Do you feel your needs are put last? Do you feel manipulated and degraded? Are you ready for the constant highs and lows to end?
Divorce can be relatively straightforward or very complicated, depending on the personalities of the individuals involved. Ending a marriage to a narcissist is often among the most difficult of divorce scenarios, because people with this personality disorder typically have an inflated sense of superiority, are manipulative and show little or no empathy for others. Their spouse often gets the brunt of their toxic behaviors, which can make being married to a narcissist unbearable. And it is not surprising when spouses of narcissists seek divorce. Both men and women can be narcissists—it isn’t limited to either sex.
If you are trapped in a marriage to a narcissist and you wish to end the relationship and move on with your life, first recognize that it may be a long, contentious, and exhausting process, but with the right legal support on your side, you may get through it with the least amount of emotional and financial pain. A New Jersey divorce attorney who has extensive experience advocating for individuals in high-conflict divorce proceedings will work to protect your rights and interests and ensure you are not taken advantage of and treated unfairly. But before we discuss steps for divorcing a narcissistic woman or a narcissistic man, let’s delve further into what narcissism is, and why people with it can be so hard to deal with.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
As described by the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder, which is one of 10 recognized personality disorders, “is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Narcissists are not all the same. There is a scale, or range, when it comes to narcissism. People may have some narcissistic personality traits, or they may have full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.
People who are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are on the high end of the narcissism scale. Keep in mind that a person can have narcissistic personality disorder and never actually be diagnosed with it. Many narcissists don’t recognize that they are and would probably angrily deny it if accused.
Do These Signs and Symptoms of Narcissism Sound Like Your Spouse?
Some of the signs and symptoms narcissistic people may display in various levels of severity include:
- An attitude that they are better than others
- The belief that they are due special treatment and are not bound by the same rules as others
- Rudeness and arrogance toward people who they believe are inferior in some way
- An excessive need for attention, admiration, and ego stroking
- Anger when they are not the focus of attention and admiration
- Blaming others for their problems
- Extreme difficulty handling criticism
- Lying and manipulative behaviors
- A lack of empathy or care about others
- Taking advantage of other people to get what they want.
The Mayo Clinic also says that narcissists may be “preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.” If you are the “perfect mate” of a narcissist, and you have recognized the marriage is far from being perfect, consider getting support for yourself from a mental health professional as you contemplate divorce. Your attorney who is experienced in handling divorce cases involving narcissistic personality disorder can also advise you about what to do and not do to potentially help the divorce process go more smoothly.
What is the Best Way to Divorce a Narcissist and Save Your Sanity?
There are several steps to take when divorcing a narcissist that can help you better navigate the rocky road ahead. The following tips may help you, depending upon your circumstances:
- First, do not try to go it alone. Get help from a mental health professional about mechanisms for coping with your narcissistic spouse during divorce, as well as the guidance from our family law attorneys. We have experience handling divorce cases involving narcissistic personalities and understand when to fight or work to de-escalate tensions.
- Head off your spouse’s attempts to manipulate the situation and make you out as the “bad guy” by being open and honest with your friends and family about what is happening in your marriage.
- Before informing your spouse that you are going to file for divorce, make copies of financial records, and other important documents.
- Try to communicate with your spouse in writing, such as in texts or emails, so that you have solid proof of what was said. Communicating in writing can also be easier for you because it allows you time to think and temper what you say if your spouse is trying to provoke you. When you do speak with them, write down what was said.
- Limit communication with your spouse if they are verbally abusive, try to persuade you to come back, or otherwise do not respect your decision to divorce. Ask your attorney to handle communications with your spouse when possible.
- If you feel in danger from your spouse, seek a restraining order. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
This is general guidance. Every situation is different, and what narcissistic personality characteristic your spouse has, and how extreme they are will be a factor in how you approach your divorce. Once your therapist and divorce attorney understand your unique circumstances, they can advise you about the most advantageous way to proceed.
Divorcing a Narcissist with a Child
Worried about your children turning against you? We can help guide you through what to expect when divorcing a narcissist.
When you have children with a narcissistic spouse, the stress and difficulty of ending your marriage can be greatly amplified. Narcissists like to win and hate to lose. Narcissistic parents will often try to turn children against the other parent during divorce. This is a way of “winning” for them as well as controlling their children and getting back at their spouse.
Winning for them may also mean obtaining custody of children. Child custody is often one of the most contentious issues in any divorce and when one of the parents is a narcissist, the conflict can become even more hostile. When parents cannot agree on custody, the New Jersey court will make the decision for them. In making custody decisions, the court considers the best interests of the child. While parents start out on equal footing under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4., with neither fathers nor mothers favored, once the court reviews all the factors involved, that equal footing can change. Some of the things judges will look at are:
- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate concerning the child
- The parents’ willingness to accept custody
- Any unwillingness to allow time with the other parent not based on substantiated claims of abuse
- The interaction and relationship of the child with parents and siblings
- A history of domestic violence, if any
- The safety of the child and of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- The preference of the child when he or she is old enough and can reason and form an intelligent decision
- The needs of the child
- The stability of the home environment
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education
- The fitness of the parents
- How close the parents’ homes are located to each other
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the separation
- The parents’ employment responsibilities
- The age and number of the children.
If your spouse’s narcissistic personality disorder or behaviors are negatively affecting how they interact with your child and impede the ability to cooperate as co-parents, the judge may decide that awarding custody to your spouse is not in the best interests of the child.
On the other hand, narcissistic people can be very charming and convincing when they want to be and may try to influence the court to their advantage. They may lie to judges and others involved in divorce proceedings about their own behavior and try to paint a negative picture of you in order to gain the upper hand. If they are successful in swaying the court, you could potentially lose custody of your child.
This is where our experience is crucial to your child custody case.
If you are headed to a child custody battle with your narcissistic spouse, a skilled New Jersey divorce attorney from Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC can work to disprove lies your spouse may tell about you, and provide evidence that reveals your spouse’s true character. Even if you do not have children, our attorneys can assist you in ending your marriage in the most stress-free and least contentious way possible based upon your unique circumstances.
Contact Our Skillful New Jersey Divorce Attorneys for Help
We know you have a difficult time ahead if you are seeking a divorce from a narcissistic spouse. Our lawyers have extensive experience advocating for clients undergoing high-conflict divorces from narcissists and other manipulative and controlling spouses. We will work hard to protect your rights, interests, and those of your children. You will not fight the battle of divorcing your narcissistic spouse alone. You will have a skilled attorney on your side with extensive understanding of the way narcissistic people think and operate during divorce and steps to take at the negotiating table or in the courtroom to counter their difficult behaviors.
Contact our New Jersey family law firm today to arrange a consultation at (201) 880-9770.