Divorcing the Narcissist: Be Prepared and Know What to Expect
Tips for Dealing with the Narcissist
1.Get EVERYTHING in writing.
The temptation to flip and flop on agreements, consent (especially dealing with the children), plans, or just general issues that may be agreed upon initially is relatively high with the narcissist. Even if you get in it writing, realize that it may not help, as the narcissist will likely find ways to “externalize” the issues and blame you for agreements being changed, plans being re-arranged or matters that may become contested. When we say “get it in writing,” we mean “get it in writing” and then signed off by the Court (so it is an enforceable Court order). If that isn’t possible because the narcissist won’t cooperate in signing an agreement that will become a formal Court order, then get the issues in writing so if you have to go to Court the “he said, she said” issue can be streamlined and you can let the Court decide who is or isn’t lying or willing or unwilling to cooperate on certain issues.
2.Gather AS MUCH financial documentation as possible.
Remember those threats to “ruin you financially?” It is likely the narcissist will try to carry through with them by making you chase down information, subpoenaing records and running up your fees and costs. Before documents go “missing,” or “misplaced” by the narcissist, copy all of the financial documentation and be ahead of the narcissist.
3.Start the DISCOVERY process right away.
Don’t give the narcissist time. Time permits the narcissist to plan, and planning by a narcissist can lead to delays, further lies, and further unnecessary headaches and heartaches (and fees and costs). Have your attorney start the discovery process of gathering information and documentation from the narcissist right off the bat. The narcissist will respond to the discovery under penalty of perjury (making later attempts to change responses or answers more difficult or subject to greater scrutiny by the Court).
4.Get an AGGRESSIVE and STRONG family law attorney.
There is no room for the faint of heart. There is no room for an attorney that is not ten steps ahead of the narcissist. It may be exhausting, but necessary. Do your homework. Get the attorney who can handle this personality type and knows when to not back down. It will literally make or break your case.
5.Get Court orders NOW.
Don’t delay in filing for custody, visitation, child support or spousal support. The narcissist will lead you to believe he or she is cooperating, but only to delay matters so as to not pay you as long as possible or to avoid court orders regarding the children (so the control can continue). Get the Court orders now. Have retirement accounts joined and frozen (if possible). Place liens or holds on real property. Stop everything in its track if you can ahead of time to protect your interests in the assets.
6.You WILL BE the enemy in the narcissist’s eyes.
You probably already were the enemy for the narcissist, but with a pending divorce or family law matter (and disrupting his or her reign of control over your life) and with a formidable family law attorney by your side, you will be attacked on many fronts (in pleadings, in Court, etc). Stand your ground. Remember if you give the narcissist an “inch” he or she will take a “mile.” Stick to ALL court orders. Do NOT veer away from any orders otherwise you will create issues that will have consequences down the line.
7.Hitting them where they hurt financially WILL NOT dissuade them.
You may get them sanctioned monetarily. You may get them admonished by the Court. You may win on nearly every issue, but know that they will always find a way to make it seem in their minds that they were right. That you were wrong. That they won regardless of the actual outcome. Learn to cope with that now to save yourself from the heartache and headaches of the process. Who is or isn’t right should not be a battle you take up with the narcissist if you already won the battle in Court (pick and choose your battles).
Get assistance from a well-qualified counselor or psychologist to help you through the process. No matter how good your family law attorney may be in the actual case, you need someone you can speak with regarding the narcissist and who can give you the tools to deal with one during the divorce or family law proceeding. Remember the narcissist will try to get a “rise” out of you as much as possible. That is how the narcissist gets his or her sensory “high.” You are the center of attention for the narcissist (and not in a good way).
9.The narcissist will persuade third parties that the narcissist is right, but with time that WILL change.
The narcissist will persuade teachers, school officials, neighbors, friends, law enforcement, etc. that he or she is right, that you are wrong and the third parties may initially fall for it, after all the narcissist will come off as charming, caring, concerned, the victim, and will pull out all of the stops to win attention and admiration from others. With time though, that will change. The narcissist who is usually incapable of telling the truth will be unable to keep the lies straight as the process unfolds. Others will see through it with time. Don’t lose hope.
10.Children as the LEVERAGE.
The narcissist will go after the most valued of your assets: the children. The narcissist will slowly try to turn the children against you or use the children as a bargaining chip. Ways to deal with such situations if the matter progresses:
- Get a 730 child custody evaluation (the narcissist will not want to be found out in the process by a trained evaluator and they will fight to keep away from a 730 child custody evaluation);
- Get a court order to put the children into therapy;
- Have the Court order communications through on-line portals such as ourfamilywizard.com or talkingparents.com to avoid “he said, she saids,” emails, text messages or a barrage of telephone calls;
- Do exchanges curb-side;
- If the issues continue to get worse, get a parallel parenting order (to avoid co-parenting with the narcissist) or a trained case manager appointed by the Court to deal with these sorts of issues.
These types of orders are not always easy to get and usually do not get issued at the outset of the case, but only after protracted litigation and “battles” over everyday issues regarding the children, they may be issued by the Courts.
11.Don’t expect compliance with Court orders.
Get COMPLIANCE. If you get a child or spousal support order, don’t expect the narcissist to simply pay it out without making the process as difficult as possible for you. Get wage garnishment or assignment orders (if possible) to get employers to issue the payments to avoid additional interactions with the narcissist.
12.If verbal harassment starts crossing the line into domestic violence get a RESTRAINING ORDER.
Sometimes the only way to stop the barrage of harassment is to get a Court to issue a restraining order against the narcissist, but that doesn’t come easily. Remember, you are dealing with someone who will paint the picture of a victim, one who is charming, one who pretends to be a wonderful person or parent. It may be difficult to persuade the Court of the severity of your allegations. That is why you should have witnesses present (if possible) when dealing with the narcissist. Save voice mail messages, emails, text message and keep the document trail handy.
Time does heal the pain. Be patient. Be your strongest advocate, meaning take time to re-energize yourself when dealing with such personality types and have a good and strong working relationship with your trusted lawyer.
The Narcissist & Anxiety
Divorce or family law issues can be anxiety-provoking on their own, but add to that an intimidating, over-reactive, self-entitled and attention seeking significant other who has threatened to use the divorce or family law matter to financially ruin you, destroy your relationship with the children and make your life a living hell and you can appreciate that anxiety levels can go through the roof. What do you do to transition from being married to or a domestic partner with a narcissist to one where you may not have to deal with him or her on a continued/daily basis (if you have children with one, that may not be entirely possible)?
What is a narcissist?
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) provides the following to be present in a narcissistic personality disorder (see goo.gl/ZZyL5B):
- Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
- (a) Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal, or vacillates (goes back and forth) between extremes.
- (b) Self-Direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
- Impairments of interpersonal functioning (a or b):
- (a) Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reaction of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over or underestimates of own effect on others.
- (b) Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain.
Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
Antagonism, characterized by:
- (a) Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness, firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others, condescending toward others.
- (b) Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others, admiration seeking.
The goal of the article is not to provide any sort of psychiatric or psychological advice (as we are not doctors, psychiatrists or psychologists), but rather to provide resources to you in order to help you understand the narcissistic personality type. That starts with a general understanding of the guidelines used for diagnosis of the narcissist in order to give you an idea of whether or not the issues that you are facing with the narcissist in your life fall somewhere in the narcissism spectrum. The narcissist is not limited to a gender (both men and women exhibit this type of personality disorder). The narcissist does not necessarily fit the categories listed above, meaning there can be potential hybrids of the various personality disorders. The narcissist CAN be defeated, but with the right tools.