Why do narcissists delay divorce?

Marriages with a narcissist often turn sour, because the narcissist’s sense of entitlement, inability to take accountability for their actions, and excessive need for admiration are not conducive to a healthy relationship.

Eventually, the narcissist’s partner may decide that divorce is the best option. When divorce is on the table, the spouse hopes that they will finally be able to break free, without the narcissist creating chaos in their life any longer.

Unfortunately, the divorce process with a narcissist often becomes long and drawn out. The narcissist will use various tactics to delay the divorce proceedings, which only causes additional emotional and financial distress for the former spouse.

If you’re divorcing a narcissist, it’s helpful to understand why they use stall tactics during divorce.

Reasons for the stalling

It can be confusing for the narcissist’s former spouse when the narcissist stalls the divorce process. After all, with the way the narcissist treated their spouse during the marriage, it doesn’t seem like the narcissist even wants to be married! 

Despite the confusion, the reality is that narcissists often delay divorce, even if it seems like they have no interest in being married to you. They may treat you horribly, but narcissists feel they’re entitled to act this way. 

When you seek divorce, the narcissist might even be shocked, because they perceive themselves as so wonderful that they think people will tolerate their behavior endlessly!

In the midst of divorce proceedings, there are several reasons the narcissist will use stall tactics. I’ll explore these reasons below. 

#1 Need for control 

Narcissists thrive when they’re able to control others. Delaying divorce is a way of maintaining a sense of power over you. 

You might be seeking to end the marriage, but the narcissist still wants a mechanism to control you. 

#2 Master manipulation 

Narcissists are master manipulators, using manipulation tactics to control their spouse’s emotions. During the marriage, this probably alternated between charm and hostility to keep the partner’s emotions off balance.

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Now that you’re divorcing, the narcissist delays the process to continue manipulating your emotions. This makes them feel superior and feeds their fragile ego.

#3 To punish you

Narcissists are not fans of rejection, and initiating a divorce is understandably a form of rejection. The narcissist is likely to see divorce proceedings as an affront to their ego, and they cannot let you get away with hurting them in this way. 

So, they will drag out the divorce as long as possible to punish you. They get their revenge by creating obstacles and delays, making the divorce process as painful as possible.

#4 Financial abuse

Narcissists have no problem abusing others to get what they want. Unfortunately, financial abuse is no exception to this rule. 

Creating barriers to divorce can serve as a form of financial abuse. For instance, narcissists will intentionally drag out divorce proceedings so you incur additional legal expenses. 

Narcissists may also desire to remain married so they have access to your finances. Until the divorce is final, they still have some control over your assets and income, and they may wish to delay proceedings to maintain that control. 

#5 Concern for their reputation 

Narcissists need to maintain a pristine public image to hide their true nature from others. Divorce can be seen as a failure on their part, which can tarnish their reputation.

Rather than giving in and letting the divorce occur, the narcissist may delay proceedings as long as possible, hoping that you will agree to reconcile so they can maintain the facade of being an ideal spouse.

Alternatively, they may delay proceedings so they have time to craft a narrative that paints them as the victim and you as a bitter ex-spouse. 

#6 Avoiding loss of supply

Narcissists need sources of supply, who are willing to shower them with the love and attention they need. Narcissists rely on external validation and admiration to maintain their self-esteem, so they cannot go without supply.

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When you decide to divorce a narcissist, you’re removing a source of supply from their life. Once the divorce is finalized, you’re officially no longer available to praise and admire the narcissist. 

This means divorce is a tragic event for the narcissist because they’re losing a primary supply source. They may attempt to delay the divorce so they continue to have access to you as a supply source. 

#7 Abandonment fears

Narcissists put on a show of being confident and self-assured, but beneath the surface, they feel quite inadequate. They worry they can never measure up and be good enough, and they fear they will eventually be abandoned.

Because of their abandonment fears, narcissists are triggered when someone rejects or leaves them. They will delay the divorce as long as they can to avoid facing the painful reality that you’re leaving them. 

#8 Desire to reconcile 

Narcissists ultimately do not want to be left alone without a primary supply source, so they will delay proceedings to attempt reconciliation. Delaying the process gives them more time to get back in your good graces before the marriage ends. 

You’ve probably heard it all before, but they will promise to change as the divorce process moves along. They may agree to go to therapy, or give grand apologies, hoping you’ll give in and stay with them.

How to manage

So, what can you do to protect yourself if the narcissist is delaying divorce? There are several strategies you can employ to keep things moving along.

There may not be a perfect way to end stall tactics, but you can use the following strategies to stay on track.

#1 Seek expert legal support

You must find an experienced attorney who has dealt with narcissistic personalities previously. Chances are that divorce attorneys have experienced narcissism at one point or another.

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An expert attorney can offer invaluable advice and utilize legal strategies to minimize delays and manipulation.

#2 Maintain firm boundaries

If you’re divorcing a narcissist, you must establish and stick to firm boundaries. The narcissist will try to engage you in arguments or manipulate your emotions to stall proceedings, but you don’t have to participate in these games.

Keep your distance, and remind the narcissist that you are seeking divorce, and that fact is not open for discussion.

#3 Document everything

You can protect your interests by documenting all interactions with the narcissist. This means keeping records of financial transactions, text messages, and emails.

Having documentation can be critical in court proceedings and may result in orders that the narcissist cease harassing you. 

#4 Turn to support networks

Now is the time to lean on friends, family members, or even formal support groups to help you manage this emotionally exhausting time. You do not have to go through this legal battle alone.

Having support can soften the blow of the narcissist’s bad behavior. 


Narcissists are likely to attempt to delay divorce proceedings. Doing so gives them a sense of control and allows them to punish you for daring to end the marriage.

Also at play is the fact that narcissists ultimately do not want to lose their spouses, who are primary sources of supply. They also don’t want others to negatively judge them for having a failed marriage.

All of this means that the narcissist will drag on divorce proceedings, hoping to break you down emotionally or hoping that you’ll give in and reconcile the marriage so they can continue to use you for validation and maintain their public image as a loving spouse. 

Focus on your end goal, and try not to be sidetracked by the narcissist’s games. 

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