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Lorne MacLean, QC, MacLean Law, Vancouver

Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce is a stressful and often exhausting task. Our top rated* Calgary divorce lawyers and BC family law lawyers help Calgary divorce and BC family law clients deal with these difficult and toxic personalities. Peter Graburn, senior Calgary family lawyer, provides this great article on how to stop a narcissist’s antics in their tracks.

MacLean Law has 6 offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Surrey, Kelowna, Fort St John and Richmond BC  and we are a four time winner as Vancouver’s Top rated* Vancouver family law firm based on a 2018 score of 95/100 as tabulated by prestigious Top Choice Awards.

Narcissists and Divorce – How to Deal with them!

Many people going through divorce describe their ex-spouses as narcissists. Is every ex-spouse a narcissist? Probably not.  Many characteristics of narcissists are shared with people who are simply “high conflict”. Regardless, dealing with Narcissists During Divorce isn’t easy and having a top rated* family lawyer on your side can ease the stress.

Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce-How do you identify a Narcissist?

“Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) is the technical psychological diagnosis for narcissists. While there are some specific clinical characteristics of narcissists (lack of empathy or remorse, accepts no responsibility, etc.), narcissists generally may be described as self-absorbed control freaks who think and see things from no perspective but their own – they are the centre of their own universe and everything revolves around them.

Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce-What do Narcissists want in the Divorce process? – while different people want different things out of the divorce process, narcissists, because of their character traits, generally want:

They want to win – although there are no real “winners” in a divorce, narcissists view themselves as the ‘victim’, and are not willing to compromise.  Narcissists want to prove they are ‘right’, and will think, say and do anything and everything to make that happen, including bending the truth in their favour;

They want to make it a game – narcissists maintain their power and their edge over others as a defence system by keeping others off-balance, distracted and on the defensive; this is the way they deal with people in their other environments (family, business, etc.), and they see no reason to change this behaviour when they are in the Court system;

They don’t care about the emotional costs – unlike most people, narcissists do not care about the high emotional costs of divorce, even on their own children. Their total focus on themselves and lack of empathy for others equals a total disregard for how others may be hurt by their words and actions,

They want to maintain power and control – the narcissist wants to prolong the power and control they already have over others as long as possible (or else they will have to find and groom another person for this).  So they actually want to prolong this relationship of power and control they have with their current spouse as long as possible, even through the divorce process;

They want you to give in – not only does the narcissist want to win, they want the trophy to prove it! By their spouse giving in, not only can they show to others that they have won, but that they were ‘right’ all along, and their spouse was ‘wrong’.

Successfully Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce

How do you deal with a Narcissist during a divorce? – while there is no one way to successfully deal with narcissists in the divorce process, there are some general approaches, tactics and strategies to deal with a narcissist:

Document, document, document – Narcissists are often charming and convincing in what they say. Documents speak for themselves (and what a Court will base its decision on). Collect as much documentary evidence as possible (emails, texts, financial information) to counter a “he said – she said” situation that a narcissist (due to their charismatic nature) may inevitable win; 

Do not try to negotiate or mediate – narcissists want to win, not settle. So negotiations or mediation (unless binding mediation / arbitration) is futile and a waste of emotional and financial resources. Better to apply those resources to Court proceedings;

Deal with Court Applications forcefully – narcissists may bring numerous Court Applications, often on trivial grounds and making unfounded accusations, in an attempt to wear down (and often exhaust the financial resources) of their spouse.  It is important to respond to these (or bring) Applications forcefully and completely (including conducing Questioning on Affidavits) to disprove the self-serving and often false claims of the narcissist as early as possible;

Move the process along – narcissists want to extend the Court process (to continue their power and control), not expedite it.  Don’t prolong the continued involvement with a narcissist – move the Court process along as quickly as possible, to get away from the narcissist as soon as possible;

Stay strong – narcissists do not care about others (even their own children) in the divorce process – try to take the ‘high road’ and not be drawn into the ‘game’; try to separate your emotions for your ex-spouse from the facts and results necessary in the Court process. This could include involving a support network (ie. family, coaches, therapists, etc.). Many people come out of the Court process separating from their narcissistic spouse stronger and more self-assured than for many years in their previous relationship.

So, is every ex-spouse a narcissist? – no, but some may be (or at least act like one!). Again, while there is no guaranteed way to deal with narcissists in the divorce process, it is generally best to: 

  1. Have a plan, and stick to it – whether the issue is children, financial support or property, have a reasonable, practical goal and stick to it;
  2. Not get enmeshed in the narcissist’s ‘game’ – that is their plan;
  3. Hire a lawyer who has experience with narcissists – this doesn’t have to be a “pit-bull” or “shark”, but experienced counsel who is sympathetic to the situation and knows how to deal with someone with narcissistic personality traits.

Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce 1-877-602-9900

Lawyers are not psychologists – they are not trained to diagnose and identify forms of psychological disorders, including narcissistic personalities.  But they do deal with people every day, including narcissists, and have learned ways to deal with them in negotiations, mediations, arbitrations and in Court. 

Calgary High-Conflict Family Lawyers can help you terminate your relationship with a narcissistic (or just plain bully) of an ex-spouse, and help you normalize your life after the end of that relationship. Call Peter Graburn or anyone of our top rated* family lawyers toll free at 1-877-602-9900 so you can win at Dealing With Narcissists During Divorce!

*Top Choice Award (2014, 2016, 2017 2018, 2019), Top rated reviews on Google, Yelp, threebestrated, lawerratingz.com. Read more about our awards.