Christopher Meyer | Understanding Narcissism and Abuse in Divorce Cases

What do attorneys need to know about the common psychological elements of family law cases?

In many divorce cases, a client may bring up concepts like narcissism and emotional abuse…

In this episode, we’ll cover how attorneys can navigate these situations, especially in high conflict cases. 

My guest Christopher Meyer is a veteran and law firm owner whose practice focuses on high conflict divorce, child custody, and family violence cases.

He’ll share his insight on the psychology of divorce and how family lawyers can handle cases involving claims of narcissism and abuse.

Mentioned in this episode:


Christopher Meyer: I think it’s not that people are actually always a narcissist. I think they get themselves in trouble or they kind of back themselves into a corner where they threw out that accusation and they’re not allowed to retract it, because then they would lose credibility. So maybe at some level, we’re not as, people aren’t as narcissistic as we think they are.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Chris Meyer to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Chris is a 2005 graduate of Texas A&M University and a 2014 graduate of Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He’s the owner of Christopher Meyer Law Firm PLLC, in Sugarland, Texas.

Prior to law school, Chris served in the United States Army as a military intelligence officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s the Past Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 233 in Fort Bend County, which helps veterans who are struggling. Chris’ practice now focuses on high conflict divorce, child custody and family violence cases. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Christopher: Thank you. Thank you, Holly. I really do appreciate it. Okay. Well, let me, if you don’t mind, can I tell you a little bit about myself?

Holly: Absolutely.

Christopher: You already did a little bit, but yeah, okay. So like a lot of young people, I graduated and I got married young after graduation, probably. Things move very quickly, because I was commissioning and going into military and in a relationship and going straight into the global war on terror. I’m just gonna be real and honest. It was a very stressful relationship. The global war on terror was stressful.

And, you know, I have empathy. You know, for, you know, towards my ex, what happened. And understand things were, you gotta really have appreciation for the circumstantial complexity. But things didn’t work out, and after Iraq, things dissolved, and I found out I was a disabled veteran based off of what happened in Iraq. After what happened after coming home, and so, it was PTSD.

And I went to, you know, Thurgood Marshall, and I graduated. But while I was in law school, I did meet my, I guess, my second wife and we started a small law firm together. So I started slowly breaking away from probate and estate planning, which was what my wife was doing. The law firm after COVID took off, oh my gosh, that’s when domestic violence went through the roof during the moratorium and it was just nonstop phone calls.

So I started Chris Meyer law firm and it’s just exclusively family law and all of it’s in litigation. So that’s what I do. I have fun and I handle a lot of domestic violence cases. I do not help aggressors, I do not help abusers. I tell them, I’m sorry. I only help, when it comes to domestic violence, I only advocate for victims.

And it also helps me sleep at night because I know it’s a very messy area, but I’m able to sleep well at night knowing that I’m advocating for people who are vulnerable. So it’s something I’m very proud about. And that’s something I talk about in my podcast.

Holly: What’s it called, and where can people find it if they’re interested?

Christopher: Okay. So, you go to my website, There’s like a little YouTube link at the top right, you just click on it and you know, hit the subscribe button. That would be great. Now, I originally when I started doing my podcast and mostly talked about the family law, the process, what’s the material on substantial change, drafting an appellate brief all that fun stuff. And you know, it was fine, but I wasn’t getting a lot of views.

And then I started talking more about narcissism and emotional abuse. And oh, my gosh, that’s when like, everything started shooting straight up. I mean, I started getting like, I think I made this little short podcast on just what is emotional abuse? I think I got like 18,000 views in a short amount of time. It was like, wow, whereas some of the other things were getting not as many.

So I was like, wow, it’s like so I definitely, I’m definitely gonna see where all the clicks are. So I started talking more about like, narcissism and empathy. And if you really look at my podcast, I kind of go into the emotional, psychological aspect of family law. I talk about what is a, or I divide parties into two major groups of family law. Narcissists and empaths. A narcissist, in my opinion, is defined as somebody who is not able to view a situation presently, without judgment.

