BY CHRISTINE LOUIS DE CANONVILLE, MIACP
Reading Time: 10 mins
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN DIVORCING A NARCISSIST
Especially having lived with a narcissistic spouse or partner through the IDDH Cycle. That cycle is: –
- The Idealisation Phase (the “honeymoon” time when you can do nothing wrong).
- Devaluing Phase (when you can do nothing right),
- Discarding Phase (when you are perceived as being no longer useful)
- Hoovering Phases (when you are stalked for further “narcissistic supply”).
During the IDDH Cycle, a victim will have been subjected to all forms of narcissistic abuse. Once the narcissist’s mask of sanity slips, they bombard the victim with constant criticism, double standards, gaslighting, ambient abuse, and coercive control. The victim finds themselves living in a state of confusion and paralysis with a stranger they do not know or understand, this is akin to Intimate Terrorism. When the victim finally decides to divorce their narcissistic partner, they will need to prepare themselves for a war that will be made up of many battles (i.e. physically, emotionally, psychologically, logistically, financially, spiritually, etc.).
BE AWARE YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WAR ZONE:
Asking a narcissistic spouse for a divorce is the equivalent of declaring a full-scale war on them. At first, they do not believe that you mean it, and they are not one bit concerned about you or your happiness. The only thing that matters to them is that you are a great source of “narcissistic supply” for them, and they will not give you up easily. Therefore, you must engage the first rule of war, which is: –
“Know thyself, know thy enemy, and never let your opponent choose the battleground”.
HOW DO YOU SURVIVE DIVORCING A NARCISSIST?
Divorcing a narcissist is draining, it may be the biggest challenge of your life, so the healthier you are emotionally, the better chance you have of winning. Narcissists will make it as difficult as they can for you, so, staying strong is a priority. I suggest you educate yourself about narcissistic behaviour so that you can deal with the reality of the situation, that way you are going to experience fewer surprises. You are also going to require a good support system that consists of a “Battalion of Foot-Soldiers”. For example, you will need: –
- A Legal Team that understands how to deal with high-conflict narcissistic behaviour during the legal process.
- A Trauma Therapist that understands narcissistic victim abuse.
- Your family Doctor for monitoring your physical health throughout the process.
- A contact person at one of the Domestic Violence Support Service (someone you can call on if you find yourself in immediate danger and need shelter).
- Support from the children’s school, who can flag any changes in the children’s behaviour (due to stress).
- A Forensic Accountant to uncover any hidden assets you may be entitled to (because the narcissistic partner will generally try to deny you your fair share of the assets).
YOU MUST BECOME BATTLE-READY BY KNOWING YOURSELF:
It is not advisable to take on this type of divorce alone, because you are no match for the manipulating pathological narcissist. A therapist will be especially helpful for getting you emotionally healthy for dealing with your narcissist partner in the Court-room. Importantly, they will help you to stay proactive rather than reactive to the narcissist’s power games. Remember, with the help of a well-informed team, you can change your responses to the narcissist’s behaviour, and get some power and control into your fighting corner.
Your therapist can also help you to get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and show you how to establish good boundaries. They will also support you through the definitive decision of going “no contact”. They will also provide a safe space when you are vulnerable and need to deal with your ongoing fear and emotional pain (i.e. especially when you are worried about the toll the process is having on the children). The children may be at the seat of your confusion, causing you to question if you are doing the right thing for them by divorcing their dad. That is why it is important for the victim to remind themselves of the extent of the abuse they experienced while in the relationship. They must remember how the abuse impacted on them and the children negatively, leaving them all walking on eggshells around the abuser.
YOU MUST BECOME BATTLE READY BY KNOWING YOUR ENEMY:
By studying your enemy, you will discover there is inherent predictability to the narcissist’s behaviour. Generally, if you leave them to their own devices, they will “self-destruct”. But for sure, when your narcissist realises you mean business, their abusive behaviour will escalate. They will use any means they can to weaken your resolve and create havoc. They will provoke fear in you, especially concerning the children. They are so grandiose that they still think they have the power to manipulate you and reel you back into the relationship.
