Divorcing a Narcissist

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A narcissist is someone who thinks the world revolves around them, so it’s no surprise that when a narcissist gets a divorce, they think everything should be in their favor. Divorcing a narcissist adds an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult divorce process, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible situation if you equip yourself with the right tools.

Understanding the Narcissist

Trying to understand the narcissist may seem like a major feat, but if you come to accept that they are who they are and you can’t change them, but instead you can change how you react to them, your path to divorce becomes a lot less stressful. A narcissist will take any attention they can get- positive or negative- so they will do anything they possibly can to bait you into giving them attention.

Setting boundaries is incredibly important when dealing with a narcissist. They can only reach you if you allow them to. It’s important to understand the role you play when it comes to not engaging with the narcissist. The less you engage, the more peace you will have.

How Courts Treat Narcissists

While the courts do tend to lean towards equally-shared parenting time, they also don’t like being lied to or deceived. When dealing with a narcissist, information is where your power lies.

Keeping a record of important communications between you and the narcissist- particularly any threats they make or attempts to interfere with your parenting time- will be crucial to your case. You should also have supporting evidence whenever possible. Evidence, like screenshots, will hold more weight than a he said/she said scenario in court.

Narcissists like to create drama, and you can’t get much more dramatic than a battle in court. Avoiding court is the desirable choice, but when this isn’t possible, putting your best foot forward in front of the judge by providing clear and concise information will give you the most leverage over your ex. Working with an attorney or mediator who has experience with handling high-conflict divorces will be key to resolving conflict. An aggressive attorney is not always the answer, and they can actually make the situation worse.

Here is a great program from Rebecca Zung, a Top 1% divorce attorney to help you negotiate with courage and confidence and drive the outcome you want. Go check out S.L.A.Y. Your Negotiation™ with a Narcissist.

Communicating With the Narcissist

Your narcissistic ex will likely want to communicate a lot. They thrive on attention. You have control over how much you communicate. You don’t have to show up to every fight you’re invited to. Set boundaries as to how often you communicate with your ex. In most cases, once a day is plenty.

When you do communicate, practice the BIFF response method, created by Licensed Clinical Social worker, Bill Eddy:

  • Brief- Keep texts and emails to less than a paragraph. The less you write, the less the narcissist has to respond to.
  • Informative- Only provide relevant information. Don’t bring in personal opinions or emotions, and try not to get defensive.
  • Friendly- Avoid adding to the hostility by offering up a friendly hello and goodbye. This shows you have good self-control, which will be important when setting the tone for your case if you do end up in court.
  • Firm- Try to set your communication up as a yes or no answer from your ex. Being firm doesn’t mean being harsh, but it does mean you are sticking to the facts and asking for a prompt resolution to the matter at hand.

Whenever possible, take the time to thoroughly think through your communication with your ex before responding. This can often keep you from saying something out of anger that could further escalate an already-tense situation.

Taking Care of Yourself

Self-care is so important when dealing with a narcissist. All of that tension can lead to you being mentally and physically drained. In addition to setting boundaries and limiting your interaction with the narcissist, make sure you’re taking care of yourself in all other aspects of your life.

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Stay on a consistent sleep schedule
  • Make time for the things you enjoy
  • Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people
  • Seek professional advice from a therapist or divorce coach to help you navigate the process

Divorcing a narcissist may seem like you are stuck in an endless cycle of conflict, but the more you focus on what you can control, the easier it will be to loosen yourself from their grip. Protect your peace and your energy and focus on what’s ahead. Better days are coming.

More Split.fyi Resources:

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis line: 1-800-356-5395
Crisis text line: Text “help” to 741741
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Split.fyi Resources
Split.fyi Marital Life Inventory
Divorce Lifecycle Document
Divorce Process Overview


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