Let’s be honest, being married to a narcissistic person is hard on a good day. Divorcing one is even harder and having an “amicable” divorce isn’t likely to happen. As if divorcing a narcissist wasn’t already hard enough, you now have the added complication of trying to navigate a divorce during the coronavirus pandemic. Things that might have ordinarily happened are now complicated by social distancing restrictions, shutdowns and more.
The good news is, when it comes to the law, the same laws will apply of course. What is different right now is the how you have to plan and prepare. Things may not move as quickly or in the same ways as they did pre-covid. And preparation makes all the difference when you’re dealing with a difficult partner.
Here are eight tips for handling divorce a narcissist during the pandemic:
Prepare Yourself for What’s Coming
You know you want a divorce but are you prepared for what is to come? Divorces are already unpleasant but when you’re dealing with a narcissistic partner, unpleasant takes on a whole new meaning.
There’s an old saying, “forewarned is forearmed”. The more you know about how narcissism manifests in your partner, the more you can prepare for what is to come.
If you haven’t already, take the time to understand narcissism and what you can expect from your partner. People with a narcissistic personality do not like to be challenged or to lose. Do not expect them to negotiate or be “fair” or reasonable when it comes to making decisions about separating your lives. Once your partner is notified that the divorce is imminent, their goal will be to win. Period.
Before you say the “D-word” to your narcissistic partner, have your plan in place. Think about all the things you’re going to need or have access to. You will need documents, access to funds, an attorney, possibly a place to live, plans for your kids if you have them, and more. Don’t assume that your partner will be reasonable. On the contrary, it’s likely every little thing will be a battle. Remember, the narcissist’s objective is to win. You cannot over plan.
If your partner was not kind, respectful, or reasonable during your marriage, why would you expect that once you initiate a divorce? You already know who they are. Expecting them to somehow “change” now is not realistic and wishing will not make it so.
Narcissists are highly emotional and can pivot on a dime. Faced with a divorce and the idea of “losing”, things will escalate quickly. Your partner may try to “woo you back’ with promises, grand gestures and such. Narcissists can be quite charming when they want to be. When charm doesn’t work, they may try to gaslight you, intimidate you or even make threats to you. As you remain steadfast in your decision, it isn’t uncommon for the behavior to become more demanding and manipulative. Be realistic. You know who this person is already.
You also need to protect yourself legally. Narcissists feed on being powerful and engaging you in a court battle keeps the power and the connection. Engage a skilled divorce attorney sooner rather than later who specializes or understands what it means to go up against a narcissist. If you have already engaged an attorney and they are not familiar with this kind of personality disorder, you may need to switch lawyers and seek a referral to find someone who does. Negotiating in this space is not the same and a skilled proactive attorney is imperative.
With Covid, there may be less access to attorneys in your area or wait times may be longer. As the divorce progresses, there will likely be attempts to manipulate you, play “cat and mouse” with documents and information, and maybe even attempts to discredit or intimidate you. Your attorney is your voice and your shield from all of the chaos that may ensue.
Engaging your attorney early also means that you can plan ahead for filing dates and court appearances that may be delayed due to Covid restrictions. Courts may be closed or on restricted schedules. If you are required to complete family court assessments and such for custody issues, you may encounter delays or limited availability. Don’t assume it’s business as usual in the courthouse because in most places, it’s not.
If your partner has a history of violence, of course, your plan is ALWAYS SAFETY FIRST. Deciding to leave a violent relationship requires specific planning and precautions. Reach out to your local domestic violence shelter or organization or even your therapist for guidance.
Gather Your Documents and Resources
If you’re contemplating divorce, start gathering what you may need now. With COVID creating restrictions, you may not be able to simply walk into your bank or courthouse to access documents. Think ahead about all the documents you may need: bank records, pay stubs, mortgage information, house or property deeds, tax returns, school records for your children…the list goes on and will differ depending on your particular situation.
With Covid wreaking havoc on every system, time is of the essence. If possible, get online and have your documents sent to a safe address or emailed to a private account if privacy laws allow. Maintain copies of everything, The goal is to have your documents in places before your partner learns of your intention to file. This lessens the risk of them impeding your access and costing you time and money with legal challenges that may be slowed with Covid restrictions. Gathering your information early means that you don’t have to face delays due to Covid and your attorney can move ahead quickly.
Develop A Support System
You know the song, “I get by with a little help from my friends…” It’s true for a lot of challenges in our lives and divorce is no different. You’re going to be facing a challenge that will take a lot from you. There will be days when you will question what you’re doing and risk falling prey to your narcissistic partner’s manipulations. You will be at your most vulnerable during this time. A support system can help you get through the struggles, give you a shoulder to lean on, and remain focused on your goal.
With Covid, friends and loved ones are separated in ways that make staying close a challenge. Being in a relationship with a narcissist also can create isolation from friends and family. Think about who is in your inner circle. Reach out to them and let them know what’s happening. Ask for their support and let them support you.
Make a plan for staying in touch and for reaching out if there’s no contact. Have a signal to let them know if you need help. You may never need that kind of support, but it is better to have a plan and never use it than to not have one if you need it.
A word of caution here: resist the urge to tell your story to anyone and everyone. Keep your divorce within a trusted circle and with an emotionally manipulative and controlling spouse, you do need to pick and choose who you can trust.
Consider Narcissist Abuse Recovery Therapy/Counseling
Therapy isn’t just for dealing with mental health issues. Counseling is a great place to work through all of the emotions that are going to come to the surface as you go through the divorce process. There are going to be things that you may not want to share with even your closest friends. Counseling gives you a safe, private place to explore all of those emotions and find healthy ways to cope and especially when divorcing a narcissist where perspective on boundaries and coping mechanisms is that much more important.
Stay Calm and Avoid Narcissist Traps
When you’re facing divorce with a highly emotional, narcissistic partner, they will try to engage you into a dark vortex of frustration, anger, high emotions and at times panic. You will need your strength and focus. Try to find ways to self-care and maintain equilibrium. Furthermore, keep in mind that all communication outside the legal process is risky because you really do not know what the narcissist will use to manipulate the situation. Best to keep calm and any interactions simple for your own well-being.
You will get through this!