce to end a bad marriage. A person’s world view and perspective on life and human relationships may change every few weeks. This is no time to make major life decisions, and no time to begin a new long-term relationship. Rebound relationships during this time almost always wind up in a dead end. There is no reason to get into another situation that promises disappointment and despair.

Dating during the divorce can become a minefield when the angry wife or husband – who is still the legal spouse – blows up. A case that might otherwise have been settled easily, amicably and inexpensively can transform into a difficult, acrimonious and very expensive battle when a spouse starts dating. Yes, he or she may have the right to date, but he or she also must accept the significant consequences of that decision.

The presence of someone new, particularly when paraded in front of the spouse and/or children, can enrage the soon-to-be former partner, and also create the suspicion that the relationship began as an affair before the separation. The innocent new friend can be deposed, that is, asked questions under oath and recorded by a stenographer and subpoenaed to testify to determine exactly when the relationship began, whether it is sexual, whether any marital property has been transferred to the new friend, such as by gift, how much money was spent on dating this person, and whether the spouse has said anything that could be used against him or her at trial. Even if everything is on the up-and-up, the result is a lot of unnecessary aggravation and cost.

Dating a new person may cause the lawful spouse to become irrational and filled with a desire for revenge. Dating becomes evidence the new friend is the cause of the divorce even if it is not true and even if the relationship did not begin until after the spouses separated. Fair or unfair, anger makes the case much more difficult to settle. An angry spouse may openly or subtly work to alienate the children, relatives and friends.

Dating during a divorce can alienate children who feel abandoned and who sympathize with the other parent. Young children tend not to accept a new friend even though they might have willingly embraced that person later, after the divorce.

The Legal Impact

Dating during divorce can have an legal impact on the terms and conditions of the marital settlement because the spouses and children can become inflamed and alienated, which can influence judges who often make decisions influenced, however subtly, by the received impressions that the parties make.

Custody and visitation. A spouse may become less likely to settle custody and visitation issues on a reasonable and rational basis. Children may be less likely to want to be the custody of the dating parent and will be less likely to want to spend time with him or her. Frequently, children refuse to spend time with a person if his or her friend is going to be there for visitation. The parent-child relationship can breakdown when children become so alienated.

Judges making custody and parenting time determinations are not impressed with a person who dates during a divorce because dating shows a callousness and a lack of empathy. Dating can be considered poor role modeling for children. Dating during the divorce can tip the scale in favor of the other parent in a custody fight and result in less parenting time than otherwise would have been awarded. Cohabitation during a divorce often is a disastrous action for all of the reasons just mentioned.

Child support and spousal support. Dating does not normally have an effect on an award of child or spousal support; however, cohabitation almost certainly has an adversely impact on support.

The decision to live with someone while a spousal support case is pending could cost a great deal over the duration of the award. That can work both ways. 
The person likely to receive a spousal support award, living with a friend and sharing expenses may suggest to the court that he or she does not need as much spousal support.

In the area of child support awards, when a person lives with someone else and shares expenses, the court can use that fact (and often does) as a basis to set the child support obligation higher (when the obligor is living with someone) or lower (when the obligee is living with someone). The change is called a “deviation” from the presumed level of support according to the state guidelines. The court does not actually add into the support calculation the income of the parent and the live-in friend. The court considers that an obligor with a live-in friend has more money available to pay support and an obligee with a live-in friend does not need as much support.

When children are involved, judges are not necessarily impressed with someone who begins dating shortly after the parties separated. Judges try to be fair, but a judge’s gut reaction towards you could possibly sway him or her in making his final decision about the level or duration of support or about property division issues.

Property Division. During the course of a divorce, the judge is required to make many decisions about many different topics. The slightest nuances can influence the judge’s decision. A judge may never explain his decision, but it is in a party’s best interest to do everything possible to make sure the judge looks favorably on a person, and dating during a divorce harms a party’s position with the judge.

Cohabitation can be a factor in the property division. Living with someone and sharing expenses places someone in a better financial position than a person living along and paying all expenses. A judge may conclude that, as a result of improved financial circumstances, certain property division issues should be resolved in favor of the other spouse. A judge might conclude that a party can afford to pay more money in a property division judgment because of improved financial circumstances. Or a judge might conclude the other spouse should pay less money as property division because the live-in partner improves circumstances.

