Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

Navigating Divorce, Setting Boundaries, and Co-Parenting with a Narcissist or Difficult Ex with Karen McMahon | Episode 119

August 15, 2022 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
Navigating Divorce, Setting Boundaries, and Co-Parenting with a Narcissist or Difficult Ex with Karen McMahon | Episode 119
Show Notes Transcript

Figuring out a co-parenting plan can be difficult enough in a divorce, but when your ex-spouse is a narcissist, it can make it even more complicated. This week, we are revisiting our conversation with divorce coach Karen McMahon about issues that can arise when co-parenting with a narcissist or a difficult ex. Karen has been a divorce coach since 2010 and started Journey Beyond Divorce to help people navigate their new normal in a divorce, including figuring out how to co-parent with a high conflict individual.

Tune in to hear Ryan and Karen discuss tips for divorcing and setting boundaries when divorcing a narcissistic ex-spouse. Karen talks about how a divorce coach can help you navigate your divorce with your attorney, and gives tips and tricks on how to focus on your own emotions to successfully come out on the other side of your divorce and co-parent with your ex. Tune in for an episode you don't want to miss! 

What is Divorce at Altitude? 

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado. 

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.



What is Divorce at Altitude?

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.



Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya

Amy Goscha (6s):
And I'm Amy Goscha

Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the divorce at altitude. A podcast on Colorado family law

Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me. I know besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a divorced client,

Ryan Kalamaya (20s):
Whether you are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney listening for weekly tips and insight into topics related to divorce co-parenting and separation in Colorado. Welcome back to another episode of divorce to altitude. This week, we are going to republish one of our most popular episodes ever it's episode 55, it's divorcing a narcissist codependency setting boundaries, and co-parenting with a difficult X. Our guest is a divorce coach, Karen McMahon. She is the host of another podcast in the divorce sphere.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 0s):
It's journey beyond divorce. I'm gonna be appearing as a guest on that podcast at some point in the future. We don't talk about that, but we do touch on topics that are important enough that if you haven't heard 'em should definitely listen in. It's a great episode. It's one of the reasons that it's one of our most popular episodes, but without further ado, you Karen, welcome to the show what's going on.

Karen McMahon (1m 25s):
Hey, Ryan, thanks so much for having me on. I'm excited to be here. Yeah.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 29s):
So for listeners that don't know what a divorce coach is. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into divorce coaching and what, what divorce coaches do?

Karen McMahon (1m 38s):
Yeah. So first divorce coach, well, what a life coach does is they help you get from where you are to where you wanna be. And so divorce. So coaching is really about helping people through transition. I came to divorce coaching because of my own divorce, which I'll talk about in a minute. Divorce is the most devastating transition any of us go through it's multi-tiered, it's deeply emotional. It's very triggering. And so what me and my team of coaches do is really help people to get from where they are, to where they wanna be both on an emotional level and on a practical level, through the logistics of divorce. And I've been doing that since 2010, we work with people across the English speaking world.

Karen McMahon (2m 23s):
The way I came to it is back in, well, my divorce was final back in 2006, but it started about four years earlier than that. And I was in a marriage with a high conflict individual, and I knew things were going south when my, my youngest was two. So it was really early on. We were like six, seven years into our marriage and there was already a lot of tension and it was such, I mean, honestly, people ask me and I say it was a living hell. It was New York moved very slowly. It was three and a half years. The police were involved, involved. CPS was involved. I was in sales. I was such a wreck. I lost all of my accounts.

Karen McMahon (3m 5s):
I was practically penniless. It was just so hard. And my ex was, had some anger management issues and didn't want the divorce and was pretty much willing to leave everything on the playing field to win so very hard. And yet I found a 12 step program, which talked about keeping your side of the street clean and the focus on you. And that was my directive. And I kept the focus on me and three and a half late years later, it occurred to me that I really liked the person I had become doing all of that work. And that's when I needed to find something more important to do than what I was selling at the time, which happened to be commercial printing, ink on paper.

Ryan Kalamaya (3m 48s):
As some listeners may remember, we've had guest Jen Colson, who's a former client of mine. And she was, she says that anytime she hears about someone going through a divorce, she says, congratulations, because she's just in a totally different place. So it sounds like that was an experience for you, which I think a lot of listeners or a lot of people going through divorce is really hard at the time to envision a better life or light at the end of the tunnel.

