Are You Married to a Narcissist and Thinking About Divorce?
Written by Narcissistic Abuse Expert Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Are you married to a narcissist and thinking about divorce? Following are eleven steps to take for the best possible outcome, and eight important tips to keep in mind.
Steps to take
- Tempting as it may be, do not discuss/threaten separation or divorce with your narcissistic spouse. The threat of losing you will not make her regret the way she’s treated you and change it. Abuse, manipulation and control are her nature. Remember, narcissists are always ten steps ahead of you. In the blink of an eye they can plot out a strategy for days, weeks, months or even years ahead. Never give them that advantage. If you have already discussed/threatened divorce, don’t be concerned. You can easily throw her off the scent and feed her need for narcissistic supply by saying, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that. I love you, am fully committed to this marriage, and never plan to leave you.” And then never bring it up again. If she tries to back you into a corner and pressures you to talk about it, deny, deny, deny. Just keep saying, “I love you, am fully committed to this marriage, and never plan to leave you.” That said, if you are in a physically dangerous situation you must get out immediately and then hide out in a place where she can’t find you.
- Once you come to terms with the reality of the situation you are in and the fact that it will never get better, begin planning your strategy for leaving. The outcome will be much better if you strategize rather then just walking out the door in exasperation. It is not easy to stay and pretend that nothing is wrong when you are at the end of your rope, but for the sake of survival you must do it. Your narcissistic spouse is an actor. You must be one as well.
- Keep a detailed, dated journal of everything that happens. Include the times that the incidents happen. Gather up as much financial information as you can (bank statements, tax returns, stock portfolios, deeds, pay stubs, etc.) and make copies. Do not keep any evidence at home where there is a risk of them being found. Financial sources may magically disappear after you/they leave and you will need evidence that they were there before. If you are going to need money and have access to joint finances, you may want to begin taking small, unnoticeable amounts and then socking the money away. If you charge groceries, every time you go, you may want to use the card to get cash back. Hide or remove your valuables and sentimental things to prevent them from being stolen or destroyed.
- Search for the right attorney and get educated about your legal rights. Choose a lawyer who has experienced what it is like to oppose someone with narcissistic personality disorder and has a track record to prove he or she can effectively represent you. Most family law and divorce attorneys will tell you that they have experienced every kind of situation. That is not good enough. If they have not specifically experienced the manipulations and charades someone with NPD will pull, they will not be adequately prepared to defend you and the outcome will not likely be in your favor. Narcissists often hire unscrupulous attorney to represent them. You don’t need to do the same but your attorney must be forceful and strategic.
- Parental alienation is a common tactic used by narcissistic parents to destroy the targeted spouse. With parental alienation, children are turned against their loving parent and are brainwashed to be fiercely loyal to the abusive one. Educate yourself on what parental alienation is so you can recognize the beginning signs of it. Prepare your children ahead of time to resist this mind control tactic. Preparing does not mean telling them you are going to terminate the marriage. Leave your children out of adult situations. The preparations must be subtle. Use every opportunity to teach them to trust their instincts and feelings rather than believing what they are told to believe. Reinforce that children are not responsible for the feelings and happiness of others, even their parent’s. Make wonderful lasting memories with your children and be sure to document them with video and photographs.
- Once you feel prepared, you and your attorney can arrange to have your spouse served divorce papers. If you have children be sure they are nowhere near the parent when it happens. You should not be either. If you plan on leaving the marital home, have your new place set up and ready to move into. Otherwise try to arrange a vacation that keeps you away for days or weeks. If you have children take them with you.
- Once he is served he will call and text incessantly. If you choose to respond to his texts or calls you only have to do it once (if at all) and then keep it brief. After that, ignore his attempts to reach you or turn off your phone. He wants to probe you for information that he can later use against you. Do not share any details or make any promises. He will use every tactic he can think of to suck you back in. He will beg you, promise to change, and try to make you feel guilty. Your state of mind at this time will not allow you to resist the lies, so don’t put yourself in that situation. If you do you will most likely end up going back to him. Things will not get better and will definitely get worse.
- If you can permanently stay away, that is best. Leave no forwarding information if you do not have children. If you do have children this will be seen by the courts as an attempt to alienate the children from their parent. Be sure she knows where the children are.
- If you own property together and your spouse refuses to leave, you might have to go home for a period of time. If possible, do not share the marital bed. Do not emotionally or physically react to anything that is said to you. He will try to push your buttons because he feeds off your reactions. Do not give him what he wants. Do not get into verbal or physical altercations with him. And, unless you are truly in physical danger do not enlist the help of law enforcement. If you do he will somehow turn the situation around making himself the victim and you the perpetrator.
- Answer all questions with non-emotional, non-committal statements such as: “That’s interesting” or “I’m not sure” or “Whatever you think” or “Seems so” or “It’s possible” or “Hmm”. There are others you can say but you get the gist. Do not give real answers to any questions, work out any issues, or sign any papers/contracts/agreements with her. These are traps and they will be used against you. Once he has been served, all details should be worked out attorney to attorney. This can get expensive but it is the only true way to protect yourself.
- This has now become a legal matter. Follow the advice of your attorney. The courts will make all decisions related to the dissolution of your marriage and child custody.
- Expect your circle of trusted friends and family to shrink considerably. Unless people have experienced narcissistic abuse they will not understand what you are going through. That lack of understanding causes people to doubt what you are telling them. And because narcissists are chameleons, people outside of the home never see their abusive side. They cannot see what you see, therefore may not believe your version of things, may accuse you of being too sensitive or unfair, may get annoyed when you talk about it, and will likely encourage you to “try to work things out”. These responses are very hurtful. What you are going through is so confusing and traumatic that you definitely need to talk about it. But be careful. Only share your thoughts with those who “get it”. Find a coach, counselor, or therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse that can be your primary support system. It will be invaluable to you.
- One of the ways the narcissist will retaliate against you is to turn your friends and family against you. Do not trust anyone with private information until you know the person is completely safe.
- Get off of all social media. Your narcissistic spouse will use it to spy on you and it will give them a huge list of flying monkeys to recruit. If you become suspicious you may want to have your electronics tested for spyware, your car tested for tracking devices, and your home tested for “bugs”. Some narcissists hack into phones and emails. Beware.
- You will become the narcissist’s mortal enemy once divorce proceedings begin. Nothing shared in the past matters to them. They are driven by an insatiable need to win at all costs. If she thinks it will help her case she will make accusations against you that are totally untrue. It is best to know this going in so you won’t be shocked, hurt, or disappointed when the smear campaign begins.
- Narcissists are all about control. If they can hold something over your head or blackmail you they will. Don’t hold onto property too long if the narcissist refuses to let it go, even if you have a right to it. Your peace of mind and safety are the most valuable things you can have. Make them your priority.
- Narcissists will not follow through with any promises made to you. Do not communicate directly or negotiate with them. Nothing good will come of it.
- If you have children together and must communicate, only do it through apps such as Family Wizard or Talking Parents. Everything communicated there may become evidence to use in court. Be careful what you say. Use good etiquette, demonstrate flexibility and willing collaboration, and give polite, but brief and to the point responses.
- The family court system is far from perfect. The decisions may be inequitable. Narcissists are known to manipulate judges, and pay off guardian ad litem, court appointed therapists, custody evaluators, and everyone else involved in family law. Keep this in mind. Do not blindly trust that the legal system has your back.
Randi Fine is a narcissistic abuse expert and coach, podcast host, and author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing. This book is the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book ever written on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.