Strategies for divorcing a narcissist

By Staff

People who decide to initiate divorce proceedings from a narcissistic partner should prepare themselves, financially and emotionally, Toronto family lawyer and divorce recovery coach Leanne Townsend tells Global News.

“Narcissists like to win, so the adversarial process is a venue where they thrive,” says a partner with Brauti Thorning LLP. “When you’re in a dynamic where you’re on the opposite side of them, no matter what you give them, they’re going to want more.”

Victims of any type of abuse often suffer from low self-esteem and a feeling of powerlessness, which is why they tend to stay, she says.

“They feel worthless and powerless. They’re afraid, and they don’t know how to leave. They’re often isolated because the abuser has isolated them from family and friends,” Townsend says.

One of the tactics narcissists use in a divorce is to financially abuse their former partner by bringing unnecessary motions in legal proceedings, she says.

“They take things to a higher level in court and battle everything, (hoping) you eventually run out of money,” Townsend says.

Even before making an appointment with a lawyer, someone in this type of relationship should do take some proactive and practical steps, she says.

“Put some money aside and make copies of financial documents — bank statements, Visa statements and tax returns,” Townsend says. “Once they know the divorce process has started, narcissists will hide things. They will change the address with the bank so that statements are no longer coming to the home.”

She says it’s also important to recognize the narcissist’s intention to wear down his or her partner, emotionally and financially.

“You have to be thoughtful in the divorce process and come to it from a place of thinking rather than feeling,” Townsend says. “You need to pick your battles. Decide with your lawyer what are the most important things to you and focus on those.”

Parental alienation is another common hazard in splits from narcissists, and those who start to see signs of this behaviour should waste no time in seeking professional help for the children, she says.

“Get the kids some kind of representation, such as a child psychologist who can speak to their needs in the court,” Townsend says.

She says the key to surviving a divorce in such difficult circumstances is arranging a strong support network.

“Assemble a solid team you’re comfortable with — a lawyer, a therapist or coach — so you don’t involve your children,” Townsend says. “Self-care and self-love are important. You need to make sure you’re doing things for your emotional well-being to keep you on track.”

It’s also important to establish healthy boundaries with the former partner, she says.

“The narcissist is going to be in your life if you [have children together]. The boundary piece is important to make sure the relationship doesn’t hurt you going forward,” Townsend says.

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