Do Narcissists Regret Divorce?

Divorcing a narcissist can be challenging for many reasons. Narcissists are known for their dramatic, sensationalized reactions.

They don’t react to feedback well and dislike anything threatening their sense of power and control.

Even though narcissists often appear unhappy in their marriage, not all want a divorce.

In many ways, a spouse reinforces ongoing narcissistic supply and may enable them to continue engaging in problematic behavior.

Having a family looks good to the outside world, and narcissists want to protect their image.

Narcissists respond to divorce in many ways. They may get angry, feel numb, try to retaliate against their ex-spouse, and sometimes act as if the situation doesn’t faze them. 

Do Narcissists Regret Divorce?

Do Narcissists Regret Divorce?

Few narcissists will acknowledge feeling regret about their divorce. Although narcissists can experience many emotions, regret requires a sense of personal accountability.

When someone feels regret, they blame themselves for how a particular outcome turned out.

People with narcissistic personality disorder don’t experience self-blame in the same way others do.

When they make a mistake, they project blame onto others. It’s rarely their fault, so they never think they do anything wrong.

And if they can absorb that they’ve made a mistake, they act like a complete victim of their circumstances.

In other words, even though a narcissist may recognize experiencing a loss, they rarely acknowledge how they contributed to it.

The empathy component is lacking. They are far more concerned with their own pain and suffering than the feelings of others.

Furthermore, most narcissists refuse to let others know how they’re feeling.

It’s much easier for them to slip into their false self, the one that’s self-centered with an inflated sense of ego and self-worth.

This is why they often have no problem laughing and smiling through the courtroom.

I advise you to read one of my other articles that explains better how to tell a Narcissist you want a divorce.

How Does a Narcissist React to Divorce?

How Does a Narcissist React to Divorce?

The narcissist’s reaction to divorce can vary based on the specific circumstances leading to the divorce.

If they initiated the divorce, they have already discarded the marriage. You are no longer useful to them.

They have either found another source of narcissistic supply– or they’re pretty confident they’ll be able to find someone new quickly.

However, if you initiate the divorce, the response is much different. A narcissistic spouse hates feeling blindsided- it’s vulnerable to them, and it jeopardizes the sense of control they feel over other people.

First, it’s not uncommon for a narcissist to try to prevent the divorce from happening altogether.

They might try to do this by engaging in various forms of narcissistic behavior, including:

Love-bombing You Again

Love-bombing can be cyclical within narcissistic abuse syndrome, which means narcissists may rely on it to convince their spouses that their love can be rekindled. 

This is where you can expect lots of gifts, kind gestures, and a reminder of how “good” they are.

See also  Will a Narcissist Come Back After Dumping You?

It can be tricky to navigate this, especially if you feel torn about whether you want to proceed with the divorce.

Remember that love-bombing never lasts for long- a narcissist will only do it when they think it’s necessary to secure your approval again.

Consider reading: How long does love bombing last?

Domestic Violence

Not all narcissists are physically abusive, but if there’s any history of this within your marriage, the risk increases at this time.

The narcissist wants to punish you for your actions, and they also want to prove that you shouldn’t mess with them.

Making Grandiose Promises to Change

Narcissists become quite ambitious when they feel threatened about losing something.

For example, if you’ve ever asked them to seek therapy in the past, they’re now telling you that they’ll give it a shot.

Or, if you’ve argued about having kids, suddenly they’re ready to be a parent.

Essentially, in telling you that they will change, they’re bribing you to stay by promising to give you what you treasure.

This doesn’t mean they actually intend to follow through with their word!

Threatening to Destroy You

When the narcissist senses that you’re serious about the divorce, they will likely become highly hostile.

They’ll threaten to ruin you financially. They’ll assure you that they’ll get full custody of the kids. And they’ll quickly try to secure the best lawyer they can find.

Smearing You to Your Loved Ones

The narcissist will have no problem badmouthing you to your friends and family.

This can sound like,

No matter how much I cared about her, I guess she never really loved me,” or, “I was in this for the long run, but he wasn’t serious about our commitment. It’s so heartbreaking.” 

They might also use this chance to bring up things you told them confidently.

For example, they might say,

“She’s been drinking again- she’s just not acting like her normal self. I really tried to help her, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it.” 

Triangulating You With Other Family Members/Children

Along with smearing you to others, narcissists tend to work hard to look like the “good guy,” especially if young kids are involved.

Their main goal is to show the outside world that you are the problem, and they were simply caught in an unfortunate crossfire. 

Self-destructing Themselves

Some narcissists will turn to dangerous vices, including substance use, disordered eating, self-harm, or other compulsive habits to cope with divorce.

They may then try to blame you for causing them to act this way. Or, even if they don’t blame you, they’re probably hoping you notice and feel guilty. 

Financial Abuse

narcissist’s behavior when it comes to money can become highly erratic during and just after a divorce.