And they’re not able to see somebody else’s pain, what someone else is going through. In other words, just not able to empathize. They think mainly about themselves, or they prioritize their own emotions over others, or they just don’t, they’re just not able to see or not able to put themselves into somebody else’s shoes. And I see that a lot in family law spouses who are just not willing to co-parent, or they do not see why they should agree to a property division that’s fair.

They think, well, if something happened to them, they should be entitled to more. And they’re not able to kind of see the bigger picture. And then there’s the other side, which are the empaths. The people who are able to be present in the moment and observe a situation without judgment in the present.

And also they’re able to see somebody else’s pain, and may be able to walk around in their shoes based off of talking to the person and observing other nonverbal cues and body language. So I’m a CPS lawyer. I’m court appointed to represent a parent who might be addicted to drugs. I can, because I consider myself a very empathetic person, I feel I have the learned ability to have a better idea of what somebody is going through and understand them.

And when I’m talking to maybe a CPS parent, and, you know, they’re telling me they’re not using drugs anymore, but their body language is telling me something else, you know, what am I going to believe? And also, I think a lot of judges won’t admit it, but they’re also able to greatly empathize, and also understand what someone is experiencing based off of nonverbal cues.

So for example, I was in CPS court about a month ago. I think the judge was able to see that one of the clients, one of the parents was addicted to drugs. They claimed they weren’t using drugs, but they’re looking down at the floor. Looking to the right, they’re not facing, they’re leaning back, they’re crossing their arms, they’re visibly shaking, there’s a quiver in their voice.

You know, their body language was basically testifying that, yes, I did something wrong. But verbally, they’re saying no, I didn’t do anything wrong. So I think that’s a very valuable skill in family law. I’m able to just, you know, talk to people. And also the cool thing is not as many cases go to trial as you think. Because when I’m talking to clients in mediation, I’m able to immediately read them. And I kind of understand what their concerns are.

And I understand where the focus points are, where the targets are, what I need to focus on more, what’s less important, and get them an outcome that they’re comfortable with. And while being mindful of what they actually need or want in the divorce. So that ability has come in handy.

And I think a lot of it has to do with just the fact that I was doing a podcast and I was studying what an empath is, what a narcissist is. I’m doing a lot of reading on body language, and things like that. So just the fact that I developed the podcast. And now that we’re getting close to 200 episodes, and there’s so much content on how to read somebody, it’s actually created a valuable skill for me.

Holly: So we want to talk a little bit about some various psychological and abuse issues that family lawyers come into contact with on a very regular basis. First, and I know you touched a little bit on it already but narcissism. If I had $1 for every potential client who called up and said, do you know how to deal with a narcissist? My husband is a narcissist, my wife’s a narcissist. I would be retired now, because everybody thinks their soon to be ex is a narcissist.

And they assume that they’re the only one and that you know you. Is this family lawyer familiar with narcissism. Obviously, every family lawyer with any experience is familiar with narcissism because it’s such a prevalent topic that comes up all the time. And obviously, we have the psychological diagnosis definition of narcissism, but when we’re looking at it in the family context, what exactly is narcissism?

Christopher: Well, I think what happens is maybe we have two spouses, they hate each other. They both are accusing each other being a narcissist. I think maybe, I want to be open minded. So maybe they are narcissists but at the same time if I’m going to be open minded, maybe they’re not actually a narcissist. Maybe the marriage has just become dissolved, and we need to be empathetic and mindful of that.

But if you need to talk to your client and find some common ground with them and be like, yeah, your spouse over there, they’re a narcissist. Okay, I agree with you. But I think what happens is in family law, it’s kind of a psychological thing. It’s when one spouse makes accusations in a court filing, whether it’s a gray area, whether it did happen or did not happen. I think maybe they kind of unintentionally back themselves into a corner.

And now they’re stuck with that accusation. Or maybe they said, you know, my spouse was abusive. And they went into detail on all the abuse. And then, they were upset at the time, but it wasn’t as bad. There was abuse, there was emotional abuse that should not be tolerated, but it was maybe a little, they went a little overkill.

