Divorcing a Narcissist is No Joke

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Getting divorced sucks. Divorcing a narcissist is no joke.

It’s an all-around bad time for anyone that has to go through the ugly experience of court, lawyers, money talk, and the excruciating idea of dividing up time with your kids.

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The legal jargon, structure, and rigidity of it alone is enough to make you sick. And that doesn’t include the emotional distress.

Divorcing someone you once loved hurts.

Divorcing someone you no longer love because they are madly in love with themselves is in a whole new realm of torment. It’s debilitating, mind-blowing, crippling at times.

Any person with any empathy at all knows that literally no one wins in a divorce. Even the most amicable divorce brings hurt, grief, and pain. Your life as you know it is vastly different.

Your home, your daily routine, EVERYTHING about your existence utterly changes.

This is not a win in anyone’s book, except the narcissist.

Any potential threat to the narcissist’s self-esteem is perceived as a highly personal attack, even if your approach is civil. And to a narcissist, divorce is a sign of weakness, of failure. The ultimate ego bruiser.

Once the papers are filed, everything becomes a game to be won to the narcissist. And only they get to decide when it’s over.

Every move they make is a calculated one and no issue is too ludicrous or too minute to raise hell over.

Nothing is off limits when the narcissist’s self-image is at stake.

He will literally do whatever it takes to maintain the façade of the injured party, without shame or remorse. Even if it means sharing private, intimate details of your lives, or making you look like an unstable and incapable parent.

If it were up to the narcissist, you would have no rights as a parent (or a human being, if they had it their way) at all.

They may proclaim an intention of peace and amicability, but their goal is, without a doubt, to win.

Money unquestionably becomes insignificant to the narcissist.

They will drain your accounts and any equity you might share, and when they are done they will move on to family and friends they can exploit for help because they can’t back down. Peace doesn’t fuel the narcissist.

In the end, you will have collectively wasted 70k fighting over an old, broken microwave.

And that’s just the beginning.

The narcissist will take every last ounce of energy they think you might have left and drag it through the mud, depicting you as a complete piece of shit.

Be vigilant. Because no matter how the cards fall, this (whatever *this* is) is going to be your fault.

They will take every single thing you do and twist it into something it’s not just to paint a bigger picture of the monster they want to portray you as.

Because surrender without complete destruction is just not an option for the narcissist.

And even though it’s a battle to the death of your sanity, it really doesn’t matter in the end if they actually win what they are fighting for. They have a plan to explain that away too.

It won’t be because of their shotty tactics or inappropriateness. It will be because of the unjust court system, an unfair judge, or a “bad” lawyer.

They will have a thought out and exceptionally detailed list of the “wrong-doings” that happened to them because a narcissist never accepts blame or responsibility. He’d rather take everyone he’s ever loved down with him than show any sign of feebleness or fault.

It won’t feel like a “win” to you either after the battle you’ve just fought to get out of a living hell.

Even if you do walk away the “victor” in this relentless personal encounter with psychological warfare, you will have convinced yourself you don’t deserve it, because all along the narcissist has been telling you so.

And he’s not done yet.

Narcissists are amazing, manipulative story tellers. And they will tell their stories to anyone that will listen.

Long after the show is over they will continue to spread their elaborate lies until they are fulfilled with enough sympathy or applause to fuel their vainness.

Lies and deceit are their playbook.

You find yourself documenting EVERY.SINGLE.INTERACTION to back up the absurdity that’s become your reality because you’re sure no one will believe you when you tell them. And the narcissist has convinced you that you’re crazy, so you need reassurance.

Someone to agree that this is not how things should be. Ever.

It’s really hard to talk to someone who can’t reason with logic. You continuously try to show them how out of control the entire situation is, but you’re wasting your breath. It’s useless.

And to other people, it looks as though you’ve given up, or given in, but in reality, you’re just trying hard to save your sanity on the brink of what seems like a never-ending pandemonium.

Trying to stay quiet and be the “rational” one while all of this is going on might be harder than divorce itself.  

Because he will intentionally try to push you over the edge so he can justify his actions and build evidence to back up the picture he’s painted of you along the way.

The smallest lull in chaos might give you hope. You yearn so badly for things to calm down, finally get better. However, it’s an unfortunate truth that with a narcissist, things will never not be in complete mayhem because this is the bane of their existence. Without havoc, they can’t function. Can’t exist.

If they find that things have settled or that they have been “found out” they will seek out someone new to disrupt and dominate. Because they thrive on it.

