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Narcissistic personality disorder has become the hip and trendy label we attach to people we don’t like. With all the flashy headlines involving narcissistic personality disorder, you’d think it’s something everyone has. And, given the content of the articles with flashy headlines, you’d think people with NPD are inherently evil, self-serving people to keep out of your life at all costs. Harmful stigmas such as the aforementioned actually harm those with narcissistic personality disorder and their loved ones. If your spouse, or soon to be ex-spouse, is suffering from NPD, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of narcissistic personality disorder and how it affects your spouse.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is characterized by largely inflexible traits that affect the way a person views themselves, the world around them, and their interactions and relationships with others. Personality disorders are categorized in three different clusters: cluster A personality disorders, cluster B personality disorders, and cluster C personality disorders. Narcissistic personality disorder is a cluster B personality disorder. People who have NPD may experience symptoms such as having a grandiose sense of self importance, entitlement issues, and low empathy.

People with NPD May See Their Behavior Differently

If your spouse has NPD, it isn’t as if they woke up one day and chose to exhibit symptoms of NPD. Personality disorders develop over a long period of time and are highly resistant to change. That doesn’t mean that change is impossible or that your spouse is not responsible for their actions. It simply means that your spouse is doing the best they can with what they have. The behavior and worldview they have has been shaped by many factors, including their experiences in life. Personality disorders are maladaptive, and often inhibit performance in key areas of a person’s life such as work, school, and interpersonal relationships. It’s likely that a spouse with NPD would make crucial changes if they knew how, or understood the importance of making such changes. This means that, when dealing with a spouse with NPD, you will need to meet your spouse at their level. 

Does NPD Affect a Divorce?

Generally, no. The court doesn’t really care whether or not your spouse has narcissistic personality disordereven if they’ve been officially diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional. Your ex still has the same rights that a person without NPD has when it comes to custody arrangements, child support, alimony, and division of property. However, you are more likely to have a high-conflict divorce if your ex is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Since high-conflict divorces can be longer, more expensive, and more traumatic, it’s important that you know how to effectively cope with your spouse’s inappropriate behavior during the divorce process.

Set Firm Boundaries

If you believe your ex has NPD, you need to set firm boundaries; the earlier you do this, the better. If your ex has NPD, they will not like these new boundaries, and they may test them repeatedly. Even though you may feel like giving in, it is important for your mental health that you remain firm. Good examples of boundaries may include, only answering phone calls at appropriate times, and refusing to respond to disrespectful, hostile, or threatening communication. Your ex may continue to attempt to get under your skin by showing up at your house unannounced, or blowing up your phone with texts and calls. If this happens, you may need to block their number, and let them know that they are not welcome at your residence.

Don’t Let Emotion Control

People with narcissistic personality disorder may make unreasonable demands during the divorce process. This is part of the reason people with NPD tend to have high-conflict divorces. If you find out that your spouse has requested a laundry list of important things such as full custody and all the marital assets, it is important that you not allow your emotions to control your behavior and decision-making. Remember, just because your spouse requested it, doesn’t mean they’ll get it. When it comes to divorce, people rarely get everything they ask for. When dealing with an ex with NPD, they may ask for a lot. Therefore, in order to minimize the conflict, you’ll want to prioritize and only fight for what’s really important.

Manage Your Expectations

You may also benefit from managing your expectations when it comes to your ex’s behavior. Remember, your ex is behaving in a way that makes sense to them. They likely feel as though their actions are appropriate, reasonable, and justified, and that anyone in their position would act as they’re acting. Furthermore, those with NPD tend to have low empathy. Therefore they may struggle to understand how their behavior is affecting others. This does not excuse their bad behavior. However, it should help you to know what to expect from your ex.

Consult an Attorney

Finally, if you are beginning the divorce process and you believe your ex has NPD, having legal representation on your side is a must. A family law attorney can help you understand and protect your rights in a high-conflict divorce. At CoilLaw, our attorneys are experts in handling high-conflict divorces. If you’re ready to get the divorce process started, contact CoilLaw today for a consultation.


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