How to Tell a Narcissist You Want a Divorce?

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You’ve been married to a narcissistic partner who consistently belittles you, disregards your feelings and needs, and prioritizes their own self-interests. 

Despite numerous attempts at counseling and communication, their manipulative behavior and lack of empathy persist, causing significant emotional distress and an unhealthy environment. 

Recognizing the toxic nature of the relationship and prioritizing your well-being, you decide to ask for a divorce but don’t know how to go about it without angering your partner.

When telling a narcissist you want a divorce, keep your communications clear and assertive and prepare for potentially manipulative tactics.

You should also ensure you have legal and emotional support before embarking on this turbulent journey.

In this article, I will explore the challenges people face when ending a marriage with a narcissist and how you can successfully navigate the negotiations necessary to bring the relationship to an end. 

How to Tell a Narcissist You Want a Divorce?

To successfully divorce a narcissist, you need a concrete plan, a steely mindset, and a dependable support system.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are tricky to deal with due to their manipulative tendencies, lack of empathy, and need for control.

Telling a narcissist you want a divorce will be a complex and challenging journey, but the following points will help you navigate it successfully: 

#1 Be Emotionally Prepared

Prepare yourself for resistance, defensiveness, or attempts to guilt-trip, gaslight, or manipulate you.

Read a few articles about narcissists and their personality disorders to understand better what you’ll be dealing with and what motivates their behavior. 

Throughout your negotiations, focus on staying calm and assertive.

#2 Stay Focused 

Don’t let yourself get distracted by the narcissist’s attempts to derail you. Stick to your guns and communicate clearly, using simple, unambiguous language.

Ignore the narcissist’s attempts to shift blame or divert the conversation. Maintain your stance and assert your need for a divorce firmly.

#3 Seek Support

Contact friends and family members, asking for their support and guidance. You might also want to involve a counselor or therapist who can help you prepare for the initial confrontation or even guide you and your partner through the process.

A solid support network will give you courage and help you make informed decisions. 

The following example isn’t a script for asking a narcissist for a divorce.

Still, it should give you some ideas about how to organize your thoughts and feelings into a simple statement that highlights your main points without becoming confrontational:

Example How to ask for a divorce from a Narcissist

“This isn’t easy, but I’ve realized our relationship is no longer healthy and fulfilling.

Although it will be tough, we should consider separating and moving forward with our lives independently. I’m sure you want the opportunity to find happiness just as much as I do.

Please understand that this decision doesn’t reflect your worth or mine. It’s about recognizing that we have different needs and desires.

I know we’ve tried to work through our differences, but as far as I can see, we’ve been unable to find a mutually agreeable resolution.

I hope we can approach this process with respect and dignity, taking the advice of legal professionals to heart so we can determine a fair and equitable way to move forward.

I understand this may surprise you, and emotions may be running high. However, we need to seek happiness and personal growth independently. I hope we can find a way to navigate this process amicably.”

How To Ask for a Divorce From a Narcissist?

Choose the setting and location carefully, prioritizing your emotional and physical safety.

Do you want to break the news in your home, or would it be safer to broach the subject on neutral territory?

If you fear potential retaliation, consider involving a therapist, counselor, or legal professional to help ensure your safety during the divorce process.

Spend some time thinking about precisely what you want to say. This is no time to beat around the bush – that will only give the narcissist more wriggle room, leading to endless games and manipulation tactics. Keep your sentences concise and stick to the point. 

The more you embellish, the more opportunities you give the narcissist to talk you out of your decision.

Keep the following points in mind as you plan how to ask for a divorce from a narcissist:

#1 Keep the focus on Yourself

Rather than criticizing your partner or highlighting their shortcomings, focus on your relationship experiences and how their behavior has affected you.

This will help you avoid unnecessary conflict or drama, which the narcissist thrives on. 

#2 Stick to the Facts

Rather than making general accusations, focus on specific instances and reinforce your position with concrete evidence wherever possible.

This approach will give the narcissist less opportunity to deflect or gaslight you while keeping the conservation focused on specific problems. 

