10 Smart Ways To Protect Yourself Against Psychological Mind Games When Divorcing A Narcissist

Photo: THICHA SATAPITANON / Shutterstock
unhappy couple going through divorce

I am not an attorney nor do I claim to be, but I have been through four years of court battles with a narcissistic ex-spouse, so I know a thing or two about how to get a divorce from a narcissist. It is difficult enough going through a regular divorce, but when you add in children and a troublesome ex with a narcissistic personality, things get a bit more complicated. The concepts of compromising and co-parenting do not exist in the world of a narcissist. Winning at all costs is what a narcissistic ex needs to be empowered. They don't behave with your children's best interests in mind, since they don't feel empathy either.

I was fighting a losing battle filled with narcissistic mind games, based on one-sided morality. Was it frustrating? Absolutely, but it also came with a revelation: Narcissists hate who you are because it reminds them of who they are not. "I had no idea my ex was a narcissist until after my divorce." I cannot count how many times I have heard men and women say this.

RELATED: The Heartbreaking Reality Of Being Married To A Narcissist

Why did I not know this, too? Because narcissists gaslight, love bombs, and manipulate. They make you think that something is wrong with you. Imagine the relief you'll feel when you realize that you are not crazy — you are being emotionally abused. This realization may not be ideal but it can pave the way for your healing journey. And realizing that you’ve been the victim of a narcissist always comes after the damage is done. Otherwise, they could not continue their abusive ways.

Most narcissists prey on people with insecurities, self-esteem issues, and low self-confidence. Their partners are often dubbed crazy, mean, jealous, hurtful, or a bad parent and this is often told by the narcissist to their family and friends. No one has ever witnessed what the narcissist is saying to be true, but they are so cunning and slick that they must be telling the truth, right?

Gaslighting gives them a cushion to fall back on when their partners finally figure them out. The narcissist has already painted a picture of their partner that is often unfeeling and cruel so when the divorce battle begins, they have nowhere to turn. They can even set their partner's family against them, including their children. What can you do as the victim of a narcissist during a divorce to keep your sanity and protect your well-being?

Here are 10 smart ways to protect yourself against psychological mind games when divorcing a narcissist:

1. Educate yourself on the laws of your state

Every state has different laws regarding divorce and child custody. Get to know the ones in your state well. Having an education on your side will help keep you out of unnecessary court battles and from incurring significant expenses. Your narcissistic ex will taunt you and use your children causing you to call and text your attorney more so than usual. Every time you do this, they charge you.

2. Get an attorney

Interview several attorneys to see who is best for your case. Some do not charge a consultation fee and some do, so ask in advance to avoid surprise charges. You may need to cover up your whereabouts when seeking legal counsel. Once a narcissist knows what you’re up to, the love bombing begins — and so does the abusive cycle.

Photo: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

3. Clear your browser

If you plan on doing divorce research online, clear your browser. A narcissist likes control. This includes having access to your computer, internet passwords, your phone, etc. You do not have the same privilege. In their world, you have no privacy. They need privacy to launch private assaults on you and to acquire supporters.

Why would your spouse do this to you after years of marriage? You always supported them, spoke well of them, and gave them everything they ever needed including unconditional love. A narcissist does not play fair. That is why they recruit admirers and only accept love when they need to feel empowered. They know you’ve been supportive and loving which now goes against you. It really isn't about you, it’s all about them.

RELATED: What Life As A Sociopath Is Really Like, According To Sociopaths

4. Make sure you have all the important papers

Collect any necessary papers and documents including passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, copies of bills, copies of your spouse’s taxes and work-related records, checkbooks, and even your prenuptial agreement, if you were lucky enough not to be talked out of having one. Keep anything you may need moving forward because, once they know you have filed, they won't grant you access.

5. Get a new phone

Get your own cell phone line as soon as you can, even if you keep the one you have on your plan with your spouse for a little while. Your attorney may suggest this as well.

6. Talk to people who care about you

Tell your friends and family what you and your children have been going through. This is not a time to be silent or embarrassed about what you have endured. Build a trustworthy support system. Chances are, throughout your relationship, not many people have liked the way your spouse treated you. Those people will be your best supporters moving forward. It’s not an "I told you so situation", it’s a "Thank goodness you saw it, too" situation. No one wants to see you or your children suffer.