Karen McMahon (4m 11s):
Yeah. I think when people first meet me, they're both like seriously, you know, like really that's gonna be an outcome. And, but once I start speaking about it, I think a lot of people hold onto the hope that me and the J B D coaches have for them, because we know we know without a doubt. And if you're listening, I will tell you without a doubt, if you focus on your part, your thought behavior, your actions, and you look at your fears, your judgment, your unforgiveness, you will emerge a significantly better person that than you entered divorce. And you will be a better partner with your attorney going through it because you will be calm, clear, and confident.

Karen McMahon (4m 56s):
And that's what most of us are lacking in the emotional tsunami that throws us on our ear.

Ryan Kalamaya (5m 2s):
Well, and that's especially true for divorcing narcissists and we'll get into that. But how do you work as a divorce coach with a divorce attorney like me?

Karen McMahon (5m 11s):
So a couple of different ways. We certainly have a lot of attorneys who refer business to us. And then if the client is in agreement, which they usually are, we communicate as well. So it might just be, Hey Ryan, I'm working with, you know, Jerry, and if there's anything where you are feeling, they could use some support or they're lodged in a position that doesn't serve them. You know, let me know. And, and Jerry would always be part of that, know that that was going on. So that's one way where we just, we support the client and the attorney by helping there are certain topics. And for me, you know, parenting time and child custody just brought up such fear.

Karen McMahon (5m 54s):
And for my ex-husband too, it's like, that's one of the biggest areas of fear and then finances, which of course are two main areas going through divorce. And so we can help the client move past someplace where they're stuck. The other thing is a lot of times I've been on calls with the attorney where my client believes the attorney's the bad person. It's like he or she they're stonewalling me. They won't listen to me. And I actually come on and can help almost interpret for both parties because I understand my client's triggers. And I hear more clearly what the attorney's actually saying. And many times after one of those calls, the relationship between the attorney and client just like was greased and streamlined.

Karen McMahon (6m 41s):
And we've been involved in final settlement discussions as well. And that's more when there's narcissism and imbalance and a fear in usually our client where I can come and support. And again, it's, you're not hearing what they're saying. You're hearing your fear interpretation of what they're saying. Let's talk this through and we're doing that right outside in a separate room while the negotiation is going

Ryan Kalamaya (7m 6s):
On. Got it. So at for some, our listeners, they may recognize we have, you know, hypothetical divorce client, Eric Wolf, and he's going through a divorce. He walks out of the counselor's office, his, his, his strange wife, or soon to be ex-wife is Melanie. And he has just these fears about how is she gonna pay for things. She doesn't know how to manage her money, what's gonna happen with the kids. And so Karen is that where a divorce coach would work with Eric and augment the kind of legal advice that I am providing to someone like Eric, truly address those fears. And, and especially if Melanie's a narcissist.

Karen McMahon (7m 41s):
Right? Exactly. And so in a case like that, we would take one issue at a time and it would be so much less about Melanie and so much more about, perhaps you are still trying to care this person, as you're trying to divorce them. What's the pattern. How is that working for you? What could you do differently? What resistance comes up. And so often when we do this work and I will just be very transparent, I am recovering codependent. I am a recovering perfectionist. I am a recovering people pleaser. And so it takes a tremendous amount of faith and trust to push through some of those comfort zones that have been almost the coping mechanisms that we've put up to protect ourselves in unhealthy relationship.

Karen McMahon (8m 29s):
And now we're basically saying, while you're on the battlefield of divorce, we also want you to take those coping mechanisms down so that your healthier through your divorce and so that you can make better decisions in at the negotiation table.

Ryan Kalamaya (8m 42s):
Okay. So let's just switch and, and talk about divorcing a narcissist. So if Eric Wolf, the hypothetical client comes in and meets with you or, and calls you, and he starts describing Melanie, what are the things that you're going to typically hear that are telling you Melanie's a narcissist or that I am addressing a divorce with a narcissist? What are the characteristics of that for people that may be unclear, just so we can kind of establish the definitions of what you mean when you say divorcing a narcissist.

Karen McMahon (9m 14s):
So the narcissist doesn't come and hire me. That just never happens. It's the codependent who is married to the narcissist. And so one of the first things that I'll hear is as I ask him or her questions about themselves, they'll tell me what their spouse thinks. Well, Melanie believes that she should get well, Melanie told me that well, Melanie is. And so one of the things I do early on is invite us to ask Melanie to leave the room. Okay. This is just you and me. And it's hard. And sometimes it's, we're so used to this other person, renting space in their head that it's really hard to detach from their manipulative fear story that has us paralyzed. And so that's one thing.

