“The only thing more difficult than being married to a narcissist is divorcing a narcissist.” This is one of the first sentences that Tina Swithin writes in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist — One Mom’s Battle. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard time and time again from Lovefraud readers who have faced the same battle.
When Tina met Seth, she didn’t know he was a narcissist. In fact, like most of us, she didn’t know what a narcissist was. But she was 25 years old and felt like she was ready to find a real relationship.
Before Seth, Tina had been in relationships in which the man required “fixing.” She realized that she didn’t want to fix men. In fact, she wanted to fix herself, so she wouldn’t feel obligated to fix others. After a year of self-reflection and therapy, she felt great and ready to move forward in life.
Who showed up? Seth.
Seth pursued her. Right after they met, and before their first date, Seth paid for Tina to spend a luxurious day at a spa. She writes:
At the time, I remember questioning whether or not this was all too good to be true. In hindsight, if things seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Red Flag Reflections
Tina calls this observation a “Red Flag Reflection.” The book is sprinkled with them, because now she knows she should have paid attention to them:
- Seth viewed her as a trophy girl, showing off her attractive picture to clients.
- Seth told Tina that he loved her two months into the relationship, but Tina felt like he was announcing a business deal.
- Seth urged Tina to discard everything from her life before him, because his was a better way to live.
There were times when Tina did feel that something was amiss and questioned Seth. She quickly learned that questions led to put-downs, accusations. Then she discovered outright lies. And she felt that Seth was spending money recklessly.
But when she confronted Seth about any of these issues, he used all the tricks — love bombing, the pity play, pleading — to win her back.
It worked. Tina married him.
Marriage wasn’t at all what she expected. Rather than togetherness and affection, it was a whirlwind of credit applications, business deals, overspending and confrontations.
Then Tina became pregnant. Seth was not happy — this was not part of his plan. When their daughter arrived, and their second daughter arrived, Seth showed little interest in them. Tina felt alone in her marriage.
Eventually Tina made a list in her journal:
- What attracted her to Seth?
- What warning signs should she have paid attention to?
- Why stay?
- Why leave?
The fourth list was the longest, by far. It took awhile, but Tina finally left. Then the real trouble began.
Even Lovefraud readers who have their own stories will be shocked by this man’s vindictive and even dangerous behavior. Stalking, break-ins, threats — and when the girls were in his care, negligence.
And then there was the nightmare of Family Court.
A parenting evaluation stated a list of requirements that Seth needed to meet, like parenting classes, anger management, and not driving them without a valid driver’s license — he had lost his for drunk driving. Seth did not meet any of the requirements.
No matter — the court awarded him additional visitation time anyway.
Tina could not afford an attorney, so she learned how to represent herself. It took awhile, but she proved Seth’s lies to the court, and won full legal and physical custody. Then she succeeded in allowing her ex only supervised visits with the girls. Finally, after years of court battles, she eventually succeeded in having her ex-husband removed from the lives of their daughters.
Everything Tina endured will sound so familiar to anyone who had fought a custody battle with a narcissist, sociopath or borderline. But Tina persevered, and eventually she won, which is heartening. It can be done.
At the end of the book, the author includes a section called “Tina’s Tips,” perhaps the most helpful section. It’s a blueprint for how to go into a custody battle with a manipulator — covering everything from emotional preparation to documentation to staying calm in court.
In the end, this book aptly describes the insanity of co-parenting with a disordered manipulator, validates the experience of readers who have been there, and serves as a guiding light to help you escape, survive, and eventually, thrive.
Divorcing a Narcissist — One Mom’s Battle is available on Amazon.com.