A person should not even consider dating until he or she has physically separated, even both spouses agree that the marriage is over because, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, dating can be cited as a reason the marriage failed and it can lead a judge to award more of the marital assets to your spouse. Once separated, party should date “with the utmost propriety, particularly around … children.” Needless to say, care should be taken to avoid becoming pregnant or impregnating someone before the divorce is final. A pregnancy will prolong the case until the baby is born so that the court can verify paternity and determine custody and support requirements.

Women are Happier After Divorce

May 13th, 2016

A study by Kingston University in the United Kingdom meant to analyze the negative impact of trauma on men and women concludes that women are happier after a divorce than men.

In the study researchers surveyed 10,000 people in the U.K. between the ages of sixteen and sixty. In the survey 10,000 participants between 16 and 90 rated their happiness before and after their divorce. Over a 20- year period, researchers found that women were happier and more satisfied with their lives after divorce. “In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men,” said Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Center for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS) at Kingston Business School.

Some suggest that women are happier because more women file for divorce than men, and that they are getting what they want. However, others suggest there are many reasons women file for a divorce that have nothing to do with falling out of love or no longer being happy.

A woman may file for divorce because she has been abandoned and left with no recourse but divorce to pursue child support via the family court system.

In addition, other reasons come into play. A husband’s midlife crisis may endanger her financial and emotional security when he behaves in a destructive manner to her and her future welfare. An abusive husband may leave her no recourse other than to file for a divorce and put distance between herself and the abuser. A husband’s extra-marital affair may leave her responsible for financial maintenance of the home and family.

The reason for the divorce is not a factor in how well a woman heals and moves on with her life once she is divorced.

Women are happier after divorce because they are more likely than men to seek help for the emotional trauma caused by divorced for a therapist.

They are more likely than men to surround themselves with a positive support system such as, friends and family.

Women cope better than men. Men look outward when seeking comfort from emotional pain; women look inward. They inventory of the role they played in the demise of the marriage and work at getting their emotional stable and letting go of the past so they can focus on the future.

Women are less likely to turn to alcohol, drugs, new relationships and casual sex to distract them from the trauma of divorce.
Women are more likely to seek out new experiences after divorce, experiences that enrich them and give them hope.

Women are more likely to prioritize their needs. They make an effort into staying physically healthy during the trauma of divorce. They focus on eating properly and working out in an effort to stave off illness and depression.

Divorce can be a hard choice to make but once it is made a woman has choices she can make. She can give into the trauma of the divorce or rebuild her life and get on with the business of living. Most choose to get on with the business of living. Women are no stronger emotionally than men. They do however use different coping skills than men when dealing with emotional trauma and, based on the study, those skills make it possible for women to move on and be happier than men after divorce.

Millennial Marriages

April 25th, 2016

According to research, nearly 70 percent of the miillenial generation wants to be married but cannot afford it.

Members of the miillenial generation — Americans born after 1980 and before 2000 — are much less likely to be married by age 32 compared to previous generations. Research shows that only 26 percent of Millennial are married by 32, compared to 36 percent for Gen X-ers, 48% of Baby Boomers and 60 percent of the members of the Silent Generation at the same age.

The marriage patterns of the millenial generation have a impact on American life because this giant cohort, which is estimated to be at least 80 million Americans, — is even larger than the Baby Boom generation, which has 75 million members.

Interestingly, researchers estimate that 69 percent of the unmarried millennial would like to be married but feel that they are lacking the financial foundation to make it a possibility.

Millennials as a cohort are more educated than previous generations: 34 percent of those 25 to 32 years old hold at least a bachelors degree, compared to 25percent for Gen X and 24 percent of Baby Boomers at the same age.

Parental Autism

April 12th, 2016

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects married adults and can remain undiagnosed. ASD can contribute to significant and unexplained challenges in all spheres to family life, particularly when a family is stressed by a divorce.

Healthcare professionals, educators and lawyers who cannot identify ASD and its impact on families in crisis risk aggravating the problems of the domestic situation. In particular, coparenting with a former spouse who has ASD challenges the most cooperative of former spouses.

The majority of married adults with ASD remained undiagnosed.

ASD creates social impairment and communication difficulties. 
Many people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The severity of ASD varies greatly depending on the degree to which social communication and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the individual. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly difficult. People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.

Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong, according to Teresa J. Foden of the Autism Interactive Network. The core disabilities of ASD — communication and social deficits and repetitive behaviors and interests — can improve over the course of childhood and adolescence. In fact, higher-functioning ASD is sometimes deemed more a different way of approaching the world than a disability. Although researchers caution that the symptoms rarely subside sufficiently to withdraw adult support services, there is reason to hope for some improvement in day-to-day life.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) as part of ASD rather than as separate disorders. A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment.

ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels. However, boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.

Disrupted Parent-Child Relationships

March 22nd, 2016

Early intervention in high conflict and disrupted parent-child relationships can head off the extreme risks of maladjusted children. Such intervention, experts agree, can prevent much of the damage. Delay compounds both the cost and the complications as we as reducing the chance of success.

Too often, however, children and parents caught in the vortex of conflict and disrupted relations, do not receive the specialized intervention they need. The parent-child relationship is fractured, exchanges between parent and child is disrupted. Often the child exhibits entrenched dysfunctional behavior.

In intervening in these situations, experts suggest an emphasis on community-based interventions, including recreational, educational, therapeutic and judicial management.

Empty Shell Marriage and Divorce

February 17th, 2016

Empty Shell Marriages

Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina begins with this often quoted sentence: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This sad observation rings true with millions of couples living in what sociologists and psychologists call “empty shell marriages.”

An empty shell marriage is a marriage in name only, one where the spouses continue to live under the same roof but live as separate individuals. When divorce is difficult for legal, religious or financial reasons, or when a couple decides to stay together for the sake of the children, their failed marriage can desiccate to a shell.

Although they may share a home and may have been married for years, the spouses are not emotionally connected and often are lonely and emotionally distant. On the surface, an empty-shell marriage often appears happy and healthy, successful and serene. The relationship is stable and often little conflict is visible. Outsiders get the impression the marriage has no problems but are often very surprised when the marriage finally caves and ends in divorce.

Empty-shell marriages have lost or never had the passion needed to make the marriage vital because the relationship may never have had depth and often may have been formed for superficial reasons, says Charles Lee Cole in the Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia by Robert E. Emery.

Generally, in empty marriages the spouses either 1) never had emotional and sexual passion or 2) they once had a strong attraction and lost it.

Empty shell marriages have no vitality - only the outside shell remains. Shells can appear pretty - even when they are empty. Sadly, too many marriages end up in this state after a few years.

John F. Guber and Peggy B. Hanroff have identified three types empty-shell marriages.

> In a devitalized relationship husband and wife lack excitement or any real interest in the other spouse or their marriage. Boredom and apathy have drained the marriage but serious arguments are rare. Arguing takes energy and the spouses do not think it is worth the effort.

> In a conflict-habituated relationship husband and wife frequently quarrel in private. They may also quarrel in public or put up a facade of being compatible. The relationship is characterized by considerable conflict, tension, and bitterness. The couple cannot live together – or apart.

> In a passive congenial relationship both partners are not happy but are content with their lives and gradually feel adequate. The partners may have some interests in common, but these interests are generally insignificant. The spouses contribute little to each other’s real satisfaction. The couple exists in a state of détente.

Marriages that become empty shells often drift through a progression. A loss of respect segues to a failure to communicate that reinforces withdrawal and apathy. Each spouse turns to his or her own separate interests, hobbies, careers, and friends. Personal advancement triumphs over the well-being of the other spouse.

In empty-shell marriage the spouses feel no strong attachment to each other, but outside pressures keep the marriage together, writes Angelia Davis. These include the desire to convey a stable family image, the need to maintain a place in the community, and the desire to avoid the financial consequences of divorce. Sometimes a couple may believe that ending the marriage harms the children or that getting a divorce would be morally wrong.

Only the spouses in a marriage genuinely know the marriage, so for obvious reasons, the number of empty-shell marriage is unknown. It may be as the number of happily married couples.

In an empty shell marriage, the spouses find many ways to be unhappy. Home life is without fun or laughter. The spouses do not share and discuss their problems or experiences with each other. Communication is at a minimum as is any spontaneous expression of affection or sharing of a personal experience. Children are usually starved for love and reluctant to have friends over because they are embarrassed about having their friends see their parents interacting. The couples in these marriages engage in few activities together and display no pleasure in being in one another’s company. Sexual relations between the partners, as might be expected, are rare and generally unsatisfying.

