While many people believe divorcing a malignant narcissist is just a divorce, the truth is the victim is in a state of total trauma. The covert malignant narcissist will make sure the victim suffers more during and after the divorce than they did even during the marriage. The victim becomes a target of an abuse campaign that can span decades especially if there are children involved. The children often become targets as well. Sociopathy is a dangerous illness—not usually for the sociopath—but for every single person who is part of the sociopaths life.
Not one single person remains unscathed from the narcissists life. The more damaged the narcissist–the more damaged the victims. Many victims become suicidal and many succeed as the only means of escaping these monsters.
Please be aware of the danger of being with someone like this. The damage they inflict is NOT superficial–it destroys the victims life, family, joy, emotion and their soul. What more closely defines the contact with a malignant narcissist is they are ‘murders of the soul‘. Their ultimate goal is to push the victim to suicide thereby dominating completely and “proving” to the world just how unstable the victim was.
The insidious nature of these people cannot be overstated. They are often very stealth in their destruction of the victim. The victim knows that something is wrong. The victim feels uneasy, angry, hurt, hopeless, and hyper vigilant all the time but they cannot pinpoint what the cause is because the abuse is generally stealth. Many victims never identify what is happening to them and remain in marriages for 20 or 30 years unable to identify who or what is destroying them.
By far the worst type of sociopath is the covert malignant narcissist. The initial abuse is designed to establish power over the victim. There are often no bruises to the victim after the initial abuse. Generally, physical abuse is not perpetrated because of ’out of control anger’, it is perpetrated as a deliberate mechanism of domination and control. The victim learns how to behave to avoid this type of abuse and therefore they become controlled by very covert and imperceptible means. Various hard-luck excuses are used during this period so the abused actually feels sorry for the abuser and the abuser is able to establish that fear in the victim free of any consequences. Again, notice the stealth and insidious way control is established. The victim never even realizes it. They feel it–but can never identify the source of it. It is, in basic terms, a hidden type of bullying.
Next comes the verbal abuse to further establish continued control over the victim. Once the physical abuse has been stopped, verbal abuse continues the pattern. Initially the abused fights back–but the verbal abuse is so pronounced and lasts so long–that the victim quickly learns how to limit the abuse–and that is by not fighting back. This further establishes the domination of the abuser over the abused. At this point–both physical and verbal abuse are greatly diminished as dominance over the victim has been obtained.
The next phase is by far the most damaging because the defenses of the victim have been completely destroyed. The victim is in a place of hyper vigilance but they don’t necessarily know why. The abuse at this point is slow and literally undermines the victims ability to see the world clearly anymore. They are criticized, mocked, argued with, lied to constantly, and left unable to determine the truth or reality as the abuser begins the very strong campaign of gaslighting. This is the ‘managing down’ stage.
This stage of being married to a malignant narcissist may last years or decades. As both the victim and their social contact begins to notice a decline in the victim. They observe changes like loss of joy, anger, distance from victim and social support system, and a general crumbling of the foundation of that victim’s being. There is clearly a systematic change in the victim but nobody can identify it as the abuse continues covertly. The victim is powerless to stop it as all defenses have been shattered and the victim is totally exposed to the onslaught of the abuser. It is such a slow and linear decline that sometimes even those closest to the victim fail to see it.
At any point if the victim identifies the abuse or the abuser and moves to exit the relationship, the most dangerous part of the narcissistic/sociopathic encounter is unleashed. It will likely be much more severe than the marital abuse was because it isn’t designed to be covert to the victim anymore. HOWEVER it remains covert to all others in the situation. Therefore the victim is now doubly abused. They are abused with smear campaigns and character assassinations AND they are denied support and sympathy because those around are fooled into defending the narcissist. This may be the most damaging period to the victim.
The two things that are almost universal in the narcissists repertoire are to accuse the victim of being mentally unstable and using the children to further the emotional damage to the victim. This will likely have actually begun prior to the demise of the relationship as the narcopath anticipates your every move and plans and prepares in advance. So they have likely started smearing you long before you are ever aware of it. While they fancy themselves unique–the narcissist sociopaths generally follow the same pattern from beginning to end. It starts with ‘love bombing’ to gain the loyalty and love of the victim. This is accomplished by creating a false sense of camaraderie by mirroring the victims life back to them. They will create a lot of ‘past history’ that is designed to make you feel a bond with them but that history is completely manufactured and designed to pull you into a strong bond where you begin to identify completely with the narcissist.
