Shiddat – Intensity of love or control?

If you follow Pakistani/Lollywood dramas, you may have seen the current trending TV series on Har Pal Geo; Shiddat (meaning intensity in Urdu).

The series has been labeled an intense love story but, through the lens of a family lawyer, the only intensity that can be seen is of control by a narcissistic husband.

Almost glaringly, the story does not follow the life of a traditional happy married couple, rather, it follows the sad life of a wife who is emotionally abused and controlled by her husband, ultimately isolating the wife from her loved ones, and having her doubt her own sanity. The wife and those around her have not yet realised that she is being subjected to domestic abuse almost daily at the hands of her narcissistic partner.

It is yet to be seen whether the wife can break free from the cycle of control and move forward with her life – at present, she appears to need the discrete assistance of a good divorce lawyer to consider her options (with regards to applying for a divorce and financial settlement) and strategy.

Identifying abuse is often the main issue and, once identified, seeking appropriate help and support is often daunting. Dealing with a narcissist within family law proceedings can be difficult and the light at the end of the tunnel can seem non-existent. The victim can often encounter a lack of empathy from those around them as the abuse is not visible.

This article will consider some issues that someone may face when dealing with such a person and some practical tips to assist if separation or divorce is on the cards.

Issues when dealing with a narcissist in family law proceedings

1.    The strategy of obstruction

Family law matters especially court proceedings can take a lot of time, and the narcissist will try to delay matters even more either by seeking unnecessary extensions, providing misleading information or documentation (which will need to be dissected further by the legal professionals and Court if involved) and not show up for Court dates. The narcissist will be the self-described victim in all their documentation and that may need to be challenged, often by way of protracted correspondence between Lawyers, with legal costs escalating.

2.    Refusal to negotiate or agree any matters

The narcissist is aware that the longer the process takes, the easier it is to manipulate and pressurise. Usually, they make unacceptable or low ball offers. They fail to respond to all aspects of the proposal so that there are always bargaining chips to be used to stall the negotiation or start at the beginning again.

They also fail to respond to the matters presented. Despite a significant amount of time passing, it can feel like there has been little progress made.

3.    Escalate legal costs

The narcissist will do all that they can to escalate legal costs for the other party, and they will often be aware that the more legal assistance that is required, the higher the legal fees will be. Legal costs escalating will also be a natural consequence of the obstruction tactics highlighted above.

4.    Mudslinging

A desire to “win” by the narcissist will likely entail a lot of mudslinging on their part. This will cause a significant emotional strain and, if there is engagement with such narrative, there will also be a drain on finances, if legally represented.

5.    Referring matters to Court even after settlement

For all the reasons outlined above, the narcissist is likely to keep on using the Court system to address their disputes as well as to promulgate new ones. If children are involved, there will be relentless communication, not sharing schedules, appointments, or itineraries, and signing up children for activities that fall on both parents’ time without notice and discussion when the parent does not have the legal authority, etc. There is often an element of harassment at play which can also trigger separate injunctive proceedings (if not already done).

How to deal with a narcissist in family matters

There is no way to change someone’s personality or behaviour but there are techniques that can be deployed to help manage the situation.

Some of these are:-

1.    Seek the assistance of a specialist family lawyer.

2.    Make sure your Solicitor is aware of the problem and proactive.

3.    Keep your Solicitor informed regarding any direct discussions with the narcissist as they will likely try to pressurise you away from your legal team.

4.    Keep copies of everything, especially expenditures so that matters can be dealt with factually, with evidence, where possible.

5.    Stay cool and avoid the traps e.g. do not send emails or texts that could be construed as harassing or demeaning, especially if there are children involved.

6.    Engage the services of a counsellor or other relevant professional to assist you with the emotional strain of matters.

Holistic approach

It is important to identify when someone is being abused as it is not always visible and the victim may find it difficult to talk about, especially if they are being manipulated into thinking that there is no problem. Narcissism is generally regarded a cultural taboo in certain communities which makes it even more important to seek professional help. Talking about the issue and receiving appropriate advice is the first step to breaking free from the abuse.

Our Aysha Chouhdary is an experienced family lawyer with expertise in such matters, especially where there are additional religious or cultural issues at play. Aysha understands the nuances of manoeuvring the exit in such relationships and is multilingual which helps overcome any barriers with clients. If you need help with any of the issues raised in this article, then please reach out to and she will be happy to guide you and give you the support you need.

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