Why High-Conflict and Abusive Personality Disordered Women Drag Out the Divorce Process

Many abused men who have made the difficult decision to divorce a high-conflict, abusive and/or abusive personality-disordered wife are rarely able to make a quick and easy escape. I commonly advise clients who are about to begin the divorce process to prepare for false allegations of abuse, financial chicanery (e.g., hiding funds, identity fraud, inflated and/or false living expense claims, etc.), a refusal or inability to articulate what the ex wants as a settlement and to expect countless, needless delays and blatant stonewalling tactics.

Dragging out the divorce process is an unfortunately all too common behavior in which high-conflict spouses engage. After you realize that your wife’s behavior is abusive and decide to get out, you most likely just want to get out and end it quickly.

No one in their right mind enjoys the divorce process. Divorce, even in the most amicable cases, is painful, stressful and involves a degree of conflict. Reasonably healthy and sane people want to get through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible, so they can fully begin to heal, let go and move on.

Not so for an abuser, high-conflict person  and/or abusive personality disordered individual, henceforth known as Crazy. These types not only seem to enjoy conflict, they revel in it and seek to prolong it, which means you’re at cross-purposes if your goal is to expediently and fairly resolve your divorce. For every conflict you try to resolve during the divorce, Crazy manufactures 10 new conflicts or flatly ignores attempts to resolve the issues.

In my experience, there are 4 factors that predict how difficult and lengthy Crazy will attempt to make the divorce process:

  1. Degree of control freakery
  2. Degree of entitlement
  3. Degree of self-imposed financial dependence
  4. Degree of fear of criticism/failure

1. Control freaks don’t like losing control. Control freaks hate losing control and fight against it tooth and nail. Divorce represents the ultimate loss of control over you. It doesn’t matter if she’s the one who initiated the divorce; she won’t relinquish her “right” to screw with you at will without a fight.

What is she afraid of losing? Money, position, status, the children, you and what you represent in terms of her identity. The bigger the control freak, the harder she will fight to maintain her dominion over you, the children and the assets, which means the more likely she is to drag the divorce out.

2. “I’m entitled. You OWE me.” I don’t know exactly why these women feel they’re entitled. Perhaps it’s due to their unfounded belief that they’re “special” or perhaps it’s because many of them see themselves as perpetual victims to whom you and the rest of the world must make restitution. Crazy as it seems, this kind of woman believes you “owe” her because you had (infrequent) sex with her once upon a time, had children with her and, in many cases, afforded her the privilege of not having to go out in the world and support herself based on her own abilities.

In my estimation, many ex-husbands could make the same claims. If you sexually serviced your ex-wife, gave her your sperm and produced children whom she’s now alienating/denying you access to, and financially supported her for years while she hid out and hung out at home and the PTA, flitted from one low-paying go nowhere job to the next and/or financed her pie-in-the-sky small business ventures with your hard-earned money, your ex-wife owes you.

Shrink4Men Forum member, Frustrated403, describes the “you owe me” phenomenon this way:

Each time I confront mine about something she’s supposed to do according to our agreement, I get something to the effect of, “I owe you nothing.” It’s amazing how much I owe her (at least in her mind) and yet she owes me nothing. The sense of entitlement coupled with the fact that the gravy train is coming to the station must be very troubling to her indeed.

How do you know you’re dealing with a pathologically entitled ex-wife? She’s able to give you a laundry list of reasons, many of them contrived, of all the things she’s done for you, sacrificed for you, etc. However, when asked  about the factual things you’ve done and given up for her, it’s met with silence, negation and/or contempt.

These types believe they’re owed everything and owe nothing in return. Her faux sacrifices are biblical in scale; your legitimate sacrifices are meaningless or “what a husband is supposed to do.” The entitlement truly is breathtaking.

3. The “I sacrificed my career for you fallacy and hostile dependency. Giving up a mid-level $45,000/year career in Marketing is not a sacrifice; neither is giving up a job as an events planner, bank teller, sales associate, HR rep or nurse (a field, by the way, that is ridiculously easy to re-enter due the nationwide nursing shortage).

In fact, the real person who’s sacrificing their happiness, losing time with the children and being shouldered with all the responsibility in the marriage is the husband/father who must now worker harder and longer hours to support a wife who is able to work, but refuses to do so.

