10 Tips for How You Can “Win” When Divorcing A Narcissist

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Narcissists love to win. Divorce, to them, is a game. That makes divorcing them in any reasonable kind of way extremely challenging. Their expectations are usually unrealistic. They don’t feel a need to compromise. Even if you don’t think of your divorce as a game, at some point you can’t help but wonder how you can win when divorcing a narcissist?

Narcissistic man combing his hair and gazing into a mirror. How to win when divorcing a narcissist?Understanding Your Narcissistic Spouse

Before you can even think of resolving your divorce with a narcissist you first have to understand who you’re dealing with.  That means you need to know a little bit about narcissism itself.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Narcissistic personality disorder … is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

According to the DSM, narcissists often display these symptoms, among others:

  • They have a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Narcissists believe that they are “special” and that normal rules don’t apply to them.
  • They require excessive admiration.
  • They have a very strong sense of entitlement and unreasonable expectations.
  • Narcissists have no problem exploiting others.
  • They lack empathy (even for their own children).
  • They are often arrogant.

Narcissists are also highly reactive to criticism, can be inordinately self-righteous and defensive, react to contrary viewpoints with anger and rage, and project onto others the negative traits they can’t accept in themselves. 

They also love drama.

All of these qualities make your typical narcissist a nightmare in court.

Ace of Hearts with a Broken heart on top of King and Queen of SpadesHow You Can “Win” When Divorcing a Narcissist

Divorcing a narcissist is usually expensive, ugly, and exhausting. Narcissists are usually high maintenance and high conflict spouses. If you want to know how you can “win” when divorcing a narcissist, it starts with redefining what “winning” is.

In a normal divorce, most reasonable people would define “winning” as reaching an amicable and reasonably fair settlement as quickly and inexpensively as possible. When you’re divorcing a narcissist, however, “winning” often means simply coming out of your divorce alive!

Narcissists define the word “fair” only as what’s fair to them. They don’t care whether a settlement is fair to you. As a matter of fact, if a settlement is fair to you, then, by definition, they believe it is unfair to them!

Narcissists also typically don’t care how long their divorce takes, or how much it costs. As a matter of fact, the more expensive and time consuming it is, the easier it is for them to play the victim. Often, the longer your divorce takes, the more your narcissistic spouse feels s/he is winning.

Even though “winning” in the normal sense of the word may be impossible when you’re divorcing a narcissist, if you define “winning” as getting the best resolution possible without spending your life’s savings and destroying your kids, then winning your divorce becomes achievable.


 10 Crucial Steps You Need To Take When Divorcing a Narcissist

 1. Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney.

Do NOT try to get divorced without an attorney! No matter what your spouse says in the beginning, your divorce is not going to be easy or amicable. You need your own lawyer to guide you through this!

You also need to get an attorney who knows what s/he is doing! Hiring a lawyer who just graduated from law school three months ago simply because s/he will cut you a break on price is a bad idea!

Hiring a shark attorney is also a bad idea! While you may think you need a super aggressive attorney to put your narcissistic spouse in his/her place, the truth is the opposite. Narcissists love conflict! They love to fight. An aggressive lawyer will just fan the flames of the fire – at an enormous cost to you!

What you need is a reasonable, realistic divorce attorney who can fight when s/he needs to and back down when doing that makes more sense. You need someone who will help you create a solid strategy, and then will help you execute that strategy step by step, one step at a time.

defendant with lawyer speaking to a judge in the courtroom2. Assume the Best but Prepare for the Worst.

Don’t assume that the judge will see through your narcissistic spouse just because you do. Narcissists are charming. Your narcissist is GOING to charm the judge! (… at least at first. .) Remember, you were drawn in by your narcissistic spouse’s behavior, too!

You also want to be careful not to let yourself get sucked into blindly trusting your spouse, either in or out of court. While you don’t want to make your divorce harder by refusing to believe anything your spouse says, you also don’t want to get taken to the cleaners either.

How do you walk the line between being paranoid and being careful? You start small, and you keep your eyes and ears open. Make a small agreement with your spouse. See if s/he keeps his/her end of the deal. Meanwhile, pay attention to what’s happening around you. Don’t just listen to what your spouse says. Watch what your spouse does. That will tell you much more.

(HINT: Just so you know, everyone blows this step at first. Everyone slammed by their narcissistic spouse at least once, and usually a couple of times. The goal here is not to be perfect. It’s to minimize your damage. Getting taken a couple of times sucks. Getting taken a hundred times not only sucks, but it can end up costing you everything you’ve got.)

3. Document EVERYTHING!

Narcissists lie. All. The. Time. Do NOT assume that your narcissistic spouse is going to tell the truth in court just because s/he swore to do so under oath! Also do not assume that if your spouse lies s/he is going to get caught, charged with perjury, and go to prison for the rest of his/her life. In the real world, that hardly ever happens. This is not T.V.

If you want to show that your narcissistic spouse is lying, you need to prove it!  That means that you’ve got to document everything.

Put all of your conversations with your spouse in writing. Use email and text messaging as much as possible. Both of those forms of communication leave trails behind. They will save you from getting mired in a “he said/she said” battle in court.

Not only do you have to document your conversations, but you have to organize them as well. All the documentation in the world is unless if you can’t find the documents when you need when you need them.

Finally, do yourself a favor. Do NOT give all of your documentation to your lawyer all of the time. Unless you want to pay your lawyer thousands of dollars to review documents that ultimately may not matter, only give him/her the documents s/he needs or asks you to produce.

4. Make a Plan. 

Part of what makes a narcissist’s tactics so successful is that s/he purposely does things to throw you off balance and make you question yourself.  Divorce itself also throws you off balance and makes you question yourself. When you put those two things together, it’s often hard to keep your feet on the floor and stop your head from spinning.

Setting your goals and making a plan to achieve them can keep you grounded. It points you in the right direction from the start.

If you can make a plan for your divorce BEFORE you are up to your ears in craziness, you have a much greater chance of getting through your divorce in some kind of rational way.

(Of course, divorcing a narcissist rarely goes as planned. Even still, just starting with a plan puts you way ahead of the game!)

Close up of dart in a bulls eye: how you can win when you're divorcing a narcissist5. Act, Don’t React.

If you want to know how you can win when divorcing a narcissist, you start by keeping your own emotions under control. The more you react to your spouse’s craziness, the more your spouse wins.

When your narcissistic spouse does something outrageous, if you react by screaming, crying, raging or acting like an emotional basket case, YOU become the one who looks crazy. Don’t let yourself lose your cool in court, or go crazy in front of your kids.

If you are having trouble controlling your emotions on your own, get a therapist! Not only can you vent to your therapist, but s/he can also provide you with valuable insight into your spouse’s behavior as well. That, alone, can be worth millions.

Another way to get yourself out of reaction mode is to start by having a clear plan of action with your spouse from the start.  Take the time to set goals. Decide on a plan of action. To the best of your ability, follow your plan. Sure, plans change. You will probably have to change your plan multiple times. But at least if you have a plan, you have some chance of being in the driver’s seat in your divorce.


6. Prepare Yourself for a Marathon.

Divorcing a narcissist usually takes a long, long time. Believe it or not, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

When you first start your divorce, things may not go well for you. (Sorry!)Your spouse may charm the judge, the lawyers, your friends and maybe even your family. S/he may convince everyone that s/he has been abused, victimized and totally taken advantage of. Meanwhile, your spouse will paint you as a monster.

But it’s hard to keep up that kind of an act forever. Eventually, your spouse’s stories will start to crack. If you have been documenting everything properly, you will be able to prove that your spouse is lying. When that happens, the tide may start to shift. Those who thought you were crazy may start to change their opinion.

At the same time, staying the course for years can take a huge toll on you.  That’s why you have to start with the idea that your divorce will probably be a marathon. Play the long game. Take care of yourself! You need to eat right, exercise, and try to get some sleep. Most of all, be kind to yourself.  What you’re going through is really rough! Don’t make it worse by beating yourself up for not being perfect.

White figures holding up letters that spell "Support" - Divorce Support Groups.7. Put Together a Strong Support Team.

When you’re going through a difficult, high-conflict divorce, you need all the support you can get. To get that support, you need to put together a strong team. You need people who will listen to you, support you, and help keep you sane.

So, who should be on your support team? Start with good friends and family. (NOTE: You probably shouldn’t include your spouse’s family on your support team. It doesn’t matter whether  they like you better. Blood is thicker than water. You don’t have to dump them. Just don’t count on them to be in your “inner circle” of support.)

A good support team should also include good divorce professionals. You already know that you need a good divorce lawyer. You also need a good therapist. But you may need other professionals as well.

Your kids may need their own therapist. Depending upon your circumstances, you may also want to enlist help for your kids from their teachers or counselors. If you have financial issues, you will probably benefit from having a financial planner. All of these people and more can help you get through your divorce in the best way possible. Remember, it takes a village.

8. Create Ways For The Narcissist To “Win.”

 Yes, I know this one sounds crazy! It also can be hard to do. It takes a lot of creativity and planning to create situations that meet your needs, while still allowing your narcissistic spouse to feel like s/he “won.”  But doing that can be one of the most effective ways to put your divorce behind you – and maybe even on terms that are sort of reasonable!

Remember, narcissists need to win. If you can get your own ego out of the way and let them win, you win too. (Don’t forget: getting divorced from a narcissist can be a “win” itself. You end the craziness. You get to move on with your life.)

Obviously, this strategy has its limits. You can’t become a doormat or put yourself into financial ruin just to get divorced. (Okay, you can. But it’s not a great idea.)

But, if you get your own emotions out of the way, you can analyze your divorce from a business perspective. If “winning” costs you more in time, money, and heartache than whatever it was that you won, then you lost. If “winning” your divorce messes up your kids so badly that they need to be in therapy for the rest of their lives, then you lost.

Sometimes, keeping the big picture in mind will allow you to let your narcissistic spouse “win” so that really, you do, too.

9. Minimize Contact Between You and Your Spouse.

The less you have to see and deal with your spouse, the easier your divorce will be. The trouble is that your narcissistic spouse isn’t likely to waltz quietly into the sunset so you can have some peace.

S/he will refuse to move out of the house. If you have kids together s/he will call and text you incessantly about your kids. S/he will also make every visitation exchange a challenge.

To minimize the drama in your divorce you need to separate from your spouse as quickly as possible. Once you do, eliminate as much face-to-face and telephone contact as you can. Do everything via email and text.

Also, keep a record of every email and text. (See #3, above!) You never know when the documentation you’re keeping will come in handy. (If your spouse starts claiming that you falsified his/her emails, start using a parenting app like Our Family Wizard or CoParently.

10. Make (and Enforce) Strong Boundaries.

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that identify the ways that people must treat you.

Narcissists usually have a problem respecting other people’s boundaries. That’s because their own sense of self (and of self-worth) is so shaky that they often see others (i.e. YOU!) as nothing more than an extension of themselves. If you’ve been married to a narcissist for any length of time, chances are that the boundaries between you have started to blur in many ways.

Establishing and enforcing strong boundaries with your narcissistic spouse during your divorce will start to separate you from your spouse. It will also help you save both your sanity and your dignity.

The more you allow your narcissistic spouse to treat you badly during your divorce, the more painful your divorce will be. What’s more, if you continue to allow yourself to be treated like dirt, eventually the judge (and even your lawyer!) will start to lose respect for you. That makes it even less likely that you will get what you want and need out of your divorce.

Divorcing a Narcissist Isn’t Easy

Trying to win when divorcing a narcissist is challenging. It often makes you redefine what “winning” really means to you.

“Winning” may end up being just getting through your divorce without going crazy. Or, it may mean doing your best to protect your kids so that you can raise them in a more positive environment.

Whatever “winning” means to you, know that it is possible to get through your divorce from a narcissist with your dignity and your sanity intact. It won’t be easy – and you certainly won’t end up getting everything you want. But, with enough time, patience, and support, you can do it.


Karen Covy

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches people to make hard decisions with confidence, and navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about the art and science of making difficult decisions in emotionally-charged circumstances. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


dealing with divorce, divorce and emotional health, divorce blog, high conflict divorce

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        • Hi everyone
          Im sorry for all your pain been there did that !
          I going to tell you the conclusion I came to as far as winning in divorce a nark
          I was married over 30 years
          I had kids when I entered that so called marriage I found out during divorce he was gay seeking men and many other things although I had proff my lawyer didn’t bring 1paper to mediation so I knew then I was wasting my time trying to get a far deal he was over 60 years old and brought his daddy to do his talking for him but resented when I bought my kids the ice cream flavor they like but wait more news I got ssi on my kids cuz there dad died he paid nothing for my kids but yet managed to spend all the money while he made $6. Hr in the beginning of our life
          I wasn’t looking for dollar signs just a kind loving man he had me so fooled my kids really think I knew what he was doing but I can’t seem to prove it to them
          I moved where he wanted with promises from his family they would help me with our handicapped child not to mention when he was a couple of months old we went to bd party and I had his arms showing outside his blanket my husband quickly covered his arms up so I got mad and thru the blanket away to make a point that was the child god blessed me with not an embarrassment !!
          Then I also find out during divorce he’s a bigamist I’m number 10
          That made not difference to any lawyers they turned it into a joke !!
          So I threw some papers on there desk where it showed he was seeking men and agreed to their offer knowing I was going to get nothing but to my way of looking at it
          “ I DID WIN “
          Keep that in mind life is not always about money
          I won because I’m rid of him his ugly violence lying ugly comments and using us to hurt to feel better about his self the clam and peace I have now took time to get use to and yes he still stocks us no matter how many restraints orders I filed I don’t react because that’s what he wants he wants to see me in court to see my reaction there is none all I have is indifference while his dad and sister run his life tell him where to live and give him allowance really at over 60 years old
          I told him every step of this journey to make agreement for both of us to get half he did but on the last day his daddy had lawyers recall it I expected it
          He’s not a man will never be a man he is only a shell that the devil has him wondering the earth in
          I really wanted to believe after helping him built a empire mostly me and my kids doing the work while he stayed drunk popped zanex and smoked pot all day in his office
          I got nothing no alimony after 30 years no part of worth of business building land and much more that he stole deleting tickets and pocketing the money lying in tax returns misreporting everything unknown by me
          Thank god I never signed a loan paper or Corp tax report because his three lawyers tried to stick me with those debts didn’t work
          I did call fbi it’s and various places to report crimes and no one cared
          It was a nite mare my kids
          we’re verbally and mental abused anytime I wasn’t around to hear it
          I also had a child with him who died young and I had to call and make threats to get to hospital before his son died he could have cared less that’s a fact
          But I still won in my book
          Don’t you think !!

