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What You Need to Know When Divorcing a Narcissist

Posted on in Divorce

DuPage County complex divorce attorney for divorcing a narcissistGetting a divorce is rarely easy, especially in contentious cases involving high levels of conflict between spouses. It is understandable that spouses may not see eye to eye during the divorce process, and disagreements can be expected in most cases. However, there are some cases where a spouse may behave unreasonably and have unrealistic expectations about what should happen during the divorce process. Unfortunately, those who are getting divorced from a spouse with mental health issues will often experience difficult conflicts, and this is especially true when a spouse is a narcissist.

Divorces involving mental illness and concerns about the health and safety of the parties and their family members can become complex very quickly. If you believe that your spouse is a narcissist, you may need to prepare to address multiple types of conflicts and legal issues, and you will want to take steps to protect your rights and determine your best options for resolving disputes successfully. Having the right attorney on your side during this process is crucial. A lawyer who is experienced in high-conflict divorce cases can advise you of your options and provide you with skilled representation when addressing issues in the courtroom.

Understanding Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition involving an inflated level of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others. It is one of the least diagnosed mental health issues, because people with NPD often do not believe that they have a problem. Even if a person does not exhibit all of the traits of NPD, they may engage in narcissistic behavior that affects their relationships with others.

Signs that a person is a narcissist include:

  • They have an inflated sense of self-importance, believing that they are better than others and that their desires are more important.

  • They are obsessed with status and success, including in their careers and their romantic relationships.

  • They desire constant praise, admiration, and recognition from others.

  • They have a sense of entitlement, believing they should always get what they want.

  • They do not feel empathy for others or consider other people’s feelings or how their actions may affect others.

  • They have resentment toward people who do not agree with them, and they often believe that others are jealous or resentful of them.

  • They have no qualms about taking advantage of other people to get what they want.

Narcissists can be very charming, especially at the beginning of a relationship or when first getting to know someone. However, they often struggle to maintain long-term relationships. They can be very controlling and manipulative, and their self-centered behavior can alienate others. They often engage in “all or nothing” thinking, believing that a person is either all good or all bad. If a narcissist’s level of control is threatened, if they face criticism, or if they do not get their way, they can quickly turn on someone and begin acting abusively or unreasonably.

How a Narcissist Approaches Divorce

Narcissists are obsessed with winning and getting their way. This means that they will usually approach the divorce process combatively. They will likely not be open to negotiation, so mediation may not be an effective way to reach a divorce settlement. In fact, narcissists thrive on conflict, and by refusing to budge from their positions, they can force their spouse to remain focused on them. 

Because narcissists lack empathy, they will usually refuse to consider the feelings of others. This means that they will not care about their spouse’s wants or needs, and while they may claim that they are looking out for their children’s best interests, they will really be focused on their own desires. During the divorce process, they may make false accusations or instigate arguments without any regard for how this will affect their spouse, their children, or other family members.

In many divorce cases, narcissists attempt to use the legal process to maintain control over their former partner and draw out disputes as long as possible. A person may constantly file motions or requests for discovery in hopes of forcing their spouse to put more time and money toward addressing legal issues. They may also delay the legal process unreasonably, such as by failing to show up at court dates or asking for extensions, in hopes of wearing their spouse down and getting them to agree to their demands. They may also make false statements in court or in legal documents, and they may change their story after making statements or go back on their word after making agreements with their spouse.

Narcissists will often portray themselves as the victim and make claims that paint their spouse in a negative light. In addition to making accusations in legal documents or in court, they will often attack their spouse in public, such as by discussing the divorce on social media or when speaking to friends or family members. The narcissist’s goal is usually to “win” at all costs, and forcing their spouse to put forth a great deal of time and energy toward the divorce process will make them feel powerful. Because they do not want to give any ground, they will often refuse to compromise, and by pursuing litigation and leaving the ultimate decisions up to a judge, they can maintain the illusion of control, since they will not be responsible for any decisions that are not in their favor.

Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist

If your spouse is a narcissist, you may need to prepare for significant conflict during the divorce process. While your spouse may claim that they are open to negotiation or mediation, they will most likely refuse to compromise or budge from their positions. While you may approach these negotiations in good faith, they will be looking to take advantage of you, get you to agree to their demands, and draw out the process for as long as possible to ensure that they command as much of your time and attention as possible.

