The Narcissist’s Playbook to Divorce: 5 Tips to Prepare

What to Expect When Divorcing a Narcissist

Filing for divorce is rarely a stress-free experience. For victims of narcissistic abuse, the stakes can be much higher. If you’re preparing to divorce a narcissist, it’s normal to prepare for the worst, but rest assured there are healthy ways to navigate divorce while protecting your rights in the process.

In this post, we’ll review the narcissist’s playbook to divorce to empower spouses to protect their well-being, prepare for what lies ahead, and turn the page to a brighter, happier future. Keep reading to learn essential strategies for divorcing a narcissist.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

While "narcissist" has become a common buzzword, it's important to understand that narcissists have from a clinical personality disorder. To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), the individual must exhibit at least five of the nine traits of narcissism included in the DSM-5. It may be helpful to memorize these traits using the acronym "SPECIAL ME."

These nine characteristics include:

  1. Sense of self-importance
  2. Preoccupation with power, beauty, or success
  3. Entitlement
  4. Can only be around those deemed special or important
  5. Interpersonally exploitative for personal gain
  6. Arrogant
  7. Lack of empathy
  8. Must be admired
  9. Envious of others, or believe others are envious of them

Recognizing Narcissistic Behaviors in Marriage

Regardless of whether your spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) diagnosis or exhibits abusive narcissistic traits, recognizing the red flags of narcissistic abuse in marriage is crucial to protect your safety and well-being. Consider these common examples of narcissistic behaviors in marriage:

  • Gaslighting: Narcissists may tell you that events didn’t happen as you remember, leading you to question yourself by doubting your own memories and perceptions.
  • Manipulation: They may use emotional manipulation to control and dominate the relationship, using guilt or shame as tools to influence your decisions.
  • Lack of responsibility: Narcissists often refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, imposing blame on their partner instead.
  • Isolation: Narcissists will go out of their way to isolate you from friends and family, increasing your dependency on your partner while limiting your support network.
  • Projection: Narcissists tend to project their negative behaviors onto their partner, accusing them of the actions that they are guilty of.
  • Withholding affection: Narcissists use affection as a means to an end, giving or withholding it as a form of punishment or control.
  • Constant criticism: Narcissists constantly criticize their partners, such as their appearance, intelligence, or capabilities, in a demeaning and unwarranted way.
  • Need for control: From major life decisions to daily routines, narcissists have a strong need for control, leaving their partners feeling helpless and stuck.

The Narcissist’s Playbook to Divorce: 5 Tips to Prepare

If you’re preparing to divorce a narcissist, you already know that your partner plays to win—and “winning” isn’t necessarily rooted in logic and reason. Below are 5 essential tips to keep in mind when divorcing a narcissist:

#1. Hire an attorney experienced in high-conflict divorces.

While there are many excellent divorce lawyers out there, it’s important to partner with the right one. This decision isn’t necessarily based on skillset, but experience. For example, opting for a divorce lawyer with a proven track record of results in high-conflict divorces, such as those involving domestic violence and other highly contentious areas, can be a wise and more effective choice than hiring a divorce lawyer who mostly handles alternative dispute resolution (ADR) dissolutions, such as mediation or collaborative divorces.

#2. Be the adult that your partner refuses to be.

For many, divorce brings out their true character. It’s important to take the high road, even when your spouse doesn’t. Carrying yourself with maturity and respect can reflect your true character to the court while your narcissistic spouse reveals their true character, greatly improving your chance of protecting your hard-earned assets and achieving a fair settlement.

#3. Research narcissism and develop healthy coping skills.

No one is immune to the confusing charm of the narcissist’s playbook. It’s completely natural to not feel in control when it comes to your partner’s controlling behaviors, but practicing healthy coping skills can restore your agency and equip you with the necessary skills to withstand your partner’s attempts to throw you off your game or get a rise out of you in family court. Familiarizing yourself with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and seeking mental health counseling from a licensed therapist is an excellent way to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, as the payoff will be well worth the effort.

#4. Prepare for the long haul.

Divorcing a narcissist typically requires enormous time and energy, which can be frustrating to consider. Although narcissistic partners "play to win," their primary objective isn't always rooted in logic. Often, the primary objective of a narcissist in a divorce is to maintain power and control in the relationship—a goal that motivates them to draw out the divorce for as long as possible, potentially leading to long and arduous divorce litigation.

It's normal to experience strong emotions in response to narcissistic games and controlling behaviors, especially at the expense of your time, money, and emotional energy. Giving yourself time and permission to work through these difficult emotions can be helpful to build endurance and see things through to the end, allowing you to reclaim your freedom and move on with your life.

#5. Document everything.

In any high-conflict divorce, compelling evidence is key—especially when your narcissistic partner relies heavily on blatant lies and deceit to get their way. Documenting every instance of narcissistic abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting can help provide the court with a clear picture of your spouse’s behavior and motives. Consider keeping a journal of specific incidents, saving emails and text messages, and retaining screenshots of social media posts to demonstrate patterns of behavior over time.

Skilled Divorce Attorneys Serving Miami-Dade County

At Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa, our seasoned divorce attorneys have over four decades of experience representing couples throughout Miami-Dade County. With extensive knowledge of family law, our firm is well-versed in the legal nuances of family matters to pursue a just outcome on your behalf. From child custody disputes to property division, turn to our Florida lawyers for the compassionate counsel you deserve to turn the page and start a new chapter.

Preparing for a Florida divorce? Our experienced divorce attorneys can protect your hard-earned assets and reputation. Call (305) 853-9161 to schedule a consultation