Karen McMahon (9m 55s):
And then the other thing which you just alluded to is, even though you are divorcing them, regardless of whose decision that was, there's a huge, some of the experiences that my client would have is that their spouse has very black and white thinking. So it's either good or bad. There's no gray in between. Another one is that they have revisionist history. I don't understand. We were both at the same event and yet they remember it so differently than me. Another one is that every time I wanna talk about something, they somehow switch it on me and I'm on the defense. So it's called deflect and defend. And so we all do the same dysfunctional dance. I was married to a narcissist, I, he had space in my head.

Karen McMahon (10m 35s):
So, and then a huge one is the resistance of the codependence. Some people call it delusion. And so the resistance is, I can't believe Melanie threatened X, Y, and Z. Well, has Melanie ever done that before? Yeah, she does it all the time. So then why can't you believe it? And so it becomes this spotlight that we put on the codependence perspective. It's like you are in such resistance that this individual shows up this way, but you've been married to them for 10, 20, 30 years. And they've always shown up that way. And so when we help our clients shift from resistance to acceptance, begin to notice that they're kind of drinking the Kool-Aid of the black and white thinking that they're exhausting themselves, arguing revisionist history, even though the other person isn't listening, all of these behaviors, all of these steps of the dance that they're used to, we begin to help them step off the dance floor and just watch the one person

Ryan Kalamaya (11m 36s):
And you, your journey by or beyond divorce podcast, you did a whole series. And there were, you know, a number of episodes such as the vital role of forgiveness and your healing, narcissist and high conflict divorce. What are the things, Karen, can you talk to me about some of the, the lessons that, you know, instead of going through every single episode, which people should, if they're interested in the topic, but what are the kind of key points that could be drawn out from the, that series that you did on your podcast?

Karen McMahon (12m 5s):
Well, that would take more time than we have, but what I'll say is a section of it. We spoke to the legal people just about what to expect, and that does involve the players, right? It involves the attorney at litem. It involves, what's a parent coordinator. What is a psychological forensics, which is term differently in different states. So we did that whole part. So they understood that they need perhaps a, a larger support team than the average person and what each of those individuals does. What we also did was we brought in a lot of high conflict experts and psychological experts to explain what was going on. And so we had one fellow who talked about the delusion of the person, married to the narcissist and what you can do to begin to heal from that.

Karen McMahon (12m 52s):
And one of the most beautiful things about that conversation was we really connected the dots back to your childhood. It's like, we don't lick this stuff off the grass. If you're marrying a narcissist, you've come from some kind of a dysfunction in your family of origin, and it's your mom or your dad, or your siblings, or your grandparents that you lived with, but there's something there that predetermined you connecting to this person. And I think that's such an important message because there's a lot of shame and self blame that happens. And when we know that we were kind of predetermined, and now here we are at the precipice of change.

Karen McMahon (13m 34s):
This is when the most brilliant part of life happens because we heal. We refine and we move on. We had a high conflict team come in and they talked about B, which is key communication issues, right? B is brief and formative firm and friendly. And they gave a couple of other acronyms don't admonish apologize, or, and that's through the high conflict Institute. And so they just shared so many tips and tools. I had another fellow come on, who specializes in parallel parenting. It's really easy for you. The person divorcing the narcissist to feel doubly victimized. When the whole world says, you should have an amicable divorce and you should be a cooperative co-parent well, it takes two.

Karen McMahon (14m 20s):
And so this fellow talked about parallel parenting or co-parenting with a high conflict personality, and the rules are very different. So throughout the entire year long series, I think we had 18 episodes. We tried to touch on literally everything that someone divorcing a narcissist would want to learn about so that they could shore themselves up to navigate this as best

Ryan Kalamaya (14m 45s):
Possible. Yeah. There are a couple key points that really resonated with what you just said. And I was a prosecutor, and so I would frequently deal with domestic violence, substance abuse, and it was just seeing hundreds, if not thousands of people come through talking about, you know, in particular domestic violence, how their father or mother, they had grown up in a childhood of domestic violence, and it would then continue with them, just that, that environmental aspect, same thing with the drinking that, you know, their parents were alcoholics. And just seeing how people, you know, were kind of predetermined or predisposed for that and how that can manifest itself, especially in a divorce.

