Wednesday, November 28, 2007


If you can't go around it, over it, or through it, you had better negotiate with it. Ashleigh Brilliant

The two keys to negotiating are superior information and learning to smile and say, "No, no, no, no, no" until your tongue bleeds. Unknown

There is a really wonderful children’s book that I read over and over to my children when they were tiny entitled “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. The story is about the fact that when you give a mouse a cookie, the mouse demands more and more until he owns you and your entire house.
The author must have known a narcissist. This is how a Narcissist negotiates. They always want more. And more.
For those of you who did not marry or enter into any sort of business relationship with the N, you can skip this discussion and consider yourself either very fortunate or just plain smarter than the rest of us. You, lucky soul, can escape the force of the N’s sucking black hole by simply leaving, in the middle of the night if necessary. I strongly recommend that you do just that; run, flee, leave the N just as fast as you can if you haven’t already. Consider anything of yours that the N still has in his possession simply lost. Trust me, the cost of trying to get your possessions back is much higher than the cost of simply replacing them. Write your losses off as a lesson learned under the “School of Hard Knocks” and know that it could have been worse.
You could have married him.
For those of you who married an N, you are not so lucky. You are going to have to negotiate with the N. Good luck. You’re going need it.
The N’s do not negotiate well for quite a number of reasons. First, as a narcissist, the N believes that he was the one responsible for accumulating whatever you have. All success is due to him. You were unimportant to the marital financial success, just as you were and are unimportant in every other aspect. To the narcissist, you simply and completely did not and do not matter in a real and fundamental way. It is irrelevant whether you were a stay at home wife or whether you worked outside of the home. It does not matter whether you were married one year or thirty. The N’s overweening sense of self-importance tells him (and he tells everyone else) that but for him, you would be nothing, have nothing and consequently you are nothing. Therefore, according to him, you are entitled to nothing.
Second, irrespective of the facts, basic fairness, common sense, and certainly irrespective of the law on gifts and inheritances, the N believes that he is entitled to anything that he wants. In addition to anything that he actually desires, he will keep anything that you would like to have simply in order to deny it to you. This is true even if the N really does not want “it”, whatever “it” is. He wants “it” as long as you want “it” even if he has never used “it” and never will. The N’s rage at your “abandonment” of him (even though he quite literally drove you away by his emotional, verbal or physical abuse) will kick in when you attempt to negotiate a divorce settlement.
Third, you are not really a person to the N. The entire concept of separate personhood is foreign to Ns. People are only useful tools to the N. The feelings, goals, dreams and desires of the tools are irrelevant except in relation to the N. Other people’s sole existence on the planet is for the purpose of being used by the N. Your function was to serve his needs. However, you dumped him. You are therefore no longer a useful tool. Because you are no longer a useful tool, the N has no empathy for you, no care and no consideration.
Negotiating with someone who has no empathy for you and is angry at you for leaving him is tough.
Do not expect the N to be rational, logical or objective about you or your legal rights. Certainly do not expect him to consider what is “fair.” Fairness is a concept that is not in his lexicon. You are no longer useful therefore you should get nothing, zero, nada.
The N’s have no respect for the legal system. The law simply does not apply to them. Therefore, they have no interest in dividing property according to the law. This is particularly true if the N you were married to is a lawyer, as mine was. The N I was married to knew exactly what the legal system would and would not do. He knew that he could do anything, no matter how outrageous and legal system would do nothing to him. He knew he could lie with impunity. He knew that either the Judge would believe him in which case he would win and that if the Judge did not believe him, there would be no consequences for his lies.
Because the Ns are pathological liars, you can expect the N to do what I like to call “Revisionist History” during your divorce negotiations. Revisionist History is the story that the N is now telling about you. The N’s Revisionist History is unlikely to be based upon anything that looks remotely like reality. Not coincidentally, the N carefully creates his Revisionist History in order to show what a wonderful guy he is and what a do-nothing leech you are.
For example, the N whom I was associated with propounded a line of Revisionist History that was both illogical and incredible. He and I jointly owned our law firm. We worked together for 10 years. I did the litigation; he did the business, tax planning and estate planning. We were in the same office, working together every day.