Next they will idealize you and ‘love’ you and try to impress all those around you to build their level of esteem in your eyes. This is a very important step. To gain the admiration or trust of these around the victim. This creates an inability for the victim to reconcile the feelings of abuse when it begins to happen—and it always begins to happen!
The years of abuse fly by and the victim’s light dims. They are beginning to be broken and they don’t know why. THEY attend counseling and they become introspective. They ruminate about life events and try to pinpoint the issue. They have handed over their life to merely trying to survive and to figure out where the pain, confusion, sadness, and fear that now is a permanent resident in their lives is from . They no longer grow and thrive–they merely try to survive.
When the victim identifies vaguely the cause–that is when the narcissist sociopath becomes very dangerous. They can do three things generally to deal with the victim.
1) kill the victim in the most severe cases
2) walk away completely
3) engage in a destructive campaign designed to completely undermine the abused and to take on the ‘victim’ role
The third thing is like death–much like the marriage was–but it is accomplished rapidly. The victim doesn’t know what is happening. They are emerging from years of covert abuse and then are hit with the severest form of abuse that even they are unprepared for. The smear campaign, character assassination, and the battle over the children leave the true victim exposed even more and the damage is more severe.
The first step is to discredit the victim. This helps keep the abusers identity as an abuser secret–and this is the most important thing to the abuser. The narcissist and sociopath often love to have their image perfect and to keep it that way they must engage in an elaborate plot to do what I have termed “the magician” move. They create such a circus or distraction on one hand so the spot light is NEVER on their abuse or destruction of the victim. The spotlight is on the victim and remains there through an elaborate manipulation of the system.
They will manipulate the courts, judges, and any relevant and involved people of power. The narcopath can easily identify those who will have power over your situation and they dupe them into helping abuse the victim further. They use these people to further label the victim and to destroy the victim’s character. This is how they proceed through out the remainder of the abuse stages. They enlist the services of all involved to further traumatize the victim. Not only are they being victimized–but nobody around them will identify it as abuse. The victim is doubly victimized at this point.
Just as the victim spent years trying to figure out what was being done to them–they fall into the same trap in the divorce. They cannot fathom what has happened to them and they simply cannot process what is currently happening to them. All this is the design of the abuser. They are then free to ‘set up’ the victim and to portray themselves as the victim of a crazy person; a person who doesn’t respond to things quickly; a person who seems to be uncooperative by outside standards. They–the abusers–adore this stage. It really is the ultimate form of control over their victims. It is what they live for. It is the end game for having to put up with the victim during the relationship. The people they “love” are really hated immensely by the abusers but are necessary to make the abusers feel dominant and powerful. THAT is the reason that narcissist sociopaths engage in this elaborate dance: to feel powerful and in control; and to feed the very weak and fragile ego of the narcissist. This elaborate and complicated dance is designed to come to this very place. Complete domination over another person.
At this point–they quickly replace the victim with a new victim. This in no way slows the abuse of the original victim. In many ways, the abuser uses the victim to their advantage. They use them to gain sympathy from the new victim by portraying this awful person that damaged THEM!!! They will use the original victim many times in the life of the new victim. They will contend the old victim wants them back, is harassing them, has so severely damaged them. They rapidly turn the new victim against the old victim and ensure that the new victim NEVER interacts with the old victim. That is standard for the narcopath. They all do this in the context of transitioning from victim to victim. ( One very clear way to see the narcissist right from the start is their general admission that ALL their previous partners were crazy, violent, evil or cheaters. This is the mantra of nearly every narcopath).
While the old victim is slowly being destroyed by the divorce process, the abuser is happily transplanted into a new relationship and generally will start this relationship within days of the divorce starting. In fact, they may have several encounters with a ‘soul mate’ until they find a suitable victim. Someone vulnerable and just getting out of a bad relationship or who has been single and wants to get into a relationship. The ‘love’ will develop literally overnight. The love bombing previously mentioned–will begin immediately and the new victim lured in a matter of weeks.