By approaching your divorce with the understanding that compromise may not be possible, you can make sure you are taking the right steps to protect your rights and interests. You will want to be aware that your spouse will be looking to draw you into contentious arguments. They may behave unreasonably and attempt to provoke you into anger, which they will then use against you, claiming that you are acting in a way that causes them to feel unsafe. By acting with restraint and refusing to take the bait, you can avoid these traps. You can then follow the proper procedures to address disputes in court, and if necessary, you can show that your spouse has acted unreasonably.

If you have children, you should also watch out for any signs of parental alienation. A parent who is a narcissist may attempt to sway your children to their “side” in your divorce and influence your children’s relationship with you. Your spouse may have expectations that they will have primary or sole custody of your children, and this may lead them to do whatever they believe is necessary to reach their desired outcome. By remaining aware of the possibility of parental alienation, you can bring any improper behavior by your spouse to the attention of the court. This will help protect your children from harm, while ensuring that you will be able to maintain a good relationship with them, no matter the outcome of your divorce.

One of the best ways to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist is to maintain the proper documentation. By saving emails or text messages in which you have communicated with your spouse, you can show when they have behaved unreasonably, spoken to you aggressively or abusively, or made agreements with you and then changed their mind. If your spouse has posted about you or your divorce on social media, you can save screenshots and share them with your attorney so you can determine the proper course of action to address this issue.

You will also want to maintain documentation of your family’s finances. When attempting to delay the divorce process and draw out conflict, your spouse may refuse to share financial information with you or attempt to hide money or assets. By making sure you have access to shared accounts and understand your income and expenses, you can be prepared to make decisions about the division of marital property and other financial issues during your divorce. This will also allow you to address any dissipation of assets by your spouse, ensuring that all of your marital property can be divided fairly and equitably.

Ultimately, you will want to understand that the difficulties you are experiencing during your divorce are not your fault, and you should not blame yourself for your spouse’s actions. Your spouse may have charmed you into falling in love with them, but once they achieved this goal, they may have turned on you and begun manipulating you into promoting their own image of self-worth, without considering your needs and desires. Remember that this is their failing, not yours. While ending your marriage with a narcissist may be difficult, it will allow you to focus on your own needs going forward without the need to deal with abusive behavior by your partner.

Contact an Elmhurst High Conflict Divorce Attorney

The best way you can protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist is to work with a divorce attorney who is experienced in these types of cases. A lawyer who knows how to handle high-conflict situations can help you prepare to address your disputes and determine the best ways to reach an outcome that will meet your needs. 

The attorneys of Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC have represented spouses in multiple types of cases involving high levels of conflict, mental illness and other health concerns, and complex issues related to finances or child custody. We will make sure you understand your rights, and we will help you gather all of the necessary documentation related to your finances, your children, and your spouse’s behavior. We will help you determine when it may be possible to reach agreements outside of court, but we will be fully prepared to advocate on your behalf in the courtroom. 

If your case goes to trial, we will take the time to fully prepare all of the necessary evidence supporting your position, and we will help you make the right arguments to show that your spouse has unnecessarily prolonged the divorce process and acted in other unreasonable ways. We will fight to make sure you can reach a fair and equitable outcome to your case. If necessary, we can help you appeal a verdict, or we can address any violations of the court’s orders by your spouse.

To get skilled and dedicated legal help when divorcing a narcissist, contact our DuPage County divorce lawyers at 312-605-4041. We will advise you on the best strategies to help you achieve your goals, and we will stand by your side throughout the legal process to ensure that you can properly address any legal issues or disputes you may encounter.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201605/13-essential-tips-if-you-are-divorcing-narcissist

https://www.theravive.com/therapedia/narcissistic-personality-disorder-dsm--5-301.81-(f60.81)

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-a-narcissist

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2012/12/11/financial-strategies-for-divorcing-a-narcissist/?sh=17e208232d68

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-simple-rules-when-divorcing-a-narcissist_b_5a31c967e4b0b73dde46aa0a

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