Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Its Effects on Your Divorce

It’s no secret that divorce is a challenging and stressful life event. However, when your spouse is narcissistic, going through a divorce can become frustrating and discouraging. Dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder is challenging and, often, divorces can become contentious very quickly if you are not thoroughly prepared.

What is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?

The Mayo Clinic defines NPD as a “mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” Narcissistic personality disorder tends to cause problems in all areas of life, especially in relationships and financial affairs, which is one reason why it often leads to divorce.

Remember, everyone has some degree of narcissism, which can be healthy. It’s only at the extreme level where the NPD diagnosis comes into play. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), signs of NPD can include:

  • Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes
  • Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
  • Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
  • Exploitation of others
  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Lack of empathy
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Sense of entitlement (to special treatment)

As you can see, narcissistic behaviors can easily damage relationships. Narcissists may be easily hurt or angered by criticism or what they may see as “defeat.” Often, divorcing a spouse with NPD can add unnecessary stress and contention to an already-difficult process.

Tips for dealing with a narcissist in a divorce

Narcissists can be extremely charming and manipulative on the surface. They may believe they can control the divorce process from beginning to end. Planning your divorce with an experienced family law attorney can help you feel prepared, confident, and in charge.

Understanding how to reduce conflict with a narcissist can help disentangle you from your spouse and end your marriage in the most beneficial way possible. Keeping the following advice in mind can help minimize stress and frustration, as well as prevent your spouse from running up superfluous legal bills.

  • Document everything. Because narcissists can be extremely charming and manipulative, they can easily mislead a judge or other authority. This is why you should document everything – texts, emails, photos, or any evidence of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Set and hold your boundaries. A hallmark of NPD is failure to respect boundaries because of the individual’s sense of entitlement. Ensure you get any agreement in writing as well as in thorough detail, and enforce it. Your attorney can assist you with this.
  • Get smart representation. Consult with attorneys who have experience with NPD clients. Your divorce lawyer should understand the best course of action when dealing with a narcissist, like remaining cool, professional, and collected in the face of outbursts or accusations.
  • Limit communication with your spouse. If you must be in contact with your spouse, try to limit it to texts and email. Less stressful and frustrating, it also provides you with documentation of your interactions. After you hire your attorney, they can take over direct communication with your spouse.

Although they may say quite the opposite, a person with narcissistic personality disorder’s needs are no more important than your own. If you’re taking steps to end your marriage with a narcissist, our lawyers are here to help you prepare. Get in touch with the Bethesda divorce attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. today. To schedule a consultation, call 443-917-3347 or reach out to us through our contact form. We maintain additional offices in Rockville, Columbia, and Fulton.