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Divorce Mediation with a narcissist and how to win!

By 8th August 2023 No Comments

My Hairdresser recently informed me she had broken off her engagement after discovering her fiancé to be a ‘covert narcissist’. The other ladies in the salon all nodded sagely and in that moment it occurred to me the term narcissist has become common parlance. All too often we hear ex-spouses or partners being labelled with this personality disorder. But is there any truth in it? And why do I come across so many narcissists in my line of work?

What is a narcissist?

Narcissism is commonly known as a high conflict personality disorder. This essentially means narcissists are more likely to end up in conflict and for this reason, we see more narcissistic personality types in mediation.

Narcissism isn’t gender specific or age specific. Narcissism develops at a young age and evolves through learned behaviour – Narcissists aren’t born, they are made. Usually there is some childhood trauma or trigger which prevents them from moving past this age, emotionally.

They will be left with a feeling of insecurity, a fear of being inferior or helpless and a need to control others and/or situations around them.

None of these traits make for a good life partner or even an employee!

How to identify a potential Narcissist

Whilst we are ALL likely to display narcissistic traits at some point in our lives, for a true narcissist these personality traits are a way of life.
A narcissist will seek to gain control over those around them by using ‘blame speak’, which can be identified as follows:

  • Emotionally Intense – out of proportion to the issues.
  • Very personal – about your intelligence, sanity, looks, ethics etc.
  • All your fault – the blame speaker feels no responsibility for the problem or the solution.
  • Out of context – it ignores all of the good you have done and all of the bad the blame speaker has done.
  • Shared with others – to emphasise how ‘blame worthy’ you are and seek validation from others.

In order to fuel their thirst for superiority over others, a narcissist will actively start arguments, just to be able to blame the victim of their behaviour and feel validated. This is more commonly known as ‘gas lighting’.

Triangulation is another common trick of the narcissist. Essentially, playing one person off against the other in the hope they are both vying for the affections/attention of the narcissist. This other person can often be a new partner, a mother-in-law or a colleague.

The narcissist will never accept fault or responsibility for their actions, often the first person to start throwing accusations in any situation, will be a narcissist. Deflecting blame or responsibility by blaming those around them.

Why are Narcissists so difficult to detect early on?

Armed with all this information you’d think these individuals would be easy to spot, right? Unfortunately, not. Narcissists can be very charming and will often emulate those around them. They are attracted to individuals they themselves would like to be – popular and kind.

This type of personality is often known as ‘the rescuer’. They have a wide community of friends, all of whom have benefitted from their help at some point. The rescuer firmly believes there is no such thing as a lost cause and they are on a crusade to make the world a better place.

Whilst this makes them very appealing as life partners or employees, it sadly means they can easily be taken advantage of- especially by a narcissist!

Having never really developed a personality of their own, due to some event in their childhood, the narcissist will emulate the personalities of those they are attracted to. But their need to control that individual and feel superior soon surfaces and what might have seemed like a nice person, with similar morals and beliefs to yours, transforms into a monster.

Divorce Mediation with a Narcissist

So having identified a narcissist, how do we deal with them? I have spent a career spanning twenty plus years dealing with narcissistic behaviours in high conflict situations. In reality these individuals are deserving of our sympathy (though, they don’t want it!). They are never destined to find happiness through lasting relationships. They live in fear (of being inferior),perpetually in a state of conflict with one or more individuals, and yet despite not wanting to be seen as an inferior failure, they actually lurch from one failed relationship/job to another.

Their personality is such that they can never accept they have a problem and therefore won’t ever seek help to make changes. They are destined to have this miserable existence for the whole of their lives.

Negotiating with a narcissist takes a very special skill set, such as mine, carefully evolved over years of practice and study. You cannot hope to do it alone. If you think you are dealing with a narcissist, get help from Crowther Mediation.