Hostile dependency is a developmental phenomenon that is technically supposed to occur in adolescence. A teenager’s two primary developmental tasks are developing a cohesive identity and individuating from their parents into responsible, autonomous beings. This can be a frustrating period for both teens and parents because the adolescent wants to be perceived as an independent adult, when in reality they’re still financially and emotionally dependent upon their parents.

It’s not uncommon for a teenager to arrogantly shout at their parents, “I don’t need you! I can take care of myself!” while ignoring the fact that the food they eat is paid for by mommy and daddy, the home they sleep in is paid for my mommy and daddy and the car they drive off in to the mall to complain about mom and dad to their friends is also paid for by mommy and daddy.

Your ex wife is no different than the adolescent in the above scenario, except that she’s unlikely to ever grow up whereas there’s hope for actual adolescents. A Shrink4Men Forum member describes it this way:

They might hate us, but they know what side their bread’s buttered, so they don’t want to let go that easily. In fact, that might be part of the reason they hate us so much, the resentment at feeling they owe us or need us in some way.

4. Winning, duh! The more sensitive your ex is to criticism, having her authority challenged and/or looking like a failure, the harder she’ll fight to be perceived as “the winner” in your divorce proceedings. The more she can take from you, including the love of your shared children (sometimes this type of woman will even try to turn your own family of origin against you), the more determined she’ll be to be seen as “the winner.” I believe their closed flawed logic system goes something like this:

I’m the victim; he’s the villain. Therefore, I should get all the money, assets, friends, family and children. If I don’t get everything, people might think I’m at fault. . . EGO ANNIHILATION! I must win to prove I’m the all-good victim and he’s the no-good S.O.B. Plus, he deserves to lose everything after the way he’s treated me. If I did anything mean it’s because he deserved it—including that affair with his business partner. Hmmph.

Unfortunately, there’s no winning in divorce; only various degrees of losing.

True victory comes after the divorce is finalized and is found in both partner’s ability to heal, let go and move on. This doesn’t include the typical Crazy posturing of “I’ve moved on. I’ve never been happier,” while they simultaneously drag out the divorce process. By the way, people who have really moved on don’t make a point of telling others, “I’ve moved on” because, newsflash, they’ve moved on. If you’re truly ready to move on, you don’t ask for more than your fair share, you don’t try to punish your ex and you don’t drag out the divorce process.

Furthermore, Crazy often refuses to see that by dragging out the divorce and wasting more and more money on attorneys and court costs, she is harming herself. The more joint assets that go to attorneys’ fees, the less she walks away with, which is why I believe the behaviors described in this post are pathological. In other words, Crazy, in her compulsive drive to punish you and “win,” often acts against her own interests, which is one of the definitions of Crazy.

The following passage was written by Shrink4Men Forum member, WoodytheSingingCowboy. He does an excellent job articulating the 4 factors and how they play out in a divorce with a high-conflict woman:

My theory about the delay and stall tactics is that it took them so long to find a man who would allow them this much control and with it a style of living they enjoy that they just can’t let it go because they fear they won’t find it again.

In my case, she is scared to death that she might have to take her job and her business seriously because it will be her sole source of income. This means that others have some measure of control over her because if she fails to perform to expected levels she could either lose or see her income reduced. In turn, that would mean loss of control in other areas. With my income around it meant she had no cares of how her work was received because if her income went down or was lost, she still had mine.

So with me gone, she will have to be like the rest of us and work with others to make our place in the world. I provided, and I believe many other men here did or do as well, a certain amount of buffer from the real world for these women. So losing us is not acceptable because they have to return to dealing with the real world.

So imagine the paradise they see if they can find a way to not only have their cake, but eat it too. I refer to being in the separation phase permanently because during this time they have your income and their own, your property and their own, the kids, and you out of their lives as they wish. So they have complete financial control, complete parental control of the kids, and they can torture the man at will and then send him away when they grow tired. This perfectly feeds their needs. So why wouldn’t they want to continue it forever and as such delay and stall for as long as possible?

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting 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. euphobot says

    Would very much of this show up on a MMPI?
    I think the test requires some interpretation. Could an evaluator simply leave out anything related to such a conclusion?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi euphobot,

      Personality tests leave a lot to be desired. First, they can be gamed. Second, no clinical picture should be based solely upon a personality test or inventory. They should be used in conjunction with a series of clinical interviews. Also, having a personality disorder/mental health diagnosis may or may not help you in court. From my understanding, judges are more interested in documented behaviors as opposed to diagnostic codes.

