Sanctuary for the Abused
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Leaving a High Conflict Person
by Randi Kreger
It's been tough. After many months or years, you see no alternative but to separate from your high conflict partner (HCP). The process of leaving an HCP is tougher than you may be used to. These guidelines, developed over the years by people who have separated, will help.
Make sure you're ready to leave. Some people leave impulsively. Later, they miss the person or feel guilty. If you've tried a variety of techniques designed for high conflict partners and they haven't worked, or you and your children are suffering, it's time to let go.
No take backs. Once they see you are really going to leave, HCPs usually back off from their abusive tactics. You may receive gifts, flowers, and all kinds of promises to change. Not buying in is tough, because everything in you will desperately want to believe them.
But restructuring a personality takes years. While people with borderline personality can get better, narcissists seldom do. Insist on therapy. You have issues you need to face too, and your own recovery to undertake.
To stay in reality, keep a notebook of all the reasons why you want to leave. List all the ways you've tried to change things, along with their results. Make a list of all the hurtful things your partner did and read it when you feel weak.
Avoid contact. Whether you reach out to your ex or vice versa, the results will be confusing and painful. If you contact them, you might find they've moved on. Don't invite contact or respond to it, no matter how curious you are or how validating you may think it might be.
Now is not the time to tell your ex you think they have a personality disorder. Don't write letters to their therapist or family. Don't tell your ex what to do or continue to try to fix them. It's over. Move on. If you feel guilty about leaving your partner, remember, your partner functioned without you before you met them--as did you.
Take care of yourself. You've been through an extremely stressful experience and you need time to heal. You're probably dropped the habit of caring for yourself, or have developed serious problems with depression--even traits of post traumatic stress disorder. Seek professional help if you haven't already.
Go for a walk. Go to a coffee shop and be open to conversation. If you have hobbies (especially creative and expressive ones) use this new-found time to pursue your interests. Look upon this as a great new beginning. Go back to school. Set some new goals. If you've learned unhealthy coping techniques, like drinking, seek help.
Isolation may be one of your biggest problems. Even if you don't feel like it, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and reach out to supportive family members. Ask them for what you need. They may say you should have left long ago; on the other hand, they might tell you you're doing the wrong thing. Stay true to yourself. Be specific about what you need and don't need from them.
Continue therapy. Self-awareness is actually one of the "gifts" received from having been in an abusive situation. With enough work, you may actually come out of the experience as a stronger person.
Take time to process this journey. Even if the relationship was bad and you're happy about getting out, you may go through the stages of grief characterized by Dr. Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages don't happen overnight, and you will go back and forth between them. Give yourself time.
Whether you were together for a long time or a short, intense time, you had hopes and dreams. You thought this person was a soul mate and you're convinced you'll never find someone you'll love as much and who will love you. This isn't true. A new relationship may not be intense, but it will be more intimate.You need time to grieve both the loss of what was and what you hoped would be.
If you were married, anticipate a difficult, high conflict divorce. You need the booklet Splitting: Protecting Yourself When Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist by attorney Bill Eddy. (He also has a CD.) There simply is no better source.
Prepare for a distortion campaign. An abandoned partner may try retaliating and starting a "smear" campaign or distortion campaign. This consists of making false allegations or exaggerating the negative in things that may have happened years ago. If your partner degraded previous partners, assume the worst.
While you can't prevent this, you can do damage control. Quickly anticipate what your ex might say--think of old arguments and false accusations. Next, have short, informal chats with people who may be on the receiving end. Briefly mention they may hear things and ask them to talk to you to see if they're true.
If you are getting divorced and your spouse is making false accusations and gathering negative allies, you need to respond at once. See Splitting for a step-by-step process on what you must do to protect yourself and your children.
When you start dating again, be aware of red flags.of potentially abusive people. You know this person acted abusively. So why does it hurt so much now that they're gone? Why do you feel almost addicted to the other person, even missing all the drama and intensity of the relationship?
The reasons for this are complex. You brought certain issues into the relationship; so did they. The combination of trauma with intermittent good time creates a strong bond--an unhealthy one. You may be mistaking intensity for intimacy.
People who have patterns dating high conflict people may be trying to resolve issues stemming from important childhood relationships. Explore this with a therapist before getting into another relationship. This is critical.
People can be great at hiding their illness in the beginning of a relationship, but in retrospect, you will see that some early signs were there. Don't rush into any new relationships before you have fully processed the previous bad one.
In the end, you will be amazed that you even allowed yourself to stay in such a relationship, and even more amazed to find that you now have the inner strength and awareness to avoid repeating it in the future.