All marriages have their ups and downs. Even spouses who share great marriages will tell you that not every season of their lives was just the best time in the world. Good times and bad times are a part of life and are a part of marriage. Odds are decent, however, that if you are reading this blog post that you and your spouse have experienced more bad times than good of late. If you are considering a divorce then that is a decision that you should think long and hard about.
That decision should be made concerning what is in your best interests, your child's and your family's as well. Outside of the procedural issues that every person going through a divorce faces, you should consider what potential hurdles or roadblocks you and your spouse will face. What special circumstances exist in your lives that may rear their ugly heads? Do you own a great deal of wealth that will need a complicated financial plan? Does your child have a disability where you will need to plan medical care for?
One factor that many people do not consider that ends up being very important is the personality of the spouses that are going through the divorce. People in the public tend to think that the attorneys are the ones that drive the "kind" of divorce that you will have. However, it is more accurate that the spouses themselves will determine the type of hearing. For example, if you and your spouse are laid back people with very few issues that need to be sorted out, then your divorce will likely be relatively quick and simple. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have hard-driving personalities or complicated facts then you ought to get comfortable- your divorce may be on the longer side.
One type of personality that I have experienced that often causes problems about divorce cases is that of a narcissist. If your spouse is narcissistic then you have your work cut out for you. That's not to say that you won't be able to get divorced, or that the outcome of your case will not be fair. However, what it does mean is that it will pay for you to put a little more work into planning your case.
What do you need to anticipate in a divorce case involving a narcissistic spouse? What do you think your spouse is going to do to get their way? What sort of tricks can your spouse employ to get their way or influence a judge? Your partner in all of this is your attorney, who should be able to guide you regarding what to expect and how to prepare for your specific divorce. Narcissists tend to employ methods of intimidation more readily than others and do so without concern for the well-being of you, your children or how much these methods can delay a divorce.
Narcissists will intimidate- be ready for it
Narcissists tend to intimidate from the early stages of a case to get their way. For instance, your spouse may get their attorney to file motions with the court that restrict your visitation with your child or bar you from entering your house. The rationale for doing so will be flimsy or nonexistent. The main objective of doing so isn’t actually to keep you out of your home or to prevent your child from seeing you, but to let you know that he is going to be the aggressor and that you are going to be on the defensive for the entire length of your divorce case.
Your family history will be used in a divorce- but not in the way that you think
Things that have occurred within your family in the past will likely take center stage during your divorce. Did your husband show up intoxicated to a family get together and act aggressively with your children? Did he say abusive things to you in the weeks leading to your divorce, where you had to stay in a hotel for a few days until he calmed down? These are the type of things that are brought up frequently in divorce cases. However, the narcissist will attempt to turn these allegations on their heads. Let’s discuss how
The hypothetical examples that I just laid out in the previous paragraph appear to be pretty one-sided. You would be in the right for each circumstance and your spouse would firmly be in the wrong. You were probably caused a great deal of embarrassment at the very least, and outright anger and sadness at the most. If you have been threatened by your ex-spouse, then you likely experienced fear and other similar emotions.
What ends up happening in many divorces with narcissistic spouses is that family events like the ones we have been discussing often get turned on their heads. Your spouse will tell a completely different story where you were the spouse who acted inappropriately, and he was the spouse who had to clean up the mess that you created. This may seem crazy or like it would never happen but believe me- it does.
The reason why this is possible is that narcissists will do whatever it takes to put themselves in the best light possible. Your spouse is the star of the show and nothing that you or the judge say otherwise will cause him to think differently. So, it should come as no surprise that in your spouse’s mind he is the hero in all of the stories involving him and you. Changing up some of the facts of your stories is a minor detail.
Verbal abuse is common in divorces involving narcissists
You should not surprise you to learn that your spouse may use good old-fashioned verbal attacks against you in your divorce. It’s unlikely that these attacks will come in front of a judge, your attorneys or a member of your family. What’s much more likely is that he will find an opportunity to corner you, or find you when you are alone and then unleash an attack of some sort using words.
The purpose of these attacks is to wear you down, little by little. If he can cause you to feel bad about yourself you may not offer much of a defense against the things that he has to say or the allegations that he can make in court documents. You may just want to get the divorce over with as quickly as possible just to avoid having to come into contact with him. This is how good people who should be able to achieve good results in divorce cases end up having a hard time getting a fair result in their cases.
What you should not expect is to receive the brunt of these verbal onslaughts over the phone, via text message or over email. The reason that for that is it is likely that your narcissistic spouse has planned out exactly how he is going to communicate these assaults against you. It would be foolish to say nasty things to you in a way that could be used against him in the future. However, if he merely walks up to you and says something derogatory it becomes a “he said/she said” issue. He can deny, deny, deny that he said anything like you allege he said.
Keeping you off guard and on the defensive is what narcissists do during divorce cases
We’ve already talked about how divorces have their ups and that they have their downs. That much is unavoidable no matter what kind of divorce case you have- simple or complex. You will find that some stages in your divorce are very quiet with little going on. You may not hear from your spouse or your attorney for weeks at a time. You are settling into life being separated from your spouse and living in separate residences. This is your "new normal" and it will take some time to adjust to it. The divorce process allows you some time to do so.
On the other hand, your divorce case will also have points in time where you will be very busy. This usually happens in the lead up to mediation, temporary orders hearings or a trial. Your attorney will be contacting you frequently to collect documents and prepare you for hearings. You will be taking off work to attend these events. Your lawyer's office will be contacting you frequently to make sure you have all the information you need to attend all of these events.
Unfortunately, if you are going through a divorce with a narcissist you can expect that he or she will accentuate these up and down stages with behavior that adds to them. It is common for the non-narcissistic spouse to feel like there is never a dull moment or a time where he or she can let their guard down during the divorce. It is the uncertainty that the narcissistic parent craves. Uncertainty for you means that you and your attorney are constantly going to have to fight battles that take you away from what you want to accomplish. If you are distracted and frustrated by your spouse then you are more likely to give in and settle just to avoid prolonging your case any further.
Your narcissist spouse may encourage you to remember the good times in your marriage
I have seen spouses have to deal with narcissists telling them that they are the worst person in the world one day, and then the greatest person in the world the following day. What I have seen occur multiple times is a spouse being very sweet as we head closer and closer to mediation. You may get a phone call on the evening before mediation from your spouse telling you that you were a great wife and that you deserve to be able to walk out of the divorce with as much property or time with your kids as you would like.
The effect of this would be the catch you off guard and lull you into a false sense of security. He wants you to let your guard down and to not act decisively or aggressively in advocating for your rights in mediation the following day. By not pursuing your case as aggressively or persistently as you otherwise may, your spouse opens up an opportunity for him to take what he may not deserve based on the other factors in your case.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, your spouse could tell you in no uncertain terms that he regrets your marriage and that he thinks very little of you as a spouse or parent. This is intended to throw you off your game and cause you to get upset and distracted. An upset and distracted divorce participant is ineffective at representing their interests. Rely on your attorney to keep you focused on the task at hand, no matter what your spouse may be telling you.
Questions about narcissists and divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
We will continue to discuss this topic in tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. If you believe your spouse to be a narcissist and are dreading the start of divorce as a result, I hope that these blog posts will help point out some useful information that you will be able to use to your advantage during your divorce.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we covered today in our blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to learn more about your specific circumstances and to receive direct feedback about your case. Thank you for your time and consideration and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow here on our blog.