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.
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, with them, come consequences if there is a violation. 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 the 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.