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If you are pretty sure you are married to a narcissist, then the following description should ring a bell for you. Narcissism is a set of personality traits that can range from mild to severe, including beliefs of extreme self-importance, an inflated ego, a pattern of exaggeration and lying, a lack of empathy, and a desperate need for control. While this set of behaviors sounds very unattractive at first, most narcissists present themselves as witty and charming. They can be charismatic and engaging, giving the appearance that they are generous, entertaining, and popular. In truth, they are highly skilled manipulators who expertly tug at people’s emotions for their gain.
You might feel like a fool because you fell for a huge lie, a pretty facade that covered an ugly truth. If that’s the case for you, please forgive yourself. It may be difficult to spot a narcissist who successfully keeps up the facade. Eventually, he or she will eventually break and reveal their true colors. But until then, it can seem like you have an energetic and fun partner. Once you understand the reality of living with them every day, you may think differently about your future together. Before you go any further, take a close look at these five important things you need to know about divorcing a narcissist.
Expect a Good Chance of Ending up in Court
Divorcing a narcissist is like joining a pick-up game of basketball against the ultimate competitor. Even if you’re a better player, your opponent simply won’t give up no matter what. They are in it to win it. There’s a good chance this doesn’t surprise you. You know more than most that a marriage with a narcissist can be an emotionally exhausting experience. Instead of mutual gain and shared experiences, your spouse is after personal triumph at every turn.
So when it comes to a divorce, the sides are clearly marked. It’s you against them, which is a highly exciting situation for a typical narcissist. They will do whatever it takes to chalk up a victory over you, even if it means an expensive trip through the court system. Remember that a narcissist is entirely driven by fear and a low sense of worth. All of this is done to boost their sense of importance and run away from paralyzing anxiety. Choose your battles wisely and be prepared to give in on some things. Knowing about their extreme competitiveness can help you make strategic choices and keep you from being too surprised.
They Will Admit No Responsibility
No matter how much they hurt you during your relationship, don’t expect to hear “I’m sorry.” The last thing a narcissist intends to do is to own up to any damaging behavior or wrongdoing on their part. They see your relationship as a one-way street that only affects them. Any sense of give-and-take you felt at one time was probably part of the act to hook you in from the beginning. Ultimately, he or she doesn’t have the empathy to truly have a cooperative relationship.
A narcissist spouse is likely to have shown one or more of the following in your marriage numerous times – verbal aggression, emotional instability, threats of violence, publicly shaming you. While this is hurtful and difficult for you to live with, your spouse can blast this at you and walk away as if nothing happened. It doesn’t matter how obvious their bad behavior has been. Expect the troubles in your relationship to be entirely your fault. As you go through the proceedings, be aware of this so you aren’t caught off guard in front of them.
Expect Very Little Cooperation
Speaking of cooperation, don’t expect much from your spouse when the divorce begins. No matter which of you initiate the divorce, your spouse will do everything in their power to maintain as much control as possible over every detail. One striking characteristic of a narcissist is their absolute need for control. They know their relationship game from front to back, so they know how to push your buttons and hook your emotions.
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Divorces can be complicated, especially when involving shared property, pets, and children. It can get ugly when a narcissist drags everything to a halt over something petty. Divorce can become even worse when making critical negotiations with custody and visitation schedules. Child welfare goes above and beyond the convenience of divorcing parents, but don’t expect your spouse to see that. Unfortunately, children can be playing pieces in their big game of control. The less cooperative they are, the more they feel powerful and in control. Stay patient and work closely with an attorney that has experience with this type of situation. They may win some battles along the way, but a wise judge won’t put up with too much nonsense.
Get Ready for the Smear Campaign
Your spouse may beg you to stop the divorce or take them back early in the process. But when this fails to impress you, get ready for the smear campaign. This is an all-out assault on your reputation. Your spouse will spread negativity about you by planting seeds of doubt within your respective social circles. They may try a more straight-forward approach and accuse you of all sorts of awful things. You are definitely the villain in this story, and your spouse gains strength by seeing people turn against you.
A smear campaign can be difficult to endure, and there is no sugarcoating this. Whatever you do, avoid giving a reaction of any sort. If you have a private conversation with a trusted family member or friend, express your emotions as you need to with them. That’s your protected safe space for emotional release. But if there’s a chance that your spouse may catch wind of what you do or say, make sure you are intentionally calm and unimpressed by the show. Over time, your non-reaction will drain the energy out of it.
If There Is Violence in Your Relationship, Protect Your Safety
This is the last point in this article, but it’s the most important one. Always protect your safety when attempting to end a relationship with a narcissist. The warning stands even if you haven’t experienced violence in your marriage before. When a relationship breaks apart, a narcissist is more vulnerable and emotionally charged than usual. It doesn’t matter who initiates the divorce or who seems to want it more. A narcissist will up the ante because the loss of the relationship leaves them exposed and insecure. Anything is possible, including real threats to your safety.
A narcissist is only concerned about themselves and feels that all actions are justified. If they come after you with threats or actual harm, they won’t think twice about hurting you or even your children. They don’t understand healthy relationships and don’t accept personal responsibility for their actions. To protect your safety, consider moving out temporarily before filing for divorce. You may need to file for a protection order or restraining order if you fear violence in any way.
Divorce is no picnic, even if it is a mutual decision. It’s a potential nightmare if you’re divorcing a narcissist. You can’t change who they are or control what they do, but you can come into the situation with some preparation. You are likely to have just as much drama in your divorce as you’ve had in your marriage. The same emotional tug-of-war will carry on as you do what it takes to end your relationship.
This list of five important things is a good start and is by no means complete. Narcissistic behavior is based on fear, but it can come out in a number of ways. Use this list as a trigger to get you thinking about other predictable problems with your spouse’s behavior. Gather your social supports and keep focused on getting through it.