Are you ending a marriage or long term relationship with someone who has Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder?  If so, here are some of my thoughts about a book that you might find helpful.

Spitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (2011) was written by Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, and Randi Kreger.  It appears to have three main intended audiences: those getting ready to or going through a divorce, their therapists, and the attorneys representing them in the court proceedings.

The authors have backgrounds in both mental health and the complicated legal issues that come with high-conflict divorces.  They speak with a knowledgeable and authoritative voice.

One of the coauthors (Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD) co-founded the High Conflict Institute, an educational resource for professionals and the general public involved in high conflict disputes.  Another coauthor (Randi Kreger) also coauthored the very popular self-help book Stop Walking on Eggshells.

Those Divorcing

If you are trying to save your marriage then this book is NOT for you and I would not recommend it.  Splitting is not for someone who is on the fence about ending their marriage either.

This book is solely focussed on marriages that are in or soon to be in the legal process of divorce.  If you have the slightest inkling of reconciling with your spouse or partner you should look for a different book.  Send me an email (hanleysj@gmail.com) and I can get you some recommendations.

The authors state:

“There is a wide range of possibilities when a divorce involves someone with borderline personality (BP) or narcissistic personality (NP) traits: from fairly manageable out-of-court settlements to highly adversarial court battles with multiple allegations of abusive behavior.  This book will give you the problem-solving strategies across this range of unknown possibilities.” (4-5)

In general the book delivers and I recommend it to appropriate patients.  The text is rich with real life examples.  If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD or NPD (or traits of these disorders) you are likely to recognize some or many of the behaviors and examples in the book.  For some readers, it might even feel as if the book was written specifically for them.  For that alone it might provide some relief and guidance.

Part 1 of Splitting describes BPD and NPD in a straightforward manner that non-clinicians will find accessible.  The authors avoid jargon.  I find that especially appealing in self-help texts and readers will appreciate it.

The book does a good job of giving the reader some very basic background on court procedures.  It dispels the myth of the made-for-tv courtroom drama and, instead, depicts the authors’ view of what “real life” court experiences are like.  I have not spent much time in legal proceedings, but the authors write about them in a clear and trustworthy manner.  I was especially surprised to hear how unknowledgeable some lawyers and judges are in the area of personality disorders.

Therapists

As a therapist who has worked people with BPD and NPD I found Part 1 of Splitting to be a helpful, though relatively basic review.  I expect that some clinician’s reading it will find the discussion lacking from the theoretical perspective.  The book does, however, provide some useful suggestions to clinicians on how to talk with patients about the court proceedings and how they are impacted by BPD and NPD.  This is one of the book’s stronger contributions to the field.

In an open letter to mental health professional at the end of the book (282) the authors say:

“Clients are encouraged to read Splitting and then discuss with you how to help them focus on themselves while understanding the dynamics of someone with a possible borderline or narcissistic personality and predicting potential problems and solutions.  We also encourage you to read Splitting so you can discuss the many problems we raise and solutions we pose.  On the one hand, we have learned that clients need to be more prepared and aware of risks, while on the other hand, we don’t want to scare them.  Therefore, your work with clients who are going through a separation or divorce can give them the balance, skills, and professional support they need at this difficult time.”

I would have liked for it to go deeper into some of the personality theory, but an argument could easily be made that that was outside the authors’ intended scope.

In a nutshell: I am glad I read it and I recommend Splitting to therapists.

Attorneys

Of all the intended audiences, Splitting would be most helpful to attorneys and judges.

The authors say hiring the right lawyer might be the most important decision you’ll make in your divorce and they devote an entire chapter to “Hiring a Lawyer Who Understands.”  They conclude:

“Finding a good lawyer for your particular case may be the most important task, but it’s not always easy.  Don’t expect your attorney to know much, if anything, about borderline or narcissistic personality disorders, but many good attorneys are familiar with dealing with high-conflict cases and managing the other side.  They understand what to do, which is the most important thing.” (145)

Good attorneys know the law.  Great attorneys know the law and a fair bit about interpersonal dynamics and personality conflicts.  I highly recommend Spitting to lawyers.  It offers a clear and concise description of NPD and BPD and how those disorders might play out in a courtroom.

Conclusion

This book was helpful.  I recommend it to appropriate clients and clinicians and I highly recommend it to attorneys and judges dealing with high-conflict divorces.

This was a fairly swift read (292 pages) with a total read time of about 6.5 hours.

Have questions or comments?  Please share them below!