While millennials have casually thrown the word “narcissist” around, if you take a deeper look narcissists are more than just self-centered. For them, the whole world revolves around them and they bear no responsibility for their actions. So, if you’re divorcing a narcissist, you really have to know what you are up against when you embark on the battle.
If you’re wondering what to expect when you divorce a narcissist, allow us to burst your bubble and tell you that you have to be prepared to put up a fight of a lifetime. Because your soon-to-be narcissistic ex won’t go down easy. Egomaniac, lack of empathy, extremely high fashioned sense of grandiose – are just a few terms that can be associated with a narcissist. To say that narcissists have an alluring personality is undermining them. They have to win, they thrive on being admired especially from an empath (probably a spouse, or their children, or colleagues) and they are mild mannered to the outside world.
You might not even be aware of this personality disorder in the beginning but after they have “acquired” you, the narcissus of their character comes forth. We spoke to counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades, about what a narcissist husband does and the steps and strategies that can be adopted to divorce such a man.
What Does A Narcissist Husband Do?
Narcissists follow a specific pattern in their behavior. It is always a cycle of cycle of emotional abuse, building of the tension, explosion and finally the love bombing. The building of the tension can be brought by any monumental life changes: pregnancy, death in the family, or the birth of a child. The changes shift the focus from the narcissist to someone else and it sort of makes them resent people.
According to Kavita, “A narcissist functions in the relationship only through punishment and control. They are incapable of any kind of appreciation of their wives or children and keep manipulating them through disapproval and by withholding affection. A narcissist usually has a very charming personality to the outside world but as soon as they are within the family they can be a nightmare.”
They are always competing with people around them and are never appreciative or happy for others, that could even mean their own spouse and children. Kavita says, “ A narcissistic husband might not react at all when a wife talks about her promotion because he always treats her as competition. This is because every time someone is coming up in life, they feel they are going down.”
Related Reading: 7 Reasons Why Narcissists Can’t Maintain An Intimate Relationship
Narcissists rule their children with an iron hand and instill fear in them. Kavita says, “They never appreciate their children’s achievements because they are always comparing themselves with them. That’s why children of a narcissistic parent/s develop psychosomatic symptoms like stomach pain, body pain because they feel insecure at home. ”
Narcissists are capable of extreme anger. Their outbursts are frequent and they use hurtful words and gaslighting to control you. “They could withhold sex and keep telling you that you are a sex addict and too lustful. They could keep withholding it for years till you start questioning yourself and become convinced that something is wrong with you,” adds Kavita.
The honeymoon or love bombing happens when they are in need of something – be it money, love, validation or allegiance. This is when you can clearly see how alluring and enticing they can actually be. Once you have given in to their charm, they would go back to being controlling and manipulative.
So, how does a narcissist react to divorce? Narcissists are predictable. Their cycle of abuse follows a pattern. With all the hurt and pain they cause to everyone, they will never take responsibility for them. Even if your soon-to-be ex-husband is waging a battle in court against you, expect nothing but ruthlessness. Because once they set out to win, it’s in their nature to win at all costs.
Since a narcissist is a control freak, he would not give up on the control so easily. So divorcing a covert narcissist husband can prove to be a long-drawn, emotionally-draining affair for which you would need ample preparation. You will need to have your strategies in place to divorce a narcissist husband. But before you dedicate your money to divorce your narcissistic husband, there are a few things you need to take care of.
Stages Of Divorcing A Narcissist
How do I survive a divorce with a narcissist, you may ask. If you plan to divorce a narcissist and win, then you have to follow some constructive steps. After you have determined your spouse is a narcissist, and you are sure of seeking a divorce, be prepared for it is not going to be easy. You need to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist.
Don’t even think about having an uncontested divorce. It is difficult to negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist. In fact, I would take the leap to say it can be extraordinarily difficult and trying because no matter how kind you may be, a narcissist will still come after you. If your reason for divorcing your husband is because he is a narcissist, you’ll need proof.
1. Gathering intelligence
Time to channel your inner sleuth. Gather as much information as you can about your husband. A grandiose narcissist will have his finances hidden from you. Credit card statements, ATM receipts, ‘business trips’ information – anything that’s hidden two feet under the ground, you need to make them see light.
Document everything, every little thing. The first strategy for divorcing a narcissist is to even unleash a real sleuth on them to get every intel on them. Gathering all information on them will help you in the long run. It is a crucial way to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist.
