How to win a high-conflict divorce with a narcissist in 7 steps

If you’re divorcing a narcissist, chances are he or she won’t go quietly into the night.

Narcissists are self-centered, full of themselves, and boastful. They’re also unable to empathize or tune in emotionally to another’s needs, which makes your soon-to-be ex more likely to seek revenge, whether through the courts or elsewhere. (The world revolves around them, after all, right?)

Add all that up, and your divorce suddenly becomes high-conflict, not to mention expensive and traumatic. But if you have the right Columbus family law attorney in your corner and you know the traps to avoid, the process becomes a little less daunting and a little more manageable.

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Here are 7 steps to take to survive a divorce with a narcissist.

1. Keep yourself clean by steering clear of mudslinging.

By joining your soon-to-be ex in this turmoil, you’re stooping to his level and giving him ammunition in his fight against you. And believe us, he’ll take all the ammunition he can get, even if some of it is made up.

Instead, take the high road. Don’t give him anything to work with by getting sucked into his threats and insults. Stay focused on your goals and bite your tongue as much as possible.

2. Communicate with your ex only through lawyers.

This one can be hard to stick to, particularly if you have kids together, when it may be unavoidable. But if you push all communication regarding the divorce itself through your lawyers, you can avoid most of your spouse’s attempts to hurt and control you. Keep conversation centered on the kids only, not their custody, nor anything else related to the case.

Don’t forget: Narcissists can be alluring, and that doesn’t necessarily stop just because you’re divorcing. In fact, when a narcissist feels hurt or cornered he might be more likely to turn on the charm, whether toward you or the courts.

If you find that you and your spouse need to continue to communicate directly, consider using a service like Our Family Wizard to manage and document what’s said. The service permits both parties and their attorneys to monitor the communications, down to and including seeing when a particular email was read by the other side, and provides some transparency that encourages better behavior and cooperation between the parties.

3. Anticipate your ex’s charms will work on the court.

To you, the case may be clear-cut. But you can’t expect the courts to see it your way. Remain clear-minded and open to all outcomes. And, with your lawyer, plan for them.

Whatever you do, don’t get complacent or become naive about how the courts will respond to your side. Your spouse is likely to concoct all manner of stories, which the courts might buy given his considerable charm. But if you’re prepared for those outcomes, you’ll be better able to respond to them.

4. Document everything you can as accurately as you can.

It’s tempting to think of this as deceptive or sneaky, but by documenting your interactions — and your ex’s interactions with the kids — you’re merely arming yourself with a record of the truth. A logged account of how much time you spend with the kids, or even documentation of a simple phone call, could save you in court.

5. Stay focused on why you’re getting a divorce in the first place.

We see it all the time. A spouse’s self-centeredness becomes, somehow, attractive, pulling you back into his orbit. Before you know it, your narcissistic ex has convinced you you’re crazy, your needs are outlandish, or that your perspective is simply wrong.

This often happens when blinded by emotions. As the Huffington Post recently put it, “Stop feeling, start thinking.” In other words, avoid the temptation to feel sorry for your ex, and think through the repercussions of any decision you make.

A few months ago we wrote about the six signs that show it might be time to move on from your narcissistic spouse. If you haven’t read it yet, do so now. And if you have, read it again. As often as it’s needed, remind yourself of these signs and the wake of destruction they left in your life.

6. Unload your feelings on someone you trust.

No one’s perfect. No one has it all together. You’re likely a bundle of nerves and messy emotions that seem confusing and contradictory, even. Confide in friends and family, ask them to keep you accountable with your thinking and actions, and just vent, if you need to.

Or seek out a therapist if you think you could benefit from more professional help and guidance. Whatever you do, don’t bury your emotions or ignore them. They could come barreling out at the wrong place and time, causing all kinds of unexpected consequences.

7. Hire the right attorney with the experience to handle a narcissist.

Don’t assume all attorneys are created equal. And don’t be tempted to hire one of those bulldog lawyer-types who promise to fight, fight, fight on your behalf. At Babbitt & Dahlberg, we’ll fight for you, but we’ll do it smartly and deliberately. And we have the experience to back it up.

If you’re facing a high-conflict divorce, learn more about how we can help your case. Contact Babbitt & Dahlberg today to schedule a consultation.