William J. Goode compares empty-shell marriages to marriages that end in divorce. In most families that divorce, the husband and wife pass through a state where each feels unbound of the other. They cease to cooperate or share with each other and look on one another as almost strangers. The empty-shell family is in such a state. Its members no longer feel any strong commitment to many of the mutual role obligations, but for various reasons the husband and wife do not separate or divorce. The number of empty-shell marriages ending in divorce is unknown. It is likely that a fair number eventually do. Both spouses have to put considerable effort into making a marriage work in order to prevent an empty-shell marriage from gradually developing.

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defines love as: “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Love as an investment of myself in order to promote the spiritual health of others. In an empty shell marriage, such generosity does not bloom.

Divorce and Adoption

February 3rd, 2016

When parents who have adopted children face divorce, custody and visitation issues may seem unclear. Divorce is tough, but it can be even more complicated for everyone involved when spouses try to work out custody of an adopted child. Adoption often makes the situation emotionally more difficult for the child, and parents may become concerned about their legal rights, says Brette Sember, a divorce expert.

If the divorcing parents adopted the child together, or if a stepparent adopted his partner’s child, adoption has no impact on custody. In the first case, both parents are the legal parents; both have equal rights in the eyes of the court. However, if one is also a biological parent, the court probably will take that fact into consideration when making a decision. A court probably will not award custody to a stepdad who recently adopted the child, over her natural mom. However, it is possible because the courts base custody on the best interests of the child. If the natural mom is shown to be a poor parent, custody could certainly be awarded to the adoptive father.

Divorce can be very difficult for an adopted child, who has grown up in an adopted family. The child may have spent years coming to grips with the adoption itself — the loss of his biological family. Now he or she has to deal with another loss. The split up can cause an adopted child to regress and re-experience the feelings of loss and grief related to the adoption. The upset of the divorce may cause him or her to act out in ways unseen since childhood.

All children of divorce deal with anger, loss, sadness, and confusion, but for the adopted child divorce may be a one-two punch. In general, therapy is almost always a good idea for children who are going through a divorce, and even more so for adopted children in a divorce. A good therapist can help a child work through his or her emotions and find coping strategies for the situations he or she experiences.

If the spouses can talk to their child together about the divorce, they can set the tone for him or her. The adopted child needs reassurance of love and a reiteration that the divorce cannot change that. He or she needs to be told that even though his or her parents are divorcing they are still the parents.

Adopted children often carry a deep fear that their adoptive parents will one day give them up just as their biological parents did.

The best thing parents can do is to work together cooperatively as parenting partners. It does not matter whether the woman is the biological mother and the father is the stepparent. In the child’s eyes both are his or her parents.

A spouse must put aside anger toward the other parent and find a way to work together so that the child has two parents who are active and cooperative and civil to each other when it counts.

Parental Conflict and Children

December 17th, 2015

Chronic parental conflict harms children, according to Kathy Eugster, MA, a Counseling Psychology 
Registered Clinical Counselor
, Certified Play Therapist and Supervisor 
Child and Family Therapist. Sociologists and researcher agree that parental conflict is the biggest predictor of poor outcomes for children. The level and intensity of the conflict between parents and resolution are the most powerful determinants of the impact. It does not matter whether the parents are married or divorced.

While children are resilient and highly adaptive and cope with separation and divorce, their parents’ “continuing, unresolved, hostile” battling severely damages them. The longer parental conflict continues and the greater the tension between the parents, the greater the likelihood that psychological difficulties result, including depression, sleep problems, low self-esteem, school problems.

When parents battle, children feel unsafe. Chronic parental conflict pollutes the atmosphere with tension, chaos, disruption and unpredictability when the family environment should be safe and secure and comfortable. Children become anxious, frightened, and helpless. They may worry about their own safety and their parents’ safety even without actual or threatened violence. Children’s may imagine harm coming to them or a family member and they may worry about divorce and being split up.

Children worry about taking sides in the conflict because they want to please both parents but this becomes impossible when they are caught in the middle. They may align with one parent, which can be very destructive and unhealthy for all family members.

Sadly children often believe they are responsible for the parental fighting, and they feel guilty, particularly if they hear arguments about different parenting styles, school issues, or financial issues related to them. The guilt from feeling responsible for their parents’ conflict causes much emotional distress.

Children learn the wrong lessons about parenting when parents only model unhealthy — indeed, destructive — ways to communicate and resolve problems. Most likely, they will learn by example, and that is how they will communicate and solve problems with others when they become adults.

