Psychological Abuse in Marriage and After Divorce

Psychological Abuse during marriage can leave a former spouse questioning their own capabilities and mental status. It is debilitating and can have long lasting effects. Psychological abuse is sometimes referred to as “gas lighting” after the 1941 thriller starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the film, Paula is a newlywed returning to the house of her murdered aunt. Her new husband manipulates her into doubting her memory, experiences and eventuality her sanity. Paula sees the gas lights flicker and hears footsteps overhead when her spouse is supposedly not home. He convinces Paula that she is going insane for his own sinister purpose.

A spouse committing gas lighting may be setting up a situation (as in the film) and telling their spouse that it is all in their head. The goal is to have someone question what is real and exert control over them. Psychological abuse is using words and actions to destroy another person without physical violence. Partners may be told that they are too sensitive, suspicious or jealous. Making a “joke” that demeans a spouse when the intention is to tear them down is abuse. It is a stream of criticisms and cruelty over a period of time.

A psychological abuser often attempts to isolate the person from their friends and family. This increases their power over the spouse and lessens the chance others will persuade them to initiate divorce. When someone feels helpless, they are less likely to leave. The target of this abuse questions their intelligence and being able to be on their own. Think about your marital situation. Have your friends fallen by the wayside? Are you out of touch with relatives? Are you doubting your talents? Are you belittled when in the presence or others?

If feeling uncomfortable and doubtful about your well-being and abilities, get some help. A family doctor can recommend a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, can help change faulty perceptions, and give a reality check. A professional can help you sort out your situation to decide which path to take.

This is an unhealthy situation for children to witness. They do not know how to help and can be caught in the middle. Parental alienation can occur when one parent is constantly putting down the other and children might question the targeted parent’s authority. If the kids think this marital situation is normal, then they run the risk of emulating it down the road in their own relationships. Please read more… http://divorcedmoms.com/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-psychological-abuse-before–after-divorce


Divorcing a Passive-Aggressive Person

Having a rough marriage with a passive aggressive person, gives a glimpse of what lies ahead with divorce. The characteristics that drove you nuts may be intensified during this process.

When contemplating divorce have an exit plan ready. When actually leaving, do this swiftly and be prepared for the charm to be turned on full force. They may not want to let you go, and make promises that will not be kept.

Ways to Know if Your Spouse or Ex is Passive Aggressive:

1.  Passive aggressive people do not deal with anger in a direct way. Be prepared for longer court proceedings. This will mean higher legal costs with these stalling tactics. Tell your attorney right away about this personality disorder so she plan strategies accordingly. Mosby’s medical dictionary states they have “indirect expression of resistance to occupational or social demands. It results in a persistent ineffectiveness, lack of self-confidence, poor interpersonal relationships and pessimism.” By not openly expressing anger, this sabotages proceedings.

2. They avoid confrontations. Strong emotions are hidden and hostility fuels their actions. On the surface he/she appears calm, so it is difficult to know what they are really thinking.

3. Passive aggressive spouses are big blamers. Others are to blame for the problems in their lives and nothing is their fault. It is his wife’s spending that caused their financial woes, not his vintage car collection. Her boss is keeping her from getting the promotion, not the quality of his work. The spouse is a target of this blame which spills over into the divorce proceedings.

4. Passive aggressive people excel with the silent treatment. By not having confrontations, this can result in silence. They sabotage communication by not being an active participant, or may answer questions tersely.

5. The essence of being passive aggressive is not following through with something.  They will agree to bring financial records to the next divorce meeting, but not show up with them. They agree to do a report on the job, but do not have all of the components finished. Post-divorce they say, “The check is in the mail.” Their hostility is expressed by not doing a task that is expected of them.  Please read more:   http://divorcedmoms.com/articles/10-ways-to-know-your-spouse-ex-is-passive-aggresssive


Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Narcissists lack empathy so this makes co-parenting more challenging. They do not have compassion, so only pretend to care for others, including family members. Their children become targets for their manipulation, since they are less likely to stand up to a parent. The world revolves around the narcissistic person and this can include contact schedules and activities.

Children are used as pawns during divorce to get a better financial gain or in retaliation against you. Several eminent psychologists insist that contact between children and a narcissistic parent should be supervised. Dr. Joseph Shannon of Ohio, USA   is an expert on personality disorders and does many conferences on this subject. He was adamant about the need to set up supervised visitation to protect the children. When I also asked if a narcissistic ex-spouse lets go of his ex-wife after divorce, he said “no.”

Throughout the UK, there are Children’s’ Contact Centres where the non-resident parent can spend time with their children in pleasant surroundings. They have trained volunteers who are in the centres to give any assistance, if needed. In one case, when the older son turned eighteen, he stopped visitation and the younger one refused to continue. The younger brother met with the mediator that was appointed in the parenting plan, who then arranged supervised visitation. A child may feel safer when contact is supervised and can begin to develop a better relationship with that parent. Or, like in this case, the supervisor verified the verbal and emotional abuse when reporting back to the mediator. The court terminated parental contact when the son absolutely refused to go.

Contact between children and a narcissistic parent can be more successful if shorter in duration and perhaps no overnights. If the activities are mutually satisfying, such as participating in a sport or engrossing hobby, then the time spent together can be more enjoyable. They may like going to movies and concerts, which require less interactions.

Another strategy for pleasant contact is when visitation takes place at a family member’s or friend’s house.  One narcissistic father with an alcohol problem, visits his young daughter at his own mother’s house. She spends one night a week there, often with cousins, and has dinner with dad. This arrangement is working out great and the narcissist is on his best behavior with his mum standing nearby.

Narcissistic Extension is when a parent tries to mold a child into someone whose achievements directly reflect back onto them. The parent expects to be praised regarding their offspring’s skills. The narcissistic parent sees the child as a part of themselves (extension).  A kid may be pushed into a sport that draws more attention and fame, than one that does not. One boy wanted to play baseball for his school’s team, but his father refused to give permission. Instead, the son was made to continue with martial arts that gave more recognition with publicized tournaments.

Some narcissistic mothers of youngsters in beauty pageants see their girls as extensions of them. They bask in the admiration that surround these awards. A danger of having a narcissistic parent that controls a child, is that this child may go on to repeat this pattern in future relationships.

Co-parenting with a clinically diagnosed narcissist is doable when one does not get caught in a power struggle. Make sure the kids have support, whether with a therapist, divorce coach or trusted family friend.  Keep monitoring the situation to confirm contact with this parent is going okay.

Originally  published in The Divorce Magazine  https://www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

Podcast on narcissists       https://soundcloud.com/divorcesux/divorcing-a-narcissist-ep009