Divorcing a Covert Narcissist

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  • #117770
    Grandma Gertie

    This space is to help learn from each other and deal with divorcing a covert narcissist. For example, can you just walk away with your children? Or does that count against you in court? How do you plan your escape to make sure it doesn’t come up and bite you if you go to court? Or do you just do it and let the chips fall where they fall? Covert narcissists look like the best people to those not in those relationships. Any tips to protect yourselves besides recording? (My state is a 2-party consent state.) Sorry for the ramble, I just keep reading and trying to plan accordingly.

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  • Author
  • #117776
    Renee Swanson

    Unfortunately it is impossible for anyone who has not lived in a relationship with a covert narcissist to actually understand. They just can’t get it. This makes everything far more difficult. Our court systems are not properly educated on the danger of this and too often fall for the image that the covert narcissist presents. This leaves many victims in horrible situations.

    Another complication is that every state is different. I have read that there are some exceptions to the 2 party consent laws, even in those states. Here is a basic article about that. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2011/03/james-o-keefe-npr-video-why-do-12-states-still-make-it-illegal-to-tape-people-without-their-knowledge.html

    This article is more detailed. https://www.mwl-law.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/RECORDING-CONVERSATIONS-CHART.pdf

    I hope this helps.


    I have a question.

    I’ll start with background. I have been married 22 years (with him for a total of 28 years) to a very down-to-earth, laid back, charming, super smart guy my parents only half jokingly refer to as “The Saint”. I have spent 21 years walking on eggshells, trying not to incite his fury, which manifests as silent treatment, glares, stomping, slamming, snapping at the kids. When asked, he would tell me he was “just tired”. Any time I suggested maybe he’s depressed and ought to see someone, I got stone cold stonewalled. I got passive aggressive behaviors in which he would do things he knew bothered me or were just plain mean. I was made to feel guilty a lot by his silent behaviors towards me. If I didn’t want to have sex, I got a furious flip in the bed so his back was to me. I could *smell* the fury, but if I asked him if he was angry, he would say, “Nope, just getting comfortable to go to sleep.”

    He never outwardly said mean or demeaning things to me. They would be insinuated. He never tried to control the money. Never threw a fit if I didn’t thank him enough for a gift. He’s a thoughtful gift giver and always seemed to enjoy parties in which he was not the center of attention. He has very long-term friendships with good people. I know that there is a spectrum with narcissism and I think he’s pretty low on the spectrum. I think he has an aspect to him of decency. But obviously any abuse is not okay.

    We opened our marriage to polyamory about a year ago. He was the first to have a second relationship and it was going really well for many months. I was supportive, encouraging, felt lots of “compersion”. And then in May I established a relationship with an old boyfriend that I dated 30 years ago, before I met my husband. I began reading about communication, relationship health, etc. because I wanted us to do this polyamory thing healthily and ethically (he read the same books I did), and as I became stronger in that way, my husband’s grasp on me slipped. It threw him into a tailspin and he began to do cruel, disrespectful, passive-aggressive things to me using his gf. For example, he would tell me he’d be home at a certain time, but would be hours late and never let me know what was going on or that there had been a change of plans. One afternoon, he went to spend a couple of hours with her, which I was totally fine with, but I had decided to take a break from grad school homework for the two of us to spend that evening together so I asked him to only be gone for 2 hours. I told him this several times and he seemed happy at the idea of it. I told him again as he left to see her. He never came home that evening until I was getting ready for bed. Soon after, I discovered that he was sneaking off a lot to see her and telling me lies about where he’d been. This made no sense to me and it was upsetting that he had lied. He had been lying and cheating in this way the whole time he’d been seeing her. I tried and tried and tried to work with him on communication, transparency, etc. and to make everything better again so he could continue his relationship in an honest, respectful, aboveboard kind of way. He had no empathy for my hurt, refused to apologize, refused to take any responsibility, blamed his choices on me (if it wasn’t for my temper, my judgemental attitude, my grudges…he’d never have done it. Those things didn’t describe me at all during that time. I sure have a temper with him now, but I don’t hold grudges and I was not judgemental about how we was conducting his relationship). He refused to meet me halfway. He vowed, though, that he would stop doing the behaviors and begged forgiveness. And then I’d discover that he was turning around and doing it all again the next day.

    Ugh, sorry, that’s more of a vent. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that he was losing control. When he “forgot” to make the couples therapy appt I asked him to make, I asked him not to come home. He left without argument, but then manipulated his way back into the house two weeks later so he could again exert control over me. He is now more overtly psychologically aggressive with me. He is gaslighting me and I really began to question and second guess myself. He was “reminding” me of things I’d done in the past that made him do what he did and I had no memory of those things. I thought maybe I’d just blocked those memories. Maybe I AM the bad one, I thought. He also has said something to his family that has made them blacklist me. I’m no longer welcome in their home. And he refuses to set the record straight. They were my family, too, for 28 years.

    My long-distance bf has talked me out of these emerging beliefs I was having that I’m the one at fault. Last night I called him in tears, telling him that I was feeling suicidal and I couldn’t stop the thoughts. I felt like I was going crazy–my brain was spinning. He talked me through it and while I was on the phone with him, I started to do research on my husband’s behaviors. I found covert narcissism and it was a revelation! I read a whole book about it straight through and now I KNOW I’m not crazy and I’m not at fault.

    As my husband and I have talked about the divorce, he has been eerily fair. He wants a speedy, cooperative, 50/50 divorce. I made up a spreadsheet and he said, “Yep, looks fair. I’d agree to that.” The average amount of child support (we have a 16 year old at home who will be staying with him because I’m moving home to Seattle to take care of a dad with cancer and I’ll be paying child support) is over $1000/mo. My husband said, “That’s over the top! What do you think is fair?” I told him $500 and he was like, “That’s perfect. Draw it up and I’ll sign it.”

    I’m super scared I’m being set up. How can this man gaslight me one minute and then agree to a 50/50 split the next? Especially when his retirement fund is up over $600,000! Is he really being a decent guy about this? Or is he buttering me up? We’re going to see the same attorney together and we agreed we want to be sure she represents us equally.

    I don’t know what to think! Help!


    I am going to deposed Friday of this week. I have been with my ex for 26 years and have 4 children ages 30 t0 15. My ex is a public affairs officer and has used every once of energy he has to control and isolate me. He has raped me many times and is using social media to target me. He has stopped my utility Bill’s, stalked me, and threatened to kill me multiple times. I live in Georgia and have no idea what to expect. At our first hearing the judge refused guardian’s for our youngest son and will not take any psychiatrist or psychologist testimony. My children are all on the autism spectrum and the oldest and youngest have learning disorders. My ex refuses to allow me to see our 15 year old. Any help is appreciated. We were supposed to mediate Friday but that changed in the last 3 weeks.I have no idea what type of questions I should ask.

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