The relationship will often lead to living together and marriage as the narcissist find it impossible to live with out an adoring person in their lives. Such is the paradox of the malignant narcissist. They crave adoration as a necessary thing to exist. They find victims who will adore them completely. The paradox is they then systematically destroy that very quality in the person. They do it in such a heinous way. The love turned to revulsion and to hatred. At no time is there any actual love being exchanged in this process from the narcissist. The victim is generally an empath and a very loving and giving individual
What is exchanged by the narcopath is actually mirroring and illusion. The abuser does not know how to love. They do not even possess that feeling–ever. The initial ‘love’ is actually the narcissist getting satisfaction from the victim in the form of adoration, love, and the joy the abuser gets from tricking yet another innocent victim. THAT is what fuels the initial delight in the abuser–not love. It isn’t how you feel at all–it is about how you make THEM feel. THAT is the hook that gets many a victim stuck. The victim believes the abuser really feels something. One piece of advice–if it seems ‘too’ good to be true–it is likely not true! If you feel like you have met the man of your dreams in a month or a few weeks–that man is like exactly like you– take a major step back and give this person a good examination. This is their forte–they are mirrors and they can read people.
They can read people like open books. Most people are trustworthy and they assume the next guy is too–and that is the fatal mistake many make. The narcissist will read your insecurities and your strengths and your needs like an open book and will use each and every bit of information to lure you and then later to destroy you.
The tragic end must come after a time of varied lengths where they systematically deconstruct you and all that makes you you! It all culminates in the acts of destruction during the divorce and only finishes when the children turn 18. The most tragic victims in this kind of abuse are the children. They are systematically used against the abused even to the point of destroying the children. The narcissist sociopath will always use the children against the victim.
The victims are all the same. They are chosen specifically for this purpose. They are kind, loving, gentle, trusting, dedicated and loyal souls. A mother’s heart is the easiest thing to break and using children the most evil thing that can be done. BUT even here the narcissist sociopath will excel. They will get the world to see you as a bad mother–regardless how amazing you are. You become violent, dangerous, mentally ill, and incompetent according to the abuser. Your demeanor after being abused for decades is now used against you by an opportunistic narcissist and a naive court system.
Very complex and dramatic stories are created around you and they go to elaborate extreme to co-opt people against you. Surely the unstable mom should not have the children –even if there is no evidence of anything against the mom or it is highly manufactured evidence. In family court–lies are commonly accepted as fact as judges do not care much to actually investigate and find the truth. The victim is beaten down and appears to be struggling. The courts NEVER ask why–they simply label and take the side of the ‘totally together’ and unemotional abuser–cool-headed because they lack total emotions so exhibit no fear or remorse or guilt. None of those annoying emotions to get in the way of the destruction of the victim.
In the end, the victim is stripped of all they have. They have lost their homes, money, reputation, dignity, support systems and privacy. They have been victimized for years–and are victimized by the family court process. The system is completely set up aid and abet these types of abusers. The court is either naïve or willfully ignorant. The result is the same–the victim is re-victimized.
The victim either totally self-destructs from the abuse or they find a new way to live. Forever traumatized by this event–they become different people. With good counseling , they can emerge stronger and more aware. They are NEVER the same person. They never can go back and reclaim who they were completely. They have been broken intrinsically. The encounter with a narcissist sociopath forever changes who you are.
The worst part remains the fight over the one last remnant they hold over you–and that is the children. This is their last chance to beat on you. The last chance to destroy you–and they will NEVER hesitate to use the children.
Children of narcissists also are victimized twice. First they are victimized in the divorce and then they are victimized throughout their lives until they can remove themselves from the narcissist. The narcissist will use the years the children are minors to instill into them horrible things about you and to try to gaslight them into submission. Some children cave for survival purposes and others rebel for that same reason. The narcissist will generally target the ones who rebel and will dominate and destroy them. Many children of malignant narcissists commit suicide as the only means of escape. The narcissist loves this act of self harm that they can orchestrate without ever actually touching the person during the death. They know they caused it but that also will always remain deeply buried in the situation. Most won’t ever be identified as the culprit. The narcissist themselves never take responsibility for anyone else’s hurt so this is no different. In some sick and twisted cases–the narcopath will use the suicide to gain even more sympathy. This is the height of dysfunction.
