Brad Micklin just published his new book, How to Survive and Thrive When Divorcing a Narcissist, to help people cope with their spouse who shows signs of having one or more symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. We chatted with Brad about the book and how to prepare yourself when the person you are married to is a narcissist.
Question: What can you tell me about the book?
Brad’s Answer: It’s a concise overview of what it is like to divorce a narcissist. It alerts people to what they’re likely to experience during their divorce from a narcissist and it explains the divorce process in New Jersey. It’s not full of legalese. Rather it has been written for people who want to know what may lie ahead for them. The book is only 80 pages long because I wanted to help educate people in a simple and pragmatic way, not turn them into attorneys.
Q: Why did you choose to focus on the process of divorcing a narcissist?
A: If being married to a narcissist is difficult, divorcing one can be an absolute nightmare. While only a small percentage of the population suffers from a full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, over the years as a divorce lawyer in New Jersey I’ve seen lots of my client’s spouses exhibiting one or more signs of the problem. So, I thought that a lot of people might be helped by learning what they’re likely to go through as the divorce process unfolds.
Q: Sounds really interesting and useful! So, briefly, how does a spouse prepare themselves for a divorce battle with a narcissist?
A: My first piece of advice is ‘prepare for the unexpected.’ To a narcissist, everything is about them so generally most things will not go smoothly. Narcissists are game players and their goal is to maintain power by keeping you (and your lawyer) off-balance. Their only goal is to “win” by insisting that you give in because they see everything in terms of black and white. So, the two most-important things I tell a client – anybody who is divorcing a narcissist, for that matter – is to develop a strategy in advance so you know what you want the outcome to be. I also remind my clients to stay calm, difficult as that may be as narcissists also know how to push the right buttons to frustrate their spouse. Finally, Don’t engage with them on their terms because a narcissist will twist whatever you say into an inaccurate statement they think will make them look good.
Q: That does sound like a nightmare. So, if somebody is thinking of a divorce, are there ways for them to realize they’re married to a narcissist?
A: Most likely, they knew it already. (Laughs) It’s usually why they want to divorce their spouse. A narcissistic spouse displays very little empathy for the people around them. This is true of how they feel towards their spouse, their co-workers, even their children. To the outside world, they come across as charming and engaging but inside the home and marriage they are demanding, and unrelenting. They think whatever problems they have in their life must be the fault of their spouse. They refuse to compromise or see your point of view. To a narcissistic spouse, only their opinion and beliefs matter. In many ways, it’s quite sad because they’ll never find genuine happiness and intimacy with anyone let alone a spouse. I created a brief online survey called “Are You Married to a Narcissist?”
Q: How is the process of divorcing a narcissist different from most of the divorces you handle for clients?
A: The most-common difference is that a divorce involving a narcissist seldom is amicable. I’ve worked with many clients who didn’t want to be with their spouse any more and vice versa but they were able to peacefully reach agreements on everything from dividing the marital assets and debts to issues surrounding child support, custody and visitation. This seldom happens when a narcissist is involved. They are angry that they’re being divorced, they are angry that their spouse expects to be treated fairly, they are furious that they cannot get their way on every issue. They’ll try to play their ex, me as their ex’s lawyer, and even the judge if the case goes to trial. I’ve seen a narcissistic spouse storm out of a court room when a judge decides against a motion filed by their attorney. It’s not pretty. What the narcissist doesn’t think about is that all they’re doing is driving up their cost and delaying the eventual end of their marriage. All of these are reasons why somebody needs to have a strategy and stick to it when they’re divorcing a narcissist.
Q: Over the years, have you found anything surprising about the process of divorcing a narcissist?
A: Yes. I’ve found it is best to not be surprised by anything a narcissist does during a divorce. (Laughs) This is a pitched battle for them and they have to win at any cost. I’ve seen narcissists refuse to negotiate even though it’d be in their best interest to do so. Others will go back on their word while negotiating various pieces of the settlement. I’ve seen them try to put their children in the middle, using them as pawns even though this is terribly damaging to the kids. It can be very sad.
Q: From what you say, I gather many divorces involving a narcissist end up in court. Does a narcissist’s behavior change when they’re in front of a judge?
A: Not for the better. I’ve even seen narcissists try flirting with a judge! It doesn’t work but they try it because they want everybody to be on their side, even someone whose job it is to be neutral. If my client is testifying on the witness stand during the divorce, I’ve had to ask judges to order the narcissistic spouse to stop making comments or giving their ex the “evil eye” as intimidation. Nothing much changes at all.
Q: Any final words about the book or about divorcing a narcissist in New Jersey?
A: Well, the problems are similar regardless of where a couple lives so in that sense, my book should be useful to anyone. I’d advise anybody considering divorcing a narcissist to start with a plan, keep their objective in mind, and remain calm. The narcissist will do whatever they can to keep you off-balance during the divorce just as they did during the marriage.
Q: Thanks, Brad! Where is the book available?
A: How to Survive and Thrive When Divorcing a Narcissist is available at Amazon. As a special promotion, the Kindle version costs just $0.99.