          • Married to my narcissist 42 years, she had no income, I had a good pension and savings. She got half of everything from me, I got nothing from her. She didn’t know until after divorce that if I died before her that she would no longer get any pension. Now she wants to get back together, we were together for a long time. I still love her and wounder did she just divorce me to get half the pension and savings. Sever times she want power of attorney while we were married in case something happened to me, she couldn’t touch it. We owed no one so there was really no need for this.

            A lot more to the story than this.

      • Hello Karen im living in the same house with my soon to be x huband.He is now comming up with a crazy stategy. He wants paternity test on one of our child.i have changed attorneys 1 time already. Im feel unsafe and my attorney tells me to stay in control.i fear for my safety i think he might snap. He has made my kids belive i have destroyed our family. I WANT TO LEAVE but afraid he will use that againt me. WHAT do i do.

        • I can’t give you legal advice online. Since you have a lawyer, and you are paying for that lawyer’s advice, it makes sense to follow it. Or, if you don’t trust your lawyer’s advice, then it might be time to get a new divorce lawyer.

          If you feel unsafe in your home, then you need to take steps to protect yourself. I strongly recommend that you speak with a domestic violence organization in your area to get some tips on what you can do. If your husband has physically abused you, you may be able to get an Order of Protection. But if he hasn’t done anything to you physically, then that’s probably not an option for you.

          I wish you the best.

      • This is one of the most balanced and realistic articles I’ve read regarding divorcing a narcissist. It is EXTREMELY difficult to stay focused on the long term, when they’re threatening and doing everything they can to absolutely shut down any reasonable resolution. Once they truly realize you’re not coming back or not going to grovel to them, they have NO use for you, in any manner. There is no ROI and they will not give an inch unless they’re forced by law. If you think they’re coming forward with a reasonable offering, with no ulterior motive, beware, because that’s just not going to happen.
        Good Luck, God bless anyone who has to go through this, and don’t forget to look to a brighter future.
        Being abused by a narcissistic controller is not living. I tried. It didn’t work for me.

        • I thought with the divorce decree being signed off on my nightmare was over with my narcissistic ex husband. My alimony is incorrect so there is arrears that he will not pay me, it ends in six years and I will get a small amount from his pension if he would sign off on it. Since he’s not complying and I am getting more Legal fees is there a way to have him pay them?

          • I’m afraid that’s a legal question. You have to ask your attorney that one. Sorry.


            PS I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but when you were married to a narcissist the nightmare can go on even long after your divorce is over! (Again, sorry.)

          • I wish that I had seen all of your recommendations sooner! It has been almost 4 years and hopefully this year will be a start of a new me, after almost 54 years of being married., 2 years of being stalked, plus 2 years of dating ; half were of being engaged.

      • I need help. I am
        Divorcing the KING of the narcissists – he is trying to bury me. I need counsel and I need this to be over so the kids and I can breathe! Five years now!

        • You’re absolutely right, you do need counsel! I only work in the Chicagoland area of Illinois, and I’m not even taking any new litigated cases right now. But I strongly suggest you start asking around and find yourself a good divorce attorney asap!

        • Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do that. The best way is through a word of mouth referral. If you know someone who divorced a narcissist and had a good divorce lawyer, that would be the best. You can also try Googling “divorce attorney near me” and “narcissism.” Then check out the attorneys’ websites to see if they mention anything about narcissism. If you can’t find anyone that way, you may simply have to interview a bunch of attorneys. It’s time-consuming but well worth the effort.



    • I have been married to my narcissist for 1 1/2 years now. Luckily I was able to acknowledge the red flags earlier than most. However, I am now 5 months pregnant with his first child (a daughter) and I’m terribly frightened of what might happen to her if it’s anything like what I have been dealing with. I first noticed that he was exceptionally jealous, which at first was endearing, but now I am accused on a daily basis of cheating on him (as if I’m out there slumming it my with huge pregnant belly). He constantly snoops through my phone and internet history (it was clear he did not trust me). He was/is very concerned about his “performance” in the bedroom and often wants me to refer to my ex’s, most especially how they were in bed and how his penis size compares to them. Then he started breaking things around our home/ my things (numerous doors, a baby gate, he threw a large yankee candle into my mirror that attaches to my dresser, knocked over both of my favorite lamps on purpose, stabbed my new car’s tire with a knife so I couldn’t leave, even ran his car into my new car). I also thought the lengths of our arguments were extended far beyond that of the norm (hours upon hours and sometimes through the night, not allowing me to sleep). We would get so close to what I thought would be a resolution when he’d say, “Just tell me X and we can be good”, and then start a whole other argument about something unrelated to the first argument just to keep going. No matter what I’d say, I seemed to always fall short. Excessive reassurance and constant questioning (much like that of the Spanish Inquisition) became the norm and left me feeling emotionally bankrupt when it came to my own self care.

      I made a plan to move all of my things out of our apartment and did so successfully one day while he was at work. Of course, at the time, he still had a hold on me and I ended up returning for a little over a month before things turned physical. He had shoved my before in the past and threatened to hit me, but now I am pregnant, and the fact that he knows that, and threw me to the ground twice causing numerous bruises, a laceration on my knee, and a possible mild concussion tells me he has no problem doing it again to myself, and our unborn child. The bruises were documented at the doctor’s office and hospital two days later. I made the decision to move into a shelter for battered women and children after failing to keep him from following me to my parents house and actually breaking in one night last week while I was sleeping (I woke up and he was standing over me and would not leave until I recanted my statement that it was over between us and I wanted a divorce). I have refrained from seeking an order of protection for harassment and stalking, as I am afraid of his retaliation, but at this point I see no other option. He’s always wanting rent money even though I no longer live there, but he refuses to take my name off the lease agreement because it’s based on both of our incomes and he needs mine in order to stay there. Suddenly it’s my problem that he went and bought himself a brand new vehicle and can no longer afford to pay for anything, even though it was against my advice (I myself drive a 20 year old vehicle which I bought and maintain myself without any help from him). I feel like I can’t get away from him. If I don’t answer my phone/ try to go no contact, I am contacted by one of his family members, or I’ll receive email from him, or he’ll show up at my parent’s house where I go when I’m not in the shelter. He will follow me in his car and beg me to come home, promising me that he’s a changed man (ya right) and things will be different.

      Now that I’m gearing up for divorce, I need to know what else I can do to keep my unborn daughter safe as I fight him in a custody battle. I’m so worried what will happen to her once she is born and if I’m not there to protect her during visits with him. His mother is no safer to be around than him so I don’t trust anyone in his family either.

      Any advice would be appreciated,

      • Melissa,

        I’m so sorry to hear what you’re dealing with! Unfortunately, the road you’re facing is a long and hard one. (Sorry!)

        If I were you, I would start right now by consulting with a good divorce lawyer (or two!) in your area. Make sure you hire a lawyer who understands, and has worked with, people who are divorcing narcissists. Learn everything you can about divorce and about narcissism. (If you want, you can check out my online divorce program, The Divorce Road Map 2.0.)

        Start working with a therapist who specializes in working with those in relationships with narcissists. You also might want to check out Tracy Malone’s videos on YouTube. She specializes in working with those who are divorcing, or have divorced, narcissists.

        You might also want to read: High Conflict People in Legal Disputes. Bill Eddy is the founder of the High Conflict Institute. His books are among the most helpful resources I’ve found for people dealing with narcissists.

        The more you can prepare yourself for divorcing a narcissist, the better off you will be. Make sure you document everything. Get all the support you can get.

        No matter what you do, the next 18 years are not going to be easy. But you WILL get through them!

        Good luck!


    • wow, I’ve felt his vengance and cost before! tried to divorce me and challenge was so much, it was easier to stay with him, but i lost in ther long run.

  • Hi Karen,
    My wife of 20 plus years suddenly left me this year- blind sided. Many terrible false accusations and irrational behavior. As I have been going through this- I have came across the material you have spoke about referring to narcissism. Learning more about it. Somewhat shocked and bewildered over the symptoms and the very real possibility this is what I have been dealing with when I thought I just had a spouse that was high maintenance. Egg shell living and coping, constant state of self introspection- after all “I am the one with problems, anger, inconsistency, dishonesty and selfishness.” Wears you out. Granted, I am sure I had my part in unhappiness, but…. My question to you, have you ever seen a marriage reconciled when a spouse had narcissism disorder? See- for me, I take my vows pretty seriously- its a covenant and I still love her. The problem is that people with this disorder do not even seem to know what love is. Complicating matters- we have several children (she has them) that are affected negatively. My wife seems dead set on divorce, no counseling (never really had) and wants pretty much to keep the house. If I have no options- it’s best not to keep my name on any mortgage when a house is not awarded to me? Thank you for what you do.

    • You’ve packed a lot of questions in here. I’ll do my best to answer what I can.

      Your most important question seems to be whether a marriage with a narcissist can be reconciled. The answer is: it depends.

      First off, no marriage can be reconciled if one person is dead set on getting a divorce. It doesn’t matter whether your wife is a narcissist or not. If she refuses to work on the marriage and insists on getting a divorce, you can make it take longer or cost more. But you’re not going to stop her. (Sorry!)

      Second, even if she did change her mind and decide to stay married to you, she’s not going to have a personality transplant. You will still be living with the same woman you married. You will still be living on eggshells with a very high maintenance spouse. As a matter of fact, your situation could even get worse. (Again, sorry!)

      If your wife believes she “did you a favor” by staying married to you, she’s likely to expect you to be eternally grateful to her. In that case, she is likely to treat you even more harshly than ever.

      Of course, if she is able to do a little introspection herself, life could get enormously better, too. But narcissists are not able to look critically at themselves. So, if she is truly a narcissist, don’t hold your breath waiting for the heavens to open and your marriage to magically morph into the perfect relationship.

      It’s awesome that you take your vows seriously. I can tell that you still love your wife. But it takes two to tango. If both of you are willing to stay together, then you’ve got a shot at saving your marriage. But, if one of you is determined to get a divorce, you’re probably going to get a divorce.

      I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. Sorry.

      I wish you the best.


    • Narcissism will never leave her…she will never change. You become dysfunctional by association eventually. Look up Sam Vaknin who authored best book out there on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  • It’s sad how many articles I read that paint the woman as the victim. I appreciate your neutral approach.
    It’s truly unbelievable that the lying, both coached by the lawyers and simply by their own nature. For me the lies are catching up. After my wife drained all 6 back accounts, two months prior to my petition for dissolution of marriage. She gave accounting for one account only. The judge implicated her to pay my attorney’s fees for dragging this on and on.

    Looking forward to more articles. I wish I could hire you. I’d be willing to do meditation. I only want what’s fair and just. Her lawyer was even able to get affidavits from witnesses that seen her hit my 4 year old in the head, knocking him down. Being my family it was thrown out when she replied saying it was a lie. She’s already taken everything, guns and disposed of property. With zero accountability.

    If the court would allow testimonies from my children, things would be different.

    I want to say this isn’t the person I married 18 years ago; yet I seen it coming for years. I was hoping to make it through until the children were much older or out of the house. The misery they are being forced to endure is disgusting.


    • Jason,

      I’m sorry to hear what you are going through. I know this will be hard, but the more you can do to protect your kids from the craziness, now and in the future, the better off all of you will be. What’s positive is that the judge is catching on to her shenanigans. So many people don’t realize that your credibility is a huge part of your divorce. Once the judge realizes you’re lying, s/he will also stop believing whatever you say in the future, too.

      Hang in there! One way or another, you’re going to get through this!


      • Karen PLEASE HELP!!!!! My step-sister divorced a narcissist in Wayne County, MI. She has had a HORRIBLE time there as the arbitrators have fallen for his charm and lies thus ruling in his favor the majority of the time. The most tragic part about this is that there are two boys who are caught in the middle and are suffering. We are desperate for support and guidance as we all feel helpless. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

        • I can understand how desperate you are.

          Here are a list of articles I’ve written on narcissism:

          21 Tips for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

          Divorcing a Narcissist? 10 Survival Tips You’re Going to Need

          … and, of course, there’s the article you’re on: 10 Tips for How You Can “Win” When Divorcing a Narcissist.

