(names have been omitted or changed in this post)
Unless you've been through a divorce it can be quite hard to relate to what others have experienced. I can say there is much to be learned from the divorce process and though the lessons can be painful they are worth sharing with others so their path is a little easier to navigate.
10 Lessons I've learned About Divorce:
1. It takes a whole heck of a lot longer to get one complete than what one might think. In Texas we have a 60 day waiting period before a divorce can be completed at it's earliest. I only wish that was all the time it took. For many it takes a year, for some even longer, two years. It seems so backward… we can say "I do" on a whim but trying to undo that knot takes oh so much longer.
2. It takes longer than you expect to get your life put back together. If you've been a stay at home mother you might find yourself scrambling to find a job, a sitter or some form of daycare and keep the lights on. It can seem overwhelming at first now that everything rests on your shoulders but deep breaths… take it one day at a time and try not to look at the big picture if all it does is serve to stress you out. It truly does get better in small steps and one day you will look back in awe at how far you've come with God's grace, power and strength.
3. We may go through our divorce process regarding the kids with the mental outlook of: "Okay, we have a plan in place. Done, let's move on." And really… if it's working why shouldn't that be expected? But often times our ex can have other ideas… constantly changing ideas and chronically wanting to change up the parenting schedule, possession, etc. Purposefully instigating custody litigation just to "win" no matter what. It will mean being served with papers, attorneys being served on your behalf and having to re-write what you have in place, often with negotiations that are not what I'd really call negotiations but more like the other side bullying his (or her) way into what he (or she) wants through a court system that very often does not have the first clue as to narcissistic personality disorder.
4. Mediation can be a lifesaver or an absolute waste of time and money. Typically with a narcissist mediation is waste of time but in some states you're required to try it before going to court. The mediators job is to get both parties to agree and they could care less about whether you like the results as you will be who lives with them. I would never pay for an attorney to be present at mediation again. The fee for a mediator is a grand give or take so paying an attorney to simply sit and hold your hand seems pointless. The process can be undeniably intimidating if you've never done it before but really having been through it twice now… I can safely say that it's not that big a deal. You know what issues you're willing to agree on or not. If you can reach an agreement, great. If not, reply "no" to everything and head to court, it's pretty simple. Mediation may be used by your ex as a tactic to find out what you're willing to agree to and not… so then they can then be better prepared for a court battle. I personally feel it's better to not share what you're wanting in mediation and keep it to yourself. Find out what they want. Then prepare for court if you don't agree.
5. Divorce won't "fix" your spouse. Your ex-spouse if narcissistic is likely still cheap, still stubborn, still conniving, still making poor choices, morally corrupt, spiritually bankrupt, crass, a user and an abuser and seriously lacking empathy and basic parenting skills, etc… guess what? Just because you're divorcing them doesn't equate to all their ways now changing. You will realize (if you hadn't already) you cannot change your ex. You will realize that your attorney can't change your ex. And then you may realize that the therapist can't change your ex into the parent they need to be. That is why sometimes judges have to get involved and change the possession schedule accordingly. Because unless folks want to change often times it's the children who end up suffering.
6. The person you divorce - divorce tends to reveal their true character, whether it's for better or for worse. You find out who you were really married to when divorcing. And with a narc you will realize that the divorce is just the beginning of their heightened abuse toward you not the end.
7. You will cross paths with people who you don't even know personally but that think they know you… that believe they know who you are based purely on what your ex has said about you and they dismiss your existence or even sneer at you in public. Keep your chin up, a smile on your face and move on… they are not worth your time or energy (read that again if needed). It's a lesson you've learned from the receiving end; never base your view of someone on a third person's opinion, get to know them yourself.
8. Folks will naturally be curious as to why your marriage ended… they may attempt to ask in a roundabout way or outright. It's up to you how you handle it… it's your call. You can either be direct or just gloss over it as "there were unresolvable issues"… it's about whatever you're comfortable with. Personally I think it's over stepping boundaries to ask something so personal and such an entitled perspective.
9. Your ex may try to bribe your children with gifts and freedom. This is all tied into alienating behavior. He or she may even be bad mouthing you and causing alienation between you and your children. Your ex spouse has zero right to speak negatively about you or your home to the kids. Recently my daughter told me that her Dad told her: "Well, if Mommy would ever allow you to have a phone in her house I'd buy you one." The fact is, it's your house and your rules; you have every right to decide what comes in your home. He is overstepping boundaries and is in fact dismissing your choices to your child. Document, document, document. Check out my coaching sessions and support if you need help with how to respond to a high conflict ex.
10. He or she who has the house typically has more control. If the photo albums and scrapbooks (that you lovingly made by hand) are important to you make copies for your soon to be ex or ask if your soon to be ex can legally be removed by asking your attorney. Ask your attorney if you can stash photos at a relatives for safe keeping until they are copied and divided later. People can often be under the impression that everything is "frozen" when a divorce begins and nothing can be removed when in fact for many divorces it becomes more like a free for all due to people behaving badly. You have to check with your attorney on all laws and what your rights are as they vary. The smartest thing anyone can do is have a savings nest egg your spouse knows nothing about. Be smart. Be prepared and don't think just because your marriage is fine right now it always will be. That just isn't the case.
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker and divorce coach who helps guide parents through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex, and shares tips for custody and healing. She began her website gracepowerstrength in 2012 and over time her blog and audience grew to over a million views. Jennifer was married for twelve years, has two children and is very well versed in the facts regarding narcissistic abuse and the challenges involved in healing. Today, she shares daily posts and stories on Instagram for thousands of followers regarding npd abuse and believes everyone deserves a life of peace, love and freedom.