Stages of Divorcing A Narcissist
Being married to a narcissist likely proved to be one of the most painful experiences of your life, and now you are discovering that divorcing them maybe even more treacherous. There are many stages of divorcing a narcissist!
Chances are, you will be battling a master manipulator who will wear whatever mask they need to wear, in order to win over the powers that be. Any divorce is bound to be contentious, but divorcing a narcissist will bring an elevated level of trauma, due to the dysfunctional nature of this personality type.
So let’s take a look at the narcissist’s tactics, and then discuss steps you can follow not only to survive the divorce process but to succeed in achieving the outcome you deserve. And most importantly, how to preserve your mental health along the way.
Understanding the Common Traits of a Narcissist
These individuals can fall on a spectrum; not all of them have been diagnosed with a personality disorder. But there are common signs nonetheless.
- Grandiose self importance
- Preoccupation with success, power, beauty, or ideal love
- Belief that they should only associate with high-status people or institutions
- Need for excessive admiration
- Great sense of entitlement
- Takes advantage of others
- Will shame and humiliate others (spouse is a major target)
- Lacks empathy or regard for the feelings or boundaries of others
- Arrogant behavior and attitude
Recognizing the Tactics of the Narcissist
By the time divorce crosses your mind you have become all too familiar with the psychological games your narcissistic spouse thrives on. The charming man who love-bombed you with gifts and compliments gradually revealed his critical, controlling and manipulative self.
You felt confused, off balance, and even filled with self doubt, wondering what you did to cause the “man of your dreams” to change.
Here are some of the typical tactics of a narcissist:
1. Gaslighting- These individuals will try to make you believe you are crazy, making statements such as “I never said that,” “Don’t you remember what we talked about?,” “You are always so sensitive.” They will shift the truth to their advantage leaving you to wonder if maybe you had it wrong.
2. Lying- Narcissists are pathological liars and will lie about anything and everything to anyone, even when they don’t need to. They believe that they need to lie and manipulate to get their desired outcome.
3. Intimidation- They want you to feel afraid. The narcissist will hone in on your worse fears and insecurities, such as losing your children or a place to live, and then they threaten you accordingly. Once they see how effective this strategy is, they use it continuously to keep their sense of control.
4. Triangulation- Narcissists love to pit people against each other. In an attempt to isolate you, they will lead you to believe that others are on their side, or that your friends don’t really care about you. The goal is to make you fearful of losing people if you expose or speak up against the narcissist. They want to make it appear that you are the unstable one.
Reasons Why Divorce With a Narcissist Ends up in Court
1. The narcissist claims to be the victim. They are dead set on proving themselves right at any cost, and are not open to mediation, compromise or negotiation.
2. They love being a game player. Narcissists enjoy playing the court system especially if money is no object. They will call for endless motions and delays for the satisfaction of wearing you down. They also like to use their charisma to capture favor with the judge.
3. They enjoy the feeling of power. Dragging you through this painstaking process allows them to feel more in control of you and your circumstances, no matter how long it takes.
4. The narcissist wants you to be the one who gives in. They are always finding ways to best others or win a battle. Winning a divorce case is a symbolic trophy for them to enjoy.
5. The narcissist has no empathy. They only care about their needs and wants, and will show no regard for how this process will affect your well-being or that of their children.
Strategies the Narcissist Will Use in Court
1. Refusing to negotiate or settle- They will present lowball offers or not respond to any proposals, in hopes that you will wear down and capitulate.
2. Obstruction-They will file endless motions, cause delays, not show up for court dates, and provide misleading information.
3. Rack up your bills- Money may not be an issue to them, but they know that you may be struggling. They will drag out the process since they know you have your limits financially (or emotionally.)
4. Malign you- The narcissist will bad mouth you to anyone in earshot; new friends, colleagues, relatives, your co-workers, in attempt to smear your reputation and credibility. The will do this in written documents, and in the courtroom as well. A narcissist will lie with no remorse.
5. Repeatedly drag you back to court- Even after a settlement has been reached, a narcissist will look for ways to exert ongoing control. They will sabotage your efforts to co-exist, by not sharing schedules, sending harassing emails, not paying bills etc. and then placing the blame on you.
Steps You Can Take to Prepare for the Divorce Process
1. Choose the right lawyer. A good lawyer is crucial in this situation. It is not enough to understand divorce law; they also need to have good radar for narcissists, and be immune to any manipulation. Be sure to vet any potential lawyers regarding their understanding of, and experience with narcissistic personalities.
2. Do your homework. It is optimal to start gathering documentation as soon as possible. This may be tricky based on the level of control your spouse has in this area. Take photos or make copies of bank statements, mortgage information, vehicle registrations and titles, tax returns, investments, insurance policies etc. It is critical to have the facts when you are dealing with someone who will openly lie.
3. Open a private bank account. Do so, as soon as you suspect that you are married to a narcissist. This will give you time to put funds aside prior to the divorce proceedings. Make sure you have a separate email address as well, one that your spouse has no access to.
4. Work with a divorce coach. It is important to seek a coach that had experience with narcissistic individuals. A divorce coach can help you stay on track with logical, strategic decisions, and provide support if you experience anxiety or panic attacks.
5. Communicate calmly. A narcissist wants to push your buttons, and will say abusive or accusatory things to get a response. Do not take the bait, or add fuel to the fire. Just state the facts without showing emotion or backing down.
6. Minimize ongoing verbal abuse. Request a court order for a two parenting app such as “Our Family Wizard” which monitors the tone of the communication and prevents abusive dialogue.
7. Practice self-care. Navigating the divorce process with a narcissist can take both a physical and emotional toll. Consider yoga or meditation to reduce stress. Take walks outdoors in nature. Make an effort to eat healthy foods, sleep well, and spend time with friends.
8. Reach out to an experienced therapist. Seek a therapist who specializes in narcissism and trauma. Request an initial consultation to determine their level of experience with narcissism, as well as how they would help you set goals.
9. Letting go Forgiveness may be difficult to achieve in this situation, but letting go is something to work towards. Do it for your own peace of mind, as marinating in toxicity is very unhealthy. Remind yourself that you are dealing with a disturbed individual, and that you are not, and have never been the problem in the relationship.
Divorcing a narcissist will likely be a rocky road, as you are dealing with a manipulative individual who wants to win at any cost. However with some preparation, good support, and self-care you can prevail. Stay the course, one day at time, remember to breathe, and hold on to the reality that this is just the beginning of a safer, happier, and more fulfilling life for you and your family! Keep up with updates on our Facebook page!