          If you would like to get a copy of my FREE E-Book: 10 Rules for Managing a High Conflict or Narcissistic Spouse in Your Divorce CLICK HERE

          If your step-sister would like to work with me as a divorce coach, CLICK HERE.



          • I too am in Wayne County, MI Divorce Court and it’s been 4 years of trying to come up with another PLAN to settle the divorce case with the ex who is an extreme Narcissist. (Remember there are 26 letters in the Alphabet so if Plan A isn’t a go— keep trying. FAITH and HOPE are key in keeping your sanity.) The Judge assigned to my case has accepted all of his FALSE ALLEGATIONS and has been charmed by him and his Attorney. I have faced multiple belittling sound-offs from Attorneys and Law enforcement individuals degrading my self-worth and kindheartedness. I was booby-trapped with a False Domestic Violence claim and processed through the federal court system (finger-prints and mugshot taken) when trying to collect my personal belongings. I now face a new dog that has been bought to prevent me from going into my home (court ordered I could go to my home anytime during the day but not allowed to sleep in my house or have sole residency) and cars being stacked in the driveway preventing entry into the garage where some of my belongings were placed when all the locks were illegally changed on my home. The court appointed APPRAISER/REALTOR recused himself from the Divorce decreed SALE of the HOME almost 2 years ago citing the game-playing and downright refusal to abide by appointments falsely made to appraise the home was something he would no longer tolerate by the DEFENDANT (he did this before during the failed Mediation attempt). My last Attorney sat on the motions to identify this and present to the honorable Judge and further declined to represent me by falsely claiming I refused to pay them the additional fees above the $6,000 retainer fee, when in fact I simply asked if they could please file a secondary and tertiary motion to advance what was adjudged within the divorce decree – i.e., “either party responsible for barring the advancement of the Divorce decree will be responsible for their Attorney fees as well as the other party’s legal counsel fees.” The Honorable Judge has outlined that all parties in their courtroom must be represented by Legal Counsel. I have yet to find an Attorney who will litigate my case without an upfront retainer fee or payment upon Sale of the Home, as I am still paying on $10k+ in attorney’s fees from the 4 unsuccessful Attorneys hired to advocate for me and uphold the Judgement included in the Divorce Decree. Beware, the narc does continue his/her control by further financial abuse – post divorce. Three of my four adult children have been alienated against me – they have not spoken to me or care to see me during these past 4 + years and are being used as PAWNS to prevent the SALE of the home. Narc is claiming they are in dire financial straits and he still has to provide for them, that’s why he was able to still reside in the home and not me. However, they all have new cars; 2020 Lincoln MKS, 2016 Ford Focus, 2019 Ford 150, 2019 Jeep and an old model Ford Ranger to keep the insurance cost down for the 25 year-old– DIRE STRAITS, I think not. For all who have to endure such turmoil from a narc in their lives…..please know that you are LOVED and your LIFE does matter!

  • Such a fantastic article Ms. Covy. Divorce itself is such a painful process and when it comes to dealing with complicated spouses, one indeed feels lucky, just to be alive. I liked the fact that you mentioned the need for documenting things, a thing easier said than done, but very vital. It should in fact be a rule to follow for every kind of divorce, involving a difficult spouse or not. The need for an experienced attorney is also very important; a good attorney can absolutely make things easier.

  • Wow! What an insightful article, thank you!
    I wish I had come across it last year when I was going through my divorce. My now-ex is most definitely a narcissist and unfortunately my divorce attorney and the mediator never put timelines on the agreement. So still, I wait.
    But I agree with you 100%, redetermining what “winning” is, is key!
    Thank you for the great article.

  • I’m going thru a divorce now and my husband is a narcissist. I found your article describing him to a “T”. He refuses to sign divorce papers and he doesn’t even respond (nor does his Attorney) to my Attorneys paperwork. There is also a PFA where he was evicted for 3 years. I’m worried that he is just waiting for the PFA to expire then he plans on just moving back into my home.

    • I’m so sorry to hear all this. As for moving back into your home, don’t wait for him to try. Talk to your attorney now and see if there is anything you can do to be proactive.

  • Karen,
    August 2018 will be 1 year since divorce from narcissistic ex. We were married 33 years but separated for the last 10. The judge in my case saw through all the crazyness and ruled TOTALLY in my favor(awarded me half of his military retirement pay, spousal support for 5 years, and $4000 in attorney fees)! GOD IS GOOD!
    My question is this: with regard to attorney fees, he has not made one payment on time which is due on/by the 15th of each month. I’ll usually get it the LAST day of the month which leaves me wondering for 15 days whether or not I’ll receive it at all. This has happened for the first two months payments were due and I’m wondering if this is another attempt to aggravate the hell out of me. The judge already told him that he will be incarcerated (already found in contempt) if he’s brought before her again. I NEED the money but if he goes to jail, more than likely the spousal support will stop because he will not be working and may even lose his job. Not sure what to do. My attorney said if it happens a 3rd time to let her know and she can send him a warning letter of sorts before the judge is notified to take further action. Am I being unreasonable? I endured 33 looong years of living hell and feel this just another way for him to control things!!

    • Are you being unreasonable? No. Is your ex still trying to control things? Of course!

      The problem, as you’ve already figured out, is that, if you get your spouse thrown in jail, the payments stop. So you’re kind of between a rock and a hard place.

      It sounds like your attorney has a good handle on what’s going on. Definitely keep her apprised of the situation. What you might want to ask is whether there is any way that you can get your payments withheld directly from his paycheck. Then you won’t have to wait for him to pay you. (This is generally possible for alimony payments, but not necessarily for other payments. Check with your attorney on this.)

      Another option is to see if your attorney can get your husband to pay the entire $4000 now. If he got all the cash he may have the funds to just pay this off.

      I know none of this seems fair. When you got divorced, you probably thought you were done with him. But, when you divorce a narcissist, you’re almost never done! (Sorry!) Until he no longer has to pay you anything, he will do his best to make you crazy as long as he can.

      At least now you are divorced! (And, your judge saw through him! That doesn’t always happen!)

      Hope this helps!


  • hi Karen,
    i am dealing with narcissist husband and it took me 6yrs to understand that i cannot continue with him. since last year (jan 2017) i came to know that he is a narcissist…his extreme behaviour is increasing day by day. i have lived a very peaceful life before marriage, evrybody used to envy my life..good family, friends,profeesion. and i am a very shy person, not extrovert etc. Husband have always taken advantage of my nature and displayed my wrong image in society, relatives, evrywhere. i want my peaceful life back.
    divorcing him will b very distressing and i know it already.. is mutual divorce a good option rather then fighting (contested divorce)? we dont hve any children but yes i have lost most of my productive years because of him, his interference in my job and salary. i am in financial crunch but planning to rise up and survive (dont know how much of it i will b able to do) on my own rather than fighting with him in court for money..(also he thinks i m behind his money). i am confused. mutual divorce will give him more chance to defame me that it was my fault so i accepted mutual. on the other hand fighting with hm will make me more sick! what should i do.

    • You asked what you should do, but it sounds like you’ve already decided. The truth is, only you can decide what is best for you.

      If you and your husband can come to terms and agree on your divorce, that will save you money. It will also save you emotional energy.

      Divorce is never easy. You also can’t control what your husband tells other people about you, whether your divorce is amicable or not. In the end, you can just do what you can do.

      I hope you find your peaceful life again.


  • Karen, I really like your article. So true!
    At first I didn’t realize that my Ex was a Narc, but as time goes by, I saw the symptoms on him. I have divorce for a few months, and custody of my daughter was on me. But still my Ex can’t accept this, and try as many as possible way to makes me angry by not following the court’s rules. He wants the same time with my daughter (a week with me, and a week with him, vice versa), which I’m aware he did all this just to make me angry and then get conflict. As you said, Narcs loves drama. After he fail to make my financially broke, now he using another way by using my daughter as pawns. Could you please help me? What should I do? Should I agree with what he wants, or I should be strict with the custody? Because narcs can’t follow the rules. No matter how many times I tried to discuss about schedule to visit my daughter, he always ignore it. He even don’t want to pay for child support (as court’s decision). If I make a conflict with him by withholding my daughter, he will be very angry, and perhaps will stalking me to my office, create some drama in purpose to looks like a victim, I’m the bad one. Even he can threatening me to get what he want.
    What can I do about it? I just want to live peacefully without him around me.

    • It sounds like you are really struggling. I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but the more time passes, the more likely it is that things will settle down. While that doesn’t always happen, especially with a narcissist, often it does. So, hang on. In time, things will get better.

      Of course, the bigger question is, what do you do in the meantime. There are no easy answers. It’s not for me to tell you what to do. It also wouldn’t matter anyway. As you noted, narcissists can’t follow rules. That’s what makes dealing with them so difficult. Trying to manage them is like trying to pin jello to the wall.

      So, knowing that you can’t control them, that only leaves one person you can control: you. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Be the best parent you can to your daughters. Don’t be afraid to get help. A good therapist may be able to give you advice and information about what you can do to keep the peace, and help yourself and your daughters.

      As for living peacefully, know that you will have to deal with your ex until your daughters are grown. So, the best thing you can do is stop expecting to find peace without him. Focus instead of limiting your contact with him and finding peace within yourself.

      Hope that helps.


  • I know for a fact my husband is a narcissistic person. I just did research about it and for 13 years could not place a name on his crazy behavior. Two years ago his abuse went from verbal to physical. I went to a lawyer got divorce papers. Lived in the same house as him but communicated mostly through emails(for proof of what was being said). He tried a lot of manipulated tactics to get me not to divorce him or try and get me crazy mad, but I held firm to my plans and wasn’t phased. But one day he went to anger management(least that is what he told me) but I could see a change in his anger and see him practicing “1, 2, 3…” deep breathes, so I decided to stay and try reconciliation. Six months later he was back to being mad all the time and super critical and verbally abusive. I kept thinking its a small set back he will grow. But he has not grown but become worse. I want a divorce but I want to make it as smooth as possible for my kids, how do I “let him win” in going through with this divorce? It is not an option for him to have any form of custody of our children and I can get a therapist statement to why.

    • I wish there was an easy answer that I could give you, but, unfortunately, there’s not. “Winning” and what winning means to any given person depends on that person, and all of the facts and circumstances involved.

      What would probably be the most helpful is for you to work closely with your own therapist in order to get through this. (If you don’t have a therapist, you’re going to want to get one!) Not only will a good therapist be instrumental in helping you deal with your own emotions as you go through your divorce, but s/he will also be able to share insights with you about your husband’s behavior and what you can do to manage that behavior in the best way possible for you and your kids.

      It will also be important to get a divorce lawyer who doesn’t throw gasoline on the fire. If you go to court and fight, your husband WILL fight back. Courts are cauldrons of anger and the perfect showcase for a narcissist. So, while you need a lawyer who will be strong, getting one who is aggressive can be counterproductive. What you need is someone who is firm, yet calm and rational. If you get a lawyer who is as much of a bully as your husband, they will butt heads. While you may think that’s what you want, it can be a very, very expensive battle.

      Finally, you may want to consider using a divorce process that keeps you out of court. While no divorce process can insure that your divorce will be amicable, particularly if you are divorcing a narcissist, using a skilled mediator, or choosing a Collaborative Divorce, may help keep things at least a little less ugly.



  • my narcissitic husband quit his well paying job when i moved out and filed for divorce. he now had temporary custody of our 14 year old daughter and i am ordered to pay child support till our final hearing. it is 3 months and i cannot afford it and still maintain my place etc. i almost feel like giving him evetything he wants. the house, his retirement, our daughter. all of this is driving me insane. i think it will kill him that i no longer need him or his money.i plan on moving out of state soon after. would that be winni g for him or losing? because i am no longer engaging with his games.

    • I can understand your frustration.

      I wonder if you’re asking the right question, though? Instead of asking whether it would be winning or losing for your husband if you moved out of state, what if you asked yourself what YOU want out of this divorce? Giving him everything may be tempting, but is that really what you want to do?

      I can hear how frustrated you are, but I urge you to do your best to think rationally and make your decisions from that place.


      PS Dealing with a narcissist is really hard. If you don’t have a therapist, you might want to get one. A good therapist can give you insights into your husband that you might not otherwise have.

  • I just separated from my husband of 16 years. Although he is not diagnosed I believe he has a covert narcissist personality. I have been a stay home mom to our 3 children 15, 14, and 10 years old who. I didn’t realize he was a narcissist until I couldn’t take his anger issues silent treatments and controlling behavior any longer. My children have also experienced his narcissist tantrums and do not want to see him. He is demanding time with them but they are refusing to go. I believe we have been emotionally abused. My husband is coming with the lies gaslighting and intimidation. Accusing me of alienating him from our children. I am not. I have asked them if they wanted to go with him and assured them that it would be ok even though I am not sure. My question is how do I “win” when there are children involved. I don’t want my kids to suffer any more. How do I “win” when I have been emotionally abuses and don’t know the first thing about what to do about how to protect my children or what I am entitled to in the divorce. We are currently staying with my parents and he wants sole use of the house. I am driving 30 miles one way to take my kids to school I don’t have child or spousal support. I don’t know what to do.

    • You asked, “How do I ‘Win’?” In your case, a good answer would be to start with #1 in the article: Get an attorney!

      I am not a big fan of fighting in court, but there is a huge difference between fighting in court and getting the legal help you need to deal with what you are facing. Given what you have written, you absolutely need to talk to an attorney in your area as soon as possible.