Divorce is terrible. Nobody gets married thinking that one day this will all come to an end. It hurts enough all on its own.

But when you’re divorcing a narcissist, hurt doesn’t even begin to describe it.

It’s unimaginable, humiliating, and exhausting.

They are so in love with themselves that they simply can’t fathom the fact that someone doesn’t feel the same. The only way to come to terms with this is to completely self-destruct and carry their loved ones through the ruins. No matter the cost.

Divorcing a narcissist made up the worst year of my life, hands down. But it has to be said, I would do it all over again after truly seeing what he was capable of. I just might do things a little differently this time around.

This post originally appeared on Mom Transparenting

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for writing this. “Trying to stay quiet and be the “rational” one while all of this is going on might be harder than divorce itself.” My continuing to do the right thing and stay even while he spins out of control didn’t help me or hurt him when it came to settling our divorce..which is extremely frustrating. I guess it helps to know that I am not alone as sad as that is.

  2. Even 8 years after divorce it’s STILL exhausting. Any choices, challenges or schedule changes with kids is one excruciating and ridiculous argument after another. It never ends. There’s no reasoning or rationale with the other person. Completely and utterly exhausting! I feel you!!

    • Omg.. people don’t get it. They think once your divorced that’s it. Are you kidding me! It’s as if they want to punish you now.
      The bullying, the insults about what a terrible mother I am still continued. The hoarding of money, the lies. I could go on! It’s beyond exhausting..

      • They not only want to punish you…they want to annihilate you. I thought I was the only one who felt like a “failure” at divorce. Took some time at the therapist to believe otherwise. After being divorced 40 years, he’s still badmouthing me to everyone. Amazing. Now, ask me if I care. I win…I’m the one that got away! 🙂

  3. The pronoun of the narcissist throughout this article is masculine. And I will not dispute that men are more likely to be narcissistic than women. At least, explicitly and aggressively narcissistic. But, as the husband who initiated the divorce from someone who would not self-examine and self-correct and one who blamed me for pointing out her character flaws and so on, I had only bad choices about the marriage and divorce was the “best” bad choice. This article is nearly 100% accurate on how my ex-wife reacted and continues to react years after the divorce.

  4. My daughter sent me this article. And while we’ve talked about it, I didn’t really think she (my ex) was…and some parts don’t fit, mainly because I don’t engage and she doesn’t (now) if I don’t. But it is completely true that she has completely rewritten history, like she always did and painted herself the victim. My youngest won’t speak to her and my oldest has very limited contact. She tells her friends, as she once told me how ungrateful and selfish my children are. This is only a small part of things. Thank you for the article. I still feel like I don’t deserve to be happy

    • I’m beginning to understand what you’re talking about. I never consider my wife to be a narcissist until now I read about it. I just thought I was always wrong and never could do anything right. Now I know why I was so mentally tired and emotionally stressed out all the time.

  5. So, my spouse just posted this to social media and sent me a message indicating as such… I have been labeled as a narcissist by them for a while… I’m also “controlling, an addict, etc” and have finally realized that they project everything they struggle with themselves, on me. I’m astonished and terrified how much of this applies to them.. Im terrified not for me, but for my sons. I’ve spent 2 months working towards getting separation agreements, temporary custody agreements, counseling, etc all in an effort to avoid a divorce and work for towards a dissolution (hoping to save our kids mental and financial futures). I’m not giving up hope yet, but this isn’t very encouraging… anyone have suggestions on resources to help?

    • My spouse did the same thing. She posted it on social media commenting she had tears while reading it. I’m not allowed to ask/talk anything at home, just take care of everything including the kid without uttering a word. To catch up on the work I stay up late in the night. This pandemic has taught me I’ve been married to a selfish n self centric person who doesn’t care a tiny even about the kid. There is no affection, love, sex, worst of all anything I do is just waste of time or not worth it. Fixing the chair she uses every day for work is not something she wud be thankful, all the cleaning, cooking, more importantly taking care of the toddler during my work time while she’s busy working or sleeping is just not worth her time. I already lost hope in God. All this is a game played by selfish ppl not God.

  6. You do not have to give in to a narcissist. You DO HAVE TO BE SMART. Narcissist are always the victims in their minds. You will always be the bad guy to the narcissist friends and family. However, these people are irrelevant. If they’ve been manipulated by a narcissist, why do you care what they think about you? They’re weak! Be strong and smart! Hire a third party for all communication.

    Document EVERYTHING! Do not let a narcissist sink you financially merely because they temporarily sank you emotionally. When your heads lifts, and it will again I promise, your finances will still be a mess if you gave into a narcs demands. Do not do this to yourself! It’s not worth it.

