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Specialty tag(s): High-Conflict Divorce

What You Need to Know Before You Divorce a Narcissist

Thomas A. Greenwald | March 12, 2024

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Divorcing a person with a high-conflict personality, including narcissism or narcissistic traits, often poses a unique set of challenges. Individuals with narcissistic traits may have an inflated sense of self and a tremendous need to control the situation. They may be rigid thinkers and often need to be right, only agreeing on solutions that solve a problem their way. When they do not get their way, they often escalate the emotion of the situation in an effort to manipulate the people around them. They often lack the ability to feel remorse, are unable to see their fault in a situation, and lack insight into how their behavior has contributed to or caused conflict. These characteristics can make divorcing a narcissistic husband or wife a difficult experience.

If you are considering filing for divorce and your partner exhibits narcissistic traits, take this into account and engage a team that understands how difficult it can be to divorce a narcissist. Often, divorces that involve a narcissist can become high-conflict situations, but what you do before divorcing a narcissist husband or wife can greatly impact the divorce and your quality of life during the process.

Make a Plan Before Divorcing a Narcissist

People who have narcissistic traits need to have complete control of their world. If you do not have a plan before you file for divorce from a narcissist, your spouse will most certainly try to plan for you. Consider the possible life changes that are about to occur, and think about how YOU would like to navigate them. You cannot guarantee that things will always go as planned, but you can certainly chart a course to minimize stress and conflict and work toward a positive outcome for your case.

  • When dealing with narcissism in a divorce, it is important to start by identifying your support team and addressing the following questions to ensure you are well-prepared: Who will be your divorce lawyer and who will be your therapist?
  • Do they understand narcissism and how to approach a narcissist?
  • Where will you live once you start a divorce with a narcissist?
  • Do you have a bank account in your name?
  • Do you have credit in your name?
  • Who is your safety net, someone who you can call if you are struggling and just need someone to talk to, or you need help when you are running late for a child’s baseball practice, or you need a place to stay for a few days?

Consult with your divorce lawyer to make sure that you understand what decisions need to be made in the short-and long-term before you divorce a narcissist. This preparation helps set realistic expectations and minimize surprises.

Write Out Your Goals and Expectations

When the divorce is final, what is most important to you? Maybe you would like custody of the children or you would like to ensure that you and the children are financially secure. Maybe it is important that the children stay in the same school. If child custody is not an issue, maybe you are primarily concerned about maintaining your lifestyle, being financially secure in the future, protecting certain assets, or tracking down missing funds. These are your goals. Take a moment to consider if your goals are realistic and whether some are more important to you than others. Your lawyer will guide you through the process of divorcing a female narcissist or a male narcissist in a way that helps you meet these goals.

It’s also important to consider your expectations for how your spouse will approach the divorce. Narcissistic people are fueled by the reactions of others. They crave admiration and obsess over being right in everyone’s minds. Considering how they might act based on their tendencies will help you cope when their behavior is hurtful or illogical.

  • How do you think they will react when you file for divorce?
  • What will their triggers be?

Share these things with your lawyer as you work together to develop your plan for divorcing a narcissist.

Gather Important Documents and Information

As a person with narcissism loses their sense of control in one area in life, they often seek to control other areas. Once their partner files for divorce, it is not uncommon for things to go missing or for them to refuse to provide certain information. While your lawyer may obtain these things during the divorce, it is often easier to gather documents and information before divorcing a narcissistic woman or man.

Your lawyer can also help you identify documents and items you may want to gather prior to filing for divorce. These may include:

  • Financial and Other Information: Tax returns, account statements, retirement statements, credit card statements, real estate documents, text messages, emails, proof of gifts received during marriage, proof of inheritance, proof of property owned before marriage, recordings, photographs, calendars, personal journals, and diaries
  • Sentimental Items: Family heirlooms, personal memorabilia, and children’s property and memorabilia
  • Family Documents: Passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and wills

One of the most important factors to consider when divorcing a narcissist is to have a team around you (including your lawyer and your therapist) who understand narcissism and divorce. Some divorce lawyers take the approach that “this is always the way we do it,” but that doesn’t work when the opposing party has narcissistic traits. It’s important that your legal team and support team understand that people with narcissistic traits do not react the way many other people do in a divorce. With a plan and the understanding of an informed support team, you can move through the divorce process with confidence, one measured step at a time.

To learn more about how our firm can help you deal with a narcissist in a divorce, contact attorney Thomas A. Greenwald at (214) 833-7760.

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