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Helping Families End The Fight

Divorcing a “Narcissist”

What is Narcissist and how to manage yourself when divorcing one

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   What is Narcissist and how do you manage yourself when divorcing one? Narcissism is both a psychological diagnosis as well as a behavior inherent in all human beings. Everyone starts out life as a narcissist in the sense that we are completely dependent on our caregivers from birth with little ability to think of anything besides our next meal, the discomfort of burping and a dirty diaper, and how the heck do we get this body to do what we want? We are almost exclusively focused on our own wants and needs with arguably no active capacity for empathy. As we develop and grow, our capacity to have empathy, to see through the other person’s eyes ripens and hopefully comes to fruition.

Narcissists are people with little or no capacity to see through the eyes of others. In a divorce, even the most empathetic person can regress to a more narcissistic perspective. When we are hurt, we tend to feel like victims and initially, this is a place we go to protect ourselves and avoid further pain. 

So let’s get a better handle on whether we are divorcing a narcissist or simply someone who is hurt. The following are grade A narcissistic qualities.

They LOVE Games and Are In It To Win It

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The Narcissist is out to take all the marbles with no concern for others. They only show concern if they think it will help them win. The narcissist will do everything in their power to keep you from being able to manage yourself in the divorce process. For the narcissist, showing concern is a way to get you off guard so that they are managing you rather than you discovering how to manage yourself while divorcing them.

They see themselves as the victim and blame others for all their problems. Since they are all about winning, they will do everything in their power to keep you off balance. They will play family court as a game. They will select aggressive, combative attorneys. The most dangerous narcissists are charming and extraverted, usually with money to burn. They will file endless motions with no real concern for the children and blame you for it. If you would only do “the right thing” (let them win) then the children would not be hurt.

Emotional Loss is Not Part of Their Math

Because they have little or no empathy, they just don’t get the destruction that occurs in their wake. Any attempt to relate real pain to them is viewed as a manipulation, part of the game. Should you trigger real feelings in them watch out! Nothing else matters but satisfying their own needs and if you trigger any feeling in conflict with that you will pay. 

Going To Court Helps Them Feel Powerful

Narcissists use relationships to regulate themselves. They need to feel like they are in the game and winning so taking you to court helps them to do so. If not you then it will be someone else. It’s better for them to be your enemy than a nonentity. 

They Prefer Conditional Surrender

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In order to win and keep winning, they want you to give surrender conditionally so that they still have strings to pull on. They want a trophy to show that they have won. Alternatively, they will accept a judge’s decision as not a loss because they are not losing to you, but to a power they have no direct influence over- they did not willingly give in to you so they have not lost in their own mind. The last thing the narcissist wants is for you to manage yourself when divorcing them. For the Narcissist, you are most malleable when you are off-balance.

Obstruction To Avoid Real Negotiation

The Narcissist enjoys the game as much as winning, they will take as long as they can in the divorce process savoring every small victory- you NOT winning is a small victory for them even though they continue to describe themselves as the victim repeatedly. They will not be averse to lying and doing it openly as they believe they are in the right and want “justice” (to win) by any means necessary. Because they lack empathy and live to “win”, the narcissist will never settle on middle ground. They don’t know what middle ground is. The Narcissist knows that the longer the process takes, the more willing you will be to give in, whether it be for the sake of the children or out of a desire to end the agony of dealing with someone who will sell your interests out for theirs every time. Negotiate fairly is out of the question, and often won’t settle. They will run up legal bills and blame you for it. Because they’re the victim, they will throw any criticism they can about you in court and hope that it sticks and does so continuously.

Go Back to Court Even After a Settlement

The Narcissist “Games the system” going back to court even after the matter is settled, often just to keep you engaged with them, sometimes because they see a win they can yet have. They will pay late, not adhere to schedules just enough to be irritating but not enough to lose and so on.

How To Manage Yourself When Divorcing A Narcissist

Make sure your attorney is aware of the problem and proactive: A narcissist’s true colors emerge in conflict so don’t berate yourself for being in a relationship with one. Your attorney may not get it about your ex’s narcissism until the fight really gets going. DO your best to make sure they 

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Document EVERYTHING: Communicate in writing as much as possible and through one vehicle only and save every communication. Especially document every expenditure as they will call into question any financial contention down the line.

Avoid Being Triggered: The Narcissist loves it when you are angry, then they know that they can play you like a fiddle. Manage your own triggers, don’t allow them to use the kids as bargaining chips for example. When triggered take time out, don’t reply to emails or text messages until you feel centered and certain.

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Be Careful: Any and all communication with or about your ex is risky since they have low self-esteem and must think well of themselves. Remember that they will always try to draw you in, they need to so that they can play the game and keep on winning. Be super careful about what you say about them to anyone who might talk to them especially your children. The Narcissist will always undercut themselves if you just keep taking the next right step and don’t play their game.

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