Let’s assume a hypothetical situation to begin today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. You and your spouse were married for 18 years before you asked for a divorce. The marriage had been struggling for some time and you and your spouse had been drifting apart from one another. The reasons for that drifting apart could be many, or it could be just a few. The fact the remains that you both are headed towards a divorce.
Your conversations have gone from loving to civil to verbal assaults. You have brought up the idea of getting a divorce and he did not try to push back from that idea. You’ve decided to hire an attorney and take the plunge into getting a divorce. What you found out right off the bat was that getting a divorce was not as simple as you may have thought that it was going to be. Friends and family made it out to be difficult but not super stressful. However, that has been anything but your experience.
While the early stages of the divorce have developed, your husband has shifted from being aggressive with name-calling and other verbal assaults to be extremely kind, too generous with money and back again to being distant and hard to talk to. You didn't know how to feel or even how to approach your soon to be ex-spouse. A man who you had previously considered only to be self-centered was becoming someone that you have no idea how to handle.
The importance of knowing the challenges facing you when divorcing a narcissist
You knew that getting a divorce was going to be tough but you didn’t know that your spouse was going to make it even more difficult on you. You haven’t even been to mediation for temporary orders and it feels like the case is never going to end. Being frustrated and anxious about the process is made worse when your spouse is equal parts apologetic and antagonistic towards you. The concern here is that your narcissistic spouse could turn on the charm and convince their attorney, a judge, a mediator and maybe even you that he deserves a better outcome in this divorce than he is entitled to.
Narcissists use their persuasive powers to attempt to discredit you
For instance, if your husband was able to convince you to do things during your marriage for an outcome that was desirable but has now turned into a nightmare, that circumstance could be used against you. If you and he signed up for a business loan from your credit union to expand his HVAC business, but the loan has gone unpaid because of problems with income then that business loan may end up being partially your responsibility. As a result, your spouse could argue that you were wrong to encourage him to get the loan, thus placing responsibility for its unpaid principal at your feet.
Watch for attempts to project attention away from bad conduct of the narcissist
Next, you should be aware that narcissists often project upon you accusations that in actuality apply to themselves. Consider the shock that you would experience if you saw in your husband's counterpetition for divorce that he is accusing you of having an affair. Adultery is a serious accusation to level at someone in a divorce. His "proof" may be scant or completely fabricated, but he is nonetheless making those allegations. The fact of the matter is that he is likely to have engaged in adulterous acts during your marriage and is merely attempting to cover those up by shifting attention onto you.
Watch for arguments that attempt to divert your attention from important matters
Shifting attention away from himself and onto you is oftentimes done by going on tirades against you, the legal system, your family or other issues that are in your husband's life. Remember that a narcissist cannot accept responsibility for their actions or their state in life. Everything wrong in the narcissist's life is caused by someone else. These tirades could involve issues that are relatively minor or could sidetrack your divorce entirely due to their being about something major.
I have had divorce cases get delayed for months and months because a narcissist opposing party would not agree to simple steps that could have ended a divorce. For example, I had a divorce case a few years ago where the opposing spouse would not agree to have a piece of land appraised. We had lined up three appraisers and would have been happy for one to be used. However, the opposing spouse would not agree to pick one. We would hear from his lawyer and the party directly that we were not going about the appraisal the "right way" and that ultimately we were going to cost him a lot of money. He had no basis to say these things but he did so to delay the divorce. Ultimately we had to seek a court order that forced the property to be appraised despite the opposing husband's protests that it should not.
Take every seemingly positive act by the narcissist with a grain of salt
Whether it is allowing you to have an extra weekend with your child during the divorce, telling you that you can have an expensive item out of your community estate or doing anything else that could be termed as charitable or magnanimous, you should look at everything that your spouse does with an eye of caution. It would be asking you a lot for you to go through your entire divorce suspicious of everything that your spouse is doing but unfortunately, that may be the position that you are in.
