How To Know When it’s Time to Divorce Your Narcissistic Spouse, By Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC

Divorce is not an easy decision to make, especially when you have always believed that you were going to be married forever. However, what you didn’t count on when you promised to stay with your partner forever is that they would drastically change. Your spouse literally became the living form of Dr. Jekyll and Mr./Mrs. Hyde. To say that living with them has become unbearable is an understatement. You hate going home because things are stressful and unpredictable.

Here is what you need to consider when deciding whether to divorce your narcissistic spouse:

1.) You don’t recognize yourself anymore. When you look in the mirror, you are a shell of the person that you used to be. The life has gone out of your eyes, you have not smiled in so long you have forgotten what it feels like, and instead, what remains is your sad and lonely exterior. Your marriage has taken its toll, and now you are a person who is trapped in survival mode. You have let go of your identity, and you don’t even remember what it is you enjoy doing in your spare time because so much of your energy has been about caring for someone else. 

2.) Your partner is abusive. So much of the relationship has been based around your spouse’s wants, needs, and desires. Everything and everyone must cater to them – or else there is hell to pay. Your spouse easily loses control without provocation and destroys everything and everyone in their path. They can use physical, verbal, mental, financial, or sexual abuse to uphold their laws for the household. No one is safe, and outside help and support are forbidden. 

3.) Your children have started to demonstrate similar toxic behaviors. You may have always thought that you should stay in a toxic marriage “for the sake of the kids.” What happens when your children start to pick up on the unhealthy dynamics in the house? Children are exceptionally smart, and they also look to their parents as role models. Children model their parent’s behaviors when interacting with others. As they continue to observe the behavior demonstrated by their parents, it is highly likely that they will incorporate what they see into their own relationships.

4.) Your friends and family have expressed concerns over your well-being. Usually, when we are in relationships that do not serve us well, those who care about us will often express concern. Perhaps, you felt defensive when people previously told you that they were concerned about your relationship, and you dismissed the conversation. However, if more than three people told you that they were concerned about your safety and well-being in your marriage, than you should take the time to listen. Remember, those who care about you want to see you happy. 

5.) You have no power or means within the relationship. Your narcissistic spouse has control and ownership over everything. They have made sure that you can’t support yourself or have access to means to leave the relationship. They have stripped you of your power, and you doubt that you are capable of making it in life without their support. Their gaslighting tactics have left you feeling like they are the only ones with the answers. You don’t have a voice in the relationship, and problems that occur within the relationship are dismissed and unaddressed unless your narcissistic spouse views the issues as important. 

6.) Your spouse’s view of reality is distorted. When someone becomes irrational and paranoid, it is impossible to have a rational conversation or co-exist with them while they are in that state. Narcissists are often irrational, paranoid, and grandiose ideas, which makes them unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Every situation real or imaginable between you and your spouse becomes ammunition, which is twisted, distorted, and used against you. 

7.) Unwanted people have also entered the marriage. During your marriage, your spouse was not emotionally connected to you. Instead, they treated others better than you. They certainly spent more quality time with other people. They may have had affairs or spent all hours of the night out drinking with friends. You were often left alone, and you wondered several times, “what about me?” Their behavior shows their unwillingness to commit to or leave the relationship. Other methods of bringing unwanted people in the marriage is through triangulation. Narcissists bring in outside allies when trying to obtain control in the relationship. These outside allies can come in the form of friends, family, or even strangers – but the end goal is the same, and that is to give your narcissistic spouse the upper hand in the relationship.

Divorce is stressful when you are leaving a narcissistic spouse. You may need support when making your decision, and it recommended that you discuss your decision with a therapist and attorney that are trained in narcissistic abuse. 

This article was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. If you wish to contact Dr. Natalie Jones, please visit her website at Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD., LPCC is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in working with women who have been in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships with narcissists, as well as with narcissists, and those who are incarcerated for committing crimes against persons. Dr. Jones has a podcast called A Date With Darkness Podcast, which specializes in providing education and tips on healing from narcissistic abuse in relationships.