Divorcing a Narcissist: What You Need to Know

No divorce is ever easy. The entire process of ending a marriage can be traumatizing for one or both parties involved and the circumstances and reasons for dissolving a marriage are unique. Very rarely in the case of divorce do both parties wish to see the relationship end; when one partner wants the divorce and the other does not, typically that is when some of the most spiteful, drawn out divorces occur.


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For individuals who are married to someone with an emotional disorder or someone who has pronounced personality issues, a divorce can quickly become a highly personal battleground. Women or men married to a Narcissist will endure not only the disruption of their marriage, financial wellbeing and family life, but they will also be confronted with breaking the cycle of control.

What is a Narcissist?

Every human personality has a degree of narcissism. It is the aspect of our personality that identifies the personal needs we have, the things we want and takes actions to fulfill our wants, whether something as simple as an ice cream to the type of career we want to have. In healthy amounts, narcissism is actually a good thing as it motivates us to achieve the things that will make us most happy in life, and to remember to factor our needs (and the needs of others) into our actions and plans.

When someone has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, that healthy balance of what they want versus what others in their life want is skewed. While only a trained Psychologist or Psychiatrist can diagnose the presence of the NPD, the symptoms can include an abnormal pattern of personal grandiosity (thinking they are perfect, always right and better than everyone else). Other symptoms can include a desire for admiration and surprising lack of concern or empathy for others.

An individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is likely to be charming, popular in social settings, attractive and expressive. They can be romantic on the outside, particularly when they are recruiting new friends, employers or personal relationships. However the term “my way or the highway” comes to mind with a narcissist, with one exception; you aren’t allowed to leave them because your departure as a spouse doesn’t serve their interests financially or emotionally. People married to clinical NPD individuals have described marriage as feeling more like a prison than a caring and supportive relationship.

As you can imagine, divorcing someone like that takes a difficult situation and makes it even more difficult. If the NPD spouse has been controlling, they are reluctant to give up that control, even when it becomes clear that the other spouse no longer wants the relationship. In fact, the narcissistic spouse will do everything in their control to stop the divorce, which is why certain steps are absolutely crucial for the divorcing spouse in terms of emotional and physical safety, and to expedite the divorce as efficiently as possible. You can take control and your freedom back with the help of a supportive community and your legal expert.

The Rules of Disengagement: How to Divorce a Narcissist

Many couples attempt to administer the divorce while living in the same home or within the same community. This rarely works and separation of the couples is easier to demonstrate in the eyes of the law if the couple maintains a separate residence for the duration of the divorce. Before you commence legal proceedings, find yourself an affordable alternative living accommodation. A small apartment that is economical or moving in with parents is helpful to give you your own space and the support of family and friends.

A spouse can also monitor your location on some smartphones via GPS and he or she can also see a log of phone calls and duration. Your privacy is important. Get a new phone plan and if that number is compromised, use security features to “block” him or her from contacting you on your new phone.

Ask family and friends to respect your privacy. If you are not providing information to a narcissistic spouse, they will use that charm to find out information through other people in your social sphere and through family. Debrief your family and demand that your information be kept absolutely private. If you learn that your information is being shared, stop consulting with certain family members. Part of eliminating the narcissistic spouse’s control is by making your life and activities more private. It is harder to argue when they have no information about your activities or opinions.

Find friends and family who are supportive, and a divorce attorney in Chicago who understands the additional complications of divorcing a narcissistic spouse. Other legal matters including restraining and “no-contact” orders can be issued where threats or harassment are involved. Consult with your legal professional for more legal options in place to protect and assist you through your divorce proceedings.