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Things to keep in mind when navigating divorce from a narcissist

The term “narcissism” is thrown around quite a bit these days. Some critics of social media say that millennials are developing an over-inflated sense of self-importance (narcissism) because they have numerous public platforms to advertise even the most mundane details of their lives.

Because the word is used so frequently and casually, some forget that narcissism is an actual disorder, known by its full name as narcissistic personality disorder. For those who married someone who turned out to be a narcissist, divorce is often inevitable. Unfortunately, the behavior that accompanies NPD can make the divorce process a nightmare.

If you are soon to be divorced from a narcissist, you know they can often be manipulative, arrogant, unwilling to accept criticism/blame and completely unwilling to compromise. The major mistake people make when dealing with a narcissist, according to a recent Huffington Post article, is to assume that they can be won over or persuaded through explanation and rational arguments. Going down this path is futile and could hurt you in the process.

Instead, the best way to protect yourself and your sanity is to avoid engaging with him or her, even though you will likely be provoked to do so. It may be necessary to cut off contact completely and send messages only through an attorney.

If you must remain in contact, try to use email instead of a phone call or face-to-face conversation. This gives you more control over what you respond to and what you don’t. Say, for instance, that your ex emails you and asks a practical question about picking up the kids. Surrounding that question might be layers of blame, insult, threats and other destructive content. You can choose to reply only to the practical question, and give answers that are as short and unemotional as possible.

Although narcissistic personality disorder is rare, the fact that you were initially attracted to a narcissist is not surprising. They often appear charming and confident when first meeting new people. Because of the nature of their disorder, however, most have a very difficult time keeping healthy relationships.

No matter what spousal issues you may be having during divorce, please know that help is available. Your family law attorney can be a strong advocate for your interests and may be able to recommend additional resources as needed.

Source: The Huffington Post, “The #1 Secret on How To Engage With a Narcissist,” Lindsey Ellison, Sept. 8, 2014

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