#3 Maintain your Composure

It can be challenging to remain calm when dealing with a narcissist who only wants to provoke a reaction and gain the upper hand.

By staying calm and composed during discussions and refusing to engage in their tactics, you can maintain your emotional stability while retaining a position of strength.

How Will the Narcissist React to the Divorce?

Divorce can spotlight a narcissist’s worst traits and behaviors, although it can be difficult to predict exactly what happens when you tell a narcissist you want a divorce.

Of course, each individual is different, but there are some common reactions you can expect from a narcissist, which include:

Denial and Disbelief

The narcissist may refuse to acknowledge your decision or minimize the significance of it, attempting to invalidate your feelings and undermine your choice.

Manipulation and Gaslighting

Narcissists are skilled at manipulating situations to their advantage. They may employ tactics such as gaslighting, making you doubt your experiences and perceptions.

They may try to guilt-trip you, play the victim, or use emotional manipulation to regain control or sway your decision.

Anger and Aggression

The narcissist’s sense of entitlement and need for control can lead to aggressive behavior because they have to face up to losing their perceived power.

They may become confrontational, engage in verbal attacks, or even resort to threats or acts of retaliation to maintain control or intimidate you.

Hoovering or Love Bombing

Some narcissists may attempt to win you back or regain your attention by employing tactics like hoovering or love bombing.

They may shower you with compliments, promises, or extravagant gestures to entice you into reconsidering the divorce. It’s important to recognize these behaviors as temporary and potentially manipulative.

Smear Campaigns

Narcissists may use smear campaigns to damage your reputation or turn others against you.

They might spread rumors, make false accusations, or engage in character assassination to assert control, create doubt, or seek revenge.

Long Legal Battles

Narcissists may use the divorce process to exert control and prolong the proceedings.

They may be unwilling to negotiate or compromise, leading to protracted legal battles and attempts to financially or emotionally drain you.

What will the narcissist do when you ask for a divorce? Everything is in their power to undermine you, so it’s critical to anticipate their potential reactions and prepare yourself accordingly. 

Seek legal advice, gather support from trusted individuals, and prioritize your emotional well-being throughout the divorce process.

Maintaining clear boundaries, documenting incidents, and staying focused on your goals will help you navigate the narcissist’s reactions more effectively.

Will a Narcissist Agree to Divorce?

Narcissists won’t readily agree to anything that damages their public image, and as divorce implies rejection and failure, they’re liable to do everything they can to prevent it.

They will cling to the marriage like a drowning person clings to a life raft and employ various tactics to stall the process. These may include:

Resistance 

Due to their need for control and their grandiose self-perception, many narcissists may initially resist the idea of a divorce.

They may deny or downplay the issues in the relationship, believing they can manipulate or convince you to stay.

They may employ tactics such as gaslighting or guilt-tripping to make you reconsider or question your decision.

Trying to Maintain an Image 

Narcissists often prioritize their public image and may be concerned about the potential negative impact of a divorce on their reputation.

To avoid this, they may try delaying the process or using manipulative behaviors to try and make you change your mind.

Challenging Negotiations

When it comes to the practical aspects of the divorce, such as the division of assets or custody arrangements, narcissists may resist to compromise.

They may view the divorce proceedings as an opportunity to exert control or seek revenge, leading to protracted and contentious negotiations.

Ultimately, each narcissist and situation is unique, and there is no guarantee of how they will respond to divorce.

It’s crucial to consult with legal professionals, gather a robust support system, and prioritize your well-being and safety throughout the process.

How do you Outsmart a Narcissist in a Divorce?

Before ending a marriage with a narcissist, think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to be free of the controlling relationship you’re currently in, or do you want to get the better of your partner? 

Divorce is a serious and complex business, so you should only begin proceedings if you’re confident you know what you want out of it.

Trying to outsmart a narcissist in a divorce might be tempting, but it’s unlikely to be the most successful approach. 

Narcissists are expert manipulators with plenty of experience in controlling and using situations to their advantage.

If you try to outsmart a narcissist, you’re setting yourself up for defeat. They will use your tactics against you and take charge of the situation. 

