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Divorcing a Narcissist – Challenges and Advice

Posted by Tom Holland | Jun 21, 2022 | 0 Comments

Divorce is a tough and overwhelming time in anyone's life. When you are divorcing a spouse with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), the process can become even more difficult and frustrating. Trying to negotiate and work with an individual with NPD holds an entire set of challenges and can force even the most straightforward divorce into a contentious and lengthy process. Today we will offer some guidance on how you can prepare yourself for divorcing a narcissistic spouse, along with some tools to help make the process run more smoothly.

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

The Cleveland Clinic reports that approximately five percent of the population has NPD, the exact cause of which is unknown. They describe people with narcissistic personality disorder as coming across as “selfish or superior,” or “self-absorbed and vain.” NPD can affect every aspect of a person's life, most specifically personal relationships and financial affairs, which is why it can often lead to divorce.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a medical professional, like a psychiatrist or psychologist, makes an NPD diagnosis when an individual displays at least five of the following characteristics:

  • “Overinflated sense of self-importance.
  • Constant thoughts about being more successful, powerful, smart, loved or attractive than others.
  • Feelings of superiority and desire to only associate with high-status people.
  • Need for excessive admiration.
  • Sense of entitlement.
  • Willingness to take advantage of others to achieve goals.
  • Lack of understanding and consideration for other people's feelings and needs.
  • Arrogant or snobby behaviors and attitudes.”

After an NPD diagnosis, individuals should work with their therapists on a treatment plan. This typically includes long-term counseling and medications, including anti-depressants or mood stabilizers.

However, everyone's needs differ. What is most important is that they get treatment or, per Cleveland Clinic, “Without treatment for NPD, you can have trouble maintaining positive relationships at work and home. You might also be more vulnerable to abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult emotions. Also, feeling alone can lead to deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

As you can see, and likely already understand, a narcissist can easily damage relationships and marriages. When facing a divorce, he or she may see it as a loss or defeat, and react with anger and hostility, adding more stress to the process.

Dealing with a narcissist during your Fort Mill and Rock Hill divorce

Because a person with NPD is typically extremely manipulative and quite charming – and possibly one of the reasons you were attracted to him or her in the first place – you must proceed with care before, during, and after your divorce. Your spouse may attempt to put blame directly on you, use every resource possible to protect his or her ego, unnecessarily delay the process, and likely try to turn your friends and family against you.

Consulting with an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible gives you the best chance at getting through your divorce with your assets and sanity intact. Consider the following tools and advice to minimize conflict with your spouse, courtesy of Psychology Today:

  • Ensure your attorney is aware of the problem. Giving your divorce lawyer a heads-up about your spouse's narcissism allows him or her to be proactive from the start of your case, and cut off your spouse's behavior at the beginning of the process. Notes Psychology Today, “It's not always obvious that there's a narcissist in the mix, especially if he or she appears to be well-spoken and well-off; self-presentation goes a long way in fooling people.”
  • Document everything. This means every text, email, bank and credit card statement, and cell phone record. If there are issues or problems with a current separation, like visitation with children, document these as well (and contact your attorney). The more detailed your records, the easier it is to prove your case.
  • Avoid the narcissist's traps. Practice restraint. Although dealing a narcissist is frustrating, do not play into your spouse's hands or attempt to fight back. If you are documenting your spouse's actions, chances are he or her are also documenting yours. Do not involve your children, friends, or family in any discussions about your soon-to-be ex – save your venting for a counselor who can help support you during this difficult time.

Forbes also offers some financial advice on divorcing a narcissist. Common strategies narcissists employ during divorce include refusal to negotiate, hiding assets, and ignoring court orders (or even his or her own attorney). If you are considering divorcing an individual with NPD, ensure you are financially prepared:

  • Do you have your own credit? If you don't have credit in your own name or a substantial amount of funds, now is the time to do so. Per Forbes, “…it will be well worth the extra time required to get good credit established. You cannot be without your own credit card(s) in the future, and you may need to qualify for personal loans.”
  • Have you collected and copied your financial documents? Ensure you copy everything, as we noted earlier. You will need these later during asset division, and give yourself enough time to get all of these documents together. This includes things like tax returns, income information, property tax returns, bank information, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, pensions, and more. Do not rely on your spouse to provide this information.
  • Do you have a skilled divorce attorney? Working with a lawyer with experience in not only divorce, but also in mediation and collaborative law allows you the personalized service you might need for these types of delicate and difficult matters.

The family law attorneys at Holland Law LLC are ready to help you through your divorce, no matter how difficult it feels right now. We understand the challenges you face and will advocate for your rights through the entire process. To schedule an appointment with an attorney at our firm in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, call 803-219-2630 or get in touch with us on our contact page. We also serve clients in York, Chester, and Lancaster Counties.

About the Author

Tom Holland

Experienced Divorce, DUI, and Criminal Defense Attorney While I've been primarily focused on the practice of divorce and family law for the past decade, my experience as a criminal prosecutor has continued to serve my clients well. I previously served as the General Counsel for the Lancaster Cou...


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