2. Let the divorce be a surprise
How does a narcissist react to divorce? Well, if your narcissistic husband finds out you are planning on divorcing him, all hell can break loose. The best approach is to slam a divorce on his face while he is planning a trip to Malibu, leaving him less time to prepare his defense.
If you’re wondering what to expect when you divorce a narcissist, know this. A narcissist thrives on winning – there is nothing that comes between him and the win. When it comes to divorcing a narcissist, know very well that nothing is off-limits for him – you need to be really discreet and careful even with what you are thinking.
Related Reading: Top 15 Signs Of A Selfish Husband And Why Is He Like That?
3. Gather proof from social media
Another answer to your “How does a narcissist react to divorce” question is that they could stoop to any level for validation or anything else that they may need. Flexibility is not a strong suit. If anyone disses them on Facebook, they will concoct an entire paragraph dissing them back; and they won’t be kind. Screenshot material as much as you can.
Like I said before, divorcing a narcissist requires careful planning and you need to document everything – they can delete anything offensive, which is why you need all the information you can get regarding their social media posts, emails, and text messages. Since narcissists need validation they could be flirtatious to get attention. They could also be rather flamboyant and open about it too. Record every tiny detail and file it away.
4. Understand you are not the problem
“How could I not see the kind of person he is?” That is likely a question to come to mind if you’re divorcing a narcissist after 30 years or more or if you’ve been in a long marriage. But no, do not beat yourself up about it. You might have been love-bombed by him at the beginning of your relationship and there was no way to tell he would turn out to be an egomaniac master of disguise.
Knowing that narcissists are master manipulators, it is not easy not to fall in the trap. Kavita says, “Narcissists are smooth talking and charming people. It’s impossible to know what lurks within even when you are dating them. They only show their true colors when you get married or start cohabiting with them.”
5. If you have any children, prepare them for the upcoming battle
Divorcing a narcissist with a child comes with its own set of complications. If you are divorcing your narcissistic husband who has also fathered your children, expect things to get a little crazy. Your narcissistic husband will most definitely want custody which will lead to a custody battle over your children.
If you’re divorcing a narcissist with a child, make sure you prepare them mentally. You don’t have to make them hate their father, just the necessary information about how mommy and daddy won’t be living together anymore. Chances are their father has already traumatized them enough by his ways of punishing and controlling so they would not be too surprised when you finally decide to divorce. Having said that, children don’t have as much clarity as adults. So you have to tread carefully with them.
Strategies Of Divorcing A Narcissistic Husband
If you want to stay sane and survive a divorce with a narcissist, then you have to really work on your strategy beforehand. If you’re still asking yourself “how does a narcissist react to divorce”, then know that your husband can be ruthless and heartless when his position is compromised. He would not take it kindly at all when you want to opt out of the marriage.
He could go berserk and really come after you. Nothing will stop him from defiling your image in court, presenting lies as facts and getting fake witnesses to say that he is the victim and you are the perpetrator. Be prepared with a strong strategy for the battle ahead because there can be several things that can be used against you in a divorce and you need to know how to avoid or deal with them. Here are a strategies you can follow if you’re trying to negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist:
1. Get a good lawyer
If you are going to court, you better get a lawyer who specializes in divorce cases involving a narcissist. Remember: not everyone will get you. You do not need a “That’s’ the best I can do right now”. Your legal representation must be attuned to dealing with strategies narcissists use in court so you can devise the best plans beforehand. Don’t go with the best lawyer, but go with the one who knows how to deal with a narcissist.
2. Document evidence carefully with your lawyer
Dealing with a narcissistic husband will require you to know what evidence to use when. If there is an ongoing proceeding in court about your parenting abilities, using the callousness of your husband as retaliation is not going to do any good. You have to take one step at a time to expose the narcissist you live with.
In that case you will need to gather evidence on how he has been an irresponsible parent. Use the email perhaps, that the school sent you after he got late in picking up the child on two occasions. Document evidence with your lawyer and stick to it. Most importantly at every step ask your lawyer what will work and what will not work and then structure the case so that there are no loopholes.
