Divorce isn’t easy in the first place and divorcing a narcissist is all the more draining. Dealing with that kind of personality is a battle on its own. No divorce is a bed of roses. It is an emotional and mental struggle, especially when there are children involved. When divorcing a narcissistic husband, however, these struggles become amplified manifolds. It feels like you’ve been dealt a bed of thorns that you cannot navigate without getting bruised, over and over again.
A narcissist is like a parasite. They feed on their partners to cater to their own requirements. When you tell them you want to end the relationship, they will try every trick in the book to thwart your efforts. To negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist is going to be no walk in the park, you probably already know that. However, getting to the point where you can actually sit down for divorce negotiations is going to be a long and arduous journey in itself.
A narcissist’s insecurities and fears seem to bring out their worst sides and that can be intimidating to handle. That’s why you need strong strategies for divorcing a narcissist. To make sure you can stay the course and see your decision to end an exacting relationship reach its logical conclusion, we spoke to counseling psychologist Nishmin Marshall, former director at SAATH: Suicide Prevention Centre and a consultant at BM Institute of Mental Health as well as advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India, about ways to stay sane while divorcing a narcissist.
Characteristics Of A Narcissistic Husband
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To divorce a narcissistic husband means embarking on a long, taxing journey that can take a toll on you. To begin the process, you first need clarity on who a narcissist really is. This becomes even more imperative when divorcing a covert narcissist husband. Every person has some narcissist trait or the other within them that is triggered by some emotion or situation. There is a difference between a normal person having narcissistic traits once in a while and someone who is a narcissist to his bones.
Their covert narcissist hoovering can mentally exhaust you. If your husband has these traits, then run for your life, because he is going to twist it according to his whims and fancies:
- The world revolves around his needs: Or at least he likes to believe so. He lives in a world of his own. He considers himself to have hold of the remote control of everyone’s life around him. If he is happy, he might consider keeping you happy, too, but if he is sad or angry, he will take it out on you
- Playing the victim: He will always play the victim and force you on a guilt trip. He will never apologise for his actions but will make you feel that you are at fault. He won’t care whether you are hurt or unhappy. As long as his ego is satisfied, he is not going to care about the impact of his actions on you
- A sense of entitlement: He will treat you and other people like his property. You know you have on your hands the arduous task of divorcing a covert narcissist husband if he has been consistently and willfully overlooking your needs, desires and expectations. You cannot breathe unless he permits you to. He, on the other hand, can do whatever he pleases
- Jealous tendencies: Since he lives in a world of his own and gives himself utmost importance, he gets jealous when he sees someone else stealing his limelight. Yes, that includes his spouse. He cannot bear to witness your accomplishments exceeding his, be it aceing big professional milestones or simply nailing his mother’s pumpkin pie recipe. That’s why you are doomed to play the second fiddle in the relationship
Divorcing a narcissistic husband is always going to be ugly. The fuller of himself he is, the uglier it’s going to be. The best thing would be to recognize the signs of a narcissist when dating and ditch him there and then. But when a narcissist is wooing, he might not reveal his true self.
That’s why you may find yourself getting pulled in too deep. By the time you begin to see his problematic personality traits, you may already have built a life with him. In this case, the only recourse available to you is to divorce your narcissist husband in order to regain control of your life and begin the process of healing.
8 Ways Of Staying Sane When Divorcing A Narcissist Husband
Once you make the brave decision of divorcing a narcissistic husband, it is going to be a great ordeal involving lots of ups and downs, both emotionally and mentally. You will question your decision and feel as if you are the bad guy here. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s your partner who has made you take this drastic step. You did your best at dealing with him but someone needs to draw the line somewhere.
To divorce a narcissist and win, you may have to navigate a series of legal complications and the risk of domestic abuse unleashed by your partner. It is important to be mentally strong enough to handle yourself and your children (if you have any).
Speaking of the things you need to keep in mind to divorce a narcissist and win, Siddhartha advises, “Spouses of narcissists often seek individual therapy for help with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression brought on by years of narcissistic abuse. Narcissists feel very little guilt or remorse over their own conduct, they are likely to blame their spouses for marital problems and resist counseling.
