Divorcing a Narcissist: Choose Your Battles Wisely

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

I sometimes feel like a broken record while talking to my clients during coaching sessions. “Choose your battles wisely,” is probably the phrase I say the most. When you are in the thick of the battle, it can be difficult to lift your vision and see the big picture. It is difficult to know which battles are worth fighting — and depending on your unique circumstances, only you can answer that question.

I see clients who spend $10k, $50K, $100K, $250K…and some who spend millions. Who is winning? Attorneys and the family court system. What do you do? I am not telling you to stop fighting to protect your children from an abusive, high-conflict individual. What I am doing is begging you to learn more about the system in your town. I am one of the most optimistic people I know….but I am sprinkled with a heavy dose of reality based on what I see on the battlefield of the family court system. Every system is different but they all share common threads – everything from good ‘ol boys networks and corruption to uneducated professionals and too heavy of a focus on parental rights.

I am begging you to educate yourself on what judges take seriously — and what things annoy them and can backfire on you. I am asking you to be hopefully optimistic but make sure you are also realistic when you are choosing your battles. Remember what you know about NPD – this is about winning and control. Where can you let the narcissist feel like they are winning? Before you go in with guns blazing, asking for minor’s counsel to be appointment or a custody evaluation to be ordered, educate yourself thoroughly. Educate yourself on the “players” in your system. Sit in the courtroom and take notes. Brainstorm about your case with someone knowledgeable on NPD and the system.

Money seems to be one of the biggest sticking points and for the narcissist, it’s easy to understand why. Most are myopic when it comes to status and prestige and in addition, the thought of YOU moving forward in life and eating anything besides Top Ramen is maddening and all-consuming to the narcissist. This is why the narcissist that you worked alongside in the family business for years will suddenly recreate reality and tell the courts that you never lifted a finger and spent your time downing Bon Bons on the couch while watching Jerry Springer. This is why the narcissist who is dead-set on leaving you penniless will paint you as a gold digger or worse. For the survivor of an NPD marriage or relationship, the sticking point on financial agreements is often times what is “just” and “fair.” Unfortunately, the two different perspectives are explosive — like oil and fire. Make sure you are stepping back, taking deep breaths and lifting your vision. While making these decisions in my own case, I weighed in the cost of my inner peace and mental health.

Spend time empowering your children but never say a negative word about their Cluster B parent. By teaching your children what it means to listen to their inner voice and helping them to recognize “red flags” while modeling and teaching empathy, you are equipping your children with the tools they need to make it through this battle. Be present and “in the moment” when you are with your children. Teach them that their voice is important to you and that you will also listen. Regardless of the “percentage” of time you have with your children, use your parenting time wisely and mindfully. You can help to give them a strong foundation regardless of what is happening on the other side.

I believe in you — lift your vision, look at the big picture and be clear in what you want…and what you can let go of.

Choose your battles wisely.

Love, light and lemonade — Tina


Tina Swithin is an author (Divorcing a Narcissist series and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist) and founder of One Mom’s Battle, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to survivors and educating the family court professionals on Cluster B personality disorders. Tina has dedicated her life to empowering those on the battlefield of the family court system through her many resources such as her books, The Lemonade Club, her annual retreats,  and her coaching practice.