Although you may not realise it, without you, your narcissist vulnerable ego is likely to go into “free fall”. In the panic of their narcissistic wounding (rejection and abandonment by you) they will create dramas all around them; in their familial relationships, their work-place, their friendships, etc. Without you as a buffer, other people will (in time) find your narcissist difficult to handle and may start pulling away. This is especially so when they feel they have been used as the narcissist’s “flying monkeys” to do their bidding. Or they tire of listening to the narcissist’s endless character assassination and smear campaign of you, and the constant unrealistic demands made on them. Once the narcissist feels out of control, they begin to show themselves as the hollow, empty, wounded children they truly are. Others do not know what to make of their behaviours. Remember, unlike you, they never saw this side of the narcissist’s covert behaviour before. As the narcissist’s rage increases, they are unable to disguise the brittleness and shallowness of their emotions, and how everything is always about them. However, all this can work to the victim’s advantage in the long-run,if you can stay calm.
HOW DO NARCISSISTS DEAL WITH DIVORCE?
Generally, not very well, that is why they set out to break you and win everything. You have caused your narcissistic partner a “narcissistic injury” by wanting to divorce them, and now you must pay. No matter how nice they may appear at times, you must never forget that they will want revenge for your action. As far as they are concerned, they are the victim (not you). But this is also a serious game that brings them a great deal of drama and narcissistic supply; therefore, they thrive on their game plan (i.e. their lies, false accusations, delay tactics, seduction of the Court, etc.).
Don’t let their behaviour get in your way, because they often expose themselves through their mind-games. For example, in the Courtroom, they will lie and try to cause endless delays by not conforming to the judge’s orders. But their behaviours will not go unnoticed by the Judge. You need to remember to stay calm as your narcissist does all in their power to grind you and your legal team down. Don’t let your narcissist rattle you, because you need the Judge to see you as having a sound mind; not mad or mentally ill, as the narcissist is trying to make out. Let your narcissistic partner show their true colours as they set out to win the battle. Give them enough rope so they hang themselves in front of both legal teams.
Furthermore, narcissist’s do not care how much this all costs them financially, they are in their protective grandiose fantasy world while on stage in Court. You also need to know, that even when you win, they tend to want to bring you back into court whenever you have any dispute (i.e. child support issues, or when not happy with children’s schedules, etc.). Unfortunately, while the narcissist is in your children’s lives, you will find you have to document everything (for years ahead) …. “just in case”. Your solicitor/lawyer will guide you in this area, as documentation pays off with the Judges each time you have to go through the courts.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS, AND USE YOUR NARCISSIST’S WEAKNESSES:
When divorcing a narcissist, you must know what you are dealing with, and play to your strengths, because victims of narcissistic abuse are very resilient and can rise when they need to. When you play to your strengths (i.e. your humility, your kindness, your empathy, your sense of fair play, your resilience, etc.) you gain the respect of the Courts, you also show up the narcissist’s lack of respect for the Courts. Remember, the narcissists use the following 9 criteria as their defence mechanisms to support their fragile ego. These criteria can also be seen as weaknesses and can be used against them when at war with them. For example: –
(1) Their grandiose sense of self makes them think they are smarter than you and everybody else. Everything has to be about them, and that will show itself in the Courtroom.
(2) They need to have power and control in every situation. So, when they fail, they become emotionally dysregulated. That is when they are likely to fly into a rage and expose themselves to the Court.
(3) They believe they are “special” and can only be understood by other special people. In their mind they and their team are superior to you and your inferior team. So when you challenge them as a spouse or parent, it creates deep shames in them (they do not take criticism well).
(4). They demand excessive amounts of praise or admiration from others. So, you can exploit this weakness in them by giving them some praise, especially when you want to give yourself a better chance of getting something you want from them. For example, you could say “He/she is exceptional in business, or they are very patient with the animals at home.”
(5). They feel entitled to automatic compliance or favourable treatment from others. So, each time you or your team scores a point in Court, their sense of entitlement will be badly injured.