Rather than trying to outsmart the narcissist, adopt an approach that will disarm them. Divorce attorney Robert Farzad has a helpful mantra for people seeking advice on divorcing a narcissist – “Stop feeling and start thinking.”

The moment you respond emotionally to anything the narcissist does or says, you start losing ground. 

Forget about outsmarting your soon-to-be ex, and focus on your goal, which is to have the freedom to live life without someone else controlling or manipulating you for their gain. 

How to Get a Narcissist to Divorce You?

Narcissists often try to sabotage divorce proceedings to maintain control and keep your attention focused on them.

Getting them to agree to a divorce could be challenging as they’ll see it as a blow to their self-esteem, which could cause them to retaliate. If this happens, stick to your guns, protect your boundaries, and focus on self-care. 

You can get a narcissist to divorce you if you can convince them you’re no longer a valuable narcissistic source. The best way is to shift your energy towards personal development and growth. 

Demonstrating independence and self-confidence may inspire the narcissist to feel threatened by your increasing sense of self-worth and recognize that controlling you isn’t as easy as it once was, which could lead them to consider divorce more favorably. 

You can also keep reinforcing your boundaries and refusing to engage in their power play and manipulation.

This will help to create an uncomfortable environment that will encourage the narcissist to consider divorce. 

Do Narcissists Ever Want to Divorce?

Narcissists usually struggle with accepting or initiating divorce. Their need for control and fear of rejection makes it an undesirable outcome for them, but there are some circumstances in which a narcissist may consider a divorce.

For example, suppose the narcissist feels they’re losing control over the relationship or their partner is asserting too much independence. In that case, they try to regain power and control by initiating a divorce. 

Narcissists rely on a narcissistic supply, so if they find a new source of validation and admiration elsewhere, they may seek a divorce to pursue this new source. 

Narcissists care deeply about how others perceive them and will be more willing to consider divorce if they believe it will enhance their image or boost their reputation. 

Even if a narcissist initiates the divorce, it doesn’t mean it all be plain sailing.

They may still use tactics such as gaslighting, manipulation, or attempting to portray themselves as victims to maintain control or manipulate the situation to their advantage.

Why is Divorcing Narcissists so Painful?

How narcissists respond to divorce proceedings makes the process extremely challenging and painful.

Initially, they might try to manipulate you into changing your mind while convincing you that you’ll never find anyone as good as them.

If that approach doesn’t work, they may try blaming you for everything that went wrong in the relationship until they’ve destroyed your self-esteem to such an extent that you no longer have the energy to pursue the divorce. 

Narcissists will try to sabotage the process, such as creating false narratives, manipulating you with money, or using your child as a pawn.

They will refuse to compromise and engage in prolonged legal battles to exert control or seek revenge. This makes the process longer and increases the potential for emotional distress. 

The psychological and emotional distress the narcissist exposed you to during the relationship makes the process even more painful, as the trauma and emotional scars left over from this abuse are likely to resurface, adding to the overall pain and distress.

21 thoughts on “How to Tell a Narcissist You Want a Divorce?”

  1. Women are narcissists too.As a man divorcing a NPD wife, it’s difficult to read your article with all of the masculine pronouns referencing the NPD person because I have to sub in “her” in each spot in my head. FYI. Please be flexible with pronoun assignation. Otherwise the implication could be inferred that this is a problem predominately found in men–which is of course actually the opposite of what’s true. Statistically NPD is found more in women.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • My NPD wife was a NURSE!, and raised emotional/psychological/financial abuse to an art form. Indeed this NPD is wild among professional women. These are the same women who ask “where are all the good men at?” And boy they’re sly. But Fellows, you will heal and life becomes sweet, but roll up you’re sleeves for it WILL be difficult!

      Reply
  2. This article has helped me greatly, but I too had to swap the ‘He’ with a ‘She’. Throw into all the above the physical and emotional abuse and you have the perfect storm. I have been on the receiving end more that once of a physical assault, but its always downplayed because I should be man enough to take it. What’s most challenging in this type of relationship is for the person on the receiving end whether they are male or female, to keep their perspective and focus on keeping their own heads in the zone of reality, without being convinced by the other that they are the ones with the issues. Dealing with a person with NPD can really do you head in and cause you to question your own reason for being.