      It is not okay that you are driving 30 miles each way to get your kids to school and back. It’s not okay for you OR for your kids! It’s also not okay that your husband isn’t paying support.

      But, here’s the deal: it is not just your husband’s responsibility to try to make life better and more manageable for your kids. It’s your responsibility as well. (Sorry! I don’t mean to be harsh, but, better that you hear this from me now than from others later.)

      What does “being responsible” mean? It means that, if your husband is not paying child support, you need to take steps to make him do that. #1 Ask him for a support. #2 If he refuses to pay, go get an attorney and file a motion in court to require him to pay.

      Will either of those things be easy? No. Will either of them work? Hopefully at least #2 will work. But it will take time, energy and perseverance. Everything you do with a narcissist takes time, energy and perseverance. (Again, sorry!) But NOT putting in the time or energy and NOT sticking to your guns pretty much guarantees that you will never get what you want. In fact, you may not get anything at all.

      Divorcing anyone is challenging. Divorcing a narcissist is doubly so. Thankfully, you don’t have to get through your divorce all by yourself. You can and should get help. Get an attorney. Get a therapist. Take the time and put in the effort to learn about what you are facing and what your options are.

      I know it may seem overwhelming at first. But, you owe it to yourself and your kids to keep moving forward.



  • Karen, I’ve yet to find anything quite like my friends situation. I first spotted his spouse to be narcissistic, he wasn’t familiar with the term. He is a popular country music singer of many years. Many years ago she chased until wearing him down. Immediately took over business end of his career, at first he was grateful as he needed the help. Kept from family and friends. Kept out of the loop. Extremely jealous, he gets accused of things for no reason. Controls about everything. Not allowed to go anywhere without her. Don’t know when but any beginning affection for him quit long ago. I don’t think he has any real love for her now, I believe it’s all old habit. He’s not very strong, I think it would take something major for him to walk out. She’s not about to leave. He’s a major player in our country music world and the oldest. They travel in an old bus, they dress average, obviously he doesn’t spend much on wardrobe. I’ve always had a gut instinct she’s been rat-holing money. I know folks who have known them from their early days, they have have low opinion of her. Others, unaware, think she’s a lovely lady…I use the term loosely. BTW, she hated me up until sometime last year when to my surprise, she was very friendly and chatty. I’m on the fence about my friend right now as to his leaving, I think it could go either way.

    • It sounds like you care about your friend a lot. That’s awesome! Unfortunately, the only one who can decide whether to leave your friend’s marriage is your friend. Not you. (Sorry!)

      I can tell you want to help your friend. But it doesn’t sound like he even wants to make a decision. He seems to be fine with where he’s at in his marriage. That may be a bad thing from what you see, but unfortunately, you don’t get to decide what’s good or bad for your friend. Only he can do that for himself.

      Sorry. I wish I could be more help. But until your friend wants help, there’s not much you (or I) can do.


  • Married to a narc going on 35 years. Physical, financial, emotional and spiritual abused. Wcb with MS for 25 yrs and on 24/7 O2 for COPD from the my time in the USMC. He has had more affairs as my health worsens — owes me Thousands in which he admits but says divorcing him cancels what he owes me. I’ve paid for all the cars, house repairs and maintenance, etc and in the last 2 yrs spent Thousands for my son to get cancer treatment which is now stage 4 in his brain and liver. The husband has gotten the adult children on his side for now while family and friends with me know the truth. Hoping to find an attorney soon and move on. Thanks for this article. Blessings.

    • That sounds awful! I’m so sorry to hear about what’s happened to you. I wish I could give you some advice that would make everything better, but, unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of super power.

      I hope you find a good attorney.

      I wish you the best.


  • I’m going thru a divorce 18+ months now.
    I’ve married to him for 23 yrs, we have 4 children ( 2 are minors) and I’m unemployed.
    He fired his second attorney today because both of his lawyers kept telling him the reality!!!
    He refuses to accept the law, he makes his own laws on our settlement, he lied once to the court regarding monies, he doesn’t sign the settlement that the magistrate already signed, and 2 days from now we have a trial hearing!!
    He controlled me all these past yrs 100%. I don’t even had any keys from our house!!! He is a lunatic.
    works for the government, and claims that has no money to afford a lawyer at this point.
    awful situation!!! I’ve been emotional exhausted!!

    • I can understand why you’re exhausted! But, you’re in the home stretch. If you have a trial date soon, you should be finalizing your divorce in the near future. (That is, hopefully it happens soon!)

      I know you’re tired. But, hang in there! You’ll make it.



  • Hello ms. Karen.. your article was very helpful. I’ve enabled his behavior for 20 plus years and my problem is how do I even tell him. We are a military family living in 2 separate homes he lives with one girl full time and one comes and stays with them both occasionally. He has displayed this recklessness in front of our 4 teenage girls and lives with my stepson. I’m up struggling with how and when to tell him. That’s the hard part for me. I’m totally prepared for the name calling shaming and him playing the victim he has done that for years. Any advice

    • Telling your husband that you want a divorce, especially when he is a narcissist, is hard. You are wise to be careful about how and when to tell him. There is a lot of planning that needs to go into that discussion. Unfortunately, I’d need to know a LOT more about your situation in order to give you any kind of useful advice. It’s just not something I can write online.

      What will probably be best for you is to get a therapist or a coach who can help you think through your options. You need to plan what you will say, and when you will say it. You also need to plan for the aftermath. (It sounds like you are already preparing yourself for that.)

      Working with a professional, and practicing what you will say, will help you move forward in the most productive way. (If money is a concern, you could try doing this with a trusted friend, but, honestly, a professional will be a better choice. Since most therapists are covered by insurance, you might want to go with a therapist.)

      Of course, no matter how much you prepare yourself, there is still no guarantee that everything will go well. But if you DON’T prepare yourself, the chances that things WON’T go well increase dramatically!



  • Hi Karen, I wish if there is a way you could fight my divorce case. Every word and situation you have stated applies word to word to my so called husband. Loves drama, creates high drama out of nothing, weaves stories, unbelievable lies, considers our toddler and me as liability. He beats me then doesn’t remember the incident ever happened. When I told him I will record him for every word he speaks he started saying ‘yes you beat me up tell that to the world’ astonishingly smart cunning shameless liar. I called 911 the police were charmed by him, everyone is charmed by him. He wears a mask in the public eye. It’s impossible for me to record evidence with his inflated conniving mind games. Instead he captured my reactions and is threatening every single day that he will prove me a mentally unstable person and I will lose custody if I take legal help. The very thought I will lose child custody makes me stick with this madman. Financial control, emotional pain, belittling, verbal sweaing and beating. I have no proof and I don’t know how to gather proof. Friends suggest going to shelters but he doesn’t batter me into medical condition it’s just beating and kicking and there is no evident eye witness to all that. How can I gather some proof so that I can file divorce and run with my child far far away from this narcissist.

    • I am so sorry to hear about your sitution. I understand it is incredibly difficult. But, just because your husband doesn’t beat you so badly that you end up in the hospital does not mean you have to stay with him.

      At the same time, you are wise to take things step by step.

      I strongly suggest you contact a domestic violence organization in your area. You don’t have to go to a shelter necessarily. But you do need to get some help from people who understand what you’re going through and can give you some specific advice for your situation. Even if you don’t act on the advice right away, what’s important is that you’re DOING SOMETHING by learning your options. That will start to give you a small amount of control back.

      Because your husband is so charming, you will need to be very careful and plan your actions before you leave. Getting proof of what no one sees is hard. It will take time. But starting to gather proof now is better than waiting and doing nothing. (Btw, without knowing a whole lot more about the specifics of your situation – which would not be appropriate to share on a website – I couldn’t even begin to give you any specific ideas about how to gather proof of your beatings. Sorry!)

      I also suggest that you get a therapist, preferably one who is well-versed in domestic violence. You are going to need as much support as you can get, especially if you get to the point that you do divorce your husband.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful. Honestly, in your situation, you need to be in touch with domestic violence experts in your area.


  • Great article. I as the husband filed in May 2017. 2nd day of trial has happened this month. She tried to get my dads and sisters house and their assets. Judge refused to allow it even though I was once on family home I never contributed anything to it. 93 year old Dad had to testify along with my sister. Wife blames me for everything. Also told me that all our testimony was stupid and judge was laughing falling off her seat which was not true at all. Is not paying or contributing to any bills now. Says I forced her to quit her high paying job. Wanted a joint will from me. Wanted me to leave more money to her son. Wanted me to buy her an expensive condo as a vacation home. Tells me I refused to let her see her son. We had numerous disciplinary problems. In her eyes he could do know wrong. False accusations – threatening to call police if I didn’t open our pool for her this summer. Constantly taping video recording me taking pictures etc to the point that I now stay at a friends home. My marriage is a living hell. She spent 23k on household goods after being served and now wants me to pay all her attorney fees. She asked for my sports car in court. Judge said I know you are angry I can see right through these things but I am not transferring your husbands asset over to you. That’s my decision so so don’t ask again!

    We are due to bring our proposed judgements to court next month. My attorney thinks judge has made up her mind and will give a quick decision. I pray that the judge will see that this woman is borderline personality disordered.

  • Hello there,
    I found this article startingly appropriate and very helpful. I live in Melbourne, Australia and am beginning the process of seperation then divorce. We were married in the U.S however. Can you recommend any law firms down here in Melbourne Australia, or anyone in particular as I will be flying blind but can see that I really need to hire someone to guide me through this.

    Thank you,

  • Is mediation an option with a narc husband or is he just trying to get his way and drag along the divorce as long as possible? He says he’d like to save money but I can’t trust anything and don’t want to go down a road of mediation only to have to hire lawyers in the end. I tried to find a mediator that is aware of how to deal with high conflict personality disorder individuals. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!!!

    • Yes, mediation is an option. Is your husband just trying to drag out the divorce by going to mediation? I don’t know. Will mediation work? I don’t know. Will mediation be better than litigation? IF it works, yes. If it doesn’t, then obviously you will wish you had just started in court and skipped mediation.

      I don’t mean to be vague here, but the truth is that divorce is full of the unknown. There are no guarantees. You never know how things will turn out until you try. Then, when you do try, if things don’t work out you will wish you took a different path. But you will NEVER know what might have happened if you had done something differently than you did. You can always only guess. That’s one of the main reasons why divorce is so scary: you never know how things will end up, no matter what you do.

      I would like to challenge one thing you said though: if you mediate you won’t need a lawyer. Even if you mediate, you STILL need a lawyer. Read this to learn the reasons why you need both a mediator and a lawyer.

      The bottom line is that you need to talk to a lawyer and then decide which way you want to go. Mediation can be very effective, even with a narcissist, but you need a strong mediator.

      Hope this helps.

  • I am in the divorce process now with my husband who is NPD & closer crossdresser. The last year has been a nightmare. He’s stolen my gun, accused me of being a drug addict, neglectful mother, violent, etc. All disproved & thankfully I have a good attorney. He burned my clothes. Went to every member of my family&friends to triangulate me. We live in a wealthy area, he is a high Warner and we have a 3 year old son. He’s hidden finances with me for years. After an extensive search im close to finding a pretty good ft job, I WORKED pt before while caring for our son. He is a nightmare & is demanding “50/50” custody of our son based on “he’s half mine” as if he’s property. He travels a lot & I’ve taken care of the baby 80% of the time. Anyway, I see the court system as cold and we are “just another number”. I’m terrified for my son & his future and my (hopefully) soon to be exses behavior. I’m exhausted!

    • I’m not surprised you are exhausted! It sounds like you have your hands full!

      Unfortunately, as insufficient as the court system may be sometimes, it’s the only system we’ve got. It’s also the system you are already in, and are definitely stuck with. That being said, the best thing you can do is to keep your attorney, especially since s/he is good. Follow your attorney’s advice and do your best to take care of yourself as you go through this process.

      As you probably figured out by now, divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s going to take time and money to get through this process. If you let yourself get exhausted, that’s when you make mistakes.

      Hang in there!


  • My son is divorcing a narcissist kleptomaniac type of person. They have one son together, age 4, and she has a daughter age 7 from a previous relationship who also calls my son Daddy. She had agreed to share custody and cooperate for eight months, then when it came time to actually sign the papers and go on with the agreement, she changed her mind and refused to do what she had agreed to do. No surprise there. You can’t believe a thing she says. She has literally stolen everything that was in the house and now the house is going to be taken over by the bank. My son lives with me at this point and is stretched thin financially. He wants to see his child, but she will not allow visitation without her presence. I can see she will claim he is abandoning the children, when nothing could be further from the truth. We both want to see the children, just without HER! It’s a terrible mess. He has stopped the legal battle because there is no money left to fight with and we fear the children could end up in foster care.

    • I hate to say it, but your son has 3 choices. He can keep playing his wife’s game on her terms (ie he can see the kids only when she says he can do so, and only when she is there.) He can do whatever it takes to convince her to change her terms. Or he can fight in court to make sure he can see the children without her being there. There are not a lot of other choices.

      I STRONGLY suggest that you work with a lawyer in this case. Your son is NOT in the best position with respect to the 7 year old. If she is not his biological child, and he never adopted her, he may not have any legal rights to maintain his relationship with her. I don’t know whether or not that will be true in your case, but YOU have to find that out! Taking any kind of action without knowing your son’s legal rights can end up having serious repercussions. You MUST work with a lawyer on that. (Sorry!)

