To know how to divorce a narcissist, we first need to define what a narcissist is. If you are married to someone who thinks primarily of themselves, think they can do no wrong, and believes other people exist simply to serve him or her you are probably married to a narcissist. A more formal definition of a narcissist is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
That you are reading this article should make it clear that you are having some degree of problems with your narcissistic spouse. When you are considering a divorce from your spouse and he or she is a narcissist then you need to think long and hard about the challenges that exist when it comes to separating yourself and your finances from this person. Divorce under any circumstances can be a challenge. Divorcing a narcissist isn't impossible, but it does require some additional planning and thought.
Narcissists, at their core, do not love themselves as much as they would have you believe. Rather, narcissists put up a front of loving themselves when they are insecure people at their core. Projection of a hard and self-assured personality can be their way of hiding their true self and their lack of confidence. As their spouse, you may be the primary target of their narcissistic actions. This would not be easy for any person to go through. When you consider the issues that you have in your own life this only adds to the stress that you have been put under being married to a narcissist.
Marriage is all about communication. A narcissist is not much different than a little kid when it comes to having a conversation and building a relationship. When your children are young, they relied upon you for everything. If you are a mother reading this, then you know that they relied upon you for everything- including a meal. As a result, the relationship between you and your little one was very one-sided. You took care of him. He may go easy on you one night and let you sleep for three hours uninterrupted. Otherwise, it was back to the routine of caring for his every need.
As your child grew up, he would still look to you to take care of him. His needs, his wants, etc. All were cared for by you. The world revolved around him and so did yours. Even if you had work, financial stresses, family stresses, and a host of other issues going on your child didn't care about that. He wanted food or to play or to have his diaper changed and thought nothing of making that known to you whenever and wherever you were. No filters, no consideration, nothing like that. His concerns came first. Sound familiar?
This is where raising a child and being married to a narcissist can diverge. A narcissist probably is going to be a narcissist forever. Maybe therapy or counseling could help your spouse become more empathetic but overall, it is tough for a leopard to change their stripes. A child, however, is more malleable. Your son will hopefully be raised in an environment where his natural, childhood narcissism can be cut down upon. Over time he will learn empathy, and patience and may even receive a hard lesson that the center of the universe does not go directly through his little head. Children can learn to be functioning members of society. Adults who are narcissists may well be lost causes in that regard.
Communication with a narcissist
Communication with a narcissist can be tough. Going back to our comparison with a child, a narcissist has a stream of dialogue going on in their brain whenever you try to speak to him or her. You can almost see the gears turning in their mind when it comes to having a conversation with him or her. Do not underestimate how little you can accomplish having a conservation with a narcissist. Imagine having a conversation with a five-year-old and how productive that can be. A narcissist may be thirty-five but the five-year-old may be more receptive and attentive to what you have to tell him or her.
This is where marriages fail when it comes to one of the spouses being a narcissist. Trying to problem-solve and overcome adversity in a marriage with a narcissist is easier said than done. If you are familiar with the term "gaslighting" then you should not be surprised to learn that narcissists engage in gaslighting behavior with ease. Gaslighting is convincing a person that what they are seeing, observing, or experiencing is not happening. The gaslighted use their powers of persuasion to be able to you that your perceived reality is just a fantasy. This can cause you a great degree of stress and make you feel like you are untethered to reality.
If you do attempt to work out problems in your marriage with a narcissistic spouse, tread lightly. It's not that it can't be done but the experience may end up being counterproductive. A typical response from a spouse who does not want to participate in counseling is just to say no, avoid the conversation, or some combination of the two. A narcissistic spouse may disregard the request for counseling. However, he or she may use the opportunity to grandstand and put up a false sense of what is going on in the relationship to a counselor or therapist. Imagine having to sit through a therapy session that you are paying for only to hear your narcissist spouse spout lies and falsehoods about the marriage.
Do not be surprised if your spouse is working behind the scenes to plan out a divorce. In their mind, they are the star of the show, and you could be cast as the villain. Having an experienced family law attorney available who can assist you in this endeavor is extremely important. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan serve people in our community every day through difficult circumstances related to divorce. In a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys, we can show you exactly how our office can help you prepare for a divorce.
Negotiation with a narcissist
Despite what you may have seen on television or in movies, most Texas divorce cases do not resolve themselves inside a courtroom. On the contrary, most divorces in Texas don't even see the inside of a courtroom until the case is complete. This is because the process of obtaining a divorce in Texas offers spouses numerous opportunities to settle their cases through mediation rather than litigation. Whether it be in informal negotiation sessions or mediation, you and your spouse will have an opportunity to discuss the case and your lives together in hopes of avoiding a trial or even having to attend a contested hearing of any kind.
Unfortunately, the prospect of settling a divorce with a narcissist is more difficult to guess. The statistics say that a very high percentage of Texas divorce cases end in settlement negotiations between spouses. However, we just finished discussing how hard it can be to have a meaningful conversation with a narcissist- not to mention discussing the terms of a settlement negotiation with one. Regardless, of your position in the divorce, it is sure to be a challenge to work with your spouse on coming up with solutions. Unless your spouse has hired an attorney who is willing to stick their neck out and tell some unpleasant truths to your spouse, your case may be more likely to proceed to a courtroom than other similarly situated divorce cases.
