If you’re still tied to your former spouse who’s a narcissist, you know how hard it is to have a conversation with them. Because even if we can clearly see that they’re narcissistic, there’s still that piece that remembers the good from the past. If you’re like me, sometimes you’d prefer to see the good and you’ve forgotten much of the ugly stuff that was bad between you. You just want the two of you to get along. If you’ve spent a long time with your former spouse, then it’s even harder because there’s a definitive pattern there that even though you can break, they never will.
So it’s a dance. You have to keep your head on straight and not get lost in the nostalgia of the music from the past. Having just completed a conversation, here’s what helped me.
- Organization is key. Before engaging in any conversation, plan what you need to discuss. List it on a piece of paper so that you can get through the important topics. Check them off and write the answer you receive for the items discussed.
- Make sure you have plenty of time and privacy for your phone call as you don’t want to be distracted or have the kids overhear.
- Do your homework so that you know your facts because they are master manipulators when they catch a whiff of your indecisiveness.
- Center yourself before you answer or make the phone call. Be in a good place and not frightened. I know this can be challenging, but it’s necessary.
- Listen more than you talk. Make it a business call with kindness. Your goal is to get off the phone with the information you need, so keep that in the forefront of your mind.
- When the blame game comes into play (because it’s always your fault and never theirs), state your defense one time. Don’t get caught up in the word salad that ensues when you make the mistake (in their mind) of not agreeing with them. One time only do you defend yourself. That’s it. And then move onto a different topic.
- If your former spouse won’t allow you to move on without your taking full blame, then have a phrase to settle it and don’t get caught up in that game. I’m sorry we disagree. But let’s talk about this now, worked well for me. It diffused him because I said sorry. And really, I meant that I was sorry that we disagreed on me being wrong because I knew the facts and I was right.
- Do you want to be right or happy? Remind yourself of this when you’re engaged in a conversation that’s going nowhere. You know you’re right. But do you want to waste your precious energy trying to convince someone who staunchly won’t agree? Or do you want to be happy? That’s the question I ask myself when I have to converse with my former husband. And I always choose happy!
- You should know a little bit about what makes your former spouse tick. Praise, admiration etc. supplies them to smooth the conversation and make it easier for you. Without being inauthentic, a few choice praise words can relax a conversation. All’s fair in love and war my friend. The key is to let it flow as is did when you were married and your former spouse felt in charge. Don’t overdo it because they’re crafty. But kindness goes a long way sometimes.
- Be in that observer mode. Can you see what they’re needing and doing as the word salad flies around and the blame game spurts illogical reasoning to raise the anger quotient? That’s the key to your success. Take your wounded self OUT of the picture and forget all the periphery. Concentrate on what you need discussed and settled. Get the answers you need and don’t engage in that tête à tête (head to head) combat that is like catnip for them.
When I did those things, I didn’t feel like I had just survived a bloody round with Mike Tyson once I got off the phone. In fact, I felt a little giddy. I got the information I needed. We agreed on what needed to be discussed. I knew I had taken the higher road, but I didn’t feel like a sell-out. I felt like a thriver because that’s who I am. And so are you!