But because that accusation has already been put out there, they feel they’re stuck with it. And they can’t, they can’t come back later and say, oh, I lied to the court or lied to my friend. They can’t do that. So now they’re just kind of backed into the corner and the other spouse, because they’re having these accusations hurled at them, they have to protect themselves. So they well, in a weird way, they’re kind of match and mirroring.

They’re throwing the same missiles that were thrown at them, they’re throwing back, and now they’re both backed into a corner. They feel they’re stuck with these accusations. And they think because it went into some kind of court filing or require disclosure that was electronically served to the opposing counsel, they think they can’t back away from the statements anymore, so they’re just kind of stuck there.

The good news is the judge is gonna make you go to mediation anyway. So don’t worry about it. And then just go to mediation. Yeah, okay, I understand. You’re saying, the husband’s saying the wife is a narcissist, wife’s saying husband is a narcissist. Okay, fine. Let’s just talk about the property division.

So I mean, I think it’s not that people are actually always a narcissist. I think they get themselves in trouble. Or they, they kind of back themselves into a corner where they threw out that accusation and they’re not allowed to retract it. Because then they would lose credibility. So maybe, maybe at some level, people aren’t as narcissistic as we think they are.

Holly: I think probably at least 80% of divorce clients throw that out about their spouse, and the percentage of those that are actually, would be diagnosed narcissist, even if they haven’t, assuming they have not been, but would be, is probably really small in the grand scope.

Christopher: Yeah. I just think. Let’s just say that in a parallel universe, where you know, Chris Meyer is not happy and files for divorce and says my wife is abusive, or emotionally abusive, she’s economically controlling, she uses the children, isolates me, minimizes my concerns, denies the abuse, you know, all these things. And then I am like, she sees that I made these accusations because I made them I, I can’t really get away from it anymore.

I’ve already adopted that statement, I have to move forward with it. Otherwise, if I retract it, I can lose credibility. So she’s gonna throw the same thing at me. So really were we ever really narcissists? Or maybe we were just mad at each other and things got a little too emotional. And that’s why now we need to get lawyers involved, and hopefully just go to mediation. Fine. I get it’s emotional.

But true narcissism, I mean, most of my clients, I mean, they’re mostly just good people. That’s just the marriage has become dissolved. I’m not a medical doctor, but I don’t think there are anywhere near the criteria for a narcissist, but that’s what the other side is saying. Whatever. But at the end of the day, what we can agree on is that they need to get divorced.

Holly: So what advice you know, if you have a client who swears their husband or wife is a narcissist and you know, maybe some of the traits that they’re discussing do line up with narcissistic tendencies. What advice do you give those clients about dealing with their potentially narcissistic spouse during a divorce?

Christopher: Okay. I encourage them, it’s cheaper to co-parent. Cheaper to co parent. I mean, you can understand they’re denying you access because they have this entitled attitude or whatever. I just explain the process like look, we go back to core we can follow on enforcement request, sanctions, file a restraining order based on this behavior.

I just explain to them what their options are. And depending on the facts, if someone is truly like a domestic violence victim from like, someone with serious narcissism disorder, you know, these need to be protected. I agree, we should protect them.

But sometimes if this is maybe a situation that got a little too emotional, I’ll remind them about the, how big my trial retainer is, and kind of help manage expectations and remind them that okay, understand, the marriage has become dissolved, but we got to act in the best interest of this child. You guys need to learn how to co-parent. I just try to kind of bring them back to the present, bring it back to reality a little bit, and I think I’m pretty good at that.

Voiceover: This episode of the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law Firm, providing family law appellate representation across Texas. For more information, visit or call 469-715-6801.

Holly: So one of the things that you’ve mentioned a few times and often goes hand in hand with the narcissist allegation is emotional abuse. So that’s a really broad term and we see definitely see a lot of emotional abuse happening in the divorce context. What are some examples of different types of emotional abuse?

Christopher: Oh, gosh, what I look for in emotional abuse, I look for, it’s called the Duluth model or the power and control wheel. It’s a common model used for training professionals and domestic violence institutions like maybe shelters for battered women, or law firms that specifically deal with domestic violence. But it’s called the Duluth model or also known as the power and control wheel. It’s on my website, check it out.

