• By: Paul Riley

Divorcing a narcissistic must be handled strategically

In the past few years in particular, I have met with numerous clients who have come to our offices determined that they were married to a narcissist and desperately wanting to get out. 

In most of those cases, the ex may have been a jerk, a bully, selfish, mean-spirited, or unreasonable. It doesn’t mean they were necessarily narcissistic. 

A narcissist is often loosely defined as ‘a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves’. Clearly, that is a rudimentary definition that could easily apply to just about anyone. 

True narcissism is a serious mental condition, a personality disorder that can’t be remedied by couples therapy or family intervention. 

Traits commonly exhibited can include; a lack of empathy, no regard for the needs of others, pathological lying, and unrealistic fantasies of success, to name a few. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own self-importance and are disproportionately involved in troubled relationships.” 

Taking advantage of someone with whom they are married or partnered with comes as easy to a narcissist as breathing. But behind their facade of extreme confidence resides a frail self-esteem that crumbles under the slightest criticism.

Being married or involved with an individual like that is rife with pain and uncertainty for the partner as the narcissist will almost certainly blame them for anything that goes wrong with the relationship. 

Divorcing a narcissistic is a process that must be handled strategically lest you’ll be dragged into a quagmire fuelled by a broken individual who will do anything to win. They will always portray themselves as the victim. 

Don’t Be Drawn Back In 

While going through the divorce process, keep all communication to a minimum. The narcissist will lie, beg, seduce, literally do anything to gain an advantage in the process.

Don’t Respond

By responding to overtures or showing them that they can still affect you emotionally, that is a big win for them. Don’t take the bait. 

Anticipate Desperate Behaviour

By asking for a divorce, you have publicly removed the veil of perfection that the narcissist cloaks themselves in. They will not take this lightly and will use any tactic they can to cause a delay in the proceedings, additional court costs, and lay all blame for the dissolution of the marriage at your feet. You can’t be caught surprised by any of this. 

Be prepared as they will try and sabotage the whole process.

Hire the Right Lawyer

Dealing with a narcissist in a divorce is unlike dealing with a rational person, and that’s why mediation or a collaborative approach is often futile. 

As part of their tactics, they will focus on irrelevant issues. They will repeatedly delay hearings or not show up at all, and if things aren’t going their way, they will eschew subtleties and resort to blatant verbal abuse. You have to retain a lawyer who knows how the mind of a narcissist works. That lawyer will be your best bet in helping you through what will likely be a high conflict proceeding. 

The right lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean the most aggressive lawyer, as the narcissist will not mind a drawn-out elongating process. 

Most importantly, surround yourself with family and friends. People who care about you and will be there for you throughout the process.

Paul Riley is Managing Director at The Riley Divorce & Family Law Firm. The firm has offices in Toronto, Ottawa, and Kawartha Lakes and focuses on getting you out of bad relationships while protecting what’s most important to you.