Financial Lessons Learned When Divorcing a Narcissist

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We’ve all heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But when you’re trying to leave an abusive relationship, negotiating how to divide your assets may seem less important than physical safety or just keeping your sh*t together for your kids and your job.

Even if you aren’t leaving a toxic relationship, divorce is stressful and often brings out the worst in people. No matter what your ex says or does, your financial health and what you take away from the marriage is to help establish a good, stable and financially-secure home for your children.

My ex told me all kinds of crazy things that, embarrassingly, I fell for. He was/is connected to our legal community and used his status to manipulate, bully and threaten me into a “uncontested” divorce which he quietly took to a local judge who signed off on it.

Just remember, to a narcissist, everything is your fault and he is the victim. Wrap your head around that and you’ll have a better chance of taking your emotions out of it and making better decisions when he tells you something/offers advice. It’s similar to when your toddler threw a fit or whined to try and get something. You look at them calmly and let them know where your boundaries are.

He said if I pushed for half of our assets, I’d lose and get nothing. He said he would also take our children away from me if I tried to go after any of our assets and that I wasn’t entitled to child support.

I forgot how much it actually costs to set up an entire household. Most people accumulate their things over time, like when you go away to college and start a home with your spouse. Starting over by buying home essentials, kids clothes, furniture, etc. adds up quick.

You need to have a thorough and comprehensive look at your financial situation and plan accordingly. There are several things you want to avoid when dividing your assets especially with a narcissist.

Don’t:

  • Get emotional. Stick to the business of dividing assets. It doesn’t matter who did what.
  • Assume that they will be fair and act in the best interest of your children.
  • Just walk away. Not only did I think that there was a chance that what he was telling me was true, but I also thought that if I just let him win, the abuse would stop. People say that the path of least resistance can be the best policy when extricating yourself from a narcissist. I disagree. And my experience has proven that his “wins” are ultimately never enough and only pacify him for a short period of time.
  • Take all of the debt. Unsecured debt is a shared liability, not just the person’s whose name it is in.
  • Settle for less than half of your assets. I put him through law school and was the primary bread winner until I had our second child. At that point, I quit my job to stay at home and raise our kids. His reasoning was that since I supported us for six years and he supported us for 12, I wasn’t entitled to anything. It didn’t matter that my 401k went to him to start his law practice, or that I bought our first home, which we still owned, or that my family kept us afloat during his lean years, or that my income made up 1/3 to 1/2 of our monthly family income (at least the part I saw.)
  • Skip Discovery. Between his business accounts and cash from his clients, I had no idea how much money he made. Discovery is key.
  • Underestimate the value of property. Rental properties are worth more than just their actual value.
  • Forget to evaluate pension plans and other retirement.
  • Forget to look at your long-term financial health and the needs of your children. They will need cars, insurance for those cars, college, etc.
  • Underestimate the cost of the kids. Everything from class parties, yearbooks, and school supplies to clothes, extracurricular activities, and school projects costs money. What is a fair division of those? Don’t leave anything off the list. Who pays for summer camp?
  • Confuse community property and separate property.
  • Take your spouse’s word for it. If your spouse owns a business, get a business valuation and have someone seriously look at all financial documents and assets.
  • Let him just wear you down. The whole thing is exhausting even if it isn’t contentious. It’s tempting to just throw your hands in the air and be done. Go exercise instead, or call your girlfriends. Fill yourself up with self care and then look at the financials again.
  • Give up child support or set up a private arrangement. Going through the attorney general’s office allows them to track payments and then enforce on your behalf if things go south. This is much better than having to hire an attorney and take your ex back to court.
  • Shoot for unreasonable timelines. Gathering all of this takes time and yes, it’s draining. If your soon-to-be-ex is a narcissist, you will be in for a long battle.
  • Forget about taxes and deductions. When it comes to filing, things like “head of household” and who claims which child on their taxes needs to be clarified in the divorce.

Women who initiate a divorce can be made to feel guilty especially by a narcissist because they NEED to win. Women often end up walking away from anything that resembles fair. But it isn’t just about being fair, it’s about continuing to provide for your children.

Doing your due diligence when it comes to getting a comprehensive look at your financial affairs is reasonable and equitable. You can’t divide something if you don’t know what that something is. Keeping your wits about you and your emotions in check (easier said than done) is key when divorcing a narcissist.

It’s also important to remember that your lawyer is not a financial advisor. He or she can advise you based on their experiences, but if you have a complicated financial situation, it may be better to hire a specialist. Also, remember that this is not about taking someone to the cleaners or revenge. It is about dividing your assets in a reasonable and equitable way to provide two financially secure homes for your children.

