Being married to a narcissist can feel like living a nightmare. However, once you divorce your narcissistic spouse, healing yourself from all the abuse can be as difficult as being married to a narcissist. Here are some realities about life after you divorce a narcissist…
“A divorce is like an amputation: You survive it, but there’s less of you.” – Margaret Atwood
There was a time when even Aristotle believed that Earth was the center of the solar system. According to this geocentric model, the bright planetary bodies all revolved around us earthlings. The narcissist has a similar take on his or her position in the universe. And anyone who is or has been married to one knows this firsthand. Those who couldn’t last “‘til death do us part” know that even life after divorce from a narcissist is no picnic.
Narcissists, quite frankly, are exhausting. You can never give enough, be enough, do enough, flatter enough to satisfy their inflated sense of self. They need the world to revolve around them, to see them as the biggest, brightest star, and to praise them accordingly.
It’s understandable, therefore, how narcissism can be problematic in a relationship dynamic that needs equality, collaboration, and empathy in order to thrive. If anyone entity in a marriage has the right to be a narcissist, it’s the marriage itself, not the individuals.
If you are trying to navigate life after divorce from a narcissist, you already know how defeating marriage to one can be. If you are in the throes of separation or divorce, you may be getting a rude awakening to the manipulation skillset of your ex-to-be. You may even wonder if he or she will manage to prevent the divorce altogether.
“The narcissist devours people, consumes their output, and casts the empty, writhing shells aside.” – Sam Vaknin
Before jumping ahead to the realities of life after divorce from a narcissist, it’s worth summarizing the tell-tale traits of this self-absorbed personality.
1. Narcissists expect attention and praise…all the time. They are, after all, entitled to it. And when they don’t get it, they can quickly become hostile or aggressive.
2. Narcissists lack empathy. The only feelings that matter are their own. Don’t expect them to walk a mile in your shoes anytime soon.
3. Narcissists lack accountability. They take all the credit for what goes right and dish out blame for what goes wrong. Every failure, mishap, or disagreement is always someone else’s fault.
4. Narcissists demand perfection. They believe they are perfect, and they expect everyone else to be…but on their terms, of course.
5. Narcissists are bullies. And we all know that under that bully exterior is a molten inferiority complex. They belittle and intimidate as a defense mechanism — anything to keep others away from the truth of who they are.
6. Narcissists don’t listen and don’t care. There is one opinion and one way: theirs. They don’t have time to be bothered with others’ senseless drivel, so they will just cut them off and take the stage.
7. Narcissists are incapable of emotional intimacy. Don’t expect vulnerability, empathy, compassion, compromise, or any other unifying, relationship-building qualities.
With a list like this, you may wonder how a person could be so gullible as to marry a narcissist. But narcissists can be extremely charming, painting a big, dreamy picture of all the possibilities for a life with them. The danger comes when a significant other takes a stand…or expresses a different opinion or need…or stops the flow of flattery.
Life after divorce from a narcissist isn’t necessarily different than it is before divorce — at least with regard to the narcissist. The what, where, and when may change, but the how is still the same. The narcissist isn’t going to see the error of his or her ways, let alone care about its consequences.
What does it mean to have the opportunity to change is your life if you are no longer married to someone who is supremely self-absorbed?