Navigating Narcissism During Divorce (Part 1)

Signs saying "Lie" and "Truth"

Lies versus truth – divorcing a narcissist means trying to separate one from the other.

Most people have heard of Narcissus, the Greek mythological character who was known for his beauty and his pride. He fell in love with his reflection in a pool and because he was unable to stop staring at his own beauty, he wasted away and died. It’s a story about arrogance and vanity, and how, left unchecked, they can lead to very bad things. Unfortunately, what the old myth didn’t really address was the pain and suffering caused by those who loved Narcissus. Because if there is a real tragedy here, it lies in how much damage can be caused by narcissists – a reality that is no less true during a divorce!

Narcissism is defined as extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration. It is a personality disorder that at it’s most extreme, results in people who are manipulative, lacking in empathy, easily angered and in some cases, downright dangerous! So what does one do when you’re married to a narcissist and your relationship is falling apart? After all, divorcing a person who believes that they can do no wrong doesn’t make for an easy task. That’s no different here in Michigan than anywhere else in the USA.

According to Karyl McBride, the author of “Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.” it is possible. Hard? Certainly! Difficult? Absolutely!  But nevertheless, it’s possible. Although there is a lot involved, and the process is probably going to be a lot harder than if you were simply divorcing an ordinary person without a personality disorder.

Many people exhibit narcissistic tendencies. Arrogance, manipulation, an unhealthy need to be the center of attention. However, there is a difference between someone who is perhaps too vain or boastful for their own good, or has an inflated sense of their own importance, and someone who is actually suffering from the personality disorder. McBride says that Narcissism needs to be viewed as a spectrum, much like autism. Some people have a few tendencies, while others have a full blown disorder. Dr. Phil would tell you that having a trait or two does not make a narcissist.

Divorcing a narcissist will mean lies, manipulation and attention-seeking behaviors.

Part of the issue that people divorcing a narcissist are likely to face, says McBride, is the fact that because a narcissist is focused entirely on themselves, they are unlikely to be able to get over being “left” by someone. A divorce that isn’t instigated by them is liable to lead to furious rage and a desire for revenge. However, because narcissists are manipulative, their desire to exact vengeance almost never comes out in the form of physical abuse or threats. Instead, they are likely to use cunning and malice to get back at the person who is leaving them.

This is where things like false allegations of abuse and or neglect come in. A narcissist is likely to claim that they or their children have been subject to some form of abuse or neglect, either emotional or sexual or physical, at the hands of the spouse who is instigating the divorce. Also, because they are manipulative, they will use the courts to get attention and to put their claims out in a public space, where the most possible damage is done. Oakland County judges are used to seeing that.

In addition to the possibility of false allegations, McBride says that divorcing a narcissist is likely to be a lengthy project. Because a narcissist will experience their spouse’s desire to end the marriage as a personal “injury” they are likely to seek revenge by making the process as painful and drawn out for the person who hurt them as possible. This ends up costing thousands of dollars and can make the divorce process drag out for years. The good news is that very experienced divorce attorneys understand how to deal with narcissistic people. We do it often.
Join us next time, as we continue this discussion about how narcissistic personality disorder can affect a divorce, and what someone divorcing a narcissist is up against. Until then, if you or a loved on in Metro Detroit or Oakland County is considering divorce, or needs help with other family issues like custody or paternity, we are here to help you. The experienced family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping the families of Oakland County and the surrounding areas in all of their family legal issues. Whether it’s divorce, custody, alimony, child suppor or CPS defense, we can help you. Call us today at  866-766-5245.

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