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The Six Weapons of Relationship Conflict

If only we used our words, but unfortunately unresolved relationship conflict can come out in many ways other than verbal. Couples don’t even have to use the same weapons. One may attack with one while the other attacks with another. If you are using any of these as a weapon you may just want to find the right words to more appropriately talk about what’s going on:

  1. Household Chores: How are the tasks of caring for the home is divvied up. Who does what? Who does what the most? Is this by agreement? Are you carrying your weight? Are you deliberately shirking your responsibilities, leaving them to the other person?
  2. Finances: How you handling the money? Is there frivolous or selfish spending? Does one dictate where the money should go? Does one lay claim to the money or is it pooled and shared?
  3. Sex: How often does it occur? Are you both satisfied? Does it feel coerced or is it voluntary?
  4. Free time: Is there any free time? How is it spent and with whom? Are you doing things together or is one or both of you avoidant?
  5. Children: Do we have them? Who takes care of them? Who sets the expectations? How are decisions made affecting them? How do we talk of each other or represent each other to the kids?
  6. Substance use: Are you consuming alcohol or drugs in a non-prescribed way? Does your substance use create tension in your partner or children? Does your substance use interfere in any way with any responsibility? Are you preferring your substance use to time with your partner?

So many couples think that yelling or shouting, name calling or acts of physical violence or intimidation are the only ways couples fight. These six weapons of relationship conflict make for potent battlegrounds where one doesn’t so much as have to raise their voice in order to attack and have their upset felt.

If you find yourself using any of these strategies to let out unresolved conflict with your partner, then it is time to find the right words over weapons if you want to have some semblance of a satisfying relationship.

If you want to begin going in a better direction, you can start by simply telling your partner that you are upset about something. The challenge is to not blame, but explain. This may be a courageous conversation to start. If you have trouble beginning or continuing the conversation then seek couple counseling so the counselor can act as a facilitator.

If you want a satisfying relationship, please do find your words.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

Best Interests of the Child?

As soon as separated parents start bandying about the phrase, “best interests of the child”, there is a good likelihood of a nuclear dispute where those same parents don’t realize that their dispute is itself contrary to their child’s best interests.

I am not talking where there is real and substantial evidence of outright abuse or neglect. I am talking about situations where parents take their different parenting styles, approaches and values and magnify them into major differences.

It may help these parents to realize that from the courts perspective, as long as a parents are “good enough”, then both will have time with the kids and both are very likely to have input into decisions affecting them.

It may also help to realize that absent any real abuse or neglect, it is conflict alone that is most disastrous for a child’s development and well-being. So as they bandy about the phrase, “best interests of the child”, their conflict inadvertently creates the conditions for their children’s demise.

As for those parenting differences, it would do parents well to appreciate that kids are subject to different experiences all the time. One teacher has this style for managing behavior and the other teacher has that style. Kids learn to run in soccer yet walk on the deck at swimming lessons. They know which grandparent let’s them stay up late and which grandparent feeds them their favorite food.

Kids are subject to differences all over yet we don’t stand up and shout that is bad for them. We accept that children will adjust and know the differences between their various care providers, teacher, coaches and supervisors and carry on. We don’t run and take them to therapy for any of those differences yet if parents have different approaches to bedtime, cooking, meal planning or activities, this can be seen as terrible. What is terrible is the fight over these differences.

While parents may run their kids to therapy, the real need for therapy is an outcome of being drawn into their parents’ disputes. It is important to appreciate that this is more often the underlying cause of children’s distress, not the actual parental differences.

By letting children navigate the differences themselves, they then develop resiliency – the capacity to manage complex and/or adverse situations. Resiliency is necessary for surviving and thriving.

If you want to serve your kids best interests realize there will be parental differences in their care. Negotiate where you can or want and let go the rest.

Let both parents figure out what works for them and let your kids navigate the differences between their parents. Even in in homes where both parents get along and co-reside, this is the case.

