CB: Hi everyone. My name’s Christopher Bruce. I’m a Florida divorce lawyer. And today I have the pleasure of being joined by Victoria McCaughey and Victoria is a transformational coach. Our topic is: What Every Women Needs to Know When Divorcing a Narcissist.
A lot of what she specializes in is helping women divorce, a narcissistic type spouse. And I just thought it would be really interesting to hear from somebody who works with women going through this very challenging change and discuss a couple of things that might give some inspiration to our listeners as to how to approach a divorce from a really controlling, difficult to deal with a narcissistic type husband.
So, Victoria, thanks so much for joining us. Maybe just tell everyone a little bit about who you are, what a, what a transformational coach is a little bit about what you do. And then we’ll kind of get into the topic of What Every Women Needs to Know When Divorcing a Narcissist.
VC: So I’m a life coach specializing in major life transformations.
And my specialty, my niche is helping women and now some men yeah, divorce, a narcissistic or controlling or otherwise abusive spouse.
Cause it’s a very specific type of divorce. Yeah, my background is of course I had my own horrific long drawn out six year divorce who were very narcissistic spouse.
But then after I got my footing, I started doing volunteer work for the coalition against domestic violence where I live and I really got addicted to giving back, you know, to this couple, the other people who were going through what I went through.
So I did it for years and I was trained to become the advocate who would be on call when a domestic violence victim presented at a hospital.
And I would go to coach them into undoing some of the brainwashing that had been done to help them see other possibilities and other alternatives versus go returning to the abuser.
CB: Wow. That’s, it’s, it’s heavy stuff. And I know we’ve spoken before we, we did this. You definitely have have you experienced in going through this type of a thing, which is kind of you like at times and insurmountable challenge, but it doesn’t have to be that way in that it’s kind of why we’re talking about some of this stuff. So tell us, what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist.
VC: What every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist? It’s also important for people to realize they’re not alone. I mean, I know when I was going through my abusive marriage, I didn’t think anyone else would ever understand or, or be able to, to even believe the things that were going on.
And I was so humiliated by it and embarrassed that I, I didn’t tell anyone. So I think the more we talk about it, the more likely people are to reach out for help.
CB: I’m so glad you brought that up. So many people that I need in my practices as divorce lawyer, they, they of think at times they’re, they’re the only one going through the issue and there, there must be something wrong with them because why, why would this be happening if it weren’t their fault?
VC: And it’s I’m, I’m glad you really pointed that out. And I guess just so we know maybe what we’re talking about here there’s a lot of references, especially in pop culture too, you know, what is a narcissist or, you know, you’re a narcissist, this and that, but just I mean, how would you define this type of person that’s you know, the problem that we’re dealing with here, It’s getting thrown around a lot, especially now.
But it’s a very hard diagnosis to make even top psychiatrists who are experts in this field are very hesitant to label someone as a narcissist.
So I certainly did not pretend to be able to tell you if you’re I get asked daily is my husband and narcissist, and here’s what I say as part of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist.
It doesn’t really matter, you know, the spectrum. And if, if he is doing abusive behaviors, it’s a pattern of abusive behaviors.
And if you are feeling controlled or minimized or not good enough because of the way you’re being treated, then he’s, he’s too far on the spectrum to be healthy for you.
And everybody’s boundaries are different. You know, there might be somebody who their husband is a full blown narcissist, but they don’t let it in it, it doesn’t bother them.
So it doesn’t really matter if they’re labeled that way or not. You know, what’s the effect that it’s having on you.
Question: That makes a lot of sense. It really doesn’t matter who the person is. It’s just, it’s really, it’s moving on from a difficult and controlling person, I think is kind of the real, what we’re talking about.
VC: Right. So I guess is somebody approaching a divorce from a difficult person you know, maybe a narcissistic type spouse or a partner.
I mean, it’s supplies, whether it’s divorce or marriage or not. W what do you, what do you typically see the, the abuser doing once they’re kind of put on notice of, Hey, I’m, I’m divorcing you or I’m leaving you.
Question: In terms of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist, help us understand what you typically see happen in divorce.
