How Do I Divorce My Abusive Wife?

I received the following email from a man who has finally realized that he is in an abusive marriage and that he needs to divorce. He describes his abusive wife’s behavior and concludes by asking, “How do those of us entrenched in these horrific relationships get out?  What is the first step?” My reply follows:

Hello Dr. Tara

I’m so “happy” to have found your blog “A Shrink for Men” and have, within the last 12 hours, read every single article that you have published so far.

I am sitting at work having just spent the day doing absolutely nothing.  This isn’t because I’ve been moping over my wife’s last screaming and yelling fit, but because during my wife’s last outburst she took my work computer and tossed it to the floor, fatally damaging the disks and losing me many months worth of documents and emails.  Why such an extreme outburst?  I bought her a spiral bound notebook instead of a glued notebook – who would have thought? – and she became quite aggressive: “you cant do anything right!”, “I should have done it myself”, “you just don’t care!”, “you’re an a**hole”.  I made the mistake of telling her that I wasn’t taking this and that I would go upstairs and do some work.  That’s when the bomb went off.

Today, of course, I lied to my boss and said that I had tripped on a child’s toy and the laptop had slipped out of my hand.  How could I admit that my wife had grabbed it off my desk and lobbed it across a room?  There’s quite a bit of stigma attached to “not being able to control one’s own wife” and I’m not taking any risks.  As it is, I don’t think it really matters.  This marriage has put such a strain on me that my once fantastic career is in tatters and within the next few weeks I will be facing the dole queue.  I have watched myself go from being a successful, happy, professional with a lots of friends to a depressed, henpecked, debt-ridden, isolated man.

She is the absolute dictator of my life.  She controls my finances, who I see, what time I come home from work.  I have to take my shower by 10 o’clock, take off my shoes when I come into the house, feed/bathe the baby when I get home from my 12-hour working day, take care of said baby when she decides to go out with friends.  Failure to do any of these things results in insults, silent treatments, screaming, yelling.  Of course the content is usually the same: I am worthless, I do not take responsibility for my family, I am lazy, I am inconsiderate, I do not listen, ad infinitum.  Any decision she makes is final and enforced while all of my decisions are up for debate.

Oh, I didn’t mention that she doesn’t work in any real sense.  Last year she had the idea that she wanted to run a web business, so I helped her set it up (read: I did most of the work).  Our baby is in day-care so that she can work, and I can honestly say that within the last 3 months, I don’t think she has put a single hour into her business.  That’s not to say that she’s not interested in her work as all her friends know that she’s a “business owner” and that she “has an accountant”.  All of this goes to her somewhat self-processed independence.  She hasn’t brought in a penny since the business started.  Of course, I don’t see a penny of my quite significant salary.  It all goes into maintaining the house, our child and whichever whim she’s on (new front door, lumberjack to unnecessarily chop down trees, in-house child minder, groceries for her out of work sister….)

I have let her ride roughshod over me for so long that my finances and support network are gone.  House payments will be due, there is my son to take care of, and I could well be out of work within a few weeks.

So my question is simple.  How do those of us entrenched in these horrific relationships get out?  What is the first step?

Kind regards,

Hi Glen,

What is the first step to getting out of this kind of relationship? Be very clear about what you want to do and then pursue it clearly, purposefully and strategically. Don’t harbor any illusions about divorcing this kind of woman. A difficult wife equals a difficult divorce. Think of all her worst personality traits and then multiply them by 1,000. The divorce process is designed to be adversarial and will compound her entitlement issues, deceptions, distortions, vindictive streak and general cruelty.

Here’s what I tell my clients who are about to begin the divorce process:

1. Don’t tip your hand. Don’t let your wife know what you’re thinking about doing. Many men make the mistake of trying to be noble and honest. They believe they’re obligated to be up front with their abusive wives and tell them what they’re planning. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Alternatively, many men think telling their abusive wife that they want a divorce will scare her straight. It might get her to be nice to you for a short time, but it won’t last. Plus, that gives her time to make her own plans and or stage a drama and call the police on you.

First, you can’t be straightforward with someone who has no sense of right and wrong other than she’s always right and you’re always wrong. You can’t be open and transparent with someone who deliberately tries to hurt you. If you offer this information to her on a silver platter, she will use it to hurt you. This is a battle for your financial, physical and psychological freedom. Do not underestimate how low she will go just to “make you pay.”

