Surviving Divorce from the Narcissist


I have a good friend with whom I share many of my inner most thoughts, pretty or not.  One of these thoughts was the idea that I wanted to “win” my divorce.  I’ve decided (hopefully) that this is a very human, not at all unusual thought, especially among those who have been abused.

It was also important to my family that I “won”, or at least didn’t “lose”.  For the 1st two years of our separation I lived in that space of winning.  Everything I did, especially in reference to the legal aspects of divorce, was done to ensure that I was the winner.

Most of my family and loved ones believe I lost.  They look at various provisions in my divorce agreement and say WTF?  What do you mean you only get 10 years of support; what do you mean he doesn’t have to maintain life insurance in your name forever; what do you mean you left with a shitty car and he with a Cadillac; what do you mean he and his parents out  voted you and sold the business, etc.

Until recently, I questioned all of this myself.

My last blog was about my ex’s failure to take out the life insurance he is legally bound to have.  Shout out to one of my favorite people, my cousin, who commented that this should be a given for the rest of both of our lives. She didn’t understand why this was even an issue.  My initial reaction was to think  “you’re right.  I should have had you with me at our final conference”.  It didn’t take long to run that scenario through my head and realize that had she been there he would have refused any type of settlement.  The only reason he agreed to the conditions set forth that day was because he felt like he “won”.

On that day, so did I, even though  I knew I had caved on more than one issue.

Here’s the thing – you will never beat the narcissist.  It is impossible.  Why?  Because the narcissist will stop at nothing to win.  He will lie, cheat, steal, rage…..whatever it takes to win.  You won’t.  That is a character trait he has relied on.  He picked you for this trait, then he used it throughout your relationship, as he will use it during your divorce.  If this is you, congratulate yourself on being a honest, fair minded person.  While this might feel like a flaw at times, I can guarantee you that in the long run it is not, it is a trait to be treasured.

So if you can’t beat the narcissist, how do you survive your divorce?  There are a few things you can do.

Know everything you can.  This seems obvious to most people, but for us in an abusive relationship, we know that the narc has spent copious amounts of time hiding assets.  He can do that because he has conditioned us to fear the rage he flies into whenever we question him.  We’ve learned not to ask for the balance on our savings account, or ponder how he paid for something or plans to pay for something in the future.  Now is not the time to fear his rage. Find out, as much as possible, what your financial picture looks like.

Freeze your assets.  I didn’t do this despite prodding by my attorney and others.  I didn’t because I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to live without access to his income and our savings.  Subsequently I realized that I could have run up credit cards, then paid them off, but at the time it felt impossible.  Had I frozen our assets, while I would have struggled, he would have too.  And we all know how much the narc hates to struggle, right?  In addition to speeding up the process, this can prevent the disappearance of assets.

Reassess your life.  Yes, you love your car and your home and your possessions.  Of course you want your children to continue piano lessons, gymnastics, tutoring.  It seems only fair that you should have enough money to go out to dinner as much as he does.  Yes, you deserve all of these things.  That is a given.  The real question though is do you need them.  Anything you give up becomes a win for him, so what can you give up?  Honestly, is your child going to become a musician, or a gymnast?  Do you need a new car every few years?  Do you need to go out to dinner, or the movies?  I know it sounds harsh but trust me – the more you give up the more “wins” he will accumulate.  Once his wins outweigh yours he will settle.

ReDefine Winning.  The day that we reached our settlement, I knew that the most important thing for me and my children was ending the marriage.  Before that day there was an element of ego in everything I did.  I was embarrassed to drive a beat up car, to cancel my sons piano lessons, to sell my house and move.  I felt utterly humiliated when people in our community asked if it was his car in the GF’s driveway all night, and I felt compelled to even that score.  I was certain that if I didn’t walk away with more than him I would never survive.  It turns out that there are some scenarios in which survival is winning, and this is one.

I walked out of my 24 year marriage with far less than I should have financially.  Yet in my mind, I won.  I now have my independence, I am in charge of me, I make my own decisions and plan my own future.  If you are in the middle of your separation you don’t yet understand how powerful this is.  When you get to this point, it is like being reborn.  As the days and months tick on, even if he’s buying a vacation home and you’re struggling to finance a weekend away with the kids, you will wake up every day with a peace of mind you never even dreamed of. You will feel strong, and eventually happy. On that day, the day when you are sitting in a shit storm but smiling, you will know in your heart that you won.  You won you.  And really, what more do you need?

Smile on people!




2 thoughts on “Surviving Divorce from the Narcissist

  1. Curious about why contribution is in quotes. Feel like this is an ongoing narrative, that housewives/men don’t make a real contribution, so the word is thrown out almost like a bone to a dog. The reality is that most couldn’t afford the work done by the stay at home person; what that person does is extremely valuable, and very real, deserving of bold letters, not quotations.


  2. Exactly so. Not having him control you is the greatest ‘win’. My ex agreed a figure for the (very expensive) joint assets in the garage, then stripped the garage whilst I was out and denied all knowledge of any tools or equipment. He was persuaded to pay up eventually because my daughters did an ‘audit’ and advised him that he would have to pay me 4x as much if it went in front of a judge, due to my ‘contribution’ to the marriage. So he paid up rather gleefully, what he felt was a reduced amount. Phew! I wouldn’t have been able to afford my little house.


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