How to Get Divorced from a Narcissist

December 13, 2023by Adam Sacks

What Is a Narcissist?

A narcissist is an individual who possesses an inflated sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

The term narcissist is often used colloquially to describe someone who is excessively self-centered or vain. It is important to differentiate between general selfish behavior and true narcissism as a psychological disorder. A narcissist not only has an exaggerated sense of self-worth but also persistently seeks validation and attention from others, even at the expense of those around them.

Narcissists have difficulty understanding and relating to the emotions and perspectives of other people. They often exploit others to achieve their own goals, disregarding the feelings and needs of those people. Their relationships tend to be superficial, as they view others simply as objects to feed their egos rather than individuals with their own desires and opinions.

They constantly exaggerate their achievements and talents, seeking constant admiration and praise. This need for external validation is driven by an underlying insecurity, as they fear being exposed as less than perfect.

Approximately 0.5% of the United States population, or 1 in 200 people, has the disorder. There are significant gender differences when it comes to the prevalence of the disorder; about 75% of people with narcissistic personality disorder are men. [1]

Most narcissists think they are unique or special (82.1%), followed by having a sense of entitlement (80.4%) and showing a lack of empathy (78.8%). [2]

 

Do Not Alert the Narcissist of Your Plans Until Necessary

Preserving your safety: Narcissistic behavior can be manipulative and vindictive and may resort to using tactics such as gaslighting, emotional abuse, or seeking revenge. By keeping your plans confidential, you minimize the opportunity for them to undermine your efforts or escalate their abusive behavior.

Reducing conflict: Narcissists thrive on control and may try to exert dominance over the divorce process. By withholding information until necessary, you maintain a level of control over the situation, potentially preventing unnecessary conflict or arguments.

Protecting your assets and interests: Narcissists may attempt to hide or manipulate assets during the divorce proceedings. By keeping your plans under wraps until the appropriate time, you increase the likelihood of preserving your financial interests and protecting your assets.

Preparing a solid strategy: By carefully planning your actions and gathering necessary documentation or evidence before disclosing your plans, you can create a strategic advantage in the divorce process.

Do Not Alert the Narcissist of Your Plans Until Necessary

 

You Are Not the Problem and Never Were

Educate yourself: Learn about narcissistic personality disorder and how it affects relationships and divorces. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of narcissists can help you recognize that their issues are internal and not a reflection of your worth or actions.

Seek validation from professionals: Consult with a therapist or counselor who specializes in narcissistic abuse or divorce. They can provide you with validation and support, helping you recognize that the problem lies with the narcissist, not you.

Reflect on your experiences: Take time to reflect on your relationship and the patterns of behavior you experienced. Recognize that the narcissist’s actions were not your fault and that you did not cause their abusive behavior.

Separate fact from fiction: Narcissists often twist the truth and distort reality. Remind yourself of the objective facts of the situation and trust your own interpretation of events. Resist their gaslighting attempts and trust your own feelings and perceptions.

Build a support system: Surround yourself with trustworthy friends, family, or support groups who understand narcissistic abuse. Share your experiences with them and listen to their perspectives, which can help reaffirm that you are not the problem.

Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Remember that you deserve love, respect, and happiness, regardless of the narcissist’s actions or opinions.

Focus on healing and personal growth: Divorcing a narcissist can be emotionally draining, so prioritize your healing and personal growth. Engage in self-care activities, such as therapy, journaling, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy and fulfillment.

 

Hire the Right Mediator

Look for experience: Choose a mediator who has experience working specifically with high-conflict divorces involving narcissistic individuals. They should have a deep understanding of the tactics narcissists use and be well-equipped to navigate their behavior during mediation.

Seek recommendations: Ask for recommendations from trusted professionals, such as divorce attorneys, therapists, or support groups for individuals who have gone through divorces with a narcissistic spouse. Their insights and experiences can lead you to mediators who are well-versed in dealing with narcissistic personalities.

Conduct thorough research: Look for mediators online or through professional directories. Read client reviews and testimonials to gain insights into their abilities and approach. Look for mediators who prioritize creating a safe and fair environment for both parties.

Interview potential mediators: Schedule initial consultations with multiple mediators to discuss your specific situation and ask relevant questions. Inquire about their experience working with narcissists, their techniques for managing high-conflict situations, and their strategies for ensuring a balanced process.

Assess their neutrality and fairness: It is crucial that the mediator remains neutral and does not show favoritism. Ask about their approach to maintaining fairness and how they ensure both parties have an equal voice during mediation.

Consider their communication style: Narcissists may try to manipulate or dominate conversations during mediation. Look for a mediator who is skilled in managing strong personalities, maintaining control, and redirecting conversations toward productive solutions.

Trust your instincts: When choosing a mediator, trust your gut instincts. Consider how comfortable and confident you feel with them. Building trust and rapport with your mediator is vital during such a challenging and emotional process.

Hire the Right Mediator

 

Document Every Detail

Establishing a clear record: Documentation helps establish a clear record of events, communications, and any concerning behavior by the narcissistic spouse. This record can be essential for your legal case, including child custody disputes, financial matters, or allegations of abuse or manipulation.

Countering false accusations: Narcissists may try to manipulate the narrative or make false allegations against you. By keeping thorough records, you can provide evidence to counter these accusations and protect your rights and reputation.

Recording communications: Keep text messages, emails, voicemails, or any other form of correspondence. This documentation can help demonstrate patterns of manipulation, emotional abuse, or attempts to control the divorce process.