  7. It’s been ten years and it’s still not better. As horrible as it is, I’m glad I’m not the only one. That it’s not me!

  8. I know someone who did not respond to being served with custody papers, they were called out a lot of horrific truths In the documents. I still can’t help but think not responding was some how supporting a plan and a sob story for the judge. Now court has been delayed for months and the people who are really suffering the most are the kids. The other parent looks like they are denying access but that isn’t actually the case that’s just the picture painted for anyone who didn’t experience the chaos within the home.

    It’s mind blowing how someone can believe their own lies and change history to such a great extent and not feel any remorse for putting people they say they love through hell.

  9. It’s been 6 years since my husbands divorce was final from his ex-wife. Even 6 years later he (we) are dealing with having to document every interaction for his (our own) protection. She was the one whose actions led to the end of their marriage and she was the one who filed for divorce but yet even after re-marrying and having children with her new husband she is still hell-bent on his total annihilation. It’s exhausting for me and I am only on the sidelines. Although I have been in her cross-hairs on more than one occasion my husband does his best to shield me from it all. Thankfully I fully understand what it is she is trying to do and refuse to let us break us! The saddest part of all of this is that she uses their children as a means to his end. She has tried her hardest to destroy any relationship he may have with them. It has backfired with the oldest and we are currently awaiting a trial date as we have taken custody of that child. Women can be narcissists too.

  10. A friend just sent this to me and it is spot on! I had to wait until my ex went to prison for 8 years before I had the energy and strength to divorce him. I knew he would manipulate EVERYTHING and because he owned his own business, his pockets were bottomless. After 22 years of marriage and 4 amazing kids, and 2 years of negotiation, our divorce was finalized on February 1, 2019. I am still learning how strong and capable I really am.

    I applaud you for your bravery, determination and stamina!! It takes so much inner strength to go head to head with a narcissist but in the end, it truly is worth it!

    To all of the men and women who have already dug in, fought the battle and reached the other side, I’m proud of you!!

    To all the men and women who are thinking of going through this life-altering event, remember that you are stronger than you think you are!! It is so hurtful on so many levels but the freedom you feel and the weight that is lifted from your shoulders when you’re finally your own person again, is unimaginable and absolutely exhilarating!! Remember… YOU ARE WORTHY AND DESERVE real love, trust, respect and true partnership. I pray you find the will to seek it <3

  11. Everything you say here is true. Two years later the courts awarded me sole custody and he continues to appeal the child support decision, but not custody. The only answer is to document everything and have no contact that cannot be documented. No phone calls or face to face contact. Anything that can be manipulated will be. Daylight is the best disinfectant. If he cannot manipulate he will eventually walk away. You can get away without being destroyed.

  12. Hey I dont know if this is allowed. But can some one reach out to me? I need help! My wife, was with a narcissist for 8 years. Its been 5 years since she left. And she need help. But I need help! I have done everything known to man to support her through this challenging time. But I need help! I need voices. My wife just tells me that I say nice things because I’m her husband. I’m supposed to say nice things. Although 50% true. I dont say it because I’m her husband. I say and do it because I truly love my wife. She is everything to me. But im losing touch with my wife and I dont know what to do. The narcissist ex is draining her so bad that it’s starting to affect me and our relationship!

    Please anyone help!!! Bridges1718 @ gmail .com
    24-7

  13. This article is pretty accurate. Divorcing a narcissist is a dumpster fire while sliding down a mountain. I think realizing who he/she is was a kick in the gut to begin with. Then once you file the real evil starts: stalking, threatening, the most awful things being said and done, an attempt to discredit you to every person you have ever known. All of his/her prior and current behaviors are “justified”. Whether you make them unhappy so they should be allowed to seek attention elsewhere to you making them mad so the destruction of personal property is ok. The real kicker is when they manipulate children. They never stop and they enlist the help of friends, who now due to a smear campaign, think you are the awful one.

  14. I have literally just put a Narcissist out of my house last night. It was the last straw. And I already know the BS is about to come my way in return. 12 years and 4 kids, 5 with the extra one he made and that’s my fault too. I’m over it and so are my kids. They were happy to see him go, sadly.

