Not all Narcissists Make Divorce Awful

Posted on May 29, 2024 by Katie Carter

I know, I know.  If you’re married to a narcissist – whether diagnosed or undiagnosed – you KNOW how miserable they can make life.  And, if left to their own devices, they’d probably love to make divorce difficult, too.

After all, if there’s one thing a narcissist (or a high conflict person or an abusive person) hates, it’s when the person they’re in a relationship with has the nerve to try to end it.  Personally, going through a divorce or a breakup with a narcissist can feel like hell.

The thing about divorce, though, is that the narcissist is no longer 50% of the equation.  There are a lot of other factors involved in a divorce case that can prevent a narcissist from being able to make the divorce process as much of a hell as he can make your personal life.

In terms of attorneys, I don’t think he’ll have much trouble finding the kind of ‘pitbull’ or ‘shark’ attorney who would file all the motions that he’d like to file.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of those kinds of family lawyers out there.

Fortunately, though – they’re expensive.  Filing motions, setting hearings, and generally wreaking legal havoc costs serious money.  Like, tens of thousands of dollars.  Most people don’t have access to that kind of money.

So, though he may be certifiably crazy, that doesn’t mean he has access to the kind of money that he would need to drag things out and make the legal process of divorce miserable for you.  Ultimately, more than 90% of family law cases end up settling.  That is true even when the other party is a narcissist.

Maybe he does have access to a ton of money and he’d choose to spend that money fighting an epic bloodbath of a legal battle against you – whether against your right to receive spousal support or, worst of all, for custody of your children.  In family law cases, though, there’s generally a fairly narrow range of potential outcomes.  So, fight as much as he might, he may not be able to walk away with the kind of results that would justify the outlay in cash that would be required or give him a strong enough sense of his own power to make it feel like its worth it.  (After all, he could spend his precious time and energy – because even he has a finite amount – finding his next victim.)

At the end of the day, even for a narcissist, there are a lot of considerations and competing interests.  It’s not only him calling the shots anymore; likely, there’ll be at least two attorneys, a judge, Guardians ad litem, and others involved, and both the costs involved and the potential range of possible endgame scenarios can also have an impact on the path he chooses to take, divorce-wise.

I’m not saying that divorcing a narcissist is easy.  It’s not!  But I am saying that – and I hope this is comforting, because that’s how I intend it – he may not be able to make things as difficult as he would like to (or even as difficult as he’s telling you that he intends to).

The best defense when you’re dealing with a narcissist is to have a good offense

It’s also a good idea to take offensive action.  So, if he’s saying that he’s going to make things hard and he’s not, for example, going to sign an agreement or pay support… you may have to push him.

If I were you, and I were in this situation, and I lived in Virginia – I’d hire a family lawyer for a contested divorce, file, and schedule a pendente lite hearing.  I’d ask for temporary child and/or spousal support (assuming you qualify).  Getting support now will help you sustain yourself while the case is pending, but also reduce his ability to launch an even more aggressive legal attack.

This isn’t ‘pit bull’ stuff; it’s just coming up with a strategy that suits the situation.  In this case – based on these facts – it makes sense.

The point is not to meet the narcissist on his level, playing his game.  It’s to figure out a sound legal strategy, based on your specific rights and entitlements under the law, and calmly and rationally execute it.  You’ll never ‘out crazy’ a crazy person and, as a sane person, it doesn’t really make sense to try.  (And, in any case, you’d just wind up spending more and making the situation more volatile – not exactly your goal.)

The point is: don’t go crazy trying to meet the narcissist where he is when you can operate at your own speed.

You won’t beat him at his game, but you don’t have to play his game.  Your time and energy are better spent playing the legal game to the best of your ability.  Your time and energy are better spent finding and hiring the right attorney to represent you – to calmly, cooly, and unemotionally respond, even as your soon-to-be ex spirals.  It’s difficult to maintain cool composure when a narcissist gets going, but you’re going to want someone who can help maintain that delicate balance.

A legal case can quickly run off the rails when you have a narcissist fueling an aggressive, pit-bull style lawyer who is pitted up against another similarly aggressive attorney.

Obviously, it’s your case and you should hire an attorney – and pursue a larger legal strategy – that reflects your goals and values.  Don’t let ME tell you how to do it if what I’m saying doesn’t ring true for you.  You’re in the driver’s seat!

Divorcing a narcissist isn’t for the faint of heart.  But, then again, the alternative is STAYING with a narcissist, right?

For more information, to request a copy of our divorce book for Virginia women, to register to attend an upcoming monthly divorce seminar, or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.