This is the second part of a series of blogs designed to help those dealing with narcissistic spouses in the midst of the global Coronavirus Pandemic. What Quarantining Does to High Conflict People and Narcissists.
For those of us who have gone through high-conflict divorces with high-conflict people, litigants with high-conflict personalities are resistant to change, act extremely impulsively, and they distort “facts” with their “feelings,” which are likely to change repeatedly, depending on how they feel momentarily. likely to become a high-conflict divorce. We’re talking about divorcing people who may qualify for a clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or have high traits of NPD in this blog.
This blog covers how someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or those high in NPD traits can behave during times of high stress, such as what the world is facing during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. This blog will also provide some tips for those of you who have to hold things together while your grown-up toddler throws never-ending temper tantrums.
Unprecedented in the last 100 years, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) forced the world to change, almost overnight. As of the publication date of this blog, the majority of the U.S. is still facing stay-at-home or lockdown orders. Forced to stay home, banned from dining out, gathering in groups, for over six weeks, most of us have felt the negative emotional and physical consequences of social distancing. However, for those with NPD or higher than normal traits, the negative consequences seem to be more prominent, and the negative consequences typically always affect their intimate others, whereas, for “neurotypicals”, we are more likely to just internalize the anxiety, depression, and inability to socialize with family and friends.
After many years of providing legal representation to those who are commonly involved in extricating themselves from toxic relationships and from going through my own harrowing personal experiences, I have learned so much about personality disorders. As I explain to clients and members of my support group, not all people with personality disorders necessarily have high-conflict personalities. Conversely, not all people with high-conflict personalities necessarily suffer from personality disorders.
Remember, personality disorders exist on a spectrum or continuum. In my experience, people who have serious high-conflict personality traits are more likely to be on the far-end of the spectrum. Again, those suffering from personality disorder(s) or are on the spectrum of a personality disorder are more likely to be high-conflict litigants.
Our firm’s continuing uptick of new client consultations for potentially high-conflict divorces seems to be proof of the negative consequences to family members and spouses of people with narcissism having to undergo sequestration or quarantine.
Examples of Behavioral and Ego Defenses that are Prominent in Those with NPD or High on the Narcissistic Spectrum and High-Conflict Behavior During Periods of Isolation, Sequestration, and Quarantine
- Unnecessary and Hurtful Comparisons
I’ve noticed that people with NPD typically engage in comparative analyses most of the time. What I mean by “comparative analyses” is a person’s tendency to compare oneself and family members to others. Constantly envious of others and having to devalue others, a person with NPD will compare a spouse’s shortcomings to people he perceives of having a higher status.
Narcissists seem to love social media and the narcissistic supplies that seem to temporarily quell their constant boredom and emptiness. With nowhere to go and an inability to garner narcissistic supplies from the workplace, narcissists seem to be spending even more time on social media sites like Facebook. Sites like Facebook notoriously cater to those with narcissistic traits since most narcissists love posting boastful images and story lines of how fantastic and seamless their lives appear to be, even during the Coronavirus pandemic. Always competing with others, they need to feel superior and tend to place people as above them or under them and in an effort to boost their egos, they may express discontent and disappointment with their spouses and children more now than before quarantine. For example, I’ve heard people tell me that their narcissistic spouses seem to be much more vocal about how family members aren’t doing what their social contacts on Facebook are doing. One person quipped, the narcissist spouse said, “Such and such is responsible for her children’s homeschooling, working full-time, and she’s cooking great dishes that she posts on Facebook. Why can’t you be more like her?”
Tips for Living with a High-Conflict Person During Quarantine: You are the grown-up in your relationship. You know that social media should be taken very lightly and most of us don’t post images of what we’re really going through during this crisis for all to judge and see. Images posted to social media are of people at their best, typically. You know this, and instead of feeling jealousy that others seem to be doing much better than you, you feel genuinely good for your friends who are trying to make the best out of such an unusual situation. If your narcissistic spouse devalues you and compares you to others, avoid doing more because it gives him/her a feeling of control and satisfaction that you’ll do whatever to make him/her happy. Don’t take the comparison seriously. Imagine your child telling you, “I wish you could be like Billy’s mom. She’s so much nicer and gives him so much more stuff.” Would you really take this statement so seriously when your child compares you? What’s the difference when an adult child compares you?