Answer:Their biggest fear is abandonment. Typically in their lives somewhere, they experienced some type of abandonment. Maybe it wasn’t physically abandoned by a parent, but emotionally abandoned, or so somehow this has created this dysfunction in them where they’re so fearful of being abandoned, that they cannot take that they see it as a huge blow to their ego.
Wow. So if they think that you’re leaving them or know that you’re leaving them, you must be punished because looped on the call to limit harm to them, thinkable the unimaginable, the thing they fear the most, and you’re doing it to them.
So there’s huge retaliation involved. The first thing I usually see is the F the flying monkeys, right? So they start a smear campaign against you because first of all, their ego is huge.
They cannot possibly as hard as it, as it is for them to acknowledge that you’re leaving them. They certainly can’t stand the thought of other people knowing this, that you would leave them, that they’re so perfect, you know, that they can’t, they can’t be seen as anything, but perfect.
So now they have to paint you as flawed because they can’t there can’t be that. So now there’s a huge campaign to to smear your everything about you, you know, your, your personality, there’s a flaw in you.
In my own case, my ex-husband immediately called all of our friends and told them, oh, by the way, he, he had, he had, ultimately, he choked me and that’s when I called the police.
And he said, and so in order not to make this all go away, that this was that I had made this whole story up and it didn’t happen.
He called everyone. We knew and told him that my father had raped me as a child. He made up this story and that I was so psychologically damaged that I made up this whole story.
I mean, so far fetched, right? That’s, that’s just, it’s dirty pool. I mean, it’s like, they’ll do or say anything to elevate themselves.
And I didn’t even know this was going on. I mean, he wasn’t in the house any longer. So I’m getting calls from, for, I don’t know how many people he called.
I only know the ones who reached out to me and said, you know, he’s calling saying this and we don’t care if this happened to you.
We still love you. I’m like it never. So, you know, maybe there are people out there who still believed in who I didn’t even know were told, you know, the worst expect the worst.
So we call them flying monkeys because, you know, in the wizard of Oz, which has flying monkeys, who go do her dirty work, well, this is what he’s doing.
He’s trying paint this picture of you as, as the bad guy. And so he can be the victim, and now all these people are doing his work for him, like saying to you, well, you know, you really shouldn’t have, or you, you should really be more considerate of, of his feelings or whatever he’s saying.
You know, they’re all out there working for him against you. So that’s why they’re called flying monkeys. Well, that makes a lot of sense.
I’m going to, I just see it a lot with these types of people in a divorce. And they, they definitely enlist an army. What every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist includes needing to be anticipating their husband enlisting a group of people to spread his agenda.
And sometimes it’s, I just tell my clients to expect it’s going to feel like opposite day. It’s a, you know, the opposite of what it sounds so silly to say that, but it’s, it’s so ridiculous, but it’s true.
It’s, it’s things that are just completely not true are being said. And I mean, I know what I tell people, but this, you know, when you work with your clients you know, in your coaching practice do you have any particular advice to them on, okay, this might be coming?
What how might you handle it or expected, Right. So you can’t stop it, right? You can’t control him, but in fact, the more you try to make him stop, the more he will do it, because now he knows it’s pressing your buttons.
You know, it’s really, and the more you show that this is a problem for you, the more it’ll happen. So we come up with some, some language that they can use in these scenarios that for most people I suggest when someone says, oh your husband told me, you know, whatever outright lie, and you and you believed him, like, you know, like he said, what, and you believed him like, oh, this is crazy.
You know, don’t get defensive. Like I never did it. You know, then, then it’s just like a, he said, she said, and, but if you just, it’s so absurd to you that it just bounces off and you go, he said, and you believe like crazy.
So it makes you feel more empowered. I think then to find an offender yourself, you know, just make them start questioning.
Chris Bruce: Who’s telling them the truth. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s good advice. That’s, that’s generally what I say.
And I mean, generally I tell people don’t, don’t call and go on the offensive and listing your own flying monkey brigade, so to speak.
I’d never useded the word flying monkey until now. I think I, that might be a good one for me to work in, but I think that’s really good advice.
And I, I think we both know this. Isn’t the only thing our respective clients are typically dealing with when they’re you know, separating from a difficult person like this, what else do you see?
VC:These narcissistic types.
