As a divorce coach and mediator, I am often approached by parties who are experiencing the challenges of being married to a narcissist. They come looking for support and advice, fearful for themselves and their children, and often ashamed of “not seeing it sooner”. They are usually women. Interestingly, there are twice as many male narcissists as females, and 60-69% of all divorces in the US are initiated by women.
Anyone planning to leave a narcissist has a hard road ahead of them and, unfortunately, mediating with a narcissist doesn’t usually work very well. The narcissist tends to view himself as the victim and usually has no intention of “meeting in the middle”. Their ultimate goal is proving themselves right and will go to great lengths to make that happen. So, not a good candidate for mediation.
So what can you expect if you are planning to divorce a narcissist?
Expect gaslighting and other games:
Narcissists use tactics such as gaslighting to manipulate and gain power. If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know what this looks like. Narcissists will tell blatant lies, for example, or deny they’ve said or done something – even if you have proof to the contrary. They will use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
A narcissist has no problem taking these tactics to court. Gaming the system will be one of their first lines of attack, and that is all the easier if they are charming and extroverted, as many narcissists can be. They’ll be apt to file endless motions, make false accusations about neglectful parenting, and have no problem wasting people’s time and effort.
They may lie blatantly to attorneys, judges, mediators, or child custody evaluators, or deny verifiable reality. They may not follow written agreements. They may deny agreements were even made or try to change them later.
Understand that by engaging in a court battle, the narcissist is using you to feel powerful and in control. It’s a way of feeling connected to you, even as you are separating, and drawing out the process increases that connection.
Assume that these tactics will be used and this type of behaviour will be displayed. Preparing for and expecting them will prepare you mentally and help you avoid feeling surprised or confused when it happens.
Expect Narcissistic Tage, Endless Court Filings, and High Attorney Bills:
Narcissistic rage is a reaction to “narcissistic injury”, which occurs when a narcissist's self-worth is threatened. Narcissists will go to great lengths to protect their wounded true, inner selves. When they feel it’s been exposed (as it likely will be during a divorce), they are prone to flying into a rage, attacking you, your character, your safety, and your children.
This, combined with a fundamental lack of empathy and a desire to win at all costs, can result in inappropriate and unnecessary filings with the court and an absolute unwillingness to negotiate or make any effort to meet in the middle about anything. Expect their attorney bills to run abnormally high. Be prepared to be maligned in paperwork, in court hearings, on social media, within social circles, and in the family.
The term “flying monkeys” is used to describe people that narcissists will recruit to their side – people who will believe their story and participate in the smear campaign the narcissist will wage against them. Narcissists will pollute the waters and cause harm to your reputation while garnering support for themselves and recruiting those flying monkeys as agents of their rage is something that you can absolutely expect.
Expect the tables to be turned on you:
If you’ve lived with a narcissist for any amount of time, you probably know how easy it is for them to manipulate you into losing your temper. Or to give up, cower, apologize, and let things drop. To make you look, and feel, like the crazy one. Count on this to be a part of the tactics a narcissist will use in court and before divorce professionals to garner sympathy and gather people to their side.
Narcissists have an uncanny ability to charm outside people, and judges and attorneys are no exception. They can make people see things from their perspective, even when those things are categorically untrue.
So. What can you do to prepare for these inevitabilities?
Well, as it turns out, there’s a program for that. In August we will be launching our Disengage to Divorce Mastery Program. In this comprehensive program, we’ll work on mastering these 4 steps:
- Understanding the narcissist and other high-conflict personalities
- Learning how to disengage and break the conflict cycle and trauma bonds
- Preparing for divorce and mediation
- Preparing for life post-divorce
If this is something that you’re interested in learning more about, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Or stay tuned.
We are offering substantial scholarships for the first 5 people who register because we know that if you are ready to break free, we can help you get there.