“I was swept off my feet in a whirlwind romance, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that this man wanted me. Fast forward through 15 years of abuse and I was broken. Today, because of my experience, I can see all his tricks and underhand behaviour but back then, none of it made sense, I was out of my depth. It is perhaps strange for some to understand this but now, years later, I am genuinely thankful for the lessons I’ve learnt. I am grateful I got out and thankful that now I can help others.”
Hi, I’m Nawal, I live with my two sons who, if they had their own way, would also have a dog. (I’m working on it!) I’ve lived in St Albans for nearly 20 years. I’m a solicitor, an accredited mediator, a divorcee and a coparent. I’m also the founder of Your Divorce Coach – a service helping both men and women understand and navigate their way through divorce (pre, during and post-divorce). I also specialise in helping clients that are on a divorce journey with a particularly difficult or toxic ex.
A situation I completely understand because I’ve been through it too.
I married young, well, young by today’s standards I guess. I met my husband when I was 22. I was married by 26 and became stepmother to two small boys aged 4 and 18 months. I was blinded by this absolute charmer, the man of my dreams. I genuinely couldn’t believe how lucky I was; that he wanted to be with me. I was love-bombed, swept off my feet in a whirlwind romance, the stuff you see in movies.
Fast forward 15 years…
An affair discovered on a family Christmas holiday to Australia; years of physical, mental and emotional abuse; two small boys and a divorce bill of £20,000! I was broken. I didn’t know who I was, what I liked, what I didn’t like. I was full of self-doubt. I would overthink little things. I felt uncomfortable receiving love and I didn’t believe any of my emotions were valid. I no longer had any self-worth. I was on anti-depressants because I couldn’t sleep, I weighed a little over 9 stone (with a 5 ft 11 frame). My days were consumed with trying to understand what was going to happen and trying to comprehend the situation I found myself in.
During the divorce my ex-husband played all the classic tricks that I now know narcissists pull.
We tried couples counselling, but he only attended two sessions. I would cry, he would say, “she’s a good actress. It’s all drama.” No apology, no explanation. I was told “you need to think about why you made me do this.” He was courting his mistress, whilst making empty promises to me. He was playing us both. Oh, and, did I mention him getting his mistress pregnant halfway through our divorce?! He hid money, he hid accounts, he falsified bank statements, he refused to give my solicitors and I proper financial disclosure. He resigned from his job. He would consistently reduce the money that was available to me to pay bills and put food on the table. He didn’t care that our family home was to be sold, he had no concerns about where the boys and I would live. But I did. I wanted to remain living in our village so that my boys would have the same opportunities and we would be around our close network of support. My one goal throughout was to make sure my boys did not suffer.
I was confused; I was desperate. I was lost; I was petrified.
He used the common narcissistic behaviour of flying monkeys and triangulation. The use of others to push his story. His version of events. A PR stunt to make him look like the victim. His family were supportive of him. My family lived far away in different countries and my mother passed away in my twenties. My friends were my lifeline. Today, because of my experience and training, I can see all the tricks and underhand behaviour that was played out. But back then, none of it made sense, I was out of my depth.
My experience made me the person I am today.
It is perhaps strange for some to understand this but now, years later, I am genuinely thankful for the lessons I’ve learnt. I am grateful I got out. I realise now that there were warning signs, ‘Red Flags’ about him and his behaviour. I unconsciously decided to ignore them, to minimise them. My experience has taught me the ‘unteachable’. I learnt how to fight for survival. I learnt how to deal with a narcissist, one of the most psychologically damaging personalities. I learnt how to stand on my own two feet and I learnt that the fear is a lot scarier that the reality. I became free.
I set up Your Divorce Coach because I realised other people needed help.
Friends would talk of people they knew that were going through a divorce and they needed help. Would I talk to them? Tell them what it’s like? I was a solicitor and I had been through it all. Yes, of course. They must feel so lost, I could relate, I wanted to help. Nine years later, after seeing how many people needed support in their divorce journey, I decided to create Your Divorce Coach. I have now helped hundreds of clients. I support my clients all day, any day. They can call me in the evenings, at weekends and during holiday. Divorce doesn’t really have opening hours, it affects your whole being, it’s all consuming.
A large proportion of my clients deal with narcissistic abuse.
I support them in any communication they need to address, and I also teach them strategies to cope with a narcissist. As any psychologist will tell you, the only way to deal with a narcissist is to cut them out of your life. But you can’t do this if you have children. You can’t really coparent either. However, there are ways to manage this process until the children are old enough to communicate on their own. I teach my clients how to empower their children; providing them with techniques to help their children cope with having a narcissistic parent.
I have found my purpose.
I want to help my clients reach a place of safety. I know what they are going through. I want to provide them with the support and clarity that they desperately need in the midst of all the chaos and trauma that divorce can bring. Especially when divorcing a particularly difficult personality.
‘I wish I had found you sooner’
This is the most repeated phrase that my clients say to me. They really wish they had found me sooner. I wish I had found me sooner too. But, it’s OK, because I’m here now. I’m here to help if you need me.
Thank you so much Nawal for sharing your story with us.