7. Secure financial aid for your child

After you separate and secure legal counsel, ask your attorney for a temporary hearing for alimony, child support, and child custody. If you do not have access to bank accounts or household bills, this is imperative. You’ll need to ask for temporary alimony, child support, and household bills to be paid if you were the homemaker and did not have a job outside the home. This will also be an excellent time to set up visitation on a temporary basis until the divorce is finalized.

8. Arrange for custody and visitation rights

Make sure you get the custody you feel is best for your children and the visitation arrangement that is in their best interest NOW. Do not fall for manipulation tactics. Your narcissistic spouse will ask why you are doing this to them. They will manipulate you into believing they have the children’s best interest at heart if you let them.

Falling for this will be a major downfall in years to come when the children start showing signs of emotional abuse. You can do something about it in the beginning, but after the fact, it is hard, primarily if your initial complaint was emotional abuse. Remember you cannot control what goes on in the other house so the more time your children have with you, the better. In a final hearing or mediation, the time you allow your ex-narcissist to have with your children during the separation period before the divorce will be taken into consideration. After a final agreement is in place, it's tough to prove a significant change in circumstance unless your children’s lives are in danger.

If your ex was always emotionally abusive to the children and still is, but now in different ways, it is not enough for some courts to overturn a prior agreement. They will not change custody or visitation even if you have documented all the immoral things your children have been through. If your ex has always been unethical, that will go against you, not your narcissistic ex. Your ex will do things that are not in the best interest of your children. Get the custody and visitation you want now.

RELATED: 8 Psychological Tricks To Break Up With The Worst Kind Of Narcissist

9. Provide counseling for your children

Most children are not allowed to speak in court. In some states, a guardian-ad-litem is appointed or requested. Most are not trained child psychologists. In some states, a guardian-ad-litem is an attorney who is required by law to be a guardian for a specific amount of time. When a state does not appoint a guardian, you have the burden of paying for one, usually half the fee.

The manipulation of a narcissist works on guardians who are not trained mental health specialists, so be prepared. If you find you need one, do some research and see what experience the guardian has with narcissistic parents. Seek counseling for you and your children immediately, but be forewarned that narcissists like courtroom battles, and your counseling records can be used in litigation, especially custody litigation. In some states, H.I.P.A.A. rules do not apply, so be sure to ask your attorney if this applies in your state ahead of time.

Ask your counselor for coping skills to help you and your children. Avoid saying too much about your feelings to your counselor though, since they can be used by your ex in court. Instead, talk to family and friends and find a support group. If your records are used in court or mediation, be sure to ask for a third-party gag order. A breach of your counseling records is unethical. Narcissists are unethical by nature, so be sure to ask for this. If you do and it ever gets back to you that a third party has read or used your counseling records in any way, your attorney will guide you through the necessary steps to take action.

10. Don't expect your ex to stop after divorce

After the divorce, it may not be over. Stay calm and do your best not to react when situations arise. Learn some deep breathing techniques and try yoga if you don’t already do this. Self-care is imperative, and most likely you were not practicing it while in your emotionally abusive marriage.



You probably want to believe that your ex wants to work with you, but you are not dealing with something normal. Think about it: Does your ex want to work with you when it’s only convenient for them? To save yourself from more emotional upset, think of this as entering into a business agreement where all emotions take a back seat. It's vital that you stick to your arranged custody agreement. If you give an inch, your ex will expect a mile from you next time. Narcissists do not have healthy boundaries. You need to have ones in place for your well-being and that of your children.

If it’s in the best interest that the children go off schedule, do what feels right for you but don’t expect anything in return. If you’d like an even trade of your time, get it in writing and put it on a shared calendar. The Family Time Tree app is a great way to keep track of visitation, whose holiday it is with the kids and activities. Kids can be on it as well as they get older. This is a great way to limit unnecessary contact.

A narcissist may alienate you from your children, but know that if this happens after your divorce, you are not alone. Your children WILL see the truth in time. Keep moving forward and never change how you parent. It can be difficult but staying on course will show your children you love them. Divorcing a spouse with narcissistic personality traits is not easy. Half the battle is leaving the relationship, while the other half is getting through the divorce.

Be smart and learn all you can. There is no reason with a narcissist. They do not believe in counseling because it may uncover to the world who they are, and they are happy being in control of you. You may think it’s easier to stay in your marriage, but life does get better once you make the decision to choose yourself over abuse.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: How To Deal With A Narcissist — 8 Smart & Simple Steps

Barbara Ann Bruno is a speaker, author, and professional fitness instructor. She has been featured on Dr. Laura, MSN, Professorhouse, Pop Sugar, Thrive Global, and more.