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The Narcissist’s Nature and How They May Act in a Divorce
If you are planning on divorcing a narcissist in Arizona, you likely know what is coming because they can be charming, self-confident, conceited, and grandiose: these are a few of the common terms used to describe a narcissist.
All of these are traits admired and even encouraged in our externally driven society.
However, if you are married to a narcissist, you know the rest of the story:
- Narcissists are quick to criticize and judge.
- Narcissists launch brutal verbal attacks or erupt in rage at the smallest slight.
- Narcissists’ charm will captivate you when they want something from you, then detach and abandon you once they’ve got it.
- Narcissists have no empathy for their spouse or children; that narcissists view the world in terms of “me” and “mine.”
These deeper truths about the narcissist personality disorder are hard-won, as anyone who has been married to a narcissist will attest. A marriage turns into a war zone because a narcissist, lacking empathy, does not know what it means to be accountable for his or her behavior.
Deciding Whether to Divorce a Narcissist
They set up married life with their needs at the center and do not hesitate to exploit you and others for their own gain. Things turn from bad to worse in your marriage and, when enough is enough, your thoughts turn to divorce.
Ending the marriage often takes a surprisingly long time to present itself as a viable option, since a narcissist is good at persuading you that the unhappiness of the marriage is your fault.
You may not consider divorce until children are born when you see clearly how these young and innocent kids are being given the blame for unacceptable behavior by your spouse.
Sometimes you may need to work with a therapist to figure out that nothing you can do will make your marriage a healthy, intimate relationship. Once you’ve made the difficult decision to end the marriage, you may think the worst is over.
How to Protect Yourself When Divorcing a Narcissist
You’ll do well to protect yourself and hire a good lawyer who has represented people who were married to a narcissist and who know exactly how to deal with such a personality.
The attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have handled many divorces involving a narcissist. We have some mental health professionals who treat victims of a narcissistic spouse who refer their clients to our Firm because of our successful approach to handling a divorce involving a narcissist.
Determining if You Are You Married to a Narcissist
Before you consider the ramifications of divorcing a narcissist in Arizona, you must first determine if you are actually married to a narcissist. Some people may conclude their spouse is a narcissist on their own.
Although many people may be correct in their conclusion their spouse suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, there are some that will not be correct and may simply be married to someone who is simply a bad person. Let’s look into what makes a narcissist, well, a narcissist.
Understanding the Traits of Narcissism
You may think of a narcissist as someone who is vain and full of himself, someone who talks a lot about himself and his accomplishments, but that’s only scratching the surface. When you are married to someone with this personality disorder, your life swings out of control fast.
In the well-known Greek myth, Narcissus is the handsome and self-involved young man who falls in love with his own reflection in the river and is trapped there forever, gazing in awe at his own beauty.
An extremely handsome spouse isn’t necessarily a narcissist, nor does a narcissist need to be good looking. A narcissist is someone with a personality disorder that requires a constant focus on himself.
Narcissism precludes empathy and ruins relationships, with debilitating effects on all involved. Given a narcissist’s constant focus on themselves, you may think he or she is supremely self-confident, but this is far from the truth.
A narcissist carries such deep feelings of insecurity that, in order to cover this self, they create another, idealized self-image of themselves as an exceptional person, better, more intelligent and more interesting than others.
It is this false self-image that he or she revolves around to the exclusion of everyone else. If your spouse is a narcissist, you are likely to grow increasingly unhappy the longer you stay together.
Your narcissist spouse is incapable of true intimacy and will not spend much energy – if any — meeting your needs. You may find yourself used and manipulated to meet their needs. Once they do not need you any longer, they may leave you or withdraw from you without a backward glance.
The Signs Your Spouse May be a Narcissist
How can you tell whether your spouse is just an insensitive, self-centered guy or gal, or whether he or she is a pathological narcissist? Here are some traits that tell the tale.
Their only topic of conversation: me, me, me. A narcissist has no trouble espousing about themselves and their lives for hours on end, but they will find it difficult to focus on your interests for very long.
You’ll find it difficult to wedge your thoughts into a “conversation” with him or her, and if you do manage to say something, he or she is likely to ignore or correct you.
A narcissist has an exaggerated sense of self-importance, bordering on grandiosity.
They truly believe that other people in their sphere – like you — cannot have a life worth living without them. That means that they simply cannot tune into or value your feelings or those of your kids.
They use external props to establish their superiority. Everyone enjoys driving a new car or carrying the latest iPhone, but a narcissist is obsessed with amassing these props to make himself or herself look good to others.
They believe the property they own, the degrees they hold, places they have visited and the people they claim as acquaintances give them the elevated status they crave. Because they have a sports car, or know Bill Gates, or graduated from an Ivy League school, they are better than you and, indeed, better than anyone else.
This, in turn, gives him or her a sense of entitlement – to him or her, it’s only normal that you and everyone else caters to their whims. This seems so much the natural order of their constructed universe that they never consider giving back.
They turn on the charm when they want something. Did your spouse charm the socks off of you when you were wooing, then grow increasingly cold and distant after you were wed?
Narcissists are among the most magnetic and persuasive individuals you can ever meet, and when they want something from you, they make you feel special, desirable and fascinating.
Alas, the moment a narcissist gets what he wants, he or she moves back to their true focus – themselves — often without any explanation or apology. Even if he or she doesn’t move out, you simply disappear from their radar, leaving you heartbroken and bewildered.
Nothing is ever their fault. A narcissist spouse is the master of the blame game. If there’s something wrong, they fault everybody and anybody other than themselves, even when it’s clearly a matter within their own control.
They never accept responsibility for their own behavior. They don’t show up at your couple’s therapy session – you should have called to remind him or her. He or she smacks the kids – they shouldn’t have made him so angry. He or she gets a speeding ticket – the cop had it in for them.
With a narcissist, it is never their fault. In the same vein, a narcissist believes that rules and conventions are for other people, not them, and keeping their word is not a high priority. They borrow things and never return them, break promises to you and the kids, violates established rules – like cutting into the front of the line at the bank or refusing to leave tips – and somehow, throughout, blames you or someone else for it.
Their anger flares frequently. A narcissist sees their spouse and kids as an extension of themselves and they are easily angered if you don’t give them the attention they want, fail to cater to their desires, or disagree with their opinions. Any perceived slights or inattentiveness can result in a tantrum.
If your spouse is a narcissist, his or her response to criticism will be extreme – they will either lash out in anger or detach completely. Don’t think this sensitivity works both ways though. Your narcissist spouse will be quick to criticize and judge you. They attempt to make you feel inferior as a form of emotional abuse, which is intended to boost their own ego.
Considering divorce? If you are married to a narcissist, you may think with increasing frequency about ending your marriage. While that decision is one only you can make, be sure to get a good attorney on board before trying to divorce a narcissist.
For tips on how it might go, look for the other articles in this series about divorcing a narcissist, including Child Custody and Narcissistic Personality Disorders, and Child Support and the Narcissist Parent, Narcissist Divorce Advice, and Choosing a Divorce Attorney Against a Narcissist.
Divorcing a Narcissist in Arizona
Prepare for the Battle to Come When Divorcing a Narcissist
Narcissists look at divorce like a war. No divorce is pleasant, but when you divorce a narcissist, it’s like a whole new front to your marriage wars. Your narcissist spouse has no conception of how he or she failed as a spouse and a mother or father.
They are not conscious of their bad behavior and will have no idea why you could choose to leave and they will not get over being left, not soon, not ever. They will wage an all-out battle to prove you are to blame, and, unfortunately, the court system is an ideal platform for a narcissist.
Expect an all-out, take-no-prisoners war. It is pure fantasy to think your narcissist spouse will talk through property issues, come to a reasonable agreement, work out an equitable parenting plan, and move on with their life.
By taking the step of filing for divorce, you have – in their view – launched an attack on “their” home, “their” kids and “their” money, and they are not going to forgive and forget. They will take every opportunity to exact revenge and have you publicly labeled the guilty party.
Your spouse’s preferred path for getting back lost power and vetting out revenge is to create massive chaos in the divorce process. Their rage will know no bounds, so you risk being drawn into ugly skirmishes.
The nastiness of the fight may cause the court and involved professionals (like social workers) to view you two as a “high conflict” couple who are both in need of psychological treatment.
Since it isn’t easy to establish emotional abuse in a disputed matter, the charge is not always taken seriously by the court. If this sounds discouraging – it is. Nothing is easy about divorcing a narcissist.
But an experienced legal team can help you avoid all or part of the punishing battle by staying on top of the issues and steering a careful course through the entire divorce proceeding, starting from day one.
Your spouse will turn on that charm for mediators and judges.
Think back to when you first met your spouse – how charming he was, how attentive, completely engrossed in you. A narcissist spouse has the power to turn on that charm for the divorce court judge or mediator.
So, it is important you hire an attorney who understands what the narcissist is doing, who will not fall for the image your spouse is trying to portray, and who will control the litigation process.
The Judge May Not Be Aware of Narcissism and Its Affect on a Divorce
Since narcissism is not well understood by court personnel, your spouse will have every chance of presenting himself as the star he wants to be.
In order to deal with a narcissist in a divorce, you and your attorney have to understand the lengths he can and will go to win over court personnel and divorce witnesses.
“The narcissist can undermine you with your friends, with your kids, and steal your money,” Dr. Banschick said in his article, “all the while looking sincere and generating goodwill among the community.”
In fact, any attempt to mediate or use other non-adversarial methods of resolution with the narcissist can just play to their strength. They have a big personality and know how to win over an audience when they want to.
During legal procedures like depositions and while testifying in court, your spouse is likely to win the hearts and minds of all present, coming across as charismatic, rather than calculating and manipulative if your divorce attorney does not have the experience to show who they really are. This can leave you feeling emotionally vulnerable, alone and unsupported.
Since people who work in family law courts are not usually trained to identify narcissistic behavior, they may not see the performance for what it is, but rather tend to see things their way.
The Key to Divorcing a Narcissist in Arizona is to Find a Good Lawyer
Be sure you hire a lawyer sufficiently experienced to avoid these same mistakes.
You need a strong-minded, experienced divorce attorney.
Your best bet for navigating the rough waters of your divorce from a narcissist spouse is to hire a lawyer who’s been down the road before.
While there is a first time for everything, you do not want your case to be an attorney’s learning-experience with narcissism.
Choose an attorney who is familiar with narcissism and has many tried-and-true tactics for handling his manipulation.
If you select the right person to represent you during this profoundly challenging divorce, you may be able to avoid the financial and emotional damage your spouse intends to inflict on you, not to mention the trauma to your children.
Your spouse probably had no emotional bond with the kids during your marriage, since narcissists cannot have intimate relationships. But he or she is sure to claim them in a divorce, knowing that they are the best weapon to use against you.
Hildebrand Law, PC | Arizona Divorce Attorneys
If you need information about divorcing a narcissist in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona divorce attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in divorce cases involving a narcissist in Arizona.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona divorce case around today.
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About the Author: Chris Hildebrand has over 26 years of Arizona family law experience and received awards from US News and World Report, Phoenix Magazine, Arizona Foothills Magazine and others. Visit https://www.hildebrandlaw.com.