It’s rare that any divorce is “easy,” but some divorces are harder than others. If you suspect (or know) that your spouse is a narcissist, you can expect the divorce to get ugly.
Narcissists have a type of personality disorder that makes them desperate for attention – and they’re often preoccupied with how they’re perceived by others. They crave a sense of superiority, and they need to feel like they’re in control at all times, over all situations.
Naturally, announcing that you want a divorce to that kind of person isn’t something that will be met with any grace. Your spouse may act out, resist any attempt to craft meaningful agreements, attempt to manipulate the divorce process and intentionally aim to provoke you.
How do you cope with a narcissist’s antics?
First, you need to realize that you cannot do anything about your spouse’s behavior. All you can do is control your reactions – but if you can do that well enough, you will take all of the “fun” out of their attempts to manipulate you. Experts often recommend the “gray rock” method as a tactical response. This idea hinges on the fact that narcissists get a lot of their sense of power and a big ego boost simply by upsetting their targets. To combat their outrageous behavior you:
- Anticipate that your spouse will try to attack you on any front they perceive is a weakness, whether that’s threatening to take full custody of the children or demanding an unreasonable and unfair division of the assets to make you feel financially insecure.
- Recognize that they can say anything they want – but they don’t actually have the power they believe they have to make their threats a reality. For example, the court and the law control who gets custody and how assets are divided, not them.
- Learning to sharply control your visible and verbal reactions to whatever provocations they come up with. Keep your face blank, your answers short and noncommittal, minimize contact and respond to threats and tantrums with little more than a shrug.
It’s always good to hope for a relatively calm and peaceful divorce, but that isn’t always possible. If you suspect that your spouse’s mental health may cause complications with your divorce, make sure you let your representation know early on so that you can strategize together about your approach.