Nearly all of us have moments of selfishness that can affect the health of many of the personal relationships in our lives. It is particularly difficult to live with or be married to a person who is exceptionally self-centered and egotistical. Sometimes, however, an individual may have more going on than just a few unhealthy character traits—he or she may be a pathological narcissist. If you are in the process of getting divorced from a narcissistic spouse, there are some things for you to consider.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), approximately .5 to 1 percent of the adult population has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD. Up to three-quarters of those are men. Experts believe that tens of thousands of additional cases of NPD go undiagnosed.
Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by a pattern of behaviors that demonstrate an obsession with one’s self. Narcissists tend to focus almost exclusively on their own gratification and ambition. They are generally charming people, but their charm is typically a mechanism for getting what they want. Narcissists lack empathy and tend to take very little responsibility for their own actions, especially when they are hurtful.
Unfortunately, those who marry narcissists often become acclimatized to their reality and even become brainwashed in a way. They allow themselves to be convinced that they are the source of the problems—not their narcissistic spouse—and that if they could be “better” things would improve. Those who have shown the courage to divorce a narcissistic spouse must usually overcome a similar set of challenges during the divorce process.
What Can You Do?
Mental health and relationship experts say that narcissists tend to count on their spouses’ surrender in almost any situation, including a divorce. It is easier to give in than to fight. This can be very dangerous and costly in a divorce. If your spouse is a narcissist—diagnosed or not—be sure to:
- Catch yourself reacting: There is a good chance that your spouse will try to manipulate the divorce proceedings to make you look bad, just as he or she probably did during your relationship. You may find yourself falling into old habits of reacting to your spouse’s demands, but you do not have to do so any longer. Before responding or taking any action, think rationally about the situation and your needs first;
- Choose your battles: A narcissist is likely to feel powerful by forcing you to engage in a drawn-out proceeding. Your spouse may be unable to simply let go and allow the process to play out. He or she may need to “win,” but “winning” often means more than getting a favorable divorce settlement. Your spouse may feel vindicated if he or she sees you struggling along the way. By taking your time to focus on what is truly important, you can maintain control over yourself and your case.
- Let your attorney know: Perhaps the most important thing you can do when divorcing a narcissist is to keep your lawyer fully informed of the situation. Sit down with your attorney and explain the history of your relationship. Your spouse may have exercised control over you for years, but your lawyer is an objective outsider with no loyalty to your narcissistic partner. If your attorney has not dealt with such a scenario before, you may consider hiring someone else.
Call Us for Help
If you are in the process of divorcing a narcissistic spouse, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can provide the guidance and support you need along the way. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.