Narcissistic Personality Disorder Causing Relationship Breakdown

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Nichola Bright - Partner

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It is common for spouses to cite difficulties experienced in coping with their former partner’s extreme personality traits as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Frequently, a former partner is labelled as having a narcissistic personality disorder.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterised by an inflated feeling of self-importance and the desire to be acknowledged for achievements and successes. These feelings at a surface level are not intrinsically bad; however, they have the potential to be damaging to relationships when they are transposed into exhibiting extreme thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Examples of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:

  • Grandiosity and self-importance.
  • Persistent fantasies about success, power, attractiveness, intellectual superiority and ideal love.
  • Sense of superiority and specialness.
  • Wish to be admired.
  • Strong sense of entitlement.
  • Manipulates and exploits others.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Believes that others are envious of him/her and envy of others; and
  • Arrogant and contemptuous attitudes and behaviours.

While these traits can be seen in the general population, a marriage with a person with a narcissistic personality disorder will also result in a power imbalance, as he/she will always strive to remain in control to an unhealthy extent. Many who struggle with the disorder might be unaware of the impact of their behaviours and the effect they have on their loved ones closest to them. The spouse and children who are affected by the narcissistic behaviour of their partner or parent may have spent years coping with being bullied and undermined emotionally, financially and physically.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Causing Relationship Breakdown

Divorcing a narcissist

A narcissist will often make it difficult for you to feel that you can end the marriage, as they will want to retain control over the relationship. They may try to influence you or dissuade you from seeking legal advice or support.

If you consider your spouse has a narcissistic personality, it is important for you to seek legal advice at an early stage if you wish to pursue a divorce to best protect yourself and any children.

A narcissistic spouse will often be less inclined to engage in out-of-court resolution such as mediation, and they are likely to approach financial negotiations as if they are correct and that there is no compromise to be had. They will feel that it is important for them to ‘win’.

If your narcissistic spouse will not engage in negotiations outside of court, then we can assist you in seeking the court’s involvement to ensure you can achieve a fair financial resolution on divorce or to determine arrangements regarding your children.

Under the new ‘No Fault’ divorce system in England and Wales, there is no longer any need to cite examples of your spouse’s behaviour as to why you are seeking a divorce. There is no opportunity to defend a divorce application providing the court of England and Wales has valid jurisdiction to deal with the proceedings.

If your narcissistic spouse is financially controlling and is preventing you from accessing funds so as to obtain legal advice, we can advise you on options for funding legal fees on divorce, such as by seeking spousal maintenance, a legal services order or litigation funding.

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Treatment for a personality disorder 

The starting point for treating a personality disorder is that the individual with the disorder is able to recognise that they are affected. Treatment would typically include therapy or, in extreme cases, medication to assist with any feelings of anxiety or depression caused by the symptoms.

It can be extremely challenging to counsel and support those with a narcissistic personality disorder due to the person’s sensitivity to perceived criticism and their rejection of the diagnosis.

If you consider you are married to someone with a narcissistic personality disorder, and you are having difficulties in your marriage, it is important to seek support from professionals such as your GP and a therapist. 

Handling a spouse personality with disorder during divorce

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If you have concerns that your relationship has been affected by personality traits exhibited by your partner, please get in touch with a member of our Family Law Team below.

0161 941 4000

Nichola Bright's profile picture

Nichola Bright


Nichola has over 16 years of experience acting as a Family solicitor. Nichola has specialist expertise in divorce and high net-worth financial settlements, separation, co-habitation, pre-nuptial agreements, complex disputes regarding children, fertility law and surrogacy law.

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