Required

Planning a Divorce from a Narcissist and what to Expect

Going through any divorce is stressful, but divorcing a narcissist is extremely stressful and comes with unique challenges. It is said that be married to a narcissist is hard, divorcing a narcissist is hell.

The first thing you should do if you want to divorce someone you believe to be a narcissist or who exhibits narcissistic tendencies is to make a clear well-developed plan.  Because of the manipulation, lies, and verbal/emotional/physical abuse used by narcissists to control those around them, planning is critical when divorcing a narcissistic spouse.

If the most important things to a narcissist are control, appearances and acceptance, your exit from the marriage will not simply be two people who didn’t work out, or grew apart, it will be a betrayal, a personal rejection, and lead the narcissist to feel extremely out of control. Unless planned very carefully, your spouse will become the worst version of themselves when you leave. You must count of very bad behavior from them and have a plan to protect yourself.

If you aren’t sure if your ex is a narcissist, click here.

Planning is the most important aspect of divorcing a narcissist. Keep your intentions and plans to yourself. Do not tell everyone you know. This will allow you to delay the rage, attacks, and unpredictable behavior that you can anticipate from your spouse. Maintain secrecy of your plan, and think of ways you can exit your marriage without any cooperation from your spouse. Once your narcissistic spouse knows what you are planning, you have lost some of your power over the situation and your spouse will use this to their advantage. Many people cannot live with a narcissist spouse during a divorce. While many couples can co-exist, and it is much less expensive, the narcissist spouse will turn on you. They may vacillate for a while between lashing out and apologizing for their past behavior. They may temporarily acknowledge fault. It will not last and their behavior will not change.

Divorcing a narcissistic spouse will not be easy.  One of the first things you should do when you start planning your divorce is to select a qualified team of professionals.  First, you will need an experienced attorney. Because of the unique issues involved in divorcing a narcissist, in order to protect your own interests and emotional state, if at all possible, you should make sure your attorney is experienced in dealing with the difficulties associated with divorcing a narcissistic spouse. Your attorney will need experience in knowing when to fight and when to let things go. This skill is not only in your best interest but crucial when divorcing a narcissist spouse. If your attorney is not experienced in dealing with narcissists, you will need to watch over the process closely and make sure that your attorney is aware of all of the lies and manipulation being exhibited by your narcissistic ex.

When selecting an attorney, you should also look for one that is tough but reasonable. Hiring a pit-bull attorney may make you feel strong, but this style of legal aggressiveness when dealing with a narcissistic ex will only contribute to increase hostility and a longer, more drawn out divorce.

Let your attorney know that you believe your spouse is a narcissist.  This is important because narcissistic self-presentation oftentimes disguises a person’s true personality. It should inform the strategy your attorney takes in representing you, in negotiating, and in litigating. Ensuring that your attorney is aware of all the relevant facts from the beginning will allow him/her to better know what to expect, understand what challenges you are likely to encounter, and ensures the best strategy for countering your ex’s conduct is in place.

How you plan to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissistic spouse will differ depending on your personal financial situation.  If you have accumulated wealth during the marriage, you will also need to locate a qualified financial advisor to help protect your interests.  Your attorney may be able to help you in selecting a qualified financial advisor.  The financial advisor can help you not only determine your marital assets and what you are entitled to during the divorce, but he/she can also help you understand your financial position and needs after the divorce. Depending on the specific issues in your divorce, you may also need to obtain the services of the experts. Work closely with your attorney to decide on the best experts to meet your specific divorce needs.

While any divorce takes its toll on you emotionally and psychologically, divorcing a narcissist makes engaging the services of a therapist a good idea. The divorce process will be long and difficult.  The emotional abuse you suffered from your narcissistic spouse will have left invisible bruises on you.  You may also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the emotional abuse will get worse. Your spouse will attack you and tell anyone who will listen that you have broken the marriage, you cheated, you lied, you are a horrible parent, you abandoned the family. Maintaining joint friends will be next to impossible. Your spouse may reach out to your family, your friend group, your church community, even your place of employment.

You will need to decide who and to what extent you want to involve family and friends.  You may not want to share all of the details surrounding your divorce, but you will need support. Choose only the family and friends who you trust the most and be prepared for the fact that you may lose family and friends due to the narcissist behavior. Also seek out new friends who have experienced divorcing a narcissist. There are online support groups

The more you can do to support yourself emotionally and ensure your own mental health will allow you to better navigate the divorce process and prepare yourself for the long and difficult times to come.  Therefore, you should find a good therapist, preferably one experienced in dealing with narcissists.  Your therapist will be able to help you emotionally navigate your divorce, help you understand what is reality when dealing with your narcissistic ex, and give you tools and tactics to help you deal with the trauma of the divorce. If you have children, you will want to consider getting your children to a therapist as well.

