Divorcing a Narcissistic Spouse

Divorce is never easy. Simply going through the process involves many emotions. During this time, couples may feel anxious, depressed, insecure, fearful, angry, confused, or guilt ridden. Strong feelings emerge as people face the end of future dreams involving the “happily ever after.”  Sometimes, one party may possess characteristics that make the process more emotionally challenging.

Red letter with hearts on it with a sticky note inside with the phrase 'Good Bye Narcissist!'

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one particularly worrisome personality trait that adds stress to any divorce proceeding. This disorder affects how you and your attorney proceed throughout the case. So, make sure you hire a well-qualified divorce attorney familiar with this disorder.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissists possess an excessive love of self and lack empathy for others. The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists numerous characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder including:

  • A lack of empathy for others and an exaggerated sense of entitlement
  • An inflated sense of self-importance and grandiosity
  • A need for excessive admiration and attention from others
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, and brilliance
  • A tendency to monopolize conversations
  • A desire to have the best of everything
  • Feeling easily slighted
  • Looking down on people they think are “inferior”
  • A tendency to exploit or manipulate others to get what they want
  • Problems dealing with stress, or emotions
  • Sometimes moody or depressed
  • Expresses rage when challenged

Important Steps When Divorcing a Narcissist

If you are considering filing for divorce and you think your spouse may be a narcissist there are several steps you should take. Remember, a person with this disorder does not consider your feelings; so, you must protect yourself physically, emotionally, and legally.

  1. Gather evidence- If you have any abuse complaints, get the records. If there were witnesses, keep track of their names for your attorney. Do not leave this information where your spouse may find it.
  2. Hire an experienced attorney-Do not tell your spouse any plans until you have spoken to the attorney. Make sure you understand your rights and the legal process.
  3. Seek support- Friends, family, and therapy is very helpful during this process.
  4. Prepare for the worst- Narcissists are unpredictable. Be prepared to call 911 if you, or your children are in danger. Make sure a neighbor or family member knows the situation once you file for divorce.

Protecting the Children

Narcissists don’t like to “lose.” Also, their lack of empathy may lead to sad consequences regarding the children. For example, a selfish person often uses the children to “get back” at the spouse. Since a narcissist is unable to consider the children’s feelings, the kids may be hurt during the divorce proceedings and afterwards.

Your attorney will guide you through the best practices regarding custody and visitation to protect the children’s emotional and physical health. For example, face-to-face exchanges may not be advisable if tensions remain high. So, to avoid conflicts, reduce interactions between ex-spouses.

In conclusion, any divorce involving a spouse with mental health issues becomes complicated and emotionally draining. Of course, there are folks with some narcissistic characteristics that are not suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To illustrate, a conceited individual that always brags about their accomplishments may have a huge ego. That being said, that same person may be a very kind hearted soul. In other words, they are not suffering from the personality disorder. In fact, less than 1% of the population are true narcissists. So, we all know folks with some self-centered tendencies; but, they may not be narcissists. Most importantly, if you are being mistreated and want to file for divorce contact an experienced family law attorney and express your concerns.