Just as kids need to figure out how to get along with their friends, teachers, coaches and supervisors, so too they need to figure out for themselves how to get along with their respective parent. Just as you wouldn’t tell the teacher, coach or supervisor what to do, refrain from doing so with the other parent. Let your kid figure it out. Just as your kids may come home complaining about a teacher or homework, it remains their job to find a way to manage. So too with each parent. When we intervene we are taking away their opportunity to learn to manage. Bubble-wrap is actually bubble-trap.

Time to concentrate on what is really at issue which may have more to do with the breakdown in the intimate relationship and/or the separation and/or the unresolved loss and grief associated with change.

Parents who work on their own issues tend to get along better than those parents who more squarely focus on the issues of the other parent. As parents take responsibility for their feelings, kids tend to do better.

The best interests of the child are served with good parental boundaries and personal responsibility.

Great role model for the kids…. That is in the best interests of the child.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

When Breast May Not Be Best

I was asked privately about breastfeeding.

The new mother felt pressured to continue despite terrible pain. She wanted to stop. Her partner wanted her to continue as did the people from whom she sought support. She felt cornered and guilty, stuck and upset. She sought my opinion.

To be clear, I am not a physician, lactation consultant and certainly not a mother. However, as a social worker I have interviewed several thousand mothers wherein I always obtain developmental histories about their children – totally at least 5,000 developmental histories over the course of my career.

Those developmental histories include gathering information about conception, pregnancy, birth, pre-natal, peri-natal and post-natal care, feeding, sleep, physical, cognitive and language development, health, as well as family and social circumstances throughout.

My experience mirrors that as shown in the study of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” which is to say that fundamentally more important than anything else to the successful development of the child, is a peaceful developmental experience. The degree to which the parent, most notably the mother, is distressed she is distracted from the care and nurturing of the child and the degree to which the distress to which she is subject spreads and/or intensifies, the child is at increasing risk of a poor developmental, health, and mental health trajectory.

As per my experience, those mothers who themselves had adverse experiences at least from the time of preconception to the child becoming a toddler (unremitting conflict, abuse, drug/alcohol issues either in themselves or a near loved one; abandonment; serious medical or mental health crisis) had more difficulty parenting and co-parenting and had children who were more likely developmentally off a normal trajectory. Their children had more issues with sleep, feeding and behavior as well as more challenges with health, physical, cognitive and language development.

As important as breastfeeding is and there is no arguing that mother’s breast milk is best, the distress at times created over a dispute to breastfeed can be more detrimental to the mother’s emotional well-being, her confidence as a parent, the relationship between her and her partner and subsequently the child’s well-being than ceasing to breastfeed.

While there is no argument that breast is best, one must also consider the context in which these decisions occur and the impact of any decision upon the well-being of the mother and by extension the child.

The bottom line is that for some mothers, the decision or even ability to breastfeed is a challenge. When strategies to support breastfeeding have been tried and the mother seeks to cease, she is best to be supported in her decision. Guilt, shame and coercion have no place in supporting a new parent. We educate, inform and support.

By educating, informing and supporting we also maintain a relationship with the new mother through which we remain available to help should other issues arise. This is in the interest of the mother and her developing child.

The issue for this mother from my perspective was less breastfeeding and more feeling isolated, alone and unsupported.

The recommendation was for counseling with a neutral non-judgmental person to help her and her partner resolve conflict and find peace between themselves to limit the distress to which the child was exposed.

This baby sleeps better now.

For more information about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), please see the study on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

A Successful Divorce Starts with Oneself

Here’s the truth of it, your divorce will cost you – BIG TIME. How big may be a thing of your own making…

Whether you are the person leaving, the one who is left or even if a joint decision, separation/divorce is costly.

That cost will be on several fronts: financial, emotional, psychological and in terms of relationships.