This kind of woman views divorce as the ultimate rejection. It’s a huge narcissistic injury. The primary reaction to a narcissistic injury is rage and violence. The violence may not be physical. However, purposefully setting out to bankrupt you and destroy your relationships with others—including your own children—is an especially cruel form of violence.

You need time to plan without her trying to manipulate and railroad you. I know it’s difficult. It was probably hard for you to set and enforce boundaries with this woman during your marriage. It is imperative that you and your attorney do so during the divorce.

Lastly, don’t talk to mutual friends and family members about this unless you’re absolutely certain that they won’t betray your confidence. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to keep her in the dark during the earliest stages. Don’t think of it as lying; think of it as not volunteering information. Don’t fall into the familiar pattern of being her hapless victim when it comes to divorce.

2. Do your homework. Visit divorce and father’s rights websites. Schedule consultations with attorneys in your area. You want to find a lawyer who:

  • Has experience and is respected in your local family court.
  • Has experience working with high conflict personalities. That’s lawyer talk for crazy Cluster B women and men.
  • Has experience working with negative advocates. Controlling abusive women gravitate toward attorneys who are adversarial (or more adversarial than the norm), drag out the legal process (to inflate fees) and encourage them to make up false abuse allegations. Water seeks its own level, so you want representation that knows how to handle “peers” who engage in what should be illegal law practices.
  • Inspires realistic confidence. How your attorney handles your divorce will impact your quality of life for years to come—including access to your children if applicable. Don’t go for the cheapest representation (by the way, the most expensive attorneys aren’t necessarily the best). If your attorney is incompetent, an appeaser or doesn’t have experience with high conflict personalities, it will end up costing you far more than attorney’s fees in the long run.

3. Documentation. Start keeping a record of abusive incidents—especially if they occur in front of the children. Invest in a small digital recorder to keep on your person. If you do a lot of direct childcare, keep a record of how many days you drive them to school, bathe them, prepare their meals, watch them, attend parent-teacher meetings, etc. This will serve as evidence when your wife later claims that she does most or all of the childcare and should thus have full custody.

The digital recorder will also come in handy if your wife is the type who likes to call the police. Remember unless you have some record of what goes on behind closed doors, it’s your word against hers. You can be the one with the black eye and cut lip and the cops will still cart you off to the county jail.

4. Protect your ass-ets. Many abusive woman take financial control in their marriages—especially when they don’t actually have a job. This has always mystified me. Nevertheless, if your wife has kept you in the dark regarding your finances, it’s time to get up to speed.

Begin to quietly (i.e., don’t alert her to what you’re doing) gather copies of any and all financial records that you can get your hands on. Scan them and put them on multiple disks or thumbdrives that you can store in a safe place. Create a new email that she can’t access. Get a personal mail box if necessary. If she monitors your calls, get a new pay-as-you-go phone for divorce related communication and keep the phone in a safe place. Don’t surf divorce websites on your home computer if she tracks your internet activities. Use your work computer or go to the public library.

These four steps are just the beginning of the process. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst possible case scenarios. Don’t be duped by your wife. Many of these women claim that they want to amicably separate, but their actions belie their words. You don’t want to be wondering 6 months into the divorce process how she managed to trick you and twist things around just like she did in the marriage. Figure out what leverage you have and then maximize it.

Rest assured, if your wife has shown you little to no empathy, has treated you unfairly and made outrageous demands during your marriage; she will be the same, if not worse, during your divorce. Even if she is the one who initiates the divorce, this kind of woman typically has a seek and destroy attitude. You know too much about her and for that, you must be punished and discredited. If this kind of woman “wins” in the divorce, she takes it as proof that she’s in the “right”—the “injured party”—and you’re the bad guy. Your assets and shared children become her war trophies.

Pretend you’re planning to invade the beaches of Normandy. That’s the degree of thoroughness and secrecy that’s required when trying to free yourself from one of these women. Also, don’t let her push your buttons. If you lose your cool at any time throughout the process, it will be used against you. Negative advocates have been known to coach their female clients on “how to get him to hit you.” It’s sick, it happens and you need to be prepared for anything. The good news is that once you get through the process, you can start to rebuild your life rather than let her stress and torture you into an early grave.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.


