Navigating Marriage (And Divorce) When Your Spouse is a Narcissist (Pt 1)

Most people have heard of Narcissus, the Greek mythological character who was known for his beauty and his pride. He fell in love with his reflection in a pool and because he was unable to stop staring at his own beauty, he wasted away and died. It’s a story about arrogance and vanity, and how, left unchecked, they can lead to very bad things. Unfortunately, what the old myth didn’t really address was the pain and suffering caused by those who loved Narcissus. Because if there’s a real tragedy here, it lies in how much damage can be caused by a narcissist – a reality that’s no less true during a divorce!

A black and white picture of a man holding his finger to his lips, as if he is refusing your right to speak, or trying to shush you up.

Narcissism is defined as extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration. It is a personality disorder that at its most extreme, results in people who are manipulative, lacking in empathy, easily angered and in some cases, downright dangerous! So what does one do when you’re married to a narcissist and your relationship is falling apart? Because let’s be real here, divorcing a person who believes they can do no wrong doesn’t make for an easy task. 

Divorcing a narcissist will be hard, but it’s not impossible!

According to Karyl McBride, the author of “Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.” it’s actually possible. Hard? Certainly! Difficult? Absolutely!  But nevertheless, it’s possible. Although there’s a lot involved, and the process is probably going to be much harder than if you were simply divorcing an ordinary person without a personality disorder.

Part of the issue that people divorcing a narcissist are likely to face, says McBride, is the fact that because a narcissist is focused entirely on themselves, they’re unlikely to be able to get over being “left” by someone. A divorce that isn’t instigated by them is liable to lead to furious rage and a desire for revenge. However, because narcissists are manipulative, their desire to exact vengeance almost never comes out in the form of physical abuse or threats. Instead, they are likely to use cunning and malice to get back at the person who is leaving them.

Be aware that the backlash will be considerable!

This is where things like false allegations of abuse and or neglect come in. A narcissist is likely to claim that they or their children have been subject to some form of abuse, either emotional or sexual or physical, at the hands of the spouse who is instigating the divorce. Also, because they are manipulative, they will use the courts to get attention and to put their claims out in a public space, where the most possible damage is done. Oakland County judges are used to seeing that. 

In addition to the possibility of false allegations, McBride says that divorcing a narcissist is likely to be a lengthy project. Because a narcissist will experience their spouse’s desire to end the marriage as a personal “injury” they are likely to seek revenge by making the process as painful and drawn out for the person who hurt them as possible. This ends up costing thousands of dollars and can make the divorce process drag out for years. The good news is that experienced divorce attorneys understand how to deal with narcissistic people. (We do it regularly!)

It may be scary, but you don’t have to do this alone! 

Join us next time, as we continue this discussion about how narcissistic personality disorder can affect a divorce, and what someone divorcing a narcissist is up against. Until then, if you or a loved one is considering divorce, or needs help with other family issues like custody or paternity, we’re here to help you. The experienced family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping the families of mid-Michigan with all of their family legal issues. Whether it’s divorce, custody, alimony, child support or CPS defense, we can help you figure it out. Call us today at  866-766-5245.