In recent years, the word “narcissist” has crept into the popular vernacular to mean someone who’s conceited and excessively self-involved. But even though self-confidence can be expressed in a way that makes a person condescending and obnoxious, narcissism is something more. It is a real psychological disorder above and beyond being someone who’s merely full of themselves.
At first, they can be appealing, these charismatic, powerful and financially successful men. It’s easy to be drawn to their grandness, their winning smiles and magnetic personalities–all the outward manifestations of their inner, all-consuming self-centeredness.
As one of my clients who used to be married to a narcissist told me, “These men are attractive because they work so very hard to be alluring. They want you to like them and admire them.”
But it isn’t until you get to know him –possibly years later –that you realize how controlling, how manipulative, how truly self-important and ultimately dangerous a man like this can be.
“Once you ‘belong’ to him, he no longer needs to impress you, and that’s when he stops the act,” my client said.
Of course, a narcissist doesn’t know he has a problem. He thinks the problem is that everyone else doesn’t properly recognize how great he is.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a true narcissist:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
So, what if you’re married to a narcissist? What happens if you decide you don’t want to be, anymore?
Divorce is complicated and difficult for anyone. But according to attorney Miles Mason of Miles Mason Family Law Group in Memphis, divorcing a narcissist “can be a living nightmare.” Mr. Mason states in no uncertain terms that you can not hope for an amicable divorce from a narcissistic husband:
Do not expect a narcissist spouse to be cooperative or go away quietly. During a divorce, narcissists can be manipulative and exploitive, feeling neurotically entitled to get whatever they want. Narcissists blame everyone else for their problems, and because they are so self-centered, even while bullying their spouses they often perceive themselves to be the victims. True narcissists believe they are above the law and feel that the rules do not apply to them, making them notoriously difficult to deal with. It is common during a divorce for narcissists to:
- refuse to provide financial information and documents
- refuse to negotiate
- refuse to listen to their own lawyer
- defy court orders
- use the children as pawns
Because they are so competitive, narcissists love the adversarial nature of the legal system and excel at manipulating it to their advantage.
Not surprisingly, abusive behavior is also a definite concern. Very often, narcissistic men are also abusers—and unlike other kinds of abusive partners, they feel no regret or remorse. In fact, they believe themselves to be the one who’s been wronged. While they may not be physically violent, narcissists can be exceedingly controlling and verbally and emotionally abusive spouses.
If you are contemplating a divorce from a narcissistic husband, here are three critical financial preparations you should make:
Have funds on hand.
Given the tactics a narcissistic husband will likely use, you’re going to have to plan for a long, drawn-out battle –and that means having a substantial war chest of cash at the ready.
You should also make sure you have good credit in your own name. If you don’t, it will be well worth the extra time required to get good credit established. You cannot be without your own credit card(s) in the future, and you may need to qualify for personal loans.
Get your financial paperwork together.
Because your narcissistic husband will likely try to thwart you at every turn and refuse to provide required documents, it is essential that you have paperwork in order before divorce proceedings get underway. You should obtain copies of all the financial and legal documents listed on our Financial Information Checklist. This is a long list, and you may have items to add to it. Allow yourself enough time to gather and copy all the documents you can. Do not keep the copies at home. Give them to a trusted friend or relative, or keep them in a safety deposit box that your husband can’t access and doesn’t know about.
Put together a top-notch divorce team.
You already know that you will need a skilled, experienced matrimonial/family law attorney to handle your divorce. Make sure you discreetly interview several before you make your choice. Make sure your attorney knows how domestic abuse factors into division of marital property in your state.
You will also want to hire a divorce financial planner. He or she will be the financial expert on your team, so be certain you find someone with training and experience in assessing the financial implications of various settlement scenarios, with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome for your financial security.
A qualified, compassionate therapist will be an invaluable part of your team, as well. Look for someone familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A narcissistic spouse will have zero empathy for you, or for your children. He will be vindictive and hurtful, and he’ll thrive on it. Get an emotional support system in place to keep you grounded.
With your money ready, your paperwork in order and your team assembled, you are ready to proceed.
Miles Mason has more good advice: Once divorce has been initiated, you should keep direct communication with a narcissistic husband to a fact-based, dispassionate minimum. “Email is one of the best methods of communicating with a narcissistic spouse since it gives each party time to think before responding,” he writes on his website. “Additionally, whatever the narcissist says to you is in writing, which may eliminate some of his /her abusive behavior since there would be concrete evidence that could be used in court.”
Divorcing a narcissist may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever have to do. But if you plan ahead and get help when/where you need it, you will succeed.
Jeff Landers is the President and Founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, a divorce financial strategy firm which exclusively advises women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce.
Jeff is the author of the new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally – What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, which provides women going through the crisis of divorce with the tools they need to secure their financial future.
He is donating a portion of all book profits to Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc.
All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.
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