Search Site
830 Post Road East, Suite 301 | Westport, Connecticut 06880
2435 Route 6, 2nd Floor | Brewster, New York 10509
Call For Consultation 203-557-9500845-860-0000

Divorcing a Spouse with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Divorcing a Spouse with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Ending a marriage can be emotionally and financially draining — and even more so if your spouse has narcissistic tendencies. People afflicted with this mental condition have an inflated sense of importance coupled with an excessive need for admiration and a lack of empathy. Often, a narcissist enjoys the fight and takes action to engage in litigation and revenge. When faced with divorce, a narcissist will have a “win” mentality, making it likely that your case will be a high-conflict battle. Arming yourself with a strategy to protect yourself and defend against a spouse who is willing to go to war is critical to a positive result.

What to expect when divorcing a narcissist?

Narcissists are characterized as having a deep sense of entitlement, being manipulative and taking advantage of those around them. They are unlikely to be reasonable at any point during the divorce process. Common behaviors they may exhibit can include:

  • Failing to provide discovery — A narcissistic spouse will often fail to turn over important financial documents, hide assets or conceal other crucial information.
  • Lying under oath — It’s common for narcissists to distort the truth. They may lie during discovery or in testimony. Generally, it’s best to avoid contact with a narcissistic spouse altogether during the divorce process and communicate solely through your attorney.
  • Using the children as pawns — Despite what is in your children’s best interests, a narcissist may battle you over child custody or visitation and may attempt to alienate the children from you.
  • Refusing to mediate or negotiate — Since narcissists thrive in high-conflict situations, they will usually be unwilling to come to terms amicably. They are more likely to drag out the litigation process and portray themselves as the victim than choose the path of using a Connecticut divorce mediator.

Useful tips to survive divorce with a narcissist:

  1. Communicate with your spouse only through lawyers — This can be difficult if you have children, but if possible, this results in the best outcome. It prevents the narcissistic spouse from manipulating and controlling you. A narcissist can be charming and that does not necessarily end just because there is a divorce. If you must talk to your spouse directly, keep conversations centered only on specifics related to the children and not about custody or parenting plans.
  2. Document everything — This is an excellent way to record the facts. A narcissist tends to view things from a very different point of view. Narcissists are also very persuasive and charming. Documenting interactions between you and your spouse, your children and your spouse, you and your children and any other relationships or interactions that may reveal a narcissist’s true nature could prove to be a very helpful tool in a divorce from a narcissist.
  3. Stay focused — A narcissists’ self-centered nature tends to drive and frame the divorce case. Knowing what is important and not becoming distracted by chaos created by the narcissistic spouse is critical to surviving the process and for a positive outcome.
  4. Take the high road — Refrain from engaging with a narcissistic spouse in a manner that reflects negatively on you. The narcissist is looking to engage their spouse in a battle. This type of behavior is what the narcissist thrives on. Do not give the narcissist spouse what they want. Respond with as few words as possible.
  5. Consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to develop a comprehensive strategy — Your narcissist spouse will not divorce quickly and quietly. A Connecticut divorce attorney who is familiar with this type of personality who will not only fight for you but fight wisely is essential for success.

Although divorcing a narcissist will present you with emotional and practical challenges, it is important not to let them distract you from your objectives. You need to stay focused, put your head down and concentrate on the things that are most important to your long-term success, health and well-being. Taking a cool approach to problem solving is the best way to deal with an irrational litigant.

The divorce and family law attorneys at Needle | Cuda have extensive experience handling a wide variety of complex matrimonial matters in Connecticut. Call 203-557-9500 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Westport office.


Frequently Asked Questions and Answers related to Narcissitic Personality Disorder

The following signs can be associated with an indiviudal suffering from Narcissitic PersonalityDisorder:

  • Always feels entitled
  • Constantly violates and criticizes the persona boundaries of others
  • Has an over-inflated ego
  • Dominates every conversation
  • Uses manipulation to get what they want--even at the expense of others
  • Uses Gaslighting to gain advantage and leverage
  • Manipulative
  • Makes promises and does not keep them
  • Lacks sincerity and empathy
  • Pretends both affection and emotion
  • Obsessed with impressing others and their physical appearance
  • Blames others
  • Exaggerates everything
  • Comes off as a know it all
  • Extremely impatient

In the context of a contested divorce or custody case, gaslighting refers to a parent who uses a pattern of extremely convincing lies to manipulate others (e.g., family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, police, judges, lawyers, child protective services, and the court system itself) into questioning the sanity of the targeted parent.

Unfortunately, “gaslighting” tactics are too often used by spouses who act in bad faith and maliciously push “hot buttons” to manipulate and antagonize reactions from co-parent targets so that the police or child protective services can be engaged in moments of weakness and unhelpful or unflattering behavior, can, in turn, be added and accumulated on the record.

Ironically, these cases can evolve with a focus that revolves more around the overreactions of the targeted parent than the bad faith actions of the manipulative parent. Unchecked, the end results of a such cases can be unfair and paired with the possible alienation of the children from the targeted parents.

If a targeted parent feels like they are a victim of gaslighting or that they are being alienating from their children and as a result feel either angry and frustrated, it is critical that they not act on those feelings. Nothing is more important that maintaining focus, control and composure from the outset. Overreactions can be used and viewed as “evidence” of the targeted parents alleged mental instability in a future divorce or custody action.

If you are prescient enough to identify early warning signs, your best course of action is to engage the services of an attorney who is familiar with gaslighting and/or the behaviors related to parental alienation in a divorce and custody case.

Even though Parental Alienation Syndrome (“PAS”) is not recognized by Connecticut Courts the actions, the behaviors of the both the alienating and alienated parent can significantly impact your divorce -- especially with respect to your custody and parenting plan. As always with respect to matters of Child Custody, the best interest of the child come first. And specifically, by statute, Connecticut Family Courts must consider sixteen statutory factors consider by Connecticut Courts Child Custody matters.

It is important to note that PAS is not included in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Parental Alienation Syndrome refers to a disorder that arises primarily in the context of Child Custody when one parent tries to separate their child from the other parent as a form of punishment or vilification. Specifically, it is a disorder that refers to the child’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent, where such campaign has no justification or basis in reality and instead is manufactured by the bad faith behavior of the parental aggressor, gas lighter, or narcissistic parent

Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who demonstrate a hate, fear, and rejection the targeted parent as someone undeserving of having a relationship with them.

Cases involving Parental Alienation are very complex. These cases involve detailed testimony from expert clinicians and family therapists. It is essential that you involve legal professional who are knowledgeable, experienced, and familiar with the dynamic and extreme issues involved in these cases so that you can build and control your narrative.

Contact us

Quick Contact Form