Divorcing a Narcissist - Don't Make These 5 Mistakes

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Remember when your spouse was charming and seductive, caring and romantic? Maybe. At some point during your marriage, that initial game changed into emotional warfare, and you realized that your spouse was shaping your relationship for you to serve them. You figured out that, in their mind, the world revolves around them. You learned that your ex doesn’t have the ability to emotionally tune into you or your children, that they lack empathy and are not accountable for their behavior. They are arrogant, and have no problem of exploiting others.

You married a narcissist. And now you’re divorcing a narcissist.

Through the divorce process, you will learn more about your spouse. Narcissists are highly reactive to criticism, can be extraordinarily self-righteous and defense, and often project their negative traits onto others. Your ex will continually blame you for the divorce, reacting with anger and range, regardless of what led to the breakdown in your relationship. Narcissists thrive on drama.

It will not be a “normal” divorce (if such a thing exists). Divorcing a narcissist is usually expensive, ugly, and emotionally draining. But if you avoid certain mistakes, you can limit the damage, thereby achieving the best result possible for your family (emotionally and financially).

Don’t focus on proving your spouse is a narcissist.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is considered a mental health issue. It exists on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. In its most simple form, narcissism is a label. Without context, it really doesn’t mean anything. You can say that your spouse is a narcissist, but making that statement doesn’t mean anything. Judges understand that people call each other names all the time.

More importantly, focusing on the label of narcissism diverts your attention from the real issues in your case. Think about this for a second. Would you rather spend your money and emotions on things like where your kids will live, how you will support them, and your financial well-being? Or would you rather spend your resources trying to prove your spouse is a narcissist? Frankly, even if your spouse falls somewhere on the spectrum, that probably won’t make a huge difference in the end result of your divorce case. Additionally, trying to prove your spouse is a narcissist is a surefire way of getting drawn into the drama.

Don’t get sucked into the trap.

Narcissists feed on a supply of narcissistic energy. In a divorce case, that supply is created by your emotions. They love getting a reaction when they push your buttons. Remember, they love the drama. The more you react to what your spouse says and does, the more your spouse wins. Don’t get sucked into that trap. If you fight the battles they want you to fight, you will lose.

As far as the narcissist is concerned, nothing bad is ever their fault. By default, that means that if something bad happened, it must be your fault. If you are constantly trying to prove that you are the good guy, and your ex is the bad guy, you will waste an enormous amount of time and energy. Your spouse will never believe they are wrong. Further, unless your spouse’s bad behavior is legally relevant, the Judge in your divorce case won’t care.

Don’t obsess about what your spouse is doing.

If you are divorcing a narcissist, your ex is going to do a bunch of things that are unfair and totally mean-spirited. Worse than that, many times, they are going to get away with whatever crappy things they are doing. The more you focus on how unfair your spouse’s actions are, the more miserable you will become.

Instead of focusing on your spouse’s actions, you will be much better served (and happier) if you focus on your own goals. Your mindset in this regard makes a huge difference in the amount of pain you feel while you are going through a divorce.

A subset of this rule is don’t take what your ex says about you personally. Narcissists tend to project their own negative traits onto others, so don’t waste your time reacting or letting your spouse’s words hurt you.

Don’t listen to advice from friends and family.

Friends and family usually care about you and mean well. But they most likely don’t understand the craziness that is your divorce, or that divorcing a narcissist is just plain different. Your ex isn’t going to come around and act like a rational human being, much less be reasonable.

Narcissists also typically don’t care how long their divorce takes, or how much it costs. To the contrary, the more expensive and time consuming it is, the more your narcissistic spouse feels they are winning.

Don’t assume the Judge will see through your spouse’s narcissistic crap.

Narcissists, especially those who are attractive, successful and financially well-off, excel at charming people. Remember: they charmed you, too! They WILL charm the judge … at least at first.

The only way to show the judge your spouse’s true colors is with evidence. You will need to present the court with cold, hard facts. Making impassioned, emotional pleas to the judge only makes you look crazy. Plus, your spouse is probably doing his/her best to manipulate the judge into believing that YOU are the real bad guy! You’ll be much better off keeping your mouth shut until you can prove every word you say.

Don’t assume all attorneys know have experience with narcissism and divorce.

Let me preface this by saying that you should NOT get divorced without an attorney. You wouldn’t get a root canal without a dentist, would you? Or fly a plane without a trained pilot? Of course not. Likewise, when going through a divorce, you need the advice and guidance of a quality divorce attorney.

However, not all attorneys are good, and not all attorneys know what they are doing. You already know that. Even good attorneys may not have experience in dealing with narcissists. It is crucial that you hire an attorney who has a strategy for dealing with a narcissistic spouse. Ask your attorney how you can expect to settle your case with an ex who wants to engage you in an ongoing legal battle and run up your legal fees.

An overly aggressive attorney may exacerbate the conflict with your spouse. You want a reasonable lawyer who does not respond to every crazy allegation with loads of paperwork, or advise you to go to court over minor issues. Instead, what you need is a divorce attorney who will fight when required, but also knows when to back down when that makes more practical sense.

Contact a Wayside Legal Divorce Attorney

When faced with the prospect of divorcing a narcissist, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer, share your goals, and create a step by step strategy to achieve your objectives. The Rockville divorce lawyers of Wayside Legal handle divorce cases on a daily basis. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.