This is a book written by a mother of children, now divorced from her husband. The book
begins with the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Version 5 (DSM-V). The author describes the book a based on her experiences but refers to the American Psychiatric Association and professional writings she cites. The book presents as a combination of memoir and handbook for other parents in her situation. She talks about having achieved peace and emotional freedom. Yet a few paragraphs later she refers to “my ex (the bastard)” Hmmm.
The author describes narcissists and their characteristics. She relates most of them to her experience and observations of her ex-husband’s behavior. It was unclear to me the extent to which the narcissistic characteristics to which she refers relate to professional writings or strictly her own experience of her ex-husband.
The author describes narcissistic traits related to the DSM-V criteria related to professional writings and her own experience. She talks about her experiences and observations in a colloquial manner which I found easy to follow and understand.
She discusses early family influences setting the stage for the development of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She makes it clear that this condition is not a choice people make for themselves. It is a condition which tends to run in families and which may be at least partially genetic.
The book goes on to describe the difficulties of becoming detached from a narcissistic spouse who is not negotiating honestly. The author describes how such people try to manipulate the authorities, the courts and even their ex-spouse’s family to their advantage. Trying to negotiate with such a person is often a losing proposition.
Balancing and coordinating the time each spouse has with the children can also be fraught with difficulty and may need the help of lawyers and the courts to keep the arrangements under control. The author presents a long list of possible co-parenting issues in detail and suggests specific approaches to managing each of them.
Also discussed are issues which indicate the advisability of therapy for children caught in the divorce and post-divorce struggles. Therapy is seen as “critical to co-parenting success” among other supports but does not elaborate on how therapy might be helpful to parents.
The author addresses a large variety of issues likely to arise while managing co-parenting with a narcissist. She also provides specific recommendations for managing each of these issues. She addresses complex difficulties involving relatives and how they can be manipulated by narcissistic ex-spouses.
She ends by emphasizing the need for self care. She also stresses taking the time and making the effort to recover from the trauma of being married to a narcissistic spouse or of being the ex-spouse of one, especially when children are involved. Although these issues could all suggest the help of a therapist, the author does not specifically address how a therapist could help with this process. Yet she does discuss an extensive list of actions an individual might pursue in the interest of recovery from this very difficult series of situations.
The author suggests that the best way of managing these difficulties is not to become embroiled in a relationship with a narcissist. I would wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion. Yet narcissists can be very seductive and present a false front for a while. If you find yourself in this situation, this book could provide you with a useful roadmap through the narcissistic jungle.
Reviewed by Joseph Langen, Ph.D., a retired psychologist and writer about the human condition and the world in which we find ourselves.