The Difficulties of Divorcing a Narcissist
What Is a Narcissist?
The term “narcissist” is often used colloquially to describe someone who is overly self-involved or self-centered. However, narcissism is a recognized personality disorder defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Narcissistic personality disorder is defined as “a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others.”
Common signs that someone has this personality disorder or narcissistic tendencies include:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance
- An overblown sense of entitlement
- Exhibiting manipulative or gaslighting behaviors
- Exaggerating their accomplishments
- Taking advantage of or exploiting others
- Refusing to recognize or empathize with the feelings of others
- Refusing to take responsibility for their actions
Living with a narcissist can be a nightmare. Initially, a narcissist can be incredibly charming and endearing. Because of their intense belief in their own superiority, they work hard to perform that perceived superiority and can come across as highly successful. However, when in a relationship, narcissists tend to be controlling and manipulative. Their true nature may not become evident right away, but once they feel secure that they “have” you, they often drop that formerly alluring act.
How a Narcissist Reacts to Divorce
Because they tend to manipulate and gaslight, breaking free from a narcissist can be incredibly difficult. Having an amicable divorce is often out of the question. Narcissists tend to put up a strong fight and view the divorce as a competition they must win. This adversarial attitude can result in bullying, exploitative behavior, and a refusal to negotiate rationally. Narcissists have also been known to resort to abusive behavior when they sense they are “losing” or not getting their way.
During a divorce, it is not uncommon for a narcissist to:
- Refuse to provide financial records
- Refuse to cooperate with you and your legal team
- Behave vindictively
- Blame others for their poor behavior or actions
- Obstruct or ignore court orders
Many divorces involving narcissists end up in court. This is because narcissists are notorious for their refusal to compromise or negotiate. While you may want to handle your divorce out of court with a mediator, narcissists will often force you to go to court as a means to maintain control and power over you. They often accomplish this by refusing to work with lawyers (even their own!) or a refusal to settle.
Divorcing a Narcissist with a Child
If you have a child (or children) with a narcissist, divorcing can be even more fraught. Heartbreakingly, their lack of empathy for others extends to their children, and narcissists are not above using their children as pawns. Because they are so self-interested, they do not consider what is best for the children in question and are only focused on either the appearance of winning or on getting what they want. Protecting your children while divorcing a narcissist can feel like an impossible task. However, there are things you can do to help protect and shield your children during the process.
When children ask questions about the divorce, it is recommended that you discuss things with them in as neutral a tone as possible and do your best to remain calm. It is also a good idea to maintain stability in your household through developing consistent routines and rules, even if your former spouse doesn’t cooperate. Many clients also report that working with a therapist helped their children cope with divorce. Here we offer other helpful tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your children during and after a divorce.
What to Do When Divorcing a Narcissist
When facing divorce, narcissists are known to stoop to intimidation and manipulation. They are not above gaslighting you. Financial abuse is also common. Narcissists have been known to attempt to destroy their ex’s credit, hide or withhold important financial and legal documents, and intentionally draw out the divorce process in an attempt to run up their ex’s legal bills. When divorcing a narcissist, you should do all you can to secure yourself financially and be emotionally prepared for a long battle.
We know that the prospect of an acrimonious, long divorce process is daunting. However, you do not have to go it alone. Having a strong legal team by your side can make a huge difference both in and out of court. Besides providing you with the legal support you need to protect yourself and your children, a knowledgeable lawyer can help you feel more confident while fighting for your rights in court.
At Sullivan Law & Associates, we have experience handling divorce and child custody cases involving narcissists. We are prepared to provide you with the legal counsel you need to feel more confident and supported.
Are you struggling to divorce a narcissist? Contact our firm to discuss your case with an attorney today.