The financial cost of divorce is not only a function of your cost of living escalating, because all expenses related to living must now be duplicated, but also owing to the expense of resolving your differences. The equation is simple; the greater the conflict, the higher the cost.

If you find yourself fighting over everything, you may also find you are fighting over principles. Chief among those principles is fairness. In trying to set a balance on the issue of fairness, the cost of the dispute can be far greater than the matter of dispute. For instance, a fight over household items can be far greater than the replacement cost of the items in question You really need to ask yourself, is the price of fairness worth the cost?

There is also the emotional toll related to the dissolution of a relationship.

Those emotions will vary and will wax and wane over time, but commonly include: anger, anguish, sadness, elation and anxiety. Indeed some emotions may be experienced at the same time, even if seemingly contradictory. This can be crazy making, but it is important to appreciate that a mix of simultaneous emotions is uniquely human and not a signal that we have necessarily lost our mind. It is the outcome of the lost of certainty and entering into uncertainty that is so emotionally disheveling not to mention the grief that is often associated with the loss of things are they were.

Psychologically, people wonder what next; why me; will I find happiness; will I land on my feet; what of my children? These are the existential questions that arise when contemplating one’s fate.

Perhaps the biggest cost though, is in terms of relationships.

So many relationships change the result of a relationship’s ending. There are changes in the relationships to one’s partners’ kin and their friends. Relationships may also change to one’s own kin and friends.

And then of course there’s the big one – the relationship with one’s own children.

At the very least, the time spent with your kids will change. This often creates the greatest struggle for adjustment. Given the struggle of adjustment, many parents fight over the time the children spend between them. While the fight is typically couched in what’s best for the kids, underneath that struggle more often is the pain of loss and having less time with one’s very own children.

Given the tremendous losses associated with separation/divorce, why is it that some people seem to breeze through while others have just a miserable and sometimes disastrous time of it? What can we learn from those who seemingly adjust better/faster?

Here’s the short of it: Those who concentrate on loss and blame tend to fare far worse than those who focus on moving forward and take as much responsibility for their own lives as possible.

That old adage, it takes two to tango is only partially true. While it is true that if you are connected to a narcissist or a bully or someone with a serious mental health or physical health issue you will have a harder time of it, it still remains that how you manage yourself, come to terms with your situation and develop reasonable expectations of your circumstances will have a big impact on the outcome for you.

Here are the strategies of the more successful people at managing the move to their next stage of life:

  1. Successful people don’t get hung up on the principle of fairness. The end of a relationship has nothing to do with fairness. It is about hurt, disappointment, disillusionment; despair, anger and anxiety. Very often people seek to balance those feelings through money, household items, time with the kids, etc. Things won’t be fare. Things will rarely be balanced as everyone will bring different issues and concerns to that equation. Instead of looking for fairness successful people think in terms of what they can live with – minimally. So instead of thinking, what is the most I can live or get away with, they think, what is the least I need in order to survive and move forward.
  2. Successful people get help early on. As the saying goes, many people are penny wise and pound foolish. In other words, they won’t spend a bit up front only to wind up spending large later on. In this regard, successful people invest in themselves. They will actively seek support and input early on to address their loss and grief such that those emotions don’t get confused in with their settlement needs. When emotions go unchecked; when emotions escalate; when emotions get entrenched, people then find themselves seeking to redress their bad feelings through the settlement process. This leads to longer and more costly disputes which in turn only creates more hardship. Successful people think in terms of dealing with their own feelings so they don’t take out those feelings on the former partner thus escalating matters.
  3. Successful people can differentiate between what they may wish for and what they may realistically obtain. They tend to have a more realistic appraisal of their situation and what can be achieved in any settlement process. When one has that realistic appraisal, then you can choose to settle, maybe not loving the agreement, but realizing it is within what may otherwise be achieved. Even though coming to terms with the loss or change to relationships, particularly one’s own kids, successful people know that the kids will continue to have a relationship with both parents, albeit differently than when the parental relationship was intact.
  4. Successful people will actively grieve. They don’t shy away from the upset of their changing situation. They acknowledge it and don’t hide behind a veil of feeling fine. By actively grieving, they acknowledge the pain of their situation versus seeking to avoid it. They can thus come to terms with the many upsets that this life alteration imposes.
  5. Successful people tend to live not just in the moment, but in the future. Instead of trying to manage or minimize losses, they consider how to invest in the next day and the day after that. They are planful, seek to develop resilience (the capacity to overcome adversity) and they seek to take responsibility for their own well being.
  6. Successful people strive more towards peace and value peace over things. They also have an appreciation that peace alone is one of the greatest gifts they can offer their kids, even at the expense of time with their kids. Thus successful people can prioritize the needs of the kids as measured by peace, over one’s own desire for fairness however that would be measured.