So they’re so damaged that they want, they can’t stand the idea of you’re leaving, right. But at the same time while they they’re begging you to stay, because they can’t there, they have to hurt you for leaving.
So it’s this crazy dichotomy. So at the same time, they’re begging you to stay and doing everything they can to push you away.
So I, I tell my clients, it’s like, I felt the scotch tape of fat, because if you take a piece of scotch tape and you tear it down the middle, you know how it’ll just keep going, going into, and this is what they’re like.
It’s like, they’re going into different directions forever and ever, and ever there is no end, you know, like they’ll do just the most horrific, awful, like what my husband said about me, horrifying things to you.
And then they’ll, they’ll not understand why you’re leaving and say, how can you leave? Don’t do this stay don’t. Well, why would you do that?
Question: That’s, that’s what I see a lot of times. So it just, and it’s, I think just dealing with my clients, especially our female clients that are dealing with this, it’s, it’s amazing the stuff they hear. One thing that I hear a lot of, and obviously we always treat it seriously, but we prepare our clients for this, even, you know, to the extent of suicide threats and things of that nature, rich, obviously, you know, you have to be sensitive about. In terms of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist, what are some tips for dealing with this type of issue?
Answer: I see this, I say this all the time, threatening suicide, and you know, I’m not going to say this never happened.
But for what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist, people don’t, but in my experience, people who tell you, they’re going to kill themselves are not serious about killing themselves.
Yeah. So it’s a tactic it’s working on your empathy and you have to start separating emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, you know, and that’s how I help them break away and start seeing themselves as, as a separate entity, not until, and that is his problem.
You know, you can’t fix him and it’s not your job to try. And it was maybe, but you’re, you’re separating now and he’s a grownup and these are his issues and he needs to figure that out.
And it’s, it’s not only not your job, you can’t, you can’t fix. So I think in, in, you know, I think from some of our, you, you, you dealt with this in particular, but I’m sure a lot of the people that are contemplating divorce from somebody like this might feel in a sense trapped in the relationship a little bit because of children.
Question: You know, it’s obviously we all want the best for our kids. Maybe you can speak a little bit to what you see happening with children in these types of separations and maybe a couple of, of ways to try to minimize the effect. I know this is part of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist
Answer: Right? This sure is part of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist. Well, first of all, this is a toxic environment you’re living in and your children are in a two. So just think about how sick you feel, all this grind, you know, it manifests this kind of constant abuse, whether it’s control verbal abuse, financial abuse, whatever it is, it’s insidious.
And it’s never ending. There’s no relief. It’s 24 7. You’re living in this toxic environment. I remember when, at the height of my horrible dysfunctional marriage, a contractor came in, who was a friend of ours to do some work.
And he said, you can cut the tension in here with a knife. Other people feel it, nobody had said anything.
So your children, it’s like, it’s like raising them in a house with carbon monoxide poisoning. You know, it’s affecting you are, I know, you know, these women are sick, they’ve got migraines, they get fibromyalgia, they have IBS, they have all these symptoms.
And, you know, doctors just throw these labels on them because you don’t know what it is. It’s stress. It’s the stress of the situation.
Our bodies aren’t are made to withstand that level of stress for that long, you know, we’re just animals and we go into fight or flight.
And then when the predator leaves, we go back, you’re supposed to go back to normal. We’re never going back to normal.
We’re sustaining that fight or flight feeling in chemistry, in our bodies forever 24 7. And it breaks down our systems and we get sick.
So this is happening to your children too. They are feeling it as much as you might try to hide it from them.
It’s in the air. It is there. It’s tangible. So do you want to keep your children in this carbon monoxide field home, or do you want to go through a difficult period with them, but then give them the opportunity to see what a happy healthy household feels like?
CB Point: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s what I bring up with. A lot of my clients, it’s, you’re at least giving them a chance to see something else.
VC: And obviously they’re going to have influence from both of their parents. And there’s a part of them that will always you know, be developed based on some of the things they have seen in their other parent.
But if you don’t get them out of that environment for at least a portion of the time, they’re never going to see anything else.
That’s, and I’m not a child psychologist, but that’s just it’s. And I know you aren’t either, but that’s the reality of it.
As I see it, I’m the poster child for this because I stayed, I had three little kids and I stayed because they were boys.