(6). They are exploitative towards others. So, if they sense any weakness in you, they will take advantage and exploit it.
(7). They have no empathy for anybody (including their children), therefore no conscience for the distress they cause their family.
(8). They are very envious, and think others are envious of them. For example, that will show if you have managed to get the barring order against them, and you are still in the house living your normal life. You can expect that they will try to damage the relationship between you and the children. Envy can be seen in the way they often cause parent alienation (PA),
(9). They “have an attitude” or frequently act in haughty or arrogant ways. They see themselves above the rules that apply to ordinary people, this will be seen in the way they lie and try to manipulate the Courts.
CAN YOU NEGOTIATE WITH A NARCISSIST?
Generally, the answer is “no”. That is why knowing this information prepares the victim spouse to be better emotionally equipped to enter the divorce process and face their adversary knowing that they will stop at nothing to win. With this type of personality disorder “The Gloves are off”, their only goal is to WIN.
I hope by the time you go to Court that you have educated yourself about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). That you are realising that your narcissist is not going to be amicable when it comes to the divorce process. That you have searched for a Divorce Lawyer and a Psychotherapist that understands P.T.S.D. and narcissistic abuse. Ideally, you will have managed to get your Support Team in place before the divorce proceedings begin. That you are working on getting a barring order to remove the narcissist from the home, or with look, you may already have achieved that. If so, expect the narcissist to try to “hoover” you, or use friends and family as “flying monkeys” to help them get back into the home. Pick your battles wisely, there may be times when it feels prudent to give your partner something they want, let them feel that they won that round. You set your boundaries as best you can, and stick to them. And don’t forget to set a habit of tending to your self-care as you move along the process (i.e. meditation, nice hot baths, massage, walk in the fresh air, engage with good company, etc.). So here are my 14 tips to prepare you for the battle ahead.
14 TIPS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOT ONLY FOR DIVORCING A NARCISSIST, BUT FOR SURVIVING A NARCISSIST:
- NARCISSISTS TAKE THE LOW ROAD, SO ANTICIPATE THAT THEY WILL TELL LIES:
While narcissists will lie through their teeth, they cleverly weave nuggets of truth into their story that embellish their lies. This makes their lies more powerful and believable to any listener. You must make sure to take the High Road by sticking with the truth of the facts, otherwise, the narcissists will skilfully unravel your story.
- NARCISSISTS PLAY TO WIN GLORIOUSLY:
Remember that narcissists are shame-prone, so no matter what the cost to you (or the children) narcissists need to win big. Therefore, expect their dirty deeds and their need to fight to the death.
- NARCISSISTS ARE DEVOID OF EMPATHY & PLAY BY FOUL RULES:
Narcissists have total disregard for others and play by their own rules. Their lack of empathy leaves them without much conscience, so it will not matter if you or the children get hurt.
- POWER & CONTROL IS CENTRAL TO THE NARCISSIST’S GAME:
Unlike most people, narcissists are grandiose. Therefore, they do not fear to go into Court, it feeds their need for narcissistic supply, where they are the centre stage of attention.
- NARCISSIST’S SET OUT TO DEFEAT & DESTROY THEIR FOE:
Narcissists are black & white thinkers; you are either with them (friend) or against them (foe). If you are an enemy, they are not happy unless they destroy you, and what better way to destroy someone than with a court-room full of witnesses and drama. They thrive on the drama.
- NARCISSISTS WOULD RATHER SPEND HUGE SUMS OF MONEY IN THE COURTS THAN SETTLE PRIVATELY OUT OF COURT:
Rather than working things out with the partner, they would rather drag them back to court at every opportunity, and of course, at the same time, use up the partner’s financial resources. They do not want their partner to gain in any way, so negotiating with them is almost impossible. If they have to agree on something, they feel they are being controlled. So, perversely, having the Judge decide on every outcome saves them losing face in the world (they can say, “It was the Judge’s decision.”. This is especially important if the partner manages to get a good settlement, then the narcissist can blame the Courts for victimising them.
