by Rebecca Merritt Davis
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (subsumed in Cluster B the dramatic, emotional, and erratic group of personality disorders) emotionally abuse others in their daily family lives. Their superficial relationships exist to regulate their self-esteem (DSM-V; 2013); they may appear jovial and magnanimous with high self-esteem and vindictive, controlling, and angry in periods of diminished self-esteem. Their emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence affecting the other parent, children, and extended family; institutional settings (e.g. work, school and family court) may be touched by this abuse. Narcissistic parents will harm their children even if they love them because their impaired empathy and hypersensitivity causes them to blame the other parent, to lash out at people they perceive to not be on their side, and to do everything in their power to convince the family court system of their superiority over the other parent. Narcissists vary in their abilities to hide their abusive side in the presence of esteemed others; those with better impression management skills are more successful in court.
Tina Swithin is a dynamic individual with a mission to increase awareness of narcissism and its impact upon shared parenting and divorce among the Judges, CPS workers, Guardians Ad Litem, Parenting Coordinators, and attorneys handling divorce and custody cases in our family court system. Her Facebook group is viewed by thousands of people navigating the treacherous courtroom terrain associated with leaving a narcissist and protecting their children from narcissistic rage, gas lighting, and prolonged emotional abuse. This online community is a village of survivors united in problem solving and making positive educational and dynamic changes in the family court system. Tina and her village hope to get court personnel to realize that one disturbed individual can create and maintain high conflict divorce cases inundating the court with years of unnecessary grievances while taxing the economic and psychological resources of the other parent. The demand upon the court’s time created by vengeful narcissists could be lessened if court personnel could identify patterns associated with Cluster B personality disorders, recognize the need for psychological evaluation, understand the chronic nature of these behaviors, and take timely steps to protect children and the other parent. It is my fervent hope that Tina’s books will make their way into the courtrooms of every family court Judge as well as domestic violence agencies.
Tina developed her expertise and knowledge the hard way – marrying and divorcing a narcissist. I developed my expertise the easy way, years of graduate school, obtaining the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and working as a professor at Purdue University for more than 20 years where I taught doctoral students how to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with personality disorders. My skill set includes a good understanding of the dynamics driving Cluster B personality disorders. When a family member married and divorced an individual with these dynamics I observed the damage experienced by children when the court is slow to recognize the severity of Cluster B disorders and delay protection of the children. Courts often assume both parties are equally to blame for creating and maintaining a high conflict case, so the non-narcissistic parent is treated as skeptically as the narcissistic parent. This is confusing to the other parent who listens to the narcissist spouting lies in the courtroom and describing self as the most devoted, caring parent. The courts may eventually recognize the need to take action and protect children of narcissistic parents but delayed action results in prolonged emotional abuse during children’s crucial developmental years.
Thousands of men and women in the family court system are battling with a narcissist, their children are not being adequately protected, and the court may grant primary custody to the narcissist who is able to glibly lie and manipulate in court. The non-narcissistic parent usually experiences anxiety in court while the narcissist may relish a performance platform to persuade the Judge they are the most worthy parent. Narcissistic parents voluntarily become delinquent in child support (financial control over other parent) will sob in court as they protest their undying love for their children and yet Judges will fail to recognize the discrepancy between courtroom statements and their behaviors outside of the courtroom. When unaffected parents become anxious or depressed from dealing with the narcissist’s abusive behaviors, they may be deemed psychologically unstable, placing them at risk of losing custody to the abuser. When their children report abuse by the narcissistic parent, the courts and CPS too frequently conclude that the other parent is alienating the children from the narcissistic parent. It is a challenge of immense proportion to set and maintain appropriate boundaries within the family and within the family court setting with narcissists. This book should be a valuable resource for family court professionals in helping them develop an understanding of narcissism and its impact upon families and the court. For those in the midst of courtroom battles, this book, combined with participation online, will help the other parent increase their coping strategies and skills in dealing with a narcissist in family court, allowing them to move beyond victimization and becoming a parent warrior, a survivor who is capable of protecting her or his children.
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Seeking a Divorce Coach for your high-conflict divorce and custody battle? Tina Swithin will help you to establish boundaries and regain your power. Contact Tina Swithin at Tina Swithin, LLC
Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.