But emotional abuse under the Duluth model, and I’m not going to try to claim that I know every criteria for emotional abuse, but I will, I’m only stuck to the Duluth model. It’s like, if you’re putting somebody down, putting somebody down, typically verbally, making them, that’s number one. Making them feel bad about themselves, that will be two. Calling them names. And there are a lot of choice words, people use between the spouses.

Making them think they’re crazy, aka gaslighting. And I’ve got an entire podcast just on that. But also, the fifth criteria I look for is playing mind games with the other spouse. Number six is humiliating the other spouse. There’s tons of ways to humiliate a spouse. I don’t have to go into that. And then the last criteria is just making them feel guilty. So those are the seven things I look for when I’m assessing if emotional abuse occurred.

And also, if you look at the power and control wheel on my website, the emotional abuse, well it’s a wheel, right. In the center of the wheel is power and control. And then you have emotional abuse, isolation, intimidation, minimizing, denying, blaming using children, economic abuse, male privilege, coercion, and threats.

That’s all in the gray part of my power and control wheel. The reason it’s gray is because it’s a bit of a gray area. Now, the outer ring of the power control wheel is violence. Like physical violence and sexual violence. So that part of the power control wheel is black and white, because it’s more objective.

It’s more provable in court. Whereas the emotional abuse, we might be able to show some text messages to the judge. But honestly, how big of an impact is it really going to have on the property division anyway, so it’s better to just figure it out in mediation.

Holly: Yeah. So before we leave that emotional abuse, do you have tips for attorneys when they are dealing with a client who has been emotionally abused? Because I think this is very much more prevalent than having a true narcissist in a case, is having a history of emotional abuse. And that’s probably a relatively high percentage of the client saying my ex is a narcissist. Really, it’s their ex has been emotionally abusing them.

Christopher: I don’t for ethical reasons. Sometimes people come to me and they’re thinking about getting a divorce, but for ethical reasons, I don’t push them to say, hey, your wife was emotionally abusive. Yeah, let’s get a divorce. No, I don’t, I don’t do that. Because it’s such a personal decision.

And people have different tolerance levels. Like I’ll be honest with you, before I went to Iraq, I had a very thick skin. I could take a, we call it, excuse my French, an ass chewing from drill instructors. I mean, it was like water on a duck’s back. Would just slide off, who cares? I could handle the emotional abuse. But after having experienced what I experienced, post traumatic stress disorder from the service, that thick skin I mentioned went away.

I had a paper thin skin for a long time. And it was hurtful, being emotionally abused, and it sucks and it causes, it can trigger other things. And somebody, if you emotionally abuse somebody enough, they could become violent. You know, I mean, you don’t just go poking the bear and then expect nothing to happen. So, I mean, emotional abuse is very, very serious.

But unfortunately it doesn’t always have a major impact on the outcome of the case. But what for and again, for ethical reasons, I don’t just because someone is emotionally abused. I don’t tell them they should get a divorce. I let them make that decision.

I just kind of explain the process and what they’re looking at financially and how much weight the court is going to give the emotional abuse. And also one thing, one reason people like me is I’m really good at managing expectations. One thing I never do, is I never over promise because if I over promise, I end up under delivering.

So I under promise and over deliver. And I’ll just be honest from the get go. And it’s not that I’m intentionally under promising, I’m just like, no, the emotional abuse unfortunately isn’t going to have as great of an impact as you would think it would. But even though you might be able to prove it, it is just something we’re gonna have to get settled in mediation or go to mediation, they’re gonna accuse you of being an abuser too. We don’t really have any exhibits to be the tiebreaker.

So it’s best to just agree that the marriage has become insupportable. And if they want to tell me how their spouse is emotionally abusive, all they’re proving to me is that the marriage is bad. And that’s why they’re talking to a divorce lawyer. So really, they didn’t really accomplish much.

Holly: So you mentioned wanting to dive in on drug and alcohol, and how that plays in. So tell us your thoughts on that.

