When You Divorce a Narcissist

The marriage had been painful, but the divorce felt like twenty-seven levels of Hell, each layer growing increasingly more savage than the last. When you divorce a narcissist, you can never simply walk away. They will punish you, severely and cruelly. The names, the bruises, the mind games, the neglect -- not even that can prepare you for what they are going to do.  

It bears repeating: you can never simply walk away. That will never happen. They will not grant you simple, not in your marriage, and certainly not when you're leaving them. You will be turned into whatever villain they think will suit their purpose. You will be crazy, even as they stalk you. You will be the town whore, even if they were the only one who cheated in the marriage. You will be the abuser, even as they physically assault you when you attempt to walk away from their madness.

No one will believe you. Not your family, friends, church, and definitely not the legal system. Normal people cannot conceive of how abnormal the brain of a narcissist is. Until you've lived it, you cannot possibly imagine how a seemingly successful, family-oriented man could be capable of all that bizarre bullshit. And that's how they will isolate you emotionally. 

Once they have successfully recruited everyone in your life to their side, then they will begin the financial devastation. What's theirs is theirs and what's yours is theirs. Because, by God, in their mind, you owe them. If they can no longer own your body, mind, and spirit (which was their version of marriage), then they are going to take everything else. That will be your punishment. They will steal all your worldly possessions -- items from your childhood, premarital property -- it all belongs to them now. Actually, it belonged to them the moment you legally committed to matrimony, you just hadn't realized it. 

And you will fight a seemingly endless fight, thousands of dollars wasted on ineffectual attorneys in an impotent court system, rivers of tears, until you become so fatigued that you start hoping you don't wake up in the morning. Yet every morning you will wake up, and every day you hope that things will get better, but the days only become heavier. 

People will ask why you stayed, and you will want to tell them to go fuck themselves, but you don't.

The opposing attorney representing the narcissist during the hearing for a Protective Order will ask why you stayed if it were that bad, and you will hate that bow-tie attorney because you know he knows the truth, but the truth doesn't matter to him. Your attorney will present photos of your arms covered in bruises, a handprint map made by the narcissist's angry grip when you tried to retrieve your clothes post divorce, and the bow-tie attorney will dismiss it all by saying, "Your Honor, there is no proof my client did that. For all we know, she could have done that to herself." The judge will not bother to look at the color snapshots of your pale arms dressed in bruises, and, oddly, the judge will not look at you either.  

At the end of that day, when the judge gives their blessing for the narcissist to continue unabated, you will realize the narcissist always wins. You will not know why.

The narcissist will have admitted to following you across two counties when they were stalking you, will have admitted to "sometimes" grabbing you in anger (which they terribly regret, by the way), yet the judge will deny you a Protective Order. A dozen women before you will be granted Protective Orders that day in court, but you will be pushed back to last on the docket, and you will be the only woman denied. You will also be the only woman that day asking for a Protective Order against an ex-spouse who happened to know the judge.

You will receive vile, battering emails from the narcissist, telling you that you are worthless and that they are glad to be rid of you (even though you chose to divorce them). They will also indignantly say that they can't believe you would stoop so low as to drag them to court and lie on them like that, but that just proves what a manipulative bitch you are, and thank God that everyone can see through your lies. There will be so many mornings where you wake up to their anger spewing from emails. It won't take long before you will reflexively begin each day with your stomach in knots, whether the narcissist emailed or not.

When you finally retrieve your personal possessions from the home you legally jointly own months after the divorce decree was entered, you will do it courtesy of lawyers, court orders, and the off-duty cop you hired to prevent the narcissist from attacking you again.

You will have imagined all those months in which the narcissist had physically prevented you from retrieving your clothes, shoes, cosmetics, furniture -- all your material possessions of your 44 years of living -- that there will be some sort of peace. But there will be no peace.

There will be missing memorabilia of your children growing up, and the treasured pot your grandmother used to make your homemade breakfast syrup in will be gone. Nearly all of your premarital property will have disappeared, and the large pieces of furniture left behind will have screwdriver gouges in the wood and irreparably damaged leather on the only sofa and chairs awarded to you. Everything you will be entitled to per agreement will be damaged. And the one small Scottish oil painting you bought for yourself in your twenties, long before you ever knew the narcissist, that inexpensive piece you loved so dearly, it will be given back to you after you proved its premarital and postnuptial existence in photos, but it will have a noticeable streak down the center where the 19th century paint has been scraped away.