Don’t think that for a moment, successful people don’t struggle.

While some may look as if they manage with ease, for others it takes considerable conscious effort to be successful in one’s separation. Those struggles are are made easier by seeking and accepting support. Success won’t be measured by time or money, but peace. Success will be a function of finding one’s way with whatever one’s former partner has to throw at you and managing oneself over the other in the process.

As a wise person once told me, “It’s bad enough when someone knocks your head against the wall. Its even worse when you knock your own head against the wall.”

Grieving, learning to cope, managing one’s own emotions and being realistic are the keys to a more successful separation. Need help? Get help.

Separation/Divorce is costly. Now it is up to you to manage you.

(Download and print this article for a friend.)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

Separating/divorcing? Collaborative Law, Mediation and Beyond;

If you are going through a separation or divorce, you need to know this before you go on to settle parenting, financial or property issues:

Imagine a lawyer fed up with the family court system as far back as 1990.

That is when a fellow by the name of Stu Webb in Minnesota sent a letter around to the the judges and fellow lawyers advising he would no longer go to court.

Webb indicated he would only help people resolve their family dispute in direct meetings between the parties with their lawyers. He was so insistent that family matters be resolved out of court that he also advised that if in meeting with the parties and their lawyers the matter couldn’t be resolved, those lawyers would be disqualified from going to court on the parties’ behalf. He felt people wouldn’t want to have to start all over with new lawyers and the added expense. His thinking was that the disqualification agreement would create the conditions to keep people working within that group to arrive at a settlement between themselves.

The other benefit of Collaborative Practice is that the disqualification agreement mitigates the inherent conflict of interest in traditional litigation (going to court). In traditional litigation, a lawyer’s income is directly related to the degree of conflict between the parties. The greater the conflict, the more intense and long lasting the litigation. This drives up legal fees and lawyers’ income. Your fight is their bread and butter.

However, in Collaborative Practice, a lawyer’s incentive is to help parties reach a settlement as peacefully and expeditiously as possible. The revenue model and income of the Collaborative lawyer rests on seeing more satisfied clients the result of reasonable settlements. So lawyers trained and practicing Collaborative Law gain their income over many clients versus those who only practice litigation (going to court) who see less clients – each spending more… much more.

That concept spawned a movement and today thousands of lawyers/attorneys worldwide have been trained in what has become known as Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice.

The training and practice of this approach to settlement has evolved to include mental health professionals, parenting experts, separation/divorce coaches and financial divorce professionals. Indeed there are even business evaluators and real estate agents who have also come on board to help separated couples more reasonably resolve disputes that would have otherwise fallen to the courts.

It has long been determined that those agreement reached between people themselves are longer lasting and better followed than Court orders that are imposed. It is also the case that money spent on supportive services such as divorce coaches and financial professionals, while creating more expense, is still less than the cost of litigation and particularly in view of the fact that those litigated outcomes may not be followed anyways.

Despite this tremendously advanced settlement process, it still remains that lawyers are not necessary for all settlement discussions.

