A narcissist is defined as someone who is in love with and only has extreme feelings for themselves, but when you are trying to divorce a narcissist there are many other character traits which come into play, and for which you need to be prepared. In a marriage, narcissistic behaviour can manifest itself in coercive and controlling behaviour and in extreme cases this can extend to different forms of abuse and more threatening behaviour, but during the divorce process it can become very clear that a narcissist has a personality disorder which can make proceedings very challenging, stressful and drawn out.
Why divorcing a narcissist is difficult
In most divorce cases the key strategy for both parties is to use arbitration and mediation to find solutions and arrangements which suit everyone. The majority of divorces are settled relatively amicably, and out of court, and while it is undeniably a sad time, the separating parties generally want the process to be quick, cordial and harmonious.
Unfortunately there is likely to be no such pursuit of goodwill if you are divorcing a narcissist. In such cases your partner will want to win under any circumstances, will think of the process strategically like a military battle and will be unlikely to back down and concede any points. This unwillingness to negotiate on anything means the process can be long and drawn-out, and potentially costly for you, which would also mean a bigger victory for them and a bigger defeat for you, which is exactly the kind of outcome that feeds their personality.
Common traits of a narcissist during divorce proceedings
- Reluctance – A narcissist may be reluctant to divorce because they can’t see the faults in themselves that you are highlighting. They also need to be in a relationship in order to have someone they can feel powerful over and dominant of, even if there are no obvious signs of ‘love’ in the relationship anymore and divorce feels like the plainly unavoidable option to you and everyone else.
- Victim – A narcissist will play the victim when challenged about their behaviour.
- Entitlement – A narcissist will have a sense of entitlement which means they won’t back down or concede on any point, a strong reason why divorcing a narcissist will rarely happen without a court case.
- False accusations – A narcissist will be unable to see the truth about themselves and will attempt to gaslight you and the court and twist the truth. This involves making false accusations aimed at deflating you and which you then have to disprove, which makes the case long and potentially costly for you, and therefore means you may give up and concede.
- Emotional empathy – A narcissist will show no emotional empathy for you or any children involved in the marriage, and will therefore do anything they can to be the winner in the proceedings.
- Appeal – Even if the narcissistic partner appears to lose the divorce proceedings, they are likely to appeal because they cannot accept any form of defeat.
Key things to consider when divorcing a narcissist
So how do you go about divorcing a narcissist? Here are some important things to consider:
- Mental support – It is going to be a long, drawn-out and unpleasant process so prepare yourself for this and ensure you have a good support network and potentially consider some mental health support also. When starting the divorce process you need to accept that your partner is unlikely to offer you any emotional support or to your children, they will only consider themselves.
- Specialist divorce solicitor – Ensure you appoint a specialist solicitor with experience of dealing with narcissistic behaviour. This means they understand the character traits and strategies they will be presented with and can see through them and not be put off by them. A specialist divorce solicitor dealing with a narcissist will have staying power and won’t give up, because this is exactly what the narcissist wants and expects, so the solicitor needs to have their own tactics to spot these traits, see through the nonsense and be able to stick to the core issues. The solicitor will also have their own tactics for ensuring a judge is aware of the partner’s narcissistic behaviour.
- Children – Ensure the wellbeing of children is taken care of because the process will be unpleasant and they won’t get any support from the other partner.
- Finances – It is common for a narcissist to take control of finances and to keep details hidden, so you need to carefully unearth as much detail as you can on joint finances, such as bank accounts, mortgages, savings, pensions and property assets etc. Through doing this you may also discover evidence you can use against your partner in proceedings. However, case law dictates you should not take copies of documents belonging to the other party so only action this if these are in both you and your Partners’ names.
- Stay calm – It is important to stay calm and focused during divorce proceedings, and if the process becomes long and bitter it is important that you don’t stoop to their level and become embroiled in similarly underhand tactics. A judge is more likely to look favourably upon you if your character and behaviour is in stark contrast to that of your partner.
Contact Ison Harrison if you are considering divorcing a narcissist
If you are married to a narcissist and are considering divorce proceedings, please contact our family law department at Ison Harrison. We have skilled and experienced divorce solicitors on hand to offer you the legal and mental support you need to make this difficult process less stressful and ultimately successful.