Logging incidents: Maintain a log of any incidents involving the narcissistic spouse, such as instances of gaslighting, aggression, or neglect. Be specific, noting dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. This helps establish a pattern of behavior that may support your case. Journal your experiences, emotions, and any incidents that impact your or your children’s well-being. This documentation can be useful for therapy, custody evaluations, or future court appearances.

Gathering financial evidence: Narcissists may attempt to conceal assets or manipulate financial information during the divorce. Collect bank statements, tax documents, property records, and any other relevant financial evidence to protect your interests.

Consulting professionals: Consult with professionals such as therapists, attorneys, or mediators who can help validate and document your experiences. Their input and records can provide additional credibility to your case.

 

Get Family and Friends Onboard

Educate them: Help your family and friends understand the dynamics of narcissistic personality disorder and the challenges you may face during the divorce process. Provide them with resources, articles, or books that explain narcissism to help them grasp the situation better.

Share your experiences: Openly communicate with your loved ones about your experiences in the relationship and the reasons for the divorce. Sharing your perspective can help them understand the emotional abuse or manipulation you endured and why you made the decision to leave.

Seek validation: Narcissists are skilled at manipulating perceptions and may try to paint themselves as the victim. Explain to your family and friends that you may need validation and support as you navigate the divorce process. Encourage them to believe you, even if the narcissist tries to twist the truth.

Set boundaries together: Talk to your loved ones about the importance of maintaining boundaries when it comes to communicating or interacting with the narcissistic ex-spouse. Make it clear what kind of support you need and ask them to respect your decision to limit contact.

Involve them in legal proceedings: They can serve as witnesses or provide testimonials that demonstrate the manipulative or abusive behavior of the narcissistic ex-spouse.

Lean on your support network: Rely on your loved ones for emotional support, whether it’s venting your frustrations, seeking advice, or simply having a listening ear. Allow them to be there for you during the divorce process, as their support can be empowering and comforting.

Consider professional help: Encourage your family and friends to educate themselves about narcissistic abuse and consider attending therapy sessions or support groups together. Professional guidance can provide additional insights and strategies for coping with the challenges of divorcing a narcissist.

Get Family and Friends Onboard

 

Take Care of Yourself

Prioritize your physical health: Make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise. Physical health directly impacts your mental and emotional well-being, so taking care of your body is vital.

Seek emotional support: Surround yourself with a strong support system of friends, family, and professionals who can provide empathy, validation, and guidance. Consider joining support groups or seeking therapy to help process your emotions and navigate the challenges of divorce.

Practice self-compassion: Be kind and understanding towards yourself. Divorcing a narcissist can be emotionally draining and may trigger feelings of guilt, shame, or self-doubt. Remind yourself that you are deserving of love, respect, and happiness.

Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your narcissistic ex-spouse and enforce them. Limit contact to essential matters only and avoid engaging in their attempts to manipulate or control you. Focus on protecting your emotional well-being.

Engage in self-care activities: Carve out time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This could include hobbies, reading, taking baths, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or enjoying nature. Find activities that help you recharge and bring peace to your mind.

Limit exposure to negativity: Minimize your exposure to negative influences, whether it’s through social media, news, or toxic relationships. Surround yourself with positivity and uplifting content that inspires and motivates you.

Practice stress management techniques: Implement stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, or listening to calming music. Find what works best for you and regularly incorporate these practices into your routine.

Take breaks: Allow yourself breaks from the divorce process when necessary. It’s okay to step away from the overwhelming emotions and legal complexities. Prioritize taking care of yourself and honoring your emotional needs.

 

Stay Focused on Why You Are Getting Divorced

Remind yourself of your own well-being: Divorcing a narcissist can be emotionally draining and challenging. By staying focused on why you are getting a divorce, you can prioritize your own well-being and make decisions that are in your best interest.

Validate your experiences: Narcissists often manipulate and gaslight their partners, making them doubt their own perceptions and experiences. By reminding yourself of the reasons for the divorce, you validate and affirm your own experiences, reinforcing your decision to leave the toxic relationship.

Assert your boundaries: Narcissists tend to overstep boundaries and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. By staying focused on the reasons for your divorce, you can assert and maintain healthy boundaries, protecting yourself from further emotional or psychological harm.

Embrace your independence: Divorcing a narcissist often means reclaiming your independence and freedom from their control. By staying focused on your goals and reasons for divorce, you can empower yourself to build a life that is free from their manipulation and toxicity.

Prioritize your children’s well-being: If you have children, staying focused on the reasons for divorce can help you prioritize their well-being. Protecting them from the narcissistic parent’s toxic behavior and ensuring a healthier environment for them becomes a priority.

Remain motivated during legal proceedings: By staying focused on why you are divorcing, you can maintain your motivation to navigate the legal proceedings and advocate for your rights.

 

Sack & Sack’s experienced divorce attorneys can provide you with the guidance and support you need to successfully navigate the process of divorcing a narcissist. Contact them today for a free consultation.

 

Sources:

[1] Digital, A. (2023, May 8). Narcissistic Personality Disorder Statistics & Prevalence Rates. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder/npd-statistics/

[2] Narcissism facts: facts about narcissistic personality disorder. (2023, September 4). Online Expat Counseling for Individuals and Couples. https://barendspsychology.com/narcissism-facts/

by Adam Sacks

Adam Sacks is lead Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Sacks & Sacks, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a BA in Psychology from 1994, and received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1999 from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Sacks and Sacks Law
1646 Emerson St. Suite B Jacksonville, FL 32207

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