Disclaimer: I’m not a financial adviser or lawyer.

Your Next Photographer/Videographer

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If you need a photographer, this guy is the bomb. You know when you can communicate with a friend with just gestures and your eyes and they just get you? That’s these guys. Sure, we had conversations about what I was looking for during our industry conference, but sometimes all of the different shots you’re looking for don’t get communicated.

These guys delivered and then some. They captured our conference, socials, networking, fundraising, auctions and trade show in a beautiful way which, let’s be real, is hard to do. What they do with fun events is amazing.

So, if you’re in need a photographer or videographer for a wedding, birthday, (any celebration really), corporate event, check these guys out.

Plus, Greg can really cut up a dance floor: BONUS!

Check him out:
gregfulks.com
​Facebook

Need a videographer? I’ve already posted about him, but Zac does an amazing job at Double Z Productions

Signs of Abuse and Focusing on What Matters Most

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On the eve of my minor surgery, I’ve taken time to focus on the little things that put a smile on my lips:
My boys’ faces and smiles.
Driving with the windows down at night with the music blaring and my youngest and I belting out the lyrics (all the wind blocks out what a horrific singer I am).
Smelling all of the antiperspirants at HEB because suddenly my youngest has outgrown plain ‘ole deodorant.
All things pumpkin spice.
My beautiful friend who is driving me to and from and staying with me while I’m out like a light and drooling.

It turns out my chronic sinus infections were partly because of the internal damage that happened when my nose was broken years ago. I thought it was simply cosmetic. Because only doctors ever really notice it, I haven’t felt compelled to shell out $3,000 – $4,000 to fix it. I’d rather take a vacation.

But it turns out that a broken nose is more than just a vanity thing. An X-ray showed that my nose is seriously jacked up.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence comes in a lot of forms and like my nose, it’s the internal damage that you can’t see that can be the most damaging. National statistics show that “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.”

But those statistics only account for physical abuse. “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional or psychological abuse.”

Another form of abuse is stalking. “One in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked. Stalking causes the target to fear she/he or someone close to her/him will be harmed or killed.”

In my opinion, gaslighting is one of the worst forms of abuse because it makes you doubt your sanity.

Victims of domestic violence stay silent out of shame and fear. No one wants to be known as a victim of anything. We want to be known for our accomplishments and our positive attributes.
Even if victims do speak up, there is little the law will do unless physical violence actually occurs. And if that victim is stuck in a situation, turning to the authorities gives their abuser more ammunition to use against them.

An abuser seeks control and when they start to lose it, they ramp up their efforts to keep it. Controlling behavior comes in many forms. “Psychology Today” lists the following:

  • Isolating you from friends and family.
  • Chronic criticism – even if it’s small things.
  • Veiled or overt threats, against you or them.
  • Making acceptance/caring/attraction conditional.
  • An overactive scorecard.
  • Using guilt as a tool.
  • Creating a debt you’re beholden to.
  • Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure.
  • Overactive jealousy, accusations or paranoia.
  • Not respecting your need for time alone.
  • Making you ‘earn’ trust or other good treatment.
  • Presuming you guilty until proven innocent.
  • Getting you so tired of arguing that you’ll relent.
  • Making you feel belittled for long-held beliefs.
  • Making you feel you don’t ‘measure up’ or are unworthy of them.
  • Teasing or ridicule that has an uncomfortable undercurrent.
  • Sexual interactions that feel upsetting afterwards.
  • Inability or unwillingness to ever hear your point of view.
  • Pressuring you toward unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse.
  • Thwarting your professional or educational goals by making you doubt yourself.

But there are more subtly controlling behaviors as well.

  • Ingratiating behavior
  • Never being understood
  • Silent treatment
  • Expecting mind reading
  • Defining problems
  • Black and White – everything is just fine or horrible.
  • Asking questions
  • Excessive talking
  • Never agreeing
  • Pretending not to understand others
  • Abusing truisms
  • Trolling
  • Lying

After being criticized daily and told that I was old and fat, I started working out again. Fifteen pounds lighter and back in shape, it didn’t matter to him. I still wasn’t good enough for him. But what I saw was that I would never be. In fact, no would ever be good enough for him because the problem was with him, not me or anyone else. Taking care of myself lead not just to physical changes but mental ones as well. That discipline made me mentally and physically stronger. Strong enough to actually, finally, leave.

Getting away is a win. I’ve never been happier even on the days when he files motions that cost me thousands of dollars, time off and energy to fight it. It’s a win because I’m free and no longer a daily puppet in his show. Eventually it will all come to end. He’ll get tired of fighting or end up in jail. I believe in karma, the goodness of the world and God.

