The Ultimate 2021 Guide to Divorcing a Narcissist

Narcissist featured image
Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Are you in immediate danger?

If you are worried for your safety please go to your local police immediately. They may be able to help you apply for an ADVO, which will offer you protection.

Our team of professional lawyers can also help you take out an ADVO if you’re in danger from a narcissist. This may be necessary before you commence divorce proceedings. In some instances, a narcissist may be incapable of controlling their emotions and prone to rage, putting you at risk of violence or physical harm.

Narcissism in a nutshell

Making the decision to end a marriage is always hard. It is even harder when you are dealing with a narcissistic ex-spouse. It is important you seek legal advice from a divorce lawyer early in the proceedings.

People who are at the extreme end of the narcissism spectrum may also want to win at all costs so you will face a high-conflict divorce. A divorce solicitor can generally make the process of divorcing a narcissist much smoother, and give you the opportunity to set boundaries with your former spouse.

It’s very important to keep your guard up and remain alert if you are divorcing a narcissist.

There have been cases around the world where people have tried to end relationships with narcissists and the narcissist has turned violent.

graphic of a narcissist manipulating

How to identify narcissistic traits

Narcissists do not see things from anyone else’s perspective. They can be dangerous if they do not get what they want. It is vital that you can identify the signs. Knowing the signs of narcissism can protect you from harm.

7 traits of a narcissist

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has many characteristics. We’ve listed the seven traits of narcissistic behaviour so you know what to look out for when you’re divorcing a narcissist.

  1. Excessive reliance on others for self-esteem.
  2. Lack of empathy.
  3. Exploitative of others – they take advantage of others for their own benefit.
  4. Grandiosity (including exaggerated sense of self-importance) and condescending to others.
  5. exaggerated sense of entitlement and exaggerates their achievements and talents. They expect to be praised.
  6. Attention seeking behaviour.
  7. Requires excessive admiration.

Like most psychological disorders, there is a Narcissism Spectrum, and pretty much everyone is somewhere on the spectrum. Some people are at the extreme end of the spectrum and may be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) says that to be diagnosed with NDP a person must display at least five of the above signs.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition. Outwardly a person with NPD will display confidence and can easily charm people. However in private they may be self-centred where their needs and wants are above anyone else’s. A person with NPD may gaslight or bully you as well.

What exactly is gaslighting?

Gaslighting can occur in any type of relationship including intimate relationships. Unlike physical abuse, it is harder to identify psychological abuse. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. A gaslighter may bully you. They may blame you for things and often will not feel any guilt or shame about their behaviour. A gaslighter’s behaviour includes:

  • countering – so that you question yourself;
  • withholding – refusing to participate in a conversation;
  • trivialising – undermining your feelings;
  • denial – denying that events have happened the way you say they have;
  • diverting – blaming others for your thoughts, which may isolate you;
  • stereotyping – blaming certain groups of people for certain things.

What is an example of gaslighting?

In an intimate sense, a gaslighter will often do what’s known as “love bombing:. Love bombing is where they shower you with affection and attention. They may pay you a lot of compliments. They do this to get you to trust them and then when you do they’ll start to tear you apart and criticise you.

For example; for the first month that you’re dating someone they’ll take you to fancy restaurants and give you lots of affection, then over time they might start criticising the way you dress or how you wear your hair so that you doubt yourself.

Graphic of upset person divorcing a narcissist

Preparing to divorce a narcissist

Any interaction with a narcissist is difficult, and you need to have a strong family law solicitor on your side to help you with the court proceedings. A narcissist may use your children against you or manipulate you and blame you for their problems.

They may tell lies in court that you are not a responsible parent because you spend time with your friends and will argue that they should get primary custody of your children after the divorce.

A strong family lawyer from Unified Lawyers can give you the support you need so that you can remain calm during proceedings.

Determine the type of narcissist you are divorcing

Before commencing divorce proceedings against a narcissist, you should know what type of narcissist you are dealing with. Knowing what you are up against will help you manage the process.

  • Healthy narcissism – this type falls on the spectrum, however they will generally have a good sense of reality.
  • Grandiose narcissism – someone with this type has an overinflated ego and tries to exert dominance over others.
  • Vulnerable narcissism – a person with this type of narcissism often plays the victim and thinks their situation is worse than others.
  • Malignant narcissism – these narcissists are manipulative and lean towards aggression. It is the most severe type.
  • Sexual narcissism – they seek sexual validation. The safest option for dealing with this type of narcissist is to seek therapy to help you end the relationship.
  • Somatic narcissism – these narcissists are consumed with their physical appearance.
  • Cerebral narcissism – a person with cerebral narcissism will get their self-importance from their intelligence.
  • Spiritual narcissism – this person justifies their damaging behaviour by using spiritual language to escape their insecurities.

Assemble a strong support team before you divorce

If you are divorcing a narcissist, it is important that you have a strong support team for the sake of your mental health. Divorcing a narcissist can be challenging because they are arrogant, egotistical and lack empathy. They will not consider your feelings.

A strong support team that includes a counsellor and other professionals as well as friends and family will help you remain focused on getting through the divorce process.

If you have a narcissistic ex-spouse, they may try to intimidate you because they are competitive and like to win at all costs. You should avoid personal contact with your ex-spouse and only communicate with them through a mediator or a divorce lawyer.

Get a strong, but reasonable, divorce lawyer

A narcissist will try to manipulate you and may use your children against you. It is vital that you remain focused on the big picture. Unified Lawyers will represent you with strength and determination during your legal negotiations. Unified Lawyers will remain focused throughout the negotiations and will give you advice so that you remain on focused.

You may need to concede on some issues, however it will be easier to get through the negotiations with a strong lawyer on your side. They will help you stick to your plan.

