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How Does a Narcissist React to Divorce?

woman taking off wedding ring

Divorce can be a tumultuous event in anyone's life, but when one spouse exhibits traits of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), diagnosed or undiagnosed, the situation can become significantly more complex. People with NPD or frequent signs of narcissistic behavior often have a unique or unexpected response to divorce. Fueled by an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, they may employ manipulative tactics such as gaslighting, attempting to convince their spouse that they don't truly desire the separation. The psychological battlefield of a divorce involving a narcissist warrants a comprehensive understanding, so before confronting a narcissistic partner about your intent to divorce, learn more about what could happen.

What Will a Narcissist Say When You Ask for a Divorce?

Approaching a narcissist with the proposition of divorce can be a challenge. Narcissists tend to perceive a request for divorce as a direct assault on their self-esteem, so they may immediately get defensive. Despite their outward show of confidence, narcissists may internally grapple with self-worth issues, and the idea of divorce could exacerbate these insecurities. They may resort to manipulative tactics or guilt-tripping to maintain control over the situation. Being prepared for this can help you navigate the conversation more effectively.

A narcissist might respond with any of the following statements or questions when confronted with the prospect of divorce:

  • “How can you do this to me?”
  • “Why are you being so selfish?”
  • “You're making a mistake.”
  • “You'll never find someone like me.”
  • “I thought you loved me.”
  • “You're ruining our family.”

It's important to remain firm and confident during this initial interaction because wavering could provide your narcissistic spouse with an opportunity to exploit your uncertainties. Narcissists are often experts at twisting words and manipulating emotions to suit their needs. By maintaining a strong stance, you can shield yourself from their attempts to control the narrative and undermine your decision.

How Do Narcissists Deal with Getting Divorce Papers?

When narcissists are served with divorce papers, their reaction can often be quite different from their initial response to the prospect of divorce. At this stage, the reality and finality of the situation become more tangible, which can trigger a range of reactions, from the intense to the subdued yet still problematic.

Two of the main ways a narcissist might react to getting divorce papers are:

  • Aggression: Narcissists thrive on control and power, so being handed divorce papers can feel like a significant loss of control, which can lead to them becoming more aggressive, vindictive, or manipulative in an attempt to regain control over the situation. They might launch personal attacks, make false accusations, or try to drag out the proceedings to maintain a sense of dominance.
  • Manipulation: On the other hand, some narcissists might swing to the opposite extreme and suddenly become overly cooperative or even affectionate, offering promises of change in a last-ditch effort to prevent the divorce from going through. This effort can be a calculated move to confuse their partner and create doubt about the decision to divorce.

In either case, it's important to remember that these behaviors are likely tactical, rather than genuine expressions of remorse or willingness to change. It's advisable to stay firm in your decision, maintain clear boundaries, and seek legal counsel to navigate this complex process.

Can a Narcissist Get Abusive During a Divorce?

During a divorce, a narcissist may feel a loss of control and react by becoming abusive. This abuse can manifest in various ways, such as emotional, verbal, financial, or, in some cases, even physical abuse. They might resort to increased intimidation, threats, manipulation, or gaslighting in an attempt to regain control or punish their spouse for initiating the divorce.

Different abuse types take different forms, such as:

  • Emotional and verbal abuse could involve belittling, constant criticism, or attempts to make the other person feel guilty or worthless, so they think they won’t have any support system after the divorce.
  • Financial abuse could involve withholding money or assets or using them as a means of control, so the other spouse thinks they can’t afford to divorce.
  • Physical abuse is a direct threat to safety and may take the form of hitting, slapping, shoving, and other violent acts.

If you're experiencing any form of abuse during a divorce, please take steps to protect yourself. Always prioritize your well-being. Document instances of abuse, including dates, times, and details of what occurred. Inform trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about your situation so they can provide support. Remember to be careful when using a computer or device that is shared with your spouse because they might be able to find your search or app history, even if you try to delete it.

Contact local law enforcement or dial 911 if you're in immediate danger, and consider obtaining a restraining order if necessary. You can reach out to a local domestic violence organization for additional support. It’s essential to prioritize your safety and well-being above all else.

How Do You Approve Abuse in Court?

Proving abuse in court during a divorce case can be complex and requires careful evidence gathering and presentation. It is recommended that you work with a divorce attorney as soon as possible to avoid any mistakes in this process.

You will want to document instances of abuse, which may include keeping a detailed record of incidents with dates, times, and descriptions of what occurred. Tangible evidence such as text messages, emails, voice recordings, or photographs of injuries, if physical abuse is involved, can be highly useful. Witnesses can also play a crucial role; they might be friends, family members, or even professionals like therapists or doctors who can attest to the abuse. Medical records or police reports, if any, can serve as powerful evidence of injuries and how they happened.

Who Can Help You Divorce a Narcissist?

If you need to divorce a narcissist, a legal professional can help you understand what to expect and how to get through the process while protecting your well-being and best interests. People in Southern California can call on the attorneys of Gill Law Group, PC, with several offices throughout the region. We help people with all sorts of divorce and family law cases, but we have intentionally focused much of our practice on divorces involving a narcissist or people with narcissistic personality disorder. You can rely on our experience, insight, and resources to show you the best way through your divorce from a narcissist.

Call (949) 681-9952 or contact us onlineif you want to talk with our divorce lawyers about your case.