I am divorcing a narcissist…

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, often have troubled relationships and show a lack of empathy for others.

Like most mental health or personality disorders, narcissism falls on a spectrum and so it is not always easy in the course of any relationship to know whether your spouse has NPD without a diagnosis from a qualified expert and therein lies the problem: what narcissist would succumb to a diagnosis?

It is usually at the end of the relationship that it all becomes clear;  from the ‘love bombing’ at the start of the relationship, to the constant need to talk about how great they are, to the lack of empathy and the inability to hold down long term friends, to the gaslighting, to the refusal to ever apologise and finally to the lashing out when you try to leave the relationship. Sound familiar?

The good news is that you have managed to get out.

Now, how to navigate the divorce process?

  1. Make sure you have a strong lawyer. Engage a skilled lawyer who can guide you through, ignoring the background noise that the narcissist will want you to hear and concentrating on the central issues.
  2. Tell your lawyer. Make sure you make it clear to your lawyer that you think your ex has NPD.
  3. Be brave! A narcissist feels a sense of entitlement and must win so sadly you need to prepare for a long process. Make sure you choose your battles.
  4. Keep a diary. A narcissist will make you doubt yourself. Document everything. Contemporaneous notes may well help to discredit any lies and avoid the “he said/she said” arguments in court.
  5. Restraint of pen. Keep the narcissist’s game playing at the front of your mind and do not fall foul to engaging in texts, WhatsApps or e-mail etc that you would not want a judge to read.
  6. And of tongue. Likewise do not speak badly of your ex in front of the children or your ex’s friends as it will likely get back to them and will only fuel more retaliation. Your children should be shielded as much as possible and should know that they can always talk to you freely without taking sides.
  7. Seek therapy. You should engage the advice of a therapist or a counsellor.
  8. Don’t let them get a reaction from you. You will no doubt be belittled in the process with proclamations that “you won’t get anything”, intimidating comments that  “it is all your fault” and certainty that they “will win”. Keep them at arm’s length and keep conversations and communication to a minimum.
  9. Consider therapy for the children. This will be helpful if you believe that the narcissistic behaviour is impacting them.
  10. Build your support network Reach out to your close friends and family and let them know what you have been through, what you are going through and accept help.

If you are impacted by any of the issues highlighted in this blog or would like advice on family matters, click here to speak to a member of BLM’s Family Law team.

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.