A divorce from someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been likened to inviting the devil himself onto the battlefield. The narcissist appears to be charming, charismatic and endearing to those whom he or she encounters, yet outside of the courtroom, this spouse is calculated, manipulative and many times, downright dangerous. Yet the untrained observer sees conflict as two immature parents incapable of putting their children first.
The Mayo Clinic defines NPD as: “… [A] mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
A divorce involving someone with NPD is like a court battle with the modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and many untrained observers are the very people deciding the fate of the children caught in the middle of these highly contentious custody battles brought on by an NPD spouse.
According to the DSM IV-TR (the “Text Revision” of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was originally published during the year 2000), between 2 percent and 16 percent of the population in clinical settings are diagnosed with NPD.
Because they are so competitive, narcissists love the adversarial nature of the legal system and excel at manipulating it.
Not surprisingly, abusive behavior is also a definite concern. Very often, narcissistic spouses are also abusers – and unlike other kinds of abusive partners, they feel no regret or remorse. In fact, they believe themselves to be the one who’s been wronged. While they may not be physically violent, narcissists can be exceedingly controlling and verbally and emotionally abusive spouses.
The narcissist spouse will not be cooperative or go away quietly. During a divorce, narcissists can be manipulative and exploitive, feeling neurotically entitled to what they want. Narcissists blame everyone else for their problems, and because they are so self-centered, even while bullying their spouses they often see themselves to be the victims. True narcissists believe they are above the law, making them notoriously difficult to deal with. It is common during a divorce for narcissists to refuse to provide financial information and documents, refuse to negotiate and refuse to listen to their own lawyer. The will defy court orders and use the children as pawns.