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  1. Ron Pettit
    October 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I was in a relationship (short term thank God) with an abusive women. She hid it well for a few months but when the behavior started it was like a hurricane had hit. I recognized it in pretty short order & broke it off with her. That is when the REAL problems started. I was stalked for a month or so. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing her. If I called her on it she would of course deny. I took a picture of her sitting outside a store to which she denied it was her.

    Of course I was the bad guy. My only sin was breaking up with her. These types don’t take that too well…lol Twice I had to have her removed by the police from my property for banging on my door at 3am all the while threatening to “burn my house down, kill me” etc.

    When the police showed she denied making any threat. However they had her rant on the 911 call I made. One danger is the police rarely take female abusers seriously. The cop told me “hey your a guy she can’t do anything to you”. Another told me to just “man up & take care of yourself”. Despite the recorded evidence they refused to arrest her. 2 nights latter she was back, this time with a tire iron trying to break in. In my state you are allowed to shoot anyone who breaks into your house. The even call it the “shoot the burgler law” I was waiting on the inside, gun in hand. The second time the police arrested her. One HUGE issue we face as men is the police DO NOT take the threats made from females seriously.

    This resulted in her actually hitting herself with a utensil to make a mark on her face & having me arrested for assault when she was released. Luckily the night she accused me of doing this my band was at a gig in front of 2,000 wittnesses. She was arrested for filing a false report.

    I tried to get a restraining order against her from the police & they WOULD NOT issue one because I was a man. I consulted an attorney who went to the D A’s office & demanded immediate action. They issued an order of protection. In my state that is the first step in getting a restraining order. To get the actual order you have to go to court to prove you need one 3 months latter. 2 days after receiving this order she came back AGAIN! For this she was finally arrested for violating this & the D A issued charges of stalking, filing a false report, communicating a threat & assault.

    Fortunatly the D A & the judge were female & took it seriously. She received 1 year in jail. She then to called me WHILE IN JAIL. For that she was given another year. It took all of that to finally leave me alone. So be very aware that when you do leave an abusive female it can turn very dangerous, very fast.

  2. Marty
    October 4, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Yes I see there are more of us discovering the modern desease, “N’s” I too often heard ” go on hit me”, this I came to realise, was so she could always say that I hit her. Poor woman, never had it happen, I have never hit a woman and never will. Yet have been phsically abused by two of them. The last one was arrested, found guilty and punished for it, I have never seen her again, never will. Thanks for the advise Doc, you were instremental in my recovery.

    New woman now, no sign’s just normal like me, I was not sure there were any, but by keeping an eye out, also an ear for those special words, that only come from an “N” I gaurded myself. I have found someone who doesn’t want to dominate, abuse, argue or be right all the time.

    Keep looking, recover, get well a new life, one that you are not asked to change in any way. Then and only then you are ready for a woman of strength, they are out there, wonderful, beautiful loving, good woman, that deserve you.

    If I could give any help, all I would say is don’t give up. Fix it. Get well, love again.

  3. mark
    September 18, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Dr Tara –

    Great website!! My wife is on on nutball – locks herself in room most of everyday, on the internet and facebook perpetually. Abuses me and my kids, hides/hoards money, and likely having extramarital affair.

    A narcisstic personality who you can never admit she is wrong, and does understand guilt or shame. Pummels my kids verbally and physically – i just want to leave but i cant as my kids need someone who is normal and sane!! My guess is i will get cleaned out by this chick eventually – bottom line is money isnt important, family is. I cant take the abuse anymore or the lying – funny but she will blame everything on me – there is no reasoning with someone like this

  4. September 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    If anyone ever says to themselves, “Now that we are married / engaged / living together, etc., I don’t have to _____ (be nice to you / have sex / do household chores / work / use birth control / control my impulses, etc…..)__ anymore.” That means THEY DO NOT LOVE YOU and never did.

    Whatever they think is ‘love’ isn’t. You deserve better.

    • Aapeli
      September 30, 2010 at 2:38 am

      That’s a good point. This is what has happened to me.

      She would go berserk soon after coming home from work and then when I questioned her why the hell does she do that she would explain it away by saying “I have a right to do it” hmm, who gave her such rights? I didn’t! That was really the best explanation she could come up with. I have much better explanations now after years of thinking about it but she accepts none of what I say.

