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Divorcing a narcissist: 14 things you need to know

I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say:

It’s exhausting being married to a narcissist.

On the surface, they’re charming and captivating, which is probably why you married them in the first place.

On the other hand, they’re incredibly manipulative, self-centered, and couldn’t care less about your feelings.

If you’ve been married to a narcissist for a while, there’s no question it’s going to be difficult to divorce them as they’ve made themselves the center of your universe.

But if they are a narcissist then divorcing them will benefit your emotional health and your life, so it’s crucial that you maintain the courage to go through with it.

Here is everything you need to know about divorcing a narcissist.

Before we start, what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a real mental condition. Your soon-to-be-ex could be annoying, frustrating, rude, or even egotistical. But if it’s a step above that, they may have NPD.

Those with NPD have an inflated view of themselves. They think that they are, quite literally, a god.

Attention is what they thrive off of, and admiration is equally as important.

Because of these tiresome needs, you’ll often find those with NPD have bad relationships, volatile interactions, and a complete lack of empathy.

If it isn’t something to do with themselves, they aren’t interested. And though these people sound pretty hard to get along with, that’s not completely true.

In fact, most narcissists are extremely charming.

They bring you in with their confidence, arrogance, good looks, and desire.

And for a while, they may even put themselves aside, wooing their partners into believing that they are the most important people in the world.

But, it always comes crashing down. Because the true intent of wooing their partner is to have someone to control.

Divorcing a narcissist isn’t an easy road because it can take years to figure out that the charming, often-delightful, person that you fell in love with has been weaving a web of lies and manipulation.

So, how can you tell whether or not you’re dealing with a naturally arrogant person or a true narcissist?

Is your partner is a bonafide narcissist? Here are 11 signs 

While every narcissist will have their different ways of manipulating, there are some key signs of narcissism that nearly everyone can see:

  • The belief that they’re better than everyone else
  • Distort the world around them to better fit their views
  • Always want attention and constant praise
  • Entitled and demand special privileges
  • Use guilt and shame to make others feel bad
  • Often talks down to others
  • Gossips, bullies, and tears others down to build themselves up
  • Lie a lot
  • Tell others they are “crazy” or “can’t remember things”
  • Isolate their partners
  • Doesn’t care about others’ passions or hobbies

12 must-know tips for divorcing a narcissist

When divorcing a narcissist, it isn’t going to be a cut-and-dry divorce. Most of the time, it’ll be a struggle, so you’ll need to be prepared.

Thankfully, these tips should help to get you on the right path:

1. Find a specialist lawyer

Because narcissism is not your average mental condition, you’ll need someone that knows how to deal with going against narcissists.

It can be really difficult, but there are lawyers out there that have dealt with it before.

While any divorce attorney can help you finalize your separation, look for one that specializes in going against narcissists. Once you beat them, you’ll be glad you did.

2. They’ll beg, plead or even attempt a negotiation

Now if you’re the one who has chosen to leave, prepare for negotiation attempts and pleading.

They don’t like it when they don’t get what they want. And if they’re still married to you, it means that there’s still something they want from you.

This is why they won’t let go of you easily.

What’s most common is that they will “promise to change”. They’ll immediately try to do things for you to make you feel awesome.

Once it’s clear that you’re not going to budge, they’ll start threatening you by saying things such as “you’ll be lost without me” or “you’ll never find someone as good”.

Don’t worry, this is normal. Don’t listen and get manipulated into going back to them. It’s not worth it.

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to be easy to leave them for good. According to experts, on average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good.

It’s important that you have the courage to stick with the course. You’ll be immensely grateful in the long run.

3. Don’t try to rationalize with them

Nothing makes you more frustrated than your soon-to-be ex. But no matter of rationalization will work with them. 

When you come to a narcissist with rational thoughts, they don’t care.

They’re so involved in their view of what happened, they’ll bulldoze your view completely.

Save those rational thoughts for the people who care—your support team. They know the truth, and when you show them the rational side of things, they’ll be there for you.

4. Break the trauma bond

Within any type of narcissistic relationship, there is usually a trauma bond – a connection between the abuser and victim through intense shared emotional experiences.

In order to leave for good, you’ll have to break that bond.

The reason it’s difficult to break this bond is that it has been addictive. You’re abused but then you’re rewarded with love bombs when you do something right for the abuser.

This can really take a toll on your mental health as you can experience frequent bouts of stress and sadness when you’re being abused, but then elevated highs when you’re rewarded with good behavior.

The victim often doesn’t really know what’s going on, because manipulative tactics and intermittent love put the victim in a cycle of self-blame and desperation to win back their partner’s affection.

According to therapist Shannon Thomas, Author of “Healing from Hidden Abuse”, there comes a time when victims leave and during the grieving process, they start coming round to the idea that they were abused.

They finally see the damage that was being done and realize that it wasn’t their fault.

5. Limit contact with them

As frustrating as they are, don’t engage with them. Anything can be twisted or edited in this age of technology, so the less contact you have with them, the better.

