More and more, there are many clients that end up having to live with one another during separation, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Virginia, unless you allege fault in divorce, you usually have to wait at least a year before you can file for divorce on no-fault grounds. If you have no minor children and a fully executed property settlement agreement, marital settlement agreement, or a separation agreement, your waiting period may only be six months, but again, you have to have these agreements signed before you qualify for a shorter separation period under Virginia divorce law.
I covered a narcissist’s discard cycle and silent treatments, and although many of these types will simply just leave you without any explanation (after all, you don’t deserve one, according to them or should have been mindreading and knowing exactly what they deserve!), many will not leave. Your attorney may have recommended just living separate and apart under the same roof to wait out the separation period, so that you’re not charged with abandonment or desertion.
Although living with someone without a personality disorder or traits can be difficult, living with someone with a personality disorder or narcissistic or borderline personality traits can seem almost unbearable during this time.
Here are 5 tips that can help you deal with living with one of these difficult people:
- Don’t tell them they have narcissistic personality disorder or any other personality disorder. Do not try to discuss your diagnosis with them. Firstly, you’re probably not qualified to diagnose anyone, even though you believe they meet the diagnostic criterion of narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or any other personality disorder. Furthermore, the hallmark of personality disorders is that they’re usually engrained and fixed, so without continuous, professional treatment, people’s personality affects how they view the world and affects their thinking. People with personality disorders lack the insight necessary to accept responsibility for the world around them.
- Be prepared to deal with distorted thinking patterns, impulse control problems, and emotion regulation. For people with personality disorders, the ability to control their impulses and how they deal with emotions (regulating them), can be impossible. If you expect your narcissistic partner to swing from becoming overly angry or overly detached, you can pick your battles wisely. A narcissist can take a simple request like, “Can you pick up the children tonight?” as proof that you aren’t acknowledging his unique and special persona. Her distorted thinking patterns make her believe that you are trying to control her time, even though you are trying to help your children. She simply cannot see things as they are or doesn’t care about your feelings. Don’t be surprised if he reacts to simple requests with anger or gives you the cold shoulder. Also don’t be surprised if he doesn’t pick the kids up on time or just refuses to pick them up. Do it yourself, and this will help you also prove you’re the more responsible and caring parent.
- Don’t bring up past grievances or previous arguments; don’t take the bait. A person with borderline personality disorder, narcissism, or any other personality disorder, lacks the insight necessary to see how she contributed to those past problems. It will always be your fault, and his only fault is that he married you, the harpy or controlling spouse. Try to keep in mind your previous circular arguments and how you’ll jump around from topic to topic with someone like this, never fully resolving the issue you began discussing. Just don’t take the bait and refuse to engage in the first place. You’ll never win any argument and understanding this will help you remember why you’re divorcing in the first place. If you refuse to engage, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
- Learn to Stop a Rage Attack by using validation, empathy, and boundaries. This is a tough one because even if you do these things, it doesn’t mean that the person will respect your decision to refrain from engaging. If you have to engage at all, use this tip, but again, it’s best to avoid engaging if you can. Most times, this tip will help you at least receive a silent treatment, and most of us would rather choose cold silence over having an emotionally dysregulated adult shouting in our faces. When you are on the receiving end of a rage attack, you can say something like, “I know you are upset, and it seems that I did something that made you upset, but when you are yelling, I tune out because it becomes overwhelming, and it’s hard for me to listen. If you calm down, it will help me understand how you feel.”
- Feed their ego. This one is helpful for those of you living with narcissists. As you’ve probably read, narcissists use others to help them inflate their shaky self-esteem. They live for people acknowledging how truly great they believe they are since the image they have of themselves is so fragile and subject to disintegration. If you need something and you need to engage, try feeding their shallowness by pointing out how great he is for doing something. For example, if you need her to help you feed the kids dinner, you can say, “You are way better than I am with time management, and it’s amazing how you can manage to get them to eat and get them bathed before going to bed. I think they really respect you, so do you mind doing this tonight?” Don’t think of this as manipulation but think of it as a necessary way to preserve the peace for your children.
Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: 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. You have the ability to learn from this experience and heal by not allowing yourself to serve as a doormat.
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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