To mitigate costs further, many people opt to meet with a mediator first. So instead of paying two lawyers throughout the entire settlement process, the parties share the expense of single mediator. Once a settlement agreement has been reached through mediation, the parties then take their agreement to Collaboratively trained lawyers for “Independent Legal advice” (ILA) in order to have their mediated agreement converted into a legally binding contract.

The benefit of seeking out Collaboratively trained lawyers for the ILA process is that they are generally less inclined to provoke conflict to then undo a reasonable agreement in their own interest of turning the party into a litigation client.

The most recent movement in family law is towards peacemaking. Peacemaking is a concept promoted extensively by Forrest (Woody) Mosten, a lawyer in California.

In peacemaking, we see helpers demonstrating even greater creativity in terms of their settlement processes. Those lawyers, mediators, mental health professionals and financial professionals that don the peacemaking hat have had multiple training in Collaborative Practice, mediation and conflict resolution as well as family systems theory and child development – to name only a few ares of their cross training. As such these professionals bring a broader array of strategies to not only help separating or divorcing couples reach agreements but often improve the quality of their post-separation/divorce relationship.

In the event the separating couple has children, this is a remarkable benefit to the children of the couple. It has long been established that parental conflict presents the greatest risk factor to the development and mental health of children. To the degree to which separated parents can care for their children more peacefully, their children are better served.

When you go to a lawyer who has not been trained in Collaborative Practice or mediation, rarely will you be told about their benefits. Firstly, that lawyer who has not been trained in those processes cannot represent them as well as those persons who have been trained. Further though, it is not in that lawyer’s interest to lose you as a client to those with additional training. That is why you need to know this.

In the unfortunate event that your relationship has broken down, seek help from persons whose training is as inclusive as possible versus exclusive. If you go to a lawyer whose only training is exclusively in going to court, you will get litigation – you will likely be court involved and conflict will escalate. If you go to a lawyer or mediator or mental health professional whose training includes Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking, you will be in the hands of a person who can bring a broader array of strategies to help mitigate conflict, facilitate a settlement and help you better get on with life.

These are not guarantees, but about you getting the best shot at the kind of outcome you, your family and children deserve. Even if in the end, you are the 1.5% of persons who obtain a Court order the result of a trial, you will still be better served by working with people whose objective is to limit conflict. These approaches typically cause people to appear more reasonable in the eyes of the court.

Now you know.

(Feel free to download this blog to print and share.)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

The Therapy Experience in the Midst of Separation/Divorce – What should therapists know?

Therapists only see clients as a result of distress, typically the outcome of challenging life events. Not uncommonly, those challenging life events may create the conditions for or may be caused by separation and divorce.

The separation/divorce may come before, during or after therapeutic work is initiated.

The therapeutic work may be individual, couple, family or child directed.

There may be any modality of therapy and for any presenting problem.

Working in the context of separation/divorce poses unique issues for the therapist to consider.  However many therapists do not know what they do not know.

Many therapists do not realize the uniqueness of separation/divorce as an intervening variable on their practice. As such they may inadvertently contribute to an escalation of issues and may then put themselves at risk of professional malpractice.

I receive calls and emails from therapists seeking support and guidance in view of a client’s separation/divorce intersecting with their provision of therapeutic service.

Often the therapist has questions about the legal implications of their work and their role within the client’s separation/divorce.

If you are a therapist who wonders about or has questions about their practice in the context of a client’s separation/divorce either at referral, during service delivery or even after termination of service, I would be interested in hearing from you.

What questions do you have?

What are you grappling with?

What are your concerns?

What information do you seek in order to feel safe in your practice?

What would help you better meet the needs of clients in this situation?

Myself along with a team of colleagues are interested in taking your questions to compose a book aimed at helping therapists better meet the needs of their clients while at the same time helping the therapist better manage practice risks.

Feel free to comment below, post a comment to my Facebook or Linked In posts or send me a direct email: gary@yoursocialworker.com

The aim is to elevate services offered to people whose lives are impacted upon by separation/divorce.