If you do need to talk to them, go through your lawyer. You can tell your lawyer what needs to be said, and they can connect for you.

This way, you’re out of the picture and they can’t twist what you did or didn’t say.

In Mind Body Green, Annice Star, who was involved in a relationship with a narcissist, decided to see her partner again months after breaking up. Here’s why it was a bad idea:

“What did shock me, however, was how easily I flipped right back into scurrying around, fetching him this and that, tiptoeing, soft-pedaling, rationalizing, even lying … you name it, I did it. Within the first hour, I lost all the gains I thought I had secured over the months since our breakup.”

6. Don’t become emotional

Every narcissist is going to do the same thing—try and get a rise out of you. That’s their main goal. Because when you get emotional, you become the person they say you are to the court.

Then, the judge and witnesses see you getting emotional or frustrated, and the narcissist ends up looking rational.

Remember, narcissists are extremely charming and manipulative. They will paint a picture that makes them look good and you look bad.

The less emotional you can be during the whole process, the better it will look. You can yell and scream about them in private all you want, just don’t do it in your court appearances.

7. Record everything

Because things like voicemails, texts, and emails can be edited, you need to record everything. Keep copies of your emails, voicemails, and texts.

This is time-consuming (and annoying), which is why it’s really best to limit all contact with them. Before you go to trial, make sure to send copies of any past conversations to your lawyer so they have it on hand.

You’ll also want to take screenshots of any social media slandering or bullying. They can delete this whenever they want, so as soon as you see it, take a picture.

8. Make a plan

As you can see, it’s not an easy process. Divorcing anyone is difficult, and divorcing a narcissist comes with added issues.

Before you enter into a trial, make a plan. Hopefully, your plan is to separate all of your assets in a reasonable manner so that you can move on with your life. 

However, narcissists aren’t going to be reasonable. For them, it’s all or nothing. They want everything, and they’re going to fight for it all.

Stick to your plan. At some point, you may feel like giving up, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Look at everything that you and your spouse own.

Decide what you’d be okay with giving up and what you aren’t okay with giving up.

Maybe you want the car but will give up some furniture. Or maybe you keep the house and the other person gets everything else. Every situation is going to be different, but divide it up and create a few “must haves” with your belongings and forget the rest.

9. Create a reliable team

A divorce is a hard and grueling process. You need a reliable team, and this goes beyond your legal team.

While a divorce lawyer may be the most important person in court, you need support people. Surround yourself with a team of people willing to fight for you.

These people will help watch your kids (if you have them), listen to you when you’re sad, and encourage you when you’re down.

This may be family, friends, counselors, or more. Create a reliable team of people that you can count on throughout the process. It may be the most important thing you do.

10. If you have children, put them first

Sometimes, narcissists are extremely abusive to the spouse and children. If that’s the case, document everything so you can prove that you’re the best person to have custody of your children.

However, if there isn’t documented abuse, your children are going to probably see the narcissistic partner. Divorce is hard on kids, but you constantly griping about your ex is even harder.

This is something that you’ll have to keep away from their eyes and ears. Fight for custody, but expect them to have visits or parent time with the other partner. When this happens, encourage them to have fun. It will do good in the end.

11. Go to counseling

Narcissism is draining. It’s going to take a big chunk of your life. There are probably a lot of thoughts and feelings that you’ll need to work out over the course of a couple months or more.

Counseling is a great way to help you through the hard time. When someone has been gaslighting or bulldozing you over a long period of time, it can leave you questioning your own reality.

You may feel lost or confused. It may be hard to recall how certain things really happened. Counseling will give you back the confidence that you lost. It will also help you develop yourself and be ready for a loving, supportive partner the next time you go out in the dating scene.

12. Give yourself a break

 So many people go through pain while divorcing a narcissist. It can be frustrating, and you may be mad at yourself forever marrying them in the first place. 

If you’re feeling down, give yourself a break. Narcissists are charming, and it’s hard to see past their façade. You did nothing wrong.

You have to forgive yourself for choosing this person. Once you’re out on the other end, you’ll see how refreshing and freeing it is. Let yourself feel every emotion, and then, forgive yourself.

13. Remember why you broke up with them

Now that you’ve ended the relationship and marriage, you may be feeling a bit down. It’s a big change.

But those negative emotions you’re feeling may cause you to question your decision.

You might start thinking about all the great times you had with your narcissistic partner. Feelings will come rushing back and regret bubbles up.

Don’t listen to those feelings. You need to keep in mind that they are unrepresentative of the relationship.

For example, you’re probably remembering all the “compliments” your partner gave you.

Don’t get me wrong, compliments are usually great – but when a narcissist gives them, it’s part of a technique called love bombing.

According to Psychology Today, love bombing is the practice of “overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction…designed to manipulate you into spending more time with the bomber.”

So to get your mind back on an even keel, jot down all the reasons you wanted to split up with your partner in the first place.