      As for your son’s own son, he definitely has parental rights there. But if his wife is controlling the terms under which he can see his son, he can either let her dictate the terms, he can do what he needs to convince her to change on her own, or he can go to court to fight to be able to see his son alone. Those are his only real options.

      Finally, I’m not sure why you are concnerned that the kids would end up in foster care. But, again, that is something that you NEED good legal advice about.



  • I am getting ready to leave my husband who I truly believe has NPD. We have a 3month old baby boy. He has threatened to take him away from me and never let me have him. He is very emotionally abusive but has never been physical. I am trying to figure out the “best” way to leave. I have spoken with an attorney and have an appointment soon to get the paperwork together. I don’t know if I feel safe having a “conversation” with him to tell him I am leaving or not. I’m scared he will physically grab my son and not let me have him. I’ve thought about packing up and leaving while he is at work but I was told I am required to provide him access to our child…and I’m scared that when I provide access he will take him and not bring him back. My son is exclusively breast-fed and I hate the thought of him going days/weeks on formula. I just don’t know how to physically get out without losing my son until we get to court. Any suggestions on how to get myself and my son out of the house? (I do not feel safe staying there after the process is initiated…so “making” him leave is not an option)

    • Oh my! I’m so sorry to hear how stressful life is right now — especially with a 3 month old baby.

      As for how you can get out of the house without losing your son, that is something you MUST strategize with your attorney. Because I can’t give legal advice online (or outside the state of Illinois) I can’t get into any kind of detail about what you should do.

      It will be well worth the time and money for you to talk to your attorney about this in detail. You need to get totally clear on what you can expect when you leave, and what your rights and responsibilities will be vis-a-vis your son. While you definitely have to give your husband access to your son, “access” can mean a lot of different things. You need to now how much access you will have to give your husband, and what that will look like for your son.

      Alternatively (and I know this isn’t what you want to hear, sorry!) you may have to wait for awhile before you leave. I don’t know what the laws in your state say, or what the judges in your court district do when it comes to sharing parenting time with an infant. That is something you need to figure out, then plan accordingly.

      One thing you definitely should NOT do, though, is to have your son in your arms when you tell your husband you’re leaving and want a divorce. If you do break the news to your husband in person, do it alone. The last thing you want to do is to get into a tug of war with your son in the middle.

      Hope this helps.


  • Thank you very much for this good article! I am in the middle of divorcing my narcissist husband and it is a nightmare. The personal custody mediator was absolutely worthless and couldn’t see his game. She was bent on not creating or supporting neglected parents/resistant children, much to my daughter’s loss. She cannot stand spending time with him and tells me this all the time. But all he wants is to spend time with her, as though she is his new companion, very very sad. She loves him, and wants to see him, just not half time. I tried to make a case with the mediator for getting more of the custody time than him but she was also convinced that 50/50 custody is the very best thing for all families, she explained how over and over to me. My daughter is 12 years old and is supposed to have a say, but wasn’t listened to in her private session. She was very surprised and hurt to hear that she would have to spend half of her time with her dad. My comment is more about what we can do to change this in the courts so that the women/men and children of narc spouses get different treatment. there’s divorce, and there’s divorcing a narcissist, very very different. My daughter and I weren’t taken seriously even though we had much evidence of very inappropriate, bullying, intimidating, and emotionally abusive behavior. As much as there are problems with neglected parents and resistant children, that didn’t at all apply here, but was all the mediator could see. Now we will just have to deal as we always have with this. I thought there would be help for us. My lawyer is amazing, totally gets it, and supports the case very much, but the mediator is court ordered and has a totally different point of view, as well as being ultimately charmed by my ex. It was so sharply stacked against me in her mind that I thought it was very possible that he paid her to take this stance and deny our stories. I had the professional backing and encouragement from 3 different lawyers and therapists. It just is so sad. Apparently we can go back after some months have passed and ask again for what my daughter wants for the arrangement. The system must change on this and recognize the hell that narcissists create in marriage an especially divorce.

    • I’m so sorry to hear what you went through. As you found, our system is far from perfect. What’s more, many narcissists are very, very charming. So, it’s not surprising that people in the court system who only see litigants for a short time, get charmed.

      Unforutnately, there’s not a whole lot more I can say.

      I hope things work out for you and your daughter.



  • Hi. I’ve been married to a narcissist for 24 years now. It’s been the worst 24 years of my life. Not all was so bad when we had our kids but having kids made his narcisstic behaviors even worse. His verbal abuse to both me and our kids are so so hurtful and scary. His temper is out of control!!! I’ve been to a lawyer 3 times but am so afraid to “pull the trigger”. I’m 56 years young. I can’t take it any longer but don’t have the strength to leave. Any suggestions??

    • Get a therapist. You need to start working with someone who can help you build yourself up. Then, once you’re strong enough, you will be able to stand on your own. You will be able to walk away if that’s what you want to do.

      Another benefit of having a therapist is that, often, they are covered by insurance.


  • Hi Karen-
    I’m trying to get my divorce finalized but my narc husband doesn’t want to give me anything. He owns a very successful restaurant chain with his brother all created after marriage. We have been legally separated for 4 years. He is offering a third of the settlement that I’m entitled to (I’m so tempted to take it just to move on). We have a son that is 21 (lives with me) and a sixteen year old daughter, also lives with me. I’m 51 and haven’t worked the entire 20 year marriage. We need to have a business valuation done to assess my share for buyout but he claims there is no money for valuation (due to restaurant expansion). I have spend $100,000 plus in attorney fees over last 4 years. I can’t afford to continue the fight. I don’t know what to do, feeling completely hopeless. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    • Oh my!

      Here’s the unfortunate truth: if your spouse is being completely unreasonable in your divorce (and it sounds like your husband is being unreasonable) you’re often stuck with either fighting a very expensive fight, or walking away with less than you want, need and deserve. (Sorry!)

      You could try to settle with your husband, either directly or through a mediator. Occasionally, that works. (Often it doesn’t. But it’s always worth a try.)

      If that doesn’t work you have a decision to make: go to trial or settle for 1/3 of what you should get. (Or try to negotiate for more. But it’s hard to negotiate from a position of weakness.) To make your decision, you need to do a cost/benefit analysis. What do you stand to gain if you go to trial? What would it cost to get that? What is the likelihood that you actually would get that if you go to trial? Also, what do you stand to lose if you go to trial? Then ask yourself the same questions about settlement. Then you weigh your options and decide.

      I know this process sucks. I’m not saying it’s fair, or that it will make you feel good. But if you want to start reclaiming your life, making a decision about what you actually want, and what you are willing to do to get it, is a great place to start.

      Also, you need to realistically assess whether you’re going to have to go back to work. (Sorry!) Talk to your lawyer. Talk to a financial planner. Realistically assess your financial position and your options. If you can see that you need to get training to go back to work: start now! 51 isn’t old, but it’s not 21 either. You can get yourself back into the work force. But the longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be.

      On the other hand, if you won’t need to work, then you don’t necessarily need to worrry about retraining. (Although finding something to do that gives you a sense of purpose can make a HUGE difference in your life, and help you focus on something OTHER THAN your divorce — which can be super helpful.)

      I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. (Sorry!) But since you asked for my opinion, I figured that the least I could do would be to give you an honest one.

      Good luck.


  • Hey Karen,
    My best friend I married to a narcissist and they have 3 kids. She’s a stay at home mom. She’s miserable with him and doesn’t want to be there anymore but she’s terrified because of the kids and he’s always saying he has more money than her and he knows how to talk and says that he’ll bring up stuff she’s done (which is nothing) like not cooking dinner and dumb stuff like that. She doesn’t know what to do because she’s afraid he’ll try and take her kids and stuff like that. Please help if you can.

    • Your friend needs help and support. So if you can be there for her, listen and try to build up her courage and confidence, that would be awesome! But, beyond that, it’s up to your friend to take action. You can’t leave her husband for her.

      Right now, your friend probably could use a good therapist. I don’t know what she’ll tell her husband about her therapy, but she definitely needs help to make herself stronger and to figure out her future. She also should talk to a good lawyer in her area. She needs to know what she’s looking at if she gets a divorce. She needs to know if what her husband is saying is true. (It’s probably not true at all. But hearing the facts from a professional will be helpful.)

      As she gets stronger, she’ll be able to take more steps forward. But, for right now, just getting herself stronger, and being able to sort facts from fiction in the divorce world would be a great start.

      Hope that helps.


  • I am a survivor of severe abuse. I’m getting a irrevocable trust fund. Married 26 years of more abuse by narcissist. I’m mentally disabled and need help.

    • The best thing you can do is to talk to a lawyer in your area. I can’t give legal advice online or outside of the state of Illinois. It sounds like legal advice is what you need. (Getting a therapist who you can work with would also help you recover from your abuse.)

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.


  • Hi Karen
    I just now saw your response. Thank you so much for putting so much thought and honesty in your reply. I agree-I have to make a decision about what I actually want as well as, making plans to get back into the workforce.
    Thank you again!
    Happy holidays,

  • After 20+ years I got fed up. is drinking, smoking pot, porno and cheating was MY fault!!! Hired the private investigator that caught Scott Peterson when he killed Lacy Peterson and sent him to Cabo for a week where my husband was on another “guys trip”. Three women in the first three days. Parents from my sons private Christian school were staying at his hotel and sending back pictures almost identical to the ones from the PI.

    He came home and wanted to have sex. I said “no, let’s go for a walk”. Told him parents from our sons private Christian school were staying at his hotel and sending back pictures and everyone at the school knew he cheated on me. I then got a facelift, paid cash for a car, and cashed out miles to take my son to China first class for 10 days.
    Also hired an IT guy to come to the house and run his porno history. He had under 18 girls on it so I get sole custody and he won’t get spousal support! I make twice what he makes…

    Marriage counselor told me he was a narcissistic sociopath and to get out for my sons sake.

    Filed for divorce in June. My son is onto him and doesn’t really want to see him but for a few hours once a week.

    I am SO STINKIN’ HAPPY!!!!!!!

  • I’m sorry to disagree with in time things will settle down. One thing us victims who have been crushed by a narcissistic person need to not forget is this disorder causes unpredictable temper tantrums and revenge when they realize they are about lose to control. Letting our guard down when we have taken back our control …public humiliated him in court..took some of his possessions away..and you strip him of his self image of being higher and above you.
    I will never let my guard down when I’m divorced.

  • We are in a different position than your previous writers . We are the grandparents of 2 lovely grandchildren and have been given primary care of
    both children twice in the courts although both parents have been involved with the children . The father having taken us both times and now he is going for a third time.
    The issues are the eldest child a girl of 14 refuses point blank to see her father but he is pushing her to have therapy with him , the second is the younger child , a boy of 13 , wants to move in with his father and at this stage we have allowed it, unfortunately he doesn’t really see his father for what he is( aspergers ) and I am afraid he is going to be badly hurt by him emotionally at this stage but not sure
    We are going to see a court reporter/clinical psychiatrist , whom we have seen previously and hopefully he will help us but like in your article the father won’t let go , he won’t accept “losing ” and is tracking the mother , children and also using a private detective .
    Also do we walk away after having been in the children lives for so long , unfortunately i think this would be the only way to get him to leave us alone
    My fear is how far and dangerous are these people ? Have we done the right thing allowing the boy to live with him.
    The more I read and hear about this type of personality (and he is a text book case ) the more concerned I am for everyones safety .

    • Oh my! This is complicated!

      First of all, it sounds like you have different issues for each of the kids. You asked if you should walk away after having been in the children’s lives for so long. But it doesn’t sound like walking away will be possible with your granddaughter. If she doesn’t want to even see her father, she surely isn’t going to want to live with him! As for whether you did the right thing by letting your grandson live with his father, who knows? Hindsight is 20/20. There’s no use wondering “what if” because you’ll never get an answer to that question. The most productive thing you can do right now is to take the situation from where it is now, and do whatever you think is best and move forward from here.

      At this point, I would really suggest you line up the best experts you can and rely on them. If the clinical psychologist you mentioned can help you, that will be great. Also, even though I’m not a big fan of “lawyering up,” you absolutely need a good, strong lawyer by your side.

      Courts tend to want to keep parents and children together. However, courts also want to keep stability for children, and do what’s in their best interests. So the case you’re presenting is a really difficult one. THat’s why having the best lawyer you can by your side will be so important.

      As for how dangerous the children’s father is, I have no way of knowing that. Obviously your safety, and the safety of the children, has to come first. If you feel threatened, do not hestitate to call the police.

      I wish I had better things to tell you. Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of your situation.

      I wish you the best.


  • Hi, please I need your help. How to get out of a bad separation agreement? English isn’t my first language and I didn’t have a lawyer when I signed . My covert narcissistic called husband tricked me into this. We never lived apart, having me signing the agreement is just another way of controlling me. I’m from Canada but currently living overseas and there’s. Zero help for women and kids. Please help me

    • I wish I could help you, but unfortunately, I can’t. You need to talk with a good divorce lawyer in your area and you need to do it ASAP! Only a divorce lawyer in the state you were divorced in can tell you what your options are, and whether there is any way you can change your agreement.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help with this.

