How to deal with narcissistic personalities for parties who are going through a divorce or separation

Angela Princewill

June 13, 2023

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex condition with significant implications for individuals’ thinking, emotions, and behaviors. Central features of this disorder include an exaggerated sense of self-importance or worth insistent cravings for admiration from others despite the low capacity for empathy or emotional engagement with them and an intense focus on achieving power or success regardless of cost. At its worst NPD can manifest in manipulating or exploiting others to achieve desired ends. When circumstances involve divorcing parties or separating couples such behavior can inflict lasting damage as the narcissistic partner may fixate on controlling assets and decisions involving children. 


Managing a separation from someone who has NPD isn’t easy and it can drain you both physically and emotionally. Set up some proactive measures during this period to safeguard yourself against their behavior so that your mental health isn’t compromised further than it may already have been by their disorder. Establish firm boundaries as soon as possible while keeping these expectations clear so there’s less room for manipulation by them. Indulge in physical self-care practices such as regular engagement in mindfulness or deep breathing exercises which will draw lines of physical and mental distance between yourself and their conduct leading to less stress. Keep all communication exchanges brief, focused, and strictly on “business” meaning avoid all confrontations or arguments about anything beyond taking care of parenting issues for example or fairly splitting assets with them as another example, if these are applicable to your circumstances. Engaging in arguments with a narcissist will only provide histrionic outlets for their already inflated ego which is best left unprovoked. Be measured in your tone with them too and avoid losing your cool since anything confrontational feeds into their control and ego.  


Remember that while you can control how much energy you give towards separating from a narcissistic partner, it’s not within your power to change their personality. They’re likely to crave attention from all directions so it’s essential to minimize giving them any more than legally required to deal with the issues that pertain to your separation or divorce proceedings.  


You could also consider seeking guidance from a therapist who can help with specific advice on how best to handle the challenges of dealing with a narcissistic ex-partner. I am not a therapist but as a family law lawyer who has to deal with these personalities, these are my two cents. All the best!