A faint, bittersweet smile crosses your lips as you remember the good times you used to have with your spouse; you wonder what went wrong and how it got so bad. But the truth is, you have felt alone even when he is beside you, for a very long time now. You may sleep in the same bed, but you may as well be on opposite sides of the ocean. You are afraid to tell him these feelings and thoughts for fear he will become angry or isolate himself the way he does (giving you the “silent treatment”, acting like you are invisible). All of the memories you have of exceptionally wonderful times, the special times you two initially shared, have been replaced by a sense of relentless fear. Every time you would get closer to him, he’d push you away. He blames you for everything that goes wrong and never, ever accepts responsibility.
Good relationships can make life more satisfying and interesting. Bad relationships, on the other hand, can be extremely stressful and put your life in turmoil. Although good, healthy relationships do require work, some relationships are basically unhealthy and will not improve with time and effort. This latter category includes relationships that involve one spouse who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Healthy relationships entail a balance of give-and-take. Expecting a give-and-take relationship with a narcissistic spouse is unrealistic; you will simply be enmeshed in an unhealthy, one-sided relationship.
What are some of the difficulties that you might encounter in a narcissistic relationship?
♥ Your spouse is unemotional; he doesn’t express any genuine feelings.
♥ He doesn’t understand or else disregards your feelings.
♥ The narcissist doesn’t listen and doesn’t want to hear your problems.
♥ Your spouse belittles, criticizes and insults you. According to him, you can never do anything right.
♥ He doesn’t understand your reactions or disappointments-he can’t put himself “in your shoes”.
♥ The narcissist ignores or blocks you from communication.
♥ Your spouse will only do what he wants to do.
♥ He goes into rages if you aren’t compliant with every demand.
♥ He distorts and turns around everything good that you do for him to make it negative.
Life can be truly difficult living with a narcissistic spouse and they are likely to get worse, not better, with time. Can a marriage be saved when a narcissist is involved? In some cases, yes (depending on the severity of the NPD and if he wants to change) if you seek professional help with a therapist experienced in narcissistic relationships. You say “things are really bad” but what if you aren’t certain about divorcing him? Let’s look at some situations where the professional advice would consistently be, “leave”.
When divorcing a Narcissist is a Must!
- Your spouse is diagnosed with “malignant NPD”. These men have the most severe form of NPD and are characterized by a pathologically unrealistic sense of superiority, a lack of conscience, cannot regulate their behavior and demonstrate cruelty/sadism. They are sometimes referred to as psychopaths or narcissistic sociopaths. They are vindictive and malicious.
- Your spouse physically abuses you.
- He emotionally abuses you. For example, his jealousy may reach the point where he has to control your every move and he isolates you from family and friends.
- You fear his rages. You are worried for your safety and/or your children’s safety.
- He engages in multiple infidelities that put you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. This is even more so if he refuses to wear a condom or rapes you.
If you’ve tried therapy and it hasn’t worked, or if you have decided you just cannot take it anymore and you want a divorce, there needs to be careful planning.
How to Divorce a Narcissist?
Planning has never been as important as it is when you have decided to divorce a narcissist. Be sure to get your affairs in order and get emotionally prepared for a battle before you tell him you want a divorce. Remember: they are masters at deceit. Do not give him a “heads up” that you are “thinking about” a divorce. That gives him time to drain the bank accounts and change documents. You will need financial assets for yourself and your children. Make sure you have access to all family funds and accounts. Unless there is a “pre-nup” or inheritance, all family money belongs to both of you. Make sure your name is on the title to the house and your car. Fighting a narcissist in court can be very expensive.
Keep quiet and do not ‘run and tell everyone’ about the impending divorce. Tell only those you will use as your support system during the divorce. That is essential- the divorce will be rough emotionally so make sure to have a good support system of close friends, family members and/or a therapist. Interview attorneys and have your plan in place before you tell your husband.
In today’s world, social media is being used in the courtrooms. Do not post anything, anywhere that you would not want the court to see.
Document everything. Do this without letting him know or you will enrage him even further. Document the insults, the lies, his disparaging remarks about you to the children, his attempts to ‘brainwash’ them against you, anything you think may be used in court.
Negotiate the retainer. Most family law attorneys overcharge. Try to find one that will give you a little breathing room in terms of finances as this will be a long, expensive fight.
Your narcissistic spouse will become enraged when they find out and will probably want to punish you. Those feelings can go for a very long time. It is typical that the narcissist will also escalate his abuse and manipulation. His lies may be bolder, insults more threatening and his need for control even stronger. He will think nothing of depleting assets to pay for attorneys to keep this in court until every penny is gone. The narcissist won’t stop until you have nothing (if he can) as he feels you are worthless and deserve nothing. He will show no mercy and disparage and malign you; your narcissistic spouse will tell outright lies to the courts, both attorneys, to friends, and to your children.
The narcissist will blame you for the failed marriage or for bad parenting in order to “win” in court. Winning is more important to him than what is best for the children. They will resort to anything to make you look bad in court.
Protection strategies divorcing the narcissist
- You do NOT need face-to-face communication in today’s world, even if children are involved. Avoid situations where abuse can occur. Stand firm about this. If you must pick-up or drop off children, stay in the house or car.
- Email is the best method to communicate. That way, everything is in writing.
- Cell phone texting is also a good way, especially for immediate information, as long as you forward the text messages to an email account so you will have a written record.
- Consider a digital recorder to record conversations with an abusive spouse. But check state laws first for notification laws. It is not generally a good idea to tell them you are recording them as that will often result in a narcissistic rage. Recorded conversations are generally for your own sanity and will only be listened to by yourself and maybe your attorney.
Whether they file for divorce or you do, the narcissist will attempt to remain in control of as many things as they can. They will work over-time to control how child support is spent, how child visitation is handled and any other co-parenting decisions. How much emotional abuse and financial damage he can inflict on you will depend on how you respond to him. If you give the narcissist any sympathy, fear, weakness or confusion the narcissist will pounce on it and continue his cycle of abusive behavior.
An important thing to remember is that spouses cannot change their abusive partner’s behavior. Set up boundaries and stick to them. If you are dealing with an abusive spouse, minimize or avoid situations that allow the abuse to occur.