By: Beth Andersen-Filson
Vampires lurk in the shadows. They skillfully seduce and isolate their prey, hiding their own dark natures behind a cloak of seeming humanity. Then they feed: sucking the life blood out of their victims, discarding them, and flying off into the night, unscathed, to seek their next supply.
Emotional vampires, according to Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., are the same. In his book Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry, Dr. Bernstein identifies five types of emotional vampires: antisocial, histrionic, narcissistic, obsessive compulsive, and paranoid.
Guess what? Divorcing an emotional vampire is even more difficult than fleeing Dracula. After all, you two have built a life together. You share precious, intimate and fundamental things like family, friends, children, pets, social networks, a home, finances, joint businesses. You probably brought your own emotional baggage to the relationship based on your family of origin — the very baggage that drew you to that emotional vampire in the first place.
While there isn’t a garlic clove or wooden stake to keep emotional vampires away, there are tips and tricks to help you through the divorce process with one.
Before we dive in, understand these are merely labels and in no way intended to diagnose or ridicule any individual facing a mental illness and going through the difficult process of divorce. Emotional vampires are not really monsters, but rather flawed humans incapable of mature relationships. As in the book Emotional Vampires, the categories are simply a way to address a set of traits in a practical way. In every divorce, the goal is to help two people separate their lives expediently, fairly and with as much dignity as possible.
Here are Dr. Bernstein’s five types of emotional vampires, tips for divorcing them and how your attorney can help.
1. Antisocial Vampires
Antisocial vampires are addicted to excitement. Picture a ColoradBro free soloing a ridge in the rain, a drunken, helmetless couple speeding and weaving their motorcycle through traffic, or Mayhem from the insurance commercial. In the extreme, antisocials are impulsive and do not follow the rules. They may use partying, sports, sex and even people as their drug of choice. Their superpowers are their charm, carefree lifestyle, flair for fun and edgy coolness, collecting and using wannabes along their road to ruin. Their weaknesses are follow-through, respect for authority, and impulse control.
DIVORCE POINTERS: Focus on your own mental health and safety. Follow the rules, hold to strong boundaries, keep things clear cut, and put things in writing. With someone who has no regard for boundaries, the rules and system are your friends. Avoid their chaos. Stand up to “hoovering,” which is the attempt to seduce you and draw you back into the relationship.
They say do not wrestle a pig in mud as that is the pig’s element. Same with an antisocial vampire. Do not mud sling and or sink to their level. They are better at it and will drag you down and beat you. Instead, stand strong but in a civilized manner within the rules.
If there is a threat of violence, have a safety plan and reach out to agencies addressing domestic violence (Tel. 800-799-7233) or law enforcement (Tel. 911).
HOW YOUR LAWYER CAN HELP: Your lawyer can exercise authority and establish ground rules. They can communicate on your behalf. They can help keep you safe and protected from these charming, defiant disruptors who may lash out verbally or otherwise. When chaos ensues, your lawyer can hold the antisocial vampire accountable, reach out to the court for relief and consequences, and keep the case on track. If the antisocial vampire is violent, your lawyer can help obtain court orders and stipulations to prevent them from harming you.
2. Histrionic Vampires
Histrionic vampires are addicted to drama. They flit from one whim to the next while seducing their victims into taking care of them and serving their every need. Think of that friend or relative who calls every week in the middle of their latest crisis, then hangs up when you start to talk about yourself. Their strengths are compelling storytelling, charm, charisma, physical attractiveness, and the power of seduction. Their weaknesses are anything that requires mental rigor, perseverance in the face of adversity, self-reliance and drudge work.
DIVORCE POINTERS: If you are divorcing someone who is highly emotional and dramatic, stick to facts and numbers. Hold the other person accountable to the actual financial calculations, deadlines, legal standards and other business of divorce. Do not take over their obligations for them. They should manage their own responsibilities, emotions, and daily drama; you should not. Expect them to repeatedly shift the narrative to their plight as the victim throughout the process including mediation, negotiations, pleadings and court testimony.
HOW YOUR LAWYER CAN HELP: Your lawyer can cut through the drama to keep the case on track. Your lawyer will shift focus to the law and facts despite the histrionic vampire’s repeated efforts to delay and avoid responsibility. When a lawyer is the one enforcing the rules, it establishes that you are NOT being a bully simply because you are holding the other person accountable.
3. Narcissistic Vampires
Narcissistic vampires are addicted to praise and validation. They are not so much predators as totally obsessed with themselves, incapable of shame, and lacking empathy for others. They see people as a means to serve their own needs, discarding them easily when they are no longer of use. A narcissist with blood on their face will look in the mirror and try to wipe the blood off of the mirror. Simply could not be them!
Their strengths are their skills and accomplishments, independence, and their ability to relentlessly pursue their own goals. They are persuasive, and accomplished liars and manipulators, which I do not consider strengths but often serve them well in litigation and court. Their weakness is that they lack empathy and loving relationships. They accuse others of what they want as they are incapable of standing in another person’s shoes and seeing things from another person’s perspective. This gives ready insight into their manipulations, a weakness very helpful in divorcing a narcissistic vampire. So too, they can be persuaded to do almost anything provided they think it is their idea and serves them.