Ryan Kalamaya (15m 28s):
The other aspect, I think it, you highlighted is that narcissism, when you are dealing with a narcissist in a divorce, it can result in conflict. Well, it inevitably it's gonna result in conflict, but it will. It's important for not just the parenting and the custody, cuz that will continue afterwards. But also if you're just talking about money and finances, it can be with in terms of the negotiation and how that aspect is going to be addressed. And so it comes at multifaceted levels of handling a narcissist in a different manner. And I know bill Eddie and some of the other professionals out there with B in the high conflict Institute, it takes a different skill set.

Ryan Kalamaya (16m 9s):
It takes a different approach and, you know, requires multiple players to be kind of involved when you're dealing with that.

Karen McMahon (16m 15s):
Absolutely. You know, going through any divorce takes a team, you wanna have an emotional support. You need obviously your legal support. And I always highly recommend, regardless of how much money you have, that you have some financial support with divorcing a narcissist and high conflict divorces. There's a lot of other players that sometimes have to be brought in. I had an attorney at litem, we went through the forensics, we were given a parent coordinator. So we really ended up needing many of those different supports and they were vital and valuable. And for those of you who have been in a dysfunctional relationship, one of the things that so many of my clients find is when these other professionals come in, they give us a different perspective.

Karen McMahon (16m 60s):
So I was just talking to a client this morning and she said, my spouse gets over and everyone he's so charismatic. Nobody ever catches that. And I said, they all say this to me. And the truth is that's so not true. In fact, the forensics and the attorneys, they're not drinking the Kool-Aid they see right through to what's clear, we didn't see it because we were unhealthy because we were blueprinted and predisposed because of intimate relationship in our childhood. And so if that's you and you think, well, my wife or my husband is gonna get over on everyone because they're so charismatic in the whole nine yards. That's a story that doesn't serve you. It's absolutely not true.

Karen McMahon (17m 41s):
And when you start connecting with these other professionals, you start getting input from healthy people and you start realizing that that your view was a skew. Like you believed it. So you thought everyone else was gonna believe it.

Ryan Kalamaya (17m 56s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm. Callia Amy. And I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team, the pushes, the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries in criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Denver, and Boulder. If you wanna find out more, visit our website, callia.law now back to the show. Yeah. And that kind of segues into codependency, which is, you know, kind of the other side of the, the coin. So Karen, talk to me about codependency and how that is an aspect that you help clients coach, you know, through and essentially break that codependent behavior.

Ryan Kalamaya (18m 44s):

Karen McMahon (18m 44s):
Again, one of the experts that I, that I had interviewed Ross Rosenberg as his name, he coined the term self-love deficiency disorder. And co-dependence really is about self-love deficiency. Those of us who are co-dependent will completely put ourselves on the bottom of the list or not on the list at all. We will take care of other people's needs, especially our spouse's needs ahead of hours. And so often people who are married to narcissists find that after the children start coming, when they're no longer, the narcissist is no longer your center stage person, because now you are caring for children and you're exhausted. And all of this, that things really begin to break down.

Karen McMahon (19m 26s):
And so on my website journey beyond divorce.com. One of the things that I have is I have a questionnaire, are you a codependent? And it gives you 25 questions and like everything else, it's a spectrum. You could be low on the spectrum. You could be high on the spectrum, you know, do you say yes when you wanna say no, do you give up what you wanna do? Because he or she wants to do something differently. Do you get jealous when they're with other friends? And it goes through the fears that you would have the reactions that you would have, and you know, you mentioned alcoholism and addiction. So part of it is also protecting as a codependent will be, the buffer will be, the protective will take the hits to protect friends, family, kids from seeing what's real about that.

Karen McMahon (20m 14s):
And so there's so much there. And why do we do that? We do that because we wanna be loved. I have people who are like caring. I gave 250%. Well, what did she give? Well, she barely gave anything. Well, what was wrong with that? Why would you give 250%? If you were getting nothing back, did you think after the hundred percent or the 150% that something would change brings us back to our delusion. And so it's very complicated. It's not your fault. If you fall into that category of codependence, what I would say is one of the most brilliant and liberating experience experiences that I've had. And that so many of my clients have had is noticing and changing that behavior.

