Divorcing a narcissist? Here’s what you should know

On Behalf of | May 12, 2020 | Child Custody |

For those who’ve experienced being married to a narcissist, you likely know all the challenges it brings: the bottomless arguments where you’re never given credit. The gaslighting. The double standards. The walking on eggshells.

Narcissism can appear in anyone from time to time, but true narcissism is recognized as a personality disorder by medical and mental health professionals. It affects double the rate of men as it does women, and it comes with a variety of unmistakable traits, some of which include:

  • An exaggerated feeling of self-importance
  • A superiority complex
  • A preoccupation with being the best or most successful
  • Taking advantage of others or manipulation tactics
  • Belittling others

When presented in excess, these and other difficult tendencies are often a sign of narcissistic personality disorder. What that means for the partner of a narcissist is a high-conflict marriage with little to no mutual respect, empathy, or effort to resolve differences. Instead, the narcissist might present their partner with reactive outbursts, anger, defensiveness, and even abuse.

Divorce can fan the flames of narcissism

That being said, when the narcissist’s spouse files for divorce, things can get ugly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about how such a divorce might look:

  • A narcissist might drag the divorce process out as long as possible. This is a coping mechanism, because at the heart of narcissism is deep insecurity. Narcissistic personalities feed on having a relationship to control and manipulate, so they’re not likely to be in a rush to wrap up a divorce.
  • Negotiations might be very difficult. After a marriage spent rarely or never having your own feelings, opinions, and ideas validated, or being told you’re always the wrongdoer, it probably won’t come as a surprise when your efforts to come to peaceful agreements fail.
  • A narcissist may throw you unexpected curveballs to incite drama. You can expect that your feelings will be disrespected or disregarded, and this is because people with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty experiencing empathy. Creating conflict also keeps the power imbalance right where the narcissist wants it to stay.
  • There may be a refusal to provide documentation or even take a lawyer’s advice. The feelings of self-importance and grandiosity impair a narcissist’s ability to see other perspectives. This makes it difficult when you’re working with legal counsel.

It’s important to know what to anticipate if you’re ending a marriage with a narcissist. An experienced divorce attorney can help you prepare for your own portion of the trial and guide you through the possible curveballs your narcissistic soon-to-be-ex-spouse might throw at you.