Ultimately, it was a decision that you didn’t take lightly. Remember those reasons, because if they’re a self-serving narcissist, you’ve likely made a great decision for your future to get rid of them.

And if the narcissist ended the relationship, jot down all the negative aspects of the relationship. When you look at the relationship from the outside, it’s likely that there was a lot of them.

To dive deep into strategies and techniques to help you get over your ex, check out my latest eBook: The Art of Breaking Up: The Ultimate Guide to Letting Go of Someone You Loved.

14. It’s time to focus on yourself and how you can build a better you

It’s time to focus on yourself and recover meaning in life. Narcissists are skilled at making everything about them – so what’s likely happened is that they’ve been the center of your universe for a long time. It’s a significant change.

As humans, we create meaning through our relationships, and now you’ve lost a lot of meaning to your life.

But that’s exciting as well. You can try new hobbies, or go to a yoga class and meet new people.

Whatever it is, you can use up a lot of energy on new pursuits because you don’t have to worry about a narcissist dragging you down in life.

Reconnect with people who make you happy. See this is a great opportunity to build new meaning in life and a brand new self without limitations put on you by a narcissist trying to control you.

Psychologist Dr. Guy Winch recommends writing an “emotional first aid” list of things you can do as a distraction when you find yourself thinking of your ex-partner.

You may not see it now, but after you’ve broken up with your partner for a while, you’ll start to look back and realize how toxic and manipulative your partner was.

You’ll almost breathe a sigh of relief and be so thankful that you managed to stick it through.

Don’t forget that dating is part of the recovery. Go out and meet new people. You’ll find that most people aren’t narcissists and will genuinely like you for who you are.

Don’t try to find “the one” straight away. Just enjoying meeting new people and making new friends. These people will be the breath of fresh air that you need.

While there may be a lot of scars that come from dating an emotionally abusive narcissist, keep in mind that the experience will hold you in good stead for the future.

You’ve learned a lot about yourself, and what kind of partner is better suited to you. You’ll also be much more aware when a narcissist enters your life – and you can avoid experiencing that kind of toxic relationship ever again.

Stages of divorcing a narcissist with kids

When divorcing a narcissist, there are four stages of the divorce. These are:

Pre-divorce

This is when you file paperwork, but nothing has been done yet. You may be separated from your ex, and you’re calling the shots with each other. 

In this stage, you can expect a lot of pushback. Everything you say will begin an argument.

Know what you want and stick with it. If you want to see the kids 50% of the time, make sure that happens. If you want more than that, push for it. 

Temporary orders

Temporary orders are when you go to court for the first time. Your divorce will not be finalized, but the judge will give temporary orders for you and the kids. 

Unfortunately, you’ll need to follow them closely. Even if it’s not what you want, follow them. The last thing you need is for the narcissist to say you are not following the orders.

Final Orders

If you want your temporary orders changed, you’ll work that out in court. Once everything has been agreed upon by the two parties (or court-ordered), you’ll have your final orders.

Limited Contact

Finally, the last stage is when you should be away, starting your new life. Obviously, having kids with a narcissist is another level of difficulty. When you do have to have contact with them, go through email.

You can also have someone else be the mediator between the two of you so that you do not need to talk directly to each other.

Keep in mind that a narcissist will continue to try and get under your skin—no matter how long it has been. Read each email with that in mind and don’t respond until you can rationally do so.

Aftermath of divorcing a narcissist

Narcissists often inflict emotional abuse on their partners. Once you have divorced them, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure. You may question your own abilities, blame yourself, and still feel tethered to your ex-partner.

Divorcing a narcissist doesn’t end when you sign those final papers. It’s something that continues on with you for some time.

Counseling is invaluable for getting over a narcissist and moving on with your life. A good counselor will help you heal and see things for how they really were.

Don’t feel bad. Divorce is hard, and it can lead to anxiety or depression as well. You can feel both relieved from getting away and sad that the relationship is over. Every single one of your emotions are valid.

Divorcing a narcissist quotes

Remember, you aren’t alone. Millions of people have been in relationships with narcissists. And millions of people have successfully cut ties. When dealing with a narcissist, here are some quotes that may help:

“A narcissist paints a picture of themselves as being the victim or innocent in all aspects. They will be offended by the truth. But what is done in the dark will come to light. Time has a way of showing people’s true colors.” – Karla Grimes

“Nobody can be kinder than the narcissist while you react to life on his terms.” – Elizabeth Bowen

“A man who loves others based solely on how they make him feel, or what they do for him, is really not loving others at all — but loving only himself.” – Criss Jami

“Narcissistic love is riding on the rollercoaster of disaster filled with a heart full of tears.” – Sheree Griffin

“Relationships with narcissists are held in place by hope of a ‘someday better,’ with little evidence to support it will ever arrive.” – Ramani Durvasula

“Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life, to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give your everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it.” – Bree Bonchay

In conclusion

Divorcing a narcissist can be hard, but with strength, determination, and rationality on your side, you can do it. Once you’ve gotten out on the other side, you’ll see how much better it is to be free.

 

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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