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Divorcing a “Narcissist”

by Kristen Hilty

If you’re reading this, you have at least “googled” what a narcissist is and how they behave. It’s highly likely that part of you has known your spouse has some type of personality disorder for a long time, but part of your brain chose to ignore it for a variety of reasons or think that they would change…or that you could “fix” them. The quotes in the title are intentional. It’s my experience that most people going through a divorce believe their spouse is a narcissist. Some of them are just gigantic jerks…others have different personality disorders…and others are really actually. Whether they are or not is not for you to diagnose unless you are a mental health professional. It’s certainly also NEVER appropriate to tell them they are one, even if they are.

From here on out, let’s refer to your spouse as someone that has a “high-conflict personality”. By the way…Don’t call them that, either… just acknowledge it. As a result of your partner’s personality, you will likely face unique divorce challenges, but we are here to help anticipate what those may be and work through them. Here’s the good news: You’ve survived their tendencies for a long time and now see them differently and recognize you are in a toxic relationship – you can see them for their true self. You can; therefore, see about them what they don’t see about themselves – A significant upper-hand! It’s time to set boundaries and settle in for a nasty ride. Setting boundaries is the easy part. Learning new habits to successfully stick with those boundaries after many years with someone, along with co-parenting…not so easy…but you can do it. Being married to a “high-conflict personality” individual is beyond hard. Divorcing one is just as hard so buckle up.

Some don’t have the stomach for it or will get only so far before they give up from fear, intimidation, manipulation, and/or sheer exhaustion. Don’t expect them to run out of steam or back down. Most importantly don’t expect them to change. They thrive on running you ragged, getting a reaction vs. a response, “winning”, and seeing you punished for daring to go up against them or thinking that you could ever live without them.

Remember when your “ex” made you feel like YOU were the crazy one because they could NEVER be wrong about anything EVER!? That won’t stop during your divorce process.

The Finances

Chances are, many of you have relinquished all, or most, financial control over to your spouse. So when your divorce kicks off, your mindset needs to shift into thinking strategically, not emotionally. Put on your best game-face! Dealing with a separation and/or co-parenting with a high-conflict personality individual is going to suck a ton of energy from you when you already have “divorce brain”.

If you are planning on leaving your spouse and haven’t done so yet, below are just a few things for which you need to start collecting documentation. Contact a CDFA for a comprehensive list and help with how and where to locate these things.

  • Bank Accounts (joint and sole)
  • Documents pertaining to Real Property
  • Debt and Lines of Credit
  • Recent Pay Stubs
  • Tax Returns
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment Accounts
  • Retirement Accounts

Again, this is the short list, so get a financial expert on your team from the beginning of the process.

Communications with a “High-Conflict Personality”

Your spouse knows the exact things to say that will “trigger” you. It’s incredibly difficult to avoid taking the bait. I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of “BIFF Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns” by Bill Eddy. This book will give you some amazing tools that will help you stick to those boundaries you set.

How to Negotiate with a “High-Conflict Personality”

DON’T!!! Never negotiate with a high-conflict personality spouse until you have an experienced Attorney, a CDFA®, and a Therapist/Counselor on your team. Your job is not to negotiate directly with them. Your job is to protect your emotional self, your children, and your financial future. Your team of experts will keep you on track and focused for the new and healthier chapter of your life.

We’re here to help with resources, what to expect, and what the divorce process looks like for your unique situation. Contact Better Divorce Solutions for a complimentary consultation.

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