Going through a divorce is never easy; in fact, many people will describe it as one of the most emotionally and financially challenging experiences they have ever gone through. However, trying to handle the divorce process can be made all the more difficult if you are dealing with a spouse that has narcissistic tendencies.
For those who are unfamiliar, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition in which a person exhibits a sense of grandiosity and high self-importance. The problem that arises when dealing with a narcissistic spouse—whether they have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, or they merely exhibit narcissistic traits—during a divorce is that they tend to have a sense of entitlement, a need for attention, and an overall lack of empathy. This can make the already emotionally fraught divorce process even more difficult, as a narcissistic person may use the divorce proceedings to try to further manipulate and torment their spouse. Additionally, since narcissists tend to have a desire to win, they are unlikely to compromise out of court and will try to drag out the proceedings even further.
Combined, these factors make divorcing a narcissistic spouse an extremely difficult, confusing, and complex process. Since compromise and reason often don’t work with narcissists, typical methods of handling a difficult spouse during a divorce may not apply. However, with the right strategies, you can help to make this difficult process as easy for yourself as possible. Here are a few tips to help you maintain your emotional health during your divorce if you believe your spouse is a narcissist.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Unfortunately, when dealing with a narcissistic spouse, the sad reality is that your divorce is unlikely to be easy. While many couples are able to come to peaceful agreements without the hassle of going to court, this is unlikely to be effective when dealing with a narcissist. In order to ensure that you are mentally and emotionally prepared for the process that you are facing, it is important that you then set realistic expectations for yourself.
Prepare yourself for the fact that your divorce will likely have to be settled in court and you are unlikely to reach any peaceful compromises. Understand that it is unlikely that your spouse will be reasonable, so try to limit interactions with them where possible. If you set realistic expectations for your divorce, and take steps to protect yourself from the very beginning, you will be less likely to find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed, or emotionally drained by your spouse’s actions as you will know what to expect.
2. Assemble Your Support Team Early
Since narcissists always think they are right and feel the need to be at the center of attention, they may try to manipulate those around you into taking their side. Sadly, narcissists also excel at charming those around them, and they will likely try to spread lies to your friends and family in order to get to you and isolate you from your support network. Thusly, once you decide that it is time to divorce your spouse, it is important that you assemble your support network as soon as possible. Talk to those closest to you and explain your side and why you have decided to get a divorce. While you will not be able to stop your spouse from spreading lies about you, you can try to minimize the damage. Furthermore, you will need a support network to be with you should things get nasty during your divorce, so it is best to let your friends and family know about your divorce as early as possible.
3. Set Boundaries for Yourself
As you have likely already discovered, narcissists are usually not good at respecting boundaries, and your spouse may try to continue to exert influence on, and insert themselves in, your daily life. However, in order to ensure your mental health during this difficult time, it is important that you set and maintain boundaries for yourself so that you can start to heal away from the toxic influence of your spouse. Make it clear from the beginning what your boundaries are and under what circumstances you are and aren’t willing to hear from your spouse. While narcissists generally try to steamroll over others, make it clear that you will not stand for that. Show that you are serious by referring to court orders (if applicable) and by not responding to texts and emails immediately.
4. Consider Therapy
Divorce is difficult under normal circumstances; however, when you have a narcissistic spouse to contend with, you may begin to feel as though you are at the end of your emotional rope. If you have never tried therapy before, now might be the time to consider doing so. An experienced therapist can be instrumental in helping you to deal with the rush of emotions you may currently be feeling such as anger, frustration, sadness, and even guilt over your marriage’s demise. Furthermore, therapists have experience working with narcissistic individuals, and they can help you to develop tactics and strategies that you can use when dealing with your spouse during the divorce proceedings. Working with a therapist can then be crucial in helping you to maintain your mental health during this difficult time.
5. Document Everything
It is no secret that narcissists have no problem lying; in fact, they do it all the time. However, it is not uncommon for a narcissistic spouse to tell you one thing, only to try to claim something completely different in court. It is then critical that you document everything your spouse says and does, and keep these records safe in case you need to use them in court. Try to limit your interactions with your spouse to text or email, as this will allow you to have concrete evidence of things that they have said and done. Having proof of your spouse’s lies could prove beneficial to you in court.
6. Hire an Attorney Who Has Worked With Difficult Personalities
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to protect yourself as you begin the process of divorcing a narcissistic spouse is to hire an attorney who is committed to helping you during this difficult time. The fact is that disentangling yourself from a marriage with a narcissist can be complicated, and you may find yourself overwhelmed and emotionally drained fairly quickly. Hiring an attorney can ensure that you have someone by your side who has handled complex divorces. They will be able to support you during this difficult time, and working with an attorney will ensure that you have someone looking out for your best interests during your divorce.
At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we know how difficult it can be to work with a narcissistic spouse during a divorce and the struggle you may face trying to reach even the smallest agreement with this type of person. However, we have worked with clients with narcissistic spouses, and we work hard to do everything in our power to help people through these complex divorces. Feel free to contact us for assistance during this difficult time as well as to find out more about the steps that you can take to successfully navigate a divorce when your spouse is a narcissist.