Chronic parental conflict increases stress on parents, which can result in the decreased use of effective parenting skills over time, with a resulting negative impact on the children. When a child constantly hears bad things about one parent from another parent, the danger is that the parent-child relationship of the criticized parent may weaken. This can also work in the opposite direction, since a child can resent a parent who criticizes and refuses to respect the other parent, especially as the child grows older.

The Effects of Conflict on Children

Some children respond to parental conflict by acting out. They may demonstrate behavior problems, increased anger and inability to manage anger, violent behavior, delinquency, and gang involvement. 


Some children respond to parental conflict by turning inward. They are likely to demonstrate depression, isolation from friends and activities, physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, ulcers, and substance abuse. 


Children who are exposed to parental conflict do not interact well with others. These kids often have very poor social skills, low self-esteem and poor relationships when they become adults. 


Some children exposed to high conflict have trouble thinking. Advances in neuropsychology have shown that when exposed to conflict our brains release stress hormones that over time can actually change brain functioning. The effects of being exposed to conflict show up as problems in school, truancy, impaired thinking (things like problem-solving, abstract reasoning, memory are affected) and symptoms that mimic Attention Deficit Disorder.

Parental conflict is toxic for kids. No parents would dose their children with poison, yet parents who fight in front of their children do just that. The effects of conflict for children are huge. Divorcing parents can protect their children by behaving in front of them. One way to counter the negative effects of conflict on children is to argue cleanly. It take time a to work on solving a problem instead of trying to win at all costs.

The Friendly Divorce

October 30th, 2015

An amicable (“friendly”) divorce is sometimes used as a synonym for an uncontested or no contest divorce, which works when a couple decide to end a marriage that no longer works well in the appropriate way – as a business deal. In this regime, the spouses recognize that love has gone (or perhaps never existed), and they just want to go away. The partners exit each other’s life, if not amicably, then at least civilly. If there are no children, the spouses have little or no contact after the divorce; if there are children, they handle things fairly and respectfully way.

An amicable divorce turns on agreement on issues including, but not limited to, child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division. After reaching an agreement on terms and conditions, the couple must file divorce paperwork in family court to obtain the divorce. Often, there is a requisite separation or waiting period. The final divorce is subject to the court’s approval. The divorce incorporates terms the couple agreed to. Amicable divorces are popular because spouses agree on terms and conditions and file papers in court without the cost and time of hiring attorneys to do battle with one another. An amicable divorce saves time, money, and heartache.

Make no mistake. Divorce is never fun, but divorce does not have to be trench warfare and a fight to the death. If at all possible, the spouses can engage in what is known as a civil divorce, which is also called a collaborative divorce.

A collaborative divorce is appropriate for a couple that does not have difficulty agreeing. It is a big time and money saver. Lawyers facilitate the couple’s communication and continue to advise their respective clients. All parties try to agree on the specifics of the divorce so that the matter does not go to court. Parties come to their own agreements during divorce instead of putting control in the hands of a judge. Each spouse retains a collaborative lawyer, and both spouses and the attorneys make decisions outside of a court of law. Both spouses share information and come to an agreement on important issues such as alimony and child custody, and both agree a on any experts who need to be hired to help finalize the divorce. After this collaborative agreement is signed, the spouses must identify the property and financial assets they have, as well as any debt, so they can decide on how it all will be divided, and any other issues to be resolved during this collaborative divorce process.

In a mediated divorce, couples resolve issues out of court with the help of a mediator. The mediator helps the couple come to an amicable agreement on issues in divorce. Some jurisdictions require couples to seek mediation on certain issues in divorce.

Sometimes spouses come to understand that they probably would have made better friends than sweethearts, so the parting is amicable, if perhaps tinged with melancholy. These partners avail themselves of that could be a friendly divorced, and sometimes the spouses remain friends and share parenting comfortably with each other and future spouses. About one third of divorcing couples end marriages with a friendly divorce. In some jurisdictions, they can use a summary divorce and file pro se. This do it yourself (DIY) divorce works well if parties have been married a short time, have no children and no substantial property. It can also work when both agree to all property division, custody issues, and support schedules. Couples are not required to have counsel to divorce; they can file papers and seek court approval in most cases without lawyers.

Therapists may be beneficial to a couple even after the decision to divorce, as they may help facilitate an amicable agreement during divorce proceedings. Therapists can assist a couple overcome heated emotions so they can focus on efficient completion of the legal process.

