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Divorcing a narcissistic spouse

Living with a narcissist is challenging enough, but the process of divorcing one can be overwhelming. Narcissistic behavior may be obvious only to you, and the lengths to which your spouse may go to preserve his or her influence over you can complicate your efforts to escape the marital misery of living with a narcissistic spouse.

The nature of this personality disorder can breed uncertainty and confusion. You thought you knew your spouse, but little by little, his or her true personality began to come through. As confusing as it may be to deal with a narcissist, there are some techniques you can use to improve your chances of reaching a divorce settlement with a positive outcome.

Signs your spouse may be a narcissist

Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by self-centered behavior. While most everyone has a bit of selfishness, the narcissist has a constant need for attention and an inflated opinion of him or herself. Such qualities in your spouse may make it difficult for you to reason or compromise. You may also find yourself dealing with these behaviors:

  • Your spouse goes behind your back to persuade your friends and family that you are the one causing the problems.
  • He or she refuses marital or personal counseling.
  • Your spouse refuses to forgive or let go of past hurts.
  • He or she manipulates you and others by pretending to be caring and understanding.
  • Your spouse needs to have control over you and every situation, including your divorce proceedings.

Because of your spouse's need for control, you may find that getting through the divorce is difficult. If your spouse refuses to allow you access to the family finances, you may have a hard time obtaining the resources you need to establish yourself in a secure post-divorce life. Your child support, custody schedule and spousal support will all be under your spouse's direction unless you stand firm and refuse to relinquish control.

What to do next

If you recognize the signs that your spouse is a narcissist, you will have to make some difficult choices. As much as you would like to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and work on repairing the damage in your marriage, you may have to come to terms with the fact that your spouse's personality disorder may make those efforts futile as you continue to waste your time in marital misery while postponing your inevitable JOY of DIVORCE.

Your energy may be better spent on working to protect your rights and to achieve a workable divorce settlement that will allow you to have a full life separate from your spouse.  A prudent spouse may be well advised to consult with an experienced Board-certified Family Law expert attorney familiar with litigation involving parties with diagnosed or apparent mental-health disorders.

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