      Hope this helps,
      Dr T

      • euphobot says

        OK I think I got it. Focus on the behavior and ignore the BS explanations for it. Clearly the behaviors are destructive. Just as clearly the psych evaluators were also. But we part company on the judges. They were more focused on their feminist fantasies than behavior or documentation. Spent two years documenting the bigoted feminism of the DV industry and was amazed to find the same judges waddling in the sane mud pit of bigotry and female idolatry . They are total life member supporters. Guess how they judged the “best interests of children.”

        How big is this problem? Well they are my kids and that to me is as big as it gets, but lots of other people have kids too. We looked at studies by the US Dept of Ed. who said involved fathers make a full grade point difference, Alliance for Education who are big time boosters of education and added up the economic advantage to completing school, the Wall Street Journal who added the lifetime advantage, and the Fatherhood Initiative who added up all the incidental taxpayer costs. We came to the conclusion that judge shenanigans cost Americans $500 Billion per year. That is more than $100 Billion in tax savings, plus $100 Billion in new tax revenues, plus another $300 Billion post tax dollars for American kitchen tables. Recently Republicans boasted $38 Billion. Dullards!

      • Marshall Stack says

        The one competent attorney I spoke with gave me similar advice, and also said that you should focus your efforts on making *you* look like a good parent/spouse instead of making her look like a bad one.

          • Marshall Stack says

            I probably should have been more clear – her advice to me was in regard to child custody. As far as the divorce itself goes, I would absolutely insist that an attorney use whatever documentation exists to prove her to be a bats**t crazy nutbag.

  2. HappyMan says

    Great article – I found a great way to drag things to a conclusion:

    1. Set things in motion and keep your own deadlines
    2. File papers and keep those deadlines that are embedded [like response dates]- refuse to be swayed with the myriad of excuses to delay and prolong.
    3. Remember that there will always be some crisis that means she thinks she needs more time.
    4. The second you take something off the rails she longer has any need to respond and it’s likely she will do nothing whatsoever until you put it back on the rails.

    5. Have faith

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Thanks, HappyMan. Great advice.

      Excuses for delay are nothing more than that—lame excuses. It’s the divorce version of “the dog ate my homework.” What chaps my hide is that in almost every other area of law, attorneys and claimants who show up without documentation/being ready are admonished/default their case. Not so in most divorce courts. We really need to do away with judiciary discretion. Judges need to start being held accountable and should make decisions based on protocol and the law instead of their “discretion.”

  3. Free at Last says

    Wow, does this posting ever strike home with me! I’m recently out of a year-and-a-half relationship with a pathologicaly narcissistic woman who is (a) still in divorce proceedings with her six-figure-salary ex-husband and (b) immediately after I left her, she hooked up with someone else and is now enjoying an all-expenses-paid vacation in France!

    Quite obviously, we broke up because I wouldn’t “allow her this much control and with it a style of living she enjoys that she just can’t let it go because she fears she won’t find it again.” Ditto for her ex-husband. Ditto for her new boyfriend, most probably.

    My ex makes a remarkably good living. She’s a self-employed personal trainer and dietitian in a well-heeled area, and her clients pay her in cash or checks made out to “cash.” So she cheats and pays no income tax at all (while constantly trashing the Hispanics who work under the table).

    Regardless of her impressive take-home earnings, she doesn’t want to be responsible for ensuring her financial stability. She desperately needs someone else with a high and steady income to protect her need for four or five fancy vacations every year to spectacular places.

    Her ex-husband has made two very reasonable divorce settlement offers which she has refused – because she now knows that he has $1.3 million in his retirement fund, and feels entitled to get a share of it. Not only is she dragging it out, but she blames him for “making things difficult.”

    These women are just so poisonous.

    • TheGirlInside says

      ” So she cheats and pays no income tax at all (while constantly trashing the Hispanics who work under the table).”

      Hypocricy, too, I think is another sign of a BPD/NPD. Mother figure likes to point out how racist people are, while in the next breath commenting about how [a certain ethnic group] ‘always’ live their lives a certain way.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        Hypocrisy is a very big thing with many of these individuals. The biggest ones are those who direct feigned moral outrage at others all the while they’re cheating the system and abusing their family members.

