What Quarantining Does to High Conflict People and Narcissists

This is the first part of a series of blogs designed to help those dealing with narcissistic spouses in the midst of the global Coronavirus Pandemic.

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. Unprecedented in the last 100 years, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) forced the world to change, almost overnight. As I write this, I’ve ordered the majority of my law firm to work from home for at least the next two weeks, unless there were consultations that had to take place in our physical office. In an effort to contain the mass numbers of new infections, most of the world has taken this initiative to the extent possible, self-quarantining and avoiding social contact with one another.

Narcissism, Coronavirus, and Lack of Narcissistic Supplies are Perfect Ingredients for High-Conflict Divorces

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.

I predicted that during the pandemic, we would see a bell curve at about the two-week mark after most of the nation was forced to work from home if possible. Using what I saw during the epic “Snowmaggeddon,” the huge snowstorm that brought several feet of snow to our region during the early months of 2016, I made the prediction that isolating narcissists in their homes would lead to even more high-conflict situations, and ultimately divorce. During Snowmaggeddon, what our firm experienced was a huge surge of high-conflict divorce consultations followed by an increase of fault-based divorce filings. I believe that during the periods of sequestration or quarantine, the characterological and personality defenses used by narcissistic people lead perfectly normal spouses to reach their tipping points when dealing with them at home, with nowhere else to go for a few reasons.

Behavioral and Ego Defenses that are Prominent in Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Lead to High-Conflict Behavior Increase During Periods of Isolation, Sequestration, and Quarantine

Again, childhood trauma is the most likely culprit responsible for forming narcissistic defenses. Most people that I have met with narcissistic traits are suffering from long-term childhood trauma and abuse. Many truly do not intend to cause harm to their family and significant others, but because of their deeply engrained thoughts and beliefs about others and themselves, their ego defense mechanisms may cause them to become very psychologically and physically abusive.

Narcissistic People Need Narcissistic “Supplies”

Like our cars need fuel, narcissistic people need others to bolster their self-esteem and validate their existence. Simply, narcissists are unable to provide self-validation and muster self-esteem to function. If depleted of these narcissistic supplies (also known as “ego-fuel,” narcissists can experience emptiness, anger, anxiety, and a frenetic shift in their personalities. Typically, those without the ability to self-validate and self-soothe, will need to hunt for others to provide their ego-fuel. Narcissists can receive their narcissistic supplies from co-workers, strangers, and even through Internet chat sites. If deprived of their “oxygen,” they can quickly spiral into depressed, anxious, and angry people. Most of us with the unfortunate experience of having been in intimate relationships with narcissists know how difficult it is to constantly offer them praise and validation, especially if they’ve hurt us on so many occasions. Their co-workers don’t typically see this side of them so are readily eager to feed their narcissistic egos.

During periods of isolation, narcissists don’t have access to their narcissistic supplies. They don’t get to show off at work, they don’t get to play “rescuer” as often, and they don’t get to wear their special clothes and receive compliments from doting admirers.

Narcissistic People Often Leave Different Lives or Engage in Flirting and Cheating

Narcissists are more likely than neurotypicals (those without personality disorders) to feel a sense of entitlement. They are more likely to believe that the same marital rules do not apply to themselves but apply to their spouses. As such, cheating is okay because, “your marriage is broken,” “you deserve to be cheated upon,” “you’re probably cheating, too,” or, “it’s not cheating if I believe it’s not (also known as magical thinking).” However, if your narcissistic spouse believes that you are committing the cardinal sin of cheating, prepare for serious and punishing narcissistic wrath and rage.

Narcissists can’t cheat so easily when they’re at home, and you’re always around, right? They can’t get their narcissistic supplies met through their flirtatious messages, dating sites, and through texts as easily as they could when you’re not always around. This is a tough one to understand because although they don’t really care to be around you and want your marriage, they need to feel loved by you and need to be in the relationship for many different reasons. Many narcissists need to be admired as the doting father/mother (we know they’re not), and they love the attention they get from others who believe the façade. Simply, it is way too inconvenient for them to be at home and to hide their sexual escapades.

We will see a huge uptick in the number of narcissistic spouses who pull disappearing acts during this time and engage in sulking, silent treatments. If you’re going through a discard at this time, just learn that you can heal and find yourself again.

Healing

You will not be able to make sense of a narcissist’s discard phase. 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 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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