  • I would love to get out of my husbands clutches, but after 23 years it’s like I have Stockholm Syndrome. The things required are overwhelming, get a job when I haven’t worked in twenty years, find a place to live for me and my three big teenagers and be able to afford it and food and everything else, plus pay for an attorney, and how will I get off from my new job, the one where I’ll be lucky if I make $12 an hr, to go to the court? How do I risk the kid’s college payments? I also never lived alone, there’s been some one paying for the roof over my head for 50 years! Then I go through all of this and my prize is to work at a crappy job, sit in my tiny apartment all alone and what? Can’t go anywhere cause I’m broke! Therapy is a nice outlet, but trying to undo all the years of abuse is like trying to untangle a ball of tangled necklace chains. It’s been two years and I’m no stronger or better off for it. Same with the women’s places, No one has any real suggestions or help. I can steal all the money and run, but then I’ll just spend my life waiting for him to find me. So I sit here. Frozen. It’s groundhog day everyday. We just came off the holiday season and anyone married to a narcissist knows how much they LOVE to ruin those! It’s been a fight every other day for three weeks. I was screamed at for ten minutes tonight for buying what he viewed as an overpriced item and he threatened me w/with withholding finances. Then an hour later he tries to speak to me like nothing ever happened. I love when people tell me they would never stand for it and they would leave. As if you are dealing with some level headed man who is gonna smile and write a check no problem. HA!!!! More like he’d take every cent and burn it before giving it to me. I’ll never get HIS money! It’s an awful situation, seems near impossible to extricate from and my only real out will be when he dies, but snakes live forever! The whole thing is depressing, but if any of you are able to actually divorce these loons and move on God Bless You!

    • Unfortunately, you’re right. Getting yourself out of a relationship in which you’ve been put down or abused for decades takes time. But, as the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago. The second best time is today.”

      At least you’re trying!


  • I am in desperate need of your advice concerning my divorce and the fact that my ex currently has our 4 year old autistic son with him as we speak. I had our son up until I trusted my soon to be ex sister in law, it’s a very long story and there is a child protective services worker involved who has blindly fallen victim to my exs persuasive behavior. I am completely lost and alone and just want to get my son back home with me where I know he is safe from all the mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. My ex has been trying to pin our son against me and is filling his head with some horrible things. My son has been doing and saying things he’d never do or say and I am lost as to what I can do to fix this. I have a dvo against my ex and his sister was bringing our son to my visits which she recently backed out of all because I confronted her about the things my son has been telling me and what he’s been doing and saying along with the fact that my ex destroyed a pair of shoes his sister told me to buy for our son because she said the old ones were too small. The caseworker ended up telling him to make sure our son wore the shoes to every visit so that’s what he did until I took them home with me which pissed the sister off causing her to refuse me from kissing or hugging my son goodbye that night which workers at the YMCA witnessed. I just need any help I can get. Please

    Respectfully, A.D.

    • I hate to tell you this, but the advice you need is legal advice and I can’t give you that online or outside of the state of Illinois. With a dvo and child protective services involved, the best thing I can tell you to do is to hire a lawyer who is experienced in handling these kinds of cases as soon as possible. You REALLY need legal help. If you try to make your way through the system on your own you’re not likely to do nearly as well as you will if you have a lawyer.

      Wish I could be more help.


  • I have been married to a narcissist for 23 years and I can’t pretend or accept this way of life anymore. We have one minor child. He has threatened to not pay any bills or remy. He has done this before and moved on with another woman. When everything was shut off he sent his girlfriend to pick up our children who where all minors at the time and filed a protective order against me and told the judge I couldn’t care for the children. Now years later I am stronger, I just want to know can I leave with my minor child and move to another home if he is never here and won’t help with bills that we created and that I can’t afford on my own. What are my rights here in Arizona.

    • I wish I could answer you, but I’m not an Arizona attorney. If you want to know your rights in Arizona, you’re going to have to consult with a local attorney to find out. (Sorry!)

  • My husbands ex wife is a narcissist. They lived in Mississippi where both spouses have to agree to divorce in order to get divorced. He tried to get her to sign the papers for 10 months but she refused. So he moved to Louisiana which is a no fault state hired a lawyer and filed there. She didn’t sign the papers and it went to default. Judge granted the divorce and then we got married. She found out he got remarried and filed an appeal on grounds she wasn’t served properly. We know she knew about him filing because he told her in an email and also because her lawyer from Mississippi called his lawyer in Louisiana about it. My question is do you have any insight to how a judge will rule in a case like this? Can the judge nullify our marriage? My husband has done everything he can to get away from her but she will not accept it. This has been going on for over 2 years. I’m concerned about what will happen to us.

    • I wish I had some insight I could share, but I don’t. What any judge will or won’t do depends entirely on the judge, as well as on the laws of the state that judge is in.

      I can totally understand your concern. But, the best thing you can do is to talk to a good divorce lawyer and deal with the appeal as effectively as you can.

      Good luck.

  • My wife of 4 years is a narcissist. Our marriage counselors can attest. Without getting into the details of he said/she said… I want to ask based on your expertise on narcassist… what should I do in this situation. 1. Should I/Can I fight this case on my own? (I dont have a lot of money but I can articulate a clear argument).

    2. She has a 5 year old child and we have 3 houses (55k, 120k and 270k) together (1.5 owned by each). She is dead set on keeping the big house we own together- which I hate the idea of giving up (especially since she created this chaos). BUT… will feel better if she will give me the smaller house she owns so she can keep the big house. … Is it worth fighting for the BIG house, and if not.. will/can the judge award me the smaller house she came into the marriage with, so she can keep the big house?

    Honestly, she called the cops on me as a total power grab -only AFTER i had already sent a letter of separation, as vengence and also to try to create a false narrative (i hope the judge sees through the lies) But what I learned from that horrifying experience (I moved for her and her son- so I don’t have much support) is that law enforcement, and possibly judges unfairly assume the Man is guilty (the police ended up sharing stories of how women beat themselves up and then call the cops). I fear that I come into the case having more to prove, just because my wife has 50% custody of her son (with the son’s dad-not me)? Your thoughts??

    • Let me make this simple. Yes, you need a lawyer. No, fighting this case on your own is not likely to go well for you – especially if your wife has a lawyer!

      Much of what you have asked in your comment are legal questions. Unfortunately, I can’t answer legal questions online or outside of the state of Illinois. But you definitely have a lot of legal questions and need a good divorce lawyer. Your situation is already complicated and complex. Trying to slog through it yourself is a really bad idea.

  • I am yet another woman divorcing the narcissist. My ex proposed a dissolution which would have left me walking away from a 10 year marriage with nothing. He wanted half the house, 100% of his 401k (earned entirely during the marriage), 50/50 custody with no child support, and drained the bank accounts at the time of separation. I was treated like the crap on the bottom of his shoe for wanting the divorce.
    I retained an attorney of my own to protect myself and to ensure a “fair and equitable” settlement. At this point, my husband did a 180 degree flip – and suddenly was remorseful and wanted to reconcile the marriage. I played the game, temporarily – as he had managed to get children and family services involved prior to his “epiphany”. I needed to focus on ending the agencies involvement in our lives. Unfortunately, he then realized I had no intentions of ultimately reconciling. This unleashed the real demon, who then got involved with children and family services. He fabricated lies and stories of abuse/neglect/substance abuse. The agency and judge bought it – hook, line and sinker and gave him emergency temporary custody of not only our child, but my older daughter from a previous marriage (another of his victims, brainwashed to see me as a horrible parent). I’ve since been living a nightmare for over a year. The abuse/neglect was dropped almost immediately. But the substance abuse stuck because I made the mistake of hiring a “budget” attorney in the beginning who did nothing to defend me against a relentless badgering of me on the stand by a prosecutor. I made the critical error of making the statement on the stand “okay, I’m an alcoholic – because clearly that’s what you want to hear in order to move on to the next question”. I fired that attorney immediately following that hearing. I’ve done multiple drug/alcohol assessments – which have recommended no treatment. But, the accusations alone still stand because I admitted it under duress – so I am required to do random alcohol tests, forced to acknowledge an alcohol problem that doesn’t exist because I have to “own it” in order for the agency to be convinced that I am in recovery for a condition that never existed.
    He has continued to fabricate lies, even involving the authorities over a photo of me at a shooting range, to create the impression that there is a “concern for my girls safety” in order to deny my parenting time. Luckily the authorities won’t get involved in domestic issues – and provided me with a recording and copy of the report where they specifically told him that there was no threat or illegal activity. I’m hoping that finally his lies and manipulation are catching up with him. Unfortunately over a year has passed, and my two beautiful girls have been hurt in the process – all so he can have the ultimate “win”. A win to him isn’t a win, unless it’s a total beat down. I continue to fight this battle today, and sadly even if/when I get my girls back – it will be a lifelong battle as long as I have to co-parent with him.
    When reading articles and others’ stories in educating myself it’s like looking in a mirror and scary how much I never saw before it was too late. My most critical error was in thinking that he would never use my kids against me in a divorce, and that we could have an amicable and fair separation. If only I would have known the true monster inside him.

    • I’m so sorry to hear your story! Hopefully, reading others’ stories here will provide you with some comfort. (And maybe your story will encourage them too!)

      I know that nothing is worse than having lost your girls back and being caught up in this mess. But hopefully, in the end, things will work out for you.

      Hang in there!

      I wish you the best.


  • Hello Karen, Tricia Wyatt:

    Would like to briefly weigh in on Tricia and her husband’s predicament: since husband’s ex-wife received a timely email from him concerning formal filing of divorce from LA, a no fault state, such electronic correspondence should be able to be submitted as legitimate, legal proof that ex-wife’s claims are baseless. Of course, email documents (And virtually all other documents under the sun, electronic or otherwise.), can be manipulated, having your husband’s applicable email correspondence verified by a reputable, legally recognized expert source is crucial. Once this is done, your ducks will be lined up – i.e., any doubts concerning veracity of email(s) will be summarily trounced. While I do not have firsthand information regarding who to approach for validation of email correspondence, I am positive a good, experienced attorney can guide you and your husband. No doubt, part of email validation would be a forensic audit of the computer your husband used when corresponding via email with his ex-wife.

    Karen, hope the above meets the threshold for input on your blog, and will be published. I am a layperson but believe what I am suggesting holds serious merit. What a great resource you provide, thank you so much!

    Tricia, all the best to you and your husband! Hold tight to each other as well as the belief his vitriolic ex will not ultimately succeed in playing the legal system against you, will not be able to sully, even ruin what you have (Both tangible and intangible.), together.

    Best to All,

    S. B.

  • So here is my situation. I have been married to a narcissist for almost 9 years and together for 12. He is charming and smooth and knows how to work people to get what he wants. Biggest problem, I need to file and am having a hard time finding an attorney. He is a Sgt. for the Highway Patrol and the woman he is having an affair with (this time) is a DUI attorney and her sister is even a judge. So basically I am finding anyone that could take me as a client is declining because they know one or the other of them through their work circles. We both have full time jobs and we also own 2 LLC and multiple properties and another business as well. I finally had enough got the “proof” I needed that he was messing around and said I was leaving. I just want what is lawfully mine, just equal. We both came from nothing, had nothing when we got married and we worked our butts off the last 12 years to get where we are. I can’t just walk away from that. I need help

    • It sounds like you’re in a really tricky situation. I don’t know where you live, but I’m assuming it must be a small town. (In big cities you can always find someone who’s not connected to a specific person, or even, as in this case, 3 people.)

      First, if there are any good divorce attorneys in your area whom you haven’t talked to, talk to them! If they can’t help you ask for a referral to someone who they think might be able to help you.

      If all else fails, you may have to get help from an attorney in a neighboring town or city. That’s not optimal, and you’ll probably pay that attorney more because you’ll have to pay for travel time. But, if that’s your only option, what else can you do? It definitely sounds like you need an attorney. With so much at stake you should not try to go through your divorce without proper representation.

  • Karen,

    I am the mom of an AMAZING two year old girl who has been going through a divorce for about a year and a half now. He is now using her to get me by cutting her hair, telling her “mama bad person “ etc. when I stumbled across your article I literally cried reading it as this is EXACTLY what I’ve been dealing with and didn’t really know it! Thank you for your insight! Hoping I can move forward and get my life back with a little more clarity now! Thank you so, so much.

  • Thank you so much for this great article. I’ve been married for 18+ years and have been cheated on 3 times (that I know of) yet I remain with him. After the last time, I had enough and said I was getting a divorce. I had to move out of the country for 6 months for a job and took our daughter with me. I decided to get the divorce when I returned. During that time, he was “saved” (he was NEVER church person), and convinced me he had changed. I did see improvements but his true self would still sneak in every once in awhile. I’ve recently decided enough is enough and when I got the courage to tell him, he convinced me to stay. We have been having many conversations the past few months and each time he convinced me to stay for the family and that he knows we can be great again and we were meant to be together and he is a changed man and hates the person he once was. Just when I think I’m ready to do it he pulls me back. My friend always told me he had NPD but I never researched it until now and he fits most, if not all, criteria. If it wasn’t for our 9 year old, I’d have pulled the trigger awhile ago but I feel so bad breaking up the seemingly “happy” family. I don’t want to crush her beautiful spirit yet I feel like I’m being manipulated yet again. Can they really change? Am I naive for even considering staying…yet again?

    • Has your husband changed? I don’t know. I don’t know either one of you. What I do know is that the cycle of behavior you’re describing is a typical pattern. (Sorry!)

      When you’re involved with a narcisst or other type of abusive person for a long time, your self-esteem and confidence take a serious hit. You get locked in a cycle of abuse that you no longer even see. It’s hard to break free. That’s why I recommend that you start working with a therapist who specializes in helping those who are married to or involved with narcissists. You need to start breaking free from the behaviors that are keeping you locked in this cycle.

