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.
Useful tips to survive divorce with a narcissist:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 203-429-4151 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Westport office.
Attorney Melissa Needle is a lifetime resident of Connecticut. She was born in New Haven and raised in Fairfield. Her family has deep roots in Connecticut and she is a third-generation attorney. Since her admission to the bar in 1990, Ms. Needle has practiced matrimonial law exclusively.