How to Divorce a Narcissist

By Karen Pritchard

Principal Associate

If I had a pound for every time that a client has asked me if I have experience in dealing with a narcissist ex-partner in a divorce, well, I probably wouldn’t have to work.

I suspect that some of those individuals do not meet all the criteria necessary to meet a formal diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but they evidence many narcissistic traits that need to be navigated when trying to separate from them.

Most clients tell me that they believe that they should have seen the “red flags” of narcissistic behaviour early on, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Narcissists are often very charming at first but over time begin to reveal toxic behaviours. This often results in gaslighting, abusive behaviour and the creation of a very toxic living environment. 

What have I learned about how to divorce a narcissist? 

  1. Don’t rise to their poor behaviour. They thrive on getting a reaction. A good lawyer will cut through the nonsense, advise that you do not engage in “tit for that” correspondence and focus on getting a good outcome in the divorce. 
  1. Remember that it’s not you, it’s them. Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t recognise that the narcissist traits earlier or leave the relationship earlier than you did. 
  1. They will lie and make allegations about their ex/my client. This often includes false accusations of hiding or wasting money, of extra-marital relationships, or of aggressive or abusive behaviour. This is very often a smokescreen to disguise that they are guilty of that poor behaviour. It is important to be mentally-prepared for those allegations, and to have a support network in place.
  1. That advice and support from a domestic abuse charity in parallel with good legal advice is invaluable. 
  1. They love to “win” and to be in control and are often unwilling to engage in reasonable negotiations even when it is sensible to do so. They may prolong the legal process in the hope that their ex/my client runs out of money or energy. It is important to instruct a lawyer that has experience in dealing with narcissists who will guide you through the process.

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