“If you decide to divorce a narcissist, prepare for the worst. This can be a major blow to your spouse’s self-esteem. That’s why the strategies for divorcing a narcissist must include limiting or cutting off all in-person contact for a time. If that’s not possible, you must take the help of a friend or relative to negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist husband and always meet him in the presence of a third party.”
Using these strategies for divorcing a narcissist as a foundation, here are 8 ways to stay sane while divorcing a narcissist that can help you go through this rough phase without causing harm to yourself:
1. Expect fireworks from your husband’s side
One of the most crucial strategies for divorcing a narcissist is to prepare yourself for what is yet to come. Your husband is going to be furious and things are going to get way more complicated and ugly than what they already are. When he realizes that things are not going his way, he will make it his life’s mission to make you suffer too.
You know what your narcissist husband is capable of, so be prepared for what he has in store for you going against him. “Once you break the news of your decision to divorce your narcissist husband, make sure you don’t let your inner fears show. In all likelihood, you have been the submissive one in the relationship, so he will try to push back and intimidate. If in the face of the resistance, you hold your ground, it will unnerve your narcissistic husband.
So, don’t let his anger bog you down. Instead, stand your ground and let him know that you have made up your mind and there is no turning back from this decision for you now,” says Nishmin.
2. Be steps ahead of your husband
Your husband is not going to let his guard down so easily. Control is something that he likes to impose and when he starts feeling that he is losing it, he is going to put up a fight. You need to be proactive and think way beyond your husband. It’s important to be pragmatic when you evolve strategies for divorcing a narcissist and not operate from a place of emotional hurt.
Make sure that you can gather every kind of evidence that will paint your partner black because he will be working very hard to make you look like the bad person here. Remember, he loves playing the victim.
3. Talk to people who will understand what you mean
Someone who has never seen the bad side of your narcissist husband is never going to believe you or hear your side of the story. The odds can be stacked against you, even more, when divorcing a covert narcissist husband. You need to gather support from as many people as possible so that they can help you fight back.
Talk to someone who has fallen prey to your husband’s actions. It could be a former employee, his friend or even a family member. Seek their support. Make sure that these people are by your side when everything goes down. “Talk to your friends, siblings or confide in a parent about what you have been going through. Your loved ones can be your source of strength during this trying time,” says Nishmin.
4. Do not rethink your decision
Making the decision to divorce a narcissist is a big step forward toward reclaiming your life. It is a sign that no matter how shattered or broken you feel, you still have courage and self-worth. Don’t think about stepping back. “When your husband realizes that his pushbacks and angry outbursts are not working, he is going to change his tactics. He may implore you to give him another chance and promise to change.
“He may even project himself as a changed man to get you to change your mind and try to appeal to your soft side to get you to rethink your decision. When he does, think about all those times that your husband ill-treated you and attacked your sense of self-worth. This will keep your resolve from wavering,” says Nishmin.
What happened in your marriage cannot be undone but you can make the rest of your life better. Don’t second-guess your decision for the sake of the kids. Explain divorce to your children in age-appropriate ways and rest assured that they will understand once they are mature enough. For once, think about yourself too.
Related Reading: Prenuptial Agreement- How It Can Protect Your Future
5. Keep multiple copies of all the evidence that you have collected
Once your narcissistic husband realizes that divorce is inevitable, he will try as hard as possible to destroy the evidence you have so that you do not get what you want. Make sure that it doesn’t happen. This could be your only chance to escape from this trap. Be very secretive about your evidence and share it only with your lawyer and make sure that your lawyer knows the gravity of your case.
Make multiple copies and always keep a piece of evidence from everyone that you could use as your masterstroke. You can turn to a trusted friend or confidant to help you with this. To divorce a narcissist and win, you need to think outside the box for the lengths he can go to sabotage even the most genuine case in a court of law can be beyond your wildest imagination.
That’s why you must lean on only a close-knit group of trusted people for support until the divorce is finalized. To negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist effectively and ensure that you’re not handed the short end of the stick, you need to cover all your bases. Siddhartha offers some actionable strategies for divorcing a narcissist to help you on the front.
