Tips and Advice for Divorcing a Narcissist
No one would choose to get involved with a narcissist. They are self-centred, emotionally immature, and often incomprehensible in their demands. Yet many of us will cross paths with one. The best-case scenario would be to be able to recognise when someone is not a good relationship prospect in those early encounters.
Unfortunately, it may be that you have unwittingly married a narcissist and are now trying to find out how to extricate yourself from the marriage. This article provides tips and advice on divorcing a narcissist. I am a senior divorce lawyer and I wrote this article in conjunction with Dr Anne Duguid, a psychologist specialising in narcissistic relationships.
Characteristics of a Narcissist
Whilst there are many things to consider, here we have laid out some key characteristics of a narcissist:
• Conflict – How does your partner cope with being told ‘no’ or when things do not go their way? If they have mini-meltdowns or ignore you every time they are thwarted, this is not a good sign.
• Manners – How do they treat people around them? How they treat waiting staff is how they will soon be treating you.
• Control – How do they cope when you want to do things independently of you? Do they want you to stop seeing family and friends, and be with them all the time? Being isolated is a main tactic within a destructive relationship.
• Interest – Do they ask you questions about you? Do they show interest in your interests? If they are only talking about their needs or wants, they are unlikely to ever start considering yours.
• Apologising – Do they say sorry when they make mistakes? If they don’t apologise, they are showing a lack of guilt and shame and without them, we cannot learn or grow.
• Humour – Can they laugh at themselves? Humility is very important so that they can be open to hearing others and considering their perspective.
• Safety – Do you feel calm and safe around them? If you feel wary, nervous, unable to take your guard down, this is a terrible foundation for any relationship.
Can you relate to some or all of these points? If many of the above resonate with you and you think you’ve married – and now want to divorce – a narcissist, you may want to buckle up because you’re in for a bumpy ride. Divorcing a narcissist may be one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face.
Top tips from a Divorce Lawyer and a Psychologist
Despite the challenges, take heart as you’re on your path to be free. Here, we have compiled a number of tips to help you through the challenges of divorcing a narcissist.
1. Get on with it
Forget about trying to negotiate with a narcissist. They may tell you they want to settle things amicably, but they want to settle on their own terms and those terms will not be good for you. Often their terms will not even make sense to you. I advise most of my clients to try mediation before lawyer led negotiation or entering into the court process. Mediation is much quicker and cheaper than resolving matters through lawyers. Sadly, mediation is not always successful when a narcissist is involved. If you don’t reach an agreement quickly, be prepared to issue court proceedings without delay. This is to ensure there is a timetable in place.
2. Get therapy
Divorcing anyone, let alone a narcissist, is a painful and emotionally fraught process. Professional psychological help will be essential to understand what is happening to you. It will help you recover your sense of purpose and independence. A counsellor or therapist will help you break free from a destructive relationship. Therapy may seem like a luxury when you have so many other expenses. But putting your psychological well-being at the top of the list, will save you time and money in the long run. Do check whether therapy sessions would be covered by your employer.
3. Get your bounce back
Self-care is going to be vital during this time. All those things that you promised you might do one day, but weren’t encouraged to, this is the time to do it. Whether it be yoga, dance class or learning how to paint; whatever you choose you need the possibility to regularly detach emotionally and mentally from what it is happening to maintain your energy. If you can, increase your contact with friends and family as social contact is vital in helping you protect yourself from the rigours of this type of divorce.
4. Get real
It would be lovely if all relationships could end with ‘consciously uncoupling’, a quiet out of court settlement then lovely holidays with both of your new partners and the kids together the following year. That is not the reality for most and it is certainly not the reality for people divorcing a narcissist. Don’t beat yourself up about that. Remember the narcissist is going to go out of their way to make this as difficult as they can for you.
5. Sort out child arrangements
Whilst it is important for any children that conflict is as minimal as possible, this doesn’t mean you you have to accept all the responsibility for keeping things amicable. You do though have to work around the narcissist’s more extreme behaviours. Keep child arrangements business like and keep children out of any disagreements. If things get unmanageable, speak to your solicitor. Arrangements may y need to be set out in a court order. Consider using a parenting app such as My Family Wizard, which records child arrangements in a court recognised way.
6. Get advice
Speak to a divorce solicitor about your rights and what you can expect financially after a divorce so that you can ensure you get what you are entitled to. Narcissists have little regard for anyone other than themselves and their own needs; make no mistake, they will go out to cause as much delay and difficulty for you as they can in court. Make sure you have the best, knowledgeable representation that you can have to ensure your rights are being protected.
How we can help:
If you would like legal advice on any issues raised in this article, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to find out more about therapy, you can contact Dr Anne Duguid at email@example.com.
You can contact us for a free and confidential initial discussion about your future divorce or separation; we are here to listen and help.