A Book Review of “Will I Ever Be Free of You? – How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family”, Written by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.
Last week we posted an article written by child psychologist, Dr. Gregory Ramey, “Narcissism: Is it all about you? ” I thought posting it back-to-back with this book review would emphasize the troubling aspects of narcissist personality traits from the varying perspectives of two (2) psychologists. Publisher’s Note – R. Mues
Narcissism is defined as a personality disorder that goes beyond mere selfishness and vanity. It is a prevalent cause of marital and family problems. Narcissists do not have the capacity to love, understand other persons’ emotions, or feel empathy toward others. They are grandiose in their need for praise and attention; they overestimate their abilities; and, they diminish persons around them with emotional abuse.
The term “narcissism” comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. But, when he reached out to touch his reflection in the water, he shattered the reflection. He became so self-absorbed with himself that he lost all interest in food, rest, and normal life. He died due to an unhealthy “love of self” or “self-absorption”.
Issue #1: How to Recognize the Problem or Are You Married to a Narcissist?
The author describes the nine (9) traits of narcissism:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance without commensurate achievements: These persons clearly think that they are better and smarter and more successful than their peers. They “look down” upon others as they genuinely believe they are “superior” to others.
- Fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love: These persons are constantly striving to have the most expensive and most luxurious homes and the most expensive and luxurious cars (Mercedes Benz or Cadillac). Nothing but the very best will do!
- Belief that he or she is special: These persons truly feel privileged and they must have the most expensive attorneys and they must have the best physicians to care for them. And, they must vacation at the most expensive resorts and golf at the most exclusive country clubs. Appearance is everything!!
- Require excessive admiration: They demand attention from spouses and family members. They expect to be highly complimented upon their appearance, their achievements, and their overall behaviors. They expect and thrive upon constant praise and adulation.
- Has a sense of entitlement and expects automatic compliance from others: These persons expect that they shall be treated differently and “better” than persons who are “normal” as they believe they are better and different from “normal” persons.
- Is interpersonally exploitive and takes advantage of others: These persons always strive to have you believe they are better and nicer than other persons. They “use” other persons to obtain their goals. They are labelled as “users” of other persons.
- Lacks empathy: These persons have no empathy or caring or sympathy with the plight of other persons. If his or her secretary or assistant is hurt or injured, there is no empathy for the injured or ill party; there is only the feeling of “how will I get my work done?” And, why did this happen to “me”!!
- Is often envious and/or believes that others are envious of him or her: These persons undermine the achievements of their partners, claim responsibility for their partners’ success, and appear to belittle the success of their co-workers. It is “as if” they are jealous of the success of their partners and try to diminish their achievements.
- Shows or displays arrogance: These persons truly believe they are better and smarter than other persons. They believe that their work product is superior to the work product of others.
Issue #2: Breaking Free—Addressing the Problem of Whether to Stay or Leave
The author suggests that it is often difficult for a party married to a narcissist to make the decision to leave the marriage. Often these parties are so deflated and depressed from living with a demeaning and demanding and non-supportive spouse that they simply do not have the “energy” or “courage” to get out of an unhealthy relationship.
The author voices the opinion that full-blown narcissists cannot truly love. Love is tuning in to another person emotionally, and narcissists are incapable of that. If you are married to a narcissist, you get constant messages of “You are not good enough” and/or “Everything that you try to do is wrong” and that “You seem to be unable to do anything right”.
Dr. McBride encourages her clients to make a list titled “To Stay or To Leave”. These are important considerations: (1) personal safety, (2) mental health, (3) physical health, (4) finances, (5) support systems, (6) safety and physical/mental health of your child or children. Some parties need individual counseling to gain insight into the truly dysfunctional environment in which they have been living or existing. When the non-narcissistic spouse has assistance and supportive therapy, he or she may gain the courage necessary to “break free” from the abusive relationship.
Dr. McBride next differentiates between a “Normal Divorce” and a Divorce wherein one party is a narcissist. These are the characteristics of a so-called “Normal Divorce”:
- Both parties agree the marriage cannot be salvaged.
- Both parties are reasonable and rational and work towards a fair and equitable division of marital assets and liabilities.
- Both parties want issues of custody, child support, and visitation schedules to be in the “best interests” of the minor child or children.
- They may seek mediation services from the Court or a private mediator.
- Both parties can be and are flexible about visitation issues, etc.
- Some parties are able to “co-parent” or have “shared parenting” of the minor child or children.
- The parties are able to attend children’s events without disagreement or squabbles.
- They are able to share birthdays and other holidays without dissent or argument.
- They rarely, if ever, have to return to Court.
- These are the characteristics of a Divorce wherein one party is a narcissist:
- The narcissist spouse may feel that the other party does not deserve any of the assets. This party believes that he/she did all the “work” during the marriage and, therefore, should retain all assets.
- The narcissist spouse does not play fair, follow orders, and will use the children as “pawns”. If a Guardian ad Litem finds in favor of the “healthy” spouse, the narcissist will get a Psychologists to do an evaluation. The narcissist spouse honestly believes that he/she knows best!
- Shared Parenting is impossible due to the “high conflict” atmosphere produced by the narcissist spouse who always has to be right.
- The non-narcissist spouse may simply tire of all the proceedings and motion hearings and may simply “give up” to end the madness of the divorce process.
- The parties may have to exchange the child or children at a police station or other public place as one spouse cannot stop “digging” at the non-narcissist spouse or stop criticizing or complaining about the other party.
Needless to say, the “Normal Divorce” proceeding is always less expensive, less emotional, less tedious, and is always completed in a shorter duration of time than the Divorce process where one party is a narcissist.
Issue #3: Healing from the Debilitating Impact of Narcissistic Relationships
The author then discusses and explains her Five-Step Recovery Model as follows:
Step One: Acceptance and Grief—You must first accept that your former partner has a personality disorder that you cannot change. The only person that you change is yourself. Begin with an analysis of yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Begin to associate with friends or relatives who support you and with whom you can have positive or happy experiences. It will be normal for you to grieve the failure of your marriage; but, given the odds, pat yourself on the back for giving the marriage more than a “college try”.
Step Two: Psychological Separation—In this step, you are leaving your partner’s distorted world and coming back to your own reality. You will have to be strong-willed and not permit yourself to be drawn back into the narcissist’s world.
Step Three: Becoming your Authentic Self—Re-discover your value system. Identify your strengths and talents. Take care of your neglected physical and psychological health. Eat healthy foods and exercise to care for your personal being.
Step Four: Dealing with your Ex in Recovery—Be firm and clear in your communication with your narcissist former spouse. Listen to your intuition. Do not be drawn back into listening to negative messages. If you are being stalked by your former spouse, seek a restraining order. Do not return text messages, e-mails, or messages on Facebook from him or her. Limit your discussions to what would be best for the child or children.
Step Five: Ending the Legacy of Distorted Love—Learn to be on your own for a period of time before even thinking about the ‘dating scene’. You need to become comfortable with who you are and with whom you have become before entering a new relationship with anyone.
As a divorce lawyer, unfortunately I see many of these difficult cases all too often. I found the book to be an “easy” read and a fascinating one! Dr. McBride shares many examples from her own practice and provided such help and encouragement to persons who want to be free from a harmful and toxic marital relationship.
Author of the bestseller, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, Dr. Karyl McBride draws on her expertise in treating children and partners damaged by narcissists in this practical new guide to divorce and its aftermath. With more than three decades of experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. McBride guides you through the emotional fallout and challenges of being married to and divorcing a narcissist.
“Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family”
To purchase the book, “Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family”, here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Will-Ever-Free-You-High-Conflict/dp/1476755698
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.