In almost every high conflict divorce case either one or both parties are accused of being a narcissist.
In most cases neither party is actually a narcissist and the parties are just experiencing typical divorce conflict.
However, in some cases, one party is a true narcissist and special precautions need to be taken.
What are the characteristics of a real narcissist?
The characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Narcissist thrive in high conflict situations like divorce
Narcissists believe they are above the law and don’t feel the rules apply to them. They thrive on the adversarial nature of divorce and will manipulate the system whenever they can in order to “win.”
A narcissist will do everything possible to complicate and delay the divorce process including:
- Refusing to provide documents
- Refusing to negotiate
- Ignoring court orders
- Lying about income
- Hiding assets
- Making false allegations of abuse or neglect
They have no interest in an amicable resolution, they just want to win at any cost.
Tactics For Dealing With The Narcissist
Preparing For The Financial Aspects of Divorcing A Narcissist
Make sure you have access to funds for the fight.
The narcissist thrives on the adversarial nature of litigation, so be prepared for a long drawn-out fight.
The first thing you need to do to get prepared is to determine how you will fund this litigation.
If you know a divorce is coming, try to make sure your credit is in top shape in case you need to take a personal loan or need access to credit.
Talk to friends and family about borrowing money for legal costs. If you have assets that will likely be sold during the divorce you can pay them back once everything is settled.
If the narcissist is the monied spouse you may be able to request that your spouse pay your counsel fees. Talk to a New York divorce attorney about your options.
Get your financial paperwork together
Your narcissistic spouse will attempt to hide assets and will refuse to provide financial documents. Before the divorce gets underway, get copies of all financial documents and collect all account numbers. Documents should include deeds, bank accounts, credit card accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and tax returns.
Once you get these documents, put them in a safe place. Scan them and store the on the cloud or let a friend hold them until you hire an attorney.
Preparing For The Emotional Aspects Of Divorcing A Narcissist
Seek The Assistance Of An Experienced Therapist
This is going to be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. A good lawyer will listen and sympathize, but you really need the assistance of a therapist to help you navigate the emotions you’ll experience.
It’s very likely that the narcissist has been emotionally, verbally and possibly physically abusive and a trained professional can help you move forward with your life.
Join A Support Group
Others have gone through this and they can offer great advice and support. Find a local support group through sites like meetup.com or find a group that communicates online.
End all direct communication.
The narcissist will take advantage of every opportunity to upset you. Shut this down by limiting communication.
You can get a court order to limit communication to a discussion of the children by text, email, or an app like Our Family Wizard. This way you have hard evidence of any harassment.
If you don’t have children or if you feel harassed you ask that all communication happens between the lawyers.
Find A Calming Hobby
Don’t let the divorce consume your life. I often suggest that my clients find something new that will take their mind off of everything- even if it’s an hour a week. Join a yoga class, start painting, go back to school, or anything else that will help you relax.
Don’t worry about what other people think. Narcissists are often very charming so it may be difficult for other people in your life to see him as you see him. You can’t worry about that right now.
Preparing For The Legal Aspects Of Divorcing A Narcissist
Hire an attorney.
You can’t deal with a narcissist while navigating the legal system on your own. Find a divorce attorney who has experience with high conflict divorce. They will help serve as a buffer between you and your narcissistic spouse and help you make the right legal decisions to counteract the narcissist’s tactics.
Have zero tolerance for violations.
If the narcissist refused to comply with a court order, bring it to the attention of the court. This could mean filing a contempt motion and requesting attorneys fees.
Once they realize this behavior will not be tolerated, they may be less likely to violate orders in the future.
Make sure custody exchanges happen in a public place and limit communication. Your lawyer should be able to come up with options that work best for your family. Again, make sure any communication is recorded so you have evidence of any threats.
Know What You Want
The cornerstone of a good divorce strategy is having a clear idea of what an acceptable resolution will be. Literally take a pen and paper and write down the things you are willing to fight for and what you would be willing to give up.
Give this list to your lawyer so they can develop a plan to achieve this result.
Other Tips For Divorcing A Narcissist
Become educated about the divorce process.
The divorce process becomes much easier when you understand how it works. Knowing what can and cannot happen will alleviate your fears and make threats from your ex less powerful.
And if you know your liabilities you and your attorney can make plans to address them.
Become educated about narcissistic personalities.
Understanding how the narcissist thinks will equip you with the tools to counter the narcissist’s tactics.
Set reasonable expectations.
No one really wins in a divorce, and this is especially true when divorcing a narcissist. Divorcing a narcissist will be a long, difficult, painful and expensive experience. It will be emotionally draining and you will not get everything you want.
Going into a divorce from a narcissist with this knowledge will make you better prepared.
Get everything in writing
You ex is going to try to manipulate the system by playing the victim. This means they will lie to the court about what was said.
One way to combat this is to get everything in writing. Every little thing. Want to switch days with the children? Did they agree to pay for something? Get it in an email or text. If it’s not in writing it does not exist.
This also includes other things like keeping a journal of verbal communications with them and keeping track of pickup and drop off of the children.
Keep in mind that all written communication will be seen by the judge so be on your best behavior. Don’t take the bait to argue or fight in writing.
The narcissist ultimate goal is to win by hurting you. They want you stressed out, worked up and upset. Don’t fall for it. Stay calm to let them know they don’t have that kind of control of you anymore.
Divorcing a narcissist can be difficult, but with the help of the right attorney, not impossible.