Karen McMahon (20m 57s):
And if you don't notice and change it, and I'll just say, this is one of my biggest statements. If you believe that you are divorcing the problem, you'll meet the same person in a different body rinse and repeat and be back at another attorney's office seven years later. And that's why the divorce rate for second and third marriages is higher than first marriages because too many people believe they're divorcing. The problem. What we do is divorce coaches, as we say, let's keep the focus on your part of the problem. Let's make sure you emerge healthy and whole so that if you wanna attract love, you can attract healthy love.

Ryan Kalamaya (21m 35s):
So how do you do that? And like, what are the questions and tips without kind of spilling the magic sauce or, or given a insight into, you know, what you do, but how, how do you, what's the process like?

Karen McMahon (21m 49s):
So we have, if I could, we have a, a program it's called a 12 step divorce recovery program. And we built that based on the common obstacles that so many of our clients ran into. And so step one is about curbing the conflict. And if you're married to a narcissist, then you are gonna resonate with what I'm about to say, because it's usually the spouse of that looks like the raving lunatic. I was a rage aholic. It's like, you're so frustrated. It's like, how could you have remembered it that way? How could you not see the gray in between? Like, and so you are spitting mad. And so curbing the conflict is one of the ways where we help that co-dependent learn to create some space, learn to calm down all of the anger and chaos or hurt and chaos so that they can articulate in a rational manner.

Karen McMahon (22m 39s):
So that if you are actually the healthier individual in this marriage or divorce, we want you to be presenting that way. And right now you're not usually when they come to us, they're not. So that's one way. And then I know this is our next topic, but it's a huge one is what is your relationship with boundaries? And often I'm met with, I don't really know what a boundary is. I don't have relationships with boundaries. I was not raised with boundaries. What are you talking about? And yet when we begin to point out where, where they can set boundaries and you start with, I'll tell you a really, really important boundary, he made me feel, no, he didn't.

Karen McMahon (23m 19s):
Nobody makes you feel anything. That's an internal boundary. When he did X, I felt Y that's a healthy statement. Once you give your power away, that that person can make you feel and make you, do you feel powerless, you feel out of control and what are you gonna be when you are powerless and out of control, you are going to be deeply reactive. And what happens when you're reactive, you look like the lunatic. And so boundaries is this vital foundation. And if you're divorced and you're listening, maybe now, like, this is what happened to me after I got divorced, my son, my oldest started having a lot of anger issues. And I realized I had so much more work to do with boundaries.

Karen McMahon (24m 1s):
I could have blamed him for being angry, but he was a little boy, but I still didn't know how to handle it. I was able to divorce the first problem. The second problem was mine for a lifetime. And I had to come up with a better way. And so learning how to notice when you've number one, can you set a boundary? Do you know what it is? Can you articulate it? Can you put that garden fence up? And then number two, can you uphold it? Because the person you're setting with it with is most likely boundary oblivious, and they're going to plow it down. So you have to be able to honor it and uphold it, not change their behavior, which is what we all do, which is a mistake or try to do, but change your behavior. And so we talk a lot about that with our clients

Ryan Kalamaya (24m 44s):
And, you know, I I've always found it interesting when I see people that are involved in these codependent relationships and that they, you know, there's the conscious decoupling aspect with that theory. But then when you have such an intertwined relationship, when there's, you know, narcissism and codependency, you know, when the person who sets a boundary first does it, you know, so how do you walk through that process? Because, you know, there's the process of getting a divorce. And so you do have to communicate with the other party, especially if there's kids involved.

Ryan Kalamaya (25m 24s):
So can you walk us through what your thoughts are on, you know, those setting up those boundaries? Cause it's not as if you can just all of a sudden say, I'm not talking to you. And like, you can't communicate with me at all. That might be a little bit too large of, of a barrier, but how do you kind of build up that fence and what are appropriate boundaries as you go through the process?

Karen McMahon (25m 48s):
Excellent question. I'm gonna answer that question in the space of communication, because I think that's where people have the most difficulty. So if you're standing in front of your soon to be excellent, he or she is being assaulting in whatever way, verbally assaulting many people as codependence, wouldn't think about just walking away. Sounds very simple. One day I thought, well, my keys are there. The kids are safe. I could just grab the keys and walk out the door instead of being assaulted. I'd never done it before. So it sounds very like, obviously, but for those of us, it's not. And so if you're in the same space as the person, you take your kids or you leave them behind and you leave and it might be walking around the corner, it might be taking the kids out to the pizzeria, whatever.

