Are you divorcing a narcissist?

Find out what you can expect if you’re divorcing a narcissist and get some tips on navigating the process of divorcing a narcissist now.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

Perhaps the easiest way of explaining a narcissist, is by looking at the origin of the word. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome young man who became so obsessed with his own reflection in a pool that he fell into the water and drowned. The moral of the story is that he died because of his inability to love anyone other than himself.

Today, such a person would likely be clinically labelled as suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Narcissists come in different shades and levels of severity and are not always easy to detect. Initially, they are usually charming, but sooner or later their obsession with their self-importance, a constant need of admiration and total disinterest in the feelings and opinions of others comes to the fore.

9 Signs Your Ex Is A Narcissist

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a well-respected manual for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, lists nine criteria but it requires only five for someone to clinically qualify as a narcissist. 

The nine criteria are:

  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • interpersonally exploitative behaviour
  • lack of empathy
  • envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviours or attitudes

In simple language, they are self-centred, manipulative, constantly seeking attention and praise, believe they’re never wrong and basically don’t give a hoot about anyone else. The big problem is that they do not recognise that they have this disorder.

What To Expect When Divorcing A Narcissist

If you found living with a narcissist hard going, divorcing one can be very challenging.

By the time you have reached your decision to divorce, you’ll probably be feeling anxious, stressed and afraid, leaving you extremely vulnerable to the tactics that they are sure to apply. You’ll need to prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, and often financially too.

Here are a few of the behaviours you might experience:

You may get love-bombed. The moment they realise that you’re going to leave them, they may suddenly start love-bombing you with affectionate compliments or gifts. A sort of a reward for good behaviour. Don’t be fooled into believing they are genuine. It’s all part of their narcissist technique to convince you that they have changed. Once they have achieved that they go back to their old ways. In those instances recall all the reasons you wanted the divorce in the first place. Write them down.

They will play the victim. Once they realise that love-bombing did not work, they may try to blame you for the breakdown of the marriage, bringing up stuff you may have said or done years ago. They will distort the truth in order to smear your image and attempt to turn your family, friends and even your children against you.

You may get gaslighted. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse by manipulating the truth, accusing you falsely, damaging your self-esteem thus making you feel inferior and depressed. This may even bring you to the point of doubting yourself. This behaviour is designed to make you feel utterly dependent on them. Narcissists are masters of this technique and it’s one of their favourite ploys.

They will try to beat the system. Using the above techniques, their charm and whatever other means they will try to beat the system to achieve their ends. They will lie to anyone including lawyers and judges, exaggerate and shift blame onto others, while genuinely believing they are never at fault.

They won’t show remorse. Showing remorse is something unheard of in the psyche of a narcissist. In their minds, showing remorse is a sign of weakness and a loss of control. Don’t ever expect to hear “sorry”, no matter how much hurt and trauma their behaviour may have caused to their own family. Some may even enjoy the hurt they have caused.

You won’t be able to rationalise with them. Expecting a rational response from a narcissist is a pipedream. It’s not going to happen. They will deny anything in the face of undisputable evidence. Their condition protects them from seeing reality. Don’t waste your time. Produce the evidence and let the Court or mediator decide for themselves. When they are being irrational disengage all conversations.

They won’t stop. Their persistence knows no end and they won’t stop their tactics and emotional blackmail, until the bitter end. First stage would normally be to sweet-talk you into accepting their views and terms, then intimidation kicks in and finally they will try to beat you into exhaustion. You may be in for the long haul here.

Essential Tips When Divorcing a Narcissist

Have A Plan

Once you’re aware of what you’re dealing with and what you can expect, you can begin to formulate a plan on navigating through your divorce. The end goal should be to separate your finances and assets as painlessly as possible to allow you both to move on with your lives. Always keep that end goal in mind throughout the divorce process.

Make Copies of All Important Documents

Make copies of all important documents and a list of all valuable items. These include, bank accounts, earnings, title deeds, regardless in whose names they’re registered, businesses, insurance policies, investments, vehicle registrations, tax returns, wills, mortgage bonds, credit card debt, birth, marriage certificates, passports, everything.

Don’t Badmouth Them (No Matter How Much You Want To)

Don’t badmouth them to anyone. That includes texting and emails. This will provide them the perfect opportunity to use it to smear your character and make you look bad. Narcissists are experts at that.

Have A Good Support Network Ready

Having a good support network ready is vital for anyone going through a divorce at the best of times. When divorcing a narcissist, it’s going to be even more important. Prepare to lean on your family and close friends for support during and after what you’re about to go through.

Set Boundaries Early On

This is vital, but don’t expect it to be an easy task. They will try to challenge you by continuing with their tactics, ignoring the boundaries you have set, expecting you to back down. Whatever boundaries you set, stick to them no matter what.

Take Time For Self-Care

To navigate through a divorce requires you to be remain physically and mentally healthy. Take care of yourself and your children by eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep and avoiding excessive alcohol. Stay socially active and avoid isolating yourself.

Consider Counselling

There’s no need to go through this on your own or if your support network is not enough. Consider counselling if you need to. Counsellors can identify all the traits of narcissistic behaviour and better prepare you for the rocky road that lies ahead.

Stay Calm When Communicating

Staying calm when communicating is of utmost importance and must be a major point of your overall plan. But it can still be extremely difficult. By focusing on the big picture and knowing what to expect you’ll be better prepared, keeping your emotions under control. If you’re finding that difficult, communicate only through your lawyer or mediator. By doing that, you’ll be making it difficult for them to deny or twist anything that has been said.

Keep Contact To The Minimum

This will reduce the risk of further conflict and the possibility of you losing your cool and say things you may later regret. Keep your communications brief and to-the-point and refuse to be side-tracked.

Don’t Rise To Their Baiting

Nothing infuriates a narcissist more than when people don’t rise to their baiting. They can become nasty and abusive attempting to get you to lose your cool. The less you respond, the less control they have over you. Be prepared for this. Just walk away.

Keep A Record Of All Communication

Denying facts and twisting the truth are two major attributes of narcissists. So keep a record of all communications, such as emails and texts, which could later be used in Court as evidence. Write down all details of any verbal agreements and comments. Obtain signed testimonials from others that could also be used later in Court.

Put Your Children First

In all divorce cases, by doing putting the children first and always doing what’s best for them, makes difficult decisions so much easier to make. No matter how hard it may be, shield your children from the trauma you may be going through and avoid griping to them about your ex. Keep them on a need-to-know basis and keep all financial and emotional issues to yourself.

If you’ve divorcing a narcissist, divorcing through family mediation rather than the Family Court can save you time, money and stress. Chat to Ian today on 0418 928 448 to find out how family mediation with Move On can help you when divorcing a narcissist.