  5. Jason
    September 6, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Aapeli….yes get out now while you still can before you end up having a baby with her or play the “wait and see, she can’t be bonkers all the time” game. I’m telling you out of experience and the pure hell I’ve been through, run, run as fast as you can. You will never get through to her trying to have a conversation about your relationship. Forget trying to figure her out, even if you do, there is NO WAY she will accept fault. Hard for me to stomach too. One of my good friends got punched only once by his wife and he filed for divorce. It left me thinking of “gosh I get hit all the time for no reason and I take it.”

    Respect yourself and get rid of this chick. Like Christopher Titus says “crazy makes you crazy.”

    • Aapeli
      September 30, 2010 at 2:35 am

      Thank You for the advice. All this helps me to get my mind clear. I am much stronger than a year ago. I was in a pretty bad shape but last year and this year I have made good progress to get my strength back. This improvement in my shape shows in my gf so that she starts looking more nervous the stronger I look. She is afraid that she is losing control over me and yes that’s exactly what is happening.

  6. Aapeli
    September 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    One thing that I will probably never understand is why my “girlfriend” turned so aggressive right after we had moved in to live with each other.

    The past 4 years of dating before that were great. I really couldn’t see it coming.

    And I still try to understand “what made her do it”. I guess I may have to settle for the explanation that she is a bit insane and I will fail if I try to find some explanation to her behaviour that would actually make sense.

    I am just deeply disappointed at her that she had to start behaving like that as I think she is otherwise a very nice and smart person. But I think the evilness was her true behaviour before too but she hid it from me very well. I feel cheated. I feel that she lied to me about her personality. There were no words exchanged about that but she was still lying as she had like two faces and the real one was only shown to me after she had captured me to live with her.

    I just feel very deeply disappointed. I think she has the capability to do much better. And it hurts me very much when I try to talk to her about these things and she acts like she doesn’t care at all.

    She laughs at me when I say that she hid her true personality from me when we didn’t live together yet and she has denied it. There was so stark a contrast between her behaviour before moving in and after moving in that I don’t think what she is saying about it can be true.

    She changed her behaviour when she was with me dramatically after the day we moved in. One explanation she gave to me for that was that she needed to “school me”. I asked her what exactly was it that I needed to learn, she couldn’t say anything. It was like she had this foggy idea that I needed to be schooled, but she didn’t know exactly why or what, but she yelled at me any ways. And I don’t see why “schooling” has to include yelling, screaming, scratching my face with her fingernails, punching me and then yelling “don’t punch me” and all that… it’s not schooling, it’s bullying, fortunately now years later I see it for what it’s worth.

    I was very confused for many years but now I am not confused any more. Now she looks like the one who is confused. I think she will be even more confused in the next few months when it will become blatantly obvious to her that she has lost the control over me that she once had. I see her actions for what they are – other people around us may still be fooled by her, but not me, and I know my mother has understood it too. I am not sure of my father, I may have an angry father to face when I tell him what’s going to happen but I will have to accept that not all people understand these things. I may try to explain later but I cannot keep feeling sorry for my feelings forever if I am to have a respectful life. The main thing is if I can’t respect myself then I am going to have a very miserable life and that I need to fix.

    • September 6, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      I fully agree with Jason’s comment.

      You’re smart to get out before a child comes on the scene as this changes the dynamic completely and provides them with leverage to control you.

      And you can rest assured she’ll use it, e.g., any time she doesn’t get her way, she’ll threaten to leave with the child, etc.

      If other people’s experience matches my own, they’ve often been accused of trying to “control” the PD … which at least initially can set those of us who grew up being “sensitized” to female needs and advised to drop our paternalistic ways back on our heels.

      Of course this is just another of their projections, i.e., they’re actually the one trying to control the situation .

      I, like I’m sure most, never tried to “control” my wife and did point out often that if everything had been “my way”, as she often claimed, she’d have had a decent full-time jobs through most of the years of our marriage … as she claimed to want before we were married … rather than playing the “homemaker” role I went along with for years … regardless of the fact that for the most part there didn’t seem to be much done around the home and she still seemed to expect me to do about 50% of the household chores.

      I of course had expectations, same as she had of me. Only difference was that mine, e.g., if she was home all day and the kids were in school, I anticipated a decent dinner when I arrived home from work, were for the most part not me while hers were usually met by me … though she tended to forget this or trivialize it.

      No, you definitely do not want to have a child with a PD.

