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Divorcing a Narcissist

Q.

Are there red flags to help someone avoid being involved with a narcissist?

A.

It’s difficult. I always tell people to date for a long period of time anyway because these traits don’t come out until later. Some of the things to watch for are, does this person really want to know about you as a person? Do they really want to become involved in your life and your activities, your family and your friends? Or is it all about them and their world? I think you can begin to tell right away if someone has the ability to do empathy or talk to you in an authentic fashion about your own feelings and his or her feelings.

Q.

In a divorce, everybody is hurt and angry. How is a divorce from a narcissist any different?

A.

The narcissist doesn’t get over it. Other people are hurt and angry and go through their own divorce adjustment, but they tend to move on and get over it. The narcissist will continue to try to blame their partner and harm their partner. They do it by these long, extended, contentious divorce cases that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We need more education for professionals in the divorce field so that the custody evaluators and family law people and therapists know what they’re dealing with. They also can be seduced by the narcissist.

Q.

Besides the cost of a protracted divorce, what are the other concerns about divorcing a narcissist?

A.

My primary concern is that children are just terribly harmed by what happens. Kids have a hard time going through a normal divorce. In these high-conflict, contentious divorce cases, this becomes a child’s life. It’s evaluators and therapists and court cases. Children are caught in the middle of all that and deeply harmed by it.

Narcissists don’t make great parents, but they use the children as pawns because they know it’s the most important thing to their partner. It’s not that they necessarily want to have time with kids, but it looks good for them to do the Disneyland-parent kind of stuff. The children are the best tool they have to get back at their partner.

Q.

Is it worse to divorce a narcissist than to keep being married to one?

A.

What pushes people to get out of the relationship is that they see high conflict in the marriage is causing emotional damage to their children. Often they make a decision to leave because they see it’s harming the kids. But the partners in these relationships get physically sick, they become exhausted from having to revolve around the narcissist and they feel like they can’t do anything right. Eventually when they seek a divorce, they find the attorneys and therapists and people who can help them. I think finding the right professionals who work together as a team is really important.



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