The reason that I am saying this is because gifts and nice gestures never come from a good place when the giver of the gift is a narcissist. Remember: you are not the center of their universe, he or she is the center of their universe. All roads lead to him or her, the planets in their solar system revolve around them like the sun. They are the focal point of every discussion. If you receive a gesture from the narcissist that otherwise could be interpreted to be generous, just wait a day or two. It wouldn't be surprising to find out that there was an ulterior motive in play.
Be prepared to drown in the paper during your divorce from a narcissist
Narcissists are always on the move. These folks will convince their attorneys that mountains of motions, requests, hearings, and other procedural delays are necessary before getting to the end of the divorce. Ultimately if your spouse has engaged in bad behavior during your marriage and you have proof of that bad behavior, it will have to come out. Your spouse (through common sense or the discovery process) will have already figured that out.
Instead of attempting to negotiate with you to avoid what would likely be a less than desirable outcome in a trial, your narcissist spouse may attempt to drown you with paperwork and other issues that will delay the trial. If you already have a trial date set a request for a continuance may happen. Delays in selecting a mediator can occur as well. Your attorney may find that your spouse's attorney is not as easy to get a hold of as she once was.
The frustrating part about this is that rather than choosing the path that will result in a quicker and juster outcome, your spouse has chosen a route that will take more time and will cost more money. Keep in mind that you are having to pay your attorney to sort through all of the motions and delay tactics being issued out by your spouse. Maybe he is comfortable adding credit card debt onto his already existing pile of debt, but you should not be. Talk to your attorney about your options. You may find that a hearing in front of the judge to address these delay tactics will nip these actions in the bud.
Narcissists are not above methods of intimidation
You may find that your spouse will attempt to intimidate you through bullying. Whatever end goal your spouse has will be justified by the methods that they employ to achieve that goal- at least in their mind.
For instance, many people find that during divorce their friends and family have to choose a side. If you find that your friends and family are starting to give you the cold shoulder it could be because your ex-spouse is bad-mouthing you in front of those folks. The more isolated you become the idea would be that you would be much more willing to strike a deal favorable to your spouse. You can give in to the demands of your spouse or attempt to reach out to friends and family to set them straight. Stand strong early in your divorce and it will allow you to do so later on, as well.
Do not let noncommunication break your will during the divorce
The narcissist will assume that you will exhibit co-dependent characteristics during your divorce and will want you to show that he is charged by communicating solely on his terms. An example of how he will get you to do this is by not speaking to you until he is good and ready. Suppose that you have been trying to speak to your spouse for a week about an issue with your child or a settlement offer. If you cannot reach your ex-spouse then you are likely going to feel frustrated and eventually cave into what he wants to do as a result.
If things get awkward where your spouse will not look at you during visitation exchanges with your child, or ignores you in court, or otherwise makes you feel alienated, it is up to you how you react. You can remember that this is temporary and all a part of his plan. Choose to do what you think is best for your child and yourself and stand firm on your positions. Or, you can give in to the awkwardness, choose to see it his way and do whatever he wants concerning your case. It is up to you. You are in control over yourself.
Twisting events around to put him in a favorable light
There are likely a story or two about your ex-spouse that he knows happened, you know happened and you both know are going to come up in your divorce. Whether it is something that relates to money, your children or your relationship, if your narcissist spouse acted inappropriately in the past then it would make sense that you would want to bring this to a court’s attention.
A potential problem arises when this spouse wants to turn that event around and make it seem like you were the spouse who acted inappropriately or you were the spouse who created the scene from whole cloth. Make sure that you have your evidence ready to show that an incident involving family violence occurred in the manner that you contend. If not, don’t be surprised to find that your spouse not only denies the situation ever occurred but that you were the instigator.
More questions on narcissists and divorce? Join us tomorrow
If you have additional questions about narcissists and divorce, please join us tomorrow as we continue to write about this subject. In the meantime, if you have any questions about Texas family law 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 to learn more about your case and to receive direct feedback about your specific circumstances.
We represent clients just like you in courts throughout southeast Texas and do so with a great deal of pride. Our goal is to provide superior service to clients in advocating for their rights in the courtroom and placing their interests at the forefront of our representation.