Divorce is a complicated and nasty business much of the time. Some couples are lucky to be able to work through the end of a relationship in a professional and polite manner. But, more often than not, divorce brings out the worst in people.
One group of people that often make divorce into an ugly process are narcissists. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a disorder, as defined by the DSM-5, that results in a person thinking of themselves and themselves only. If they are being divorced, they’re going to make the process into a miserable nightmare for those involved.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to prevent a narcissist from doing what they are going to do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some techniques you can use to help make the experience easier. Today our family law attorneys going to look at why divorcing a narcissist is so hard, six tips for divorcing a narcissist, and what you should expect following a divorce from a narcissist.
Why is Divorcing a Narcissist Such a Pain?
To answer that question, it may be best to look at the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as the DSM-5 defines them. These characteristics alone may answer the question for you:
- A long pattern of grandiose self-importance, including an exaggerated sense of talent and personal achievements
- A need for attention and admiration, most often to an exhibitionistic degree
- Fantasies about having unlimited sex, money, power, brilliance, or beauty
- Interpersonal distributaries such as the feeling that they are entitled to special favors or that they have a right to take advantage of others.
- An inability to empathize with other people’s feelings
- Cool indifference or feelings of rage, humility, or emptiness in response to criticism or defeat
Each and every one of us can see ourselves reflected in at least one of those points. However, that doesn’t mean that the regular person is a narcissist. Everybody is narcissistic at various points in their lives, but most people realize they are behaving in an irrational way and apologize for it or adjust their behavior.
Those who are classifiable as narcissists engage in these behaviors over extended periods of time. Many are incapable of recognizing that their behavior is a problem, as their narcissism itself hides this truth from them.
Narcissists may be truly charming, which is why you might marry one in the first place. But divorcing one becomes tricky. They will argue that they did nothing wrong, the divorce is a way of persecuting them, everybody is against them, and so they have to fight back, all of this and more.
What Tips Are There for Divorcing a Narcissist?
Divorcing a narcissist is never easy, but there are ways to limit the frustration of the experience and to help you through the process. The following tips are meant to help, though the best tool against a narcissist is an effective and uncompromising divorce attorney.
- Document Anything and Everything: Narcissists have no problem with lying. Many don’t even realize they are. They bend the truth to fit their own personal narratives, leaving out important details or changing facts. Document everything you can so that you have proof that can be used to fight against your soon-to-be ex-partner’s narcissistic lies.
- Set Boundaries: A narcissist is not going to respect your space, mental, physical, or emotional. In order to protect yourself, you need to set clear boundaries for yourself first and foremost. If you are personality not willing to stick to the boundaries that you set out, then you will allow a narcissist to step all over you. Set boundaries for yourself, inform the narcissist about any boundaries that directly impact them, and then hold firm to them. You don’t need to inform them about boundaries you set that are none of their business, but you must resolve to stick to your own boundaries for your own well-being.
- Stay Calm: Divorcing a narcissist can be the most frustrating, infuriating, and stress-inducing experience that a person can go through. Yet the best advice for how to deal with this is to stay calm. It won’t be easy to do, but a narcissist will take any frustrated outburst you have and try to use it against you. So don’t give in. Stay calm to prevent giving them more ammunition, and stay calm because their behavior will ultimately work against them in the long run.
- Seek Support: Don’t go through this experience on your own. Work with an experienced divorce attorney and counselor, if necessary. Spend time with your friends. Visit family and rekindle important relationships. If your narcissistic partner damaged your relationships with others, seek to repair them. If you have friends and a support system, fall back on them now. Narcissists often make people feel trapped, like the narcissist is the only one who cares for them. This is a big lie, one that you should disprove by seeking support.
- Prepare to be the Villain: A narcissist is going to make sure everybody knows that you are a piece of trash, that you are choosing to hurt them just because you were always awful. Expect this from them. Expect to hear stories from friends and family about the lies the narcissist was spewing. Be prepared, but don’t let it upset you.
- Accept Reality: The reality is that you are going through a pretty awful experience. Don’t expect it to be easy. Accept that this is what needs to happen, and keep your chin up as you move forward.
What Should You Expect After Divorcing a Narcissist?
Leaving a narcissist is complicated. They often gaslight their partners into believing that the world is worse than it is and that they are bad people.
Be ready to go through a learning experience to rediscover who you are and how you interact with the world around you. It will take a while, but it will be worth it.
When Should I Hire a Divorce Attorney?
A divorce attorney should be the first person you speak to about divorce. If you are divorcing a narcissist, they may suggest ways to prepare for the divorce, such as gathering documents and information before your spouse has any idea a divorce is coming. Working with them sooner rather than later can help smooth the process.