You will be forced to pack up your entire world with little advance notice. You will be given a handful of hours on this day and a handful of hours on another day. The judge will feel that is sufficient to pack up the nearly 5,000 sq ft of your life and your children's lives -- that all those years of living can be effectively packed and transported in a handful of hours. You will race against the clock and desperately throw whatever fragments that remain of your world into Hefty bags. You will feel as if you want to explain this craziness to the movers, that you truly are not some irresponsible, spur-of-the-moment whack job who invited them to move her house without giving any thought to preparation. But you will not explain, because your heart is in your throat, and the only thing that would come out of you would be an embarrassing torrent of tears.

Once there is nothing left to retrieve, you will receive another harassing email, but this time you will tell the narcissist to never contact you again or you will take them to court with their abusive emails in tow. Surprisingly, they will not contact you further, instead choosing to poison your reputation as stealthily and as widely as possible.   

People will give unhelpful encouragement about how happy you should be to start this new chapter in your life. You will continue to have anxiety-producing nightmares about the narcissist for at least two years into that new chapter.

People will treat you as if you are materialistic if you try to explain what you lost. You will not be able to convey to them that those "things" represented memories, not dollar signs. What you will lose are glimpses of the people you loved -- deceased now -- your grandmother's hands as she made that quilt, your mother's magazine stand that only ever held her all-important telephone books that were scribbled with a million random notes. And you will lose vital chunks of your heart when you realize the hundreds of little items you had accumulated over the years with your children are gone forever. 

You will feel raped, brutalized, and weak that the narcissist was allowed to steal your memories, your personal belongings, your choices. In the end, the narcissist will also take your dignity, forcing you to carry out your life chaotically bundled...one Hefty bag at a time. You will think of how many times they had called you trash and worthless, and how much they must enjoy forcing you to move under duress and with your belongings in trash bags.

The stress and strain of it all will eventually crash down on you and topple your health. But, before that happens, you will contemplate suicide. Every day, all day, you will fight the urge to just be done with it. You will look forward to bedtime, when everyone is asleep, and you no longer have to pretend that you're okay. You will be simultaneously relieved and devastated that no one notices the precipice one step in front of you.

You will hear the word "forgive" tossed around often by people who need to stop talking. You will want to tell them to go fuck themselves, but you don't. 

You will begin cursing with impunity, probably because the narcissist disdained cursing and always tried to belittle you on the rare occasion when you even uttered the word damn. You will sprinkle the word fuck everywhere. Vive la fuck! 

You will have hordes of people telling you that you are going to Hell. You will want to tell them to go fuck themselves, but you don't.

You will have an infinite number of unfamiliar men try to advise you, scold you, counsel you, shame you, criticize you, control you. You will want to tell them to go fuck themselves, and often you do.

You will have some well-intentioned strangers try to witness to you and save your soul. They will seem almost deflated when they find out that you grew up Baptist, went to a conservative Christian college, and had been an active member of your church your entire adult life until the divorce. They will not be as interested in you then, once they discover you're not the simple heathen-who-hasn't-met-Jesus person they thought you were. They will move on, figuring that if it didn't take the first time with ya, Jesus probably won't have much effect in subsequent salvations.

You will lose your words and stop talking about the real stuff. You will only have surface level interactions. You will be the expert at making someone laugh, all the while contemplating taking your own life.

Eventually, you will miss the depth of life and love and emotion. You will want more than anything to find a partner who is truly capable of becoming one-half of a whole. You will want someone who will cherish and protect you. You will want to love and respect someone again, and to trust them no matter how scared you are of being hurt. 

You will cautiously allow yourself to believe that there is decency and goodness and tenderness in the world, because that's who you are, and you are not alone. Your emotional skin will be burned off and you will be raw and exposed, but the wailing ache inside you will grow quieter. Years will pass in a blur, yet, with each passing day, the fog will begin to lift.

You will wonder at every turn if you'll ever feel normal again. Your answer will be no.