      I know you think that you’re staying for your daughter. But there is probably much more to it than that. Working with a good therapist will be the best way that you can start seeing waht you may not be able to see right now.

      Hope this helps.

  • Narcissistic people should be recognized and treated in society.
    We should help people with psychological problems on the community side. We need to help them understand and get support.

  • I’ve been contemplating getting out for years (been married to a textbook narcissist for 7 years). I have been documenting and journaling for over 2 years, often photographing destruction of the home and sometimes minor physical abuse. I opened a separate bank account once without his knowledge… he found it and went ape. I walk on eggshells daily, never hear a loving word, and sometimes fear for my safety. We have 2 small children, ages 6 and 3. If we had no kids it would be a no-brainer, because I am a physician and can support myself. But we live in a small town in the South where divorce is frowned upon and no one knows how he is behind closed doors (he is a charmer, a seller, and a talker). I worry about my busy schedule and not being able to protect my children at all times (he may kidnap them). I worry about him destroying my reputation and disrupting my work. I worry about him destroying everything I own. I worry about him killing me! I’m reading all of these comments and responses and wondering if living and enduring this life is the lesser of two evils. At least if we are in the same house, I can see what is happening with my children and know they are (relatively) ok. A long nasty divorce would be so hard on them. I’m not sure if it’s even worth it. I feel so trapped and I dream about how a happy life could be, to live a day without being yelled at or cussed at or demeaned or belittled. I just long to be normal and happy.

    • I’m so sorry! I wish I could tell you that your fears are unfounded, but when you are divorcing a narcissist, all bets are off!

      In the situation that you’re in, planning in advance is critical. You also need to expect that things will get ugly and that he will try to turn the kids against you. Unfortunately, your divorce is likely to be long and nasty. (Sorry!) On the other hand, miracles happen. Things may not end up being as horrible as you think. Besides, if you’re in physical danger, staying is not a viable option no matter what the consequences of leaving.

      I strongly suggest that you start educating yourself about divorce. You also would be well-advised to talk to people who run domestic violence organizations. Arm yourself with knowledge. Then you can make a plan. Also, get yourself a therapist. You will need all the support you can get no matter what you do.

      I wish I had better things to say. (Again, sorry!) Hang in there!


  • Thank you for your article. I only recently discovered that my soon to be ex-wife could be a narcissist based on the some of the symptoms you reference above. My wife is an alcoholic with multiple arrests and rehab stints on her resume. We have 2 daughters together, but under the age of 9. In her “journey” to sobriety, she has embarked on multiple affairs in her quest for “ideal love” – the most recent one was the last straw and I initiated the divorce process and she started staying “with friends” about a month later. She attends AA religiously. It was to where I almost thought this was her new addiction until I realized how into her new boyfriend she was so I believe that may be her new addiction. She has spoken over the years about how much she needs these people in the program and only they understand her. She has managed to push away her entire family, kids included. My oldest has tried to re-connect with her, but my wife just exhibits a complete lack of empathy. Over the last few years, we’ve tried marriage therapy in but I found her effort to be minimal. I now suspect she was manipulating me and delaying our inevitable divorce. In that time, she completely checked out of the marriage. I was solely responsible for household expenses as well as caring for the children while she lived the life of a well-off teenager. When it was time to discuss assets, she declared she wanted half of everything – even 50% custody. My lawyer has assured me that given her record, she will not get 50% custody but I worry about how everything else gets distributed. If I have to pay her too much, then I might not be able to stay in our family home with my girls. Given the cost, I don’t want this to go to court but I’m now pessimistic that we can find a common ground. She’s been insistent on a mediator, but I don’t believe that is a good idea given her issues with alcohol abuse. I am in therapy now, but really looking to start the next chapter of my life free of this craziness. You reference how the narcissist will want to slow down these proceedings – why is that? Just to draw out the drama?

    • Unfortunately, asking “why” is not a productive question. Everyone has their own reasons for doing things. You may never find out why your wife does certain things, or wants to do certain things.

      A much better question to ask is: “What can I do about this? How can I handle the situation so that I have the best chance of having things work out in the best way possible for myself and my girls?” Asking those kinds of questions will lead you to come up with things that you can actually DO to make your life better. You can control what you do. You can’t control your ex or what she does.

      Hope that helps.


  • I was only 16 when i met my daughters father who was 47 at the time . Growing up with an abusive father who had ended his life when I was only 1 years old had left me with an emptiness he was able to provide. Without the knowledge of his repeated criminal record I fell in love with this man thinking it was love yet only after 7 years was heavy manipulation and emotional abuse.
    While he was selling large amounts of drugs I was using . I got pregnant at 17 and he begged me to keep the baby crying and begging promising that Anna wouldnt ever go without. I stopped using. I handed him all the drugs and went through with this pregnancy . He ended up cheating on me when i was only 3 months pregnant because he needed a partner to run around with him while I was alone without nothing but betrayal and empty promises. It didnt make sense me. I blamed the
    drugs i made excuses for the way he hurt me and left me . I left .. He didnt want me . I stayed with my mom and struggled with such trama almost suicidal at one point.
    After going through 28 hours of labor with extremely high blood pressure I had given birth to my beautiful daughter Anna.
    Once she was 1 month old her father got caught raided with 18 pounds of meth and went to fedeal prison for 4 years.
    My mom has been rasing anna since birth
    I was very hopless and weak and alone . I went back to the people he introduced me to the addicts and started using again.. It made my life out of my control. I had no control over my addiction ..
    He was soon realsed when Anna turned was 4. Shs is now almost 5 which be in May . Anna is such a beautiful and happy little girl. She knows 2 languages, she goes to Russian school and preschool. She attends church and sings in choir.
    She is loved and cared for.
    My mom has been truly a saint.
    No words can describe how much she has done us.
    My mom went to court to get third-party custody because i am going to be going to inpatient for 28 days in about 2 weeks.
    Her father wants control over everything and everyone even if it means having a complete strange babysitter watch Anna due to him working every day from 6am to 7pm and being away from her best friend grandma and her own mother .
    This man is in no shape to raise a child at all after being in and out of prison including 15years for killing a cop over the same drug trafficking charge .
    He has emotionally abused me pregnant cheated on and now still continues to as well as harassing my mother when we have done nothing but love this man .
    It’s absolutely mind blowing how he treats the people who show nothing but understandings and love …
    My mother has been financially suporting her with her ssi disability $ and what i help with.
    He has been out of prison for over 6 months now still paying $50.00 a month with an income of 4000$

    • I know money seems to be an issue for you, but if your daughter’s father is taking you to court, you need a lawyer to represent you. I can’t tell from what you wrote whether he’s just threatening to take you back to court or not. If he’s just threatening, then stop listening. Make sure your mother has legal guardianship of your daughter. Then go to rehab and get yourself clean and sober.

      The best thing you can do for yourself, your daughter, and your mom is to get and stay clean and sober. Once you can do that, everything else will be able to fall into place.



  • Hello Karen,
    Thanks for your insightful article. I have been reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos about narcissistic abuse to understand and be better prepared to get over and away fromy my narc/OCPD/emotionally disturbed husband of 28 years but I think I am becoming sicker from overfocusing on him and his problems. We have 4 children and I spent years in family therapy and support groups trying to fix our dysfunctional family until I finally admitted I couldn’t fix it myself. Although I always worked full-time and had some independence, narcs wear you down and I became a codependent enabler for all his drama. When my youngest was 7 I decided I needed to give my children a good example that if someone makes you miserable you should act so I got my courage up and told him i was leaving and filed for court mediation but he didn’t show so the case was closed. 4
    years ago I moved out and took my minor daughter – set up voluntary shared custody for all our kids though they spend more time with me. I was terrified but I did it. His family told me to give him time to adjust. After a year or so I tried amicable mediation which he played along with to get concessions but then refused to sign the divorce agreement. Since then I went No Contact. He lives in our house and I pay rent my finances are getting worse. Since I left he went to an outpatient mental health program and my kids help him a lot. Of course he blames me for all his problems and for breaking up our family and I suffer terrible guilt along with fear, Stockholm Syndrome and PTSD. I want to get a divorce but I do feel sorry for him and my kids tell me he is taking a difficult treatment now so I keep postponing… I need to divide our property and move on, I am exhausted from 4 years in No Man’s Land. My parents are frustrated and angry at me for not serving papers – they want to leave me money but if i am still officially married he could claim it. Divorced women friends think I am a sucker that I let him manipulate me and get away with keeping our house and paying me nothing. My son is angry too. Karen, you understand how these narcs train and brainwash us empaths to put their needs before our own and it is so hard to break the pattern…even after 4 years separation and 6 months no contact, I am still afraid to take anything (of mine) away from him and to stand up to him and at some level I must buy in to his false sense of over entitlement – after all, the world revolves around him.. I was in therapy for years, I can’t afford it anymore and anyway I’ve heard it all: no one can do it for me, I have to sue him for divorce already or die waiting… how can I stop feeling guilt and pity and remorse for hurting him even though he deserved my leaving and where can I find the courage to confront the narc in a legal battle when he the drama king will play the victim and use all his natural narc skills to manipulate me, take my property, leave me bereft and punish me and take revenge for my daring to leave and oppose him? I feel trapped and paralyzed to act. What can I do?


    • My heart goes out to you. I understand where you’re at and that divorcing your ex is harder for you than it sounds. But now it’s time for a little tough love.

      If you want to get away from your husband, improve your finances, and move on with your life, you need to file for divorce. Period.

      I understand that you feel trapped and paralyzed. I get it. But WHO is trapping you? Not your husband. He’s not even living with you. Not your kids. They’re living mostly with you too. Not your parents. They want you to divorce. So WHO is stopping you? (Just a question!)

      You’ve been married for 28 years. That’s a long time. Getting a divorce will be a total shift for you, mentally and emotionally. I get that. What you need to figure out is whether that’s what you want or not. Are you willing to give up your identity as the suffering wife of a narcissist? (I know that sounds harsh. I’m sorry. But, like I said, sometimes it takes a harsh reality to get us to move forward.)

      What’s stopping you from leaving is fear. You’re afraid he’ll ruin you financially if you divorce. But isn’t he already ruining you financially now? The only difference is that, if you get a divorce, at least you’ll have a chance to rebuild your life afterward.

      Finally, you said you can’t afford therapy and you’ve heard it all before. Okay. I get that. Therapy can help make you stronger and able to stand on your own – but it only works if you WANT to be stronger and stand on your own. (Again, sorry for being tough. I am not being judgmental. You can stay stuck forever if you choose to do so. But since you asked for help getting unstuck, that’s what I’m giving you.)

      I know this is hard. I know it’s scary. But there is no magic wand you can wave to make things better without going through some drama. Yes, doing that will suck. But, sometimes, like Nike says, you’ve gotta just do it.

      I wish you the best.


  • Hi Karen,

    I am from China and I met a covert narcissist from the United State 12 years ago. I fell in love with him and we had a wedding here. We had friends and families from both sides witnesses our ceremony. We were married in front of God by a pastor. But we didn’t register our marriage in anywhere of the world as he used some tactic to make me agree on this. I’ve never doubted about our marriage because we got married in front of God. However, when I decided to end this relationship after being abused for almost 10 years. He refused to take any responsibility as a husband and he called the marriage that I committed everything as cohabitation. My country doesn’t consider our relationship as marriage without a certificate. I couldn’t get anything to protect me here. Do you think I can try in the United State? Our wedding was reported on magazines including Cosmo Bride. I didn’t work during our marriage because he wanted me to be there for him anytime. Do you think I am protected by American Law? Even just as a cohabitant? Thank you, Karen.

    • I wish I could answer you, but I can’t. The answer depends on a lot of things – including whether New York has jurisdiction over you and your husband right now, and what New York law says about your situation.

      I strongly suggest you talk to a good divorce lawyer in New York about this.


  • I enjoyed your article. I to , like everyone else here, am struggling with a divorce for my narcissist. We have been married 10 years but together 15 years. We have two little girls. She has said … Forget what she said it’s just like everybody else the worst possible things no matter what they are they lying. My question is actually This. What if our goals for winning are the same. She wants to move in with a boyfriend that she had a restraining order on 15 years ago , don’t know if he actually abused her or not but she told me he did and I thought I was saving her from that relationship. But he definitely drinks to excess and does drugs. She wants to buy him a house and move in with him and my two little girls. I told her that she could have everything we own if she let me have the kids she refused now she’s trying to take everything we own and the kids I don’t know how to give her a win and save the girls. Please help

    • I wish I could help, but the truth is that your best option is to talk to a good divorce lawyer in your area about what your legal options are.

      Know that your wife’s choice of living partner could make a big difference in her ability to have the kids with her. BUT, again, you need to talk to a lawyer about that. Just because it MIGHT matter doesn’t mean it WILL matter. (And, of course, if she chooses to live alone and not get back together with her former boyfriend, that’s a different story too!) Everything depends on the specific facts of your situation and the law of the state you’re in.

      It sounds like the biggest problem (at least with respect to your girls) is not your soon-to-be-ex, but her former boyfriend. I don’t know how old the girls are, but it can’t be good for your girls to be around someone who drinks to excess and does drugs. What you need to figure out is what you need to show the court in order to keep your girls from being around that guy.

      Hope this helps.


      PS You might want to see if you can get a copy of the old restraining order.

