Divorcing a Narcissist or No? Learn How Uncommon this Common Label Really Is.

The narcissist label is commonly used these days when relationships begin to unravel. But, is your ex a true narcissist or just a run of the mill jerk? What you may not realize is that narcissism is actually a personality disorder. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic it’s pretty uncommon – up to only 5% of people have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Here are signs to watch for and tips on how to divorce more peacefully.

The Nitty-Gritty on Narcissism

Most of us consider a narcissist to be a person who acts self-absorbed and vain. Yes, that’s true, but there’s much more to it. Per the Cleveland Clinic, NPD is diagnosed when a person has at least five of these characteristics:

  • Overinflated sense of self-importance.
  • Constant thoughts about being more successful, powerful, smart, loved or attractive than others.
  • Feelings of superiority and desire to only associate with high-status people.
  • Need for excessive admiration.
  • Sense of entitlement.
  • Willingness to take advantage of others to achieve goals.
  • Lack of understanding and consideration for other people’s feelings and needs.
  • Arrogant or snobby behaviors and attitudes.

What these outward actions tend to cover up is a sense of insecurity, fragile sense of worth, fear of criticism and emptiness. While the cause of NPD isn’t known, it may result from a combination of factors such as:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Early relationships with parents, friends and relatives
  • Genetics
  • Hypersensitivity to textures, noise or light as a child
  • Personality and temperament

Counseling can certainly help, but the person must have a willingness to change.

A Know-How for Divorcing a Narcissist

Realistically, whether your ex has actually been diagnosed with NPD or they have narcissistic tendencies, you’re likely still in for more of a challenge than your typical divorce.  That said, knowing what you’re in for is half the battle; and these tips can help with the other half!

  1. Make sure your attorney is aware of the issue AND has experience in this area – This way they’ll know what to expect, won’t be fooled by your ex and can be more proactive for you.
  2. Keep copies of everything – It’s never a good idea to get into a he said/she said situation especially with a narcissist. Documenting everything, especially expenditures, will help you easily discredit their lies.
  3. Avoid falling into their traps – They WILL bait you, but keep your cool and keep your communication to a minimum. Avoid communicating with them directly at all if possible and especially via email, text or voicemail that could potentially be edited or misconstrued out of context.
  4. Enlist a strong support group – Your ex will likely drag the divorce on and on to punish you so make sure to surround yourself with friends and family who can ground and support you. It may also be a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional to help you cope in a healthy way.
  5. Keep your eye on the end-game – To be out of this unhealthy relationship! It will be hard, it will be frustrating, but it will be so worth it in the end for your sake, and if you have children, for theirs too.

Bonus Tip: Consider Divorce Mediation

Often, divorce mediation is less combative than court litigation. Here you and your ex agree to work with a trained mediator – ideally one experienced in this area – who acts as a neutral third party to negotiate a mutual settlement agreement. 

Divorce mediation can save you time and money, preserve your privacy and level the playing field by allowing your ex to ‘save face’ as there’s no winner or loser when you meditate; unlike in court.

What’s more, you and your ex don’t even have to be in the same room during mediation. 

For more information, contact our experienced team today to learn more.


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WhitsonLaw, PLLC

WhitsonLaw can assist you with divorce, mediation, custody, child support, protective orders, adoption and more.

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