Ever heard of the Dark Triad? Here's hoping you haven't. If you have, it's probably because you have someone in your life that fits the profile. If you haven't, it may pay to read a little more about it, so that you can recognize it if it ever touches your life.
The three touchpoints of the Dark Triad are Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism:
Narcissism refers to an individual's grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
Machiavellianism refers to manipulation and exploitation of others, an absence of morality, unemotional callousness, and a high level of self-interest.
- Psychopathy refers to continuous antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callous and unemotional traits and remorselessness.
This isn't a matter of name-calling – these are actual descriptors of behavioral and psychological traits in some individuals. In the heat of an angry moment many people may feel like calling their spouses or ex-spouses “psychopaths.” For some, however, in their quiet moments, they come to realize that this is an actual truth. Their spouse fits these characteristics.
It can be heartbreaking to realize, with a clear head, that someone you have shared your life with is a narcissist, a manipulator, a sociopath – or all three. But if that is in fact the truth, it is critically important that you acknowledge, identify, and understand it.
If the other parent of your children has these tendencies, it is crucial that you seek help and support in navigating it – for yourself, but also for issues surrounding custody, visitation, and related matters. It is not wise to go it alone. The Dark Triad can be highly correlated with Parental Alienation (which means one parent badmouthing the other to the kids in an effort to alienate the child(ren) from that other parent). There has also been a study about individuals who exhibit Dark Triad traits having a higher likelihood of manipulating the judicial system.
The “system” is not set up to recognize the Dark Triad spouse in a divorce. Standard or “normal” divorce and custody disputes do not generally involve this phenomenon, so judges, referees, mediators, guardians, and other practitioners who have hundreds of cases on their plates may not fully grasp what is at issue.
That doesn't mean you can't bring these dynamics to light. You should! It is vitally important that you work with professionals who are familiar with them and can help you navigate through the system in a way that helps to bring them to light. It is not easy, but it is possible.
What kind of help do you need? Take some time to think it through. Here are just a few that might be at issue:
Legal help: Lawyers sensitive to these issues may be able to secure you favorable terms in your divorce or child custody. They can help by
navigating a good deal of these issues outside of the courtroom. If you must go to court, they can help to bring the full impact of these disorders to light, so that the court can act in full awareness of attempts to manipulate the process.
- Counseling: If you have been exposed to the behaviors and mannerisms of someone exhibiting the Dark Triad, you will need some help mending that. It is destructive in ways you may not fully perceive. You may have experienced Learned Helplessness or any number of other natural reactions in order to deal with these traits. Don't be shy or ashamed to reach out for help. That's why counselors and psychiatrists exist. Your law firm should be able to connect you with professionals who can help you with this as well.
You can get through this. The more you learn about the dynamics, and the more proactive you are in addressing them, the better off you are.
If you're ready to reach out now and take your first steps, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. It's confidential and there is no obligation – just know that we are here for you when you need us.