Tips for Divorcing a Narcissist
Going through dissolution of a marriage, even when amicable, creates emotional and financial challenges. When divorcing a narcissist, an already difficult situation can quickly become traumatic. Logic, compromise and reasoning fly out the window. For discussion purposes, assume the narcissistic spouse is the husband although narcissism is not restricted by gender.
The narcissist has an exaggerated sense of self-importance. He believes he is always right and will not hesitate to manipulate others, including the courts, to get his way. He sees everything as a battle which must be won. Children become pawns and the prize to be sought and awarded in custody battles. A spouse with a narcissistic personality disorder will not make divorce easy, but you can survive and move forward by following a few important steps.
1. Compile detailed financial information. More likely than not, you will be the one initially wanting the divorce. This gives you time to prepare before formally filing the action. One of the narcissist's goals will be to leave you with as little money and property as possible. To combat this, you should make and keep copies of all important financial documents. These should include several years of tax returns, paystubs for you and your spouse, checkbook registers and statements for all bank, retirement and investment accounts. Make copies of all bills and open accounts, vehicle registrations, life insurance policies, W2 and 1099 forms, stock certificates and deeds to real property. Having these documents available for your attorney or the court may prove vital.
2. Hire an experienced attorney. Expect and prepare for a drawn out battle. Your spouse may arrogantly choose to represent himself believing that a cursory reading of divorce statutes and his personal knowledge of the situation will provide him the best result. Don't make such a critical mistake. An attorney provides a necessary buffer between you and your spouse as well as the court. Without an attorney, you will be on your own arguing motions before a judge. Your spouse will use that opportunity to bully, attack and provoke you. The reputation of an attorney who has practiced in the court where your divorce is filed can prove invaluable. An attorney's experience can help to provide the court a clear picture by cutting through the smoke screens your spouse will inevitably erect to discredit you.
3. Do not allow your spouse to play games. A narcissistic spouse will typically believe he knows what's best regardless of what a court orders. Coupled with the inherent desires to create conflict and exercise control, expect him to repeatedly test the limits of orders regarding spousal or child support, visitation and property usage. You should follow court orders to the letter. Document your spouse's violations of court orders and inform your attorney.
While it is wise to choose which battles to fight, do not hesitate to return to court to seek a contempt finding against your spouse. Ask the court to impose sanctions and award attorney fees for having to bring the motion. Courts do not take kindly to having their orders ignored. A couple well documented and successful contempt motions can quickly educate a judge and dispel your spouse's false contention that he is the aggrieved party.
4. Limit and Document Communication. Narcissists lie and have no conscience. They will say anything to paint you in a negative light and will get friends and family members to do the same. Nothing is ever their fault. If you catch them in one lie, they will just concoct another. Often a court being asked to make a snap judgment is left with little more than a "he said, she said" scenario. Your best defense is the truth plus the documentation to back it up.
Once the divorce is formally underway, try to limit communication to writing such as texts and e-mails. Keep copies of every message sent or received. Keep communication formal and businesslike. Do not express anger and frustration. If you find your spouse has been attacking you via social media, make copies of any posts. These may prove valuable later in court. Once you hire an attorney, most communication can go through that person and take you out of the loop.
5. Create a long term plan. Once you have a complete financial picture of your marriage, work with your attorney to develop your ultimate goals. Divorcing a narcissist requires you to have a clear picture of what you hope to achieve. Don't give in too quickly to your spouse's demands. Determine what you are willing to give up if necessary. Narcissists love to win. They don't like to give up anything. Knowing what you are willing to sacrifice may allow you to negotiate strategically and obtain a concession by allowing your spouse to think he has won something when it actually was unimportant to you.
6. Control Your Emotions. This is far easier said than done but can be critical. You do not want to give your spouse added ammunition by ranting and raving in front of your kids, your spouse's supporters or the court. You want to be seen as the reasonable person in this conflict. If you are involved in exchanging children for visits, limit discussions during the exchange and do not vent frustration or anger if your spouse tries to provoke a confrontation.
7. Create a support team. Maintaining your composure when it counts often requires you to have a network of friends, family, counselors or even a support group where you can vent your negative feelings. It's best not to include your spouse's family members in that group even if they express support for your position. Surround yourself with people you trust and who can be a sounding board when you need it.
Divorcing a narcissist presents conflicts which may test you daily. Understanding how a narcissist thinks and views life is a start. Surrounding yourself with legal and emotional support is essential and will help you endure the ordeal and achieve a positive outcome. If you have any questions about filing a divorce, contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a conference today.