Just to add, if you are a client who is receiving or has received therapeutic services and who is or has gone through a separation/divorce, I would also appreciate hearing from you about your experience with your therapist and what you may have wished your therapist knew or could have done differently.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

 

 

 

 

Narcissistic Partner? How to manage or leave…

In my article, The Five Best Friends of the Abusive Man, I detail the strategies used by narcissists and sociopaths to manipulate their partners. That article received more comments than anything else I had written. I was castigated by some for attributing the abuse to men and I was praised by others for clearly detailing the offensive and off-putting behavior they were never quite able to label before.

I think those men who have been subject to similarly abusive women got the fact that men too can be abused by women. I also think that those in same sex relationships also realized that they may have a similarly abusive partner. In other words, the article struck a nerve and was instructive to those who live in these destructive relationships.

Once you come to understand you have been manipulated into a relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, the question becomes, how you manage or get out, should you choose to do so.

Key to managing or getting out is coming to terms with the fact that you will never have closure with these individuals. You will never have the satisfaction of them “getting it” realizing it is their issues driving the conflict. The reason is because they are ego-syntonic, meaning they view their attitudes, beliefs and behavior as reasonable to the circumstances they find themselves in.

Bear in mind that as a narcissist or sociopath, they view the world as revolving around themselves. If the world revolves around themselves and they do things consistent with that, even if hurting you, then in their minds they are acting reasonably. So while the narcissist or sociopath is ego-syntonic, it doesn’t mean that they will not get angry or retaliatory when they feel that you have thwarted or interfered with their interests. Feeling good about oneself does not mean they feel good about you, particularly if they view you as acting against their self-serving interests. If they had a motto, it might be, “I am good with myself, it is you who has the issue.”

Leaving a person who believes the world revolves around them is like a red cape to a bull. When the world revolves around them, your leaving triggers the fact that they are not the center of your universe. Forget closure as they are only incensed. In undermining their center of the universe belief by leaving, then the narcissist seeks to restore order by assassinating your value. If you have no value, then the wound you inflict on them by leaving is less.

Managing or leaving will require your coming to terms with the fact you were likely seduced or charmed into the relationship in the first place. This can undermine your confidence in yourself and cause you to really question who you are and what you are worth. Truth is, narcissists and sociopaths are experts at seduction and charm. Your only contribution may at best have been being at the wrong place at the wrong time and at worst, perhaps have been emotionally needy yourself such that you were more easily manipulated. Either way, no one deserves the crazy making emotional and psychological abuse that is endemic in these relationships.

Once you see this person as truly personality disordered and that you are not deserving of their abuse, regardless of how you came to the relationship, then you are in a position to either manage and stay, or leave. Just understand though that the likelihood of changing your narcissistic or sociopath partner is slim to none.

Managing or leaving will require strategic thinking on your part. Strategic thinking will require you to find a way of not triggering your partner’s center of the universe mentality while still meeting your own needs. This will also require you to manage your emotions and behavior, so that neither is used by your partner to hold you hostage or as a weapon in a dispute over children or property.

The key is to remember your goal. Whether to manage or leave do not seek closure and do not think your partner will ever admit fault, except as a manipulation on their part to keep you hooked in. Managing or leaving as peacefully as possible will mean finding a way to help you maintain your partner’s ego as intact as possible. While this may sound distasteful and even contrary to how you feel about the situation, managing or leaving is not about how you feel, it is about finding a way to mitigate your abuse and achieving your goals in view of a narcissistic or sociopath partner.

Counseling in these circumstances requires a counselor with considerable expertise who can help you come to understand your situation and help you develop coping strategies appropriate to your circumstance. But most of all, while one does have to understand the narcissistic or sociopath personality, one must learn to mange oneself in the crazy making situation. That can be the greatest challenge and your counselor may help you most with that.

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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.