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You may have gone into your divorce believing that you would be free of your narcissistic partner.  Unfortunately, that is not always the way things happen, and your ex’s behaviour may not stop simply because you are now divorced.  This is especially true if you have children in common and therefore must continue to communicate.  

If you need to continue to deal with your narcissistic ex because you must co-parent, or because you still have an asset in common, there are ways to approach your communication and the new format of your relationship that will limit your negative interactions and keep you from getting sucked back into old patterns. 

  1. Remember that you are divorced.  If your narcissistic ex continues to treat you like you belong to them, remember that you ended your relationship and that your interactions are allowed to take on a new form. 
  2. Reply with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. You can reject attempts to get a heated reaction from you via text or email by responding simply with the facts through a yes or no answer such as “yes, the kids get out of school at 2 pm today.”  Now that you are divorced, there is no need to provide explanations, simply answer what has been asked.  
  3. Know that a narcissist will never change.  Things between you will likely be more of the same.  A narcissist will not change their behaviours simply because you have divorced.  It is best not to expect different behavior or that they will begin to take responsibility for their words and actions – expecting them to change will only lead to frustration. 
  4. Walk away from abusive behaviours.  If you divorced your narcissistic ex in part because of their abusive behaviour towards you, you have no obligation to tolerate it in divorce.  You can walk away, hang up the phone, and ignore their emails if that is what it takes to hold on to your peace.  
  5. Limit your interactions.  The more you engage with a narcissist, the more they want from you.  If you limit your face-to-face interactions and hold them in public whenever possible, you limit their ability to manipulate you and draw you into conflict.  
  6. Set clear and firm boundaries.  A narcissistic person will often excessively take without giving in return.  It is possible that during your relationship you did not set any boundaries and were continually taken advantage of.  This may continue in divorce if you let it.  Your ex may ask for more time with your child or cancel their plans at the last minute with the intent of inconveniencing you.  If you set boundaries and insist on sticking to the plan, you will preserve your own peace, while demonstrating to your ex that your time should be respected. 

If you set new expectations for yourself and remember that you no longer have to engage with your ex on the same level that you did during your marriage, you can protect yourself from manipulation, conflict and potentially abusive behaviour.  If you find that you need additional help and strategies in dealing with your narcissistic ex, contact a mental health professional in your area. 

For those who may be married to someone with narcissistic characteristics and have questions about the separation and divorce process, our team at Gelman & Associates have extensive experience navigating proceedings with these personality types. Have questions? Contact us today online here, or phone 416-736-0200 to schedule a free consultation.

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