I thought they needed their father. I didn’t, I knew how hard he was going to make it. I knew he would use them as pawns.
I knew what would happen, but eventually, obviously the abuse got so untenable that I had to do it and I should have done it way before, because yes, it was very hard for a short amount of time, but you can never create that, that healthy environment while that person’s in the house with you.
It’s impossible. You cannot cause he’s infiltrating it. The only hope you have of giving them healthy environment is creating it separately.
And yes, they will go back and forth, but guess what? They’re going to feel what this is like, and they’re going to feel what that’s like, and they’re going to make their choices.
And they’re going to gravitate to the place that feels safe and normal and honest and happy, not the drama, the chaos, the crazy.
So they’ll figure it out and kids grow up, they start getting the joke. Ah, I think you’re right. And I mean, just, I don’t know if you share the same experiences with some of your clients, but I, I see a lot of people who will wait to get divorced or wait to separate from somebody.
You know, that’s a difficult, abusive type of a person because they think when their kids are adults, that they’re just gonna somehow be out of the picture.
But with what I see you know, it, the kids still end up even as adults being roped into this becoming, you know, one of the potential flying monkeys as you’re calling them.
So it’s from what I see ham, you know, unless they’re in her last year of high school or something, it’s generally, they’re going to be part of it, no matter what waiting might, you know, very well, probably is doing more harm And there is never a good time to get divorced.
Yeah. So I think, I think from what I’ve seen, the younger, they are the better, the more time they have to adapt.
Question: Do you have any particular advice for people who might have, you know, younger kids that are about to go through with this as to how they might, you know, prepare themselves to deal with their children when you know, their, their spouse is probably going to act the way we’re talking about? To me, this is a key part of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist
Answer: Well, the spouse will necessarily bring them into it because they can’t help themselves.
You know, narcissists are entitled, you’re grandiose, they, the rules don’t apply to them. They’ll tell you, you better not use the children as ones.
You’d better not engage the children. You better not talk to the children, but believe me, they’re going to do so.
I mean, my children were six, eight and 10 when our divorce started. So they were old enough to ask questions and they were definitely alienated from me when they would come back after a week at a dads and they would come home to me Monday nights after school.
I don’t know if I should can say that the, a word we called it a*****e because they were horrible to me.
They, they had been drinking the Kool-Aid all weekend and I was the enemy. I was the villain, right?
So this is real, this happens. Part of what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist is this stuff happens.
I’d say, well that’s not true any, and if they would question, well, how, why would I believe you? And when you’d say one of us is not telling you the truth and it’s up to you to figure out who that is.
That’s good advice. Yeah. It’s a way not to disparage dad. It’s like, don’t say dad’s a liar. Don’t say dad’s using you.
You know, just like, well, that’s not, that’s not true. It’s not the way I see it. And one of us, we can’t both be telling you the truth.
I’m saying this is true. And he dad’s saying, this is true. One of us is not telling you the truth.
CB: I that’s great advice. And you know it, from what we’ve talked about, I know you’re really proud of your children and really close to them.
Now, as they’re adults, I mean, this I’ve seen the same with my clients. This stuff does pass with time.
The kids come around. To me, this is what every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist. This kids will come around.
VC: So I think a lot of the people listening to this shouldn’t be scared off about putting themselves first and their life changed first worried the kids will never recover The example, the quintessential example of put your own oxygen mask on first, possibly save your children.
If you don’t save yourself first in this scenario. So we’ve talked a little bit about the kids. So then there’s the the whole part about you’re getting divorced.
You had a couple of legal issues on, on top of what’s already a hard process. How’s all that stuff go.
Question: And you know, I know I have my thoughts as a divorce lawyer, but just based on what you you’ve seen doing, what you do, I mean, how do these rascals behave once you get them in the court system?
Answer: Well, typically they’re typical selves. They’re grandiose. They liked to be the center of attention.
They’re very charismatic. They can be very charming.
They they’re very manipulative. They’re very smart. Typically they can manipulate the system. So my advice to my clients is always this.
You have to create the contrast because the judge sees so many. He doesn’t remember you, or she doesn’t remember you one time to the next, or you know, not everybody goes in front of a judge, but even the other lawyer, you know, you have to be, you’re your best self.
