Divorce challenges every couple; no one likes to go through the end of a marriage. While both spouses may hope that the process goes smoothly with as little conflict as possible, that often ends up not the case. In this post, we discuss the peculiar difficulties when one of the parties is a narcissist.
We should begin with an understanding of the characteristics of a narcissist. Derived from the Greek myth about a hunter in love with his own beauty, a narcissist is much more than someone highly self-absorbed. Rather, the pathology begins when the degree of focus on the self blocks out the ability to see the impact on others. Consequently, narcissists often exhibit overblown senses of grandeur or victimhood, show little empathy for others, and can even derive joy from causing others pain out of a sense of a just conclusion to the narcissist’s grievance.
This personality type poses significant problems throughout a divorce.
First, the narcissist typically will drag out the process. Every requirement imposed by the court – from discovery onward, becomes a challenge to win. Documents will not be disclosed or even doctored; false pleadings will be filed, often with malicious intent and seeking sanctions; money and assets may be withheld and court orders ignored. All these outcomes result from the narcissist feeling a sense of importance above all the other participants and not realizing that these negative behaviors could cost the narcissist in the end.
Second, negotiation can be a lost cause because a narcissist will think all or nothing, and that a compromise represents a loss. The hope is that the narcissist will outspend and outwork the other spouse until that spouse caves under pressure.
Third, narcissists will get personal. The other spouse should expect an avalanche of personal attacks on character and be put on the defensive to justify the obvious. This may extend to the children, with their well-being used as a pawn in this fight. It is possible that a narcissist can also get violent if feeling particularly cornered or threatened.
If you feel your spouse fits the description of a narcissist, you need to inform your attorney and develop appropriate strategies to become proactive and avoid a protracted conflict as best as possible. If necessary, your attorney can help you assure your safety and how to protect assets or secure financial support during the divorce.
If you have questions about divorce and narcissistic personalities, contact us – we can help.