In a normal divorce or separation, “normal” meaning two emotionally healthy people involved in the breakup, each party makes the attempt to pick up the pieces, heal their heartbreak, and move forward toward a better life.
Although I hate this phrase with every bone in my body, when two emotionally healthy people separate, they do actually “move on.” This isn’t to say their broken hearts may still take time to mend, but it’s understood that a separation means just that. A parting. A detachment. A farewell, whether a conscious uncoupling or hitting the road with your soles on fire. Peace out. Hasta la vista, baby. Out the door, dinosaur.
And the inevitable finding someone else to “move on” with.
None of this is possible with a narcissist. For the same reason they asserted control while you were in the relationship, they believe they’re still entitled to that control even when the relationship is over.
For narcissists, it’s not about moving on. It’s not about moving forward.
It makes zero sense to the rest of us. After all, when we were with them all we heard was how we didn’t measure up while given a daily list of everything wrong with us. So, you’d think they’d be happy to be rid of us, right?
After years of being told how much I sucked at, well, basically everything, I assumed my ex would be thrilled when I left and filed for divorce. Especially since he’d imported a Russian child bride to take my place in both my business and my bed (okay she wasn’t a child legally speaking, but given she was the same age as our oldest son you’ll understand the description).
And yet, years passed as he continued his harassment campaign with the sole intent to hurt me to whatever degree possible.
For narcissists, it’s not about moving on. It’s not about moving forward. Instead, it’s about supply. And punishment. They are hyper-focused on continuing their abuse to the point of obsession. They will look for any opportunity to weasel their way into your life with the intent to further harass, demoralize, punish, and hurt you.
Don’t try and make sense of this. You will never understand a narcissist because you’re not one. None of this makes sense to emotionally healthy people, and this is exactly where we can get into trouble in how a narcissist uses established channels already open to reach out across the miles and inflict more abuse.
As if a divorce or custody battle isn’t punishing enough, a narcissist will use the courts to cause you even more pain and distress. They are master manipulators and know exactly how to play the victim and paint you as the bad guy, whether that’s with lawyers, mediators, even judges.
A narcissist will lie, cheat, and steal in order to make your life a living hell. They will overload you with motions, paperwork, and legal fees. And if you don’t have a skilled attorney who has experience with how abusers work, you risk coming out of any legal conflict feeling like you (and your wallet) have been hit by a category five hurricane that you’ll have to recover from for years after. Trust me, nearly nine years later, I know.
What kind of monster would use their own children as a weapon to hurt you even more than you’ve already been hurt? No need for any drumroll here as so many of us who share children with narcissists already know. No one is easier to manipulate than your own child, especially if they’re young.
Now, while the rest of us recoil in horror to even think about using our children as pawns, empathy-void narcissists have no problem whatsoever in seeing their own kids as tools in their toolbox of abuse. They will triangulate siblings to turn on each other, they will lie to a child about the other parent, they will demand secrecy and loyalty, and they will use a child to spy and get information on the other parent. To a narcissist, children are simply collateral damage. What they really care about is how they can hurt you by whatever means necessary.
Narcissists are notorious stalkers. They will hack into your email, put a keylogger on your computer, install a tracer underneath your car, and even physically follow you. My ex took stalking to a whole other level when he opened up an account in my name with LifeLock, an identity protection company. This enabled him to track my finances, including if I purchased a new phone, opened up a credit card, or got approved for a loan.
This happened for several years after I left him. To this day, he still reads my writing (or has one of his flying monkeys do it and report back). Stalking is what narcissists do best. They have no remorse and no lines they won’t cross, which can make for a dangerous situation if they’re not stopped.
Narcissists love to portray themselves as the victim, and there is no better way to do this than through social media where reality is easily hidden behind their posts. They will employ others to reach out to you under the pretense of friendship with the goal to cause you further heartbreak. They will post photos of their amazing new life with their amazing new partners (the only amazing thing going on here is the bullshit they’re able to get away with) with the intent to make you jealous or take the knife they already stuck in your heart and twist it some more.
If you have to communicate with a narcissist because you share children, beware of the lengths they will go to use that channel to wear you down to a point of total exhaustion. They will email you essays about how you suck at everything, but especially at being a parent. They will text you and become aggressive if you don’t immediately respond. They will call and leave harassing voicemails. Ah, if only I had a dollar for every time my ex has reached out over the years to let me know what a terrible mother I am. Cha-ching!
I know this is depressing as hell to realize that separating from a narcissist and putting physical distance between you will not end their reign of abuse. And if you share children then the risk of future harm to you and your kids is definitely a reality to be considered. But you are far from powerless to do something about it.
As long as you’re aware of a narcissist’s motive, which is to hurt you more than they already have, you are in a better position to keep yourself out of their line of fire.
When it comes to the courts, surround yourself with experts who know what you’re up against. Use the truth like a sword. Document. Document. Document. And remind yourself that a narcissist wants to wear you down so that you’ll give up and give in. Don’t give them that pleasure.
When it comes to your kids, let them know you are their safe space. Understand that they are going through their own pain at having a parent who is a narcissist and need you to help them navigate that road. Most importantly, remember that a narcissist already knows what a great parent you are, which is why that’s what they attack you with. Let me say that again: a narcissist knows you are by far the better parent. They tell you the opposite because oftentimes that’s the only way they can still get to you. Again, don’t give them that pleasure.
When it comes to stalking, protect yourself by all means necessary. Keep track of everything. Go to the police and file a report if needed. Get a restraining order if necessary. Call them out on their behavior. Stand your ground. You have more power than you might think.
When it comes to social media, there is no option other than to unfollow, unfriend, block, delete. They can’t get to you if you never see what they’re up to.
When it comes to communication, if you must be in contact because of children (otherwise block, delete, and don’t look back) whittle it down by limiting your conversations to email. No texting. No calling (unless an emergency involving your kiddos). And keep your emails short and to the point. Take whatever attack emails they’re writing you and file them away to get them out of view (don’t delete because you may need the evidence later).
Lastly, the next time someone tells you to “move on” after your relationship with a narcissist, feel free to mentally give them a punch to the throat before smiling and telling them, “Oh that’s such great advice.”
Then encourage them to pass that message on to the narcissist, who is the only one who truly cannot move on.
Want to get expert help, tips, and strategies on recovering and healing after narcissistic abuse? Then join the thousands who have signed up for what’s basically free coaching in your inbox and receive your Real Love Does Not Abuse poster to remind you of what you truly deserve in a relationship. Plus I’ll tell you how to snag a free copy of my bestselling book, “You’re Still That Girl: Get Over Your Abusive Ex for Good!” www.suzannaquintana.com