Someone with a narcissistic personality usually has a heightened sense of arrogance and lack of empathy for other people.  On the other hand, the initial impression they make upon people is one of likeability, control of their emotions, and a leader among their peers.  As result, in the course of a divorce, such traits may make it difficult for you to feel like you will receive a fair outcome either because others will be misled by the behavior of the narcissist or because you feel that the only way to resolve issues is by giving in to his or her demands. However, you do not have to be a victim of such behavior in your divorce.  Here are a few things to consider when dealing with a narcissist in a divorce.  

First, learn to understand the behavior so that the positions taken and the statements made do not infuriate you, but instead empower you. Just like looking at a map before you travel, knowing what to expect along the way eliminates any surprises. When demands are made (i.e. “if you do not settle now I will make it more difficult for you”) you know that the statements are just part of the disorder and are to be expected.  

Second, do not engage the narcissist in one on one discussions. The narcissist thinks that the more they talk with you the more they can control your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. And, such thinking is not unrealistic given it is probably behavior that repeated itself over and over again in the marriage.   You likely will receive texts, calls, and emails trying to “settle” matters outside of the legal system. The reason is because going through the legal system requires the narcissist to give up control by following the rules that are in place to help insure an equitable resolution.  

Finally, choose a lawyer who has experience in working in cases involving narcissistic personality disorders. This way you can be assured that your attorney is also not taken in by the positive traits exhibited by your soon to be ex-spouse.


About the Author:

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class.  Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081. View her bio here.