This blog post continues our discussion of how to communicate with a narcissist and focuses on how to deal with a narcissist husband or wife — to read part 1, click here.
Clients frequently tell their divorce attorneys that their spouse is a narcissist. We hear it all the time. Most attorneys dismiss those statements as emotional frustration stemming from the demise of a marriage. However, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health, 6.2 percent of the United States population has narcissistic personality disorder. That means for every 10 divorce cases, at least one of the spouses is a narcissist.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Relationships — Characteristics of a Narcissist
Narcissists are generally characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a feeling of superiority, a need to be recognized as superior, and a lack of empathy for others. These characteristics are often driven by a fragile self-esteem and a vulnerability to even the slightest criticism.
Here are some of the behaviors you will see in a narcissist:
- The need for attention
- The expectation of special treatment
- Taking advantage of others
- Manipulating others
- Going on the attack when feeling insulted
Narcissists can be very charming and persuasive. They rely on the emotional appeal to convince others. This can be particularly dangerous at the beginning of a divorce case when there is often a short timeline between the filing of the petition and the first hearing. The first hearing is often a temporary restraining order hearing or a hearing on temporary orders, in which extremely important rights are litigated. The rights may include who gets to live in the house or who the children live with primarily.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Relationships — The Narcissistic Injury
When a narcissist’s sense of superiority is threatened, his/her behavior pattern is predictable. The narcissist will lash out at the other spouse in an effort to regain power and control. A narcissist will not tolerable an injury to his/her self-esteem. The attack on the other spouse will fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Slander or pressuring others to take sides
- Abuse of the legal process
- Making unfounded allegations
Narcissists often see things as black or white. There are no gray areas. In other words, people are viewed as either entirely good or entirely bad. This is especially true with his/her spouse. When the death of a marriage is imminent, the spouse of a narcissist will be viewed as entirely bad and the campaign of destruction begins.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Relationships — Preparing for Divorce
It is imperative that you prepare before divorcing your narcissistic spouse. Ideally, you should prepare well in advance of any narcissistic injury.
- Protect yourself and your children – develop a safety plan for how you will react if your spouse becomes abusive. Know where you will go and what you need to bring with you. If you find yourself in a situation in which you legitimately fear for your immediate safety or the safety of your children, don’t be afraid to call the police. Have an experienced divorce attorney ready to file for a protective order or temporary restraining order, if necessary.
- Start a journal – keep detailed notes about things as they happen. Note that date, time, and the specifics. Keeping a journal can help you both anticipate allegations your narcissistic husband/wife will make and give you the factual context to rebut the allegations.
You may consider recording conversations with your spouse. When it comes to recording conversations, Texas is a one-party consent state. That means only one party to the conversation needs to consent to the recording. That party may be you.
Also, understand that your spouse may be recording conversations. At all times, conduct yourself in a manner that you don’t mind the judge seeing or hearing. Keep your journal and recordings in a safe place where your spouse does not have access.
- Copy important documents – access to information is crucial in a divorce case. Documents tend to disappear. Make copies of tax returns, pay stubs, financial account statements (bank, investment, retirement, etc.) and other importance documents.
- Secure important assets – valuable, meaningful, or important assets tend to disappear during a divorce. Valuable or sentimental items are prone to vanish. Once they’re gone, you rarely get them back. Gather these items and secure them in a safe place where your spouse cannot access them.
- Hire an attorney who is familiar with narcissistic personality disorders – Most attorneys have had clients say their spouses are narcissists. Few attorneys really understand the nature of this mental illness, its pattern of behavior, or how to advise you.
- Prepare to Rebut False Allegations – the behavioral pattern of a narcissist includes false allegations. It will You need to anticipate the types of allegations your spouse will make and prepare to rebut those allegations with real and credible evidence.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Relationships — How to Anticipate False Allegations
You can usually anticipate what allegations your husband or wife will make against you. Chances are your spouse has made or alluded to the allegations in the past. Think about past arguments with your spouse. What did he/she accuse you of? Has your spouse been through a past divorce or child custody case? What allegations were made in the case?
Review your journal, recordings, email, and text messages. Think about it, and you will likely anticipate what accusations your spouse will make. If your narcissistic spouse files for divorce first, you can often determine some of the allegations by carefully reviewing the petition and any supporting affidavit.
The false allegations will usually fall into one of three categories:
1. Marital misconduct – may include
- Domestic violence
- Cruel treatment
- Lies and manipulation
2. Child misconduct or abuse – may include
- Child abuse (physical or sexual)
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Inability to parent
- Alienation of affection
- Mental health issues
3. Financial misconduct – may include
- Hiding assets
- Wasting assets
- Selling assets
- Transferring or withdrawing funds
- Limiting your access to funds
If you are divorcing a narcissist, you have to anticipate the false allegations very early in the process. If the allegations are false, it’s usually your word against your spouse’s.
The narcissist will have emotion on his/her side. Judges tend to find testimony more credible when coupled with emotion. You have to combat that with credible evidence to rebut the allegation. You have to be prepared. Anticipate the allegations and work with your attorney to gather rebuttal evidence.
If you would like more information or to speak with an attorney, contact us here or give us a call at 940-387-3518.