You may also want to include a qualified divorce coach as part of your divorce team. As in selecting your attorney and therapist, if you decide to get a divorce coach make sure he/she is experienced in dealing with narcissists.

Another key component of your plan to divorce a narcissist spouse is to education yourself on narcissistic personality disorder.  Knowing how your ex is likely to react during the divorce will help prepare you for the long road ahead of you. To a narcissistic spouse, you are worthless and deserve nothing. He/she will go to any length to punish you.  Understanding the narcissistic mind and being prepared for their abusive tactics will help prepare yourself for the long, hard and emotional battle ahead of you.

One of the first things you should being to do when you start planning to divorce your narcissistic spouse is make sure that you have access to all family funds and accounts. This includes having your name on the family home and other real estate holdings, if you can.

When planning a divorce from a narcissistic spouse, it is important that you begin to gather as much documentation as you can. It is likely that once your narcissistic spouse knows you want a divorce, he/she will refuse to provide documents and other information you need and may be hide assets and income. You will need to obtain copies of tax returns, check subs, bank statements, retirement accounts, real estate holdings, lifestyle spending habits and similar important documents. Also, gather personal identification like your passport and birth certificate and a copy of your will. Revoke any powers of attorney you had given to your spouse. Once your narcissistic ex becomes aware you want a divorce, he/she is likely to start hiding information. It is a good idea to keep these documents in a separate location than the marital home and away from your ex’s access, such as in a safe deposit box or a trusted family or friend’s home. Be careful not to let your narcissistic spouse catch on to what you are doing.

In addition to gathering important documents, you should also begin to gather those items that have great sentimental value to you.  If you are able to remove these items from the martial home without your narcissistic ex noticing, you should do so, placing them out of reach of your ex as well.  If you are not able to remove items without the likelihood of your ex noticing, make a list of the important items so you can quickly gather them when it is time to leave. You may not have a choice as to when you leave the home, so have a contingency plan on where you will go if you must leave, and make sure it is a place you can take your children with you.

You should plan on where you will live once you leave your narcissistic spouse?  Do you have a friend or family member who is willing to put you and your children up until you can get back on your feet? In deciding where to live once you begin your divorce, consider how far away your work you are willing to live.  If children are involved, you will also need to consider where your children go to school, where their friends are located, as well as the location of their activities. The more resources you can conserve during this period of time, the better. Try to eliminate long commutes to school or work. Try to keep costs as modest as possible during your transition.

If you believe your narcissistic spouse is capable of violence or abuse, in preparing for your divorce, begin gathering information to support your concerns. This might include photographs of bruises or recording threatening conversations. Part of your exit plan mayinclude a restraining order.  Your attorney can help you obtain a restraining order in advance of the divorce if there has been a history of domestic violence. If your spouse begins harassing you and stalking you, you may be able to obtain a civil order of protection prohibiting that behavior.

When planning to divorce a narcissist spouse, it is important to prepare financially. Do you have access to money to support you and your children, if applicable, once you leave your ex? Do you have enough funds to get your own place? The narcissist may refuse to leave and hold your children hostage from you. Make sure that any access to bank accounts or other funds cannot be taken away by your narcissist spouse.  You may need to start setting money aside in a separate account unknown by your spouse. Do you need to get a job? What job qualifications do you have? Do you have credit in your name? If not, or if your credit is bad, you should start working on establishing/improving your credit. Do you have family support financially?

Clearly define your value to the marriage. Even if you are a stay at home parent, you were a co-contributor to the marriage and made contributions to the financial success of the marriage. Did you take care of the marital finances, did you help manage your spouse’s business, did you help put your spouse through school?  Once you have clearly defined your important contributions to the marriage, you can provide vital assistance to your attorney during the divorce.

Even after the divorce is over, the battle with a narcissist is likely to continue. Expect issues with lack of back-and-forth communication, failure to share schedules as agreed upon, missed appointments, disagreements over decisions relating to children, lack of overall cooperation, failure to make payments in a timely manner.  Narcissists will also likely engage in harassment, putting down their former spouse to shared children, and disparaging parenting decisions. Narcissist spouses may wreak havoc on vacation plans, travel, and holidays. As much as possible, plan for bad behavior, revoked consent, and last-minute cancellations. Be pleasantly surprised when things go smoothly.