        The moral outrage is usually nothing more than a distraction technique and a grab for moral superiority. Don’t take the bait and defend yourself when they do it. Always, always turn the focus back onto them and their bad behavior. Talk about people who live in glass houses. Sheesh.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      “She blames him for ‘making things difficult.”

      Translation: She blames him for not rolling over, opening his bank account, giving her his retirement fund and playing dead.

      Parasites feed off of their hosts, don’t they?

  4. Frog says

    We have been separated for over five years and divorced for over four. My ex (diagnosed with various cluster B disorders) is on her THIRTEENTH family law firm (twenty plus different attorneys).

    I get it…

    So, Dr. T, what do I DO about it… 😉

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi Frog,

      Are you always in front of the same judge or has it been a series of different judges?

      I know you’ve been representing yourself, but have you considered consulting with an attorney who specializes in these cases? Another lawyer isn’t necessarily the answer, but it would seem with such a preponderance of documentation of her unstable behavior, diagnoses, etc., you ought to be able to turn this thing around.

      I’m sorry, but I can’t remember what geographic area you’re in (and wouldn’t post it here). If you want me to help you find an attorney who specializes in this field in your area, email me and I’ll try my best.

      The only other alternative is to disengage emotionally and put up with her BS, which really isn’t a good alternative—especially if you’re children are young and 18 is a long ways away.

      • Frog says

        We’ve had the same judge most of the time for the last three years (he gave me sole legal custody after the second evaluation and ordered her into anger management). I do consult with a family law attorney occasionally.

        I’ll wait for the next post!

  5. Lebrocq says

    I know this may sound counter productive and it would depend on a person’s wealth but the strategy I took was to tear down everything financial. I drained the retirement fund, closed my business down, stopped working so there was little financial to fight over by the time I got locked out of my house.

    I also got assisted legal aid so my legal bill is dirt cheap even though I was in the system for two years.

    On top of that I managed to get back into school so I have very little income to speak of. As a result I have trained her to expect she isn’t getting much cash out of me which has forced her to re-enter the real world – at least part time.

    Because my daughter is so young the limited finances isn’t doing any damage – going to the park, arranging play dates with new school friends who have kids, going to the library, playing in the sandbox, reading books, – don’t require a lot of money.

    I’ve been able to focus my efforts on being a great dad!

    By the time my daughter needs things like braces and I need a better income there’s a good chance she’ll be living with dad because it will be up to her where she wants to live. The poor kid is already angry ‘mom’ doesn’t let her see dad enough.

    • Marshall Stack says

      “Because my daughter is so young the limited finances isn’t doing any damage – going to the park, arranging play dates with new school friends who have kids, going to the library, playing in the sandbox, reading books, – don’t require a lot of money.”

      Those are the things that come to mind when I think of the best times I’ve had with my kids. My wife is already stressing about summer vacation – what she’s going to do with them for three months, how we can’t afford to sign them up for all kinds of expensive camps, how she’s going to be “stuck” with them all day…

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      A very bold move, Lebrocq. Parasites either shrivel up and die or move on to find another host when their current food source can no longer sustain them. Smart, but not plausible for everyone.

      It may seem counter-intuitive, due to attorney’s costs, but the best time to file for divorce is often when one is in a financial downturn.

      • Marshall Stack says

        A dangerous move as well, depending on when you do it. You could get blasted in court for wasteful dissipation of marital resources if you do all that after you file.

  6. ItsMyLife says

    Wow, You nailed it.
    1. Has to be in control, very manipulative, yet claims she is the one controlled.
    2. Has to feel like her part-time, entry level job is just as important as my full-time career and I should be willing to sacrifice it so she can meet Her employment obligations. Claims how she has made so many sacrifices. The failed Avon Rep. attempt, yet it was somehow my fault it didnt work out.
    3. Really makes herself financially dependant on me yet resents me for her own self imposed situation. Like it is my fault she cant get or keep a good job and insists on wasting money.
    4. Has to be seen in a good light by others. Since people might not be able to see the kind of person she is, she has to tell them.

    • TheGirlInside says

      “4. Has to be seen in a good light by others. Since people might not be able to see the kind of person she is, she has to tell them.”

      I learned that from a former friend, who constantly talked about how ‘honest’ she was and how much she hated being lied to. Red Flag: People who spend time explaining to you who and what they are, are likely lying. People who are truly honest and upstanding, don’t feel the need to tell anyone. They let their actions speak for themselves.

