Jessica insisted that her husband could be reasonable in the divorce, despite his threats of physical harm and emotional abuse. She agreed to mediation anyway. Months later and mediation stalled as he slowly stopped cooperating. Then Jessica was surprised with a huge motion full of lies that kicked her out of their house and ordered her to stay away from the kids! Suddenly she had to fight false claims for months to get her kids back.
Jessica was divorcing a narcissist. She believed his offers to settle all while he underhandedly created a false and exaggerated case against her that would take years to undo. If you are divorcing a narcissist, be prepared for a guerrilla-warfare divorce. How do you know he’s a narcissist and how do you approach your divorce?
- What is a Narcissist?
People love to use the word “narcissist” these days, when really they are just dealing with a huge jerk. But a true narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder that results in “an inflated sense of their own importance a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” See the Mayo Clinic’s primer on narcissism for more info.
- How Do I Know He’s a Narcissist?
Here are a few situations that I’ve seen in my practice when dealing with this personality disorder:
- He is extremely controlling of the finances during the marriage (he keeps you on an allowance and wants a report of your expenses).
- He always needs to be right (he tells you that you are the one with the problems – you are “lucky to have him at all”).
- He accuses you of the bad behavior that he’s really engaged in (classic gaslighting).
- Nothing is ever his fault, especially not his own behavior when you make him angry.
- You try to give him what he wants, but what he wants changes all the time. This keeps you off-balance, never knowing what to expect.
- He does not really care about you or the kids based on his actions in front of them and in front of other people (you suspect this, but all your friends and family KNOW it).
- Possibly, he drinks too much. Narcissist disorder can correlate with alcoholism. And frankly, research shows that alcoholics exhibit similar behavior patterns as people with narcissistic personality disorder.
- What Can You Expect in Your Divorce From a Narcissist?
While 95% of divorce cases end before getting to trial, you will be one of the unlucky 5%. Here are some things that I’ve seen in my practice with these types of cases that you might expect in your case:
- You will be vilified and degraded both in court papers and to friends/family.
- He will try to manipulate the kids – and tell them horrible things about you.
- He will drag out the case, force you to spend extra on legal fees over his delays and refusals to cooperate with standard proceedings.
- Every communication with him is a game – he thinks he can “win” by delaying messages, being vague about important issues like custody exchanges, and insisting that you are the aggressor. Do not let him push your buttons or lose your cool.
- He will accuse you of the very behavior that he has engaged in. (Examples: He’s an alcoholic? No, you are the one with the drinking problem. He’s a cheater? No, you are the one with the affairs.)
Narcissists cannot control themselves without relationships to fulfill their sense of power and control. Court provides a special thrill for narcissists because he’ll believe he’s in control, and feel that he has power over you by dragging you to the courtroom. Once the case is over, he’ll have to find another relationship to fill the gap (and if he’s in a relationship during your case, he’ll use his hostility towards you to hide the true nature of his personality from his new partner – she’ll think only the worst of you, until it’s her turn to be his victim).
- How To Prepare For Divorce From a Narcissist.
If you are thinking about divorce, now is the time to prepare. Get ahead of the divorce at the front of the case to give yourself the best chance preempting his litigation strategy – including cutting off motions and filings that are aimed at being emotionally abusive. Talk to a lawyer experienced in these types of cases.
Remember: he needs a judge to issue a decision – even a bad decision. This relieves him of the responsibility of compromise, because a true narcissist can never compromise since that would mean he must concede his position. By allowing the judge to control the outcome, the narcissist gives the illusion to himself and others that he was still in control: the result just isn’t his fault. (Forget that he’s the reason the decision went badly for him in the first place).
- “Can’t My Wife Be a Narcissist?”
Of course! But why does my narrative address “the Narcissist” as a man? Statistically, men are more likely to be narcissists than women, as confirmed by a report by the University of Buffalo. The report examined 31 years of research on narcissism – with more than 475,000 participants – and concluded that, considering all factors such as age and background, men are more likely to be narcissists than women.
There are many studies that attempt to get to the bottom of why men are more susceptible to this disorder, such as aggression masking true emotions or maybe low-self-esteem issues.
What is most important for your divorce is to simply recognize you cannot change a narcissist and you must strategize to get the best results for you.
What happened during your divorce that led to the realization that you were divorcing a narcissist? Discuss in the comments.