Divorcing A Narcissist? Consider That There Might Be More To Your Divorce



By Jackie Pilossoph, Divorced Girl Smiling Editor-in-Chief

I love this blog post so much! It’s a guest post by divorce attorney, Sylvia Costantino, examining those who claim to be divorcing a narcissist. The thing is, I get e-mails and comments from readers all the time, explaining that they are divorcing a narcissist. While I believe them, and I am not minimizing their pain or disputing that they are in fact married to a narcissist, I sometimes think there is more to their divorce story. In other words, you don’t just get divorced because your husband/wife is a narcissist. You get divorced for some other reason, and then their narcissistic behavior (that they’ve always had) comes out like a caged lion being let loose. This makes your divorce a nightmare. (But let’s be honest, aren’t all divorces a nightmare?) Here is Sylvia’s post:


Married To A Narcissist? by Sylvia S. Costantino

The Internet is replete with blogs and articles about the horrors of being married to a narcissist, including how to deal with this offensive person in a divorce; how to co-parent with them; and surprisingly, even how to stay married to them.

As a divorce attorney, examining people and relationships is a huge part of what I do. Every day I come across people at the worst time in their lives with their most private of issues being tossed around like yesterday’s laundry. Certain personality disorders are more prevalent than others and for the most part are gender neutral. While I am not a mental health professional or a marriage therapist, recognizing the warning signs of personality disorders is as nearly important to me as knowing the law.

This article is not about how to recognize a narcissist — I will leave that to the internet except to sum it up as follows: A narcissist likes you best when you are under their thumb; they thrive off you doing everything to please them, yet nothing is ever good enough; they have exaggerated notions of grandeur; they come off as charming but are manipulating, controlling, cunning, devious, and 100 other adjectives. Forget your wishes or desires, which mean nothing to the narcissist and are easily dismissed.

Everything I read says being married to one is like waiting for a nuclear bomb to detonate. Whoa! I need to interject here and at the risk of offending the anti-narcissist bloggers out there, want to offer a different view when it comes to divorce. From my perspective, the breakdown of a marriage occurs not just because you married a narcissist. Chances are that if your spouse is a narcissist, they were one when you met and married them. It just may be that their narcissistic tendencies are more prevalent because the marriage is broken and divorce is imminent.

As a married couple, you are naturally the “half of a whole”. The demise of a marriage occurs primarily because the parties deviate from the once-common goal of sharing their lives together. This may happen for various reasons, such as: one or both of the parties develops an addiction; the parties enter a different phase of life, i.e. middle-age, yet the relationship does not adapt; severe financial stress; infidelity; loss of employment; insurmountable grief, i.e. the death of a child; complacency; a special needs child; loss of sense of self; or the debilitating injury or illness of a spouse, etc.

I am not saying that the narcissist does not exist. What I am saying is that “life happens” and when it does it is easy to project your crushing disappointment onto your spouse and label them “narcissist.” When you engage each other and fight, the marriage starts to crack and splinter. Then those negative personality traits that we all possess to some degree rear up. Now, that charming “bad boy” or “bad girl” is not so charming anymore and gone is that person who once made you feel special. You married them, so at one time they did make you happy or perhaps you married for the wrong reasons.

I do not condone domestic violence in any form, physical or mental. If you are being abused by anyone, regardless of whether they have narcissistic personality disorder or not, you should seek assistance. But I implore you to see the other side of simply labeling someone a narcissist and blaming the divorce solely on them. Each “half of the whole” is in some way responsible for the end of the marriage. Remember, self-examination is the first step in getting through your divorce and learning a valuable life lesson for the next chapter of your life.


divorcing a narcissist


Sylvia Costantino is a New Jersey based divorce and family law attorney. A graduate of Rutgers Law School, Costantino is certified by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, with bar admissions in both New Jersey and New York. To contact Sylvia or learn more, visit her firm’s website.




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5 Responses to “Divorcing A Narcissist? Consider That There Might Be More To Your Divorce”

  1. Sylvia Lynch

    I found the article by Sylvia Costantino offensive and smug and frankly pointless. I trying to understand exactly what the author was trying to say in writing the article, perhaps to self- reflect and understand that the unraveling of a marriage takes two. In my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, a partner of a narcissist is the one who comes into therapy and sits on the couch alone. She is the one who blames herself for her difficult marriage and tries to bend herself into 25 different positions in order to try to make the marriage work. Spouses married to true narcissists overcompensate and run themselves ragged trying to make peace in their homes. Clearly the author is referring to a category of people who cry ‘narcissist’ when their marriage fails. Please don’t disrespect those who struggle everyday to manage the path of divorcing and coparenting with a partner who simply cannot put the needs of their family ahead of their own narcissistic needs.

  2. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so tactfully; I share the same perspective. While going through a 4 yr high conflict divorce with an individual who displayed consistent and multiple traits of the cluster B variety, I worked with an author who had written a best-selling novel regarding these individuals. I facilitated an online forum for her readers to come and gain insight and help with coping. My perspective began to change a rather rapidly after seeing the mass number of spouses/significant others casting out psych labels in an attempt to absolve themselves from personal accountability. Similar to when an ex calls his former wife ‘crazy’; A flippant statement that’s often well received and believed – he’s off the hook and ownership avoided.

    I had to step away from the author and the forum as my perspective went against everything they had told themselves. I think it’s so important to solely focus on what intrigued you initially, what desires/choices led you to that person and what are your forward thinking steps to a healthy relationship with yourself and of course, future relationship.

    As many know, being upfront and honest with yourself is far from easy, but the knowledge gained about oneself is empowering.

  3. Bev Walton

    It takes two parties to cause the breakdown in the marriage. Even worse though, that when dealing with a narcissistic ex-spouse, that party will always have the most tremendous influence over minor children. This almost filters through and leads to parental alienation. The narcissist was in control of the marriage and has ultimate control post divorce when children are involved.

  4. PAVictim

    Spot on Bev! And I agree to Sylvia Lynch’s comment. Believe me, when you were married and divorcing a Narc it’s complete hell. Not a cop out like the article implies. It is a true heartbreak to go through Parental Alienation. All you can do is hope time will heal ~ there is limited support and understanding out there for those who have to endure such a nightmare.

  5. over the extreme

    I agree. I was married to a narcissist. He wasn’t as transparent until things started really going south, at which point I really saw what he was capable of. He has made my life a living hell. We have two children together and have been in and out of court the past four years. There is zero coparenting between the two of us. He tries to alienate me every chance he gets. It has never been what is in the best interest of the kids. A narc has to prove you wrong and unworthy, and show that they are the better half. So yeah, not sure how I played a part in his horrific behavior.


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