Why Do So Many Marriages to Narcissists End in Divorce?

It’s no secret that marriages to narcissists are among the most difficult and challenging relationships out there. But what many people don’t realize is that these relationships are also some of the most likely to end in divorce. In fact, research has shown that nearly 60% of all marriages to narcissists – male or female – end in divorce. So, what’s the reason for this high rate of divorce involving this one personality type? Let’s take a closer look.

Narcissists Tend to be Controlling and Manipulative

There are several reasons why marriages to narcissists are so difficult and often end in divorce. For one, narcissists tend to be very controlling and manipulative. They may try to control every aspect of their spouse’s life, from how they dress and wear their hair to who they spend time with and what they do for fun. They also don’t like when their spouse is having fun or enjoying anything without them, which can lead to frequent conflict situations when the narcissist believes – rightly or wrongly – that his or her spouse is developing a habit that might mean they are no longer the center of their spouse’s life. This constant need for control can be suffocating for their spouse and often leads to conflict.

Narcissist Tend to be Very Selfish and Lack Empathy

Another reason why these marriages are so challenging is that narcissists tend to be very self-centered and lack any meaningful empathy. They may not be able or willing to see things from their spouse’s perspective or understand their needs and feelings in any situation which causes their spouse to suffer. For a marriage to be open and genuine, it generally requires two people to regularly communicate about their feelings and get validation and support from the other spouse. Since narcissists typically lack the ability to put themselves in their spouse’s shoes, one spouse is always going to feel overlooked and misunderstood.

Narcissists also tend to gaslight their spouses, especially when they are in a situation that would normally require showing empathy. That is, they may try to convince the spouse that they are “crazy” when they aren’t instead of trying to understand their spouse’s perspective of the matter at hand. This can further add to the feeling of being trapped, alone, and unable to trust one’s own perceptions in the relationship. As you can imagine, this can make communication difficult and often leads to resentment and frustration on both sides of the relationship.

Narcissists Tend to Have a History of Infidelity

Finally, narcissists often have a history of infidelity. This may be due to their need for validation and attention from others or simply because they don’t believe that monogamy is possible or realistic. If their spouse is aware of this history, it can understandably create trust issues. Also, many narcissists, even when they have infidelity in their background, will often justify their past behavior, especially when they believe they were made victims of prior relationships first.

Even if the narcissist has been faithful for years, their spouse may still find it difficult to fully trust them. When you add in the gaslighting, the narcissist’s need for control, and the lack of freedom that typically will mean for the spouse, it’s not hard to see why cheating would be frequently suspected by the non-narcissist spouse.

Final Take-Aways

So, given just these facts alone, it’s not hard to understand why so many marriages to narcissists end in divorce. If you’re married to a spouse you suspect is a narcissist, it’s important to understand these dynamics to best protect yourself emotionally and financially should you decide to divorce. It’s also not a bad idea to have a private consultation with a divorce attorney experienced in handling divorces with a narcissist as an opposing party. Even if you’re not quite ready to end your marriage, the attorney will be able to highlight areas of concern you should be aware of during the marriage so that you will be well-prepared in the event your marriage ends without warning.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted attorney in your area. Your divorce and any settlement you create will be subject to your state’s divorce laws. Without discussing your situation with an attorney, your agreement may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your future. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like J. Benjamin Stevens today to discuss your specific situation.  Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.

Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. If you or someone you know is facing a divorce, separation, child custody, visitation, or other family law case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or [email protected] to schedule a consultation.

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Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens‘ colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina.  His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.

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