For most unhappy couples, the tension between them dissipates once they are in separate residences or soon after their legal issues are resolved either by agreement or in court. However, in about 15% of cases the acrimony actually increases post-separation, usually because one party is suffering either from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
When you leave someone that is an HCP (High Conflict Personality) they no longer control the narrative, and the situation is out of their control, which causes them great distress. At this point, they become incredibly unstable and unpredictable. Obsessed with wanting revenge, some will resort to stalking on social media, unwanted drive-bys, or harassment, including misuse of phone and email. If you have children in common, they might try to weaponize the children by putting the kids in the middle, or they might expose the children to unsafe situations just to cause the other parent distress. They might try to spread rumors about the other person to isolate them from family and friends. They often resort to financial abuse, including blocking access to bank accounts and other financial resources. If they can, they will try to destroy your credit and drag out court proceedings forcing you to incur significant amounts of legal fees.
All these tactics are forms of emotional abuse, which can be difficult to prove in the short-term and require significant amounts of documentation. In these cases, it’s usually a long-term pattern that shows the complete picture, which means the person who is the target of the abuse has to find the emotional support, as well as inner strength and reserve to play the long game.
Lately, in mainstream media we’ve come to hear a lot about common manipulation tactics used by HCPs such as love-bombing, grooming, gas-lighting, projection, tri-angulation, or hoovering, but until you have personally experienced it, there is no way to really appreciate the mindfuck you’ll get from an HCP. Unfortunately, these people are completely self-centered and lack empathy for others, so there is no way to reason with them. All you can do is walk (or run) away and take time to heal from this abuse and learn to trust again.
Thankfully, there is a growing number of resources readily available for people recovering from a relationship with an HCP. Two of my favorite books are Bill Eddy’s “It’s All Your Fault” or “Stop Walking on Eggshells” by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger. For those leaving a serial cheater, I highly recommend Tracy Schorn’s book “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” along with her Chumplady blog. For those trying to leave or recover from Narcissistic Abuse, you should check out Dr. Ramani’s series on Youtube as well as this fantastic website called “Out of the Fog” where FOG stands for fear, obligation and guilt- the three most common hooks used by Narcissists to keep you trapped in a relationship.
Most recently, I came across a fantastic website “One Mom’s Battle,” which was created by Tina Swithin, who is the author of “Divorcing a Narcissist.” Here is an interview we just did, where she shares her story and tips for surviving Narcissistic Abuse: