If you are married to a narcissist, divorce could appear as a sign of relief from great struggles. However, the process of divorcing a narcissist can be much more difficult than what might be anticipated with a normal divorce. Whether or not your spouse has been formally diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, certain personality traits might translate into a long, difficult process. Working with a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at Ziegler Law Group, LLC might help to decrease the conflict and protect your interests both during and after your divorce.
Recognizing Narcissistic Traits and Behavior
People commonly refer to others who exhibit selfish behaviors as narcissists. In the context of divorce, it is easy for one spouse to interpret the other spouse's actions as selfish. However, a party's vested interest in their asset and well-being during a divorce do not necessarily mean that they fit the definition of a narcissist.
Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed based on the presence of the following criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V):
- Preoccupied by fantasies of unlimited power, success, beauty, etc.
- Belief in being unique and that they can only be understood by others who are special
- Excessive need for admiration
- Exploitation of others
- Lack of empathy
- Envying others or thinking that others envy them
While the diagnostic criteria can be helpful, a formal diagnosis is not necessary when dealing with someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors during a divorce. Instead of focusing on whether your spouse has been formally diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, focus on how they behave. If your spouse exhibits traits of narcissism, you should prepare for a challenging and difficult divorce process and take steps to protect yourself.
How to Divorce a Narcissist
It is rarely easy for a divorce involving a narcissistic party to go smoothly, as there are many complex emotions involved. Here are some steps to take when you believe your spouse is a narcissist in order to best protect yourself.
Hire a Divorce Lawyer
While there is no requirement to retain a divorce lawyer in New Jersey to end your marriage, trying to represent yourself when divorcing a narcissist could be extremely taxing on your well-being.
A good New Jersey divorce lawyer can protect your interests, handle the communication with your spouse, and provide objective insights into your situation. It is advised to not trust your spouse to deliver on what they promised. It is common for narcissists to engage in gaslighting tactics during divorces, with the help of an experienced attorney, you can navigate through these difficult behaviors.
Set Clear Boundaries
If you and your narcissistic spouse have been married for a long time, you are probably familiar with blurred boundaries. In some cases, a narcissist will exhibit controlling behaviors that border on abuse. During a divorce, expect these behaviors to worsen.
This is why it is imperative to take the proper steps to set firm boundaries with your spouse. Block them on your email and social media accounts, in addition to changing all of your passwords to any accounts you have—try avoiding passwords you believe your spouse could hack. If you must communicate with your spouse, tell them to go through your divorce lawyer, in lieu of reaching out to you directly.
If you do communicate with them, establish firm boundaries about when, how, and why you are willing to talk to them. Non-emergency communications should go through your lawyer. You can also require any communication to be in writing through text messages or email. This helps to establish documentation of what was said and when it was said. If your narcissistic ex tries to call your phone, don't answer. You can instead send a text message reminding them of your boundaries and tell them to communicate by text or email instead of calling you.
During your divorce, document everything that occurs, even if it appears minor. Keep a journal, and write down information about any negative behaviors, missed parenting time, missed appointments, or missed child/ spousal support payments, be sure to include dates. Keep copies of all text messages and emails, including any responses you wrote. Resist the temptation to discard your replies and remain civil, no matter what your spouse says. Show everything to your lawyer so they can record them or follow up.
Prepare Your Finances
Once you file for divorce from a narcissist, they are likely to try to damage you in every way possible, including your finances. Prepare yourself before you file. Open a bank account at a different bank than your spouse in your name only. Arrange for your income payments to be deposited into your new account instead of your joint account. If you have to set your account up with an email address, create a new one that you use exclusively for that account. Do not order a debit card or checks.
Deposit money slowly and consider doing things such as rounding up purchases and having the difference deposited into your account. Considering selling luxury gifts you have received, including jewelry or gold.
Make sure you know all about your finances. Get copies of the most recent statements for every bill your family pays., in addition to the most recent statements from your joint account, any retirement accounts owned by you or your spouse, titles to your vehicles, property deeds, and investment account balances. Copy the last two to three years of your income tax returns and W-2s. Make an inventory everything you and your spouse own. Keep your copies of these items a safe place outside of your home, such as your office or with your attorney. It's much easier to get copies of all these things before you file divorce paperwork than trying to get a narcissist to give you copies after the fact.
Concentrate on Your Emotional Health and Well-Being
Make sure to prioritize your mental health during your divorce. The process can be emotionally difficult, and you shouldn't let it overwhelm you. Engage in activities that uplift you, including meditation, yoga, writing in a journal, spending time with loved ones, or spending time outdoors.
Seeing a therapist is a smart strategy for addressing the stress and anxiety you might experience during your divorce. If you are divorcing a narcissist, therapy can also provide you with much-needed support. Look for a therapist who has experience with personality disorders and marital issues.
Why a Narcissist Won’t Divorce You Easily
Divorcing a narcissist is not easy. When you ask for a divorce, your spouse might experience a sudden loss of control that disrupts their sense of grandiosity and the idea that they are special. Narcissists do not like losing control and tend to lash out when they do.
Some of the behaviors you might anticipate when getting divorced from a narcissist include the following:
Your spouse might try to ‘love-bomb’ you—or show extreme displays of attention and/or affection— in an attempt to convince you not to go through with the divorce. Do not be fooled by this display. If you go back, they will then revert to their original behavior, and perhaps become even more controlling.
Pretending to be the Victim
A narcissist might try to get others to go against you and convince others that they are the victim of this ordeal, not you. Expect your spouse to bad-mouth you to their friends and family. Your spouse might even tell lies about you to try to ruin your reputation; often, this is what causes a high conflict divorce, which requires special attention and care.
Refusing to Negotiate
Narcissists love to be the center of attention and might favor litigation. Your spouse might have fantasies about being the ‘star’ at trial and believe they will win everything outright. As a result, you might not be able to reach a settlement agreement and may be forced to go to trial to end your marriage.
Trying to Game the System
Narcissists are known for being intelligent charismatic people; therefore your spouse may try to use their ‘powers of persuasion’ to convince the attorneys and judge that you have wronged them. Anticipate lies and aspersions from them. In order to fight those lies, it is crucial to document everything and shine a light on the truth.
Since narcissists don't like to lose control, your spouse might try to continue controlling you through your children or finances. Be sure to take the necessary steps to protect yourself both during and after your marriage, these can include arranging for supervised custody exchanges, and protecting your finances. If your narcissistic spouse engages in acts of domestic violence, seek a restraining order and report their conduct to law enforcement.
Seek Help From a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
If you are preparing to divorce your spouse and believe they are a narcissist, you should reach out to an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer at Ziegler Law Group, LLC before you file your paperwork. We can evaluate your situation and provide you with some advice about how to proceed. Call us today at (973) 533-1100 to schedule a consultation.
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