According to social media, just about everyone is divorcing a narcissist. And you may be hearing this from your clients. In this week's episode, we talk about why it's important to work with clients to drop the label and focus on strategy.
NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) is fairly rare, but if we look at the diagnostic criteria, we can see a ton of overlap between NPD and the self-interested behaviors we see from scared, angry people going through divorce. What we call "good people behaving badly".
Regardless of whether your client is divorcing someone with NPD, someone who's a total jerk, or someone who's just really angry right now, the truth is that they have a choice to make. They can obsess over their spouse's bad behavior or they can turn their attention to what they do have control over. They also have a choice as to whether they show up with a can of gasoline and some matches or they show up with a fire extinguisher.
By focusing on the label of "narcissist", clients can set themselves up for a couple of problems. First, they may create unrealistic expectations that proving "narcissism" will create an outcome in their favor. You all know from experience, that it isn't labels or diagnoses that impact parenting plans or property settlements, it is evidence of behaviors. So help them shift to strategy and create documentation rather than trying to prove that their spouse is a jerk.
Second, continuing to use that label of "narcissist" can allow our clients to perpetuate the story that something is happening "to" them and it leaves them feeling helpless, hopeless, and powerless. Instead, let's help them focus on the strategies of protect and respond. Use the legal system to get agreements and orders to protect themselves AND be prepared to respond in a way that saves their sanity if their spouse or ex continues to behave badly.
If your client is divorcing one of these HCP's (high conflict personalities), you can also help them head off future conflicts by using powerful questioning to identify specific details they might want to include in their divorce agreements to eliminate ambiguity.
You can learn more about DCA™ or find out about any of the classes or events mentioned in this episode at the links below: