How to Divorce a Narcissist


How to Divorce a Narcissist

By Suzanne Roberta, M.B.A.

Business Plan for DivorceHow to divorce a narcissist can be as difficult as being married to one. If you are considering ending your marriage to the self-involved one, these proven strategies will help you not only survive the process, but find your own way to thrive as you go through it.

The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they are superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder often behave in socially distressing ways, which limits their ability to function in relationships and in other areas of their life, such as work or school. So, divorcing a spouse with this disorder presents a unique set of challenges.

Let my share my story with you. For eleven years, I was married to a textbook case narcissist; a physician whose disdain for others was palpable. His self-absorption and lack of empathy created a living environment that was unpredictable and unhappy.

One characteristic of narcissism is a refusal to take personal responsibility and to blame others. As the spouse, the blame always fell on me and as a result, I began to feel guilty and slowly lost my self-confidence and sense of personal worth. This slow entropy happened over a period of several years and its effects were profound. I went from being strong and capable to weak and self-doubting. It was then that I realized I had to change my life and figured out how to divorce a narcissist.

First, you must remember the personality type you are dealing with and prepare yourself for a hostile and contentious experience. The combination of arrogance and low self-esteem, characteristic of the narcissistic personality, will typically cause your spouse to react with anger and malice. To them, it will seem like a personal assault and they will become a vindictive opponent. So be prepared and do your homework before you file for divorce. The following strategies can help you devise your own plan on how to divorce a narcissist.

Know Your State’s Divorce Laws

Before filing for divorce, do some research on the divorce laws in the state where you live. States will either be community property or common law. Community property law, which is derived from Spanish law, warrants an equal distribution of debt and assets. Community property law is predominantly found in western states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Texas and Washington. Additional states include Wisconsin and Louisiana. Alaska has an opt-in option. Additional detailed information about community property law in these states can be found in the IRS Publication 555.
Business Plan for Divorcing a Narcissist
In contrast, common law, which is derived from English law, states that property acquired by one member of a married couple belongs solely to that person unless the property is specifically put in the names of both spouses. Common law governs the rest of the United States and the District of Columbia. Knowing the laws of your state will give you a decided advantage when you file for divorce and can help you plan your strategy, accordingly.


Consultations with Divorce Attorneys

Research divorce attorneys in your state and spend time interviewing them in person. Attorneys who specialize exclusively in divorce and family law will have a deeper understanding of your state’s divorce laws and the family court process. They will also have relationships with other divorce attorneys and family court judges, which can make the process go more smoothly.

Consultations with divorce attorneys in person will help you decide if you feel comfortable with their style and ability to represent you. Be wary of any attorney that makes promises that seem too good to be true. Asking the following ten questions will help you make an informed and intelligent decision.

1. How long have you been practicing divorce and family law?
2. What type of rapport do you have with family court judges and other divorce attorneys?
3. Can you explain the legal issues and the divorce / court process?
4. How long do you anticipate it will take?
5. How do you charge and what do you estimate the cost of my case to be?
6. What would be your strategy for handling my case?
7. How often and in what manner will we communicate?
8. What has been your experience and outcomes of negotiating terms of spousal maintenance, child support and custody issues?
9. Would you recommend mediation?
10. How will you ensure that final divorce decree rulings are carried out after the divorce is finalized?

Trust your gut instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable with an attorney, keep looking until you find the right one.


Create a Plan for Your Personal Finances

I hate to say this, but once the divorce process begins, it can be dog-eat-dog. Remember, you are divorcing a narcissist and therefore, an irrational opponent who will see the divorce as a battle they have to win. Don’t expect him or her to be fair and equitable when it comes to your marital finances.

One very real possibility that you should be prepared for is that your spouse may withdraw funds from your jointly held bank accounts and close them. Surprisingly, most banks allow one spouse to close accounts without the other’s consent. Be aware of this and plan accordingly.

Be smart, open a separate account at a different bank in your own name. Opt for paperless statements so you don’t get mail at your marital residence. Start to put as much cash into your separate account as you can without raising suspicion.

If you don’t already have them, obtain credit cards in your own name. If your spouse is on your existing accounts, remove his / her name and cancel their charging privileges.

Taking a detailed inventory of your financial matters now can help you immensely once you file for divorce. Use this quick checklist to put your financial affairs in order.

1. Make a list of all of the account numbers and account balances of your financial assets including any 401k plans, retirement accounts, college funds, stock portfolios, etc.
2. Have a detailed list of all of your bank and credit card accounts, balances and account numbers.
3. If you own a home, have the account number and balance of your mortgage and know what your interest rate is. Same goes for any automobile loans or leases.
4. Know the name of your homeowner and automobile insurance rep, along with the account number and schedule of payments.
5. Make copies of all sensitive and pertinent financial information and keep it in a safe and undiscoverable place.

This is important because once you file for divorce; you will have to provide your attorney and the court with an affidavit of financial disclosure. Having this financial information available in an organized fashion will make the process easier and you won’t risk forgetting anything.


Find Gainful Employment

If you aren’t already working, consider getting a job so that you have some form of income. This is the first step toward financial independence and the end of reliance on your narcissistic spouse.

Your new found financial freedom will give you back your confidence and empower you to make difficult decisions. Having the structure of a job and a schedule will help you to focus on other things, besides your divorce. It can also be a great opportunity to meet new people, build a professional network and learn new skills.

If you’ve been out of the job market for awhile, start by doing a few simple things; create / update your résumé, create a professional profile on Linked in and join a networking group in your local community. If you belong to an alumni organization, become active by attending events and volunteering your time. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about interesting professional opportunities.


Take Care of Your Physical and Emotional Self

Finally, know that you are about to put yourself through a physically and emotionally taxing process. Divorce is difficult, but using the strategies presented here can minimize the toll it takes on you.

Taking care of your physical and emotional health by adopting healthy eating, sleeping and physical exercise habits will increase your strength and help you get through the process.

Remember, how to divorce a narcissist may seem like a difficult task right now, but once you accomplish it, you will have unlimited opportunities for a new, happy and immensely fulfilling life.


Divorce is difficult and one of the most physical and emotionally taxing processes you can go through. The reality that your marriage is ending can put you into a tailspin and ironically, it is during this difficult emotional time period that you need to be completely clear thinking in your business affairs.
You will need to make unemotional and strategic business decisions that will affect your future financial life as a single person.

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