Mediation is a wonderful tool for resolving disputes. In divorce, especially, it can be an empowering and healing process. However, not all marriages can be dissolved through mediation, and you almost never can successfully mediate with a narcissist. The irony is that living with a true narcissist is a prime cause of divorce.
The shared love, compromise, mutual understanding and support necessary for a marriage to thrive are lacking in a narcissistic relationship. If you are considering a mediated divorce, before proceeding we suggest carefully evaluating your current relationship and your partner to see if mediation really can work for you.
The term narcissism is used with almost abandon in common parlance today to describe people who may be self-absorbed and think highly of themselves. However, a degree of withdrawal into one’s self and having positive feelings about one’s self are not always negative qualities. Such traits are common in many successful people who may be driven to excel. Indeed, they may be essential for certain professions and tasks. Narcissism appears on a spectrum from arrogance and conceit to full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). If you are married to a successful partner who has become aloof, arrogant, and/or checked out of the marriage, that does not mean that your spouse is not a good candidate for mediation. Look closer.
The kind of narcissist not suitable for mediation is one with real NPD. About 8% of men and 5% of women in the United States have NPD. This is a clinical diagnosis for a cluster of traits that define a narcissistic personality. Psychiatrist, Stephen E. Levick, in his book Clone Being says that “people with Narcissistic Personality disorder have a sense of grandiose self -importance and are pre-occupied with grandiose self-fantasies. They believe that they are special and unique, and only want to associate with other special high-status people or institutions and may show arrogant haughtiness in the way they relate to others. Requiring excessive admiration, they have an unreasonable senses of entitlement, lack empathy, and are interpersonally exploitative…. Self-righteous rage, exhilaration and shame associated with anxiety are states of mind associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” The need for admiration, sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, and leanings toward exploitation are what make successful mediation impossible with someone with a narcissistic personality. Continue reading