Divorcing a Narcissist

Congratulations! You’ve made a very wise choice by divorcing a spouse who’s a narcissist. Life is too short to spend your time with an abusive spouse. Expect that your spouse might try to make the divorce as painful as possible and expect us to strongly defend your rights and ensure you’re treated fairly by the court no matter what.

Here in Bucks and Montgomery counties, the attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., could take many approaches to your divorce. We will work with you to develop the right strategy, which is especially important when dealing with a spouse who will do all they can to make your life difficult. Contact us today so we can discuss your situation and share how we can help.

What is a Narcissist? 

Narcissistic personality disorder, reports the Mayo Clinic, is a condition where the person has an exaggerated sense of their importance, a need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. The person has fragile self-esteem and is very sensitive to the slightest criticism.

The person may:

  • Become angry and feel slighted if they don’t get special treatment
  • Have severe problems with relationships
  • Show rage or contempt and belittle another person to keep an appearance of superiority
  • Have difficulty with or be unable to regulate their emotions and behavior
  • Be unable to deal with stress and adapt to change
  • Feel depressed when they are imperfect
  • Feel insecure, ashamed, vulnerable, and humiliated

How Did I Stay Married to a Narcissist?

Every relationship is unique. Your spouse fulfilled whatever wants and needs you had until the point you had enough of their negative traits and behaviors. Narcissists can be charismatic, charming, and fascinating early in a relationship and whenever they want to turn on the charm. They can be popular for a time until friends and co-workers see their other side. Maintaining long-term relationships can be a challenge for them, reports an article in Psychology Today.

Narcissists tend to play mind games to exert power over their spouses and reinforce their independence. They can be very good at maintaining an emotional distance but engage more deeply when they feel they have something to gain. A narcissist may have many short-term relationships (in which they exploit the other person) but be incapable of what’s needed for a successful long-term relationship – intimacy and emotional connection.

How May Narcissism Impact a Divorce? 

Another Psychology Today article warns those divorcing a narcissist of what may lie ahead:

1. He or she must “win” and be proven “right”

They will see themselves as victims, no matter the facts to the contrary, and may have little or no interest in negotiating a settlement. If there are negotiations, expect “low ball” offers, stalling, and a lack of good faith. Your spouse may want a trial to use the courtroom as their stage where they can tell the story of how abused they are and how evil you are.

You may face a “scorched earth” strategy to satisfy your spouse’s need for revenge. While most parties will avoid outrageous claims and stunts because it may harm the couple’s children or others might react negatively, that’s not true of narcissists because they don’t care how others feel. They just want to win, no matter the cost.

2. Your spouse wants you to give up

Narcissists love games and winning because it’s one of the few things that make them feel good. A symbolic trophy may be your giving in to their demands. Many of them will be petty, so it may be worth small sacrifices to move the process forward.

3. As many games as possible will be played

Studies show narcissists maintain power in relationships by keeping others off balance. If they have the resources and a cooperative attorney, there could be many court filings, and your spouse could be a charmer in the courtroom. Expect obstruction, chaos, and a desire to drive up your costs as much as possible, including disputes and litigation after your divorce is final.

4. A trial will make your spouse feel powerful

As bad as they are at maintaining them, narcissists need relationships to feed their needs. Your relationship will continue as the divorce drags on. Expect lies and negative information to hurt you and to make themselves look superior. Your spouse may rather be hated than have you feel indifferent.

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

Over the years we’ve dealt with many narcissist spouses. We know how they treat our clients and the divorce process. Part of our strategy to protect your rights and interests is to be proactive and strongly discourage the game-playing and abuse that can make a bad divorce situation worse. We will deal with your spouse as much as possible, so you won’t have to.

If you have any questions about divorce or need legal representation, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.