6 Strategies and Tips to Divorce a Narcissist (And Win)

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
June 25, 2022

Divorce is an unpleasant process, even when you are on good terms with your soon-to-be former spouse. However, some divorces go beyond hostile and evolve to become outright terrifying. The unfortunate reality of life is that some people are not as kind or amicable as they appear. They also have priorities that they might put above their spouse if it benefits them.

In extreme cases, your spouse will act in a manner that makes it seem like they do not process emotions as you do. You might have already realized that your spouse is somewhere on the scale of narcissism. It can be a horrible situation to divorce a narcissist, and it likely contributed to your desire to divorce them in the first place.

It's common for there to be a disturbing amount of emotional abuse in a relationship with a narcissist, and some of those character traits can take years before anybody spots them. However, you will find that securing a divorce from a narcissist is just as difficult as continuing life with them. There is a lot of information to remember when dealing with a narcissistic spouse and even more to ensure you can divorce them successfully. Divorce is challenging enough without a narcissistic spouse dragging you down.

When the person you married turns out to be on this spectrum, the process often becomes more complex and emotionally draining.

This article provides tips on successfully divorcing your narcissistic spouse without excess strain.

#1: Understand What Narcissism Is

The first step to dealing with any issue, including divorcing a narcissist, is understanding what you are looking to fight.

Narcissism, along with many other personality disorders, has been distorted by modern media to fill an entertainment niche. This misunderstanding of narcissism is also the result of a general lack of knowledge about personality disorders. However, narcissism is not as cut-and-dry as most media makes it out to be. Rather than being a personality quirk where an individual is obsessed with themselves, narcissism is a spectrum that brings more severe personality traits.

The spectrum of narcissism denotes how severe their personalities are and what narcissistic tendencies they show.

Solution Narcissists cannot have healthy interpersonal relationships as their symptoms make it nearly impossible to prioritize others.

However, on the furthest end of the spectrum is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). NPD is a severe manifestation of narcissism that is abnormally common in men, with 75% of all diagnosed cases being male patients.

Man With Narcissistic Behaviors

In NPD diagnoses, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), the patient must regularly exhibit at least 5 of the following behaviors:

  • The patient must display exaggerated feelings of entitlement and be extremely self-centered.
  • The patient is obsessed with success, intelligence, power, attractiveness, etc., and becomes preoccupied with their fantasies.
  • The patient believes themselves to be unique and special, feeling that only people "on their level" could ever understand them.
  • The patient seeks to be the center of everyone's attention, constantly pining for admiration.
  • The patient regularly expects preferential treatment from society.
  • The patient exploits those around them, including friends and family, to accomplish their own goals.
  • The patient lacks empathy and cannot note the emotions and needs of those around them.
  • The patient is envious of others or believes others are envious of them.
  • The patient has delusions of grandeur and displays extreme arrogance.

If your spouse shows 5 of these behaviors regularly, they might have NPD. However, it requires a psychology professional to diagnose NPD accurately. Fortunately, you do not need a psychology degree to recognize general narcissism in your spouse.

Unfortunately, recognizing your spouse's narcissism does not mean you are necessarily equipped to divorce them yet. There are still more strategies you will need to employ to divorce your narcissistic spouse.

#2: Prepare Covertly

When trying to divorce a spouse with a personality disorder, it is in your best interest to avoid letting them know.

Solution The sooner a narcissist becomes aware of your intent to seek a divorce, the more time they will have to try and undermine you. A narcissist strives to be the center of attention whenever possible, and the idea that you are not satisfied being married to them will trigger a hostile response from them.

This relates to the fact that narcissists further on the spectrum are extremely arrogant and believe they are special. As a result, the idea that they are not perfect in your eyes could lead to them reacting poorly.

It is also important to note that narcissists are known for gaslighting those around them to support their delusions about themselves. If they become aware of your intention to divorce them before you are ready, they might attempt to turn your friends and family against you. The longer they know your desire to divorce them, the harder they will fight against it and try to keep you in their grip. So, your best bet is to assemble your legal team and resources behind their back.

Covertly Preparing For Divorce

Consult with counsel without letting them know, and try to find someone you can trust to cover for you and serve as an alibi. This way, you can make appointments and other preparations without your spouse being aware of your actions. However, every situation is different, and if you have children whose safety you fear, you might need to be more open about your intentions to protect them. Either way, the first step in assembling your resources to divorce your narcissistic spouse involves seeking professional aid.

#3: Secure An Attorney

Before you even consider telling your ex-to-be about your desire for a divorce, it is paramount that you seek legal representation. While everyone has the right to represent themselves in a legal setting, having an attorney on retainer is ideal for a successful resolution. Divorce by itself is already extremely messy and very complicated as the laws are very particular. Narcissists love winning, and they may exploit and manipulate other friends and loved ones in your life with the intention of making your life and your divorce challenging or impossible.

When dealing with a spouse like this, having the expertise of a legal professional can help you avoid the stress associated with the legal system.

