Divorcing a “Narcissist”: What You Need To Know

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Divorce is hard, but it´s even harder if you´re divorcing a narcissist.

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.

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.

divorcing a narcissist

Narcissists LOVE Games and Are In It To Win It

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.

Narcissists 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 extroverted, 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 In A Narcissist Vocabulary

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. 

They will resort to emotional abuse consistently. 

Going To Court Helps A Narcissist 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. 

Narcissists Prefer Conditional Surrender

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 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.

Co-Parenting With A Narcissist

Narcissist are famous for manipulating children against the other parent.

Yes, they even go that far. That’s how disconnected they are of the emotional reality of the situation. 

There are many steps for co-parenting with a narcissist properly, here are a few:

1-Keep Your Child A Child

It’s already enough that they are going through this, don’t put more stuff on their backs.

Let them live their lives and not get in the middle of the fight.

2- Have A Detailed Co-Parenting Plan

If you have a co-parenting plan, the narcissist has to follow it thoroughly.

This is a way of setting boundaries to them and also keeping them accountable for what they said on paper. 

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 hesitate to lie and do 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:

1-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.

2- Avoid Being Triggered:

The Narcissist loves it when you are angry, then they know that they can play you like a fiddle. Learning how to respond to verbal abuse is crucial. 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.

3- 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 narcissists will always undercut themselves if you just keep taking the next right step and don’t play their game.

What If I´m Overwhelmed By This Narcissist?

Sometimes you will just not be able to hold it. 

I mean, who could blame you? You literally have someone whose sole purpose seems to make your life impossible.

This is why you should consider having a third party help you. A coach, mediator, or therapist may be able to make your divorce be healthier.

I can give you some specifically tailored next steps for free. Call me now here!