A divorce by its very nature is a stressful situation. When it comes to divorcing a narcissist it is even more challenging. Some say it is easier to live with a narcissist than it is to divorce one. This should not scare you from pursuing a divorce from your partner though, if a divorce is what is best for you and your family. Here are 10 top coping mechanisms for divorcing a narcissist to prepare you mentally, physically and emotionally for what’s to come.
Why is Divorcing a Narcissist so Challenging?
A narcissist is someone who appears to be in love with themselves. Technically it is called narcissistic personality disorder. Mayo Clinic has defined this disorder as: “… a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, troubled relationships and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.“
So while narcissists appear to have delusions of grandeur they are actually very insecure and petrified of people seeing them for who they really are. This makes working with them a challenge. They are over-sensitive and can over-react with fierce anger to the slightest criticism. Self-control is something that a narcissist struggles with.
They need to appear to be perfect at all times so they will put you down to others and will do whatever it takes to ‘win’ during a divorce. This means that when you divorce a narcissist it gets ugly, it costs lots of money and it is emotionally draining.
Let’s dive into our 10 top coping mechanisms for divorcing a narcissist so that you can get through it with more ease.
1. Know that Divorcing a Narcissist means that it will NOT be Amicable.
Narcissists are known to prey on empaths because empaths have the ability to feel for others, understand people and see the good in humanity, which a narcissist cannot do. This means that in most cases the spouse divorcing the narcissist will naturally be inclined to think that the divorce could be amicable as this would make the most sense for an empath.
I’m afraid you are incorrect. Being nice to a narcissist is only giving him/her the opportunity to take even more from you. Don’t let this happen! Know that it is going to be an ugly fight so that you can prepare yourself for this battle.
A narcissistic spouse will not play by the normal rules of engagement. Winning is more important to them than maintaining any sort of self-pride and dignity. So be prepared for this roller-coaster ride that is, Divorcing a Narcissist.
Know the different tactics that a narcissist might use:
- Ensure that there are delays to cost you more money and frustrate you.
- Prolong the process to get you to compromise.
- Criticize your character.
- Refuse to close the case even once a settlement has been reached.
2. Get a strong Divorce Lawyer
You need to hire a divorce attorney that is capable of fighting for you and protecting you throughout the process. Narcissists thrive on drama. An effective Divorce attorney in this situation will be able to subvert the drama in the best way possible without creating more.
You cannot have an attorney with the same need for adrenaline as your narcissistic spouse. Otherwise, you will end up in a massive fight, which is what you want to avoid.
3. Get a Therapist with Experience in Helping People having to deal with Narcissists.
You have survived living with a narcissist and now you need to survive divorcing one. You may already be seeing a therapist. If not then we recommend that you find someone who can give you tools to get through this challenging time.
The gaslighting that usually occurs in these types of relationships only gets worse during a divorce so we recommend regular check-ins with a trained professional. They can assist you with seeing things as they really are and not as the narcissist would like to have you believe things are. Your sanity will be tested during this time so try to save it! Get professional help.
4. Get your Support Structure Ready Before Filing for a Divorce
Narcissists are usually good storytellers so they are really good at turning people against those that threaten their reputation. They will even go as far as to lie in order to turn close friends and family against you if that hasn’t happened already.
While you cannot control what a narcissist does and says about you, you can prepare them for what is to come. Being forewarned is being forearmed. So let them all know what you have been going through, and prepare them for what might be coming their way.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries and Stick to Them
Having dealt with a narcissistic spouse you will know that your needs would not have been considered at all. This makes it crucial to set boundaries from the get-go. If you have not successfully set boundaries and stuck to them throughout the marriage then this is going to be a great challenge for you.
You need to establish what you will and will not accept from your narcissistic spouse during the divorce proceedings. Then you need to stick to that no matter what. Your narcissistic spouse will test your boundaries so let them learn early on that those boundaries cannot be broken, and set the rules of engagement yourself.
6. Get Everything in Writing
Narcissists are great story tellers so they will have no problem lying. You therefore need to get EVERYTHING in writing. Using texts and emails to verify what you are saying is far more effective in a court of law than ‘he-said-she-said’. Narcissists are good liars so don’t consider taking them on with your words.
7. Do What You Can to Stay Out of Court
Don’t give your narcissistic spouse an opportunity to perform and charm their way through your divorce. Your narcissistic spouse will try to portray you as the crazy one and it won’t be too difficult for them to do so. Remember, they have had years of experience doing so.
We often recommend Divorce Mediation in a narcissistic divorce to prevent the theatrics that a court room may create.
8. Give Your Narcissistic Spouse Small Wins
A narcissist loves to win so give them the feeling like they are winning and you will get out of your divorce quicker and retain your sanity in the process. This has proven to be a very successful coping mechanism and we have ways to advise clients through this.
9. Choose your ‘Hills-to-Die-on’
There are going to be many fights and struggles along the way and you may find yourself overwhelmed in having to deal with it all. So do not give in on issues that matter the most to you purely from being too exhausted to fight any longer.
We recommend that you first decide which issues are worth fighting for and which are not. Your Narcissistic spouse will also be thrown off by you not fighting every battle he throws at you. Let him have the small wins!
10. Focus on Self-Care
Divorcing a narcissist usually takes a lot longer than a normal divorce so, as mentioned above, you need to prepare yourself for a long battle. That means looking after yourself throughout the process.
Do not neglect your sleep, healthy eating or drinking, or exercise habits. This will help you deal with all that is to come over the next while. You’ll have more energy and self-confidence, just doing these basics well.
Then, as already mentioned above, make use of a therapist and continue to reach out to the support structure that you created at the start of it all. Continue to do the things that you love.
Remember, contrary to what you have been told, you do not need your narcissistic spouse in order to live a good and happy life.
Van Heerdens Attorneys are divorce specialists that have many years of experience helping people divorce their narcissistic spouses. We are here to help you win this war that lies ahead. Contact us now to set up an appointment.