How To Tell Your Narcissist Spouse That You Want A Divorce

how to tell a narcissist that you want a divorce

Do you feel like you’re constantly tiptoeing over eggshells in your marriage to a narcissist? Then get ready for some seriously fancy footwork when you tell your spouse you want a divorce. While you may be tempted to unload years worth of grievances, or let your spouse know just how hurt you are by serving them in public, don’t act until you consider the consequences.

Tips For Breaking The News

How you initiate divorce sets the stage for what’s to follow. While you cannot control your narcissist’s behavior, you can definitely deliver the news in a way that minimizes drama.

Understand narcissistic injury. Narcissists are brittle people. Any hint that they’re less than perfect, and they feel mortally wounded. Learning that you want to leave them will create a “narcissistic injury” and a desperate attempt to regain a sense of control. Telling your spouse what a miserable human being they are may feel justified, but it will only ignite a revenge campaign. So recognize your narcissist for the “fragile” creature they really are and break the news with due gentleness.

Don’t blame the narcissist. If your spouse asks why you want a divorce, don’t list their faults, as this will just rub salt in their narcissistic wound. They lack self-awareness, and the maturity to own their part in things, so nothing you say will give them an epiphany. When you explain why you want a divorce, keep it general, and about your dynamic (poor communication, different values, etc.), rather than identifying your spouse as the problem.

Stick to your guns. Once you announce your decision, don’t waffle. Ambivalence will confuse and aggravate the narcissist. It will also keep you stuck on the misery merry-go-round. No matter what they promise, a narcissist is unlikely to change. Trying to make things work will likely lead to bigger failure, more narcissistic injury, and greater punishment for you. Being resolute and going forward with the divorce will show the narcissist he can’t manipulate you.

Hire a reasonable attorney. Retaining a “shark attorney” will instantly ramp up drama. Start out on the right foot by choosing a lawyer who will initiate the divorce with as little conflict as possible. For instance, don’t serve your spouse in public, or make trumped-up allegations in a declaration. Be willing to use mediation — but don’t be a pushover either. Hire an attorney who is comfortable in a courtroom, should you end up there.

Respond strategically. Narcissists have emotional outbursts and extreme reactions. If you respond in kind, you will invite more aggressive behavior. Don’t try to reason with someone who is inherently unreasonable. When communicating, whether it be in person or electronically, follow this protocol: be concise, deliver information only (no opinions or feelings), keep a neutral tone, and be direct (no hinting or uncertainty).

A final note: never tell your spouse that they’re hurting your feelings or causing you distress — this is exactly the effect they’re going for, so they’ll just keep it up. If you don’t engage, they’ll have less reason to terrorize you. Keep you focus on exiting your marriage as strategically, and with as much dignity, as possible.

Read More:

Divorcing a Narcissist: 5 Strategies for Getting Through It

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