Christopher: All right. So, in my office, I have this big vinyl poster, it says no drugs, no alcohol, no debt. So we’re dealing with three things. Drugs, alcohol, debt. D A, D. I call it like, Dad. Dad’s rule. It’s not a I want to say the actual cause of divorce. But it’s always drugs, alcohol and debt always seem to be in the picture, always seem to be in the fact pattern somewhere. And I’m not saying there’s causation. But there is a correlation.

And again, correlation, if we go back to the LSAT, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. But drugs, alcohol and debt always seem to be inside the picture. And the marriages that do that are following dad’s rule seem to not be going through a divorce. So what I try to tell people is remember in college, the college professor would use a whiteboard and write an X axis and a Y axis and give you a curve about something.

Usually the X axis is time. And the Y axis is like money. And then the curve is like supply and demand. Well think of that X axis is time, the y axis is likelihood of success in the marriage. The higher the on the Y axis, the higher likelihood of getting a divorce. Very low on the X axis is a healthy relationship. So likelihood of divorce. The curve would be the stress curve. So no marriage is perfect.

No marriage is going to have a perfectly flat curve at the bottom, where we’re able to just go forward in time, no stress. Every marriage has stress. But when that stress curve starts spiking too high, then it’s eventually going to hit a point where, the point of no return. And that’s where I get the phone call and they schedule a consultation.

So what can we do to flatten that curve? I think, in my opinion, I think there’s three things we can do. Me personally, I don’t I don’t like alcohol, right? That’s something I removed from my life. But in my clients, I do see that it seems to be a factor. And in my opinion, and I’m not a medical professional, but I would argue that alcohol use disorder tends to spike the curve up and to the point where one of the spouses is forced to call the divorce lawyer and schedule a consultation with me. Also drugs. I’m not advocating for legalization of anything.

The marijuana I don’t think that it’s really a big issue. But it’s more like methamphetamines, cocaine, PCP, heroin, like the more serious stuff. Using drugs like that. And or abusing alcohol. And also debt. A lot of my divorces, a lot of just has so much credit card debt. Because really, at that point, there’s no assets to divide. It’s just a ton of debt.

So I think if we can be more mindful about drugs, alcohol and debt in our life, then I think it’s possible to flatten the stress curve. So you can remove drugs, alcohol and debt from your lives, but you’re never going to have a perfectly stress free marriage. But at least you can keep that curve flat enough where you can go into old age and grow old, fat and happy with your spouse.

Holly: We’re just about out of time. But one question I like to ask everyone that comes on the podcast is if you could give one piece of advice to young family lawyers, what would it be?

Christopher: I think a lot of maybe the young lawyers and I was guilty of this, maybe they get a little too emotionally attached. I think the best advice I can give anybody is remind them they don’t live in a vacuum. It’s okay to have a mentor. It’s okay to reach out to other people for advice. If anything, people would respect you and like you more for it.

So you know some of the older lawyers, I might be more tech savvy than them, but they know how to get things done. And it’s also they they remind me of just little things like, one of the best pieces of advice from an older lawyer was, if you answer the phone after 6pm, or if you answer the phone on the weekend, you just gave that client permission to call you whenever they want.

That was something that didn’t really resonate with me at first, and I kind of learned the hard way. But now, after that, I learned that it’s better to listen to the older lawyers, and they’re full of wisdom. I haven’t met an older lawyer who refuses to mentor me in some way. So take advantage of that. That would be my best advice, honestly.

Holly: So where can our listeners go if they want to learn more about you?

Christopher: Oh, good. Okay. Go to my website,, and go to my articles, videos, podcasts, it’s right at the top right, just just check it out. Most of my podcasts are about mindfulness. I go into breathing techniques, how to be present in the moment. A lot of us with going through stressful family law issues, we’re always thinking about something that’s in the future or in the past. We’re focusing on our past regrets or our future anxieties.

But if you’re focusing on your past regrets and your future anxieties, one place you’re not is in the present. I think that’s probably one of the big things I like to share with people is just how to kind of bring it back to the present. So and also the importance of judging a situation in the present or without judgment. So that’s something I like to hit on and a lot of my listeners tend to appreciate that and I tie into family law and it’s a lot of fun.

Holly: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. For our listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, take a second and leave us a review and subscribe to enjoy future episodes.

Voiceover: The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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