“Document every encounter with your spouse. If possible, communicate with your spouse in writing. If not, keep recordings of every telephone conversation and encounter, including the date, time, subject, and who was present for the conversation. A narcissist does not like to lose, so you have to be quite aware of his double standard.
“I know from my experience of handling such cases that the prospect of an acrimonious, long divorce process is slim. However, you do not have to go it alone. Having a strong legal team by your side can make a huge difference both in and out of court,” he says.
6. Keep your cool when divorcing a narcissist husband
Everyone gets triggered by something or the other. Your husband knows the different things that trigger you. He will try to attack those points to draw you out so that you make a mistake that he can use to his advantage. He could be doing this to prove that you are insane and unfit to take care of the kids or he could be doing it to put you in a bad light. Either way, make sure that you don’t get provoked by anything he does.
“When he tries to instigate you, it’s imperative that you rein in your impulsive or instinctive reactions. No matter how triggering the situation is, don’t lose sight of the fact that he could well be doing it just to elicit a reaction from you that he could use to his advantage and may well be recording the incident.
“The right coping skills such as counting, chanting, deep breathing can help you prevail over these mind games. Remind yourself not to say too much, especially when legal matters are involved,” says Nishmin. You can also try meditating to make yourself mentally strong to fight him without acting on what he says or does.
7. Make a plan and do not compromise
Once your narcissist husband begins to feel that he is losing the battle, he will try to act like he is a changed person. He may even use gaslighting phrases to manipulate you and make you stay. Make sure that you do not fall into that trap.
He might try to attack your weak points or your emotional aspects, beware of that. He will try to make promises and ask you to compromise. It could be by way of alimony or child custody. Make sure that you put your foot down and say “No”.
To stay sane while divorcing a narcissist, Siddhartha advises, “It is not your fault your spouse is a narcissist, that is their problem, and if they refuse to seek help for their issue, you need to know when to throw in the towel and seek a divorce. Victims in such situations often experience a ‘twilight zone’, a flux between reality and fantasy that can be hard to get out of.
“To go through the legal battle of separation as well as moving on after divorcing a narcissist, keep reminding yourself that narcissists are toxic to people and situations. They are only decent to people who support their agenda. A narcissist acts as the judge, jury, and executioner should you dare to defy them.
“Narcissists are charming and master manipulators and feel the need to win at all costs, and not losing sight of this fact will save you from falling prey to their mind games. You can instead direct your energies at evolving a solid plan to divorce a narcissist and win.”
8. Seek help from a therapist
Being married to a narcissistic husband can leave you broken from inside and you may feel that you are beyond repair. In such a case, seeing a therapist could help you heal your wounds and make you feel self-love and appreciation again. The therapist will help you get through that phase easier and you will not feel that you are in this alone. With therapy, you can also begin to see that the failed marriage wasn’t your fault.
“It may not always be easy to reach out for help when you feel so broken and your sense of self is completely shattered. But if you can find the courage to seek help, it can help you in moving on after divorcing a narcissist. The right counselor can offer a sense of complete support, and make you feel heard and understood. Getting the right help can be the first step toward healing and feeling whole again,” says Nishmin.
Not everyone is able to identify a narcissist before or during the initial stages of marriage. A narcissist reveals his true colors once he is sure that he can fully control you. Being in a narcissistic relationship is like being a guinea pig or a lab rat. If you think that you can continue to be in such a marriage, then think about whether you deserve it. If you are clinging to the idea of love being in your relationship, then you need to reevaluate what love truly is. Such people are only in love with themselves. Think twice before considering continuing being in a marriage that has nothing to offer to you.
A narcissist husband will never be accepting of the idea of divorce. He will try everything from angry outbursts to emotional pleas and manipulation to get you to change your mind and stand down.
You need to stand your ground and not be intimidated by his tactics, whether it is anger or pleas to get you to change your mind. It’s imperative that you send out the message that you have made up your mind and your resolve is unwavering.
First and foremost, you need to approach the divorce pragmatically and not from an emotional place. Secondly, brace yourself for attacks on every possible front from your narcissistic husband, and evolve sound strategies for divorcing a narcissist to counter his tactics at every step of the way.