Divorcing a Narcissist is the Ultimate Challenge

Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester

Being married to a narcissist brings a host of challenges. Some marriages survive despite great difficulty.

Others end in separation and ultimately divorce, especially those where one spouse’s narcissism is acute and makes life for the other too difficult to manage.

In marriage, there is the hope for perseverance. For “better or worse” is the sincere intention of every married couple who enters the union with love.

But what if the “worse” ends your marriage to a narcissist and begins the divorce?

In this article, we will discuss the top three misconceptions about divorcing a narcissist.

Spouses who divorce a narcissist are often not sure what to expect and we hope this article helps give some perspective on the subject.

Narcissists Are Always Aggressive in Divorce

Narcissism is about control and a narcissist attempts to gain control over everything and everyone, right?

Not exactly. Narcissism is about the perception of control and that is different than actually having it.

If a narcissist believes that being aggressive will give him or her the adolescent illusion of control over another person, he or she may take that tact.

But divorce may not offer that option especially when you consider lawyers, judges and, perhaps most importantly, the law are all players in the process.

Reading Suggestions: How to win a child custody case from a Narcissist?

That is why some narcissists don’t actively litigate divorce cases, don’t spend a lot money on lawyer’s fees and don’t invest many hours in a lawyer’s office or court.

Instead, some abandon the notion that the process has any control over them.

They stop paying support. They stop seeing the children during their custody time.

They stop following court orders and the delusion that the law does not apply to them kicks into their psyche as their way of “controlling” the situation.

What do you do if your spouse is such a narcissist? Court orders are not suggestions.

They are directives and come with consequences if there is a violation with them.

In California, violations of family law orders can result in fines, community service and even mandatory jail time. You should consult with an attorney in your State to find out your enforcement options.

Female Narcissists Are Less Reckless Than Their Male Counterparts

Since control is a big factor in a narcissism’s psychological makeup, male and female narcissists in traditional roles may treat divorce differently.

Male narcissists who fit the mold of the working spouse and “bread winner” have control over the finances during the marriage and often use that control in divorce.

Female narcissists who take the role of the homemaker and the one more actively involved in the day-to-day raising of the children can use divorce to leverage the children.

This results in strict gate-keeping and alienation.

Since children and custody cases are at the heart of many divorces, female narcissists can be just as dangerous as their male counterparts.

Conditioning the children to believe the father is a bad parent who should not be trusted,

actively alienating the children from the father and interfering with the father’s parenting time with the children (including violating court orders) are all common tactics of a female narcissist,

who intends to use the children to maintain a sense of superiority over the fractured family unit.

In such situations, fathers should learn the laws of their state and determine whether a transfer of custody is an option.

For example, in California, actively alienating the children, disparaging the other parent or violating the other parent’s rights can come with serious consequences including a custody modification that not only takes custody away from the mother but also orders her to attend parenting classes.

In extreme cases, the Court can even order monitored visitation to the mother.

You’ll Go Broke Divorcing a Narcissist

Emotions can run hot during a divorce. I like to tell fathers and mothers who are contemplating divorce to pick their battles wisely.

Only a fool spends nine dollars on a ten-dollar dispute and, despite the temptation to “fight at all costs”, such decisions more often than not end up costing both spouses more than they can afford or ever dreamed they would spend.

It doesn’t have to be that way just because you are divorcing a narcissist.

A well thought out strategy and budget between you and your divorce lawyer will help you not only set goals but also prepare for surprises along the way.

Most State’s laws offer some sort of punishment for unreasonable tactics or positions that drive up the costs of divorce litigation.

If your narcissist spouse is engaging in such conduct, consult with your lawyer about whether an attorney fee motion is appropriate.

If you find yourself in a dispute that is not worth the time and money, consider striking a settlement even if it means the narcissist gains the illusion of victory on some small issue.

Treating divorce in a businesslike manner and keeping the emotions out of it will help you manage fees and costs.

Letting those emotions dictate your decisions sucks you right into the narcissist’s destructive path and may cause you to make poor choices.

There is Hope…

Divorcing a narcissistic spouse doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

Good planning, strategy, a budget and keeping your decisions logical and reasonable can help you pave the way for a fair resolution and the start of a new successful chapter in your life.

About: Robert Farzad is a California divorce attorney and the president of Farzad Family Law, APC located at 1851 East 1st Street, Suite 1150, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Nothing contained in this article is intended nor should it be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney in your State if you have any legal questions about your specific divorce case.