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  3. Living with a narcissistic person is he’ll on earth. I took me 20 years to figure out why I always felt so burdened with life. I was being a puppet to a person who couldn’t be pleased. Now I am living with him and our adult children who are as demanding as he is not to mention spoiled entitled and lazy as he is and I am blaming myself because I was blind to what was off about him. I have my own issues due to my parents and there choices and I was he** bent on not doing the same damage as my parents did to me. No I did much much worse. This monster is feeding off of my soul and I am empty. I need professional help to divorce him as I know he will inflict as much pain as he can and play victim. I will take the fall as his personal scapegoat. Why should I care because having a family and a home was my dream. These people will find there victims and play them like a drum. The verbal abuse I get from him and our daughter is too much they both blame me for what goes wrong with there life. She is my daughter and I love her but she is just like him and I don’t trust anyone now thanks to him pointing out how my mother will use me worse then he does. I question why I was even born just to be someone’s sucker. . Do I deserve this or can I be loved. I know I need to let go of this and live my life. This worthless feeling is all I have known. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and mine is derailed ..

    Reply
    • Kristin, I am sorry for what you are going through. Living in a very similar situation, I know firsthand the manipulation and emotional abuse that destroys our soul. I am writing to let you know you are not alone but if you are like me, it is a lonely life. The Narcissist behavior is almost impossible to explain to friends and family.
      I hope you find love, peace and joy in your ver near future.
      May God bless you!
      Sherry

      Reply
    • Dear Kristin,
      I hope that the worthless feeling is getting/going to be replaced by a feeling of self-worth. You owe it to yourself and your daughter. You are the most important female role model in her life. Don’t ever belittle your importance.
      I hope you find the strength to find your awesomeness.
      take care and God be with you!

      Reply
  4. I am very sad at what I have read there has to be help and hope for woman living like this it just terrifies me these men are so powerful and dangerous too.My ex goes to work everyday to the same place for over 25 years and they do not know him that’s how good they are at deceit.

    Reply
  5. He is all the above, I’ve just been to nice and we got married a year ago. I don’t look up have lost all my friends. It’s so scared I am soooooo Depressed. I’m scared to tell him. I don’t talk I use to work out but being a cunt and whore is all I was because I looked up. Oh God Help me. Please I need support.

    Reply
    • Linda,
      I am sorry you are going through this. I am divorcing my husband. Here is what I am learning so far.

      You must plan, as stated somewhere in the site. I know you have been suffering for a long time and when your eyes open up, you suddenly want to run from the monster you have been sleeping next to.

      Control the impulse. IF you don’t have kids, you have more leeway.

      Put away cash. Very little, here and there. Mine could smell the money in my jeans so this did not work for me. He is hyper sensity, hyper aware.

      Have an emergency plan. If your life feels threatened, call the police, report it. Record sexual abuse whether or not you are ready to report it. Record EVERYTHING! It helps you establish patern and reinforce you reasons for breaking the hold.

      If you have kids, I am sorry you have not friends to look after them as you go through this. The money comes in here. He will not give you a dime unless he is forced and after that, don’t count on it. Plan for the worst.

      WHen you do leave, cut off all verbal communication. He will slip, trust me, and if it is in email, it is recorded.

      We have learned to roll over for narcs and be honest to them so that THEY don’t feel threatened. YOU have to learn to not be transparent. Guard your thoughts, guard your heart. You are dealing with a master manipulator.

      Reply
  6. I am now 3 years divorced from a 12 year long relationship with a narcissistic man. Now that I am on the outside of it, it should have been clearer to me. But being with this man since I was 17, it was all I ever knew.

    Emotionally, it is so taxing. I never wanted to put my children through a divorce. But I was thinking suicide. And my children mean more to me than my suffering being over, so I chose my kids. They didn’t need to be his targets for having to “endure” us. He was a drinker, as well. We were just along to be able to spend “time” with dad. There was no love there. Only a love of a stunning image. Which I kindly reminded him about every morning over retching from the night before.