- KEEP YOUR LEGAL-TEAM INFORMED AT EVERY STAGE:
Especially keep your lawyer informed as to what you expect the narcissist’s next move to be. Do not underestimate your instinct and knowledge, so don’t give away all your power to your legal team. Sometimes you know more about your partner than they do. Just keep in mind that they are working for you.
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING AS YOU GO THROUGH THE PROCESS:
Also, keep copies of any communication your partner tries to have with you (i.e. emails, texts, voicemail, etc.), because they can always be altered by your partner. Screenshot any social media messages, because they can be easily deleted. This evidence may be vital for the courts if you find yourself getting into a “he said/she said” scenario.
- ABOVE ALL ELSE, STAY CALM, ESPECIALLY IN THE COURTS:
Narcissists will do their best to make you lose control, especially in the Courtroom. This serves them well and backs up what they are saying about you. The less emotional you are in the Court-room, the better. If need be, you can always practice “restraining yourself” through role-play with your therapist.
- DO NOT MAKE DISPARAGING REMARKS ABOUT YOUR PARTNER TO THE CHILDREN:
If they love their Daddy/Mummy, this will push them into protecting them in their absence, and that is not fair. Leave the mudslinging to your partner, and soon the children will see through their behaviour.
- DO “NO CONTACT” WITH YOUR NARCISSISTIC PARTNER:
This gives your brain a chance to cool down and be more rational where it matters (i.e. when with your legal team or in the Court-room). If you must have contact, do this through your legal team.
- MAKE A PLAN OF WHAT YOU NEED FROM THE DIVORCE:
Think how you want to divide your assets for moving on and giving the children what they need for a smoother transition. Know what you are willing to give up, and what you are not willing to give up. However, do not expect your partner to be reasonable, but stick to your plan no matter how difficult it is.
- DO NOT WASTE TIME BLAMING YOURSELF FOR FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR NARCISSIST.
You now know that they use the Idealisation Phase to seduce, love-bomb, and gaslight you into their web of deception. It was not even personal; it is just their nature. Show yourself some self-compassion.
- STAY FOCUSED ON WHY YOU ARE GETTING A DIVORCE:
Remind yourself of the narcissist’s covert aggression (i.e. their gaslighting (toying with your sense of reality), their ambient abuse (instilling irrational fear in you), their coercive control (taking away your freedom). These are all the ways your narcissist robbed you of your “liberty”. In time, these behaviours keep the victim imprisoned in a jail without bars. Although divorcing a narcissist is probably the hardest thing you will ever do, with a good support team, determination and a lust for freedom, you will be glad you persevered to the end.
- Narcissistic Female Intimate Partner Violence Against Men Is No Joke - February 28, 2023
- Narcissists and Positions of Power and Influence - February 6, 2023
- Why Is It So Blooming Hard Leaving a Narcissist? - December 9, 2022
Wow, I just recently divorced a narcissist. It took 7.5 years. Everything I read is spot on. It was the most emotionally draining experience of my life. What I went through i wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Wish I had found this book a long time ago.
thank you, I only regret that I did not find you before. I am in a two and half year old divorce, and he is trying to break me actually trying to force me to have another heart attack, and financially break me.
You have helped to answer questions about things that never made sense to me.
Very informative for a “pre-divorce” narcissists victim.
such an eye opener post.i would never look the world with the same view again
I feel like I’m reading about my divorce and my hopefully soon to be divorced from husband.
Any suggestions for support groups? Amazed at how the articles that I’ve read – read like a playbook…
Thank you so much for this information. I’m doing research to help a friend, it’s only just starting for him but there are children involved and he is such a good dad. It’s diabolical the lengths she goes to just to hurt him. This information is spot on I really appreciate you sharing this valuable knowledge
Not that I am aware of Catherine.
Very insightful article.
Deem it Crucial to have: “A Legal Team that understands how to deal with high-conflict narcissistic behaviour during the legal process”-
so my question is, does a list exist of Family Law solicitors who understand narcissistic behaviour ?