Divorcing a Narcissist in Arizona: What You Need To Know


The term “narcissist” is used a lot in casual conversation, mostly when referring to a difficult boss or an ex who made their life unpleasant. However, the truth is that the word doesn’t just refer to self-involved people who are only out for themselves. In fact, narcissism is a psychological condition that can have a serious impact on the life of the affected person and those around them.

While being married to a narcissist is not without its challenges, divorcing one can result in additional issues. In fact, a narcissist’s basic personality traits may push him or her to fight against the divorce in order to avoid the embarrassment of a failed marriage. At JacksonWhite Law, we understand that divorcing a narcissist can be a traumatic experience. We’re providing this article to help educate anyone who thinks their spouse is a narcissist, and also offer personalized care to our clients that bring us on to help them with their divorce.

Understanding Narcissists

So, what is a narcissist anyway? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a condition characterized by a pattern of self-important behavior and an inability to empathize with the feelings of others. Narcissists need constant attention and may experience feelings of anger or embarrassment when dealing with defeat.

According to research, NPD is thought to affect between 0.5% and 5% of people in the United States. However, this number is difficult to assess accurately as many people with NPD go undiagnosed because they either hide their behaviors or don’t seek the support of a psychologist. It’s also possible for people to demonstrate narcissistic traits without having NPD.

Those with narcissistic personality disorder often struggle to maintain relationships in a personal or professional setting. Not only do narcissists tend to monopolize conversations, but they may also disparage or put down people they see as being inferior to them. Additionally, narcissists have been known to do the following:

  • Embellish skills and achievements
  • Demand attention or favors
  • Take advantage of others
  • Fail to show empathy or concern
  • Expect compliance from family members and friends

How to Know if You’re Married to a Narcissist

When going through a contentious divorce, it’s easy to want to paint your spouse in a negative light, but that alone doesn’t mean they’re a narcissist. However, some husbands and wives absolutely demonstrate the traits associated with narcissism. So how do you determine if your soon-to-be ex is a narcissist?

While a psychologist is the only person who can make an official diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, certain attitudes and behaviors could indicate that you’re married to a narcissist.

You can keep an eye out for these common signs of narcissism:

  • People who suffer from narcissism may struggle to empathize with their spouse’s feelings.
  • Additionally, narcissists may demand respect and deference from their spouses while viewing themselves as the victims of any argument or conflict.
  • Compulsive lying, criticizing, and gaslighting are also indicators that you could be married to a narcissist.

Types of Narcissism

Although you can start to identify signs of narcissism, it’s important to note that narcissism is complex, and there are various types of narcissism. Each type can come with its own different habits and behaviors to be aware of.

The first thing to know regarding the different types of narcissism is the difference between adaptive narcissism and maladaptive narcissism. Adaptive narcissism refers to the types of narcissism that can be helpful, like high confidence, self-reliance, and self-esteem.

Meanwhile, maladaptive narcissism refers to traits that are not as positively self-serving and can even impact how you interact with others. Maladaptive traits often include entitlement, aggression, and selfishness.

There are five types of maladaptive narcissism to know:

  • Overt narcissism – Overt narcissism is the most recognized form of narcissism that coincides with arrogance, entitlement, competitiveness, and a lack of empathy.
  • Covert narcissism – The opposite of overt narcissism, this type coincides with introversion, defensiveness, displays of insecurity, and a tendency to play the victim.
  • Antagonistic narcissism – Related to overt narcissism, antagonistic narcissism focuses on rivalry and competition with others, leading to arrogance and a tendency to take advantage of others.
  • Communal narcissism – Seen as the opposite of antagonistic narcissism, a person with this type often sees themselves as altruistic and empathetic but often becomes easily outraged.
  • Malignant narcissism – Malignant narcissism is a more severe form of narcissism associated with vindictiveness, aggression, and paranoia.

Understanding these different types of narcissism will better equip you to recognize narcissistic behaviors and respond accordingly. Each type of narcissism has its own traits and behaviors to look out for and different manipulation tactics to be wary of.

Most Difficult Factors to Overcome When Divorcing a Narcissist

After dealing with a spouse’s narcissistic behavior for years, you may decide that divorce is the only solution to your relationship problems. Unfortunately, divorcing a narcissist can be easier said than done. The following factors highlight some of the challenges associated with divorcing someone with narcissistic personality disorder, along with tips on managing the situation successfully.

