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.
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.