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How do you survive a divorce with a narcissist?


Most couples go through their divorces rather quietly. They instinctively know that it’s better to work things out than battle it out in court. The financial expense of a court battle alone is intimidating enough — and that’s before you get to the fact that going to court means letting a stranger (the judge) control your life.

Not so, the narcissistic spouse. They generally have a need to punish their husbands or wives for failing to live up to their standards or for leaving — and they want the whole world to witness it (and agree with them).

If you’re reading this, the odds are very good that you already know your spouse is a narcissist. The question is how you can get through a divorce with your sanity and life reasonably intact. Here are some tips from the experts:

Anticipate the narcissist’s behavior

You can generally expect the narcissist to engage in the following actions:

  • Public blaming
  • A refusal to negotiate
  • Attempts to “game” the system
  • A willingness to be destructive
  • Attempts to control you
  • Lying

If you don’t anticipate these behaviors, you’re more likely to feel frustrated and trapped. If you expect them, the narcissist automatically loses a certain amount of power over you. You’ll cease to be shocked or upset and see everything as utterly predictable — which will take a lot of the fun out of things for the narcissist.

Have a plan of action

You need to be proactive, particularly if your narcissistic spouse comes off as charming during initial meetings with the attorneys. To protect yourself:

  • Explain the situation to your attorney and discuss strategies for responses ahead of time
  • Insist that everything is documented — every bill, payment, conversation and agreement
  • Keep your anger in check — don’t text, email or call your spouse when you’re angry over the latest game

Get in therapy

When you go about the legal process of divorce, it’s wise to mentally divorce yourself as well. Therapy can help you sidestep the narcissist’s traps and plan your responses so that they’re hard for the narcissist to twist around. It can also help you cope with your frustrations.

Ultimately, take heart: The divorce will eventually happen, no matter how much the narcissist fusses, fumes and drags it out. If you stay focused on the end goal, you’ll come through the process just fine.

Source: Psychology Today, “13 Essential Tips if You Are Divorcing a Narcissist,” Peg Streep, accessed June 14, 2018

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