Monday, February 22, 2016

Borderline Crazy -- How to Divorce a Narcissist and Survive

In a room full of divorce lawyers the subject of subspecialties came up.  I half-jokingly offered up "borderline personalities."  The knowing nods from the rest of the room confirmed I was not unique.  It's not an easy (nor uncommon) occurrence in our line of work. 

Borderline personalities of various degrees are common in high conflict litigation.

Understand that for the borderline, it's truly all about the ride.  These empty souls feed on the fight. 

Healthy minded individuals in the throes of litigation eventually realize that the fight is unhealthy and it's time to move on.  Borderlines have nowhere to go.  Any attention, even via costly litigation, beats the anxiety that accompanies peaceful existence.

The lawyer's challenge is twofold--keeping the client spouse calm and nonreactive and staying away from the crazy vortex created by these voracious personalities. 

One client described the moment when he turned to the internet out of desperation.  Robert had been with his wife for nearly two decades. 

Frustrated, Robert turned to "Dr. Google" to explain a wife whose mindset left him perpetually scratching his head.   Finding a "checklist" online, Robert's heart sank deeper as he checked off most of the criteria for Borderline Narcissist.  His first sad truth.

Borderline essentially describes a human being who can be highly functional, but whose ingrained thought process contains elements of full blown mental health characteristics which restrict the ability to feel empathy. 

Therapy doesn't help borderlines.  That was the second sad truth for Rob.  Borderlines like the way they are--it's everyone else's problem. 

Borderlines lack the human complexities that develop in response to normal human interaction.  The're unable to properly gauge their environment and adapt behavior.  It's not that they don't care, it's simply that they're missing that chip. 

The more calculating can fake it for a while.  That's how healthy people fall in love with them.  Borderlines are not without redeeming qualities--they can be charismatic, successful and driven.  But they're always manipulative at a Ph.d level.

One sign, borderlines often lack humor.  Madam Borderline cannot allow herself the luxury of self-deprecation nor the fear that accompanies any acknowledgment of human frailty. 

It's not pretty when these folks break down.  They completely lack coping skills.  Borderlines are energetic, in every respect, even when they fall apart.  The drama is unmatched.  But they regroup quickly.  Like that scene in The Terminator when the annihilated protagonist is reduced to a pool of shiny liquid metal--once the nose pops out, ugly's only a few seconds away.

Thus the third sad truth for Rob.  There's no easy and quick divorce from a borderline.
His fourth and final sad truth was that there's no healthy alternative. 

A partner who's  ending a relationship with a borderline needs a team  (and a plan) to get out.  The plan should not include educating nor changing the borderline.  It also doesn't include winning in a traditional sense. 

To effectively detach from a borderline, it's important to live by these rules:
  • Don't waste time hoping for compassion or decency.  It's like expecting a dog to "meow"--he can't. 
  • Don't try shame, it has zero effect.
  • Don't get emotional or dramatic.  When you lose your cool or show vulnerability--they win.
  • Always take the high road.  One slip and the borderline will repeat it from the rafters.
  • Document, document, document.  Borderlines are liars.  Be persistent and concise in exposing the truth.
  • Expect setbacks.  The mortal world has only half the energy of these creatures.  Take a nap, punch your pillow and get back on track.
  • Don't give the borderline a platform.  Most folks know they're nuts.  When you spread your business on the street you give them the opportunity to respond to legitimate outlets.  Stay away from social media.  They thrive on the internet because there is no fact-checking--and no consequences.

For the "normal" partner, it takes a village to unravel the mental rewiring needed from life with a borderline.  So rely on the advice of those outside the vortex.

Keep in mind it's all in the perception of power.  Borderlines do not rule their world, they only convince others to think they do. 

In truth, they are powerless. 

Exhausting, but powerless. 

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