"Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce
from a Narcissist, and Heal Your Family"
by Karyl McBride Ph.D
A Book Review by Thurman W. Arnold, III CFLS
"Help! I think I am married to a narcissist! He (she) is destroying
my life, and the litigation and lawyer's fees seem endless. He lies
about his income, he's hidden our assets, he's breached every
fiduciary duty I've read about, and he tells our children how terrible
I am and that he will take them from me at all costs! What can I do?"
I get that email a lot, or one substantively like it, and I meet people
who are, or are facing, a likely narcissist in impending divorces on almost
a weekly basis. It is a serious problem, and not just for the spouse or
domestic partner of said narcissist - it's a miserable experience
to serve as their attorney too! Because narcissists explode, and shower
everyone around them with their selfish toxicity, including parents, children,
friends, acquaintances (especially acquaintances it seems, if they make
the initial mistake of listening to their tales of self-imposed woe),
mental health professionals, Judges who must decide their cases, and their
own divorce attorneys - not to mention the unfortunate counsel who comes
to represent the other side. I can tell you from personal experience that
representing a narcissist as a client makes you feel like you need a brain
enema, or some army of Ebola doctors to enter your skull and scrub it
clean from the inside out. And your association with them is almost sure
to end badly, because they will find every excuse to blame you as you
watch them blow themselves up despite your firmest and most heartful advice,
or cheat you of your fees, smear your reputation, and maybe sue you to
boot! (The narcissist is convinced the best defense is an insane offense).
Ugghhh! I beg you gentle reader to consider, once you come to suspect you
are dealing with a narcissistic spouse or client in what WILL become a
high-conflict divorce situation, that it is time to head for the exits
because this story seems to have only one ending. Narcissists cannot,
by definition, bear not to have their way even if they exhaust every resource
that belongs to you, or them, and like the Terminator "they never
stop." They simply can't. Of course, if the narcissist is your
spouse, you will find yourself locked in mortal combat and there is no
easy way out of that mess. Find the best attorney you can, but first ask
them if they understand this personality type. (Unless you fear your retainer
will double - get a quote before you add this disclosure? If you are a
family law attorney, this should be a screening question?).
I've come to reflect upon this topic because Karyl McBride, PH.D has
recently completed her second book, titled above. Her writings really
resonate for me, particularly given my experience with a narcissist now-former
client in recent times, with whom I am trapped in a fee dispute while
he continues to terrorize his spouse and children (who won't talk
to him) with his next attorney. (Narcissists are serial clients).
Karyl was kind enough to interview me, among many others, while she was
gathering her data for
"Will I Ever Be Free of You?" and to provide an advance copy. (More later about a question we
each might also ask ourselves, "Could I be a narcissist too, or merely
a kindly egoist?").
Her work is being released in February, 2015.
I highly recommend it to divorce and family law litigants, their family
members, and to their attorneys and MHPs. Because you
will be asking - "Am I crazy, or is it them?" It is a relief to know it is
them, and even more so to come to find some strategies that will help you cope
with your role as a planet caught by relationship gravity too close to
an unending supernova. Moreover, if you are not a spouse or domestic partner
who is coupled with such a person, by law or blood, it may help you to
refuse the conversation or engagement with the narcissist in the first
instance, or early on (even no matter how much money they might throw
at you to enlist your aid).
As Karyl notes in her Introduction, her book is divided into three parts:
"Recognizing the Problem," "Breaking Free," and "Healing
from the Debilitating Impact of Narcissistic Relationships." Which
is nice because this isn't a book to read from cover to cover as much
something to flip through and take all in in no particular order. I promise
you that if you are involved in some way with a true narcissist, nearly
every page will sound familiar. In fact, certain sections may scare you
as the truth of your relationship reality dawns upon you. In that sense,
your read will be a bit of a roller-coaster, as you inevitably arrive
at the shore of "Holy Crap, what do I do?" For that reason it
is not a book for the feint of heart, but ultimately what makes us wiser
makes us stronger, neh? As you become immersed in these awakenings, you
may not be able to put the thing down, and your heart may even race a bit.
To give you a taste, if you aren't already convinced you need
to order Karyl McBride's book from Amazon at once, here are some of the chapter titles to illustrate
what she promises, and delivers: "I'm Married to a Narcissist:
Stay or Leave?" While the answer would seem simple - run! - it isn't.
The narcissistic will not want to let you go. "What Is Best for My
Children: Help With Divorce Decisions." You owe your kids the support
they need to not turn out to be like their father (mother), but good luck
on this one - I have many times witnessed the children of narcissistic
parents treat their mom or dad terribly, to the point of excluding them
from their lives for no rational reason; little monsters in training.
"The Divorce Process: Court Warfare". If you found this website,
sorry to say you are likely already in a high-conflict divorce! Karyl
does provide excellent pointers for triaging the situation, however. "Getting
Help: Troops to Defend You." This is imperative if you are to survive
this experience, but possibly not intuitively obvious without Karyl's
guiding you to the recognition of the importance of a support web. "Post-Divorce
Combat: Raising Your Internal Defenses". Did I say they
never stop? And "Moving On: The Armor of Healing." This is really
the most functionally interesting part of the book, but understand that
it requires you to "do the work". After all, as I love to say,
because it tends to be true, "the key fits the lock." While
narcissists are often seemingly highly functioning and even highly attractive
people (early on), if you're married to one you likely have issues too.
Which brings me to the question
I must answer. "Am I too, (gulp), a narcissist?" After all, I
have this sometimes self-promoting website. I have a high opinion of myself.
I am a freakin' lawyer.... (oops, so is the former client referenced above -
Sueprise!) Well, I won't reveal all, but I will tell you that she provides
checklists and dozens of examples that will help you consider yourself
as well as your "other", and so decide. But at the end of the
day, I believe there are defining characteristics that will inform your
inquiry - the chief among them being compassion, a genuine sensitivity
to the suffering of others, and a heartfelt desire to help heal or relieve
it. That part of the human experience is absent in the true narcissist.
Karyl's book is subtitled
"How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist, and Heal
Your Family", and she means her work to be a book of dawning recognition and
a vehicle of hope. For me, she has succeeded very nicely. It is published
by Atria Books (New York) and is to be released on February 10, 2015.
To get your copy fast, click the link below!
Oh, if you are a woman chained to a parental narcissist, consider buying
Karyl's first book:
"Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers"! You can have it in your hands by Kindle in 5 minutes!
As always, good luck out there!
Author: Thurman W. Arnold, III CFLS