  • I have been married to my narcissist for 1 1/2 years now. Luckily I was able to acknowledge the red flags earlier than most. However, I am now 5 months pregnant with his first child (a daughter) and I’m terribly frightened of what might happen to her if it’s anything like what I have been dealing with. I first noticed that he was exceptionally jealous, which at first was endearing, but now I am accused on a daily basis of cheating on him (as if I’m out there slumming it my with huge pregnant belly). He constantly snoops through my phone and internet history (it was clear he did not trust me). He was/is very concerned about his “performance” in the bedroom and often wants me to refer to my ex’s, most especially how they were in bed and how his penis size compares to them. Then he started breaking things around our home/ my things (numerous doors, a baby gate, he threw a large yankee candle into my mirror that attaches to my dresser, knocked over both of my favorite lamps on purpose, stabbed my new car’s tire with a knife so I couldn’t leave, even ran his car into my new car). I also thought the lengths of our arguments were extended far beyond that of the norm (hours upon hours and sometimes through the night, not allowing me to sleep). We would get so close to what I thought would be a resolution when he’d say, “Just tell me X and we can be good”, and then start a whole other argument about something unrelated to the first argument just to keep going. No matter what I’d say, I seemed to always fall short. Excessive reassurance and constant questioning (much like that of the Spanish Inquisition) became the norm and left me feeling emotionally bankrupt when it came to my own self care.

    I made a plan to move all of my things out of our apartment and did so successfully one day while he was at work. Of course, at the time, he still had a hold on me and I ended up returning for a little over a month before things turned physical. He had shoved my before in the past and threatened to hit me, but now I am pregnant, and the fact that he knows that, and threw me to the ground twice causing numerous bruises, a laceration on my knee, and a possible mild concussion tells me he has no problem doing it again to myself, and our unborn child. The bruises were documented at the doctor’s office and hospital two days later. I made the decision to move into a shelter for battered women and children after failing to keep him from following me to my parents house and actually breaking in one night last week while I was sleeping (I woke up and he was standing over me and would not leave until I recanted my statement that it was over between us and I wanted a divorce). I have refrained from seeking an order of protection for harassment and stalking, as I am afraid of his retaliation, but at this point I see no other option. He’s always wanting rent money even though I no longer live there, but he refuses to take my name off the lease agreement because it’s based on both of our incomes and he needs mine in order to stay there. Suddenly it’s my problem that he went and bought himself a brand new vehicle and can no longer afford to pay for anything, even though it was against my advice (I myself drive a 20 year old vehicle which I bought and maintain myself without any help from him). I feel like I can’t get away from him. If I don’t answer my phone/ try to go no contact, I am contacted by one of his family members, or I’ll receive email from him, or he’ll show up at my parent’s house where I go when I’m not in the shelter. He will follow me in his car and beg me to come home, promising me that he’s a changed man (ya right) and things will be different.

    Now that I’m gearing up for divorce, I need to know what else I can do to keep my unborn daughter safe as I fight him in a custody battle. I’m so worried what will happen to her once she is born and if I’m not there to protect her during visits with him. His mother is no safer to be around than him so I don’t trust anyone in his family either.

    Any advice would be appreciated,

    • Oh my! It sounds like you have your hands full.

      I would STRONGLY recommend working with your local domestic violence organizations. They will have a lot of experience working with domestic violence victims in your area. They will be an invaluable resource to you as you move forward.

      I also suggest that you find a lawyer who has worked extensively with domestic violence victims before. It would also be great if that lawyer had training in dealing with narcissists in divorce. That will help a lot. (As you already know, you’re going to end up fighting with your ex in court. So you need to put together a solid team who can do that well. That starts with a great divorce lawyer.)

      Unfortunately, your divorce is not going to be easy or cheap. (Sorry!) You will need as much support from family and friends as you can get. Having a therapist who understands your situation and can help you through it is also a good idea. If there are any good divorce support groups in your area, I would check those out too.

      Finally, don’t be afraid to enforce your boundaries. If your husband is ever physically threatening you or your child, call the police!

      I wish I had more/better tips for you. Hang in there!


      PS Bill Eddy, a lawyer/therapist, has done a lot of work with narcissists in divorce. You might want to check out High Conflict People in Legal Disputes.

  • Going through a divorce with narcissist and i feel like I am in hell. 30 years of abuse and control. 15 years ago, I made him leave the house until he could get his anger under control. Our 14 year old daughter couldn’t take it anymore and as a mom I needed to set a strong boundary! he refused to get any counseling because of course he did’t have an anger issue….he was provoked and that was his story. Years of going to pastors, and seeking help by exposing what went on behind closed doors….they would confront him…..the result was why would she accuse him of doing anything as such….he is the most gentle man in the church, (and the worship leader). I was looked upon as I was the crazy one and finally realized it was useless to even try to expose him. I filed for divorce, after 15 years of him living out of the house, even though he claimed he didn’t want it and we could now go to counseling. My suggestion was we pursue both! Wrong move!!! He has charmed his attorney, and had had a group of three men, one being an attorney who have done the majority of the corresponding with his attorney….because of course he didn’t feel he was capable mentally due to medication he was taking. LIES!, but she bought it! I am guessing a narcissist also doesn’t like to get his hands dirty so will recruit others to do it for him. I am close to a complete breakdown. He has pursued me with singing love songs and charming words, only to find it is all a game…..and his game is dirty, mean, based on lies and drama. He and his friends have orchestrated what one might call ‘the perfect storm’. They are of course the good Christian men, all of who are in a support group for men with anger issues…..it should be called an enabling group, as that is what they do. I want my broken heart back! But he has it and continues to shatter it. How do I get through this alive and sane??? It feels like I am in the house of mirrors at a carnival. Any suggestions? and what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to let go and get on with my life?…..at least what is left of it. I am turning 65 in a two months and have not worked for nearly 30 years outside the home. My husband (and his friends, and attorney) all feel he should ‘get it all’…..house, and the 401K, as he should be reimbursed for the 15 years he was “Kicked out of his own home”. While we were separated, he did make the house payments. He was never told he could not come back, but that for the sake of our daughter, we needed to deal with the episodes of rage. I didn’t understand narcissism back then so had no idea he would never return. As it turns out, he didn’t want to come back! But the story he told the entire time was a tearful story of how much he loved his wife and was doing everything humanly possible to save his marriage. I spent the past 15 plus years being seen as the horrible woman who cast this wonderful man aside breaking his heart. Feedback?

    • Oh my! Where to start?

      I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear (sorry in advance) but as long as you care what other people think about you, you will be allowing him to control your life. Another piece of bad news is that you will NEVER be able to convince everyone that you’re not the crazy one. So you can’t win. The truth is that, as long as you play the narcissist’s game, you’ll never win. Your only option is to stop playing the game.

      Please understand, I’m using the word “game” loosely. This isn’t a game. It’s your life. The problem is that to a narcissist, this all IS just a game! It’s HIS game. That’s why if you play it, you’ll lose.

      You said you already filed for divorce. Hopefully, you have a good lawyer. If you don’t, then get one. When you’re divorcing a narcissist you need a good divorce lawyer.

      Second, get yourself a good therapist. S/he can help you deal with your emotions so that you can someday reclaim your broken heart. S/he can also help you understand narcissistic behavior even better. That will help keep you from getting sucked into his web over and over again.

      Finally, be kind to yourself. You’re on a long journey and you’ve definitely hit a rough patch. Stay the course. You’ll get through this.


      • Thanks for your article, Karen.

        After having divorced from a narcissistic person, I can vouch for the usefulness of point 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Point 1 (hiring an experienced divorce attorney) didn’t seem to make much difference – I found a good one, but even good attorneys work within the limitations of the system, and the legal system and judges don’t not recognize the damaging tactics of a narcissist. Similarly, although I spent a lot of time documenting everything, both the attorney and family expert didn’t want to know, claiming that the judge would just see it as “he say, she says”. They would see claims of abuse as being without evidence, but at the same time, did not want to be furnished any evidence.

        Some of the other points rely on having friends/family that aren’t taken by his charm. When he is able to enlist Christian pastors and church member as his support network by turning up more, finding new ways to get involved, and giving more, one really can’t count on previous friends any more. To find new friends at an older age is really quite difficult. I basically had to give up going to church because he had contacts in a few churches. I was always advised to minimize contact and maintain boundaries, but found that his abuse escalated whenever I enforced boundaries. If he couldn’t get me to cave, he would use others, and sometimes they were in high places. I sometimes wished I could have moved somewhere else, but I had children who were ordered to see him.

        It’s true that kids will need their own therapists, but that depends on their ability to rebuild trust in people. Where do the kids turn to when they want to kill themselves? They don’t trust the system (because it didn’t listen to them), they won’t trust their mother because their dad has run her down, they won’t talk to their dad because they are afraid of him, they can’t talk to teachers or youth pastors because it will get back to their dad. As one of my kids said, “You made your life better by leaving Dad, but our lives are now hell.” Although the kids suffered physical and verbal abuse when we were still together, they didn’t live with the unpredictability and uncertainty of his behavior toward them now. They see him less now, which has caused an escalation in his stalking and harassment. The police have not been willing to help – one of them even gave unsolicited advice to reconcile. Fortunately, when my oldest kid became an adult, he moved away as far as he could.

        Moral of the story – don’t marry a narcissist. You may not be able to leave him, even if you manage to get a legal divorce.

  • What a true article! Thx

    I have been married to my narcissistic husband for 6 yrs now, which is the second time. We first married in our early 20s, and i divorced him 1yr later, after i found out he cheated with my sister. Of course, i didnt realize at that time, being young and naive, that he was narcissistic. We then met again and reconciled 12yrs later. I believed all the “sweet nothings” he told me and decided to try marriage again with him thinking “we’ve both grown/matured, experienced life, and were just too young to marry” the first time.

    We both brought children from previous relationships into our current marriage. Him-2, me-1, then we had 1 together. But, i found out he had a child while we were married, when a woman brought him to court for ch support. So, total of 5.
    Looking back, hes cheated on me since day 1, hes verbally and emotionally abused me for years, and recently became physically abusive/ controlling. I told him i finally had enough and asked him to leave the house, but he refused…even though i owned the house before i met him. I stayed at home one more month in separate bedrooms without much communication except about children, but i finally moved out when he became angry, abusive, i had to defend myself and he told me that i was the psycho abuser.
    He’s also an “entrepreneur”, we own 2 businesses together and hes started 2 nonprofits in the last 6 yrs.
    Winning in a divorce with him means me giving him every bit of the businesses, just to have my peace, sanity, and my 2 bio children out of his abuse alive…
    So, my question…
    How can i legally make him leave the house, since its mine?
    He flat out refuses to leave. Im sure bc its the only thing he can control right now since i refuse to talk to him, see him, and i hve set boundaries. And, now that i left him hes doing “everything right” to get me back, so he says its all my fault that this family is destroyed. Ive been hearing his manipulative lies for so long, i dont let his words affect me anymore. I know he has a serious psychological disorder.
    Thx for any advice! Crystal

    • Crystal,

      Unfortunately, you’re asking for legal advice that I can’t give you online or outside the state of Illinois. Since divorce law varies from state to state, what you will need to do in YOUR state in order to get your husband out of the house will depend on the law and the court system in your state.

      I strongly suggest that you speak with a good divorce lawyer in your area as soon as possible. The longer you let things go, the harder it will be to change them.



  • Ok so I’m in a relationship with a narcissist didn’t know it at first been with him 25 yrs I have 2 kids from a previous marriage and we have 1 together he has co trim over everything I don’t work he has been all the above abusive including physical I find calling police putting retraining order want safe he just got even more angry and of course has mentally physically emotionally abused me to the point I don’t know myself overwhelmed and can’t get outta my own way and not the best support system either and the kicker never married everything in his name and I am now 52yrs so beaten down I did leave and left with nothing it’s been a lil over 1 week he has not contacted me and I have not with him either and yes it bothers me the fact that I can even begin to understand fully what bothers me Ik the relationship is. It good he has cheated lied and I’m the own that says sorry but when you completely loose yourself how is it even possible to know or figure anything on your own right now so overwhelmed have those feelings I dis something wrong to make him cheat multiple times he will never admitt it nit even when caught red handed I didn’t see it correctly I was the sick one how can you retrain you r way of thinking toaster goes off I jump a mile how being like that can you possible function properly in the world around people get a job I just don’t see it trying to be strong cause yup I allowed him to continue his behavior cuz it was easier to go back and pacify him than to deal with his wrath sounds awful but ya my 3 kids are grown and left our daughter together couldn’t get far enough away but still has control over her financially that’s another part they do hold you hostage financially and don’t think they r mot hiding mo way cuz I was ne we allowed I know it’s nothing healthy and somehow gotta stay strong and does this how does anyone know the first step being so over whelmed and sorry I probably just over shared where I live no common law

    • Oh my! It sounds like you’re really beaten down and feeling totally overwhelmed. Given what you’ve been through, and the length of time you’ve been dealing with it, I’m not surprised.

      Retraining your brain and learning how to figure things out on your own is TOTALLY possible! But it will take time and work. And the chances of doing it on your own are not great. You need help. A good therapist can make a HUGE difference in how you get back and your feet AND in how long it takes you to get back on your feet.

      I know right now just getting a therapist may seem overwhelming. But I suggest you check out BetterHelp. They are the world’s largest online counseling service provider. They can match you with a therapist no matter where you live or what you need. They also offer a 30 day free trial. CLICK HERE to check them out.

      Getting the help you need is going to be the best first step you can take in your situation.

      Hope that helps.


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