Divorcing a narcissist is often extremely stressful and brings its own set of challenges to the process. In order to preserve your own sanity, it is important to understand how the narcissist thinks if you’re looking to survive divorcing a narcissist.
The following tips will help you develop an effective divorce strategy, minimize your trauma and help keep your legal costs down.
To survive divorcing a narcissist it takes its toll in two key areas:
The narcissist will not be cooperative through the divorce process or go away quietly. They will blame everyone else for their problems and perceive themselves as the victim. Narcissists need to win and they love the adversarial nature of the legal system. They will be manipulative, and they will try to paint you as the bad guy with family, friends and even your own children.
Often narcissists are powerful and financially successful so they use this to their advantage. They refuse to provide financial information and documents. They refuse to negotiate and will defy court orders as they think they are above the law. They will file endless motions, hide assets and income and try to exhaust your financial ability to fight them.
How can you survive divorcing a narcissist and get what you need?
1. Have money on hand (a war chest). You may need this money for living expenses while the divorce plays out and you will need funds for legal fees. You want to begin the process from some level of financial stability, if possible so that you can fight for what is important to you.
2. Make sure you have good credit in your own name.
3. Get your financial paperwork together. The narcissist will likely hide and withhold information so if you can compile it before discussing divorce, that is ideal. Don’t keep copies at home, instead give them to a friend or relative, or put them in a safety deposit box so the narcissist doesn’t know about it.
4. Put together a top-notch divorce team which may include the following:
i) Family lawyer who has experience dealing with narcissists and domestic abuse;
ii) Financial planner;
iii) Qualified therapist who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder;
iv) Qualified Divorce Coach who is trained and experienced in dealing with narcissists.
5. Once the divorce process is initiated, keep direct communication with the narcissist to a fact-based, dispassionate minimum. Email is ideal as it gives you time to think before responding. It also keeps a record of the dialogue and may eliminate some of the abusive behavior if the narcissist knows that someone else may read it or that it could end up in court.
6. Don’t respond to the narcissist’s behavior in kind. It will only elevate things. Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t opt for a pit-bull lawyer who will contribute to the elevation of hostility. Instead opt for a lawyer who is tough, but reasonable.
7. Stop feeling, start thinking. Do not respond to the narcissist out of emotion. Take your time, ask questions, be reasonable. Decide which battles to fight and focus on those. Don’t stoop to their level. You can’t change them.
8. If necessary due to the level of abuse and its impact on you, communicate only through lawyers. This will add to your legal expenses but your peace of mind is priceless.
9. Anticipate that the narcissist will try to charm the court, your children, your neighbors and may succeed. Try not to get upset about this. Focus on the big picture and long-term.
10. Document everything and keep good records. Log how much time each of you spends with the children as you may need these records if custody is an issue.
11. Keep the narcissist on a short leash when it comes to court orders because they will constantly be testing your boundaries and will to enforce things. The same is true of the terms of any separation agreement.
12. Have courage, patience and persevere. You can and will survive.
While divorcing a narcissist is never easy, your life WILL get better if you endure the pain of the process. Just keep reminding yourself, that the alternative to divorcing the narcissist is staying with him or her, and that is a guarantee that your life will NOT improve.