What to Expect When Divorcing a Narcissist

Are You Married to a Narcissist?

The term narcissist has become a colloquialism describing someone who is overly self-focused or self-centered. However, narcissism is a recognized personality disorder. Those dealing with a narcissistic personality disorder often have tumultuous relationships and struggle with interpersonal relationships at work or in school.

The key traits of a narcissist include a/an:

  • Over-inflated sense of self-importance
  • Intense need for attention
  • Strong desire for recognition and admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Tendency to exaggerate accomplishments
  • Arrogant behavior
  • Lack of empathy for others

Living with a narcissist can be extremely unpleasant. They are known to be moody and can have erratic emotions and behaviors. Additionally, they often resist treatment and struggle to accept that anything is wrong. Those with narcissistic personality disorder often have an intense desire to win, and when in disputes with spouses and significant others, they will go to extreme lengths to ensure they come out on top.

What to Expect When You Decide to Leave Your Narcissistic Spouse

Many people report that, initially, their narcissistic spouse was charming and endearing. But after they were married, they started to show their true colors. This is common as narcissists often put on a compelling performance in an attempt to win you over. Once secure in the relationship, narcissists are known to do whatever they can to maintain control and power over their spouse or partner – this sometimes means becoming controlling and manipulative. The narcissist often tries to isolate their partner from their friends and family and/or make their partner financially dependent upon them.

Being married to a narcissist is difficult. Divorcing one can be a nightmare. This is because they will do whatever it takes to avoid "losing" what they feel entitled to. While you may be concerned about your family's well-being, the narcissist's only goal is to win the dispute or maintain control over the situation. When going through a divorce, their lack of empathy for others can make things ugly.

Common tactics narcissists take include:

  • Attempting to isolate you from your support network
  • Gaslighting and manipulation
  • Intentional obstruction of the process
  • Refusing to negotiate or work with lawyers, even their own
  • Using children as pawns

Be Prepared for a Long, Drawn-Out Divorce Process

Divorce is already a long process, but when you are dealing with a narcissist, they will do everything they can to draw out the process and make your life even more difficult. This is a means of intimidation. By making the process drag on, or by making you go back to court over and over even after the divorce is finalized, they make the process more expensive and intentionally try to rack up your legal fees.

As they drag their feet, refuse to negotiate, and generally cause problems, they hope you will back down and either give them what they want or drop the case entirely.

They May Seek to Destroy Your Reputation

A narcissist will often see themselves as the victim when their spouse tries to leave them. Therefore, they will do everything they can to make you out to be the bad guy. Even when faced with indisputable evidence of their wrongdoing, they frequently refuse to accept any responsibility. Be prepared for them to cast you in a bad light and discredit you to anyone who will listen. This behavior has been known to go on long after the divorce is over, and it can be emotionally difficult to deal with.

If you are dealing with a narcissist ex-spouse, you may find therapy or counseling helpful. Many clients have reported that working with a therapist was incredibly beneficial and provided them with invaluable support. If you have children, you may also wish to seek counseling for them as well.

Our #1 Tip for Divorcing a Narcissistic Spouse

The best thing you can do for yourself when divorcing a narcissist is to secure trusted, reliable legal representation from a lawyer who has experience handling these types of cases. Because narcissists are master manipulators who are not above playing games, having a skilled attorney by your side can help ensure that all aspects of your divorce are being handled correctly. When problems do arise or when your ex-spouse makes trouble, your lawyer is there for you and can use their experience and knowledge to respond quickly and decisively.

When you need someone on your side, turn to TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP. We understand how difficult it is to leave a narcissist and we work hard to provide our clients with compassionate yet strong legal representation.

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