Related Reading: 13 Signs He Disrespects You And Does Not Deserve You
3. Don’t lose your cool
To divorce a narcissist and win, you have to keep a cool head. Because you will realize the worst thing about being married to a narcissist husband is divorcing one. Divorcing a narcissist husband is nothing short of war. Expect side digs at you in front of a judge, especially if you’re divorcing a narcissist after 30 years or after a long-term marriage because there may be questions about why you waited for so long or not talk about it earlier.
If you have kids, your one parenting mistake will be highlighted in neon green. And, because he is a narcissist, there will be times when false remarks will be made against you just to get you all horns and rattles. How you react will show what kind of a temperament you have at home. So, no matter what, do not lose your cool. Now it’s time for you to use your living experience with him to leave him. If you keep your head clear you will be able to gauge his moves.
4. Ignore his love bombs
How does a narcissist react to divorce? Well, to start with, your husband might make you feel loved. The sweet summer romance at the beginning of the relationship might make a comeback to throw you off guard, especially when things have become legal. A narcissist will bomb you with, “I still love you very much” or “Can’t we work it out?”
These little doses will soothe you with a hope of reconciliation but remember: he is never going to not be a narcissist. Do not fall for them. He will try every trick in his bag to re-establish an emotional connection with you because covert narcissists hoovering is a common thing. You should know how to handle that and not fall into the trap.
5. Have your own people on your side
Divorcing a narcissist won’t be anything but a friendly affair. Do not expect them to go for a mutual consent divorce, when you broach the topic. Their effort would be to always bring you down to your knees in the court. Narcissists are best at getting people to like them and empathize with them. If given the opportunity, they will make you seem like the bad person in the whole divorce.
This is exactly why you need to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist. It’s important to figure out who your allies are; the people who will not get swayed by your narcissistic husband’s portrayal of you. A close group of allies will help you after you are done with the divorce. Keep people you trust close.
6. Manipulate them into thinking they “won”
Negotiating a divorce settlement with a narcissist can be a nightmare you might not want to live through. Nothing gives them more pleasure than knowing they have won. Pick your battles correctly and if possible, let your narcissistic husband think they have actually “won” the Goa beach house from you in the divorce battle.
Narcissists thrive on winning. So manipulate him into getting what he wants while you get what you have wanted all along. If you know your narcissist husband really well, you can pull this off. This is a tactic that might ensure some mental peace for you after the divorce is done.
You’ll probably have to play mind games for a divorce but who said divorcing a narcissistic partner is going to be devoid of one? Kavita adds, “It is virtually impossible to get a narcissist into therapy because they will never acknowledge there is a problem. So the chances of a narcissist changing himself and becoming a better person are very low. In that case either the wife and children would keep suffering or the wife should opt for divorce to end the suffering.”
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Have A Narcissistic Wife
Life After The Divorce
If you have managed to stay sane during the whole divorce procedure with your narcissist husband, don’t think your ordeal ends here. Moving on after divorcing with a narcissist husband can be more difficult not because you are still in love, but because he would find it hard to accept that he has lost control over you.
Divorcing a narcissist husband will make you lose faith in relationships and men in general. The relationship red flags in a man that you had previously ignored with your ex-husband will forever haunt you. Any charismatic person who comes your way will make you doubt if you are making the same mistake. And needless to say, you will stay out of the dating game for a bit.
The shattered expectation of a forever, the broken promises, the endless pain caused, the aftermath of divorcing a narcissist keeps hitting you. Here are a few things you can do if your narcissist ex-husband is trying to exercise control over or manipulate you:
- People with a narcissistic personality disorder will try to claw back into your life, even if that means sending you a sarcastic Instagram text message. Do not retaliate to the messages – stick to replying yes or no. Also remember: not all of his messages need a response
- If you have children together, set boundaries. If by rule, he gets to spend time with the children during the Christmas weekend, stick to it. If he asks for extra time, it’s best not to let him do that. Once you allow that, he will keep asking for more favors
- Do not be empathetic. Narcissists have an empath in their life. In the marriage, you were the empath. You do not need to be one after the divorce. Next time he calls you up to complain about work, do yourself a favor and tell him you are busy
- In times of confrontation or a fight, take the high road. If your ex-husband is trash talking about you, take the high road
Building a life after a divorce is hard, but it’s possible. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and practice mindfulness in your relationships and self-compassion. Practice screening his calls if necessary. Move on and start meeting new people when you are ready. Seek therapy if need be. Bonobology’s panel of licensed and experienced therapists is only a click away.