      • finallywokeup
        September 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm

        Old Guy, my experience does match yours. She labeled me “controlling”, even though I was the only one who worked – and she didn’t cook or clean (paid for frozen food and a cleaning lady), was always too tired for anything but outside social activities, and increasingly abdicated responsibility for taking care of our child (I also did MORE THAN 50% of the household chores and childcare – it’s always rewarding to be the first one up, getting to do yesterday’s dishes, make breakfast for your child, go off to work while your “wife” is still in bed, and then be told on arriving home at a dirty house that she is overwhelmed – just before she gets dressed up and heads off to a tupperware party or church meeting).

        Meanwhile, she kept demanding: more money, more travel, bigger house, vacation house, more paid help, club memberships, me to work more hours, a “salary” for her managing family finances – all of which I either gave her or tried to give her. She also frequently told me I had to “affirm” her or I could expect the cold shoulder for weeks.

        Of course none of it worked. She left right after I had fulfilled her latest demand, BUT I had finally demanded some accountability/info as to where the money was going and that she either help out around the house or work for some income. As far as I can tell, she told everyone on the way out (including my family, our child, teachers, neighbors, priest, etc.) that I had been abusive and controlling, and had been keeping her “in prison”.

        So, yes, by all means do NOT have children with these types. It means I am now stuck dealing with her, at least minimally, for several more years.

      • Aapeli
        September 30, 2010 at 2:31 am

        Well, guess what, I found out recently that she had been playing some “games” with some other men and I confronted her about it. Of course she cried and tried to play innocent and didn’t know why a man called her in the middle of a night and then a couple of weeks later sent her a message which I read and which was obviously an attempt to get my gf in bed with him. She didn’t know why the man did all that. And a day later after we argued about this she told me to “get your things fixed” (I need to graduate from a school, that’s what she meant) so that we can start having kids.

        My immediate response to that was “Don’t talk shit!”.

        In fact it made me laugh a bit. She gets caught playing games with other men and then she turns it around and even goes as far as suggesting that we could have kids. Umm, I don’t think so.

  7. June 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    God this would have been good to know when it all happened to me. luckily I was smart enough to get a really good reputable Silver haired female Lawyer who knew everything that was going to happen and was able to warn me as things developed n real time. Like after I won in custody and child support that most likely something was going to happen and I was to be fully on my guard. The next day my wife pretty much threw herself down under my car and then accused me of trying to run her over. It was very scary but in court again 20 minutes later the judge saw through to what was really happening and would not rule on the incident as it was meant to circumvent the decision that had been reached the day before by another court.

    I am now in therapy….I’d be really interested in anything you have to say about Betrayal Trauma in adult situations? All I read about it seems to be devoted to loss of memory in children who’ve lived through terrible situations.

    Thanks! xoxo davis

  8. Tex
    June 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent advice from Dr T.

    I am a family law attorney, and my practice focuses on high-conflict litigation. High-conflict litigation is ALWAYS driven by at least one personality disordered litigant. And for whatever reason, these individuals tend to snifff out and retain attorneys who are also high-conflict, unethical, and ruthless.

    You must prepare yourself for this war. Your disordered opponent thrives on the conflict and will devote untold time, energy and personal resources in her campaign to destroy you before you even have a clue what is happening. If you are not prepared you will wake up one day to find that your adversary has succesfully garnered support from psychologists, teachers, YOUR family, YOUR friends, your children, coaches, your kids’ friends’ parents, pastors, social workers, doctors and the judge. You must thwart her efforts before they begin in earnest.

    It is imperative that you have an attorney skilled in these types of conflicts — one who understands the futility of negotiation, compromise, and reasonable discourse with this type of adversary. Very very strong boundaries are more important than ever.

    Make no mistake, irrespective of what your opponent says, she is determined to completely annihilate you. Be prepared to spend a lot of money and plan for it. You will be in court a lot because you can never let her accusations go unchallenged and you can never allow her a free pass for her noncompliance with court orders.

    It’s difficult and unpleasant but it’s worth it in the end. I have had clients falsely accused of family violence and sexual abuse; I’ve had clients lose their jobs, lose every penny and possession; I’ve had clients who were the targets of very aggressive parental alientaion campaigns and every other imaginable devastation. But have never once had a client who had any regret that they left a NPD/BPD spouse. Never.

