Was your ex a narcissist?

A drop of self regard is natural and actually quite healthy . We teach others how to treat us, and if we feel good enough about ourselves to project self-confidence we are much more likely to achieve our goals. But it’s a delicate balancing act. At what point does self-confidence cease and self-absorption begin?

Wikipedia defines narcissism as a “personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness.” Characteristics of the narcissist include, says the site:

*Self-absorption when interacting with other people

*Problems maintaining satisfying relationships

*A poor awareness of other people’s perceptions and perspectives and a failure to empathise with them

*Hypersensitivity to slights and insults, real or imagined

*An exaggerated sense of entitlement

Does that sound like anyone you know? Many people struggling in unsatisfying relationships or going through an acrimonious divorce come to the conclusion that their difficult, stubborn, self-absorbed ex is – or was – in fact a narcissist, dooming the relationship from day one.

Of course the narcissist can be a problem for both sexes, but perhaps this is slightly more of a female conundrum. Women, after all, are often more attracted than men to partners brimming with self-confidence and charisma, and those are two qualities found in many a narcissist.

Psychologists debate the precise causes of a narcissistic personality. No doubt a distorted childhood and unbalanced parenting play some role. But what about the here and now?

If you married a narcissist – and I think there a quite a few such folks around – they won’t take it well if you one day decide to divorce them. Perhaps you have grown tired of their selfishness and lack of consideration, but your request for a divorce will fray upon their sense of entitlement. Or perhaps they have decided to dump you and run off with someone else to create an exciting new life as they see it. In which case the true narcissist will see your pain and your demands for a fair settlement as an irritating hindrance rather than an inevitable consequence of their actions.

Either way, divorcing a narcissist can be a bruising experience. Emotions already raw from the split will be rubbed still rawer by the narcissist’s anger, manoeuvrings, and well…selfishness. They will drag their heels and do everything they can to try and circumvent court orders, manipulate your children and avoid full financial disclosure, dragging out the process for as long as it suits their interests. So be prepared for a long battle!

I would also tell anyone in such a position remember the Scouts’ motto. Be Prepared is always excellent advice and especially so here: be as prepared as you possibly can. Go along to every court hearing fully armed with financial paperwork, evidence and clear arguments. The best divorce solicitors can make a world of difference.

Finally, keep your emotions at a distance. Don’t get drawn in, or allow yourself to be provoked into angry outpourings. Easier said than done, I know! An excellent strategy is to avoid face-to-face communication with ex, and even the telephone. Email is minimal and to-the-point. It allow both parties to think about what they are saying and it provides evidence which is admissible in court!

One final thought: if you are completely convinced that your difficult ex-spouse was a narcissist and entirely to blame for the failure of your relationship, it’s just possible that you might be a narcissist yourself!

Photo by Jonas Merian via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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1 comment

R - May 14, 2015 at 4:27pm

Hello,
I have divorced my narcissistic wife about two years ago.
I used a solicitor that was unable to understand who and what my ex was and the problem was i did not know what or who my wife was either although i knew i knew something was badly wrong for donkeys years. How can you be married to someone for thirty years , fight continual hidden debt, fight off never ending streams of other males invited into hers and my kids lives be they complete strangers, my own personal friends , the barman , the heating engineer, the plumber , my childrens school friends dads and even my own sister got worried about my wife and her own husband??
A life long addiction to painkillers and prescribed drugs hidden all over the house and an ulcer as a direct consequence that her children and all outside is my fault. As a family we begged and threatened her doctor to help us do something to stop her and guess what? he just kept on giving her more pills and drugs. No councilor , and we had all sorts over the years trying to help but she beat the lot of them . Anger and temper would see our home smashed up and she left home for good hundreds of times to come back a few days later with all manner of promises to break again a week later. When called out on a new discovery of debt or innapropriate behaviour or something and could not lie her way out of it then its fake suicide , empty pill packets laying nearby , ambulances called but always kicked out next day from hospital ( having made sure she gets some new painkillers to try of course) Aparrently within one inch of death on the hospital bed she would have us and everyone worried sick but always ready for back to work by the tuesday morning as if nothing has happened. There is no lie , distortion, dishonesty or monstrous behavior she will not entertain against me or her kids.
My son and i recieved blackmail letters constructed using letraset at our small workshop claiming all sorts of sick things about me. The police said all we could do was wait for the deadline and see what happened. In came another this time typed on an old fashioned ribbon typewriter claiming more sick things. The police arranged a family meeting at home and we had not told my wife what had been recieved at the time of getting them through the post.I do not know how you can sit and lie to your own family , the police, solicitors and all outside but she did with absolute expert ability. She even started chatting up the policeman laughing and giggling in her thirteen year old manner reserved for all outside whilst we recieve the other character. After that interview the police said its your wife but we already knew that but you cannot win against these people. Three days later she has dissapeared of the face of the earth, Raided our joint account and taken exactly half of our house sale money (we were renting temporarliy) and left the very heavy monthly rent to me and my son even tho she had signed the lease as well, We did not know where she was for two months but gradually we found secret bank accounts all empty of course and could see that it had been planned for at least two years . Over night i became a wife beater, a bully and had abused my children etc etc etc even though her own kids telling her to stop the awfull lies (they are thirty and thirty two now). Why were we renting? because 13 years ago she hid £70 k of debt which made our business technically bankrupt over night and we had to sell our house to cover those debts. I was lucky that i got planning in our old garden for a new detached house so kept that back and built a new one. That was our way out to afford a smaller house for retirement for cash by selling the new one. It took 13 years of working 24/7 and my son working and living with us for low wages to help his mum and dad . Two years ago that long hard journey was complete, all those remnants of debt gone and a bright new future for her and all of us beckoned . I am 63. She brought it all down , sabotaged it all , rented a small place all in secret and my bit given to me by her was eroded for a years rental, all bills and legal fees and other costs . In reality i ended up with 30% and she kept 70% and there was nothing i could do as the solicitor closed off the clean break too soon and we had not finished unearthing a complex web of where she had put money in secret. She had been taking 6 lots of house keeping of £250 a month instead of four using crafty techniques like can you sign these two cheques as im visiting my sister and wont be back till tuesday so its easier to sort next weeks now. How much she took like that we simply do not know but it as going somewhere . When i showed my solicitor the secret account books we had found he saw there was nothing left in them and tossed them back at me rudely and arrogantly saying its too late now???? She did not even have to answer the last lot of questions sent to her because he was stitched too soon by her solicitors and when we asked about the questions we were still awaiting answers to he said its too late now they have accepted the offer and i nearly fell through the floor.
I caught her as the blackmailer by going through our house so forensically looking for bits of letraset on the ends of ball point pens, marrying up table indents on the back of the letters etc but nothing could be proved until i found an a4 sheet of paper with a typed date on it with the year as 203 instead of 2013. We dont have a typewriter, the e in the weds had a smudge below it exactly as the posted letter. The police were going to do finger prints but they agreed that i had proof now and i waited for a while before telling her. My kids were at that time getting texts from her threatening self harm as she was all alone and had no one she told them. So worried did she get the they tried to find her knowing roughly where she was renting but when they got there she had gone out within an hour of one lot of texts!!!! I called the police in again as this had to stop and she recieved a stage one caution?? My children told me if i took her back after this they would leave me. Thats when i acted on divorce. She kept up the lies about blackmail for months even telling her kids on the phone when they tried to talk to her that me being blackmailed tipped her over the edge into leaving me. You cant make this stuff up can you?
My children had to hear the very last lie from her ever .I rang her and she seemed calm. i asked her once more if she knew anything about it and lie after lie after lie came out. I told her i had found something that the police agreed proved beyond doubt it was her. A long silence…..then, Fxxxxx!!! SXXXX!!!!!!!! BAXXXXXXXD!!!!! ETC ETC ETC. I was told i was going to be hurt badly and that was chilling as we had picked up that somebody else was assisting her but did not know if it was male of female.
Today i have had to take on a new mortgage , live in a tiny two bed flat with my son and the affects on us all have been profound and deep to such levels we all had to have help coping with what was done and how. I have to tell you that without that help i am uncertain as to how i would have got through the early days and were it not for the two most loving, caring devoted kids any parents could ever wish for the outcomes could have been unthinkable. How on earth could a solicitor not take on board just how off beam this woman was and show some sort of empathy to us over it all. I certainly was in no fit state at the time to take in much at all how we were was irrelevent. All we kept hearing as we tried to do what we could in terms of discovering how much she had squirelled away was how much a day in court for him wold costs us. That put the fear of christ into us and slowly i became the guilty party? I tried complaining about the £8k bill where no kids, property or complications were involved and refused a breakdown of his bill until i had paid it. I was sent a county court action notice and because i am a small sole trader the fear of credit rating as i tried to obtain a mortgage being lowered was too much to deal with so i paid the remaining £4k. They then sent me a breakdown of their costs which i still cannot understand. My complaint was handled directly by himself and he found his self not guilty of anything i had complained about.
My point is that when a family loves a wife and mother as we did and still do which you may find incredible to believe the hurt and pain never goes away. Two years on and only one person know the answers to all those personal and real life questions a family normally has before hand. The law is totally unfair allowing even crimes to take place because its all done within a marriage . She has not spoken to her kids for two years and we have learnt through a friend that she is now engaged to be married!!!!!!!!! This mother cannot give a dam about her kids and now uses mine and my son and daughters money and property she took overnight with her to create this lovely new life for herself . Empathy nor any form of conscience exists but we have now been smeared to all who will listen and sadly these people believe it all.
I am unsure what good will come from my true story here but if it helps anyone at all some good will come from it.
regards
r

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