    Now, I am married to a man who respects me. And loves me. Like, REALLY LOVES ME. I would never go back to what was. Ever.

    I do not condone divorce. I hate divorce. Divorce sucks ass. But I know I made the right choice for my girls and I.

    Reply
  7. I am going through a divorce from an NPD. While we dont have children, its dragging out. I am stuck with all the financial responsibilities. I have to wait for a judge to decide and mediation, which just keeps getting the date changed…. 5 year marriage, no kids… its been almost a year. I have a decent income, and a good profession, and im living with family and cannot even afford to move out on my own. I feel like I am losing everything while he sits like a king on the throne. Ive had all i can take and I dont know what to do anymore. I was miserable in our marriage. It felt like a roommate. There was no love, no sex, nothing. And when I tried talking about things he would financially abuse me, and avoid me. I never knew what was coming next. He even stole my gun, and I feared living with him. I feel like im being punished and I can hardly make ends meet.

    Reply
    • Jennifer, after 4 years of hell I am now starting the process. this has to stop public awarness….there has to be a law that these NPD’s both male and female are NEVER allowed to marry in any state….

      Reply
  8. My narcissistic ex stopped sleeping with me in 2001 and had been talking about divorce since 2007. I decided to go to school and use my student loans to pay for the divorce. We divorced in January of 2013. It was messy because most of our retirement went missing and he can’t prove where it went. I used my student money to pay for mediation and he signed a document giving me a van (paid for with my student loan funds), the house and what was left of the retirement. I thought that $30K was enough to start my new life.

    Of course, when we got home from court he decided that he needed my vehicle or else he’d lose his job and be unable to pay child support. I gave him the van (partly because I’d been finding gps boxes on it and wanted a fresh start). He told me that he spent half of the retirement funds that he was supposed to give to me. A few weeks later he was injured on the job so he couldn’t move out of the house.

    Here I am, nearly 18 months post divorce. My ex still lives in his basement apartment (just like he did when we were married). Every time I have a job interview, one of his relatives will stalk me. The latest trick involves a relative blocking the garage door so I cannot get my car. I stopped telling people about my interviews and, luckily, found a part-time job that pays a little more than minimum wage.

    I don’t know what to do other than scrimp and save for another lawyer to talk to him for me as we cannot communicate. He promises to go into therapy (just like he did when we were married) but denies the harassment on the part of the family. I’m nearly ready to beg the court to let the children and I move out of state.

    I seriously underestimate the trickiness of dealing with someone with narcissistic traits and wish I had found your article earlier. Thanks for writing it.

    Reply
  9. These are very good points about divorcing a narcissist. I was married to one for almost 20 years. In my case he discarded me for a young cop co worker. Back then I did not know that this fact saved my life. He left, depleted all accounts , stopped paying the mortgage, our sons college tuition etc. and if he went with his little minion on cruises, trips, lavish dinners and gifts. I finally had it. I hired a good male attorney and filed for divorce. I should have read this article long before because financially I had to depend on my mother now. She was happy to help me get out of this crazy making marriage. We paid whatever it took. My ex under estimated me. I cut of all contact , only through attorneys and cut out all emotions. I had to think with my brain ,not my heart. I hurt him where it hurt most. I was awards permanent alimony. He now has to pay for being evil. Hd now has to face the consequences of being a liar and a cheater. His only son wants nothing to with him. He go what he deserved. Thank god go good powerful attorneys who look out for your interests. I could have not done it without having him. As for me , my life is good now. Peaceful , sand and happy. More than I could have ever asked for. As for him, he can now lie, cheat And betray his new minion. Thank god she crossed his path. I have my life back. My only regret is I should have done it 10 years ago. I wasted 20 years with a loser. An idiot who made me a choice. I was his wife And not a choice.