    Good luck to all of you, gentlemen. A better, more deeply fulfilling life awaits you.

  9. FreedomFinally
    June 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    TAKE HEED, if you are contemplating marriage, or divorce and are in this situation, you need this information, if you don’t, and if you don’t follow this advice, you will pay the cost dearly, not just financially…but lost time with your kids, and emotional disaster.
    When I was living in the house, the abuse was such that I don’t think I actually knew what I wanted. I was so brainwashed that I actually felt like I didn’t deserve anything and I am the bad guy and the abuser if I demanded anything. She had me cornered in such a way that I was always in a position of having to ask her for something that was already mine. My mindset didn’t improve until I moved out, my lawyer would not approve me moving out until a Joint Parenting Agreement was in Place. So, I basically signed off on a very one sided Joint Parenting Agreement that effectively let me see my children about 20% of the time, considering how involved I am with them, this was devastating, but I convinced myself that it was best for the children if they do not stay overnight at my house on schooldays, I convinced myself that little children need to be with their mother more. She had started to act very nice toward me and very logical, so I lulled myself into believing that this is what the future held, we were going to be two reasonable adults that will co-parent two well adjusted children. What a mistake that was, less than a week after I had moved out the nightmares began.
    She executed her rights in the agreement with a Draconian vehemence, everything was to be followed according to letter, the school was notified by her that they are not to release the children to me no one minute earlier than my 3:00 visitation time commenced. My holidays were to begin at 9:00am not earlier not later, they were to end at 7:00pm no later, she threatened to call the police if I did not follow this to the exact point. Every loop hole to limit my time with the children was used, I went for five weekends without having my children stay over because she scheduled her vacations specifically around my time with the children. Emails were sent daily and still come accusing me of being a bad parent, of violating the agreement, alleging all sorts of things that did not happen. When the children stayed with me they were continuously conveying to me how much emotional poison their mother was feeding them.
    Everyone should heed these words if you are lucky enough to stumble upon this blog while either getting ready to marry, contemplating divorce, or just starting the process. Dr. T is right, there is absolutely no way to deal with these women on a reasonable and cooperative basis, you have to come out of the gate hard, and hit them before they know what is happening. I started out right, but felt guilty and dropped the ball, don’t be me.

    • September 6, 2010 at 4:37 pm

      This is why I would love to see everyone in an abusive relationship seek individual counseling (who are legally required to keep EVERYTHING–with the exclusion of threatening bodily harm to yourself or others–confident and private or risk losing their licenses to practice) BEFORE starting the divorce process.

      Although it will likely confuse and torque off your abuser if they notice you growimg stronger and more confident, in cases like yours, I think it would help you to have that confidence before or during meeting with an attorney for the first time.

      Just my 2 cents,

  10. Jason
    May 26, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    The advise here seems to be geared toward dealing with a spouse with a full blow Custer B disorder. There is no mistaking that my mother-in-law falls into this category. My wife, however, does not. She has many traits of Narcissistic disorder, but lacks others. Her overall behavior is quite mild compared to what many men have reported here. There is nothing to record–it’s been “death” by a thousand cuts.

    My worry with the divorce route is that I would crush her. I’m also in a terrible bind with child support for a 14 and 16 year old. I’m a very frugal person (which irritates my wife) and the calculators end up with an absurd amount–I’d save significantly asking for sole custody. On the other hand, as I relate elsewhere, my wife is extremely good with our children and has avoided dumping her narcissistic behavior on them (and me instead.) How flexible are the courts in coming up with a reasonable amount?

    The other issue is alimony. When we married, my wife agreed to go back to college once the kids got in school. She reneged on that promise and now barely works (she does a lot of volunteer work with Girl Scouts and helping the kids with school so she’s not entirely a lazy-ass, but too lazy for my taste.) The point is that she’s capable of getting a decent job, but hasn’t. How does that factor in?

    The other weird thing is that my wife has learned to be very frugal with groceries, but spends like mad everywhere else (I’ve tried to point out the non-logic of this, but she ignores me.) Would this factor into alimony/child support?

    Yeah, yeah, get a great lawyer. Planning on it, just trying to get a feel for what I may be in for.