Securing a Divorce Attorney

Your attorney will handle the negotiations between you, your spouse, and your spouse's attorney. It will also protect you from being subjected to one-on-one negotiations with your spouse. On top of all this, your attorney will provide you with the guidance you need to protect the interests of your divorce and how not to fall into any traps your narcissistic spouse might set for you. Your spouse might attempt to goad you into an interaction that could jeopardize the divorce, but an attorney can advise you on the best course of action and what interactions could affect the proceedings.

While an attorney is critical to a legal proceeding, they cannot advise on your spouse's mental state. Fortunately, it might be possible to recruit another expert to your team.

#4: Recruit a Psychology Professional

While an attorney can help you navigate the legal side of divorcing a narcissist, a psychology professional can help you navigate the narcissist. You may have very little knowledge of psychology, which is perfectly fine. Psychology is extremely complicated, and navigating an individual with narcissism is something that should be done delicately and strategically. However, when you are going through a legal battle with someone with narcissism, you might be able to recruit a psychologist to your legal team.

Recruiting a Psychology Professional

The recruitment of a psychology professional will give you direct access to information pertinent to your spouse's personality disorder.

Solution While a psychologist will likely be unable to diagnose your spouse correctly without a proper one-on-one session with them, the psychology professional might be able to serve as an expert witness providing insight into what signs your spouse shows of narcissistic behavior.

The more professional information you have on personality disorders and psychology, the more effectively you can produce evidence of the threat your spouse's condition poses.

You will not always be able to bring a psychology professional onto your legal team. You might not even need one if your spouse is not as opposed to the divorce as you expected. However, keeping this potential resource in mind can benefit your case, depending on the severity and complexity of your particular situation.

#5: Gather Documentation

Narcissists can often be dangerous to you and any children you might share, and they will often cross the line from their personality disorder and into abuse.

Abuse is not necessarily limited them raising a hand to you but can also extend to emotional abuse meant to belittle you and wear away at your mental health.

Solution If it ever does cross the line into physical abuse, the situation becomes even more serious, and you should immediately dial 911.

You can only emancipate yourself from that abuse if you can prove it has happened. To this end, you will want to gather as much documentation as possible that proves emotional and physical abuse. A narcissist will also tend to lie and cover up their actions, so without hard evidence, it becomes your word against theirs.

Emotional abuse can be easier to prove than physical since you cannot simply pull an old hospital record and retroactively claim it to be the result of physical abuse, even if it was. However, emotional abuse likely will have occurred over digital mediums and in person.

Gathering Documentation For Divorce

So, it would be best to gather as many texts, voicemails, and e-mails as possible that corroborate your allegations of emotional abuse. With this hard evidence, you can demonstrate to the official presiding over your divorce that your spouse is emotionally abusive. This information, combined with any other evidence of his narcissism, will help prove why you need the divorce and improve your odds of walking away with your assets intact. Present the information to your attorney and have the previously mentioned psychology expert assess them. Then, the admissible content will be presented to strengthen your case.

However, there is one last resource you can cultivate to protect yourself in these trying times. This resource is far easier to gather.

#6: Create a Support Network

One of the essential tools you have during a divorce, especially against a narcissist, is friends and family to provide emotional support. Divorce is extremely stressful, and your spouse's narcissism will be emotionally draining and detrimental to your mental health.

Solution A support network can help alleviate some of the mental strain you will likely suffer. Your support network can consist of friends and family you know you can trust.

While your support network cannot help with the legal side of things, keeping your mental state as healthy as possible will always help. The more stressed you are, the more likely you will make a mistake. Do not be afraid to reach out to the people who care about you; you might find the process a little less stressful than it would have been without them.

Creating a Support Network

With these resources in your corner, you will have a better chance of securing your divorce with the best possible outcome. However, divorce law is complicated, and there is always more to learn, though we hope you never need to.

Learn the Law

Divorce will always be unpleasant, although this is supposed to be because the love you once shared with your spouse is ending. When divorcing a narcissist, the process is unpleasant for an entirely different reason. This personality disorder is extremely detrimental to your mental health and can adversely affect your children if raised in that environment.

However, even narcissists are entitled to legal rights that the courts cannot forgo despite their issues. So, preemptively preparing your case against your spouse will help secure a favorable divorce settlement that will protect you and any children. The only real trick is recognizing the signs of narcissism as early as possible.

Learning Divorce Law

That said, once you begin ending your marriage to a narcissist, you will need to familiarize yourself with divorce proceedings. Not to the same degree, a lawyer must learn about divorce so they can represent you, but enough to start the process. Learning as much as possible allows you to remain conscious of your rights and options.

Fortunately, accessing this information is simpler thanks to online databases and remote communication with your attorney. We know that divorce is an emotionally trying time, especially with the emotional strain of your narcissistic spouse. However, we hope the information presented here gives you the resources you need to free yourself from their emotional tyranny.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.

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