Restraining orders are hard to get. Lawyers are costly. The system is designed to protect the abuser more than the victim. But I can honestly tell you that it can be done. You don’t have to end up in the hospital to get away. And on those days that just suck and don’t go your way, you can focus on the little things that put a smile on your face.

5 Controlling and Manipulative Relationship Signs to Watch Out For, Because Love Isn’t Supposed to Be Restrictive
Subtly Controlling Behavior
20 Signs Your Partner is Controlling
Recognize a Controlling Person

Getting Back Into the Dating Game

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When you get injured, it can be a daunting task to put yourself back into a position to do it again. My oldest son plays hockey. In the first game of the first tournament last year, one of his teammates was checked from behind and broke his leg. We could hear his screams from the other side of the ice. After his teammate was stabilized and taken off the ice to the hospital, the game resumed. Every player on both teams played in a much more subdued manner. They just weren’t as aggressive. No one wanted to experience that, or hurt another player like that.

Getting back into the dating game can be just as daunting. After a 20-year relationship, it was scary to put myself back out there. Especially when my ex was joyfully recounting rape statistics on how often women are abused and extrapolating that to say that one out of four of my dates would be a rapist.

Just like the hockey players, I was tentative at first. Even though I couldn’t articulate what I had been feeling, I understood at a gut level that my weakness was that my boundaries had been crossed so many times during my marriage, separation and divorce that I didn’t know up from down. He even had me questioning my own truths and intuition.

So, just how you wouldn’t choose the toughest, biggest looking opponent, I chose dates who I knew wouldn’t push my boundaries. I needed time to rebuild and regain confidence in myself. A friend of mine said it really takes two years before you’re ready for a commitment. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. That first year after my divorce was filled with conflict, which I was still learning to deal with. This second year has been much better.

Women are conditioned to be people pleasers. We are the first to extend the olive branch in an argument and volunteer our time and money to important causes more frequently than men. When it comes to relationships, we tend to lead with our hearts and not our heads.​

I’ve heard from many women who have been in abusive or just really toxic relationships who are understandably gun shy. They feel that men are all bad. That hasn’t been my experience at all. There are many gentlemen out there. You just have to know what to look for and be aware of red flags.

Each date helps me refine what I want. Saying that you want someone nice isn’t exactly specific enough. You have to learn to define what behaviors are nice.

When I was 19, all I knew was that I wanted someone who would challenge me. Be careful what you wish for. I got that in spades with my ex. I still want that, but someone who will challenge me in a healthy way.

Whoever I end up choosing will have been through a long vetting process. My biggest question after my divorce was what red flags should I look for? How did I miss the signs in the beginning? Instead of beating up and judging my 19-year-old self, I started making a list. This was actually at the suggestion of my first date. He was an older guy and gently said I had that “deer-in-the-headlight” look. He gave me a lot of suggestions.

If you’re like me and got married young, you missed out on dating a wide variety of guys and didn’t learn to look for red flags.

Here’s some game-ejecting penalties to watch for (yes, some of these seem like no-brainers, but you would be surprised at how many excuses we make for men and all of the crazy things I’ve heard strong women (including myself) have put up with just because we fall head over heels for a guy).

If he cancels on you more than once, bye-bye. If he isn’t going to make you a priority when he’s chasing you, he sure as hell isn’t going to make you a priority once he’s caught you. Obviously, things occasionally come up, but there is a limit. If a guy really wants to be with you, he’ll move heaven and earth to keep his date with you and impress you.

  1. If he can’t commit to making plans well in advance, he doesn’t respect your time. Bye.
  2. If he repeatedly makes excuses about his behavior, next.
  3. If he gets angry when you say no, or set boundaries, bye Felicia.
  4. If he seems more interested in your money or what you can do for him, yeah, that’s a no.
  5. If he just wants to see you on the spur of the moment or late at night, that’s just a no.
  6. If he seems perpetually confused about what he wants/needs and only texts sporadically to keep stringing you along, NEXT!
  7. If he keeps telling you he loves you and talks about the future, but then pairs that with repeatedly cancelling your plans together, or sends any other type of mixed messages, you are better off alone.
  8. If he repeatedly encourages you to cross your boundaries or do something that makes you uncomfortable, run.
  9. If he acts jealous, possessive or controlling, NEXT!

Dating is a contact sport. But we don’t get back on the field (or ice) because we want to get hurt, we do it in pursuit of something greater. We don’t do it because we can’t be alone. We do it because a team can accomplish more than an individual. We do it because we want companionship and love. Humans are meant to be with other people and make connections. We are healthier and happier when we have companionship and a solid group of friends. So, have fun while you’re playing and don’t forget to wear your helmet.