Abuse Warrior may earn a commission for purchases made after clicking links on this page. Learn More.

What to expect when Divorcing A Narcissist

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Divorcing a narcissist is far more challenging than divorcing a “regular person.”

Are you locked in a battle with a combative ex? Here are some important tips and tools you can use to keep conflict in your divorce to a minimum.  

Why is divorcing a narcissist so difficult?

The Narcissist’s core personality traits – lack of empathy, interpersonal exploitation, thirst for attention – go into overdrive as he tries to defend against the shame of a failed marriage.

Because the Narcissist feels entitled to do anything to “win,” you must learn what to expect and develop strategies to protect yourself and your children.

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories

Canada

UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/
Untitled design 8

Divorcing a Narcissist: What to Expect

1. Narcissists don’t “get over it.”

Even if they initiated the divorce, have a new significant other, a new baby, or otherwise appear to be living the life of Riley. You are, and will always be, a reminder that something in their life failed.

The only way a Narcissist can tolerate failure is to punish you for tarnishing their image. Expect litigation to go on and on…and on.

2. When you’re divorcing a narcissist, expect your spouse to use the kids as pawns.

The Narcissist will try to hurt you by obstructing your relationship with your children. In their black-and-white worldview, they are The Good Parent and you are The Bad Parent.

Minor parenting snafus will be conflated into allegations of child abuse and neglect.

The Narcissist will never recognize that the kids suffer when they’re pressured to take sides, so attempts to amicably co-parent will most likely fail.

Untitled design 6 1

3. Narcissists create drama.

The Narcissist’s relentless need for attention and “anything to win” philosophy means that you’re probably heading for a high-conflict divorce.

Some classic high-conflict moves include: bad-mouthing, cyber-bullying, threats, interfering with your visitation time, turning molehills into mountains.

Narcissists blame everything on you. The Narcissist’s grandiosity prevents her from owning her part in problems.

That means you are the one who ruined the marriage, you are the one who’s screwing up the children, and you are the one who’s responsible for anything in her life that’s less than perfect.

Expect that you will always be the fall guy and don’t try to prove your innocence.

4. Narcissists lack conflict resolution skills.

Resolving conflict requires recognizing that other people have basic rights, are entitled to their own point-of-view, and that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

Narcissists lack the self-awareness and flexible thinking to do any of these things, which is why mediation often fails.

Untitled design 3 1

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories

Canada

UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tips

Conventional divorce wisdom often doesn’t apply to divorce with a Narcissist, and can even make things worse.

Remember: your ex doesn’t recognize rights and boundaries, so advice to “compromise” will just turn you into the human doormat he thinks you are.

Here are some tips for surviving divorce from a Narcissist.

1. Don’t defend yourself.

Narcissists love to engage you in arguments, so don’t take the bait! Defending yourself against their claims of your shoddy personhood or unfit parenting will just invite more attacks.

When communicating, don’t apologize or justify your position; just stick to the facts.

2. Maintain boundaries.

Narcissists will steamroll over others to get what they want, so you must be vigilant about enforcing your boundaries.

Refer to court orders, don’t respond immediately to texts and e-mails, and don’t allow your ex to intrude on your visitation time with frequent calls and texts to your children.

3. It’s okay to tell your kids your side of the story.

This doesn’t mean you tell your kids what a nightmare your ex is, but it does mean you can and should counter outrageous lies and defamation of character with the facts.

When speaking with your kids, keep the emotional charge out of your voice. If they have problems or concerns about you, advise them to speak to you directly instead of getting your ex involved.

4. Don’t take what your ex says about you personally.

Narcissists tend to project their own flaws onto others, so don’t waste time being wounded.

If you find yourself reeling after yet another hostile e-mail listing your many transgressions, silently repeat this mantra: “what my ex thinks about me is none of my business.”

5. Don’t listen to advice from friends and family.

They mean well, but they probably don’t understand that garden-variety divorce wisdom doesn’t apply to your crazy situation.

Your ex isn’t going to get over it, put the kids first, or otherwise behave like a rational human being.

So the next time your friends reassure you that your ex can’t be “that unreasonable,” or will one day “come around and do what’s right for the kids,” thank them for their concern and say you’d rather not discuss your divorce.

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories

Canada

UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tools

Untitled design 87

1. Hire a attorneys who has a strategy for dealing with Narcissists.

Ask your attorney how he will settle your case with an ex who wants to engage you in perpetual battle and run up your legal fees.

Aggressive family law attorneys tend to exacerbate conflict, not resolve it.

You want a lawyer who does not respond to every crazy allegation, generate mountains of paperwork, or advise you to go to court over minor issues.

2. Document everything.

Narcissists lie, so keep careful records and make copies of important documents.

You never know when you will be hauled into court, so be prepared!

Judges don’t like being deceived, so exposing your ex’s lies could get the judge to rule in your favor.

3. Develop a drama-free communication style.

Although it may be tempting to respond to your ex’s hostility with sarcasm, rage, or defensiveness, resist the urge!

Remember: your ex wants to engage you in battle, so the best way to disengage is to separate your feelings from the information that needs to be exchanged.

If you don’t think you can open your ex’s e-mail without blowing a gasket, ask a friend to read it for you. Then cool off before responding.

4. Practice self-care.

Divorcing a Narcissist is exhausting, so make sure you take care of yourself: exercise, eat regularly, sleep, see friends, get therapy and take medication if needed.

Set boundaries on the time you spend dealing with your divorce. You do not need to respond to every text or e-mail from your ex; once a day is sufficient. Get a good night’s sleep by avoiding divorce “work” – documentation, responding to correspondence – just before bedtime.

Take regular “divorce vacations.” This means that you refrain from talking about your Narcissist ex when you’re out with friends, or on a date.

Taking time away from divorce will help you recharge your batteries and enjoy the good things in your life.

Add a heading 12

1 thought on “What to expect when Divorcing A Narcissist”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *