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A marriage to a narcissist can be a miserable and bewildering experience. Due to the hard wiring of someone affected with malignant narcissism, your narcissistic spouse commits very hurtful acts, leaving you confused, in pain, and often questioning your own sanity. With a lack of empathy, willingness to use others to get ahead, a grandiose sense of self worth and exaggerated accomplishments, an attitude of entitlement and haughtiness, requirement for extreme levels of admiration, idealized fantasies about ideal love, beauty, or power, and jealousy over the success of others, the narcissist wants what she or he wants and doesn’t appear to care what must be done to get it. Divorcing a narcissist is never easy, but getting away from such a destructive relationship is important and can be done. Here are 4 steps to a successful escape from a marriage to a narcissist:
1. Cover your legal bases. Get a good lawyer who understands narcissism. This is VERY important. You cannot reason with a narcissist in the same way as you can reason with a normal person, and your lawyer needs to understand this. Find out how to best protect yourself and your children. If you are concerned about your partner being a potential danger to your children (and narcissists certainly may be), request a custody evaluation immediately, as these can take several months to complete.
2. Address your financial situation ahead of time. Get a credit card in your name, while your credit is still combined with your spouse’s. Open your own bank account and get some emergency cash reserves in it. While it may not be legal for your spouse to freeze marital assets, put nothing past the narcissist. While your attorneys are going before a judge to force your spouse to comply with a court order, you need to be sure you have some money to live on. If you are worried about your spouse knowing you are stashing the emergency fund, using a debit card and asking for cash back wherever you make purchases. Then put this money into your account. Do be sure to disclose this money once the divorce is in process so you are not violating any laws or court orders.
3. Create a paper trail. Make copies of all financial records. This includes tax returns, pay stubs, W-2’s, investment documents, loan information, insurance policies, frequent flyer miles reports, 401K statements, bank statements, and the like. Your attorney can tell you what information they will ask for to assess your financial picture. Have a copy of your marriage license. Also, put passports, social security cards, and other official documents for you and your children in a secret place for safekeeping. Remove your sentimental personal items from your home. Ideally, give them to someone you trust to keep for you. Document everything. Times, dates, places of your partner’s illegal, immoral, or damaging behavior. This may prove useful to your attorney as well as a custody evaluator, if you have one.
4. DO NOT listen to the messages of your narcissist spouse. Ideally, you will have no contact. If this is not possible, remember that what the narcissist says is self serving, and very possibly a lie. You may even choose to adopt a nonsense sound you play over in your head, like “lalalala” when your partner speaks to you. Spend time around trusted friends and family, and/or a counselor, who will help you maintain a correct perspective on yourself. Listening to the narcissist and taking in the criticism or reasoning of that person will warp your thinking about you and the situation. The narcissist wants any response he or she can get out of you. Play interactions with a poker face and do not let your narcissist spouse know what you want because it will most likely be used against you.