Leaving a pathological narcissist/psychopath is never easy. And as far as psychopathic divorces go, I’ve had it easier than most. My soon-to-be-ex so far has not tried to block my efforts with motions, keep me tied up in court, drag the process out, haggle over the silverware, steal my belongings, go on a spender-bender, apply for credit cards in my name, or kill me in my sleep.
At least, as far as I know, anyway. That’s always the caveat, isn’t it?
Divorce is never easy, period. Even the normal ones, between normal people. For most, there is grief, heartbreak, sadness, maybe even longing. There are kids to consider and console, arrangements to be worked out, decisions made on who gets what, who stays and who leaves, who gets the house.
Strangely, I got to by-pass all that. There are no kids and there is no property. There is also no heartbreak or sadness; I processed all that long ago.
But it’s still rough nonetheless.
I face different issues and work with different challenges. When you’ve been tied up with a pathological narcissist/psychopath for any significant length of time, you’ve had to “adult” not just yourself, but for the narcissist/psychopath, too. And likely with boundaries that are blurry at best.
What does this look like? In some cases, the narcissist/psychopath depends on their spouse for coming up with the family budget or making administrative phone calls. They often remain uninvolved in parenting, except when it’s convenient for them. Their financial contribution may be lacking (i.e., the “parasitic lifestyle”). And they may be a slob around the house, leaving a trail behind them in every room they spend time in.
The non-disordered spouse, then, ends up having to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the relationship and household. For clarity’s sake, let’s call this spouse “she/her”. She finds herself first encouraging, then prodding, him to grab opportunities as they come up, such as to transition to a better career or move up in his current one. She ends up having to decide between nagging him again to recycle his food wrappers instead of letting them sit on the stove…or in the sink, or to empty the kitty litter boxes or take the dog out for a walk.
This “adulting for two” gets downright tiring, dear ones. Too often, we spend 20+ years with the narcissist/psychopath and wonder why we’re so thoroughly exhausted. We blame ourselves, our age, our own lifestyles or habits, and other attributes about ourselves, but in reality, thinking for two people is hard.
And over time, we end up feeling like we have the brainpower of wet toilet paper. We start forgetting things more often. We have trouble planning out our day. We struggle to keep track of everything and everyone. We may even have to take naps in the afternoon just to function through the end of the day. We may use stimulants like caffeine or nicotine or vitality-boosting herbs like ginseng or ginkgo.
It’s in your head, but it’s not in your head. There’s a logical explanation: stress hormones are actually toxic to the brain if they hang out for too long or at too high a level. The brain can get “overdosed” on stress hormones, and in time, this can damage parts of the brain responsible for memory, focus, learning, and executive function.
So, brain function is one challenge that most narcissistic/psychopathic relationships and divorces carry that normal ones often don’t.
Another is the narcissist/psychopath themselves and their behavior, of course. They may behave badly, sometimes in subtle ways. For example, manipulating you to feel unnerved and uneasy, by watching or monitoring you, waiting up for you, sneaking up on you, snooping in your devices, and so on. They may display moods that put you on edge. They may (or may not) get angry at the drop of a hat, for the purpose of scaring you.
When it comes to moving, they can be difficult, too. You might be the one moving out, but they are moving your stuff around. Categorized piles of your belongings suddenly get moved, or your materials like boxes or plastic tubs might get hijacked for their use in a move of their own, obliterating your plans to make progress. They may be slow in returning these items to you, because why should they? There’s little for them to gain by doing so more quickly. Who cares if you’re inconvenienced, right?
Even in the “best” (relatively speaking) of circumstances, divorce from a pathological narcissist/psychopath can conjure up all kinds of Feeling Words. And these Feeling Words are often more of the same of what we experience(d) in the relationship itself – aggravating, irritating, frustrating, unnerving, destabilizing, exhausting, maddening, crazymaking, annoying, intimidating, confusing, overwhelming, tiring, challenging, difficult…you get the idea.
My situation: every day I come home to find different things of mine in different places. He texted me to tell–not ask, but tell–me that he’d temporarily seized my plastic tubs and several boxes to move business locations, swearing that he’d only need them to transport items locally and I’d have them back right away. It has been a week today, and he still has not returned them.
I also suffer from a lack of brainpower, likely due to having to “think/adult for two” for so long, all while feeling not only unsupported, but also under a critical eye. He was always quick to criticize and even scold me for doing something he didn’t approve of, but hardly ever complimented me on all of the things I did (daily) that were correct, wise, intelligent, creative, or successful.
This doesn’t help when there is just so much to do. Finding myself at a crossroads, I am once again (as with every move) scrutinizing every item–every book, every keepsake, every knickknack, etc–to see if I really want to box it, lift it, store it, or attempt to find a place for it in the new place. Out of respect for my soon-to-be roommate, I don’t want to add excess clutter. On the other hand, I also don’t want to be without something I’m realistically going to need or want in the future.
It’s a balancing act, as everything is.
That’s just the packing. Then there is the research to do, the decisions to reach, the phone calls to make, the plans to coordinate and execute, the loads to move, and the funds to attempt to save, expenses to try to minimize.
But first things first – I must finish the decree. I want it to be done and over with as soon as possible, but I also need to take it slow and take great care, paying attention to detail. Legalese makes my head hurt. It’s another language. Trying to understand it can be daunting; trying to make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s crossed can be…well, you’ve seen the title of this post.
There are the surreal emotions to deal with, the magnitude of the changes happening in multiple areas of life that are all fundamental, like living space, workplace, maybe even career.
There are lots of first-time activities, too. I’m beginning to think about a budget, something I’ve never had to/been able to make before. I’m considering creating a resume, something else I’ve never had before. I know I’ll need to create accounts in my name, something else yet that I’ve never done before.
Although all of these tasks make me nervous and often overwhelm me (where do I start?? Okay, something gets done; now what’s next??), I also feel empowered when I do something myself, for myself, for the first time, and I do look forward to doing more.
I’m hanging in there, as always. Another day, another foot in front of the other, right?