However, during our divorce, the N’s line of Revisionist History was that I stayed home all day every day and did nothing (presumably eating the proverbial bon bons). Who exactly it was that handled the litigation for our firm, how all of those timesheets and billing statements were generated for me and where the heck those clients who were mine came from the N did not bother to explain. I was a leech, according to the N.
In addition, according to the N's Revisionist History story, he was the one who stayed home with the children when they were sick.
If I was a stay-at-home “leech” (his word, not mine), where I was when our children were sick? This the N did not bother to explain for, of course, it is inexplicable and not coincidentally, untrue. This Revisionist History came from a man who never stayed home with the children even once when they were ill.
Facts are, of course, irrelevant to the Ns for they are pathological liars.
Winning is everything to the Ns. They especially need to win over you, the person who is abandoning them. Thus, they will do anything to win, whether fair or foul. Watch out for foul. Foul can be pretty darned foul. Do not have great hopes that the legal system to protect you, for it most likely will not.
Fighting keeps you in the N's life. Like a bad four year old, if they cannot obtain positive attention from you, they will seek negative attention. There is no attention that is more negative than a high-conflict divorce.
So, how do you handle negotiating a division of property from the N whom you were married to?
Ask for far more than you actually want or expect.
The N believes that he is God’s Personal Gift to the negotiating table so you have got to appear unreasonable at first so that he can negotiate you downward. Hopefully, what he’ll negotiate you down to is what you wanted in the first place.
Play to his ego with flattery.
Make him think that he is the big cheese and you are just a little ole woman as in the Scarlet O’Hara-ish “Oh, whatever shall I do?” Make it clear that you would be nothing but for his expertise, his financial acumen, his brilliance. Yes, this approach stinks and is offensive, ridiculous, unliberated, nonsensical falsity but ask yourself the following question: Do you want to get away from him or do you want to be enmeshed with him for years upon years in the slow-moving and highly expensive legal system? You can suck up to him or pay your lawyer tens of thousands of dollars to have the legal system grind you up and spit you out. The benefit of the suck up Scarlet O’Hara approach is that it costs you nothing and may lead to softening him up long enough to get a decent deal.
Do not denigrate him or challenge his lies at the negotiating table..
He does not wish to be reminded that but for his spendthrift ways, you two would be better off financially. He does not wish to be reminded that but for you, he would be bankrupt. He does not wish to be reminded of any of his financial misdealings and he certainly will not admit them. His rather complete inability to manage money may be an objective fact but this is not helpful at the negotiating table.
You are not trying to convince anyone of anything at the negotiating table. You do not care what his lawyer thinks of you nor, frankly, do you care what your lawyer thinks of you. S/he works for you. You are not friends. So do not bother telling your side of the story at the negotiating table. No one cares. Ignore his false statements. Do not get upset or angry at his lies and do not respond to his ridiculous statements no matter how outrageously false they are.
Keep in mind the goal: getting away from him. Fast. With as much as you can.
Never let him know what items you care most about getting.
The items of personal property that I wanted most disappeared. The N removed my jewelry from our safe deposit box in southwestern Colorado, denied that these pieces of jewelry had ever been there and denied knowing anything about them. Now, the jewelry that he stole (not to put too fine a point on it) was not particularly valuable. However, it was mine and I wanted it. The N knew that I wanted my jewelry back. So it all disappeared.
I obtained a copy of the check in/check out sheet from the Bank, showing that immediately before separation he had been in the safe deposit box three times on one day and that the box was empty immediately thereafter when I had it drilled (he would not give me the safe deposit box key). But these facts did not prove what items had actually been in the box when he was there on that day. So, the N to whom I was married has and will retain my jewelry.
Oh well.
I also wanted an old English Writ (a 200+ year old English document) that was hanging on the wall of my former office in “his” small office building. My Writ had been given to me a couple of years before marriage by a friend who picked it up in London on her first trip there. The writ was, therefore, my separate property and was legally mine. The writ no doubt was very inexpensive. Even 20 years later, a replacement Writ could be obtained for $25 on the internet. But the N did not want to give my Writ to me. At first, the N admitted in sworn testimony at his deposition that my Writ was hanging on the wall in my old office. He testified he would give it to me when the current tenants moved out. During the divorce, I kept asking about my Writ by email and he repeatedly promised by email to give it to me. Somehow, he never quite found the time to do so.