  15. I’ve discussed divorce with my husband several times but yes not getting it. He has control of the finances so currently my hands are tied. I make roughly $1,000-$1,500/mo and stay home with our kids most days. He switched gears from “okay, write down your demands” to denying me a divorce, accusing me of trying to bankrupt the family, to buying land to “build a house for him to live in” while staying married.
    The key issue here and much of what this article described is the need to control. In his mind, if he just lives elsewhere, we can come up with a parenting plan and I get what I want – away from him. But it won’t work that way. He’ll have to supplement my income which means, he’ll still have control. He’ll go over every receipt, audit our joint checking account, check our cabinets, survey the condition of our home and naturally ce and go as he pleases. If he can’t reach me, he’ll interrogate me, asking me where I’ve been and with whom. Conversely he’ll have his own space to do what he wants without consequence.
    I know this as he left me when I was pregnant with our second. He came around as he pleases and did all of the aforementioned. He was cruel, angry, vindictive… He told me I was a crazy nut bag, a freak, a bitch, a cunt… It turns out I wasn’t all those things, but that he had been cheating in me with a co worker, with whom he eventually moved in while I was pregnant. The cruelty started long before he left (probably around when the affair started) but got exponentially worse after he moved out. He discarded me and had nothing but contempt in his heart toward me. When she kicked him out, naturally his tune changed. I was too broken and let him back in.

    I learned his potential and that is what really scares me about divorce. When I hand him the papers, I’ll go from incompetent wife to enemy number one.

  16. This article led me to share my own words…

    DIVORCING A NARCISSIST

    It is hellish. They isolate you from all former social circles. Narcissists are charismatic and come across believable, while being adept liars who do so with no guilt or remorse. They tend to enrapture the court to their will. They will make a false claim that requires you spend hours collating evidence to debunk. Then once you have evidence to debunk, the court will suddenly cease to care about the issue. Issues you raise of a far more serious nature will be ignored by the courts.

    I have had to deal with reports of my children being choked, sat upon, having their nose and mouth covered, and hear them share being called derogatory names.

    Meanwhile, you will be attacked about everything. What you feed them. The quality of their poop. If you’re 5-10 minutes late dropping them off when they’re court ordered to pick them up, but don’t.

    They will seem to be handed EVERYTHING with ease, and you will have to struggle and be exhausted to just retain the bare minimum.

    It will feel insane. It is insane. Your heart will break. Your soul will crack. You will lose friends and be alone, because people will not understand.

    They will just think (a) your divorce is just two bitter people who wont forgive (b) that you just need to move on and ignore your ex – they do not understand that you can’t simply ignore things because of the court system. And that a narcissist ex never forgives and wages a constant and continuous vendetta.

    Years after you have parted, when they have a new lover, new house, new car, while you’re struggling to just survive…they will still be attacking.

    Years later they will contact or post utterly baseless statements on the walls of facebook friends that were your friends prior to marriage. You will think to yourself “why don’t they simply live their life, instead of focusing on attacking you” – but Narcissists do not know how to forgive. They will NOT be content to simply part ways. They are intent on your ruin. They need you ruined in order to justify their own actions against you.

    You see, they view the time with you as lost, or more aptly, stolen by you. And you can’t restore that time to them. Therefore you will NEVER be forgiven by them. Narcissists need to have control (of their environment and those around them). They also have need of being seen a certain way, and anything or ANYONE who tarnishes their image or puts it to question is immediately painted black.

    They will create a version of you that they portray to others, in an attempt to justify their treatment of you. If abusive, the version of you cotinuously and deliberately did things to make them abuse you. It was your fault. If they abandoned you, they will seek your ruin so that they can justify having left you just in time.

    Although routinely denigrated by the Narcissist and demeaned and called names, and perhaps even physically abusivr (be it occasional, as my cade, or routinely as in far too many others), the narcissist will attempt to portray you as the abuser and themselves as a victim. Garnering sympathy while simultaneously isolating you further.

    NOTE: Narcissists are instigators. Don’t let the times they pushed you to react cause you guilt. (I had to question a past ex, in order to get reinforcement and affirmation that in the year and a half we were together, i was NEVER like what my dynamic with my Narcissist ex was like, nor what my narc-ex portrayed and claimed me to be like.)

    Yes, even you may have done some of the same in retaliation or defense. same You may have shouted back or cussed them out too, (as i did), you may have even responded to physical attacks with the same (something i am grateful that i never did). There were a few times after an argument that i kicked a trash can or slammed a door – i am not proud of those moments. And you likely are not proud of your moments of failure.

