There are many reasons for divorce, though according to the National Library of Medicine and Institute of Health, almost 25% of marriages end because of some form of abuse. If your ex-spouse is self-centered, lacking empathy, and refuses to accept any responsibility for anything, you might be dealing with a narcissist.
So, what is ‘a narcissist’? Essentially, a narcissist is someone who has impaired empathy, takes absolutely no responsibility whatsoever, needs constant admiration, and is the center of their own universe. This mental illness is more common in men than in women, and is actually very rare, with less than 1% of the population having been diagnosed. However, many people have at least some of the characteristics of a narcissist, even if they lack a diagnosis. If you’re battling either a narcissist or someone with similar characteristics in a divorce, there are certain things you can be aware of and prevent in order to make this difficult ordeal easier.
One of the most helpful things you can do is to not trust them. Narcissist’s don’t want to focus on the facts, especially if the facts don’t support them. Expect them to lie and expect them to target their lies directly at you. Jody Allard discusses in her article “8 Mistakes I Made Divorcing a Narcissist- and How to Avoid Them” how shocked she was that her former husband lied in court about things she said. No matter how confident you are in your story, there may be a point where all the lies make you second guess yourself. Don’t; narcissists tend to try and ‘gaslight’ whoever is against them. Gaslighting is when one person tries to make another person doubt themselves, even though they’re correct. It is extremely common in relationships and is just another mind game that you need to refuse to play.
Lying becomes more difficult if you only correspond in writing. When you talk over the phone, there’s no transcript to show the court, no record of what was said. If both parties only use texting and email correspondence, it’s much more difficult to lie, let alone to support that lie. Additionally, screenshot and save everything you have access to. Older texts, emails, voice mails, anything that could help you or be against you. It’s always good to know what exactly what evidence is for you and against you, as well as to be prepared with originals in case they try and warp something from the past into something it wasn’t.
When dealing with a narcissist, try and identify a pattern. While every person is unique, narcissists seem to find a pattern and stick to it. If you are able to find a pattern, not only will this help you understand the person you’re dealing with, but it can also help you prepare yourself for the future. If you have to have a conversation with the narcissist and you know what his reaction will most likely be, you can think a step ahead about how to deal with that reaction, or of how to avoid it all together.
When going into a legal battle with a narcissist, make sure to not lose sight of your priorities. Remain focused on why you started this ordeal in the first place, whether it was for your kids or your assets. Don’t let your ex’s games and actions distract you from what you really care about. You didn’t start this process to get back at your ex, you started this process to work towards a life without abuse. It’s a life you deserve, even though your ex might disagree.
Divorce is never easy, especially when you’re dealing with a narcissist or someone with similar traits. In summary, keep your eye on the prize and yourself guarded. It won’t be an easy process, but if you can identify and push through all of your ex’s mind games and lies, the battle becomes significantly easier.