My Spouse is a narcissist
“My spouse is a narcissist.” When I hear this, I take note, having seen the damage that a true narcissist can inflict during a divorce. Still the term “narcissist” gets tossed around pretty easily. In the midst of separation, its an easy label to attach to any over-bearing, bullish, vain or full-of-themselves individual.
Not every narcissist is a NARCISSIST
This is pretty important to understand. Most of us have a notable dose of narcissism. We are all capable of being egotistical, unfeeling, gutless or an egomaniac, however that doesn’t really make the person in question a true narcissist.
True narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a serious psychological diagnosis. They are emotionally broken individuals who have developed profoundly dysfunctional defense mechanisms to protect themselves against what is actually a staggering internalized sense of inferiority. True narcissism is not bad behaviour, a strong personality or even egotism, but rather a serious pathological, mental condition.
At the onset all narcissists tend to be charming, agreeable, confident, open, well-adjusted, entertaining and often quite successful. Only later after entering into permanent relationship does one see through the narcissists’ façade to the profound lack of empathy, lies and manipulations played out on others. Not all narcissists are men. Women can also be narcissists.
Serious difficulties and conflict arise quickly in narcissistic relationships. It’s very easy to fall in love with a narcissist, difficult to live with a narcissist and profoundly painful to leave one. Relationship instability is expected when personality pathology is present and a disproportionate number of narcissists get divorced. Divorcing a narcissist requires a unique personal strategy.
If you are divorcing a narcissist, take note of these pointers:
- Do not date until your divorce is complete. Dating anyone else at this time will only amplify narcissistic injury and guarantee extra drama and pain during your separation process. Focus on getting through this process with healthy platonic friends.
- A narcissist will present themselves to others as the victim. Trying to manage slanders, lies and perceptions is actually to take the narcissistic bait. Avoid the temptation to mop up their dirty mess. In the end, trust that the truth will come out when the narcissist’s true colors inevitably surface elsewhere.
- They will set you up. They need you to be the broken one, the bad one or the irrational one. This helps them feel better about themselves. You are being set up to fall, react and fail dramatically… to discount you, validate themselves and prove their point to everyone else.
- Become boring. A narcissist knows your buttons and will push them simply for your response. Even a bad response is better than no response. Be assured that if they are not getting narcissist supply from you, they will quickly look for it elsewhere. Your job is to not take the bait of every challenge.
- Grow boundaries, but keep them to yourself. Your personal boundaries have been slowly breached over the years and now you will need to regrow healthy boundaries again. This is your work. Advertising them to a narcissist is to only open your new boundaries to their attack.
- Narcissists know we are tied to our cell phones. A narcissist will use your cell phone as a crack into your private life. They will swamp you with calls, bomb you with texts or hit you with long, overwhelming messages. Respond with short, simple and straightforward answers. Set personal boundaries as to when, how often and how much you will answer. When in doubt turn off your phone.
- Plan for holidays and special occasions. A narcissist needs to be front and center in your line of site. This often means that they will purposely wreck holidays and try to rock your world on special occasions. Understand that it is coming and plan for it accordingly.
- Narcissists have a distorted understanding of love, but likely so do you. Humans have a tendency to normalize unnormal behaviour. Narcissists marry for narcissistic supply, but the ones they marry often internalize damaged understandings of what love really is also. Take time to learn more about yourself and what you need to prosper.
- A rottweiler lawyer is not necessarily the legal response to a narcissist. A calm, confident and secure professional is a narcissist’s worst nightmare. Contrary to assumptions, these divorces are often better resolved in non-confrontational legal processes like mediation and collaborative law where participants are held directly accountable for their behaviour.
- Seek the help of a mental professional. Often professionals are able to recognize narcissism simply by the predictable pattern behaviours of the spouse. A mental health professional who specializes in narcissistic behaviour will wisely help you to walk through the emotional landmines of the divorce and disengagement process.
The Top 3 Divorce Mistakes People Make
1. Hiring a lawyer before understanding all their negotiation options
2. Succumbing to emotions at the expense of their financial future
3. Not starting with a smart, legal and financially savvy go-forward plan