They may start spending recklessly, opening up cards in your name, defaulting on loans, or moving money into secret accounts.

See also  The Narcissist and Second Marriage - Do They Remarry Quickly?

This is all an attempt to bring you down while securing their own interests.

Keeping Ongoing Tabs On You

Even when the divorce is long over, narcissists tend to still pay attention to what their ex-spouses are up to.

In extreme cases, this can come in the form of stalking. In milder cases, however, it might look like them following you on social media or reaching out to mutual connections to see how you’re doing.

How Does a Narcissist Feel After Divorce?

How Does a Narcissist Feel After Divorce?

Divorce can expose some of a narcissist’s truest vulnerabilities. Their marriage has fallen apart, and other people may be taking sides.

Things they value- such as their home, children, or shared assets, may now be at stake. And their everyday life has now been turned upside-down. 

Here are some of the common types of reactions a narcissistic spouse may have after a marriage ends:

Consider reading: Do narcissists love their children?

Rage

Narcissistic rage can peak during the early stages of the divorce process. It may even seem like they’re completely ruthless at this time.

They’ll do “whatever it takes” to tear you down, even if it means making themselves look terrible.

Extreme depression

Some narcissists, particularly vulnerable or covert ones, react to divorce by withdrawing from the outside world.

They want to make their ex feel guilty for what they have done to them. They will threaten things like ending their life, relapsing on drugs, or “never moving on.” 

Unfazed

Some narcissists present as entirely unfazed after a divorce. They may even act like they have no thoughts about marriage.

This is its own manipulative act- they care about you and what happened, but they don’t want to show anyone that.

Intense desire to move on as quickly as possible

It’s not uncommon for narcissists to jump into a serious brand-new relationship just after their marriage ends.

This concerns their fragile self-esteem and inability to cope with being alone.

Another person can give them the validation and distraction they need during this tumultuous time.

Entertained

You will likely see that some of the most intense narcissistic traits emerge during this time.

Many narcissists love chaos. The process of divorce litigation and wooing over family law attorneys and hashing out child support is like a game to them.

And because most narcissists are somewhat skilled at masking their true selves in public, they tend to be confident they’ll get what they want during the divorce proceedings.

Do Narcissists Regret Losing Their Family?

Do Narcissists Regret Losing Their Family?

Because narcissists experience and process the sense of regret differently than others, they can rarely sit with the feeling of loss.

Instead, those sad feelings turn to blame, rage, and desperately trying to “fulfill the void” as fast as possible.

See also  How Does a Narcissist React When You Stop Chasing Them?

Some narcissists may identify the grief associated with losing their family. But these emotions are self-serving and relatively superficial.

They’re often more preoccupied with damaging their public image or losing the people who validate their self-worth.

In almost all cases, they cannot blame themselves for what happened.

That said, narcissism lies on a large spectrum. People who have high insight into their NPD– and are actively working on bettering themselves- may be able to tune into a profound sense of deep regret.

By this point, however, it may be too late for them to atone for their actions. 

FAQ

Can Narcissistic Partners Actually Change?

Coping with a narcissistic spouse can be tiring, but part of you may be hopeful that the situation can improve.

It’s important first to understand that narcissism is a personality disorder, which means it’s primarily attached to their identity. Narcissism is how they’re used to acting in the world. 

While change is always possible, narcissists must be actively willing to change their self-centered approach and hold themselves accountable when they hurt others.

What’s the First Step for Divorcing a Narcissist?

Organize everything as much as possible. Most of the time, telling someone with NPD that you plan on ending the marriage is dangerous.

If physical or emotional abuse is present in the marriage, you’re at the greatest risk of being hurt when you try to leave.

Start saving copies of evidence that can help you in court. This includes emails, text messages, receipts- anything where there’s proof of narcissistic behavior.

The next step is to consult a qualified family law attorney with experience helping people navigate narcissistic divorce.

Not every divorce attorney understands the nuances of narcissism, and you want to ideally find someone who can help you as much as possible.

Is It Possible to Co-Parent with a Narcissist?

Having children with a narcissist undoubtedly adds complications to the divorce process.

Your former spouse will show their true colors during this time. Some will do whatever it takes to get custody of the children. Others will heartbreakingly act as if their own children mean nothing to them. 

The most important thing to remember is that co-parenting with a narcissistic parent will never look like an equal co-parenting relationship.

You will need to have substantial boundaries, focus on your child’s best interests, and keep things as legal as possible.

Is It Worth Trying Couples Counseling with a Narcissist Before Divorcing?

If you’re considering divorcing a narcissist, you might wonder if therapy could help first. In most cases, couples therapy doesn’t change narcissistic abuse. 

Narcissists are skilled in telling people what they want to hear. They will often come across as charming and compliant in sessions.

They may even express remorse and discuss how they will do things differently. But, as you know, it will be a different story at home. 

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