Since I started supporting those going through the divorce process, I have been amazed at the extremes I have witnessed. Some clients start out pursuing an amicable termination of marriage only to be drawn into a high conflict situation by their soon-to-be-ex. Others are extremely angry when they first reach out but find healing through the process and work together toward reasonable settlements over time. Then, of course, there is everything in between.
I knew I needed more training to support those going through high conflict divorce. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Bill Eddy's live trainings when he came to Cleveland several years ago. He is an authority on managing high conflict personalities through the divorce process, and I have several of his books on my shelf that I refer to regularly.
In the latest edition of Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Eddy added more information about the dynamics of dealing with an individual with antisocial personality disorder (or its traits) than in the previous edition.
People with an antisocial personality disorder may have similar traits to a narcissist; however, those who are deceptive, aggressive, and/or impulsive could have an antisocial personality disorder. According to Eddy, narcissists exaggerate, focus on trying to make themselves look good, are self-absorbed but generally not intent on hurting you. In divorce cases, those with antisocial personality disorder are recognized by constant lying and a willingness to hurt their spouse and/or children without remorse.
While Eddy provides information about the traits of borderline, narcissistic, and antisocial personality disorders, he also goes on to say that it's not your role to determine if your soon-to-be-ex has one of these disorders or is displaying traits. There is no need to prove a diagnosis as this is even a gray area for mental health professionals. Instead, focus on the patterns of behavior.
The book's title, Splitting, has a double meaning. The first involves splitting up, but the second refers to a defense mechanism in people with borderline or narcissistic personality disorders. It refers to unconsciously seeing people as either all good or all evil. It is an extreme way of coping with the stress and mixed emotions of breaking up.
Because of this extreme reaction, it is possible that a person with borderline or narcissist personality traits could genuinely believe that their partner is dangerous and use that belief to justify actions such as domestic violence, controlling behavior, and making false allegations. To protect yourself, focus first on the physical safety of yourself and your children. Next, make sure to write down the details of any behavioral issues/confrontations you are experiencing.
Understanding this pattern of behavior and preparing for it can help you maintain your own emotional control. Surrounding yourself with those who understand what you're going through can also be tremendously valuable in keeping a clear head.
Eddy presents the KEEP (knowledge and energy to explain patterns) approach in his book. Knowledge refers to informing yourself of the common patterns of those with borderline and narcissistic personalities. You're already making some progress in this respect. Understanding these patterns can help you remember that these behaviors are not about you; they're about their insecurities. Energy is about pacing yourself and taking good care of yourself, as those with personality disorders can burn you out quickly if you allow them to do so. Explain is learning how to record and share behavioral patterns you're witnessing in a way that will enable you to be heard. And last but not least, patterns is what to focus on in your explanation.
In addition to the further detail regarding antisocial personality disorder, Eddy added an important chapter in the latest edition of Splitting regarding how to present your case in court. One of the things that I have found most valuable about Eddy's work is that he provides specific language and many sample supporting statements to help you identify and illustrate behavior patterns without identifying the individual as having a personality disorder. If this is an area where you need support, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Over the last year, I've had the opportunity to provide financial coaching in a program designed to support moms going through high conflict divorces. The number of professionals involved has been impressive but also necessary. These women face numerous challenges created by their ex. However, the emotional, healing, and practical support empower these women to move forward while being the best mom for their children.
If you find yourself stuck in a high conflict divorce with growing legal fees and no end in sight, I cannot encourage you enough to find a community of individuals who understand and support you.
If you want information about the program that I support, feel free to reach out. Due to the program's sensitive and highly confidential nature, it is by invitation only. However, if we connect and I think the program would be right for you, I would be happy to extend that invitation.