Divorcing a Narcissist / by Cassandra Hearn

The end of a marriage almost always means that the spouses—who at one point got along so well—now have a difference of life view and personality.  These differences have become so severe that it is time for the parties to go their own way.  Sometimes the split is quick and straightforward, but often times one or both parties are upset and hurt, resulting in a divorce case that can be more drawn out than necessary.  When one of the spouses is a narcissist, this can become extremely complicated.  Divorcing a narcissist presents special issues and problems that the other spouse needs to be aware of.

Narcissism is not a black and white disorder.  People may exhibit just a few of the traits, or all of them.  Common traits of a narcissist include 1) a need to always be right; 2) feeling nothing is ever his or her fault; 3) a need to control every situation; 4) a lack of emotion or empathy; 5) an overblown sense of self-importance; and 6) is emotionally manipulative with a need to be seen as "the good guy."  Any or all of these traits can make handling a divorce with a narcissist particularly difficult for you and your children. 

If the narcissist is the primary breadwinner of the relationship, be prepared for him or her to try to use money to control you.  Narcissists have a need for control, and so may withhold money or demand an unreasonable accounting of how money is spent.  To stop this sort of behavior, getting a temporary order for child support or spousal support as soon as possible will be helpful.

Child custody can also be exceedingly difficult, as the narcissist wants others to see him or her as "a perfect parent" while refusing to acknowledge any possible deficiencies in parenting skills.  Non-disparagement clauses in court orders may help to provide some protection from the narcissist trying to speak badly about the other parent to the children (or in front of the children). 

Narcissists are often manipulative and charming.  Keeping the communication with the narcissist as straightforward as possible and refusing to discuss irrelevant details will be helpful.  For example, if you are trying to discuss the drop off of the children and the narcissist wants to discuss how you spent your child support, do not engage on that issue.  It is simply a bid to maintain control. To assist with communication, TalkingParents  or Our Family Wizard  can be excellent resources.

Call us today at (619) 800-0384 and let us help you devise a strategy to handle the other spouse in your divorce in the best way possible.  We have experience helping our clients navigate these delicate problems.