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Will a Narcissist Ever Settle in Divorce?

Unhappy young couple

Reaching a settlement agreement in a divorce can sometimes be the best option for everyone involved. If you’re divorcing a narcissist or someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), though, a settlement can be much more difficult to reach than the average case. Narcissists often resist settling in divorce proceedings, which will create a variety of complications. Understanding these dynamics can equip you with the knowledge needed to face this difficult journey with confidence.

Why Do Narcissists Avoid Settling a Divorce?

Narcissists often resist settling in divorce proceedings due to their intrinsic need for control, fear of losing power or assets, and the demand for “narcissistic supply,” which is a psychological term for the attention that they crave. A narcissist’s resistance to settling is not necessarily about an attachment to their spouse, but rather about preserving their own self-image and maintaining a sense of superiority. They may view the divorce as a game where they need to emerge as the winner, even if it means dragging out the process unnecessarily, causing additional stress and hardship for all parties involved.

Furthermore, since narcissists are known for their ability to manipulate and control others, they use the divorce process as another platform to exert this control. They lack empathy and do not care about how others feel, making it challenging to reach a fair and amicable settlement. The narcissistic rage that can be triggered by the divorce process often leads to especially toxic behavior, which can further complicate matters.

Why Do Narcissists Drag Out Divorce?

Narcissists often prolong divorce proceedings due to their inherent need for control, fear of abandonment, and desire for vindication. They may see divorce as a competition they must win, reveling in the adversarial nature of the legal system, and exploiting it to their advantage. Narcissists also lack the ability to compromise and consider the best interests of others, including their own children, so prolonging a divorce as much as possible can be just one more way to avoid compromise by trying to tire out their spouse.

What Complications Can Happen If a Divorce Isn’t Settled?

A narcissist may intentionally complicate a divorce by refusing to settle, even when it would be in their best interest to do so. This stubborn refusal to negotiate or compromise can result in many complications, not just for them, but for their spouse and any children involved as well.

Potential complications that can arise when a narcissist refuses to settle a divorce are:

  • Increased financial burden: The longer a divorce process drags on, the more expensive it can become. Court costs and miscellaneous fees, in particular, can add up quickly. The narcissist may use this as a tactic to exert financial control over their spouse.
  • Emotional stress and trauma: Prolonged divorce proceedings can take a severe emotional toll. The constant conflict and manipulation tactics employed by a narcissist can lead to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the other spouse.
  • Negative impact on children: If children are involved, such as in a child custody case, a drawn-out divorce can be particularly damaging. The ongoing conflict can create a hostile environment, which is harmful to a child's emotional and psychological development. Furthermore, the narcissist may use the children as pawns in their game, further worsening the impact on them.

Do Judges See Through Narcissists?

Family law judges can often see through the manipulative tactics of narcissists. They are trained to discern truth from deception while looking through an objective, law-based lens, which makes them generally adept at identifying patterns of narcissistic behavior. However, it's important to note that a judge's ability to recognize a narcissist may not always result in the desired outcome for the other party, as the legal process is complex and influenced by many factors. Furthermore, while some judges may be able to identify narcissistic traits, they might not use the term “narcissist” due to its clinical implications. Therefore, while judges might “see through” a narcissist's tactics, it doesn't guarantee a favorable ruling against the narcissist.

Do Narcissists Ever Get Over Their Ex?

Narcissists often struggle to truly get over their exes, viewing them not as individuals with whom they had a meaningful relationship, but rather as people who unexpectedly “escaped” their game of manipulation and control. They may appear to move on quickly, but this typically indicates a lack of genuine emotional investment in the previous relationship rather than an ability to heal and progress. Divorce proceedings may be complicated by this inability to move on, as the narcissist may use the process as a platform for maintaining control or inflicting emotional pain. They might find it difficult to see their ex-spouse move on, taking it as a personal rejection, which can fuel their desire to prolong the divorce and create conflict.

How Can You Suggest a Divorce Settlement to a Narcissist?

Emotional stability is key when talking with a narcissist, including when you want to suggest using a divorce settlement. They feed on your emotional reactions, so maintaining calm and composed can help keep discussions focused. Secondly, consistency is crucial. Narcissists often feel superior and entitled, so standing firm in your demands can help counteract this mindset.

However, navigating these waters without professional guidance can be difficult. That's why it's recommended to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney who understands narcissism and how to effectively communicate with a narcissist.

At Gill Law Group, PC in Orange County, California, we have experience dealing with complex divorce cases and have intentionally focused on cases that involved narcissistic spouses. Our divorce attorneys can provide the legal support and guidance you need to confidently handle your divorce with a narcissist, which may include a divorce settlement over litigation. Your committed legal advocates are standing by, so please dial (888) 392-1941 today and ask for a complimentary consultation.