If you’re divorcing a husband with a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you’re in for a bumpy ride. No matter what your friends and family tell you, Mr. NPD is not going to “get over it” or “put the children first.” Why? Narcissists lack empathy, have black-and-white worldviews, and look for targets to blame for their problems. You will never change a narcissist’s personality structure, but you can learn strategies to keep him from driving you nuts! Here’s how:
- Radical Acceptance. Mr. NPD is not going to turn into a reasonable person; clinging to that hope will make you miserable. You don’t have to like your circumstances, but you do need to accept them so you don’t put yourself through unnecessary suffering. Once you realize you can’t change reality, you can shift your focus to things you can control.
- Learn how to communicate effectively. Mr. NPD will try to keep you engaged via lots of vitriolic, urgent communication – particularly emails and texts, since they’re easy to fire off. In order to defuse conflict, you must learn to disengage as quickly as possible, and in ways that may seem foreign to you. Forget everything you learned in traditional marriage counseling. Nix “I statements” in which you share how his behavior makes you feel; he’ll just keep doing more of it! Don’t try to enlighten him on his shortcomings; he’ll give you an even longer list of yours. Don’t offer opinions, parenting advice, or anything that smacks of emotion. You want to decrease opportunities for Mr. NPD to debate, belittle, and manipulate you more than he already does. Stick with facts and logistics (they’re harder to argue with), be brief, and be firm.
- Don’t show emotion. Narcissists are bullies. They want to upset you, so don’t give Mr. NPD that satisfaction. If you cry, yell, act scared, or get defensive, he’ll know he hurt you and will just turn up the heat. Imagine that you’re the parent of a tantruming toddler. Remain calm and save your frustrations and hurt feelings for your therapist or friends.
- Don’t take things personally. Mr. NPD keeps his fragile ego in tact by projecting his shame onto you. His anger isn’t a reflection of your wrongdoings; it’s a tactic to keep sadness and grief at bay. If he were to stop blaming you and treat you like an equal, he would have to confront his own behavior, and his “perfect” persona would crumble. The next time your ex lashes out at you, remember that he has a disordered interpretation of reality and don’t take his words personally.
- Train for a marathon, not a sprint. Mr. NPD thrives on battle, so be prepared for a drawn-out divorce. Because he’s incapable of compromise, mediation will probably fail. He’ll try to run up your legal fees by generating copious paperwork, false allegations and threats of, or actual, litigation. If you have extreme emotional reactions to every crisis, you’ll burn yourself out. And if you project into the future, wondering how you’ll ever survive your divorce, you’ll buckle from the anxiety. Stop trying to motor your way through your divorce and adopt an “emotional marathon” approach. You must save your energy and build resilience in order to make it to the end. How do you do this? Practice self-care. Take divorce mini-vacations (no divorce-related activity after 8 pm or on weekends). Get support from a divorce therapist. Shift your focus to positive people and life-affirming experiences.
The next time you catch yourself blaming Mr. NPD for all your woes, consider him as your teacher. He’s creating opportunities for you to learn how to set boundaries, manage your emotions, and develop resilience. Empowering yourself through personal growth will enable you to create a more meaningful, productive life than you would ever have had in your marriage to a narcissist.
Coming soon — is your wife a narcissist? Get tips for how to divorce your Mrs. with NPD without the stress.
Are you dealing with a narcissist in your divorce? Our attorneys have the experience and skills required to minimize conflict. Please contact us today to schedule your initial attorney consultation.