Divorce is hard enough under normal circumstances that come with ending a marriage. The anger, hurt, guilt, and sometimes sense of betrayal is enough to send anyone into an emotional tailspin. It’s often a time when rationality flies out the window only to return once you see the glimmer of the light at the end of the long tunnel. It’s a natural consequence anticipated by divorce attorneys that they routinely help their clients through.
Then you have divorces that come with the added layer of a narcissistic personality being on the opposite side of the table. Spouses who seek divorce from these individuals often feel that it’s their only escape from a mentally toxic relationship.
Problems you might encounter during the divorce process
You’re already abundantly familiar with the self-centeredness that comes from being a true narcissist. Your life has revolved around combating it. You’re entering a new chapter that will likely push your spouse into overdrive in trying to maintain control over the situation. You need to be aware of what you could deal with during your divorce.
Your narcissistic spouse:
- Wants to be the center of attention and may create or exaggerate problems to play the victim or force a response, even if that means having to appear in court.
- Can’t imagine a world where he/she could be responsible for anything and therefore the divorce will be all your fault. You know the truth about why your marriage is ending but expect a fight over even the smallest division of marital assets just to drive the point home that he/she feels you’re solely to blame.
- Will purposely press your buttons to elicit a response he/she knows you’ll give at just the wrong time. It’s a game used to bolster his/her narrative that he/she has been trying to sell to the judge in order to win. Don’t fall into the trap. If you don’t have to respond, don’t. If you need to respond, don’t instantly react. Have your attorney send one, when appropriate, or step away and think through your response before sending one.
- Understands consequences but doesn’t worry about them because he/she knows how to manipulate any given situation to twist to his/her advantage and attempt to take your power away.
- Will not be reasonable on the big issues that matter. He/she may cave in on little things that don’t matter to him/her as an empty way of showing meaningful compromise.
- May spend up a storm knowing there’s a time clock on your marriage in an attempt to saddle you with more debt.
- May try to sabotage you by spinning rumors about you to family, friends, coworkers, or even your children.
Dealing with a narcissist post-divorce
The good news is that you’re free of the everyday drama that you had to cope with during your marriage. If you don’t have children and all of your property has been divided and transferred, you’re free. You don’t have any obligation or reason to stay in contact with your former spouse if you choose not to. If you receive alimony or have children together then you will be required to communicate to some extent for the foreseeable future.
Because narcissists literally can’t help themselves, you’re going to experience the same manipulation that you encountered during your marriage and divorce. The difference now will be that you have some ability to limit the amount that you’re subjected to and have some tools that can help you manage it.
- Follow your divorce decree to the letter. Your ex-spouse can’t manipulate situations your decree specifically addresses without you having the ability to hold him/her in contempt. Don’t deviate on your end either or you’ll be giving your former spouse a reason to haul you back into court.
- Use apps designed to prevent conflict and provide a record of the conversation. Our Family Wizard is one such app that provides a way to track conversations without the ability to delete anything. It comes with a lot of features for managing coparenting your children, including tracking expenses and scheduling events. It can help to eliminate unnecessary contact about your children such as whether something has been paid, which your ex can use as a springboard into unrelated issues.
- Limit necessary contact that can’t be handled by an app or third party to child-related or alimony issues only. Ignore comments designed to spark anxiety, create sympathy or start a conflict.
- Keep records of all texts, phone messages, emails, and other written or recorded communications. If your former spouse attempts to manipulate a situation you’ve already discussed, you have it memorialized.
- Revisit modification of a custody order. If your ex-spouse’s narcissistic behavior is causing harm to your children, interferes with your relationship with your kids, or is severely undermining your ability to effectively parent, it may be time to modify.
Spousal abuse isn’t always physical, and the psychological effects can take far longer to recover from once you make the decision to end your marriage. You need a seasoned and focused divorce attorney who can present the facts of your case in a strong, convincing manner that will combat any falsities spun by your spouse. Our primary goal is to succeed at obtaining the best outcome for you whether it be for alimony, child support, child custody or property division. To schedule your consultation with one of our stellar Knoxville family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter, we invite you to call our office at 865-637-6258, or to reach out to us through our contact page.