  7. Mellaril says

    When dealing with HCPs in any context, I believe it’s truly important to develop a good understanding of the concpets of Threat and Risk. Once you have those, you can see what areas you may be able to alter, what you may need to defend against and what areas you may be able to go on the offensive with.

    Threat = Capability X Intent

    (1) If either is zero, there is no threat. If your HCP is a forensic accountant, he/she likely has significant capability in an economic context. Toss in the IRS offers rewards for ratting out tax cheats and you may have problems if he/she knows you’ve been fudging your taxes. If your HCP is a bedridden quadriplegic, he/she may have little capability to pose a direct physical threat to you.
    (2) Threat has context. There are different types of threats. There is the threat of physical violence, there’s an economic threat, there’s the threat they’ll restrict access to your children, etc. Threats need to be evaluated separately.
    (3) Threat is what they bring to the table and often there’s little or nothing you can do to change that. Unless you go the Julia Robert’s “Sleeping with the Enemy” route, there’s not a lot you can do to eliminate the threat. That’s the security philosophy behind “No Contact.” If you can’t beat them, avoid them, at least as much as possible.

    Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequence

    (1) Again, if any factor is zero, there is no risk.
    (2) Vulnerability is what we bring to the table. We may be more vulnerable to some things than others. If you read Lebrocq’s post, he reduced his economic vulnerablity. Reducing vulnerabilty is the one factor we have the most control over.
    (3) You may or may not have the ability to alter the consequences. Consequences have to be evaluated in the context of the threat. If there’s a threat of physical violence, there a range of consequences. You could be arrested, you could end up dead. If your HCP successfully cuts you off from your kids, there’s a huge emotional consequence.

    When it comes to assigning relative values, use “high,” “medium,” and “low.” If you don’t make much money and don’t have significant assets to protect, your economic risk is probably low. If your HCP is a coffee cup throwing (e.g., my mother) screamer with a hair trigger, you probably need to rate “threat of physical violence” “High” and implement some countermeasures like never allowing yourself to be alone with your HCP. When you start separating out the different types of risk, it’s easier to start playing an aggressive defense.

    If you’ve been walking on eggshells for a significant period of time, you should have a pretty good idea of where your HCP’s triggers are. Leverage those against him/her. Dealing with HCPs isn’t figure skating. There’s no “Artistic Impression” score and when the dust settles, nobody will likely know or care how nobly or scrupuously you played the game. When it comes to dealing with HCPs, sometimes you just have to stand and fight.

    It’s not the preferred way to do things, it’s acrimonius and expensive but with HCPs, sometimes it’s the only way.

    • Peter says


      You have a clarity of explaining things that is really helpful. Thanks for your insight.

      Kind of reminds me of that Fog of War movie where the speaker (was it MacNamara?) explains that you have to understand the mind set of your opponent to reach your objectives.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        Fog of War is a great documentary with MANY valuable lessons. I highly recommend it. In brief, here are the lessons:

        1. Empathize with your enemy
        2. Rationality will not save us
        3. There’s something beyond one’s self
        4. Maximize efficiency
        5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
        6. Get the data
        7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong
        8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
        9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
        10. Never say never
        11. You can’t change human nature

        In fact, you’ve just inspired a new article. Thanks, Peter!

  8. george says

    Dr. T. I’m always so amazed as to how well you can describe my life! I swear you must have had secret video cameras on me for years! ;v) More seriously, as I read through your article, I can pick out examples from my experience in divorcing my BPD ex-wife for each of the bad behaviors which you describe. I’m guessing that all of these types of people are just so similar that their bad behaviors are also very similar. The good news for any of the people just starting out in this process is that by understanding how these types of HCPs operate, you can anticipate their bad behaviors. They truly are very predictable once you understand them. So as bad as the roller coaster ride is, at least when you see the hairpin turn coming up, if you can lean into it a little bit and anticipate it, it will make the ride more bearable.

    • frustrated403 says

      When my divorce process started, I wrote down what I could expect given what I had read on this blog and elsewhere about PDIs. Mine is following the script exactly as planned. As I like to say, they are must be issued some sort of handbook when they are admitted to the club and have to abide by the rules therein. I am still at a loss as to what to do. Still living in the same house, etc as she continues to stonewall me on everything. The house should be sold soon. I am hoping that this will get the ball rolling.

      Any advice George?