Karen McMahon (26m 35s):
And you, what you're doing is you're creating some space. If you continue to speak to me that way, I'm going to leave. And then you actually do it. Like that's a key part of it. You have to uphold it as opposed to stop talking to me that way. You're not allowed to talk to me. That's impotent. You have no control over them. So then let's take it to texting. There's a lot of things that you can do. I had an ex who would text so significantly. I woke up to 138 texts one morning. So how was I gonna deal with that? I put him on, do not disturb. I couldn't block him. He's the father of my children, but I could put his contact on, do not disturb so that my phone didn't ding, which was triggering to me.

Karen McMahon (27m 16s):
So I'd be twitching every time, the phone dinged. So he could send me 15 texts. And when I was in a good head space to look, I could then open them and look boundary. And the same thing I would say with email, I often recommend that my clients create a folder. If they're intimidated by the person, I suggest they come up with a funny name that makes them laugh and then have everything directed right into the folder. You can see, you'll see that number. You'll see that it's highlighted that there's new stuff in there, but you get to choose when you're gonna look at it. And then when you look at it, and this is my last tip on boundaries, the minute you read something abusive or hostile, you stop reading and you reply three times.

Karen McMahon (28m 5s):
If you have something to tell me about the children, say it up front, or I won't be listening, I won't be reading. And you say it a second time. And then the third time, this is the last time I'm gonna say that to you. And then you do it because so often I would get three page emails and I would read them. And they were scathing character assaults. Well, why? Because on the last line of the third page, he might have told me something really important about my daughter. Most likely not. And so these are all boundaries that are all about you, the codependent changing your behavior. And the first thought is he, or she's gonna yell at me if they're gonna make it worse. And yes and no in the beginning, it always feels worse before it feels better, but you're in it for the long game and they're gonna get used to it.

Karen McMahon (28m 52s):
I had a client who was so sure and she had been for years and she had a little young child for years. She'd been battling and I kept hold the line, hold the line, hold the line. And he began to communicate with her less and less, even if it was still hostile, it wasn't whatever eight times a day setting boundaries works. It works with everybody.

Ryan Kalamaya (29m 15s):
I couldn't agree more. And, and I think it's hard for people that are in that space to recognize what is, and is not the norm or acceptable and like everyone's communication protocol. And, and, but communication is so critical, especially when kids are involved, but I've had that client that came to me and had 90 text messages unanswered. And I distinctly remember being, you know, saying this is not acceptable. And he kind of looked at me and said, really like it was. So it was all he knew that was the standard that they had lived through for a decade. And so he didn't know what was normal. And, you know, then you kind of get into, I was a teacher for a year after college, the boarding school in the, in England.

Ryan Kalamaya (29m 56s):
And you said, you know, you've got some listeners in, in the UK. And so, you know, I was a teacher, but I wanted to be the cool teacher, the kids that, you know, that everyone loved. And so I was super loosey goosey and they just completely took advantage of it. And I remember going to an experienced teacher and he said, listen, you have to be very firm at the very beginning. And then you can slowly let out the rope, but you have to teach them. And that's something that I have observed with, especially with communication is, you know, the situation where text messages, if you use a communication apps, you know, civil communicator for example, is something that I'm a big fan of, cuz there's a neutral third party that observes it. So they do that work for you and determining whether or not something is or is not appropriate.

Ryan Kalamaya (30m 39s):
But then, you know, the spouse, that texts when they're supposed to be communicating via, via civil communicator, you know, our fam and wizard, if you tolerate that and you respond, then you're just giving you're opening the door. And so you have to set the boundary of this is how I'm going to communicate with you. And it may feel kind of tick tack like, oh, they texted me and they're not supposed to do that, but you have to train people, especially when they're going through this process, you really have to set that boundary at the very beginning. And it's difficult to cuz they've never gone through it before most of the time, they've never gone through it before. And so to understand what is, and is not something to kind of plant your flag and say, you, you cannot do this.

Ryan Kalamaya (31m 19s):
And, but without kind of making things worse,

Karen McMahon (31m 22s):
Right? It's the honoring and upholding of your boundary and trusting. And this is a big thing we talk about when you're divorcing a narcissist, your, the fear voice in your head is so loud. It's impossible to hear your gut, your inner wisdom, your intuition, and yet your intuition is gonna be point on and you are gonna know that you need certain boundaries. And so I agree with you. I think that you uphold it. The other person tells you what a rotten son of a gun you are. And you say, you know, I hear you and we can agree to disagree and we need to be on our family wizard, a affair or whatever you're choosing and using. One of those apps is in itself a boundary.

