One of the most common complaints we hear from our clients going through a divorce is “my ex is a narcissist.” Many people may have some behaviors that are on the narcissistic spectrum that is heightened when going through a divorce causing unnecessary conflict. Character traits of a narcissist may include a need to be right, a need for admiration, lack of morals, the tremendous need for control, lack of emotional intelligence, etc. Narcissists come in many different shades, but one thing is for sure: the only thing harder than being married to a narcissist is divorcing one.
Dr. Mark Banschick explains in his article on Malignant Divorce that narcissism is one of the character traps as they are “completely self-serving and selfish.” This being said, your narcissistic ex will stop at nothing to “win” the divorce and you need to be prepared for the pain and hardship that is to come. Though you may feel sentimental and compassion toward your ex because of the years of memories and time spent together, for a narcissist it’s like it never happened. This is essential to understand in order to deal with them successfully during your divorce.
Regardless of who filed the divorce, a narcissist will try to remain in control of their influence over your life in any way possible. If children are involved it is likely they will demand control of parent-time, any decisions regarding the children, and child-support amount. In this situation, it is best to get attorneys involved to advise you on what your rights are when it comes to child custody issues. The amount of abuse your ex will inflict depends on how you respond to his or her undesired behavior. Showing sympathy, weakness, and fear will only feed a narcissist’s ego and fuel this cycle of behavior. In order to protect yourself and your children, it is vital that you do not show any weakness or buy into anything he or she says to you.
When trying to protect yourself in this situation you need to set firm boundaries and stick to them—regardless of their reaction to the loss of control. Oftentimes narcissists are charismatic and manipulative, making it easy to give in to what they want, but this will only make things worse for you in the long run. When asserting these boundaries you need to do so in a conflict-free matter, which may only be possible via email or with lawyers and mediators present. Conversing over email will also be helpful in documenting their irrational behavior to prove your case in court. If his or her behavior is abusive and he or she will not respect your boundaries, you may need to get the police involved, but always talk to your attorney beforehand to see if it’s a beneficial thing to do.
A narcissist lives in a fantasy world where they believe they are more important, smarter, and better than you so make sure to grip onto reality when they are using their tactics to pull you into their egotistical fantasy. The healthier you are emotionally, the better you will be able to recognize the narcissist’s unacceptable behavior and evaluate your own role in the ongoing conflict. During these trying times, a good emotional support system will make all the difference—they can offer emotional comfort and a more objective opinion on the situation.
Divorce is hard enough as is, and a difficult ex can make it feel almost impossible to compromise. If you stand your ground, put on a brave face, and lean on friends and family during these tough times, it will get better for you and your family. If you need further emotional or legal counsel do not hesitate to call CoilLaw at 801-884-3775.