I had a session with a new client who is in the process of divorcing her husband after years of abuse (emotional, financial, spiritual and physical) and reached out because of the pressure and ongoing abuse cycle.
She is a mother of three, living together in the marital home and what, from the outside, looks like a fabulous life but in reality the abuse cycle is spinning and accelerating. Most of the control trauma is currently being played out by withholding money (financial abuse) and she is in deep personal financial debt as the husband is withholding funds and she is living on her credit cards.
She is determined to remain in a conciliatory and fair stance within exchanges. This is in contrast to her partner who is in attack mode and stated that he will win at all cost. The most distressing encounters are his increased verbal jabs at her in front of their young children, commenting on her mismanagement of “her” money (aka the “allowance” given from their joint marital assets) and her inability to live debt free.
There comes a time within the journey of awakening to what is truly happening within an abusive relationship with a narcissistic borderline personality (diagnosed or undiagnosed) or high conflict person that you hold onto hope that there might be a possibility of being “friends” and “co-parenting” well together.
This can feel wobbly and unstable as you still have one foot in hopeful longing for a functioning relationship and another in the realization of what is actually happening, all the while willing “normal” interactions, the ones that are respectful and truthful.
Through her tears, she asked me directly if I thought it was possible to be friends?
“Please just tell me, I mean I just want to be friends, can you be friends?” she implored.
My reply: “Is he acting like a good friend to you now?”
In my experience, I have not seen an outcome that a “friendship” can be sustained with a high conflict personality, whether married or divorced, as the abuse cycle will continue.
Take a moment and let that settle in.
The behavior that is being shown by your partner is their truth. Waking up to this can be jarring.
Here’s a strategy to try while you’re processing this realization of toxicity:
First practice grounding yourself over the course of the day. Click here to my blog about creating a grounding practice.
When you sense that your mind or energy is arching over to your ex, and let’s use the example of anxiety around trying to maintain a sense of “friendship”, shift to the present moment. Ask yourself what you are feeling and stay with those feelings. You are unwinding the trauma bond that you have from the toxic energy exchange. When you remove yourself from this type of energy it is a sense of withdrawal, an addict vs. co-addict re-wiring of the relationship.
Shifting to a mindset of self care and self understanding is the critical step in decoupling from a NBPD high conflict personality before, during and after the divorce because their behavior won’t change.
BUT YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND BEHAVIOR WILL AND THAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER AND HEALING. (Download my EveryDay Certainty System here.)
A side note: Powerful Observation from a Legal Assistant
** This is a powerful observation I received from someone within the divorce field. Not a lawyer or paralegal, but a legal assistant. **
With her bird’s-eye view of the process within hundreds of divorces she has been involved with, here’s what she had to share…
“The vast difference that I witness between women and men during a divorce is that the female tends to look at the situation as “How do we resolve this “fairly” with equitability negotiations?” and the male counterpart begins the process in the same mindset but as soon as the court papers have been filed the male’s perception changes to a “winning at all cost” way of acting, responding and communicating.
Within her professional capacity she feels that this switch is like clockwork and shares that there is a change in tonality towards professionals involved too. The big difference in dealing with this situation is that the professionals don’t have the emotional hook when being treated in such a manner and it’s as if the intense behavior just glides off like they’re teflon. They take no notice of it and set off to do their jobs. As a participant within the divorce process, this may make you feel invalidated or not heard.
Here’s another powerful insight…
The different perspectives in the divorce and negotiation process wear down the fortitude of the “fair minded” view and then the downfall is that “they agree to anything to make it stop, but it will continue even after the divorce is final with these types of personalities”.
I recommend you create your team to include a financial advisor that can understand the coercive control trauma that high conflict personalities engage in and also a therapist that “gets it” for you and your children.
The mental, physical, spiritual and emotional bodies all go through the divorce, and tender loving care and attention for healing can look different for each.