      • george says

        So first of all, just because you can predict the behavior doesn’t mean that it won’t be a rough roller coaster of a ride. Sadly, if you have enough financial resources (i.e. you have the ability to pay) and your HCP ex manages to find a lawyer willing to exploit her desire for conflict, you will be in for a long tough ride. You’ll just be able to see the bumps in the road before you hit them. So probably the first thing to do is to get over the optimistic delusion that you’ll be able to work through this without too much trouble or financial pain. It’s been my experience that the only way to minimize the damage is by being very prepared such that her bad behaviors and tactics are not effective against you. What’s even better is if you are so well prepared that those bad behaviors and tactics start to show her true character and blow up in her face. So will she have a sense of entitlement? Yes, she will. Will she do everything in her power to keep from working and making you pay? Yes, she will. Get an employment evaluation done. Plan on her dragging her feet. Be proactive. Keep your guard up. Make sure your documentation is complete and done well. Will she blame you for the loss of her career? Yes, she will. Will she say that she doesn’t need you and that she is better off without you while she cashes your support checks? Yes, she will. Will she try to prove that she is the winner in your divorce proceedings? Yes, she will. Will she try to prove that you are a dirt bag and she is the innocent victim by alienating your children against you? Yes, she will. Get your kids into some therapy as soon as possible with someone who understands HCPs and parental alienation. You might even want to get some support yourself, because parental alienation is a difficult path. Will she make up things to try to turn your friends and children against you? Yes, she will. For her will it be all about winning and will she have no concept of empathy or fairness? Yes, she will. So, if you know that she has no empathy or concept of fairness, remember this when you are negotiating with her. Often times in negotiations, one side gives a little in one area and the other side gives a little in another area. Don’t expect her to give in on anything. It’s ok to hope for compromise and fairness, but don’t plan on it. Be prepared to defend your right to what is fair. When your assets get split up, it’s assumed that they are split in half unless you can prove that they are separate or before marriage assets. Will she try to get half of your assets even though she knows that some are all yours? Yes, she will. The burden of proof will be on you so prepare accordingly. Will she try to drag on the divorce even though it is harming her by wasting money and harming your kids? Yes, she will. Will she say hurtful things just to punish you and pretend that life is so much better and happier without you in the picture? Yes, she will. Will she pretend to be nice to you so as to butter you up so that she can get more stuff out of you? Yes, she will. She will try to take advantage of any of your good natured qualities so that she can squeeze more out of you. Don’t be lulled into believing that she will return any gestures of good faith. She is just playing you for a sucker like she always did. Keep your guard up. Execute the process and keep your eye on the goal of getting done and out.

        • frustrated403 says

          Thanks George. Everything you say has already come true, with the exception of the being nice part (although this could happen, I don’t expect it to). I am doing my best to be prepared. I really don’t want to go to court — it costs a lot and the outcome will probably not be a whole lot different than mediation — but it looks like we’re headed there thanks to her. It is frustrating dealing with someone who thinks she is going to get everything and will spend endlessly on a lawyer to get it (she doesn’t seem to get that even if I end up paying for her legal fees, she still loses). I am hoping her lawyer is not one of those who loves the paycheque that comes along with having HCPs as clients and will ultimately tire of her.

          As you say, I am doing my best to be prepared. Getting away from all the history and and he-said, she-said crap that she is spewing and sticky to the facts. The thing I do like about court is that rational and not emotional reasoning is supposed to prevail.

          I have gone beyond trying to be fair with her since, as you said, she will not treat me the same. I have told my lawyer that I still want to take the high road, but “let’s take the b**** to the mat.” I have adopted the four Fs: Firm, Fair, Fast and F**k Off.

          • george says

            You are absolutely correct that mediation is the best path, but sadly it takes two people to walk down that path. Try to keep things rational and calm. Avoid her attempts to provoke you. If she hasn’t tried this already, she will. Keep your eye on the goal of getting out. I like your position to take the high road. I believe that if you keep to your stance of being reasonable and fair, eventually the judge (if he is any good) will figure it out in the end. Sadly it’s also my belief that there is a gender bias in the court room. I’ve never understood the logic behind having to pay her legal fees. In my case, my ex cleaned out the joint accounts, refused all attempts for mediation or resolution outside the court room, and even after support orders were in place giving her the majority of my income, I was still ordered to pay her legal fees. All this did was enable her to use her lawyer as a tool to punish and abuse me. Her lawyer lost every point he contested, but managed to rack up considerable legal fees in the process. Sadly we have spent my son’s college education money, all of our savings for retirement, and much of the equity in our house, and he’s lost every point which was contested. So long story short, even though you may win some things, it won’t come without a cost. Do note that my definition of “win” is just achieveing what is fair. Good luck and hang in there. It’s a tough road.

