How to Tell a Narcissist You Want a Divorce?

Last Updated on June 28, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester

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All of the memories you have of exceptionally wonderful times, the special times you two initially shared, have been replaced by a sense of relentless fear.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.

Difficulties In The Relationship With The Narcissist

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”.

7 steps to divorce a narcissist husband

When divorcing a Narcissist is a Must!

1. 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.

2. Your spouse physically abuses you.

3. 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.

4. You fear his rages.

You are worried for your safety and/or your children’s safety.

5. 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.

6. 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.

1. Be sure to get your affairs in order and get emotionally prepared for a battle before you tell him you want a divorce.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

How Will The Narcissist React On Divorce?

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

1. 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.

2. Email is the best method to communicate. That way, everything is in writing.

3. 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.

4. 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 narcissistic rage.

Recorded conversations are generally for your own sanity and will only be listened to by yourself and maybe your attorney.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

19 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.

    • 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!

  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.

  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 ..

    • 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!

    • 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!

  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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

  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.

    • 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….

  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.

  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.

  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

    • 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.

  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.

  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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