The reason why this is the case is that your having filed for divorce from your spouse may have thrown off his or her sense of equilibrium. Perfection is an impossible goal for any of us to achieve- but don't tell that to a narcissist. He or she may want nothing more than to appear they are perfect and without flaw. A divorce, even one that is deserved, is a flaw nonetheless for him or her. Your repeatedly showing flaws of theirs to other people like attorneys and judges may push your spouse off the deep end.
Winning is probably also an important character trait or goal for your spouse. We all like to win. Nobody likes losing- it's just that adults and even children learn how to accept losing over time. It is one of the most critical maturation points for a person to develop the skills necessary to be able to take losing and persist despite prior defeats. For your narcissist spouse, this probably is not a lesson that he or she ever engaged in. The idea of winning at all costs is more likely to be a lesson that your spouse has embodied over time.
Prepare for conflict
An amicable, friendly, and civil divorce is probably what you want your experience to be like when you get divorced. Unfortunately, this is not always possible even in the best of circumstances in a divorce. Divorcing a narcissist almost always brings with it a risk of a contentious and difficult divorce. We have covered many of the reasons why this is likely already in this article. Try to argue a point fairly and objectively with a narcissist and you will know what I am talking about.
Do not underestimate your spouse when it comes to their willingness to turn an otherwise simple divorce into a knockdown, drag-out fight between the two of you. If you are not prepared for the difficulties associated with divorcing a narcissist you can be taken advantage of. Narcissists can read your attitudes and behavior as being weak or unsure of yourself. If your spouse reads this into your actions during a divorce you can be taken advantage of or at least have your spouse act like he or she will take advantage of you.
Again, having an experienced family law attorney representing you from the outset of your divorce is important. The two of you can work together to combat the narcissistic tendencies of your spouse. Do not allow your spouse to constantly be the aggressor when it comes to your case. You can find yourself constantly being dragged to court for issues that are inconsequential but can help to run up the costs of your attorney. This is a scheming way for your costs to run overboard while your spouse can take advantage of your lack of funds by potentially hiding financial assets and other property that you cannot properly pursue due to lack of funds.
Choose wisely when it comes to selecting a family law attorney
Make no mistake, we think it is a great idea for you to have an attorney when you are involved in a divorce. There is too much at stake in a case for you to not be prepared to advocate your positions both inside and outside the courtroom. The attorney should be someone who has experience in family law, does not back down easily but also will negotiate reasonably when the situation calls for it.
Having a superior family law attorney is especially important when you consider the challenge presented to you in a divorce case with a narcissist. Having to manage the rest of your life while handling a complicated divorce is not easy. In fact, for many people, the challenge may prove to be impossible to conquer on your own. An attorney does not tell you what to do during a divorce. Rather, an attorney will help you to make wise decisions by teaching you about the law, providing context based on your circumstances, and empowering you to stand up for yourself and your goals.
Your narcissist spouse probably wants to increase the drama associated with your case if only to appease their ego. Remember- your spouse is a hero in their mind. The more dramatic your case is the more he or she can play the hero. Your lawyer can be the secret sauce that stabilizes a divorce case. Consider the situation if your spouse hires an attorney who is just as much of a drama king or queen as he or she is. That's a lot of drama for a situation that doesn't require it. Meanwhile, you are left in the middle having to fend for yourself and maintain some degree of focus amid all the silliness.
Your lawyer should be ready for a fight but should not be starting them. Finish the fights, don't start them should be the mantra of your attorney. It is silly to attempt to stop your spouse from being a narcissist during the case. That's who he or she is. However, what you can do is minimize the opportunities for your spouse to be that person to your detriment. Ultimately, if you can achieve your goals while your spouse can act like a narcissist then you can still win.
Consider speaking with a professional
Even though it may be your spouse who needs to see the therapist, there is no reason why you can't also seek professional help when managing the expectations or stresses of a divorce. Your therapist should have some experience in treating people with narcissistic traits or who are narcissistic themselves. You can use these tools to manage the stress of your divorce and to help you immediately in developing a plan on how to handle the stresses of being married to a narcissist.
Have a support network available to you
Narcissists are persuasive. As a result, you may find that there are people in your life who side with your spouse on many of the issues in your case. In this way, you can bet that some of the lies and untruths promoted by your spouse will stick to the point where you need a support system available to you who will support you through thick or thin. You can't control your spouse's behavior any better during a divorce than you could before a divorce. With that said, your support system should be on your team.
Having a support system in place from the beginning of your divorce is a great way for you to be able to avoid putting your children in a position of acting as your confidant. Many parents feel that their children should act as their support system during a divorce. Rallying together and circling the wagons with your support system is healthier than constantly leaning on your children as a support system for you. It's healthier for you and your children.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s 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 in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.