1. They will likely resist settlements.

Many couples prefer settlement to litigation. After all, this option saves both time and money while minimizing the stress on spouses and children. Unfortunately, narcissists tend to be resistant to settlements in divorce cases.

If you’re anticipating a lengthy case, it’s important to minimize costs and energy by focusing on the most important issues in the divorce. Doing a cost-benefit analysis with your attorney can help you decide when it is and isn’t worth putting up a fight.

2. They may try to destroy important documents.

Gathering important financial records and data is an important step to take before any divorce case. However, if you’re married to a narcissist, it’s even more crucial to secure these documents before filing. After all, your spouse could drain bank accounts or destroy documents to hide financial resources.

They might also attempt to access social media and email accounts to injure your reputation. You should consider logging out of your accounts and changing any passwords they may know to protect your information. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may even want to have your phone or car checked for trackers or other devices to keep tabs on you.

3. They will likely use the kids to manipulate you.

Most people want to do everything in their power to minimize the effect a divorce has on the children. However, narcissists have a habit of using children as pawns to achieve their goals or present themselves in a better light.

For example, a narcissist may try to gain full custody so they are perceived as the better parent. If you’re concerned about issues related to child custody or support, then you shouldn’t hesitate to get a family lawyer involved in the situation as soon as possible.

4. They may use malicious tactics to change your mind.

It’s not uncommon for a narcissist to try to change their spouse’s mind about getting divorced. Along with gaslighting you about incidents that occurred in the marriage, a narcissistic spouse may promise to change or shower you with gifts in order to get one more chance.

If you’re confident in your decision to divorce, don’t let yourself be swayed by these tactics. In most cases, narcissists who don’t get psychiatric help soon revert to their old ways.

5. They will likely try to hurt you emotionally.

Narcissists sometimes strike out at the people causing them unhappiness. In particular, they tend to view divorces as failures. Because narcissists love to win, skilled divorce attorneys know how to make difficult spouses feel like they’re enjoying small victories. Letting a narcissist “win” in some cases helps ensure you don’t have to compromise on the important things.

6. They will make the case much more difficult.

Divorce cases involving narcissists are almost always more challenging. If you’re planning to divorce a spouse you suspect of being a narcissist, the best thing to do is contact an experienced family law attorney early on in the process.

Family law attorneys have the knowledge and skill set needed to make your divorce as seamless and fast as possible. Our team at JacksonWhite Law will help you navigate the difficult aspects of divorcing a narcissist.

Legal Strategies for Dealing with Narcissists During Divorce Proceedings

Given the above challenges, it’s important for family law attorneys and ex-spouses to take steps to take away the power that a narcissist tries to wield. Family law attorneys use their experience to leverage several strategies that can help their clients overcome the challenges of divorcing a narcissist.

Unfortunately, narcissists are constantly trying to gain the upper hand in divorce proceedings over their ex-spouse. As a result, a skilled attorney has to be able to identify these attempts and work to counteract them to protect clients from manipulation.

Some of the strategies that attorneys will take to deal with narcissists during divorce proceedings include:

  • Working to understand the motivations, fears, and insecurities of the narcissist
  • Identifying signs of weakness that the narcissistic spouse displays
  • Helping the client to identify and cope with narcissistic behaviors
  • Equipping the client to not become provoked by these behaviors during court proceedings
  • Ensuring clients have copies of important documents
  • Guiding clients in keeping a record of communications and evidence with the narcissistic spouse

JacksonWhite Can Support You Through Any Divorce

Dealing with a marital separation or divorce is never easy, and it’s even worse when your significant other is a narcissist. Divorcing a narcissist presents several challenges, so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs so you can prepare for these difficulties. The help of an attorney can go a long way in ensuring you can overcome their tactics and navigate a successful divorce process.

Fortunately, the JacksonWhite Family Law team has the knowledge and experience to make the process easier for you. Call today for the help you need with divorcing your narcissistic husband or wife in Arizona. Schedule a consultation with us so we can discuss your case and determine the best path forward for you. We look forward to meeting you.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

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