Divorce is never a pleasant prospect, but it can often be successfully navigated, particularly when both spouses are amicable and reasonable about the event. Unfortunately, there is a segment of our population that suffers from a personality disorder that effects interpersonal relationships in very negative ways. One of the most common of these, especially in men, is narcissism. In divorce, the traits of narcissism – lack of empathy, willingness to be exploitative, a sense of entitlement – can become even more magnified and damaging. You may be divorcing over some of the bewildering, hurtful actions of your spouse, and announcing an intention to divorce will likely exacerbate the situation. Here are 4 strategies for divorcing a narcissist and protecting your interests:
1. Take care of yourself in legal matters. Hire a good attorney who understands the dynamics of narcissism and the fact that your spouse may not be likely to reason the same way as others. Don’t take anything your spouse says “in good faith” as solid. Make sure you are following the legal steps your attorney recommends to protect yourself. Make copies of all relevant financial records, including but not limited to bank statements, investment statements, 401K statements, loan information, property appraisals, credit card statements, insurance policies, employee compensation plans, mileage plan statements, tax returns, pay stubs, W-2’s, and car titles.
2. Make some basic emergency financial provisions. Make sure you have a credit card in your own name. If you need to apply for one, do it now, while your spouse’s and your credit is still combined. Open a bank account in your name and put some emergency funds in it, in case your spouse violates court orders and tries to stop you from accessing funds. If you don’t want your spouse to know you are stashing money, try using your debit card and asking for amounts over the purchase, and putting that cash in the account.
3. Create records, and document everything that could be relevant to your case. This may be particularly relevant if you are in a custody dispute over concerns about your narcissist spouse’s parenting, or if you live in a place where “fault” is taken into consideration in divorces. Document times, dates, places, and events.
4. Avoid interaction with your spouse, and do not listen to what he or she is telling you about you. Your spouse will likely continue to undermine your confidence and cause you to question your decisions. Be careful what you share to avoid having anything used against you during the process. If you must communicate with your spouse, try sticking strictly to business, such as the children. If things get personal, stop the communication or try tuning out the content so you aren’t influenced.