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How to Survive Divorcing a Narcissist

By Thacker Sleight

Any kind of mental health problem can make a divorce or custody dispute more challenging. However, narcissists take divorce drama to a new level. Protect yourself and your children from your narcissist spouse’s insensitivity and “in it to win it” personality so you can survive and thrive in the next chapter of your life.

Narcissists Change the Divorce Playbook

There is a lot of advice out there about surviving a divorce: strategies to minimize conflict, advice on co-parenting, and urges to compromise and be flexible. Having a narcissist as a partner changes all of that. If you were married to a narcissist or have a child in common, that conventional wisdom will leave you feeling taken advantage of.

Be Ready for the Long Haul

Narcissists will do anything to win. That means your narcissistic spouse will fight everything during the divorce process. A simple document request could end up in front of the judge. Mediation could take days with no meaningful result.

Understand that you are in for a lengthy court battle and work with your divorce attorney to cut the process short where you can. For example, get documents directly from banks, employers, or county clerks rather than asking him to produce them.

Narcissists often obstruct court processes. Michigan court rules allow you to ask the court to make her pay for the added legal fees caused by her behavior. The added cost can push your spouse to limit their behavior and let you get to the end of the case.

Don’t Feed the Drama

When there is a narcissist involved, an already emotional divorce can get pushed over the top. Narcissists thrive on attention – positive or negative. Your narcissist wife or husband will try to pull your personal affairs out into the open, recruiting friends, family, and even your children to “their side.”

The best thing you can do is set a firm boundary for drama-free communication. For example, require anything about the children to be sent by email or text message. For everything else, insist that they go through your lawyer. This will shield you from their anger and create a paper trail your lawyer can use later in court.

At the same time, tell your friends and family what to expect. You should keep some close confidants as a support team. However, for everyone else, be definite, firm, and private.

How you talk to your kids about the divorce will depend on their ages and their own experiences with your ex-spouse. Encourage them to come to you if they have problems or have heard something about you, rather than bringing your partner into it.

Don’t Expect the Narcissist to Bargain

In a traditional divorce negotiating a resolution often involves bargaining, but narcissists don’t play fair. They will use your emotional connections to your children or sentimental items against you. They will make unreasonable demands and take every request for compromise as a personal attack. This is why mediation with a narcissist usually fails.

The narcissist will play games with you, trying to control what they think already belongs to them. They may try to make you agree to piecemeal changes so you won’t see the big picture of your property distribution. They might try to corner you with their demands during a parenting time exchange, even without talking to their own attorney first. They will do whatever they can to keep you off-balance. Don’t let them.

Always consider any settlement suggestions within the bigger picture of your assets and debts. Never agree to anything without talking to your lawyer first. Document everything. Then work with your lawyer to put together a complete settlement offer that protects your rights and your boundaries. If they don’t like what you are offering, you and your lawyer can always present your case to the court.

At Thacker Sleight, we will help you get through your divorce, no matter what challenges your ex-spouse throws your way. Our experienced and empathetic divorce attorneys have experience protecting our clients from narcissists. We provide our clients exclusive, highly professional service that is sensitive to their unique situations. If you are considering divorcing a narcissist, contact us at 616.888.3810 to schedule a consultation. We will be there with and for you every step of the way.

Thacker Sleight

grand rapids office  •  616 888 3810
445 cherry street se
grand rapids michigan 49503

grand haven office  •  616 888 3810

saugatuck office  •  269 857 9120

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