When you present in court, you have to be polite, reserved poised respectful, and you let him hang himself, right? Let him at first, he will win everybody over.
He will, you know, look, make himself, look out, look to be the good guy because he’ll lie. They have no problem.
There are great liars. They will point fingers at you, very dramatic, like all the grandiosity. But if you’re consistent, consistent, consistent, at some point he will show his true colors.
And if you react, if he makes some outrageous claim and you start flailing your arms and being dramatic back the court, doesn’t see the difference.
It’s like, oh, they’re the same person, right? Yeah. There’s no, But I was just going to say, I mean, when it comes to dealing with these people in the court system, I, I’m curious as to your thoughts on this, but just I’m a board certified divorce lawyer in Florida, and I’m supposed to follow what they call the bounds of advocacy.
And one of the major tenements of that is, you know, minimizing litigation taking, you know, every, you know, opportunity to resolve a case. What every women needs to know when divorcing a narcissist includes this fact.
So that conflict isn’t exaggerated, especially with families. But I very much feel most of the time when it comes to dealing with these types of people, that those types of tenements of working everything out and extending the olive branch almost make it worse off for, for my clients than if they had just been, I hate to use the word aggressive.
Maybe the word direct is better, but direct in understanding this is somebody that is likely never going to come to the table and negotiating with them is it’s kind of like negotiating with a terrorist and you just gotta keep focused on getting it over.
Every case is different, but typically narcissist or people who are very have narcissistic tendencies, aren’t going to settle because it’s not in their vocabulary right there.
It’s a zero sum game to them. It’s like I win or I lose. They have to win. And winning means you get nothing because they’re entitled.
They think they deserve everything. There’s no compromise or giving chain or negotiation. It’s just all me, it’s really hard to settle with these people.
So I usually try to help my clients psychologically by letting them, helping them let go of the outcome of the divorce, because you know, these things can go on for years or six years.
Hopefully Not that bad, but it’s going to be a year. You know, it’s going to be cut and dry. I thought mine was open and close.
Like the guy choked me, please. Like this is like going to be over tomorrow, six years of fighting for, he contested the divorce now.
And there, it was a long time ago in New York. It was not a no fault state. I had to prove grounds.
It was ridiculous. So anyway, that was kind of things don’t happen anymore. But I will help them let go of the outcome so that they can start living their life because you can just get derailed by this divorce worrying about what that outcome is going to be before you start your life.
So I try to help them let go of that and say, Hey, we’re gonna, we’re gonna hope for this and try for this work toward that.
But if, if we get this, all you have to do is figure out a way to fill that gap. You know, it’s not, as, it’s not as you’re like, oh, I lost you.
Didn’t lose you eat. Here’s where you landed. So let’s start preparing for how you’re going to fill that gap, whatever that gap is now.
I can’t tell you how many clients who’s really sick from the stress of it. So in order to put it in a compartment and deal with the rest of your life and where you want that to be, and try to see this divorce as a springboard, that’s going to catapult you into this new life that you deserve, that your kids have.
You know, we’re, we’re focusing on how to get there, dealing with this, but it’s not our life. It’s just a piece that has to be dealt with, but really focusing on where we want to go.
Question: From your perspective how, how do you view when they should be telling their, you know, narcissistic or controlling type of husband that they intend to get divorced in relation to when they’re working with you in the attorney?
Answer: I think we know the answer, but maybe it’s a good thing for you to talk about your briefly.
Yeah, that is so specific, right?
Like give a blanket answer. My knee-jerk reaction is that it should be a sneak attack. You don’t want to give them the, the opening to do a lot of damage.
But you know, that’s not in every case, so it depends. Yeah. I think every case is different, but that’s generally what I tell people.
You probably do not want to be telling a controlling or manipulative type of a spouse in most circumstances that you intend to divorce them because then they will start to control and manipulate before you are prepared to you know, go through with what is going to very likely to be a difficult process.
So the more notice I see these types of people have the harder, sometimes it can become, but I think every case is different.
So I guess we’re here with Victoria McCaughey and she’s a transformational coach that you know, specializes mostly in working with women divorcing controlling type husbands, but a few other things too.