Eventually, I asked the Judge to Order that the N turn my Writ to me. At this point the N’s story changed for he had figured out by now that my Writ was something that I actually wanted. Now, for the first time, he denied ever having my Writ. Instead, he testified that my Writ had been destroyed long ago.
Not even the Judge bought this change in the N’s party line.
Eventually, I went to the office, walked in, handed the then-tenant’s staff a copy of the Court Order and walked out with my writ. The N called the police and tried to have me arrested for trespassing and theft. Fortunately, the police had no interest in arresting me in view of the Court Order.
The moral of this story is never indicate to the N that you really want something, even if it is legally and morally yours. You can expect that the N will not give it to you even if he personally does not want or need it. Do not rely on the Court system to get your property for you for the legal system is unlikely to be of much if any assistance.
Instead, I recommend that you feign disinterest or casual, offhand interest. A gentle, “Sure, yes, I’d like that,” is more effective than "It is mine; you have admitted it is mine, now give it to me." Try to avoid the bull in the china shop approach I used.
Pick out something that you do not really want and insist on getting it in the negotiations; capitulate at the last minute so that he can "win."
Since the Ns want, nay, need to defeat you, give them something that they can defeat you with. Pick something out that you do not care about and demand it. Claim that it has sentimental value to you. Claim that it is of critical importance to you. Claim whatever you think will work and add new arguments about why you are entitled to this whenever they occur to you. Do whatever you need to in order to establish the item’s importance to you.
Then, in order to get the deal you want, capitulate on this item. Let the N have it. They will feel superior, as if they “won”. You will get what you want: out.
Make sure that any agreement you make can be completed immediately if at all possible.
Do not take any long term payouts if you can avoid it. Avoid any agreement that requires his cooperation over a period of time. The one thing that you can be sure will happen is that the N will change his mind about what he has agreed to immediately after the ink is dry, if not before. The fact that you entered into a contract is irrelevant. The fact that your agreement has been made a Court Order is irrelevant. The N will change his mind, particularly if your agreement requires him to pay you anything. Do not rely on the legal system to enforce your agreement for the law is rarely effective and is highly expensive.
The N with whom I was associated “settled” with me a couple of times. The first time, he called me within a week and left a message on my machine repudiating our entire agreement. He later filed a motion with the Colorado Court asking that the agreement be set aside even though (1) we were both represented by counsel, (2) a sitting judge was our mediator, and (3) we dictated the terms and agreed to it in open Court in front of the Trial Judge on that same day. When the Trial Judge would not let him out of the agreement, the N sued me in Federal Court in Arizona, a state in which neither of us had lived for 10 years, to get out of the Colorado divorce settlement agreement.
This tactic did not work. But it still required quite a bit of my time and energy to defeat his claim. Had I not been an attorney, it would have cost me between $5,000 and $10,000 to defeat his claim.
Because a leopard does not change his spots, I was better prepared the second time that we settled. The second time around, the N simply ignored those portions of the settlement agreement that he did not wish to abide by. However, as the majority of the second agreement was self-executing (in that a deed of trust protected my interest), I simply ignored the N’s refusal to play by the rules.
The moral: if you can, obtain an agreement that does not require long term payouts or any cooperation from the N.
Exploit their moment of weakness.
If you get lucky enough to catch the N at something whether it is cheating on you, stealing from you, doing something he had promised not to or any other thing that you can use as leverage to get out of this marriage, exploit it immediately. The N may have one temporary moment of seeming remorse. If so, go for it. Do not hesitate. You can depend on the remorse disappearing shortly. Use what is available to get away from the N.
Negotiating with an N is difficult. It is, however, not impossible. The only possible saving grace at the negotiating table is that the N probably hates paying lawyers more even than he hates the fact that you might end up with something out of this marriage.
Think about these tactics and use the ones that work for you. Keep your goal in sight and do what you have to in order to obtain a relatively decent “deal” and become free.