5 Ways To Spot Narcissist Manipulation in Divorce

If you’re divorcing a narcissist, be prepared for a bumpy ride. Narcissist manipulation in divorce is common, but it’s also easy to spot if you know the signs to watch for. Being able to predict your narcissist spouse’s strategies will help you stay sane during a crazy time — and help keep your divorce from exploding into a high conflict battle.

Here are 5 key ways narcissists manipulate the divorce process.

They create drama. Narcissists are drama queens and kings. They know that the best way to shift attention from their own foibles, or take accountability for their own behavior, is to manufacture constant chaos. The kind of chaos takes many forms, but the most common includes: emotional outbursts; explosive communication; making false allegations; refusing to negotiate; repeatedly threatening or initiating legal action, often over small items. They do this to deflect blame, wear you down, gain sympathy, and retain control, even at the expense of the children.

Try not to take the craziness personally; narcissists are just kids in grown-up bodies throwing tantrums to get what they want. Keep calm and carry on, getting legal guidance from your attorney and emotional support from a therapist to help you do so.

They act like victims. Narcissists project their own bad behavior onto others. Chronic victimizers, they misperceive reality as if they’re the ones being victimized. Some examples: You’re trying to bleed me dry by demanding child support! (Translation: I’m too special to pay child support). You’re dragging out the divorce process! (Translation: how dare you assert your rights?). You’re so rigid! (Translation: you uphold the custody order).

The self-pity routine can be infuriating, especially when you’re the one being hurt. But resist the urge to reason with the narcissist; he or she will interpret the truth as an attack and ratchet up the victim routine.

They make threats. Narcissists use threats to get what they want. These threats usually involve money and child custody. Many narcissists who threaten to get more custody don’t actually want more time with the kids; they use the children as bargaining chips to scare you. Narcissists often manufacture a false sense of urgency to make you fold: for instance, sending you an email promising legal action if you don’t immediately agree to their terms.

Your narcissist may also use electronic communication to badger and intimidate you 24/7. Try to disengage from the hostility by realizing a lot of it is posturing. Don’t respond to tirades and limit communication to short, neutral “need to know” texts, i.e., “I will be at the library at 4 pm for Susie pick up.”

They stall. Narcissist manipulation in divorce also relies on the use stall tactics to retain a power position. They “misplace” paperwork. They ask for continuances. They drag out financial and parenting plan agreements by refusing to settle. They can’t seem to give you a straight answer to anything.

You may seethe at the injustice of it all, especially when you’re expected to do the narcissist’s bidding at a moment’s notice. But if you respond in anger, you’ll just be giving the narcissist the reaction he’s hoping for. You can’t make your ex change his behavior, but you can – and should – continue to set limits and express your needs appropriately.

They make false allegations of negligent parenting. One of the narcissist’s favorite drama-inducing strategies is to accuse their co-parent of being unfit. They turn their ex’s minor parenting gaffes into allegations of abuse. They interrogate the children about goings-on in their ex’s house, creating anxiety and anger for the kids. They launch custody battles: lengthy, expensive, psychologically draining lawsuits that often hurt kids more than help them.

While they may think they’re protecting the children, narcissists are actually motivated by a false sense of superiority and a need to prove that they’re the better parent. Don’t diagnose your ex when you meet with your custody evaluator. Provide evidence to support your narcissist’s poor behavior and project confidence in your parenting abilities. 

Your best strategy for managing narcissist manipulation in divorce? Recognize it for what it is, practice emotional detachment, get support from a mental health professional, and focus on what you can control: your own choices.

Read more: How to get a narcissist to reveal themselves

Are you divorcing a narcissist? Have questions about post-divorce legal issues, including custody and parenting time issues? To get answers to all your questions, please contact us to schedule your free attorney consultation. Take the first step towards securing your future. Call us today: 888-888-0919.

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