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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?

18 thoughts on “Divorcing a Narcissist is the Ultimate Challenge”

  1. It took me five years of pure hell and hundreds of thousands legal and accounting fees to get a divorce from a sociopathic husband with narcissistic overtones. The law, lawyers, courts and accountants did very little to help. At least in Texas, you are on your own trying to escape an abuser. Divorcing these people is quite frequently a never ending nightmare. Mine lasted five years and he’s still causing a lot of problems. These people are pure poison and count yourself lucky just to get out. They will lie, cheat, still and do everything they can, knowing all your vulnerabilities, to make every day horrific for you and your children. If you think it was bad being married to one of these people, divorcing them is that, squared. Be ready and watch your back – and don’t count on a lot of help from your legal team, the courts or therapists. It is truly your own battle. In the end it is only you and your kids thst will live with the consequences in your finalized divorce and the toll getting there cost. Be ready for full scale war – open your own noninterest bearing checking account, get a po box, a go-phone, a couple separate credit cards in your name only, and start saving cash and stocking up on things you know you will need. Plan as far ahead as you can. Squirrel away as many resources as you can because chance are good he will do what he can to see you are forced to use everything you have just to survive.

    • I divorced one two and a half years ago. He told me before I left that he would make the kids hate me till the day I died. He now has my teenage daughter living there full time and she won’t speak to me as she does not trust me, and my ten year old son is very troubled. The court system here in Toronto is backed up and getting a court date for something minor takes up to 8 months.
      My life with him and since has been pure hell. I raised those two kids for 12 years singlehandedly until I left my ex, as he was just a lump on the couch.
      Now he is determined to take them away from me for good and have me pay child support.

      • This is also my story.

        I was the breadwinner. I left my toxic ex husband in May last year – he wouldn’t leave the matrimonial home until I paid him $80,000 plus a car and and extra $30,000 – it turns out I got fleeced. Then I had to remortgage the house, he took the kids, brainwashed them and they refuse to see me. I had a nervous breakdown, got fired from my job and escorted off the premises for saying “I wish I was dead” after losing my kids.

        I raised my kids singlehandly for 11 years and my toxic ex was unemployed, a lump on the couch. I would get home, the house in darkness, him asleep upstairs and the kids on the Xbox. Now I have lost my kids. Still out of work.

        But have wonderful new partner – moved interstate as kids refused visitation. I am also getting hit up for child support and my ex is threatening to take mine away for good.

      • Hi BB….I know this post is a couple of years after the fact, but I hope by now, your children are seeing you for who you are and not who your husband has manipulated your children into seeing his version of the story. I too, went through a similar situation, and although it took a few years, my children eventually realized what had happened, and today, we have a good relationship. They see who their father really is and what he was doing. Sadly, what you experienced is one of the most dificult things a mother can go through. I pray that things are already better, or if not, will get better soon.

        • I am going through this same thing. It is horrible. I should of just stayed. Any advice would be appreciated.

          • Staying is not the answer. It will only distort you further. They will drain your life completely- physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I myself came to the point that I had to say, ‘I rather starve’ then stay with this person. It was killing me, almost drove me crazy. Many have been able to make it out of this abuse, as difficult as it is. I hope that by now your decision was not to go back. The abuse will only escalate if we go back. For me it’s being very difficult, especially financially, but I’m holding on and trusting to make it through each moment. Its not over, but I’m on my way. I won’t give up to finding myself again. You can do it too. Look for Kim Wilson TV and Melanie Tonia Evans on You Tube. Also, Health After Narcistic Abuse, with Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D. These videos are very educating and encouraging. I wish you the best.

    • Hi lyn, omg 5 years ! I am just 4 months out of the marriage I had the police take him after stealing, lying and threats to destroy me and violence. When court came around I was very vunerable and everything was still foggy. I had a restraining order but stupidly had an undertaking. I am not working at the moment and am on social security payment and we have 3 young children he was seeing the kids sporadically and lied to social security say he had the children 100% and has threatening to destroy me so I am broke and homeless. Thankfully they didn’t believe his lies, and after my 8 yrs old daughter witnessing him using amphetimines I put a stop to him seeing them only supervised visits so that was that the kids hadn’t seen him for 6 weeks. Until yesterday morning he showed up to pick them up for school and said he will see them on the weekend. Im damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I have decided if he comes here and threatens me again I will record it and put a full avo in place !!! thing is hes very cunning he knows this. He doesn’t speak to me and vice versa but I know he is plotting something. What would you do in my situation thanks.