          • frustrated403 says

            Thanks again George. I am trying to avoid having all my assets drained away, but it is not easy. There is something seriously wrong with a system whereby one person can spend on lawyers like crazy and the other is basically forced to dance that dance. I have heard of places where the courts basically order mediation for divorcing parties so that most things can be settled out of court with lower costs, less effort, and fewer bad feelings. My lawyer doubts she will get legal costs, but it still comes out of the big pile of money: The more the lawyers get, the less their is collectively for us and our children. It’s that simple.

            She has been trying to provoke me every chance she gets. I am getting much better at not taking the bait, but there is still room for improvement. I just have to remember that she is mentally ill and that she cannot help herself no more than she cannot stop breathing.

            I agree with your definition of winning being a fair outcome for both parties. I just want to divide the assets down the middle and have joint custody of the kids.

            Hanging in there. Your comments were very useful. Thanks.

          • george says

            Frustrated, one last thing, if you have kids, and you have the slightest tingling that parental alienation is in your future, you might want to pick up the book, “Divorce Poison”. Parental alienation can happen blindingly fast. The book will help you be better prepared just in case you go down this path. I know I wish I would have found this book years ago.

  9. Peter says

    Wow! This is, for me, the most relevant article! Thanks Dr T for introducing me to the term “hostile dependency” which sheds valuable light on my situation.

    Maybe you know my FP? (former partner) She was a mid level marketing manager with an MBA but when given half a chance, she grasped the opportunity to take up part-time “tuckshop duty” at the local school with the other Yummy Mummies. When finally faced with financial reality (her husband became a casualty of the GFC) she chose to work part-time 1 day per week as a teacher’s aide. This is the perfect job to be involved at primary school most school days but not responsible for anything apart from attending to the toilet needs of a single incontinent child.

    And yet, somehow in her mind, the sacrifice of her “brilliant career” means that she fully deserves to control the income that I brought in over 15+ years contributing to 99% of our income in return for her controlling abuse and subsistence rations of “marital intimacy”.

    My take on this? If you wish to escape from a “hostile dependent” partner, you must recognise their need to find another host body to inhabit.

    I am so lucky that her parents will now bear the brunt of her dependency needs. They have just bought her a 5 bedroom house with a swimming pool and I will be able to escape by “playing dead” financially a.k.a going back to full time study. The FP is happy because she really doesn’t care who supports her so long as someone does and she is able to exploit and control them and abuse them financially and emotionally. She has already started the process of emotional and financial abuse on her new live-in hostages (her mum and dad) and I have exited stage left. Abuse of parents by their “teenage children” (a.k.a. 50 y.o. BPDs) is a real issue but I won’t be around to worry about it.

  10. frustrated403 says

    Thanks Dr T. Right on the money as always.

    While this all applies to my divorce, i especially liked the comment on them winning at all costs and not understanding that they can end up shooting themselves in the foot (oh, why can’t they aim a little higher?).. Mine wants absolutely everything.

    During our first court date (I wanted to go to mediation) the judge had a glass on water on his bench. He said that both parties have to understand that the family resources are like the glass of water: both of our lifestyles would suffer as it is and the more time spent in court, the less will be left for each of us and the children. While he was talking to both of us, he obviously was addressing her since he was starring directly at her the entire time (both my lawyer and I picked up on this).

    She doesn’t seem to realize that even if I end up paying her legal fees, there will still be less water in the glass for her. She, like most HCPs, uses her lawyer too much and likely gets very little accomplished. The problem is, if she wants to go to court, I am forced to go and pay the associated legal fees. I am trying to educate my lawyer about HCPs. My STBX in particular is not in this to maximize the amount of money she walks away with, her objective is to destroy me and to do so very publicly. Sick really.

  11. Scouter says

    All I can say is wow this post relates so closely to my current situation. And the comments are all very helpful to me and my sanity. Especially Peters comment about hostile dependency and voluntary impoverishment. I don’t know how many times I have been told that I am the controlling one because I won’t let her decide how to spend my money. And I have also experienced the concept of subsistence rations of “marital intimacy” first hand. Now if only I could find someone to take on her dependency.