  11. Shobu
    May 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Well, my stbx is now, as of today, officially my ex. I really want to thank everyone on this site for their stories that I’ve lurked over the last year or so. I especially want to thank the good doctor for this website and her articles. They were such a huge help and I only wish I’d followed her advice a little sooner.
    Follow the no-contact rule. Document abuse and other issues whenever you can. Follow Dr T’s advice above about how to divorce this type of person; it will help you.
    My only addition to the doc’s advice would be to make sure you select a good lawyer, someone who has had experiences with these personality types and is very good at trial. Having a lawyer who understands these issues makes a huge difference. Of course reaching a settlement saves a huge amount of time, money, and stress, but you have to be prepared to go all the way and have a gladiator in your corner who understands how to approach a trial, and how
    to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Much like Dr. T said earlier about people with these personality disorders, they often choose not to settle (we floated a couple of very generous offers to my ex-wife and her attorney, they didn’t even respond with a “no”, they just didn’t respond) and have trouble articulating what they want (when asked point blank to write up her “ideal” settlement just so I would have some
    notion of what she wanted so we could work with it, she responded in an email “I don’t really know what I want”). Having a good lawyer who will prepare for trial fully and correctly can be expensive, but since you aren’t dealing with a completely rational human being, and possibly one who will try vent their rage and continue their abuse via the court system, if you don’t have a good lawyer you can get destroyed. Also be prepared for some of the most stressful and embarassing moments in your life (as an example, in my case I was born with a heart condition that needs additional surgery soon. At the pretrial conference her attorney said my ex was willing to testify that upcoming surgery was “bogus” and that I was a “drunk” and that’s why I had this heart issue, even though a) we were together during my first surgery and b) my cardiologist was willing to testify as to my medical condition. Not a rational human being.)
    Thanks to my lawyer being prepared fully and his reputation for being a warrior in a trial setting, we were able to hammer out a settlement at the pre-trial conference, where the judge basically outlined how she would decide things at trial based on the attorneys outlining their case. So now I am legally free and although I owe a ton in legal fees, I have never felt so good about being in debt.
    I don’t really have any ill-will towards my ex either. Sure, the marriage was often hellish, and she tried some shady stuff legally and financially during the divorce process, but being out of that relationship and realizing what she must have going on in her own mind all the time and the way she views the world, makes me feel sorry for her, not angry, although I do hope that no-one else gets sucked into the same type of abuse that I endured from her. She does need a warning label.
    Thanks so much Dr. T, for all the wonderful and timely advice!

  12. Mr. E
    May 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I’ve been emailing attorneys and trying to set up initial consultations, which has been kind of liberating but mostly scary. I haven’t met with anyone yet.

    Anyway, I wonder if any of you have been in (roughly) my situation:

    We live in a No-Fault state.
    Married 5 years.
    No kids
    Own a house that’s way upside down. She can have it, though I wonder if she will want it.
    Nearly equal incomes.
    No significant debt except the house. Vehicles are paid off.

    I wonder what level of “difficulty” I can expect through the process. Anyone with a similar experience or advice?

    • Lighthouse
      May 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      Divorces can range from travelling in the same car to the court house to paint stripper on cars ten years after the final decree. It is not the quantity of shared assets that determines the level of difficulty, it is the participants.

      As you have no kids, whatever emotional turmoil and acting out your ex- may be inclined towards can be effectively tempered by using the no contact rule.

      Just one word of caution – don’t be tempted to sneak back for one last night of fun or the opportunity to make a clean break may disappear if you know what I mean.

    • chester
      May 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Contact your bank and try to determine, if, and at what price-they will agree to a “short sale” of your house. Other than that, you are sitting pretty as to how difficult a divorce will be. That said, never underestimate the tendency of a npd/bpd the haggle over the most trivial bullshit. The ultimate goal being…inflict as much pain on you-as possible.

  13. David M.
    May 11, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Lady, You are spot on! You write with GREAT CLARITY and it is much appreciated.

  14. Recovering Alpha
    May 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I can’t recall which article blog discussion revolved around BPD/NPD excessive parenting ruining/de-motivating children. But here’s an interesting article which includes some links to research stating that it is better for parents “to lighten up” regarding raising their kids. For example, constantly telling them “how smart you are” and such actually increases the chances of quitting when the child encounters difficulty. LINK: George Will (author)

Comment pages
  1. December 2, 2010 at 10:50 am
  2. November 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm
  3. October 27, 2010 at 5:51 pm
  4. May 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm
  5. May 3, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  6. May 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm

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