DIVORCE POINTERS: Never underestimate a narcissistic vampire in divorce. They will stop at nothing to “win,” including possibly harming their own children and spouse to serve themselves. They have no qualms about lying in court and are persuasive in doing so. Some say many lawyers and judges are narcissists. Stay strong and stand up to them but do not sink to their level. Keep things reasonable and be prepared to go to court throughout the divorce and after it. Narcissists do not give up.
HOW YOUR LAWYER CAN HELP: My firm gets a call from someone divorcing a narcissist almost every day. I have spent years studying people with these selfish traits. You want a lawyer who understands how manipulative the narcissist is and who is able to identify and stand up to their tricks. You also want a lawyer who understands your narcissistic injuries. A good lawyer will not blame you for having a hard time recovering. A good lawyer can help you pick your battles and get through the process while still healing. Divorcing a narcissistic vampire is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do. Make sure your lawyer is empathetic to you, and willing and able to stand up to your abuser.
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Vampires
Obsessive compulsive vampires, not to be confused with someone actually diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, are addicted to control. They over-manage the world around them in order to manage their own feelings of anger, anxiety and even worthlessness. This is the self-elected committee chair who micromanages everyone, in the end resorting to doing it all themselves “because if you want something done right, do it yourself.” They do not give compliments as nothing is ever up to par.
Their strengths are that they often are right about risks and threats. They are conscientious, careful and correct. They will persevere and overcome obstacles. Their weakness is that they nitpick, cannot see the forest for the trees, are subject to analysis paralysis, and have a hard time making decisions. They seem to have no idea how annoying everyone else finds them. They are sanctimonious martyrs chagrined over all the duties they take on that no one else seems to appreciate, never mind that no one ever asked or wanted them to do those things in the first place.
DIVORCE POINTERS: An obsessive compulsive vampire is a stickler so you need to pay very careful attention to every detail of your written agreements. They will be going through all agreements with a fine-tooth comb for the rest of their lives. They can be uncompromising, so it is difficult to reach agreements with them. The good news, however, is that they may be scared of the unknowns and risks of going to trial so they often reach an agreement at the last minute. They never feel well prepared enough for a trial no matter how much preparation they did. Also, if they do go to hearing, they might waste so much time on detail that they miss the bigger points or simply seem unreasonable to the judge.
HOW YOUR LAWYER CAN HELP: You will have to copy their dedication and drive, digging in and preparing, learning every detail. You need a lawyer who can match their meticulous preparation because your ex will be VERY well prepared and will not let you get away with a single mistake. They will stop at nothing to convince the judge and everyone else involved that they are right and you are wrong, because everything is black and white to them and they need that approval. Without a lawyer, you will be in over your head, even if you are a perfectionist too, because you are not objective and will certainly miss something. And if you are the free spirit type obsessive compulsive vampires usually marry, that goes double for you.
5. Paranoid Vampires
Paranoid vampires are addicted to their own unique and fear-driven theories of life. They claim to have special powers allowing them to see the patterns unseen by everyone but them. The internet troll obsessed with conspiracy theories may just be a paranoid vampire. Their strengths are that they do have a gift for finding patterns and belief systems. Some of the greatest thinkers of all time, devising previously unknown theories, had traits of a paranoid vampire. Their obvious weakness is that they fall for far-fetched ideas and may be out of touch with reality.
DIVORCE POINTERS: Paranoid vampires often isolate or surround themselves with like-minded individuals — and that may include you. If you have joined a family tribe or social cult with aligned views, divorcing the vampire may require divorcing the entire cult of vampires. This may mean losing your friends, family, employers and entire support network.
If you have young children, the paranoid views may seem perfectly reasonable to them as they know no different. Your own children may be incapable of thinking for themselves, preferring the comfort of the “paranoid” view to the new reality you are introducing. Children and young adults are impressionable, easily won over to Mom or Dad’s paranoid views of the other parent, views that a paranoid vampire may readily share with the children even though it’s inappropriate. Paranoid vampires believe their delusions, they often spy and install trackers, eavesdrop, place hidden cameras, falsely accuse people of affairs, enlist others into their campaign, gossip and spread lies, and may resort to stalking. This can be harmful and even dangerous.
HOW YOUR LAWYER CAN HELP: If a paranoid vampire is spreading lies, sneaking into your house, or trying to get you fired, a lawyer can take the matter to court including, in some of the most extreme cases, seeking a protection order. If you are beaten down or having are having a hard time sorting truth from fiction after being married to paranoid vampire, a lawyer can provide a sense of objectivity, helping you collect evidence and drawing attention to the unreasonableness, lack of verification, and irrelevancy of the paranoid vampire’s unsubstantiated accusations. This is one of the divorces that most needs the objectivity of a lawyer who has the perspective of hundreds of divorces and therefore can pinpoint the areas of paranoid thinking.
No person in divorce is perfect, not even you. Dr. Bernsteins’ categories are helpful but they are just labels. Every divorce is different. The lawyers at Andersen Law PC are happy to give you a free consultation regarding your divorce and its unique circumstances. Call us at 720-922-3880 for a free consultation. Whether you are divorcing an emotional vampire or a mere mortal, we want to protect your family, your finances and a future so bright you will want to wear shades.