Divorcing a Narcissist: What to Expect, What to Do

Not every jerk is a narcissist. A true narcissist has low empathy, assumes superiority, craves power and control, and wants to win at all costs. Men outnumber women 2:1 in true narcissism, so for ease of reading, I will assume the husband is the narcissist. But this advice is equally important for a husband dealing with a narcissistic wife.

What to expect in your divorce

In short, expect it to be long, hard, and ugly. This probably won’t surprise you, considering what you lived with.

Your narcissist will try to drag it out as long as possible, filing motions, not showing up, missing deadlines. He will refuse to settle and refuse to negotiate. He wants to be in control, wants to win, and wants to see you lose. It doesn’t matter how much it costs him, and if it costs you, too, that’s a win for him and a loss for you.

He will paint you black, even if he has to lie about it. He has little or no concept of the emotional harm he’s doing, even to his children. He thinks he’s right, thinks he’s superior, and probably thinks he’s the victim and everyone should feel sorry for him. And narcissists can be charming (which is probably how he fooled you in the first place) and will, at least at first, probably fool the judge.

If there are children involved, this behavior will sadly overflow into his relationship with them. He will not share his schedule, will make commitments for them without telling you that will cause you inconvenience or embarrassment, and will probably talk badly about you to them and their friends.

What you can do to survive and “win”

First, you need to stay emotionally healthy through this. Seek the emotional support you need. You may already be experiencing the effects of living with such a spouse for so long. You will probably benefit from a therapist experienced in dealing with these kinds of situations. Your children might also need someone to talk to. Strengthen your circle of friends and family who see your spouse clearly and support you emotionally.

Second, find a good lawyer who clearly understands these situations and how to counter the tactics of a narcissist. Any old lawyer won’t do. You need experienced help.

Record everything! Your lawyer will advise you as to the kinds of records you need to carefully keep, but start chronicling your conversations and interactions with your spouse as well as your day-to-day activities. You will need them when he makes wild accusations against you.

Stay calm and take the high road. Though you’re likely to fall into his trap once or twice and lose your cool, each time you explode in anger or tears, you play into the scenario he’s painted of you. Your pain won’t be able to be hidden, and that’s good and appropriate. But remain honest and calm in your court dealings.  Your narcissistic spouse is not rational and will not listen to rational arguments, so speak only to your lawyer or the judge about the false accusations.

This also applies to your interactions with your children. You may have to correct any false things your spouse or ex-spouse says about you, but avoid accusations or negative talk about their other parent. It may take time, but eventually they will see through the lies.

Even if your spouse is not a full-blown narcissist, some of these problems may arise and the advice remains. Take the high road, develop emotional strength, record everything, and get a good lawyer.