Did that really happen? Did she really say that? Did he just deny telling me he wanted a divorce? Am I crazy? Why is she asking me to stay when she told me to leave? If you are married to, or in a co-parenting relationship with, someone with Borderline Personality Disorder or a Narcissist, you have asked these or similar questions many times. Unfortunately, the family court system unintentionally fuels the soul for certain personalities that thrive on conflict and it can make divorce or co-parenting very difficult. What do you do when you are engaged in a court battle with someone who has a personality disorder?
Knowledge is Power
First, arm yourself with knowledge – knowledge about your spouse, the nature of her mental illness, and how to avoid engaging in conflict. There are many books about divorce and personality disorders. Get one and read it. splitting by Bill Eddy or Stop Walking on Eggshells by Randi Kreger are good resources. Make sure your attorney has a good understanding of personality disorders, as well. The handling of these cases requires different skills and knowledge from what is required of a typical divorce.
Don’t Engage in the Battle?
You may find yourself on the receiving end of false accusations of child abuse, mismanaging finances, infidelity, or just about anything that blames you for the state of your relationship or the current problem. Don’t react. If you need to respond, make it short and stick to facts. Don’t respond with pointing the finger at your spouse, as tempting as it may be. Don’t get defensive. Keep it simple. Online communication platforms, such as Our Family Wizard, are helpful tools in maintaining a log of communications and can preserve those communications for use in court.
See a Therapist
Chances are, you are stuck in a pattern of avoiding contact to avoid conflict because that is the only way you can survive. You are now in a fight for your life and need to develop coping strategies to survive the conflict – now and in the future. A skilled therapist can help you through the process and provide you with tools to remain strong and deal with the conflict constructively as it occurs. This will help you and your attorney get you through the court conflict.
Take Your Children to a Therapist
Unfortunately, individuals with personality disorders are skilled at pulling the children into the battle. Your spouse may be alienating your children from you, disparaging you, discussing litigation with them, or using them to gather information about what you are doing. Your children are probably walking on eggshells as much as you. A good therapist will help your children set boundaries with both parents and will provide a healthy and safe place to talk about how the conflict is affecting them.
Don’t Negotiate with a Terrorist
Don’t negotiate on your own. There is a skill and art involved in negotiating with people with personality disorders. You have probably already experienced this in your day to day life – agreeing to a demand, only to have the demands change. Hire an attorney who understands personality disorders and their impact in family court. And let your attorney handle the negotiations and advise you. It may be tempting to give in for the sake of temporary peace. But remember, it will only be temporary. Obtaining lasting solutions takes the time, knowledge and skill of an objective third party who understands the law and will zealously fight on your behalf. And remember, sometimes negotiation is just not possible. And that is okay – that is why we have judges.
There is Hope
If you are reading this, you are probably having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Things will get better, even if they get worse before getting better. But they will get better. Seek the help of skilled professionals, trusted friends, and a skilled family law attorney so you can protect your future and your children’s future.