Regardless of the specific approach taken, when divorcing spouses commit to developing compromises and solutions that work for both parties rather than fighting on every issue, the legal process of divorce works more smoothly. In turn, the parties are able to move forward individually and as a family more quickly with less pain, effort, expense, and time expended.

Divorcing a Narcissist

October 7th, 2015

Many people exhibit some narcissistic qualities, but full-blown narcissistic personality disorders afflict only about 8 percent of men and about 5 percent of women. Marriage to a narcissist is tough, but divorcing one is tougher, according to Sara Parker-Pope of The New York Times.
Marriage to a narcissist becomes a high conflict test of endurance for the victim spouse and children. Anyone who has dealt with a narcissist or other high-conflict personality knows that they are the masters of projection and dishonesty. They love to project their own fictions and falsehoods onto their victims, and in a divorce a narcissist can become particularly vicious.

A narcissistic personality disorder manifests itself differently with each person. The Mayo Clinic say a narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorders believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.


Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist, says narcissistic individuals are able to lie in such a convincing fashion. “Since narcissists believe that the world revolves around them, or that it should, they think they can reinvent reality and no one should question them. Even though they know that what they’re writing or saying is really stretching the truth, they think that they are so clever about it that they will fool the recipient into going along with them,”
 says Dr. Lieberman.
Dealing with a narcissist isn’t for the weak. Charming and charismatic at the onset, crossing a narcissist brings forth a furry that few people are equipped to deal with. This interaction leaves the sanest person questioning his or her own sanity.

Narcissists may engage in what is called “gaslighting,” a term used for a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun to favor the abuser. He or she may present false information with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. The abuser may deny that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or stage bizarre events with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife insane.

When dealing with a narcissist, it is very important to build a foundation from rock — the rock that comes from knowing what is the truth.

“[I]f you’re dealing with a narcissistic personality disorder, you’re dealing with somebody who does not have the ability for empathy or to emotionally tune in to their partner or their children. They come into the relationship with this charming and very seductive beginning. But that turns into emotional warfare. Narcissists are people who lack empathy, who are not accountable for their behavior. They set up their world so it’s about them. They exploit others for their own gain,” according to family therapist Karyl McBride. McBride is the author of a guide for people trying to extract themselves from narcissistic relationships — Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family, which is featured in this month’s Well Book Club.

“If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you eventually discover you are there to revolve around them and to serve them. You can only imagine the shock that happens for people when they get seduced into something they think is the best thing that ever happened to them and it turns into this kind of relationship,” McBride says.

A relationship with either a full-blown narcissistic personality or even people with a high number of narcissistic traits become traumatic experience for the victim spouse and the children. When the victim spouses files for divorce and decides to leave or even thinks about leaving, the marriage becomes an even bigger nightmare. Victims have to deal with family law and custody evaluators and therapists and judges and the courts. “If you divorce a narcissist, it’s not going to be a normal divorce because if you leave the narcissist, they never get over it. They seek revenge, and the court system is an incredibly great platform for a narcissist.” Narcissists thrive in turning a divorce in what Parker-Pope calls a “playground.” -– “where they can just continue the battle with the partner and continue to seek revenge, and that’s what happens.”

The narcissist does not get over a divorce. Other people are hurt and angry and eventually recover and get over it. The narcissist continues to blame the partner and harm him or her. They do it by these long, extended, contentious divorce cases that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

People with full-blown narcissistic personality disorder don’t seek help. They’re not introspective or in touch with their own feelings, and they blame everyone else. They are difficult to treat, and they don’t seek treatment. If they do, it’s only to tell you how often everyone else is wrong.

Marriage to a narcissist reaches a point where the victim spouse sees that the high conflict of the marriage is causing emotional damage the children, and he or she makes a decision to leave. The victims in these relationships get physically sick, and they become exhausted from having to revolve around the narcissist and they feel like they can’t do anything right.

In a divorce, the narcissist uses children as tools. “Kids have a hard time going through a normal divorce. In these high-conflict, contentious divorce cases, this becomes a child’s life. It’s evaluators and therapists and court cases. Children are caught in the middle of all that and deeply harmed by it.”

“Narcissists don’t make great parents, but they use the children as pawns because they know it’s the most important thing to their partner. It’s not that they necessarily want to have time with kids, but it looks good for them to do the Disneyland-parent kind of stuff. The children are the best tool they have to get back at their partner.”