At a time when a narcissist can put their children first and protect them from the divorce–they choose to become the dad’s they never were–at least in theory. They demand equal parenting time and they foist the children on to others to care for. The narcopath’s family of origin become the newest victims of the narcissist as they convince them to take over care of the children–and to keep them away from the victimized parent as much as possible. The abuser themselves never have much time with the children but often use them in public to “show“ how wonderful they are as parents. Ask the children of any narcissist–and eventually they instinctively know the truth.
This is the time the narcissist cuts off their own nose to spite their face. They could be the weekend parent who gives their best to influence their children in a positive way. BUT NO. The malignant narcissist NEVER takes that option. That would create a win-win for all involved–something a narcissist NEVER wants to create. The children suffer from being removed from the parent who loved and nurtured them and is now placed with the narcissist who does not relish them and his new victim now become the unwitting slave to the narcissist as they become the caretaker of the narcissists children. Never in this equation do the courts or the narcissist ever-EVER–consider what is best for the children. They will devise plan after plan to torment the victim using the children and to torture the children as well.
Look at the wake of the narcissist. You will find repeated broken relationships and the narcopath will have no relationship with the past victims and will keep the new victim from all the past victims. The children will be raised in a chaotic state and will be pawns of the abuser all the way around. They will be used to further victimize the loving parent and they will be used a props in the abusers life. The children always suffer the most.
The abuser does not care about the children’s suffering. They want to dominate their offspring like they want to dominate everyone else. Just like spouses of abusers–the children of abusers bear the ultimate abuse. They are abused in plain sight and nobody comes to help them because the abuser is seen as a nice parent–or a fun parent…. The children are never listened to by counselors if they can get to a counselor. Their feelings are disregarded over the abusers feelings. The abuser will dominate this arena too leaving the children in a state of hopelessness and helplessness.
Children victims of a covert malignant narcissist struggle throughout their lives to understand what and why and how of the abuse occurred. They frequently sever all ties with the narcissist when they legally can do so. Their struggle never stops. It is a life long battle to overcome this parenting style and this extreme form of mental and emotional abuse. Kids will respond by becoming angry and detached or by breaking down and letting the abuser dominate them. Either way–those new victims have a long road ahead.
Throughout all of this chaos and abuse and pain and confusion and tragedy–the narcissist will simply assume a new life, new target, and move on unscathed. They will feign hurt and pain–but like all emotions that emanate from a narcissist–they are faked. Only hatred and anger and jealousy seem to be actual feelings a narcissist genuinely feels. Nobody emerges from an encounter with a narcopath unscathed except the narcopath. The victims are far and wide. The actual victim, the children, and anyone and everyone who loves the people who are victimized are themselves victimized by this tragic story.
There is no happy ending for the victims. If they are lucky, they survive and have good and loving people to help them in their brokenness. Re-emerging for the pit of hell takes a huge toll on everyone involved.
Always remember to reach out to the children victims of narcissistic abuse–because they are the most damaged and the most hurt of all. They are the ultimate victim because they cannot escape and are very often held captive by the narcissist. They are being parented by a malignant covert narcissist who will abuse them for any reason but who excels at keeping that abuse undercover. They are also being parented by the loving and devoted parent who is also being targeted and abused by the narcissist.
Those children harbor feelings that many who are not abused will never know. Small children being crushed by huge emotion. Small children being suffocated by huge pains. Small children who cannot not escape and will not be listened to by most. They are forced–as is the design of the narcissist–to stuff those emotion and to carry them around with them silently. This degrades the child and the child’s ability to feel, react, and respond. This is life long damage that is inflicted upon them. It literally destroys the child for the benefit of the narcissist.
If you know of a child or children who are victims of this type of abuse–reach out and show them some love and understanding. This is what they need most. They need acceptance and to be a part of something normal. They can have a point of reference then. They can see the distinction between their narcissistic interactions and normal interactions. The more contact they have with the normal–the better chance they stand of coping with their childhood and of becoming different from the narcissist. Mourn for and with these children because they lose a huge part of their childhood as they enter a life of uncertainty and upheaval. They will never have a sense of security –as they are introduced to betrayal and fear and uncertainty in a manner that children never should be.
They become the object of the narcissist now. They are dominated. They are controlled. They lose the right to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that the abuser does not want to deal with. There are no feeling or thoughts or behaviors outside of what the abuser has and allows the abused to have. Children internalize this belief system to their detriment. The blog for the effects on the children will be forthcoming.