    Reply
  10. Yep my husband is a narcissist…but I can’t even have a conversation with him….should I just move out? I can’t sleep I am so drained and it is affecting my job…we haven’t had sex in 12 years omg! I WANT OUT

    Reply
    • Hi Mary, get out! I am doing so. We haven’t had sex in 6 years but I recently found evidence he is sleeping with other people after suspecting it for about 8 years. TBH the lack of sex together and the fact he is cheating is at the bottom of my concern list because the drip drip drip of the emotional abuse and how it’s affected me and the kids is much more important
      I know what you mean about not being able to have a conversation. My husband thinks a conversation is him ranting on about what he wants and how he feels and I can barely get a word in edge ways. He has his own way of making even the most obvious bullshit sound reasonable and then I begin to doubt myself. He is impossible to rationalise with. I stopped bothering to try and put my point of view across about 15 years ago because he would just slate any of my views and put me down and it always ended up being his way anyway. In the end, as I hate confrontation and I would end up crying, I just stopped challenging him and went with whatever he said in order to keep the peace and so the kids wouldn’t get upset.
      My husband is also very angry at pretty much everything, he causes his own misery but of course blames everybody else. Usually everything is my fault, failing that it’s society’s fault, the governments fault etc but never ever anything to do with him!
      I am going as I don’t want another 20-30 years of this crap and I want my confidence back. I also realise now what a crap example he is for the kids and what a bad example I am showing by staying in such a bad relationship.

      Reply
  11. Am about to begin divorce proceedings against my narcissist husband of 23 years. Am not looking forward to the process but I know I need to stay strong. I cannot continue in this one sided abusive relationship any more.
    Unfortunately there is no spare money in the marriage and we will be forced to remain under the same roof until the house is sold. I don’t know how that is going to work out.
    Our son has moved out and has his own life but we still have 17 year old daughter at home. I intend to find a place for me and her, I earn enough to do this once I don’t need to pay for current home. I am the main breadwinner earning over 3 times his salary but he has financially abused me for years and also his own 90 year old father. His own father is supporting me with the decision to divorce. I know it’s a long road ahead and am dreading telling him I am filing for divorce because I really don’t want that conversation. Keeping fingers crossed that this time next year I will begin my real life.

    Reply
    • stay strong. you are on the right path that I am only just embarking on. my wife is a narc and I am a super empath. I have not yet found the courage to leave as we have kids but if we didn’t I woukd hav ebern long gone. I have to therefore plat my cards right to get out of this marriage with minimal affect on my kids. I could happily walk away today but having 5 kids with a narcissist means either I can’t cope with all 5 or she can’t. it’s not fair on them to split them up so I have to consider the lesser of all evils but either way I know I can’t stay in this relationship/marriage ad I will become as negative as her. 2 punched to the face a couple fo weeks ago was my wake up call. been together 12 years and married for 2 but first time she ever attacked me physically. if I was a lesser man I’d have punched her back but its not in my nature to be a prick and woman beater. I’d rather leave e tha retaliate

      Reply
  12. Soon to be ex husband is a narssacist an study’s shows that mean and women are both capable of being narsascist my ex was physically and emotionally abusive he raped my 6 year old and strangled me of it wasn’t for my son calling for help I probably wouldn’t be here his name is Timothy Tyler cook everyone calls him tyler cook

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  13. it would be nice if it wasn’t 9/10 blogs I read that imply the narcissist us the male. I am married to a narcissistic woman and I am a super empath. we have 5 kids and I am looking for advice on what to do, as I do not want to be in this marriage anymore. I should have trusted my intuition years ago but only recently learned I am a super empath. I try to look at the advice but it’s demotivating to see all bloggers talk about tye man being the narc. it’s not always the man. my narc wife pinched me in the face twice a couple of weeks ago as I didn’t share our kids’ dinner how she wants me to share it out. I wad close to leaving then but didn’t retaliate as I was raised better than to ever hit a woman, even though I do bodybuilding and could easily leave her unconscious. my integrity means more to me but if I leave im leaving my 5 kids with a narc mother who will turn them against me and use them as weapons to get one over on me. worst part is I am not worried about me as I’m fiercely independent but i worry what will happen if I walk away and leave my kids here. I’ll have to move close by hut even that worries me

    Reply

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