- Resorting to Even More Silent Treatments, Sulking, and Stonewalling Behaviors
Constantly blaming others is an ego defense mechanism commonly employed by narcissistic people to avoid negative feelings of having to take responsibility. If a narcissist feels anxiety and frustration, she will blame others for these feelings, instead of just realizing that the rest of the country probably feels the same things but tries to make the best out of a dismal situation. You may notice feeling even lonelier and ignored when making even the most innocuous requests. How dare you, someone she believes to be so inferior, impose upon her when she’s feeling such anxiety? How dare you put your needs first? Unconditional love, according to someone with narcissistic adaptations, doesn’t mean having to provide reciprocal affections or mundane housework to make a household run. It’s your job – not her job – to cater to her comfort and make her feel better.
If you’re feeling more alone and frustrated than ever, you’re not alone. This is the reality of living with someone afflicted with narcissism, but now that you’re home more, you get to see more of the maladaptive behaviors and will be on the receiving end much more than before. Finally bothered by the silent treatment from the narcissist, you may do more around the house, tirelessly cleaning, cooking, and taking care of others so that you can find peace for you and your children. This effort to appease the narcissistic spouse can be extremely exhausting and may make you more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Tips for Living with a High-Conflict Person During Quarantine: You’ve dealt with the loneliness your entire relationship, and good for you for finally realizing that you’re not more sensitive than other spouses or that no one can possibly meet your needs for affection and emotional support. It’s not normal to feel so lonely in a marriage. You don’t deserve to be ignored by someone for asking for help to run a household. This is the time to look within and conduct a personal inventory of yourself and consider the positive aspects of what a normal relationship should bring. After having gone through a very toxic marriage, I promise you that you will not feel as lonely when you’re alone. Being so lonely when you’re in a relationship is an awful feeling and it takes much time and distance to really understand this. It’s hard to explain to others why you feel so lonely when you’re married. Remember that a narcissistic spouse doesn’t typically reciprocate affections and kindness. You are not in a reciprocal relationship. You are in a relationship with a taker, and it will take your energy, goodness, and soul if you keep allowing such bad behavior. If your narcissistic spouse is ignoring you, ignore back. Take this time to join a support group so you can rely on others when the time is right for you to finally assert yourself.
- The Rules Do Not Apply to Him/Her; They Don’t “Owe” You an Explanation
I’ve met with many people who are frightened and genuinely concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 because their narcissistic spouses are not adhering to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. They’re going out late at night, staying out all night, and upon return, they will not provide any explanations as to where they have been. If you badger him about his disappearance, he’ll threaten to leave again, and this time, he’ll warn you that he may just not return because you are to blame for him leaving in the first place.
Again, because most narcissists that I’ve met can’t seem to be alone, fear real intimacy, and have an inability to tolerate day-to-day living and the boredom that sometimes afflicts each of us, they are more likely to feel exempt from state orders to stay home, absent essential purposes. People with narcissistic adaptations also interpret anyone telling them what to do as testing their perceived superiority. How dare you tell him that he should stay at home? He’ll show you by doing the opposite. Also, someone who can’t seem to have emotional empathy for others will not care about the dangerous situation he’s placing you in.
Tips for Living with a High-Conflict Person During Quarantine: Set physical and emotional boundaries. Narcissistic people expect others to respect their really rigid boundaries but can’t seem to respect others asserting their own boundaries. If your narcissistic spouse refuses to comply with stay-at-home others, he/she is putting your entire family in danger from an extremely contagious virus. Would you do the same? When he/she abandons you or disappears, he/she will not expect you to do anything about it because you’ve threatened to leave before. Develop a concrete plan now to deal with the inevitable outcome. Sadly, a normal relationship with a narcissistic spouse isn’t possible, and you will be the brunt of cold shoulders, silent treatments, and disappearing acts. Why are you putting up with such bad behavior? Consider what you’re teaching your children and what you’re telling others about your ability to accept bad treatment from others. Think of the strongest person you know. Would he/she put up with this?
You will not be able to make sense of a narcissist’s tendency to devalue and discard others. Just know that you can heal with distance, time, and therapy. Experienced trauma therapists may be able to help you process just how abnormal the situation really was. An attorney with experience in divorcing a narcissist can help you redirect the blame to the narcissist, and help you understand that although people can fall out of love, it doesn’t happen so abruptly and silently, as it does in a marriage to a narcissist.
Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLC today by calling (703) 865-7710 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. We have decades of legal experience in high-conflict divorces.
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