    However, please remember it is very hard to continuously endure such abuse and not be pushed to react on occasion. Especially as often the Narcissists entire goal is to push you to react so they can then swap blame for the situation onto you. That being a common Narcissist strategy, they pick at your bones continuously, starting conflicts over anything and everything. Small inconsequential matters are made into soul crushing criticisms. Then guilt and gas light you once they finally manage to push you to reacting. And most of this will happen in the shadows, happen indoors, not when people are around.

    I call it church door syndrome. My father could be a monster, and the drives to church were often the worst. But once we walked thru that doors the genteel polite helpful disposition was put on for show. And a narcissist often will make a statement that will seem inconsequential to the others standing around, but will be a sharp stab related to the prior hidden conflict. So when you throw up your arms and exclaim “you’re done, you’ll be in the car” they will look to the others standing and sequester affirmation ” Did I say something horribly wrong? Or did she/he overreact?” And the Narcissist will be told nothing was wrong with their statement. They clearly overreacted. And the public image will be of the Narcissist’s spouse being at issue. Unaware that a subtle game of undermining was orchestrated by the Narcissist and that their seemingly mild words were in fact merely a fuse lit to set off charges they planted earlier. This is how Narcissists and the like work.

    Narcissists rarely apologize. When they do, it is often for the sake of dropping the issue at hand. And if you attempt to inquire and discuss their action further, why they did it or how or hurt you, they will blow up on you and decry that their apology wasn’t enough. You quickly realize from the anger that they were not apologetic nor interested in your hurt nor remorseful for their actions, rather they simply wanted the matter dropped. I

    Likewise, “Affection” is meted out in controlled doses to reward, and withheld to show displeasure. Even asking for a kiss goodnight or goodbye can be refused, asking why will blow up into a confrontation. And you’ll be left to go to bed or drive home in a torn mental state having been belittled, criticised, and made to feel a failure. They will give you the silent treatment but not express why they are displeased. They will tell you nothing is wrong, while interacting with you in a way that is cold, harsh, and clearly says something is wrong. Because that enables them to control you, and leave you questioning yourself. You’ll think back to any recent situation in which you made a mistake or let them down. You’ll inquire of that is the issue. Their response “No, i already said there was NO ISSUE! But since you mention it.” (Having manipulated you into searching for and handing them ammo to now assail you.)

    And if you think that separating ends these behaviors, you are quite misguided. Regardless of whether you leave them or they abandon you, they will use the divorce system to take as much as they can from you. Their idea of a compromise is, i gave into one thing and you have to give into all of mine. If you give them 90% of what they ask for, they still feel that they only got half of what they asked for, and less than they feel they deserve and are entitled to. And if you have children, you are cursed to 18 – youngest child’s age of being dragged into court and the entire family court system being a club they can wield against you. And since Narcissists tend to have a charismatic presentation, each time you have a new judge or court magistrate (which in my case is nearly every time) entails starting from scratch with the Narcissist immediately swoon them to their favor requiring you to have to spend hours of labor to defend from their accusations and substantiate your claims. The process will leave you feeling like Alice in Wonderland – all their accusations will seem to accepted at face value as truth, and any of your claims will be passed over. Taking the high road, being passive, seeking an equitable 50/50 are sadly losing strategies when dealing with a Narcissist in family court.

    This detail of what it is like to part ways with a Narcissist is based on my personal experiences as well as anecdotal observations of family/friends who have parted ways with a Narcissist. Sadly, i suspect that others who have similarly parted ways will relate to a large portion of what i have described above.

    It is my personal opinion that these behaviors are typical of Cluster B disorders (Narcissist/BPD/sociopaths).

    For those who have parted ways, be it spouse, significant other, parent, or a family member – do your experiences line up with what I have described above?

    Posted to my old blog if anyone wants to link
    https://thesaj.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/divorcing-a-narcissist/

  17. It took two years to divorce my narcissistic husband. Then two more to finalize our custody dispute. I “won” but it hasn’t stopped. He has called CPS on me for nothing (I actually had a video of the supposed incident), has yelled and cursed at my new husband in front of our children, continues to undermine my parenting, continues his parental alienation campaign, and yet STILL TELLS ME HE LOVES ME. It is exhausting. The children and my husband and I are in family counseling and he is actually trying to keep us from going. He tries to control my parenting from his house. My seven-year-old has told me he “knows” I had an affair with my now-husband because “daddy said so.” It’s awful.

    I have cameras inside and outside my home because of him. I record everything. That’s how the judge was able to see through his lies.

    Please, stay strong. No in-person conversation unless it’s recorded. Not voice calls unless it’s recorded. No possible room for manipulating the conversation.

    The only way to win is to not play the game.

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