By Rebecca Zung, Esq.
Are you divorcing a narcissist and afraid you’re not going to win? I hate to say it but….you should be. Why? Because dirty tricks, scamming, lying, pressuring, and even stalking and manipulating are not beneath them. But, there are ways to actually beat them at their own game.
So before we dive into what to do about that narcissist in a divorce, let me just give you a few highlights of the kinds of tricks and manipulations that they try to pull in a divorce.
Tricks They Play
Narcissists actually use the same sorts of tricks. In that sense, their toxicity is actually very predictable. Here are a few of their favorites:
1) The number one thing that they try to do is win at all costs. They are going to try to make you look as bad as possible, no matter how ridiculous it seems. They’re going to twist everything. So, what’s the antidote to that? Put everything in writing. Everything you say, do, or even the way you breathe, is going to be twisted and manipulated in whatever way possible. Their goal is that you look bad as bad as possible and they look as good as possible because they’re going to try to win at all costs.
2) The number two thing they do may surprise you, because despite what I just said about them trying to win at all costs, winning is actually not what they want to do. Not in the way you think about winning, anyway. What they want to do is get the best of you. It’s going to look like they’re trying to win at all costs, but what they’re actually trying to do is manipulate you at all costs. Just remember that now that you are stepping out of their world, you don’t have any more value for them. This is because, for a narcissist, people only have value to the extent that they can use them for their own potential gain. No more value to them means that now the only goal is just to manipulate you and make your life miserable. They want to hurt you before you hurt them.
3) The number three thing they try to do is use the court system as their sword. They’re going to file as many motions as possible, litigate as much as possible and make you spend as much money as possible. Overall, they just want to make your life miserable by dragging you through the court system.
4) The fourth thing they try to do in a divorce is actually kind of related to number three but its own separate category and that is they try to obstruct you from everything. They’re not going to provide the discovery that they’re supposed to. They’re just going to make you work for everything. As part of that, you’re going to end up having to file motions to compel and again, you’re going to have to be running up your attorney’s fees. They’ll even have court orders and they’re not going to obey them.
Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you, here’s what to do about it.
How to Beat a Narcissist at Their Own Game
- Clear Strategy. First, you’ve got to have a clear strategy. It better be crystal clear; it better be strong and it better be powerful. You had better be ready to go on the offensive and have your leverage ready. You’d better do your research, do your homework, have everything you need to incentivize so that the other side will want to come to a resolution with you. Even if you say, “I don’t want to fight, I want it to be amicable.” (An admirable goal, but if you’ve got a narcissist on the other side, they won’t feel the same way.) It is counterintuitive, but if you want them to come to that nice, easy conclusion, then you’re going to have to incentivize them to do that. The only way you can do that is by getting leverage. Leverage can come in many forms – it may be knowing what motivates the other side such as money, custody of the kids, or not looking bad. It may be an embarrassment factor. It is different in each case but basically you are giving the narcissist motivation to want to be in a resolution conversation with you.
- Strong Lawyer. Second, you’re going to want to pick a really strong lawyer and you’re going to want to pick a lawyer that knows what he or she is doing. Make sure that they know what type of person that they’re going to be dealing with so that they can help you develop that strategy. Related to this step is, too, is making sure you pick a lawyer that you’re really going to trust. And then, trust that lawyer. I say this because what your narcissist, soon-to-be-ex is going to do is try to get you to distrust your lawyer. That person is going to say, “Your lawyer’s only out for money, or to break us up” or whatever else they can think of that will manipulate you into distrust of your lawyer. But you know, if you are dealing with a narcissist, you are dealing with a pathological liar, so why would they start telling the truth now? The only reason they want your lawyer out of the picture is because then they can drive a wedge and regain control over you again. Once you pick a lawyer that you really like and you know you can trust, listen to him or her. If you’re not sure how to find a lawyer or vet them to be sure they understand how to deal with a narcissist, check out my resource 5 Questions to Ask a Potential Lawyer When Divorcing a Narcissist.
- Document, document, document. The third thing you can do is document, document, document. Everything must be writing. He or she is going to say to you, “Oh, let’s just meet at Starbucks and let’s just have a conversation. We can do this ourselves.” If you fall for that, then every single thing you say will end up being twisted and used to gaslight you. They’re going to try to manipulate you anyway, but at least you can try to minimize it. Remember, you’re not going to be able to change the other person. But you can do things to try to protect yourself and to help yourself feel more on the offensive rather than on the defensive the whole time.
- Keep Your Cool. The fourth thing you can do is keep your cool. You’re going to want to keep your emotions in check, because if you don’t, you’re playing right into their hands. They want you to lose your cool. They want to get under your skin. As soon as you allow them to do that, they’re already winning. And now, whatever manipulation it is that they’re trying to pull on you: it’s working. Keep your cool, keep your emotions in check, and don’t let them get the best of you.
Divorcing a narcissist is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. But here is what I always say: You’re in hell either way. At least with the divorce, there’s a light at the end of the hell tunnel. If you stay, you’ll feel like you’re burning in hell forever. Just remember that it is possible to escape relatively unscathed.
If you’re about to negotiate with a narcissist, make sure to grab my free Crush My Negotiation Prep Worksheet right here: https://negotiate.rebeccazung.com/worksheet
Sending you lots of white light as you journey through the process.
Rebecca Zung, Esq.