Karen McMahon (32m 4s):
I mean, it's a brilliant technical boundary to use, to use one of the apps that are out there for those who have difficulty in co-parenting and things can be monitored by third parties. And some of them have little red flags for when you know, saying that word is only gonna inflame things, you know, incite things don't do that. It makes a huge difference

Ryan Kalamaya (32m 25s):
If you use it. And one thing I'd see is people like the idea and they like the protection, but then the inconvenience, but the point of the app is that it does make it inconvenient. That's the point. But I frequently see people agree, but then they don't stick to their boundaries, but let's talk about co-parenting with a difficult X. So Karen, talk to me about things that people that are divorcing a narcissist that are co-parenting, especially after a divorce. So what are strategies and tactics that people in that situation, how can they be better? Co-parents when they have a difficult high conflict personality on the other end.

Karen McMahon (33m 4s):
Right? Well, and I'm sure what, what you advise your clients. The first thing is that you have such a Bulletproof settlement agreement that you literally try to come up with every possible scenario so that it's all in writing. Right? So, so that that's really very helpful. Yeah. Drop offs and pickups are always a big issue where they happen when they happen, when they don't happen on time. And so there can be a lot of emotional grenades being tossed across the room and blame an accusation. And so that's, if you are being triggered by communication with your ex or about that drop off and pick up the key, there's a couple of keys here.

Karen McMahon (33m 47s):
One is from a boundary perspective, how do you protect yourself? So if you're dealing with somebody who throw your schedule off, because they're, they're not on time, let's say instead of getting irate and, and being the victim of the X that you know is never on time. Anyway, you hire a mother's helper. You build in the 45 minutes with something fun to do with the kids, you change to address the situation so that nobody gets triggered. And the first thought is, why should I change for him? Are her now after the fact, you're not, you're doing it for the kids. And the truth is your children are going to have to navigate that same high conflict narcissistic personality as you are.

Karen McMahon (34m 33s):
And the only way you are gonna be able to support them to do that and do it brilliantly is by learning yourself by first building all of those skills yourself. And so being able to create that space and not go back at the other person, being able to not always assume the worst. I mean, that's a huge one. Is she did it just to tick me off. He did it just to manipulate me. And a lot of times that's not true. And I was just talking to a client the other day and what her spouse ex was doing. He didn't just do with her. He does with everyone in his life, but she takes it personally. So part of it is that kind of conversation with the coach about understanding how you are triggered in these situations that are difficult and what you can do differently.

Karen McMahon (35m 21s):
So does go back to boundaries. The other piece of it is you can be very proactive. There are a lot of details in the children having two households. And so we used to make sure the school would give us two sets of textbooks and we would have two sets of equipment. And so there's so many different things that you can do. If you take a look at where will there be conflict, and we really know, and you put a list of all of that together, and then you say, okay, which of these can I do something about you immediately break down the list and then you'll have something maybe that you have a handful of topics that you actually need to work through with somebody. The other thing I wanna say is, and this was my situation is I knew that my children would be facing the same verbal and emotional hostility that I faced because my belief is how you do something is how you do everything.

Karen McMahon (36m 15s):
And it's just a matter of time. So once they weren't cute and in grade school anymore, and they became double digits with attitude, the narcissist generally has a really hard time with that. And a lot of parents wanna keep calling their ex to tell their ex why they're wrong in the way that they're handling the children. You might as well talk to a brick wall, save your breath. It's not gonna happen, but you can take everything you've learned and pour it into your children. You can begin helping your children at a very young age, understand what are you feeling? What can you do about it? Why are you afraid to do that? What are the different things that could happen? How can I support you?

Karen McMahon (36m 55s):
What do you need from me without mentioning that their other parent is bad or wrong? How did you feel about that? How can we talk this through? I will tell you that's one of the most amazing gifts that come out of divorcing a high conflict personality or a narcissist is when the other parent gets healthy and then poor is everything they've learned into their children. You begin to break generational chains of something that's gone on and on and on through your family line. And I have found it's worth the hell and the pain of my divorce to see my now 23 and 25 year old children being more conscious and boundaried and emotionally communicative and connected in their twenties than I was in my forties.