  12. Mellaril says

    This comes from Shari Schreiber’s site and explains the pathology as well as anything I’ve seen. It doesn’t help getting rid of the problem but it helps explain why they may want to keep it going.

    “The opposite of Love, is not Hate . . . it’s Indifference!

    Love and hate are similar emotions. They both trigger passionate responses in us, which force us to feel. Every person who’s involved with a Borderline has learned to discard or shut-down various emotions since early childhood, and this has left them unable to distinguish between healthy endeavors and harmful ones. ”

    OBSESSED WITH A BORDERLINE – A Matter of Attraction and Revulsion
    By Shari Schreiber, M.A.

    The article is directed toward us but Schreiber’s description of emotional deadness and Dr. T’s reference to “Ego Annihilation” make a lot of sense to me.

    They keep the conflict going because as Schreiber (parens added) puts it, “Even when their interactions have felt diminishing and damaging, you’ve (they) felt unusually alive within that struggle. Just striving for their affection and care (divorce proceedings) has been an activating challenge. Whether you’ve (they) felt attraction or revulsion for a Borderline, you’ve (they) been flooded with passionate feelings which catalyze heightened/intense sensations that are enlivening! Without them, you (they) could feel dead or empty inside…” If you apply it to them instead of us, it seems to fit.

  13. sallyp says

    I am the woman in this scenario, but not the abuser. I finally found the strength and sense to kick my alcoholic narcissist out. Four children and no direct physical abuse left me hanging in there way too long – 22 years.

    Unfortunately, what Dr. Tara has written only gives fuel to the arguments of those like my abusive husband. He acts impatient, complains that he wants the divorce over with. Proclaims he has “moved on” to anyone who will listen. He is constantly frustrated that I am dragging my feet and complains to others that I am a control freak.

    The truth is that 22 years is a lot to untangle. He wants it done quickly. I do not trust him. Also, in my heart, I do not believe I can make the best decisions in a state of anger or desperation. I have told him this process is draining and that I cannot spend more than a few hours a week paying attention to it.

    It is not him or his life I am trying trying to control, it is finally my own. I do not want to punish him, I simply want to make sure that I am taking care of myself and my children and that I do not need to re-visit any of this in the future, when he decides I got too much or am living too lavish a lifestyle (Ironically, he spends as much on booze as I do on my car payment…)

    If you think you are dealing with a woman like me – please back off, be nice (for the sake of the children, if for no other reason) and be patient. Take advantage of the slow tempo to do some thinking and healing of your own.

    For the record, we are are divorcing through mediation, not litigation. We must face each other when we make our demands and accusations – which tempers the tone a bit and we hope, in the long-run, will save some money.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi sallyp,

      First, I’m sorry you were married to a narcissist for 22 years. That’s a special kind of hell. I’m glad you’re working towards getting out and healing. However, I don’t understand this comment:

      “Unfortunately, what Dr. Tara has written only gives fuel to the arguments of those like my abusive husband.”

      Narcissists and other abusers twist things around. That’s what they do. There are many, many, many women who go onto female versions of my website and cherry pick information to justify the abuse that they themselves perpetrate against their husbands, boyfriends and children. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

      I believe that most of the men reading my site are indeed involved with abusive women and, much of the information posted here is frighteningly accurate portrayals of their situations.

      What I don’t understand, sallyp, is that if your husband is indeed an abusive, alcoholic narcissist, why are you prolonging the divorce process? Divorce is painful, even in the best of circumstances. Most of the real healing will occur once it’s finalized and you can keep contact with your ex to a bare minimum. It’s one thing to prolong it if you think he’s trying to cheat you and/or if you want to ensure the agreement is airtight, so you don’t have to go back for round 2. If you’re unsure the settlement is in your best interest because you’re feeling angry/desperate, then rely on your attorney to advise you. That’s why you’re paying him/her; to protect your best interests. Also, if your mediator is ethical and experienced, he/she will let you know if you’re getting a fair shake.

      Best wishes,
      Dr Tara

  14. James says

    Sadly, these people push you to bankruptcy, which actually screws them over more than you in the long run. It is both stupid and crazy. Just get away and never look back. Don’t feel sorry for someone who is an adult and full of hate. That is immoral behavior. Insanity is not a defense for pure evil.

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