In divorce, a narcissist ex can be like a moth to the flame when it comes to negative social media posting.
The reason why? Efficiency: In one fell swoop, a manipulative Facebook rant or Tweet can reach your friends and family, your kids’ teachers, your boss, and people you’ve never even met. The goal? Getting others to see and hopefully chime in about what an awful person your poor ex has had to deal with all these years. These likes and sympathetic comments provide the “narcissistic supply” this personality type needs to soothe their fragile egos.
It’s destructive and dysfunctional behavior, and there is also a name for it:
While cyberbullying is usually discussed in the context of bad behaving tweens and teens, cyberbullying in divorce is very real. Everyone has access to social media, and for narcissists, the ability to publicly point out the flaws of their exes, both real and imagined, is just too irresistible.
What can you to do to protect yourself cyberbullying? Try these five strategies:
Don’t Engage: With every bullying post, your narcissist ex is attempting to lay a trap to engage you and draw you into public battle (a battle they’ll do anything to win). The bully wants to know they’ve gotten under your skin. Don’t take the bait. But also don’t confuse not engaging with somehow giving approval or letting your ex get their way. Not engaging actually withholds the satisfaction your ex wants to derive from a public fight. You are winning when you don’t engage!
Tip: Blocking your ex is like withholding oxygen from a fire. Without having you as a guaranteed audience member, a bullying ex may be less likely to post.
Do Keep All Relevant Evidence: Every time you do come across a post or comment that trashes you, take a screenshot. Ask trusted friends and family to send you anything they see. Keep a record of dates and times of posts and the comments the post received and let your attorney know what’s going on. In divorce, certain decisions may take the character of each person into consideration, especially in parenting matters. A record of cyberbullying may become important evidence.
Tip: Sometimes cyberbullying is done in private over DM or text, or middle of the night voicemails telling you off. Print and download the bullying in whatever form you receive it.
Report Bullying Posts: Contact the platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to flag harassing posts. Simply look for the “report” button (sometimes three dots located in the upper corner of the post) or “flag” icon. Here are specific instructions for how to report bullying on Facebook. If your ex has created a Facebook profile for the specific purpose of bullying you, report it too. These actions may be enough to have a particular post removed or in some situations, rise to the level of locking the account.
Be Prepared for Bad Mouthing. Make sure you are continuing to build and maintain your own good relationships with friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, babysitters, therapists, and others in your real life social circles. This isn’t about saving face or your own ego so much as it is about safeguarding your own social support system. When you demonstrate that you’re still the same person you have always been, it helps to create enough dissonance for others to question your ex’s online rants and raves.
Tip: Don’t try to fight fire with fire. If you see that your ex has ragged on you in a recent post, don’t respond by trashing your ex when talking to others in your life. If someone asks you, “Hey, did you see that horrible post by your ex?” You can provide a brief answer to the effect that some people take the low road in divorce, but you’re determined to take the high road and aren’t engaging in the drama.” That should be enough to get the point across.
Bad Boundaries. There is often an extremely fine line between bullying social media posts and cyber-harassment and cyberstalking, which both constitute crimes of domestic violence. In their need for praise and sympathy, has your narcissist ex crossed the line to harassment or stalking? You can learn the signs here. They can include threatening and harassing posts and private messages and revenge porn, In these extreme cases, remedies such as taking out a Temporary Restraining Order may be necessary to keep you and your children safe.
Narcissists love electronic communication. And that includes nasty texts and vitriolic e-mails and any other way to invade your personal space. Sometimes you do need to communicate with an ex online, including sharing information information about your kids. Keep any needed communication neutral and brief.
Although it’s tempting, try not to get defensive or respond to the drama in kind, as this will just fan the narcissist’s flames. Instead, make your responses as brief and factual as possible, and try to limit your communication to no more than once a day.
Your attorney can help you with communication by drafting up commonsense rules you both agree to follow, or by being the go-between as needed if things are tense. If you share kids, one option for limited communication is Our Family Wizard, a court-ordered e-mail program designed to tamp down the hostility between co-parents.
The key to managing a narcissist cyberbully is to anticipate chronic bad behavior. You won’t be able to change your ex, but you can learn what to expect so you can mitigate the damage.
Need more support for getting through divorce from a narcissist ex? Please see these further resources for help:
Ready to speak with an attorney? Please contact us today to schedule a free attorney consultation. Our experienced family law specialists understand the turmoil narcissists unleash and will help you develop a laser-focused strategy for safeguarding your future. To schedule an appointment, call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.