  2. Hi Nikki,

    I think the best thing that I did was to get a part time job. I did not tell anyone because as soon as he would found out (that I am getting my independence) he would make my life miserable. Try as much as you can stand on your own feet. Believe me it will get very messy. He will not stop at anything. Think of all the things he can do and plan accordingly. Do not just write down, but instead when he comes and threatens you, do something, call the police immediately and say he has, a history of violence and you had a restraining order previously. If it is true, say your life and children’s life is in danger, you never know what they are capable of doing. He will not stop at anything, I have been there. After you file for divorce they get very mad that they lost their control over you and in order to hurt you they try to use the kids to get to you. All I have to say after marrying a narcissist for 26 years and also five years of a long miserable divorce process, is that, stay away and as much as possible keep the kids away and safe from him. He will use and abuse the kids, the narcissist does not have a heart or conscious like the rest of us and only think about himself. My daughter told me few months ago Mom why did you not divorce Dad earlier and you let him destroy our life for so long (I was trying in my mind to keep the family together)? We all had to pay all our attention to him and he fought about everything. After divorcing him I no longer get a migraine (for 26 years I had migraines and for days I had to stay in bed). I have found a job and I am very happy that I do not have to live with a controlling, bad temper and a negative person who lies all the time. The kids are very happy and have not seen him for months. I loved my father he was a very warm caring person but a narcissist husband will never learn to be a good person let alone a good father.

    Good Luck

  3. Nikki,

    I do know that foggy feeling. I have it every time I come in contact with my ex. My advice – journal… Journal everything. If you are using an online journal like Penzu make sure to post pictures of texts, reference emails, etc. Journaling is my way of processing everything because when I am in the moment I do not always have a clear head – my goal is to live through the interaction. I sometimes journal the incident and write everything – my feelings, etc. I then go back and revise with facts and remove the emotional part of the journal. It has been 5 long years.. We have one child together. In those 5 years I have taken him to court once because he became employed. We have been to court over 20 times and in 3 counties because when he feels like he is being questioned from a judge he asked for the case to be moved. Just remember that narcissists need to “feed”. They need constant approval and control and that is usually through conflict. When you don’t battle with them they usually start to separate because they realize you are not a source for them to feed on. I know it is complicated, time consuming and difficult but the best thing you can do is show what you are capable of doing. He wants you broke and homeless but you can’t be broke and homeless if you work hard and stand up. Your children will find it as a good example. Good luck with everything!!

  4. I think I need to find a support group coming out of a relationship and divorcing a narcissist. Especially reading just how real it all really is and I’m not crazy like he tries to make me look. He has done everything mentioned and more! Emotional abuse is what I lived with for 18 years masked with material things and a facade I went along with. now still continue to deal with but in a divorce situation. Its on going. He decided to stop paying child support, took a job he can conceal, hiding assets in his new wife’s name( someone he didn’t even know a year and married 4 months after our divorce was final. Never told anyone about her, not even the kids until a month after they were married) now making people feel sorry for him because he tells me he can’t find work. He is the ultimate master manipulator. Because I won’t give in he is also very vindictive and let the car he was awarded be repo’d that he never took out of my name and bought himself a car in cash. He has gone and attempted to go against every bit of the court order. It’s very exhausting dealing with a narcissist.

    • Mine got a girl pregnant and moved her into our home 1 month after separation. We were married for 13 yrs. With my daughter who since then won’t speak to me or text me. This is the hardest thing I have ever went through and the only way I see to get out is to just let him have it all. And walk away. How do you walk away from your child. Ugh I also need a support group this last 7 months have been hell. And in August he will be having a baby with another women. And we are still married. Who does this. And of course it’s all my fault.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am married to one and all that you have experienced, I have seen and still experiencing. We are in the process of divorcing and he is manipulating his attorneys so badly its actually sad. He is extremely greedy, and highly controlling. Blessings for me as I am still working and am able to maintain myself and my kids. He married me for money / my properties. He is not even ashamed to tell whoever who cares to listen that it is his properties. I pray everyday for GOD to get me out of the marriage.

    There is no cure for this mental disorder. If you find yourself married to one, best solution is to RUN or learn to live and make peace with the abuse.