During a divorce with a narcissist

A narcissistic ex may try to exploit your weak points, or could use your kids against you. It’s important that you do not engage with them and that you only communicate with them through your lawyer. If you deal with them personally, ensure you keep any interactions brief and business-like. Make sure you record the times and dates of every communication.

A narcissist may claim that they have a greater right to shared assets that you personally acquired during the marriage. Hiring a lawyer who has experience in handling divorces involving narcissists will ensure that the case does not drag on. Some narcissist spouses have been known to use delay tactics so that you run up your legal expenses. They do this out of spite.

You need a family lawyer who will not respond to every demand or allegation that the narcissist is making. Be aware that a narcissist could be litigious and may try to take you to Court over minor issues that can be settled out of Court.

Get counselling

You’ll experience a rollercoaster of emotions when you’re divorcing a narcissist.

Getting counselling will help you deal with your emotions. It’s important that you share your feelings with someone you trust. Doing so will ensure that you do not offload and lose your cool at the wrong time, for example, when you are communicating with the narcissist. Doing so would only give them ammunition, making the divorce process even harder.

Communicate with your ex only through lawyers

Some narcissists, particularly those prone to outbursts of rage, will react badly when they are challenged. This is because of narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury occurs when the narcissists self-esteem or self-worth is threatened.

If your ex-spouse has a history of violence or abuse you should only communicate with them through a lawyer and if necessary, ensure that you have an ADVO so that they cannot contact you.

Stay focused on why you’re getting a divorce in the first place

Narcissists are manipulative and have a knack for trickery and deception. They may make you doubt yourself. You need to keep a calm head during the divorce process. Keep focused on why you’re divorcing a narcissist in the first place so that you are not deceived into going back to a harmful relationship.

If you’ve been married to a narcissist, your self-esteem and self-worth may have been eroded. It’s in your long-term interests that you do not lose focus on the reason you decided to divorce them in the first place.

Some people who have been married to a narcissist feel bonded to them. This is known as trauma bonding where they feel as if they will never find a comparable relationship again. It is best that you do not communicate with your ex after deciding to divorce. Cutting off all contact will keep you focused on the end goal – a divorce and the chance to move on with your life.

Maintain detailed and organised records

There are different types of narcissism however all narcissists lie and manipulate, so you should keep a record of everything. For example, if you withdrew money from a shared bank account record the date you made the withdrawal, how much it was for and what you used the money for. If you witnessed them abusing your kids, record the date and time that it took place. 

If you already have an ADVO and they tried to contact you after the ADVO took effect keep a record of the dates and time.

If you have documented evidence of the narcissistic spouse breaching court orders, the Judge is likely to rule in your favour.

After a divorce with a narcissist

Divorcing a narcissist can be a traumatic experience. You may be feeling vulnerable so it’s vital that you look after yourself and practice self care. During the divorce, the narcissist’s ego may have been bruised even further, so if you don’t already, get an ADVO.

You may also need to apply for a Court Order, giving you sole custody of your children so that the narcissist doesn’t use your children against you. If you do have a shared parenting arrangement, talk to one of our lawyers who can advise you on the safest way to manage it.

If you have a narcissistic ex who is still allowed to see your children, you can ensure that any drop offs and pick ups are only done in public places. This means you will have support available should the situation become tense or violent.

Continue counselling

If you’ve divorced a narcissist then it’s quite likely that you’ve experienced abuse, or violence. Continuing counselling will help you process the traumatic experience that you’ve been through. It will allow you to move on with your life.

It’s possible that after divorcing a narcissist you’ve lost a sense of what a healthy relationship is. A therapist can also coach you on what a healthy relationship looks like and help you get your life back on track.

Take care of yourself

Many people who divorce narcissists find the process exhausting and you may be feeling drained. Keep up your hobbies and interests.

Going to the gym, or getting exercise outdoors can be a great way to vent your frustrations in a healthy way.

love yourself woman cartoon

Keep busy and social

Before divorcing a narcissist you may have been isolated from seeing your friends. The narcissist may have controlled you and made you feel guilty by not spending all your time with them. It’s important that you reconnect with your friends if you have lost contact with them. 

Seeing your friends regularly will get you back into a routine of investing in healthy relationships. It will give you the ability to enjoy life again.

Links and resources to assist you

We are here for you

Best Family Lawyers Sydney 2021 award

At Unified Lawyers we know how difficult a regular divorce is. It’s even harder when you’re dealing with a narcissist. We are experienced in handling cases involving narcissists and can guide you on how they may behave when you’re going through the divorce proceedings.

We are here to guide you through the difficult process and can start by organising an ADVO for you so that your narcissistic ex-spouse cannot contact you. Doing this at the start of the divorce proceedings can reduce the risk that you will be manipulated into going back to the harmful relationship.

Our lawyers will remain calm and will listen to your concerns throughout the process. We’ll be empathetic in all our interactions with you and maintain records of any communication that we have with the narcissist. We can also help you with Parenting Orders so that your children are not brought into the dispute.

As one of Sydney’s top family law firms with a broad range of legal expertise we can help you take care of other things during the divorce. It may be that you also need to look at property settlement. Doing this during the divorce process means that after the divorce is finalised you are in a position to move on with your life, without worrying about what the narcissist will do.

We are a top rated Sydney family law firm and are available six days a week. Anything you tell us will be treated in the strictest of confidence and we’ll do our best to increase your chances of having a painless divorce.

Give us a call on 1300 667 461 for an initial Free Consultation.

Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer
Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Donna is a family law solicitor admitted in the Supreme Court of New South Wales with a double degree in Business and Law.

Donna is drawn to family law as she is interested in helping clients during a difficult and transitional period following separation. She strives to achieve the best outcome for her clients and has their best interest at the forefront of her advice.