People are often quick to call someone else a narcissist whenever that person demonstrates arrogance or self-importance. It’s a convenient word because it’s a catch-all for some of the most difficult personality traits a person can have, such as egocentrism, vanity, lack of empathy, and others like these.
Despite how commonly “narcissism” in all its forms is used, rarely do people mean to use this word in the clinical sense. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a treatable condition classified in the DSM-5, the catalog of mental disorders and illnesses used by psychologists and psychiatrists.
Those who are married to people with NPD can face a variety of challenges, so it’s not difficult to conceive of how such challenges can amplify or evolve during a divorce. If you are married to someone with NPD and are considering divorce – or already going through it – it’s essential to understand how to deal with your spouse when their personality disorder is in play.
Please Note: Only a mental health care professional can diagnose NPD. The content of this blog is for informational purposes only. It shouldn’t be used to self-diagnose or assume the diagnosis of another person who hasn’t been evaluated by a mental health care professional.
What Is Narcissistic Personal Disorder?
NPD is a diagnosable and treatable mental condition in which someone typically exhibits an oversized sense of self-importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.
According to the DSM-5, exhibiting at least five of the following traits can lead to an NPD diagnosis:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, power, beauty, or ideal love
- Belief that one is special and can only be understood by, or associate with, special people or institutions
- Need for excessive admiration
- Sense of entitlement (especially to special treatment)
- Lack of empathy
- Exploitation of others
- Envy of others or the belief one is the subject of envy
- Arrogant behavior or attitudes
If this sounds like a recipe for a difficult (or even disastrous) relationship, that’s because it often is. People who exhibit symptoms of narcissism often find it difficult to form and maintain close, intimate relationships with other people, even their romantic partners.
If you are divorcing someone with NPD, it’s not a far cry to believe – or even assume – that NPD played a significant role in the downfall of your relationship.
Challenges to Expect during Your Divorce
If your spouse is a narcissist, you should expect to encounter a number of challenges during your divorce. That said, these challenges aren’t inevitable and ultimately come down to your unique situation and your spouse’s overall personality.
They Have a Game Mentality
Narcissists need to win. Winning is essential to support their belief that they’re the cream of the crop. With this in mind, you should expect your spouse to treat your divorce like it’s a game “to win.”
This can mean brutal and unnecessary contests over even the smallest of issues, let alone those that will probably matter most to you, such as child custody. It can also mean that your spouse is willing to win at any cost, even if it means making false accusations, filing endless motions, or simply trying to wear you down.
They’re Not Afraid of Court Battles
Narcissists are better prepared for court battles because they know they can’t lose. Whether or not they actually lose is another matter, but their over-confidence and sense of self-importance often don’t let them seriously consider the possibility of losing.
This means that while each issue of your divorce may cause you grief, your spouse is energized by the conflict. They’re unafraid of what can happen because they’ve already convinced themselves of what will happen.
They Can Write Off Emotional Loss
People can lose a lot during a divorce that can take an emotional toll. Child custody is often the first to come to mind, but actual things like pets, heirlooms, and the family home can also be lost.
If you aren’t a narcissist, you are at a disadvantage. A narcissist is unlikely to be as emotionally affected by losing these things as you might be, and they’re often keenly aware of it. They might fight tooth and nail to keep them, but the purpose may only be to hurt you or win their imaginary game of divorce.
They Will Manipulate You & the Process
A narcissist is likely to manipulate anyone and anything they can to reach the outcome they desire. This means that you should be on your guard whenever you interact with your spouse and remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
Expect them to poke at all of your “soft spots” in an attempt to get what they want, whether it’s a legal goal or an ego boost. You should also expect them to exercise all of their legal options to accomplish these.
Are You Divorcing a Narcissist? We Can Help.
Claery & Hammond, LLP is a full-service family law firm that represents clients in divorce cases. We’ve helped many to work through particularly difficult divorces involving interference and combativeness from the other party. If you suspect or know your spouse is a narcissist, rest assured that we can help you plan for and meet the challenges ahead.
Learn more about our legal representation by contacting Claery & Hammond, LLP online now.