Divorcing A Narcissist?
I was surprised the first time a new client asked me, “Do you have experience dealing with narcissists?” I did not expect the term to be in general usage by lay people. For me, it evokes the complex psychiatric system of classification of mental illnesses which is used by highly trained professionals and involves specific diagnostic criteria.
Now, many years later, I am no longer surprised. And yes, I have a great deal of experience in dealing with narcissists in the divorce process. Although I am not qualified to make a psychiatric diagnosis, I do have my own observations about and strategies for handling the narcissistic spouse.
Are you considering divorcing your spouse? Does your spouse have an inability to understand or empathize with you? Does your spouse crave power or demonstrate a sense of entitlement? If so, you may be divorcing a narcissist?
What is Narcissism?
While the term “narcissism” is used quite frequently in our society, it has been our experience that the lack of empathy-ability to experience and understand what others may be physically or emotionally feeling-and demonstration of arrogant behavior, becomes the most visible traits. We commonly see this expressed by one spouse trying to control the other through intimidation, superiority, or unwillingness to compromise no matter what it means for the other spouse as long as they “win” in this dissolution process.
One publication characterizes narcissism as a combination of the following traits:
A grandiose sense of self-importance;
A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love;
A need for excessive admiration;
A lack of empathy;
Exploiting others for personal gain;
Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her; and
A demonstration of arrogant behavior towards their spouse or others.
A narcissist is more often a male and is likely to represent himself in his divorce case rather than retaining counsel to represent him. Charm is one of his most effective tools. In fact, his wife is often fearful that he will succeed in charming her divorce lawyer! A narcissist thinks he is always right and has to have the last word. He lacks empathy for his wife’s point of view and cannot put himself in her shoes. He finds it virtually impossible to compromise and is therefore unable to come to an out-of-court settlement of the issues in his divorce case.
So, when the opposing party has the characteristics and behavior of a narcissist, what does the spouse who is trying to divorce him need to keep in mind? Here are four suggestions:
1. Develop realistic expectations about settlement versus litigation. Most divorce cases do settle, and it is generally wise from both a financial and emotional perspective to try to settle your case. However, when the other party is a narcissist, this is unlikely to be a successful strategy. Be clear from the very beginning that most likely a judge will have to be the one to tell your spouse what the terms of the divorce will be.
2. Conserve your financial resources. Be strategic in planning the most effective way to pursue your case. Don’t run up legal fees on steps which do not move you toward closure.
3. Choose the most important issues. Not every issue in your divorce is of equal importance. Do a cost-benefit analysis so that you are putting your resources and energy into the most critical issues.
4. Rely on your attorney’s expertise. It is likely to be quite difficult for you to disengage from your narcissistic spouse. Your attorney is more objective and has been around this block many times before. Select an experienced divorce lawyer, work closely with him or her, and then rely on that judgement and experience as your case proceeds.
If you are ready to divorce a narcissist hire Lundell Law Firm, Mr. Lundell is an AGGRESSIVE and STRONG family law attorney. There is no room for the faint of heart. There is no room for an attorney that is not ten steps ahead of the narcissist. It may be exhausting, but necessary. Do your homework. Get the attorney who can handle this personality type and knows when to not back down. It will literally make or break your case.
See Sheenie Ambardar, MD, et al., Narcissistic Personality Disorder (May 16, 2018) (citing Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (2013)), available at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1519417-overview#a1
Disclaimer: The attorneys and employees at Lundell Law Firm are not Psychologists or Psychiatrists and therefore cannot diagnose, treat, or provide medical advice regarding potential psychological or psychiatric disorders.