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Can you keep your cool when you’re divorcing a narcissist?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Divorce |

In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on narcissism as a personality disorder that’s highly destructive to the lives of both the people who have it and the people who know them the best – their families.

It’s estimated that 5% of people have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Statistically speaking, that means there’s a one in 20 chance that you’re divorcing. (In other words, if you think that your spouse is a narcissist, you’re probably wisest to operate on that theory.)

A divorce can trigger intense emotional reactions in a narcissist because they don’t tolerate rejection or a loss of control. While you can do nothing about their feelings or their behavior, you can try to manage your own and keep your cool – no matter what antics they try. Here are some tips:

Get a therapist

Forget marital therapy, this is all for you. You need someone to teach you coping mechanisms for dealing with toxic people who will lie, threaten and try to deceive you just to get an emotional reaction – since that’s what makes them feel powerful.

Your therapist can coach you in “grey rocking,” which involves sharply controlling your responses and tailoring everything from your words to your facial expressions in a way that deprives the narcissist in your life of any satisfaction. Basically, you remove yourself from the game they’re playing.

Limit communication

You can also limit the effect of your future ex’s tantrums and misbehavior by routing all of your communications through your representatives. Because narcissists are concerned about their image (to anybody that’s not a target of their abuse), that alone can rein them in.

When you must communicate directly with them, insist that they communicate via text, email or a parenting app – where everything they write can be kept for the record. That can help you prove what was said in court, should it ever become an issue.

There are divorces – and then there are all-out “divorce wars” where at least one party seems determined to take a “scorched earth” approach to every part of the process. If you’re divorcing someone whose ego seems impossible to handle and they’re making the whole thing unnecessarily complicated, it may be time to change your strategy.