Ryan Kalamaya (37m 40s):
Yeah, it is amazing. I have been doing this long enough, over a decade to have seen people that have gone through a divorce early in my career. And now they are different people and their kids are grown. And to see the effect that self-discovery can have on people, you know, there's obviously there's a stigma with divorce. And one of the points of this podcast and same thing with you is de-stigmatized that it doesn't have to be a dirty, there's some Scarlet letter on a person because they went through a divorce and that people can be better. I'd never encourage. That's just not my place to get a divorce.

Ryan Kalamaya (38m 21s):
But I have seen people that are so much better parents, better friends, better people all around. And I always tell people, listen, you never wanna call me. I'm not the lawyer that you want to call, but no one is ever going to look back on their, their divorce and say, Ryan, that was so much fun. That's not how it works. And it's the same thing with you where people say you were there for me at one of the most difficult points in my life. And I could tell you things that I couldn't tell anyone else. And you helped me through that process. And it's the same thing for you. But to have a co-parent with a difficult X is hopefully it's a lifelong process because hopefully your kids survive you.

Ryan Kalamaya (39m 2s):
And that's something I frequently have to kind of tell people is like, you're gonna have to communicate with them or at least deal with them. And it's just a matter of how do you do that, right?

Karen McMahon (39m 10s):
And your children are married to you and your soon to be X or your ex they've come from the two of you for a reason. And so if you are the healthier, the two, it is your responsibility to get healthier and to help them navigate the difficult personality. The truth is I think that when a young child or a teenager learns to navigate a difficult personality and my role to my kids is never let somebody else's bad behavior determine yours. So take the high road, do it with grace and dignity, always be proud of the person you are and set your boundaries and find the lane that works for you.

Karen McMahon (39m 52s):
And so when we can do that for our children, it's such a gift and it's a gift that ripples into future generations.

Ryan Kalamaya (40m 1s):
Well, Karen, for the Eric wolfs of the world for divorce attorneys like me, you know, there, especially for the Eric wolfs who are kind of dealing with a narcissist, assuming Melanie's a, a narcissist, there's a ton of divorce resources. People can find out there. And quite frankly, it can be overwhelming. How has journey beyond divorce? How have you guys grown and what makes your group, the go-to leader in the field and where can people find out more information if they're interested in working with a divorce coach?

Karen McMahon (40m 31s):
Yeah, great. Our podcast is very robust. I started it back in 2016. We did a year on high conflict divorce. We did an, an entire quarter on a high net worth divorce playbook. And so, and we deal with both the emotional and the practical. And so I vet every expert. So when you listen to that podcast, you are listening to people that I'm putting my name attached to because I trust that they're the best at what they do. And there's a tremendous amount of information out there. And for you to be able to tune in a lot of our listeners say that they just binge listen because number one, it gets them out of their monkey mind.

Karen McMahon (41m 12s):
And it's very edifying. It really guides and directs them. Our desire with everything that we do is to support you, everyone, except one person on my team has gone through their own divorce. And if we could help to heal the world, one person at a time, that's our desire, which is why one of the things that we offer, no matter how much money you have or don't have is a free coaching call, a full hour free coaching call. We call it a rapid relief call. You can find it a journey beyond divorce. And that gives you an opportunity to see the power of coaching, to walk away with huge value, even if you never work with us. And that's what we do.

Karen McMahon (41m 52s):
The website has hundreds of articles, the podcast, we just published my hundredth episode on Friday. So there's a ton of episodes and we have a range of coaches so that we can meet people where they are both financially and to find the personality that works best for them. And yeah, it feels like a real honor and privilege to do this work, Ryan.

Ryan Kalamaya (42m 17s):
Well, thank you for joining us and sharing your insights, Karen, and for those listeners who are interested, definitely check out journey beyond divorce and the podcast, the website, and we'll have information in the show notes. But Karen, thank you so much for the time I really enjoyed part-time discussing these various issues cuz they've frequently come up and they tend to go hand in hand. So thank you. Thank

Karen McMahon (42m 40s):
You. Thanks for having me on,

Ryan Kalamaya (42m 41s):
Hey everyone. This is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on divorce at altitude. If you found our tips, insight or discussion, helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast for show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode. Visit divorce, altitude.com. Follow us on apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me@call.law or nine seven oh three one five two three five. That's.