As a family lawyer that has been involved in many cases where one party displays narcissistic personality tendencies, divorce settlements with a narcissist is difficult and involves strategy and consistency and setting clear boundaries and expectations.
Divorce, separation, and the end of any significant intimate relationship can be a time of extreme distress, grief, disappointment and overwhelm. We know that this is a life-changing event can cause many people to fall into deep depression and anxiety, impact their ability to work and parent children.
The purpose of this article is to draw your attention and raise your awareness to some of the difficulties that you may encounter when negotiating a divorce settlement with a narcissist ex-partner.
If you are reading this article, you are worried or concerned or unsure how to negotiate with a narcissistic ex-partner. If you have consulted with a family lawyer, mediator, or counsellor – you may hear them tell you to quickly settle, compromise and your narcissistic ex will just move on and will allow you to do the same.
Although this may be sound advice when negotiating with a fair-minded and rational ex-partner- unfortunately, this is often not the case when you are negotiating a divorce settlement with a narcissist.
Below are 5 things to know when negotiating a divorce settlement with a narcissistic ex-partner.
1. Go Slow.
It is very tempting to rush through the divorce and separation settlement process. You may be worried about ‘fighting’ with your narcissistic ex-spouse or concerned that they will make life a misery for you – or even worried that they may turn your family, your children, or your work colleagues against you – I know, I have seen and heard all your fears, concerns, and worries. I know that these are the things that keep you awake at night and because of this, you want to settle quickly and just put behind this sorry chapter of your life.
But this is precisely what your narcissistic ex-spouse will want and expect you to do. They know that when you act in haste, and with no consideration of the long-term impact of the decisions you make, they have won. Essentially, they have frightened you into submission.
Professionally, I have seen too many good people settle too quickly and get a raw deal, because of fear, because they did not want to create ‘trouble’ and just wanted to move on.
Tip: The more urgency you feel; the more you want to rush into settling your matter – this is a clear sign to slow down. Take the time to take a breath, go for a walk and contemplate your options and long- term consequences of these options.
2. Be consistent.
Most narcissistic people have a sense of superiority and entitlement. They are often manipulative and waiting for any shred of doubt or inconsistency to come from you. Once they smell a sense of ‘regret’, ‘doubt’ or ‘uncertainty’ the narcissist is ready to pounce and immediately call you out. It is here that they will work on your emotional weakness and will highlight your ‘inconsistent’ messaging.
It is totally understandable from the stance of a rational and reasonable person that you will have doubts, momentary regrets and even a desire to reconcile (if only your ex would understand you and be willing to change- but of course they are not). The narcissist does not understand or comprehend this, from their perspective this is your weakness, your ‘emotional imbalance’ and they will often take advantage of this to create a sense of dependency and guilt.
Tip: Repeat, repeat and repeat the same and consistent message to your narcissistic ex-partner. Ordinarily, it takes 5-7 times of the same message being said before it is clearly understood and heard by the listener. Consider that it may take twice as long for someone who is unable to accept a situation.
3. Think creatively.
Too often, we are told to take the easy pathway – and simply ‘split the difference” and call it a day. But splitting the difference or ‘meeting half-way” is not the answer to success because it does not satisfy your interests, needs or concerns.
Here’s an example!
You and your ex own property together, you want to keep the property. But all you can afford to give your ex-partner, after (having spoken to your mortgage broker) is $600,000 – your ex-partner wants $700,000.
If you split the difference or meet in the middle, that would mean that you would agree to pay $650,000 to your ex-but in that scenario, you will not be able to afford to keep the house!
So, what can you do? Think outside the box!
Throw in a ‘surprise’ – in this case, you offer to meet your ex’s car petrol costs for 6 months or a year (you can cap this).
By throwing in a ‘surprise’ this sweetens the deal and because you know that your narcissistic ex-partner loves to win and enjoys long drives, you get what you want.
Tip: Listen to what your ex is not saying, read between the lines and then offer a creative solution or suggestion that sweetens the divorce settlement.
4. Say Less.
This is a simple statement, but one that is often difficult to follow. Too often it is tempting to engage in long, drawn-out emotional emails and text messages and even phone calls with a narcissistic ex-partner.
Understandably this is how you have always communicated in your relationship – but now you are getting divorced, its time to ditch these old patterns and start something different.
Try this – communicate simply and sparingly. Use language that is concise, clear and objective. There is no need to be overly emotional or catastrophic when writing to a narcissistic ex-partner.
For example, it doesn’t help you to say – “you have ruined my life”. Not only do statements like these feed into the ego and emotional strength of the narcissist they also impact your personal sense of self-esteem.
Tip: whenever you are desperate to send a highly emotive email or text message- pause and save it. Take a walk, speak to a friend, meditate, read a book, sleep – do anything you can to allow the moment of upset, distress or anxiety pass before you send any communication to your ex.
5. Think about the Children.
Sad, but true in a divorce settlement with narcissists, children are often used as ‘pawns’ and ‘traded’ in exchange or for more, child support, financial support or property.
By way of example, there is enormous pressure to negotiate an ‘equal-time’ parenting arrangement (even when this is not in the children’s best interests).
In these cases, even if you agree to ‘share’ or ‘split’ the children – you will not necessarily be free from the conflict or drama with a narcissistic ex-partner. The truth is you will spend more time and energy having to negotiate far more frequently in an equal time arrangement, than if one parent is the primary carer. How is this possible you may ask- here are some scenarios you need to consider?
If you have agreed to an equal time arrangement you must:
- Jointly and in consultation make long term decisions regarding the children. This means you must communicate regularly and agreed with your ex about anything from medical care to what school the children will attend and travel.
- Live near each other – which means you may bump into your ex-spouse or partner at the local coffee shop.
- Communicate at least once or twice a week about children forgetting clothes, homework and all other matter of issues that pertain to raising children.
If you agree to split the care arrangements of the children or add additional time here or there or take less time because of some perceived financial gain or advantage, the children will inevitably be hurt. This is because these negotiations are based on fear or desperation to settle.
A classic example is where a primary carer agrees to an equal time arrangement, because he or she fears that unless they agree, their ex-partner will make life emotionally and financially miserable. In no time, the children are unhappy, crying out to be back in the care of their primary carer and the other parent relinquishes responsibility the minute they have gotten their way.
Tip: Think carefully about the welfare of the children because a narcissistic parent often won’t.
Negotiating a divorce settlement with a narcissist is not easy. We are specialist Family Lawyers, who have represented and advised many people in this situation. You don’t need to do this alone. We are here for you. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.
Call us on 02 8999 1800.
The content provided here is general information. It is not intended to be relied upon for the legal advice.