Divorcing a narcissist can be extremely challenging. If they take this as a personal attack, anything can become collateral, including children. Understanding the stages of divorcing a narcissist is the first step toward planning for a better future.
What Is A Narcissist?
Narcissism exists on a spectrum. Those who are somewhat narcissistic may be self-absorbed and concerned primarily with their own lives and outward appearance. Severe narcissism can be dangerous.
Severe narcissists or egotistical personalities are often charming. They are primarily attracted to those who can highlight or accentuate their image. By using other people as a way to reflect their character, narcissists need others to shape their own identity.
An egotistical individual can be especially infuriating in an argument. They may present as calm and level-headed while telling lies or making up stories. They may act in ways that society deems morally wrong. Trying to fight an extremely egotistical individual is likely to create chaos and confusion.
When a divorce with an extremely egotistical person occurs, they can feel as if it’s an attack on their very identity. For this reason, it is critical for as many people as possible to understand the divorce is happening.
When more people are aware of the situation, the egotistical personality has less power over his or her spouse. Since isolation is key to a controlling relationship, a wide support network will help.
Stage 1 of Divorcing a Narcissist: Denial
Many times, an egotistical individual refuses to acknowledge the divorce at all. This can seem incredible. Even after counseling and discussion, narcissists may not accept that the marriage is over. Narcissists may refuse to leave the home or still speak as if they were in a committed relationship.
The process of admitting it’s over can be a painful and potentially dangerous one. Those with a narcissists’ personality often have difficulty controlling their anger and may become full of rage. Before this stage occurs, having a clear plan is important.
If there are children involved: are they safe? Before the realization of divorce fully hits, securing a safe location for yourself and your children may be necessary. This location could be with friends or family, but being alone is not advised.
Narcissists are most concerned with winning. They usually see the world in black and white and cannot fully understand the nuances between “good” and “bad”. An egotistical personality can wreak havoc on a family without proper precautions.
Stage 2 of Divorcing a Narcissist: Blame
Once narcissists accept the divorce is real, the process can get ugly fast. Blaming the other spouse is one tactic that can be used to varying degrees. False accusations without proof can be detrimental and have long-lasting effects on the family.
This stage is not always so obvious. Narcissists are very good at manipulating others to seem as if they are to blame. They may try to convince (a.k.a. gaslight) their ex-partner into believing that they are sick or confused. They may “forgive” for something that was never done in an attempt to show a tender side of themselves.
This can be a tricky time for families. When defenses are down, or if the ex-partner feels worn down after multiple manipulation tactics, it may seem easier just to stay married. This is why it is crucial to have as much support as possible during this entire process.
Stage 3 of Divorcing a Narcissist: Vengeance
Once the divorce is in motion, narcissists are not likely to back down. They may feel out of control and wronged. With a certain sense of self-righteousness, egotistical personalities can attack.
Narcissists will fight for everything during a divorce. Child support, alimony, property division, and income are all uphill battles. In many cases, narcissists may hide assets and other income from the court. This can seem shocking to the entire family.
Because narcissists are usually charming, their behavior can seem nonsensical. This type of behavior is frequently witnessed in court and will not go unnoticed. Hiring an experienced lawyer that will be able to plan out the divorce process in a methodical way that works best for the family may prove to be invaluable.
Tips for A Chaotic Divorce
Documentation and proof are crucial. Financial records, property information, emails, texts, and voicemails should all be copied. A party’s online behavior can also be copied through screenshots.
Don’t bother reasoning. Even if an argument is logical, an egotistical personality will not be able to focus on the reality of the situation. This is a charged, emotional experience and it may seem like a war. The reasoning is not likely to work with someone who feels that there are enemies and loved ones and nothing in between. If something needs to be discussed between the parties, writing it through an email is advised.
The less communication the better. Talking to someone with an extremely egotistical personality is not helpful. They are likely to manipulate those around him/her while disrupting the divorce process. If in-person communication must be done, meet in a public place.
Find a separate counselor. Many couples try joint counseling with their partner to see if they can save the marriage. Finding a qualified therapist who is independent of the ex-partner will help put this process in perspective. When looking for the right counselor, make sure they are experienced in dealing with egotistical personalities.
Involve the extended family. If there are children involved, extended family can help remove them from this situation. Legal fighting that revolves around marriage can have a lasting negative impact on children. Grandparents, parents, and siblings may provide additional support when it’s needed most.
An experienced divorce lawyer knows how to deal with many different kinds of personalities. Narcissists may be charming and manipulative, but our experienced attorneys know how to navigate the law. Staying safe and moving forward is possible with the right legal team and support system in place.