Dealing with the narcissist

A narcissist has the potential to cause a lot of damage in a divorce case.  When dealing with these kind of individuals, certain steps must be taken to ensure that the process continues in a safe and efficient manner. 

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines narcissism as : Excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.  Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

A narcissist brings chaos to a divorce process. They will often be rude and disrespectful to those involved in the divorce process, they will make unreasonable demands, and almost always fail to follow the rules.  The antidote to chaos is structure and boundaries. 

Here are some steps to keep narcissistic behavior in check by creating structure and boundaries.

  1. Obtain a Temporary Order A Temporary Order sets forth the “rules of the case”.  In addition to addressing standard temporary issues like custody, child support, alimony, a temporary order will also impose restraints on behavior and temporary use of marital property.
  2. Calendar all deadlines.  Make sure that all deadlines are met, and the restraints followed.  Take action immediately to force compliance- don’t let even minor violations slide.
  3. Don’t respond.  Often times a narcissist will start an argument simply as a way to exert control over others and prove how smart he/she is.  It is best not to respond to anything outside the parameters of the Temporary Order.  Any “invitation” to “discuss” an issue not controlled by the rules of the case is merely an invitation to chaos.
  4. Control the communications.  All communication with a narcissist must be in writing and confined to issues designed to keep the case moving forward.  This way, we deny the narcissist a “stage”.  Do not allow the narcissist to re-direct the conversation to a playing field of their choice.

A narcissist will push to see how far they can get, so it is important to hold him or her accountable if they break a rule. If a narcissist breaks a rule, it was most likely done intentionally to see what would happen and how far they could get. If they cross a line, they must be immediately held accountable. Once a narcissist understands his or her boundaries, their behavior can kept in check and the process completed with as little chaos as possible.

Guy Vitetta
Charleston SC

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