One of the questions we get from potential clients most frequently is whether we have experience handling cases involving narcissists. Unfortunately, we encounter the issues associated with narcissism in our cases on a near-daily basis.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”) is a mental disorder recognized by the DSM-V. But your spouse does not need to have a formal diagnosis for the well-known destructive behaviors of narcissism to impact your divorce. Read on for our tips for divorcing a narcissist.
1. Tell your attorney. If your spouse exhibited narcissistic traits during your marriage, it is vital for your attorney to know. You may be inclined to keep the information you provide to a minimum, but your lawyer needs to know about your spouse’s personality in order to advise on the best strategy for dealing with your case and getting you a favorable result. Make sure that your lawyer has experience dealing with narcissists. Find an attorney who is strong enough to stand up to your narcissistic spouse in a reasonable manner so as to not pick unnecessary fights. Narcissists feed on conflict. You want your lawyer to wage the fights that are needed but not to create more conflict.
2. Keep it in writing. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the perpetrator tries to get you to question your own reality, sanity or perceptions. It is a tactic we have seen time and time again in our cases involving narcissists. Often the narcissist will deny saying things or agreeing to things that you are certain were said. By keeping communication and agreements in writing, you will have a clear record of what transpired. But be careful of your tone. Know that anything you write may someday end up in front of a judge. Your narcissistic spouse knows how to push your buttons. Don’t let them. Keep your writings to the facts and devoid of emotion.
3. Be prepared for the worst. If you are divorcing a narcissist, accept that odds are low that it will be amicable. Narcissists feed from the fights and seeing you hurt. For that reason, it can be extremely difficult to reach a swift amicable settlement. Make sure you choose a lawyer with litigation experience but a track record of reaching settlements on tough cases. Do your best to reach a settlement but go into your divorce knowing that you may be in for a long, drawn-out battle.
4. Build your support team. You cannot get through this alone. Find a lawyer with compassion who will assist you on the legal aspects of your divorce. Start or continue with therapy for the emotional support you undoubtedly will need to get to the other side. Identify your friends and family members that you can vent to and lean on the roughest days. And consider a divorce support group. Do not underestimate the help you can get from talking with people who are facing the same issues.
5. Find some gives. Everyone likes to win but narcissists need to win. Figure out if there are any points you can give in on that will make them feel like they are winning but aren’t taking anything important away from you. If you can find enough of these things that make your narcissistic spouse feel like they “look good,” it can keep you from dealing with a lot of the pain associated with divorcing a narcissist.
Narcissism is not the only personality issue that can affect a divorce, so it’s important to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side who can recognize the signs of narcissism, along with other mental disorders that could put you – or your children – at risk. Greenblatt Law LLC’s attorneys have extensive experience handling cases involving personality disorders. If you are facing issues associated with narcissism or other mental health issues in your divorce, we can help.