    • im 5 years into “life after being married to a narcissist” and my only goal now is the do what I can to make sure my 11yo son can get my support if and when he needs it. He lives with my ex-wife and is subject to many mistruths about me. I have only re-acquianted with my son after 10 months of total isolation after an argument I had with her regarding money. All I can do is stick to the plan on how to deal with narcissists and see my son as often as I can. Its never ending – every day is a new day and potentially a new way for the “attack” to come.
      I have only just gotten around to counselling as being a typical male had the belief that I didnt need any help. Best move ive ever made! Should have done it much sooner. Whilst nothing has changed nor have I been given ways to make her “better” i feel so much more in control of the situation because I am much more aware of what am dealing with. I dont care about how she is towards me, its my sons welfare that I am most concerned about. The bit of advice I keep referring back to from my counsellor is “dont try to arm wrestle a gorilla”. So in a weird sort of way I have accepted the fact that the gorilla will always be in the room, its my choice if I decide to arm wrestle it or not.

      • I’m so sorry, Monica. I’m going through a divorce with my Narcissist, but nothing like what you endured. I understand everything you said. I’m so sorry.

  6. I am 4 months into my divorce from my narcisstic husband. It’s a nightmare. We have a business and him and his daughter have fooled the attorneys and even the forensic accountant.

    They adjusted our inventory down over s million dollars and are letting the shelves get empty to justify their fraud.

    Each time I attempt to move something forward it feels like I’m hit in the face by his attorney.

    Low ball deals and false accusations are the norm here and I’m on my 2nd attorney now.

    Do I need to find a really aggressive attorney?

  7. I am in the last stage of my divorce to a narcissist wife where all that is required is a final letter to the court to end the marriage but no, she has avoided mediation to discuss finances and child custody to my 2 sons and as a result delaying the process such that it may now have to go to court according to my solicitors.

    Living in the same house during this entire process has been hell as she tries to alienate me from the kids and and tries to embarrass me before them to show me as a horrible father yet I am the one who spends most time with them, cook, cleaning, washing etc etc whilst she is hardly at home and returns very late almost every day from work.

    I have a good full time job but unfortunately was taken hospitalised for a month. On my return home having been discharged within a matter of a week or so they emotional abuse began again.

    I pray so hard daily that God would get me out of this marriage and out of this home with my young sons. I yet to get further advise from my solicitors to help with this but at the moment my narcissist of ‘a wife’ is being as difficult and stubborn as possible.

  8. I to have been there too, Wow how long. MWe meet in 1981 got married in 1983, got divorced in 2015, we have two children, son and daughter. Son have own apartment, daughter and her boyfriend are living with her dad’s. My daughter also has a baby girl. My first grandchild(granddaughter) I have waited till our kids were older so that he couldn’t take my kids from me but that didn’t work. He made it really easy for her to live with him, pay rent for 150 month. our daughter is cert. for RN nurse and she not been apply for job and boyfriend is working with her father, this is how he knows just how much they get every Friday so there can’t really save any money for a apartment or a house,so he will help them spend their money that they can’t really afford to, like he paid all four of them airplane ticket and rooms on a trip to an island(COZUMEL Mexico) my ex an I go there to do scruba diving for 10yrs, once or twice a yr, we also know people there. Well it turn out that he steal my plan by taking our kids there for their first time to meet my friend an my first grandchild, How bad is that oh also my daughter lied about saying to my girlfriend I have babysit my granddaughter, I think her father have all the saying in this story. I have not ever got to watch my grandbaby. I’m still lost on this story on why this is said. I have missed all the 4 birthdays, 3 Christmas morning opening gifts. This year I want to show up at Christmas morning just for my daughter,granddaughter and my son which he is the oldest(31yrs old). I have no restraining order on me and I would not messed this up just so I can see my kids, my first grandchild on Christmas morning. He been stealing my plans that we have talked about in the past of things to do with our kids for trip and sure things he did those stuff without me with our kids plus granddaughter that I not get to show my friends. We have not seen each other since we got divorce, I have been trying to get help for some things that would not fit in my car like a big miniature doll house build by me. He has a pick up truck that will work also my parent have passed away, he took my mother old cookbook of better home and garden cookbook the fourth edition, I was missing it when I moved out. he say he does not have it, we lived in the house for 30yrs. He has this thing about taking stuff from me like my car key’s when I was looking for job (at that year) was you have to find job’s on line then, he didn’t know that. He thought I was being lazy. He also took my pain medicine I have just got home from surgery on my head. I had a cochlear implants and I have lost my hearing when I was 5yrs old lost all my high pitch sound. I’m still living with this game he plays. He also a spend aholic. You know Carma will be behind you !!!


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