Maybe you merely suspect that your spouse is a narcissist (or has deeply narcissistic traits) – or maybe you know they are. Either way, you fully expect them to make your upcoming divorce as difficult as possible.
And, you’re probably right. Narcissistic people need to maintain a sense of power and control at all times – and they aren’t afraid to cross all boundaries and act out in increasingly petty or manipulative ways to get what they want.
How can you keep your sanity in the process ahead? There’s a lot of usual advice that people offer about putting some distance between you and trying to communicate only through your attorney – but another effective tool is called the “gray rocking.”
What is gray rocking, and what does it do?
You can’t control your spouse’s toxic behavior or make them listen to reason, so gray rocking puts the focus back on controlling your responses to their antics – and gives you a blueprint for doing so by teaching you how to be as unresponsive as humanly possible.
When you have to deal with your spouse in person (even in mandatory mediation or court), practice these tips:
- Aim to anticipate their behavior as much as possible so that you can externalize it and see it as nothing more than a childish tantrum. When they say something preposterous or cruel, you can then sit back and say (to yourself), “Well, of course, they’re behaving this way. It’s nothing new, and not really important.”
- Give minimal responses, no matter how outlandish their demands or threats – and do not explain unless you’re asked to do so by an officer of the court. Stick to “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” and “I guess we’ll let the court sort that out.”
- Avoid eye contact whenever you can – and practice (in a mirror, if necessary) a disinterested expression that seems largely indifferent toward what they’re saying. Even if you’re internally screaming, you want to betray nothing of your thoughts or feelings.
This eliminates (or greatly reduces) the entertainment value and sense of control that a more energetic response gives your spouse. You basically cut off the power supply and take all of the “fun” out of whatever they’re doing.
As always, relying on experienced legal guidance can help you understand your rights and the reality of the situation – and that can help you navigate your divorce from a position of strength.